PC Gamer

Welcome! I am your (g)host, Craig FEARSOME, beckoning you in to this eldritch gathering of... LOOK BEHIND YOU! Yes, there is NOTHING there. The very absence of fear is perhaps the greatest fear of all. No? But I used Caps Lock and italics! WhAt aBOut NOwWow? Fine, you are unafraid of typography. How about a list of the scariBOOest PC games? Hah. I saw you flinch! Now you are atmospherically prepared, ensure there are neither babies nor pets between yourself and the nearest toilet, lest your bowels react unfavourably to this mildly cursed list of possibly evil games, aka The five Scariest PC Games of alllllllll timmmmmme*.

*What? No AvP? No FEAR? No Hidden: Source? Where's Pathologic? Why not Cryostasis: Sleep of
Reason instead of Amnesia? All fine questions... that I can answer by pointing out that you might find things scarier than I do. Even though it does make you less of a man than I am, I'm contractually obliged to let you know that it's all okay, and that you're allowed to be a big baby in face of those games that I consider as scary as a kitten's hug. But please do let us know what you do find scary, and what your list would be, because fear is best shared in a big group.

System Shock 2

You awaken on a broken, quiet space ship. You're one of the few people still alive. The walls are covered in bloody graffiti and the ship's crawling with crew possessed by aliens. It's a standard set-up, but the fact that it wrings out scares from a murk of tropes is truly impressive. System Shock 2's genius lies in plain sight. If you want ink black shadows and scary violin screeches, you have come to the wrong game. This not the canned scariness of Dead Space. There are no closets with monsters. There are long sections of space corridors, punctuated by terrifying fights where you always seem on the back foot. Your weapons break. Your mind gets invaded by the ghosts of those that perished. The incongruous details really put it over the edge. Did that man just apologise for attacking me? Yup. Is that the sound of a screeching monkey? Holy fuck it is. All the while you're being guided by the voice of the ship's captain, who leads you on to one of the most guts-wrenching twists in gaming. It's a trick that worked so well that the developers pulled it off again years later, in BioShock.

Day Z

If there is one thing more terrifying than a game world that barely acknowledges your existence, it's one that's also filled with zombies and humans. The multiplayer post-apocalyptic DayZ welcomes you to its 225sqkm of zombie infested world with disdainful silence. You spawn on a beach miles from anywhere. You need supplies and weaponry. This is where most games would start telling you where you go and what you need to do to, but here all you get is a sneer and a challenge to figure it all out on your own. You are not the star of DayZ; you are meat for the beast. The elements can kill you. The zombies can kill you. But the worst thing is the players. You just don't know if someone's friendly or not. The first friend I made in-game shot me in the back. The second I had to kill because he was acting so strangely I was convinced he was leading me into an ambush. I don't like not trusting people. For weeks afterwards I'd spawn at night, avoid human contact, and pick my way across the pitch black land looking for the glow of light on the horizon, then change direction. People suck, and the guy in the video above, Surviving Solo, understands that.


Stalker is set in the real post-disaster area of Chernobyl and Pripyat, the perfect setting to unsettle. Layered on top of the harrowing, beautiful open-world of a post-nuclear disaster is an ecosystem of mutant animals and wandering scavengers. Day and night tumbles along as you try to survive out in a world of grim Russian fable, picking at the scabs of the story and searching for artefacts. The AI isn't out to get you, it's just trying to exist in a barren land where everything is in pain and hungry. When you're walking in the dark, in the rain and on your own, there's no telling just what will unpeel from the shadows and decide to take you on. It might be a scruffy hound, which is easy to kill but not worth the bullets, or it might be an invisible, blood-sucking hell beast. It might just be your imagination, fuelled by the pitch of night and a soundtrack that sounds like Aphex Twin making music with rust and orgasms.

Thief: Deadly Shadows

Almost any Thief game could appear on this list. They have a thin, low-tone of terror quietly running through that spikes you're inches from a patrolling guard, close enough to hear a quiet a cough and a mumble, nothing but a quirk of lighting keeping you from being spotted. You are always vulnerable, a fact your bladder keeps reminding you of. But then Thief 3 unleashes the Cradle on you. The Cradle is a place where the history is as important as the present horrors. An ancient orphanage and mental asylum (at the same time), the classic haunted house level that subverts the format of Thief and plunges you into a dark story of its own. As you stalk deeper into the place the history is revealed, coming off in chunks rather than a slow reveal of text, and when you put it together the place takes on a twisted life of its own. This is one that should be experienced first hand. If you have played it, Kieron Gillen's amazing dissection is an essential read that'll give you deeper understanding of the themes and backstory. If you haven't, you can grab the full game cheaply enough on Steam or GOG.com. Or just watch this and be glad you didn't.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

You can see flashes of Amnesia in Penumbra and its sequel: a first-person adventure game where the world is a reactive, physical space to be poked and prodded. Penumbra nearly made it in here, but there's something about Amnesia that raises it above the others. The story is ridiculously hokey, and the setting is closer to a cheesy Hammer horror story than something you'd expect to give you sweaty palms. But in Amnesia you're not a typical game hero: when bad things happen, you don't have the power to confront it, you don't have a buff bar full of counters, and you don't have a gun in your hand. You have a lamp. You have to run and hide and hope whatever it is goes away. Your character's fear is palpable: the screen shakes and warps as the terror builds, and the monsters seem to wait for the perfect moment to strike at you, delivering the sort of scare that has you hyperventilating along with your character. Just keep telling yourself that it isn't real.

Just when you think you know where this live-action short from Somewhat Awesome Films is going, it, uh, surprises you. Vigil Games added a deeper level of customization to Darksiders II and its central character apparently can't get enough of all the goodies he finds. Except for Resident Evil 6. Can't say I blame him on that one.


Joe Maduriera—comics artist and creative director on the Darksiders franchise—says he's leaving dev studio Vigil Games.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Snow joke

This is scandalous! When I buy a shooter, I expect – nay, demand> – for it to include a multiplayer mode that makes a mockery of the carefully-created fiction, is defined by the hollow pursuit of unlocks and is so rapidly abandoned by its players that it’s near-impossible to find a match about a fortnight after release. So hearing that Metro 2033 sequel Last Light has dropped its multiplayer really grinds my gears.

(It doesn’t. It seems like a very smart thing for a singleplayer-focused shooter to do). (more…)

Oct 7, 2012
Announcement - Valve
This Weekened only, save 50% off THQ's entire catalog* and even bigger savings on select titles each day, now through October 8th at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 66% off Saints Row: The Third.

Plus, check out the THQ Hit Collection for even bigger savings on THQ's biggest hit titles!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.

*Discount does not apply to Company of Heroes 2.

Oct 6, 2012
Announcement - Valve
This Weekened only, save 50% off THQ's entire catalog* and even bigger savings on select titles each day, now through October 8th at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 75% off the Dawn of War Franchise.

Plus, check out the THQ Hit Collection for even bigger savings on THQ's biggest hit titles!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.

*Discount does not apply to Company of Heroes 2.

Oct 5, 2012
Announcement - Valve
This Weekened only, save 50% off THQ's entire catalog* and even bigger savings on select titles each day, now through October 8th at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 75% off Metro 2033.

Plus, check out the THQ Hit Collection for even bigger savings on THQ's biggest hit titles!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.

*Discount does not apply to Company of Heroes 2.

PC Gamer
Company of Heroes 2

I'd be worried if Company of Heroes suddenly became all about actions per minute, but it's nice to be reassured. director of Company of Heroes, Quinn Duffy, tells Joystiq that "It's not an APM (actions-per-minute) game. To play Company of Heroes 2 you need to play smart and be aggressive in your decision making.

"We want smart players to be able to maximize the value of their units. A guy playing smart with his defenses and his cover and his movement, you want him to beat up on a guy with three squads."

This is excellent news. My finger dexterity is comparable to that of a man mashing out Flight of the Bumblebee in a pair of mittens. If I was asked to mastermind a Company of Heroes battle with the speed of a StarCraft 2 match, the results would be tragic. Tanks would rotate forlornly on the spot shooting at the sky. Men would be left in buildings to freeze to death. Luckily for them not all of the battles in CoH 2 will be set in winter.

"We're covering the full breadth of the Eastern Front campaign, and only half the war was fought in winter," says Duffy. "There's spring, fall, and summer... the weather and the environment had a big impact on both sides. That's part of the narrative experience of the Eastern Front."

The sequel is built in a new engine that'll support more detailed soldiers and dynamic snowdrifts. The extra fidelity seems likely to come at the expense of DirectX 9 support. "It's a ton of effort to make work on both versions," Duffy says, "and the install base isn't particularly large for DirectX 9 stuff only."

Company of Heroes 2 is due out next year, sharing the RTS limelight with Rome 2. Find out more in our Company of Heroes 2 preview. It's going to be an awesome year to be a PC gamer.
Announcement - Valve
This Weekened only, save 50% off THQ's entire catalog* and even bigger savings on select titles each day, now through October 8th at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 75% off Company of Heroes, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts and Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor.

Plus, check out the THQ Hit Collection for even bigger savings on THQ's biggest hit titles!

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.

*Discount does not apply to Company of Heroes 2.

Sep 25, 2012
PC Gamer
Darksiders review

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. Also: pusher of buttons, fetcher of quest items and avid parkour enthusiast. I’m also a dab skeletal hand when it comes to rolling giant glowing weighted balls into the sockets of improbably elaborate stone machinery.

You’d think all that reaping would keep Death busy on its own, but according to Vigil’s lite-RPG adventure, you don’t know the half of it. Death finds himself in a green and pleasant fantasy land in search of the Tree of Life. There he hopes to find absolution for his brother, War, who apparently prematurely annihilated mankind during the course of the preceding game. But this realm, the Forge Lands, has its own problems – gloopy problems by the name of Corruption, which seeks to wrap its black, slimy tendrils around the very forge of life itself.

So it is that Death finds himself distracted from his primary goal by a series of dungeon crawls to aid the people of the Forge Lands, combining a mixture of platforming challenges with minor puzzling and a healthy dash of hack-’n’-slash. Comparisons to the Legend of Zelda games are warranted – and welcome – given the way the sprawling overworld hub tapers off into dungeony spokes, full of flipswitches and pressure plate puzzles.

Well, I say puzzles, but for the first ten hours of the game it mostly seems to be the same puzzle, to which the solution is: roll a glowing ball into a glowing socket. Sometimes you have to roll a ball into another socket first, in order to access the second ball. Sometimes you have to find some explosives to blow up an obstacle. Sometimes you have to roll a ball onto a lift, ride it up, then throw it onto another from your newly elevated position. This is not cryptic stuff. I have been more puzzled by food packaging.

Later, you gain access to much more elaborate powers, such as the ability to create lurid green and purple clones of yourself – all the better for pushing buttons with – and the ability to open portals, but the level of challenge rarely soars above ‘gently pondersome’. That said, the pondering is not unpleasant. It’s not about austere brain-searing perplexity so much as spending a little time in environments that feel pleasingly tactile and open to exploration. It’s just the right-sized mouthful before the platforming or combat starts again, and if any one of the game’s several parts is slightly undercooked, at least the quantity of the serving is exactly balanced.

As for what else you get on your plate: along with that dollop of Zelda, there’s a lukewarm ladleful of Prince of Persia. Environments are etched with traversal routes – scuffed walls indicating you can run along them, while distinctive crevices offer handholds. Later a spectral grapple power enables you to swing from hooks embedded in the ceiling. The movement between all these points has a pleasing rhythm to it but is rarely taxing. It’s not until you journey beyond the Forge Lands that issues of timing raise their head.

There you find yourself leaping between platforms which sway beneath a dirigible hauled by a pair of giant serpents. This makes a rare and spectacular change from the familiar sequence of grapple points and wall traversals, but is quickly gone. Mostly, platforming challenges are nakedly prescriptive: Death’s acrobatics don’t give him freeform access to an environment; rather, if you see a ledge, you are meant to go there. It may be that the game sacrifices some of the wonder of its world for legibility, but the opposite is often true as well: chesthigh platforms that seem well within Death’s capability to clamber over will not oblige unless you use the prescribed handholds.

The low challenge of this rhythmic dance between obstacles feels like it is designed to contrast with the sweaty palms of combat. This is much improved from the button-mashing of the previous game, now taking its cues from Japanese-style brawlers like the consoles’ Bayonetta. You must more thoughtfully intertwine combos and dodges, building up meters and then spending them on a series of upgradeable special powers.

It’s gratifyingly tough: enemies attack in groups, and often simultaneously, forcing you to dodge in and out of combos, or lay down floor-clearing area-of-effect attacks before singling out opponents. You might assume Death would be quite the natural at this whole killing thing, but his skillset is initially limited, constraining the player to basic mashing and constant, panicky evasion for the first few hours. But as your moveset increases you can take the offensive in a much more considered way, equipping talismans, armour or weaponry that lets you vampirically absorb health with every blow or knock enemies over.

Attacks fill up two different power meters. The lesser of these is Wrath, which can also be topped up with potions, and grants you access to a number of powers unlocked with skill points as you level up. These are powerful dash moves and roomclearing melee sweeps in which you manifest as a giant winged Grim Reaper. Alternatively you can invest in summoning powers, bringing ghouls and crows to fight at your side. The second meter measures Reaper power, which builds up slowly as you deliver blows and eventually enables you to assume Death’s ‘true form’ for a good number of seconds – worth saving for the most dire circumstances.

Such circumstances might easily be any one of the apocalyptically irritating boss battles. They are tricky customers, partly by design, partly by failure of design. Clipping issues occasionally deflate your efforts. A later boss enemy floats just off-screen above you. This is infuriating because you haven’t learnt any aerial combos with which to dispatch him, and all the more so because it feels like you’re trying to swat a fly inside your own head. Oh, and he can turn invulnerable. Oh, and he can resurrect other foes. Who thought this was a good idea? I ask only because I feel I should apologise to their mother for all the terrible things I said. I’m sure she’s a fine woman.

Boss battles and other combat difficulty spikes aside, Darksiders II offers a rewardingly deep system of combos that must be exploited with intelligence and precision. It’s this that makes the lack of challenge in platforming or puzzling an amiable respite rather than a bore. In fact, the sum of the game’s parts makes for a pleasingly Zen experience, as you tool back and forth across the world, summoning your ghostly horse with a tap of a button, swiping creatures off their feet as you gallop past.

Aesthetically, it’s a little conservative – nailing the sort of themes that teenage boys enjoy before they’ve lived long enough to encounter the notion of cliché. But if the broad brushstrokes are banal, the detail is extremely accomplished, drawing its caricatures with enough idiosyncratic flare to be memorable, and breathing drama into what might otherwise have been check-box landscapes.

The voicework is a pleasant surprise too: as Death, Michael Wincott’s deep sardonic rasp channels the sound of a thousand whiskey hangovers, in a script that is enthusiastically hammy but not cringingly corny or crass. Jesper Kyd’s score is a winsomely eclectic mix, sweeping between far-flung musical and mystical traditions, matching wispy Celtic vocals with strident pentatonic chimes, murky synths and shades of Mongolian throat-singing, and somehow delivering pulsing, moreish hooks without their repetition ever grating.

From a technical perspective, Darksiders II doesn’t step up its efforts to match the capabilities of the PC. The art style ensures it’s a relatively handsome game in spite of its occasional bleary textures and lacklustre graphics options, but this is a hasty port, only just maintaining a cruising altitude of ‘mostly operable’. Changing resolution causes major spasms, leaving some menus in the wrong shape, while standards such as hotswapping between keyboard and gamepad are still absent. And though given its DNA this is clearly designed with a gamepad in mind, even those controls seem to be a little unreliable, as context sensitive commands sometimes fail to register.

Should a patch or two put these teething troubles behind it, then Darksiders II will provide a pleasant amble. Its platforming and puzzling may be undemanding, but in balance to its respectably rich combat challenge, they make for as relaxing a journey as you might expect in the company of Death.


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