PC Gamer
Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, we get into the swing, as Phil explains his love of grappling hooks.

If you go back through the Why I Love articles I've written to date—stealth on shipsTF2's Scout or playing Chinese-style opera in Audiosurf—all have, to a greater or lesser extent, been about systems or experiences that change how you traverse through a level. The Scout can double-jump. Ship-based stealth levels are tighter and more claustrophobic than their inevitable "big warehouse" counterpart. Monkey Bee has one of the most distinct middle-sections I've yet to see emerge from Audiosurf's level generator.

A satisfying traversal system isn't the only thing I look for in a game, but it is one of a few broad areas that define my taste. If I can move around a game in interesting ways, then I will probably like it. I like Prototype—a game in which you can run up, and leap off, and glide over buildings—even though a part of me suspects that it's really a bit rubbish. I'm a somewhat overweight guy in his thirties. Sometimes it's nice to tell gravity to go and do one.

There's another traversal tool that I consistently love in games: the grappling hook. My appreciation for good grappling hooks—and good here doesn't mean realistic—started with the original version of Worms. Friends and I would play multiplayer matches with a very specific set of rules: no turn timer, unlimited girders, and unrestricted access to the grappling hook (or "ninja rope," as it's called in-game). You can use the ninja rope multiple times per turn, and we gave ourselves unlimited time to make our way across the map. With these rules, a worm can travel from one side to the other—their turn ending only if they take fall damage.

That's where the girders came in. We'd place them above the level, both to protect our own guys from air strikes and to have more surfaces to grapple on to. Worms' rope mechanics are, in essence, bizarre. They're also consistent in their implementation, which led us to a great understanding of their potential. With some effort, it's possible to swing 180 degrees and beyond—eventually landing on top of the platform the worm is swinging from. The trick is to extend the rope fully, smack into a solid surface, and then retract. That maximises the speed boost from bouncing off the wall, and, with luck, propels the worm up and around. 

To anyone but those directly involved in the match, this was an unspeakably tedious spectacle. To us, it was thrilling.

Subsequent Worms games enforced turn times, essentially ruining my enjoyment of them. But a few other 2D games feature that same spirit of exploitable traversal. Trine is, intentionally or not, all about this. One of its three characters is a Thief, and her grappling hook allows for a similarly awkward battle against physics. Here, you can even grapple onto one surface, break off and re-attach to another, all while still in mid-swing. You can, on select levels, chain these swings—at times resulting in long, unbroken stretches of undulation. 

Used properly, it can be a graceful tool. But both Trine games also contain a secret hidden mini-game for grappling hook aficionados. This game is called "can I use the Thief to complete this section, even though it was obviously designed for the Wizard?" Often, the answer is yes.

At this point, I should probably point to another 2D grappling hook game—one designed entirely around swinging as the main method of level traversal. It's called Floating Point, it's free, and it was made by PC Gamer's former section editor Tom Francis. It's a more sedate grapple-space to move through, and rare in that its freedom of movement is the idea rather than an exploitable quirk in the engine. If you're here because you like grappling hooks, then it's relevant to your interests.

In three-dimensions, the grappling hook is a less sure-fire hit. Too often, it's restricted—kept to specific grapple-points in order to stop the player breaking the level in ridiculous ways. Most recently, you can see this in Far Cry 4. You have a grappling hook! You can jump from the rope and re-attach it to another point before hitting the ground! You can only do this at specifically marked points around the map. I'd like you to imagine a sort of anti-exclamation mark, and place it on the end of that last sentence.

Some games are better at it this than others, and they tend to be the ones that are more open about their freedom of movement. Arkham City's Grapnel Gun combos satisfyingly with the glide. You can't swing, but you can shoot it to build speed across the map—using it to all but fly. And then there's Just Cause 2, or Let's Do Fun Shit With A Grappling Hook: The Game. You can attach onto a plane, or to cars, or to an explosive barrel that is shooting vertically into the air. You can use it in conjunction with a parachute to create a free-form system of movement more distinct and enjoyable than any of the game's vehicles.

Maybe that's another reason why grappling hooks, specifically, are one of my favourite methods of traversal. They're inherently ridiculous. There is no way to put an unrestricted grappling hook in a game and still have it be a serious tool, because it's either inherently exploitable or inherently unrealistic. It is a jointly a tool for motion and a tool for fun. 

Case in point: the 3D version of Bionic Commando. It had a grappling hook as its central gimmick, and yet its story still felt the need for a Serious Emotional Payload. How was that done? With the late-game reveal that your bionic grapple-arm was also your wife. Your wife, who was used to create a strong emotional bond with the robo-limb.

That is dumb. But that is what happens when you try to inject emotional pathos into a game with a grappling hook—it throws off your sense of what's appropriate. At some point, a developer must have questioned whether wife-in-a-robo-arm was good storytelling. I suspect they saw their hero swinging care-free through a city and lost all sense of perspective. "Yes," this hypothetical employee thought, "it makes total sense that this bionic commando's arm is his wife."

It didn't, though. It was stupid. That's why grappling hooks can never be serious. Not true, freeform, use-'em-wherever-you-like grappling hooks. They're silly and fun—a tool for engaging with, perfecting, and enjoying the feeling of motion. They are, in practice and philosophy, the opposite of a wife in an arm.

More grappling hooks; less wives in robot arms. That feels like a strange place to end things, but also like good words to live by.

PC Gamer

Back in September, Frozenbyte released the Trine 2 editor into public beta. Since then, a number of community-created maps have made their way onto the game's Steam Workshop page. Those maps are now highlighted in a new trailer for the game.

Trine 2 is a protagonist-switching platformer in which you shift between three characters—a wizard, a knight and a thief—all trapped in the same body. More accurately, it's a protagonist-switching platformer in which you try to break the physics engine by doing improbable things with the thief's grappling hook.

It's good, and I'm glad the release of the editor has spurred the community in making new stuff for the game.

PC Gamer

If for some reason you budget your video game spending by the weekend, then here's good news: you can spend that money on something else. May I suggest: nicer food. A new pair of shoes. A trip to the nearest theme park. 

The reason is, Steam is making ten games free this weekend as part of its aptly titled Free Weekend promotions. The games include Company of Heroes 2, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Grid 2. You'll have over 48 hours to play them, as they unlock 10am Pacific time on Thursday, October 16. After that you'll need to pay for them, with the promise of substantial discounts.

Here's the list:

Awesomenauts Blade Symphony Company of Heroes 2 Don't Starve Grid 2 Injustice Killing Floor Payday 2 Trine 2 XCOM: Enemy Unknown

It's a good week for free games: GOG.com is giving away Alien versus Predator Classic this week as part of a GOG Galaxy test run.

PC Gamer

Colourful, charater-switching platformer Trine has some more magic up its sleeve. It, and its equally colourful, equally character-switching sequel, can now be manipulated and moulded thanks to developer Frozenbyte's official editor. The tools have been released into public beta, available for anyone to download and attempt to understand.

"So did we make an easy-to-use version for everyone to enjoy? The answer to that is... not really," explains Frozenbyte in

their release post. "Instead we've opened a wiki page at

www.frozenbyte.com/wiki and provided some very basic instructions on how to use our editor."

The upside of its complexity is that tinkerers will be able to edit existing maps, or create entirely new ones. I never anticipated a Trine mod scene, but hopefully people will take to the flexibility of the editor. New Trine levels would be no bad thing. To download the Trine 2 and Trine: Enhanced Edition editors,

head here.

Missed out on the Trines?

Jon Blyth's review of the sequel explains what makes the luscious platform-puzzler so compelling.
PC Gamer
Trine Editor 2


Colourful, charater-switching platformer Trine has some more magic up its sleeve. It, and its equally colourful, equally character-switching sequel, can now be manipulated and moulded thanks to developer Frozenbyte's official editor. The tools have been released into public beta, available for anyone to download and attempt to understand.

"So did we make an easy-to-use version for everyone to enjoy? The answer to that is... not really," explains Fozenbyte in their release post. "Instead we ve opened a wiki page at www.frozenbyte.com/wiki and provided some very basic instructions on how to use our editor."

The upside of its complexity is that tinkerers will be able to edit existing maps, or create entirely new ones. I never anticipated a Trine mod scene, but hopefully people will take to the flexibility of the editor. New Trine levels would be no bad thing. To download the Trine 2 and Trine: Enhanced Edition editors, head here.

Missed out on the Trines? Jon Blyth's review of the sequel explains what makes the luscious platform-puzzler so compelling.
PC Gamer
Trine4K


Every week, keen screen-grabber Ben Griffin brings you a sumptuous 4K resolution gallery to celebrate PC gaming's prettiest places.

A 2011 release, Trine 2 is remembered as one of the most lavishly produced platformers ever. Each area is awash with vivid greens and yellows and purples, as if the developer Frozenbyte's primary aim was to hit every single angle on the colour wheel. Whether it's a sun-drenched tropical paradise, fog-enshrouded churchyard, or greasy-walled dungeon illuminated by glowing slime and torchlight, it's essentially end to end graphics all the way. It makes for a richly saturated sugar rush of a game, sometimes sickly but no less sweet.



Download the full-sized image here.



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PC Gamer
trine_enchanted_editiludag


Trine 2 was superior to its predecessor in every way, so much so that if you played the sequel first you might be disappointed with the original. To combat this, Frozenbyte has released an Enchanted Edition of Trine, which is basically a remake of the game in Trine 2's engine. Most importantly, it introduces cooperative multiplayer to the original, which means if you've played it before, you may very well want to play it again.

The Enchanted Edition has been in beta for a little while now, but it's now available in its final form with a huge 80 per cent discount on Steam. If you happen to own the original Trine then you're entitled to a free copy of the new one, which can be launched within the game's launcher. The original will remain intact.

Check out the Trine Enchanted Edition launch trailer:

PC Gamer
Steam summer sale day one


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
PC Gamer
IMG_1219_web


At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Valve's Steam Machines are king. The Half-Life developer and Steam creator held a press conference that that everyone wanted to attend, but flipped the script when it devoted the majority of the event to its hardware partners. But even though Gabe Newell gave the briefest of briefs, some Valve-only content was still available: The company's press area included six Steam Machine prototype stations, giving the press a chance to try some popular games with the fabled Steam Controller.

For me, this was a first chance to test how Valve's haptic-powered trackpads hold up in first-person games such as Metro: Last Light and Portal 2. I came away interested in the technology, but not impressed enough to be completely sold on the concept.

The controllers on display were hooked up to 40" televisions through prototype Steam Machine hardware ostensibly the same boxes sent to beta testers late last year. Each test station had a comfortable couch to sit on, emulating a best-case living room gaming setup. Eagerly, I sat down at a station and started playing Metro: Last Light, sliding my thumbs along the controller's rigid trackpads to move and look. The Steam Controller prototype this isn't final hardware by any means uses its haptic feedback capabilities to vibrate under your thumb as you slide across its trackpads. It's an odd sensation: I was acutely aware of each move or twitch I made on the controller's surface, but I'm not sure what it added to the tactile experience.

The trackpads were also incredibly sensitive, at least on the default settings. This isn't necessarily bad: many gamers crank their mouse sensitivity in order to maximize movement. On first picking up the controller, however, it was extremely surprising. I've played shooters on a dual analog joystick setup before, and am used to a decided lack of quickness available the aiming stick will often glide along slowly, and in many cases, a game will throw in some aiming assistance to compensate. There was none of that with the Steam Controller, which means you're getting a purer experience. But it was initially much harder to aim than I'd hoped, and I never quite adapted to the accelerated aiming in my 10 minutes of playtime.



Clicking the dual trackpad controls was also incredibly easy, sometimes to my detriment. I'd crouch when I wasn't expecting to, because the clickiness of the left trackpad was much easier than I'm used to on a thumbstick. I'd like to think that's something to which one can adapt with enough time.

As far as additional buttons, the Steam Controller has plenty for a standard shooter setup. Two sets of triggers on the shoulders could aim and fire, and the buttons on the underside of the controller were responsive and didn't get in the way. The face buttons were easy to reach, though the non-standard setup meant I had to think more about what buttons I wanted to push. Configuring the buttons seemed easy, with a built-in interface that lets you change buttons on the fly.

Games such as Metro: Last Light and Portal 2 make intuitive sense on the Steam Controller, while my limited experience with Starbound proved to be slightly more frustrating, as Evan predicted in his editorial last week. The trackpads' sensitivity didn't lend itself to movement on a 2D plane, though this could be because Starbound isn't quite optimized in its controls the game is Early Access, after all. The ultimate test for Steam Controller, in my opinion, will be games with independent camera and character movement, like Dota 2. Sadly, I didn't get to play one.



I definitely want Steam Controller to succeed I love the idea of a new controller standard, although it would need to live alongside keyboard and mouse controls for other PC functions. And I'm hopeful after an admittedly short playtime with a Steam Controller prototype that such a device could be fantastic. But I need more time to evaluate if such a controller can be viable, and I'd need to see if it really is possible to adapt to such aggressive sensitivity controls.

It doesn't seem like Valve will divulge any release dates or pricing at this year's event--either for the controller or any of the Steam Machines--but I'm confident that Valve's device could be a significantly better experience than existing controllers.
PC Gamer
Humbles


The Humble organisers aren't afraid of side-projects, but now that they've had their fill of stand-up comics and corporate overlords, they're returning back to the very source of their humility. The ninth Humble Indie Bundle has just gone live, and, in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, it stars Polytron's gorgeous platformer Fez. You'll also find FTL, Mark of the Ninja, Trine 2, Brutal Legend and Eets Munchies.



Here's the basic breakdown:


Trine 2: The Complete Story
Mark of the Ninja
Eets Munchies (beta)
Brütal Legend*


*You're right, pedantic indie fan, Brütal Legend on consoles was published by EA. But Double Fine self-published for the PC version, so let's just go with it.

In addition to that, beating the average gets you Fez and FTL: Faster Than Light. The bundle also straight up admits that more games will be added soon, presumably because they've pulled that trick so often that it's no longer a surprise. If you beat the average at any point, you're guaranteed to get the added games as soon as they're revealed.

Also: pay-what-you-want, charity, contribution sliders, Steam keys, soundtracks. Look, there have been nine of these at this point, so you know what to expect. Details, as always, are available straight from the Humble store.

(And, since you're probably wondering: Eets Munchies is a "reimagining" of Klei Entertainment's first game, Eets. Look upon its trailer, and remember that this is the same studio that went on to make Shank.)
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