Team Fortress 2

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and other Source Engine games were all affected by a particularly nasty exploit until recently. Basically, by uploading custom assets into a custom map, hackers could use them to trigger a "buffer overflow vulnerability" which resulted in the victim PC being open to remote code execution.

In other words, merely shooting at an enemy could cause your machine to be remotely hijacked. The exploit was identified by One Up Security (via Motherboard) who notified Valve. 

"Valve's Source SDK contained a buffer overflow vulnerability which allowed remote code execution on clients and servers," OUP's statement reads. "The vulnerability was exploited by fragging a player, which caused a specially crafted ragdoll model to be loaded. 

Multiple Source games were updated during the month of June 2017 to fix the vulnerability. Titles included CS:GO, TF2, Hl2:DM, Portal 2, and L4D2. We thank Valve for being very responsive and taking care of vulnerabilites swiftly. Valve patched and released updates for their more popular titles within a day."

For a demonstration of how it worked, this very short video tells you all you need to know. Death has never been so scary.

Portal 2

With Valve continuing down its path of never making another game ever again, it’s shed another one of its writers—an increasingly common occurrence. This time it’s Jay Pinkerton, who has been writing for Valve since 2008 and co-wrote Portal 2. 

Pinkerton joined Valve after leaving Cracked.com, where he was an editor. He worked with Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek, co-writing Portal 2. Wolpaw left Valve in February, while Faliszek left in May after working on Valve’s virtual reality projects.

You can also thank Pinkerton for a lot of the ancillary stuff that Valve churns out, like the comics and videos that expand Team Fortress 2. 

So that’s almost all of Valve’s writers gone in a space of less than two years. The real surprise is that it’s taken this long, frankly. There hasn’t been a game for them to write for in a very long time, only the additional stuff that supports older games. 

It’s still a shame, of course. Valve used to be famed for its writing. But on the plus side, there are now considerably more top-notch writers out there actually doing things instead of getting covered in cobwebs inside a broom closet in Valve HQ. 

Cheers, RPS.

PC Gamer

Erik Wolpaw, a long-time Valve writer who has worked on game series including Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, and Portal, revealed today that he is no longer with the company. Marc Laidlaw, himself a former Valve writer, let the news slip on Twitter, while Wolpaw confirmed it in a status update on his Facebook page

Wolpaw joined Valve in 2004, and has credits on Half-Life: Episode One and Two, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and Portal 2. Prior to that, he was with Double-Fine, where he co-wrote the outstanding platform-adventure Psychonauts, and before that he was one-half of the brilliant (and sadly defunct) gaming site Old Man Murray. He's currently involved in the development of Psychonauts 2, which was successfully crowdfunded in early 2016.

A reason for Wolpaw's departure wasn't given, but it does appear to be legitimate this time around. A report that he had left Valve also surfaced last summer, but in that case it turned out that he'd just called in sick for the day. 

I've emailed Valve for more information, and will update if and when I received a reply. 

Update: The report originally stated that writer Jay Pinkterton had also left the company, but apparently not.

PC Gamer

Word of J.J. Abrams-led Portal and Half-Life movies first surfaced three years ago when the esteemed film director and Valve's Gabe Newell floated the idea at the DICE 2013 summit in Las Vegas. In March of this year, Abrams confirmed both films' existence "they're in development", he said however information has been thin on the ground since. When pressed by IGN at Wednesday's Westworld red carpet event, Abrahams confirmed he's meeting with Valve next week.

"We have a meeting coming up next week with Valve, we re very active, I m hoping that there will be a Portal announcement fairly soon," Abrams told IGN. "We are having some really interesting discussions with writers, many of whom...once you said you re doing a movie or show about a specific thing that is a known quantity you start to find people who are rabid about these things."

Which is pretty reassuring, given the fact Newell has spoken before about the poor quality of pitches he's received from Hollywood production companies over the years some of which were "brutally, the worse", as a result of "not understanding what made the game good."

Abrams continued: "As someone who loves playing Half Life and Portal, what s the movie of this, it s incredible when you talk to someone who just gets it, it s like, oh my god, it s really the seed for this incredible tree you re growing.

"I look forward to being able to talk about it and announce who's working on it."

As do I. Now, which Hollywood actors would best suit these roles, I wonder?

PC Gamer

The Valve News Network—obviously, not a Valve-run news network, but rather a thorough YouTube channel dedicated to all things Valve—has released a new video, about Portal. The Unseen History of Portal delves deep into the making of the classic puzzler, presenting a bunch of unseen footage and little-known info in the process.

SEE Portal's origins as student project Narbacular Drop, WITNESS its evolution into a Valve property and into the Source engine, and BEHOLD what came after, i.e. cake. PC Gamer even gets a (very) brief mention—did our site really used to look like that?

PC Gamer

Science has gone too far. One minute you're enjoying a spot of light testing, the next you're trapped in the infinite, unknowable void between dimensions, outside of space and time itself, staring at the side of your own head through a kaleidoscope. It's remarkable no one has tried it before.

YouTuber CrowbCat used the Portal 2 SDK to set up a test chamber in which two portals could be brought face-to-face. In keeping with scientific spirit, he jumped on in. Somehow, the game doesn't crash and the result is fun to pass off as part of the lore of the universe. In one of an infinite number of Portal timelines, Chell is lost in the orange and blue folds of the fabric of reality. What a way to go.

PC Gamer

Joy to the world, the tests are run! The result is a spectacular three-minute Portal carol built in Source Filmmaker by Harry 'Harry101UK' Callaghan. The turrets—including the Animal King, naturally—have come together at this special time of year to spread neurotoxin to the tune of Mykola Leontovych and Peter J. Wilhousky's Carol of the Bells.

Callaghan did the voices and music himself, with turret rigs provided by August 'Rantis' Loolam, which is an exhausting array of talent and an indictment of my own sorry skillset. You can find his YouTube channel here, and the song is available on Bandcamp.

PC Gamer
PC Gamer

Portal Stories: Mel is a massive mod for Portal 2 that will be released on Steam on June 25. Representing four years of work by a dedicated team of modders, it contains five chapters, a custom story and original voice work, lots of new assets, and of course a buttload of new test chambers and levels to explore and solve. In other words, it's entirely new Portal game.

The mod begins with a little Half-Life flavor (a long tram ride) and then a scene reminiscent of Bioshock: a stroll through a town built by Aperture Science to house its employees. It's 1952, when Aperture is still a plucky startup with a bright future, and the facility beneath the town is filled with scientists, though unfortunately they're all out of reach so you can't actually interact with them.

Let it go, Jake. It's just Aperture Town.

Aperture being Aperture, it's not long before something goes horribly wrong. Having been preserved in a cryo-bed, you awaken to find the facility in a shambles. The environments are massive and incredibly well designed with tons of detail, and there are a few professional-looking cinematic sequences. The mod assumes you know what you're doing when it comes to portals: there's no slow build-up to the puzzle-solving as in the Portal games themselves. You get the portal device and are immediately faced with some challenging rooms to solve, and they remain tough for most of the game.

As a Portal player, I'm a bit more fond of the types of puzzles without searing laser fields and acid pits: I like to experiment freely without worrying about dying and having to start over. Many of the puzzles in Mel, however, are of the more fatal type, to be approached carefully and methodically. Gels, cubes, lasers, switches, turrets, and force fields are the main tools and obstacles you'll face in the sprawling and complex levels. Naturally, you'll engage in a showdown with a malignant A.I. near the end of the game.

Using water and portals to fight fires. Fun.

As far as voice-over work goes, one actor provides a pretty good Cave Johnson impersonation, and another voices Virgil, the personality core who accompanies you through the majority of the game. I didn't find the humor particularly effective, and much of Virgil's dialogue feels like overkill as it's based around him encouraging you to find a way out of the facility. You'd be doing that anyway, right? At the very least, it's done with a lot of enthusiasm and an obvious fondness for the Portal series.

This massive mod is completely free if you own Portal 2, and provides around 6-10 hours of gameplay. Portal Stories: Mel will be available on June 25 via Steam.

Portal 2

We've all been there: we want to play some PC games, but we're stuck with a laptop equipped with a paltry old GPU. Or worse: nothing but integrated graphics. That rules out the Witcher 3s and PUBGs of Steam, but thankfully PC gaming has a wealth of amazing games for any and all hardware, no matter how weak.

This is our collection of the best games for laptops and low-spec rigs—games that can give you hours of entertainment without stressing out your system. We've pulled from a variety of genres including adventure, action, strategy, puzzle, and whatever the hell Mount & Blade counts as.

Here are some things you won't find on this list:

— A huge collection of 90s and early 2000s PC games. Obviously Age of Empires and Half-Life will run on any ol' rig today, issues with Windows notwithstanding. To vastly expand on our collection, go check out all the games on GOG released through 2004.

— Tons and tons of 2D platformers and visual novels that will run on any system (though we did pick a few favorites!).

Be sure to check the system requirements first if we've inspired you to reach for your wallet, and to remind of us any great low-spec games we've forgotten about in the comments.

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info. 

Developer: tobyfox

Link: Humble Store

2015's breakout RPG inversion might owe a bit of its widespread success to the fact that a toaster could run it. This isn't to say it's not a looker or fun. For those versed in RPG and popular video game tropes, Undertale is a colorful, charming, upsetting swan ride through your habits and behaviors. Date a skeleton, pet (or kill) some dogs, think way too hard about mice and cheese. Undertale will make you second guess every key press except the 'Buy' button.

Developer: Red Hook Studios

Link: Humble Store

A brilliant, stressful strategy dungeon explorer that channels Lovecraft with brilliant narration and truly terrifying quests. As your party encounters horrors in the dark, the stress piles on, and too much stress causes them to take on new personality quirks that snowball into yet more stress and loss of sanity. This creates a constant tension. What if your plague doctor is the most reliable member of your party, but insults his comrades every few minutes, raising their stress levels? Permadeath is brutal in Darkest Dungeon, but you'll find it hard to quit even when an entire party of heroes gets wiped out.

Developer: Valve

Link: Steam page

We could have included pretty much any Source engine game here, such is the impressive way it scales to lower-spec hardware. (Admittedly, that might be because it's getting on a bit.) While Half-Life 2 shines these days with visual mods and at higher resolutions, Portal 2 remains one of the funniest, smartest puzzle games around, even if you had cause to play it at 800x600 with all the settings turned to 'Low'. You're not playing this one to be wowed by fancy graphical effects—you're playing for Stephen Merchant's, J.K. Simmons', and Ellen McLain's terrific voice acting, and of course for that bit with the potato.

Developer: Terrible Toybox

Link: Humble Store

A throwback point-and-click adventure from Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert. It's full of classic point-and-click puzzles, but is open-ended enough to allow you to wander and find a new path when you get stuck. In our review, we called it "a quality adventure game with challenging puzzles, oddball characters, and an intriguing, mystery-laden plot."

Developers: Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl

Link: Humble Store

The original version of Isaac looks like the kind of game that could run on anything, but it was a weirdly CPU-hungry little game that pushed Flash to its very limits. Re/demake Rebirth is much more comfortable on laptops and netbooks, thanks to its new engine—it doesn't hurt that it also boasts a lovely new visual style, bigger rooms, and a ton of extra content. 2D roguelikelikes like The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth tend to be quite at home on lower-spec machines, so if you have room in your life for more permadeath and procedural generation, be sure to check out the likes of Dungeons of Dredmor, Spelunky, FTL and Rogue Legacy too. And once you're hopelessly addicted, make sure to check out Isaac expansions Afterbirth and Afterbirth+, too.

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Link: Humble Store

We're undergoing a cRPG revival at the moment, which is great news for those of us with cheap computers. While a few games, such as the fully 3D and rather gorgeous Divinity: Original Sin, will need a bit more oomph in the specs department, others stick fairly close to the Infinity Engine blueprint.

Thanks to its pre-rendered backgrounds and relative paucity of flashy visual effects, Pillars of Eternity runs pretty well on modest machines. Its requirements might be a little more insistent than Baldur's Gate's or Planescape: Torment's, but you're getting something that looks and plays great out of the box, without you having to install a bunch of visual and convenience mods first. Read our review for the full lowdown on Obsidian's old-fashioned RPG, and make you check out Harebrained Schemes' equally laptop-friendly Shadowrun: Dragonfall as well.

Developer: Failbetter Games

Link: Humble Store

Another game with lots of lovely text that should run on pretty much anything with a screen. Failbetter Games' follow-up to their browser-based text adventure Fallen London is a more gamey affair that channels the roguelike genre—but that manages to retain its heavy storytelling focus. Explore an underground ocean in a Victorian world that's gone to Hell, then wreck your ship, die and do it all over again.

(Disclaimer: PC Gamer contributor Richard Cobbett worked on Sunless Sea.)

Developer: Mojang

Link: Official site

One of the main questions you see asked online about laptops is “Will it run Minecraft?”, to which the answer, for future reference, is “Yeah probably”. Mojang's infinite block-'em-up isn't terribly demanding specs-wise, and it's the perfect game to mess around with on a laptop when you're supposed to be writing features for PC Gamer about low-spec games. While it's often played on a tablet, phone or console these days, you're getting the latest updates and mod support if you choose to build stuff with your PC. Here's our frequently updated list of the best Minecraft mods.

Developer: ConcernedApe

Link: Humble Store

An indie sensation that brought the idyllic farm life of Harvest Moon to PC. Build your farm into a vegetable empire, go exploring, learn about the lives of your neighbors, fall in love and settle down. Simple graphics ensure this one will run like a dream on your laptop, and it'll make long flights pass by in a snap.

Developer: Firaxis Games

Link: Humble Store

Civ is usually a safe bet when it comes to low-end machines, and you won't need too beefy a PC in order to play the second newest entry in the series. Just don't go blaming us when you forget to sleep, so embroiled are you in your quest to wipe the warmongering Gandhi from the face of the Earth. 4Xs in general tend to be quite kind to laptops, so if you meet the (slightly less modest) requirements, it's worth casting your eye over Amplitude Studios' fantasy-themed Endless Legend, and Triumph's Age of Wonders III as well.

Developer: SEGA

Link: Humble Store

The great thing about the surprise release of a game from 2008 is that it's from 2008, and should therefore run on most computers with a pulse. Valkyria Chronicles is a fine tactical RPG that plays a lot like Firaxis' XCOM reboot, with a beautiful illustrative art style that absolutely shines on PC. It's at the forefront of a new wave of belatedly ported, laptop-friendly JRPGs, including Trails in the Sky and Falcom's hyperactive Ys series.

Developer: Technocrat Games

Link: Humble Store

Wadjet Eye, and their collaborators, continue to bend the creaking Adventure Game Studio to their wills, producing quality modern adventures with system requirements that ask for “Pentium or higher”. If you're reading this on anything other than a cubicle wall, there's a good chance you can run Technocrat Games' Technobabylon on it, a cyberpunk point and click set in the gleaming future. (Here's our review.)

Developer: Klei Entertainment

Link: Humble Store

Klei all but mastered the stealth genre on their first try with Mark of the Ninja, a sidescrolling ninja-'em-up that effortlessly surpasses most 3D sneaking games. You don't need a supercomputer to run it—it plays surprisingly well on older PCs.

Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment

Link: Humble Store

The dictionary, probably, describes TaleWorlds' Mount & Blade as a “roleplaying simulation strategy sandbox”, and it's one that still has an active community several years after its release. Warband is your way in if you've not had the pleasure of piking bandits on horseback (it's the original game, essentially, but with extra stuff). Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord promises to add fancy visuals to the business of conquering settlements, but if you can stomach its basic appearance, Warband and its expansions will keep you battling for many months.

Developer: Infinite Fall

Link: Humble Store

A bittersweet coming of age story about doing crimes, solving mysteries, and struggling to connect in an alienating world. Night in the Woods is light on puzzles—play it for the characters, who are genuinely touching despite sharing the same affected cuteness, and the playful melancholy. Bounce around on power lines, make mistakes with old friends, disappoint your parents, question authority. Its pace is languid at first, but engrossing. Highly recommended for rainy train rides.

Developer: 2x2 Games

Link: Humble Store

Don't let the cutesy units fool you: this is a serious WW2 strategy game set on the Eastern Front. It's also, yes, incredibly cute, boasting an uncommonly attractive interface that sits atop a wargame of great depth. If you've long fancied dipping your toe in the genre, but you've been put off by the nested web of menus that tend to greet you in wargaming, give the unusually approachable Unity a try.

Developer: Dennaton Games

Link: Humble Store

See also: most indie games, particularly the two-dimensional ones. We'll go with Hotline Miami though, firstly because it's great, and because, like most Game Maker titles it should run on anything that can power an email client. One thing you will need, however, is a good pair of headphones or speakers—Hotline Miami has one of the best game soundtracks ever put to MP3.

Developer: Inkle, Cape Guy

Link: Official site

80 Days is a wonderful take on Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, and appropriately you'll be spending most of your time reading. It's a choose-your-own adventure novel with the best writing of any game of 2015, and some light strategy elements help break up the text as you navigate your trailblazing path around the world. A laptop is our favorite way to play—a large enough screen to appreciate the art direction and easily read the text, but still portable enough to play on a plane or curled up on the couch.

Developer: Noumenon Games

Link: Humble Store

Don't let Snakebird's deceptively cute presentation fool you, because it's actually one of the most challenging puzzle games we've ever played. The mechanics are incredibly simple—move your Snakebirds around the level in order to eat all of the fruit, then make your way to the exit—but the puzzle design is excellent, and seemingly straightforward levels can be difficult to work your head around. If you are a fan of puzzle games, Snakebird will definitely give you a run for your money.

Developer: Yacht Club Games

Link: Humble Store

Booting up Shovel Knight feels like unearthing treasure, like digging through your parents' old NES collection in the attic and stumbling into Mega Man or DuckTales for the first time. But it's better than those games, an homage that wraps in more secrets, buried mechanics, and subtle artistic tweaks that extend beyond anything the 8-bit era was capable of. Challenging, but fair, Shovel Knight's simple platforming controls work wonderfully on a keyboard. Its 8-bit aesthetic doesn't require a hog to run either, which makes it perfect for any laptop out there, controller or not.

Developer: inXile Entertainment

Link: Humble Store

A successor to Planescape: Torment? It seemed too good to be true, and yet inXile took the engine Obsidian made for Pillars of Eternity and managed to return to the world of Torment in an RPG that recaptures much of what made the original so special. Lucky for laptop gamers, it can also run on low-end hardware, which is fitting for a throwback RPG. In our review, we wrote that "a slow start gives way to a thought-provoking adventure in a remarkable setting. A fitting follow-up to a beloved RPG."

Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd., Abstraction Games 

Link: Humble Store

We've kept our visual novel recommendations light, but Danganronpa earns a spot by being the most talked-about, craziest Japanese visual novel of the past few years. This bundle comes with the first two games in the series, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair. Our review attempted to summarize the first game like so: "A twisted, mischievous villain called Monokuma, who appears in the form of a mechanical bear, traps the students in the school and forces them to play a sick game. The only way to leave this makeshift prison, or ‘graduate’ as he calls it, is to kill another student in cold blood."

And it's good.

Developer: Metanet Software

Link: Humble Store

A finely tuned platformer with approximately one billion levels. Okay, not that many. But it's literally thousands, and with modding support, billions is within the realm of possibility. As Shaun wrote about N++ when it hit PC, "as far as I’m concerned, N++ is more a toy that you’ll stop and fiddle with occasionally, just to relish the silky smooth, momentum-oriented pleasure of knocking a stick ninja around a bunch of austere platforming gauntlets. I don’t think there’s a better feeling platformer out there."

Developer: Blizzard

Link: Official site

As long as you have Wi-Fi, you can keep on battling the world in Blizzard's card game, still the reigning king of the genre on PC. New expansions keep Hearthstone fresh and exciting, and it's free to play, so there's thousands of hours of competitive play ahead of you for as much or as little money as you'd like to invest.

Developer: Subset Games

Link: Humble Store

We may be bending our "no obvious games" mandate a little here, but we couldn't resist closing out the list with FTL, one of the best "just one more turn" game ever. The space roguelike puts you in charge of managing a starship on an important mission, balancing resources as you fight and flee your way across the galaxy. The ability to pause at any time makes FTL easy to play on a laptop, and its simple graphics mean it can run on just about anything. Just note that taking it on the go with you can be dangerous, because every destroyed ship at the hands of space pirates or cruel aliens will make you want to rage...and then restart for just one more run.

...

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