The Steam Summer Sale is off to a good start this week. After good deals on The Wolf Among Us, Tomb Raider, and Skyrim over the weekend, a few more of our favorite PC games go on sale today.
Don t forget to check out GOG s summer deals, too. Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal.
5 - Surgeon Simulator 2013 75% off: $2.49 / 1.74 - Steam store page To enjoy Surgeon Simulator, you have to like that the impossibly finicky controls and unpredictable physics game-breaking flaws anywhere else are by design, and that you ll occasionally stab your patient in the eye with a scalpel when you meant to pick up a saw. The jokes that endear us to Surgeon Simulator that QWOP-like surgery is hard, that throwing a heart into an open chest cavity qualifies as a transplant are used up pretty quickly, but there is some joy to mastering all the operations, especially when taking turns and laughing at the failures of your friends. 4 - Risk of Rain 75% off: $2.49 / 1.74 Steam store page Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST Where most roguelikes are slow and methodical, Risk of Rain is fast and frenetic. A constantly ticking clock increases the game difficulty every few minutes, until dozens of weak enemies turn into massive piles of bosses. Risk of Rain is a tough game, but it also strikes a great balance between skill and luck there are 9 playable characters, each with unique attacks and special abilities, and there are dozens of power-ups to memorize. Hunting for that perfect combination for a successful run is what a good roguelike is all about. Bonus: Risk of Rain's devs recently updated their blog to announce that they're moving the game to a new engine, which will fix some of the game's technical issues. 3 - Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition 75% off: $4.99 / 4.99 - Steam store page Dark Souls often gets discounted to $5, but if you haven't picked it up already, you're missing out on one of the best action RPGs of the past five years. It's brutally difficult but rewards the determined with a deeply interconnected world to explore, precise combat to master, and so, so many secrets to find. Dark Souls almost never tells you where to go or what to do, which is so uncommon these days that it's initially daunting. Dig in, and you'll realize how refreshing it is to discover and defeat everything yourself. Just remember to install DSfix, the mod that fixes Dark Souls' terrible locked resolution and other issues. 2 - Arma 3 50% off: $29.99 / 17.99 - Steam store page The sandboxy war simulator has never dropped below $35, so this is the cheapest Arma 3 has ever been. Bohemia has done some good work augmenting Arma 3 with the free Zeus DLC recently, and over 7,700 mods and custom mission content await in Steam Workshop. Make sure you re close to the recommended spec, but this is absolutely one of the highest-fidelity, open-ended, moddable, and malleable PC games you can own. 1 - Hitman Collection 80% off: $8.99 / 5.99 - Steam store page Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST Hitman: Absolution wasn't exactly our thing, but this collection includes the game that made us disappointed in IO Interactive's latest stab at the series: Blood Money. Blood Money, released in 2007, is where it all came together: the elaborate maps, complex AI, arsenal of deadly weapons, and the incredible varied ways all those pieces can come together. Take Tom Francis' word for it: "Hitman is a murder simulator, and that might be a terrible thing. I don t know. But if you re going to make one, make it as beautiful as Blood Money. Make it a dark and complex work of interactive art, a working model of the mathematics of lies. Six years later, people like me will still be too enthralled with playing it to care." Unfortunately this collection omits 2004's Hitman: Contracts (it's also on sale separately for $1.99 / 0.99) but it does include the first two games, which are a fun nostalgia trip that show how far the series has evolved.
Other great deals today Remember that games not categorized as Daily Deals or Flash Sales may be reduced further later in the sale.
Every Monday, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.
We were disappointed by several aspects of Hitman Absolution, but the visuals weren't one of them. The Glacier engine could render dank apartments with obsessive detail and handle crowds of hundreds in outdoor environments. The colour palette and environments shifted dramatically as the globe-trotting adventure progressed, all of which makes it a great candidate for a 4K screenshot showcase. Absolution is a fine looking game, and Agent 47's bald head looks even shinie in super high-res, as you'll discover in the 20 massive shots that follow.
The next Hitman game was cancelled. Then it was uncancelled. Now it's being talked about in an open letter on the Hitman website. "Dear Miley," it reads. No, wait, that was the other one. "Dear Hitman fans," it begins, before outlining, in some detail, what Io's next sharply dressed bald assassin simulator will entail.
If Hitman: Absolution converted you from a Hitman fan into a lapsed Hitman fan, there's good news: you can read the letter anyway. Also: I have a feeling the missive is meant for you most of all. I'll quote the highlights, but the highlights are talk of "open, non-linear level design" and "huge, checkpoint-free, sandbox levels". Those were some of things we moaned about it in our review. I don't see any mention of "non-excruciating nun-based trailers", however, so Io may still have a way to go yet.
Io say that "the game concentrates on the core Hitman fantasy of using a wide range of tools to take out a diverse group of targets across expansive, exotic locations around the world. We are building this game on the backbone of the Glacier 2 engine, using the best parts and what we have learnt through Hitman: Absolution and drawing inspiration from past titles like Contracts and Blood Money to fulfil the core Hitman fantasy. That means we re packing in an extreme level of detail on the largest levels we have ever built for a Hitman game. We ve adopted an open, non-linear level design approach to the game, ensuring the game will play out across huge, checkpoint-free, sandbox levels. Our aim is to create living, breathing and believable levels which will allow gamers to play around with the AI to create those unique moments every fan of the Hitman franchise loves."
Promising words. Io have also "removed 47 s magic pockets" and brought Contracts mode back - which is nice. As letters go, it's certainly a lot better than the Council Tax bills and pizza coupons I generally get in the post. Now, Hitman fans - what are you going to write in reply?
Square Enix has issued the following statement to clarify today's news about the cancelation of a Hitman game that was being developed at Square Enix Montreal:
"There's a bit of confusion around the Hitman projects currently in development at Square Enix-owned studios and so we wanted to take the time to clarify what each studio is working on to clear up some of this confusion. Io-Interactive is developing a new, AAA Hitman game that will be coming to PC and next-gen consoles and Square Enix Montreal is fully focused on mobile development of games some of which are related to the Hitman franchise," A Square Enix representative said. "We look forward to sharing more details about these titles later this year."
All is not well with agent 47, the eerily hairless protagonist of the Hitman series. The LinkedIn profile of senior game designer Richard Knight indicates that the next-gen installment in the series he was working on at Square Enix Montreal was recently canceled, Videogamer first discovered.
The LinkedIn profiles of other employees at Square Enix Montreal indicate that the game was a re-imagining, and that it would have featured some form of microtransactions.
In late 2012, we first reported that the next-gen Hitman game was being developed by the then newly formed Square Enix Montreal, and not the original Hitman developer, IO Interactive. Hitman: Absolution director Tore Blystad said the franchise would be handled similarly to how Activision handles the Call of Duty games.
It s like with Treyarch and Infinity Ward, Blystad told OPM. You have an IP that has been developed. They will feed off each other, as well as somethings that stand out. I think with these big franchises it takes a long time to develop just one game. If you can, work a little bit in parallel at least and help each other out.
The plan was to let IO Interactive begin work on a new franchise while Square Enix Montreal took the lead on a new Hitman. But following a devastating fiscal year for Square Enix, IO halved its workforce and went back to Hitman, which, as far as we know, they re still developing now.
So it s not like we ll not get another Hitman game, it just might take a little longer until we do, and we won t be seeing the one Square Enix Montreal was working on.
We weren t the biggest fans of the most recent Absolution, but the Hitman series has had some amazing moments, especially in Hitman: Blood Money, which we ve recently reinstalled.
Dark clouds may have formed over Square Enix’s financial future months ago, but that doesn’t make the storm of layoffs at IO Interactive any less surprising or disheartening.
In a statement to Develop, Square Enix confirmed that almost half of IO Interactive's staff has been laid off. What makes this news particularly depressing is Hitman Absolution actually saw decent sales, but 3.6 million units sold (and that’s only physical copies) still wasn’t enough to hit Square Enix’s lofty expectations.
So what does this mean for IO? The studio has cut production on all non-Hitman projects while attempting to refocus on the next Hitman game.
"The studio will focus resolutely on the future vision for the Hitman franchise and is in pre-production on a new AAA Hitman project,” Studio Head Hannes Seifert said. “However, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel other studio projects and initiatives at IO and reduce the workforce in this studio, which will impact almost half of the employees currently at IO, as we make internal adjustments to face the challenges of today's market."
Hitman Absolution may not have scratched our homicidal itch, but we still wish everyone affected the best of luck.
Square Enix's incoming president, Yosuke Matsuda, has started sharpening the axe of financial viability after the "extraordinary loss" of this last financial year. In a Square Enix Holdings briefing session, translated by Siliconera, Matsuda announces plans to review all elements of the business, with a view to focusing its direction on "what makes us successful".
"After having succeeded the important role as the president, I plan on reviewing all Square Enix duties, business and assets on a zero-based budgeting standpoint," Matsuda says. "Due to the radical change of environment, I’d like to fundamentally review what works and what doesn't work for our company, then cast all of our resources towards extending what makes us successful and thoroughly squeezing out what doesn't.
"As far as a concrete plan on what to expect from us, I will further explain it on another briefing session in the near future, so I kindly ask for your patience. Thank you for your support."
While Matsuda isn't due to step into the role until June, Square Enix have already begun to restructure. In a statement to Polygon, senior director of PR Reilly Brennan announced, "We can confirm that Square Enix's Los Angeles office has eliminated a number of positions as part of the corporate restructuring announced last week. This is an unfortunate situation and we are offering assistance and severance packages to any employees affected by this, we want to thank them for their hard work and sincerely wish them well in the future." This is in addition to the LA office lay-offs made back in December.
How SE's development studios will be affected by Matsuda's review is unclear, but sales figures suggest a change may be due. Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs all failed to meet expectations, despite Tomb Raider experiencing a record launch week for the series.
Square Enix have announced the resignation of their CEO, Yoichi Wada, following an earnings forecast that predicts the company will experience "extraordinary loss" this financial year. According to their consolidated results report, the company had expected to make profits of 3.5 billion yen (approx. £24.5 million) before the end of the financial year, this March 31st. That didn't happen. Instead, Square Enix is now expected to report a loss of 13 billion yen (approx. £91 million).
According to the report, "The Company forecasts that actual business results from its Digital Entertainment Segment substantially fall below its plan primarily due to slow sales of major console game titles in North American and European markets." Detailed sales breakdowns aren't available, but while some of the low earnings will be from the Japanese console-only side of the business, no doubt their Western studios, recently responsible for Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider, have also underperformed.
In addition to Wada's resignation, to be replaced by former company president Yosuke Matsuda, Square Enix are also planning a major restructure in "development policy, organizational structure, some business models, and others." What the means in real terms - especially for upcoming projects like Eidos Montreal's Thief - remains to be seen.
It isn't often we see the words "Origin" and "sale" next to each other, but this week is the exception: EA is running a week-long Player Appreciation Sale which discounts some pretty hefty games in the publisher's lineup—titans such as Mass Effect 3, Crysis 3, and Battlefield 3.
Here's the full list of games on sale and their prices:
Battlefield 3 Premium—$25 Battlefield 3—$12 Battlefield 3 Premium Edition—$30 Crysis 3—$30 Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Edition—$40 Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Upgrade—$10 The Sims 3 Seasons—$20 The Sims 3 University Life—$28 The Sims 3 Supernatural—$15 Dead Space—$6 Dead Space 2—$6 Dead Space 3—$30 Resident Evil 5—$10 Mass Effect 3—$10 The Walking Dead—$10 Batman: Arkham City GOTY Edition—$12 FIFA Soccer 13—$20 Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection—$15 Hitman: Absolution—$15 Saints Row: The Third Full Package—$25 Assassin's Creed 3—$35 Assassin's Creed 3 Deluxe Edition—$56 Darksiders 2—$18 Dead Island GOTY Edition—$10 Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City—$25
Normal and special editions on sale? And they're big games? I don't want to spoil this rare opportunity to enjoy a good Origin sale with cynicism, but it's hard not to chortle lightly at the convenient devaluing of nearly half the games EA offered SimCity players for free earlier this week.
On March 6 this year, a videogame trilogy ended, enraging thousands. The final ten minutes of Mass Effect 3 veered suddenly into unexpected territory and delivered a closing segment that left many baffled and disappointed.
Some of those people felt extremely angry and decided that Bioware needed to be held to account for underdelivering on the final 1% of their stomping 100 hour space adventure. Cue the Take Back Mass Effect Facebook campaign (tagline: DEMAND A BETTER ENDING), which has received over 61,000 likes.
They had valid complaints. Mass Effect 3's ending was really weird, but demanding a new ending from Bioware and then writing one for them perhaps went a little too far. "Fans of the Mass Effect trilogy have put far too much time, effort, and money into the game to be abandoned with such a fate," the group insisted.
"Bioware desperately needs to resolve this issue. New DLC (something long) to add a new, more satisfactory ending to the game, or even a full expansion based as an epilogue to the trilogy.
"Some possible ideas include Shepard retiring or settling down with his/her love interest, returning to work as a Council SPECTRE, or traveling the galaxy as an inter-species diplomat."
In addition to that, a poll on the Bioware forums requesting a "brighter" ending gained 68000 positive votes. Some folks even made a happy ending mod to bring the ending more in line with their expectations.
In April, Bioware responded by announcing a free extended cut patch that would add extra cut scenes and clarity to the ending without changing what actually happened. It was released in June, but by then it was all a bit too late.
Still, some good came out of it. A Child's Play protest drive raised £50,000, though as the BBC reported, Child's Play closed down the drive "after it emerged many people thought they were giving money to produce a new ending for Mass Effect 3."
Bioware mentioned that they are working on Mass Effect 4 in October. It will be built in Frostbite 2, it won't feature Shepard, and Bioware haven't quite decided whether it should be a prequel or a sequel.
Diablo 3 - ERROR 37
Diablo 3 proved more popular than Blizzard had really anticipated when it released on May 15. Huge numbers had pre-ordered, many more received a bonus copy as part of the World of Warcraft annual pass deal, and still more bought it on the day. Blizzard later said that 6.3 million people were playing in the first week after launch.
Diablo 3's controversial always-online requirement meant everyone logging in to play would have to successfully connect with Blizzard's servers first. Unfortunately, with a noise like a whoopee cushion in a wind tunnel the server farms melted into a steaming puddle of silicon and couldn't be coaxed into full operation.
Rejected connections were met with the now infamous "Error 37" message. Furious fans vented their frustration on a 19 page forum thread entitled "Epic Fail Blizzard." #error37 became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter
After a few very late nights and some emergency updates, Error 37 messages started to fade, but more controversy lay ahead. After several delays the real money auction house arrived in June. Patches hiked repair costs for high level players and put in the support pillars for a disappointing endgame.
That wasn't all. Players started discovering exploits after major patches, including one that let wizards become immortal and, as Kotaku noted, another that activated god mode for Barbarians.
Then there was the incident involving Diablo co-creator, David Brevik, who spoke out about Diablo 3 in August saying "some of the decision they have made are not the decisions I would make and there have been changes in philosophy and that hasn’t gone over very well. I think in that way I am a little sad." Diablo 3 devs vented their frustration on a less-private-than-expected Facebook thread in which game director Jay Wilson responded with the message "fuck that loser." Wilson later apologised in a lengthy post on the Diablo 3 site
"What I said was expressed out of anger, and in defense of my team and the game. People can say what they want about me, but I don't take lightly when they disparage the commitment and passion of the Diablo III team," he said.
Phew. Buried under all that hoo-ha it's important to note that Diablo 3 is a good game. Very good, actually, if you forgive the post-level 60 grind. Find out why in our Diablo 3 review. Blizzard are currently planning more updates and there should be some proper expansions on the horizon.
The Tomb Raider rape scene that wasn't
By the time E3 rolled around, there was already some concern surrounding Crystal Dynamic's new direction for Lara Croft. The only footage and screenshots released so far had shown her battered, bruised, bleeding in a state of permanent pain, fear or misery.
Then, two and a half minutes into the E3 trailer, amid the falling, impaling, shivering and screaming, an assailant groped Lara. The implied rape threat was clear to many, and a flood of opinion pieces were penned in response. Here's the trailer so you can see for yourself.
The situation wasn't helped by comments executive producer Ron Rosenberg made to Kotaku. "When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character," he said. "When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character. They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'"
Our Tom Francis got to play through the scene to its conclusion, deliberately failing (to his considerable discomfort) the quicktime events that enable her to fight back. In the end, her attacker merely strangles her to death instead. Oh, good.
Global brand director Karl Stewart told us there's “No sexual element. He doesn’t care who you are. He has got you cornered and you are female, so there is an element of ‘oh he’s creepy, and this is slightly intimidating’, but straight out it’s: bite his ear, kick him in the nuts and shoot him in the head.”
Regarding Rosenberg's comments, he said this: “Unfortunately someone mis-spoke, rather than was mis-quoted, and said a word that isn’t in our vocabulary and shouldn’t have been said… We’re not trying to create something that causes a stir, what we’re trying to create is something that’s still in a mature world but still feels real.”
On watching the trailer, it's hard to believe that those who cut the trailer together weren't trying to cause a bit of fuss. It's still too early to tell where the developers are taking Lara, and it certainly isn't the first time a marketing campaign has misrepresented a game. It's due out on March 5 next year.
Where to start? Square Enix' promotional efforts have provided some of the most painful "what were they thinking?" moments of the year. The graphic murder of a squad of hypersexualised, rubberised BDSM nun assassins in the May trailer was an impressively misjudged opening gambit that worked on precisely no level.
Game director Tor Blystad later apologised for the trailer, explaining that "there are a lot of movie influences in Hitman Absolution, like Tarantino and Rodriguez." But where Tarantino re-purposes influences from asian cinema and martial arts films to create quirky and spectacular pop-cultural mash-ups, the Hitman nunsassin trailer seems to take its cues from rubbish porn and Rambo. The resultant video was exactly the sort of peurile hyperviolent nonsense that gives videogames a bad rep.
“We’re sorry that we offended people” Blystad said at E3. “That was truly not the intention of the trailer.”
“We’ve been reading as much as we could of the articles and responses” he added. “We were surprised that it turned into such a huge topic. Something similar happened with our Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus. We just wanted to make something cool, it wasn’t the intention to stir up anything.”
IO Interactive subsequently changed the level that featured the nun assassins - a crack squad sent by the Agency to slay Agent 47 - to create more context for their appearance .
It was bad, but a mistake is a mistake, right? Those involved have apologised and will probably be more thoughtful about their marketing schemes in future. As long as they don't do anything else stupid then we can all get past - OH WAIT. Just a few weeks ago a Facebook stunt encouraged players to put "Facebook hits" out on their friends. Those taking part could select insults to throw at each other. You could put out a hit on someone for having small tits, bad hair, an annoying laugh or a small penis.
The campaign was pulled in the wake of a torrent of disapproval. Depressingly, the game proved disappointing, too, ditching many of the traits that made former Hitman games special in favour of a more directed, linear experience. Find out more in our Hitman: Absolution review.
The War Z
At the time of writing, The War Z has been plucked from Steam. Valve's Doug Lombardi told RPS that Valve have removed the game so that Valve can "work with the developer and have confidence in a new build." They're also offering refunds to purchasers who file a support ticket. The problem? This build of The War Z doesn't seem to match up to the promises its developers have been making.
Steam user Shock4ndAwe captured this image showing the original product description on Steam. It promised maps between "100 and 400 square kilometers." It claims you can create "private servers" and "gain experience and spend it to learn dozen of available skills." These features aren't in there yet. What's more, PCGamesN investigated the size of War Z's map and found it to be around 10 sq km large - far smaller than promised.
In an extraordinary interview on GameSpy, executive producer of The War Z, Sergey Titov attempted to defend the Steam listing, saying "I think there's difference between false claims and perception of the text."
When challenged on the "up to 100 players" claim (only 50 players could play simultaneously at the time), he said "let's be frank: when you read "up to 100 players" -- what does it mean to you personally? I mean, for me it doesn't mean that I will play with 99 other players. Really :) And yes game supports 100 players -- heck, it supports actually over 400 players per server as of today. Do we have servers launched with this number of slots? No we don't, because this is not what our players WANT."
The War Z creators, Hammerpoint, have since released a statement that blames players for expecting the features clearly labelled on Steam. “We also want to extend our apologies to all players who misread information about game features," they said. The Steam listing has since been altered.
Before The War Z was pulled, Kotaku reported that a patch had upped the respawn time to four hours and added microtransactions that would let players pay to circumvent it. Players took to Reddit to express their anger.
It feels like this story still has a long way to run. In other news, Bohemia Interactive continue to work on a standalone version of Arma 2 mega-mod, Day Z.
Yesterday I was convinced that Hitman Absolution's Deus Ex DLC items would be among the stupidest promotional stuff we'd see for the game. Unfortunately, they weren't. A Facebook campaign that launched today - before being quickly removed after RPS spotted it - encouraged people to send a hit on their friends.
According the campaign's press release, “'Hire Hitman' was created to celebrate the best selling game Hitman: Absolution. The experience is another opportunity for fans of the series to immerse themselves in the Hitman universe.”
Here's the form that celebration took. After selecting the friend they wanted to target, users were asked to pick from a list of insulting “identifying” characteristics.
Female friends got to be called out on “awful make-up,” “annoying laugh,” “strange odour,” “muffin top,” or “small tits,” among others. Male targets, meanwhile, could be chided on their “bad hair,” “big ears,” “hairy back,” “big gut,” or “small penis.”
So that's intimidation, bullying and sexism. Another proud day in games promoting, folks!
Users would then choose a reason for elimination, at which point a message would be sent to their friend's wall, with a video that incorporated photos from their profile.
While Square-Enix are in “shut down everything” mode, removing both the site and the video that was promoting it, one YouTuber was quick enough to capture it before it disappeared.
The press release states that the campaign was created by the ad agency Ralph, who were nominated for an EMMY. It doesn't mention if that nomination was for Stupidest Bloody Idea This Week.