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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Philippa Warr)
Valve’s Team Fortress 2 team are running a competition whereby the entire Tomb Raider franchise is fair game for TF2 Workshop content creation. Their official blog post on the matter goes straight for “the heavy in short shorts” at their first example of the contest’s potential*. But why on earth would you want to help Valve and Square promote a game for free? Let’s take a look at the rules.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (John Walker)
A rather strange addition to Steam’s Early Access list popped up over the weekend – the Eidos Anthology. Eidos, which sort of exists inside the maw of Square Enix, is no slouch when it comes to noteworthy games, and Eidos Montreal recently picked up a Golden Joystick for Best Hair or similar. An anthology of their games is quite the thing.
In a collection of quite enormous proportions, Square are selling 34 games (including all the Tomb Raiders, all the Thiefs, all the Deus Exes) and about forty-nine billion DLC packs at just over half the price of buying them individually. That price, however, is 160. Cor.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alice O'Connor)
When Square Enix announced Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3, they were careful not to mention platforms. The natural assumption was that they were wooing Microsoft and Sony over rights to call it “exclusive” to their console for a few months, but a PC release was a given, right? So I shrugged today at talk during Microsoft’s big Gamescom press event that Tomb Raider 11 is coming “exclusively on Xbox”, thinking that simply meant MS had given Squeenix an invitation to its birthday party, 2, and a Sherbet Dip Dab to ignore Sony at school for a term.
No, they really do mean Rise of the Tomb Raider won’t be released on PC. Or so they say. Hmm!
The big bombshell of Microsoft's Gamescom presser was the announcement that Rise of the Tomb Raider the follow up to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot will be available "Holiday 2015, Exclusively on Xbox".
There's a reason I'm putting that line in quotes: I don't entirely know what it means. Microsoft spent the entire conference twisting the meaning of language itself to make its platform look more desirable. During an ID@Xbox section, they showed games like Space Engineers and Smite games already available on PC and used the misleading refrain "coming first to consoles on Xbox".* Admittedly, "exclusively on Xbox" is a more solid statement, but companies have long since stretched the word beyond understanding. Will it be a timed exclusive? A full exclusive? An exclusive exclusively for 'Holiday 2015'? We don't know, and neither the conference nor Crystal Dynamics follow-up statement make it particularly clear.
"As you may have seen, we ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox," writes Crystal Dynamics head Darrell Gallagher. "We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we re creating at the studio.
"Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past - we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.
"This doesn t mean that we re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4."
What Gallagher seems to be saying is that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics think the way you put Tomb Raider "on top of action adventure gaming" is to prevent the majority of its fan base from playing it. However you try to spin it, exclusivity is not a positive. It doesn't help the people who own that console they would still be able to play the game if it was multi-platform and it definitely, obviously doesn't help those who now can't play a series they previously had access to. It is a move that goes directly against their fans, and one almost certainly motivated by Square Enix's financial issues over the last few years.
Hopefully, then, this will be one of those woolly, meaningless exclusives, and six months down the line we'll see Rise of the Tomb Raider arrive on PC. The alternative possibility that the true third-party platform exclusive is back as a viable option would be a big step back for gaming as a whole.
*"Coming first to consoles on Xbox" would appear to mean "of the consoles, it will be on Xbox first". But that's not what's being said. Including the phrase "first to consoles" is a deliberate attempt to nest the idea of exclusivity within an admission of none. It means the exact opposite of what the actual sentence is saying. This is the point we've reached in this increasingly desperate battle.
The future aka 4K gaming is made up of very, very small pixels. After spending the past two weeks checking out games on Samsung's U28D590D 4K monitor, I'm still going to call 4K gaming the near future rather than the present. Yes, you can play games at 3840x2160 pixels right now. Yes, 4K monitors are becoming more affordable. But are they worth it? After spending a couple weeks using one, I can comfortably say: no, not yet. Even for a high-end graphics card (or two), 4K is too demanding for max settings and high framerates. If you're willing to play at 30 frames per second, though, 4K is a different story.
If you want to skip straight to the 4K gameplay section, click here to jump to page 2.
The Samsung U28D590D and the basics of 4K
The Samsung U28D590D is a 28-inch, 3840x2160 monitor that has an MSRP of $700, though it's only $570 on Amazon as of this writing. The monitor has a 60Hz refresh rate, unlike some earlier 4K monitors, though you'll have to use DisplayPort for 60Hz. The current HDMI spec only supports 4K at 30Hz.
I gave a general overview of the U28D590D and the demands of 4K gaming in a segment of The PC Gamer Show, which you can watch here:
The monitor looks great and I never noticed any issues with refresh rate or response time, but I didn't perform in-depth testing to determine the actual response time (never trust the too-good-to-be-true listed response time. TFT Central offers a good primer on what those specs mean). Because it uses a faster, cheaper TN panel, response time comes at a cost: inferior viewing angles and color accuracy compared to IPS displays. The monitor stand is also disappointingly limited--it has no height adjustment, rotation, or VESA mount support.
Unfortunately, if you're still running Windows 7, 4K is a terrible experience, no matter what 4K monitor you're using. The OS isn't designed to scale to such a high resolution, and everything will be impossibly tiny unless you crank up DPI scaling to 125% or 150%. But that scaling is for text it doesn't properly resize other UI elements or affect some applications like Steam. Chrome doesn't scale its text properly, either. Windows 8 is much better about properly scaling, and requires no setup to scale text, UI elements like Windows Explorer, and applications to 4K resolution. Text in Steam and Chrome is noticeably fuzzier than system text, but everything is usable and legible without constantly squishing your face up against the monitor.
The Samsung's $570 may be cheap for a 4K monitor, but it's still expensive for a monitor, in general. What that money buys is an extremely pixel-dense display, and games really do look amazing on it. My standard monitor is a 27-inch, 2560x1440 display, which comes out to a pixel pitch rating of 108.79 PPI. That's way higher than, say, a 24-inch 1080p monitor (95.78 PPI) or a 50-inch 1080p TV (44.06 PPI).
At 3840x2160, the 28-inch Samsung U28D590D has a 157.35 PPI. As a result, games running at native resolution look sharp, even without anti-aliasing enabled. The pixel density really does make a difference. Remember, a 1920x1080 monitor creates an image out of 2,073,600 pixels. A 4K monitor displays 8,294,400 pixels. As a result, a graphics card has to push out four times as many pixels. Not even two Nvidia Titans, or a newer Titan Black, can handle refreshing eight million pixels 60 times per second.
On the next page: my gaming experiences with Metro: Last Light, Tomb Raider, and other games, with some gameplay footage captured with Nvidia Shadowplay (at the max capture resolution of 1440p).
Gaming at 4K
The first game I tested at 4K was the most graphically intensive game I could think of: Metro: Last Light. With settings cranked up to Ultra, Last Light had trouble cracking 20 frames per second. Mostly, it ran in the teens, and even lowering a few settings barely helped. The world isn't ready for Metro: Last Light at 4K. Luckily, most of the other games I tested ran better.
For the games listed below, I'm going to give a rating based on playability at 30 fps and 60 fps. While I did tweak some specific settings like antialiasing, depth of field, and tessellation, I didn't turn game settings down to medium or low just to see if they'd perform well. I'd rather play a game at high settings, with better textures, lighting, and particle effects, than sacrifice those graphics options for pure resolution.
Bioshock Infinite runs on a heavily customized Unreal Engine 3, but it's not a particularly demanding game I had no problem running it at 60 fps on an AMD 7870 at 1440p when it was released. At 4K on a Titan Black, with all settings on Ultra, it was playable, but the framerate fluctuated considerably. It only occasionally reached 60 frames per second, and mostly hovered in the low 40s. Not bad! Usually. I found that some particle effects and rapid animations like the carnival games in the plaza near the beginning of the game--sent the framerate plummeting down into the teens.
By switching Bioshock Infinite's settings down to "Very High," I was able to run it at a reliable 30+ fps. I also ran the Infinite benchmark utility on its highest setting: DX11 with Depth of Field enabled. It averaged an overall framerate of 37.01 fps.
Consistent 60 fps at 4K? No.
Consistent 30 fps at 4K? Yes.
When I played Tomb Raider on my (overclocked) AMD 7870 last year, I was shocked by how well-optimized it was. I ran the game at max settings, with TressFX enabled, and kept a solid 60 fps. It didn't fare as well at 4K. At first, I ran the game at Ultra on a Titan Black, with only TressFX disabled. Depth of Field was turned to high, and tessellation was enabled. On those settings, the game typically ran at 22-24 fps and peaked around 30 fps. That framerate, combined with the game's handheld-style shaky camera, made cutscenes uncomfortably twitchy to watch. In smaller enclosed spaces, the game ran better when I took Lara into an underground area, it actually ran at 55-60 fps.
Tweaking individual settings in Tomb Raider also makes a big difference. By disabling tessellation and turning down depth of field and SSAO to normal, the framerate hung steady in the mid-30 fps range, even in cutscenes and open environments. I didn't get to any of the game's dramatic action setpieces, but a little settings tuning should be enough to keep the game running over 30 fps at all times.
Consistent 60 fps at 4K? No.
Consistent 30 fps at 4K? Yes.
United Front Games' Sleeping Dogs has a gorgeous open world, but it relies on the rain-soaked neon of Hong Kong for its looks, not tessellation like Tomb Raider or the lighting and physics of Metro: Last Light. With all of Sleeping Dogs' settings cranked to Ultra (except anti-aliasing) and its high resolution textures installed, the game managed to run at an almost-but-not-quite solid 60 fps during gameplay. It sometimes dipped into the 50s, but still played extremely smoothly.
During cutscenes, the framerate dropped into the 40-50 fps range, but never dipped anywhere near 30 fps.When I ran the Sleeping Dogs benchmark utility (with AA enabled), it returned an average framerate of 56.5 fps, a maximum of 67.1 fps and a minimum of 39.2 fps. Not bad, Sleeping Dogs. Not bad. And you still look pretty good, too.
Consistent 60 fps at 4K? Very, very close.
Consistent 30 fps at 4K? Yes. Easily.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Surprise! A game running on the Source Engine runs putters along at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second just fine. On the Large Pixel Collider's three Titan setup, CS:GO blazed past 60 fps with max settings and showed no signs of dipping down below that threshold. Even on a weaker computer, Source engine games should be able to run at 60 fps no problem, especially with tweaking to settings like AA.
Consistent 60 fps at 4K? Yes.
Consistent 30 fps at 4K? Double yes.
Total War: Rome 2
The last game I tried, Creative Assembly's Total War: Rome 2, ran better than I expected. The Total War games are notoriously system intensive on both the CPU and GPU, but even on Ultra settings, the game ran well at 4K. At least, "well" by Total War standards. On the battlefield, zoomed out, the game consistently ran at more than 30 fps. Zoomed in, the framerate slowed to around 24 fps when there were dozens or hundreds of units on screen at once. But that feels normal for Total War, so the game didn't feel sluggish.
In fact, on a Titan Black, Total War: Rome 2 runs better at 4K than it did for me at launch on my AMD 7870 at 1440p. Creative Assembly has patched the game numerous times over the past year to fix bugs and increase performance, but overall Rome 2 ran better than I expected. Still nowhere near 60 fps, but that's hardly a surprise for a game rendering thousands of units at once.
Consistent 60 fps at 4K? No, but that's no surprise.
Consistent 30 fps at 4K? No, but closer than expected.
The games above are just a small sample of how PC gaming fares at 4K resolution. Obviously performance will differ between systems not everyone has a Titan Black to play on, but a pair of overclocked SLI'd cards could handle these games even better, and even manage to keep framerates hovering around 60 fps. From my testing, though, I don't think 2014 is the year to invest in a 4K monitor. Even 30 fps at 4K is a struggle for some games, but it's doable with the right tweaking.
If you're accustomed to playing games at 30 frames per second already, chances are you don't have a graphics card capable of handling 4K. Buy a new GPU in 2014 or 2015, though, and 4K at 30 fps will be within your reach
For 60 fps, you'll need at least two Nvidia 780 TIs in SLI or an AMD R9 295X2, and neither of those cards will guarantee 60 fps in every game. Total cost for those cards? Between $1400 and $1500. Throw the cost of the 4K monitor in there, and, well...Unless you want to spend a whole lot of money, the 4K future is still a year or two away.
We've now been living and breathing the Steam Summer Sale for a week, losing sleep for every flash sale, antsy with anticipation every time the new deals tick over. We're feverish from the savings, but it would be madness to stop saving now. Today's deals fuel our appetite for strategy, shooting, and launching valiant little green men into space on absurdly oversized rockets.
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 - The Banner Saga
50% off: $12.49 / 9.49 - Steam store page
One of the biggest artistic achievements in gaming this year. We love The Banner Saga s hand-drawn characters and how they animate on the battlefield, but we especially enjoy the way its detailed, Nordic landscapes parallax as your caravan of warriors and survivors march on. The Austin Wintory score is a cherry on the top.
4 - Kerbal Space Program
40% off: $16.19 / 11.99 - Steam store page
We ve murdered a lot of aliens in games, but only in KSP have we stranded little green guys in planetary orbit due to our grossly incompetent management of a budding space program. The Early Access rocket physics simulator is one of the best games still under development, and already has a large community of engineers sharing stories of harrowing space missions, ship designs, and mods. KSP has even made its way into classrooms.
Read Ian s five-part Kerbal Space Program chronicle to see how he learned rocket-building basics and launched a mission to the M n.
3 - Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
50% off: $7.49 / 5.99 - Steam store page
The best competitive FPS on PC owes a lot to its skill-based matchmaking format. At any skill level, five-on-five Counter-Strike narrows the range of tactical choices available to you and the time you have to make them, creating a wonderfully concentrated competitive mode. Otherwise, CS:GO is mainly a vehicle for microtransactions: beware the allure of $400 virtual knives.
2 - Tomb Raider
75% off: $4.99 / 3.74 - Steam store page Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
Lara Croft returns in a gorgeous action game heavily inspired by Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. This younger, rebooted Lara doesn't have her predecessor's confidence or predilection for interesting puzzles the only tombs in this game are disappointingly short and simple but the shooting is by far the best in the series. Exploring Tomb Raider's island and crafting survival gear is also fun, as Lara is a nimble climber and each area is packed with interesting treasures to hunt down. For a challenge, forgo the assault rifle and grenade launcher for Lara's incredibly satisfying (and silent!) bow.
1 - BioShock Triple Pack
83% off: $10.19 / 6.79 - Steam store page
If you haven t explored the ruins of Rapture, you re in for a treat. BioShock s world is a revelation, an under-the-sea society that s crumbled under its own weight, and exploring what remains of it and shooting its crazy inhabitants in the face with fireballs is a delight. BioShock 2 goes even further, changing your perspective and adding a surprising amount of depth with its own story. Irrational s swansong, BioShock Infinite, may still be polarizing, but Columbia is just as beautiful and terrifying as Rapture, and well worth exploring. All three are included here in a bundle that s too cheap to pass up.
Other great deals today
Remember that games not categorized as Daily Deals or Flash Sales may be reduced further later in the sale.
Bastion (40% off) $8.99 / 6.59
Killing Floor (50% off) $9.99 / 7.49
Mirror's Edge (75% off) $4.99 / 2.49
Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition (66% off) $6.79 / 5.09
Just when you thought you were out of the Steam sale racket, they pull you back in - today's crop boasting some delectable bargains across a variety of genres, including the pork-bunniest game of recent years.
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. Also, GOG.com are having their own, equally terrific summer sale at the moment, so be sure to check that out too.
5 - Lone Survivor
75% off: $3.74 / 2.74 - Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
One of the best Silent Hill games you'll play - and a better Silent Hill game than Konami have published in the last ten or so years. The story is dreamlike and ambiguous in the best possible way, while the chunky pixel art and atmospheric soundtrack envelop you as soon as you switch the game on. If you're brave enough to face it - and you remembered to bring an energy drink - Lone Survivor is easily worth the price of a large cappuccino. Head here for the full PCG verdict.
4 - Metro Last Light
66% off: $6.79 / 6.79 - Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
Some odd exchange-rating aside, this is still a good price for the mostly great Metro Last Light, which managed the heroic feat of rescuing the first game's abysmal stealth and turning it into something that works. In addition to being a solid shooter and stealth-'em-up, this is a pretty good atmospheric horror and action game too, although the plot is something that will largely pass you by (if you're lucky). You might want to wait for the remastered 'Redux' version of this and its predecessor, however - although there is a discount system in place should you want to upgrade at a later date.
3 - Sleeping Dogs
80% off: $3.99 / 2.99 - Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
If Watch Dogs left you cold, you could always give the relatively silly (but still a bit nasty) Sleeping Dogs a try, which puts you in the role of an undercover cop in Hong Kong. Brawl with bad guys, eat pork buns by the truckload, and solve police cases on the side in a scrappy open world game that's never too ambitious, but manages to be a lot of fun anyway. We didn't think much of the "messy story and horrible characters" in our review, but we had time for the game's "scintillating open world city". 2.99 seems like a very fair price.
2 - Tomb Raider
75% off: $4.99 / 3.74 - Steam store page
Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot isn't without its problems - most of the cast are forgettable, and it's a more linear and shallow game than fans of the originals might have been expecting - but as fairground rides go, this is meticulously and gorgeously staged. Play it to prepare yourself for the recently announced Rise of the Tomb Raider, in which Lara's hopefully brought along a coat, as well as a flannel for all that blood she finds herself swimming through.
1 - The Wolf Among Us
66% off: $8.49 / 6.45 - Steam store page
Creaking engine aside, Telltale have come a long way since the days of their pretty good Sam and Max series, so it's a relief to see that their good work on The Walking Dead wasn't a one-off. The Wolf Among us, based on the Fables comics, is overall just as deftly written as the tale of Clementine and co, although Telltale have been a fair bit slower in putting them out. You probably shouldn't read our reviews if you want to remain unspoiled, but know that we've given the series a (very gruff) thumbs-up.
Other great deals today
Remember that games not categorized as Daily Deals or Flash Sales may be reduced further.
State of Decay (75% off) $4.99 / 3.74
Monaco (67% off) $4.94 / 3.95
To The Moon (70% off) $2.99 / 2.09
E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy (75% off) $2.49 / 1.74
Year Walk (50% off) $2.99 / 2.39
Deadly Premonition (75% off) $6.24 / 4.99
Legend of Grimrock (66% off) $5.09 / 4.07
Betrayer (80% off) $3.99 / 2.99
Outlast (75% off) $4.99 / 3.74
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alice O'Connor)
Well lah-di-dah, look at Lady Croft, hob-nobbing with ancient Egyptian gods. Don’t Horus and Isis know what she gets up to at weekends? She stole that dinner set too, you know. You can still see the bloodstains. I can’t imagine why they’re keeping company with her. For all I know gods are fond of that blood and murder, though. Dreadful heathens. I tell you Alice dear, I wanted them to turn down my invitation to afternoon tea.
Deary me, sorry readers. I popped out the room to make a cuppa before tackling the announcement of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and my grandmother Alice (it’s a family name) starts trying to send me an e-mail about a video game as if the characters and events contained within were real ha ha grandmother what a hackneyed literary device.