PC Gamer
bioshock infinite header

I've just played the first five hours of BioShock Infinite, and I've come away with the same dazed feeling I got after I first played Half-Life 2. It's a sensory overload: a relentless series of staggering sights, astonishing events, and more story and detail and mysteries than I could possibly absorb.

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but not this.

I'll be writing up my full impressions, and my interview with creative director Ken Levine, for the next issue of PC Gamer UK. Evan's also been playing it, and will bring you a longer and slightly more spoilery exploration of the things he liked most about the demo later today. For now, let me give you an overview of the main stuff I wanted to know before I played.

What do you actually do?

It's very, very story driven. Remember washing up at a lighthouse and discovering Rapture for yourself in BioShock 1? BioShock Infinite's equivalent of that lasts an hour. When the fighting finally does break out, it's frantic and chaotic and recognisably BioShock. But then you're straight back to being led through extraordinary new places by the story. There's time to explore, and masses to see, but it never settled into a formula in the time I played: you're always being put in completely new situations.

Does it feel like a BioShock game?

At first, yes: you're quietly exploring a strange new place and finding clues to the story of what happened here in evidence scattered around, from graffitti to audio diaries. But then you find people. Not enemies, just people. At some point you start to encounter more hostiles, but it never switches entirely to you vs the world: each new area of the floating city starts out with civilians neutral to you.

When you find the girl you're here for, Elizabeth, she changes the mood even further from BioShock's. She's with you at all times, as far as I played, and she's both talkative and central to the plot.

What's the combat like?

Very much like BioShock: gun in one hand, spell in the other. The big difference is the spaces you do it in: fighting in a city of floating buildings means a lot of big, open areas with rooftops, balconies and drifting blimps at different heights. Sky rails snake through these spaces, twisting like rollercoaster tracks, and you can leap on and off these any time: they're magnetised, so your skyhook thingy can pull you up to them from quite far away. Racing around these, launching yourself off to new vantage points or directly onto enemies, gives combat a much more acrobatic and fast-changing feel.

The spells - Vigors - are very much like BioShock 2's: turn people to your side, set them on fire, fling them into the air, cover them in crows (previously bees). They're all good. The guns are less exciting: marginally more satisfying than BioShock's, but still not particularly fun to use by themselves.

What's the best thing about it?

Definitely the place. A city floating in the clouds is a cool thing, and we already knew that, but I wasn't at all prepared for how striking and fresh each new bit of it would be. Temples awash with holy water, gold light and gospel music. City streets fogged with cloud, kids playing and townsfolk chatting, all just silhouettes in the water vapour. Dark mansions, banquet halls of rotting food, crows pecking at everything.

All of it's packed with clues and traces of the story, and the story is bizarre, complicated and fascinating. Can't wait to explore more of it.

It's out March 26th. My full preview will be in our issue out in the UK on January 17th.

PC Gamer
Hotline Miami thumb

Super Hexagon may have become our fast, frantic and brilliantly soundtracked game of choice, but Hotline Miami remains an excellent acid trip of revenge, violence and talking owl masks. It makes the 80s look cool, which is an impressive achievement in itself.

If you've yet to experience Dennaton Games' brutal top-down murder-ballet, now's the time to take a look. Steam have gone and chopped its price in half, cutting it down to a criminally cheap £3.49/$5.

The store have also got a 40% deal on the marvellous FTL, dropping its price to £4.19/$6. It's a decidedly more strategic affair than Hotline's hyper-kinetic ode to viscera, but still a panic-inducing experience in its own right.

Both sales will run until Monday.

That's enough exceptionally cheap indie games, now let's have an ultimately pointless argument about which song from Hotline's amazing soundtrack is the best. My vote's for El Huervo's Turf. Or maybe Sun Araw's Deep Cover. Ah, they're all good.
PC Gamer
Tomb raider chart
Lara Croft has had her knockers over the years, but it appears the British adventurer still boasts box office appeal, judging by the latest pre-order sales chart from online retailer Green Man Gaming.

The forthcoming Tomb Raider game - due out in March 2013 - has certainly made headlines since a striking showing at this year's E3. And the buzz of controversy and excitement around the game has no doubt contributed to strong advanced sales which see Lara proudly astride the top of the charts this week.

There's a distinctly military thread through much of the rest of the global bestseller's list. In at number two is Company Of Heroes 2, with Aliens: Colonial Marines scuttling behind like a facehugger with the midnight munchies at number three. Further down the pecking order Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 is within range of targeting the top spot at seventh in the hitlist.

A follow-up full of post-apocalyptic promise is in at eight - Metro: Last Light is ahead of triple A sequels Crysis 3 and Dead Space 3. For now...

Here's the full global pre-order top ten:

1. Tomb Raider
2. Company of Heroes 2
3. Aliens: Colonial Marines
4. Dead Island Riptide
5. Bioshock Infinite (excludes UK)
6. South Park: The Stick of Truth
7. Sniper Ghost Warrior 2
8. Metro: Last Light
9. Crysis 3
10. Dead Space 3

Green Man Gaming also have a 25% discount voucher* that you can use on hundreds of PC Digital titles including most of the pre-purchase titles above. Use the code below and visit Green Man Gaming for more info.


Pre-purchase offer
Green Man Gaming are also offering a single-use 35%-off voucher** AFTER they pre-purchase any of the following games:

Bioshock Infinite (Excludes UK)
SimCity Limited Edition
Sniper Ghost Warrior 2
Company of Heroes 2
Crysis 3
Dead Space 3
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Dead Island Riptide
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Metro Last Light
Tomb Raider

Go to Green Man Gaming for more info

*This voucher is valid until 1200 GMT 14/12/2012. Valid on PC Digital titles only. Excludes selected PC Digital titles
**This voucher can only be used on select PC Download games. This voucher cannot be used in conjunction with another promotional offer (e.g. voucher, cashback) and will expire 21 days after receipt.
PC Gamer
Crysis 3 Ceph thumb

We already know that Crytek wants Crysis 3 to "melt-down" PCs, that they have the system specs to bring about their computer cataclysm, and even which specific graphics options will facilitate the electronic end-times. What we didn't know is the date that the GPU Armageddon is due to occur. Until now. At an EA preview event, Crytek's Cevat Yerli announced the release date of the nano-suited FPS. I've put it below the jump, because I'm a massive tease.

Players get to prowl through the inaccurately named Nanodome in a literal New York jungle from February 19th in North America, and February 22nd in Europe.

Meanwhile, Yerli's been clarifying his "F2P is our inevitable future" claims. Speaking to RPS, he said, "I don’t think F2P’s a mutually exclusive way of looking at things."

"I mean, the future is definitely free-to-play," he continued, "but likewise, retail can co-exist with it. Premium games can be free-to-play. When I said free-to-play’s gonna be our future, I meant that and I hold to it. But I didn’t mean it for tomorrow. When I say there will inevitably be only free-to-play games, I mean that there might be ones where you can just download them with a free-to-play business model, or you can go to the store and buy it for $60."

He admitted that it was "too early to say" what funding model Crysis 4 would use.
PC Gamer
Red Faction Armageddon thumb

We've hit that mid-way point in a Humble Bundle's life where sweeteners are added to the already surgery proposition of a pay-what-you-want selection of great games. However with this, the most corporate of Humbles, we also get the slightly bitter taste of a DLC mission pack.

The THQ bundle has been updated to add Titan Quest and Red Faction: Armageddon's Path of War DLC for bundlees who contribute over the average - currently standing at $5.61.

Titan Quest is a pretty good action RPG in the style of the earlier Diablo games. While it's not quite as polished as either of the Torchlights, as part of a bundle of already great games, it's a nice extra (albeit one that doesn't include the Immortal Throne expansion). As for Path of War, my detailed research (read: looking at the Steam page) suggests it's a four mission add-on. Personally I never quite forgave Armageddon for not being the brilliantly dumb Guerilla.

As beat-the-average extras, neither are quite as compelling as the ace Saints Row: The Third, but then it's hard to argue with freebies.

The Humble THQ Bundle has now raised $3.86 million, with five and a half days still to go. It's gone up around $3,000 just while I was writing this post! God I love real-time stats.
PC Gamer
Company of Heroes 2 bombing run

As one particular Internet meme suggests, flammenwerfers werf flammen. Not only that, they do a particularly effective job keeping soldiers rather toasty against winter's bite in Company of Heroes 2's Eastern Front. In the first of a developer diary video series, members of developer Relic touch upon the weather's adverse effects on mudfoots, FIRE, how both Axis and Allies magically learned to vault low-lying cover, FIRE, the tactical sensibility of rolling 30-ton war machines across a thin skin of ice, and FIRE. The improved line-of-sight behavior suggests crafty multiplayer upsets and ambushes, as well, and considering Company of Heroes' penchant for unpredictability, I'm eager for some unconventional victories.
PC Gamer

Crytek has teamed up with Albert Hughes, one half of the Hughes Brothers best known for directing The Book of Eli (penned, we might add, by former PC Gamer Editor-in-Chief Gary Whitta). The 7 Wonders of Crysis 3 is an in-engine cinematic story told in seven parts (who would have guessed?) aimed at showcasing the visual fidelity of the game and "setting the stage" for its story.

The trailer above will give you the basic rundown. The first episode is set to launch next Wednesday, December 12. In the mean time, you can take a look at Crysis 3's graphics settings, and find the answer to the all important question: "Will I be able to run it at all?"
PC Gamer
IGF 2013

Budding gamesmiths submit their homebrewed sweat-and-code for recognition and reward during each year's Independent Games Festival, but staying on gamers' radar after the competition's close can be challenging for these small teams. No more: In an announcement released today on the festival's official website, the organizers revealed Valve will offer Steam distribution deals to all finalists of each of the seven award categories. Yep, all of them.

Note the deal isn't automatically inked if an entrant makes it to the finals—they have to give the final nod to Valve to go ahead with including their works in Steam's gargantuan library. (Read: no-brainer.) The finalists for each category—the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence In Design, Excellence In Art, Excellence In Narrative, Technical Excellence, Excellence in Audio, and the Nuovo Award—will get announced in January before undergoing an awards ceremony at the Game Developers Conference in March.

Considering indie luminaries such as Portal predecessor Narbacular Drop, Minecraft, and Fez have won IGF accolades in the past, this is a definite win-win for all involved.
PC Gamer
EVE Online faceoff

EVE Online's Retribution expansion increased accessibility to the spacefaring MMO with its interface adjustments for guiding new players to their untimely death—er, their first few steps. But speaking to Eurogamer, CCP Executive Producer John Lander stressed the importance of retaining EVE's mystique in the wake of Retribution's release, saying, "I don’t ever want Eve to be nice and fluffy."

“I want to try and reduce that barrier of entry to playing Eve," he said. "I think there’s a place in the MMO world for a dark and dangerous, really good sci-fi world where you can be the goodie, the baddie, a criminal, or the Good Samaritan. But it’s very important we allow as many people as possible to get access to that game.”

Retribution implements a number of major additions to EVE's starry sandbox such as a hard logout, a no-crime toggle, and a bounty system overhaul. Lander hinted at further expansion content in the works to supplement EVE's small mountain of add-ons.

“We will put in some really good big expansive things we’ve been looking at," he said. "We’ve done a lot of prototyping over the last year, but also we’ve got a backlog of things which could probably take us through another 20 years. There are some good things coming. We almost have too much choice, which is a great first-world problem. As soon as we’ve prioritized what it is we want to do, we’ll start communicating that out.”
PC Gamer
Check out, for example, the difference in the legibility of the watch displays in these screens from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Back in April at the unveiling of the GeForce GTX 690 in Shanghai, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also announced an ambitious project intended to make PC gaming as simple and streamlined as possible for gamers who feel overwhelmed by the vast number of graphics options available to them--as well as the difficulty in finding the right balance between picture and performance. The project is a cloud-based service called GeForce Experience, and it's launching today in a beta limited to the first 10,000 gamers who register and download the executable (grab it here).

Pretty nice bump upwards in Crysis 2 for a single mouseclick.

The beta currently supports Nvidia's Fermi and Kepler GPUs (including the mobile versions), and works with about 30 games. Essentially, the guys at Nvidia play through these games on a massive variety of systems, and fine-tune the settings to be as visually pleasing as possible while still maintaining about 40-60 frames per second in the most resource-intensive areas and sequences. The sheer amount of data involved is pretty massive, which is why they're looking to the community to spot check their work.

When you're ready to play, the GeForce Experience application matches your hardware configuration to the closest configuration tested and then automatically adjusts your game's settings for you for the best picture at a decent framerate (see the comparisons between default and optimized graphics options settings below). You're free to tweak the settings further if you feel like it: the GeForce Experience won't butt back in and mess with them again.

Check out the difference in legibility of the watch displays in these screens from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

As a bonus, GeForce experience will automatically keep your drivers up to date via the cloud, and can be set to background download mode. But again, the beta is limited to the first 10,000 registrants, so grab it quick if you want in before the official launch next year.