More than a year after it hit Steam, the "lightning-fast Bushido brawler" Samurai Gunn has been given a major update, with new levels, gameplay modes, widescreen support, and secrets. Secrets! (Shhhh!)
First things first: Samurai Gunn is a local-only fighting game for two to four players, each of whom is equipped with a sword, a gun, and three bullets. You can get a more detailed breakdown from our review, but the bottom line is that it is a very good, very intense game, that suffers only for a lack of an engaging single-player mode.
The new upgrade doesn't address that particular shortcoming, but it's still significant. There are 11 new levels and a new level selection interface, two new modes of play—Master of the House, a fight through four levels chosen at random from each of the game's four environments, and Showdown Shogun, which forgoes bullets and extra lives—plus updated visual effects (including an option to replace the blood spray with cherry blossom petals), widescreen support, additional option toggles, and better support for controllers. And secrets! You'll have to figure them out on your own, though.
The game is also now available for Mac, albeit with a few issues. The auto-config option is "a little touchy," according to the update, so you may have to horse around a bit to get your controller running, and there's apparently a single frame of fuschia that flashes by when returning to the title screen.
The Samurai Gunn update is live now on Steam, and it's free. Details are here.
Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered, an update of the 2005 Quantic Dream adventure that was revealed, apparently unintentionally, a few days ago is now available for purchase. There's also a launch trailer, some screens, and even a website, all of it released entirely without fanfare.
It's a bit odd, isn't it? Fahrenheit was enough of a success that I'd think a re-release would be worthy of some noise, and yet the whole thing has happened in relative silence. You can get a good look at what's going on, however, at fahrenheit-game.com, which explains among other things that the remastered version "features updated graphics, full controller support and is based on the uncut/uncensored version of the game."
The "uncut/uncensored" descriptor refers to the differences between the European and North American versions of the game. Fahrenheit was released as Indigo Prophecy in North America, apparently to avoid confusion with the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11, but more significantly it was also missing a number of sex scenes, one of them interactive, that would have put it over the ESRB's Adult Only line and thus prevented its release on consoles. (Sony and Microsoft have policies forbidding AO games on their systems.) The Remastered release has restored all those missing naughty bits.
Updated or not, the visuals are still far from cutting-edge, and it can be tough to tell the originals from the HD versions without looking closely. It's possible to switch between the original and updated graphics while you're playing, which might offer a moment or two of curiosity value, and of course the option to play with a controller is a big bonus for people who like that sort of thing. It's also not terribly expensive, going for just ten bucks on Steam, Amazon, and, for you Mac and Linux hounds, GameAgent.
That's a pretty decent price for a critically-acclaimed adventure, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that GOG has the original—also uncut and uncensored—for $6. That's just for Windows-based PCs, mind, while the Remastered release is also available for Linux, Mac, and iOS, but even so, I can't say I'm convinced that Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered is quite as essential as it first appears.
Battlefield Hardline is the hot cops 'n' robbers currently in development, especially with the multiplayer beta running next week, but for my money This Is the Police sounds far more intriguing. You play as Jack Boyd, a 60-year-old cop on the verge of forced retirement, with nothing to show for his years of service but a bald spot, a bad back, a moved-in mother-in-law, and three kids who are about to bury him with tuition fees. He's frustrated, he's angry, he's got 180 days to set himself up for the future—and he's not playing by the rules anymore.
Except he does have to play by the rules, sort of: He can take bribes, cook the books, sell guns or drugs on the side, and indulge in all sorts of other bad behavior, but as the chief of police he still needs to stay on top of the day-to-day operations of his force. Which, for the record, doesn't sound like a particularly solid unit: Corruption abounds, from rank-and-file officers all the way up to the Mayor himself.
The Kickstarter describes the game as a "strategy/adventure," and says the focus is on "ensuring that everything that happens on the screen is an important part of the story. You won t get bogged down with the numbers and the attributes of your units, and it s not just a set of puzzles to solve. As you move from one event to the next, the city of Freeburg will change around you, in response to your actions. The story is not constrained by a particular genre or narrative format, so you can truly take part in the life of a desperate man trying to regain his self-esteem."
It sounds like there's potential for some dark comedy here, especially given the presence of voice actor Jon St. John, best known as the voice of Duke Nukem. But there also appears to be a very serious edge to it as well, as illustrated by a screenshot on the Kickstarter page referencing a planned protest in the city: Since most of the protesters are expected to be black, Boyd is being ordered to pull all black officers from duty that day, and to come down hard on protest ringleaders. It obviously isn't the sort of "cop experience" you're going to get from a major studio release—but that's a big part of the appeal.
This Is the Police is the first game from Minsk-based studio Weappy, which has thus far raised about $7500 of its $25,000 Kickstarter goal. If the campaign is successful, the game is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
I started playing Dota 2 because somebody needed to. It was that simple, at first: here was a new and popular game in an ascendant genre, and nobody in the PC Gamer office played it. We looked for writers online but found nobody suitable. The problem wasn't just confined to our walls. Many of my colleagues in the UK reported something similar, and the solution we found was to collectively set about fixing this gap in our knowledge. I stuck with the game long past the point where I knew enough to cover it for the magazine and website—this column is the product of that prolonged engagement.
The origin of my hobby was a desire to learn what a 'Dota' was and why people liked it. I more or less did so, and I've developed that understanding over time since then. Sometimes in fairly convoluted directions, as regular readers of this column will know. Lately I've realised that my understanding of the genre is entirely coloured by having learned Dota 2 first. Now that I'm experimenting with other games, I've come to the conclusion that Dota 2's particular business model is fundamental to my experience with the game, and to many of the conclusions I've reached about it since. So fundamental, in fact, that I've come to think of Dota 2 as occupying a subgenre by itself.
Recently I've been playing Smite, which I wrote about last week, and Heroes of the Storm. I've had access to HotS since the earliest days of the technical alpha, and played it intermittently at every stage of its development to date. I like it but don't love it: I appreciate its value to people looking for a light and accessible way into the genre, but having been swimming in the deep end for so long I don't see myself investing a considerable amount of time into it.
In its closed beta incarnation, however, I've become more aware of how alien I find the game's business model. As Blizzard refine the account-wide unlock systems and progression mechanics that surround the core game, I'm more conscious of the levels I don't have, the modes I don't have access to, the characters I need to grind for or buy; the amount of content that I can't quite get at. In a way, I'm surprised at how surprised I am. I understand, on paper, that all of this is a staple of the genre, and that the expectations of many players have been set by League of Legends—for whom all of this is fine. I never played League, however. I started with Dota 2. And I find this way of structuring the game deeply offputting.
When I finally understood what Dota was, I understood it in terms of steady personal growth along two skill axes: personal skill and, relevant to this article, knowledge. The game was a vast open resource, a complicated web of characters, skills, items and contradictions, something I traced a different course through every time I played. Understanding every character seemed paramount, so I played every character. I picked a path through the roster based on gaps in my knowledge, rather than personal preference or success rate. This is how I ended up as such a generalist player, with no particular role or hero that I'd say I was very good at. In some ways, I wish I had focused more closely on something specific. In others ways, it has helped—particularly when it comes to drafting.
Nonetheless, my experience of the genre was fundamentally grounded in the notion that it was a library that I had free access to. A mountain to climb, but with full freedom of movement. It's only now, playing Heroes of the Storm, that I realise how important that feeling was to my continued investment.
In Heroes, characters are unlocked with in-game gold or real cash. They cost different amounts and new characters tend to cost more. You can complete daily quests to earn extra gold, but you're still looking at a substantial grind to unlock everything. Beyond that, each character must be leveled up through play to gain access to the full range of passive traits—Heroes' equivalent to Dota 2's items.
Imagine if Valve adopted the same model for Dota 2. Let's say that the full hero pool was still technically free, but you needed to unlock new characters with in-game experience. Let's say that after you unlocked Juggernaut, you were restricted to a 'newbie-friendly' set of items—Phase Boots, Vladimir's Offering, Desolator. After three games you unlock the right to build Power Treads, Aghanim's Scepter, and Mjollnir. This would likely make for a more manageable experience for new players. It would, however, turn Dota 2 into a different type of game.
Not a worse game, necessarily! This is not a qualitative judgement, but a question of design. Bumping into Heroes' paywall—seeing a hero I don't understand, wanting to test it against other players and being unable to do so—has made me starkly aware of how philosophically different these games can be from one another. Heroes of the Storm sets out to be entertainment, and it is entertaining in a way that an MMO is entertaining. You level up and get new stuff. You always have something tangible to work towards. You are encouraged to invest deep in a single character, a favourite, and worry about the others only if it suits you.
This is anathema to how Dota 2 is best learned. In the Dota 2 community, serious novices set off on the A-Z challenge and decry pub players who lock Pudge every game. Breadth is valued, graft is valued, because the game is work. And it's not work that returns an easy reward, either—getting better at the game is noted by an incremental bump to your winrate, not with a whole new character to play.
It was utterly vital to me, in these circumstances, that Smite offered a 'pay once' option—a generous way to circumvent its god-purchasing system with a single 30 purchase that unlocked everything, forever. If Hi-Rez didn't provide that option, I don't think I'd be playing the game. Because it has this option, Smite occupies a weird position between both sub-genres. When you download it, it's a game in the League of Legends tradition. If you buy the Ultimate God Pack, it becomes Dota 2.
I've long argued that comparing these games is unhelpful. What I'm considering, now, is whether it'd be more useful to think of Dota 2 and League of Legends as occupying different conceptual spaces entirely. That argument would go: Dota 2 is characterised by an overwhelming plurality of things to learn. League is defined by a process of personalisation and selection, both in terms of character choice and in terms of MMO-style progression through the summoner system. These two divergent threads only recombine at the very highest level of play. For everybody else, these may as well be different genres. Neither is better, necessarily, but the division highlights the deep influence that business models have on the types of games we receive.
I've always been uncomfortable with 'MOBA', as a descriptor. It's clumsy, non-specific. It never felt right for Dota 2, whose proposition has always been slightly different to that of its relations—at least for me. I wonder if this is how we redefine our terms, then: Dota 2 simply isn't a MOBA. In a MOBA, you level up your account and unlock new characters for gold or cash; you pick your favourites and participate in an ecosystem of who-owns-what. Dota 2 is, well, Dota. It's propelled by different business interests—driving investment in Steam—and offers a different experience. It's the messy open source equivalent to League's proprietary software. It's Unix to League's MacOS. You could start comparing those things, if you want, but approximately fifty percent of the internet would rise up in arms against you.
To read more Three Lane Highway, click here.
If you're short of reasons to re-enlist in Arma 3's simulacrum of military conflict, here's a few that might tempt you back. Bohemia has announced the finalists in their "Make Arma Not War" modding competition—a contest that challenged the community to make new game modes, add-ons and mods. Despite the name, it has largely resulted in more war.
It's a great way to dig out some of Arma's best community content. We've already featured a few of the finalists in past Mod of the Week articles. Here's Pilot Civilian Air Rescue and Pilgrimage—both finalists in the Singleplayer category.
Showcase trailers for each category can be found over at the Make Arma Not War finalists page. Below, you can see the round-ups for Singleplayer and Multiplayer modes.
Winners will be announced in March, and each will receive a chunk of a 500,000 prize pool. Our Evan Lahti is one of the judges in the competition—I expect he'll be playing a bit more Arma over the next few weeks.
The second Battlefield Hardline beta, which we mentioned earlier this month, will start next week on Tuesday, February 3rd and run until Sunday, February 8th, according to an EA press release. Most notably, the beta introduces a new mode called Hotwire. I recently stopped by EA's offices to play Hotwire, but all press impressions of the mode are under wraps until Monday (so, come back then!).
The gist is that both teams have to take control of marked cars, and take down each other's cars—it's all about high-speed chases. That'll be playable on two maps, Downtown and Dust Bowl. The other available mode, Heist, will be playable on the Bank Job map and tasks the criminals with breaking into a vault and shuttling packages to drop off points while the cops, naturally, attempt to stop them.
The beta will also include full multiplayer progression, so you should be able to unlock everything provided you can play nonstop for the six days it's running. No peeing. It'll also include Hacker mode, which is Hardline's version of Commander mode, in which a player can "hack the battlefield in different ways including hacking into security cameras, spotting enemies and specifying areas for their team to attack or defend."
Battlefield Hardline releases March 17th in North America and March 20th in the UK. It'll be on Origin, of course, and that's also how you'll get into the beta, which is open to everyone. Hey, there's a trailer, too:
Take On Mars (Take On Mars) Take Mars On (Take On Mars) I'll be done In about five months or so.
Bohemia has posted a development roadmap for their Martian rover sim, Take On Mars. From January to June, it maps out a timetable for remaining development features—including a beta release in April, and an official launch in June.
Along the way, a variety of new features are planned. Competitive multiplayer is due out next month, and a Manned Space Program mode is planned for March. "This will be story driven, focusing on survival in a catastrophic failure scenario," writes project lead Martin Melicharek. "I am sure this culmination to the Space Program mode will whet the appetite for playing with friends online in the Cooperative or planned Competitive modes."
Take On Mars recently made Andy's list of the PC's most relaxing games. Survival sounds like a slightly more stressful addition, but basic red planet exploration will no doubt remain as soothing as always.
Four years ago, a group of hardcore Alien fans—who also happened to be game developers—were given the opportunity of a lifetime: to make a game set in that distinctive sci-fi universe, and with the full blessing of franchise owners 20th Century Fox.
The result is Alien: Isolation, a brilliantly tense and atmospheric horror game, and the first spin-off that s ever done HR Giger s creature justice. While most Alien games look to James Cameron s action-packed sequel for inspiration, The Creative Assembly used Ridley Scott s original slow-burning 1979 horror classic as its template.
Alien is unmistakably Fox s property, but from the moment we pitched the original concept to them, they ve been completely behind us, says Alistair Hope, creative lead. I think because we were trying to stay true in spirit to the original, they felt like it was in safe hands. It s been a collaboration, but I don t think we ve ever come across anything where anyone s said, no, you can t do that.
While most developers of licensed games are pressured to finish their work in time for a film s release, The Creative Assembly worked under no such limitation. There hasn t been an Alien film since 1997 s awful Resurrection (not counting the AvP series or Prometheus), and none are, as far as we know, in the works. We had the best of both worlds. Something that was super familiar and established and brilliant, but we got to play in that space. There were very few constraints on us.
To help them, Fox supplied an enormous archive of original production material—a whopping three terabytes of it. It was like that moment in Pulp Fiction where they open the suitcase, says Hope. We were stunned that all this stuff existed. For them to be able to drop that amount of material on us was great. It gave us a really good insight into how that first film was made.
The archive contained design blueprints, continuity polaroids, costume photography, concept art, and thousands of photos of the sets, all in high resolution. It wasn t until they delved into this treasure trove that the developers realised they didn t know Scott s film as well as they thought they did.
Fox supplied an enormous archive of original production material—a whopping three terabytes of it
As fans we would have said, yeah, we know what the costumes look like, but it wasn t until we got the archive that we could really look at the details in John Mollo s costume design. We deconstructed them and tried to put that level of detail, care and attention into our costumes.
Studying the material in depth was essential, he says. You can think you know it inside out, but it s not until you actually investigate closely that you get a full understanding of it.
Look closely at the character model for Amanda and you ll see a key around her neck. It looks like it s from a fi ling cabinet or a lockbox, but this is the future, so it could be anything. It s never addressed in the game, or in any of the DLC. I ask Hope to shed some light on it and he s reluctant to answer. I don t think we need to explain everything, he says after a long pause.
Developing the game also gave the team the chance to meet a key figure in the making of the film: editor Terry Rawlings. That was amazing. The man s a genius. He edited Blade Runner as well, so he can do no wrong. He was able to give us additional insight. He talked about the director s cut and the famous deleted scene where Brett and Dallas are being turned into eggs. He said that once the alien was hunting the crew, to go to that shot actually just slowed everything down.
Pacing is something Isolation excels at, mirroring the glacial tempo of the film, but never outstaying its welcome. We felt like there was a good variety in the game. We wanted to keep changing things up, so that just as you were getting a bit more confident, we d throw something new at you.
Some critics found the game too slow and overlong. I ask Hope why he thinks there was such a split in opinion. We tried to put as much into the player s hands as possible. Pace can often be determined by your own play style and how confident you re feeling.
You can t talk about the making of Alien: Isolation without mentioning that art design, which is one of the defining features of the game. Rather than go for a shiny, optimistic vision of the future, the artists created a lo-fi and realistic sci-fi world, directly informed by the production design of the film.
This was absolutely core, says Hope. From day one, that was what we were going to do. We ve always been massive fans of the first film, and this all came about because it felt like no one had ever created that experience in a game. It looks awesome. It s really beautifully realised and considered. It s very believable, and that s one of the great things about that film. It s very credible, even today.
Hope describes Isolation s future as mundane and grounded in reality, and says that this actually supports the horror. It s not technology that s going to help you survive. When you watch Alien, there s no sense that there s a locker somewhere with a big gun that s going to be the answer to the crew s problems. Despite all this technology—which is downplayed in the film—it s about using your instincts to survive.
Survival is what sets Isolation apart from other Alien games, but there was a greater focus on weapons early in its development. Weapon crafting was planned, but ultimately discarded. We thought about what people would want to do in order to survive. We explored different ideas, and one of them was fashioning weapons to defend yourself. That was quite early on, but then we realised that this game isn t really about pulling the trigger.
Even though it was cut, Hope says this was an important experiment. Trying things like this made them realise that the core survival concept was powerful enough to stand on its own. As well as crafting, they also experimented with viewpoint. At one point we were exploring a thirdperson camera. It was interesting, but it was a different experience. We preferred the immediacy and intimacy of first-person. In thirdperson it became a game about jockeying the camera and looking after your avatar. But in first-person it s you that s being hunted. If you re hiding behind an object and you want to get a better view of your surroundings, you have to move.
To imagine what it would be like to have the alien hunting you, The Creative Assembly used the surroundings of their Horsham studio as a starting point. At the very beginning, we thought about what it would be like to encounter and survive against that original alien. If we released one in the studio, what would we do? That was a really interesting exercise.
There were no heroes. No one said they were going to find a gun and shoot the thing dead, because that wasn t part of the universe we were playing in. It wasn t about using strength, but real-world instincts and experiences to help you survive. Some people said they would throw something to distract it, and we wanted to bring that instinctive desire to manipulate the world and change the odds into the game.
We thought about what it would be like to encounter and survive against that original alien. If we released one in the studio, what would we do?
One thing that was notably missing from Isolation was the alien s famous acid blood, which in the films can melt through metal like it s polystyrene. We had some cool ideas around it, says Hope. But it felt like we were starting to make an alien simulator, rather than something that would be a fun experience. Having holes appearing in the world starting steering the game in a weird direction, and so it seemed like it would be a better idea not to make a feature of it.
But this creative licence aside, the game sticks remarkably close to the film—sometimes to the point that some story moments, to me, felt too obviously signposted. But even this, it seems, was intentional. We wanted to tell a story that was really closely associated with that first film, Hope tells me. Amanda being Ellen Ripley s daughter... the Nostromo s flight recorder... and positioning the story to take place fifteen years later.
One chapter, titled Beacon , sees you switching roles to play as Marlow, a scavenger who ends up on LV-426, tracking the same distress call the Nostromo did. This gives you a chance to see the derelict up close, and is a real treat for Alien fans. We thought that if you re going to put an alien on a remote space station, you need to explain how it got there. Having Marlow and his crew visit the planet and rediscover the derelict did that, and just seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.
Then, later, the game throws its biggest surprise at you: two aliens. I ask Hope why they decided to do this, after marketing the game so heavily as starring a single creature. We wanted to turn the tables on you a little bit. If you re starting to feel a bit more confident around the alien at that point, we make things doubly worse. I did wonder what the response was going to be.
They always intended to introduce another alien, and built the AI around having two of them working in unison. They re gonna kill me for saying this, but it was as easy as just placing another alien in the level. But only because they did such a good job with this creature that it can look after itself.
The reveal that there are multiple aliens on Sevastopol made me wonder if all the encounters preceding it were with different creatures, rather than—as you re led to believe—just one. I ask Hope, but he seems reticent to answer. I m happy for players to interpret that for themselves. No one on Sevastopol knows all the answers. Amanda doesn t, and neither does the player.
And neither do the developers, at times. The thing I really didn t expect was the fact that, as a team, we d all still be getting caught out by the alien. Even towards the end of development we d still die and jump and yell and be surprised by it. Even now I can play it and my heart will be thumping away.
As if delving into that amazing archive wasn t enough, Alien: Isolation also gave The Creative Assembly the chance to work with, and even write new dialogue for, the original film cast. This started with their reconstruction of the Nostromo. When you start a project like this you have all kinds of crazy ideas, Hope tells me. Because the first stage of development was deconstruction of the film, our creative team was tearing the Nostromo apart to find out what makes it feel like the Nostromo. This was so we could build new environments that were true to that style.
It was really exciting that they said yes. Sigourney Weaver would be playing Ellen Ripley for the first time in a videogame.
We ended up thinking, man, I d love to walk around the Nostromo. Then you wonder what it would be like to face the original alien in there. Then you wonder if you can get the original cast together to reprise their roles and play out some of those scenarios again.
Which, incredibly, they did. We told them the game was about survival, not killing. They saw the care and attention we put into the atmosphere. It was really exciting that they said yes. Sigourney Weaver would be playing Ellen Ripley for the first time in a videogame. That was something really special.
Hope says the actors had ideas about the script and their characters—especially Weaver. Ripley has been a crucial part of her career, and she doesn t treat the character lightly. We really got a sense of that. She did a lot of work reprising her role.
Playing the game, I couldn t help but think about the scene in the director s cut of Aliens where Weyland-Yutani stooge Carter Burke tells Ellen that Amanda died of cancer at age 66. I ask Hope if this was ever in their mind as they made the game. If there s one thing we know about Burke, it s that he s an extremely untrustworthy character. The one thing he needs to do is get Ripley to go back to LV-426, and there s a chance he s going to tell her whatever he thinks he needs to say.
Isolation is an incredibly brave game. It goes against everything that defines a mainstream, big budget release, relying on steady pacing and systems rather than instant gratification and broad appeal. It did feel like a risk, says Hope. But when we first pitched it the response was really positive. It seemed to be in line with what we wanted from an Alien game. Something different. Four years later, having finally released the game, it s great to see there s a large audience out there that s open to something like this. Who knows what we ll do next?
Maybe you stopped playing Final Fantasy XIV before a goddamn dragon emerged from a goddamn moon. Maybe you stopped playing because a monthly subscription is like a nagging itch of guilt gnawing away at your soul. Maybe you've just never played it, in which case this news unfortunately doesn't apply.
If you are a lapsed player with an inactive account, you can head back into the game for free this weekend. Final Fantasy XIV is opening its doors to all of the game's owners, with a subscription-free access period that will last from 30 January at 8am GMT to 2 February at 8am GMT.
The point, naturally, is to give players a chance to peruse the new goodies added as part of the recent 2.5 update. You can see an overview of the new stuff via the trailer below, and check out more details on Squenix's offer through this link.