QUAKE - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

best-shooters-podcast

Wait, didn t we already answer this question? Never mind, the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show, is not content with our list of the top 50 first-person shooters. Well, they’re mostly fine with it (lists are stupid) but they still want to hash out this ageless question the old-fashioned way. By interrogating each other over the internet. (more…)

Half-Life - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

The best shooters endure. While the state of the art moves on in other genres and leaves old designs in the dust, it’s as fun to fire a well-made shotgun from an early 90s FPS as from one released today. For that reason, this list runs the gamut from genre classics to those released in the last year. There’s bound to be something for you inside.

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QUAKE - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brock Wilbur)

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 9.31.58 AM

Quake Champions is a delightful return to the origins of the arena shooter, and although the title is in Early Access at this point, there’s still a ton of DLC and other add-on content you can buy. That’s fun, right? I always find paid content in an unreleased game odd. Anyhow, there’s a lot to be actually excited about here, as the game is getting huge updates. That includes the community’s biggest request: Bots. Hell yes bots. With scalable skill levels, you can now learn to play that game on your own, or hone your expert skills, or just get some kills without having to both with the whole, you know, Other People thing.

Also: gore is coming. Not just blood and guts: really specifically engineered blood and guts. This is a game about science, after all. (Don’t… don’t double check that. Just let it sit.)

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Fallout: New Vegas - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Denis Ryan)

oldworldblues-header

Democracy is on the brink of collapse. Caesar’s Legion, the authoritarian slave state across the Colorado River, has launched a massive assault on the last, best chance for freedom in the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout. It’s a grim certainty in Old World Blues that the New California Republic will fight Caesar’s Legion: they’re the wasteland’s two superpowers, diametrically opposed ideologically, each expanding towards the other. I just thought I was better prepared. While Caesar was annihilating every ill-defended tribe to the west, I was rearming, inviting new states into the republic, and admittedly annexing a few tribes myself. With the game paused, I assess my options, reorganise my armies and ask, finally, does democracy die in 2279?

Old World Blues is a mod for Hearts of Iron IV which transports the World War II grand strategy game hundreds of years forward into the post-apocalyptic American west coast of the Fallout series. Players select a faction in the year 2275 and attempt to survive and thrive in the west coast wasteland. Structurally, it’s similar to Hearts of Iron IV, but the content and style has been transformed. Old World Blues is tremendously fun, comparable in quality to the standard Hearts of Iron IV game, and it does a terrific job of translating Fallout to grand strategy. (more…)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

podcast-45-character-creation

You look a little tired, friend. Let me just adjust this slider for you. There, wide awake. Now you ve got some energy, how about listening to the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show? This week we re talking about character creation. Which games spoil us with choice? And why do we always end up creating the same sneaky elf? (more…)

Portal 2

Whether it’s an Easter egg, a joke character, or just a little nudge at a competitor, developers love slipping the odd reference to other games into their own. Sometimes though, they go beyond just slapping a Dopefish on a wall or quipping about a ‘doomed space marine’, and we get to see our heroes stride into entirely new, often completely inappropriate new worlds.

Here are a few of our favourites, along the ones that caused the most ‘wait, what?’ blinking on discovery. 

Guybrush Threepwood, Mighty Jedi

Yes, he can hold his breath underwater for ten minutes and quip his way through any sword-fight… but only The Force Unleashed II let him try his luck with a lightsaber. Turns out that you don’t need a sharp wit if you’re waving around two of the universe’s deadliest glowsticks and aren’t afraid to use them. Guybrush Threepkiller is so famous in-universe, he even has his own statues. We’re almost positive that’ll be brought up at some point in the next movie. After all, Rey does need a new teacher. Just as long as Elaine never finds out about it. 

Final Fantasy makes history in Assasin's Creed

Obviously, everything in the Assassin’s Creed series is meticulously researched and true to life, especially the alien gods and the time Ezio punched the Pope. Write it all down in your history homework! Which means that, while aliens might not have built the pyramids, they definitely got up to a bit of chocobo racing on the side. That’s according to this crossover, where Assassins ended up in Final Fantasy XV, while its villain ended up pounding sand for a bit before being dragged back to his own game by a hastily summoned Bahamut. There’s even a stuffed Moogle lying around in case you feel lonely after they’ve gone, and some fancy weapons to keep and confuse archaeologists for a few thousand years. Along with that Stargate, obviously. 

Commander Keen hangs about in Doom II

There’s a few odd appearances in Doom 2, including the severed head of John Romero as the end-boss, and a trip back to Wolfenstein 3D in the secret levels. By far the strangest thing though is what lies behind those: former id star Commander Keen… murdered and hanging from meathooks. The story goes that Adrian Carmack was the childkiller in question, having chafed at making cutesy games instead of enjoying himself with blood and guts. However, that was not enough to get rid of the boy-genius forever, for both John Romero and Tom Hall have confirmed that Commander Keen, real name Billy Blaze, is in fact Wolfenstein hero BJ Blazkowicz’s grandson… and father to the Doomguy. What a strange family tree. 

Earthworm Jim digs into Battle Arena Toshinden

He’s the world’s mightiest worm! He fights aliens! He travels galaxies! He gets flattened by a lot of cows! And he’s one of the few 90s mascots to actually be awesome, starring in two excellent platformers, one surprisingly good cartoon series, and… well, let’s not mention the sequels. Like Bubsy, 3D was not kind to Earthworm Jim, though unlike Bubsy, people actually cared. His most successful jump into the third dimension turned out to be this Easter Egg in the PC version of Toshinden, where with the help of his super-suit and a really big club, he was finally able to make the future of gaming eat dirt. Pound them into the ground. Bury himself in glory. Be cut in half and yet… no, wait. Not that one. But it was still as good as fans were going to get.

Everyone plays Poker Night at the Inventory 

Easily the most ambitious gaming crossover in recent memory… and it’s all about hanging out between games. Telltale’s Poker Night series combined, amongst a few others (deep breath) The Heavy from Team Fortress 2, Max from Sam and Max, Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade Adventures and also some webcomic whose name we forget off-hand, GLaDOS from Portal, Brock Samson from the Venture Bros (not a game, but never mind), Claptrap from Borderlands, Sam from Sam and Max replacing Max from Sam and Max, and Ash from The Evil Dead. Phew.

They weren’t great poker games, but that wasn’t really the point. It was about the banter between the different competitors as they sat back and shot the shit without the customary heavy artillery. We could also have had members of the cast from The Walking Dead and Back to the Future, but they were deemed unsuitable for the atmosphere. They didn’t want anyone crying, or any kids seeing Doc and Marty in a sweary environment. A pity. When the game revved up, they could have seen some serious shit.

Portal 2’s Space Core invades Skyrim 

When Bethesda showed off DLC for Oblivion, it was horse armour. And everybody laughed. Come Skyrim, the laugh was far more positive. One of the earliest additions saw the exiled Space Core (spoilers for a decade old game there) crash-land in Tamriel, still just as eager to explore SPAAAAAAAACE. Going bizarrely unnoticed by the locals, all probably fretting about that whole dragon invasion thing, it came crashing down in a plume of smoke. Pick it up and it still kept blinking and talking in your inventory, delivering… well, not very varied dialogue. In summary:  “Space. Space. Space!” And yet, still it was less annoying than all those guards and their epic tales of glory curtailed by the sudden impact of a ballistic stick to the lower-leg.

XCOM defends Civ V: Brave New World

What does XCOM do when there are no aliens to fight? Apparently, they learn to ****ing shoot straight. The XCOM Squad in Civ V is an elite tactical unit that gets the job done, air-dropping into friendly territory and laying down the law. Specifically, Thou Shalt Not Screw With XCOM. In the absence of aliens, they have their eyes set on "Giant Death Robots," and are happy to act as shock troopers or defensive units while they watch the skies and await their destiny. But since there are apparently no aliens interested in Earth during the Civ games, they’re probably going to be waiting a while. Should have taken the flight to Alpha Centauri.

Princess Rosella favours Leisure Suit Larry 3

Sierra On-Line loved its in-jokes. Not one but two sequels (this one and Space Quest III) ended with the characters somehow finding their way to the developers’ own offices for a chat with studio leads Ken and Roberta Williams, with Larry also taking trips to a Westworld style factory where adventure heroes are rebuilt after every stupid death, complete with King’s Quest’s King Graham being readied for duty, and finally showing up in the Old West for a cameo in Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist. By far the strangest cameos came at the end of Leisure Suit Larry 3, where the trip to Sierraland involved trekking through scenes from games like Police Quest and Space Quest 2, before meeting Roberta Williams directing a particularly annoying scene from King’s Quest IV, in which Princess Rosella is trapped in the slobbery mouth of a giant whale. Strange.

Frank West covers Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

He’s covered wars, you know. But oddly, Dead Rising’s original and best hero doesn’t seem to know how to cover himself in this odd outing. Despite Lost Planet being set on a frozen world, everyone’s favourite photographer show up not only without his camera, but also without his trousers. Somehow avoiding hypothermia, he runs around in nothing but underpants, while still managing to rain destruction on the armies of insects happy to not have to peel their food for once. What a trooper. 

Scorpion goes mental in Psi-Ops

Fighting game characters are probably the most cameo-friendly of all, whether it’s a full game like Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, or bonus combatants-without-a-k-because-that’s-how-it’s-spelled in the likes of Injustice. But they show up in other games with curious regularity too. Lightning god Raiden for instance showed up in Unreal Championship, while invisible fighter Reptile could have popped into basically any game. Ever seen a flicker on your screen playing, say, Fortnite? As far as you know, it might be him.

But still, this was an odd one. Even though Midway was the publisher of both MK and Psi-Ops, it’s a bit of a leap from fighting game to third-person action game. Sadly, just wearing his palette-swapped ninja outfit didn’t actually make you the world’s clingiest fighter. He still had to swap out his “get over here!” attack for regular guns. On the plus side, having to beat every character in the game two out of three times would have gotten pretty darn tiring.

RAGE - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Id Software’s 2011 post-apocalyptic first-person drive-o-shooter Rage is finally receiving a follow-up, publishers Bethesda announced today. They do not say much about Rage 2 beyond the fact that it exists, which was kinda already known following a spate of leaks over the past few days. But! Rage 2! That’s good. The original game’s carfights were a bit bland and the whole thing smashed into its ending like someone walking into a glass door but I really enjoyed Rage’s shootybangs. Some splendid violence. And while Rage was very serious and brown, the tone of the announcement trailer–at least–is silly and colourful. Watch this. (more…)

RAGE

The official Rage Twitter account was sparked into life yesterday after the website for Walmart Canada listed a sequel to id Software's 2011 shooter.

Walmart Canada set tongues wagging after listing a raft of unannounced games, including Rage 2, Just Cause 4 and Forza Horizons 5. That's right - there's a listing for a "Forza Horizons 5", which suggests Microsoft is skipping number 4 entirely and has added multiple horizons to Playground's racer franchise.

Did Walmart just spoil the E3 marketing plans for publishers the world over? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Quite a few of the games listed by Walmart are inevitable: a new Assassin's Creed (although Walmart's rudimentary box art misses the possessive apostrophe in Assassin's), Splinter Cell, Gears of War and Borderlands are certainly in the works. We might be looking at an overzealous Walmart employee having a bit of fun.

Read more…

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Glaives, pikes, bardiches, halberds, partisans, spears, picks and lances. Javelins, arbalests, crossbows, longbows, claymores, zweih nder, broadswords and falchions. Flails, clubs, morning stars, maces, war hammers, battle axes and, of course, longswords. If you ever played a fantasy RPG or one of many historically-themed action or strategy games, you'll already be familiar with an impressive array of medieval weaponry. The medieval arsenal has had an enormous impact on games since their early days, and their ubiquity makes them seem like a natural, fundamental part of many virtual worlds.
These items are based on real weapons that have maimed and killed countless real people over the centuries, but even though we're aware of this, medieval weapons have become estranged and distant from their roots in history. Part of this is our short memory; the passing of a few centuries is enough to blunt any relic's sense of reality. Another reason is they were made a staple of genre fiction. In our modern imagination, the blade has become firmly lodged in the rocks of fantasy fiction and historical drama, and no-one will be able to pull it free entirely.
Today, these weapons have been refashioned to serve our very modern fantasies of power, freedom and heroism. There's the irresistible figure of the hero-cum-adventurer who sets out to forge their own path. From Diablo and Baldur's Gate to The Witcher and Skyrim, the fundamental logic of violence stays the same. Battles lead to loot and stronger equipment, which in turn allows our heroes to tackle more dangerous encounters. The wheel keeps turning, and we follow the siren song of ever more powerful instruments of destruction. On the surface, they're problem solving tools, but they also promise the excitement of adventure as well as the power to dominate and enforce our will on those fantasy realms. As such, they become fetishised. Extravagant visual detail and special effects signal a weapon's rarity and power, turning them into ornaments and status symbols.

While the actual violence in such fantasies is often justified by a struggle of good versus evil, the resulting gore and savagery has also captured our imagination. Most games, even mainstream RPGs like Skyrim or The Witcher 3, can't resist indulging in an aesthetic of cruelty and barbarism by showing us the grisly devastation caused by these instruments of murder. Blood spurting from wounds and clinging on blades, heads and arms being hacked off and tumbling through the air, special killing and execution animations captured in glorious slow-motion. Their gruesomeness markedly contrasts with the sanitised, often bloodless effects of modern guns as portrayed in games, disingenuously suggesting that modern violence and warfare is somehow more civilised than that of our ancestors.

Games like For Honor, Mount & Blade, Chivalry or War of the Roses celebrate medieval slaughter with grim nihilism as we hack and slash ourselves through hordes of enemies entirely without any ethical justification. Might makes right, and the means justify the end. The same can be said about the brutal spectacle of the Total War games, whose hordes of clashing soldiers tickle some deep-seated proto-fascist lust for demonstrations of power. These games paint a "grim and gritty" picture of historical violence, the "dark ages" of popular imagination. They're a half-leering, half-wistful gaze into a fantasy version of the past when the destructive urges of our collective Id have not yet been tamed by civilisation and violence was not yet regulated by the moral codes and laws of pervasive state power. In that regard, the butcher and the heroic adventurer use their weapons to pursue the same fantasy: unfettered will and agency, the freedom to follow your impulses regardless of their consequences.

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QUAKE

QuakeCon is coming back in August for the 23rd time, and will be free to attend unless you want to take part in the traditional BYOC—Bring Your Own Computer—tournament. In that case you'll need to sign up for one of three entrance packages, ranging in price from $75 to $400. Also up for grabs is a QuakeCon 2018 Swag Pack, which includes the ultimate must-have accessory for the discriminating Quake fan: An inflatable rocket launcher. 

The Swag Pack is $150, which is an awful lot for an inflatable toy. But it also comes with a "premium roll-over backpack," three pins, a stainless steel water bottle, a QuakeCon air freshener (we're not sure what it smells like—my guess is a sultry blend of three-day-old socks and anger, but it could also be Spring Lavender), a mouse pad, and a luggage tag. I won't say that justifies the price, because that's really a personal decision that only you can make, but I will say that an inflatable rocket launcher would look awfully sweet on the wall above the mantle. 

The slight bit of bad news here is that tickets aren't actually on sale yet: Bethesda said it's in the process of putting together "a better, smoother process for registration," perhaps to accommodate the double-sized BYOC rumble, and it's taking a little longer than expected to pull everything together. Details on the when-and-how of the registration process will be revealed soon, and for now you can ponder the pricing below. 

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