Some claim that summer doesn t start until the 21st, but Valve says it s time for the Steam Summer Sale and we haven t heard anything from the solstice lobby so, happy first day of summer! As always, it s celebrated with a ridiculous store-wide Steam sale renowned for its low prices and intoxicating effect on the PC gaming community. Everything looks great when it s 80% off, but before you start filling up your library, here are our favorite picks of day one.
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 - Trine Complete 85% off: $3.74 / 2.69 - Steam store page What Trine lacks in challenge it's not very difficult as platformers go it more than makes up for in magical fairy tale charm. The sequel, Trine 2, improves upon the formula just about every way, particularly through the addition of cooperative multiplayer action. And with the original game about to undergo a dramatic (and free!) overhaul thanks to the coming Trine Enchanted Edition, this bundle at this price is a must-have by any measure.
4 - Hotline Miami 85% off: $1.49 / 1.04 Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST No game revels in ultraviolence like Hotline Miami, which turns pixelated murder sprees into an art form. It's brutal, stylish, and challenging in that perfect way: once you make a perfect run through a level without stopping, mowing down a dozen thugs with a knife and then a pipe and then a shotgun, you'll feel like the god of sleazy Miami murders. You'll want some practice now, since Hotline Miami 2 includes a level editor that will let you craft your own murder rooms. Get it fast the flash sale on Hotline Miami won't last long.
3 - Far Cry 3 75% off: $7.49 / 3.74 - Steam store page Attacking outposts is our favorite part of Far Cry 3. The sandbox shooter s story is a strange and meandering mixture of Alice in Wonderland and the spring break trip you made in college, but dismantling the dozens of bases that populate Far Cry 3 s islands however you want is scrappy, open-ended FPS combat at its best. Now s a good time to jump in before Far Cry 4releases later this year.
2 - The Witcher 2 80% off: $3.99 / 2.99 - Steam store page You ve got until early 2015 before The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt releases, and it s looking fantastic. That s plenty of time to catch up on one of our favorite modern RPG series not only is The Witcher 2 on sale, the first game is only $1.99 / 1.39. Bonus value: The Witcher 2's fantastic story splits into two completely separate arcs in its second act, so if you want to experience both paths, you've got two playthroughs ahead of you.
1 - XCOM: Complete 67% off: $16.49 / 8.24 - Steam store page Our favorite strategy game of 2012, conveniently collected into bundle form with the equally-great Enemy Within expansion, has one of the best campaigns in gaming. Hand-building your alien defense force replicates the feeling of running imaginary missions with action figures in your living room. Except this time, G.I. Joe can die for reals. Thoughtful strategy, a tense metagame, and detailed maps that explode into pieces make XCOM the second-best digital board game available (Civilization V would be the first).
Other great deals today: Rising Storm: Game of the Year Edition (50% off) $9.99 / 7.49 Tomb Raider (50% off) $9.99 / 7.49 Max Payne 3 (70% off) $5.99 / 4.49 Mirror s Edge (75% off) $4.99 / 2.49 The Witcher Enhanced Edition (80% off) $1.99 / 1.39 Papers, Please (50% off) $4.99 / 3.49 Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (50% off) $4.99 / 3.74
It took me a moment to register that this was real largely thanks to that audacious suit but Ubisoft have officially announced Far Cry 4. It's coming to PC, current and last-gen consoles, is due out November this year, and will take place in an entirely new setting in the Himalayas. Don't worry: I've checked, and they do have tigers there.
It seems the new common theme of Far Cry games is their antagonists. For the new one, you'll be facing off against a "a despotic self-appointed king" one who's clearly kidnapped the region's snappiest tailor. There's very little additional information, beyond Ubisoft's promise of an "exotic open world teeming with wildlife". Look for more news at Ubisoft's E3 conference next month.
Head over to the announcement post for the few scant details, as well as the crushingly inevitable reveal of pre-order bonuses.
I know a lot of people are sick of them, but I really love killing zombies. Shooting zombies offers this highly distilled sense of guilt-free violence that I can easily deal with. Another bonus: zombies arrive pre-killed. Putting them back down is really just a public service. I m sure one day I ll get tired of shooting/stabbing/blowing up the animated dead; on that day, I ll no longer be intrigued by Dead Cry, an upcoming total conversion mod for Far Cry 3.
Built using the Far Cry 3 engine and map editor, Dead Cry is a single-player campaign very much inspired by games like Left 4 Dead, according to the mod s moddb page.
Character and enemy animations will look very familiar to anyone who played Far Cry 3, but the environment, plot, and character models are all brand new. DEAD CRY will not merely be a bunch of maps or a mod alone, the mod page says, It's as close to a completely new game as you can get. The campaign will include an immersive soundtrack, cinematic cutscenes, custom sound effects and voice over work.
Dead Cry just entered open beta release a few days ago, so you can download and play it here. They re also inviting players to fill out a beta survey form to help them make changes; you can find that survey here.
It's a shame to let a good engine go to waste, especially when it can expertly handle a huge, beautiful open world. DayZ is the most obvious example, but Ubisoft clearly understood this as well when it made Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which used the Far Cry 3 engine to build an '80s-themed spoof that was just as fun as the original game. The Far Cry 3 Z-DAY mod sounds a little too familiar, but the gameplay footage and explanation from the developer might win you over.
To be fair, Z-DAY is not as much like DayZ as its title may imply, and modder GC Vos says the name will be changed to something more original. To start with, it's a fully fledged single player campaign, not a multiplayer survival mod and showcase for human depravity. It will consist of 12 missions "much inspired by games like Left 4 Dead, but with a Far Cry twist to them," GC Vos explains. It will also add a new soundtrack and voiceover work.
The video of the first seven minutes of gameplay is the most impressive, showing the player trying to stealthily make his way out of a zombie infested town. Far Cry 3 was really great at letting you explore huge environments, jumping in and out of vehicles, and letting you seamlessly shift in and out of stealthy and guns blazing strategies. These are all things that seem like they could be used really well in an open-world zombie game.
GC Vos promises that the game's ModDB page, where you can also find more videos, will be kept up to date with the latest progress. Z-DAY is set to release in open beta on March 1.
Far Cry 4 might have been inadvertently outed by Drive/Only God Forgives composer Cliff Martinez. In an interview with the site Lost In The Multiplex, Martinez mentions that his future projects include a "video game called Far Cry 4". Somebody has since broken into that interview, stolen the relevant admission, and sped away into the night like Ryan Gosling in a puffy jacket. Unfortunately for the would-be word robbers, the internet has a built-in time travel machine.
The suggestion that Far Cry 4 is being made really shouldn't surprise anyone. In fact, back in June, Ubisoft's VP of marketing and sales, Tony Key, said that a sequel had been greenlit. Given the commercial success of both Far Cry 3 and its neon '80s-inspired cousin, it seems as if the series is in a much more stable position than it was following Far Cry 2.
It'll be interesting to see what direction a sequel will take, given that, going be past games, Ubisoft can do basically anything and still justify calling it Far Cry. Personally, I'm hoping for at least a small shift back towards the scrappy mess of Far Cry 2. Where Far Cry 3 was an enjoyable and highly polished game, it seemed to lack some of the soul of its predecessor, instead reducing the campaign down to a smooth checklist of actions to be ticked off. What direction would you like to see the series take?
Remember when buying a game didn’t feel like a guarantee of seeing the ending? There are still hard games out there, Dark Souls flying the flag most recently, but increasingly, the challenge has dripped out or at least softened, often leading to sadly wasted opportunities. What would Skyrim be like, for instance, if its ice and snow wasn’t simply cosmetic, but actually punished you for going mountain climbing in your underpants?
With a quick mod – Frostfall in this case – you’re forced to dress up warm before facing the elements, and things become much more interesting. That’s just one example, and over the next couple of pages you’ll find plenty more. These aren’t mods that just do something cheap like double your enemy’s hit-points, they’re full rebalances and total conversions. Face their challenge, and they’ll reward you with both a whole new experience and the satisfaction of going above and beyond the call of duty.
Misery Game: Stalker: Call of Pripyat Link: ModDB
All those weapons scattered around? Gone. Anomalies? Now more dangerous. Magic mini-map? Forget it. Valuable quest rewards? Good luck. Things you do get: thirsty, and factions who send goons after you if you anger them. On the plus side Pripyat is much more active, with a complete sound overhaul, and new NPCs to meet – who all have to play by the rules too, with no more infinite ammo. If you can survive here, you’ve got a good chance when the actual apocalypse comes.
Project Nevada Fallout: New Vegas Link: Nexus Mods
Nevada is a good example of making things more difficult without being openly psychotic. Levelling is slower, players and NPCs get less health, and obvious features are now in, such as armour only being a factor in headshots if the target actually has head protection. It’s also possible to toggle some extra-hardcore options, such as food no longer healing and taking care of hunger/thirst/ sleep on the move. There’s a sack of new content, and an Extra Options mod is also available, offering even more control.
Brutal Doom Game: Doom Link: ModDB
Despite what modern ‘old-school’ shooters would have you think, Doom was a relatively sedate experience – fast running speed, yes, but lots of skulking in the dark and going slow. Not any more! Brutal Doom cranks everything up to 11, then yawns and goes right for 25.6. We’re talking extra shrapnel, execution attacks, tougher and faster monsters, metal music, and blood, blood, blood as far as your exploding eyes can see. It’s compatible with just about any level you can throw at it, turning even E1M1 into charnel house devastation. The enemies don’t get it all their own way, as Doomguy now starts with an assault rifle rather than simply a pistol, and a whole arsenal of new guns has been added to the Doom collection – including the BFG’s big brother.
Full Combat Rebalance 2 Game: The Witcher 2 Link: RedKit
This streamlines the combat and makes the action closer to how Geralt’s adventure might have played out in the books. He’s more responsive, can automatically parry incoming attacks, begins with his Witcher skills unlocked, and no longer has to spend most fights rolling around like a circus acrobat. But he’s in a tougher world, with monsters now figuring out counterattacks much faster, enemies balanced based on equipment rather than levels, and experience only gained from quests, not combat. Be warned this is a 1.5GB file, not the megabyte Hotfix that’s claimed.
Requiem Game: Skyrim Link: Nexus
Elder Scrolls games get ever more streamlined, and further from the classic RPG experience. Requiem drags Skyrim back, kicking and screaming. The world is no longer levelled for your convenience. Bandits deliver one-hit kills from the start. The undead mock arrows, quietly pointing out their lack of internal organs with a quick bonk to your head. Gods hold back their favour from those who displease them. Most importantly, stamina is now practically a curse. Heavy armour and no training can drain it even if you’re standing still, and running out in battle is Very Bad News. Combine this with Frostfall, and Skyrim finally becomes the cold, unforgiving place it claims to be.
Radious Total War: Shogun 2 Link: TWCenter
Not only is this one of the most comprehensive mods any Total War game has ever seen, its modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose the changes that work best for the experience you want. Together, the campaign AI is reworked, as are the skills and experience systems, diplomacy and technology trees. There are over 100 new units. Campaigns are also longer, providing more time to play with all this, with easier access to the good stuff early on in the name of variety. There’s even a sound module that adds oomph to rifles. Add everything, or only the bits you want. It’s as much of a tactical decision as anything else on the road to conquering Japan.
Game of Thrones Game: Crusader Kings II Link: ModDB
Real history doesn’t have enough bite for you? Recast the whole thing with Starks, Lannisters, Freys and the rest and it will. This doesn’t simply swap a few names around, but works with the engine to recreate specific scenarios in the war for the Iron Throne. Individual characters’ traits are pushed into the foreground, especially when duels break out. Wildlings care little about who your daddy was. It’s best to know a fair amount about the world before jumping in, and the scenarios themselves contain spoilers, but you’re absolutely not restricted to just following the story laid down in the books.
Realistic Weapons Game: Grand Theft Auto IV Link: GTAGarage
Guess what this one does. A bowling league for Roman? Cars that drive themselves? A character who appears to tell Niko “You have $30,000 in your pocket, you don’t need to goon for assholes” after Act 2? No, of course not. These guns put a little reality back into the cartoon that is GTA. The missions weren’t written with that in mind, obviously, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a shot. Worst case: murdering random civilians on the street is much quicker, easier and more satisfying. At least until the cops show up to spoil the fun. Range, accuracy, damage, ammo and fire rate are all covered, though be warned that you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy from your upgraded hardware. This is GTA after all. Realism is not baked into its combat engine.
The Long War Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown Link: NexusMods
You’re looking at eight soldier classes, many more missions, invaders as focused on upgrades as your own science team, and a much longer path to victory. Research is slow, not least to make early weapon upgrades more useful, while the aliens are constantly getting more powerful. Their ships are better, their terror missions are more regular, and more of them show up for battle. In exchange, you get to field more Interceptors, the council is easier to appease, and the ETs don’t cheat as much.
Ziggy's Mod Game: Far Cry 3 Link: NexusMods
Ziggy makes Rook Island a more natural place, removing mission requirements for skills, cutting some of the easier ways to earn XP, increasing spawn rates to make the island busier, and throwing away the magic mini-map in favour of a compass. The second island is also unlocked from the start. Smaller changes include randomised ammo from dropped weapons, being able to climb hills that you should realistically be able to, and wingsuit abilities made available earlier to get more out of them.
Minecraft has a Survival mode, but it’s not desperately challenging. Terrafirmacraft takes it seriously, with hunger and thirst that must be dealt with at all times, and key elements added such as the need to construct support beams while mining to prevent cave-ins, and a seasonal cycle that determines whether or not trees will produce fruit. Many more features are to be added, but there’s enough here already to make survival about much more than throwing together a Creeper-proof fort.
Synergies Mod Game: Torchlight II Link: Synergies Mod
This adds a new act to the game, over a hundred monsters, new rare bosses, a new class – the Necromancer – more and tougher monsters and the gear to take them on. There are also endgame raids to add challenge once the world is saved yet again, and more on the way – including two new classes (Paladin and Warlock). It’s the top-ranked Torchlight II mod on Steam Workshop, and easily the most popular. Be aware that it’s still in development, and has a few rough edges.
Civilization Nights Game: Civilization V Link: Steam Workshop
While Brave New World has officially given Civ V a big shake up, for many players Nights remains its most popular add-on. It’s a comprehensive upgrade, adding new buildings, wonders, technologies and units, with a heavy focus on policies and making the AI better. The single biggest change is how it calculates happiness, citizens adding cheer simply by existing, but the slow march of war and other miseries detracting from the good times. Annexed a city? Don’t expect too many ticker-tape parades. Yet keeping happiness up is crucial, as it’s also the core of a strong military. This rebalancing completely changes how you play, while the other additions offer plenty of scope for new tactics and even more carefully designed civilisations.
Ultimate Difficulty Mod Game: Dishonored Link: TTLG Forums
This makes Dishonored’s enemies more attentive, faster and able to hear a pin drop from the other side of the map. When you get into a fight, it quickly becomes an all-out street war. The biggest change is to Dishonored’s second most abusable ability: the Lean (Blink of course being #1). Corvo can no longer sit behind scenery, lean out into an enemy’s face and be politely ignored. He’s now much more likely to be spotted – especially in ghost runs, where his advantages are now limited to the Outsider’s gifts rather than the Overseers’ continued lack of a local Specsavers.
Hardcore Game: Deus Ex Link: ModDB
New augmentations! Altered AI! Randomised inventories! Also a few time-savers: instead of separate keys and multitools for instance, a special keyring has both, while upgrades are used automatically if necessary. Difficulty also changes the balance considerably, from the standard game to ‘Realistic’ mode where you only get nine inventory slots, to ‘Unrealistic’, which makes JC Denton the cyborg killing machine he’s meant to be, but at the cost of facing opponents who warrant it. In this mode he gets double-jumping powers, and automatically gobbles health items when he gets badly wounded. Good luck though, I still got nowhere.
Spend any time tracking down juicy deals on PC games, and you'll soon be made aware of Amazon's US branch, and their regular offers on cheap downloads and Steam keys. As residents of the UK, those sales forced us to a) look on jealously, or b) shadily lie about our address to bypass Amazon's flimsy residence check. Now, we're free to step out of that grey area, because the always-behind Amazon UK has finally caught up to the idea that digital games are a thing you can sell.
The new storefront is still in beta, so the selection is sparse (and Ubisoft heavy), but that does mean some acceptable deals on the various Far Cry games. Alternatively, you'll find some pretty terrible deals on Call of Juarez, Trials and I Am Alive. The sale is due to end at some unspecified time today - although given the slightly lacklustre price cuts, don't feel too upset if you miss it
Depending on the game, you'll either get a download through Amazon, or a key for Steam/Origin/Uplay (or whatever other proprietary distribution platforms still exist). Right now, it's not much to get excited about - with a catalogue and prices that are hardly going to inspire you to switch from your retailer of choice. Still, with time, Amazon's UK branch might eventually catch up to the year 2013, and its American cousin, and offer a solid competitor to the dominant platforms.
Ubisoft Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Tony Key has told Gamespot that Far Cry 3’s success has already greenlit a sequel (though this one will probably have fewer laser dragons in it).
"We’re totally psyched from ,” Key said. “It’s a great brand, and now it’s got the recognition it deserves, so we’re clearly going to make another one: more on that soon."
Key went on to talk about how Ubisoft’s investing most of its time and resources into open world games, though you don’t need to be a financial analyst to figure that one out. Both of Ubisoft’s big new IPs, Watch_Dogs and The Division are open world. Add Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed into the mix and it’s enough to make you wonder when Splinter Cell or Prince of Persia will hit the open world.
Of course, Key didn’t actually say when we’d actually hear more about Far Cry 4, so we’ll just continue fighting our losing battle with the unstoppable beast known as the cassowary until that day arrives.
I’d just dropped the kids off at school when one of the fathers asked me what games I was playing. He’s no gamer but I thought he might at least gel with the concept of Blood Dragon: a sci-fi shooter and heavy pastiche of ’80s action films, voiced by Michael Biehn. You know, out of The Terminator. Neon, synths, one-liners, chrome, ultraviolence, pixel graphics. He looked confused, maybe appalled. I faltered. “It’s kind of, well, a joke.”
He changed the subject. You know how good a joke is when you tell it to someone else. Turns out that Blood Dragon’s scattershot storm of references barely holds together in the cold light of a school run. It’s presented as if playing on a VHS tape, but the story is told through crude sort-of 8-and-16-bit cutscenes, and the game itself is modern 3D. It references 18-rated movies, while the trailer harked toward He-Man. Despite how incredibly hard it tries, it rarely raised much of a smile, although I loved Power Glove’s pitch-perfect soundtrack, which blends parody with homage so well it’s actually good to listen to.
So thematically Blood Dragon’s a bit of a mess, but it’s still enormous fun because it’s actually just a tuned up, pared-down Far Cry 3 that’s even less willing to get in the way of uncomplicated mayhem. You start with its four core weapons: a shotgun, assault and sniper rifles, and handgun. You can run like the wind, jump like a kangaroo, and you don’t take fall damage. You’re a Cyber Commando, a resurrected soldier that crosses T-1000 with Robocop, and you’re out to wreak manly justice on your doublecrossing CO, who wears a chainmail vest just like Bennett’s in Commando. Action is pressed to the fore: the island is thick with battles between your faction, the Scientists, and the bad guys, and it frequently feels more than a little Serious Sam.
"There are also wandering dinosaurs – blood dragons – which fire lasers from their eyes."
There are also wandering dinosaurs – blood dragons – which fire lasers from their eyes. They’re the main addition to FC3 – tough and powerful, but you soon learn you can lure them towards enemies to help you out. They’re not interesting to fight, however, simply bullet sponges against your arsenal of miniguns and health packs, and a missed opportunity to power up the ecosystem. More smartly, the island’s scattering of collectibles and missions found at cleared outposts unlock weapon upgrades, leading to a succinct sense of progression.
Despite the colourful setup and all the neon accents, Blood Dragon is set in a bafflingly drab world of permanent night, as if anxious to conceal the fact that most of its assets are reused from FC3. The theme, after all, is just a veneer on that game. Yet by the end you realise that its haphazard portrayal of trashy macho culture actually fits the series’ fixation with the nature of heroism and violence rather well. Chances are that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed yourself, too.
Expect to pay: £12/$15 Release: Out now Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft Multiplayer: None Link: www.fc3blooddragon.uk.ubi.com