Assassin’s Creed® III

Search for Assassin's Creed 3 on the Uplay store and you'll only see the new remaster. The same is true on Steam but the original version's store page still exists. However, the purchase button has been removed and this text has been added: "Notice: At the request of the publisher, Assassin’s Creed® III is no longer available for sale on Steam." If you already own the game on either service you should still be able to download and play it. (I tested it on Uplay today and it worked fine.)

The same thing has happened with several other remastered games, like Sleeping Dogs for instance. While it's a shame players no longer have the option to save $10 or so by getting the cheaper version, and it's also a shame to lose the historical value of being able to compare both versions, you can see why a publisher wouldn't want players to be confused or accidentally buy the wrong one.

As well as graphical changes, the remastered version features free-aim archery, an improved minimap, more stealth options, double silent assassinations, and apparently the early ship section has been shortened.

QUAKE

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.  

The first-person shooters of the 1990s were fast-paced, but Quake seemed faster than anything before it. Truly 3D levels, mouselook, a bouncy regular jump even if you weren't abusing rocket-jumps—it added up to a zippiness that felt powerful and new. 

Clever level design solved the Sonic problem of having areas full of secrets but a character who only feels good at top speed. There's often one particular key or something you need but there's also a convenient loop back through a section of the level so you can barrel around looking for things you missed, shooting suspicious patches of wall texture or swimming under bridges, during which you naturally find a secret or two before discovering that gold key or whatever.

When you hit a boss fight it still doesn't slow down. Chthon emerges from the lava and instead of standing in one spot shooting away at his health bar you keep moving, racing his fireballs to flip switches just like you do when looping through an ordinary level, only now you're lowering pylons into position then electrocuting the big jerkbag of an elder god.

There are plenty of other things about Quake to celebrate, like the soundtrack and the multiplayer and the mods, but let's not forget Chthon. Fighting him sets you up for the finale, which is another puzzle boss who can't be shot, and it's also a great capstone for the playstyle it's taught you.

And then at the end of the level when it's tallying your score and number of secrets you get to see Chthon's gibs squirting all over the screen. Quake knew what we wanted and it delivered. 

Bayonetta

You can pick up Bayonetta, one of the best action games on PC, for just $5/£3.75 on Steam until Tuesday. If you haven't played it yet, you absolutely should: Phil gave it 93/100 in his review, and it's still on out list of the top 100 PC games.

The price is equal to its historic low, according to IsThereAnyDeal. It actually dipped to the same price earlier this month before going back up to the usual $20, so if you missed out then this is the perfect time to pounce. It'd be a good one to play if you just finished Devil May Cry 5, I reckon.

The daily deal lasts until 10am PT/1pm ET/6pm GMT on Tuesday, so you have a couple of days to capitalize.

PlatinumGames released Bayonetta in 2009 but, as Durante wrote for us when it came to PC in 2017, the port is the definitive version of the game. It also has one of the best final boss fights of all time.

Grab it here.

Dead Cells

The developer of Dead Cells is "looking into" releasing its games on Google's Stadia streaming service, which was announced earlier this month.

In an interview with DualShockers, Motion Twin's head of studio Steve Filby said he was "excited" by the platform, which doesn't yet have a release date, adding that the studio was open to working with Google and that it's "definitely something we’re looking into".

He also revealed that the Dead Cells dev team were "not planning on stopping anytime soon" with extra content, following the huge, free Rise of the Giant update this week. The studio will release another update in the summer, and plans to add new levels to Dead Cells later in the year, he said.

Motion Twin has not decided whether these updates will be free or paid, he added.

Filby is not the only developer who's spoken about Stadia recently: industry figures are equal parts confused, excited and worried about the streaming service.

The Outer Worlds

Obsidian showed off 20 minutes of live gameplay from their highly-anticipated RPG The Outer Worlds at PAX East yesterday. We got to see humorous dialogue, two companions and plenty of combat—including a baton that shrinks and enlarges enemies' faces when you whack them.

The slice of alpha gameplay came from inside Byzantium, city of the elite. For starters, the protagonist was invited to take part in a propaganda film shoot at Odeon Pictures, and cast in the role of a hero fighting off pirates that were trying to steal food pills from a town. The dialogue, which doesn't have voice acting yet, seemed genuinely amusing, and had plenty of chances to roleplay, including options to simply "exude wordless fury" or make your eye twitch. 

At the end of the scene, the player could stay in character and carry on acting, or—and this is naturally what the devs decided to show off—you could murder the other actors and steal their stuff. The director was ecstatic with your commitment to the role, until he too was peppered with bullets. In The Outer Worlds, you can kill anyone, the developers explained.

The rest of the footage featured combat in the wider city. I'm still not convinced by the gunplay, which looks floaty, but the weapons seem fun, not least the Mandibular Rearranger. It's one of the game's science weapons, each of which has unusual effects, and when you hit someone with it their face will either shrink or swell up to twice its usual size.

We also saw the player equip a companion, Felix, with a ridiculous helmet that's basically a moon wearing a top hat. We got a glimpse of what it's like to command your followers: Felix was instructed to dropkick random civilians while Nyoka, your other companion, took a swig from a bottle and let rip with a giant machine gun that set enemies ablaze. 

At the end, the player picked up a flaw, one of the systems I'm most excited about. Repeated interactions with a particular enemy will give you the option of taking a flaw: in this case, the player was nibbled by a pet canid, which gave them a phobia that would make them worse at combat when canids were nearby. If you take the flaw, you also get to pick an extra perk.

Take a look at all the footage at the top of this story and let me know what you think in the comments. The video was uploaded by YouTube channel MrRedRivers.

The Outer Worlds is set to launch on the Epic Games Store and the Microsoft Store later this year—but not on Steam.

Flower

It may not seem like it but Flower is a game about explosions. 

I'm a gust of wind that picks a single petal from a flower then whooshes off with it. The petal flicks around, a toy in a puppy's mouth, as I zoom downhill, parting the grass like a meadow Moses. When I hit more clusters of flowers they spring to life and add new petals to my swirl. Color spreads through the nearby plants, glowing with life and vibrancy. It's an explosion, just a peaceful explosion of growth and natural beauty instead of propellant. Shockwaves emit from a central point, and stones tilt away as the force washes over them. It may not be a fireball, but I think Mr. Torgue would be proud all the same.

Flower is the kind of arty indie game that could easily have been hippy-dippy goop. It isn't, and one of the things that saves it is being wordless. No italicized poetry appears in the sky, at no point does the voice of Mother Earth berate humanity for inventing roads. In fact, Flower incorporates man-made constructions in its later levels. Bleak skyscrapers are bad but it's fine with windmills, streetlights, and so on. 

It's not a game that wants you to tear up the pavement, but it would like you to appreciate parks and gardens. I finished it with a powerful urge to plant something. 

When I try to leave the meadow I slow down, then get buffeted back on track. While zhuzhing down a gully I miss some pink flowers and try to turn back, but am fought by the wind all the way except that I am also a wind? Unless I'm like an invisible petal wizard or something. You have to go with the flow or it'll fight you, but when you relax into it and let the shape of the landscape guide you, Flower coaxes you into a real state of relaxation and saying "ooh" every five minutes. 

You know how great the wind blowing through trees in The Witcher 3 is? It's that, but instead of playing as Geralt following tracks from a murder scene you are the wind rattling leaves around.

Flower was originally released on PS3 in 2009, picked up a bunch of awards, and finally made it to PC 10 years later. It's available on Steam, GOG, and Epic.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a rather nice-looking game that unfortunately doesn't have a photo mode, but that hasn't stopped avid screenshotters from finding a way. Jim2point0 (recently responsible for the Resident Evil 2 camera hack) has been using Cheat Engine to take some pretty screens of Sekiro, and has shared the table he used to do it. You can toggle the HUD, alter FOV, and now he's updated it so you can freeze time, or just enemies, to line up exactly the shot you need.

Screenshotters have been doing some impressive stuff with Sekiro. For instance:

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Siege

When something goes wrong in Rainbow Six Siege, it’s easy to blame the game. And sometimes it really is the game’s fault. But there are many misconceptions about the factors that we often pin our shortcomings on—stuff like server lag, “bad” hitboxes, or ping abuse. That’s where a new video explainer by former Siege developer Dominic Clement may be able to help. 

The video touches on complicated subjects like what ping really is, server vs. client side connections, and tick rate. The whole thing is a great watch, but let’s break down the biggest lessons to be learned.

Debunking "ping abuse"

Ping abuse is when a player uses their high ping to gain an advantage in-game. The idea is that a high ping player can peek around a corner (known as peeker's advantage) and shoot enemies before they have a chance to react. I regularly see angry accusations from enemies and teammates alike claiming that ping abuse is ruining the match. That would be a legit concern, if it were true.

“Ping abuse is not a thing,” Clement remarks in the video. “High ping is not an advantage. If anything, you should be mad at low-pingers.” He explains that when two players with wildly different pings enter a gunfight, their connections are essentially in a race to reach the server first. The faster connection wins the race, which means their shot will always register first. The system is designed to always favor lower pings. Siege didn’t always work this way—a 2017 update adjusted server interactions to make sure peeker's advantage isn't much of an advantage.

You probably just missed

Although Siege is rife with legitimate bugs, Clement points out that players often complain about hit registration (or hitreg) when there is often a much simpler explanation: you missed, or your ping spiked. He plays several clips toward the end of the video to demonstrate this.

I can definitely back up this one with personal experience. It’s common to be spectating a teammate when they lose a fight and immediately protest. Even though I was watching as they missed almost every shot, they’ll still insist that they shot them in the head. Other times what looks like bad hitreg is really a brief connection interruption on your end.

Siege hitboxes are brutal

Source: Coreross on YouTube

Perception problems are exacerbated by Siege’s ultra precise hitboxes. Clement explains that since 2017’s Operation Health, hitboxes are now defined by the body inside of the armor and clothing. Most shooters have much larger hitboxes that often expand past the body itself. In the gif below, you can see just how much you can “miss” in Overwatch and still hit your mark. The difference is staggering.

Source: Nateson on YouTube

In Siege, shooting through the top of a helmet, earmuff cups, or external pouches on an operator will miss. This is the system working. I regularly encounter players who don’t know this, so it’s easy to see how it causes confusion and misguided hitreg woes.

Clement told me via email that he consulted with Siege community manager UbiNoty to confirm everything in the video is accurate, so it’s safe to take the info at face value. He isn’t trying to insist that the player is always wrong, but it’s worth knowing what a fake problem looks like to better identify real ones when they happen.

Borderlands 2

We didn't know how lucky we were. "Hey, that's a decent improvement on the original," we thought back when Borderlands 2 came out in 2012. Great class system. Tons of guns. It was a lot of fun. We didn't realize Borderlands 2 would end up being a framework so many games would build on, and yet fail to live up to. We didn't realize it was quite so special.

Borderlands 2 took stuff from MMOs, like color-coded rarity levels and raids, but reduced the boredom of traveling by adding bouncy vehicles right out of Halo. It worked both as a co-op experience for friends who wanted an excuse to hang out online, and a solo game. It had a long tail of DLC, timed events like the $100,000 Loot Hunt, and endgame challenges like Digistruct Peak, as well as Overpower levels for players who'd maxed out everything else. Though it predated "games as a service" it was, in its own way, a forever game. There are still at least 5,000 people playing it at any given time on Steam, even today.

At the same time, Borderlands 2 is very 2012. When the siren-class character, Maya, spots an elite enemy she shouts "We got a badass over here!" like the Neil deGrasse Tyson reaction. Axton, the soldier-class character, sometimes says "You get a bullet, and you get a bullet!" like Oprah but for murders. There's a double rainbow easter egg, and the pirate-themed DLC features ninja pirates for god's sake. Borderlands 2 is a museum of memes from the early 2010s. 

Woah, that's a full rainbow.

It's also heavy with pop culture references, but there's a line between the two. The vehicles added in the Captain Scarlett & Her Pirate's Booty DLC are designed to look like the skiff from Return of the Jedi. That's just a reference. When Gaige, the mechromancer-class character, shouts "Unlimited power!" like a million image macros of Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, that's a meme.

Now, several years later, I find the dated-ness of those memes weirdly charming. I haven't heard anyone say "Garbage Day!" or reference trap cards in ages, but here they are in Borderlands 2, frozen in meme amber.

Neverending story 

It wasn't all memes, of course. We wouldn't have cared about departing NPCs saying "I must go, my people need me" if they weren't in a game that kept us around with an eternal cascade of sweet loot. The sniper rifle that shoots acid bullets in three-round bursts when zoomed. The pistol that reloads almost instantly and is stable as a rock. Those kept us playing through True Vault Hunter difficulty, through multiple DLC packs, across hundreds of hours. 

Play a loot game for that long and builds inevitably degenerate. One example of that was The Bee, a shield with a decent chance of dropping from a propaganda radio host in the Boneyard area of the Arid Nexus. Named for Muhammad Ali's famous quote (a reference, not a meme), The Bee gave bonus damage per shot and was massively overpowered if combined with guns that had a high rate of fire. Which is what everyone did once they figured out how to farm it. Borderlands developers Gearbox treated the exploit like an MMO developer would and nerfed it, rather than just letting it slide like devs might in a more typical first-person shooter that wasn't meant to be played for years.

While Borderlands 2 is definitely an FPS, judging it by those standards misses its appeal. Its enemies possess only rudimentary tactics, throwing grenades at players behind cover but otherwise not doing much to coordinate. The spaces you fight them in are deliberately samey, with exploding barrels keyed to different elemental damage types placed throughout every bandit stronghold. The point isn't to outsmart the AI, but to transform your character into an effective mathematical engine to munch them with.

Shielded enemies are susceptible to electrical attacks, while armored enemies can be melted by corrosive ones. Fire attacks are best against enemies who have no special defences but plenty of regular health, and Borderlands 2 has no shortage of meaty bullet sponges. Anyone who takes damage from slag will take bonus damage from any non-slag attack that follows. Juggling all these things, working with other players or swapping between guns, grenades, and powers with different damage types, it can feel more like playing Final Fantasy or Pokemon than Half-Life. "Maya uses pistol that shoots rockets. It's super-effective!" (That's both a meme and a reference for you).

That is a 40K boltgun, yes.

Which is not to say that it's bad at being a shooter. Borderlands 2 doesn't do the RPG thing of having the numbers invalidate your ability to aim. If you land a shot on someone it doesn't matter what your gun's stats are, you landed that shot. Enemies take bonus damage if you hit them where they're weakest, and goliaths will frenzy and attack their allies if you pop off their dopey bucket heads. The expectations of FPS players are catered to, with the dopamine hit of RPG progression layered on top.

Just shloot me 

Other looter shooters are still struggling to recreate what Borderlands 2 did right. The Division games have boring loot, all kneepads and guns that don't even explode like grenades when thrown. Warframe's a completely different game for its opening hours before it gets good, and Anthem never does. Destiny's NPCs keep obnoxiously trying to remind you of their personalities every time they pop up, but most of them are forgettable. The Ghost is just Claptrap for boring people.

The Gearbox of today isn't the Gearbox of 2012, however. Borderlands 2's lead writer, Anthony Burch, is not writing Borderlands 3. The second game's creative director, Mikey Neumann, has also left the studio (though he did come back to help make Borderlands 3's trailer). And between the release of Borderlands 2 and now Gearbox has been responsible for Aliens: Colonial Marines and Battleborn. It's tempting to lower our expectations a little. 

That trailer really does look like classic flavor Borderlands, though. Some have expressed disappointment with that familiarity, but a game that sticks to the template would be preferable to one that's beholden to all the worst trends of modern looter shooters. A Borderlands game with battle passes, microtransactions, and a confusing variety of different currencies? No, thanks. I'd rather they stick to their guns.

And what about the memes? What's 2019 got to contribute—jokes about whether unused items in your inventory "spark joy"? Bandits impersonating Powerful Shaggy instead of quoting Hamlet? I wrote that as a joke but now I think about it, that would rule. Still, memes aren't the same carefree internet japes they were when Borderlands 2 came out and the idea of someone at Gearbox having to sift out the ones that have been appropriated by bigots is a depressing thought.

When Borderlands 2 was new I played it with friends. We had a blast, and to my surprise I realized I was interested in the story, not just the shooting. I made a second character just to go through it solo, hunting down audio logs and hanging on Handsome Jack's every word.  

That's what stands out when I compare it to the looter shooters that followed. I can't imagine doing the same thing in The Division 2, a game where even fans don't care about the plot. If Borderlands 2 did adopt some of the trappings of modern looter-shooters I wouldn't mind too much, so long as it kept the idea that it's worth having an arc, a villain you love to hate and a plot that feels like it's building to something.

Also the song that plays over the opening credits has to rule, but that's a given.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a brilliant game, and Tom awarded it 92/100 in his review. But if there's one thing it lacks, it's Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage.

Thankfully, modder kasaiji has buckled to overwhelming pressure from fans and created a new mod that blesses you with Cage's face every time you die. It even has two variants: a grey face when you can still revive, and a blood red one for when you're finally, properly dead.

To install it, follow the instructions on the mod's Nexus page—you'll need to grab the Sekiro mod engine first.

It's not the first time Cage has invaded one of FromSoftware's games. A 2016 mod replaced every texture with pictures of both Cage and...er...Shrek. The result was utterly bizarre, and needs to be seen to be believed.

...

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