PC Gamer

Five weeks of plotting, bluffing and double-crossing with Neptune's Pride, the most duplicitous strategy game of the year.

The icon next to his name turned grey, signalling that he’d just signed out of MSN Messenger. That meant he was away from his computer. It was time. I opened up the other window, selected my fleets and sent them all towards his worlds. By the time he came home that night to see what I’d done, it would be too late. And by the next morning, I’d have won the entire match. All hail the space slug! Doom to the space squid! That’ll teach them to make an alliance with me.

Neptune’s Pride isn’t real-time strategy, it’s long-time strategy. Each day, you login, upgrade some of your planets, direct your fleets around the galaxy, and then… you wait. A long time. Moving that one fleet between those two planets? That’s going to take four hours. Between the next two planets? Another ten. To reach the enemy planet you’ve ultimately sent it to attack? About 22 hours total.

The result is that five minutes giving orders in the morning leads to entire days of worry. Did you make the right move? Will your forces be obliterated? Is that damned space turtle about to betray you? It’s the betrayal that’s key. If you were to list its features, NP is a slip of a game. In fact, here it is in a paragraph:

Maps are randomly generated. There’s only one ship type. Planets can be upgraded by Industry, Economy and Science, to generate ships, money or science faster. Better science allows quicker research of stronger weapons, larger scanning range, and faster ships that can travel further distances. And you can trade.
Space invaders
That’s the entire game. Everything else is just people. Who will you trade with? Who will you ally with? Who will you attack? Playing becomes about sending messages, and using everyone’s limited knowledge to plot behind their back. Or at least, that’s the way the space slug plays.

Which is how I ended up sitting at home waiting for that little icon to turn grey. The match had been going on for five weeks by this point, and had been marked by broken alliances, early morning logins and late night attacks. My opponent and I were now the last races standing. We’d betrayed each other once apiece already, but had grown weary and decided instead to create a lasting peace. One I’d just thrown away in pursuit of victory.

It was a few hours later and the space squid’s icon turned blue again. When he saw what I’d done, he simply sighed and started trading me his planets for nothing. His message was clear: ‘If you want to win that badly, then fine, just take them.’

I did the only thing I could: I traded the planets back as fast as I received them, with the extra he needed to win. All hail the space squid! Space slug feels bad about himself.
PC Gamer

With so many players already at the level 85 cap, Blizzard are looking ahead and sketching out changes for the next major patch for World of Warcraft. In their latest blog post they concentrate on some of the class changes they're planning to make, listing a long series of planned tweaks for many of the skills in the game. Read on for details

The patch is still early in development, and the poster, Ghostcrawler, makes it clear that the listed updates are still subject to change, and that many more are due to be added. You'll find the list of class changes repeated below. It looks as though Warriors have the worst of it. For more details on the planned patch, check out the World of Warcraft site.

Even after we fixed their mastery, Feral druid bleeds still do a lot of damage and are undispellable. We plan to shift some of that damage back to main attacks. They are also a little too hard to control. Given that they are already hard to root, snare, or polymorph, we think the fear immunity from Berserk is too much.
Arms warrior burst damage might still be too high in PvP, while we don’t have a great way to adjust their sustained damage for PvE. The Lambs to the Slaughter talent is a good place to address this. We also might nerf warrior stuns.
We think Arms and Fury warriors are getting too much damage out of Heroic Strike. We want it to be clear that it’s a rage dump and not make it the hardest hitting ability.
For Holy priests, we’re increasing Chakra’s duration and changing Surge of Light so it can now from Flash Heal and Greater Heal and can crit.
We’re making some additional buffs, such as Pain Suppression and Barkskin, undispellable.
We’re buffing Wild Mushroom. It’s a cool spell that isn’t getting enough play.
Empowered Touch will now benefit from Regrowth as well. We’re also buffing the Glyph of Regrowth.
We are looking at Holy Concentration (after our most recent buff) and Omen of Clarity to make sure they don’t account for too much mana savings.
We are probably going to remove Drain Mana from warlocks. It is incredibly situational in PvE but causes problems in PvP. This might mean we need to evaluate Mana Burn as well.
Inferno will no longer increase the radius of Hellfire.
Shadow and Flame can now proc from Incinerate in addition to Shadow Bolt.
We want to redesign Improved Soulfire.
Censure will no longer break Repentance.
As part of the Marks and Beastmaster buffs, we’re buffing Aimed Shot, Kill Shot, Chimera Shot, and Kill Command.
To reduce mage control, we are discussing reducing the duration of Frost Nova and Ring of Frost.
We want to make it clear that Combat is intended to use fast off-hand weapons. We also want to polish Revealing Strike a bit.
We want to make sure Enhancement shaman avoid caster weapons.
We want to make sure Unholy DKs prefer two-handed weapons.
Necrotic Strike needs to be affected by resilience.
For Cataclysm, we changed Death Strike almost completely into an ability for Blood DK tanks, which is a bit unfortunate. We want to make sure it is still a useful button for Frost or Unholy DKs who need healing.
We also want to address DK mobility in PvP.
We think we overnerfed Every Man for Himself, and are reverting it back to a 2-minute cooldown again. We might evaluate other racials after we’ve seen more PvP.

While all of the above updates are planned for the future, Blizzard have already been busy releasing hotfixes and mini-patches to quickly correct balance issues. The changes made by the latest hotfix are outlined in another blog post on the World of Warcraft site. Wondering whether to take the plunge and go for level 85? Check out out World of Warcraft: Cataclysm review.
PC Gamer

The fourth outing for the digital doctor has just been released for free in the UK. It starts with Amy and the Doctor trapped in an underwater base being menaced by a giant space shark, and gets more crazy from there. There's good news for Doctor Who fans across the pond, because this episode will also be sold as a digital download on Direct2Drive. Read on for details.

If a giant shark from space isn't the greatest of your concerns then you know you're having a bad day. The survivors in the underwater base of the latest Doctor Who adventure are also dealing with a strange sickness and a deadly force that lurks in the darkness called the Vashta Nevada. Luckily for them the Doctor and, more importantly, his magical door-opening, puzzle solving magic wand, the sonic screwdriver, have arrived to help out.

If you live in the UK the game can be downloaded for free from the Doctor Who site. If you live outside of the UK the episode will also be made avalable on Direct2Drive for $4.95.

PC Gamer

A team of Quake fans have combined their talents to beat id's 1994 classic Quake in 48 minutes. It's a 100% completion, which means every secret is discovered and every monster in the game killed in less than an hour. The pixel perfect efficiency on show in each level is simply mind boggling. You'll find the video embedded below.

PC Gamer

DICE brought out the big guns this year with Battlefield: Bad Company 2

They don’t teach you proper military tactics in the army. It’s all about climbing six-foot walls and cleaning guns, and useless junk like that.

Bad Company 2 shows you the way real soldiers fight: leaping full-pelt towards windows, tucking themselves into a tiny ball, then unfurling like an umbrella made of guns on the other side. War is all about standing far away from buildings and firing endless streams of grenades that appear in mystical green packets that grow just above your arse. It’s about performing little feats of individual skill so brilliant that you stop and stare at your own fingers, believing for a second that they’ve got tiny brains of their own.

In comparison with the 64-player murderfests of Battlefield 2, Bad Company 2’s slimmed-down servers and four-man squad seem reductive. But in limiting the mental scale of the conflict and making it so easy to signpost your intentions to your squad-mates, BC2 gains a constant and tangible sense of teamwork. Unless you’re lumped with ten sniping morons, anyway.

Class action
I spent most of my time in-game with three online chums. Our four-person death squad only got to be so ruthlessly efficient because we knew our assignments. One man played combat engineer, with a Saiga autofiring shotgun and a Carl Gustav rocket launcher. We’d stick him at the front of the pack, deployed to core out buildings and drill new holes into defensible positions. Supporting him, we sent our assault class, ready with a new round of ammunition and a hyper-accurate burst-fire rifle. I followed up in the line o’death, playing medic and wielding the once ludicrously good M60 machine gun. Then, right at the tail of our snake, was our recon soldier – a dead-eye shot and a human spawn point tucked into one ghillie suit.

We were monstrous. Bad Company 2 does better than any other multiplayer shooter at engendering teamwork among strangers, but there’s almost no response to four people with a plan. A good, communicative squad in BC2 is a thing of beauty. We didn’t need the insane reflexes of a 13-year-old after too much Fanta – with liberal application of tactics and battleawareness, we surgically sliced through objectives like a hot knife through war-butter.
Behind enemy lines
Of course, we all developed severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder along the way. Bad Company’s best vignettes are flashes of doom, sections where time slows down and you’re all too aware of the fragility of pretend life. Both main modes – Rush and Conquest – depend on players forcibly inserting themselves into enemy territory and staying there a bit too long to complete a job. These positions are fixed, so your defending opponent generally knows where you are – cue for them to drop the sky on you. Mortar strikes and rifle grenades are accompanied by more standard bullets – and thanks to DICE’s superlative sound engineering, you can hear every last bit of superheated metal as it whistles past your face.

Other shooters decorate their experience with nice audio; BC2’s sound is woven into the fabric of the game. Early on in its life, I remember standing on the second floor of a two-storey house. I’d taken up a defensive position with my squad: I had my M60 trained on the stairs, and my friend poked his shotgun over a banister at any oncoming foes, while the other two busied themselves with an M-COM station. We were inside an unbroken, impenetrable fortress, waiting for assailants. We were thinking wrong.

There was a dull thunk as the wall I had my back to disintegrated. I spun to see the white of the level’s snowcovered ground, and sprinted to a new position. Another thunk, and my friend’s body went sailing past my face and out of the gap the first explosion created. A third, and a fourth, and we were running out of solid things to put our bodies behind. Coming out of a crouch, I poked my head through a window just in time to see a rifle grenade come sailing out of a nearby bush. I shouted the location to my sniper buddy, and as another wall vanished, he lanced a shot straight through the grenadier’s skull. It went quiet for a second, the staccato explosions halted. “Yay!”, said we over Teamspeak.

Then a horrible lurching sound, a creaking that came from no gun. Myself and my surviving squadmates looked at each other – actually spun our character models and looked at each other in turn – before simultaneously deciding to launch out of the nearest hole, pulling our parachute ripcords and floating the few feet down to snowy earth. Turning around in unison, we looked back to see the house a pile of rubble. There was only one thing to do.

“Oh man, that was so awesome. Let’s do it again!”
PC Gamer

Thanks to the Steam sales, a flood of new players have been diving into the hectic warzones of DICE's superb military multiplayer shooter, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. If you're new to the game, it's well worth checking out Pixel Enemy's excellent tutorial video, running through some of the important ways Bad Company 2 differs from other military shooters like Call of Duty: Black Ops. For many useful tips and some straightforward, no-nonsense advice, check out the video embedded below.

The tutorial contains many pearls of wisdom, from encouraging players to tag every enemy they see, to the essential technique of kit switching on the fly. You'll save yourself a lot of frustration, and be a better player for having a quick look at the video below. Once you've mastered the basics, move up another level with our guide to being a smarter soldier in Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

PC Gamer

Biwoare have revealed more details on the Trooper class in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The new details focus on the high tech weaponry at the trooper's disposal, the unique craft they can pilot and the new companion, the demolitions expert Tanno Vik. Read on for more details and a new trailer.

Troopers are deadly at range, wielding the finest blasters available to the Republic. With training, Troopers can become advanced Vanguard warriors. These fighters stride into battle in state-of-the-art heavy armour, wielding even larger blasters like underslung cannons to blast the enemy out of cover.
Their unique vessel is the Rendili Hyperworks BT-7 Thunderclap, an advanced assault craft, bristling with weaponry. On board you'll be able to wander around the hi-tech briefing rooms and armoury decks that come with the vessel. There you'll be able to put the Trooper's companion Tanno Vik to work, crafting new armour and weapons for you and your other companions. For more on Bioware's upcoming Star Wars MMO, check out our preview, or head on over to the official Star Wars: The Old Republic site.

PC Gamer

If you picked up Super Meat Boy in the recent Steam sales, you may have noticed that it's quite difficult. In fact, it's face-clawingly, inhumanly hard. The whirling saw blades, infinite drops and traps of its many devious levels can bring tears of rage to the most hardened platforming experts. We're here to help. A youtuber who has completed and almost mastered the game has been throwing up a series of videos in which he completes each level for an A+ rating. It might not seem as though watching someone else beat the game easily will help with the crippling anger of being stuck, but in a game where timing and positioning are everything, the videos below provide a solid tutorial that could help you past the Super Meat Boy's most difficult challenges.

The player's name is MicVlad, and so far he's done videos of the first three worlds, for both light and dark versions of each level. You'll find the first three videos embedded below. In the description section for each video on Youtube there's a handy list of time stamps that will let you skip straight to the level you're stuck on. For more on the game, check out our Super Meat Boy review. The game's on sale right now on Steam.

PC Gamer

Their dedication to the Team Fortress 2 community makes Valve's online shooter a blast.

Online shooters don’t evolve. They land on your hard drive, and if there’s a bug, or a new map, or a new gun, the developers or publishers might stick out an update. But they are as is, and they’ll eventually tire me out.

This was how I expected it to be when Team Fortress 2 launched in October 2007. And back then, at first glance, it was just a brilliant shooter. A few maps, nine classes, lots of fun, and I’d be done with it in six months. Even as I was enjoying playing the Spy, the invisible weakling capable of terrorising teams only when their backs were turned, I was wondering what game was next.

Make the Team
As it turns out, “next” was TF2. In January 2008, Valve showed me the new game mode, Payload, and the initial designs for the Medic update. As much as they’d perfected the game to the point where they were happy to release it, millions of people playing it had exposed weaknesses in their impeccable design.

This is why I still play Team Fortress 2. Valve’s unhappiness with their finished game means I’m never more than a couple of months away from a new reason to play, an extra gun to gain, a different map to explore. The classes have evolved: The Spy is still a weakling, but a new watch allows me to stay invisible as long as I need to. A new knife steals the disguise of the player I just stabbed. A Fez makes me ultra dapper. Every class has a similar story: the Demoman can be a grenade spamming death machine, or a head-lopping front-line warrior. The Sniper’s bow encourages him to wander the map, string drawn back, ready to one-hit-kill jerks.

The announcements of these updates are events in themselves. Everything Valve does has to be entertaining, including creating week-long reveals of what they’ve been working on. They’ve hid the Spy’s update in the Sniper update, having him slowly uncloak on the webpage; they set the Demoman and Soldier to war with each other, battling for the highest kill count.
New ground
Valve have changed the game so much, introducing crafting and a microeconomy, that it’s no longer just an online shooter: it’s a place where they experiment with the community, taking the game to places that you could never have imagined when it launched. Every change brings new life, new challenges to overcome if they’ve updated a class you don’t play. It’s now full of gnarly little encounters: Snipers were given a shield that protects them from a Spy’s backstab, so I got proficient with the Spy’s powerful Ambassador for headshots. Demomen now have a speed boost that they can use to charge into battle with their giant sword, but a Pyro’s airblast can frustrate the raging Scotsman by knocking him back the way he came from.

Which has resulted in my favourite game of the past three years, and nothing being able to topple it this year. I play mostly on the PC Gamer TF2 server. It’s a pub, but with plenty of regulars. When we started, 2Fort was where we spent most of our time. Now it’s the various payload maps that make up the most popular battlegrounds, Heavies can heal themselves; Scouts are hitting people with fish; people are trading weapons and hats. I’ve pushed that bomb cart countless miles, ridden on top of it pulling dramatic poses; I’ve dived in behind it as it was about to tip into a hole full of explosive barrels, stabbing everyone. I’ve flailed, missed my stabs, ran away from angry Pyros into a sentry gun’s range, raging as the kill cam zooms in to show a dancing Engi behind his little nest.

I’m there after every update, and as long as Valve keep updating it, I think I’ll keep coming back.
PC Gamer

Merry Christmas everyone! We hope you've enjoyed the UK Christmas bonanza. We've already given away thousands of pounds worth of games, headsets, graphics cards, board games and much more, but now it's time for the grand finale. We've saved the fanciest piece of tech for Christmas day. Read on for your chance to win a cutting edge 240GB solid state drive from Corsair worth £375.

The main difference between a solid state drive and a typical hard drive is speed. Solid state drives like the Corsair Force Series F240 speed up loading times across your system. Boot times are reduced and the whole OS is more responsive. With its read speed of 285MB/s and write speed of 275MB/s, you'll struggle to find a faster drive, which makes it great drive for gaming, too.

With one of these in your rig you can expect dramatically reduced load times and better performance from your games. Also, because there are no moving parts rattling around inside, it's spookily silent. Normally there's a trade-off. Most solid state drives tend have a lot less storage space than their HDD counterparts, but the Corsair Force Series F240 has 240GB, enough for plenty of games.


Fast Performance — Games, applications and files load faster, while your system is more responsive
Compatible — Proven technology with installations on tens of thousands of systems worldwide
Flexible use — 2.5" form factor for your notebook or netbook needs, or use with included 3.5" bracket for your desktop computer
Silent operation — No moving parts means zero noise and high reliability
Low Power — Extend battery life for notebook and netbook users
Reliable — Over 1,000,000 hours mean time between failures
Backed by Corsair — A respected name with a passion for great service and support

It's Christmas day, a day that celebrates the joy of giving and, more importantly, the joy of receiving. To win, post in the comments below with a description of the gift that you'd give to PC Gamer if money, common sense and the laws of physics were no object. You have to live in the UK to enter. The entry that gives us the gift of Christmas lulz will be the proud owner of the F240 solid state drive, and shall henceforth be proclaimed the winners of Christmas 2010.

Winner: Steed! A beautiful piece of sci-fi writing.