Half-Life 2

Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: you have a three-slot loadout you can fill with weapons from any PC game—what do you put in them? We also welcome your answers in the comments. 

James Davenport

Half-Life 2's crossbow: Look at me, I'm doing the PC Gamer dance, invoking Half-Life 2. But truly, the crossbow is a work of art. I remember pulling over in the buggy, spotting a combine chilling on an old billboard platform, zooming, aiming, and letting that beautiful dart find a home. Nailed the guy to the wall and I clapped. I expect nothing else from a videogame gun. 

FEAR's HV Penetrator: Look, I love guns that let me nail men to walls. FEAR's HV Penetrator also lets me do that, but in stylish slow motion with a fully automatic weapon. The first GIF I ever made, age 14, was of this very beauty. It's part of me now. 

Devil Daggers' devil daggers: What are daggers if not large nails? There's no men to nail to the wall in Devil Daggers, though I'm sure an endless stream of knives shot from a hand with hell-magic would do the trick just fine. 

Chris Livingston

I have an all-Valve answer, I guess. 

Gordon Freeman's gravity gun: My love for the gravity gun is probably mostly out of nostalgia at this point, but just yesterday I had to help a neighbor move furniture, and now I'm sore, and god forbid I ever use whatever passes for my muscles to do something. The gravity gun would have saved me time and energy, plus I could have launched my neighbor's tacky nightstand into the next town.

Chell's portal gun: Set a portal over the couch and one in the office, then I can go smoothly from working to watching TV, again sparing my pathetic muscles.

TF2's medigun: Let's face it, with a gravity gun and portal gun I'm going to wind up injuring someone, likely myself. Can you use a medigun on yourself? Yes: by placing some portals first. It's perfect.

Philippa Warr

Crowbar (Half-Life): I'm a big fan of weaponry I could pass off as entirely innocent if anyone were to query what I was up to, or which has multiple uses. I mean, If you're carrying a plasma cannon around you're clearly up to no good. Swap that to a crowbar and suddenly you're a useful person doing useful tasks. The crowbar also contains the possibility of easily opening boxes which might contain presents—a plasma cannon would just obliterate everything and then no-one gets any presents. 

Blowtorch (Worms): This is another useful tool which just happens to double up as a weapon. "Madam, why do you have a blowtorch with you?" "Obviously I am going to be brazing some metal." "Ah, of course. Have fun!" 

See? AND I could caramelise the sugar on top of a crème brûlée in a kitchen emergency where you need a crème brûlée in a hurry. And don't mind the kitchen being on fire.Odette (Bayonetta): As someone who regularly wears stilettos, I'm already a big fan of weaponised shoes. The problem with high heels, though, is that you tend to need to go a lot slower. You're trading speed for piercing damage. Not so with Bayonetta's demonic ice skates! You lay down a trail of ice and speed around, plus each foot now has a sharp blade attached. Triple flip into triple toe loop into triple slashing of my foes. 

Evan Lahti

Railgun & Rocket Launcher (Quake series): There's no better one-two punch in PC gaming. Like Quake itself, Quake's guns are the pure distilled essence of FPS concepts—in this case, splash damage and direct damage. There are no attachments, secondary fire modes, or reloading to get in the way of your aim, and wielding them is a high-skill meditation on the genre itself. The canonical combo is to pop someone up by hitting them in the feet with your rocket launcher, switch to the railgun, and zap them out of midair. When you pull this off, your ancestors smile.

Particle Cannon (Wolfenstein '09): This little-remembered gun is essentially a firehose hooked up to the Ark of the Covenant. The gun feels like a faucet for liquified, otherworldly power, a theme throughout Raven Software's Wolfenstein, and it’s a great example of the fun that can arise when a single-player shooter hands you something overpowered. After a short spin-up time, a zig-zagging splurt of unholy turquoise flicks out of the barrel, cueing a banshee screech. A lot of the fun is owed to Raven’s expressive death animations: even a splash of PC energy dissolves Nazis instantly, and without interrupting their momentum.

Samuel Roberts

Gloo gun (Prey): How has no one else suggested this yet? It's a gun, but also a tool that can help you reach new places in the environment, where level designers inexplicably hide money and ammo. No FPS weapon this year is cooler than the Gloo Gun. 

Gauss cannon (Doom 2016): I went back and forth on this one, because a lot of Doom 2016's weapons transform throughout the game into more exciting, silly tools. I narrowly picked this one over the assault rifle that fires tiny rockets, merely because I love the precision bolt move on this one. It makes you feel like Iron Man.

Automatic shotgun (Wolfenstein: The New Order): An easy choice. My favourite modern shotgun. While my other two choices could be called frivolous or flashy, these are practical, cathartic-feeling bad boys for dealing with any FPS level that the gods may throw my way.

How about you, eh? Let us know your choices in the comments.

Half-Life 2

In March, new images from Junction Point's cancelled Ravenholm-set Half-Life 2 episode emerged. Led by Warren Spector, the studio's take on the eerie zombie town was said to include a Magnet Gun—a twist on Freeman's iconic Gravity Gun—and the creator has now explained what its function within his game would've been. 

Speaking in this month's PC Gamer UK magazine, Spector affirms Ravenholm was not simply an outpost in the ill-fated story's campaign, but that the episode was to be set there entirely. 

"We wanted to tell the story of how Ravenholm became what it was in the Half-Life universe," Spector tells us. "That seemed like an underdeveloped story that fans would really enjoy. In addition to fleshing out the story of Ravenholm, we wanted to see more of Father Grigori and see how he became the character he later became in Half-Life 2."

Speaking to the Magnet Gun, Spector explains how it would use projectile magnetic balls to attract metal objects from a remote location. Even in writing the examples he describes sound like great fun.

"It went through several iterations, but the one I remember was one where you'd fire a sticky magnetic ball at a surface and anything made of metal would be forcefully attracted to it," says Spector. "You could fire it at a wall across an alley from a heavy metal dumpster and wham! The dumpster would fly across the alley and slam into the wall. You can imagine the effect on anything approaching you in the alley—either squashed or blocked. 

"Or you could be fighting two robots and hit one with a magnet ball and they’d slam together making movement or combat impossible for them. Or you could be trying to get across a high-up open space with an I-beam hanging from a cable in the middle. Stand on the I-beam, fire a magnet ball at the far wall, the beam swings across the gap, walk off it, done."

PC Gamer UK's November issue is on sale now.


In the spirit of "why the hell not", a group of five modders is recreating Half-Life 2 in the Half-Life engine. There may be practical reasons for using this mod – maybe you don't own a copy of Half-Life 2 but you do own a copy of Half-Life – but these demakes are usually done just to see if they're possible. 

So far, so good: the team has already completed the game's first chapter, but they need help – especially from programmers and modelers. The mod's demo is currently available on ModDB, where you can also follow its progress.

"You might be aware that this has already been attempted already, but none of these have actually panned out," the description reads. "With Half-Life 2 Classic, we hope to communicate more with the community, so that even if we don't manage to recreate the whole game, we can still release a substantial part of it, which can be continued by someone else in the future."

Meanwhile, whether the mod will be a deliberately retro-styled outing, or whether they'll try to match Half-Life 2's fidelity, is yet to be seen. "We're still debating if we should stick close to Half-Life 2's graphics, or if we should downgrade them on purpose, and if so, how much. We may even make optional high-res models for the hd model pack, while keeping the base game's models low-res. But it depends on what most people want."

Check out the mod in action below. Cheers, Kotaku.

Half-Life 2

If you found science-fiction author and former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw's synopsis of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 interesting to read, you might find it interesting to play, kinda, sorta. Laidlaw recently published a gender-swapped, name-changed fan-fictionesque version of the possible major events of the never-published episode of Half-Life 2 called Epistle 3, which created a bit of excitement among Half-Life 2 fans and also spawned a game jam using Laidlaw's story as its inspiration.

There are a number of games already submitted to the jam, and I just played one made by Blendo Games, maker of Quadrilateral Cowboy and Thirty Flights of Loving. It's a Half-Life 2 mod called Tiger Team. It's only a few minutes long, and it takes you through some of the events, kinda, of Laidlaw's story, sorta. (Here's a version of the story with the game's real character names which I found easier to follow.)

I'm not honestly sure I knew what was going on with everything in the mod—there's a lot of bouncing around between scenes, and without having read the story I wouldn't have been able to follow a damn thing going on. But if you read the story and then play the mod, you should be able to grasp most of what you see. Besides, since we'll never get to play the real thing, this may be as close as we can get.

You can download the Tiger Team mod here

Half-Life 2

Every year PC Gamer's editors and contributors vote on a list of the 100 best PC games to play right now, and every year our Top 100 list is contentious. A game is always too low, and another too high, and another unbelievably missing. Such is the inevitable fate of any List Of Things In A Certain Order.

But this year, we decided it would be fun to transform the heated comment threads under our list into a list of their own—the Readers' Top 100. Last week, I asked you to pick your top two games from our Top 100 list, and suggest two games to add. I then compiled the votes (1,445 of them), weighing the write-ins more highly than the picks from our list, given that it's much more likely that 50 people would chose the same game from a list of 100 than all write in the same game.

My totally unscientific method does cause a few problems, namely: how much more do you weigh the write-in votes? A multiplier of three produced the most interesting list in this case, though next year I may ditch that tactic all together and take write-ins only. The danger is that a write-in-only list might be more easily swayed by organized campaigns (though that certainly happened anyway), and for this first attempt, I wanted to include a baseline to build off of just in case the suggestions were too scattered, or too homogeneous.

It worked out pretty well despite the uneven, improvised methodology—but do think of it as a fun exercise and not a perfect representation of PC gamers' tastes. Caveats out of the way, check out the list below. (Games that aren't on our Top 100 list are in bold.)

The PC Gamer Readers' Top 100

  1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  2. Half-Life 2 
  3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 
  4. Dark Souls 
  5. Borderlands 2 
  6. Fallout: New Vegas 
  7. Mass Effect 2  
  8. Doom (2016) 
  9. BioShock 
  10. Doom 2 
  11. Fallout 2 
  12. Deus Ex 
  13. Portal 2 
  14. Life is Strange 
  15. Starcraft 
  16. Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn 
  17. Grand Theft Auto 5 
  18. League of Legends 
  19. Diablo 2 
  20. XCOM 2 
  21. Fallout 4 
  22. Dragon Age: Origins 
  23. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind 
  24. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds 
  25. Bioshock Infinite 
  26. Overwatch 
  27. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 
  28. World of Warcraft 
  29. Rimworld 
  30. Path of Exile 
  31. Planescape: Torment
  32. Fallout 
  33. Dishonored 2 
  34. Crysis 
  35. Stellaris 
  36. Crusader Kings 2 
  37. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain 
  38. Dishonored 
  39. Half-Life 
  40. Warcraft 3 
  41. Quake 
  42. Factorio 
  43. Prey 
  44. SOMA 
  45. Fallout 3
  46. TIE Fighter 
  47. Elite Dangerous 
  48. Rocket League 
  49. Civilization 5 
  50. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 
  51. Starcraft 2 
  52. Nier: Automata 
  53. Stalker: Call of Pripyat 
  54. Wolfenstein: The New Order 
  55. Minecraft 
  56. System Shock 2 
  57. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 
  58. Psychonauts 
  59. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition 
  60. Knights of the Old Republic 
  61. Age of Empires 2 
  62. Thief 2 
  63. Endless Legend 
  64. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 
  65. Titanfall 2 
  66. Warframe 
  67. The Secret of Monkey Island  
  68. Kerbal Space Program 
  69. Europa Universalis IV 
  70. Hotline Miami  
  71. Payday 2 
  72. Battlefield 1 
  73. Dota 2 
  74. Total War: Warhammer 
  75. Mass Effect 3 
  76. Batman Arkham City 
  77. Rainbow Six Siege 
  78. FTL 
  79. Stardew Valley 
  80. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 
  81. The Talos Principle 
  82. Tyranny 
  83. Civilization 6 
  84. Undertale 
  85. Knights of the Old Republic 2 
  86. Team Fortress 2 
  87. The Witness 
  88. Thief Gold 
  89. Arma 3 
  90. Dying Light 
  91. Alien: Isolation 
  92. Hyper Light Drifter 
  93. Planet Coaster 
  94. Jagged Alliance 2 
  95. Call of Duty 2 
  96. Transistor
  97. Mass Effect 
  98. Freespace 2 
  99. 7 Days to Die 
  100. Ultima Online

For reference, the top 10 games on our list this year were: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dark Souls, Dishonored 2, XCOM 2, Portal 2, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Mass Effect 2, Alien: Isolation, Doom (2016), and Spelunky. If you want a condensed sense of how our tastes differ from those surveyed, here are a few observations:

We like Spelunky a lot more than everyone else. It was in our top 10, but didn't even make it into the Readers' Top 100.

While Half-Life 2 has lost some stock in our minds, it hasn't in everyone's. It was 11th on our list, but 2nd on the Readers' list.

Everyone agrees that The Witcher 3 is great. It was first on both of our lists.

Skyrim is still chugging along. It was 26th on our list, but came in third in reader voting.

Borderlands 2 wasn't on our list, but came in 5th. Did Borderlands fans came out en masse, or are we just weird for not putting it on our list?

14th place is pretty impressive for Life is Strange. Rimworld ranked pretty high, too. Either these games are more popular than we realized, or the survey happened to be circulated among their biggest fans. Probably a mix of both.

League of Legends fans showed up to challenge our preference for Dota 2. It came in at 18, while Dota 2 was knocked down to 73. Justice?

If you'd like to compare the lists directly, I've put them side by side in a spreadsheet. Thank you to all 1,445 people who responded to the survey! Feel free to suggest new ways to compile this list in the comments, and I'll take them into consideration next year. My skill with Excel spreadsheet formulas is at least double what it was last week, a cursed power that will only have grown by next year.

Half-Life 2

There's been a lot of Half-Life 2 talk lately, what with Marc Laidlaw creatively writing some gender-swapped fan fiction that revealed his vision for the missing Episode 3 and Lever Softworks speeding up the release schedule of its Half-Life 2: Aftermath mod. In fact, it feels like there there's pretty much always a bit of Half-Life 2 chatter drifting around because it's a celebrated hunk of first-person shootery and we're still wondering (well, maybe not so much now) if we'll ever see Half-Life 3.

It wasn't this most recent surge of Half-Life 2 nostalgia that led me to play through the final chapter of Half-Life 2 a total of 15 times in 2 days. I love Half-Life 2, and I'll still play certain chapters of it every now and then. But when I play it, I never play the last chapter, and I didn't want to this week, and I certainly didn't want to play it 15 times in two days. Also: I'll never play it again.

Why I played it this week: I was working on some Half-Life 2 stuff for an upcoming issue of our magazine, and my contribution involved using Garry's Mod, which I have not used in a very, very long time. I had a specific goal in mind: to reach the end of the game, where (spoiler) there's an explosion on top of the (spoiler) citadel, Alyx (spoiler) is there and shields her face, G-Man walks out of the explosion and says (spoiler) some things before stuffing Gordon Freeman back into the interdimensional broom (spoiler) closet.

Seemed easy enough. I wait for the explosion, then disable the game's AI using the console, which will freeze everyone in their tracks. Then I'll spawn a G-Man ragdoll, pose him next to Alyx, and I'm done. Five minutes, tops.

Except it's wasn't, because when you load that final map (d3_breen_01), it loads at the beginning of the chapter, where Freeman has stupidly and willingly climbed into a locking metal coffin like an idiot, allowing himself to be captured. So you take a coffin ride, there's a ton of moustache-twirling from Dr. Breen and a lot of chit-chat from everyone else before Breen, being almost as stupid as Freeman, sets you free.

Cool, I'm free. I noclip up through the map to the top of the citadel, but then realize, oh yeah, I need Alyx (I don't think I can pose her as well as she poses herself) and the explosion. I'll need to actually play through the entire chapter to reach the climactic end. So, I noclip back down into Breen's office but apparently I've passed through a trigger or something and the sequence won't continue.

I start the chapter over, ride the coffin, listen to the chats, Breen frees me, we pursue, he gets distracted while Skyping with a large alien cyber-maggot, I get my gravity gun back, I fight the Combine and remember how to get to the top of the citadel without using noclip to fly, I shoot orbs at the thingie, the thingie breaks, and Alyx hops out of a window I probably could have used to avoid that entire fight. There's an explosion, Alyx throws her hands up, I disable the AI, and everything pauses. Perfect! I open the Garry's Mod menu, spawn a G-Man ragdoll, and take out the posing tool. Only the posing tool doesn't come out. Nothing comes out. The only tool I can use is the regular old gravity gun.

Hum. That won't do. I reload the map to start again. Coffin, Breen, Combine, orbs, explosion. Same thing. Either the game or the mod isn't letting me use the tools I need at the end of the game.

I begin again. Maybe I'm being denied the tools because at the start of the chapter all of Gordon's weapons are confiscated by the weapon confiscating machine Breen has installed outside his office, probably due to all the other weapon-bearing scientists constantly riding inescapable metal coffins to the top of his office building to kill him. When Breen frees me, I use a console code to give me all the weapons, which I wrongly assume will give me all the tools as well. I fight through the Combine again (using the rocket launcher, because why not) to trigger the final scene, but once again I can't use the posing tool.

I begin again. It's been a couple hours at this point -- this is like a 15 minute sequence -- and I'm not sure I'll be able to get this pose to work at all. After Breen frees me, I start noclipping around the map because I can't think of anything else to do. At one point I apparently pass through a kill-trigger, presumably the one that ends the game if you fall off the catwalk while fighting on the roof, and I die. Since this is G-Mod and not Half-Life 2, it doesn't reload the chapter but just respawns me back at the start of the level with the chapter still in progress—this time with all my Garry's Mod tools working. A-ha!

So I just need to play through the chapter and die at some point. I start again, Breen frees me, I disable the AI, and everyone freezes. I give myself all the weapons, then walk into the corner, drop a grenade, and squat on it. I die, respawn at the bottom with my tools, noclip back to the office, and enable the AI. Everyone wakes up and continues as if Gordon Freeman didn't just blow up his own ass and then rise through the floor a minute later with a buncha weird-ass physics tools.

I continue through the sequence, get to the top of the Citadel, blow it up, and pause. My tools are gone again. Dang! (I don't actually say dang.) I don't know what happened, but it's been like three hours of this and all I've done is watch people talk and have a grenade go off three inches from my testicles. I'm done for the night.

I wake up the next morning and sit glumly through the beginning of the chapter again. This time I wait until later in the chapter, pause, die, and return with my tools. I fight through the Combine and make it to the top. Explosion, pause. Spawn a ragdoll.

My tools. They're sort of working but not really. There's no beam extending from the poser, but I can pick up the ragdoll. I can't turn turn the ragdoll, though, no matter how I try. I can move it, but I can't rotate it to face me. This won't do.

Maybe I'll forget the ragdoll altogether. I mean, G-Man walks out of the explosion anyway and stands next to Alyx, maybe I'll just use the faceposer to give him a different expression while he's standing there. I seem to remember being able to pose faces on 'living' NPCs. I play through the entire chapter, again, making sure to sit on a grenade and die at one point, then reach the ending. G-Man walks out, I pause, then shoot him with the face-poser, only I don't because the game won't let me use it.

Okay, new plan. I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Well, first I'll take a break to scream into a pillow, and then I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Then I'll go back downstairs, fight my way back upstairs, then when the roof explodes and I disable the AI, I should be all set with the posed G-Man in place. I pause, I pose, I go back down. I've done something wrong, though, because Breen won't wake up. He won't rise up through the citadel in his force-field while mocking me, so the ending of the game won't trigger properly.

I start over. Again. After the coffin ride and family meeting, I make sure Breen starts rising through the citadel before I start messing with console codes. I disable the AI, kill myself, respawn and fly upstairs, spawn a floppy G-Man, use the poser and face-poser, and everything is all set. Then the game ends and the screen goes dark, because Breen, even with no AI functioning, has risen all the way to the top of the citadel and escaped, thus causing me to fail my mission.

After a break to put my face in my hands and moan for a bit, I start again. By carefully noclipping I manage to avoid messing with the chapter's routine. I die, I fly, I pose, I return and run through the sequence again. At the top of the citiadel, Alyx hops through the window and runs smack into the G-Man I've posed. I've placed him right in her path.

I shriek in horror.

But Alyx is smart. She doesn't miss a beat and sidesteps the obstruction, bless her. The explosion explodes for the umpteenth time. I pick up the frozen Alyx and reposition her a bit. Weirdly, I notice the explosion has actually undone some of my ragdoll posing.

Even though I've locked all of G-Man's joints, his leg is swinging away and his briefcase is askew. Thankfully, my tool is still working properly. I wedge his bits back into place, noting how his limbs are a bit floaty in the timeless portion of the chapter. I take a hundred screenshots for safety, check the folder to see that the pictures are actually there, then take a hundred more. I never want to have to come back here again.

So that's why I had to play Half-Life 2's final chapter 15 times in 2 days. I have no doubt there was a much easier way to get this done, and I'm sure there will be plenty of helpful comments below to point them out, and they will probably make me weep at my lost hours.

On the plus side, I've got some closure with Half-Life 2 and if we never get a sequel, at least the ending to this one will be forever burned in my brain.

Half-Life 2

Every year, thousands of PC gamers bring their machines, their monitors, and their largest energy drinks to QuakeCon in Dallas for the largest LAN party around. While there are some basic pixel-crunching workhorses and sturdy laptops around, the vast majority of these PCs are sleek, liquid cooled, and sexy as hell. We round up our favorite rigs from QuakeCon every year, and in the process we walk straight past lovely, high-powered machines that any gamer would be lucky to own.

These few, though, represent works of art, feats of engineering, or staggering wastes of money, and we love them all. These are our 13 favorite rigs from QuakeCon 2017.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Carbon Fiber 

An otherwise ordinary rig, the use of rigid liquid cooling tubes, contrasting tube junctions, and carbon fiber everything made this shiny little fish tank stand out.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Music and Magnets 

This year, the brightest lights on the networking command center belonged to this high-seas PC. A few modifications turned a limited edition boat-shaped case from Lian Li into this orange-lit jewel of the QuakeCon fleet. Plus, if you put a Lego man near the bow, a magnetic trigger starts to play that classic The Lonely Island song, I’m On A Boat.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Questionable Liquid Coolant Colors 

We’re not color scientists, but there’s something magical about this case’s bright purple LED lights bouncing off of the soft pastel blues and greens in twin reservoir tubes. Seriously, what is in those things? They look like tubes of rejected Maalox flavors.

#10 All Blue 

There’s no gimmick on this case: it’s just a beast of a machine rigged with efficient liquid cooling lines and enough fans blow Hurricane Harvey back into the Gulf. Getting perfect bends in rigid coolant tubes is not easy, and this case gets every line in precisely the right place. A masterwork of great design and function.

#9: Clear Lego 

Lego PCs are actually not that uncommon on the QuakeCon BYOC tables, but they don’t usually look so damn good. They also almost always lay flat for stability and safety. Not satisfied with that, this builder built an entire upright tower out of Legos, including GPU backplates and fittings for the case fans. He even drilled into Lego blocks to screw in the motherboard stand-offs! The entire thing is built with clear bricks and jammed full of RGB LEDs that rotate through a gentle rainbow pattern.

#8: Local Multiplayer 

Custom built almost entirely out of acrylic panels, this PC is actually a two-rigs-in-one combo. An extra powerful motherboard and CPU support a second virtual machine that boots with its own dedicated GPU, its own monitor, and half of the machine’s eight CPU cores. Both monitors, themed blue and red for fire and ice, bolt onto the sides of the case itself.

#7: So Small and So Clean 

There’s not much to this build, and that’s kind of what I like about it. In a sea of flashy neon reds and garish blues, this Mini ITX stood out like a clean shirt at a gaming convention. Everything, including the coolant, is pure white, then lightly accented with programmable RGB LEDs throughout.

#6: Oh God Run It’s A Dragon 

We’ve really enjoyed seeing how 3D printing has changed the game for case-mods, and this build featuring a 3D-printed dragon coiling around a central coolant reservoir is a great example. Everything is flame-red, including the dragon’s light-up eyes. Press a button and the dragon breathes smoke, too, but we’ll bet you $1,000 you can’t manage to get a picture of a wisp of smoke in the dank blackness of the BYOC. Seriously, I tried everything to get that picture and I just couldn’t do it.

#5: The Gift Horse 

What do you do when you get sent a promo display box with an AMD Ryzen GPU inside? Most people would take out the GPU and install it in a computer, but not this guy, no sir. Instead he grabbed a whole PC and installed it into the box around the GPU. Laser-cutting the AMD Ryzen logo out of the top of the wooden box took some work, we’d imagine, but the end result is a PC in a convenient, handsome wooden gift box.

#4: Oh God Run It’s A Ghoul 

You may remember the incredible Nick Valentine case from last year’s QuakeCon roundup. Well apparently some of you rowdy troublemakers in the comment section (you know who you are, and shame on all of you) gave that PC’s creator a hard time. “Oh, it’s just a mannequin with a PC wired into the chest,” you said. “I could do that,” you lied. This time around, this poor guy sculpted a life-size Feral Ghoul out of clay, made moldings, then recast them in clear resin. He painted it, slaved over it, and then installed a computer into it just to make you monsters happy.

Oh, and there’s a PIPBoy showing that its owner was full crippled, irradiated, and dead by the time the ghoul tore his arm off. Are you not entertained?

#3: The Right Case In the Right Place 

Full disclosure: I walked past this damn thing at least 20 times before I realized it was a PC. It’s so massive, I thought it was holding up the ceiling of the convention center. The towering Citadel from Half-Life 2 is at least nine feet tall, with a central spire reinforced by carbon fiber and a ledge cut-out showing off the central GPU. A red-painted valve on the side serves as a power switch, and yes, its creator has already heard every Half Life 3 joke you can think of.

#2: Wood

The internal components of this PC are all bolted to an aluminum chassis. Why? Because the entire exterior is made of gorgeous, painstakingly joined hardwoods. It would be easy to walk past this case as just another retail case, but cases like this can’t be bought. The entire aluminum chassis slides out for easy maintenance.

#1: Tank Mode 

The Overwatch hero Bastion is a robot of many talents. Apparently, one of them is running video games. This huge sculpture of Bastion in his Tank configuration features two working tank tracks and remote control hardware that allow it to drive itself around. The entire PC is housed in the right-side track housing, which leaves plenty of room for a gigantic speaker that plays explosion noises through the gun barrell. Tragically, Bastion was driving himself into his place of glory for QuakeCon when someone tripped over him and crushed his gun turret. The creator spent the next two days repairing him in time for the show, because all art is suffering.

Half-Life 2

Following the publication of ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw's Episode 3 synopsis last week, speculation has taken hold of certain facets of the Half-Life community. Despite intrigue many questions remain unanswered, which has in turn prompted Lever Softworks to speed up the release schedule of its Half-Life 2: Aftermath mod—a mod designed to piece together the absent and elusive third chapter of Gordon Freeman's adventure.  

"In light of recent events in the Half-Life community, the release schedule for this mod was sped up significantly," so reads the mod's ModDB page, off the back of Laidlaw's Epistle 3 posting. 

In doing so, Aftermath's first release contains 11 test levels "created by Valve" between 2012 and 2013, said to be "intended for Half-Life 3", four demo levels designed by the mod's creators, a Combine laser cannon that can shoot through walls, an Armored Combine Soldier model and a City Scanner with laser gun - both of which are said to be "intended for Episode 3". 

Future releases are "coming soon", while the mod's creators reckon it should be played in concert with the following Valve News Network video:

More information, including installation instructions, can be found via the mod's ModDB page.Thanks, PCGN

Half-Life 2

In an alternate timeline, we all got to play Half-Life 3 years ago. But in this one, we haven’t even been able finish the saga of Half-Life 2. Today, however, we can get a bit of closure, since ex-Valve scribe Marc Laidlaw has posted his version of Half-Life 2: Episode 3’s story in the form of gender-swapped fan fiction. 

Episode 3 would have been pretty bonkers, judging by the synopsis, published by Laidlaw as a letter from mute physicist Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D. His site is, not surprisingly, struggling under all the traffic, so here’s an archived version

Freeman, or Fremont, and their pals trek across chilly Antarctica after their seaplane gets shot out of the sky, eventually finding a defended facility and the Aperture Science vessel, Borealis. Well, they sort of find it. It’s phasing in and out of time and space. Eventually they get onboard, leading to what could have been Half-Life’s most impressive scenes: a fight on a ship that’s hurtling through time and space.

The ending leaves things open, and many questions unanswered. Mossman dead, Alyx disappearing with the G-Man, the Borealis largely useless as a weapon against the Combine---I mentioned getting closure earlier, but I take it back.

"My intention was that Ep3 would simply tie up the plot threads that were particular to HL2," Laidlaw said in June. "But it would still end like HL1 and HL2, with Gordon in an indeterminate space, on hold, waiting for the next game to begin. So one cliffhanger after another."

Obviously this might as well be fanfic at this point. Laidlaw is no longer with Valve and who knows if we’ll ever see more Half-Life. But it’s a fascinating look at what could have been. 

Half-Life 2

Cars, confirmed.

Earlier this week, we watched some SGDQ speedrunners surf and fly through Water Hazard,  Half-Life 2’s wettest level. Normally, you coast through with a boat, stopping here and there to shoot aliens and open gates. It’s a relaxing venture compared to Nova Prospekt’s turret hell. 

Ditching the boat makes sense if you’re trying to go fast, but modder WALLe’s anti-boat agenda runs deep. They’re redesigning the entire Water Hazard level to be playable from start to finish without a floaty friend. That doesn’t mean they’re just putting out a mod that lets Freeman fly or plops handy planks throughout the entire sequence. It’s being completely redesigned, featuring a small story, voice acting, music, and maps made for feet. See it for yourself in this early demo playthrough.

The footage doesn’t look too thrilling, but I suppose it’s the novelty of the mod’s intent that overrides what a quiet experience it might be. I mean, if you take the boat out of Water Hazard, I’d expect it to be quiet. There’s no boat making boat sounds. It’s boat-less. Er, BOAT-LESS. The capital letters are there to emphasize exactly how little boat there will be in the final release. 

We don’t have a word on a release date quite yet, so keep your eyes on the BOAT-LESS ModDB page for any incoming information.  


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