PC Gamer

Of the three Max Payne games released so far, Max Payne 3 is the odd one out. But that’s only because Remedy is so good at imprinting its games with its own idiosyncratic personality. The third game may share a lot of the same DNA, and may also feature a metaphor-loving ex-cop killing gangsters in slow-motion, but it’s a very different experience. Over the years I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the risks Rockstar took in breaking Remedy’s established, and beloved, mould. 

It’s a Rockstar game through and through, with lavish production values, gorgeous world-building, and confident, cinematic direction. Max is still depressed, still haunted by the death of his family, and still selfmedicating with painkillers and booze. But after a deadly run-in with the hot-headed son of a local mob boss, he leaves the mean streets of New York behind and moves to São Paulo—the largest city in Brazil—to work as private security for the wealthy Branco family. It’s a bold change of scenery. 

The dark, snowbound streets of New York and New Jersey are a big part of Max Payne’s visual identity. And although there are a few flashback chapters in Max Payne 3 that take us back there, replacing that iconic setting with Brazil’s sunshine and palm trees was a brave move. The first two games are set entirely at night, while much of this game takes place during the day, giving it a very different atmosphere. São Paulo is as rough, violent, and run-down as New York in places—particularly the Nova Esperança favela—but the overall tone is much less gloomy. 

It’s a radical departure, but it works. It’s always interesting to see a familiar character thrust into an unfamiliar situation, and Max is hilariously out of place in Brazil. As if being a white American in a favela didn’t draw enough unwanted attention, he makes his life even more difficult by wearing the loudest Hawaiian shirt imaginable. He was comfortable in New York, but here he’s an outsider, and the game plays up to it brilliantly. “Here I was,” he grumbles in one of his monologues. “Some hopped-up gringo a long way from home, causing trouble the only way I know how.”

That way, of course, being balletic slow-motion combat. Max Payne 3 is an incredibly simple, pared-down shooter. All you can do is jump and shoot, using bullet-time to slow the action down for a limited period. Kill the last guy in a group and the camera will zoom-in on his bloody, bullet-peppered body, and you can keep firing you if like, you sicko. It’s an extremely limited toolset for a ten-hour game, but the good variety of locations and situations manages to keep things varied and interesting. 

Highlights include a rooftop nightclub where throbbing music and flashing lights provide an intense backdrop for a firefight. Nova Esperança is a narrow, twisting meat-grinder with gunmen emerging suddenly from blind spots and firing at you from rooftops. And the airport is host to a series of brilliantly frenetic, challenging battles with a small army of heavily-armed, and heavily-armoured, corrupt cops. The set-pieces are all wonderfully constructed and choreographed, but occasionally you do wish there was more variation and depth.

I love the way it transitions seamlessly between locations and times of day by artfully hiding the loading screens with stylish, hyperactive cutscenes.

The pace is breakneck, and I love the way it transitions seamlessly between locations and times of day by artfully hiding the loading screens with stylish, hyperactive cutscenes. There are far too many of them, though. Approach a door and instead of just opening it yourself, a shaky, over-stylised cutscene will play showing Max opening it. It wrestles the controls away from you far too often, for stuff you could easily have done yourself. 

Much of the game’s power lies in its soundtrack. In a genius move, Rockstar hired Los Angeles noiserock band Health to write the score. It’s an unusual and inspired choice that sets the music apart from pretty much every other game. It’s all pounding percussion, distorted, reverby guitars, and icy synths, and nothing else sounds like it. It’s dynamic too, with musical elements fading in and out to mirror the action. I get goosebumps every time I play the airport level and “Tears” starts thundering on the soundtrack. More developers should recruit bands to compose their scores.

Flashback chapters give us a taste of what happened before. These are set in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the wintry streets stand in stark contrast to sun-soaked São Paulo. An altercation in a bar leads to Max and Passos, his contact in Brazil, being chased by an army of camel-coatwearing wiseguy mobsters straight out of Goodfellas. Through the bullet trails of a rooftop gunfight you see the Manhattan skyline in the distance, lit up against the night sky, which is a wonderful moment of scene-setting. These visits to New Jersey are brief, but they feature some of the game’s best shootouts.

One of the strongest pieces of connective tissue between Max Payne 3 and its predecessors is the presence of James McCaffrey, who’s been the voice of Max since the first game in 2001. His performance is a highlight, delivering the ex-cop’s tortured metaphors and hard-boiled film noir monologues with a likeable weariness. And his face is even in there too. In the first Max Payne it was Remedy’s Sam Lake; in the sequel it was actor Timothy Gibbs; and in the third game it’s McCaffrey. I’m glad Rockstar didn’t recast, because I can’t imagine anyone else playing Max. 

My biggest gripe with Max Payne 3 is its lack of humour. Sam Lake’s writing in the first two games is a lot more colourful and tongue-in-cheek—especially in the heavily selfreferential second game. Rockstar’s writers, however, play it much straighter, and there’s nothing to compare to the surreal Address Unknown theme park or the absurd Dick Justice TV show. It’s a pretty dry revenge story and, for the most part, grimly self-serious. The first two games also had an esoteric, mythical quality, with their references to Norse paganism, and there’s none of that here either. Remedy’s off-key quirkiness is a big part of Max Payne’s success, and I wish Rockstar had gone more in that direction. 

That aside, Max Payne 3 is a worthy, if overly earnest, sequel. I admire Rockstar for taking a chance with a new setting, because while I’d love another Max Payne game set in New York City, it’s been done twice before. It’s a pretty basic third-person shooter, but one constructed with an enormous budget, keen attention to detail, a flair for the cinematic, and a lot of talent. And, honestly, it doesn’t matter where in the world Max is. If he has a gun, a bottle of whisky, and a few dozen metaphors, he can do his thing anywhere, the only way he knows how.   

PC Gamer

Using licensed music in a game is a risky maneuver. A song made for the radio or the club won't wasn't built to convey exactly what a game might be going for. It can be awkward and hokey beyond repair. But when deployed during a specific narrative beat or used on an in-game radio station, the right licensed song can date and detail the setting, set mood and reveal character, or provide a pitch perfect backing track for a dramatic or action-heavy scene. They might be the first thing we remember about some games, for better or worse.

So we decided to look back licensed game music we still can't quit, and found plenty of great (and horrifying) tunes that introduced us to a new genre we didn't know we could love or underlined a particular moment in our lives.

If there's an ear worm a game introduced to you missing here, be sure to share it in the comments.

When Worlds Collide by Powerman 5000

Tony Hawk s Pro Skater 2Good lord, being 13 wasn t fun. Tony Hawk s Pro Skater 2 didn t help much either. It s during those formative years that we truly start to carve out an identity for ourselves, and THPS2 s eclectic, almost satirical snapshot of early 00s cool culture had a huge influence on me. Because of THPS2, I took up skateboarding in a rural Montana town with craggy sidewalks that would kill a horse. Despite terrible conditions, our skater crew found a way, and music was our fuel. So of course we pulled from our Teen Bible (THPS2) for inspiration and the one song that I can still recite from memory today, as much as it hurts, is When Worlds Collide by Powerman 5000.The music video really speaks for itself, but When Worlds Collide has it all: spiked yellow hair, abusive fisheye lens, and a bunch of nondescript leather and demon shit. But despite the mischievous, gravelly vocals and hokey fuzzed-out guitar riffs, it s a pretty catchy tune. Whenever I pulled off a 900 on the moon or a Darkslide as Spider-Man to When Worlds Collide, I felt cool. I definitely wasn t cool, but as a 13-year-old hormonal mess, it was enough. James Davenport

Late Goodbye by Poets of the Fall 

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max PayneI'm very fond of Remedy's two Max Payne games, and I love that the second used this melodramatic Finnish rock track as a motif throughout the story. At various points, you hear a cleaner singing Late Goodbye, Mona humming it in the shower and even a gangster playing it on a piano before Max dives into a room and kills everyone. Then, of course, it memorably plays over the end credits as well. It's a very cinematic touch, and unconsciously I started to really like Poets of the Fall, possibly as an extension of how much I enjoy Remedy's games generally. Who else would think of doing something like that in a game? Quantum Break was meant to have a song from the band too, but contractual issues apparently got in the way.The band's lead singer Marko Saaresto is a friend of Remedy's Sam Lake, hence why Alan Wake uses music by the same band as the Old Gods of Asgard as well (Balance Slays The Demon is another favourite). I find the band's music pleasingly melodramatic and I think they helped define the personality of these particular games by Remedy that its players are fond of. Samuel Roberts

Bloodlines by Ministry

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines"What is it like to be created inside a world where life is a crime?" I don't know, Al, but I'm glad you asked, because Bloodlines, the title track of the Vampire: The Masquerade RPG of the same name, is one hell of a song. The whole soundtrack is great Lacuna Coil, Tiamat, Darling Violetta, and Chiasm all turn in spectacular efforts but Bloodlines is the one that really knocks it out of the park. Technically it probably doesn't count as a "licensed" song since it was written specifically for the game, and it stands separate from the rest of the soundtrack, which is licensed and far more gothic than Ministry's howling industrial rage. But it's ripping good stuff, shifting smoothly back and forth from a shadowy, Bela Lugosi beat to the kind of all-out thrash that makes a man want to mosh until his eyes bleed. That's good enough for me.

The Bloodlines soundtrack was responsible for turning me onto goth rock at a point in my life when I really should've been too old for such things. Bauhaus, Joy Division, Gene Loves Jezebel, Flesh for Lulu: Nothing too extreme or exotic (although in hindsight I suppose that the sight of a man of a certain age in a sensible American-made sedan driving down the street with Lecher Bitch screaming out the windows may not have made the best possible impression on my parents' neighbors), but it was a definite departure from my usual fare, and one that's stuck over the years since. The irony is that even though Ministry is the high point on one of the best videogame soundtracks ever (and Activision really deserves credit for so perfectly nailing it), I never became a fan of the band. Just wasn't my thing. But it helped me discover a lot of other things that are and I will never hear that track, or any of the others, without immediately being transported back to the dance floors of Confession or The Asylum. That's a nice bonus. Andy Chalk

Sometimes by Miami Horror 

Grand Theft Auto 5The single biggest influence on my music tastes over the last ten years is Rockstar Games. Clearly, the publisher has a strong background in the music industry, and that's benefited everything from GTA 3's esoteric and exciting soundtrack of mostly unknown artists, to Vice City's snapshot of the '80s, to Max Payne 3's left field use of noise rockets HEALTH to create that game's intense action themes. GTA 5 is the culmination of that: an all-encompassing, generous slab of music where each station hits the right note. Licensing this music is what Rockstar money is for, and it's a real education if your exposure to new music or genres is as limited as mine.At first, Non-Stop Pop was my go-to station, with its familiar mix of music that was in the charts when I was a teenager (The Time Is Now by Moloko is a particular favourite). Then over time, that turned to chillwave/electropop station Radio Mirror Park Sometimes by Australian indietronica band Miami Horror is the real standout for me. That encouraged me to track down their first album, the brilliant Illumination, and that basically ignited my interest in that entire genre. Their second album, All Possible Futures, is even better. It's basically like someone blasted the concept of summer into your ears, which is a relief when you live somewhere as gloomy as the United Kingdom. Samuel Roberts

Max Payne 3 - The Original Sound Track by HEALTH

Max Payne 3More Max, and I m cheating here slightly, because I was already a big fan of LA noiseniks HEALTH when Rockstar announced they were doing the entire soundtrack for the third game. Despite the band s let s say, uh, anarchic reputation follow their Twitter for a few days to see what I mean it was clear they took the job crazy seriously, spending so long in the studio on the project that their own LP got delayed as a result. The result was, for my money, the single greatest music/games crossover. (Bear in mind I don t actually have any money.)The single released from the record is embedded above, and is a signature HEALTH banger in the same vein as songs like USA Boys and Die Slow. It works superbly when it arrives for the game s climactic shootout, but also isn t really representative of the rest of the music which is darker, more droney, and unusually consistent compared with HEALTH s explosively scattershot other LPs. What s most impressive is how hard the band clearly considered the source material. (Arguably more than it deserved.) The wash of melancholy synths and menacing ambient scree combines perfectly to channel Max s paranoid, druggy, Favela nightmare. This is also one of those soundtracks you can stick on whilst in the supermarket and instantly transform browsing for broccoli into a significant life moment. Tim Clark

Friday I'm In Love by The Cure 

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom PainHow many people did you kill to steal the one cassette of Kids In America by Kim Wilde in Afghanistan? It was three in my case. There's a great chunk of '80s pop music hidden in Metal Gear Solid 5 that you can have blasting out of your helicopter as it comes to pick you up, or back you up in battle plus you can drop your own into the local files, which is neat. But the choice that left the greatest impression is this track by The Cure, a band I'm not sure I ever thought much about before playing MGS 5, since their heyday was slightly before my time. Plus my mum likes them, which is always a bit of barrier to believing something is cool.Now I forever associate Friday I'm In Love with sprinting across deserts alongside D-Dog and sniping dudes in watchtowers. MGS 5 basically encouraged me to pick up the band's seminal Disintegration album, which I now have to admit is a better late '80s electro rock album than Violator by Depeche Mode. Samuel Roberts

Pruit Igoe by Philip Glass 

Grand Theft Auto 4I can't say I listen to Philip Glass that much recreationally his music is a bit intense for say, a few beers and a game of Mount Your Friends but I will forever associate the dense streets and towering structures of GTA 4's Liberty City with Pruit Igoe (as much as I do with Koyaanisqatsi, anyway). It ran alongside the game's memorable first trailer almost ten years ago, and then features on trippy radio station 'The Journey' as well. Other than one episode of Battlestar Galactica, it was pretty much the first time I heard his music.There's something about the concentrated vision of New York in GTA 4 that's a little bit mythical. The golden skies, the very clean look of Star Junction, the way skyscrapers are lit at night an ever-so-slightly idealised interpretation of the real thing that still has some magic to it. When Pruit Igoe comes on the radio, it all comes together in a powerful way, particularly for a time when GTA 4 was years ahead of other open world games in fidelity. It's some weird pop culture capsule of New York.Hey, I don't want to get too flowery (or wanky) about this, but if there's something I love about the way games and music speak to each other, it's that a piece of music can make you remember in detail a place you've never really been to, like you would recall a place in real life. I personally find it has a more profound effect than music from a film. Rockstar's games, and their use of music, frequently generate this response. Samuel Roberts

Ingrid Is A Hybrid by Dusky 

Forza Horizon 3Forza Horizon 3 s gorgeous open world rendition of Australia may represent the car enthusiast s dream, a map with every sort of terrain and over 300 vehicles to romp around in, but in truth and it pains me to say it Horizon 3 is an EDM prison. Sure, there s a hip-hop, some alternative rock, and classical music to listen to instead, but somehow the station always ends rolling back to drum and bass or house music. I don t remember touching the dial, but through restarting the game or event-specific music, EDM finds a way inside.One track in particular is impossible to avoid. As soon as the game boots, Ingrid Is A Hybrid opens with some light, glassy synth an ambient musical cue that ramps into the meditation exercise that is Forza Horizon 3. And then the lyrics kick in, a chant that cuts to the core of Car Life: Take me away / give me a sanctuary. Please, please take me away. Give me a car sanctuary. It s an act of psychological warfare, one that chips away at my resistance to EDM every time I start up Forza. I don t know what s real anymore. Maybe I ve been switching the stations back to electronic music this whole time. I mean, sometimes I catch myself thinking about going to a music festival. When I close my eyes I see glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Maybe I ve been into EDM this whole time. James Davenport

Atomic by Blondie 

Grand Theft Auto: Vice CityMake no mistake about this, Vice City is the alpha and omega of all gaming soundtracks. Even Rockstar s other GTA games cower in its shadow. As a man of a certain age who was raised by a father with a big time crush on Debbie Harry, I was already aware of Blondie, and had definitely heard Atomic a few times before. But some songs don t reveal their true kaleidoscopic pop perfection until you ve heard them whilst speeding around a neon-soaked Miami on a moped, mowing down anyone who looks at you side-eyed with an Uzi. Atomic is one of those.Honestly, I could have chosen half a dozen tracks off Vice City s drawling, fizzy, lipsticked Wave 103 station alone. Kim Wilde s Kids In America (which is also used to amazing effect in Metal Gear Solid V), Spandau Ballet s Gold, Nena s 99 Luftballons these are songs which you wouldn t normally associate with startling violence, but as Kubrick showed with A Clockwork Orange, and Tarantino later made an entire career from, terrifying action sequences mesh amazingly with a sugary soundtrack. The first couple of bars of Atomic are so insanely cool that you immediately have to commit to doing something ridiculous to be worthy of the music. If you aren t at five stars wanted by the time the first chorus kicks in, you re playing wrong. Tim Clark

PC Gamer

There are so many games! We ve reviewed over 25 since the year started, and we can hardly be comprehensive--hundreds more have already released. It s a downpour, which isn t a complaint, but while we talk about Firewatch and XCOM 2 and one of our new favorite metroidvanias, it s easy to lose track of games that are further off. What s been delayed? Who s doing episodic games now? Which lead writer went where?

As we approach the big spring releases and summer announcements, we ve revisited the news from the past year to give you status reports on the PC s most popular series. We left out series we don t expect regular releases from—no one s clamoring for Team Fortress 3—to focus on confirmed, or at least expected, new games coming within the next few years. Here s where they all stand as of now.

Action and stealth


Assassin s Creed

Starting with Assassin s Creed II in 2009, there s been a new one every year—until now. Ubisoft is finally taking a year off (from the main series, at least) while it works on 2017 s Assassin s Creed game, which we don t know much about just yet.

We ve heard rumors, though. A few years ago there were rumblings that Assassin s Creed 3 would head to Egypt, and that claim has reemerged for AC 2017. Kotaku reports that internet rumors and its own sources have said we re heading to Africa, which would be unsurprising—we ve done Jerusalem, Florence, Rome, Boston, and Paris, and that isn t even the full list. Why not Cairo? It wasn t true last time, but we d bet on it this time (though maybe only a dollar).

In the meantime, Ubisoft may be releasing Watch Dogs 2 this year, and we ve heard rumors that it will be set in San Francisco. Get ready to hack some cable cars and disrupt the tourist transportation industry.

Arkham series

With Arkham Knight behind us (and surrounded by smouldering debris), the Arkham trilogy is over. But Batman games are not. Of course they re not. It s Batman. Speaking with the PlayStation Blog, Warner Bros Ames Kirshen said, We don t have anything to talk about at this time, but the possibilities are endless with a character as dynamic and beloved as Batman. Batman games forever.

Far Cry

Far Cry is sticking with the yearly release schedule for now, and next up is Far Cry Primal, which came as a surprise: now we re a cave dude speaking a made-up prehistoric language and throwing spears instead of shooting bullets. With some concerns about the combat, but a general sense of optimism, we ve written and voiced a few takes on what we ve played so far: first Sam gave it a go, then Tim and Shaun went clubbing. As for next year s Far Cry, assuming another is coming, we haven t heard anything just yet.

Grand Theft Auto

Rockstar is notoriously tight-lipped, but we have to imagine that Grand Theft Auto VI is being made. It was five years between GTAIV s release in 2008 and GTAV s console release in 2013, so we don t expect to hear anything until around 2018, or even later. There are some rumors floating around, but they re pretty thin, like that it ll have a bigger map. What a scoop!

Hopefully this time we won t have to wait two more years for the PC version. While we wait, though, we expect to hear about something else from Rockstar. We're certain they haven't simply forgotten that Red Dead Redemption was their biggest hit next to GTA—not that we d mind playing Bully 2, either.

Hitman

The hitman is going to be hitting men once again on March 11. Surprisingly, the new Hitman (just called Hitman) will be episodic, starting with a Paris location. Later, in April, we ll jet to Italy, and then Morocco in May, followed by Japan closer to the end of the year. It ll be $60 for the whole deal, or $15 for the prologue mission and Paris location and $10 each for subsequent additions.

The unusual release plan notwithstanding, we re pretty into new Hitman so far. Ben Griffin said it was a return to old Hitman values in our last preview—basically, you re thrown into a location and given the tools sneak or murder your way through it how you please, which is just what we hoped. We re going to be trying out the beta soon, so we ll have more impressions from that, followed by our review of the first location in March.

Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider was made with help from an Xbox One exclusivity deal, and then released up against Fallout 4—two facts that don t make it look like a priority series for Square Enix. We quite liked the PC version, though, and Crystal Dynamics has spent the past 10 years making Tomb Raider games, so it d be surprising if Lara rose now only to fall off a ledge.

A few years ago we also heard that Crystal Dynamics was also working on something new, though. What ever happened to that? We might find out this year, and either way, count on another Tomb Raider game in our not-so-distant future.

RPGs


Dark Souls

With the impending release of Dark Souls 3 in April, it seems we re about to run out of bonfires for good. Wes says it looks on track to be as dense and interconnected as the original, but the familiarity of the formula meant the magic was beginning to wane. There are still plenty of changes to look forward to in Dark Souls 3; combat feels quicker and more varied thanks to the addition of Battlearts, a step towards the aggressive Souls cousin, Bloodborne. Enemies change stances and behaviors on the fly. The visuals are a huge step up, and if it s optimized well for the PC, it ll look extra dark and soulsy.

But even FromSoftware President Hidetaka Miyazaki knows the Souls series is running out of steam. He told GameSpot "I don't think it'd be the right choice to continue indefinitely creating Souls and Bloodborne games. I'm considering Dark Souls 3 to be the big closure on the series. It may be a hard truth to swallow for fans, but at least Dark Souls comics are on the way before Dark Souls 3 hits. Sit close to the fire, friends. This may be it.

Deus Ex

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is out August 23, and it s got us in a cheerful mood. Tom Senior said it could be the best Deus Ex yet, and he isn t one for hyperbole. We also had a nice chat with lead writer Mary DeMarle, who talked about her views on transhumanism and how the end of Human Revolution leads into the new story.

As for the future of the series, there s little doubt we ll see more. While also pitching in with whatever Crystal Dynamics is up to next—Eidos Montreal helped with Rise of the Tomb Raider—we expect it ll be working on more Deus Ex for the foreseeable future. It s a prestigious series for Square Enix, and Mankind Divided is also a showcase for the new Dawn Engine, which they ll want to get lots of use out of.

Diablo

Last year we noticed that Blizzard was hiring an art director for an unannounced project—except, directly under unannounced project, the job listing said DIABLO. So that s a bit of a hint, but no guarantee that Blizzard is working on a new Diablo. We don t see why they wouldn t be, though—it s been almost four years since Diablo 3 released, and while Blizzard plugs away at Hearthstone and Overwatch it could very well be dungeon designing as well. That s unfortunately all we know for now, but it wouldn t be a big surprise to see an announcement this year or next.

Dragon Age

Last year, BioWare s Mike Laidlaw said that they re not sure what's next for the Dragon Age series, though they ve probably got some idea by now, as we speculate that the next Dragon Age is scheduled to fill the gap between the next two Mass Effect games—so a 2017 or 2018 release. The last Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC contains some hints about where the story is going, but we won t spoil any of that.

One development of note: The series lead writer, David Gaider, left BioWare last month. Gaider has been at BioWare for a long time, all the way back to Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn. It s hard to say what to make of it: a fresh lead may turn out to be a boon for the series as much as we re sure Gaider s experience with the universe will be missed.

The Elder Scrolls

The announcement of the next Elder Scrolls could happen as soon as this year s E3. We haven t heard anything, but it s a reasonable prediction.

Last year, Bethesda surprised us with Fallout 4 seven years after it developed Fallout 3. When we get to E3 this year, it ll have been about six years since Skyrim released. It s about time for a countdown clock and teaser with swelling choral music, isn t it? Seems probable. If not this year, we expect a new single-player Elder Scrolls to be announced before the end of 2017. If Bethesda follows its Fallout strategy, it ll be playable within a few months after being revealed, too.

Fallout

With Fallout 4 DLC still on the way, it s too early to speculate much about a sequel. We do know that, if given the chance, Obsidian would be up for taking another crack at the series. It makes plenty of sense for Bethesda to have Obsidian build another in-between game like New Vegas while it works on whatever Fallout 5 is going to look like, so fingers crossed for that.

Final Fantasy

Square Enix seems set on eventually porting the entire Final Fantasy back catalogue to every platform available, including the PC, which is fine by us (although we d prefer if they didn t make them so ugly. New games aren t quite a sure thing, but we ve seen a few signs that a PC release is likely for Final Fantasy XV. And the Final Fantasy VII remake is coming to PS4 first, but a multi-platform release seems inevitable, especially as Square Enix works more with western technology. Kingdom Hearts 3 is using Unreal Engine 4, after all.

The big question is when these games will come out. We look forward to playing Final Fantasy XV in 2030, and the Final Fantasy VII remake shortly after.

Mass Effect

Mass Effect: Andromeda will supposedly release before the end of the year. We tend toward skepticism when it comes to release dates announced as far out as this one—lots of games announced for the holiday release window get pushed into February of the next year—but EA often hits deadlines. There have been a few exceptions recently, though: Battlefield Hardline was originally meant to release in 2014, but ended up coming out last year, and Need for Speed was recently delayed on PC.

Whether or not it makes it out this year, it s happening, and so far we know that it s taking us to the Andromeda galaxy and may involve settlement building. During last year s E3, we pored over the trailer and rumors to suss out any other details we could, and there s quite a bit there. We expect to see a lot more at this year s E3, followed by a marketing blitz if it s really meant to be out around December.

In other Mass Effect news, a few days ago we got confirmation that Andromeda s lead writer, Chris Schlerf, has left BioWare to work at Bungie. We imagine that much of the story is already in place, so we re not sure it s any cause for concern. We do wonder still what s next after Andromeda, though it d be shocking if it weren t the start of another trilogy, given that save game transfers are such a core part of the original trilogy. The heck are they going to call the sequel, though? Mass Effect: Andromeda 2? Mass Effect: Aquarius Dwarf Galaxy? Andromeda 2: A Mass Effect Story?

The Witcher

Geralt s trilogy is over with The Witcher 3, but that doesn t mean CD Projekt isn t going to return to the universe. The franchise will continue, according to CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kicinski. For the next year, CD Projekt has said it s focusing on support and expansions for The Witcher 3, though we also heard that it has a bigger team working on Cyberpunk. Our guess is that we ll be playing Cyberpunk 2077 in the winter of 2017, a nice round 60 years before it takes place, and then start hearing about The Witcher again in 2018.

On the next page, shooters and strategy games...

Shooters


Battlefield

EA has to have at least one big shooter every year. Last year we got Battlefront (and Battlefield Hardline, though that was supposed to release in 2014), and this year it ll be another Battlefield. EA said so during one of those investor calls we all love to listen in on. Presumably BF is going back to DICE (Hardline was primarily developed by Visceral) and may be called Battlefield 5, but we don t know for sure. We expect to see it at E3 this summer and, if it follows tradition, a late October release date. Looks like we re getting Titanfall 2 this year, too.

Borderlands

Back in 2014, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said that Borderlands 3 wasn t in the works, but told Polygon that they ve got big ideas. It should be massive, he said. Then, in January of last year, recruiting began for the big one. So, it ll be big. That s what we know, and it sounds like Gearbox has put about a year of work into it so far. It s possible that we ll see what they ve been up to sometime this year, but I d wager that we might not see a trailer until next year.

Meanwhile, we also learned last year that a Borderlands movie is in the works, and then that the series creator, Matthew Armstrong, left Gearbox. The parting sounded amicable, at least.

"I could leave without damaging Borderland or Gearbox too much if I did it at this moment, so now was the time," said Armstrong. "I think Gearbox will do great in the future, and I think Borderlands will stay strong and awesome. I've been thinking about it for a while. I'm not quitting out of anger or getting fired. It's just time for new adventures. I'm an inventor. I'm ready to make something new. Not just new to me, but new to everyone."

Call of Duty

As long as the sun rises in the west there s no worry of Call of Duty missing a year. It was just revealed on an Activision investor s call that this year s CoD will be made by Infinity Ward, which last contributed the somewhat disappointing Ghosts. We expect to hear someone say wait and then instruct us to take the guy on the right. Outside of that, who knows? Maybe they ll surprise us and it won t be a near-future war with terrorists.

Doom

The Doom reboot releases on May 13th, and we know lots about it: movement is emphasized over Doom 3 s horror, it s said to have a 13 hour campaign, and we ll get a map editor but no mod support outside of that. As for the future of the series, it s probably a wait-and-see sort of deal.

Half-Life

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Max Payne

Tough to say what the future holds for ol Max. The Rockstar-developed Max Payne 3 felt a bit like the end of the line—or as Max would say, the final bullet, silhouetted against the thundery sky of everything. We haven t heard anything that suggests Rockstar definitely isn t pursuing another Payne game, but outside of some highly suspect rumor reports, there s equally no sign that the series will continue. If it does, it might not be for some time, when we re really hungry for it. It was nine years between Max Payne 2 and Max Payne 3, after all, and Rockstar has GTA to worry about.

In an ideal world, Remedy ties up Quantum Break and gets to do another Max Payne, maybe ignoring the events Rockstar Studios put in place and spinning off into whatever noir timeline it wants. But Max doesn t live in an ideal world and nor do we.

Strategy


Civilization

There s no suggestion of when Civilization VI might be announced, but it seems clear enough that Civ V is in the hands of the modders now, with no more expansions planned—which doesn t necessarily mean we ll be seeing a new game soon. The gap between Civ IV and Civ V was five years, and though five years has passed since Civ V (feels like yesterday, probably because we were playing Civ), with Beyond Earth as a midday snack it s reasonable to assume we ll have another year or two before we hear about the next one. Civ games don t need yearly iteration to stay relevant, though, so there s no rush. We re just curious to find out how Firaxis might further alter the board game—doesn t seem to be much point in releasing a game with Civ V s rules but prettier graphics, so if a new one is in the works we expect a divisive change or two.

StarCraft

Legacy of the Void is the end of this StarCraft story, but surely not the end of StarCraft. Back in August of last year, producer Tim Morten said that Blizzard may consider returning to Warcraft, but that more StarCraft is also possible. Anything is possible.

Also last year, we saw that Blizzard was looking for a "Senior Software Engineer, Classic Games," which might suggest that it s planning to re-release some oldies.

Total War

Total War: Warhammer is next for The Creative Assembly, and it ll be out on April 18. We had some substantial time with it last year: Wes wrote about six observations he made while playing it, and Dan Griliopoulos talked to the devs and penned us a feature about their ambitions.

Meanwhile, Creative Assembly says work on the next historical Total War game has proceeded uninterrupted, though it hasn t been announced yet. The free-to-play Total War Arena is also in development, and is currently in closed beta.

XCOM

We can expect an expansion for XCOM 2, but after that it s anybody s guess. Unlike Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 has all the longevity that modding affords Civilization, so a quick turnaround on a new one feels unnecessary. Enemy Unknown came out in 2012, so even if XCOM 3 is coming, it probably won t be until 2020 or later. And by such a futuristic-sounding date we have to assume we ll be living on cities built of flotsam lashed to tankers and cruise ships.

PC Gamer
PC Gamer
max payne 3 lpc featured


The Large Pixel Collider if you haven't already been introduced to it through the faint but ominous humming that now haunts your dreams is the most powerful gaming PC we've ever built. With four Nvidia GTX Titans and an irresponsible surplus of everything else, we're using the LPC to capture gameplay footage of supreme quality, with ambitions to go beyond 4K and into a resolution super-realm populated by beings of pure light energy.

Today, the LPC has instructed us to revisit one of 2012's best-looking games: Max Payne 3. It's Rockstar's best technological achievement on PC, and despite being a little over a year-and-a-half old, Max's unchecked alcoholism is gorgeous at 1440p.

Previously, the LPC has captured video of Arma 3 and Metro: Last Light, and screenshots of Battlefield 4 at a ridiculous 7680x1440.

Other projects in the works include super-modded tours of Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto IV, Crysis 3 at max settings, and more. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments the LPC sees and hears all.

See what's inside the Large Pixel Collider, our own personal demigod of a PC, and find out just how much it cost to build.
PC Gamer
The best shooters of all time
PC Gamer
pcg port authority


Broken menus, wonky mouse controls, single figure framerates - this is the familiar story of PC gaming prowess held back by consoles. We understand why it happens: console-land was where the majority of sales were, and thus the focus of development. But that reasoning has never seemed, well, reasonable: a trashy console port can knock a chunk off your Metacritic rating, sour a huge potential audience against you forever and lose you loads of sales on a platform that can be extremely lucrative if only you know how to approach it.

It's really not that hard or expensive. After all, a pair of talented modders managed to make Dark Souls' PC version immeasurably better within the space of an evening, and while devs might not want to spend resources making hi-res assets just for PC, there's plenty of really basic stuff that can be done to not totally fuck up a game. Which, given the amount of time, love and money spent on these creations, is surely something that would please the developers and publishers as much as their beleaguered PC audience.

We've thrown together a list of tips, common foibles and fixes - add your own in the comments!

On release, Binary Domain defaulted to gamepad inputs which could only be changed by running a separate settings program. Gnnngggn.

Accessible settings
PC configurations are as many and varied as the gamers that own them. A PC game has to account for this with its range of settings. Have these options accessible in-game, and don't require the player to drop back to the main menu to change them. Definitely don't put them in a separate trainer which forces you to restart the entire damn game. (Hi there, Binary Domain.)

Resolution
For the love of Baal, let us change the resolution. And definitely let us change the resolution before embarking on a lengthy unskippable opening cinematic in enforced default shatto-vision. (I’m looking at you, Max Payne 3 - or trying to, anyway.) Better still, autodetect the native resolution!

Key-bindings
Let us at them. Particularly if, for whatever reason, you've decided to give charge of your keyboard inputs to someone who has never actually seen or used a keyboard before. How do you reach the main menu in Binary Domain? Oh, that’s right, it’s Enter. Of course. Then, when in the menus, you press space to select and F to go back. Obviously, in-game, F is the interact key - except when interact is space. Argh. Incidentally, Enter is not the PC's equivalent of the gamepad's A button - it's the furthest you can get from both hands in normal FPS control mode. So don't make it the compulsory key to dismiss pop-up messages.

Gamepads
Some games are designed for and best suit a gamepad. That's cool. But for games which might easily be controlled by either a gamepad or a traditional PC set-up, please autodetect which system is currently under use. Most games seem pretty good at this now, but there are still some stragglers.

Framerate
Let those framerates soar free into the vast open skies of PC gaming wonderment. Also, let us fiddle with things like V-sync - with the vast array of PC hardware set-ups possible it is unlikely you will have guessed how to best optimise your game's performance for any one PC. Why wreck your hard work with dropped or torn frames when you could just trust players to tweak the game to perfection.

FOV sliders, particularly in singleplayer games, should be a given.

Field of View
PC gamers typically sit closer to their screens than console gamers and this changes the effect of a limited FOV. Unless you are setting out specifically to discomfit and sicken the player, offering the ability to adjust FOV will only make people like you. You do want to be liked, right?

Alt-tab
If your game cannot do this, you are probably going to Hell, where you'll be forced to troubleshoot for irascible Windows ME users for the rest of eternity. Sorry about that.

Menus
PCs typically come equipped with a mouse - the perfect device with which to gaily skip through menus. Please make use of it. Do not make us scroll through a gazillion options when a single click would do. Relatedly, make your menus pay attention to where the cursor actually IS. Console ports, like many carnivorous predators, seem to only sense movement. So you often see the wrong menu option highlighted and have to wiggle the cursor a bit to make it notice where you're actually pointing.

Mouse support
Mice are not thumbsticks. This should be quickly apparent from their different shape. Do not duplicate the analogue stick deadzone with your mouse acceleration. (Got that, Dead Space?) Also do not impose momentum on mouse movements. My world stops spinning when my mouse stops, not a few seconds later, Syndicate. And don't use autotargeting systems based on the assumption that there are 8 degrees in a circle.

Sleeping Dogs was a port done right. It also featured a man urinating into a toilet full of sick. A rare game indeed.

Social media integration
No.

Games for Windows Live
Don’t do it. You may think that we PC gamers object to GfwL because we are a prickly bunch who resent having to install yet another wedge of corporate molestation replete with its own superfluous achievements system, fragmentary friends-lists, cross-promotional guff, easily lost log-in details and so on - particularly when we are already so well served by Steam. All that might be true of Origin or uPlay, but it doesn’t come close to describing the genuine horror of GfwL, which remains one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed pieces of software it is possible to install on your PC. It’s hideously designed, hugely unergonomic, painfully slow, intrusive and prone to complete failure in every single aspect of its operation. It’s just unbelievably terrible.

DRM
Piracy sucks. We know. However, the solution should never be to periodically lose players' saves, punt them to desktop mid-game or prevent them from playing the game altogether.

Hi-res textures
Now, we’re not asking you to create an entirely new assets pipeline for the PC alone, but in many instances textures are created first at high resolution then scaled down to fit onto the itty-bitty consoles. You can make use of those on PC, you know.

Post-release patches
We salute your ongoing commitment to PC gamers by releasing fixes after launch. But don't leave it until then to make your game playable. Don't leave it until launch day, even. There are good business reasons for this: reviewers will be playing your undercooked code; you'll burn your earliest purchasers and most loyal customers; you'll lose momentum building a community among players (particularly key if your game has an online component); people will be more likely to pirate your game if they think it's not worth the risk of an actual purchase.

Any more? Add them in the comments.
PC Gamer
burning-building GOTY


If I have to endure another level in which I must escape from a burning building on the verge of collapse, I'll set fire to my house. I'll collapse through the floor, tumble twelve feet onto my back, crawl at tedious pace through a low section, traverse a room that's entirely on fire apart from a narrow path of miraculously not-on-fire floorspace and then climb a series of conveniently collapsed roof beams to safety.

"Phew!" I'll think, "I'd have been in a spot of bother there if I hadn't played through pretty much the same section in Black Ops 2, Max Payne 3, Far Cry 3, Medal of Honor: Warfighter and twice in Assassin's Creed 3 this year."

It's not the fire that's annoying. Things tend to catch fire a lot in videogames. No, it's the feeling that there are mission designers worldwide calling their set-pieces from the same playbook. You could tear out the pages, laminate them and resell the package as an Action Adventure Videogame Construction Kit. Shuffle the cards and lay them out in a row for an instant framework.

Let's have a go with the modern military shooter edition: escape a burning building - sniper section - flee a helicopter - warehouse section - fire at pursuers from the back of a truck - breach and clear - press X to kill prominent antagonist.

This section felt particularly incongruous when it interrupted the terrific free-roaming violence of Far Cry 3, especially considering the fact that Far Cry 3 has a fantastic dynamic fire effects built into the engine. The "escape from burning building" sequences that emerge naturally from Far Cry 3's systems are much, much better than the scripted sequence written into their early story mission.

But not all games aspire to create a dynamic open world, and nor should they. But in a dedicated, scripted action game there's an even greater need for new set-pieces and fresh settings.

Take Bulletstorm, whose opening sections dramatically undersold its capacity for bonkers theatrics. Sure, it had a "fire at pursuers from the back of a truck" bit, but in Bulletstorm's case the pursuer was a colossal red doom-wheel that careered about the landscape blowing up pipelines and threatening to stomp the player into a smear at any moment. If action games are determined to be rollercoasters, we're sorely in need of some new twists.
PC Gamer
PC Gamer GOTY Nominees


At the end of each year we hand out awards to honor the experiences that live in our best memories of the preceding months—the games that moved us with their ambition, quality, and pioneering spirit. None of the decisions are ever easy, and there's no secret formula: we pit opinion against opinion with straightforward, old-fashioned arguing until one winner is left standing in the GOTY battle cage. Look below for the first landmark of that exciting week-long debate: a list of our eligible winners in 11 categories, including Game of the Year.

Beyond recognizing what games we loved most this year, though, it’s crucial to call attention to a truth that connects them all: PC gaming is exploding. Our hobby is many-tentacled and unbridled—practically every niche, genre, and business model mutated in a meaningful way this year. Two shooters built on new, PC-only technology released (PlanetSide 2 and Natural Selection 2). Dota 2 grew into its adolescence. League of Legends’ Season 2 Championship drew an audience of 8.2 million—the most ever for an eSports event. Modders resurrected content that was thought to be lost. So many remakes and spiritual successors to old school PC games got crowdfunded that we're sure we’d miss some if we tried to list them all.

That said, the following list marks the peaks of this mountainous year, and you'll find out which games won in the next issue of PC Gamer, and here on the web soon.



Dota 2
Dishonored
Mass Effect 3
PlanetSide 2
The Walking Dead
Tribes: Ascend
XCOM: Enemy Unknown



Crusader Kings II
FTL: Faster Than Light
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
XCOM: Enemy Unknown



Guild Wars 2
PlanetSide 2
Rift: Storm Legion
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria



Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Diablo III
Mass Effect 3
Torchlight II



Borderlands 2
Dishonored
Far Cry 3
Max Payne 3
Spec Ops: The Line



Hawken
Natural Selection 2
PlanetSide 2
Tribes: Ascend



Dota 2
League of Legends
StarCraft II




Black Mesa: Source
Crusader Kings II: A Game of Thrones
DayZ
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod



Lone Survivor
The Walking Dead
Thirty Flights of Loving
Resonance




FTL: Faster Than Light
Hotline Miami
Legend of Grimrock
Thirty Flights of Loving



Euro Truck Simulator 2
aeroflyFS
XPlane
Football Manager 2013
PC Gamer
Screenshots of the year - Project Cars


Project Cars by Darkdeus

Project Cars may secretly be the best looking game of the year. It's only playable for Project Cars team members at the moment, but there's no shortage of gorgeous screenshots for the rest of us to gawp at. Efforts like this one from Darkdeus demonstrate how much closer racing games come to photorealism than other genres. Humans are safely hidden behind reflective windscreens, which makes it easier for racing games to navigate the uncanny valley and deliver sublime shots like this.





The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Chewiemuse

Bethesda's decision to support modders with Steam Workshop support and the Creation Kit have paid dividends in the year since launch. Texture packs, shader tweaks and new character models and armour have turned a good looking game into something a bit special. Chewiemuse shows us how with this shot of a warrior disposing of his foe with the archery equivalent of a triple tap. Boost your own copy of The Elder Scrolls V with the help of our Skyrim mods guide.





Arma 2 by Blackhawk

The Arma 2 engine is certainly powerful, but it's not exactly pretty. It's rare for screenshots to capture the satisfaction of a well executed military manoeuvre, but Blackhawk does it with this shot of a team of soldiers securing a drop zone. Arma is as much about organisation and teamwork as good shooting, and the bleak colour palette is quickly forgotten in the tension and sudden drama of Arma's combat situations. Captured at just the right angle, Arma skirmishes look almost real, as ITV discovered when they accidentally used Arma 2 footage as part of a documentary last year.





Max Payne 3 by Glottis8

Yes, GTA 4 was a shoddy port, but Rockstar have done a much better job with recent releases like LA Noire and Max Payne 3. Glottis8's image of Max surfing an explosive shockwave shows off the improved textures and sharp lines of the PC version in dynamic fashion. It could only be improve if Max was perpendicular to the explosion. And his fingers were wrapped around a pair of handcannons. And he was wearing a trenchcoat. And it was snowing. In New York.

Okay, the third game got away from some of the elements that made Max Payne unique, but that's hardly Glottis' fault. Let's just sit back and enjoy imagining how good that explosion probably sounds.





The Mario Brothers in Garry's Mod
by DOAmaster

What's this, the MARIO BROTHERS on PC GAMER? Thanks to the magic of Garry's mod and DOAmaster's screenshotting abilities, the impossible has come to pass. As pleasing as I find those blazing colours, I still haven't figured out exactly what's going on here. If I don't attach a narrative to this thing I'll never make it to the next page and we'll be trapped here in Nintendo world forever. Let's say that Mario and Luigi are holding a belt (small plank of wood?) and this squad of chipmunks (gophers?) is attempting to limbo (???) under it. Plausible? Good enough! Next.





Sword and Sworcery
by Glottis8

The pristine and ageless pixel art of Swords and Sworcery is excellent subject matter for trigger happy screen-grabbers. S&S was released on iOS systems originally, but the artwork shifts up to larger screens rather nicely. That's lucky, because it's designed as a cohesive audiovisual tapestry, and it would be a shame for poorly upscaled graphics to spoil Jim Guthrie's marvellous soundtrack, Ballad of the Space Babies, which you can hear here. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery is available on Steam.





Project Cars again
by Leviathan

Yep, it's more Project Cars, but look at the stupendous detail on show here. The foil folds of the headlights reflect the horizon of the approaching terrain. Every nut and bolt is present and correct. Look, you can even see the tiny silver mouse periscope popping out of the bonnet in front of the windscreen wipers. Impressive. This slot was a toss up between the picture above and this shot of a car carving up a shiny tarmac track. Not bad, eh?





Team Fortress 2
by Rossrox

Remember when Team Fortress 2 turned into a sparkling, cheerful extension of the Pyro's demented psyche earlier this year? I was happy to be reminded by Rossrox' glittery and violent portrayal of the conflict. I especially enjoy the fact that TF2 has chosen this moment to remind players to be respectful to one another, as a soldier lies burning to death on a floor, and another readies a rocket launcher against a charging Pyro. It's important to remain polite in the face of impending doom. Jolly good show.





The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
by Zloth

There was always going to be more Skyrim in this roundup. There's something about that world's frozen peaks that make folks want to take pictures. Screenshots can fail to do justice to the sense of discovery and wonder that Skyrim's most impressive vistas tend to evoke. This grab from Zloth does the job quite nicely, though. Unfortunately it means that any human who looks upon it must endure a sudden urge to jump back into the world and go adventuring again, sinking yet more hours into Bethesda's fantasy juggernaut. The only cure is to look away, so follow me as we go travel onto the next page and absorb the final selection in our round-up of the best screenshots from the PC Gamer community 2012.





Battlefield 3
by RPhilMan1

It's Battlefield! I was a little surprised that there weren't more shots of Armored Kill maps like Alborz Mountain, but this sandy overview of a sprawling industrial warzone will do quite nicely. Look upon it and imagine the different skirmishes that players are having down there. Engineers will be trying to out-ferret each other in the maze of storage crates on the left. The plume of black smoke hints at the presence of a flaming tank corpse behind the tankers in the centre. A small collection of squads will be having their own private war for the squared off mountainous base on the left. It's a good overview that lays bare the variety and complexity of Battlefield 3's maps and drops in a chopper for good measure.

And that's your lot for this year. You can see plenty more on the screenshot thread in our forums. Browse at your leisure, and feel free to drop in a few of your own favourite gaming snaps while you're there. You never know, you might secure a slot in next year's round-up.
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