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I will begin by saying that I actually liked Homefront, and mostly unironically. Yes, it was top-to-bottom dumb, from the underlying premise to the wonky AI and especially the over-earnest "war is hell" moments that just don't come off the way they're supposed to. But the shooting was good and the explosions were plentiful.
That's not to excuse its many failures as a game that was intended to run with Call of Duty (seriously) but it does mean that it's a solid pickup when you can get it for free—which is now the case over at the Humble Store. Until 10 am PT/1 pm ET on December 9, the Red Dawn-flavored shooter is free for the taking: Hit up the store page, add it to your cart, check out, and find yourself in possession of a Homefront Steam key.
The freebie is part of the Humble Store's 48-hour Deep Silver Sale, which also includes deals on Metro Redux, Agents of Mayhem, Saints Row, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Island, Risen 3, and a bunch of other good stuff.
Now get in the pit, Jacobs!
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It's been more than 11 years since the release of mythologic action-RPG Titan Quest and its single expansion, Immortal Throne. It was a "gloriously entertaining action-RPG," as we described it in our 2013 post-THQ roundup, but that didn't keep developer Iron Lore Entertainment from going under less than two years later. The property ultimately went to THQ Nordic, which re-released the game and expansion last year as the Titan Quest Anniversary Edition. And today, despite all that time gone by, it unveiled a surprise: A new expansion called Ragnarok that's available for purchase right now.
"Since the day we acquired the franchise in 2013, we've been toying around with ideas on what's best for Titan Quest. We were quickly motivated to do another expansion as we realized Titan Quest is still actively played," executive producer Reinhard Pollice said. "Unfortunately, it took quite a bit until we assembled a good setup for the project and meanwhile we made ourselves familiar with the inner workings of Titan Quest through the Anniversary Edition which was a huge overhaul of the original game. The end result is Ragnarok!"
As the title suggests, Titan Quest: Ragnarok will take the game into the realm of Norse mythology. It will feature a brand new playable act with "dozens" of quests, new bosses and enemies, a new Runemaster mastery, and an increased level cap of 85. Character customization options have been expanded, new shaders, effects, and ragdoll physics have been added, and the control options, interface, and modding tools have all been improved as well.
"We set out to create an expansion that is closely modeled after the size of Immortal Throne, both regarding playtime and geography, including items and monsters," design director Henrik Törnqvist explained. "However, looking at the finished expansions side by side in the Level Editor, the physical size of Ragnarok definitely grew to be a bit larger than Immortal Throne over the span of development."
And while the timing might seem suspect, there's no connection between this new expansion and the Thor flick that's now making the rounds: Pollice said everyone involved simply found the title "striking ... way before we realized there was a Thor movie of the same name and also in the same time frame as our game."
The new expansion requires the Titan Quest Anniversary Edition on Steam—the original boxed edition isn't supported—and is available for 25 percent off its regular $20/£18/€20 price.
In 2011, THQ released Homefront, a first-person shooter that pits the citizens of America against invading North Korean soldiers. Six years later, it's time for the Norks to get some payback: As reported by state-run media outlet Arirang-Meari (via NK News), a North Korean developer has released a new game called Hunting Yankee, a "3D amusement" in which you "shoot down American men with a sniper gun."
The report doesn't clarify whether this is a PC or mobile game, but the underlying objective is clear enough, even through the less-than-perfect translation. "The 3D-amusement entertainment program Hunting Yankee is a fighting game of shooting and knocking down Yankees with a sniper gun… behind enemy lines," the site said. "Users can perform a variety of special actions in a virtual world reminded of a cliff-hanger battle scene."
The "Americans-as-villains" take on a videogame is obviously unusual from our perspective—NK News managing director Oliver Hotham portrayed it a shocking development on Twitter—but I think the real surprise is that it doesn't happen more often. We've been using North Korea as a punching bag for a decade now, after all—Let us not forget that before Homefront there was the immeasurably better Crysis, in which you could (almost) literally punch NK soldiers into orbit—and RT noted in its coverage of the Hunting Yankee that Russians aren't always presented in the most flattering light either.
This actually isn't the first such game to come out of North Korea in recent times: NK Times reported earlier this month that the Advanced Technology Research Institute has recently put out three new mobile games called Confrontation War, Guardian, and Goguryeo Battlefield. You might detect a certain theme emerging there.
I doubt we'll have a Hunting Yankee review going up, but if I'm ever able to get my hands on it and give it a try, I'll be sure to let you know what I think.
PC gaming has a long and storied history of menu and customization sliders. So long and storied, in fact, that I can't be bothered to research it. Instead, I'm just going to post gifs of some of my favorite game sliders, be they sliders that adjust a character's facial features, body parts, or accessories, or ones that let you tweak some element of a game from zero to 100, and beyond!
Okay, not beyond. Typically, they just go to 100.
Here are PC gaming's best sliders. If I missed one of your favorites, just slide into the comments and let me know.
Open world survival game Reign of Kings has a lot going for it—including the ability to kill yourself by bashing your face with a rock you can store in your own butt—and that includes a surprisingly robust character creation utility, which allows you to adjust nearly every aspect of your avatar.
Of all the sliders you can use to lovingly or comically sculpt your character, my favorite is the foot size slider. It's notable, I feel, that when maxed out it actually and appreciably changes the height of your character by about six in-game inches. More games should allow this: just imagine Geralt sitting in that tub dangling a pair of size 75 feet over the side.
Saint's Row The Third's character creation menu is refreshingly unrestricted, allowing you to create any sort of character you like. This isn't one of the standard "You're a dude, so you have a dude voice and can't wear makeup" type of utilities: you can pretty much do whatever the hell you like. It's wonderful and inclusive and literally every game should follow its example.
The best of all its many sliders, however, is the Sex Appeal slider, which lets you embiggen your boobs or your junk, as seen above. Feast your bulging eyes on some bulges.
Memes, comics, machinima—there are all sorts of wonders (and horrors) Garry's Mod can be used for. The Face Poser tool is just one of many useful gadgets, but it comes with an amazing slider called Flex Scale. Amazing, that is, when applied to a model it wasn't meant for.
As any comic creator can tell you, the TF2 models, while compatible with Garry's Mod, don't quite work the same way as the HL2 models when using the Face Poser. Still, the results are bizarre and disturbing and certainly entertaining. And if you're looking to create actual, usable facial expressions on TF2 characters, there's one or two mods for Garry's Mod that make it much easier.
As a huge scaredy-pants who doesn't like being scared in his pants, I'm always appreciative of the brightness slider that comes with Every Horror Game Ever. While its intentions are to make sure you can't see the dark and spooky places very well, and thus heighten the scares, I use it for the opposite reason. To make things as bright as possible. So the scares aren't so scary.
So no, Every Horror Game Ever, I will not fall into your trap by adjusting the brightness so the mark in the center is barely visible. I will use it so all of the marks are as visible as humanly possible. Thanks for the warning, though.
I've never personally played Black Desert Online, and after tinkering with its character creation menu for a bit, I probably never will. That's no diss, it's a compliment: there are so many options in BDO's character creation menu I can't imagine ever completing the process of building my avatar. It's amazing.
Among the umpteen various sliders, however, I'm picking the eyelash length slider as my favorite. I'm used to selecting eyebrows for my character, but never lashes, and not only are there several type to choose from, you can dictate how long they are. That's customization.
Why yes, I did just buy a $50 game simply so I could use a slider to coat a beefy hairless man with oil. The character customization is pretty great in WWE 2K17, and even includes sliders for enhancing veins in your wrestler's chest and stomach, if you're looking to create a wrestler suffering from acute thrombophlebitis. But, I'm going with Body Oil Intensity slider as my favorite, probably due to the word 'Intensity.' I think it's a great word to describe the amount of oil one has smeared on their body.
Body Oil Assistant: "So, Bob The Wrestler, how much oil should I slather on your veiny, hairless body before the Very Important Wrestling Fight?"*
Bob The Wrestler: "An intense amount. The most intense amount there is."
*Sorry if that's not convincing dialogue. I don't watch wrestling.
Well. I guess won't post an animated gif on this one, though if you want to see a naked man's dong getting rapidly bigger and smaller you can check it out in this post or contact me on Skype very late in the evenings (if anyone but me answers, hang up immediately). Conan's Endowment Slider is so great it's even been set to music!
I suspect players either opt for setting the endowment slider either all the way to the right, or all the way to the left. There's simply no middle-ground when it comes to video game wieners. Though, with modding tools now available, I suspect we'll see more options for genital sculpting sometime soon.
When I'm asked about my feelings on Borderland's Claptrap—note that I've never once been asked—I'd have to gently say I'm not a fan. The bot's got gusto, but when it comes to the mathematics of humor, the equation volume + quantity = comedy simply doesn't add up. To put it bluntly, Claptrap talks too much, too loudly, and I hate him.
While Borderlands 2 didn't have a separate slider for dialogue volume, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel did. I can only assume the reason for it is fan feedback. Shush, little robot. You're trying too hard.
Company of Heroes is ten years old this year. We caught up with Relic recently to discuss the making of one of the most intense RTS games ever, learning about the team's design aims, abandoned expansions, and a heavily armed donkey Easter Egg.
Want to know what all the fuss is about? This is your chance to find out. We have 30,000 Steam keys for Company of Heroes to raffle off in today's giveaway. To enter, simply follow the instructions in the widget below. Winners will be selected randomly from entrants. Keys will be dispatched on Wednesday.
It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since Company of Heroes landed. It impressed us with its explosive simulation of World War 2 squad tactics, inspired by Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan and mid-2000s World War 2 shooters. The game still plays wonderfully today, so it's as good a time as any to talk to Relic's Quinn Duffy, Ian Thomson and Alun Bjorksten about how Company of Heroes came to be, from its early prototyping stage in the Impossible Creatures engine, through to the design of the game's finest missions, and the inclusion of the enigmatic 'Donkeyschreck'.
PC Gamer: Let's start at the beginning, the very first moment you guys decided to do a World War 2 game after coming off I believe it was Impossible Creatures, is that right? Was it an idea that had been hanging around the studio for a long time? How did it start?
Quinn Duffy, game director: We finished Impossible Creatures with Microsoft and we did the Insect Invasion expansion pack and so it was a small team kind of ready to go. THQ was publishing Dawn of War at the time so we had a relationship with them and we were casting around for another project. We knew RTS we had a kind of engine to build games within and some people were ready. World War 2 was popular it was maybe just at its zenith in popularity. We had Band of Brothers, we had Saving Private Ryan before that and so it had a real presence in the marketplace, and it was big in shooters, and I thought that there was an opportunity to do something really spectacular and take a maybe different approach to RTS and to World War 2, to do some of the high production value stuff.
PCG: So you started prototyping in the Impossible Creatures engine?
Ian Thomson, principal programmer: The genesis is back in the Impossible Creatures technology that we built. We spent many years making that game and learning a lot, thinking this is how I d do it better. Some of those things were being done as part of work happening on Dawn of War which was running in parallel.
But also we were sitting down and doing a bit of dreaming in terms of we re looking around at what other games are doing and cherry-picking and stealing, really and we were like oh wow, lighting looks good over here, there s a thing called Normal Maps! and Things use physics now! Let s actually bring some of those things in. And also additionally in terms of animation technology: Well lets have something that allows us to make better decisions about what animations we re using and blending between them. And all those things tying together really create a a more realistic character motion in what they re doing instead of just wiggly legs and arms.
And so Quinn the programmers pretty much said well, have two programmers, work on this prototype using some of our old engine technology and the rest of us are going to go away and make something new and fancy for you. So yeah, we kind of disappeared for about a year, which I think was quite infuriating for Quinn, because he kept wondering when he was going to get actually finally start making this game.
QD: Yeah, prototyping in the IC engine was there was at least nine or ten months of doing that, and then very little of what you ve done translates. Nothing technical would translate over to Essence. So nothing you tuned, none of the combat, none of the feel, nothing translates. And so when you get the new engine, you re starting from scratch.
But as you re rebuilding, it s a little bit organic. You start to realise that maybe we don t need that piece any more. The engine gives us the ability to do all of this extra animation so we can take out stupid things like stances. I ve done a few games here where it s IP & engine and they always take extra long, and they re always extra hard because you re trying to generate the world and how you build it at the same time. That s proven to be really tough.
PCG: What kind of things were present in the prototype that made it through and what kind of things got cut? Did the vision for the game change during that transition?
QD: If you played the later version of the Impossible Creatures prototypes you d recognise the intent, if you kind of squinted and had somebody explain it to you. It had cover, but I don t think we had directional cover in IC. We had area cover, which was more like Dawn of War. We had the line of sight stuff in IC, we had Squads in IC, we had some of the combat intent that we wanted in terms of battle lengths and a little bit of the flavour, but not that level of presentation that we ended up with in Essence.
The big thing, for me gameplay wise, one of the biggest decisions in Essence was directional cover and flanking, and that really changed the way the game worked. It made it far more tactical and we couldn t do that in the IC engine. A lot of different economic systems and territory systems we tried in Impossible Creatures were more of an influence-based territory that kind of expanded around your base and the buildings you put down. That territory would envelop resource points in the world and let you get resources that way, so you re sort of building your own supply lines. It was a little bit unclear, and it didn t look nice.
IT: The AI programmer got to the point where he was like I m just going to tag to the maps to say the best place to put the territory points for the AI instead of trying to infer it. And at that point we had the realisation that maybe we should just have fixed territory regions, which allowed then, I think, players to understand the map better.
QD: That came pretty late. That was like nine months from the end or something.
PCG: On the tactical level, did you always want to do those small skirmish level engagements? Those tactical towns and cities and pin-and-flank stuff, or were you considering something larger at any point?
Alun Bjorksten, principal tech artist: Uh no, I think that was in from the very start. In our very first pre-visualisation we had of gameplay, it was essentially a little rendered movie that the art team put together that showed just one of those exact 'find, fix, flank, finish' type of engagements where a couple of squads and a tank would move down the street, then the tank gets knocked, out and then they engage a building. Some guys pin it down and the other guys move up and throw a molotov inside or something. So this was always something we had in mind. Once we had that down then really all hands on deck to just really execute on that vision.
PCG: It was interesting that there was a tank in there from the very start with this kind of combined arms vision for the game was clearly already part of it.
AB: The combined ops thing was really there from the very start. We didn t want to have this RTS thing where a squad of soldiers with rifles would just be pinging away at a tank and its health would be slowly going down and down and down and then the tank would blow up for no reason, right? We wanted to have this game be based in reality, and more intuitive to people who just knew something about the history. No, you re not going to knock this tank out with those rifles, go and get something else! Go get a bazooka or an anti-tank gun or another tank then come back and figure this out, or go to a path that the tank can t get towards
PCG: were there any units that you tried that didn t make it in or any particular units that turned out super well?
QD: There s probably more about certain unit roles and mixing and matching. The original intent with the Sherman, if I recall, was that there were all of these upgrades you could do; you could do a bulldozer, or you could do a mine flail or you could get a flamethrower. That became a bit of a player nightmare and a logistical nightmare on our side. There were those kinds of things where, in an attempt to be more realistic about stuff, or give players more options it probably confused the pool.
I think there was a US officer we had that we never really found a function for in the game and so I don t know if he eventually made an appearance in the expansion or some other kind of content he probably ended up in CoHO [Company of Heroes Online].
AB: I can only think of for some sort of sensitivity to showing like the SS and some things around there people kept asking and we kept saying Not sure we re gonna do that.
QD: Yeah, so it would be that for sure, that sort of cultural and political sensitivity to the war, absolutely. We have kind of analogues, I guess, but those things don t always appeal to the real strong history buffs; they want like the uniform with the badge but we re not at that level.
PCG: Were any units particularly difficult to realise? Paratroopers spring to mind units that can float down into battle through a bunch of buildings.
QD: Yeah, we started off being super punitive in terms of paratrooper failure. They hit anything, they just died. A whole squad of paratroopers would just land on a roof and just all die. So there were things that, for gameplay reasons, we dialled back a certain level of acceptable casualties in paratrooper regiments wasn t good game design.
I think probably one of the hardest things to get right were the airplanes strafing. They were hard to tune, they were hard to get to look right. The sound too it s hard to go out and record a P47. There was a lot of back and forth on those, they were either super over-powered or just a waste of time, and we struggled with those a lot. And the gliders. Those were kind of fun because you put them in and then you realise that people are just going to use them to land on other people, and then it s like well, OK we need a whole bunch of tech and systems to not do that or to avoid the buildings or align the UI on streets or other things so that it would function properly instead of just smashing into a building. So you end up doing a lot to make those things work.
PCG: Unit resilience always struck me as a vital aspect of Company of Heroes' pacing, the time it takes for units to whittle one another down.
QD: Yeah, we wanted a combat system where range became a factor in your effectiveness, so battle lengths at short range were quite a bit shorter than they were at long range, and that allowed for certain ambushes and surprises and the use of flanking. When we started the targets, for combat between two rifle squads, we allotted 90 second battles at long range and 10-15 second at short range, and we reduced the rate of fire to make it seem more like they were aiming and shooting as opposed to just unleashing on somebody up close, and that allowed us to create unit roles like sub machine guns really bad at long range, because that s kind of what you d expect, and really good at short range. There was that element of realism in combat. When guys start shooting they don't go down and they die at the same timescale regardless of where they are on the map. We wanted to avoid that.
And then from the design side, that was allowing people time to react and to see what was happening. The pinning system isn t intended to be punitive. Actually when your squads were pinned, you weren t taking any damage, so it gave you time to make a plan I can fall back or I can try and counter my attacker somehow and you use smoke or get another unit to flank. It was all about understanding those tactical options and then having the time to act on them. That was part of the design pretty early.
PCG: The retreat move seems like a softening move also in that context. OK, you ve made a mistake but everything's not lost if you re paying attention.
QD: Yeah, yeah totally, and that informed the feedback system for the player. Take the speech system. The guys get more panicked and they re calling from off screen to let you know they re under fire, but if you re an inexperienced player or someone who doesn t panic, then they re going to be fine for just a bit. But you can t leave them forever, because at some point, somebody s going to run up with a grenade or a sub machine gun and do something and wipe that squad out. It was definitely an attempt to allow the player to have time to spread their focus around and not get instantly murdered, although I think that can happen.
AB: We wanted a sense for the player that they can save these guys from death, and there s a bit of an emotional attachment there to those little soldiers who are doing their bidding. We wanted to try and get the player to start giving a damn about them, and pull them back if they re in a hopeless situation and then maybe put them somewhere else where there s maybe more chance of success.
QD: Yeah, all the preservation stuff around that too, I mean you keep a squad around, you preserve their veterancy; reinforcements are cheaper than buying new. There s all these mechanics in there that are about keeping your guys alive the retreat, you know? Keep these guys alive and get them back in the fight. That allows a competent player, a player that is managing their armies effectively, to build an advantage over time if they keep their squads alive.
PCG: The speech system is another memorable aspect of Company of Heroes. You probably have the chattiest units in RTS games. Was that something that emerged as a player feedback mechanic or did that come from that vision of trying to create these characters you can invest in?
QD: A little bit of both yeah. There s 56 thousand lines, or something like that, of speech in the game or something. In the speech banks for the main game and the expansion, something like that. A big part of the vision of bringing this world to life was with the amount of contextual speech the I m being attacked by heavy armour and I don t have a bazooka . And I m going to say a line like I m being attacked by heavy armour and I do have a bazooka or I m being attacked by heavy armour and half my squad is dead and I have a bazooka! or I m being attacked by heavy armour, and half my squad is dead AND there s German infantry inbound. It builds this picture of the battlefield and the audio and the speech is so important to that.
I mean I think we ve got in CoH and CoH2 the best audio in strategy games, just from an experiential perspective, and that s always been a big part. Our original audio programmers came from DICE both a couple of twin towers of Swedish audio power! DICE, their audio is absolutely stunning, so they brought a lot of that experience with them as well and built this amazing audio tableaux.
IT: I can remember looking through the localisation database and just doing some searches on cuss-words just to see how many that were in there, and I was like Oh, there s that many F-bombs dropped.
AB: Some of them were named after ourselves on the development team, so we had the opportunity to have these little conversations between two soldiers and the different guys are actually on the development team.
PCG: When it came to designing the campaign, what did you decide to leave out of the Second World War, and why did you focus on the conflicts that you did?
QD: There was actually an intent to go much further. We had Battle of the Bulge concept art, and what I think happened was Oh crap, that s gonna take a long time! And so then it was Oh okay let s do Normandy! because it was self contained and had a beginning and an end. It was a sort of three month battle, and you could end it on a high note with the breakout of Normandy, so that became quite encapsulated. Especially in the West when you think of World War 2 that s the kind of experience that comes to mind I think.
PCG: There are still some ambitious scenarios from that context.
IT: I can remember from a programmer standpoint, you see Carentan and we have to deal with you playing on the same map as the counter defence and we have to maintain all the damage you did from the previous playthrough in a second map. I think it gave a good experience, but we put a lot into making that one work!
PCG: The Carentan missions are my favourites actually. They have a good enclosed story arc. You start off with just a couple of units and then an hour later you re in this incredibly noisy, huge war-front at the edge of town.
QD: I know those missions had a tremendous amount of effort put in. They were sort of a set piece, they were an example of what we were shooting for. I think just the balance to get the kind of desperate sense of defence in the second part of the mission and get that feeling just right of being rescued at just the right moment. Getting that with so many different kinds of players playing, is really hard. But it was such a cool inspiration from Band of Brothers, and doing our take on Carentan and having that as reference and seeing the little bits emerging from the inspiration was really neat. To my recollection it was one of the missions that probably had the most time put into it.
AB: It was part of the E3 demo that we showed in 2005 I think and it included the attack into Carentan.
IT: That was the inspiration for the Dawn of War 2 concept too as well. I think I recall Johnny and our team speaking highly about the sitting up in your seat , with very few squads to control with more 'in it' approach, and I think that was the genesis of that.
PCG: We've also seen some early concept art for an Italy expansion that never came to pass, what's the story there?
QD: That came down to a decision to do another campaign or Company of Heroes Online. So that was that point.
Ian: Yeah so we had two initiatives at the team level. We needed to pick a lane at that point and there was so much momentum building around the buzz of free-to-play in the East and it moving West and trying to be the first AAA title to make the successful conversion, so we parked Italy for the interim and focused on China and eventually Korea, and finally we came back to North America but yeah, that s the story behind Italy.
But we did get, in the closing months, we did get the Donkeyschreck?
QD: Yeah. Somebody did the Donkeyschreck!
IT: Yeah, someone found on the internet thanks internet! a donkey with this wooden structure on its back with two Panzerschrecks attached to it?
QD: I mean it was a pack animal. It was misinterpreted. They thought it was a weapon but it was a donkey pack animal so we put that in as kind of an Easter Egg. We had a donkey that had I think a Panzerschreck and a Panzerfaust and it would poop mines!
IT: And it had a sprint!
Editor's note here is the mighty Donkeyschreck Easter Egg, named the Eselschreck in the game after the German for "Donkey".
PCG: Finally, how you go about designing the axis and allies in a multiplayer context?
QD: We looked at true history inspiration as much as possible. We were sort of abstracting in tuning the feel and character of these armies. The German army had a very distinct character and a distinct tactical approach and reliance on certain weapons and we wanted to try and capture those.
One of the early things we develop is army essence their character, their qualities, and the things that the history books would point out as important elements to their success. Then we try to build their armies and their tech trees to tie that essence in as much as possible. Then it s a matter of getting our armies pitted against each other again and again and tweaking and tuning, but only in so far as it doesn t break the game. I mean we know ultimately the US won, but they didn t win every battle, right? They won in many ways through logistics and speed and mechanisation. At a tactical level and a solider-versus-soldier, some would argue that the Germans were better. But those are hard things to put into a game; you can t be getting your ass whipped every time you run into a German squad. And so you just try and deliver the feel more than anything within the balance.
The Humble Company of Heroes Anniversary Bundle doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it's a really good deal for fans of Second World War-based RTSes. For $1, you get Company of Heroes, the Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor expansions, and Company of Heroes 2 The Western Front Armies: Oberkommando West, which offers standalone access to Company of Heroes 2 multiplayer. But this is a Humble Bundle, and that means the real deals lie ahead.
Spend more than the average, which is currently just a little under $7, and you'll also snag Company of Heroes 2, COH2 The Western Front Armies: US Forces, the Case Blue, Southern Fronts, and Victory at Stalingrad mission packs, and the COH2 soundtrack. And for $10, which is really where you want to be on this package, you'll add The British Forces, Ardennes Assault, Ardennes Assault: Fox Company Rangers, a Humble-exclusive skins pack, and the COH digital art book.
(Jack it up to $30 and they'll mail you a COH bundle t-shirt, but that's maybe a bit much if you just want to work on your battlefield prowess.)
Company of Heroes is getting a little long in the tooth but it was good stuff back in the day, and you can't go too wrong when you're getting the whole package for a tenner. The Humble Company of Heroes Anniversary Bundle is live now and runs for two weeks, meaning that the curtain will fall on October 18.
The recently-renamed THQ Nordic is continuing its efforts to breathe new life into old brands with the release of Titan Quest Anniversary Edition. The heavily-updated version of the sorely-underrated Iron Lore action-RPG includes both the original game and the Immoral Throne expansion, and if you happen to own one of the previous releases of the game on Steam, you get it for free.
The full anniversary edition changelog is available here, but it's stupidly huge (ten years of updates will do that), so here are the high points:
Titan Quest was a really good action-RPG that, despite largely positive reviews, suffered a rough launch and never really caught on. Iron Lore went under shortly after the release of the Immortal Throne expansion, and that was the end of it although on the bright(ish) side, that failure ultimately led to the creation of Grim Dawn, another top-notch ARPG.
For those of you who don't have Titan Quest in your Steam library, the Anniversary Edition is still awfully cheap: It's on sale for 75 percent off on Steam and GOG, dropping it to $5/ 4.50, until September 7.
Homefront: The Revolution sounds exciting. Ostensibly a sequel to Kaos Studios' bland 2011 FPS, it's elevated by a new plot, new development team, and new focus on emergent open world design. Before I get to play it, Deep Silver Dambuster describes a shooter that attempts to capture life as a guerilla fighter.
It, they say, is a world where you are outgunned; where you're nipping at the heels of a more powerful force. It, they say, is a shooter where you'll need to know when to withdraw. Soon after, I get to play a section of its open world. Once, during a scripted sequence, my panicked squadmates tell me to retreat from a fight. I do, but only because there's an objective marker. Outside of this mission, the sense of being the underdog dissipates completely. I can wipe out patrols without fear of retribution, and capture Strike Points with relative ease.
Getting a bit cocky, I decide to throw myself at a heavily defended outpost, and, fair enough, I am swiftly killed. But the rest of the time, I seem to be a one-man army able to kill every KPA oppressor foolish enough to have a go. Based on what I played, Homefront: The Revolution doesn't feel like a game about resistance fighters in a desperate struggle for freedom. It feels like an urban Far Cry, or a military Watch Dogs. Its main inspiration is not guerilla fighters, it's the Ubisoft school of open world design.
Homefront: The Revolution takes place in a Philadelphia now under the control of the Korean People's Army. It features a map, and on that map are Strike Points. Complete a Strike Point, and the camera swishes around the area to show nearby activities and rewards. As you complete events, the map gradually shifts colour to show your increasing influence.
"The basis of it is similar to what you may have seen in other games," says senior level designer Fasahat Salim. "When you take a Strike Point and you unlock that space you get the content revealed to you, but we're not killing off the enemy. There's always an enemy presence in that space. The only thing that's changing is you now have more of a resistance influence in that space as well. What you see is more resistance fighters on the ground, more resistance fighters taking vantage points."
Weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options.
I like the sound of this approach. One of my major problems with Far Cry 3 was the way that, by completing its outposts, I was creating safe spaces where the enemy couldn't move. It felt as if I was slowly eroding away all the fun I could have in that world. Homefront: The Revolution differs in that it won't restrict the KPA's movement—emergent patrols and events will still trigger in areas with a resistance presence. The threat will always remain.
Even within Homefront: The Revolution's familiar template, there are still things that stand out. The weapons are scrappy, makeshift affairs that offer plenty of customisation options. New scopes, barrels and attachments can be crafted and installed on the fly. There's toys, too. Explosives, remote hacking devices and noisemakers can each be unleashed via a number of different delivery mechanisms. You can attach a hacking tool to an RC car, drive it under a drone, detonate it, and watch as the drone seeks out an enemy sniper nest and self-destructs inside. It's a gimmick, but it's a good one.
I hope my reservations will be answered by the other zones. The demo I play takes place in a 'Red Zone'. These derelict, bombed out streets are found along the outskirts of the city. Civilians aren't supposed to be there, so KPA patrols and snipers will shoot on site. It is, to be fair, exactly the sort of setup that lends itself to the Ubisoft-style theme park. The Yellow Zones sound more interesting, although Dambusters isn't showing them yet. "It's a completely different kettle of fish," says Salim. "It's a ghetto; it's where the population has been focused. There is a lot more population present. Security cameras are everywhere, and it's heavily policed and heavily patrolled." These areas are all about stealth, and building up support among the populace to trigger riots against the KPA.
In missions, players will also explore the Green Zone. "This is the central part of Philadelphia where all of the high-rises are," says Salim. "The opulence; where you see iconic things like city hall. We wanted to create very contrasting experiences in each of the zones." The existence of these distinct areas and experiences makes me hope that this is more than just a sandbox reskin. It won't be revolution, I don't think, but, combined with some accomplished combat and fun gimmicks, Homefront: The Revolution could still be an entertaining shooter.
Each week on Show Us Your Rig, we feature PC gaming's best and brightest as they show us the systems they use to work and play.
Braden Chan is an Associate Game Designer at Relic Entertainment working on Company of Heroes—specifically Company of Heroes 2: The British Forces, which comes out this Thursday. While his graphics card may be old, the piano, sound mixer, and giant speakers give me the feeling Braden is more focused on an a high quality audio experience than a cutting edge visual one. He was kind enough to show us how he works and plays, and tell us about why he loves Warcraft 3 more than any other game.
Instead of using an audio box to run my inputs through my studio monitor, I am actually using a DJ mixer which provides the same effect. It also gives me the flexibility to hook up my laptop into the mixer and run audio through my monitors that way as well. It's great as I can still control the levels of each device I have plugged in. The Pioneer DJM-800 mixer also has the flexibility to host multiple inputs like RCA, XLR, etc.
I'm currently engaged in a lot of Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Company of Heroes 2, and I occasionally play Starcraft 2.
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My phone or a glass of water.
Warcraft III will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite game. It was one of the first of its kind as an RTS/RPG hybrid. Many of the mechanics that were created laid the path for other games such as DOTA, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. I took that game really seriously and I qualified for WCG Canada in 2007. I just really enjoyed the emphasis on combat and micro that it had. As a player, you really had to create a strategy based on the heroes you were going to use. On top of that, you would build an army that would support your hero. Unlike Starcraft, you didn't really have to focus too much on your economy and macro. I think that is what I enjoyed the most about it; focusing on my units rather than my workers collecting gold.