PC Gamer

You ve probably seen footage of glitzy catwalk models, upper crust crowds rubbing shoulders that miraculously keep from clipping, and Agent 47 navigating the scene with cool professionalism. That uninterrupted walkthrough of Hitman s The Showstopper stage has been available on IO s official YouTube channel for some time and presents the game how it s meant to be played. I like to take a different approach.

In efforts to eliminate two ringleaders of shadowy spy network IAGO, who are using this fashion show as a front for an auction in which they re selling identities of covert operatives, there s plenty of space for innovation. It s a return to old Hitman values: huge multi-directional levels that cast you as hunter rather than the last game s hunted. But what if you re an Elmer Fudd like me?

For my first faux pas I stalk a waiter to his delivery van and garrote him with patented choking wire while he smokes, then infiltrate a subterranean kitchen in my newly acquired duds and tamper with a stove by haplessly jabbing a screwdriver around (I can also puncture oil canisters, make taps run, and electrify spotlights with this handy tool). Now leaking gas (the stove, that is), I do something quite stupid and turn it on. Boom! Agent 47 launches through the air in a fireball and I learn that yes, you can kill yourself. Reload.

"It's a believable place. You have a sense of freedom and agency over what you're doing."

Our level design process is very elaborate because we don't create levels, we create locations, says Hannes Seifert, Studio Head of Io-Interactive. And of course there's a way to play through and just do the hits once, right, and then just see like five percent of it. And then you have all this other stuff you can do, and I think that's what makes the game interesting. It's a believable place. You have a sense of freedom and agency over what you're doing. Freedom to blow yourself up, for instance.

You ve also got the freedom to be a dick. In my second go I enter a grand palatial lobby and walk right up to a lady, staring at her for ages. You d think she d register a flicker of panic, but nothing. I run around in circles, then go stand in the moat of water around the stage. No one notices, and I feel a bit like a ghost. I do manage to elicit a reaction from one observant man who, after a few barges, remarks Wait a minute… For a moment it s me walking slowly in circles and him farcially following and saying things like Hold on, buddy, before I lead him to the toilet and knock him out. While these responses are unconvincing, Hitman s AI improves considerably in other areas.

Says Seifert, We ve added lot of new features to the AI. Like they can escort you out now, or discover stuff on the ground and fetch guards, guards will take the stuff and carry it into a vault, so you can actually distract guard by having a civilian fetch him, or make guards smuggle something into the building for you when you go through a frisk zone. It makes for a more reactive game. I return to a stylist I murdered earlier and find a macabre sight: a guard slowly dragging him along the floor in a black body bag. Tailing, I see him deposit the corpse in a quiet corner, and upon returning later after more killings those body bags have piled up. Death has a process here.

Stealth is more nuanced, too. For example, only people who see you commit a crime will know about it. At one point two security guards catch me using a sledgehammer to play human whack-a-mole and before they can radio for help I punch them both to oblivion. Back to blissful anonymity I go, thankful that Absolution s hivemind NPCs, who all knew the instant you killed someone, are no more.

They ve got different resting states of suspicion, too. A waiter on the other side of the stage has no idea the disguise I m wearing isn t mine, but if I try and pass myself off as his non-bald colleague, he s going to notice. People also have a third state between living and dead: unconscious. Seifert says this leads to moments where they can wake up naked and go searching for their clothes in a panic, although regrettably I haven t actually witnessed this.

Other ways of interacting with this level includes putting a coin inside a mechanical diorama to turn it on and confuse people, dropping heavy metal scaffolding on unwitting heads, hacking into a laptop and sabotaging the auction and, I m told by a fellow games writer I hope isn t pulling my leg, disguising myself as a model and taking to the catwalk.

Inside Hitman s largest, most complex, most impressive location ever, inconsistent AI is mostly ignorable. The controversial pricing structure isn t. After several revisions and the need for an infographic to explain it all, IO have settled on the model: in March the intro pack launches with just one level in The Showstopper, then throughout 2016 comes Italy, Marrakech, Thailand, USA, and Japan. You can buy them in installments or as a complete package at the end of the year, a bit like Telltale s Walking Dead games.

Seifert calls Hitman the world s first AAA episodic game . When you do something groundbreaking people always question it. I think that's OK that they should, right, but people that ask why don't we wait and ship everything at once? That's what we do. You can buy the game when the season is concluded...why make all the other people who want to be part of it wait to try? They can just join earlier.

With thorough playthroughs of The Showstopper clocking in at least 4 hours , according to Seifert s metrics, and the entirety of Absolution taking between 11 and 16 hours, it s clear that when you take into account later locations and all the havoc you can cause within them, this is a much, much bigger game. I think at the end of the season when people look back to what they played and what they have I cannot imagine anybody would be disappointed by the amount of gameplay we have in it.

PC Gamer

At a recent Square Enix preview event, I was able to get my hands on the first episode of the new Hitman game from IO Interactive arriving March 11th. After the more limited, controversial Hitman: Absolution, IO took a step back from story and a step towards sandbox. The new Paris level is massive, bigger than any in Hitman's history, and brimming with creative ways to infiltrate and attack assigned targets. It's hard to say right now whether or not a bigger sandbox is a better sandbox—the more opportunities available, the more trial and error to find them all. And a few components, like controls and graphical fidelity, feel a bit dated and unrefined. But it still feels like a return to Blood Money-era Hitman, where player freedom and creativity matter more than anything. 

For more in-depth coverage of the game, check out our written preview here. 

PC Gamer

Now I'm pretty sure the American Dream doesn't mention free stuff at any point, so this must be SCS exporting its strange European ideals: American Truck Simulator now has a free demo to try.

The demo version chops off Nevada, leaving you with 'just' the state of California, and limits the number of jobs you're able to take, but your savegame in the demo version will carry right on over to the full game if you decide to pick it up.

Andy is holding out for more states that show off the variety in the continental US before investing serious time, but American Truck Simulator is still a big, bold entry in the truck simulating business.

PC Gamer

Ah, the anguished howls of rule-breakers—my Mozart, my birdsong. Security firm Symantec reports to have identified malware disguising itself in Hearthstone hacks and deck trackers, causing would-be cheaters and occupiers of moral grey areas to surrender their Bitcoins and compromise their webcams.

The first, Trojan.Coinbitclip purports to be a gold and dust hack. It does no such thing, instead scouring the user's clipboard for Bitcoin addresses and swapping out anything it finds for a similar but quite useless string of gibberish. Avoiding the clipboard should be standard practice for Bitcoin miners, Hearthstone enthusiasts or otherwise.

Backdoor.Breut came disguised as Hearthstone Deck Tracker.exe—the hilariously fake-sounding name of a real Hearthstone deck tracker. Deck Trackers are a grey area among Hearthstone players. They card count, basically, letting you know what's left in your deck, the odds of drawing a specific card, what your opponent might be holding and the winrates of various set-ups. Many call this an unfair advantage, but as it's technically possible with pen and paper (and the brain of a prodigy) and doesn't alter the game files in any way, Blizzard allows it. This one, however, logs keystrokes, steals passwords and accesses the webcam to see the look of horror on the user's face.

Maybe run a scan just in case.

PC Gamer

Crazy speakers, a sucky robot, and a cloud to sleep on

Speakers worthy of the gods

One Devialet Phantom speaker costs $2,000 and supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and optical. It also peaks at 750 watts and has a sound range between 16Hz and 25Hz with a 99dB SPL rating one meter away. That s a lot of volume firepower, and I want two of them for stereo audio. I was literally blown away by them when I got the chance to hear them live at Maximum PC Editor-in-Chief Tuan Nguyen s house. They look extremely crazy up close, with the little spheres inside the 35x25x25cm body pulsating with an almost alien-like movement, but it was the sound that truly blew me away. It was easily the most powerful and amazing sound quality experience that I ve ever heard in a home. We played a smattering of songs and I felt like I was at a live concert in front of live instruments.

So, what would the Devialet Phantoms provide me that I'm not getting now?

Right now, I m using two cheap Dell speakers that I got as hand-me-downs from a decade ago. They get the job done, but won t blow anybody away, let alone an audiophile. The Devialet Phantom would allow me to blow the roof off my place, much to the chagrin of my neighbors.

A cloud for my back

Right now I m using a bed from Ikea that I bought several years ago, but I would love to have is a fancy bed. I googled best bed in the world and the $7,500 GrandBed by Tempur-Pedic was one of the first beds to pop up. Upon further research, it looks like the bed would indeed be a dream to sleep on. Dubbed the ultimate sleep experience, the GrandBed Mattress offers dual Tempure-HD Comfort Layers with awesome tailoring and expensive textiles. I m no mattress expert, but that sounds like a dream come true.

So, what would the GrandBed by Tempur-Pedic provide me that I'm not getting now?

I suffer from a mild case of insomnia and I am sometimes up from the middle of the night until the sun creeps over the horizon. There are probably a number of contributing factors to blame, but I suspect my stiff bed has a lot to do with it. The GrandBed could greatly alleviate my sleep issues, and also help out some budding back pain issues I m hoping to correct before they become worse.

My own Rosie the Robot

I ve recently looked into getting a Roomba, and must admit I had no idea how expensive they can be! The one that I am eyeing in particular, the iRobot Roomba 980 Vacuum Cleaning Robot, costs a staggering $900! That s one expensive Vacuum cleaner, and for that price, it better suck! While it s too steep for my wallet, a $900 robot that helps clean my room is the stuff of TechnoLusts.

So, what would the iRobot Roomba 980 Vacuum Cleaning Robot provide me that I'm not getting now?

Right now, I have to bust out the heavy vacuum cleaner to clean up the carpet, and if I m being honest, I haven t been terribly great with that as of late. The Roomba 980 would allow me to be a little lazier, while having a cleaner place at the same time.

PC Gamer

Malware tends to be subtle nowadays, but in the '90s it liked to announce its presence loudly and proudly. Most PC users were less savvy back then, so it was okay to hijack their screens and spook them (or attempt to entertain them) while formatting the C: drive. There was no need to be underhanded because there was less at stake credit card transactions weren't as ubiquitous as they are now, and identity theft less lucrative. 

So it's weird to visit this new archive of classic malware programs known as the Malware Museum and note how creepy and threatening they sometimes were (though they were often very funny, too!). Take Q Casino for example, which hijacks the DOS prompt with a good ol' fashioned round of Russian Roulette: if you win, your hard drive stays intact and you get the hacker's phone number. If you lose, say bye to all your files.

Some or most weren't as cunning. Some of my favourites are those that just make the screen look pretty, or which play austere, beatless techno music. While no doubt annoying and frightening in the '90s, now these tiny programmes emulated via DOSBox are charming in the way they capture the prankster experimentation of the time. 

Browsing the Malware Museum won't infect your modern PC. All "destructive routines" have been removed by curators Mikko Hypponen and Jason Scott, and the library is for posterity. As someone on the receiving end of quite a bit of this stuff in the mid '90s, I get cold flushes when I watch some of these. Still, it's hard to ward off nostalgia for a time when malicious software would just render a pleasant Egyptian pyramid on the screen.

Cheers, Rock Paper Shotgun.

PC Gamer
PC Gamer

Firewatch is a very good game, and a gorgeous one, too. And as TechnoBuffalo recently discovered, it contains a very cool (and, until now, hidden) feature that enables you to order hard copies of the photos you take with your in-game disposable camera from a fake photo development company called Fotodome.

I've seen no mention of the photo finishing feature on the Steam page, but TechnoBuffalo posted an image of the snapshots it received—complete with Fotodome envelope—and Cabel Sasser, the co-founder of publisher Panic Inc., confirmed the option with Eurogamer. It costs $15 to have your pictures printed, but that price holds for anywhere in the world, so in the UK, for instance, it'll run about 10—but they'll also take a lot longer to arrive.

For now, the option is only included in the PC version of the game, but Sasser said the publisher is actively investigating the possibility of bringing it to the PS4 edition. 

I haven't played Firewatch yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it. And I'll definitely be taking advantage of this offer, too. Have a look at some of the screens from our review, and you'll see why.

PC Gamer

In case you've been sleeping in a cartoon bomb shelter, as of today the Overwatch beta is very much back, baby. Game director Jeff Kaplan has already told us about the team-based shooter's new player progression system and cosmetic loot unlocks. But you might also like to see some of the new 'Highlight Intros' in action. Senior animator David Gordon explained how these glitzy routines work...

Sounds like you'll have to grind a little to get your hands on them, but it's good to see Overwatch sticking to its guns in terms of items offering additional customisation rather than power boosts. We'll have much more on the beta once we've got accustomed to the changes. Meanwhile, check out our gallery of all the legendary skins you can unlock for the characters. 

PC Gamer

Cookie Clicker is a simple game. As the name implies it's about clicking cookies, but there are also ways to get the cookies to generate without having to click. My friend Troy created a macro to get the cookies to self-click, but the game has some legit ways to acquire cookies quicker, too: grandmas bake them en masse, and time machines teleport cookies from the past and future. 

It's all about getting the most cookies, and for some reason it's very addictive. If you're still playing Cookie Clicker you may be happy to know that version two is now live. It's been in beta since 2014, but now it's active on the official Cookie Clicker page with "new buildings, heavenly upgrades, sounds, angels, switches, dragons" and apparently a lot of other stuff, too.

What are the new buildings and "other stuff"? No idea, and I'm not going to play the game to find out, because Cookie Clicker ruined three months of my life in 2014. Which is the highest praise I can offer it. 

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