Crossing the Steams 12.08.12: Windows 8
Welcome to another weekly installment of Crossing the Steams. In a slight break from the format, I’m not going to review any specific Steam game, and instead look at how Windows 8 does as a gaming operating system, as well as a few of the more choice games that the OS has access to. With the OS being over a month old, I’ve come to see the good and the bad of the system. Hopefully this is geared more towards the people who might still be on the fence about the whole endeavor.
On the face of it, Windows 8 is a bit of a schizophrenic mess. The battle occurs with the Metro-style start screen/apps/etc., and the familiar “old” Windows desktop. Old Windows is Old Windows really, without actually having a start button. To combat this, I’d recommend grabbing Stardock’s Start8 program, which is 5$ on their store. It basically just re-adds the Start menu to the traditional Windows screen, making it look indistinguishable from Windows 7.
The Metro side is the confusing part about Windows 8, at least for most computer people. How many people really have a touch-screen for their laptop, or their desktop? I’d say less than 10%, and that is being generous. For phones, it’s obviously 100%, if you have a Windows 8 phone, you have a touch screen on it, and so you can actually get around. For PC’s though, most of the people don’t have a touch screen, nor do most people want a touch screen of that size. People have monitors of 17 inches or above, especially if you’re a gamer, and having a large touch screen is both dumb, and extremely expensive to try and mass market. Touch screen computers have been around for decades, and MS’s push with Windows 8 makes it seem like it’s a bit desperate. It doesn’t help that their current implementation is awkward, with having to hold on a corner a few seconds for the menu’s to pop out. Again, that might work on a touch screen, but when using a mouse it feels clunky as all hell.
The Start screen is just confusing in its implementation though. I did a upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8, expecting the Start screen would be full of the games and programs I used before. It wasn’t. Instead, if only lists the standard stuff, and the few programs/games I’ve installed since the upgrade. It literally lists “Starcraft 2 Beta Map Editor” as a title on the screen. It doesn’t list the 50 Steam games I already have installed (or the few I’ve installed since then), though.
As far as Steam goes, 96% of the games I had previously installed (from Windows 7) came into Windows 8, just fine. Saints Row 3, L.A. Noire, Kingdoms of Amalur, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Waves, Civilization 5, DiRT 2, etc., all came into Windows 8 with no trouble at all. I had 60 games installed when I made the switch, and so far, only two have had serious issues. Those being Planetside 2 (won’t get past the loading screen), and the Walking Dead (save got wiped) when I tried to run each game. Aside from those two limited instances though, everything has worked completely fine. Essentially, if you can run the game on Windows 7, it will likely run on Windows 8 with little problem.
With the new operating system comes the Microsoft Store, and it has a games section in it. You can’t really filter between PC games, and Tablet/Phone games, which is a problem. Still, you should be able to figure it out decently enough. I’ll talk briefly about the three games that I’ve used the most.
Microsoft Solitaire Collection is just what you’d think it is, all the Solitaire you could want. The most interesting thing about this edition is a “Daily Challenge” system, where you get points to fill up a medal bar, based on various challenges the game has. It’s a real throw away idea, but it gives you a reason to try and play the game every day to full up the stupid medal bar.
Pinball FX2 was the game I was most interested in when I heard about Windows 8, but it failed to live up to my expectations. To its credit, the game is free and comes with a copy of Mars. That is the only real positive to say about it. Firstly, it signs you into your Xbox account, but it doesn’t actually pull any of your info from the 360 version, which is extremely odd. Your Xbox Friends list is still available within the Games part, you can see what your 360 friends are doing, but not within the Pinball FX2 part. So, it completely breaks the point of all the leaderboard stuff. Along with this problem is that the store is out of sync with the 360 version. The newest tables, Plants Vs. Zombies and Civil War I can understand, but Paranormal isn’t even available. Nor are the Pinball FX1 tables for that matter. Also, since the game doesn’t tie into the 360 version, your bought tables don’t come in either. I can see why, from a business perspective, they don’t do that, but it feels like a way for them to gouge more money from you. The last issue is that the game just looks ugly and feels a bit laggy. It’s missing the smoothness of the 360 version. The game also has NO type of resolution option, 1024 by 768, or at most 1280 by 800. It’s sad when the 360 version actually looks more polished, better detailed, and faster than the PC port.
Adera is the most surprising game of the bunch. It’s an episodic adventure game that has you (as Kate) exploring around, solving puzzles, collecting stuff, and the like. The puzzles vary from being simple, like figuring out how to cross a ledge, to incredibly complex, like laying down strips of cloth across each other so they match up. There is also an item-hunt game, where you’re given a scene full of random stuff, and told to find 10 specific items in the bunch. The game is a huge throwback to older point & click adventure games, but with modern twists. Notable objects will glow when you can interact with them, there’s a helpful hint system to display which you can use at any time. You can also just skip puzzles once a certain time has passed, or if you get stuck. The game looks gorgeous, has some good sounds/music/voice acting, and is just enjoyable overall. The first episode is free, with episode’s 2 and 3 each costing 5$ (episode 3 isn’t out yet). It’s actually one of the best games, to me at least, this year.
From a gaming perspective, Windows 8 is solid enough. It’s enough like Windows 7 as to make it fairly indistinguishable (aside from the incredibly stupid Start screen), with most of the actual fundamentals being the same. Aside from a few very specific game issues, everything seemed to work fine, which is good. The Start screen is a mess though, as is the Pinball FX2 app. Adera is a worthy game though and should be checked out at once.
Other Steam News
The only game listed for release next week, on Dec. 13th is Party of Sin, a 2D platformer/puzzle game. Next week I shall look at Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken.