PC Gamer

Which Resident Evil game is best? We’re eating away at our own brains to give our verdicts on some of PC gaming’s most beloved series, including Dark Souls and Mass Effect.As the series that popularized the survival horror genre, Resident Evil has attempted to sustain its hold on the elusive zombie shooting crown since its inception in 1996. Suffice it to say, Resident Evil hasn’t maintained a keen, constant rule over the genre, blasting further off into bizarre, convoluted lore dumps and Matrix-worthy action sequences as the series grew in scope and ambition. Through reinvention after reinvention, Resident Evil games may not always be great, but they’ve always been fascinating, curious objects. And it’s because of that wild experimentation that Resident Evil still has a firm grip on us, redefining the genre and forcing the entirety of game design to respond—hell, Dead Space was going to be System Shock 3 before Resident Evil 4 came out.Now we’re just around the corner from another series reinvention in Resident Evil 7, a more grounded first-person return to survival horror, borrowing ideas from games that may have formerly looked to Resident Evil for inspiration. We’ve come full circle.While they may have arrived shuffling and moaning and hungry for anti-aliasing, most of the main series Resident Evil games has been available on the PC at one time or another—sorry, Code Veronica. So, for players new and old, we’ve reflected on the series highs and lows, and ended up with a true, inarguable ranking for the series that cannot die.Now, in ascending order...

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Developed: Capcom, Slant Six Games Published: Capcom2012

James: We don’t talk about Operation Raccoon City. In our review, Jon Blyth puts it lightly, saying, “The good stuff is all swaddled in that weak gunplay, an annoying automatic snap-to cover system, and moments like the Birkin-G battle—a fight so poorly communicated and unfair that you'll wish computer mice still had balls, so that you could rip out your mouse ball and chew it while slobbering all over yourself.” The “good stuff” is just the setting and familiar characters, the implication of Raccoon City’s ideas and ambitions wrapped up in a cozy Resident Evil blanket. But clearly, due to godawful controls, a smattering of port hiccups, and poor design, we hope Operation Raccoon City never rises from the dead.Samuel: This was one bad fanfiction idea turned into a disastrously boring shooter. Played alone, the friendly AI is terrible, the links to Resident Evil 2 are tenuous and your squad of faceless nobodies belongs in the bin. Junk. 

Umbrella Corps

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom2016 

James: This game doesn’t have to be this low on the list. This could have been avoided. During several preview events PC Gamer’s Tom Marks expressed genuine interest in Umbrella Corps as an interesting competitive shooter that didn’t lazily assume the competitive deathmatch template and throw it in a thin Resident Evil diegesis. Zombies roam each map, and they don’t attack you outright, but by disabling other players’ magic zombie repellant devices, you can send the horde after them—a novel idea, I think. But for god’s sake, the PC version launched with mouse controls that were straight up broken. On the PC, that’s a huge chunk of your userbase, and for most players, unforgivable. 

Resident Evil 6 

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom2012James: Fuck this game. The media (looks into mirror) cycle for Resi 6 had me believing it would be the most complete game in the series yet, ticking the horror, action, and lore boxes alike for everyone. And it did. The campaigns themselves are varied and pretty from afar, and playing as characters from all over the nonsense Resi timeline is some kind of cool, but the controls gut everything good about RE’s over-the-shoulder design ethos that worked so well in 4 and 5. The guns feel like pea shooters in comparison to previous entries and character movement is suspended somewhere between a full blow Gears of War third person shooter and the original static stop-and-shoot design of Resi 4.

It’s so terrible a half-measure that the slightest potential for feeling unease is rendered inert. The tension boils and burns into a blackened, sour paste once you learn how to roundhouse and suplex and dive into a supine militaristic shooter stance on command. Sure, you could kick and suplex in Resi 4, but never with such reckless abandon. Where’s the horror and disempowerment in being a damn spec ops ninja demigod?

Samuel: I accept it's a bloated game, and the Chris campaign is particularly bad, but its combat—once you learn the full spread of abilities available to you, which the game does a terrible job of teaching—offers a lot of scope for player expression and fun acrobatics. Problem is, no-one really wanted a Resident Evil game to be about those things, so I understand the criticism Resi 6 got. I have a certain fondness for its Mercenaries mode, though, and wrote about it some time ago. A reboot needed to happen after this. 

Resident Evil: Revelations 

Developed: Capcom, Tose Published: Capcom2012 (PC, 2013)James: Revelations was most potent on the Nintendo 3DS, but blown up on the PC years after the fact, the absence of novelty leaves its shortcomings out in the open. The environments feel small, empty, and static. Enemies are simple-minded and appear in smaller groups than Resi 4 or 5, which turns combat into an intimate affair, sure, but without the crushing threat of numbers, encounters rely more on surprise than stress.

It doesn’t help that Revelations’ opening moments take place on a beach where your first threat arrives in the form of beached fish blobs. Survival horror. Revelations isn’t a terrible Resident Evil game by any means, but a very rote and restrained one, especially on the PC.Samuel: It felt like an attempt to merge the design fundamentals of old Resident Evil with Resi 4 controls, and yeah, its handheld origins are apparent. For completionists, it's nice that this made its way to PC, but it's surely nobody's favourite entry in the series.

Resident Evil 5 

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom2009

Samuel: I would place this one higher, but the default game doesn't come with splitscreen co-op—and that's the lifeblood of Resi 5 on consoles. You can mod it in, though.James: I understand your pain, Sam, but thanks to the magic of the internet, I finished Resident Evil 5 in one prolonged, disgusting, burger-fueled sitting with a Florida-based friend. It’s definitely not designed to be played so quickly, but off the tail of Resident Evil 4, one of my favorite games of all time, how could I not? And I’m glad I did, because swallowing such a chunky, bitter videogame pill means I felt everything Resi 5 had to offer, all at once.Resi 5 feels like a string of Resi 4’s most intense set pieces—the village scene, or cabin attack—one after the other, and with a co-op friend no less, but devoid of the horror or intrigue that made its predecessor so memorable and strange. Coupled with a shallow, troublesome depiction of Africa and a story that eventually went full anime (which may work for some people), Resi 5 fell flat for me and I haven’t returned to it since. It has some of the best combat in the series, but so too a very leaky heart.Tim: My strongest recollection of this one is not hating the fact a lot of it takes place in startling sunshine (which seemed like quite a bold idea for a largely risk-averse series), quite liking the Sheva Alomar character, and the sharp intake of breath people in the office took as we arrived at the section I can now only think of as ‘Problematic Village’ for the first time. Without wishing to reopen that debate, I do wonder what Wired’s tame anthropologist would have made of that part if they’d played through to it. Still, on action alone, I still think it’s one of the better entries.  Samuel: Yeah, a lot of those criticisms are spot-on. I was also a fan of Sheva, even if Resi's characters are more shouting props than characters in the traditional sense. Chris and Sheva's interactions are quite pleasant—an underrated bit of camaraderie in a game. There are many less good design ideas in Resi 5 than Resi 4, but it's a far better representation of its influence than Resi 6 is. Wesker is so much fun in this one, too. Didn't they make him British to make him more evil? I love that so much. 

Wes: Seven minutes. Seven minutes is all I can spare to play with you.

Resident Evil Zero

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom2002 (PC, 2016)James: Resi Zero was actually my first Resident Evil game. It greatest strength is nailing the trademark tension and helplessness of the series, tank controls included. Switching between Rebecca and Billy divides the zombie survivalist tension further, and I dig the opening train scene for its suffocating, slow introduction to the new characters and intense, timed finale.But when I try to remember nearly anything else about the game, I go blank. There’s another mansion, some levers, and more zombies as expected, but this time they’re riddled with massive leech monsters. In 2017, the zeitgeist has long since moved on from leeches as an immutably horrifying concept. They’re slimy and dark and small—get over it. It’s a good Resident Evil game, but far from the most distinct or memorable.Tim: I instantly disliked Billy. Between his session musician haircut and awful tribal tattoo, he wasn’t the kind of hero you warmed to. The convicted war criminal background (he’s a marine framed for failing to carry out a massacre) wasn’t exactly relatable either, but then that’s hardly been Resi’s forte. I also recall Resi 0 as being the my final point of departure with anything like a grip on the Umbrella meta plot. Like, why is Dr Marcus keeping all those leeches up his skirt?

Still, the character-switching between Billy and Rebecca added something to the puzzling, and the initial setting was pleasantly claustrophobic, in a vaguely Horror Express kind of way. Unfortunately, the fact the game later decamped to a more conventional haunted house, which I’ve now almost completely forgotten, only underlines Zero’s unremarkable status as sawdust in the Resident Evil sausage. 

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis 

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom  1999 (PC, 2000)Tim: My incipient dementia means I’m struggling to remember some of these, but I do recall at the time thinking this might be my favourite Resi, simply because it gave Jill Valentine an assault rifle to begin with. (I should caveat that by saying only if you choose easy mode, which apparently younger me did.) In any case, being able to go weapons free on the coffin dodgers from the outset was sweet relief if, like me, you had taken to micromanaging ammunition reserves to a pathological level. Invariably, I’d ended the previous two Resi games with an inventory stocked full of every type of round in the game, only to discover that besting the final boss didn’t require half of it.Resi 3 also gave us its eponymous antagonist, the unkillable Nemesis which would rock up at inopportune moments as you explored, terrifying players with its poor dental work and gauche taste in gentlemen’s outerwear. Upon arrival, the Nemesis would usually hiss “STAAAAAARS”, presumably identifying the prey which it had been programmed to relentlessly track, but perhaps also complaining about the quality of actor he’d be expected to share screen time with in the 2004 movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse. For bonus cringe factor, revisit any of the dialogue spoken by Umbrella’s hired merc Carlos Olivera. The character’s Mexican accent is delivered by voice actor Vince Carazzo, who as far as I can tell is very Canadian. Usual shonkiness aside, being in Raccoon City before and after the events of Resi 2 was cool, and I maintain this should be higher on the list but for the fact no-one else on the team seems to recall it.Joe: After playing the original Silent Hill in early 1999, I went into Resident Evil 3 with a degree of misplaced confidence. Against the Resi series' B-movie-like framing, Harry Mason's debut outing offered a different kind of horror in that this was the first proper psychological horror game I'd ever played. Dealing with twisted and unscrupulous characters that seemed so much worse than Wesker and Birkin, switching between alternate dimensions, and laying waste to some of its gut-wrenching bosses really affected me, and ultimately caught me off-guard. I therefore entered Nemesis thinking I knew what to expect.And for the most part, this was the case. It had slow moving and predictable zombies, overpowered weaponry, and ridiculously incongruous mix-and-match puzzles in a similar vein to its forerunners. Nemesis was clearly the biggest threat and even then felt like a slightly beefed up version of Mr X/T-00 from Resident Evil 2. Like its predecessors, Resi 3 also had the familiar area-loading door opening animations which I'd come to understand kept me safe from whatever horrors I'd left behind in previous zones. In trouble? Run to the next door and leave your woes at your back.This, of course, was not the case in Resident Evil 3. For the first time, enemies—namely Nemesis—could follow you into new areas in a bid to continue the hunt. In the case of Nemesis, it would burst through gates and doors with such force I swear the animations gave me nightmares hours after playing. Sure, Jill was equipped with an assault rifle from the off—but this only meant she was expected to use it. One simple change to the Resi formula suddenly made the third series entry one of the scariest horror games I'd ever played at the time, and left me with one of my fondest, scariest videogame memories to this day.  

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 

Developed: Capcom, Tose Published: Capcom  2015James: Revelations 2 is the most underrated game in the series, easily. It embraces Resi 4’s overwhelming combat scenarios and expressive arsenal, then chucks it in a B-movie Resi best-of on a wacky, weird prison island. Even better, the co-op play requires genuine cooperation, pairing off a traditional, fully equipped classic RE character, Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, with a much more helpless partner—a teen and a child. By using a flashlight and brick-chucking they couldn’t headshot monsters, but could stun and distract them to thin out the pack. Hell, Moira could be an unrigged crash dummy as long as she got to keep her precious, precious dialogue. “I mean, what in the moist barrels of fuck,” is classic Resi if I’ve ever heard it.Revelations 2 also did the episodic structure justice. Episodes released a week apart, a somewhat artificial way to breakup the game since it’s safe to assume the whole thing was content complete, but having a new two-hour cooperative Resident Evil romp every week for a month was a delight. It didn’t just occupy my mind for a weekend—I was arrested for a month, by hokey mix-and-match supernatural monsters and dopey (but lovable) characters no less.It wasn’t the series’ peak in level design, puzzle design, or storytelling, but it’s definitely the most self-aware and digestible, a comparably light-hearted survival horror tour through Resident Evil’s most endearing traits—up until that point, at least.

Resident Evil 2 

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom  1998 (PC, 1999)Tim: A really important entry in the series. Expanding out from the original’s mansion setting to take in the actual zombie apocalypse happening in Raccoon City was smart, if obvious. Less  obvious was the decision to craft two intertwining stories for players to hop between. The excellent pairing of rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy (tough day on the job) and Claire Redfield, the sister of missing S.T.A.R.S agent Chris fromm the first game, feels very much like classic Resi. In the same way that Romero’s “of the Dead” sequels expanded from the low-key original, so Resi 2 was a more widescreen, big budget take on the survival horror concept. As soon as you saw police stations littered with the remains of dead officers, it was clear the ante had been upped substantially. The notion of trying to escape from a city collapsing around you gave players the perfect sense of dramatic impetus, while at the same time providing the designers plenty of room to fill in the story with that sweet Umbrella lore. Director Hideki Kamiya would go on to make Devil May Cry, Okami, Bayonetta and later form PlatinumGames. Plus block a bunch of people on Twitter.Samuel: I was 12 when I convinced my dad to buy this for me on CD-ROM, and yeah, it felt like a more complete version of that original idea with better protagonists.

Resident Evil / Resident Evil HD Remaster

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom  Original: 1996 | Remaster: 2002 (PC, 2015)James: It may be unfair for an arbitrary list article like, say, this one, to combine the original Resident Evil with its remake as one entry, but the legacy of the original was only strengthened by such a stellar update and subsequent PC release. I have fond memories of the original game, and its restrained combat, resource management, and puzzle design are still sensible and fun today—the tank controls are even endearing after some practice.The REmake, as it’s commonly referred to, updated the original’s cheeky horror with a complete facelift and the omnipotent threat of Crimson Heads, nearly unkillable zombies that ‘wake up’ after being incapacitated, and can chase the player throughout the entire world. In the original, zombies couldn’t even follow you from one room to the next. None of these additions compromised the vision or design of the original, instead building out what I imagine Resident Evil’s original team had in mind. It’s one of the truest remasters out there, and one of the best survival horror games ever made.Samuel: I'm delighted Capcom brought the GameCube remake of the first game to PC. Its pre-rendered backgrounds have aged incredibly well, and the choice of colour palette is lurid but gorgeous. Since this specific type of survival horror game essentially died out after Silent Hill 4 and then the Forbidden Siren games, it's not like it's been surpassed in the meantime by better games. I hope the Resident Evil 2 remake follows this exact template.Wes: I was amazed by REmake when I first played it on the GameCube so many years ago—how could a game look so good!?—and amazed again, years later, at how much atmosphere it still has. The mansion is so moody, the art and lighting sell it as a real place. A twisted, sometimes goofy, sometimes horrifying place. Those pre-rendered backgrounds aren't just for show: they're so artfully done, they help frame how you play Resident Evil, conveying the sense that you're an intruder in this place, always creeping and on edge, being watched from weird angles. It's maybe the only use of tank controls in gaming that I like, thanks to that marriage of theme and function.There were always little things to unnerve me, whether it was footsteps echoing through an empty room or a giant fucking zombie shark leaping out of the water to bite me in half. I swear I almost jumped out of my skin.

Resident Evil 4

Developed: Capcom Published: Capcom  2005 (PC, 2007)Samuel: This might be the most masterfully paced action game ever created. There are so many clever ideas in Resi 4 that make fleeting appearances, before being cycled out for others. A giant statue coming to life and chasing you through a hall, for example, or a lake monster which kills you before the boss fight if you shoot the water, or frightening enemies that work according to sound, or the Regenerators which you can only kill by sniping their organs using a heat sensor. It's wild and remarkable—there is no other modern game like it. It reinvented third-person shooters, perhaps by accident, with its placing of the camera over Leon's shoulders. It's spectacular. I even like the dumb story and dialogue. Resident Evil 4 is not really scary for extended periods of time, but it is constantly atmospheric.James: It took me six months to finish Resident Evil 4. (To be fair, I was a skittish teen.) Like Sam explained, it’s full of surprises, both in terms of what it’s squirrelling away and in its surprising, intense combat design. But it’s the surprising intimacy of the combat that really shook me. The villagers aren’t particularly scary on their own—they’re just rural folks, but it’s their humanity, their implied cunning and relatability, that makes them so terrifying. And when they roll in by the dozens from every angle while you frantically try to climb a ladder or board up a house, it’s impossible not to feel the implication of that cunning. They overwhelm in numbers, but being able to see the whites of their eyes and hear their chatter turn them from brainless bullet sponges into something real—sometimes too real. It’s a miracle that despite Resi 4’s trademark campiness and the fact that scythed parasites explode from the enemies’ heads that it still retains such a taut, tangible sense of unease.Tim: I got to play the game for a few minutes when it was first unveiled at a Capcom event in Vegas, and even in that brief time it was clear that this was a complete reinvention. More importantly, it immediately felt right. A bold evolution that retained the spirit of the original but was bursting with fresh design ideas. The biggest testament to Resi 4’s brilliance is how much time I spent replaying it, which I never bothered with the others, just because that combat—knee-capping gibbering villages as they shambled towards you with farm implements!—felt so perfect, even after the credits had rolled multiple times. Perhaps Resi 7 will be a similarly dramatic reinvention, but Resi 4 will remain one of the all-time classics, and a high watermark it’s hard to see the series ever hitting again.Wes: I'll leave you with this.

PC Gamer

Ark: Survival Evolved's patch 254, originally scheduled to arrive today, has been delayed 10 days until January 30. The highly anticipated patch will include Tek Tier 1 content, which will add endgame technology like power armor, jetpacks, and dino-mounted laser cannons. The patch also promises to deliver a whole mess of new dinosaurs, craftable lances for dino-mouted jousting, and most importantly (to me, anyway), hairstyles and facial hair that grow in real time.

In a post on the Steam forums, Ark's 'Community Overlord' Jatheish Karunakaran posted the following:

"We're going to be delaying the release of Patch 254 until the 30th of January. I know a lot of you are excited and trust me, we are too. This patch is much larger than we first anticipated and we need more time to work on it in development, and through internal QA process prior public release. However soon you will get to enjoy a hell of lot of new content, and we're cooking up an extra-special surprise feature for the patch!" 

Meanwhile, Ark's free Primitive Plus DLC did receive an update today to v1.4, promising bug fixes, balancing, and new items such as a battering ram and recurve bow. It was, however, quickly rolled back fix the problems caused by the patch (there were bugs with the placement of brick walls, lumber glass walls had vanished, and birds were not dropping poultry and feathers when killed, only normal meat and hide). Hopefully that will be sorted out soon.

PC Gamer

Tom Senior: Recently Game Informer disclosed the insights of a supposed Valve insider who insists that Half-Life 3 doesn’t exist in any meaningful form. RTS and FMV prototypes have apparently been toyed with, but the magical genre-shattering FPS sequel that the internet has been craving for nearly a decade isn’t real. Earlier this week Valve’s Gabe Newell did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit and suggested that Valve is still interested in revisiting the Half-Life universe, though “the number three must not be said.” Don’t hold your breath, basically.

Valve’s failure to release Half-Life 3 is not surprising because Valve has never announced Half-Life 3. The studio wanted to move from huge boxed releases to shorter development cycles and an episodic format, culminating with Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Episode Two ended on a savage cliffhanger, but that alone doesn’t fully explain why we want more Half-Life 10 years later. Half-Life 3 has taken on additional meaning. "HL3 confirmed!??" is a running gag, but a hopeful one. We want to believe.

For me Half-Life 3's absence feels like a symbol of Valve’s retreat from game development. I know this is ridiculous, because Valve is running Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—two of the biggest games in the world. But I can’t enjoy Dota 2, because a) it demands massive time investment and b) in my experience as a new player in that community has been dreadful. I don't think I'm alone. I loved Left 4 Dead and Portal, and I had a great time with Alien Swarm, which Valve put out for free in 2010. I miss Valve’s humour and innovation, but if I’m honest I’m pining for Half-Life because Valve stopped making games for me. That’s a pretty petulant position, but there we are.

Samuel Roberts: I've always speculated that an unspoken reason behind Half-Life 3's continued non-existence is the burden to reinvent the first-person shooter again, just as Valve had done on two previous occasions. Is it enough for Valve to just make a super refined sequel, even if it doesn't have the impact of either of the previous Half-Life games? Well, yes—Portal 2 is exactly that model of follow-up. It wasn't a reinvention, it was a welcome extension of the first game's existing ideas. If the level and narrative design is strong enough, it doesn't feel like diminishing returns.

We need Half-Life 3 to complete the story of the series, but more than that, it's a better world for having more of Valve's single-player games in it.

Tom S: It is unfortunate that Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 3: Episode Three) has become this mythical entity. We don't know what it looks like but it's everything we have ever dreamed a first-person game could be. That impossible expectation is good enough reason never to touch that series again. We've been banging on about it for so long that the stakes are crazy high now (and we are not going to stop, apparently).

Also shooters are in a good place right now. Last year brought us Doom, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1’s Operations mode, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege is ticking along nicely. If the rumours are true we could be looking at Destiny 2 on PC in the future. I’m hoping for another shooter from the Wolfenstein: The New Order team. I miss the jokes and the characters of the Half-Life universe, but the FPS hardly needs to be rescued.

Phil Savage: The thing with Portal 2, Sam, is that it did reinvent—just not the campaign. Through its level editor, It made Steam Workshop creation accessible to everyone, and not just people who are really good at making virtual hats. It worked! Portal 2's Workshop page contains over 557,000 items, and, while most of those will have never been played, it definitely extended the life of an otherwise unsurprising—albeit hilarious and with a better ending song—sequel.

I think that's what Gabe Newell meant when he said, in his recent AMA, that Valve's products are, "usually the result of an intersection of technology that we think has traction, a group of people who want to work on that, and one of the game properties that feels like a natural playground for that set of technology and design challenges." If Portal 2 was the Workshop, and Team Fortress 2 the ability to sell a fuckload of hats, what would Half-Life 3 bring to Valve's ecosystem? Maybe it's Source 2. Half-Life 2 was a great showcase for the original Source engine. Perhaps Half-Life 3 will be how Valve demonstrates the power of its successor.

Joe Donnelly: Sam and Tom's points about reinvention and the rude health of modern shooters are bang on the money, and while the FPS genre isn't in need of the same revolution brought by Half-Life 2 12 years ago, Half-Life 2 itself still one of the best first-person shooters on the market today. I revisited the Orange Box last year on a whim to see how Gordon Freeman's second outing fared against today's standards—a whim which had me rooting around Nova Prospekt a full week later, delighting in the how much of the game's wit, humour and expert design I'd forgotten since my first playthroughs.

We've missed this, and it was only by returning after such a long absence that I realised quite how much I miss this. To this end while seeing Half-Life 3—or HL2: Episode 3—powered by Source 2 or something newer would be lovely; I'd just as easy take a concluding chapter powered by the original 2004 engine. And, judging by some of the responses to Gabe Newell's mid-week AMA, I seem to be far from alone. This covers the want element, but do we need Half-Life 3? I reckon yes: evolution and nostalgia aside, denying players the chance to tie up Freeman's loose ends while treating themselves to another helping of what made number two so enjoyable is not only a disservice to players, but an injustice to videogames in general.

Tom S: Some fans have wondered if Valve could do a comic, or another similarly light-touch release, to tie up the end of the story. This seems like a good idea, and I enjoy Valve’s comics a lot.

I do wonder why Half-Life 2’s story still carries weight all this time later though. Half-Life opened with a B-movie premise—experiments gone wrong, the military sweeping in to cover things up. It gained a lot of detail with Half-Life 2, but it’s still pulp sci-fi to me. I mean, there’s a whole zombie movie pastiche in there.

Chris Thursten: Half-Life has always had revolutionary storytelling, but never a revolutionary story. The groundbreaking implementation of elaborate scripted sequences in the first game is why people remember it so vividly. The game never took control away from you: you were there, in Black Mesa, watching that otherwise-familiar B-movie premise explode to life around you.

Half-Life 2 took that further, and grounded a more sophisticated (but still familiar) story of near-future resistance in a believable dystopia. It has been widely imitated, and for good reason. It was a compellingly presented world populated by well-performed characters. Again, you felt like you were in a real place to an extent that you hadn't necessarily been in previous games.

In addition to advancing the FPS as a whole, then, Half-Life 3 would presumably need to advance our understanding of what a gameworld can be. This is where it gets much more complicated, I suspect. The advance of game engine technology has slowed. We're not blown away by see-saw physics any more. I wouldn't be surprised if Valve had experimented with VR with this in mind. Because what else could they do?

Aside from some staggering advance in graphics tech—that would still need to run on regular PCs—the best they could do is kidnap you, stick you in a helicopter, fly you to antarctica and force you to live the conclusion of Gordon's journey in real life. I mean, they could probably afford to do that. But should they? I've seen Westworld. The answer: probably not. (But please do it anyway, Gabe.)

Tom S: That’s settled, then. We do need Half-Life 3, and it needs to be an experiential future-tech extravaganza with deadly IRL headcrabs and reality-shattering see-saw puzzles. Get on it then, Valve.

PC Gamer

The World Electronic Sports Games wrapped up in China this week, with Team EnVyUs taking home the $800,000 prize by defeating Team Kinguin in the CS:GO final. We even got to see TNC Pro Team defeat Cloud9 in the Dota 2 finals. It’s certainly been a busy start to 2017 and we’re not slowing down yet. There’s plenty to watch, from top-tier League of Legends to the CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major. We even have some top quality action from Heroes of the Storm. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.

League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split

League of Legends fans can tune into the European Spring Split today as the 10 teams from France, Spain, Germany and the UK, as well as Fnatic Academy, battle it out for their chance to represent Europe in the Mid-Season Invitational. We will find out if anyone has what it takes to challenge G2 for the crown. Misfits and GIANTS! Gaming kick things off today at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to LoL Esports.

League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split

The NA LCS Spring Split also returns today and this season might be one of the most exciting to date. Top teams from the last split have all become a little bit weaker, especially TSM who lost their star player Doublelift and replaced him with Wildturtle. Cloud 9 have also acquired new coaching and player talent from South Korea and replaced Meteos with the talented player Contractz. Both these teams will be kicking things off today at 15:00 PST / 00:00 CET, while the full schedule and stream can be found over on LoL Esports.

Dota 2: Pit League Season 5

Eight teams will compete for the season five title and with a minimum prize pool of $125 000 on the line, plus the portion spent on chests and in-game tickets, it is sure to be a fiercely contested event. The tournament is scheduled for this weekend and the top teams are set to clash right from the beginning. Quarterfinals begin today at 01:00 / 10:00 CET and resume tomorrow at the same time. The event can be streamed over on Twitch.

CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major 2017

Sixteen of the best CS:GO teams will battle it out at the FOX Theatre in Atlanta, USA.  The group stage will take place from January 22nd to the 26th, while the playoffs begin on the 27th and end on the 29th. SK Gaming is set to be the favourites after they dominated last year’s headlines. However, the competition will be extremely fierce as everyone will want a piece of the $1,000,000 pie. The schedule can be found here, while the event will be streamed live via the ELEAGUE channel on Twitch.

Overwatch: OGN APEX Season 2

The star studded lineups have been battling since Tuesday in order to grab their share of the $180,000 prize pool. OGN APEX Season 2 has invited four Western teams to compete with the best Korea has to offer. So far the group B bracket has been the group that has received the most attention as it features Asia’s highest ranked team, Lunatic-Hai. However, Europe’s second highest ranked team, Misfits, will also be looking to reign supreme. It’s likely the winner of this group may go on to win the tournament. Group C will be starting their matches today at 02:00 PST / 11:00 CET, while Group D start at 03:30 PST / 12:30 CET. The event can be watched over on Twitch.

Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship stage

Heroes of the Storm’s HGC will see top teams battle for supremacy in regional professional leagues around the world. The best of the best will be tested in international clashes and a mid-season brawl as they fight their way to the finish at the HGC finals. The Heroes Global Champions will take home the crown and the winner's share of the cash prize. Europe’s first match between Team Dignitas and Misfits begins at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET, while the North American match between Tempo Storm and Team Naventic starts at 14:00 PST / 11:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can be found here.

PC Gamer

Is your Tyr insufficiently kingly? How conventional is your Ying? These are questions we ask ourselves every day, and this weekend we will do our best to ensure that you need never ask them again. Thanks to Hi-Rez, we've got 1000 codes for Smite and Paladins to give away.

If you're unfamiliar, Smite is a free to play MOBA with a mythological theme that is played from a third person perspective. Heavy emphasis on skillshots and the fast pace of the play set it apart from other games in its genre, as does a generous free-to-play model that lets you pay once to unlock every character, including new ones, forever.

Paladins is a team FPS with MOBA and card game elements. It wears its influences on its sleeve - it's squarely in the same territory as Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch - but after a long period in beta it has established its own identity. Being able to customise your character mid-match adds a strategic element similar to a MOBA, and there are some really cool character designs to be found beyond the familiar tanks, healers and damage heroes (you'll find a skin for one of them below.)

All you need to do is fill out the forms below to register your interest. You've got until 17:00 CEST / 08:00 PDT on Sunday January 22nd to do so. At that point, 1000 lucky entrants will receive an email with their code. You're welcome to enter both giveaways, but we can't guarantee that you'll get both codes. Good luck and have fun!

King Ar-Tyr for Smite

This Monty Python-inspired skin for Norse warrior Tyr gives him an Arthurian makeover, including new spell effects and new voice lines. It'd normally cost you 400 gems, which is $7.99 in regular money. For a chance at getting it for free, fill out the form below. For more on Smite and to download the game, click here.

Convention Ying for Paladins

This skin was part of the Digital Loot Pack that Hi-Rez sold as part of their promotion of HRX 2017, and it's no longer available as part of the in-game store. That means that we're currently your only hope of getting an orangey-blue Ying if you don't already have one. That's not a sentence we've had to write very often.

Ying's a versatile, high-skill support character whose abilities revolve around the use of illusions. These (mostly) stationary duplicates heal nearby allies, act as teleport beacons for the main Ying, and can be activated to pursue nearby enemies and explode. Playing her effectively means staying on the move, ensuring that you have illusions on hand to help your team, and luring enemies into traps. If you don't play support because you find it too passive, give her a try.

Fill out the form below for a shot at getting a key. To find out more about Paladins, click here

PC Gamer

As was announced alongside Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite's reveal last month, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is heading to PCs this year—some five and a bit years after landing on PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Now, it's got a concrete launch date: March 7, 2017. 

If you've played any of the previous Capcom Vs games in the past, you'll know the drill here: familiar triple tag-team one-versus-one bouts which often get lost in a blur of special maneuvers, high pitched screams, and finger-mashing button-bashing. All of which means you'll get the chance to see Iron Man take on Ryu, The Hulk face-off against Jill Valentine, Thor going toe-to-toe with Viewtiful Joe—or whichever other weird and wonderful crossovers tickle your fancy.  

Alongside a PC release, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 also launched on PS4 last month, which came with this trailer:  

With Tekken making its PC debut this year, not to mention growing interest in the competitive fighting game spectrum, beat 'em ups are going from strength to strength on our platform of choice. If this interests you, why not find out who the major players are in the upcoming 2017 Capcom Pro Tour?

PC Gamer

I'm playing as psychic girl Natalia when an orange glow turns red. This is a problem. It means one of the enemies she detects at a distance has seen me, even though I'm crouchwalking and according to video game law should be undetectable. Natalia can brain enemies with bricks but I'm all out of those, so I tab over to the other character, Barry Burton. The walking meme generator who's been appearing in Resident Evil games since the first readies his signature Magnum, but can't see what Natalia saw—it's an invisible glasp, a slack-skinned flybeast that appears out of nowhere to one-hit kill you then open its belly and rain larvae on your corpse. I take aim, trying to remember exactly where it was. Natalia points and as I open fire shouts “More left!” and “Higher!”

Later, playing as two other characters – Resident Evil 2 survivor Claire Redfield and Barry's daughter Moira – I hear the buzzdrone of another glasp approaching. But this time I don't have a psychic girl to point at it and all I can do is spray wildly, wasting bullets that are as precious and rare as good Resident Evil games.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was overlooked when it came out in 2015. It was a sequel to a spin-off made for the 3DS, although it doesn't continue that story and is by Resident Evil standards pretty self-contained. Also, it was episodic, and like every episodic game that meant it attracted the usual shouting about how unfair its pricing was. Which is a shame, because Revelations 2 is one of the best Resident Evil games there is.

While Resident Evil 4 reinvented the series as action, the Revelations games stepped back toward survival horror. Ammunition's scarce and you're forced to use dangerous tactics to conserve it. In Revelations 2 that means character-swapping. Natalia's ability to see monsters through walls makes it easier for Barry to sneak up and stealth-kill them with his knife. Moira uses her torch to blind zombies so Claire can kick them down, before Moira jumps back in to crowbar their heads like ripe fruit. Against lone enemies these are solid plans, but against groups things easily go wrong and then you're overwhelmed and wasting bullets. 

Having four main characters works well with the B-grade horror movie tone that Revelations 2 evokes. The bigger the core cast of a horror movie, the less likely they all are to survive it. Each of the four plays into an archetype horror role: the protective father, the hardened survivor, the panicky teen, the spooky girl (she even dresses like one of the sisters from The Shining). It's B-grade in the best possible way – schlocky but well-written, especially for Resident Evil. It recasts Barry's badly translated one-liners as lame dad jokes, and contrasts them with his daughter's dialogue, peppered with inventive swearing. When she responded to a situation with “What in a moist barrel of fucks?” Moira became my favourite character.

That situation? Being trapped on a prison island off the coast of Russia by a woman calling herself The Overseer, who performs bizarre experiments on her captives. It's a bit Code: Veronica, a bit Cube. The Overseer is turning the locals into zombies, creating mutants, and bringing outsiders in with collars on their wrists that track their fear levels while she subjects them to a meatgrinder of puzzles and setpiece battles like, well, a sadistic video game designer.

What in a moist barrel of fucks?

Moira Burton

Though it references the convoluted backstory of the series, with a Wesker showing up and jokes about the dialogue from the original game, Revelations 2 stands independent from most of that stuff. It doesn't bog you down in exposition about which strain of the T-Virus got loose this time or which local franchise of the evil Umbrella Corporation is responsible for it all. Each of the four episodes is split into halves, each played as one character pair, beginning with a “previously on” and building to a daft cliffhanger. It finishes when it should, and climaxes with an extremely over-the-top boss fight that brings together every glorious cliché the series has built up over the years, from last-minute helicopter rescues to red barrels full of explodium.

Screenshot via Steam user Moon_Shine.

However, you only get that all-action climax if you're on track for the good ending. I'm going to spoil how the endings work now, so skip ahead a paragraph if you want, though I think you'll enjoy the game more knowing how it works up front. Revelations 2 has two endings, and the bad one's not just bleak but abrupt in the way that makes you feel like you're being punished for playing the 'wrong' way.

At the end of episode three you choose whether Claire or Moira kills Neil, the fellow survivor who betrays you because there's always one. Claire had a crush on Neil and feels especially deceived, so letting her finish him would nicely tie that up – but that's how you get the bad ending. Instead Moira, who hates guns, has to overcome her feelings like Reginald VelJohnson in Die Hard and shoot Neil in the head because guns are actually very good, I guess?  

That misstep aside, Revelations 2 is everything you want from survival horror. Regular horror is all about fear, but survival is more about tension. Most of the enemies are barb-wire zombies or shambly twitchmen, and they're not what's really worrying. Having to crowbar open a door with Moira while Claire protects her, and realizing you don't have any molotovs or shotgun shells left—that's what's frightening. Recent Resident Evil games turned their heroes into unstoppable machines able to punch through boulders, but Revelations 2 dialled it back. With restricted locations and survival horror as its focus, Revelations 2 feels like it was pointing the way towards Resident Evil 7.

Raid mode is a worthy successor to Mercenaries, with RPG leveling and tons of unlocks.

Even though the combat's not over-the-top it's still great, with enemies who can be stunned or hit in weak spots or blasted right out of the air when they leap. Pin-point aiming is possible because for once the mouse-and-keyboard controls work as well as a controller, unlikely as that seems in a Resident Evil game. Plus there's a proper dodge button rather than the mad situational dodging the previous Revelations had, which worked entirely at random. 

And like Resident Evil 4 with its Mercenaries mode there's a way to keep enjoying the combat after finishing the story: Raid mode. Presented as a virtual simulation created by the Red Queen AI, it transforms Revelations 2 into fast-paced pure combat, playable alone or in co-op just like the campaign. There's a stream of unlocks and upgrades to keep you going and for some reason they appear as vinyl records that have to be plugged into a jukebox between missions.

Yet that's not the weirdest thing about it. No, the weirdest thing is the emote system, with a range of actions, commands, and dance moves that mean you can finally see Barry Burton dance the robot. And that's the other secret best thing about Resident Evil: Revelations 2. 

The master of robotics.
PC Gamer

Google's VR painting program, Tilt Brush, allows HTC Vive users to create 3D paintings with the system's headset and motion-tracked controllers. Today, Google officially introduced Tilt Brush Toolkit (though it's been around for a few months), an open source library that helps artists work with their Tilt Brush paintings in the Unity game engine.

"The Tilt Brush Toolkit includes Python scripts and a Unity SDK with everything you need to make movies, interactive stories, video games, music videos, or other projects using assets created in Tilt Brush," reads the announcement.

Toolkit is available now on Github, and Tilt Brush itself is $30/£23 on Steam. It'd take more expertise than I have to make anything of value with Tilt Brush and Unity, but I look forward to seeing how experienced hobbyists and developers marry the expressiveness of VR painting with animation and interactivity. Check out a few project examples from Google below:

 

PC Gamer

Ubisoft has a surprise: not only has it just announced Might & Magic: Showdown, which I was able to preview last week, it's also releasing it on Early Access today. Showdown is a 1v1 PvP game set in the in Might & Magic universe, but plays out on a virtual tabletop with digital figurines that can be painted however you like. The level of detail possible with Showdown's virtual painting tools is impressive, but unfortunately they support one of the dullest PvP games I've played in a long time. Watch the video above to see it in action and hear my thoughts, or read on.

The painting tools—which are also being released as a free but limited standalone game—are some of the best I've ever used. There are dozens of unlockable paints, categorized by their sheen and finish, and you can even adjust the opacity to make new colors. Your brush size can get as small as a single pixel wide, and things like shading and highlights are kept on separate painting layers so you can easily add fine details. Or, if you're lazy like me, large sections of a figurine can be painted at once to make the whole process less daunting. It's truly impressive, and I highly recommend you play around with the toolset in the free painter releasing alongside Showdown.

The tragedy of Showdown's painting tools is that the game they are part of doesn't take advantage of the creativity they allow. The game itself has a camera pulled so far back, you can basically only tell how a unit has been painted in its static portrait at the top or in the post-game victory screen. In fact, as shown in the video above, you could pretty much black out the entirety of the action in the center of the screen and still successfully play the game. 

(3v3) Not quite the best showcase of that one pixel brush you fine-tuned your figurines with.

This is because each player brings four units into a battle—there's also 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3, but 4v4 is the primary ranked format—but you only directly control one of them. You select targets and switch between abilities for your Hero character, but the other three are Creature characters, which are AI-controlled based on behavior patterns you "program" into them before a fight. Things like "Attack the lowest health opponent" or "If an opponent is next to two others, use X ability." It's not a bad system on paper, but it's aggressively uninteresting in practice. 

During a match, I was just staring at cooldown indicators and making sure my Hero had the correct target selected while my Creatures did their thing. It's not very engaging at the best of times, and became even worse if either player's Hero was killed early in a fight, leaving their pre-programmed Creatures to helplessly defend the fallen player's honor. If Showdown had a mode that gave you control of all your units, it could be an engaging, challenging PvP game. But, as it stands, it's hard to shake the feeling that mechanical skill was sacrificed for wider accessibility. 

We'll have to see how Might & Magic: Showdown changes over the course of its Early Access life, but currently the painting is the only part of it worth playing. Both the $20 game and the free paint workshop are now available on Steam, and I'd definitely recommend giving the latter a shot—especially if you own a Wacom tablet or similar drawing pad. I imagine some cool (and wildly inappropriate) paint jobs will start popping up, it's just a shame the game they'll be used in isn't more interesting. 

PC Gamer

The word 'mod' undersells The Long War 2. 'Mod' implies an aesthetic tweak, a UI correction, a new weapon perhaps. In fact this is XCOM 2 as developed in a parallel universe. The Long War 2 does add lots of new weapons, classes and skills, but all these service a set of bespoke design aims that turn XCOM 2 from a survival strategy game into a gradually paced army and territory management sim with expanded combat encounters.

For players that have mastered XCOM 2's story and power arcs, or now find them predictable, Long War 2 is an essential download. The mod forces you to break out of your habits and re-engage with the game again at the most basic level. Even soldiers are valued differently. You can field up to ten in a mission, and you start with a large roster. Consequently, losing agents isn't the body blow it can be in trad XCOM, and you have more room to experiment with ability and weapon combinations across your force.

Your whole stance as resistance commander feels different to ordinary XCOM 2, which forces you into a reactive position with must-fight emergency missions. In The Long War 2 missions are more like leads that you can choose to spend time and resources to follow up. Ordinary missions are precluded by an infiltration period that asks you to devote a squad to a location for a variable number of days. If they achieve a high degree of infiltration (represented by a percentage marker that ticks upwards with each day), they face weaker forces in that mission.

This introduces some new opportunities to XCOM 2. Firstly, you can take a pass on missions. Second: it's entirely viable, and often useful, to send an under-strength squad to a mission, because smaller squads can infiltrate more quickly and effectively. This creates an interesting separation within your roster, between large teams of newbies and small teams of highly-levelled, well-equipped crack special forces operatives. Moving between sub-squads introduces more variety to combat encounters as well. In XCOM 2 you're likely to develop a small team of very precious warriors. In the Long War you nurture a broad, diverse stable over a longer period.

Even if you decide to deploy a small squad, combat encounters tend to be busier. Enemy reinforcements can drop in while you're waiting for extraction. If a mission is going badly and you choose to extract, you have to wait longer for your ship to arrive, and thus fend off more enemies. There are new enemy varieties too, such as colour-coded versions of ordinary advent soldiers with different loadouts and behaviours. These expanded firefights have an interesting effect on the way chance operates. By growing the number of chance rolls the game makes, the effects of variance are reduced over time. You will still see massive swings of good and bad luck of course, but the length of the campaign and the reduced value of soldiers softens XCOM 2's harshest elements. The extra bit of ablative armour that recruits wear also helps.

The extra soldiers and the glut of missions gives you more room to enjoy the new classes. The sword-wielding Shinobi shares some similarity to the assault class, but with a much greater emphasis on stealth and ambush tactics. At high levels, with the right skills, Shinobi can break stealth, attack multiple enemies and re-enter concealment, or mitigate damage with buffed evasion rolls (dodging an attack means you take a small amount of 'graze' damage, far preferable to the full-whack when fighting mid-tier enemies upwards). They are supported by knives and swords, and benefit from the new SMG weapons, which let you sacrifice mid-range accuracy for speed. There's also a new Technical class, members of which wields a wrist-mounted flame-thrower/rocket launcher secondary combo weapon, which is as amazing as it sounds.

There are plenty of new mission types for these new soldiers to tackle, including prison break-outs and enemy base assaults. The rewards for these missions have been redesigned to affect the heavily reworked map layer. You still fly the Avenger around the globe to camp on spots and suck up resources or activate missions, but The Long War 2 introduces an additional layer of territory management. Once you've made contact with the resistance in an area you can assign resistance members based there to different jobs that generate supply and intel. You can assign engineers and scientists to regions to supply additional boosts. Resistance members can also fend off alien influence in an area, and Advent moves troops around on the map in an effort to install new alien bases and move the Avatar project forward.

The changes bring a dose of 4X strategy to XCOM 2. This slows the pace considerably—this is the Long War, after all. This dilutes the impact and drama of an XCOM 2 campaign to an extent. The way the core game gives you a narrow stream of high-stakes decisions is one of the reasons I loved it so much when I reviewed it last year. However I've found it fascinating to see how XCOM's core mechanics work in this new context. The Long War 2 is a thoughtful and effective reworking of the XCOM 2 formula, and the new weapon, class and mission additions are slick and well-integrated—they could have come from Firaxis.

Speaking of Firaxis, it's great to see studios work with modders, particularly in instances where the mod team wants to substantially rework the studio's original vision. The result is a neat Earth-B take on the concept that unlocks hundreds of hours of extra playtime. The Long War 2 is out now, and it's free.

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