PC Gamer
So gratuitous...
So gratuitous...

Maybe you'd like to play some games this weekend? Maybe you'd like them to be completely free? Maybe you'd also like them to be games you don't own; games that will stop letting you play them on Sunday unless you pay a reduced price to secure their continued use? That's a bizarre set of conditions, but whatever, Steam's got you covered. Both Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Gratuitous Space Battles are holding Free Weekend trials, giving you unpaid access to two completely different ends of the gaming spectrum.

Gratuitous Space Battles is a sci-fi strategy in which you design spaceships, construct a space-fleet, issue space-orders and then watch as your space-squadron battles it out against an army of spacejerks. In space. It's currently 75%, with the generously stocked Complete Pack costing £3.49.

CoDBlOps 2 is a purgatorial nightmare in which you're forced to endlessly and repetitively kill aggressors, all while smug and indifferent soldiers babble in an alien language of numbers, Zs and Xs, performing depraved rituals like "Noscope" and... Oh wait, it's just a relatively fun arcade FPS. It's 33% off, at £26.79.

Both trials will end at 9pm GMT on Sunday, at which point you'll have to start playing games you actually own or something.
PC Gamer
DayZ Standalone mocap

The latest DayZ Standalone update dispenses with the technical round-ups of recent posts, and instead focuses on creator Dean "Rocket" Hall having violent and unnatural spasms. Because he's doing motion capture work for the game. Not because he's possessed or anything. Probably.

The twenty minute video takes you through the mo-capping process, and features select interviews with DayZ's animation team. In it, you can learn Bohemia animator Martin Michalik's favourite mo-capped animation for DayZ. Spoiler: it's "defecation". Wait, what?

Don't expect a huge splurge of information about the status of the project. Still, it's an interesting look at a particular aspect of development and, at the very least, is good for a cheap laugh or two.
PC Gamer
roundup binary

This week's edition of Friday is brought to you by the letter D, which here stands for Dimensions, and lots of them. Read on for 3D ghosts, a sad tale of self-destruction, polymorphic dungeon-crawling, counter-terrorism, and a game that takes place in two simultaneous worlds. Click 'Read and comment' to be taken to the shadow reality that lurks beneath this one, which is the only place such games are allowed to exist.

FPS-MAN by briderider Play it online here.

So this is what Pac-Man has been seeing all these years. The poor, poor soul.

Everyone and their mum seems to be remaking Pac-Man at the moment, but I particularly like briderider's take on the iconic dot-chomper, which transforms Namco's ancient arcade favourite into, essentially, Slender Man With Dots. In a shocking turn of events, it turns out ghosts are quite scary in first-person – even cartoony multicolored ones. The trick – aside from the horror-movie soundtrack – is the lighting system, which cues a nearby spook by faintly spilling their luminosity around corners. You'll never play Pac-Man in the same way again. Mainly because no one in the world is playing original Pac-Man – but still.

Ode To Pixel Days by taloketo Play it online here.

The message: don't change who you are to please someone else. Unless 'who you are' is a complete jerk, obviously.

Ode To Pixel Days is a game about the dangers of changing yourself to gain acceptance with other people, as the narration makes clear early on. It might lack the subtlety of Thomas Was Alone (a game that seems to explore a similar theme), but it's still pretty effective at getting its message across, while finding time to include a few puzzles, and a neat demonstration of the devolution of a game sprite. (Via IndieGames)

Counter Terror by moonloop Play it online here.

That's me dead, then.

'A run-and-gun platformer with Rainbow Six-style counter-terrorism elements' is a description I don't get to type often enough, so I'm thankful to Counter Terror developer moonloop that I was able to do it just then. You're an elite guy with a gun, and your job is to rescue some hostages, mainly by shooting terrorists until they learn not to terrorise or be alive. But there is also a cover system, deployable ropes, terrain destruction and (best of all) flashbang grenades – put 'em all together, and there is a great deal of fun to be had here.

Binary Boy by Data-Fidelity Play it online here.


At the risk of breaking the rules of this column and suffering a week's internment at the PCG gulag, you should probably play the downloadable version of Data-Fidelity's ace Binary Boy (available here) – but make sure you play it in any case. It's a clever spin on the dimension-hopping concept going around at the moment, filtered through a VVVVVV sieve. With no jump button, you must evade obstacles by flipping your character between two opposing spaces – for example, day/night, overground/underwater – which both exist on the screen at the same time. Lovely stuff, which could only really exist in two dimensions. (Via Free Indie Games)

Morf by Big Bad Wofl Play it online here.

The Morf the merrier.

If Morf seems familiar, that's because it featured in a previous Free Webgame Round-Up, albeit in an unfinished state. Now that it's done, I thought it best to check in on this inventive roguelike again, not least because it's been significantly updated since then. The game's hook is its focus on transformation; after defeating an enemy, you assume their form, inheriting a unique power in the process. As with quite a lot of roguelikes, you're there to find the Amulet of Something-or-Other, which here will cure your morphing disease and turn you back into a regular human. Why on Earth would you want that? (Via Free Indie Games)
PC Gamer
Guild Wars 2 chickens yes

ArenaNet have published a detailed post explaining guild quests, the new mission type due to arrive in Guild Wars 2 with the upcoming Flame & Frost update. It looks like an enjoyable addition to the game, providing a range of team building activities for guild members to play through. So naturally, I'm going to obsess over the bit of the included video where player-chickens race around a track. I'm a massive child.

The purpose of the quests is to focus guilds towards PvE play. To that end, five team-based mission types will be available, as explained by ArenaNet's Leah Rivera:

"Guild Bounty – Your guild is tasked with tracking down and capturing various targets for the Orders. These people are wanted for a variety of reasons and have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves to resist arrest!"
"Guild Trek – Think you know Tyria? Well the Tyrian Explorer’s Society has a challenge for you! Find the list of locations before time runs out."
"Guild Challenge – These challenges leverage our existing event system but are specifically geared to require multi-group, coordinated play to succeed. So gather your guild and see if you’re up to the challenge!"
"Guild Rush – Test your skills with a mad dash over harrowing terrain, traps, and other hidden dangers. Just remember, there’s safety in numbers!" (ALSO CHICKENS!)
"Guild Puzzle – It’s a puzzle and a jumping challenge all in one! This mission type requires multi-group coordination as well as individual jumping skills to get to the treasure at the end."

Completing missions will earn Merits for your guild, which can be used to buy new guild upgrades. All missions will take place in the open world, meaning smaller guilds will be able to rally for additional players to help them.

Guild Wars 2's Flame & Frost: The Gathering Storm update is due out February 26.
PC Gamer
A crude metaphor for the PC gaming community
A crude metaphor for the PC gaming community

Ubisoft recently expanded their Uplay Store catalogue to include third-party publishers like EA and Warner Brothers. Their next step on the road to being a competitive force in digital distribution is more an act of contrition. The publisher realises it needs to improve its perception among the PC gaming community.

Speaking to MCV, Ubisoft's worldwide Uplay director, Stephanie Perotti, says, "Announcing all these partners for Uplay and a wider choice of PC games, it shows our commitment to PC, and we want to improve out relationship with the PC community."

"We are always seeking to improve. We took a lot of that feedback on board. With every game on PC we are improving. Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed III on PC were very high quality."

What Perotti doesn't mention is Ubisoft's Uplay infrastructure, which, I'd imagine, was responsible for a lot of the PC community's animosity in the first place. Removing their always-on DRM requirement was an important and welcome step, but the Uplay launcher can still act as a barrier to easy game access.

Offering consumers a choice of digital shopfronts is great, but I'm yet to be convinced that Uplay currently provides a feature-set that justifies the service's rockier patches.

Hey! You guys are a community of PC gamers! How do you feel about Ubisoft's new-found affection?
PC Gamer
Watch Dogs multiplayer featured

The demo presentation for Watch Dogs was one of the highlights of Tuesday's PS4 conference. While the escalation from stopping a petty thief to shooting up goddamn cop cars was nothing short of ridiculous, the chance to hack into and subvert a city-sized collection of systems sounds brilliant. But there's something that Ubisoft are being particularly coy about - the game's multiplayer.

They've teased it. At the end of the latest video, the perspective shifts to a security camera being hacked by another player. It suggests an asynchronous online mode, in which players are tracking each other... for some reason or other. In an interview with Kotaku, Watch Dogs creative director Jonathan Morin hinted at the role of multiplayer within the game.

"Watch Dogs is all about hyperconnectivity," said Morin. "To me, that has to mean all the time and anywhere. So yes, other people are out there all the time, when you don't expect it. Whether you're playing single-player or multiplayer, it's happening. You're saying asynchronous but it's much more real-time than that..."

So are those players helping or hindering protagonist Aiden? "I think both are interesting questions," Morin continued. "We'll let players do pretty much what they want on those terms. And I think that what's interesting is that since we're creating a fantasy that you can progressively control all of Chicago and monitor everything... if you can do that... you need to ask yourself if Aiden Pearce can do all of this, can anybody else out there do the same thing? And the answer is absolutely yes."

Sounds intriguing, to say the least. Watch Dogs is due out around autumn.
PC Gamer
Hero Builds thumb

Since their launch last month, Steam's user-guides have provided an invaluable resource for community help. Want to learn how to effectively punch shit in Skyrim? The guides have got you covered. There's some useful stuff in there too. Probably.

What those guides haven't done, until now, is integrate meaningfully with a game. Dota 2 is changing this with Hero Builds, subscribable character guides that you can overlay in your game, for a real-time lesson in the abilities you should pick and the items you should buy. And unlike your team-mates in chat, it won't surround each instruction with frustrated expletives.

A Q&A on the Dota 2 site explains their use. "A Hero Build is a way for players to gain knowledge about a specific hero. Builds provide helpful advice on which abilities to level up and when, and what the best items are for your hero. Builds also contain tooltips on strategies, tactics and any other knowledge the author saw fit to share."

You can create your own Hero Build from the Dota 2 website, or browse and subscribe those made by others. Builds can be overlayed with a new in-game option, fittingly called the "Hero Build Panel". While the scheme's still too early for effective ratings to be established, I'm sure the community will handle the task of judging each submitted Build in a calm and reasonable fashion.
PC Gamer
final fantasy xiv a realm reborn

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a complete overhaul of Square Enix's much maligned MMO, FFXIV - and, by crikey, it needed it. No one is more convinced of this than A Realm Reborn game director Naoki Yoshida, who I've conveniently just interviewed using a box which captures changes in light and sound across time, as you will see after the jump. He doesn't pull his punches: "We took our fanbase for granted," he says. "We lacked the knowledge of the global standard for MMOs, the knowledge of other titles. We didn't have the heart, the spirit or the passion to challenge the market."

Oof. He then goes on to check off a list of the game's gigantic errors - an unpalatable progress structure, inadequate server architecture, a woeful interface - none of which, we can presume, Square Enix will be making in its ground-up renovation. Certainly, Yoshida knows his MMO onions - he's played pretty much all of them, is currently smacked up on Guild Wars 2 and harbours a long-time love of Dark Ages of Camelot's PvP. These are good things by which to be inspired and it all suggests that A Realm Reborn is definitely not to be written off.

See what you think of Yoshida's claims in the video below:

PC Gamer
Tomb Raider featured

The usual rule of thumb for news writing is that any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with a no. Here, though, it's an emphatic yes. Looking over the announced system specifications for the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, your PC will almost certainly be fine. That is, unless your PC is a cardboard box with some string and wire stuffed inside it. You do realise that isn't a PC, right?

Here's what budding survivalists will need:

Minimum system requirements for PC

Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Vista,7,8 (32bit/64bit)
DirectX 9 graphics card with 512Mb Video RAM:
- AMD Radeon HD 2600 XT
- nVidia 8600

Dual core CPU:
- AMD Athlon64 X2 2.1 Ghz (4050+)
- Intel Core2 Duo 1.86 Ghz (E6300)

1GB Memory (2GB on Vista)

Recommended system requirements for PC

Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8
DirectX 11 graphics card with 1GB Video RAM:
- AMD Radeon HD 4870
- nVidia GTX 480

Quad core CPU:
- AMD Phenom II X2 565
- Intel Core i5-750

4GB Memory

Let's see what you'll get with those affordable mid-range components:

Very high resolution textures with up to 16x the amount of data
Detail Tessellation to enhance the detail on many surfaces in the game
Higher quality shadows
High quality bokeh depth of field with near-blur
Tessellation algorithms used to smooth out geometry
Improved cloth, SSAO, quality wetness effects, and post-filter effects.
LOD quality is adjustable for better quality on higher-end machines.

Tomb Raider also launches with Steamworks integration, so expect cloud saving, Steam server matchmaking and full Big Picture support. Reasonable requirements aside, Square Enix's PC porting efforts have been relatively strong of late, so chances are there's no cause for concern here. All that remains to be seen is whether the game is any good. Rich's hands-on preview will give you an idea of what to expect.
PC Gamer
Left 4 Dead 2 Helms Deep Reborn

For Rohan! Valve's Left 4 Dead team writes that Left 4 Dead 2 servers now run Team Chivalry and SeriouS Samurai's LOTR-inspired Survival mode map by default for players who subscribe to the map's Workshop entry. It's a celebratory move for a recent dedicated server fix and the ongoing beta for the Extended Mutation System, but c'mon—do you really need a reason to defend a massive stone fortress against waves of Saruman's mightiest undead?

I haven't run for my life in Left 4 Dead 2 in quite a while, but awaiting rescue from Gandalf while possibly yelling "AND MY CHAINSAW" into my microphone sounds like just the kind of fun to hook me back in.