PC Gamer
Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, we get into the swing, as Phil explains his love of grappling hooks.

If you go back through the Why I Love articles I've written to date—stealth on shipsTF2's Scout or playing Chinese-style opera in Audiosurf—all have, to a greater or lesser extent, been about systems or experiences that change how you traverse through a level. The Scout can double-jump. Ship-based stealth levels are tighter and more claustrophobic than their inevitable "big warehouse" counterpart. Monkey Bee has one of the most distinct middle-sections I've yet to see emerge from Audiosurf's level generator.

A satisfying traversal system isn't the only thing I look for in a game, but it is one of a few broad areas that define my taste. If I can move around a game in interesting ways, then I will probably like it. I like Prototype—a game in which you can run up, and leap off, and glide over buildings—even though a part of me suspects that it's really a bit rubbish. I'm a somewhat overweight guy in his thirties. Sometimes it's nice to tell gravity to go and do one.

There's another traversal tool that I consistently love in games: the grappling hook. My appreciation for good grappling hooks—and good here doesn't mean realistic—started with the original version of Worms. Friends and I would play multiplayer matches with a very specific set of rules: no turn timer, unlimited girders, and unrestricted access to the grappling hook (or "ninja rope," as it's called in-game). You can use the ninja rope multiple times per turn, and we gave ourselves unlimited time to make our way across the map. With these rules, a worm can travel from one side to the other—their turn ending only if they take fall damage.

That's where the girders came in. We'd place them above the level, both to protect our own guys from air strikes and to have more surfaces to grapple on to. Worms' rope mechanics are, in essence, bizarre. They're also consistent in their implementation, which led us to a great understanding of their potential. With some effort, it's possible to swing 180 degrees and beyond—eventually landing on top of the platform the worm is swinging from. The trick is to extend the rope fully, smack into a solid surface, and then retract. That maximises the speed boost from bouncing off the wall, and, with luck, propels the worm up and around. 

To anyone but those directly involved in the match, this was an unspeakably tedious spectacle. To us, it was thrilling.

Subsequent Worms games enforced turn times, essentially ruining my enjoyment of them. But a few other 2D games feature that same spirit of exploitable traversal. Trine is, intentionally or not, all about this. One of its three characters is a Thief, and her grappling hook allows for a similarly awkward battle against physics. Here, you can even grapple onto one surface, break off and re-attach to another, all while still in mid-swing. You can, on select levels, chain these swings—at times resulting in long, unbroken stretches of undulation. 

Used properly, it can be a graceful tool. But both Trine games also contain a secret hidden mini-game for grappling hook aficionados. This game is called "can I use the Thief to complete this section, even though it was obviously designed for the Wizard?" Often, the answer is yes.

At this point, I should probably point to another 2D grappling hook game—one designed entirely around swinging as the main method of level traversal. It's called Floating Point, it's free, and it was made by PC Gamer's former section editor Tom Francis. It's a more sedate grapple-space to move through, and rare in that its freedom of movement is the idea rather than an exploitable quirk in the engine. If you're here because you like grappling hooks, then it's relevant to your interests.

In three-dimensions, the grappling hook is a less sure-fire hit. Too often, it's restricted—kept to specific grapple-points in order to stop the player breaking the level in ridiculous ways. Most recently, you can see this in Far Cry 4. You have a grappling hook! You can jump from the rope and re-attach it to another point before hitting the ground! You can only do this at specifically marked points around the map. I'd like you to imagine a sort of anti-exclamation mark, and place it on the end of that last sentence.

Some games are better at it this than others, and they tend to be the ones that are more open about their freedom of movement. Arkham City's Grapnel Gun combos satisfyingly with the glide. You can't swing, but you can shoot it to build speed across the map—using it to all but fly. And then there's Just Cause 2, or Let's Do Fun Shit With A Grappling Hook: The Game. You can attach onto a plane, or to cars, or to an explosive barrel that is shooting vertically into the air. You can use it in conjunction with a parachute to create a free-form system of movement more distinct and enjoyable than any of the game's vehicles.

Maybe that's another reason why grappling hooks, specifically, are one of my favourite methods of traversal. They're inherently ridiculous. There is no way to put an unrestricted grappling hook in a game and still have it be a serious tool, because it's either inherently exploitable or inherently unrealistic. It is a jointly a tool for motion and a tool for fun. 

Case in point: the 3D version of Bionic Commando. It had a grappling hook as its central gimmick, and yet its story still felt the need for a Serious Emotional Payload. How was that done? With the late-game reveal that your bionic grapple-arm was also your wife. Your wife, who was used to create a strong emotional bond with the robo-limb.

That is dumb. But that is what happens when you try to inject emotional pathos into a game with a grappling hook—it throws off your sense of what's appropriate. At some point, a developer must have questioned whether wife-in-a-robo-arm was good storytelling. I suspect they saw their hero swinging care-free through a city and lost all sense of perspective. "Yes," this hypothetical employee thought, "it makes total sense that this bionic commando's arm is his wife."

It didn't, though. It was stupid. That's why grappling hooks can never be serious. Not true, freeform, use-'em-wherever-you-like grappling hooks. They're silly and fun—a tool for engaging with, perfecting, and enjoying the feeling of motion. They are, in practice and philosophy, the opposite of a wife in an arm.

More grappling hooks; less wives in robot arms. That feels like a strange place to end things, but also like good words to live by.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Plane-o.

Will Just Cause 3 have multiplayer? Just Cause 2‘s wonky-but-ace Multiplayer Mod showed that – surprise surprise – running and driving and flying and grappling-hooking and exploding all around an open world with your chums can be pretty fun. An actual, proper, made-with-access-to-the-source-code multiplayer mode could be something special. But Just Cause 3 won’t have one, Avalanche Studios have said. Probably. At this point of the game’s marketing campaign, it’s hard to tell how much of this is a firm declaration, how much is uncertainty, and how much is The Official Marketing Line. Don’t get your hopes up, in short. But maybe don’t be surprised. Oh, I don’t know!

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
Save 80% on Just Cause 2 during this week's Midweek Madness*!

*Offer ends Friday at 10AM Pacific Time

Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on the Eidos Anthology!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Sunday at 10AM Pacific Time
Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 80% on Just Cause 2!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Wednesday at 10AM Pacific Time
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

“We are about to reveal a new game!” No Time To Explain dev/burgeoning indie publisher Alex Nichiporchik told me over Skype. Almost reflexively, I braced myself for an excited slurry spew about some crazy new platformer or a zany comedy adventure or an emotional tale that would rock me to my very core. “It’s basically a fusion of Just Cause 2 and Battlefield 3,” he proceeded to tell me. “…Oh,” I replied, briefly mistaking a flock of birds fluttering by outside for a car tethered to a plane with a wildman surfing atop it, as I often do. “Go on.” And so he did. Go below to find out about JetGetters‘ plane-jacking antics, its accompanying Kickstarter (because of course), how TinyBuild hopes to make dogfights more interesting, shifting levels, purposefully limited player counts, and why TinyBuild’s not on board with free-to-play. >

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
Just Cause 2


At first glance, Freeroam Construction Sandbox seems like any other Just Cause 2: Multiplayer server. Its small series of events fail to impose any meaningful structure, its airport is filled with a constant stream of exploding planes, and its chat is openly and bewilderingly hostile. It's all a ruse. Beneath the surface of the server, a surreal other world exists. Here, all-powerful god-players have shaped the land, utilising limited abilities and low attention spans to conjure a bizarre series of crude settlements and half-finished projects. It's JC2:MP's own private Twilight Zone.

If you explore this shadow Panau, you'll see physics-defying structures, complicated aerial transit networks, and boats placed where no boat should ever be. Here's my guide to some of the weirdest landmarks and strangest sights of the FCS server's build world.

Airport

I start my journey in the island's main airport, which doubles as the mod's main PvP arena. Given its popularity with players, it was inevitable that their creative efforts would take root here. Finding a spot on the tarmac, I enter construction mode by typing /BUILD.

This...



Turns into this...



Buildings are scattered randomly throughout the terminal, on top and often inside of each other. The air is filled with boats, buildings and tree trunks, and in the distance, a segment of road points straight into the air.

Why? Just 'cause...

Boats are a favoured feature of the Freeroam Construction Server. Over the course of my exploration, I see them suspended in the sky, embedded in the ground, and absent from the sea.



Skyroads



Not everything is a randomly placed mess of Dadaist geometry. The server's construction menu contains the majority of the game's assets, and lets players place, move and rotate them anywhere. Through these simple tools, some players have attempted ambitious, but crudely realised projects. Just next to the airport, someone has built an assault course of slanted buildings and curved helipads.



On the other side, above the airport's main building, is this:



From the ground, it's another bizarre assortment of crap. That's because the creators of Just Cause 2 never expected their players to see roads from below, and so their underside is transparent.

Viewed from above, it's... well, it's still a bizarre assortment of crap, but one shaped into a small hamlet of buildings and tarmac.



It even has its own villagers.



All across the server, it's the roads that provide some of the most fascinating expressions of creativity. They'll criss-cross, double-back, and ramp up and down. Sometimes they'll connect locations; more often they'll end in a long, deadly jump.

This was the deadly jump kind.

Mile High Club



The next stop is Panau's infamous Mile High Club, the opulent party zone that's floating in the sky. It's been redecorated since I was last here. A stack of ornate brick towers have been balanced on its top blimp. Also, it has a top blimp.



Investigating this new addition, I inadvertently interrupt a naked aerobics class.



As with the airport, the surrounding area is filled with boats. They scatter the landscape like shoals of metallic sky whales, exuding an eerily confidence in their unlikely suspension.



The Mile High Club's centrepiece is a more ambitious construction. It's another sky road, but, unlike the airport's disparate system of dead ends, this is a full track that loops around and over itself like an ancient Scalextric.



I endeavour to drive around it.

I drive around it...



Spawning a car, I slowly make my way around the twisty first section. This is harder than it looks. Guard rails are not a priority of the server's community, and neither is quality build construction. Regularly, as two segments meet, an imbalance will cause the car to flip off the edge of the track. Eventually, I pass the first few winding corners. This is where things get interesting.



The road stops being a road, and becomes a series of wide warehouses, buildings and bridges. At every spawned building, I expect the "track" to suddenly stop, sending me flying into the ground below. My fears are unfounded. There are plenty of steep ramps to navigate, but they've seemingly been placed to show off the island's spectacular views.



As I drive through a section filled with cherry blossoms and overlapping buildings, I start to contemplate the beauty at work inside of the random chaos...



Clearly, I'm starting to lose my mind. Not to worry, though, because the track ends with a fun jump that sends me crashing into the club's new castle extension. Video games!



Miscellaneous Madness



I start flitting between the lesser visited spawns, to see what people have made in relative isolation. At the temple, I find another road network. It leads to some crates on top of a balloon, itself on top of a tower. Nice.



Elsewhere, there's a boat inside of a hotel. Cute.



A thing inside of a thing? Er...



It's around the time I reach "more things around some stuff" that I realise I've lost that initial amazement at the spectacle. I've become desensitised to the randomness. At each spawn, someone has inevitably placed something, but I can't see the purpose. Even the beautiful and chaotic ship graveyard barely raises a smile.



This is no good. I need something amazing; something built with care and attention to detail. I need to find this server's show-stopper construction.



Yeah, that'll do nicely.

Sanctuary



It's called Sanctuary, and it's beautiful. It's also something of a secret. It's not listed on the teleportation command list, and has been placed so high in the atmosphere that planes can't reach it. I found it completely by chance, as I followed the trail of debris leading skyward from the airport. I made it just close enough to make out the /TP tag, and from there could warp up with ease.



The full structure is a coiling spring of rock, topped with cherry blossom, a few buildings, a statue and a hot-air balloon. Despite the rock placement making it hard to navigate, it feels far more authored than the insanity below.



And as for the views...



This is where my journey ends, but there's so much more to see. Weird things are hidden all around the server, from the popular spawns, to a player's private sanctuary. If you own Just Cause 2, you can explore it all with ease. Just download the free Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod from Steam, and, in the server browser, connect to Jman 100's Freeroam Construction Sandbox. It's highlighted at the moment, making it easy to find, but if you'd prefer to connect directly, the address is 192.95.54.0:7777.

As for me, there's really only one thing left to do.

PC Gamer
Boats can fly in JC2-MP


Just Cause 2 Multiplayer is an insane mod that allows hundreds of players to do stunt jumps off of jumbo jets at the same time. We're going to jump in to play on JMan100's Freeroam Construction Sandbox, which we recently wrote about. Hit our Twitch channel at 4:15 p.m. PST to follow along!

Update: Thanks for watching! The stream is over, but if you want to catch an archive, click this wonderfully convenient link.
PC Gamer



We talk about the Titanfall beta jetpacks, mechs, magic guns, and all while Wes sits in the corner for being the only one who hasn't played it. Then Evan fills us in on his experience playing Evolve, the new asymmetrical shooter from the Left 4 Dead developers, and Wes emerges to guide us into a world of pure imagination in the Just Cause 2 multiplayer mod.

Give your Valentine some space for a minute and listen to PC Gamer Podcast #372 - Pure Imagination.

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Send an MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com or call us toll-free at 877-404-1337 x724.

Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.

Follow us on Twitter:

@ELahti (Evan Lahti)
@wesleyfenlon (Wes Fenlon)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@demiurge (Cory Banks)

Podcast theme by Ben Prunty.
PC Gamer



We talk about the Titanfall beta jetpacks, mechs, magic guns, and all while Wes sits in the corner for being the only one who hasn't played it. Then Evan fills us in on his experience playing Evolve, the new asymmetrical shooter from the Left 4 Dead developers, and Wes emerges to guide us into a world of pure imagination in the Just Cause 2 multiplayer mod.

Give your Valentine some space for a minute and listen to PC Gamer Podcast #372 - Pure Imagination.

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Send an MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com or call us toll-free at 877-404-1337 x724.

Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.

Follow us on Twitter:

@ELahti (Evan Lahti)
@wesleyfenlon (Wes Fenlon)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@demiurge (Cory Banks)

Podcast theme by Ben Prunty.
...

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