PC Gamer
PlanetSide 2 The Crown

SOE’s immense MMOFPS/tank traffic jam simulator PlanetSide 2 received its first major Game Update today which rolled out an arsenal of balancing tweaks, bug fixes, and new weapons. Also, horns. Futuristic multi-faction combat has finally caught up to the 20th century.

The patch notes hold tantalizing tidbits for soldiers, pilots, and drivers alike. Some highlights: some slow-firing assault rifles, carbines, and light machine gun variants got a small increase in “movement accuracy,” which we think means aiming down the sights while on the move. Rifles and carbines with 40-round magazines took a small hit.

In the airspace, the Rocket Pods attachment—bane of footsoldiers across Auraxis—received a reduction in effective blast radius. Damage for other air weaponry such as the Galaxy transport’s machine gun emplacements and Liberator AP30 Shredder took various changes such as a decreased damage fall-off as their projectiles travel long distances.

Liberator pilots will also notice the tail gun of their mid-sized aircraft moved to the back of the wing instead of its previous position underneath. The original spot provided less-than-perfect firing angles for covering your six and fending off foes swooping from above.

Tank projectile direct damage also got buffed, making each army’s rolling thunder that much more dangerous during assaults. You’ll be happy to note infantry can still withstand a shell shot directly to the sternum, thank you very much.

Another huge change: Tech Plants—a typical arena for drawn-out stalemates and explosive spam-fests—now include two destructible shield generators placed outside the main building. This is a wonderful affirmation of SOE’s attention to keeping the fight flowing while staying a firm hand on balance, as Tech Plant caps should progress much faster now while providing defenders and attackers additional objectives.

Oh, and you’re now able to create multiple characters on the same server. Read up on the rest of the patch notes on PlanetSide 2’s official forums. If words wane your patience, check out this player-made gallery of the verdant Amerish continent on Ultra settings.
PC Gamer
Dungeon Keeper thumb

Oh lord, it's really happening. The Christmas sales are here. First out of the gate is GOG.com, purveyors of classic PC games and newer indie releases. And The Witcher 2, which doesn't quite fit either category.

For the next 22(-ish) hours, they're offering 75% off their Bullfrog Favourites collection. For $11.92, you get three Populouses, two Dungeon Keepers, Theme Hospital, Syndicate and Magic Carpet. While you have to get all the games to qualify for the full 75% off, any you already own will helpfully count to the total, with the price adjusting accordingly.

Also! For the next two days the site is giving away Duke Nukem 3D for free. Now you can use the cheeky 16 year old FPS to wash away the bad taste of any sequels that may or may not have happened.

Also! The whole site is holding a 50% sale off the majority of its catalogue until January 3rd. Looking through, it seems to include just about everything that isn't called Baldur's Gate. It does, however, include the other Infinity Engine RPGs, with both Icewind Dales and Planescape: Torment now costing $4.99. You can also pick up The Witcher 2 at a 60% discount of $11.99 (just under £7.50 in real money).

You can browse the full list of discounted games in their catalogue. There's some brilliant stuff in there. There's also Myst.
Dec 12, 2012
PC Gamer
NBA 2k13 review thumb

Review by Kyle Manchester.

NBA 2K13 is full of the glitz, showmanship and apparent shoe fetishes one comes to expect from professional basketball, without all those pesky real-life multimillion dollar contracts.

That glitz translates to a lovely level of hyper-detail, most evident in the replays when you can see individual beads of sweat falling off players. With a powerful enough rig, you’ll want to reach into the screen and scrub them down with a towel. On the less gross side of realism, NBA megastars have their own unique moves and animations. You’ll see their faces contort as they do on the small orange courts of the real world, and you’ll feel their tangible heft as they move around. NBA 2K13 nails the feeling of six-and-a-half-foot men hurtling around: stumbles are convincing, and the ball has a sense of presence as it arcs through the air into frying-pan sized hands.

Controlling the action is simple, but there’s serious depth under the surface. This year’s control scheme is new: you perform crossovers and other fancy moves with the right thumbstick, main dribbling duties on the left. It’s an approach that feels close to FIFA: you don’t need to rely on skill-moves, but they’re an extra layer for talented ballers.

Alas, poor Yorick!

NBA 2K13’s realistic feel pairs well with the improved AI. Your virtual teammates seem more clued-in than in previous games, anticipating your moves and responding well with shot and pass selections, aiding you crafting a game-winning strategy and a coherent sporting fiction.

MyCareer mode makes it a doddle to craft that fiction. It’s a sports RPG, offering you control of your rookie player right down to crafting your own shoes. Sadly, there’s no squeakiness slider. MyCareer also lets you track your character’s social networking popularity, based slightly unrealistically on his level of play and not the inflammatory or libellous statements he tweets. If those fake tweets tell you your character’s career isn’t panning out or you get bored of making new Nikes, you have the option to play a pick-up game as or against one of the real-life greats: men like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and others with increasingly ridiculous names.

Those who couldn’t pick Allen Iverson out of a lineup with Edgar Allen Poe, Allen Ginsberg, and an Allen key will have a tougher time with NBA 2K13. The layers of snazzy production have made it difficult to get into a quick game, and tutorials for the myriad modes and systems are thin on the ground. But navigate successfully, and you’ll find that most impressive of sports game: one that the sport-averse can play and appreciate on its own merits.

As a short and out of shape guy, I can say that my time with NBA 2K13 has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball. It’s smooth and slick enough to be enjoyable even for those who don’t know their alley-oops from their elbows.
PC Gamer
Hotline Miami thumb

The hyper-stylish indie revenge/murder/pizza-parlour simulator Hotline Miami has sold 130,000 copies since it launched. But according to publisher Devolver Digital, it's also been pirated to "extraordinary levels".

In an interview with Eurogamer, Hotline's Project Manager at Devolver, Graeme Struthers, said, "It has been torrented to such a staggering level, and given the file size of it, I mean, you can't really be surprised, right? You could pass this thing around on the world's smallest memory stick."

That's not to say the team are angry about the piracy rate. Hotline's co-creator Jonatan "Cactus" Söderström previously posted comments on the game's torrents, asking uploaders to update the downloads for an upcoming patch, ensuring that people were at least playing the best version even if they weren't paying for it. He later clarified his position: "I don’t really want people to pirate Hotline Miami, but I understand if they do. I’ve been broke the last couple of months. It sucks."

Struthers commented on the act, saying "that's what he's like. He just felt he didn't want people playing the buggy version of his game however they got it. He wanted them to get the patch. He basically said, 'I'm not going to criticise this, it's a fact of life. It would be nice if guys could find it within themselves to pay for it, but that's the world I'm in, so you know, you just have to take it for what it is.'"

If you've yet to pick up Hotline Miami, you can read why you should push that 130,000 sales total higher in Graham's review.
PC Gamer

Wanna see something cool? Course you do. This is the Club3D Radeon HD 7990. Ain’t she a beauty? This is Club3D’s answer to Nvidia’s GTX 690, and like the competition this is a dual-GPU card sporting the best GPUs of this generation in a frankly ludicrous configuration.

I mean, just look at it. That HD7990's fricking vast.

But then it’s going to have to be to house the sort of cooling the Club3D engineers have to stick in this behemoth of a card to keep those hot and heavy Tahiti XT GPUs running at a temperature that wont turn the rest of your PC to so much molten slag.

From what those engineers say though their cooling array sounds like it’s doing an admirable job, keeping the GPUs chilled to the tune of around 65ºC under full load. That’s rather impressive when you consider there’s effectively a pair of HD 7970’s sharing a single slab of PCB and just three fans.

That's a whole lot of fan action

As is the way with dual-GPU cards though the cores are slightly clocked down compared with the full single card versions. The Tahiti XT GPUs in Club3D’s HD 7990 are running at 900MHz compared with the 1GHz core speed of the HD 7970 GHz Edition.

If this still isn’t enough raw graphical grunt for you, however, Club3D has stuck in a dual bios switch with an ‘enthusiast’ setting. That’ll boost your GPUs up to 925MHz a piece. You mad fools...

Now at over £700 the HD 7990 is not going to be a cheap option, and in fact you’d arguably be better served opting to just buy two HD 7970 GHz Edition cards, but I’m going to wait to give my final verdict when my card arrives later today.

You're going to need a beefy PSU for those three 8-pin PCIe connectors
PC Gamer
red turn

We described Unity of Command as "Wargame of the Year material" back in March, and as the year draws to a close that's looking more and more likely. The cute unit graphics might lead you to believe this is more of a casual strategy game, but underneath the charming exterior lies the barely beating heart of a wargame. And it's one that's just received a major expansion. The Red Turn DLC offers, among other things, a huge new campaign focusing on the Soviets - full details lie suppressed beneath the break.

Set near the end of the Stalingrad campaign, Red Turn includes a "gigantic Soviet campaign featuring 17 scenarios", as well as "two standalone Axis scenarios", four PVP scenarios, and 39 new units including "Panther and T-34/85 armor". I don't know what that last one is, but my WWII-ignorant brain is now imagining the T-51b Power Armor from Fallout 3 and New Vegas - I'm probably way off the mark.

The Red Turn DLC is available from the Unity of Command site or from Steam for $10/roughly £7.
PC Gamer
Oh. I was looking for the toilet.

The Moon is a perfect setting for an exploration horror game. It's remote, dark and hostile, but not entirely alien. We've seen it close up in ghostly archive footage of the Lunar landings. Nobody's built a proper Moon Base yet, but we're familiar with the utilitarian angles of Nasa architecture. Alien, Space: 1999 and 2001: A Space Odyssey have shown us the claustrophobic corridors and cluttered mess halls of the future.The Lunar base we'll explore in Routine occupies fertile middle ground between the familiar and the unknowable - a perfect place to deliver some scares.

Greenlight voters seemed to agree. Routine was one of the first games to get the go-ahead from Valve after the release of the arresting Gamescom trailer. I called up art and design man Aaron Foster find out more about Lunar's intriguing take on survival horror.

Routine is a first person horror game set on an abandoned (OR IS IT?) moon base. It's as much about exploration as sudden scares. Lunar Software want to move away from the scripted frights of linear big-budget horror games like Dead Space and give players the opportunity to wander the base at their own discretion. An unknown AI-driven enemy will stalk the corridors, reacting to your movements to produce unpredictable encounters.

"Most horror games are extremely linear in their design because they need to set up these scenes for the player to get scared. There are a few exceptions, but the ones that are are very simple and streamlined, " Said Aaron. He reckons that the anticipation that comes before the scare is as powerful as the moment of confrontation itself. "The scary thing about a horror movie or game is that not knowing, not knowing what's going to happen, or who it is, or what it is and I really want to try and make sure that we don't spoil too much."

In space, no-one can help you if your visor fogs up.

For that reason, he sidesteps questions about exactly what we'll be running away from in Routine. The trailer shows a humanoid robot marching through the base, but Aaron hints that there's more to the tale than a race of out-of-control droids. Every confrontation with the beast/demon/ghost/dragon/space zombie will matter. Permadeath is an important part of Routine. If you're killed, you'll have to start anew.

That means we'll spend a lot of time raiding the moon base in terrified silence, so it's essential that the facility be interesting and deeply atmospheric. For the sake of immersion, there will be no HUD or health bar, and you won't have many items to help you out. Aaron says there will be a risk reward element to every action. You have a tool that will make it easier to navigate the base's complex layout, but you'll lose access to your screen temporarily if you're forced to use your weapon.

Foster's greatest passion is in environmental art, an aspect of design that directly informs the mental state of the player in a horror game. You might be familiar with the uncanny valley. It's a disturbing humanoid robotics phenomenon that describes the point at which the subtly warped features and movements of an android face incur more fear than empathy in human observers. There's an uncanny valley to human living, too. In life, it can be seen in photos of the abandoned offices and schoolyards of Pripyat. In fiction, the spotless suburbia of the Stepford Wives has a similar effect.

Pripyat is rife with the filth and decrepitude of abandonment, The Stepford Wives keep their slice of civilization in a state of inhuman, shrink-wrapped perfection. It's an opposition that runs throughout science fiction. It's the grimy, cynical dystopia vs the glowing, wantless utopia. It's Blade Runner vs. Star Trek. Aaron describes sci-fi films as "the most inspirational and influential things I had when growing up." His family lived near a video store when he was younger. He describes how their friendship with the owner gave him access to a great range of sci-fi features and horror films well before his 18th birthday.

Mike's powerpoint presentation has been cancelled due to horrorpocalypse.

"I was watching Alien, Aliens, The Thing, everything I could get my hands on," he said, "but I rewatched Alien and Aliens. Those movies left such an impression that when I got a little bit older and a little bit more able to find things myself I went off and found all the other late 70s, early 80s sci-fi movies like Silent Running. Even Space 1999, it has a crap plot, but really interesting aesthetics. The design of the base was still really cool."

Routine's moon base will occupy a middle ground between the scummy warrens of an urban cyberpunk neo-pit and the shining idealism of the Federation. The moon base is a pragmatic construction. It's a mix of cold boardrooms, futuristic hallways and ominous engine rooms. Imagine the gleaming white bulkheads of the U.S.S. Enterprise browned by age and sweat, scarred by overpopulation and thrown into disrepair by an unknown catastrophe.

"They've taken this really high-tech sci-fi design and then crammed a hundred people in a small, condensed area to live there for like, 20, 30 years. It's dirty and horrible," Aaron explained. "That's the way I try to see things. There's dirt stains everywhere, people lived in the corners of the floor, they've left lots of rubbish."

"I like the old chunky, slightly dirty white design of all the interiors. Everything always had a haze, a musk, everything was always a bit lived in. I always felt that was so much more relatable."

The corridors of the future are round to thwart lazy wall-leaners.
Routine is being developed by a team of four. Three are based in the front room of a Preston apartment and there's also a sound chap based in Australia. Greenlight success came as a big surprise. They were inspired to enter Routine into the voting process after watching Indie Game: The Movie, and slipped in just before Valve introduced the £100 entry fee. Would Lunar Software have taken the plunge if they'd had to pay?
"It wouldn't have been a barrier," said Aaron. "I would've paid that if it was a few grand. To me, you're making a game to not only get something out there that you are proud of, but you also, for all of us, we want enough return on that just to make the next game, right?

"We're not aiming to get mass millions because we'd have to make something different from what we're going, but we just want enough to be able to develop the next game, and I think Steam gives you the best opportunity of that. To us it was just a massive relief. Paying a hundred dollars, two hundred dollars, it doesn't matter at the end of the day."

Routine is due out next year. Soak up some of the atmosphere right now with the debut trailer.

PC Gamer
38 Stalker Call of Pripyat

For a while there, it seemed as if we'd seen the last of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and its pesky punctuation. Since STALKER 2's cancellation at GSC, with employees from the developer forming Vostok Games and turning their attentions to the similarly post-apocalyptic Survarium, the Zone seemed forever closed. Now, though, word comes through from bitComposer Games that they've obtained the STALKER license for further titles in the franchise.

"bitComposer Entertainment AG has acquired the exclusive worldwide rights for future video game adaptations of the acclaimed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand from Boris Natanovich Strygatsky," states the press release, curiously misspelling Boris Strugatsky's name.

"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a reputable brand with a long history of success. To date, the series has sold many millions of units worldwide. Naturally, we'd like to tap into the success of this series, and we see a great deal of potential for the future."

BitComposer are already familiar with the series, having handled European publishing for STALKER: Call of Pripryat. They also published this year's Jagged Alliance remake, Back in Action.

The studio claims they will be releasing further details "shortly".

UPDATE: RPS have spoken to bitComposer, who slightly clarify what's going on. The suggestion is that the rights are specifically for game adaptations of Strugatsky's Stalker, presumably meaning the film/book based on Roadside Picnic, a book also by Strugatsky. That would mean that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games were still owned by former GSC head Sergei Grigorovich, despite bitComposer specifically using those games' acronym affectation in their press release.
PC Gamer
aliens header

Interview by Nathan Ditum

Aliens has become a touchstone for every action film and game since its release. You can't escape its influence - its in every hiss of steam above every metal catwalk, in every back-lit fan-blade throwing a flickering smoky beam in every deserted space station, in every slick proboscis intent on every act of body-horror. Perhaps more than all of these, the smart-mouthed military patter among Aliens' motley crew of marines continues to echo through film and TV. We sat down with Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford, to find out how they approached the creation of Aliens: Colonial Marines and fit their ambitions within such a revered franchise.

How did you approach making a licensed game?

Randy Pitchford: I can't believe they trusted us with it. 20th Century Fox gave us the keys to the Aliens brand – what a place to be. When we went into it, when we first started interacting with Fox, we had a plan, we had a goal. You think about a big movie studio with such an important brand, the expectations are there are going to be a lot of controls, a lot of limits on it. But it turns out these guys really get how to work with talent. I think there's a reason why some of the most stubborn but incredible visionaries in storytelling, people like George Lucas with Star Wars, like James Cameron with everything from Avatar to Aliens, the reason these guys work with Fox is that Fox gets talent. Once they committed themselves to trusting us and the intent that we had, they've just been great. They know we love the brand, they know we care so much about Aliens that we would do nothing to hurt it, our intent is to make it stronger and better and add value to it.

How is it working with a property like the Alien films which have already inspired many other games?

RP: You know it's funny, if you work with something as important and inspirational as the Aliens franchise. So many of us have been inspired by this, and you can see things that we've all borrowed or stolen in our games. I always joke, I've been stealing from Aliens my entire career. What's odd about that is sometimes there are people, newer people in this world, that might be exposed to something for the first time with the derivative thing, not the original. For example, let's imagine you never saw Aliens and you played, like, when we put Halo on the PC. And you'd see all the dropships, “Woah, those are really cool designs!” And you'd have no idea that all those dropships were basically borrowed and iterated from James Cameron's designs in Aliens. Or you see the sergeant in Halo, the African-American dude with the cigar in the mouth, “Assholes and elbows, fall in!” That's just a straight up copy of Sergeant Apone from Aliens. I remember when I played Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, and I'm walking through the ship on the very first level. There's a character called Vasquez, which is of course a character from Aliens. And another character pulls out a shotgun and says “I like to keep this handy for close encounters.” That's just a straight up line from the movie, we've all be inspired by this. To be able to jump into the source is a really interesting opportunity.

What kind of tone are you aiming for with the single-player game? The trailers have shown plenty of action, but there's been some horror in there too.

RP: One of the neatest things about these movies is, if you think about Ridley Scott's original film, Alien, it was really a survival horror film. It was a monster in the house scenario, where everybody's trapped, and the bad guy's going to get them one by one. When you contrast that with James Cameron's take, in Aliens, that was all out war. The tag line for the first movie was “In space, no-one can hear you scream.” The tag line for the second film was “This time it's war.” It was a hardcore action movie. What's great about a videgame is that it's not confined to just a 90-minute single arc, this videogame is an epic. We can span all of the different pacing, we can go from survival horror to hardcore action. Some of it's more exploratory, with more tension, more “Oh, God, what's around the corner?” If you've seen some of the trailers we've done for the game, or if you've had an opportunity to come to one of the trade shows and play the game, you might think “Oh God, are these guys focusing only on the action?” Well no of course. There are other sides to that coin.

It looks like you have the ship from the original Alien and Prometheus in the game. How does Prometheus fit with your game? Should we expect some crossover?

RP: It's interesting you noticed that. We call that the Derelict. It was the original alien craft in the first film, and inside there was the room with the Space Jockey and the giant gun, and the egg chamber and all that. The story in Aliens: Colonial Marines culminates in that ship. And we saw that ship again recently in Prometheus, and we learned there's more than one of them. And we don't have to call them Space Jockeys any more, Ridley told us we can call them Engineers. What's neat is that it all ties together, and Aliens: Colonial Marines has a part to play in this grander narrative, this grander fiction.

The action in Aliens: Colonial Marines takes place after Alien 3. Why choose that moment, after what was seen by some to be a less successful film?

RP: I really liked Alien 3. It was not the sequel I wished for from Aliens, but if I take Alien 3 as a standalone movie – you know it was David Fincher's first film – it was actually a really good film and played back to Ridley Scott's survival horror stuff. But if I go back to that itch I had after Aliens, that itch has never been scratched. The trick for us is scratching that itch, but doing it all in canon. We dove into the fiction, we thought about what took place in Alien 3 and the state of the universe at the end of Aliens. We imagined the motivations and decisions of Whelan-Yutani: Michael Whelan was there on Fury 161 there with Ripley when she martyred herself – what's he going to do next? What's Whelan-Yutani going to do next? What are the colonial marines going to do next? And what's up with the aliens? That whole derelict ship is still there on LV 426 and it was a thousand kilometres away from the atmospheric processor that only had a 40 kilometre blast radius, right? So those eggs are probably still there, and Whelan-Yutani is there on Fury 161 where the Sulaco was – they could board that ship, they knew where it came from, they could go back. We figured out a way to bring it all together. If you love the films, and had different feelings about Alien 3 – after Aliens: Colonial Marines, Alien 3 is better movie. I can't believe the way we cracked the nut on this, it's really fun.

That sounds really detailed. Do you think you have to be familiar with the films to get the most out of the game?

RP: We designed the experience and the narrative such that you don't have to have seen Aliens. I think there's a few factors. I think the Aliens fan is probably in, right? Then there's another customer that loves science fiction shooters, maybe Halo, Gears Of War, Borderlands. We wanted to make sure that even if they'd never seen Aliens, it still works. Now there's a lot of fan service in the game, but it's fan service done in a way where it doesn't depend upon you having knowledge of the films to enjoy that moment. For example, let me illustrate a point. In the movie, there's a moment in the hangar of the Sulaco next to the dropship where the alien queen appears. We thought the movie was over, that we're all going to be safe, and the alien queen appears by punching her tail /through/ Bishop, through the synthetic. You see it burst through his chest, raise him up, and rip him in half. His legs are over there, his torso is over here, and because he's a synthetic he survives, and is alive through this whole experience because he's an android. It's horrific. In Aliens: Colonial Marines, you board the Sulaco, and you're going to walk into the hangar. Now if you've never seen an Aliens movie you're doing to be like, “This room looks frigging awesome, that dropship looks cool.” You get on your headset, and you say “Captain, I see half of a dead synthetic here,” and the captain says “Which half?” And you say “Well, he ain't saying much,” and the captain says “Well find me the half that does.” Even if you've not seen the movies that's a really interesting exchange.
PC Gamer
The Secret World review thumb

In news that won't be of much surprise to anyone who's been following the game, The Secret World has dropped the need for a subscription fee. What is a bit different is how they're going about it: instead of going free-to-play, they're following in Guild Wars 2's footsteps - a one-time purchase gives you access to the full story-heavy MMO.

Buying the game now gets you access to the complete range of launch content, as well as the four subsequent content packs (or Issues, as they're known in TSW's vernacular). Going forward, Issues will be sold as optional DLC, although the upcoming fifth update will be free for anyone who buys the game before the end of December.

The existing subscription will continue, now as an optional "membership," and offers a selection of extra benefits. These include a Time Accelerator, which gives a 1-hour XP boost of 100%; $10 of bonus points per month; an item-of-the-month gift each month; and a 10% discount to items in the store. Members also get any future DLC as part of their subscription. The full range of options and benefits are explained on the TSW blog.

Overall it seems like a good move for the game. Still, I can't help but wish this had been planned from the start. There's a lot to like about The Secret World - it has some exceptional writing, great characters and tries interesting things with classes and skills. It also has an awful lot of quest churn once you progress out of the starting area of Kingsmouth, with the brilliant investigation missions becoming increasingly spaced out.

Has this subscription switch tempted anyone to take look?