PC Gamer

Welcome to the PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2013. For an explanation of how the awards were decided, a round-up of all the awards and the list of judges, check here.

Our multiplayer game of the year is a wonderfully tense shooter with some of the deadliest and most satisfying guns in the business. Rising Storm generates great war stories, and encourages rewarding feats of teamwork. With great maps, great weapons and some interesting and unique battle-mechanics, Rising Storm couldn't be bested as our choice for multiplayer game of the year.

EVAN What an absurdly well-designed FPS this is. In a time when multiplayer shooter factories like DICE and Splash Damage have abandoned WWII, Tripwire render the period in its most ambitious form ever on sprawling, authentic maps and with asymmetrical differences between the sides that make them more than texture-swapped clones. I like Battlefield 4 a bunch, but when you join a Japanese banzai charge in Rising Storm (a tactic that suppresses enemies more effectively as more people join the battle choir and begin to literally yell), you realise how carefully these clever, satisfying game mechanics had to be laid into the map and weapon design.

TYLER More than Battlefield 4, or even Team Fortress 2, Rising Storm makes me feel important. I may only be vital to my team for a couple of moments in each round, but I am significant every second I m alive. Even as I crumple to the sand on Iwo Jima, sniped from the shore, I m informing nearby teammates about an enemy location, or at least driving them into better cover. That feeling of significance makes Rising Storm my favourite team game ever. It can t be won by a few skilled players it takes organised tactics, and everyone, regardless of their kill/death ratio, is valuable to the team.

I m satisfied whether I spend a round crouched behind radios commanding my team to victory, or suicidally banzai charging into bases, helping them take ground and acting as an extra in someone else s war movie. The former is almost guaranteed to put me at the top of the scoreboard, while the latter not so much, but I m happy just to contribute.

EVAN Rising Storm s flamethrower is one of my favourite weapons of 2013 a wild dragon in the form of a backpack that immolates instantly and yet somehow remains balanced in a shooter defined by marksmanship and precision.

TYLER Yeah, the challenge there is positioning good marksmen make sure flamers don t ever make it into their trenches. You can go a bunch of lives without a kill, but that frustration is mitigated by the promise of those spectacular moments. No matter how many times I die even if I can t stay alive for more than ten seconds at a time I m rarely discouraged. Every life is lavish with opportunities, and every death informs my next life, compounding over the course of a match into a four-dimensional mental map of enemy movements. I play for the moments when that map guides me in the right direction and I muster the skill to achieve a goal and help my team taking a point, or maybe just blowing up a trenchful of enemies with a knee mortar. I m in it for all the little victories that lead to the final victory, the moments of heroics, sacrifice, and clutch saves. I m even in it for the defeats, so long as they re glorious.

EVAN This is a tiny thing, but it s so clever that Rising Storm doesn t track your deaths on the scoreboard. No one else is building shooters that ask you to forget your precious kill-death ratio and throw your body at a machinegun nest so that the enemy has to reload, in order for the guy behind you to get through and bayonet him, so that your team can push a few more feet forward.
PC Gamer

Dropsy is a mute, terrifying clown with no hands, but creator Jay Tholen, an experimental artist and musician, wants us to fall in love with him. Loving the unlovable is one of the game s most prominent themes, he says. Instead of reacting to the world s apprehension and fear of him with hatred, Dropsy responds with a seemingly naive, childlike love. When he encounters the bitter or hateful, he sees them as hurting and in need of a friend. No one is disposable.

After a fatal fire at Dropsy s circus, he becomes an outcast, living in the stitched-up remains of the tent with his father and dog. The game follows him as he tries to discover the truth behind the blaze, during which we piece together his past. As well as exploring this mystery-filled open world, we also delve into the bizarre otherworld of Dropsy s subconscious.

Classic LucasArts adventures are a clear influence, but Tholen says his take on the genre will be more about exploration and story than those notoriously convoluted rubber chicken with a pulley in it puzzles. The challenge lies in exploring and understanding the game world more fully. After obtaining clues through environmental details, NPC interaction, and simple puzzles, the player s perspective of the world shifts; a system that lends itself to a series of rewarding eureka moments.

This marriage of the traditional with something more abstract and exploratory is just one of the many ways in which Dropsy is a wonderfully unconventional game. Tholen s influences only add to the surreal quality. The idea of a small town with secrets, and the dreamlike elements of Dropsy, are heavily inspired by Twin Peaks. I m also influenced by crazy, theatrical progressive rock from the 1970s.

Dropsy is an odd game, but it s also surprisingly accessible. A picture-based dialogue system designed by Tholen ensures anyone can play it regardless of language. Characters communicate using icons. The player may not always understand them, which is entirely intentional. You ll make assumptions based on your own personal interpretation of the symbols, which incorporates the fact Dropsy can t speak into the gameplay.

What at first glance looks like an homage to LucasArts heydey is in fact one of the most fascinating and curious indie games I ve encountered in some time. It s dark and sinister, but has an incredibly positive, inspiring message. It s also ambitious, its freeform structure at odds with its adventure roots. I ll be interested to see how it all comes together, but mostly I just want to learn more about its unlikely hero. I know it sounds kinda depressing, says Tholen, but trust me: it s probably the happiest game you ll ever play.
Spelunky: The Text Adventure

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, massive dinners, mildly disappointing presents, and visitations by ghosts who show you harrowing visions of what might have been. This year, the Ghost of Video Games Past showed me what the games of 2013 would have been like if graphics cards had never been invented! I have no idea why he did that. The Ghost of Video Games Past is a little weird.

Even with its improved graphics, the 2013 version of Spelunky retained both the charm and frustration of the original. Of course, improved graphics don t matter when you remove the graphics altogether. Let s unfurl a rope and descend into Spelunky: The Text Adventure!

PC Gamer

Welcome to the PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2013. For an explanation of how the awards were decided, a round-up of all the awards and the list of judges, check here.

2013's expansion, Enemy Within, has only deepened Enemy Unknown's excellent campaign. XCOM's narrative arc remains unchanged, but between the necessary story missions there's great scope for expression in the management of your band of battle brothers and sisters. The bonds you form with your troops - and the shock when they meet a messy end - form the highs and lows of a player-authored narrative worthy of our game of the year award for Best Singleplayer.

EVAN I feel like I m sitting across a table from someone clever as I play XCOM, and I think that speaks to how well Firaxis create a relationship between you and your campaign. Depending on a turn outcome, I ll see my unseen enemy commander as lucky, or dastardly, or cowardly. XCOM also unlike plenty of modern games implements meaningful difficulty (and Second Wave) settings that increase the ownership you feel.

CHRIS I gravitate to singleplayer games that make me feel like it matters that it s me playing. That s why XCOM has absorbed so much of my time each of my campaigns is shaped by my ideas, creativity, skill and ineptitude. Mostly the latter. Whether I m doing a run where all my soldiers are named after colleagues and wear PCG red or one where I take it seriously and let stories emerge from the soldiers the game generates for me, it s deeply involving in a way that scripted singleplayer experiences just aren t.

TYLER Playing XCOM reminds me of being a kid with toy soldiers, my plastic squad advancing from tissue box to Lego castle, chattering about damned Nazis and who should take the shot with bravado inspired by every war movie I d seen. I gave them names and personalities, I made them kill, die, and mourn each other Noooooooo!

The XCOM experience shares that playful melodrama, creativity, and choreographed tactics (though when I was a kid no one buried my dead soldiers and told me I couldn t play with them anymore). And Enemy Within is like pouring a tub of new bits into my toy set. The gene mods and MEC Troopers aren t just about gaining a tactical advantage, they re about telling new stories by snapping on extra bits to my action figures. The Exalt missions are tactically satisfying to play, but more important to me, they re new chances for heroes to emerge and sacrifices to be made. With Enemy Within, XCOM is my current favourite toy bin.

CORY I love how it ramps up the number of choices you need to make, especially early on. Do you devote your resources to building MEC suits or gene labs, at the cost of diminishing your satellite expansion? Can you really wait to create MEC Troopers, knowing you ll get better bonuses for captains instead of squaddies? Even in early missions, I have to decide if it s worth rushing the field to get to Meld containers. risking an alien ambush, instead of methodically progressing through a map. Strategy games are better when you have to make tough choices, and Enemy Within introduces so many of them.

TOM It s the miraculous thing about games, that we can derive human drama from cold mathematics. Why care when a squaddie a mere computerised packet of values gets melted by an alien in battle? The fantasy of XCOM is one factor, communicated by a timeless artstyle. Mostly, it s about investment: the resources you pour into the development of your soldiers, and the time you spend with them from battle to battle. In the genetic modifications and giant robot mech suits, Enemy Within gives you more ways to invest in your team, strengthening those bonds and squeezing more drama out of its perfectly paced campaign.
BioShock Infinite

Welcome to the PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2013. For an explanation of how the awards were decided, a round-up of all the awards and the list of judges, check here.

Sometimes great games are released to the silent enjoyment of millions, others are lightning rods for discussion. They're talked about, turned over and examined for months, even years after release. Love it or hate it, Bioshock Infinite is one of those games, a shooter with too many ideas for its own good. Confusing, spectacular, controversial, its scope and absurdity ensure that it will linger in the popular imagination longer than its competitors. What better candidate for our Event of the Year award.

CHRIS Infinite is spectacular, grotesque, violent and sentimental. It s a shooting game about racism, America, grappling hooks, time travel and gospel music. Its schizophrenia is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness I admire for it for its spectacular nonsense as much as I understand why people have a problem with it. There s been nothing like it this year, and I m glad to have taken the journey.

CORY Whether or not you enjoyed exploring Columbia and its mysteries, you were certainly talking about it. Infinite s explorations of racism and religion angered some, but I still believe they were necessary to build a world that was beautiful on the surface but ugly underneath. I know some of us found the combat to be vapid, but I loved soaring over a Handyman s head on a skyrail, firing rockets and opening rifts that brought turrets to life.

ANDY Actually, I found the combat in Infinite a bit of a chore, but I still love it for taking me somewhere so wonderfully different. Emerging into that plaza for the first time after the church scene, and hearing Garry Schyman s beautiful Lighter Than Air , was a magical, transporting moment. Columbia is one of the most memorable places I ve ever explored, and the anachronistic music one of many neat touches that punctuated the wonder with a feeling of unease; a sense of something sinister lurking beneath those cerulean skies. As a game it has a lot of problems, but as an experience it s unforgettable. And I liked the ending.

BEN Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, stepping into Columbia for the first time felt like entering heaven both kingdoms of white and gold hanging like jewels in piercing blue skies (both, incidentally, ruled by crazy old white guys with beards). Irrational s world is a monumental achievement, from its foundations to its fiction. Whether I was watching families enjoying lazy picnics on the grass, poking at oddities and antiquities in shops, or bashing the crap out of terrorists using a hook hand, BioShock Infinite took me somewhere I had never been before.

TOM What spell was I under, to think that BioShock Infinite made a lick of sense? It was wonderful nonsense, though, a moshpit of ideas that provided ammunition for lengthy, excitable discussion. In the week that followed its release, we would talk in strange code to avoid spilling spoilers. Have you reached THAT bit? one of us would ask, with an odd eyebrow waggle. Oh you mean the bit with the THING? the other would reply, forming their hands into a flapping bird shape. The imagination behind Infinite s glorious, beautiful world proved infectious, and for all its incoherence, it s a million miles away from the mundane shooters we ve grown used to.

TONY As soon as I finished, I started again. Not for myself but so that I could plonk my non-game-playing girlfriend down beside me and show her the incredible sights. The colour-saturated, carnival atmosphere of early Columbia. The terrifying attack on Elizabeth s statue. A female NPC who didn t wear hotpants or carry a gun. No other game this year made me so excited to say look at what games can be now!
Dota 2

Welcome to the PC Gamer Game of the Year Awards 2013. For an explanation of how the awards were decided, a round-up of all the awards and the list of judges, check here.

One glance at the Steam player statistics will hint at the popularity of our E-sport of the year. At one point today 609,248 were playing Dota 2 concurrently, more than five times times more popular than the second runner. The International proved that Dota 2 has tremendous potential as a spectator sport, but beyond the realms of professional competition Dota 2 has collectively absorbed more hours of our time than any other game this year, and it's only set to grow in 2014 and beyond.

CHRIS My hands were nowhere near a keyboard at the time, but being in the crowd during the final of The International 2013 was the single most powerful gaming experience I had this year. Those final clashes between Alliance and Na Vi have become legendary, and with good reason they represent exactly why the game is so exciting as a sport. In addition to principles of technical mastery that it shares with StarCraft II, Dota 2 allows for both virtuoso creativity and epic metagame strategy. It is both mechanically and psychologically complex in a way that brings personality to the fore, but it doesn t just create rockstars: it creates leaders, strategists, rivals and friends.

It s also excitingly international: no single region has a monopoly on the best players or strategies. This was Europe s year, but 2014 could well belong to China or the nascent South Korean scene. Malaysia had a phenomenal showing in 2013, drawing deserved attention to Southeast Asian gaming. Who knows 2014 s International could even go to the USA. It probably won t.

Valve have pioneered new ways for e-sports teams to reward their members, laying the foundations for a stable professional sport that isn t as reliant on sponsorship and prize money. The International s crowd-funded prize pool was a stroke of genius that has since been adopted by the MLG for its own Dota 2 tournament, and the arrival of team and pro player-branded cosmetic item sets in the store has given players a way to display their affiliations while generating financial support for the sport itself.

EVAN One of Valve s achievements remains making Dota 2 so much more visually readable than League of Legends. The scale of the roster and the fact that some of its mechanics are based on Warcraft III engine limitations would limit accessibility, you d think, but all of Valve s effort to use lighting, silhouettes and colour saturation to convey clearly what s happening on screen is brilliant artistic and technical work that happens to make for an incredible spectating experience.

CORY What Chris failed to mention is that he s spent more than 300 hours playing Dota 2, a number that just knocks me out. I admit that I m personally terrified of the game. The few times I ve played have left me frustrated and embarrassed by the sheer amount of things I don t know how to do in it. And yet, I want to learn more. Watching good players play is unbelievably exciting. My goal for 2014 is to keep learning how to play. If I get as addicted as Chris, however, please arrange an intervention.

CHRIS Not more than 300 hours , Cory. More than a thousand. By my calculation, I ve spent 8.2% of my life playing Dota 2 since June last year.

Dota 2 s insane complexity is what makes it so enduringly fascinating to people with an eye for the stories that emerge from systems. I ve seen things you people wouldn t believe. I ve seen Reverse Polarity-Skewer-Glimpse accidents teleport entire teams into the fountain. I ve seen Wisp Tether-Relocate- Blink escapes that d make a grown man cry. I ve seen a ghost fight a bear in a hat. All those moments preserved in time, thanks to a robust server-side replay system.

Time to Dota.
PC Gamer
Heroine's Quest

The fan-made Quest for Glory 4 1/2 didn't exactly turn out for the best, but perhaps a game merely inspired by the classic adventure/RPG series will fare better. The gorgeous Heroine's Quest is such a thing, and after four years of development it has just been released for free. For free! You can download this massive roleplaying/adventure hybrid from this link - stick around for a fantastic trailer that will convince you to do just that.

Heroine's Quest goes above and beyond most free adventure games/RPGs by offering "over 100 hand-painted backgrounds", voice acting, a neat auto-mapping function, along with optional sidequests and multiple ways to approach many quests. As with Quest for Glory, you can either use brute strength, magic or cunning to solve problems, or if you fancy being a Jack of all trades you can develop a hybrid character with skills from each class. The story's based on Norse mythology, and involves words like 'Midguard', 'Ragnarok' and 'Ginnungagap'. You play as the Heroine, implored by the jarl of Jarnvidr to "stand against the forces of frost and put an end to the lasting winter." Well, you have to give devs Crystal Shard props for being seasonally appropriate. Also: more games featuring jarls please, developers.

If you're wondering why the Quest for Glory series is so highly regarded, have a read of Richard Cobbett's Reinstall feature on Quest for Glory IV.

Thanks to IndieGames.
PC Gamer
Battlefield 4 China Rising

Though it's not officially for sale in China, the Chinese government has gone and banned Battlefield 4 anyway, on the grounds that the game endangers national security. That's according to China.com, QQ.com and PCGames.com.cn (that last article has since been taken down). I'm going by Google Translate here, but the terms "national security" and "cultural invasion" are common, although "buggy mess" is strangely nowhere to be found. Chinese social media site Weibo has also banned searches for the Chinese translation of "Battlefield 4", throwing up the following message instead: "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, 'Battlefield 4' search results are not displayed."

The ban comes hot on the heels of Battlefield 4's China Rising DLC, although the government may be a little miffed by the plot of the main game too, which revolves around the rogue Admiral Chang's attempts to overthrow the Chinese government. The ban means that Battlefield 4 can't legally be sold in the country, so in the unlikely event that EA were planning to launch the game in China at some point, that has now been kiboshed. It's not the only game in the series to face a ban from a country portrayed in the series - Battlefield 3 was also banned in Iran, although it was never officially sold there either.

If you're reading this in China and you're wondering what you're missing out on, have a read of our review.

Many thanks to Polygon.
PC Gamer

Feel like doing a little mad science? The Advanced Genetics mod lets you collect DNA from Minecraft's monsters and animals, analyze it, decrypt it, and grow it in your lab. Then, you can inject it into yourself, gaining the abilities of the monsters you harvested from, like the the Enderman's teleportation power, the Ghast's fireballs, the Skeleton's endless arrows, and tons more.
You ll need a few things to get started. First, dig yourself a nice big lab: you re going to be filling it with tons of new lab equipment. Next, collect roughly 800 tons of coal, because each piece of equipment needs power, and plenty of it. Just ask NASA: science takes a crapload of fuel (though NASA probably doesn't use the term "crapload").
I won't bother going through all the new crafting recipes since they're all in the mod's wiki, but you'll want to start with making a Scraper out of stone and iron. This is the tool you ll be using to not-so-gently remove skin cells from the creature of your choice. I decided to start with a lowly chicken, because it has an immensely useful ability: it takes no fall damage. In Minecraft's survival mode, I am constantly shattering my ankles by walking or falling off the edges of things. My plan is to gather a chicken's DNA, extract the gene responsible for no fall damage, and inject it into my own body.

Just like in real life, chickens aren't fond of being scraped.
Chickens, I discover, have a second genetic ability, which is to never be around when you're specifically looking for one. Eventually, I find a trio of chickens in a tree and scrape off so much of their skins cells that they die. I really wasn't trying to kill them, but you do need to collect a crapton of skin cells for all the science. (NASA probably doesn't use the term "crapton" either.)
Then, it s back to my lab, where I've built a large collection of science machines. The first one I use is the DNA Analyzer, which takes the blob of chicken skin and extracts one pristine cell, along with some waste matter called Organic Drops, which can be used for fuel in lieu of coal. Next, I take my new chicken cell and put it into the DNA Extractor, which produces an encrypted helix cell. From there I use the DNA Decrypter to decode the helix, and then the DNA Splitter to separate out the useful genes.
This can take a bit of time, as not every chicken cell has the particular gene I need, in this case, the No Fall Damage gene. More often than not, the Decrypter and Splitter will produce a Basic Gene, which has no inherent abilities written into its code -- however, the Basic Gene is still plenty useful in the process ahead.

Chicken DNA: good for more than just McNuggets.
Eventually, I manage to extract the No-Fall Helix. Now, it's time to grow it in the DNA Breeder, and that's where all those Basic Genes come in handy. By stuffing them into the Breeder alongside the No-Fall Gene, I can cook enough to produce a functional DNA segment. This tends to take ages and a lot of material: just to build this strand of DNA, I need sixteen separate genes. But hey, science takes a lot of work.
If this seems complicated, it's actually kind of not. Yes, there are a lot of steps, and a lot of different machines to complete these steps, but once you've got your lab set up and your machines all in a nice row and you've gone through the steps once or twice, it's really just a bit of simple assembly line activity (though a tad time-consuming). The wiki also has a nice set of starter instructions.
Now it s time to jam this new DNA into my body. First, I use a crafted syringe to extract some of my own blood. Then, I spin the syringe in the centrifuge. Next, I put my new chicken DNA and my blood-filled syringe into the DNA Combiner. I give the syringe another spin around in centrifuge, and now I m ready to inject myself with a tube full of chicken-science.

It's a lovely day, why not jab myself with a needle full of chicken DNA?
The screen goes wonky-woo for a bit as my DNA code is rewritten with chicken powers. When it s done, it s time to test out my new genetic skill -- the ability to fall safely from any height -- in the only scientifically reasonable way: by building a massive noob tower and jumping off it.

You had better work, chicken-based science experiment.
Sure enough, I land with a clunk but no actual damage done to myself! I am infused with the powers of a chicken! Of course, the day might come when (for some reason) I want to once again get hurt by falling from heights (note: this day will never actually come). Luckily, there are machines I can build just for that. Anti-genes can be crafted and injected to kill your revised DNA, much in the same process we just went through.

Did you know a strand of DNA is big enough to use as a bludgeon? SCIENCE!
So, what other abilities can you analyze, extract, decrypt, split, grow, and inject from the creatures of Minecraft? Plenty. Take some skin from a sheep and perform science on it, and you ll gain the ability to eat grass, which is exceptionally useful in survival mode. Harvest some DNA from a squid and you can acquire the power to breath underwater. Scrape up some ocelot dander and you ll be able to chase away Creepers.
It doesn't end with just animals: you can harvest from monsters and gain some of their powers as well. You ll be able to swim through lava like Pigmen, teleport like Endermen, explode like Creepers, fly like bats, and fling fireballs like Ghasts or Blazes. Sure, once you've got a bunch of these powers coursing through your veins, it may feel like a bit of a cheat, but at least building all these machines and going through the complicated steps makes you work for them a bit.

Injecting myself with Creeper blood... what's the worst that could happen?
Installation: I installed this mod for Minecraft 1.6.4. There's a download link on the mod's site, and you'll also need Forge version 1.6.4. And here are some pretty good instructions on how to install mods for this version of Minecraft.
BioShock Infinite
Bioshock Infnite The Text Adventure

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, massive dinners, mildly disappointing presents, and visitations by ghosts who show you harrowing visions of what might have been. This year, the Ghost of Video Games Past showed me what the games of 2013 would have been like if graphics cards had never been invented! I have no idea why he did that. The Ghost of Video Games Past is a little weird.

Bioshock: Infinite impressed critics with its otherworldly visuals of a city in the clouds, but strip away the sunbeams and statues, and does it hold up? Let s chug a vigor, eat a cake out of the garbage, and take a look at Bioshock Infinite: The Text Adventure!


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