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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 update introduces a new mode through beta maps">Team Fortress 2

Valve took a three day run-up to its Love and War update, with daily teasers for what, in reality, amounted to some new taunts and weapons. You'd think, then, that the introduction of a new game mode would warrant something spectacular. Instead perhaps fittingly for a game made by the company responsible for Steam it's being launched into Early Access. Yesterday's TF2 update added two new "beta maps" to the game. They're rough, unbalanced, and, in some cases, untextured, but one of them is our first taste of the new Robot Destruction game type.

In Robot Destruction, teams are tasked with taking down the robots that patrol the other team's base. These aren't the deadly bots of Mann vs. Machine mode, but rather rotund, defenceless machines that attempt to flee your aggression. Once killed, they drop points, which can be collected to increase your team's total. In addition, each team has battery, which can also be captured to steal some of the enemy's collected points.

The new mode takes place on a map called Asteroid. As the name suggests, it's set in space. At least it probably is there's no skybox at the moment. Valve previously revealed concept art for a moon base map, suggesting that the Mercs might soon be leaving the precious gravel of their own planet. Also in this update is a new Payload map: Cactus Canyon.

The new maps can be found by selecting the 'Play Beta Maps' checkbox from the 'Multiplayer' menu. Alternatively, you can find them in the server browser. Valve say you can expect plenty of iteration as the maps are tested anything from moving a medpack, to rebuilding entire sections.

For more details, head over to the TF2 blog.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 mod NeoTokyo released as standalone package on Steam">NeoTokyo

Competitive first-person shooters love to depict the gritty 'realism' of soldiers locked in an endless war of explosions and swearing. NeoTokyo isn't entirely different, but supplements its urgent shooting with cyberpunk and a nice soundtrack. After being successfully Greenlit in 2012, the Half-Life 2 mod is finally available to download directly from Steam now entirely free from its SDK dependencies.

If you've not played the mod, it's similar in style to Counter-Strike albeit a class-based Counter-Strike that's been clearly inspired by Ghost in the Shell. As the title elegantly suggests, it's set in future Tokyo, where a war is raging between the NSF and JINRAI. There are two modes to play Team Deathmatch and Capture the Ghost. The 'Ghost' in question is the top half of a robot lady. It is cyberpunk as all heck.

You can now grab the game for free directly from Steam, and, if you'd like to know what you're getting yourself into, can read up on NeoTokyo's peculiarities here.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 review November 2004, UK edition">half life 2 3

Every week, we publish a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s. This week, Ben Griffin provides context and commentary followed by the full, original text of our Half-Life 2 review, published in the November 2004 issue of PC Gamer UK. More classic reviews here.

What more can be said about Half-Life 2? Jim Rossignol's words below still do a fine job of summing up just why the world got worked up over a singleplayer shooter. November 2004 was a standout month for PC gaming, and indeed PC Gamer: a 96% for Valve's opus, 95% for Rome: Total War to a 95%, an 89% FIFA 2005, and Shade: Wrath of Angels with a, er, 59%.

But the game we called 'messianic' was all that mattered that month, and indeed, that year. Not only did it kick off Valve's (eventually) world-conquering Steam service, but it courted criminals too. After FBI involvement and a concerted effort from Valve's community, the stolen Half-Life 2 code was returned several anxious months later, but not after a making dear old Gabe sweat through a heavily delayed development schedule. Could this be the official birth of Valve time?

And Half-Life 2 still matters. Just shy of a decade on, memories linger in the collective conscious. The gravity gun. The hoverboat. Striders. Dog. Ravenholm, to which we definitely do not go. The game left an indelible mark on its landscape, and not only in terms of those iconic moments. Underneath it all, the Source engine gave modders and developers a good platform on which to base their game. It's still being used today albeit in a heavily modified form in Respawn's multiplayer shooter, Titanfall.

So there it is, one of the greatest PC games in history. Here's our original review in full.

Half-Life 2 review

It was all in that moment when I just sat back and laughed. I couldn t believe it was quite this good. I chuckled in muddled disbelief, expectations utterly defied. My nervous fingers reloaded the level, knowing that I had to see that breathtaking sequence one more time. It was then that I knew for certain: Valve had surpassed not only themselves, but everyone else too. Half-Life 2 is an astounding accomplishment. It is the definitive statement of the last five years of first-person shooters. Everything else was just a stopgap.

Half-Life 2 is a near perfect sequel. It takes almost everything that worked from Half-Life and either improves on it, or keeps it much the same. But that simple summation undersells how the Valve team have approached this task. Half-Life 2 is a linear shooter with most of the refinements one would expect from years of work, but it is also a game of a higher order of magnitude than any of the previous pretenders to the throne. The polish and the stratospheric height of the production values mean that Half-Life 2 is a magnificent, dramatic experience that has few peers.

It would be madness for me to spoil this game by talking about the specific turn of events, so spoilers are going to be kept to a minimum. We re going to talk about general processes and the elements of style and design that make Half-Life 2 such an energising experience. Key to this is the way in which Gordon s tale is told. Once again we never leave his perspective. There are no cutscenes, no moment in which you are anything but utterly embedded in Gordon s view of the world. Everything is told through his eyes. And what a story it is. Gordon arrives at the central station at City 17 a disruptive and chilling dystopia. And from there? Well, that would be telling. This is not the contemporary America that Gordon seemed to be living in during the original Half-Life. The events of Black Mesa have affected the whole world. The crossover with Xen has meant that things have altered radically, with hyper-technology existing alongside eastern bloc dereliction.

The world is infested with head-crab zombies and the aliens that were once your enemies now co exist amongst the oppressed masses. This very European city is populated by frightened and desperate American immigrants, and sits under the shadow of a vast, brutalist skyscraper that is consuming the urban sprawl with crawling walls of blue steel. It s a powerful fiction. City 17 is one of the most inventive and evocative game worlds we ve ever seen. The autocratic and vicious behaviour of the masked Overwatch soldiers immediately places you in a high-pressure environment. People look at you with desperate eyes, just waiting for the end to their pain, an end to the power of the mysterious Combine. Who are they? Why are you here? Who are the masterminds behind this tyranny? The questions pile up alongside the bodies.

Half-Life 2 isn t big on exposition, but the clues are there. You re thrust into this frightening near-future reality and just have to deal with it. Your allies are numerous, but they have their own problems. Your only way forward is to help them. And so you do, battling your way along in this relentless, compelling current of violence and action, gradually building up a picture of what has happened since Black Mesa. The Combine, the military government that controls the city in a boot-stamping-face kind of way, are a clear threat, but quite how they came to be and what their purposes are become aching problems. Once again Gordon remains silent, listening to what he is told so that you can find those answers for yourself.

But even with Gordon s vaguely sinister silence (something that is transformed into a subtle joke by the game s characters) there are reams of dialogue in Half-Life 2. It is spoken by bewilderingly talented actors and animated with almost magical precision. Alyx, Eli, Barney and Dr Kleiner are delightful to behold, but they only tell part of the story. There are dozens of other characters, each with their own role to play. And each one is a wondrous creature. They might be blemished, even scarred, with baggy eyes and greasy hair, but you can t tear your eyes away. People, aliens and even crows, have never seemed quite so convincing in a videogame. Doom 3 s lavish monsters are more impressive, but Half-Life 2 s denizens are imbued with life. More importantly, they offer respite. Half-Life 2 s world is a high-bandwidth assault on the senses that seldom lets up. That moment when you see a friendly face is a palpable relief. A moment of safe harbour in a world of ultraviolence. As Gordon travels he is aided by the citizens of City 17 and the underground organisation that aims to fight the oppressors. Their hidden bases are, like the characters who inhabit them, hugely varied an abandoned farm, a lighthouse, a canyon scrapyard and an underground laboratory each superbly realised.

It is this all-encompassing commitment to flawless design that makes Half-Life 2 so appealing. Even without the cascade of inventiveness that makes up the action side of events, the environments become a breathtaking visual menagerie. Cracked slabs and peeling paint, future-graffiti and mossy slate, tufts of wild grass and flaking barrels, shattered concrete and impenetrable tungsten surfaces City 17 and its surrounding landscape make you want to keep exploring, just to see what might be past the next decaying generator or mangled corpse. Whether you find yourself in open, temperate coastline or mired in terrifying technological hellholes, Half-Life 2 presents a perfect face. The first time you see ribbed glass blurring the ominous shape of a soldier on the other side, or any time that you happen to be moving through water, you will see next-generation visuals implemented in a casual, capable manner. Half-Life 2 doesn t have Doom 3 s groundbreaking lighting effects, but objects and characters still have their own real-time shadows and the level design creates a play of light and dark that diminishes anything we ve seen in other games. The very idea that people have actually created this world by hand seems impossible, ludicrous. The detritus in the back of a van, the rubbish that lies in a stairwell it all seems too natural to have come about artificially. Add to this the split-second perfection of the illustrative music, as well as the luscious general soundscape, and you have genuinely mind-boggling beauty.

But these virtual environments are little more than a stage on which the action will play out. And what jaw-dropping, mind-slamming action that is. What s tough to convey in words, or even screenshots, is just how much impact the events of combat confer. This is a joyous, kinetic, action game. The concussive sound effects, combined with the physical solidity of weapons, objects, enemies and environment, make this a shocking experience. Each encounter is lit up with abrupt and impressively brutal effects. Explosions spray shrapnel and sparks, bullets whack and slam with devastating energy. The exploding barrel has never been such a delight. You think that you ve seen exploding barrels before, but no: these impromptu bombs, like everything else in the game, are transformed by the implementation of revelatory object physics. Unlike previous games, the object physics in Half-Life 2 are no longer a visual gimmick they are integral to the action and, indeed, the very plot.

Gordon can pick up anything that isn t bolted down and place, drop or hurl it anywhere you choose. Initially this consists of little more than shifting boxes so that you can climb out of a window, but gradually tasks increase in complexity. Puzzles, ever intuitive, are well signposted and entertaining. If they re tougher than before they re still just another rung up on what you ve already learned. This is immaculate game design. There are a couple of moments in these twenty hours where something isn t perfect in its pace or placing, but these are minor, only memorable in stark contrast to the consistent brilliance of surrounding events. There is always something happening, something new. You find yourself plunging into it with relish. Just throwing things about is immediately appealing. You find yourself restraining the impulse to just pick up and hurl anything you encounter. (Free at last, I can interact!) Black Mesa veteran Dr Kleiner is remarkably relaxed about you trashing half his lab, just to see what can be grabbed or broken. Combine police take less kindly to having tin cans lobbed at their shiny gasmasks.

But the core process of this new physics, the key to the success of the game, is to be found in the Gravity Gun. Once you ve experienced vehicular action and got to grips with combat, Half-Life 2 introduces a new concept the idea of violently manipulating objects with this essential tool. The gun has two modes, one drags things toward you and can be used to hold, carry or drop them. The other projects them away and can either be used to smash and punch or, if you re already holding something, hurl it with tremendous force. A filing cabinet becomes a flying battering ram, dragged towards you and then fired into enemies, only to be dragged back and launched again to hammer your foe repeatedly, or until the cabinet is smashed into metal shards. Pick these up and you can blast them through the soft flesh of your enemies.

Killing the badguys with nearby furniture becomes habitual, instinctive. Or perhaps you need cover from a sniper picking up a crate will give you a makeshift shield with which to absorb some incoming fire. Likewise, you immediately find yourself using the gravity gun to clear a path through debris-blocked passages, or to pick up ammo and health packs, or to grab and hurl exploding barrels at encroaching zombies, setting them ablaze and screaming. You can even use it to grab hovering Combine attack-drones and batter them into tiny fragments on concrete surfaces. Soon the gravity gun is proving useful in solving puzzles, or knocking your up-turned buggy back onto its wheels. Yes, a buggy. I ll come back to that. The gravity gun isn t just another a weapon, it s the soul of Half-Life 2. Do you try to bodge the jump over that toxic sludge, or take the time to use the level s physics objects to build an elaborate bridge? Do you waste ammo on these monsters or pull that disc-saw out of where it s embedded in the wall? Of course, you always know what to do. When there s a saw floating in front of your gravity gun and two zombies shamble round the corner, one behind the other, well, you laugh at the horrible brilliance of it. Yeah, I think that was the moment that I sat back and laughed. It s just too much.

Sometime after these experiments in viscera comes Gordon s glorious road trip. Simplicity incarnate, the little buggy is practically indestructible, but also an essential tool for making a journey that Gordon can t make on foot. Dark tunnels, treacherous beaches and bright, trap-littered clifftops become the new battleground. Like the rest of the game there are oddities and surprises thrown in all the way through. The bridge section of this journey would make up an entire level in lesser shooters. And yet here it is, just another part of the seamless tapestry of tasks that Gordon performs. Also illustrative of the game as a whole is the way in which the coast is strewn with non-essential asides. OK, so you re zooming from setpiece to setpiece, but do you also want to explore every nook and cranny, every little shack that lies crumbling by the roadside? Of course you do. This is a game where every hidden cellar or obscure air-duct should be investigated; you never know what you might find.

Investigating means using the torch that, oddly, is linked to a minor criticism of the game. Both sprinting and flashlight use are linked to a recharging energy bank. It s clear why this restriction was imposed, but it s nevertheless a little peculiar. The quality of the game meant that I was searching, rather desperately, for similar complaints. Smugly I assumed that my allies in a battle were non-human because that way Valve dodged the lack of realism and other problems created by fighting alongside human allies. Of course my lack of faith was exposed a few levels later, when I found myself in the midst of the war-torn city fighting alongside numerous human allies who patched me up, shouted at me to reload, apologised when they got in the way and fought valiantly against a vastly superior force. What a battle that was. I want to go back, right now. The striders, so impressive to behold, are the most fearsome of foes. Fighting both these behemoths and a constant flow of Combine troops creates what is without a doubt the most intense and exhilarating conflict ever undertaken in a videogame. The laser-pointer rocket launcher is back and even more satisfying than ever before. Rocket-crates give you a seemingly infinite resupply to battle these monsters but it s never straightforward. Striders will seek you out, forcing you under cover, while the whale-like flying gunships will shoot down your rockets, inducing you to resort to imaginative manoeuvring to perform that killing blow. Even dying becomes a pleasure you want to see these beasts smash through walls and butcher the rebels, again and again. Oh Christ, what will happen next?

I could talk about how those battles with the striders almost made me cry, or about the events that Alyx guides you through so cleverly, so elegantly. I could talk about the twitchy fear instilled by your journey through an abandoned town, or the way that the skirmishes with Overwatch soldiers echoes the battles against the marines in the original Half-Life. I want to rant and exult over this and that detail or event, this reference or that joke. I want to bemoan the fact that it had to end at all (no matter the excellence of that ending). And I m distraught that we ll have to wait so long for an expansion pack or sequel. I even had this whole paragraph about how CS Source will be joined by an army of user-fashioned mods as the multiplayer offering for this definitively singleplayer game. But we re running out of space, out of time. There s so much here to talk about, but in truth I don t want to talk, I just want to get back to it: more, more, more... You have to experience it for yourself. This is the one unmissable game. It s time to get that cutting-edge PC system. Sell your grandmother, remortgage the cat, do whatever you have to do. Just don t miss out. By Jim Rossignol.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: The Citizen Returns, for Half-Life 2, Episode 2">crheader

The Citizen Returns, a mod for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, is a sequel to a 2008 mod called The Citizen. They're both about, as you may have guessed, a citizen. He's trying to escape City 17 at the same time Gordon Freeman is fighting the Combine elsewhere, and he's teaming up with rebel forces along the way. In addition to urban combat with enemy soldiers, zombies, and gunships, there's a fun rescue mission in which you can choose the style of your attack, either at long range as a sniper, up-close in disguise, or just plain loud, with explosives. It's like a little taste of GTA V's heists crept into the Half-Life universe.

I'm no doctor but I think I know how to save that patient.

The mod begins with a couple of rebels scraping you off the ground and getting you patched up after, apparently, you were hit by a train. After a lengthy (slightly too lengthy?) intro, the action kicks off with the Combine assaulting the rebel base, forcing you to fight your way through the city to freedom. In the midst of this you meet a recurring character named Larry. More on him in a bit. The mod does a nice job of balancing solo roaming with group combat among the ranks of the rebels, and even throws in a few bits of puzzle solving and interactions with helpful characters.

This gadget-building guy gives his creation a thumbs-up, as do I.

In the mod, you're not Gordon Freeman, you're just some dude, which means no gravity gun. I did miss it a bit, especially when a bunch of rollermines came tumbling my way. It also means that while you often are fighting side-by-side with other rebels, they're not just waiting around for you to give them orders. They do their thing, you do yours. It works out, though, and at least they're not crowding around you, blocking doorways and suggesting you reload every time you expend a bullet. Sometimes it's nice just being a face in the crowd.

It was the casual stroll of this zombie dude that totally freaked me out.

There are some new environments to explore, like a large casino which appears (based on a radio recording) to have been the site of some human experimentation, along the lines of Dr. Suchong from Bioshock. The result is a briefly appearing new zombie monster, who honestly isn't that scary or hard to fight, but which scared the bejeebs out of me with the way it just casually strolled through the casino to start punching me. There are a couple of other effective surprises and scares in the mod as well.

I'm disguised as a Combine. Can you guess which type?

The centerpiece of the mod is toward the end, when the rebels are planning a rescue mission to free their leader (Larry) after he's been captured from the Combine. It's interesting in that there are a few different ways to go about it, and after the rebels can't choose between using explosives, subterfuge, or snipers, you get to decide for them and spearhead the mission. I went with undercover work, disguising myself as an Elite and walking freely through a crowd of Combine to kick off the mission.

How to entertain yourself during an overlong briefing.

The voice acting in this mod runs the gamut in a way rarely seen. Some mods have great voice acting, some have passable voice-work, and some are just plain terrible. The Citizen Returns has all three, sometimes all in the same conversation, and includes a ton of different accents, levels of enthusiasm, and even sound quality. At least one voice sounds like it was recorded over a scratchy telephone line. None of this bothered me, as I'm actually quite charmed by non-professional voice-work in mods, it's just unusual to see so many different levels of performance all in the same mod.

That's Larry on the TV. I would watch a show with Larry.

Then, there's the voice of Larry, which is and this is not an exaggeration the least enthusiastic performance ever recorded in human history. I'm honestly not even sure how to describe it. It's more than robotic, more than monotone, more than bored. It's simply the most lifeless and least-interested recitation of dialogue I've ever heard. It's amazing, and as the mod went on I grew to love Larry more and more. I just sat around waiting for him to say something, and he says a lot of things, and all the things he says are incredible. I actually grew a little disappointed near the end of the mod, when a tiny bit of inflection and life began to creep into his voice.

I made a little highlight reel of Larry's finest moments:

The mod takes, I'd say, just under two hours to play, and it's well worth it if you're looking for some new Half-Life 2 action with a handful off oddball characters and, like I said, some really perplexing, yet not unenjoyable voice acting.

Installation: You can download the mod file here. To install, drop it in your Sourcemods folder in your main Steam directory. The mod will be added to your Steam library and can be launched from there.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to How the internet tried to rig the Steam Summer Adventure, and how Valve is trying to stop them">yesterday

A few days ago, members of the Steam community schemed to rig the Steam Summer Adventure competition, a metagame running in parallel with Valve s 12-day Summer Sale. Surprisingly, it wasn t the sort of malicious plan you might expect, but a kind of cease-fire alliance meant to bring equal victory to everyone on Steam. As intended, Team Pink won Sunday. Blue won Monday. Purple will win next, if things go smoothly. On Wednesday, a Red victory is scheduled, then Green.

Is a small collective actually having this big of an influence on a Steam-wide, public competition? Valve has already amended the contest to encourage more competition. I took a look at the evidence and spoke to a few of the people caught up in the dark business of virtual trading card market-manipulation.

How Valve makes money from the metagame

First, a run-down of how the Steam Summer Adventure works if you ve been blissfully unaware over the past week, buying and playing discounted PC games rather than being concerned with your gamified game client. Most of Steam s seasonal sales have included a unique trading card set. Craft a full set of these seasonal cards, and you get something like a unique wallpaper or Steam chat emoticon or in-game reward for a few participating games. The 2014 Steam Summer Sale has its own special set of cards you can badge-ify, but with a twist: participating Steam users are randomly assigned to one of five teams during the sale: Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, or Green. Crafting a badge earns points for your team, and 30 members of the winning team get three free Steam games off their wishlists. Oh, and a few extra cards that they can use to keep crafting.

In review: buying games earns virtual cards which can be crafted into virtual badges which increase the rate at which you earn booster packs which contain cards which you can use to upgrade your badges. It s a circular system designed to keep you inside the Steam client, either nickel and diming you to complete your incomplete set of cards or by selling the cards you ve been given to encourage you to spend that money on a game.

A competition to see who can craft the most badges, of course, makes money directly for Valve and developers by creating more activity on the Steam Market. Valve takes a 5% cut of all transactions, and the developer of the corresponding game takes 10% (a minimum of $0.01 in both cases).

If I sold one of my Steam Summer Adventure cards for its current value, $0.25, Valve would take three pennies and I d get $0.22. The Steam Market tells me that 91,650 copies of that card have been sold in the past 24 hours, meaning Valve s profit of a single Summer Adventure card in a single day could be about $2,800. There are 10 of these cards, and another 10 foil variants, which run about $2 each.

The community s plan

Bottom line: we celebrate Steam s price cuts, but in the middle of the Summer Sale Valve has integrated a system that stimulates the Steam economy and nets them thousands of dollars a day from virtual, non-existent goods. Many cards and booster packs have risen in price throughout the sale; Dota 2 booster packs, for example, went from trading consistently at about $0.25 for the past month to hovering near $0.40 over the past six days.

The more trading volume and competition, the more the house wins. But a segment of the Steam community is wise to this. They know that a 12-day period when a five-dollar bill can get you our favorite PC game of all time isn t the best time to be engaged in what s essentially a spending war. So to discourage, or at least mitigate, frivolous trading card spending, some Redditors and Steam forum members have organized a coalition to take competition out of the equation. They ve called themselves Team White, and they ve proposed that each Steam team should win twice, on designated days, through June 28.

I spoke to one of the initial organizers behind the plan, Reddit user DayZ_slayer. It's not really a fun competition when the only real way to win is to spend a lot of cash, the European 20-year-old told me. If they did some kind of event that involved playing games it would be a lot more fun to compete, but they didn't, so I figured we all may as well work as a group and give everyone a fair chance at winning some games.

This seemed to arise naturally, according to DayZ_slayer: many of the teams who had organized individually were planning to compete harder on specific days, he told me, so suggesting that the colored teams take turns simply formalized that process. I checked the Steam groups/subreddits for the teams and saw which days they were planning on winning, the first five days or so didn't really clash. I made the list showing who should craft on what day and then posted it on all of the team's subreddits under the name Operation EWT. A little later I made the thread on /r/gaming and some other guy posted it to /r/steam.

I also spoke to Phil Lendon, a 16-year-old living in England who s bought into the concept of Team White. I first noticed the schedule on Reddit on /r/SteamTeamRed which then spread to /r/Steam and I thought it was a really good idea because here on Team Red we're all about teamwork and communication. When I asked Lendon how much he s spent toward the contest, he told me that he s traded hundreds of pounds to support Red on Wednesday. Too much that it's unhealthy, he says.

Valve's response

Up until today, the plan had gone smoothly. Each team won on its designated day. But today the plan is showing signs of falling apart. Valve, apparently unhappy with the lack of competition between teams, changed the contest to award second- and third-place prizes to the runners-up each day. Purple may still come away with first place, but at the outset of today it s already a tight race between the colors. The game has changed, a post on the Purple team subreddit reads. We need to let purple win but go for second, a member of team Red comments. "What the heck guys? It's purple's day!" a Pink thread exclaims. Lendon, the Red team member I spoke to, wrote back to me this morning after he noticed Valve's change to the competition. "It's turned into a free-for-all, once I had heard of the news I knew it was going to go to hell. However, I believe, as many other Redditors do too, that the new rules for the competition were to prevent the rigging of the competition, as we saw yesterday when Pink one with over a million points above everyone else, Valve had to take action. However, I personally don't believe the changes to the rules are even worth it, as people's chances are even more reduces to win, as-if it wasn't hard enough already to get a winning three games, it'll be even harder for the 2nd place and 3rd place and not even worth the effort."

It s unclear whether this change will encourage competition enough to disrupt Reddit s plan. On the surface, it seemed wild to me that a small percentage of people could be driving the massive point swings we saw in the initial four days. After all, there s only a few hundred people each in these colored Steam groups, and just 140,000 on the Steam subreddit, most of whom probably aren t aggressively participating.

But the Steam Market tells us that just a small number of tokens that steal 1,000 points from another team the most valuable item for influencing the Adventure competition are trading hands. In the past 24 hours, just 88 have been bought off the Steam Market at between $8 and $5 each, and about the same amount of 500-point tokens were sold in that period. Even if a single team were buying those tokens, it isn t that much of a swing relative to the 1.2 million that the Blue team earned yesterday.

More likely, the organized non-competition pact by Reddit and the color-specific Steam communities created single, dominant leader, which not only discouraged the other big spenders who are engaged in this competition but probably discouraged some amount of casual crafters from chipping in too.

With the adjustment made by Valve, today will be an interesting test of the internet s ability to dictate the outcome. Purple, who s meant to win today, has a modest lead as I m publishing this, but we ll have to see if the Steam Trading Card Illuminati s grand plan survives through the week.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The week’s highs and lows in PC gaming">Low_Steam

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team reactivate their opinion circuits to bring you their best and worst moments from the week of digital entertainment. We ll start with the good news


Phil Savage

At the start of the week, Valve updated the TF2 site with a countdown clock. It was enough to reignite my interest in the game, and fill its fans with a joyous sense of silliness and light-hearted conspiracy. There's an incredible circus that emerges around Valve's updates they're events, because they're filled with the possibility that anything could happen. This time, the rumour was bread, and that meant a week of wheat-based humour that culminated in an epic, funny and surprising short film. It also resulted in an actual TF2 update, but we'll get to that on the next page...

Ben Griffin

Mr. Tom Senior introduced me to a handy website this week. It s called Logical Increments and it s amazing. This massively helpful resource is meant for those brave souls about to embark on custom PC construction, compiling all the parts they ll ever need (motherboard, CPU, etc.) and ranking them in terms of price and power.

It was only late 2012 I splashed a few grand on the PC of my dreams. I went for the best of everything: 120hz monitor, Cyborg R.A.T. 7 mouse, dual GTX 680s, 16GB RAM, Astro A40 headset. According to Logical Increments, however, my PC is merely exceptional . That s only one step above outstanding ! Still, despite pouring my life savings into slightly more frames in Battlefield 3 (I wish that were a joke), I don t regret a thing. Now excuse me while I weep into my cold soup.

Samuel Roberts:

The Steam Summer Sale is here! And we re all in big trouble. I ve set aside about 50/$80 for what feels like one of the most significant events in our calendar now, and I m not sure exactly what I m expecting out of it. I m hoping to pick up Saints Row IV, Rust and maybe Wolfenstein at a reasonable price not to mention a dozen more games that are likely to sit on my hard-drive unplayed for the next three years. It s raw capitalism, baby. It s not what people need it s what people want!

Cory Banks:

The Steam Sale is a great way to pick up some old classics you may not have played before, and the one I'd recommend just came back to Valve's service: Fallout. The early games in the series were absent from the service for six months, as Bethesda and Interplay argued over rights issues in court. That's all over, thanks to a $2 billion settlement, and now Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel are all back on Steam (and GOG, too). Even better: as I write this, you can buy all three games on Steam for $13.

Andy Kelly:

Thank you, Valve, for adding buy orders to Steam. As someone who regularly sells trading cards, this will make all those tiny amounts of internet coins trickle into my imaginary wallet a lot faster. I made 5.60 this week by selling cards, enough to buy brilliant adventure game The Last Express. Free game! Sort of. Buy orders means Steam players can set up a standing order for a particular card or hat, and they ll buy it as soon as it s listed. This means I don t have to put something on the market and wait patiently for one of these mysterious people who buy Steam cards to stumble upon my listing.

Wes Fenlon:

I've spent a good chunk of this week thinking about Pillars of Eternity. Sam and I both had a chance to see a demo of the game at E3, which I wrote a preview of here. The demo was short and sweet and left me wanting to know much more about the game than it told me. I have no idea how long its quest will be, or how its writing and story will measure up to its forbears. But I could tell that the engine Obsidian has built looks fantastic, a modern take on classic isometric 2D, and I've been imagining what that could mean for the next five years of RPGs. The upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera is also using Obsidian's technology. Could we see a new gorgeous isometric RPG build on what Obsidian has started year after year?


Andy Kelly:

This is the first ever Steam sale I haven t been excited by. Not that there aren t some brilliant deals Far Cry 3 for less than the price of a pint of premium lager was pretty good but because I just have too many games already. Years of Steam sales and Humble Bundles have left my games library bloated and overfed. By a rough count, I have almost 200 games I ve either never played, or played for five minutes. And good games, too. Ones that deserve my attention. So I m not taking part in the Steam sale this year. Even if there s a really, really good deal, I m ignoring it. Because my library is getting out of control, and my pile of shame is more like a tower of shame. A ziggurat of shame. A temple of shame. But it s also quite nice not to have to feel that sting of guilt after spending spurious pounds on a game I probably won t get around to playing for a year. My wallet is safe this summer.

Cory Banks:

During E3, BioWare producer Cameron Lee told us that Dragon Age: Inquisition would have "40 major endings." It might have been an overstatement to say "major," though. This week, BioWare's Mark Darrah clarified that "major" doesn't mean "unique," and that the game will only have a few completely different endings. It's not a huge deal by any means, but I do think it's important for BioWare to not lead people astray on this point. Mass Effect fans are still (still!) angry about the cookie-cutter endings for their Shepards, and Inquisition is a nice opportunity for BioWare to make some amends. If I'm controlling a character and making choices, I want those choices to matter. It sounds like they still will, but overstate things.

Phil Savage:

I love TF2. I've played it for 300+ hours since Steam started tracking that sort of thing, and an unknowable period before then. It is, in no conceivable way, a 'low'. But when this week's Love & War update was released, I was filled with a sense of is this it? Yes, the new weapons are interesting, and yes, the new taunts have resulted in constant mid-battle conga lines these are both good things. But I remember these updates were deserving of the effort the community put into celebrating them. New modes created new considerations for each class, new maps directed battles in unexpected ways, and new weapons had a clear purpose and class-focused theme. It s starting to seem as if Valve are better at the things around each update the comics and films than at knowing what to put in their game.

Samuel Roberts:

The amount of drama over the Watch Dogs E3 2012 rendering options locked away was kind of baffling a load of people decided Ubisoft didn t include it in the finished product to spite PC players, but unlocking it, according to Ubisoft, creates a load of performance issues that puts the game into a less playable state. Watch Dogs undoubtedly shipped with its fair share of issues on PC uPlay being my biggest bugbear but I m not convinced this instance warranted quite as many tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.

Wes Fenlon:

This is a bit off the beaten path, but I was sad to see a headline this week that Phantasy Star Online 2 has been brought down by a DDOS attack. The entire MMO is currently down, and it could be days before Sega is able to get it online again. That sucks for dedicated players, but it also reminds me that PSO2 has been conspicuously absent in the west for a good two years now. Sega said they were going to bring it over, and then...nothing. It's been more than a year since PSO2 was scheduled for a US release. What happened, Sega? Is an official western release ever happening?
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Forget Battlefield: Hardline, everyone should play Team Fortress 2 instead">Team Fortress 2 1

Sorry, Battlefield: Hardline, it's nothing personal. Your cops and robbers CTF battles have the subtlety of a playground pile-on, but I've managed to extract a few moments of fun from the chaos. I like the violent, bass fart of your P-90, as I did in Battlefield 4, and Battlefield 3. And I like the way you use the Frostbite engine to fill the air with floaty bits of burning chaff even though I have no idea where it all comes from. The problem is the competition. There's just so much more laughter and joy to be had in a seven year old free game called Team Fortress 2.

In Team Fortress 2, you can play a man with a bow who throws jars of urine at people, and yet I care more about what happens at the end of a round than I do in a game of CoD, Battlefield 4, or Battlefield: Hardline. Perhaps I've been overexposed to the grey modern military aesthetic. Let's face it, Battlefield: Hardline, even though you have sweet uniforms and cop cars that go "wee-woo", I'm still playing a floating pair of arms holding the same weapons I've held in dozens of games in the last five years, opportunistically grabbing points to serve my personal leveling curve.

Team Fortress 2 lets me play as a giant Russian who punches men to death with mutant bread. That makes me laugh, but it's not why I care about Team Fortress 2. If you stripped away that timeless, characterful art and dissolved those levels back into their virgin white-boxed state, I'd still have fun. It's true, Battlefield: Hardline, the Source engine can't do wide open squares or collapsing cranes. I won't see a pale sun mirrored in the glass of a skyscraper in a TF2 map, but I will swear out loud as our team throws itself at the cart in Gold Rush, desperately trying to take that final 90 degree left turn.

I could write all day about that point in Gold Rush, but first Let's talk about snipers, Battlefield: Hardline. They're bastards. I rarely see them before it's too late. They're often perched on the edge of a skyscraper miles above the fight, untouchable. I hurl myself across open spaces and hope for the best. In Gold Rush, they're on a raised balcony some ten, twelve metres away. Even playing as TF2's slow, easily sniped Heavy class, I have the option to wait for a medic to buff me to invulnerability. If I want revenge I can become a Spy, and when that happens the map becomes a different place. Suddenly I'm looking for stealthy routes through the fight, and taking carefully designed flanking routes to get behind those snipers for an instant kill.

The design of Team Fortress 2's maps, and the careful restrictions on each class, pulls competing mobs into tactical arrangements that are easily understood and fun to fight. At close range spies and Pyros fight a private war for supremacy. At mid range Soldiers toss splash damage into condensed zones of conflict, charging forward when an invulnerable Heavy-Medic team rush past. You don't fight for the "100XP" pop-out that accompanies a kill in many shooters, you fight for territory at a range that makes the fight feel personal. Team Fortress 2 battles look insane, but they're beautifully designed.

Don't be sad, Battlefield: Hardline, I still like the bit when you're on the back of a bike driven by a convict loaded with a moulting sack of cash. You can't do that in TF2, it's true. You may well argue that comparing Battlefield and Team Fortress 2 is silly, but once you've peeled back the facade, you're both class-based team shooters in different robes. And consider the fact that players only have so much free time to spend in a game. You will probably be sixty dollars on launch, and looking at Battlefields 3 and 4 there may well be a bunch of post-launch DLC that'll gradually fragment the community until the next Battlefield arrives. Team Fortress 2 is free, and just received the latest in a long series of free updates. It doesn't have a leveling curve that often incentivises selfish action over teamwork, it has a random drop system that rewards everyone with a free thing every hour or so.

Finally, think about how the experience of being a Battlefield: Hardline fan might compare to the experience of being a Team Fortress 2 fan. Your double XP weekends will be fun, I'm sure. If you choose to follow Battlefield 3's battlepack route, players can look forward to being tempted into spending more money on item packs. Thanks to its key-and-crate system, Team Fortress 2 is also guilty of this, but be careful that you don't turn every interaction with your service into raw advertising for the next expansion, the next battlepack deal, the next EA shooter.

There's a vast gulf in public perception that puts EA at the 'faceless corporate entity' end of the spectrum, and Valve on the 'can do no wrong' end. Valve teams are masters at talking to their communities, they have a knack for generating memes, and they're extremely funny. It might seem insane to spend so much time making comics and 15-minute movies, but every interaction with that material makes being part of Valve's world worthwhile. You get to join a big, fun club, complete with in-jokes and entertaining asides. That's what makes me care, not just about TF2, but about their entire ecosystem. Boot up Steam and get it downloaded, everyone. I'll see you on the final turn of Gold Rush.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2′s ‘Love and War’ update out now">Image credit: ToastPlusScience, Reddit.

Image credit: The Toastening, by ToastPlusScience.

After kneading the community into a yeasty mush of excitement, Valve have finally pulled their update out of the oven. Love and War is available now, bringing a selection of new taunts and weapons. In addition, they've slightly tweaked their long-standing secret recipe. By which I mean they've seriously altered the balance of the Demoman's Sticky Launcher.

The primary themes of Love and War are, in no particular order, guns, bread and dancing. The new taunts can work across the team divide, and as such, the game is currently filling with impromptu conga breaks.

The new weapons have somehow caused everyone in our office to reinstall the game, despite it already being packed with weapons. Chiefly, I suspect, it's because we want to try out the Soldier's new parachute. Although, I'm just as interested in the Scout's new back-critting shotgun. (I hold the unpopular opinion that Scout is the best stealth class. Other people would say Spy, but he can literally turn invisible. That's cheating.)

But here's a thing: a couple of balance changes will cause dramatic shifts to long-standing loadouts. For one thing, there's the Sticky Launcher with this update, its bombs now have a damage ramp-up. It's a big nerf to air-sticky attacks, as it'll take two seconds from shooting for a bomb to do full damage. It's an attempt to shift the weapon to its original trap-setting purpose. It's just weird that it's taken this long to happen.

Also changed: the Pyro's Axtinguisher. That will now only do mini-crits on burning targets if attacked from the front. It makes me a sad Pyro.

See the full patch notes below.

Love & War Update

Added 5 new weapons, 15 new taunts, and 43 cosmetic items for the Love & War update

Partner Taunts can now be performed with the opposing team

Added a new Taunt Loadout with 8 slots so multiple taunts can be equipped at the same time

Taunts are no longer equipped in the Action Slot

Pressing the Taunt key in game now brings up the new Taunt Selection menu

Pressing the taunt key while the Taunt Selection menu is open performs a weapon taunt, or joins a partner taunt

Mann Co. Store

Added 15 new taunts and a taunt bundle

Added 5 new weapons and a weapon bundle

Added 44 new cosmetics and a cosmetic bundle

Added "Taunt" category into the store

Added Mann Co. Stockpile Crate Key

The "Hats" and "Misc" categories have been merged into "Cosmetics"


Added the Mann Co. Stockpile Crate to the droplist

Each Mann Co. Stockpile Crate can be repeatedly shuffled to contain a set of 4 possible items

Added the Mann Co. Audition Reel. Contains taunts and a rare chance at an unusual taunt

Updated Mann Co. Crates to display which Unusual Series they can potentially output

Added Bread Box Special Crafting Recipe. This recipe will no longer be available after July 9th, 2014. Items from the Bread box have a chance to be strange.

Added crafting recipes for newly added weapons

Added Killstreak Kits to MvM for newly added weapons

Added OzFortress Season 11 tournament medals

Weapon changes and updates

With The Hitman's Heatmaker, pressing reload now activates focus when it is full

The Axtinguisher now does mini-crit damage from the front and full crit damage from behind to burning targets

The Bushwacka can no longer randomly crit

All mini-guns now have damage and accuracy ramp up after they start firing. Full accuracy and damage is reached 1 second after firing.

All Demoman stickybombs now have damage ramp up. Full damage is reached 2 seconds after firing.

Updated Loch-n-Load reload animation

Sentry bullets are now affected by damage falloff outside of sentry scan range

Sentry bullet damage has been changed so it calculates damage based on the sentry's position, not the Engineer's

Misc Changes

Updated the Halloween holiday to automatically be enabled when the server runs an _event map

Added a check to prevent achievement announcement spam

Converted several weapon models to use the c_models system

Updated the localization files

Bug Fixes

Fixed an exploit where charging Demoman could turn more than allowed

Fixed a bug where Halloween spellbooks were overriding PDAs and Disguise Kits

Fixed The Director's Vision taunt not playing both variations for the Pyro

Fixed the Pyro's spell audio not sounding like the rest of the Pyro's audio

Fixed a bug that would sometimes cause items to unequip themselves

Fixed a dedicated server crash related to using 'mp_forcecamera 0' with one player on the server

Fixed a regression with the trigger_gravity entity not correctly applying its settings

Fixed another exploit where Engineer buildings could build up a large amount of health

Fixed a server performance issue related to the item_teamflag entity

Fixed the itemtest command

- Fixed cosmetics shared between multiple classes not rendering correctly

- Updated the cosmetic item list to sort by name

Map Fixes

Updated cp_granary

- Removed collision from lights and small props protruding from walls

- Fixed collision on fences

- Fixed the tire props near Blu's forward spawn so players may no longer jump up to the spawn door platform

- Fixed players shooting through gaps around forward spawn doors

- Fixed door protruding through roof on Red's forward spawn

- Fixed a collision bug that gave players access to the roof above Red's spawn door

- Prevented players from building inside spawn room doors

- Adjusted area portals to improve rendering and performance

Updated koth_harvest_final

- Added metal panel prop to Blu building, which now mirrors the jump up on the Red side

- Small performance increase through prop fade adjustments

- Players can no longer build inside spawn doors

Updated pl_upward

- Fixed physics debris triggering the payload cart s finale explosion

Image credit: The Toastening, by ToastPlusScience.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Team Fortress 2 ‘Love and War’ day two brings new weapons and bread-themed attacks">Team Fortress 2

This week s mysterious Team Fortress 2 Love & War campaign has so far spawned a fifteen minute movie and a handful of new emotes, but Valve has gone further today with the announcement of a huge drop of new weapons and items. Among the lucre is a new level 1 Scattergun called The Back Scatter, a level 1 Shield dubbed The Tide Turner and a new parachute called The B.A.S.E. Jumper which slows your descent when falling.

Most important though, is the arrival of a handful of new bread-themed buffs and attacks, obviously inspired by yesterday s hilarious and, let s face it, very moving Expiration Date short film. The only condition is that these are limited edition items: you ll need to craft the all important Bread Box before it expires on July 9.

Once you ve done this you can use the Bread Box to craft a host of advantages including The Self-Aware Beauty Mark which punishes coated enemies with mini-crits. The Snack Attack is a sapper, while The Bread Bite rewards the player with 30 per cent faster move speed when worn. Watch out though: you ll incur 25 per cent more damage. Finally, the Mutated Milk rewards 60 per cent of the damage done to an enemy covered with milk . Full details are listed on the Team Fortress 2 site.

Here are all the new, non-bread weapon and item details for your pleasure. There's a bunch of new achievements as well. We're expecting two more announcements this week so be sure to check back.

The Back Scatter (Level 1 Scattergun)

Minicrits targets when fired at their back and at close range

-34% clip size

No random critical hits

20% less accurate

The Tide Turner (Level 1 Shield)

25% fire damage resistance on wearer

25% explosive damage resistance on wearer

Full turning control while charging

Kills while charging refill 100% of your charge meter

The B.A.S.E. Jumper (Level 1 Parachute)

Press 'JUMP' key in the air to deploy.

Deployed Parachutes slow your descent.

The Classic (Level 1 Sniper Rifle)

Charge and fire shots independent of zoom

No headshots when not fully charged

-10% damage on body shot

The Air Strike (Level 1 Rocket Launcher)

Increased attack speed while blast jumping

Clip size increased on kill

-25% damage penalty

-25% clip size

-15% explosion radius

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Valve releases 15-minute Team Fortress 2 “Expiration Date” short for Love and War update">lovewarconga

The first day of Team Fortress 2's countdown-teased update was light on game content reveals but heavy on entertainment. A 15-minute short film titled "Expiration Date," embedded above, follows the Scout's courtship of Miss Pauling (a character who's appeared throughout TF2's many comics) alongside the TF2 crew's discovery of the dangerous effects of teleportation on bread.

The first day of the Love & War update did reveal five new emotes, but it looks like Valve is saving any hard details on what all this mutant bread is about until later this week, with more reveals likely coming on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If we had to guess, the monster shown at the end of the video could be a new variation on TF2's existing, co-op "Mann vs. Machine" mode, a new boss encounter in a new environment.

For additional theories, visit the TF2 forum on Steam.

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