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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The PC Gamer Show episode 1: Killing Floor 2, Nidhogg, 4K gaming">pcgamershow-ep1-teaser

It's The PC Gamer Show! For episode one, we talked to Tripwire Interactive about upcoming shooter Killing Floor 2, played a high stakes game of Nidhogg with serious embarrassment on the line, and got our hands on a new Samsung 4K monitor.

In this episode...

Act I: Evan chats with Tripwire Interactive president John Gibson about Killing Floor 2. Gibson talks about what the team has been working on since our Killing Floor 2 cover story, including motion captured reloads and gore that looks like BBQ chicken.

Act II: Wes and Cory take a break from deadline day to play Nidhogg, with high stakes. Guest starring PC Gamer mascot emeritus Coconut Monkey.

Act III: Tyler and Wes talk about the performance and drawbacks of 4K gaming after testing out the Samsung 590D 4K monitor.

The PC Gamer Show is a new and evolving project for us, and we want your feedback to help make it better. What kind of segments do you want to see? What games should we play and talk about? Who should we have on as guests? What's coming up next?

Shout at us in the comments below, or shoot us an email directly at letters@pcgamer.com. We're listening. And we'll see you in two weeks.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The week’s highs and lows in PC gaming">ACU_High

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team pile into the war room to fight over the best and worst of the last seven day's in gaming. Up first, the best bits. Read them quick, before the bombs fall...


Tom Senior: Cutting the nonsense out of Assassin s Creed

Assassin's Creed is a series based on an ancient war between Templars and Assassins, relived through a magic machine that lets you run around in genetic memory imprints stabbing historical figures and having coda chats with them in a digital void. That's an acceptable level of strange if I still get to run around beautifully rendered bits of history, but after that great big guff-pill I'm invited to swallow a parallel plot involving a precursor race of powerful mega-beings destroyed by an ancient solar flare. It s too much. I am all guffed out.

Thankfully, Assassin s Creed: Unity will take another run at the modern-era metafiction bits that have haphazardly tied the series together since game one. Assassin's Creed 3 brought an ignominious close to Desmond's tale, and Black Flag, which I loved, revisited the modern world with a series of first-person sections that were at least short and intermittent. As much as I d quite like them gone altogether, I m glad Ubi are trying to reset the series and refine their ideas. Hopefully similar pruning will be applied to climbing and the Assassins mostly-redundant combat actions.

Wes Fenlon: Grim Fandango remastered is coming to PC

We knew it was coming there was just no way Double Fine's re-release of PC classic Grim Fandango would stay a Sony exclusive. Still, there was no better news this week than the confirmation that the remastered Grim Fandango is, absolutely, definitely, for sure coming out on PC. Even if Double Fine didn't touch up anything about the game, I'd be happy to see it pop up on Steam. eBay is currently the only way to buy the game, and it's not cheap. But it sounds like Double Fine plans to remaster the game to some extent. I say all it needs is support for higher resolutions and less awkward keyboard controls. Maybe they'll even throw in mouse support, like modders did a few months back. Then Grim Fandango really will be the greatest point-and-click adventure ever made.

Tyler Wilde: Humble 2K Bundle is nutty

For $20, you can get BioShock, BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Oh, and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. You get that, too. Way to one-up the Steam Summer Sale.

Phil Savage: Diving deeper into Dota

I've been watching The International. In itself, that isn't particularly notable, but this year I've been understanding The International too. Valve now run a newcomer's stream, and for those like me with only a passing understanding of the game, it's proven to be an invaluable resource.

Previously, all I knew about Dota 2 s e-sports scene was that when a player activated the ghost boat, it made me happy. Now I know that Kunkka's Ghost Ship is an ultimate skill that not only deals damage, but also provides a rum buff to allies. And I know that its speed makes it difficult to land. And I know that Kunkka pairs well with Shadow Demon, because Disruption complements the Admiral's casting delays. It's given me a deeper appreciation of the game, which further compliments the surface pleasure of seeing a ghost boat sailing across the screen. DIGITAL SPORTS!

Samuel Roberts: Alien resurrection

The news that Alien: Isolation will feature two additional episodes based on the 1979 movie is, I think, the only DLC announcement of the past year that has made (most) people genuinely excited. Reuniting key members of the cast, including Sigourney Weaver (!) who actually seems pretty impressed by the story Creative Assembly has created, it makes me wish the entire film could be adapted into Alien: Isolation s run-and-hide paradigm. Either way, with both episodes confirmed to be on-sale after release, whether you pre-order or not, the idea behind this shows Creative Assembly is on the right track in pleasing the film s massive audience.

Cory Banks: Microsoft Flight Sim and X-Plane coming to Steam

One of my first PC games was surprisingly realistic: playing Microsoft Flight Simulator on my uncle s blazing-fast 386. It was inscrutable: how do you turn the plane on? How do you make it go forward? He had a giant manual sitting on the desk, and I searched for every keyboard shortcut needed to finally get a Cessna up in the air. And then I crashed both the plane and the PC.

So it s a blast from the past to have Dovetail bring MS Flight Sim X to Steam. And even better for true flight sim fans, X-Plane 10, the newer, better flight simulation, will also land on Valve s service. The timing is perfect, since the recent surge in space combat sims has more and more PC gamers thinking about new flight sticks. I don t know if I ll ever master actually landing a plane, but I ll definitely spend a weekend trying.


Phil Savage: Hobby-grade word jumble

When a new lane-pusher is announced, the PC Gamer team reacts variously with indifference, scepticism and uncontrollable screaming. But for me, the low point of the week wasn't the reveal of Gearbox s Battleborn. Instead, it was what Randy Pitchford said about Battleborn.

Battleborn is: FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn Heroes!

I don't know what half of that means, but I do know that hobby-grade makes me angry. The whole statement says nothing. It's a mash of meaningless buzzwords; a grab-bag of Zeitgeist-chasing non-entities that capture little of what a game is or means or can be.

Also, in Battleborn's press release, Pitchford called Borderlands 2 a shooter-looter . Randy Pitchford has broken words.

Samuel Roberts: Kinect for?

I am baffled by the $199/ 159 price tag for Kinect 2.0 on Windows. To put it context, this is pretty much the same unit that Microsoft has made optional with Xbox One very recently, and is now being sold on eBay pre-owned for under 40. While I m really looking forward to seeing what developers do with it on PC based on hacks of the original Kinect, I can t help feeling like 100 would be a fairer price.

Cory Banks: Trolls kill Divinity: Original Sin s global chat

I ve played almost 60 hours of Larian s fantastic Divinity: Original Sin, and I don t feel like I m anywhere near the end. But I ve been stuck a few times, and it would have been nice to have a helping hand. Larian founder Swen Vincke, who I spoke to earlier this week, says the developer originally included a Global Chat feature in the game for just such a reason. But because people are awful to each other in chat rooms, Larian turned global chat off. After the surge of jerks dies down, the team may turn the feature back on, but right now it s still off. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, trolls.

Wes Fenlon: Alien: Isolation's VR support is only a demo

The best thing I played at E3 2014 was probably Lucky's Tale, the charming Oculus Rift 3D platformer. The second best thing I played, though, was Alien: Isolation, which becomes even more frighteningly claustrophobic and tense with an Oculus Rift strapped to your head. Our recent preview of Alien: Isolation on the Rift conveys just how much physicality VR adds to the experience. After 10 minutes, I was convinced that was how I wanted to play the entire game. So I'm bummed to hear Sega say that right now, the VR build is just a prototype, and there are no plans to fully support the Oculus Rift for the final game. Maybe that's just because the consumer Oculus Rift headset will launch sometime after Alien: Isolation. When that headset is out, I hope Sega and Creative Assembly update the game to support it. This is how horror games are meant to be played.

Tom Senior: Clueless about Dwartress

I am my own low this week, for not knowing how to play Dwarf Fortress. It's probably one of the best games on PC, and therefore one of the best games in existence a limitless story generator that simulates extraordinarily detailed fantasy worlds. It just takes a day or two to learn, and this week's update should make it more newb-friendly than ever, once the Starter Pack mods and applications have been updated to work with the 2014 build. I'm going to devote some time this weekend to finally learning how to play properly. Hopefully I'll be enjoying stories like this in no time.

Tyler Wilde: Potato Salad Simulator, anyone?

Crowds do weird things. For instance, a guy asked for $10 on Kickstarter to make a potato salad and raised $45,000 instead. And here s another one: Goat Simulator is the number two bestseller on Steam at 40% off. Goat Simulator is fine, and cheap right now, but for a joke that is kind of funny for a bit, number two on Steam is pretty incredible.

I expect Potato Salad Simulator will be announced any time now. Or has the Simulator joke run its course? What will the next thing be? I know I sound like an old man yelling at a cloud, or like I m mad at other people s success (maybe a little, sometimes), but ironic spending baffles me. If you want a cheap, funny game, grab Zork: Grand Inquisitor from GOG. You ll feel better about it, trust me.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: unstoppable forces, immovable objects, and other thoughts on the metagame">Brewmaster

Three Lane Highway is Chris' weekly column about Dota 2.

'Metagame' is a cyberpunkish word for a pretty cloudy and unscientific concept. Which is not to say that it's impossible to get an exact read on a game's competitive landscape, but that sense of certainty is usually unsustainable. The moment a team does something that nobody expects and it works, questions are raised. Figuring out the answers to those questions or watching other people do it is one of the major draws of this part of the hobby. It's natural to chase certainty, to be sure, but it's doubt that creates drama.

Feeling like you'll never understand why decisions are made is pretty natural when you start watching Dota 2, but it doesn't have to be as intimidating as it sometimes seems. The metagame is made of information, and information has a tendency to warp and shift when exposed to people no matter how good at controlling uncertainty they are. Even if you can't think on the level of the best teams, understanding the forces that they're wrestling with is the best way to get a handle how the meta fits together. Memorising patch notes can come later.

Competitive games are fun to watch because players operate in the same uncertain territory as viewers, albeit at a higher level. They have the benefit of experience and talent but they're as vulnerable to trends and assumptions as any other human would be. Dota 2's hero draft phase is exciting because it is essentially a performance of differing interpretations of the metagame at the highest possible level. Where the match itself showcases in-the-moment strategy and execution, the draft is a debate, a cross between theorycraft and poker.

At the beginning of day two of the International playoffs, Dota 2's metagame is as healthy as I've ever seen it. There really isn't a single dominant strategy or style of play, and to the extent that the metagame has stabilised around a few heroes notably Brewmaster, who I'll get to in a bit it's only 'stable' to the extent that attitudes towards a few valued heroes are stable. Yesterday, EG's draft against Fnatic demonstrated that it's still very possible to run unorthodox drafts and dominate games.

The rise of Brewmaster is a good case study in how Dota 2's metagame can twist and genuflect around a single character. As of the end of play yesterday, Brewmaster was sitting on a 98% pick/ban rate. That's extraordinarily high, pushing up against Batrider and Lycan at their peak.

It makes sense. He lanes well and has a high skill ceiling that is attractive to professional players who have the potential to achieve more with the hero than anybody else. He's equally strong as an initiator as he is in defensive engagements, and he's capable of pickoff kills if you're willing to chance that lengthy cooldown on Primal Split. His ultimate, which divides him into three spirits with strong lockdown potential, dominates the psychological landscape of a match whenever it is in play or potentially in play. It's difficult to gang up on somebody who can turn any skirmish into a teamfight. His psychological impact extends beyond the game, too, threatening to shut down pocket strategies before they can begin. And so he's picked or banned 98% of the time.

He's the poster child for a metagame that, at times, feels like an argument between game-turning ultimates Chronosphere, Ravage, Doom and the steady, sustainable power provided by heroes like Lycan. Unstoppable forces and immovable objects, where every team and every region brings its own ideas about what power and durability mean. Brewmaster tends towards the former part of that equation, but the effect of his ultimate is that it creates tremendous sustainable pressure for the length of its long duration. He almost offers the best of both, and that 'almost' is a powerful incentive to draft him. He himself becomes an immovable object in the metagame.

At ESL One, I started to question the Brewmaster pick in some cases, directly to the people who were picking him. His popularity seemed to persist in spite of the number of games where teams simply evaded or pushed through his ultimate, or disabled it entirely with silence. Teams got wise to that long cooldown and realised that if you could survive the duration of Primal Split you'd probably take a tower afterwards. You saw the return of durable counter-initiators like Tidehunter and offlane Doom in defiance of the belief that Brewmaster's dominance was a foregone conclusion.

But I doubt we'll see a decline in the hero's popularity because it has become so entrenched in the current meta. The power of silencing and killing Brewmaster before he can split has created space in the metagame for Doom, Silencer, and particularly Skywrath Mage, whose sudden preeminence feels a bit like every team captain showed up to the pocket strat party wearing the same costume. Even when Brewmaster is being banned from almost every game he isn't picked in, the impact of the thinking that went into countering him is felt. That's the key to beginning to understand the metagame: thinking not just about who counters what, but how success establishes precedents that players have to respond to, one way or another, for weeks or months afterwards.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
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 Dota 2′s The International starts today">Dota 2

Dota 2's The International is here. While the finals won't kick-off until Friday, 18th July, the playoffs for the main competition's few remaining places will start in just a few hours. Here's why you should be excited. One: it's the biggest event in e-sports, with a prize pool of over $10 million. Two: this year, Valve are providing multiple ways to watch, with a separate stream dedicated to those unfamiliar with the game.

Today's matches mark the first part of the phase one playoff with three best-of-three matches scheduled. Virtus.Pro, MVP, CIS Game and Liquid will be fighting it out for a spot in phase two. The action, as with all future playoff games, will begin at 9am PDT / 5pm BST. You can watch from the (free) Dota 2 client, where Valve have a catch-up system should you miss the live event. Alternatively, watch it your browser.

Just like last year, our Three Lane Highway correspondent Chris Thursten will be covering the main competition live from Seattle. At this point he's more Dota than man, and will be bringing interviews and analysis from the tournament floor.

If you're unfamiliar with Dota 2, Chris previously produced a guide to watching the game as a newcomer.
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 Dota 2 gets its own kart racer in the form of ‘Dota Dash’">dotadash

2014 will go down in history as the year Very Serious PC games got a karting mode. First it was Arma 3, and now Dota 2. While 'Dota Dash' doesn't look like the most polished karting game, it will no doubt please those who, for some reason, desire to burn around Dota 2 maps collecting power-ups and dropping bananas.

Designed to 'feel like Mario Kart', the Dota Dash mod retains the familiar Dota 2 camera angle while rejigging the controls and map layouts. Mod creator 'BMD' has promised to keep adding to the mode, with a 'campaign system' chief among the scheduled additions. Customisation is a priority as well, as BMD writes on Reddit:

"I'm also building development tools for mappers so that they can draw their map in Hammer, then use my development tools to place all of the powerups/waypoints/hazards/barriers on the map, and then release their map/map pack (or possibly even sell it on the workshop eventually)."

You can grab the mod on the Steam forums. Check out a video of Dota Dash in action below:

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dota 2′s The International prize pool distribution revealed, newcomer streams promised">Dota 2

It's an exciting month for fans of DIGITAL SPORT. We're only a few days away from the start of The International's play-offs and exactly two weeks from the main event. Valve are preparing for the Dota 2 tournament's kick... er, creep-off with the launch of the official International mini-site. With it, they've announced the competition's prize-pool distribution, and the multitude of ways for fans and newcomers to watch.

Of the ginormous ~$10 million prize-pool, 46% has been earmarked for the 1st place victor. As of writing, that puts the winning teams winnings at a staggering $4,753,981 although that number is climbing all the time. Importantly, this year, more teams will benefit from the pool. The top 14 of the 16 phase-two teams have a stake in the pot, with the 13th and 14th place finishers each earning 0.2% of the total. That may not sound like much, but it's currently a respectable $20,669.

Also announced are Valve's plans for streaming the tournament. In addition to being to watch the games through the Dota 2 client, this year, there are also some new features. There's a DVR system, designed to let people catch-up on the day's matches in spoiler-free environment. Also, for Phase Two, viewers will have a Multicast option presenting the pick of the action from four simultaneous games.

From my perspective, the most important feature is the 'Newcomers Broadcast'. Happening alongside the main stream, it'll feature commentary designed to help newbies understand what the hell is even happening. It's a much needed feature, and one that could secure the game's current e-sports popularity by broadening its appeal beyond its dedicated player-base.

Head over to The International site for the full round-up of features, and see below for the full distribution percentages. Phase one of the play-offs begin next Tuesday, 8th July.

1st: 46%

2nd: 13.5%

3rd: 9.5%

4th: 7.5%

5th-6th: 6%

7th-8th: 4.75%

9th-10th: 0.45%

11th-12th: 0.35%

13th-14th: 0.2%

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Three Lane Highway: what it means when games become sport and why you should care">ESL One Frankfurt

Three Lane Highway is Chris' sometimes serious, sometimes silly column about Dota 2. The image above is from the ESL Flickr account.

We've always had a complicated relationship with e-sports. By 'we' I mean not just PC Gamer but PC gamers: I think it's fair to say that the paradigm shift that e-sports represent hasn't always been widely understood or accepted. That makes sense it's a form of gaming that the majority of gamers will never participate directly in, and this is a hobby that is defined by participation.

An attitude I've heard a few times is that the lure of e-sports is drawing gaming in an undesireable direction. That competition precludes fun, or that the notion of games as sport is a creative blind alley. I disagree with these ideas but I see where they come from. We're talking about a subculture within a subculture growing to the point where it dominates large parts of the discussion. Gamers can be prickly about both exclusion and pretension and there are times when e-sports embody both. What I want to explore this week is why I think the concept of sport is something that we should be getting excited about. I'm going to use Dota 2 as my main example, because that's what I know, but everything I have to say applies to the hobby as a whole.

When a game becomes a sport it sheds its status as a commercial entertainment product. It still generates money, of course, but the relationship between the player and the game is crucially different. When you start treating games as sports, you go from being a passive receiver of entertainment and become an active participant in a kind of test. Whether you're playing competitively or watching tournaments, you're engaging directly with the systems of the game in a way that demands concentration and knowledge.

There's an argument that runs along the lines of "why would I watch a game when I could be playing one?" This misunderstands something about sport. If you can watch a sport, you're almost certainly more intellectually engaged than you would be if you were playing a scripted game. The act of physically participating is secondary, to me, to the stuff that happens in your brain when you watch a set of game mechanics operating in a competitive context. That's what a sport is: a set of rules resolving into narrative.

You can't understand a sport without understanding game design. If you're capable of following Dota 2 or football or whatever then you know something about the way that systems create drama, even if you wouldn't frame that knowledge in those terms. That's really cool, because it makes it easier to perceive the corners that other games cut in the name of providing you with entertainment. When you've seen what a game can achieve with a simple set of rules, it becomes far harder for games without the design integrity of a sport to sell you a fantasy.

When a game becomes a sport it not only stops being commercial, it becomes unrateable. We're used to placing games on a review scale that is designed to assess how well they deliver on their promises. You can't do that with a sport, because it's not an entertainment product it's an algorithm for creating entertainment. A sport isn't good or bad: it simply is, and that's alien territory for most gamers. I appreciate that I'm writing this as a guy who reviewed Dota 2 but when I did, one of the things I considered was how good the game was at turning gamers into sports fans. In effect, how good it was at making its eventual score irrelevant, and itself indispensable.

So, Cool Thing About Sport #1 is that it frees us up from always seeing games as products being sold to us. Instead, you get to see your hobby entirely as an interaction between players which might be you, or might be somebody you're a fan of and an external system. It's about people, not marketing, and as a result you're more likely to take something meaningful from your relationship with it.

Cool Thing About Sport #2 is an extension of that idea. Sports don't have designers or owners, they have stewards. Valve didn't create DotA, and while they're capable of making significant changes to the game's identity they don't ultimately own it as a sport. The community does: from the StarCraft and WarCraft III modders that created it in collaboration with each other to the casters and analysts that drive interest to the players themselves. As a game it has no single point of origin, and this is something that it has in common with the majority of traditional sports.

Blizzard's games make for an interesting counterpoint to this rule. Technically, Hearthstone and StarCraft II do have specific designers and specific points of origin. Start seeing them as sports, however, and it's important to note that neither are based on original ideas: they're both expressions of the ongoing lives of their respective genres. What StarCraft fans get out of watching StarCraft they could get out of other real time strategy games, for example, if sufficiently competitive alternatives existed. Their preference is for a particular instance of a publicly-owned idea. Blizzard are the premier steward of the competitive RTS, but not its creator.

So why is all of this important? Because it's how games escape from familiar patterns and gain a cultural permanence that they can't achieve as commercial products. It's how we break out of a marketing-lead mode of thinking about games and start to perceive our hobby in more human terms. Sports are about effort, achievement, feeling. The fantasies that they encourage aren't oversold by marketing and underdelivered by overworked developers. They're real, and I'm just about as excited by that word as Twitch chat is.

None of this precludes the existence of other kinds of game. Scripted entertainment will always have a place, both as a form of entertainment and as a creative field to be explored. But man, guys. I roared along with a few thousand other people when a Swedish twenty-something controlling a giant red man slam-dunked a wolfguy and some kind of elemental bear-cow and it was among a dozen other similar experiences that surpass anything else I've ever felt about a game. I desperately want other people to get access to that feeling. The rise of e-sports won't be marked when we get Dota 2 on TV, or when the International prize pools top $20m. They'll have risen when we think of them as a separate hobby when 'entertainment games' and 'digital sports' exist as related but distinct ideas. Perhaps we're there already. If so, I know where I'd rather spend my time.

To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.

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