PC Gamer

League of Legends is about to get its "Varus Patch." And, as we've come to expect, Riot have supplied us with a handy video that explains their motivations. Riot are great like that.

Support tanks have received buffs to make them "feel like real tanks" during the late game, Master Yi and Ryze have been tweaked, and ability powers have had a revamp to allow for increased customisation.

The next patch will also bring an official spectator mode to LoL. Let us know how you get on in the comments.
PC Gamer
Crysis 3
When I saw Crysis 3 recently, I asked senior creative director Rasmus Højengaard about the notoriously high piracy figures for Crysis 2, and whether they planned to do anything differently this time.

Rasmus Højengaard: I can't say. It's unfortunate that you don't win any awards for most downloaded game. But yeah, obviously it's something we'd like to address. Certainly people apparently really want to play our games, they just don't wanna buy them. So we'll do what we can, but whatever that's gonna be is hard to say yet.


You can see how the game's shaping up in the Crysis 3 trailer they released this week.
PC Gamer
indie gala
Although we think pay-what-you-want indie bundles are great for charities and skint gamers, we can't help but wonder if the supply of games is rapidly diminishing. The Indie Gala Bundle IV includes some OK-ish games such as Steel Storm: Burning Retribution (65% according to us), A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda (79%) and Altitude (79%) alongside ageing but-apparently-OKish games like Alien Shooter and 2002's Disciples II.

Disciples II is only available if you pay more than the average, which is currently sitting at £3.29. Pay this much and you'll also get decent indie 'shmups Altitude and Really Big Sky thrown in, as well as Alien Shooter 2, Wake (not as in Alan), Lunnye Devitsy and one more mystery title. A little bit of your money will go to the Child's Play and Save the Children charities, too, although you can choose how much goes to each. Which is great if you hate the thought of helping poor children. It's a whopping nine games for a minimum of 36p each, but it still begs the question: where are they going to get the next nine games from?
PC Gamer
MUD review
The roar of the engines, the kick of your tail-end, the jostling for position. MUD may lean (mid-air, foot outstretched) towards the accessible end of the racing spectrum, but its initial races do a great job of selling the excitement of a Motocross event.

Bikes slide round corners and sluice through the dirt. They leave trails that harden and becoming hazards on later laps. Each track – recreated versions of the FIM Motocross World Championship calendar – is full of mounds and jumps, long downward slopes and technical chicanes. There is an undercurrent of realism despite the ridiculous use of energy drinks to provide temporary speed boosts.

Equally ridiculous (although actually real) is MUD’s primary race mechanic: the scrub. Scrubbing over a jump causes your rider to contort the bike into an improbable angle in the air. Straighten out at just the right moment and you’re rewarded with a kick of speed on landing.

Mess up the timing and rider and bike will collapse to the ground. In races where riders are so tightly bunched together, it can mean the difference between competing for the front and languishing at the back. It’s a trick extended out to absurdity, with races often hinging on mastering the technique, but stringing together a series of perfect jumps is a satisfying experience.

The official mode offers a quick race or a 12-track championship, letting you choose riders and teams from the tournament. But that’s just the sideshow; MUD’s main focus is the World Tour career. Here you pick a ‘Hero’ and compete in a variety of events for money.

That money unlocks everything. You’ll need to buy passes to events, and to the individual races within them, new teams that offer bigger bonuses for better finishing positions, new characters, along with character traits that boost key stats such as speed, agility and stability-boosting strength. Then there’s helmets, new tricks for the Trick Battle mode and better energy drinks to increase boost duration. Even if you focus on unlocking new events, the rewards for completing races just aren’t big enough to keep up steady progress – you’ll be spending most of your time grinding for the cash to foot the mounting bills.

There are multiple event types to break up the repetition. Elimination and Checkpoint offer the standard variations, but the other, Trick Battle, just doesn’t work. It feels shoehorned into an engine not designed to support the ballsy balletics of the sport, and jerky animations and unnatural trick timings lead to an uninvolving experience.

MUD just doesn’t offer the technical depth to make the constant repetition of races satisfying. In an effort to add bells and whistles, it gets bogged down and struggles to maintain its initial speed. But with a dearth of bike games on the market, it still provides a few hours of thrill
Apr 29, 2012
PC Gamer
Vessel review  thumb cropped
In Vessel’s alternate universe of gushing smokestacks and spinning cogwheels, industry has been supported by a single inventor – you – and your world-changing creation: the fluro. These semisentient servile beings coalesce from available liquids, and have an often self-destructive desire to jump on large red buttons.

A laboratory mishap reveals their many and varied adaptations, which turn out to be handy for solving the throw-switch and pressure-plate puzzles of this 2D platform world.

A supply of fluro ‘seeds’ enables you to conjure these critters wherever you choose. Drop one, douse it in water, lava or even fruit juice, and a gormless helper will arise. Different seeds provide fluros of different behaviours. Some are fixated on button pushing, others chase you or seek out light sources, and still others look for liquids matching their constituent mass and slurp them until they burst. Environments often have grills through which only fluros can pass, so much of the game involves working out where to place a fluro such that it gambols through a run of switches in the right order while pursuing the appropriate behavioural goal.

It’s a nice enough trick, and repeated in many guises with clever complications: lava fluros and water fluros can be coaxed into collisions, activating steam-powered contraptions. Fruit-pulp fluros grow on trees in two flavours – mix them and they detonate. The emphasis on fluid dynamics means occasionally adjusting the angle of a spraying nozzle, or thinking carefully about where you are going to squirt your own canister-supplied hose.

There’s often a platforming or timing element to these otherwise gentle intellectual challenges, and this is where the game comes a little unstuck: movement in this world is awkward, your character’s gangly marionette body snagging on some things and sliding off others. The graphics have a stunning gloss, but it doesn’t help in differentiating background detail from foreground collision object.

Nor are the fluid dynamics, physics and AI behaviours quite reliable enough in their simulation to deliver satisfyingly pat results. Some solutions end up an ugly, frantic fudge, or jeopardised by some random spasm of fluro whim. The swooping, zooming camera doesn’t help, often truncating useful information, erasing off-screen fluros from existence, or simply pulling out so far that the game sputters into super slow-motion.

But if Vessel’s action is sometimes shabby and erratic, at least the fluid simulation is a real novelty for this genre. Every now and again, those dynamic elements come together to deliver a solution that rivals the “Eureka!” moment of any other puzzler. Despite its occasional chaos and fussy foibles, Vessel’s central gimmick just about holds water.
PC Gamer
Ridge Racer Unbounded review thumb
FlatOut was a stunt racer with a mode in which players attempted to launch their drivers through the windscreen of their cars and over obstacles. Ridge Racer is best remembered as an arcade racer about blue skies and power slides. These two games combining is only the first counter-intuitive thing about Unbounded.

The second comes in the form of concrete pillars, low walls and lamp posts. Crashing into any of these obstacles won’t slow you down, but will help fill your boost meter. Filling that boost meter completely, via perfect power slides, clean overtaking or hitting roadside paraphernalia, lets you supercharge your car for a few seconds. Using it at the right time can give you the extra speed you need to close the gap between you and the race leaders, the power you need to create shortcuts by punching through certain destructible buildings, or to frag other cars off the track in spectacular Burnout-style crashes. Avoid trouble, race in a perfect line and, paradoxically, you’ll do worse than you would if you careen into concrete, brick and metal.

All of these actions make winning races in Unbounded about perfecting a special kind of messy finesse. Perfectly execute a drift around a corner and you’ll fill your boost meter. Activate it on the next bend and, if you’ve timed it well, the thrust will extend your drift (Achievement get!), let you frag a rival car (Achievement get!), smash through a roadside billboard (Achievement get!), and launch up a ramp to catch a few seconds of air (Achievement get!). Each one of these actions refills your boost meter, which means that by the time you hit the ground, you can trigger it again.

Winning races in Unbounded isn’t about finding the cleanest racing line, then. It’s about turning your car into a wrecking ball. If half the track isn’t on fire by the time you finish, you’re doing it wrong. It’s great that Unbounded provides this high ceiling on skill, where the best players can just keep getting better, by mastering drifting, chaining their boosts to ridiculous perfection, and hitting just the right number of low walls to get the best time without taking too much damage. The problem is that the game is outright incompetent at explaining any of this to you, or at giving you the necessary feedback when you’re doing it wrong.

It’s not just low walls, which logic would normally require you to avoid. Even once you’ve worked out that destruction is a good thing, the third counter-intuitive element in Unbounded is drifting. Perfecting a time in Ridge Racer has always been about riding that edge – ridge – between taking a corner at ridiculous speed and spinning out or hitting the walls. Unbounded wraps that experience up in the drift button.

Take a corner at speed, tap the drift button, and you can throw the rear end of your car into the corner. Massage the accelerator and the brake correctly and you can impressively and satisfyingly exit straight out of each corner. Then you’ll finish the race last.

You can keep trying, and trying, and trying, and for all the world it’ll look like you’re doing it right. Then you’ll read something on t’internet that says that you should hold down the drift button all the way through the corner. So you do, and it’s not an instant revelation. It’ll sort of look the same, only now you’ll start to win races. It turns out that while you can drift without it, holding the drift button means you keep more of your speed in the corner. It makes all the difference in the world.

There’s no in-game tutorial that explains any of this, which is bad enough, but the fuzziness that exists between success and failure means that you might never work out your mistake. Even now, after all I’ve played it, I have this uncomfortable sense that maybe I’m doing it wrong. I win races, sometimes. I also still place last sometimes. That’s in part because Unbounded is hard, in a way that Ridge Racer games always were, but in a way that few arcade-style racers have had the guts to be since. You’ll be driving well and a rival car will frag you from behind, knocking you out of the race for a few seconds. It’s not quite Mario Kart-levels of frustration, but it’s sometimes enough to take you from placing in the top three to dead last.

Similarly, sometimes you’ll be driving well and a single mistake will see you wreck your car, come to a dead stop, or spin out in a corner and end up facing the wrong way. Again you might drop 10 places with no chance of catching up.

I also – and I can’t confirm this – have a slight fear that the game uses rubber banding. When you’re driving, the lap number and the time between you and the nearest car is displayed in big, bold letters on the architecture around the track. It’s a really nice bit of visual design, as effective here as it is in Splinter Cell: Conviction. But in one instance, a sign in front told me I was “13 seconds ahead” of 2nd place. A moment later it updated and read “4 seconds ahead”. My brain either switched off for 10 seconds, or the game gives helpful nudges to offscreen AI racers. Either of these options is mildly troubling.

Thankfully, despite the difficulty, the game is generous with achievements and unlocks. Even when you’re driving badly you’ll regularly receive access to new cars, new districts and new races, as well as constant reassurance. You always feel like you’re making progress even if, like me, you worry that you’re not getting any better.

Aside from the standard Domination races, there are a couple of other occasional race modes, including the drift challenges in which you extend your ticking time limit by successfully power sliding. The best, however, are the frag challenges. With an almost constantly full boost meter, you have a time limit in which to destroy as many cars as possible. The first of these puts you inside a truck, surrounded by police cars, and it’s ridiculously good, smashy fun.

While unlocking new racing goodies, you’ll also receive new blocks for the game’s track builder.

First things first: the track builder was completely broken at release, and trying to launch it via the game’s menu caused an immediate crash to desktop. Developers Bugbear released a patch that fixed the problem within a couple of days, but that’s not good enough. Did no one notice before release that a major part of their game simply didn’t work on a PC?

Now that it’s fixed, it’s a wonderful addition to the series, and perfect for the PC. You construct tracks on a grid, connecting together chunks of track – corners, straights, bridges, tunnels – to create the course. Once you have your desired layout, you can hop in and decorate it with objects. My track ‘Wangtown’ (see boxout) in the city of GMan-hattan has an area I call Petrol Station alley – a dozen petrol stations, three gas pumps apiece, line the track leading up to a bridge. It’s gives Wangtown an explosive finish. Ahem.

It’s not as flexible or as core to the game as Trackmania’s own track builder, but it extends the life of the game beyond the already robust provided tracks. Once you’ve finished your design, you can upload it to a central repository. Or, if you’re not feeling creative yourself, you can download the tracks that others have made. Most of these are gimmick tracks like mine, focused on long tunnels, hundreds of exploding barrels, or AI-confounding loopthe- loops – but that just makes them all the more fun.

The real problem right now is that there are more player-made tracks than there are players. Using the built-in matchmaking option to find opponents, I’ve never been pitted against more than one other person. That’s a pretty bad sign for a multiplayer mode designed for up to eight players, and by the time you read this review, there’s a real chance that the game’s multiplayer will already be empty.

Despite its frustrating inability to explain itself, Unbounded is often fun even when you’re playing it badly. Plenty of recent games have tried to extend the explosive, action-packed racing genre and build upon what Burnout once got so right. Unbounded comes closer than any other attempt so far, finding a new formula by blending Ridge Racer’s inner city drifting and combining it with FlatOut’s building wrecking. Plus, now you’ve read this review, you know how to use the drift button correctly, and that the occasional shufty towards a brick wall can help as much as hurt.

If you need more than explosions and enjoy perfecting a skill through hundreds of hours of practise, Unbounded is one of the few arcade racing games that provides room for you to grow into it, along with a potentially endless stream of new tracks from the community to perfect. At the very least, do a YouTube search in a few months’ time and marvel at the heights of mastery reached by those dedicated few willing to invest time in learning Unbounded’s peculiar streets
PC Gamer
Crying over lost gear
I once feigned stabbing myself in the eye with a popsicle stick only to actually stab myself in the eye with a popsicle stick. Yep. I've been known to make some rash decisions that cloaked the next hours of my life with self-pity and regret. This is why MMOs have functions like buy back tabs, confirmation dialogues and the ability to trade loot that was mistakenly ninja'd because "It's a hunter weapon." If these measures of safety fail you, the new item restoration will give your items back in less than a minute.

Item recovery isn't something new to World of Warcraft. Previously, you could submit a ticket with the details of your butter-fingered mistake and, if you were a blessed individual, you could have your gear back within a day or two. The new item recovery system takes away the hassle of waiting and gives you your items via in-game mail almost instantly.

To test it out, I deleted my newly acquired healing boots on my paladin. Destroyed, gone, dead. Being in Orgrimmar barefoot can't be conducive to good health, so I tried to submit a ticket before I accidentally stepped in any wyrven poo-doo. The new item restoration button (found in the Open a Ticket section under Customer Support in game) opens up the Battle.net website where you can choose a character and see everything that you've recently sold or destroyed. I saw various greens and blues that I'd sold to the vendor since April 8th, which is nearly three week ago. I click my boots, confirm that I wanted them restored, and they were waiting for me in the mailbox not 30 seconds later. Frustration averted with an incredibly useful and simple system.

You can choose multiple items for restoration if you made a really bad decision, but the system only allows you to use the function once every 30 days, per account. So if you find yourself in need of a item restore, make sure you've selected everything before submitting your request.

It's features like these that really make playing games a rewarding experience. We all make mistakes and the ability to turn them around almost instantly means less time being frustrated and more time having fun.

Find all of the details on the new system on Battle.net.

Apr 28, 2012
PC Gamer
Rayman Origins thumb
Having played Rayman Origins on the consoles, I’d already fallen in love with its colourful world. So coming to the PC version felt a bit like re-enacting a first date: a stupid but good-natured romantic fiction.

But just as we’re getting ready to go to that pub where we met, so I can pretend to come over and offer the PC version of Rayman Origins a drink, it turns to me, and lets its dressing gown fall to the floor. I am aghast. There’s just a smooth patch of skin where the DRM should be. It’s never looked more beautiful.

Apart from that, this is a pixelperfect port of an inspired and downright wonderful platformer. Rayman distinguishes itself and embarrasses the competition with its visual design. The creativity that flushes through every square inch of the canvas makes Mario feel like a stage adaptation of a washing machine manual. Moreover, Rayman Origins exists comfortably in its two dimensions, the only concession to the third being understated parallax. It makes the hysterical original Sonic levels in Sonic Generations feel insecure and incoherent.

Everything about the level structure makes Rayman Origins intuitive and joyful, and every design decision has been made to test the expert without alienating the beginner. The levels vary from familiar takes on platforming staples – cloud levels and underwater levels – to such oddities as a world based on didgeridoos. Gourmand Land takes food as its theme, effortlessly spinning snowy freezer cabinets and lava levels inside an oven.

All levels are united by a deceptively simple aim: collect the small number of Electoons. Some will be in hidden areas, others won by collecting the hundreds of yellow Lums. Many of these are within easy reach, others fly out of bubbling platforms, acting as both rewards and signposts. King Lums add a touch of urgency and demand precision, doubling the value of other Lums you collect for a short time. Skull Coins are worth 25 Lums, and require the nimblest fingers and sharpest eye. To master a level, you don’t have to collect every Lum, but it’s so tight, you’ll consider starting again if you miss one.

That’s where Rayman Origins pulls its friendliest and most compulsive stroke. Each level is split into short checkpointed stages, allowing you to explore, forage and suicide-restart your way across a level. Death isn’t punished, and apart from a rude turning circle when negotiating tight underwater levels, no failure feels unfair. You’ll never have to return to a level later, with your new powers: everything is within grasp on the first playthrough.

The challenges vary. The bridgecrossing levels are low on hazards, but heavy on the speed-testing King Lums. The Mosquito levels transform the action into sidescrolling shoot-’em-ups, which are much more enjoyable when played on a gamepad. The optional Tricky Treasure levels are the toughest, and the only time when the game demands absolute perfection and declines to offer checkpoints. Apart from these levels, any frustration is bite-sized, manageable and deliciously compulsive. There’s never a moment when you want to stop playing. With four players playing locally, it becomes enjoyably chaotic, even if the lack of online options is a bit of a lost opportunity.

Aside from a disconcertingly phallic end-of-level sequence that’s as unskippable as it is frequent and overlong, everything about Rayman’s arrival on PC is slick and joyful. Origins is a rare and hefty slab of uncompromised pleasure.
PC Gamer
Guild Wars 2 Ranger and Centaur
As thousands of players are currently discovering in the beta, Guild Wars 2's content isn't structured like other MMOs. Rather than following every quest chain to its conclusion before moving to the next zone, you're encouraged to wander and see what events you encounter. You're your limited by your level, and as you gain power the amount of ground you can cover increases. You're also levelled down to the area you're in, limiting the degree to which content becomes irrelevant to you as time goes on. As well as the impact this has on the game's feel, it also has an effect on the way post-launch content will work. I spoke to game designer Colin Johanson about ArenaNet's plan for Guild Wars 2 in the months and years ahead.

"We have a live team of designers and artists and gameplay programmers who are going to be flying over the game constantly, dropping content everywhere” Johanson says. “Our goal is that every time you make a new character, you might go back through a map that you played six months ago and you're going to find completely different content.” New content, he says, will be spread across the whole game rather than concentrated in specific areas. As this happens, the events already in place will be altered to accommodate it.

“You run around Queensdale, the human starter area, and maybe the Brood Mother shows up every X minutes,” Johanson continues. “We’re going to put another event that can happen there, and then slow down how often the Brood Mother happens. Not only are there new events happening, but everything you’ve seen before starts happening less often. The world gets larger and larger. Three years from now, if someone makes a brand new character in the game, a place that has 100 events in it might have 300 by then.”

ArenaNet will not, however, be drawing players’ attention to new content directly. Johanson believes that it’s important that players have an opportunity to be surprised, something that could be spoiled by sticking an advertisement for a new encounter in the patch notes.

“I think a big part of the sense of immersion and joy in our world is discovery and exploration. It’s going out and seeing what’s around the corner, what’s going to happen. If we can keep that feeling alive every day that you log into the game, I think there’s just something better about that. If we tell everybody what we put in there, they’re going to look for it, find it, and that’s it. I think we would rather have you play and suddenly stumble across it - and for all we know that could have been in there all the time.”

The job of spreading the word about new content will fall, Johanson says, to the community itself. “I would be thrilled if we put that stuff in and within the next two or three weeks people were on the fan forums saying, ‘I found this event - has anyone ever seen this before?’ and everyone starts pouring in to go find it. I think that’s more organic and fun for the community. Everything we do is built on how we get our community to play together and feel better about one another.”

The Guild Wars 2 weekend beta event is running right now - if you're taking part in Europe, why not play with our community? If you're not in the beta, you can check out our footage of the game's World vs. World PvP and dungeon content.
PC Gamer
Realm of the Mad God review
The Steam release of Realm of the Mad God marks a new mainstream focus for the free-to-play browser MMO. It’s a combination of Rogue, Robotron and Diablo, an isometric fantasy shooter where quests are handed to you on the fly, where you’re never given a reason to stop running, shooting, or farming experience – until you die, and your character is deleted forever. It’s simplistic and supremely silly, but also one of the most distinctive multiplayer experiences around.

Mad God knows how rudimentary it is, and the main reason it’s enjoyable is that sense of being let in on the joke. It reduces MMO mechanics to the point of absurdity without rejecting them, revelling in the festive pointlessness of haring around with your mates blowing up an improbable number of elves.

Wide-eyed sprites and a looping up-tempo soundtrack contribute to this thrill of being swept up in a tidal wave of manic consumption. Being absorbed into one of Realm of the Mad God’s ‘trains’ is something every gamer should experience at least once: a gang of players that reaches a critical mass where no monster can stop it, then tears through the world in a leaderless stampede. Such Skinner Box game mechanics would be cynical elsewhere, but when accelerated to the point of ridiculousness they become charming, like listening to a despot give a speech on helium.

It’s easy to emerge from one of these trains with a max-level character, and for the committed this is where Realm of the Mad God actually begins. Collecting special potions from bosses maxes out your character’s stats, enabling you to take on tougher bosses and eventually several variants of the Mad God himself. Then you die, and your character’s achievements are totted up and served back to you as a ‘fame’ rating, which contributes to your account’s total score.

It’s a game that’s happy to discard your efforts in a heartbeat, and that complicates the inclusion of microtransactions. Everything you can buy with real money is cosmetic, with the exception of dungeon portals that allow you to skip straight to a specific encounter. The cheaper items – armour dyes that cost between 25p to £1 – are lost with your character, while more expensive unlocks such as pets are permanently bound to your account. The game invites throwaway spending with the same anarchic spirit that encourages players to chase pretty green numbers in the wilderness. One is harmless, the other isn’t.

If you rationalise the money you spend as a way of tipping the developers, it makes more sense. You’re invited to participate exactly as much as you want, whether that’s jumping in for 20 minutes or dedicating yourself to unlocking every class, buying every hat, and killing every god. It’s your choice, after all – just don’t be surprised if people think you’re mad for trying.