PC Gamer
Carrier Commander review

I thought I was having an off-kilter dream when I heard that the developers of military sim Arma were making a follow-up to Carrier Command, the cheesy 1988 sci-fi game about piloting an aircraft carrier. It turns out I wasn’t dreaming, but Gaea Mission isn’t quite the dream outcome.

Two modes are available: a story-based campaign built around a bland, futuristic war where the sides are mostly differentiated by the colour of their units, and a ‘strategy game’ option that lets you set up your own map, tweaking the difficulty in a variety of ways. Both boil down to capturing and defending islands that provide you with resources to upgrade your carrier and build units – a fleet of up to eight amphibious walrus tanks and flying manta gunships. The ultimate objective in both cases being to confront and defeat an enemy carrier.

The infrequent, tacked-on shooter bits in the campaign disappoint.

The campaign is a decent tutorial, but burdened by forgettable characters and a story you’ll often have to be reminded exists. The main focus of Gaea Mission seems to be the strategy mode, which on the surface looks like it will be highly replayable. There’s just one problem: the core tactical mechanics make you want to walk away from your PC and break things.

Gaea Mission has some of the worst, Yakety Sax-worthy unit pathfinding I’ve seen in years. You can only pilot one vehicle at a time, while your other seven are directed using attack, move, and follow commands. Your vehicles’ interpretations of these commands are hilarious at first, but eventually made me want to construct scale replicas of each just to take a sledgehammer to them.

Often, while piloting a walrus, other walruses (walri?) would drive directly into a ravine and get stuck, allowing enemy mantas to shoot them like walruses in a barrel. On more than one occasion, they would back up directly into me at full speed as I was lining up a shot, or miss a waypoint by a few inches and neurotically insist on making a six-point turn to go back and hit it instead of carrying on.

Controlling one vehicle, you can give the others orders via command wheel.

Mantas are no smarter. The first time I instructed one to dock with my carrier for repairs, it interpreted that as ‘crash unceremoniously into the ship’s hull and explode’. They often interpret attack commands as ‘hover around with your crosshairs on a target and hold fire until it shoots you down’. This is especially irritating considering the jittery manual controls make it almost impossible to hit anything while piloting a manta directly.

Multiplayer is woefully and head-scratchingly absent. It seems like a no-brainer: the strategic side of the game is almost screaming to be a deep and engaging competitive experience. It would also have enabled competent humans to control all the vehicles in eight-on-eight skirmishes, circumventing the awful AI. But no.
PC Gamer
webgame 11 header

I was tempted to include Lara Croft and the Spear of Infinite Spearing in this week's roundup, which as you may be aware has just been transmuted into a browser game. But then I remembered the 'free' part of this column, and having to swallow Spotify-style adverts hardly seems in the spirit of things. So here, instead, are five games with much smaller production values but much bigger hearts - except GRINDSTAR, which is delightfully full of hate. Enjoy!

GRINDSTAR by failnaut Play it online here.

The game doesn't make this particularly clear, but you click on the big 'grind' button to, well, grind.

You'll probably give up on GRINDSTAR at the same point I did: when you're asked to click the 'Grind' button an extra 750 times in order to defeat the latest boss. I'll back up. GRINDSTAR was created for the Fuck This Jam jam, which asks developers to create a game in a genre they despise. failnaut seems to hate grindy RPGs, so it's only natural that he's made one that's pure grind. There's not much of a game here, but thanks to the great music and art I found myself clicking away regardless. THAT'S HOW THEY GET YOU.

Mutant Alien Assault by Chris Suffern Play it online here.

The guns are fantastic. My favourite is the grenade launcher, which makes short work of these alien things.

Remember how much you like dubstep? How you squeal with joy every time a game trailer comes on that's positively rolling in the wub wub? No, there's no point trying to run away - I've locked the doors to the internet. You're going to play this Super Crate Box-inspired survival arcade game, and you're going to enjoy it - mainly because it's pretty good. Several levels of frantic fun (sorta modelled after famous sci-fi shows) await, including one topically based on Red Dwarf. You'll know it when you see it. It's called 'Red Dwarf'.

Dream of Pixels by Dawn of Play Play it online here.

Dream of Pixels takes place in an alternate universe where hamburgers eat people. (Probably.)

This reverse Tetris seems deceptively simple - you click to subtract blocks from a falling mass of interconnected shapes - but as the blocks pile up, er, down, you come to know your true enemy: stray squares that don't conform to any pattern. As in un-reverse Tetris, when the blocks pile... down to the... bottom of the screen, you lose. I mean, you win. No - I was right the first time. This is just the prototype version of Dream of Pixels - you can find the full one on an iDevice - but there's enough here to sink your L-shaped teeth into of an afternoon.

Soulcaster by MagicalTimeBean Play it online here.

You can recall and reposition your 'towers' anywhere you like.

Soulcaster! Soulcaster is inspired, mixing two genres I wouldn't have thought to chuck into the same cauldron, and emerging with a delicious, viscous substance that tastes better than anything else in this list. It's tower defence meets roguelike, basically, adding summonable, stationary allies to the normally solitary business of dungeon-crawling. I've only had time to sample Soulcaster, but it's immediately clear what you're supposed to do, and how the genres combine - and they come together more readily than you might think. It's almost fate. If you don't want to play it in your browser (incidentally, Chrome is your best bet - the sound's a bit weird in Firefox), you can buy the game and its sequel for a pittance. If you like either genre, this is highly recommended in any form.

Mushbits by Z3lf Play it online here.

It does remind me of Rayman: Raving Rabbids a bit, but don't let that put you off. These rabbits are less clinically insane.

This cute puzzle game asks you to "unite the bunnies with their like-coloured mushrooms", but it's actually quite a bit smarter than that. The two bunnies, pink and blue, can only cross squares of the same colour, but when they do so they transform them to the opposite colour. To succeed, you have to work together, with yourself - or another player, if you feel like passing the mouse around. This is bright, boisterous, slick puzzle fun.
PC Gamer
Black Ops 2

It's inevitable, I know. Do bears tango in the woods? Is there a party like an S-Club party? Will Call of Duty make money this year? Yes, to all these things. A thousand times YES. $500 million is the day one worldwide sales figure Activision are bandying around today for Black Ops 2.

“With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row,” intoned Actiblizz robo-boss Bobby Kotick. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars,” the two most successful movie franchises of all time."

Not bad I'm sure, given that I can't fit $500 million into my head without most of it leaking out as a stream of awed vowels. This means that the Call of Duty series is showing no signs of slowing down. It'll be interesting to see how they fare across the next gen transition. By our reckoning, Black Ops 2 was a middling addition to the series with a few interesting sparks. Get the full verdict in our Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review.
PC Gamer
Assassin's Creed 3

Assassin's Creed 3 is arriving a bit late on PC, but according to comments from the Ubisoft team in a recent Reddit AMA, it'll come with some extra visual polish. DirectX 11 features like tessellation will smooth out those polygons and we can look forward to textures that, in some cases, will be four times the resolution of the console versions.

Community developer "UbiGabe" also says that "when PC launches, it will include ALL of the console patches out at the time (so, that includes any patches we might be releasing in between now and PC launch). In addition, PC has a special patch designed to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible."

Textures will be "double-res in most cases, but quadruple in some," and there will be "some other shader improvements that will have an impact, but aren't all that sexy to enumerate in a reddit post." UbiGabe should drop us a line, NOTHING IS TOO UNSEXY FOR US.

But seriously, other important issues were raised during the Q&A, like the vital question "Do you think Connor would rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck?" to which the predictable response was "I think Connor's speed and size would prove to be the difference maker in the battle against the mob of horse-ducks so I lean towards them."

This brilliant Assassin's Creed Kinect April Fool video also came up again, which is all the excuse I need to embed it on my forehead to amuse everyone I meet today. Also here:

PC Gamer
chivalry featured gmg
This week's PC download chart is a battleground that spans the ages, and sees Football Manager 2013 knocked off the top of the table by a bunch of people wielding pitchforks. And, no, we don't mean Millwall fans.

Up from number two to take over the top spot like a charging knight trying to save a damsel in distress, only with a mace and more bloodlust than a viking on a rugby tour, is medieval battler Chivalry.

Just behind it, flexing what appears to be a cheese wire and sporting a menacing look, is Hitman: Absolution, the subject of our 35% discount offer.

The single new entry in the chart is Battlefield 3 Premium Edition, an add-on which offers players all five Battlefield 3 expansion packs - and you get them two weeks earlier than the rest of the grunts out there.

Here's the global top ten from Green Man Gaming in full...

1. Chivalry
2. Hitman: Absolution
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
4. Football Manager 2013
5. Borderlands 2
6. Borderlands 2 Season Pass
7. Battlefield 3 Premium Edition
8. Assassin's Creed III
9. Guild Wars 2

Brought to you in association with Green Man Gaming.
PC Gamer
Saxxy Awards

Valve fired the starting pistol on the Saxxy video awards back in August, inviting fans to create the best videos they can using the Source Filmmaker tool released earlier this year. The entries are in, and the voting has started. You can start dishing out thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs by logging in and working through the queue on the Saxxy Steam page.

The quality is mixed, as you'd expect, but every so often you run into a gem that makes it worthwhile. My favourite so far is the Midnight Power short embedded below, a slow pan out on a fight scene that stretches the number of moving objects and characters the filmmaker can handle to its limit.

Discover more great filmmaker videos in our round-up of ten of the best.

PC Gamer

The excellent Awesomenauts is free to play until Sunday, and will be available to buy half-price for the duration. Awesomenauts cheerily translates the levelling, lane-pushing and tower bashing of Dotalikes onto a 2D plane and dresses it up as a Saturday morning cartoon punch-up. It feels like Bucky O'Hare has teamed up with Captain Planet to fight the Ninja Turtles, but with more robots and less IP infringement. Read our full verdict in the Awesomenauts review, and download it now via Steam.
PC Gamer
Torchlight 2

Yesterday's patch for Torchlight 2 has added a couple of new critters to the pet roster. An angry badger and a noble owl can tag along to help you in combat and sell off unwanted loot in town, which must look more like a zoo than a market by now. Free updates are always appreciated, but fans on the Runic forums do note some suspicious similarities between the new Owl pet and the Hawk. Runic's community manager, Brian W, explained the resemblance with this helpful image.

The patch also makes a few balance changes to class skills, adds a new set of pants and fixes a few bugs. Once loving and gullible minion gels have grown cynical in the face of repeated beatings and now "cannot be charmed." On the plus side, "Legendary wand Earth Dies Screaming can no longer crash the game." Thank goodness for that. Grab the full patch notes on the Torchlight 2 forums.
PC Gamer
Titan supercomputer

The TITAN system based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has usurped IBM's sequoia to become the fastest supercomputer in the world, the Economist report. It took three years to build 200 cabinet mega-PC, which has managed to boost ahead of its closest rival with some help from the tech we use in our graphics cards every day.

Titan replaces Oak Ridge's Jaguar computer, a powerful system that ran on traditional CPU chips. Titan uses GPUs to reach greater speeds more efficiently. "Titan’s peak performance is more than 20 petaflops – or 20 million billion floating-point operations per second – about 90 percent of which comes from 18,688 NVIDIA Tesla K20 GPU accelerators," they say on the Nvidia site.

Titan is an "open-science" system, which means research and industry groups can bid for calculation time to solve the most pressing questions of our generation, like where do all the spare socks go, and how do separate cables manage to become irreversibly entwined the moment you leave them unwatched in a drawer. Titan's closest competitor, Seqouia, is busy running nuclear weapons simulations for the US National Nuclear Security Administration, which means it's out of bounds to those of us who want to set some serious benchmarks.

“Science and technology have always been our primary goal, and Titan is a groundbreaking tool that will allow researchers worldwide to leverage GPU-accelerated computing to make unparalleled breakthroughs,” says Oak Ridge's associate lab director for computational sciences, Jeff Nichols, “The new Tesla GPU accelerators offer the performance and energy efficiency that enable Titan to scale to unprecedented performance levels without consuming the energy equivalent of a small city.”

But what if we were to use the energy equivalent of a small city to overclock it? WHAT THEN? I've got about 55p in my pocket if anyone wants to go in on a bid.

Thanks to Tom Foster for the heads up.
PC Gamer

Can you hear the sleigh bells jingling, jingling, jingling and reminding you of the impending hell of Christmas shopping? The impatient throngs of miserable people! The life-sapping chill of the wind! Every tinsel-throttled street haunted by the dread spectres of Cliff Richard and Noddy Holder! Instead, why not pick up the latest issue of PC Gamer UK and settle down by the fire - or should I say, Firefall? I should! For it is our cover star - and its open world jump-pack action is a guiding light to eSports and MMO fans even in these dark times.

What's more you get a free beta code to Firefall with the mag! Christmas has indeed come early; every single page of the magazine is a gift in itself.

Issue 247 should be on shelves today and will be available digitally soon. There's also always the option to subscribe and get each issue delivered to your door, earlier and for less money! Sweet. Hit the jump to see the exclusive subs cover, and discover what other treats await: news, previews, reviews, retrospectives, tech tests and more!

This month we...

get in-depth with Aliens: Colonial Marines, Total War: Rome 2, Shootmania Storm, Company of Heroes 2, Star Citizen and more
take to the field with the ten military sims currently answering the call of duty
guide gamers through Windows 8's unfamiliar terrain.
drop scores on Hitman: Absolution, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Hotline Miami, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Football Manager 2013 and more
test the best CPUs on the market
discover Uplink's origins and the making of Introversion
revisit Wing Commander II
and loads more!

And once your done, you can use the pages as makeshift ear-plugs to stop the sounds of Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime burrowing into your mind like a Ceti eel.