PC Gamer

If you're among the small number of folk who still buy PC games on disc, then we've got bad news for you: Project Cars has been delayed in Australia, and it's all thanks to the rain. That's right: it's not just Sydney trains that come to a grinding halt when there's moisture in the air, but video games too.

Fair enough, though the rain was quite terrible in Sydney last week, as my kitchen ceiling will attest. Project Cars is expected to hit retail on Friday 8, a mere day after its scheduled release date, and local distributor Bandai Namco has provided us this statement:

"Our local production house suffered some damage in last week s storms which resulted in our PC stock and DLC paper-parts having to be reprinted. As such, we are working to having the Project CARS PC stock delivered to stores this Friday 8th, a day after the console formats release on Thursday."

Slightly Mad Studios is reportedly in the planning phase for Project Cars 2, according to reports last week. In the meantime, here's some recent footage showing off the game's multiplayer modes.

PC Gamer
"This won't hurt a bit."

We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, design criticism, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.

When you donate your body to science, there s a general understanding that you don t expect to use that body again. It s old, or parts of it are broken, and you hope that some doctor will be able to learn a valuable thing or two about pancreases or elbow cartilage with the help of your husk. Whatever the outcome of that mortal tinkering, it s a transaction with no return policy.

Despite the many transplants, facelifts, and amputations Valve has subjected Team Fortress 2 to, it refuses to die. No FPS, and perhaps no game in any genre, has endured such aggressive and continuous experimentation and lived to be one of the most-played games on PC. It s a body that s sustained 494 surgeries, including:

  • Becoming free-to-play
  • The addition of a full-fledged item economy (item drops, crafting, market, trading…)
  • Steam Workshop integration; transitioning away from primarily developing TF2 internally to sourcing a significant amount of TF2 s new content from the community
  • Continuous holiday events that transform TF2 into, among other things, bumper cars
  • The use of TF2 as a vehicle for greater Valve projects, like The Saxxy Awards (Source Filmmaker/replay editor), Mac compatibility
  • The addition of Mann vs. Machine, a cooperative horde mode
  • Numerous crossover promotions via pre-ordering other games
  • Having its nine carefully-designed classes (and meta) reinvented many times over by the addition of new items

TF2 is a guinea pig grafted to Frankenstein s monster created on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Over eight years it s become an organism that Valve exposes to new stimuli and learns from watching what happens in order to improve other games or aspects of Steam. CS:GO s post-launch addition of item crates is one example of something prototyped in TF2.

What makes TF2 so malleable?

But typically, there s a cost to all that tinkering, some unexpected side effects. Your hair falls out. You get a rash. TF2 s forced mutations probably would have killed weaker games. An MMO going free-to-play is often tantamount to defibrillation, and often to the detriment of original designs. If Gearbox had welded an item economy to Borderlands 2, added competitive modes, or handed off most of its development to community mapmakers and modders, what sort of unplayable mess would it be?

What makes TF2 durable enough to survive all these changes and emerge each time remaining one of the most-played and beloved PC games over the past decade?

Meet the Writer

TF2 s characters, and Valve s commitment to telling their story, form a thick, regenerating skin. However many hats, hoods, rainbow flamethrowers, Street Fighter references, mutant bread, or $10 Deus Ex arms Valve throws on its nine mercenaries, they retain their charm, and their personality carries TF2 forward.

Throughout its life, TF2 s characters have softened the blow of its big systemic and mechanical changes. They re the sugar in the medicine. When Valve strapped an economy to TF2, they didn t explain it as a series of dry bullet points (although there was a FAQ). A bare-chested Australian arms dealer shouted the news at us. When TF2 became playable on Mac, its characters visited a fictional Apple store to poke fun at the unexpected news that TF2 was coming to a platform that s considered to be one of the PC s rivals. It sounds like some kinda hospital for fruit, the Scout says.

When Valve strapped an economy to TF2, a bare-chested Australian arms dealer shouted the news at us.

When TF2 was about to become a free-to-play game, arguably the biggest single change to the game that s been made, Valve understood that it had to be handled delicately. (Perhaps revisiting this announcement could ve improved Valve s recent handling of paid mods.) Jog your memory: in 2011, there was still plenty of discomfort among western gamers about free-to-play. Even with League of Legends in the wild, Korean titles like Maple Story and Facebook games had given F2P a bad stigma.

When TF2 went free, the announcement was one piece of a five-day package of stuff rolled into the Uber Update, which Valve deliberately built and billed as The biggest, most ambitious update in the history of Team Fortress 2. Every class but the Engineer got new items, and most got a whole set. True to my point, the Uber Update culminated with one of its characters literally performing surgery on another, the Meet the Medic video—arguably the biggest piece of the update in all considering how wildly anticipated each of the class videos have been.

Image by Zummeng.

Valve s used a similar approach for reinventing individual classes. One of Valve s attitudes throughout TF2 is that they didn t want individual classes to stagnate around an optimal strategy. And in order to manage that aspect of the metagame Valve have been completely willing to put the very identities of each class on the chopping block. For the first couple years of TF2, sentry turrets were the hinge upon which most of the rest of the mechanics swung: it gave everyone else something to do, something to kill, something to support. Arguably no other single thing in TF2 was more integral to how the game was played.

And Valve demolished that paradigm. In the 2010 Engineer update the Engineer went from being a gun babysitter to being a class that you could build as an offensive harasser, or an even more defensive (but more active) turret operator. Engineers gained a mini-sentry that deployed almost instantly, and an item that allowed them to manually aim turrets (and deflected two-thirds of incoming damage while doing it). The manual aiming of turrets even allowed Engineers to reach whole new areas of the environment with sentry jumping. If that wasn t enough, the update made the previously static guns movable.

Short of turning TF2 into a JRPG, I can t think of a more insane change than all of that. How did Valve sell it to players, some of whom had spent years getting invested in what it meant to be an Engineer? It wrapped the Engineer update in four days of mini-reveals, hidden links to images, and added a Golden Wrench competition across the entire event that was straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The teaser video tied the update nicely to the Engineer s personality, too: he s an inventor, and the update is a collection of his new creations.

The community has embraced TF2's incongruence. (Halloweiner from Steam Workshop.)

As an FPS critic, I have plenty of things to appreciate about TF2, about the way it mingles Quake s DNA with a playfulness that softens the blow of defeat, about how it applies Valve s ideas about readability so well. But its longevity, and its distinct ability to survive its own transformative changes, is owed to how consistently Valve has integrated storytelling and its international cast of mercenaries into practically every patch.

TF2 s updates aren t content patches, they're happenings in the Team Fortress 2 universe that inspire their own lore. The Administrator,  Zepheniah Mann, Saxton Hale, Australium, Australian Christmas, the Bombinomicon, the towers of hats, the Scout's mom—this stuff isn't window dressing, it's the connective tissue that's kept TF2's identity solid as it's mutated continuously over eight years. Valve has been able to spin and contextualize wild changes to TF2—many of which were made so that Valve could learn something about player behavior—not as new versions but as new episodes in an ever-evolving Saturday morning cartoon.

PC Gamer
need to know

What is it? The long-awaited PC debut of WWE s ever-popular console series once known (and still warmly regarded) as Smackdown. Reviewed on: Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, 8GB RAM Play it on: Core i5-3550, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570/Radeon HD 6970 Copy protection: Steam Price: 35/$50 Release date: Out now Publisher: 2K Games Developer: Yuke s Multiplayer: Co-op/competitive, up to 6 players LinkOfficial site

Wrestling fans cherish the past to a degree that any outsider would find mawkish. How else to explain their (actually, as a man who still owns every issue of WWF Magazine from 1991 to 1994, I should say our ) acceptance of the awful Bushwhackers in WWE s Hall Of Fame? Sadly, this information seems to have done strange things to Japanese developer Yuke s. After a 15-year wait, the veteran grap-masters have finally delivered to PC a terrific wrestling game… so long as you ve a DeLorean on hand to whisk you back to last summer.

When WWE 2K15 landed on consoles in November, my chief criticism was that its roster felt months out of date. So it s simply staggering that this port is identical to the PS4 and Xbox One versions, both in and out of the ring. Case in point: current hot property Seth Rollins. His outfit, theme, and entrance video all stem from his days in tag team The Shield—which split on June 2 last year, all of 11 months ago. This perhaps could fly under radar were it not for the fact that Rollins is the company s reigning world champion.

Dean Ambrose is similarly kitted out in outdated Shield garb with old Shield music. Fandango sashays down the aisle with blonde dance partner Summer Rae in tow, despite the pair breaking up half a year ago. Stardust is still called Cody Rhodes. And on I could go. The bottom line is that no matter how great the wrestling itself—and for the most part, it s a load of fun—you never feel like you re playing a game that matches the current WWE product. And after a decade-and-a-half spent clamouring for this series to hit PC, that s a Brock-Lesnar-weighty blow.

It s especially grating because inside the squared circle, the attention to detail longed for in all areas of 2K15 is abundant. Wrestlers move and grapple with pleasing heft, seamlessly obeying your commands to transition between holds and reversals. Attempt a move near the ropes and your grappler moves his foe closer to the centre of the ring to make a follow-up pin attempt easier; ascend the turnbuckles and your opponent subtly moves himself into position to take your move, in an intelligent and deliberate nod to the choreographed ballet of bruises that is real WWE. Bell to bell, the in-ring action feels refreshingly authentic.

King of swing

Not ideal are the chain wrestling mini-games which open each match and go from clever to cloying by your dozenth contest, and a clumsy pin mechanic that leads to too many bouts ended prematurely. But for the most part, this strikes a welcome balance between win-at-all-costs brawler and put-on-a-show-in-the-process grappler. Smartly weighted stamina and momentum systems bring layers of nuance to a genre which for so many years centred on button-hammering, and many wrestlers—most notably Cesaro, John Cena, and Randy Orton—feel brilliantly unique to handle thanks to individual character traits.

It runs buttery smooth for me with a Core i5 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970. However, others report problems with lesser specs and have had to reduce the number of members in the crowd to achieve a respectable frame rate, so it s worth a little research in this area before purchase. Also noticeable is a bizarre bug in which wrestlers (and referees!) play dead during replays. One would assume this ll be patched imminently, but it s an almost comical oversight on the dev s part.

You may have spotted a theme in the accompanying screenshots to this review: Summer Rae aside, they re unmistakably man-tastic. This isn t me trying to pretend that female grapplers don t exist; instead, it s because your options to play as WWE Divas are extremely limited. Paige is omitted despite all other console DLC being included in the price (some yet to be released), and you can t create female characters at all. Fancy playing out the Stephanie McMahon vs. Ronda Rousey feud teased at WrestleMania 31? Course you do. But you won t be doing it here.

Again, this lack of attention to detail outside of the ring is what holds WWE 2K15 back from must-buy status. 2K has welcomed modding and no doubt the oversights regarding Rollins and company will be rectified by the community, but it shouldn t be up to you and me to bring it up to snuff. There s plenty of promise in this PC debut, yet it s impossible to play it without constantly thinking that the number 15 in the title is exactly a year out of date.

PC Gamer

Remember the little chipmunk-faced guy who helped Lando fly the Millennium Falcon in Return of the Jedi? He was a Sullustan—from the planet Sullust, as you might surmise—and his homeworld will be the setting for at least one of the 12 multiplayer maps included with Star Wars: Battlefront.

To accurately recreate the surface of Sullust, which according to the Wookiepedia is "composed of multicolored rock, veined by lava channels," members of the DICE development team headed to Iceland, "a unique and ideal location which in multiple areas looked like another planet," the studio wrote in a blog post detailing the experience. They took photos and video of the landscape, which Lead Environment Artist Andrew Hamilton said "hints at all the features in our concept [art] and all the content we needed to gather."

Even with the Icelandic footage, it was more work creating the in-game environment for Sullust than for other planets, like Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor, all of which had real-world counterparts seen in the films. Material collected from those locations "could be used right away," Senior Level Artist Petter Skold explained, but the studio had to "shift and bend" the footage from Iceland to fit the design.

"Everything needs to look like something you could actually imagine existing," Hamilton added. "That s what we wanted to do with Sullust…make it feel out of this world but like it could actually exist."

EA said there will be 12 multiplayer maps of various sizes and shapes in Star Wars: Battlefront, some new and some familiar, and also teased "even more locations when you include the Star Wars Battlefront Missions." The capitalization makes it look like some kind of DLC, but I'm assuming it's actually a reference to the small-scale scenarios that will comprise the game's single-player/co-op mode.

Star Wars: Battlefront comes out on November 17. Find out what we're hoping it delivers, and see some video from the recent Star Wars Celebration, in the latest edition of the PC Gamer Show.

PC Gamer
PC Gamer

EVE Online studio CCP Games has committed to supporting the Icelandic Red Cross' relief efforts in Nepal with $15 for each Plex donated to the cause by EVE players.

Anyone who wants to kick in to the cause must contract one or more Plex to the "CCP Plex for Good" character on a 14-day item exchange contract. CCP emphasized that donors should double-check to ensure that the offer is going to the correct character, who is a member of the C C P Corporation, because it cannot guarantee the return of Plex donated to the wrong person.

This isn't CCP's first such program: Plex for Good campaigns have raised more than $340,000 in aid funding following natural disasters around the world, most recently in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Nor is it the only game-related relief effort for Nepal: Last week, Ubisoft's Far Cry development team pledged to match donations to the Canadian Red Cross, up to $100,000; that effort currently stands at just shy of $60,000.

Along with the warm feeling that comes from doing a solid for a good cause, donors will also get a pair of in-game t-shirts for their EVE avatars. (The shirts are still being designed, and will be distributed when they're ready.) It's also worth noting that in spite of CCP's famously lax attitude toward in-game shenanigans, it will tolerate no horsing around with legitimate charitable efforts. "Please note that CCP regards any scamming attempts surrounding PLEX for GOOD to be morally reprehensible," it warned, "and any attempts at scamming relating to this program will be met with the harshest and swiftest action at our disposal."

The Plex for Good: Nepal Earthquake Relief program is live now and runs until 15.

PC Gamer

Just in case your eyes aren't already full of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood video, here's another one featuring Bethesda's Gary Steinman, (once of this parish), explaining some of the more interesting aspects about traveling back in time to hang a job on the Nazis.

Steinman says The Old Blood is "dripping with history," although not history in the sense of things that actually happened in the past. Instead, it's the history of Wolfenstein: The New Order, which becomes the videogame present when Nazi-stomper extraordinaire B.J. Blazkowicz travels into the past to throw a wrench into the gears of Der F hrer's war machine.

The Old Blood will be split into two separate stories, Rudi J ger and the Den of Wolves and The Dark Secrets of Helga Von Schabbs, which will see the appearance of the zombie hoard, some of whom will even be packing heat. All in all, it looks to fit nicely with the "B-movie vibe" Bethesda has promised, telling "a lighter story at a brisker pace," and it's great to lay eyes on the old Castle Wolfenstein again, too. Love those gondolas!

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is out on May 5—that's tomorrow! If you just can't wait, you can catch an hour of straight-up gameplay right here.

PC Gamer

Less than 24 hours remain on the countdown clock at the Black Mesa Research Facility website, which has switched to a new and rather alarming emergency broadcast. I'm pretty sure it's actually the same message the site began to broadcast over the new year, although some details may have changed. Either way, it's a chilling (and exciting!) notification that something has gone very wrong at Black Mesa.

The teaser website is fun, but practically speaking it's the appearance of the Black Mesa Workshop on Steam that points to all of this hype being somehow related to Black Mesa, the Source engine-based remake of the original Half-Life. It could be that the Xen levels, which aren't currently part of Black Mesa, are ready for release, or it could signal the long-awaited launch of the retail version of the game on Steam.

The Workshop contains seven maps, all for multiplayer battles, as well as an eighth, entitled, "asdf0," which as we all know is computer-speak for, "This is a test." There's no store page link, however, and the home and discussion links lead to either the Steam storefront or the Steam Workshop front pages; trying to "manually" reach a Black Mesa store page by using the app ID number from the Workshop page in a regular Steam URL is also a bust.

Despite the near-certitude that this is all tied into Black Mesa, more resolutely optimistic fans may still maintain hope that it's all a lead-up to the announcement of Half-Life 3. Buried in the code of the BMRF.us website is an ascii image of the mysterious G-Man, above a link to "THREE.WebGLRenderer." It's not exactly "confirmed!" but dare to dream, right?

Whatever it is, the countdown clock will hit zero at 9:47 Mountain Standard Time on May 5. Be ready.

PC Gamer

Like the debonair Prince Adam, you, dear PC Gamer reader, have a power inside you—a power that can turn you into He-Man, mightiest PC builder in all of Eternia. With your Magnetic Screwdriver of Power, you can turn a pile of PC components into a mighty gaming machine. Nothing can stand in your way—not tight thumbscrews, not awkwardly short cables, not mysterious error codes, not even Skeletor himself.

But let s be honest: even if you can successfully build a PC, some part of the process is going to be a pain. You re may be annoyed by the CPU cooler while you try to bolt it in place. You may curse a few times as you drop screws into the dark nooks of your case. These are the small annoyances that slow us down, even if they don t stop us from completing a PC build. And those are the problems we re here to help you with.

Here are our tips for taking the pain out of PC building: techniques for overcoming some common annoyances and tools you can buy (or find around the house) to make the build process easier. If you ve never built a PC before, we recommend following the step-by-step process in our beginner s guide after reading these tips.

Always ground yourself before touching expensive components

This one s almost a no-brainer, but just about the most painful thing you can do while building a computer is destroy it. Ground yourself before handling the motherboard and other components, just to make sure you don t short anything out. If you want extra peace of mind, buy an anti-static wrist wrap for a few dollars.

Use a magnetic screwdriver

Building a PC involves a lot of small screws. And smaller screws. And black screws that perfectly blend in with the interior of a black case when you drop them. Point is, dropping screws is a pain, and it s probably going to happen when you re working on a case from above, or at awkward angles. But you can spit in the face of gravity by using a magnetic screwdriver to assemble components. It ll keep those screws from falling into awkward corners and make the process of screwing in the motherboard, power supply, CPU cooler and more far breezier.

We recommend the Snap-On ratcheting magnetic screwdriver. It s our favorite for a few reasons: the great grip, the ratcheting mechanism that easily switches between forward and reverse, the magnetic bits that keep us from dropping screws. The handle doubles as a storage compartment that holds several bits. It s an expensive screwdriver at $65, but we think it s worth the money. If you want to be thrifty, though, you can find a magnetic screwdriver on Amazon for less money. Just make sure the bits (or the head of the screwdriver) are magnetized.

And if you re worried about using a magnetic screwdriver around your PC components, don t be. The magnet s not strong enough to do any real damage, but if you want to feel safe, keep the magnetic bits away from exposed circuitry and your hard drives. The hard drives should be shielded enough that a little ol screwdriver bit won t do any damage. If you ve got some old floppy disks lying around, on the other hand, watch out.

Use a headlamp or positionable light source

Once your motherboard is screwed into the case and you re plugging in and screwing in components, it can be pretty tough to see what you re doing. If you re working on the case from the side, your ceiling lights probably aren t helping illuminate the interior. And if you re working on it from above, your head is probably blocking most of the light, casting shadows into those nooks and crannies you need to be able to see.

Solution? Wear a headlamp, of course. Strapping on a headlamp may feel a little dorky, but it ll save you time and aggravation while you re assembling your PC. If you find yourself pulling out your smartphone, turning on its LED light, and trying to position it somewhere in the case to light up the corner you re working on, just spend $10 on Amazon to buy a headlamp.

If you refuse to strap a light source to your face, you may be able to make do with a positional light from around the house, such as the reading lamp on your nightstand. Any light with a flexible neck (bonus points if it s a clip-on) should be positionable to provide some valuable spot illumination inside your PC case.

Have a nut driver handy for motherboard standoffs

Motherboard standoffs are those little screws that you mount in your case, and then screw the motherboard into to keep it nice and secure. Most PC cases come with all the screws, standoffs, and other bits and bobs you need to put your PC together, but if you lose those pieces, disassembly can be a major pain. The standoffs are installed with a nut driver, which should come in that bag of parts. It s easy to lose, so to be on the safe side, why not add a nut driver set to your toolkit? Standoffs can vary in size a bit, so spending a few bucks on a set of nut drivers will ensure you can move those standoffs when you need to upgrade to a new case or swap out a new motherboard.

If you want to take the cheap path, you can probably remove the stanoffs with a pair of needle-nose pliers. The proper nut driver will just save you a bit of effort.

Keep extra screws in a cheap storage container

I have a bad habit of losing thumbscrews, and then not remembering which component box I threw all my leftovers into. Was it the motherboard box? The bag of power supply cables? If only I was organized...Well, getting organized is actually pretty easy. For $12 on Amazon you can buy a great Stanley storage container that can hold tons of different types of screws and small parts, and you can probably find an even cheaper plastic container at a local hobby shop.

For a cheaper and even smarter organizing system, you can alternately use a pill organizer to hold your screws. This one is only $8 on Amazon and has great reviews. Each storage cell is big enough to hold small screws, and since each one has an individual lid, you can flip the whole container over to dump out the screws you need without the rest flying loose.

Make CPU cooler installation easier with a socket wrench or hex wrench

Installing an aftermarket air cooler in your PC is usually the most difficult step in the entire PC building process. You have to attach the backplate, get the mounting brackets in just the right place, and bolt the whole thing down straight. Every cooler s a little bit different, which means they can be annoying or tricky in a bunch of different ways. But two tools should make the installation of just about any cooler a little bit easier.

A socket wrench will allow you to bolt down a cooler much more quickly than the pack-in wrench that comes with some coolers. Those crappy wrenches let you turn the bolt a tiny distance with each turn before you reposition, turn a little bit, and repeat. With a socket wrench, you ll be done in a few seconds.

Some coolers need a hex wrench instead of a socket wrench to be tightened. Those coolers should come with an allen wrench, but it may be short and difficult to work with in the confines of a PC case. Buying a longer hex wrench set, or a hex wrench with a handle, will take some of the cursing out of CPU cooler installation.

Refer to your motherboard manual for error codes

gigabyte debug led

When you boot up your PC and it doesn t work, it can be hard to tell what s wrong. Many motherboards today make troubleshooting much easier with a small LED readout that displays a couple digits. Those numbers don t tell you anything at face value, but if you open up your motherboard manual and search for the truth, you shall find it. Meaning, there should be a section explaining what those codes mean.

The codes differ between motherboard BIOS, so there s no universal list. But you should be able to find the ones for your motherboard easily enough. If you lose the paper manual, search the motherboard manufacturer s site. You should be able to find a PDF download of the manual.

Use power supply extension cables for neater cable management

If you re fine with a messy case as long as your computer works, ignore this one. But if you like everything wrapped up and tied off nice and neat, the cables that come with your power supply might pose a problem. They re often too short to wrap around the back side of the case and plug in where they need to go. The solution: power supply extension cables. You can buy extenders for the 24-pin motherboard power, or SATA or PCI-E power cables. They ll set you back $5 - $15, but doesn t that squeaky clean PC case give you some wonderful peace of mind?

Adjust fan speeds in the BIOS or install sound dampening for a quieter PC

If your PC sounds whiny, rattly, or just plain too loud, you ve got a sound problem, and a few different ways to deal with it.

When you hear rattling or clicking sounds are coming out of your case, check for loose screws or other parts around the case fans and CPU cooler. Also, make sure no cables are slapping against your fans. That s a common noise-maker.

If the fans are just loud, in general, you should be able to adjust them from your motherboard BIOS. It s possible the fans are running at full blast when they don t need to be. After you adjust the speeds, make sure to check your temperatures to make sure your case is staying plenty cool. You can also use software like Speedfan to adjust fan speeds in Windows.

And if the thing is still too loud, you can line the inside of your case with sound dampening foam to block out some of the noise. When your graphics card spins up to full volume, that foam will help keep your rig nice and quiet.

A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.


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