You needn’t see out the last few days of 2012 wallowing in a figgy pudding-induced sugar-crash: perk yourself up with this collection of the great features we’ve put up on the site this year. We’ve got informative how-to guides, insightful retrospectives, polemics, play-throughs, ‘making of’ stories and much more. Bookmark it now while you're still compos mentis and you’re sure to find something in here to jolt you back to life or, at the very least, help to annul the post-Crimbo indigestion.
PCG UK’s handsome and hirsute editor Graham Smith teaches you how to pull out equally handsome (but not especially hirsute) renders from Minecraft, while marvelling at the astonishing feats of architecture to be found on the PCG UK server.
10 best Portal 2 co-op maps
Phil Savage grabs a buddy and puts the community’s best Portal 2 maps to the test, or possibly vice versa. Convection funnels, laser death and no small amount of inter-player bickering ensues.
Skyrim: Week of Madness
The name does not lie: Rich Cobbett’s Skyrim diary, in which he installs 100 randomly selected mods is an experiment in genuine derangement. Not entirely safe for work, unless your workplace encourages inarticulately rendered BDSM.
Making of Minecraft
I wrote this! And I got in trouble for quoting Notch’s swearwords. Sorry, everyone who bought the magazine for their kids. Still, once you get past the F-word opener, it settles into a heartwarming tale of indie devs done good, a triumph born from equal parts serendipity and smarts.
Old friends: an ode to Defense of the Ancients
Cara Ellison recalls the original DotA. “Some people think that gaming is a solitary hobby. But for me, DotA was a way to connect with my real life friends through an experience that didn’t include a darkened room serving overpriced alcohol we couldn’t afford.”
The indies guide to game-making
Tom Francis hunts down the world’s premier indie devs, unfurls his needle-thin proboscis, plunges it into their brains and slurps out every last drop of advice from them. Then he squirts it all back out here. Drink deep, budding indies, for the advice is good!
Hearthfire: the beginner’s guide to homesteading and mass murder
All Chris Livingstone wanted was a home to call his own. Things don’t go to plan. “The air fills with the screams of the dying and the streets run crimson with the blood of the dead.” Oops!
12 year war: rise of wargaming
World of Tanks is now one of the biggest games on the planet, and its curators at Wargaming.net are, shall we say, rather comfortable. How did they find themselves with such phenomenal wealth? Tom Senior finds out.
It would be unfair to pick just one of Rich Cobbett’s terrific retrospectives (which we run every Saturday dontchaknow), so here’s his top three picks for this year: Hard Time, Les Miserables and Shadow President.
Flash of greatness
Rich McCormick stares enviously at the bright lights of the pro-gaming scene, and charts the ascendancy of Lee Young Ho, known to the Star Craft scene as Flash. Wipe your chin, McCormick!
Chris Livingston has retired from videogame heroism. Instead, every Sunday, he embarks on a career of more modest proportions: driving buses, cutting wood and occasionally igniting entire airports in a deadly maelstrom of flame.
Day z photo diary
Evan Lahti charts an epic journey through Chernarus in this excellent two-parter: “He was a survivor with one life to live. His backpack: filled with beans. His world: filled with zombies. These are his tales, and the tales of his inconsistently-brave friends. And the tales of the woman played by a man who loved him.” Part two is here.
The best Skyrim mods
Whether you’re looking for new looks, new loot, homesteads or fulsome quests, Tom Hatfield’s compilation of the finest mods should see you good.
The Elder Strolls
Chris Livingston once again proves that the most valiant path is often the most humble: “My name is Nordrick. I’m not a hero, I’m an NPC, and I’m here not to play Skyrim, but to live in it.”
Inside the final hours of Star Wars: Galaxies
When Star Wars: Galaxies shut down its servers, it was as if millions of headline writers trotted out the same Obi Wan quote and were suddenly silenced. Our very own Imperial agent Chris Thursten was there to watch the mighty MMO’s light wink out.
An Illusionist in Skyrim
Tom Francis is a coward. Not in real life, of course, where he is bold and manly and frequently wrestles giant salamanders with his bare hands. But when he wants to get away from it all, he settles into Skyrim: “This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I’m not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can’t attack anyone directly.”
The E3 2012 press conference PC gamers deserve
Graham Smith imagines an alternative E3 - the one we deserve. “The first parties were more concerned with propping up their platforms with lifestyle buzzwords than making great games. Even the big publishers, EA and Ubisoft, seemed lost in the tall grass, offering almost nothing other than the expected sequels. I can’t help but think we could do it better.”
Games get a bad rap for being a solitary, violence-obsessed form of entertainment. But they can also be a collaborative, violence-obsessed form of entertainment. Just ask the close-knit PC Gamer team.
Tom F: Co-op based games teach us the value of teamwork better than any kitten based motivational poster, by showing us how many more of our enemies we can crush if we can just learn to work together.
Graham: They’re not just violent either. We can build giant penis statues together in Minecraft. No, wait, that’s bad. We can control egotistical millionaires in FIFA! Oh God, no. Rich?
Rich: Well, Supreme Commander celebrates the pioneering spirit, by asking us to build a host of clanking deathbots... I got nothing. Chris?
Chris: Uh. Diablo III shows that hell is easier with other people? Hm. Senior? Bail me out?
Tom S: I can’t, I’m too busy shooting these damn zombies. Stop intro-ing and let’s go play together.
Portal 2 - 2 players, Online
How does it work? You and a friend play comedy robots in co-op-only test chambers.
Why is it good?
Tom F: The puzzles get magnificently complicated when designed for two. You can jump through each other’s portals, so you’re often setting up a jump that your partner will perform. And because every puzzle requires two players, you’ve got to figure out where to put four different portals, and coordinate your approach. It bent my brain in the same ridiculous ways that Portal 1 did.
Graham: I use my portals to make a corridor slick with gloopy paint. Tom places his at either end of the corridor, creating the world’s first infinite slip ’n’ slide. I run down it and build absurd momentum, and as I reach terminal velocity, Tom moves one of his portals so that when I exit, I’m flung out over a chasm filled with acid. Co-op Portal 2 means entwining not just your portals, but your brains.
Minecraft - 2 to many, online or LAN
How does it work? Join a server and collaborate with friends – or strangers – to build the biggest, best, and most phallic structures you can.
Why is it good?
Rich: Within minutes, I was building a spa. I don’t know why I was building a spa. No one had said “let’s build a spa” in the chat channel, but there it was, forming before us. Graham, now-departed Craig Pearson and I, had hollowed out an underground chamber, constructed a raised dais of glass, and diverted water to create a lovely jacuzzi pool. Our subterranean sauna was lit by lava, and we sat in it, content.
Graham: My first time was on a new, private server with a few folks from the PCG community. In three hours we dotted the landscape with giant Darwinians, and built an underground bunker with launch missiles, library and steam rooms to avoid a player who had built an ugly golden bridge around the world. It felt like I’d spent an afternoon building sandcastles with friends.
Fifa 12 - 2-5 players, local
How does it work? Two or more players join forces to defeat the nefarious forces of Computron, the dark lord of kicking.
Why is it good?
Rich: Football is incredibly frustrating. FIFA recreates that frustration perfectly: genius moves undone by idiot players. But in co-op, I managed to reduce that frustration through one simple method: blame someone else. I think I’m great at FIFA 12 at the best of times; when I’m playing in co-op, I’m flawless. Graham, on the other hand, is terrible.
Graham: And Rich smells bad. For a while, we were playing two-on-two, but then our fourth man lost interest. We started playing two-on-one. Here’s what we found: the player controlling a team on their own has the advantage. To work together in FIFA is to anticipate the other’s moves, making runs and pulling away defenders. If you do it right, you’re unstoppable. If you’re Rich and I, Rich smells bad.
Diablo 3 - Up to four, drop-in, drop-out co-op across the whole campaign
How does it work? Every player you add to a game of Diablo III boosts the health of your enemies, increasing the challenge – but far less than it did on launch, when damage increased as well. Otherwise, it’s just Diablo III with more people.
Why is it good?
Chris: D3’s normal difficulty is very easy, but it gains a lot of life if you’re doing it with friends. Experimenting with new skills adds a slapstick dimension to demonbashing that’s better with other people. It’s basically that bit from Lord of the Rings where Legolas and Gimli are competing to kill the most orcs, strung out over 15 hours.
Tom S: Having a friend or two around gives you more freedom to experiment with new abilities. If you’ve got a Barbarian chum to wave and shout and take punches to the face, you can sacrifice a defensive ability for that demonic ghost bat bombing run skill you’ve been dying to try. Few things amaze and terrify a co-op partner as effectively as an unannounced demonic ghost bat bombing run.
Chris: It used to be that co-op Diablo III didn’t work: it was too diffi cult, and actually reduced the amount of loot you seemed to get. Patches have since redressed the balance, and working together to crack Inferno is a satisfying challenge.
Alien Swarm - Up to 4 players, online
How does it work? It’s a top-down shooter where you control a squad of four marines shooting aliens in a scripted campaign.
Why is it good?
Rich: People love swarms. The swarms of aliens in Alien Swarm (clue’s in the name), are best dealt with by coordination: one of your group becomes point-man, clearing rooms with shotguns and flamethrowers. Another takes up the rear, machinegun blaring to dissuade any would-be alien pouncers. This coordination is the result of a kind of natural, happy trance that players fall into, rather than tiresome enforcement.
Tom F: I’m a Medic, which used to mean I was the sensible, cautious, team player. Until I realised I could take a chainsaw. It’s terrible. It’s a terrible weapon, don’t use it. You can’t just charge into alien hordes, blade revving. OK, just one more go.
Trine - Up to 3 players, online or LAN
How does it work? Each player can transform themselves into a thief, warrior or wizard at any time. In the mode we play, you can have two Thieves at once if you like.
Why is it good?
Tom F: It’s a physics-based platform puzzler, which in co-op means dropping heavy objects on each other for fun. The wizard can create boxes and levitate them, and your co-op partner can stand on them. Most of our solutions involved carting each other around on telekinetic elevators.
Graham: Trine’s best class is the grapple-hooking, arrow-firing thief, because of the arrow-fi ring but specifically because of the grapple-hooking. In the singleplayer game, you’re forced to switch away from the thief to navigate obstacles and fi ght larger enemies. In co-op, two thieves are better than one, and combined you’re able to spend more time as a swinging idiot. The best kind of idiot.
Left 4 Dead 2 - Up to 4 players, online or LAN
How does it work? - There are lots of game modes now, but the one we play most is still the campaign: four players against the AI-controlled zombie hordes.
Why is it good?
Tom S: I ran through Left 4 Dead 1’s campaign on its hardest diffi culty setting with a group of regulars. We played in the 4 6 5 same small room for many hot, panicked hours until our cries of fear overruled the rattling pistol fire coming out of our speakers. The defence events and climactic mission fi nales offered us a chance to take stock and plan, but the best moments happened when those plans disintegrated in the face of an unexpected Tank charge, or a perfectly placed Witch.
The AI director never quite offered the longevity that it promised, and the monsters lost their scare factor after a while, but Left 4 Dead is still a superb, if harrowing, co-op experience. Ever since Valve ported the fi rst game’s superior maps into the sequel, Left 4 Dead 2 has been the better choice of the pair.
Tom F: There’s an achievement for winning a garden gnome on the fairground level, and taking it all the way through the rest of that campaign. For me, that is the game. It takes both hands to carry the gnome, so whoever’s holding it can’t fi re their weapons. You can set it down and grab it later, but among huge crowds of zombies and charging Tanks, it tends to get kicked around with alarming force.
So you take it in turns to sacrifice your firepower and carry the precious cargo, relying completely on your friends to protect you and your porcelain companion when it’s your turn. If a zombie does get to you, all you can really do is bash him with the gnome.
The carnival finale, set in a huge stadium, was just too intense for any of us to survive it gunless. So when the helicopter finally arrived to bail us out, the real challenge was a frantic scavenger hunt for a chipped red hat among the seething infected. Finding him, grabbing him, and making it out alive was the most nail-biting co-op experience I’ve ever had with the game.
Half Life 2 - 2-10 players, online or LAN
How does it work? The Synergy mod enables two or more of you to jump straight into Half-Life 2, Episode One or Episode Two’s singleplayer campaign.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Half-Life 2 is a huge and amazing adventure. And while there are a lot of great co-op games, there aren’t many that are huge and amazing adventures. People don’t make long, varied, story-driven journeys through meticulously detailed and gorgeous places when they’re making a co-op campaign. So a mod that makes Half-Life 2 and its two episodic expansions work cooperatively is an amazing discovery. I don’t know how it works, but it does.
Graham: Tom and I played through the entire of Half-Life 2, and into Episode Two, over many happy lunchtimes. The best part is the Highway 17 segment in Half-Life 2. You’re both given your own buggy to drive across the countryside, and the solitary bungalows that dot the coast are perfect for cooperative assault: one person bursting through the front door while the other circles around the back. The Combine only seem to be expecting one of you, for some reason...
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 - " players in campaign mode, 2-4 players in terrorist hunt, online or LAN
How does it work? We play Terrorist Hunt: you and the other players have to clear out a big, complex building in which a fixed number of terrorists run around and try to ambush you. It’s brilliant.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Terrorist Hunt is an immediately exciting concept, because it feels more like a simulation of a real armed-response firefight than any campaign level could be. You can’t be sure the level designer isn’t going to have the terrorists suddenly come from behind you, because the level designer doesn’t make that call: the terrorists do.
Graham: It’s doubly cool in co-op, because the challenge is so overwhelming. Even with the foresight of a snake camera under the door, it’s just tough to take out six terrorists in a room before any of them kill you. So you plan: I’ll take the left two... You throw a frag... I’ll come from the other door... You rope down to the window. And then you completely screw it up.
Mass Effect 3 - Up to 4 players online
How does it work? Fight to complete a mixture of objectives on small but open levels against randomised enemy forces. Level up characters and promote them into the singleplayer campaign to improve Shepard’s chances.
Why is it good?
Chris: ME3 multiplayer takes what is good about co-op survival modes – last-stand heroics and impromptu acts of daring – and adds incredibly varied races, classes and weapons that prevent it from ever becoming samey. Right now, I’m enjoying a Quarian infi ltrator that disintegrates enemies at close range with the Reegar Carbine, a gun we’ve come to call THE PLASMA HOSE. I’m just as happy charging around as a Krogan vanguard, or racking up headshots as a Turian sentinel carrying a Black Widow.
Tom S: New classes and bizarre new weapons are added regularly through free updates. You’re always holding out against waves of familiar enemies, but the variety of ways in which you can off these enemies expands every month. The N7 classes BioWare added recently push the boundaries of what the Mass Effect universe can sensibly contain. The Shadow can dart across the map and slash foes with a psychically infused katana, the Destroyer’s weighty carapace gives him the grounding to wield a rapid-fire grenade launcher with decent accuracy and the Slayer is a teleporting martial arts expert. With so many powerful abilities to choose from, playing with friends becomes more about showing off than anything else.
Chris: BioWare’s free updates to the game have been excellent and generous, particularly the new maps. They’ve drawn me back to the game and kept it feeling fresh, which is essential for co-op.
Supreme Commander - 2-7 players, online or LAN
How does it work?
Start a multiplayer game, put all humans on team 1, and some nice tough AIs on team 2. Crush.
Why is it good?
Tom F: It’s not the first co-op game you think of, but playing it cooperatively is how we’ve had the most fun with it. It can be dauntingly complex, so it’s great to have friends in there to help out if you forget to build anti-air or crash your power economy. In theory. In practice what usually happens is we beaver away on our own bases in silence for seven minutes then one of us says “Shit, fuck, they’re dropping in my base and I forgot to build point defence again, have you got anything that can help?” and the other says...
Graham: No, soz :(
Tom F: It’s about hatching your own masterplans, surviving long enough to see them complete, then raining the giant robotic fruits of your labours down on the enemy at the same time. My giant laser spiders are ready! Your flying fortresses are ready? Let’s go! My towering Galactic Colossus is ready! Your swarm of invincible death bricks is ready? Let’s go!
Dawn of War: Last Stand - Up to 3 players online
How does it work? - Unlike the main game, Last Stand gives you only one hero each. You’ve got to fi ght off increasingly tough waves of enemies until you die (likely) or beat wave 20 (unlikely). After the match, you usually unlock new equipment for your character.
Why is it good?
Tom F: I didn’t really get Last Stand until I levelled up a few times. The fun is in discovering new builds, and the role they can play in your group. As the Ork, I thought I was the longrange damage dealer: my autocannon certainly works for that, and when enemies get close I use my teleporting armour to get away. The notion of using the much tougher set, the one that can’t teleport, seemed pretty ridiculous. Until I unlocked the knife. The knife doesn’t do much damage, but it regenerates your health. Add some armour bonus trinkets, a self-healing trait, and an item that stops me being knocked down, and I can turn myself into an unstoppable tank. Suddenly I’m the guy charging into a nest of Tyranids to keep them off my friends, and coming out at full health.
Tom S: In the grim darkness of the future, three dudes battle ridiculous odds in a small stone circle. The setup may seem contrived, but DoW2’s overlooked co-op mode does a much better job of realising the Warhammer 40K fantasy than the campaign. Absurdly powerful heroes dominate the fiction, so I got a kick out of levelling up my venerable Space Marine captain and testing him against the hordes.
Last Stand understands 40K’s scale as well. The final waves throw more foes into the arena than you’ll see in any of the singleplayer missions, so victory may seem impossible. After a few levels you can start combining your heroes’ most powerful abilities to create a maelstrom of death. The glorious slaughterfest that results is worthy of a Space Marine’s final heroic moments.
Killing Floor - Up to 6 players, online or LAN
How does it work? Fight together to fend off waves of mutants, then stock up on guns and ammo at a shop that’s never in the same place twice.
Why is it good?
Chris: Without its guns, Killing Floor would be the bleakest, muddiest depiction of Britain at the end of the world since a bunch of Romans said “let’s go home, it’s cold and everyone here is mental.” With its guns, it’s one of the most satisfying co-op shooters around. My favourite is the bolt-action rifl e, which takes mutant head-popping and turns it into an avant garde musical genre. Bang! Chunk. Click. Bang! Blargh! Splatter.
Rich: I like the dual desert eagles. They go ‘whump’, like a pie dropped down a hole. But a really big pie, one that kills anyone unlucky enough to be standing under it in a spray of arterial blood. And when it kills them, this pie, it makes everything slow motion for a while, so your team can marvel at your incredible pie-dropping-stroke-gun-shooting skills.
Chris: Definitely play it with voice chat, though. Partly so that you can coordinate properly and warn your friends when they’re about to be sawn in half, but mostly so that you can talk over the truly, deeply dreadful voice acting. I started playing it during the Portal 2 promo campaign, when all the shopkeepers were replaced by GlaDOS. It was a huge improvement.
Borderlands 2 - Up to 4 players, online or LAN
How does it work? The whole campaign is playable in drop-in, drop-out co-op.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Two reasons – for one, the different abilities of each class mix well in a team fight. It’s great to see your Siren pluck a boss up into the air, and into range of your Commando’s turret and your Gunzerker’s... gunzerk. Secondly, cooperative play is good for diffi culty spikes, and Borderlands 2 sure has those. Dealing with an inordinately tough boss is less frustrating when there’s a whole a bunch of you coming up with new ideas and tactics, and a wider variety of weapons to try.
Tom S: Almost anything can pop out of Borderlands 2’s unfolding robot boxes. It could be a revolver that shoots lightning grenades, it could be a glowing, five-foot-long sniper rifl e with an enormous bayonet on the end. Whatever you get, it’s always better to have friends there to go “WOAH” or “whaaaat” or “give me that immediately.” Borderlands 2’s batty enemies are more fun to fi ght in a team, a constant stream of new gadgets to crow over makes it feel like the best sort of trick or treat trip, the sort where you get bazookas instead of sweets.
Arma 2 - 2 to many, online or LAN
How does it work? Players can join and play custom missions with each other, or mess around in the weapon playground add-on pack, Private Military Academy.
Why is it good?
Rich: The first time I played an Arma 2 custom mission with Marsh and Owen, it ended with me rolling sideways up a hill and giggling like a maniac. The second time, we were shot before we realised what the ‘open backpack’ key was mapped to. The third time, we found ourselves on a hillside, standing next to a crumpled chopper. It was dark, but the sky was brightening slowly as the sun rose somewhere off in the east. It would’ve been idyllic, were it not for the crowd of ornery locals taking potshots at us.
Together, we made it into a nearby settlement, where our rendezvous chopper was settling down into the dust. We sprinted towards it, tracer fire whistling over our heads, as we howled fears for our safety down our microphones. We were silly men, but Arma 2 quickly made us feel like (mildly inept) soldiers.
Marsh: Most of the time, my Arma 2 experience seems to consist of dying instantly or getting stuck in rocks. But occasionally, you roll the incredibly-complex-emergent-behaviour dice and get a scene as gripping and fluidly dramatic as anything from Full Metal Jacket. I don’t mean the toilet-suicide sequence. Running for that chopper with a busted leg and three shots left in my pistol as the enemy tightened the noose was one of the most extensive workouts my heart has undergone in many years. And it wouldn’t have been half the experience without Owen and Rich bellowing, “COME ON! YOU CAN DO IT!” as I lurched the final few yards.
Contrary to the norm, Hollywood isn't entirely composed of heartless corporate robots. It has people, too, and when not fetching oil martinis for their robot overlords, they like playing games. Take director Guillermo del Toro, for example. Sure, his latest science-fiction epic, Pacific Rim, tips its hat to the Japanese monster films of old with supersized bot-on-brute action, but that's probably not why its debut trailer caught onto gaming circles so quickly. Watch for yourself, but more importantly, listen carefully.
Yep, that's Ellen McLain lending a perfectly replicated GLaDOS voice to the computer systems of Pacific Rim's mega mechs. Someone—perhaps even del Toro himself—on the film crew is an avid Portal fan and decided McLain's modulated tones jives perfectly with punching giant beasts in the face. Considering everyone's favorite evil AI wouldn't ever get caught actually helping humans, that's an impressive feat.
Pacific Rim releases July 12 for the theater platform. McLain has previously trusted us with her delicious Pecan Tassies recipe, which we're still enjoying.
Everything can be made better with Lego. We've already seen this theory proved time and time again with the Lego: Well Known Franchise series of games. But if you're still not convinced, here's a selection of scenes from Portal 2, remade brilliantly into a series of Lego built vignettes.
The five minute film was created by Alex Kobbs for Machinima's Interactive Film Festival, and is the first of a two-part project. Other films on the festival's site include a remake of the first GTA 5 trailer, also made from Lego. Ah, Lego... Is there anything it can't do?
Clear your schedule and make room on your hard drive: there are over 9000 mods up for consideration as ModDB's 2012 Mod of the Year award nominees, and only a little over five days to nominate them. A big green button on each mod's page makes it hard to miss the opportunity to give your favorites a bump.
There isn't much time, so we'll get straight to it after this obligatory acknowledgement that we said "over 9000" on the internet: tee hee, references. Moving on, DayZ and Black Mesa are tough to ignore, and The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod was a valiant community effort. Those might be the most talked about and praised mods this year, and we expect they'll secure nominations, but there are so many more that deserve recognition. Which are you voting for?
If you need a refresher, you might want to browse our recent mod coverage to see if you've missed any driving elephants or My Little Pony conversions.
Caring, sharing types rejoice: Valve have released a patch which enables two-controller splitscreen play for Portal 2, making it all the easier to give your co-op buddy a purple nurple when they "accidentally" mis-time the placement of an Excursion Funnel. Again.
And you aren't restricted to squinting at a fraction of your desktop monitor, either: the update adds support for Big Picture mode, allowing you to bicker over who gets to hold the Discouragement Redirection Cube in the comfort of your own living room.
All you have to do to activate splitscreen is to press X on the second controller inside the first co-op menu, and then a whole new world of same-screen squabbling is available. We recommend you fuel your newfound fractious fellowship with our recent guide to the top 10 Portal 2 co-op maps.
The patch also fixes a couple of controller support glitches: previously the ‘quick ping’ button caused the player’s movement to stop and it was impossible to exit Robot Enrichment or Create Test Chambers menus using the controller alone. No longer!
We recently gave you our selection of the best Portal 2 single player maps and campaigns available on the Steam Workshop. There's some great feats of level design in that list, but if you really want to see mapmakers skills stretched to the limit, you have to turn to co-op.
With two brains and four portals available, the levels must be exponentially more complicated. They need to emphasise teamwork, provide an inventive challenge and be tightly crafted so as to stop players exploiting their way through. With that in mind, I enlisted the help of my Perpetual Testing Partner to dig out the ten best co-operative maps around. As always, if you've a favourite that's not listed, let us know about it.
1. Six Extra Seconds of Trust
The title refers to this Cave Johnson sales pitch for co-operating robots. It's apt: Six Extra Seconds of Trust takes place in a room full of buttons and switches, with each player on either side of a glass wall, trying to figure out how to help the other. The work gone into creating such a labyrinthian series of connections is truly impressive. Download Six Extra Seconds of Trust here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "I've got it! Just take that cube to... wait... no. That won't work for all sorts of reasons"
2. Buttons, Elevators and Goo
...And funnels, lasers, jumping puzzles, blind leaps of faith and those damn emancipation grids. B,E&G contains a large room full of corridors and side-chambers, each concealing a cube needed to complete a collection of buttons. Each area contains or requires a different puzzle element, and its the variety of challenges and their enjoyable solutions that make this a great map. Download Buttons, Elevators and Goo here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "NOOoooooo..! *splash* Balls."
A clever little chamber comprised of two rooms, one on top of the other. While neither player can reach the other directly, laser guarded holes in the ground allow you to share the limited resources back and forth, and buttons allow you to deactivate obstacles in your partners way. There's not much portalling to be done, but co-ordination and teamwork are still key. Download Camtasia here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "I'm stuck in this hole again. :("
4. Fortunate Buttons
A super-contained single room challenge with plenty of black walls blocking your progress. Fortunate Buttons is an order of sequence puzzle in which every step seemingly throws in more complications and leaps of logic as you move towards your solution. It always feels like you're on the edge between completion and completely messing it all up as you attempt to stretch a limited number of cubes further than seems possible. Download Fortunate Buttons here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "Just go and- NO, NOT THE FAITH PLATE! Idiot."
5. There's No I in Team, 01
Part of a series of co-op maps made by mapmaker LPChip. Part one starts with a tricky excursion funnel challenge that requires you to really think through the positioning of each player before you make a move. But it's the finale, in which you share a sphere back and forth between each other, that really exemplifies the "accidental" comic slapstick at the heart of the the best Portal 2 co-op maps. Download There's No I in Team here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "I know how to do this! I have to die!"
Hit the next page for more vents, ramps and tactical suicides.
6. Co-op Vents
It's pretty easy to complete, but there's a lot to like about Co-op Vents. You and your partner split off into two separate corridors (or vents, I guess), which intersect at rooms designed to put one player's life in the hands of the other. The difficulty lies less in the puzzles themselves and more in resisting the urge to blow up your friend. Download Co-op Vents here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "What is it about lasers that turns you into a homicidal maniac?."
Rampage heavily explores the possibilities of hard light bridge based puzzling. The three rooms use a mixture of ramps, bridges and emancipation grids to create interesting and unique challenges that require some seriously involved portal co-ordination. Also smart: It allows respawned players to easily make their way back to where they died. It's a problem in some maps, thanks to a level editor that doesn't allow checkpoint placement. Download Rampage here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "Wait, STOP! Not yet! *splash* DAMN IT!"
8. Quest for the Edgeless Safety Cubes
In which you must find three spheres to unlock the exit, each hiding behind some difficult puzzles in sub-chambers that themselves can be hard to access. The main puzzle room is full of buttons and laser-activated switches, and just deciphering what controls what is a challenge. Despite that, the level has some well crafted puzzles that require inventive portal work to complete. Download Quest for the Edgeless Safety Cubes here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "I meant to die there. It was tactical."
Mazed casts you as lab rats, working through corridors looking out onto a large, unreachable cube. Each player must help the other to progress through their respective routes. What at first starts out as simple switch activation soon becomes an involved series of timing challenges and backtracking in order to make a small bit of progress. It's a strangely claustrophobic experience. Download Mazed here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "I should have picked your route. There's less pissing about with turrets."
10. Super Happy Fun Time
Finally, a one room puzzle that features lots of thinking through the use of an excursion funnel as it pushes and pulls cubes and players through four portals and a variety of improbable obstacles. The division of labour is a bit off balance, with one player required to do little more than push buttons at the right time, but the central problem requires plenty of discussion to overcome. Download Super Happy Fun Time here.
Notes from the Testing Partner: "Sure, the bit with the funnel was fun. But super happy fun?"
Bonus: Geolocity Stage 2
As with the single player maps, some creators prefer to use Hammer, the Source engine's level editor, to create more detailed works. Hammer's co-op selection is less focused on custom campaigns than the solo stuff, but its use still enables handy additions like visual variation and player checkpointing.
It can also be used to reimagine Portal 2 as something else entirely. Something like a racing game. Geolocity Stage 2 abandons puzzles for a track covered in orange speed goo. You have to run, jump and portal your way through the course, avoiding plenty of obstacles and thinking on-the-fly to get through some tricky sections as quickly as possible. While the first Geolocity is also a lot of fun, Stage 2 adds in the ability to screw over your opponent with targets that, when activated by the ping tool, can reverse excursion funnels, create barriers or activate crushers. Download Geolocity Stage 2 here.
It's become a cliché to compare every first-person puzzle game to Portal, but Deadlock sort of insists on it by spotlighting a floating AI cube which speaks in vocoded tones that very nearly replicate GLaDOS's disharmonious voice...except with a French accent. But hey, Portal's not a bad inspiration, and Deadlock's sci-fi platforming is promising. A team of French developers created the prototype as a 7 Day FPS Challenge project, and recently began seeking funding via Ulule to spin it into a fully-realized game.
The goal of Deadlock is to ascend a high-tech beanstalk while avoiding the wrath of its AI security system by A. jumping, and B. using your "Switch Gun" to turn the tower's systems on and off. The Unity Engine is artfully used to render sleek gunmetal and neon architecture, and the gameplay concept has legs. Or, at least, you have legs. To jump with, because jumping and air control are important in Deadlock. The gravity feels a bit strange, like the parabola of my jump plateaus for a moment at its vertex, but it is nice to use double-jumps again. I want more double-jumping.
But as LeVar Burton would say, don't take my word for it: a demo of the game can be downloaded from the official site. The developers are only seeking €3,500 (~$4,448/£2,799) to polish the existing 7 Day FPS game, but hope for €32,000 to fund full solo game, and plan to add multiplayer if they reach €66,000. The campaign has currently raised 63 percent of its minimum goal with about a month to go.
Thanks to the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC's intuitive and enthralling editor, Portal 2 has a near-endless supply of new puzzles for players to enjoy. Since its release, over 200,000 new community made levels have been uploaded to the Steam Workshop, ready for a one-click download and integration into Cave Johnson's pan-dimensional scam. Whether you love lasers, revere repulsion gel or crave companion cubes (don't we all?) there's sure to be something out there.
Here's our pick of the best ten community-created puzzles available, and a further five fulsome campaigns. Obviously, with so many to choose from, some are bound to have fallen through the cracks. Be sure to share your favourites in the comments, and keep your eyes peeled for our top co-op maps in the very near future.
There's an island in the middle of the map's suspiciously brown water. On it, three buttons deactivate the emancipation grids to the three rooms off to the size. Simple enough - head to each room, collect its cube, and pop them on the switches. Except each solution requires elements from the others, leading to a puzzle that quickly has you running through what can be done where. Satisfyingly convoluted. Download Permutations here.
I'm a sucker for both gels and excursion funnels, so Goobound was already off to a promising start. It's a series of paint-based puzzles, that have you really thinking about the application of that blue bouncy goo. What really sells the map is the button-based end section, that has you figure out the sequence of ramps to raise in order to bounce yourself to the exit. Download Goobound here.
3. Four Block
Four Block is a great realisation of a segmented room theme. Unlike Permutations, here each challenge is linked only by the need to collect a cube to bring back to the small central room that acts as the main hub. It's a clever example of how to create a series of fun puzzles out of all of the game's many elements, and still have it gel together in a cohesive whole. Download Four Block here.
4. Collective Scrutiny
In Collective Scrutiny, mapper Edeslash creates a large, multi-roomed chamber, in which many of the puzzle elements are kept separate from their home by those portal and object destroying emancipation grids. Bypassing them involves directing lasers, rescuing spheres and liberal application of orange gel. It's not particularly difficult, but working through the various processes is a lot of fun. Download Collective Scrutiny here.
Mevious is probably the most prolific and well known of Portal 2 mappers, thanks in no small part to a Valve made collection of his work from the Testing Initiative's beta. His levels trend towards the compact but devious, a style exemplified in Gate. You're placed on the wrong end of an emancipation grid but, despite appearances, the solution is sheer elegance in its simplicity. Download Gate here.
Head to the next page for perplexing faith plate action and frenetic excursion funnel fun.
Magnetic presents a series of challenges that require you to transport a cube to a button on the other side of the room. Twist: those cubes are at the other side of a wire mesh, in self contained areas with no portalable surfaces, that are just close enough to be carried. The unusual set up of the puzzles led to a section that had me stumped for long minutes before I realised the solution was blindingly obvious. Download Magnetic here.
7. Path of the Cube
Something different to the usual puzzle set-up of having the Perpetual Testing stickman doing the level acrobatics. In Path of the Cube, you and your Companion Cube operate two buttons to guide a regular cube through a side-on maze full of moving platforms and excursion funnels. No portalling to be done here, but the inventiveness of the premise makes for a nice change. Download Path of the Cube here.
8. The Laser Cross
All great laser-based maps are about making your limited resources stretch further than should be possible. The Laser Cross is one of the best, forcing you to constantly revise your solution as you attempt to activate the various components of each room with just two refraction cubes. One simple mistake and you'll end up back at the start, refining what seemed like a sound plan. Just watch out for the bloody faith plate. Download The Laser Cross here.
9. Time Saving
Mapmaker Romb has a penchant for devising some of the trickiest puzzles to come out of the community. Time Saving isn't the most head-scratching of his creations, but unlike many of the others, it also doesn't rely on obfuscation or odd quirks of Portal 2's physics. Instead it's an enjoyable sequence of problems to overcome, with a timing element that's sure to please Portal 1 fanatics. Download Time Saving here.
10. Too Simple
A cube on the floor. A button connected to the exit beside it. Simple, right? Well, no, not quite. Too Simple has a devious little trick up its sleeve that blocks you from completing the obvious. Once it's revealed its gotcha, the rest of the level isn't that hard to work out, but it's a nice little timing challenge and a reminder that in Portal, nothing is quite what it seems. Download Too Simple here.
Head to the final page to see our top five Portal 2 custom campaigns.
While the in-game editor is a great tool for realising your puzzle idea, it doesn't have the flexibility create anything outside of the pristine walls of an Aperture testing chamber. For that you need Hammer, Valve's Source map editor.
It's a powerful tool, but also complicated and at times downright awkward. That hasn't stopped people from using it to create more in depth campaigns - collections of levels that contain custom visuals, stories, scripting and even special physics rules. Here's five that show off what a dedicated mapmaker can achieve.
1. 12 Angry Tests
12 Angry Tests is an exceptional seven part campaign that serves as a standalone GLaDOS-free story that mirrors the structure of Portal 2. you start out in an abandoned and worn-down Aperture, solving fiendish laser and refraction cube puzzles. From there you wind up in the depths of old Aperture, playing with gels and momentum, before the hard light/excursion funnel heavy final act, among rows of long abandoned test chambers.
It's full of clever flourishes, like one room late in the game that completely reconfigures itself just as you're about to solve it. There are plenty of twists from the plot, too. Like any good Portal 2 campaign, there's a surprising antagonist hindering your progress. In all, it's an hour or so of new content with pitch-perfect difficulty and a keen eye for what makes a great portal-based puzzle. Download 12 Angry Tests here.
Set after the events of Portal 2, Decay shows an Aperture that has been left to... well, you know. Run down test chambers aren't exactly a new idea for Hammer made maps - even Portal 2 itself is filled with them - but Decay really takes the dilapidation to extremes. Corridors are wonky, puzzles no longer align properly and absolutely everything is falling apart.
The puzzles included are some of the hardest on this list. The second of the three parts is particularly tricky, pulling every design trick to introduce new obstacles that disrupt previously sound plans. In the third part, elements of different test chambers overlap, causing plenty of misdirection. But the visual spectacle of the climactic climb through the rubble is a compelling reason to endure its red herrings. Download Decay here.
3. Designed for Danger
One of the early plans for Portal 2 saw Chell at the whims of a selection of personality cores, each with their array of test chambers. Designed for Danger gives you an idea of how this might have played out. You start in one of the main game's early test levels, but as you move to solve it, you're broken out by Rick, the adventure sphere. Apparently Nolan North doesn't make enough appearances in games, so we have to put him in mods now.
Rick has designed a bunch of deadly adventure chambers for you to solve. Well, sort of. Designed for Danger's theme is mostly sold through visual touches and between chamber sections. For the well designed puzzles, danger merely means "contains a lot of lasers." That is, until the final act, which sends you through the bowels of Aperture. Download Designed for Danger here.
4. Curious Chamber
Curious Chamber is a three part campaign that subverts gravitational direction to create a series of puzzles that are constantly surprising. To give the least spoilery example, the first chamber has an uncrossable gap, a white wall to fly out of, but nowhere to build up enough momentum to do so. Except, that when you investigate a small corridor with a target painted at the end wall, gravity flips 90 degrees and you're suddenly falling into it.
Throughout it shows off just what tricks are possible with Hammer. That reaches a whole new level in the last part, a series of chambers that are inventively presented to create a memorable, and funny, experience that becomes increasingly difficult over time. Download Curious Chamber here.
5. Moonbase Luna-C
A series of test chambers set on the moon! That means more than just seeing acres of greyish-brown rock outside of the windows, because these maps also make use of reduced gravity. It seems like such a small change - you can jump higher and for longer, but so what? Except the effect the change has on your ability to navigate levels is massive.
It's a case of relearning your limits and intuitively realising which leaps you can make. But the levels also feature liberal use of laser grids, both below and above you, to create challenges that would be impossible with our stupid, restrictive Earth gravity. Still, no matter where you are, the turrets remain happy to politely kill you. Download Moonbase Luna-C here.
Since its launch, Valve's Source Filmmaker has helped budding directors create literally hundreds of movies - some good, some bad, most.... incredibly goofy. The Team Fortress 2 cast especially has sung seemingly every song, played out every meme and worn every hat and every expression - sometimes at once! But what are the ten best creations? We've scoured YouTube in search of the funniest, the most dramatic, and the just plain prettiest Source Filmmaker movies.
Scout vs. Witch
Easily one of the best directed SFM movies out there, mixing Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and a fine sense of timing. Scout (no relation to Scout) is one of the more popular TF2 mercs, with his cockiness the perfect antidote to all that zombie misery. At least, while the moment lasts.
Just One More Hat
And he's back, in this fashion-conscious spin on one of Disney's most parodied songs. More worksafe than Dirty Little Mermaid, more morally conscious than Slaughter Your World, it also wins bonus points for having an original TF2 version of a song instead of just looping in a more general one.
Meet The Family
Mostly made (naughty naughty) with the leaked SFM, this was one of the first epic projects to be finished and still one of the best. Scout and Spy team up as literal brothers in blood to kick off a perfectly choreographed race for that all-important Intelligence. Guest starring music from The Incredibles to add pace and more than a little style. No "da-da-da" sting at the end though.
Adventures Of The F2P Engineer
He's smart enough to whip up teleporters and sentries on the battlefield... but he didn't pay for the privilege, so he's probably doing it with his flies open and his shoes undone. When he's having this much fun though, can you really begrudge him? The answer is yes. Even if you're on the other team, sometimes it just gets... sad. Luckily, there are other engineers on hand, like...
An epic war between two professionals who know what they're doing, but don't know when to quit. A little parable about the importance of good manners, respect, and most importantly, not ****ing with another man's sandvich. A true Lesson For The Ages, with some fine music right alongside.
Meet The Soldier (Directed By Michael Bay)
We're firmly back in parody territory for this one; a relatively straight replay of Meet The Soldier, but with rather more boom and a surprising (though not unwelcome) lack of Alyx, Zoey, Rochelle or Chell forcibly being draped over a motorbike or anything at any point to complete the picture of one of cinema's most successful nostalgia murderers. Love or hate it, it's better than Transformers 2 any day.
The First Wave
It's not just a game mode... it's war! Mann vs. Machine gets dramatic in this epic four minutes of the mercs facing their durable doubles for the first time. Bonus points for a return of the disembodied Blue Spy, and a death scene with the power to spawn a thousand bits of erotic TF2 fan-fiction. Which exist. You'd better believe they exist. You have been warned.
DOTA Hero Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise
Not so much a 'parody' of the Potter Puppet Pals original as a straight copy with DOTA characters in it, this is still one of the more accomplished movies to come from that game. We just need another eighty or so instalments to cover the other characters, and I see no reason new players shouldn't have enough data to compete at professional level/troll like champions.
Heavy Doo, Where Are You?
I never understood "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" as a show title. Admittedly my memory is a little fuzzy about the actual cartoons, but I definitely remember Fred, Daphne and Velma doing most of the mystery-solving gruntwork, with Scooby's role being to blunder into helpful things. If you called him, you'd prevent him from doing that. The song makes no sense, is what I'm saying. This movie is more reasonable. If you had to fight Old Man Peterson, having a Gatling wielding Russian psychopath on hand definitely beats anything Scrappy Doo could serve up. Admittedly, so would a crouton.
Chell's life after Aperture isn't exactly unexplored territory, but this Exile Vilify backed slice is one of the more interestingly melancholic SFM movies so far. A little clunky in terms of animation, largely due to the poor Chell rig (at least one other movie opted to reskin Zoey instead of using it), but it makes up for it with a different kind of atmosphere to most and that lovely outdoor setting.
Those are our picks, but there are many more SFM movies out there. Have any particularly caught your attention, impressed you, or just made you laugh? Share their names below...