PC Gamer

Minecraft mod maker iChun has released Tabula, a mod that enables the creation of models within the game.

IChun doesn't say much about the "in-game Minecraft modeler," although he did put up a brief video on YouTube showing the mod in action. Its UI is perhaps not the most intuitive ever, but iChun said it's based off the Techne mod by ZeuX and r4wk, and functions in a very similar fashion. It's meant as a replacement for Techne (and can open Techne files), but not as a "proper replacement for third-party modelers such as Blender or Maya."

Tabula requires the Minecraft Forge and iChunUtil software to operate. It imports models directly from Minecraft, and exports Java code for modders. Survival Multiplayer (SMP) compatibility is in the works, and future compatibility with 1.8 blocks is also a possibility. And if that sounds like a good time to you, you can learn more (or just grab the thing and play around with it) at ichun.us.

PC Gamer

We like cheap PC components and accessories. But you know what we like even more? Expensive PC components and accessories that are on sale. We ve partnered with the bargainmeisters at TechBargains to bring you a weekly list of the best component, accessory, and software sales for PC gamers.

Some highlights this week: Both Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4 are 25% off with the code found below. The classic Jet Set Radio is only $1.24 in today's deal on GreenManGaming.com. The EVGA GeForce GTX 780Ti is over $300 off and comes with your choice of Assassin's Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, or The Crew. The MSI Radeon R9 290X sheds $100 off its usual price and comes with four free games: Civilization: Beyond Earth plus your choice of three more from a list that includes Alien: Isolation, Star Citizen, Sniper Elite 3, Thief, Tomb Raider, and many more.

Games:

Dragon Age: Inquisition is $45 on GreenManGaming with the code 1MZ9FW-H92JSD-2CT74F

Far Cry 4 is $45 on GreenManGaming with the code 1MZ9FW-H92JSD-2CT74F

Today only, Wing Commander Saga (8 games in a bundle) is only $9.52 on GOG.com.

Gamersgate is having a pre-Thanksgiving sale, featuring Borderlands titles for 75% off , GTA titles for 80% off and more.

Today only, Jet Set Radio is a mere $1.24 on GreenManGaming, along with a bunch of other cheap games.

Hardware:

— The Lenovo Z40 14in Gaming Laptop is $619 on Lenovo s site with the code D2BZ40

— The Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive is $79.99 on Newegg.

— The PNY Optima SSD7SC240GOPT-RB 240GB 2.5" InternalSATA III SSD is only $69.99 on Newegg after a $20 rebate.

 The Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 ATX Cube Case is $99.99 on Newegg with the code EMCWWHF72 (expires 11/26) and after a $10 rebate.

— The D-Link DAP-1650 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Range Extender is $79.99 on Newegg after a $10 rebate.

 The TP-Link TL-WDR3600 Dual Band Gigabit Router is all the way down to $39.99 on Newegg with the code EMCWWHF49. (expires 11/26)

— The TP-Link TL-WR841ND Wireless N Router is only $14.99 on Newegg with the code EMCWWHF76 (expires 11/26) and after a $5 rebate.

— The EVGA SuperNOVA 850W ATX12V 80PLUS BRONZE Modular Power Supply is $69.99 On Newegg after a $20 rebate.

— The Raidmax RX-635AP 635W ATX12V 80PLUS BRONZE Modular Power Supply is $29.99 on Newegg after a $20 rebate.

— Get four 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws 4 series DDR4 RAM (16GB total) for $229.99 on Newegg.

— Get two 4GB Team Vulcan DDR3 RAM (8GB total) for $56.99 on Newegg.

— The MSI Gaming N760 GeForce GTX 760 video card is $179.99 on Newegg after a $20 rebate.

— The MSI Radeon R9 290X Gaming video card is $299.99 on Newegg after a $30 rebate, but is also packed full of free games. It comes with a free copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth, plus your choice of three more games from a list that includes Alien: Isolation, Star Citizen, Sniper Elite 3, Thief, Tomb Raider, and many more.

— The Sapphire Dual-X 100373-2L Radeon R9 280 video card is $169.99 on Newegg after a $15 rebate, and also comes with your choice of three games from a list that includes Alien: Isolation, Star Citizen, Sniper Elite 3, Thief, Tomb Raider, and many more, just like above.

— The EVGA GeForce GTX 780Ti video card is $489.99 on Newegg after a $30 rebate, and comes with your choice of one of the following three games: Assassin s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew.

For more tech deals, visit techbargains.com.

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

PC Gamer

Richard Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues has arrived on Steam Early Access. This release comes at a bit of a discount off the planned regular price, but it's also in a pre-alpha state, which the developers say means that it still needs "a LOT of work"—caps theirs—and won't feel like a finished game.

Shroud of the Avatar's Steam launch coincides with Release 12, which features the addition of a number of new features. Among them are 15 new skills and more than 50 weapon and armor crafting recipes, an in-game hint system, 40 new songs, the addition of Skill Trainers, maps for the Ravenswood Forest and Tower of the Shuttered Eye areas, guild support, and "polished visuals and random encounters" on the overworld map.

"When we applied for Early Access for the game, we received our green light in less than three days. In fact Steam players gave the OK with an 86 percent approval rating," Garriott said in a statement. "What they ll find is a fantasy RPG that harkens back to my earlier games in the genre, but with modern day technology that combines a single player narrative with an Ultima-like sandbox MMO."

That's presumably referring to the state of the game at some point in the future, perhaps in mid-2015, when beta testing is expected to begin. For now, the Early Access release would seem to be more about getting some insight, and maybe the opportunity to have input, into its development. "This game still needs a LOT of work, and will be under construction for some time," the Early Access page warns. 

"This means it won't feel like a finished game to you because some of the features are half-finished or missing entirely, the design hasn't been balanced, performance hasn't been optimized, lots of bugs to fix, etc. Joining now means participating in the development, not just playing the game."

If you're cool with all that—and lots of people are: Shroud of the Avatar pulled in more than $1.9 million on Kickstarter and nearly $3.3 million more through its own crowdfunding campaign—you can get in on the action on Steam. To learn more about what Lord British and co. are getting up to, have a look at our hands-on preview from June.

PC Gamer

Work on a fan-made redo of Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines called Project Vaulderie has come to an abrupt halt after its developers received a cease-and-desist letter from CCP Games. The team had actually been preparing a pitch for the project for Activision prior to receiving the letter, which clarified that while Activision "retains certain rights to the game it created," CCP owns all other rights associated with Vampire: The Masquerade.

"We re very sad to report that we received a Cease & Desist e-mail from CCP Games, asking us to cease game development, remove any materials that might contain Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines, names, locations or related elements from the sites we control, and cease any further use of Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines property," the leader of the Vaulderie team wrote in a farewell message. "All of this invalidates our effort and the meaning of the entire project: As a remake of Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines cannot be a remake without its original contents."

The message notes that Bloodlines, which was originally released in 2004, continues to be supported and updated by fan-made patches. "We made it quite clear that this is a fan re-imagining of the game. We simply want to do this to keep the game, the story, and the world it lives in, alive and re-imagined for a new generation," the message states. "Both the game and the idea behind the project was made sorely with out of passion."

Nonetheless, even though CCP pulled the plug on its planned World of Darkness MMO earlier this year, it's clearly determined to protect its interests in the IP: The cease-and-desist letter threatens further legal action, "including but not limited to a DMCA notice to your Internet Service Provider," if the developers fail to comply with its demands.

For those of you who missed out on the gothic wonders of Bloodlines ten years ago, it can still be had on Steam.

PC Gamer

Creative Assembly has announced the release date for Total War: Attila. The Rome 2 follow up is set after 365 AD, which (history spoiler) wasn't a particularly peaceful or prosperous period for the ill-fated empire. Maybe you can reverses their fortune? You'll be able to find out on 17 February.

There is, of course, a pre-order bonus in place. This time it's the Viking Forefathers Culture Pack, which adds three Norse factions: The Danes, The Jutes and The Geats. That pack will also be available separately, for those not desperate to rush to more War.

For more on Attila, head here: my hands-on impressions of what it's all about.

PC Gamer
NEED TO KNOW

What is it: A puzzle-platformer for one or two players, which doubles as a video documentary about the Alaskan I upiaq tribe. Players control the girl Nuna and an Arctic fox, who must solve the riddle of an unrelenting blizzard. Influenced by: LIMBO Reviewed on: i5, GTX460M, 4GB RAM Alternatively: Trine DRM: Steam Price: 12/$15 Release: November 18 Developer: Upper One Games Publisher: E-Line Media Link: neveralonegame.com Multiplayer: 2-player co-op

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell.

Remember when PC Gamer scored the Pyramids of Giza a solid 81%, praising the authentically weathered textures while docking points for repetitive encounter design? No, neither do I, and that's why I'm a little in awe of Never Alone. On one level the game is disarmingly straightforward: it's a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer with ICO-style partner mechanics for one or two players, where you guide a cherubic waif and her fox companion through a wilderness of bobbing, buckling ice floes, lowering forests and ramshackle stilt villages. On another, it's something quite special and, from a reviewer's perspective, intimidating.

Working with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Upper One Games has assembled a marvellous tribute to the I upiaq tribespeople who reside in northern Alaska, in which videos about native customs are unlocked as you progress through the campaign's eight chapters. Unlocking is too bleak and unfeeling a word, though what you're doing is reclaiming, rescuing the fragments of a way of life that's melting away into the ocean, in order to shore up the sense of fellowship that's boldly insisted upon by the game s title. The result is beautiful, hopeful and sad. Scoring it feels rather presumptuous, like slapping Must Buy! on the cover of the diary of Anne Frank.

To put the cherry on the cake, Never Alone is also a cautionary tale about climate change. Its plot draws on the Inupiaq folk legend of Kunuuksaayuka, in which a boy searches for the source of an endless blizzard. Some of the videos deal with the overlap between this and latter-day global warming directly, but the sharper display of political awareness is perhaps the problematising of hoary old genre devices, such as moving platforms—you can t leap aboard a free-floating ice block, or flood a chamber in order to reach the one above, without thinking about the warming sea all around you. There s an argument about materialism in play, too: Nuna is pursued through certain levels by a fireball-throwing, village-wrecking Manslayer, a folkloric representation of avarice, whose rapacity must ultimately be turned against him.

The symbiotic rapport between the girl and the fox—which trots jauntily out of the artfully blurred, spectral backdrop just in time to save her from a hungry polar bear—is a crux for the narrative s preoccupation with reconciliation between humankind and environment. It s also the basis for some pleasing if gentle puzzles, where you switch between characters with Q key to use their complementary abilities in tandem (the offhand character follows your lead automatically, assuming there isn t a co-op partner to hand).

The fox is springy enough to scamper up surfaces and wall-jump, its claws skittering over the rock, while the girl is able to climb ropes and drag crates to serve as platforms or weigh down see-saw structures. The fox s presence also attracts friendly spirits who resemble traditional I upiaq drawings, each sliding into focus as you approach like plankton under a microscope. These can be clambered on by Nuna, providing her furry accomplice is nearby—as you d expect, more challenging puzzles ask you to maintain that proximity despite the level layout s efforts to keep you apart.

Some spirits are initially trapped inside gristly orbs of light that must be popped with the girl s throwable bola, which can also be hurled at brittle ice formations and wood to clear the path. Later on, the fox gains the ability to call the creatures with a button press, a trick that allows it to move platforms manually. This crescendos in the spectacle of a dryad striding through the waves while Nuna clings to its branches, which untwist and stretch out towards ledges at the fox s urging.

Never Alone s healing of the rift between a world and its inhabitants via the functional relationship between two characters is perhaps its strongest quality. Sadly, this interplay also makes it harder to ignore the blemishes, such as the AI s occasional decision to walk into hazards, or the times when you leap for a handhold and somehow don t connect. The sorest spot of all is that spirits can only move in scripted ways, but exactly how isn t obvious—leading to moments of frustration during chase sequences, as you struggle to decipher the game s platforming logic.

Another quibble is that the story can be completed in an evening or two, which means that the puzzles don t have time to flower into conundrums as rich as those of, say, Dustforce. Still, to complain about length is to miss the point of a game that doesn t just set out to entertain. Never Alone is a wonderful living record, articulated and at times hindered by the mechanisms of the platforming genre. It teaches that the preservation of history is its own reward, and proves that videogames have as much right to facilitate that process as any other artform.

PC Gamer

Welcome to this week's Playfire rewards bulletin where we outline all the great offers and rewards appearing on the Playfire service and Green Man Gaming.

Don't forget if you sign up to Playfire, you actually earn rewards and incentives for playing games - how good is that?

This week there are three special Playfire rewards:

Link your Playfire account with your Steam account and get 25% off your next order at GMG.

Once signed up, all you need to do is play games to get great deals on more games to play!

If World War 2 action is your thing, play Company of Heroes 2 for over an hour and get 27% off Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault.

Or get some serious classical action by playing Total War: ROME II Emperor Edition for over an hour to get 27% off Total War: ROME II - Black Sea.

There are loads more rewards available right now!o

Play any of these games by the end of the 27th November to claim a reward:

TOME: Immortal Arena

Magical Battle Festa

The Good Life

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player's Edition

Inside The Gear

Motorama

The 30th November is the deadline to claim a bonus from the following titles:

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

REVERSE SIDE

If My Heart Had Wings

Eternal Winter

Luna: Shattered Hearts: Episode 1

Even more bonuses are coming during the week. Check back daily for the rewards on these games:

Geometry Wars™ 3: Dimensions

Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon

Congo

Joe Dever's Lone Wolf HD Remastered

Atajrubah

Wings of Vi

Rugby Union Team Manager 2015

Foresight

If you re a PC gaming fan, Playfire and GMG have got you covered, check em for the full set of rewards which appear every day at https://www.playfire.com/a/rewards/

That s it for now, see you later in the week!

PC Gamer

By Will Uhl.

Jun ya Ota was 19 when he decided he wanted to make a game. Unsatisfied with most games on the market, he wanted to make something for himself to enjoy: something simple, challenging and a bit oddball. In his spare time, he taught himself programming and how to compose game music. Under the alias ZUN , Ota created Touhou Rei iden—Highly Responsive to Prayers in 1995.

In a game vaguely similar to Breakout, Shinto monk Reimu Hakurei smacks around a giant yin yang ball as she crosses dimensions, searching for the demon who destroyed her shrine. It s absurd, difficult to control, and unrepresentative of the series as a whole.

While the yin yang ball mechanic was thankfully dropped, the game s bosses were clearly influential. Most stages involved flipping tiles and scoring points, but every five levels, Reimu would encounter a vaguely hellish figure. These unnerving enemies would shower the screen in increasingly complex patterns of projectiles, shifting the focus from coping with a primitive physics engine to simple survival—a welcome change of pace.

Shinto monk Reimu Hakurei smacks around a giant yin yang ball as she crosses dimensions

The Story of Eastern Wonderland was ZUN s second game, and a significant departure. It was the first true Touhou game, a bullet hell shoot- em-up with slower, more intricate patterns of projectiles. However, ZUN was still experimenting with the tone and setting of the Touhou series: in one tonally confused level, after fighting hordes of cartoonish ghosts, you encounter a modern-day tank emblazoned with a yin yang symbol.

Computers at the time weren t well equipped for rendering action-oriented games. The first five Touhou games were developed on the NEC PC-9801 ( PC- 98 ), a Japanese MS-DOS-based computer roughly analogous to the Apple II. Due to the low framerate, resolution and colour spectrum, half the challenge was telling enemies projectiles from the background. The music was similarly difficult to appreciate, due to the small range of noises the computer could make.

Though ZUN finished Highly Responsive to Prayers in 1996, he initially sold the first two Touhou games a year later at Comiket 52, a biannual convention and market for self-published works. Sales of the first five games were unremarkable: 1998 s Lotus Land Story sold less than 300 copies. Mystic Square marked the fifth and final release of the PC-98-era titles, and after the series s tepid reception, it seemed to be the end of the Touhou Project—an eccentric curiosity that never broke out of obscurity. ZUN went on to work for Taito Corporation as a programmer for several years.

ZUN's spinoffs

Touhou 9 A competitive multiplayer twist on the classic bullet hell action. Dodge bullets and send some over to your opponent. Touhou 9.5 Take a spin as the supernatural paparazzi. Snap photos of bosses and their bullets. Like Pok mon Snap in hell. Touhou 12.3 The third collaboration with Twilight Frontier. A projectile-heavy beat- em-up where magical girls attack each other. Touhou 12.8 Fan favourite Cirno is at war with the other fairies. Freeze bullets and marvel at how ludicrous the series s numbering has become.

In 2002, ZUN s blog carried an announcement: a new game, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, was in development. This sixth entry was hardly recognisable as a descendant of his earlier works. Running on Windows, it was fast and fluid the equivalent of moving from Wolfenstein 3D to Quake. It was a fresh start for the Touhou series, and a rebellion against the direction he saw other games going in.

ZUN felt many shmups at the time were overburdened with abstract systems and gimmicks, leaving dodging projectiles as an afterthought. In a brief post-mortem, ZUN wrote, The Embodiment of Scarlet Devil brings things back to the starting point, by curbing the game systems that change the difficulty in obscure ways while at the same time pursuing the natural fun of dodging bullets. It was slow to build momentum initial circulation was limited to the copies sold at conventions, and later, online CD retailers. Ultimately, the three things that garnered the most attention for the Touhou Project were the music, the characters, and piracy.

As a self-taught composer, ZUN s early compositions were largely forgettable, unaided by the crude chiptune system he had to work with. After years of experience and the technological leap, he was able to make something special. TEoSD s memorable, orchestral soundtrack was, like many aspects of the series, atypical for the genre, but nearly every song made the best of its synthesized pianos, strings, and horns. Future releases maintained that standard of quality, and as fans began to put out cover albums, people became familiar with Touhou s music before the games themselves.

As a self-taught artist, however, ZUN s work has been less successful. Trying to make the characters cute, many came out disproportioned and doughy-faced. The dialogue is also laughably baffling, including such biting insults as, She s lower than a human. I bet she doesn t even have ten fingers. What ZUN did establish was distinct personalities, however one-dimensional. As the cast expanded, fan works became increasingly widespread, including art, writing and games.

While the Touhou Project s popularity was growing steadily, distribution of the games wasn t. Initially, circulation was limited to copies from Comiket. A few online hobby shops began to stock copies, some of which shipped internationally. Availability though was frequently limited, and many people interested in the series turned to piracy. This, combined with fan translations, led to an international fanbase.

After the release of the seventh game, all the excitement culminated in 2004 at the first Annual Hakurei Shrine Grand Festival, a convention exclusively for Touhou fans. ZUN used the opportunity to demo both Imperishable Night, the eighth entry in the series, and Immaterial and Missing Power, a fighting game made in collaboration with Twilight Frontier, a Japanese indie developer group. The convention has grown each year since, offering the perfect platform for popular cover bands to release albums.

Ten conventions and 13 games later, ZUN is married, has a child, and Touhou has blossomed into one of the most popular Japanese indie game series. He has no intention of stopping: I m going to keep making games that stand out. If all my fans disappear, I m still happy if I can keep doing the games I want."

PC Gamer

Batman's car is better than your car. I don't know what your car is—or even if you have one—but I'm willing to bet it can't grapple down a wall before launching you into a super punch against some anonymous goon.

This trailer is a small section of Arkham Knight's Ace Chemicals Infiltration mission. I'm not sure "infiltrate" is a verb applicable to ripping down walls with a loud, angular car, but it's a nice looking sequence nonetheless. Arkham Knight is due out 2 June.

 

PC Gamer
NEED TO KNOW

What is it? Open world shooter set in the Himalayas.Play it on 4GB GPU, quad-core CPU, 6GB RAMAlternatively Far Cry 3, 89%DRM UplayPrice 40/$60Release Out nowDeveloper Ubisoft MontrealPublisher In-houseLink Official site

Ajay Ghale travels to Kyrat, a fictional region of the Himalayas, to scatter his mother s ashes. But, by a quirk of fate, finds himself in the service of the Golden Path, an army of freedom fighters founded by his late father. They re locked in a brutal civil war with Pagan Min, the despotic ruler of Kyrat, and it s up to you—the prodigal son—to free it from his tyranny. It s a neat twist on the classic Far Cry setup. You are, as in earlier games, a tourist stranded in an exotic, dangerous, alien place, but now you have a more personal reason for being there.

Pagan Min is a colourful villain in the James Bond mould, and is—as Vaas Montenegro was in Far Cry 3—one of the highlights of the game. He once had an affair with Ajay s mother, and as a result has taken a special interest in him. To hammer home the fact that he s a deeply unpleasant character, an early scene sees him wetting his finger, dipping it into her urn, and tasting her ashes. Yes, really. But like any good Bond villain, his charisma and eccentricity means you re torn between wanting to defeat him and see more of him.

Ajay doesn t say much, which instantly makes him an improvement over the last game s endlessly punchable frat boy hero Jason Brody. Really, though, Min is the real star of the game, and Ajay feels more like an empty vessel for the player than a meaningful character. But you still care about his story, because he s propped up by a memorable cast, including the two feuding leaders of the Golden Path, Amita and Sabal. Both have wildly different opinions about how to take Kyrat back from Min's clutches, and you ll have to step in occasionally to make their decisions for them, which affects the way certain missions play out.

But let s take a moment to talk about Kyrat itself. This is a stunning landscape of fog-shrouded mountains, forested valleys, shimmering rivers, and rolling plains. While Far Cry 3 s Rook Island was vividly bright and colourful, here the colour palette is muted and autumnal. The Himalayan flora and fauna give it a very different feel, and it reminded me a lot of Skyrim in places. The map is large and open, but flanked by towering, snow-capped mountain peaks, and the scenery and atmosphere change subtly as you travel from the lowlands to the highlands. It s a beautiful place to exist.

It s also an insanely entertaining playground, and I ve had more fun here than I ever did in Far Cry 3 s tropical archipelago. Kyrat is full of sheer drops, huge mountains, rocky cliffs, and deep valleys. The terrain is remarkably varied and vertiginous, which lets you take full advantage of the wingsuit—which you can now buy from a shop straight away. The feeling of sprinting towards the edge of a mountain, leaping off, and floating down gracefully into a valley is absolutely exhilarating.

Gyrocopters have also been added, and they re a lot of fun to buzz around in. There are new land and water vehicles, like hovercraft and hilariously rickety tuk-tuks, but you ll spend most of your travel time in the air. The grappling hook is another new addition, and Ajay can use it to clamber up or abseil down vertical surfaces and swing across gaps. You can only attach it to pre-defined points, though, which is slightly disappointing. I d have loved the ability to attach it to any surface. The  variety of ways to traverse Kyrat means traveling from place to place never feels like a chore.

Wildlife is an important part of the Far Cry series, and Kyrat is teeming with exotic creatures, most of which want to kill you. There are colossal beasts like elephants, rhinos, and black bears, as well as monkeys, honey badgers, and eagles. This abundance of fauna makes your surroundings feel brilliantly alive, and random animal attacks are a constant source of amusement. Tigers will pounce on you, eagles will grab you, elephants will flip your car over, and killer bees will swarm you—sometimes all at once. But, equally, animals will attack enemies, often to your advantage. I once sat back and watched as a rampaging elephant cleared out an entire outpost for me.

PERFORMANCE AND SETTINGS

Reviewed on GeForce GTX 970, Intel i5-3570K @ 3.40GHz, 16GB RAMGraphics options Textures, geometry, vegetation, shadows, post-processing, fur, terrain, water, vsync (full, sparse), ambient occlusion (SSBC, HBAO+)Anti-aliasing MSAA, SMAA, TXAA (Nvidia)Remappable controls Keyboard onlyGamepad support YesFar Cry 4 maintains a steady 60fps at ultra/1080p on my Nvidia review rig (see Need To Know for full specs), with some noticeable, but not game-breaking, micro-stuttering when flying across the map at high speeds in a gyrocopter.On my 2GB Radeon HD 7870 at home—with an Intel i7-950 @ 3.07GHz and 6GB of RAM—it hovers around 45-60 on very high/1080p, but with constant stuttering and pausing, which worsens significantly when the game reloads after I die or fast-travel.Other AMD users (including PC Gamer editor Sam Roberts) have reported the same issue, as have several benchmark websites—even on high-end AMD cards. Nvidia GPUs seem to be largely unaffected, however, and if you have one you ll get a handful of exclusive graphics options including TXAA, enhanced god rays, and soft shadows.

Like Far Cry 3, the game is split between story missions and outposts. The story missions are bombastic, scripted, and big in scale, like an absurd action movie, while the outposts give you the opportunity to really play with the game s systems. Both are entertaining in their own way, but it s during outpost raids where things get really good.

Choosing how to approach and wipe out these enemy-controlled areas is up to you, and the game gives you a huge amount of tools to play with. Games often boast about offering player freedom, when really all it amounts to is shooting everyone noisily, or shooting everyone stealthily, but the freedom and scope for creativity in Far Cry 4 is often intoxicating—providing you have an imagination. The new fortresses are like mega-outposts, filled with tough, armoured enemies and alarms, and methodically stealthing your way through one, which can take a long time, is a thrill.

But your plans, no matter how well-laid, will inevitably blow up in your face, forcing you to adapt and try something new on the fly. Mixing your weapons, skills, and tools, and random elements like animal attacks or Golden Path soldiers wading into the melee, results in some brilliant, emergent moments. It s a great story generator. Gyrocopters are particularly useful for taking outposts. You can use them to scout out sniping spots, or just hover over a base and chuck grenades at the guards below. Oh, and you can ride elephants, which is totally absurd, but ridiculously fun.

And, of course, this being an Ubisoft game, there are a million other icons littering the map. Some of these are fairly standard open world fare, like checkpoint races and collectables, but others are worth spending time with. The House of Chiffon challenges, which see you hunting rare animals for a creepy fashion designer, are a highlight—particularly the one that sees you fishing by dropping C4 into a lake from a gyrocopter. Map-revealing towers are back (again, it is an Ubisoft game after all), and each one presents a unique platforming challenge. There s basically loads to do. Not all of it is valuable, but the majority of side-quests come with meaningful rewards.

Distraction is the game s forte. You ll set a map marker on the next story mission, but on the way your attention will be grabbed by a dozen different things. An outpost, a tower, an animal whose skin you need to craft a new wallet, a beautiful vista, or randomly generated missions like enemy convoys that can be ambushed. Some might find the amount of stuff vying for their attention overwhelming, but you ll just have to have some discipline. I once failed a mission because I stopped to watch an elephant in a lake giving itself a bath. It ll take the easily distracted a while to finish the game.

And all of this—barring story missions—can be played with another person in co-op. This is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences I ve had for a while, and having another person on hand when assaulting an outpost only expands the already vast amount of ways to clear them. Pilot a gyrocopter and your buddy can grapple onto it and hang from the bottom, letting you, say, drop them on a roof to stealth kill a sniper. Or the two of you can climb onto a pair of elephants and crash into the base, the sound of explosions, screaming, and trumpeting filling the air. The House of Chiffon hunting challenges are great in co-op too. I didn t experience any connection or lag issues, but I have heard cases of people being kicked out and losing progress.

It s in the scripted missions where Far Cry 4 s biggest weaknesses lie. Amazingly, despite every gamer I ve ever spoken to saying they hate them, Assassin s Creed-style tailing missions have made it into the game. And there are far too many insta-fail stealth bits. It wouldn t be an Ubi  game without these, but come on, instant fail states are never fun—and at odds with the open-ended freedom of the outposts.

If you get caught sneaking into an enemy base, you should be given the opportunity to adapt and try a new approach, not be thrown back to a previous checkpoint. There are some really great moments in the story—especially your first trip to the dreamlike Shangri-La—but I can t help but feel the campaigns in these games should be built around the outpost missions, and not separate, scripted entities. It s here where the game and its interacting systems really shine.

Another issue—but one I quickly got over—is familiarity. If you look at the first three Far Cries, they all feel like different games. But Far Cry 4 is quite obviously an iteration of Far Cry 3, rather than any kind of progressive sequel. There are a lot of shared animations, reused mission templates, and other, smaller details anyone who spent a lot of time on Rook Island will recognise. 

But I loved Far Cry 3, so I don t care. There are more toys to play with, the world is more fun to traverse, the story is infinitely better, and everything just feels tighter and more focused. A built-in map editor tops the package off, which lets you create and share your own outposts and hunting challenges.

A lot has been written about Far Cry 4 s setting, its eccentric villain, and its rideable elephants, but they re all secondary to the fact that, at its core, this is just a brilliant, well-designed shooter. The weapons feel great, there s genuine opportunities for creativity, and it all takes place in a dynamic world where random tiger attacks are commonplace. There are some weak scripted missions to endure in the story, but the scope and variety of Kyrat more than makes up for it.

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