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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Super Time Force Ultra comes to Steam next week, will (probably) feature TF2 characters">STf







Okay, congratulations indie games, you did it again. For a while I thought Capy's Super Time Force wouldn't make it to PC, which given the reviews of its Xbone version would have been a shame. Naturally, I was worrying over nothing. Not only will the 2D action time-travel-'em-up release on Steam on 25 August, but it'll arrive in a special Ultra edition.



Super Time Force Ultra will, according to the developers, bring "50 new Helladeck challenge levels, inter-dimensional Ultra Force powers and 3 super-awesome, super-secret new characters". Those characters appear in the trailer as silhouetted figures. The second looks extremely like the TF2's Pyro, and the third like TF2's Saxton Hale. The first? If we stick with the TF2 theme, it could be Miss Pauling. Otherwise, I've no idea. If you think you know, jump into the comments.



In Super time Force, you get to battle through levels. You also get to rewind time switching characters to re-battle through levels with your past self at your side.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 now accepting merchandise designs through the Steam Workshop">TF2 Clothing







Team Fortress 2 has shown that people will pay good money for virtual headclothes that sit upon the crown of the cartoon murderers they control in first person. Now Valve are trying something daring: seeing if people will pay for non-hats not in the game, but in real life. The TF2 Workshop is now accepting community designs for new lines of merchandise to be sold through the Valve Store.



As per the regular TF2 item popularity contest, users can upload their designs to the Workshop to be judged by the community. "We ll curate the top-rated entries," write Valve, "and the best of the best designs will be made available as official merchandise at the Valve Store and various online retailers. You won't just be ensuring your place in history: You'll also get paid a handsome royalty for every unit sold."



If you have a question, and if that question has been frequently asked, you can find the answer here. Otherwise, take a look at the current submitted designs, and perhaps dream of the day when they'll swaddle your fragile meat-frame.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: Double Action Boogaloo, for Half-Life 2">Mod of the Week







Amidst a flock of startled doves I dive left, my dual pistols blazing, and take down one enemy as another evades me by back-flipping off a wall. As I empty both clips, my dive becomes a prolonged sideways slide which takes me right off the roof of the skyscraper. I'm not alone: another thug sails over the ledge and joins me on my long plummet to the ground. While falling, I reload both guns and we trade fire all the way down to the street. Did I mention this happens in slow-motion? It's as if Jon Woo directed The Matrix when you play Double Action Boogaloo, a multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2.



Whoah.



What I described isn't some rare occurrence in Double Action Boogaloo. It happens roughly every ten seconds or so, because the mod is built on the elements required for such exciting, cinematic shenanigans: jumping, diving, sliding, flipping, running and gunning, and of course, slow-motion. Throw in some of Jon Woo's flapping doves and a few trench coats from The Matrix, and you've got a frenetic multiplayer action game consisting of nothing of movie trailer moments.



Fight ain't over til someone hits the ground.



Choose a player model of the three provided: Diesel, a biker, Vice, a hard-boiled detective, and Eightball, a somewhat familiar-looking gambler. Then, choose your specialty. The Marksman has better aim, reduced recoil, and faster reloading. The Bouncer punches faster and does more damage with his fists. The Athlete runs faster, dives farther, and slides longer (three things you will be doing a lot of). You can also pick a class that carries more grenades, and one that increases your slow-motion powers.



Startled doves included.



It's not just about shooting people, of course, it's about shooting people while doing awesomely acrobatic things. Shooting someone while diving is cool. Shooting someone and killing them while diving is cooler. Shooting someone in the head, thus killing them, while diving, is cooler still. The game rewards you for your coolness with style points that allow you to boost the skills of whichever specialty you've chosen. Gain enough points and you can activate bullet-time powers.



One sliding, two diving: the guy standing doesn't stand a chance.



Slow-motion doesn't seem like it would work in multiplayer. I mean, say I slow down the action. Doesn't the action slow down for everyone else, too? Well, yeah. Doesn't that mean anyone can enjoy my slow-motion powers at the same time I'm enjoying them? Well, yeah. That's why it's so cool! You have a slight advantage in that you choose when to activate it, but otherwise, it's like a gift to the entire server as everyone enters bullet-time and enjoys a cinematic shootout at the same time.



The kill-cam captures your finest moments.



There are a few maps to play, and they all feel perfectly appropriate for awesome movie-style shootouts. There's a subway station, complete with rushing commuter trains, perfect for leaping out of the way just in time to avoid being splattered. Also perfect for not leaping out of the way in time and being splattered. There's a couple of industrial maps as well, and of course, the best one, the rooftop skyscraper map, allowing for extended leaps through the air and long slides off of ledges, plus the awesome plummeting gunfights down to street level. Nicely, if you happen to fall off a roof alone, you don't have to fall all the way to the bottom twiddling your thumbs: a simple keypress will let you respawn topside.



Dive + headshot = Dive Kill. That's my kinda equation.



There are some objectives, sometimes, among all the high-octane carnage. Players may be targeted if they're doing well, letting everyone know where they are on the map so they can be hunted down. One player may be carrying a briefcase of cash, and sometimes a race will begin, leading players through several checkpoints. Mostly, though, this is a game about diving and rolling and sliding and shooting, and even when objectives pop up, the action never really slows down or changes.



Dodge, Dip, Dive, Duck, and Dodge!



In case I haven't been clear, this mod is super fun, full of crazy stunts and non-stop action. There's a first-person mode, which works quite well, though you miss out on seeing all the crazy moves your character is doing. There's a handful of servers available, and at least a couple nearly-full games going on around the clock. Get in there, load your double-guns, and dive in.



Installation: There's a self-installer right here. You'll need Half-Life 2 on Steam, and it'll even check if you've got Source SDK Base 2013 Multiplayer installed, and if not, will download it for you. Once installed, just restart Steam and Double Action Boogaloo will appear in your library.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Source 2 tools teased in Dota 2 update">Dota 2 tools







The Dota 2 Workshop update is even more interesting than it first appears. The new tools include an overhauled edition of Valve's Hammer level editor, and the update download adds a 64-bit build of Dota 2. Both contain allusions to the next generation of Valve's Source engine. Set the Half-Life 3 alert to DEFCON beige.



Technically-minded modders and map-making enthusiasts are busily dissecting the tools in detail, but it's immediately clear that Hammer has been greatly improved. The interface has been overhauled, and the editor now renders the level in real-time as you tweak level geometry. It also runs on a new file structure. When you open a file in the editor, you can now choose to open a new "vmap" file, or an old fashioned "Source 1.0 Map File". The community is still puzzling over the advantages offered by the new directory system, but it looks like Valve are laying important groundwork for future releases.



It's interesting to note how user-friendly the new tools are. Dota Redditors are already having fun with functions that let you sketch out levels quickly (via DarkMio) using tilesets. As well as Dota 2's traditional forest set, there's the wintry Frostivus set and this one. Valve have a history of encouraging user-created content, including campaigns and levels. Hammer's complexity surely stunted the potential of Left 4 Dead's ecosystem a problem Valve tried to circumvent with Portal 2's lovely level-creation tools. Nu-Hammer could serve as a friendlier entry point for tinkerers.







In addition to all that, the latest Dota 2 update also adds a 64-bit version of the Dota 2 client, which you'll find tucked away in steamapps/common/dota 2 beta/dota_ugc/game/bin/win64. It contains numerous references to second-gen elements, like "engine2.dll", "materialssystem2.dll" and "vphysics2.dll", and comes with a colourful new console. It's a bit premature to say that Dota 2 has been ported to Source 2 wholesale, we're likely looking at an interim step as Valve roll out tools designed to support their current games and future projects.







This is quite exciting nonetheless. Publicly Valve have been laser-focused on Dota 2, but are of course rumoured to be working on Left 4 Dead 3 and, what was it again, Hearth-Life? Bath-Life? As someone who likes Valve games, but can't quite get into Dotes, I wait in meditative stasis for a new Valve happening, be it an announcement or an ARG. Our time will come.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Valve announce 4th annual Saxxy awards, opens floor to Portal submissions">Saxxy 4







The Saxxy Awards, Valve's annual Source Filmmaker competition, is now in its fourth year, and to shake things up a bit they're encouraging players/directors to make films about something other than Team Fortress 2 - namely Portal. All of Portal 2's assets (minus, er, the portals and a few other things) can now be downloaded into SFM as free DLC, enabling that Spy vs Wheatley crossover animation that (probably) hasn't been able to exist until now. That isn't the only content pack headed to the program either: Puny Human are offering up select assets from Blade Symphony too.



The deadline for submissions this year is September 24th, giving you just under two months to create your masterpiece. You'll find the guidelines for the awards here.



If you need inspiration and/or films to compare your efforts to, be sure to check out the winners from last year. This one won best short:



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 update introduces a new mode through beta maps">Team Fortress 2







Valve took a three day run-up to its Love and War update, with daily teasers for what, in reality, amounted to some new taunts and weapons. You'd think, then, that the introduction of a new game mode would warrant something spectacular. Instead perhaps fittingly for a game made by the company responsible for Steam it's being launched into Early Access. Yesterday's TF2 update added two new "beta maps" to the game. They're rough, unbalanced, and, in some cases, untextured, but one of them is our first taste of the new Robot Destruction game type.



In Robot Destruction, teams are tasked with taking down the robots that patrol the other team's base. These aren't the deadly bots of Mann vs. Machine mode, but rather rotund, defenceless machines that attempt to flee your aggression. Once killed, they drop points, which can be collected to increase your team's total. In addition, each team has battery, which can also be captured to steal some of the enemy's collected points.



The new mode takes place on a map called Asteroid. As the name suggests, it's set in space. At least it probably is there's no skybox at the moment. Valve previously revealed concept art for a moon base map, suggesting that the Mercs might soon be leaving the precious gravel of their own planet. Also in this update is a new Payload map: Cactus Canyon.



The new maps can be found by selecting the 'Play Beta Maps' checkbox from the 'Multiplayer' menu. Alternatively, you can find them in the server browser. Valve say you can expect plenty of iteration as the maps are tested anything from moving a medpack, to rebuilding entire sections.



For more details, head over to the TF2 blog.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 mod NeoTokyo released as standalone package on Steam">NeoTokyo







Competitive first-person shooters love to depict the gritty 'realism' of soldiers locked in an endless war of explosions and swearing. NeoTokyo isn't entirely different, but supplements its urgent shooting with cyberpunk and a nice soundtrack. After being successfully Greenlit in 2012, the Half-Life 2 mod is finally available to download directly from Steam now entirely free from its SDK dependencies.



If you've not played the mod, it's similar in style to Counter-Strike albeit a class-based Counter-Strike that's been clearly inspired by Ghost in the Shell. As the title elegantly suggests, it's set in future Tokyo, where a war is raging between the NSF and JINRAI. There are two modes to play Team Deathmatch and Capture the Ghost. The 'Ghost' in question is the top half of a robot lady. It is cyberpunk as all heck.



You can now grab the game for free directly from Steam, and, if you'd like to know what you're getting yourself into, can read up on NeoTokyo's peculiarities here.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 review November 2004, UK edition">half life 2 3







Every week, we publish a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s. This week, Ben Griffin provides context and commentary followed by the full, original text of our Half-Life 2 review, published in the November 2004 issue of PC Gamer UK. More classic reviews here.



What more can be said about Half-Life 2? Jim Rossignol's words below still do a fine job of summing up just why the world got worked up over a singleplayer shooter. November 2004 was a standout month for PC gaming, and indeed PC Gamer: a 96% for Valve's opus, 95% for Rome: Total War to a 95%, an 89% FIFA 2005, and Shade: Wrath of Angels with a, er, 59%.



But the game we called 'messianic' was all that mattered that month, and indeed, that year. Not only did it kick off Valve's (eventually) world-conquering Steam service, but it courted criminals too. After FBI involvement and a concerted effort from Valve's community, the stolen Half-Life 2 code was returned several anxious months later, but not after a making dear old Gabe sweat through a heavily delayed development schedule. Could this be the official birth of Valve time?



And Half-Life 2 still matters. Just shy of a decade on, memories linger in the collective conscious. The gravity gun. The hoverboat. Striders. Dog. Ravenholm, to which we definitely do not go. The game left an indelible mark on its landscape, and not only in terms of those iconic moments. Underneath it all, the Source engine gave modders and developers a good platform on which to base their game. It's still being used today albeit in a heavily modified form in Respawn's multiplayer shooter, Titanfall.



So there it is, one of the greatest PC games in history. Here's our original review in full.



Half-Life 2 review



It was all in that moment when I just sat back and laughed. I couldn t believe it was quite this good. I chuckled in muddled disbelief, expectations utterly defied. My nervous fingers reloaded the level, knowing that I had to see that breathtaking sequence one more time. It was then that I knew for certain: Valve had surpassed not only themselves, but everyone else too. Half-Life 2 is an astounding accomplishment. It is the definitive statement of the last five years of first-person shooters. Everything else was just a stopgap.



Half-Life 2 is a near perfect sequel. It takes almost everything that worked from Half-Life and either improves on it, or keeps it much the same. But that simple summation undersells how the Valve team have approached this task. Half-Life 2 is a linear shooter with most of the refinements one would expect from years of work, but it is also a game of a higher order of magnitude than any of the previous pretenders to the throne. The polish and the stratospheric height of the production values mean that Half-Life 2 is a magnificent, dramatic experience that has few peers.



It would be madness for me to spoil this game by talking about the specific turn of events, so spoilers are going to be kept to a minimum. We re going to talk about general processes and the elements of style and design that make Half-Life 2 such an energising experience. Key to this is the way in which Gordon s tale is told. Once again we never leave his perspective. There are no cutscenes, no moment in which you are anything but utterly embedded in Gordon s view of the world. Everything is told through his eyes. And what a story it is. Gordon arrives at the central station at City 17 a disruptive and chilling dystopia. And from there? Well, that would be telling. This is not the contemporary America that Gordon seemed to be living in during the original Half-Life. The events of Black Mesa have affected the whole world. The crossover with Xen has meant that things have altered radically, with hyper-technology existing alongside eastern bloc dereliction.







The world is infested with head-crab zombies and the aliens that were once your enemies now co exist amongst the oppressed masses. This very European city is populated by frightened and desperate American immigrants, and sits under the shadow of a vast, brutalist skyscraper that is consuming the urban sprawl with crawling walls of blue steel. It s a powerful fiction. City 17 is one of the most inventive and evocative game worlds we ve ever seen. The autocratic and vicious behaviour of the masked Overwatch soldiers immediately places you in a high-pressure environment. People look at you with desperate eyes, just waiting for the end to their pain, an end to the power of the mysterious Combine. Who are they? Why are you here? Who are the masterminds behind this tyranny? The questions pile up alongside the bodies.



Half-Life 2 isn t big on exposition, but the clues are there. You re thrust into this frightening near-future reality and just have to deal with it. Your allies are numerous, but they have their own problems. Your only way forward is to help them. And so you do, battling your way along in this relentless, compelling current of violence and action, gradually building up a picture of what has happened since Black Mesa. The Combine, the military government that controls the city in a boot-stamping-face kind of way, are a clear threat, but quite how they came to be and what their purposes are become aching problems. Once again Gordon remains silent, listening to what he is told so that you can find those answers for yourself.



But even with Gordon s vaguely sinister silence (something that is transformed into a subtle joke by the game s characters) there are reams of dialogue in Half-Life 2. It is spoken by bewilderingly talented actors and animated with almost magical precision. Alyx, Eli, Barney and Dr Kleiner are delightful to behold, but they only tell part of the story. There are dozens of other characters, each with their own role to play. And each one is a wondrous creature. They might be blemished, even scarred, with baggy eyes and greasy hair, but you can t tear your eyes away. People, aliens and even crows, have never seemed quite so convincing in a videogame. Doom 3 s lavish monsters are more impressive, but Half-Life 2 s denizens are imbued with life. More importantly, they offer respite. Half-Life 2 s world is a high-bandwidth assault on the senses that seldom lets up. That moment when you see a friendly face is a palpable relief. A moment of safe harbour in a world of ultraviolence. As Gordon travels he is aided by the citizens of City 17 and the underground organisation that aims to fight the oppressors. Their hidden bases are, like the characters who inhabit them, hugely varied an abandoned farm, a lighthouse, a canyon scrapyard and an underground laboratory each superbly realised.







It is this all-encompassing commitment to flawless design that makes Half-Life 2 so appealing. Even without the cascade of inventiveness that makes up the action side of events, the environments become a breathtaking visual menagerie. Cracked slabs and peeling paint, future-graffiti and mossy slate, tufts of wild grass and flaking barrels, shattered concrete and impenetrable tungsten surfaces City 17 and its surrounding landscape make you want to keep exploring, just to see what might be past the next decaying generator or mangled corpse. Whether you find yourself in open, temperate coastline or mired in terrifying technological hellholes, Half-Life 2 presents a perfect face. The first time you see ribbed glass blurring the ominous shape of a soldier on the other side, or any time that you happen to be moving through water, you will see next-generation visuals implemented in a casual, capable manner. Half-Life 2 doesn t have Doom 3 s groundbreaking lighting effects, but objects and characters still have their own real-time shadows and the level design creates a play of light and dark that diminishes anything we ve seen in other games. The very idea that people have actually created this world by hand seems impossible, ludicrous. The detritus in the back of a van, the rubbish that lies in a stairwell it all seems too natural to have come about artificially. Add to this the split-second perfection of the illustrative music, as well as the luscious general soundscape, and you have genuinely mind-boggling beauty.



But these virtual environments are little more than a stage on which the action will play out. And what jaw-dropping, mind-slamming action that is. What s tough to convey in words, or even screenshots, is just how much impact the events of combat confer. This is a joyous, kinetic, action game. The concussive sound effects, combined with the physical solidity of weapons, objects, enemies and environment, make this a shocking experience. Each encounter is lit up with abrupt and impressively brutal effects. Explosions spray shrapnel and sparks, bullets whack and slam with devastating energy. The exploding barrel has never been such a delight. You think that you ve seen exploding barrels before, but no: these impromptu bombs, like everything else in the game, are transformed by the implementation of revelatory object physics. Unlike previous games, the object physics in Half-Life 2 are no longer a visual gimmick they are integral to the action and, indeed, the very plot.



Gordon can pick up anything that isn t bolted down and place, drop or hurl it anywhere you choose. Initially this consists of little more than shifting boxes so that you can climb out of a window, but gradually tasks increase in complexity. Puzzles, ever intuitive, are well signposted and entertaining. If they re tougher than before they re still just another rung up on what you ve already learned. This is immaculate game design. There are a couple of moments in these twenty hours where something isn t perfect in its pace or placing, but these are minor, only memorable in stark contrast to the consistent brilliance of surrounding events. There is always something happening, something new. You find yourself plunging into it with relish. Just throwing things about is immediately appealing. You find yourself restraining the impulse to just pick up and hurl anything you encounter. (Free at last, I can interact!) Black Mesa veteran Dr Kleiner is remarkably relaxed about you trashing half his lab, just to see what can be grabbed or broken. Combine police take less kindly to having tin cans lobbed at their shiny gasmasks.







But the core process of this new physics, the key to the success of the game, is to be found in the Gravity Gun. Once you ve experienced vehicular action and got to grips with combat, Half-Life 2 introduces a new concept the idea of violently manipulating objects with this essential tool. The gun has two modes, one drags things toward you and can be used to hold, carry or drop them. The other projects them away and can either be used to smash and punch or, if you re already holding something, hurl it with tremendous force. A filing cabinet becomes a flying battering ram, dragged towards you and then fired into enemies, only to be dragged back and launched again to hammer your foe repeatedly, or until the cabinet is smashed into metal shards. Pick these up and you can blast them through the soft flesh of your enemies.



Killing the badguys with nearby furniture becomes habitual, instinctive. Or perhaps you need cover from a sniper picking up a crate will give you a makeshift shield with which to absorb some incoming fire. Likewise, you immediately find yourself using the gravity gun to clear a path through debris-blocked passages, or to pick up ammo and health packs, or to grab and hurl exploding barrels at encroaching zombies, setting them ablaze and screaming. You can even use it to grab hovering Combine attack-drones and batter them into tiny fragments on concrete surfaces. Soon the gravity gun is proving useful in solving puzzles, or knocking your up-turned buggy back onto its wheels. Yes, a buggy. I ll come back to that. The gravity gun isn t just another a weapon, it s the soul of Half-Life 2. Do you try to bodge the jump over that toxic sludge, or take the time to use the level s physics objects to build an elaborate bridge? Do you waste ammo on these monsters or pull that disc-saw out of where it s embedded in the wall? Of course, you always know what to do. When there s a saw floating in front of your gravity gun and two zombies shamble round the corner, one behind the other, well, you laugh at the horrible brilliance of it. Yeah, I think that was the moment that I sat back and laughed. It s just too much.



Sometime after these experiments in viscera comes Gordon s glorious road trip. Simplicity incarnate, the little buggy is practically indestructible, but also an essential tool for making a journey that Gordon can t make on foot. Dark tunnels, treacherous beaches and bright, trap-littered clifftops become the new battleground. Like the rest of the game there are oddities and surprises thrown in all the way through. The bridge section of this journey would make up an entire level in lesser shooters. And yet here it is, just another part of the seamless tapestry of tasks that Gordon performs. Also illustrative of the game as a whole is the way in which the coast is strewn with non-essential asides. OK, so you re zooming from setpiece to setpiece, but do you also want to explore every nook and cranny, every little shack that lies crumbling by the roadside? Of course you do. This is a game where every hidden cellar or obscure air-duct should be investigated; you never know what you might find.







Investigating means using the torch that, oddly, is linked to a minor criticism of the game. Both sprinting and flashlight use are linked to a recharging energy bank. It s clear why this restriction was imposed, but it s nevertheless a little peculiar. The quality of the game meant that I was searching, rather desperately, for similar complaints. Smugly I assumed that my allies in a battle were non-human because that way Valve dodged the lack of realism and other problems created by fighting alongside human allies. Of course my lack of faith was exposed a few levels later, when I found myself in the midst of the war-torn city fighting alongside numerous human allies who patched me up, shouted at me to reload, apologised when they got in the way and fought valiantly against a vastly superior force. What a battle that was. I want to go back, right now. The striders, so impressive to behold, are the most fearsome of foes. Fighting both these behemoths and a constant flow of Combine troops creates what is without a doubt the most intense and exhilarating conflict ever undertaken in a videogame. The laser-pointer rocket launcher is back and even more satisfying than ever before. Rocket-crates give you a seemingly infinite resupply to battle these monsters but it s never straightforward. Striders will seek you out, forcing you under cover, while the whale-like flying gunships will shoot down your rockets, inducing you to resort to imaginative manoeuvring to perform that killing blow. Even dying becomes a pleasure you want to see these beasts smash through walls and butcher the rebels, again and again. Oh Christ, what will happen next?



I could talk about how those battles with the striders almost made me cry, or about the events that Alyx guides you through so cleverly, so elegantly. I could talk about the twitchy fear instilled by your journey through an abandoned town, or the way that the skirmishes with Overwatch soldiers echoes the battles against the marines in the original Half-Life. I want to rant and exult over this and that detail or event, this reference or that joke. I want to bemoan the fact that it had to end at all (no matter the excellence of that ending). And I m distraught that we ll have to wait so long for an expansion pack or sequel. I even had this whole paragraph about how CS Source will be joined by an army of user-fashioned mods as the multiplayer offering for this definitively singleplayer game. But we re running out of space, out of time. There s so much here to talk about, but in truth I don t want to talk, I just want to get back to it: more, more, more... You have to experience it for yourself. This is the one unmissable game. It s time to get that cutting-edge PC system. Sell your grandmother, remortgage the cat, do whatever you have to do. Just don t miss out. By Jim Rossignol.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: The Citizen Returns, for Half-Life 2, Episode 2">crheader







The Citizen Returns, a mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, is a sequel to a 2008 mod called The Citizen. They're both about, as you may have guessed, a citizen. He's trying to escape City 17 at the same time Gordon Freeman is fighting the Combine elsewhere, and he's teaming up with rebel forces along the way. In addition to urban combat with enemy soldiers, zombies, and gunships, there's a fun rescue mission in which you can choose the style of your attack, either at long range as a sniper, up-close in disguise, or just plain loud, with explosives. It's like a little taste of GTA V's heists crept into the Half-Life universe.



I'm no doctor but I think I know how to save that patient.



The mod begins with a couple of rebels scraping you off the ground and getting you patched up after, apparently, you were hit by a train. After a lengthy (slightly too lengthy?) intro, the action kicks off with the Combine assaulting the rebel base, forcing you to fight your way through the city to freedom. In the midst of this you meet a recurring character named Larry. More on him in a bit. The mod does a nice job of balancing solo roaming with group combat among the ranks of the rebels, and even throws in a few bits of puzzle solving and interactions with helpful characters.



This gadget-building guy gives his creation a thumbs-up, as do I.



In the mod, you're not Gordon Freeman, you're just some dude, which means no gravity gun. I did miss it a bit, especially when a bunch of rollermines came tumbling my way. It also means that while you often are fighting side-by-side with other rebels, they're not just waiting around for you to give them orders. They do their thing, you do yours. It works out, though, and at least they're not crowding around you, blocking doorways and suggesting you reload every time you expend a bullet. Sometimes it's nice just being a face in the crowd.



It was the casual stroll of this zombie dude that totally freaked me out.



There are some new environments to explore, like a large casino which appears (based on a radio recording) to have been the site of some human experimentation, along the lines of Dr. Suchong from Bioshock. The result is a briefly appearing new zombie monster, who honestly isn't that scary or hard to fight, but which scared the bejeebs out of me with the way it just casually strolled through the casino to start punching me. There are a couple of other effective surprises and scares in the mod as well.



I'm disguised as a Combine. Can you guess which type?



The centerpiece of the mod is toward the end, when the rebels are planning a rescue mission to free their leader (Larry) after he's been captured from the Combine. It's interesting in that there are a few different ways to go about it, and after the rebels can't choose between using explosives, subterfuge, or snipers, you get to decide for them and spearhead the mission. I went with undercover work, disguising myself as an Elite and walking freely through a crowd of Combine to kick off the mission.



How to entertain yourself during an overlong briefing.



The voice acting in this mod runs the gamut in a way rarely seen. Some mods have great voice acting, some have passable voice-work, and some are just plain terrible. The Citizen Returns has all three, sometimes all in the same conversation, and includes a ton of different accents, levels of enthusiasm, and even sound quality. At least one voice sounds like it was recorded over a scratchy telephone line. None of this bothered me, as I'm actually quite charmed by non-professional voice-work in mods, it's just unusual to see so many different levels of performance all in the same mod.



That's Larry on the TV. I would watch a show with Larry.



Then, there's the voice of Larry, which is and this is not an exaggeration the least enthusiastic performance ever recorded in human history. I'm honestly not even sure how to describe it. It's more than robotic, more than monotone, more than bored. It's simply the most lifeless and least-interested recitation of dialogue I've ever heard. It's amazing, and as the mod went on I grew to love Larry more and more. I just sat around waiting for him to say something, and he says a lot of things, and all the things he says are incredible. I actually grew a little disappointed near the end of the mod, when a tiny bit of inflection and life began to creep into his voice.



I made a little highlight reel of Larry's finest moments:







The mod takes, I'd say, just under two hours to play, and it's well worth it if you're looking for some new Half-Life 2 action with a handful off oddball characters and, like I said, some really perplexing, yet not unenjoyable voice acting.



Installation: You can download the mod file here. To install, drop it in your Sourcemods folder in your main Steam directory. The mod will be added to your Steam library and can be launched from there.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to How the internet tried to rig the Steam Summer Adventure, and how Valve is trying to stop them">yesterday







A few days ago, members of the Steam community schemed to rig the Steam Summer Adventure competition, a metagame running in parallel with Valve s 12-day Summer Sale. Surprisingly, it wasn t the sort of malicious plan you might expect, but a kind of cease-fire alliance meant to bring equal victory to everyone on Steam. As intended, Team Pink won Sunday. Blue won Monday. Purple will win next, if things go smoothly. On Wednesday, a Red victory is scheduled, then Green.



Is a small collective actually having this big of an influence on a Steam-wide, public competition? Valve has already amended the contest to encourage more competition. I took a look at the evidence and spoke to a few of the people caught up in the dark business of virtual trading card market-manipulation.

How Valve makes money from the metagame

First, a run-down of how the Steam Summer Adventure works if you ve been blissfully unaware over the past week, buying and playing discounted PC games rather than being concerned with your gamified game client. Most of Steam s seasonal sales have included a unique trading card set. Craft a full set of these seasonal cards, and you get something like a unique wallpaper or Steam chat emoticon or in-game reward for a few participating games. The 2014 Steam Summer Sale has its own special set of cards you can badge-ify, but with a twist: participating Steam users are randomly assigned to one of five teams during the sale: Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, or Green. Crafting a badge earns points for your team, and 30 members of the winning team get three free Steam games off their wishlists. Oh, and a few extra cards that they can use to keep crafting.



In review: buying games earns virtual cards which can be crafted into virtual badges which increase the rate at which you earn booster packs which contain cards which you can use to upgrade your badges. It s a circular system designed to keep you inside the Steam client, either nickel and diming you to complete your incomplete set of cards or by selling the cards you ve been given to encourage you to spend that money on a game.



A competition to see who can craft the most badges, of course, makes money directly for Valve and developers by creating more activity on the Steam Market. Valve takes a 5% cut of all transactions, and the developer of the corresponding game takes 10% (a minimum of $0.01 in both cases).



If I sold one of my Steam Summer Adventure cards for its current value, $0.25, Valve would take three pennies and I d get $0.22. The Steam Market tells me that 91,650 copies of that card have been sold in the past 24 hours, meaning Valve s profit of a single Summer Adventure card in a single day could be about $2,800. There are 10 of these cards, and another 10 foil variants, which run about $2 each.





The community s plan

Bottom line: we celebrate Steam s price cuts, but in the middle of the Summer Sale Valve has integrated a system that stimulates the Steam economy and nets them thousands of dollars a day from virtual, non-existent goods. Many cards and booster packs have risen in price throughout the sale; Dota 2 booster packs, for example, went from trading consistently at about $0.25 for the past month to hovering near $0.40 over the past six days.



The more trading volume and competition, the more the house wins. But a segment of the Steam community is wise to this. They know that a 12-day period when a five-dollar bill can get you our favorite PC game of all time isn t the best time to be engaged in what s essentially a spending war. So to discourage, or at least mitigate, frivolous trading card spending, some Redditors and Steam forum members have organized a coalition to take competition out of the equation. They ve called themselves Team White, and they ve proposed that each Steam team should win twice, on designated days, through June 28.



I spoke to one of the initial organizers behind the plan, Reddit user DayZ_slayer. It's not really a fun competition when the only real way to win is to spend a lot of cash, the European 20-year-old told me. If they did some kind of event that involved playing games it would be a lot more fun to compete, but they didn't, so I figured we all may as well work as a group and give everyone a fair chance at winning some games.



This seemed to arise naturally, according to DayZ_slayer: many of the teams who had organized individually were planning to compete harder on specific days, he told me, so suggesting that the colored teams take turns simply formalized that process. I checked the Steam groups/subreddits for the teams and saw which days they were planning on winning, the first five days or so didn't really clash. I made the list showing who should craft on what day and then posted it on all of the team's subreddits under the name Operation EWT. A little later I made the thread on /r/gaming and some other guy posted it to /r/steam.



I also spoke to Phil Lendon, a 16-year-old living in England who s bought into the concept of Team White. I first noticed the schedule on Reddit on /r/SteamTeamRed which then spread to /r/Steam and I thought it was a really good idea because here on Team Red we're all about teamwork and communication. When I asked Lendon how much he s spent toward the contest, he told me that he s traded hundreds of pounds to support Red on Wednesday. Too much that it's unhealthy, he says.





Valve's response

Up until today, the plan had gone smoothly. Each team won on its designated day. But today the plan is showing signs of falling apart. Valve, apparently unhappy with the lack of competition between teams, changed the contest to award second- and third-place prizes to the runners-up each day. Purple may still come away with first place, but at the outset of today it s already a tight race between the colors. The game has changed, a post on the Purple team subreddit reads. We need to let purple win but go for second, a member of team Red comments. "What the heck guys? It's purple's day!" a Pink thread exclaims. Lendon, the Red team member I spoke to, wrote back to me this morning after he noticed Valve's change to the competition. "It's turned into a free-for-all, once I had heard of the news I knew it was going to go to hell. However, I believe, as many other Redditors do too, that the new rules for the competition were to prevent the rigging of the competition, as we saw yesterday when Pink one with over a million points above everyone else, Valve had to take action. However, I personally don't believe the changes to the rules are even worth it, as people's chances are even more reduces to win, as-if it wasn't hard enough already to get a winning three games, it'll be even harder for the 2nd place and 3rd place and not even worth the effort."



It s unclear whether this change will encourage competition enough to disrupt Reddit s plan. On the surface, it seemed wild to me that a small percentage of people could be driving the massive point swings we saw in the initial four days. After all, there s only a few hundred people each in these colored Steam groups, and just 140,000 on the Steam subreddit, most of whom probably aren t aggressively participating.







But the Steam Market tells us that just a small number of tokens that steal 1,000 points from another team the most valuable item for influencing the Adventure competition are trading hands. In the past 24 hours, just 88 have been bought off the Steam Market at between $8 and $5 each, and about the same amount of 500-point tokens were sold in that period. Even if a single team were buying those tokens, it isn t that much of a swing relative to the 1.2 million that the Blue team earned yesterday.



More likely, the organized non-competition pact by Reddit and the color-specific Steam communities created single, dominant leader, which not only discouraged the other big spenders who are engaged in this competition but probably discouraged some amount of casual crafters from chipping in too.



With the adjustment made by Valve, today will be an interesting test of the internet s ability to dictate the outcome. Purple, who s meant to win today, has a modest lead as I m publishing this, but we ll have to see if the Steam Trading Card Illuminati s grand plan survives through the week.
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