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title="Permanent Link to The top 10 free PC games of 2011">Best-free-games



With New Year celebrations just around the corner, it's understandable that you might not have time to trawl through our weekly Best Free PC Games archive, analysing every write-up to construct your own top ten list. So, since we understand the importance of ranking free games in order of perceived quality, we've done it for you. Here are PC Gamer's ten favourite freebies of 2011!







10. Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story



Christine Love. Download it from Christine's website.







With its anime style and graphic novel format, Christine Love's Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story might not seem like the most enticing prospect to a lot of players. Push past the presentation, though, and you'll find an intricate and notably human story of what it is to be responsible for the lives of a group of teenagers.



You play as a teacher who gets a little too involved in his students' issues. And while the game is only minimally interactive, it does present you with some genuinely affecting moral choices, the likes of which even the biggest videogame developers struggle to get right year after year.



9. The Wager



Surprised Man. Download it from the official website.







An exploration game whose stretches of planet are generated on the fly each time you start, The Wager is a much smarter game than its often primitive presentation would let on. You take to the seas in search of new lands, whose resources you might exploit, or whose co-ordinates you might sell to others eager to spread their feathers into new climes.



It's smart because of the requirement to make decisions about how you'll deal with the game's obstacles, and because of how neatly the often bizarre writing slots into its place in the game. It also received a substantial update recently, making the already compulsive title even more of a delight.



8. Proun



Joost van Dongen. Download it from the official website.







Proun's developer recently revealed that the game's 'pay what you like' sales pitch didn't do as well as he'd hoped. When people treated it as a freebie, though, the response was overwhelmingly positive. It's a gloriously presented indie title that sees you rolling a ball around a frantic racetrack, avoiding obstacles as you go.



Its crowning achievement is the speed at which you travel, and the sense of kinetic energy the game manages to convey. Performing well on the slowest speed setting, 'fast', allows you to unlock unimaginable paces for later races. Let's hope the £23,000 van Dongen did make is enough to convince him to make another game this good.



7. Sweatshop



LittleLoud. Play it on the official website.







Channel 4 gets educational games. Commissioning talented and renowned developers with proven track records, they manage to take concepts that our young could find tedious, and transform them into experiences that even proper grown-ups can get something out of. Sweatshop is one of those games, a title designed to teach of the ills of the horrible forced labour that goes on around the globe.



You play as an aspiring factory manager, hiring, firing and tweaking your factory's workforce. What initially starts as a genuinely amusing title quickly grows dark as your workers begin to tire, you start hiring children for cheaper labour, and you quickly realise you've become the horrific being you promised yourself, at the start, that you wouldn't be.



6. At A Distance



Terry Cavanagh. Download it from the dev's blog.







This is the renowned indie developer's take on co-operative play. Two people sit at separate computers, preferably side-by-side but certainly on a network. Each player is lost in some kind of colourful maze. But it is by exploring the world that the other person inhabits, and seeing what effects your actions are having on your friend's game, that you'll solve the overarching puzzle of At A Distance.



It's clever and inventive, and a shame that the requirement of network play might put some people off one of the more interesting two-player games in recent times.







5. BeGone



NPlay. Play it on NPlay's website.







BeGone has become quite the thing in 2011. Initially launched as a competent and impressive multiplayer shooter, this browser-based gem quickly grew to become something that could rival a lot of full games. There are now several maps, all nicely balanced, and the presentation has been spruced up considerably.



It's a bit like Counter-Strike, basically - and that's hugely impressive, considering this runs in a nice little window right in the middle of a web page. It's a game that requires some decent skill, which it rewards handsomely. And it keeps getting better and better.



4. Stealth Bastard



Curve Studios. Download it from the official website.







A tactical action-platformer, as if Metal Gear Solid were reimagined in true retro-modern style, Stealth Bastard sees you sneaking past robot guards and security systems that aim to take you out in a millisecond. It's fortunate that you can put your sneaky know-how to use across a variety of beautifully imagined levels.



And if those aren't enough, you can even create your own in an initially confusing but eventually fairly sensible level-editing suite that comes free with the already-free game. It's baffling when a developer releases so much of such quality for no coins at all, but it's probably best not to complain too much, or they might stop.



3. Wonderputt



Damp Gnatt. Play it on the dev's website.







One of the most joyously creative games of the year regardless of price, Wonderputt is a crazy golf experience like no other. The game plays out on just a single screen, but it's a landscape that changes radically across the 15-or-so minutes it'll take you to see it all.



That might not sound long, but every second of Wonderputt is remarkable: from the changing landscapes, to the immaculate ball physics, to the splendid music that plays throughout. It's an absolute labour of love, a game that seems to have had layer upon layer of attention gifted unto it throughout the course of its development. 18 holes have never been so delightful.



2. Nous



DigiPen. Download it from the official website.







Nous is creepy. This seemingly sentient AI says it's a psychoanalysis system, but it appears to mean you harm. Or does it? It also enjoys confusing you at every turn as it judges your performance across a series of neon-lit and action-packed levels.



The game's ability to craft such an atmosphere from so little is an extraordinary feat, and it's coupled by engaging game mechanics that see you striking a fine balance between killing your foes and turning them into health by herding them through special converters. It's fantastic fun, gorgeously presented, and both captivating and unsettling as the story plays out.







1. Team Fortress 2



Valve Software. Grab it via Steam.







Well, of course. What else could it be? It's the best multiplayer shooter ever released on the PC, and you can play it for no pennies. We are, quite truly, being spoiled.



We've written about Team Fortress 2 a lot, you may have noticed. Some might say we've praised it to death. Others will be quick to point out its original 2007 release date. But this is the year when TF2 became a free game, and as such it would be barmy not to position it right at the top of the list.



Its quality lies in every aspect of the game. Beautifully and distinctively presented, it's also fantastically balanced, each class playing its own unique role across a variety of maps that, in their immaculate attention to detail and playability, could only have been created by Valve. It's also a game that's filled with personality, as evidenced by the vast amount of fiction that's cropped up around this wonderful shooter.



You get so much for no money at all. It might as well be the full game. In fact, it's not quite, but to upgrade all you need to do is buy a single item from the store. The cheapest item is 29p. That's all you need to pay to unlock a premium account - but if even that seems a bit too much, you'll lose barely anything by playing at the most basic level.



Craig re-reviewed the game this year, upping its original 93% score to a PC Gamer UK 'highest score ever' of 96% as a result of the carefully planned additions and refinements that have trickled in over the years, in what must be one of the most comprehensive post-release support campaigns a developer has ever committed to. We don't give out scores that big lightly - but not only is Team Fortress 2 the best free game in the world, it's also now one of the best in the world regardless of cost.



Found a better free game in 2011? You should totally let us know about it in the comments!
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

We once had so very many screenshots of TF2. Where did they go, those screenshots? Are they alright? Do they have someone who loves them?Back, back, back, back even further, back a bit more, keep going, yes, not much further now and… there we go. You are now back in the most dim and distant past of the then tiny baby website Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a mere three months into our making-it-up-as-we-went-along existence. You will see ancient typos. You will see only glimmerings of understanding of how the internet works. You will see Kieron Gillen. And you will see The Go Team!, a multi-part mega-feature in which the four RPS founders present their assorted thoughts on Team Fortress 2′s classes, based on our delightfully haphazard experiences in the original beta back in September 2007. (more…)

Kotaku

Is Portal 2 Kotaku's Game of the Year? What Valve did this year seemed impossible: they improved on the perfection that was the first Portal. That feat was accomplished, surprisingly, by making everything about players' return to Aperture Science less perfect. We got a scuffed-up, messier experience that resonated more deeply than any other game this year. Can Portal 2 open a rift to the top of this year's GOTY contenders? Let's see.



WHAT I LOVED:



Heart-ificial Intelligence: Portal 2 pulled off an amazing role reversal: it made the humans playing it feel like computers and the dueling AIs vying for control feel human. The character arcs traveled by Wheatley and GLaDOS didn't seem robotic at all, and each AI felt, at turns, poignantly insecure and needy. And, at the end of the single-player portion, I felt like a problem-solving machine, electric and sharp, able to coolly think my way out of the game's inscrutable puzzle rooms.



Broken Beauty: Portal 2 fractured the clean minimalism of its predecessor and created a different kind of splendor by peeling back Aperture Science's gleaming white layers. Playing through the grimy, rusted-over past of the research firm didn't just introduce cool new mechanics. It showed us the aching soul of a beautiful loser named Cave Johnson, and generated an unexpected empathy for GLaDOS.



WHAT I HATED:



Invisible Woman: I wanted Portal 2 to create more of a connection to the series' mute heroine Chell. It's great that other, newer characters get fleshed-out backstories, but that just makes it harder to care the character I'm controlling when she remains a near-total cipher.



Slightly Off-Key: A game's theme song usually doesn't count for much in overall scheme of things. But, c'mon, this is Portal, the series that gave us "Still Alive." After firing that last teleportation blast, I expected a tune that lived up Jonathan Coulton's previous classic. Sadly, "Want You Gone" did nothing for me, even after repeated listens.





Kirk Hamilton responds:



I loved the crap out of Portal 2. It was a triumph, a huge success; I'm making a note here, etc. It is an entirely worthy candidate for GOTY, even though in the end I didn't choose it for my own nomination. Here's what I think:



WHAT I LOVED



High-larious - Portal 2 was the funniest game of 2011. The excellent one-off gags, the winning animation work on all of the robots, and Stephen Merchant's show-stealing voice-over performance… I spent 90% of my time with a huge grin plastered on my face. Why can't all games be this funny? I don't know. Writers Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek, my hat is off to you.



Brainy Gamer - Portal 2 was a real brain-tickler. Solving a tricky puzzle before sending yourself careening through the air to the finish line was one of 2011's great gaming pleasures.



Musical Heart - The way that Valve integrated Mike Morasky's super-cool music into the gameworld was creative, unexpected, and my favorite addition to the Portal formula.



The Ending - Best grand finale of the year, hands down.



WHAT I HATED



Thick in the Middle - The single player campaign's middle act felt largely unnecessary. Too many of the puzzles were, basically, "Find the White Wall To Continue."



Unnecessary Answers - A pervading sense of ominous mystery was part of what made Portal (and for that matter, Half-Life) so cool. I can't say that the sequel benefitted from adding GLaDOS' and Aperture's backstories.



PC Loading Screens - Come on, Valve. Seriously?





Luke Plunkett responds:


With Valve terrified of games including the number "3" in them, this is probably the last we'll ever see of Portal. Unless they do a Portal 2.5. Or Portal: The Portal Chronicles: An Origin Story: Chronicles. Good thing it was a great game, then.



WHAT I LOVED

Funny Bones: Good Lord, this game was funny. Consistently, massively funny. Great writing, top-shelf voice acting. That should be the norm in blockbuster video gaming, but it's not, so Portal 2 gets a big thumbs up for this.



Meat On Them Bones: The first Portal was a puzzle game. Room after room of puzzles and little else. Portal 2, with its bottomless chasms and walkways and transitions, felt more like a flowing game, which really helped matters as far as pacing and story-telling were concerned.



WHAT I HATED

Too Much: On the one hand, I appreciated the variety of challenges and tools at your disposal in Portal 2. On the other, the game often felt like there was too much going on, and it lost a little of the first game's watertight focus as a result.





Stephen Totilo responds:



What have we here? Oh! It's the best game I played in 2011.



WHAT I LOVED


Playing it - Yeah, yeah, looking at it was lovely. Listening to it was cool. It is a video game, so I am happy to confirm that actually playing Portal 2 was a wonderful experience, too—a delightful experience of thinking, trying, experimenting, leaping, rushing, panicking, hoping and also just having a grand time.



Playing it with another person - Of course, the single player of Portal 2 was good. It was an iterative improvement on the ingenious design of Portal the first. Co-op was better. I played it online. I played it on the couch. I played it with a regular friend. I played it with my wife. We were dropping four portals in the labs to solve crazy puzzles, one of which had us taking off from face-to-face ski jumps of sorts, making us smack into each other in mid-air. If another game wins our GOTY vote, I will not be convinced its players had more fun than I had with Portal 2.



WHAT I HATED


Nada. It made me laugh too much. This game's a gem.





Mike Fahey responds:


Everything about this game fills me with pure, unabashed joy. Going into these discussions I was 100 percent certain my pick would be Skyrim. Now I only want it gone.



WHAT I LOVED



Did I Mention Joy?: There hasn't been a moment during my multiple play-throughs of Portal 2 that I've felt anything less than completely pleased with my time investment. From the moment I woke up in the simulated motel room to the final lines of Jonathan Coulton's "Want You Gone" my smile never faltered. Even during the game's most maddeningly frustrating puzzles, I was happy to be challenged by such a well-crafted experience.



Sharing is Caring: The addition of cooperative multiplayer in Portal 2 was handled brilliantly. By introducing two new robot test subjects to the mix Valve was able to craft a complex and completely satisfying game mode without compromising the integrity of the single player experience. And this is real co-op, not just two or more players shooting at the same enemies. Whether you're playing with a close friend or a total stranger, by the end of Portal 2's cooperative campaign you're two parts of one well-oiled testing machine.



WHAT I HATED



Do I Have to Have a Hated?: I suppose I could be cute here and say I hated that the game had to end, but in truth I felt the game ended exactly when it should have. I've got nothing.





There you have 'em, our arguments for and against Portal 2 as Kotaku's 2011 Game of the Year. We'll have one more argument this week, and then we'll vote and announce the winner on Monday, January 2.



Read the rest of our 2011 GOTY debates.


PC Gamer






Do you remember the tail end of 2010? We all wore rags and lived in dirt-floored shacks, dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and ‘free to play’ was still a dirty set of words. 2011 saw those words climb into the word shower and wash themselves clean, courtesy of League of Legends.



Developers Riot Games released player figures for their five-on-five Defence of the Ancients interpretation in November 2011. The numbers were, frankly, dazzling. League of Legends now has more active players than World of Warcraft – yes, World of Warcraft – sporting a population of 11 million. More impressively, over four million people play LoL every day, and 1.5 million of those are on at the same time. To put that in context, all of Steam has 2.5 million concurrent users.







But capturing the short term attention spans of children, idiots, and child idiots was easy enough for the terrible free to play titles of the past. Craftily, League of Legends snared their monstrous userbase by bucking that trend, and by being crisp, clear, and blessed with thousands of ways to play. No wonder it’s done so well – it stands out like a golden pin in a shed full of pigswill.



I play as Caitlyn. I stand in the bushes, peppering creeps with shots from my comically oversized sniper rifle. My basic attack is a single shot. My ultimate attack, gained after fifteen minutes of play and souped up over the next half an hour, is a bullet wider than Caitlyn’s waistline that travels a quarter of the length of the map and slams a third out of its target’s health bar. I kill people from a distance, and never let myself near other players.



Tim plays as Leona. She’s a holy paladin, kitted out in gleaming golden armour and armed with a repertoire of incredibly earnest sayings. Leona’s pure tank – she steams into combat, drawing attention and aggression from everyone, leaving other players free to escape or level their weapons on their stunned foes.







Owen plays as Teemo. He runs around behind the AI creep scuffles, watching and waiting for his moment to drop traps. Teemo’s stealthy: he hides in plain sight, supporting his team and sneaking shots against any weakened foes. Well, he’s as stealthy as he can be, at any rate, considering he’s dressed as a fluffy white rabbit, and the traps he lays are easter eggs.



I always play DPS characters. Tim’s tanked for years. Owen… Owen really likes dressing up as fluffy animals. That League of Legends lets us all play different games inside one title is impressive. That it let us play them even when it had one game mode and one map is amazing. That it’s a free to play game with a level of polish, community, and developer support unseen outside of studios like Valve is utterly unheard of.



Highly recommended: Team Fortress 2, World of Tanks.
Kotaku

Valve on Half-Life 3 Rumors: 'This is the Community Trolling the Community'Every popular video game has its following of wishful thinkers, wannabe designers, and straight-up trolls. None has more hard at work on the next title than Half Life 3. And they've been very busy lately.



There is, of course, this total fakey-fake-mcfakerson website, a goldmine of cognitive dissonance that's not even registered to Valve. Then there was this brilliantly unconfirmable pile of horse dung, later debunked and then disavowed by the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who heard from a friend at Valve that Gabe Newell had "authorized" certain people to start leaking about Half Life 3.



That hasn't stopped the I-Want-to-Believe Crowd, so late last night, Valve's Chet Faliszek, co-writer on the last two Half-Lifes (and of Portal 2) did the humane thing and took everyone's hope out behind the woodpile and shot it.



"You are being trolled. There is no ARG," Faliszek wrote. "There has been no directive from Gabe to leak anything. That is all false."



Faliszek also specifically debunked the idea that this speech by Wheatley, the Portal 2 AI, in the Spike Video Game Awards a couple weeks ago, contained all sorts of hints and clues and teasers that Half-Life 3 was coming in 2012. "Wheatley's speech was set in Portal 2 fiction—that is all." he said.



Yeah, well, maybe Gabe authorized him to say that, right? Right? Well, Gaming Bolt pinged Gabe about it. (You can too, I guess; he answers his own email). Answer: No.



People have got to realize how far they've sunk to self-parody here—and I'm not talking about the trolls, I'm talking about the believers. Every year, it seems, we have some crackpot troll tell us he's parsed some new sample of numerology and derived the date of the end of the world; and every year it never fucking happens. Not that I want it to, unlike Half-Life 3. But this process has an analogue in Half-Life 3. Every year people create bullshit websites and issue phony proclamations that the day is coming. And it never does.



"I just want to say this so there is no confusion," Faliszek wrote. "This is the community trolling the community nothing more. While it is nice to see people excited about anything HL, I hate seeing people be trolled like this."



Chet Faliszek from Valve puts an end to all Half-Life 3 Rumours [Gaming Bolt]


PC Gamer






In most co-operative games, players don’t work together so much as work beside one another. The closest you’ll get to real teamwork is pulling the trigger at the same time. Portal 2 doesn’t work that way. Its co-op problems are impossible without a friend, and each reality-twisting solution forces you to share a brain.



My brain is neurotic, and though he hopefully never noticed, playing with Tom was competitive, too. Every time he worked out the solution first, it stung. Every time my suggested solution turned out to be wrong, I was convinced he thought I was an idiot. The problem is that you’re never just wrong in Portal 2, your idea is stupid, deadly and physically impossible.







Thank god it’s also funny. In singleplayer, Portal 2 is a finely scripted sitcom starring a woman, a robot and a potato. In co-op, it’s a slapstick buddy comedy, with both players as comic foil and GLaDOS as your straight man. When either of us would screw up, Tom and I wouldn’t yell or criticise one another – we left that to Owen and Tim, who were playing at the same time. Instead, we’d laugh, sometimes make P-Body and Atlas high-five, and leave my brain to find reasons to be paranoid on its own.



Having a friend along cancels out all the loneliness you feel in Portal 2's singleplayer. It's a deliberate part of that experience that Chell is isolated amidst the world of test chambers, but it's not always a relaxing way to spend a few hours in the way the co-operative mode can be. Once you've completed both, you're also far more likely to return to the co-op mode a second time than you are the singleplayer. Even knowing the solutions while playing with someone who is on their first run through is fun, as you get to step back and play shepherd to someone else's enjoyment.







As much as acting out the solution is kinetic and wonderful, it was the thought process I enjoyed most. Tom and I would walk in to a new challenge and think: “Um, wait, how do we do this?” We’d both stand still, playing the level through in our mind, once, twice, wait, I’ve got it! If I place a portal here – foont! – and then another here – pshoon! – then I can cover that floor with slime. Then, if I place two new portals at either end – foont! pshoon! – and now you run between them. Woosh. Woosh, woosh, wooshwooshwooshwoosh. And now I place the exit portal here – pshoon! – which will – Wheeeeeeee!



Read our Portal 2 review for more.



Highly Recommended: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Fifa 12.
Kotaku

Portal Christmas tree is absolutely geniusHere's further proof that basically everything goes better with Portal. Check out Ryan Kelly and his coworkers' Portal-fied Christmas tree, which certainly beats the hell out of the 20 years' worth of musty tinsel I festooned all over my folks' Tannenbaum this very evening. Also, learn how to make this Aperture Science-infused arbor for next year.



Kelly broke down the construction process for io9 as such:




Basically, it's our artificial tree which comes apart in three sections. The top section is suspended from the ceiling by an adhesive hook so it simply hangs downwards. The other two sections are connected and placed upside down on the floor - the tricky part is that the branches are meant to be kept extended out by gravity, so there is fishing line attached between each branch and what is usually the base of the tree, pulling the branches up towards the ceiling.



We then got two sets of rope lights (blue and red as we couldn't find orange). We laid the red out in a tight circle around the tree on the floor. The blue was wrapped in a circle, scotch taped to hold together, and then hung on to more adhesive hooks on the ceiling. Then we cut two circles of black poster board and placed these beneath the rope light rings to give them the feeling of holes. You barely see the black with all the branches and the portals lit up so it plays fairly well.



Finally, the hanging top piece didn't have branches that extended all the way up to the ceiling, so to cover the obvious gap we bought some artificial garland and wrapped that around it to match up with the ceiling. That way it looks like the tree continues up into the surface.



With a little bit of finessing, you can hide any of the obvious gaps and have one seamless tree.




Rad! You can see some more photos of the tree below, including a photo of Kelly's friend Jason entering the portal. For more Portal-inspired sculpture, see New York City's giant Companion Cube.




Portal Christmas tree is absolutely genius

Portal Christmas tree is absolutely genius

Portal Christmas tree is absolutely genius

Portal Christmas tree is absolutely genius

Portal Christmas tree is absolutely genius




[Tymykal via Reddit/hat tip to Precious Roy]


Announcement - Valve
The Steam Holiday Sale continues today with huge savings throughout the store!

Today's Daily Deals Include:

Don't forget to check back each day, now through Sunday, January 1, 2012 for more great deals!

Product Update - Valve
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:
  • Fixed a Spy-cicle exploit
  • Fixed the Manmelter idle effects showing on other flareguns
TF2 Blog
An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Fixed a Spy-cicle exploit
  • Fixed the Manmelter idle effects showing on other flareguns
...

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