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Evan: Our favorite game of E3 2017 is finally on our SSDs: Hunt: Showdown, Crytek's 2v2v2v2 swampy, permadeathy, gilded age survival FPS. Does it live up to our own hype?
Tyler: I like it! And I want to keep playing it, so that's a good start. I'm amused by the Darkest Dungeon setup, where you spend money—starting with $666 in the bank, of course—to recruit characters with different gear and abilities, and then take them into the field to die. I can imagine getting really attached to a guy the longer he lives.
Evan: Guys, it's effin' nice to play a survival game that isn't about looting. Hunt almost completely strips it out: you purchase gear pre-match, ammo resupply points are marked on the map, and you can't pick up stuff from dead players. As a result, you're able to give your eyes and ears completely to the (lush, creepy) surroundings. It made me realize how tedious the rhythm of opening doors and looking at the ground in PUBG can be.
Tyler: They're very different games, but Hunt also funnels players more naturally than PUBG, which you called out in your review, Evan. You're all looking for something—a horrible spider—and the fastest way to find it is to track down highlighted clues. Discovering a clue greys out a big section of the map, so you know where not to look. And as you're doing this, you know that other teams are engaged in the same search. When it's not about loot, it's all about information, isn't it?
Evan: And the sound design does a lot of that work. Sound is a resource in Hunt. When you're sprinting, you struggle to hear the unsettling groans of the monsters around you. But when you're walking or crouching, you can pinpoint them. The compounds and beaten paths are populated with more enemies, but this dynamic between moving and hearing makes running into the brush a risk too—tall grass and woods hide the lower-tier monsters pretty well, who seem to have a small variety of idling behaviors like shambling, eating, and 'sleeping.'
Tyler: It felt dangerous to fire off shots. Hunt reinforces that by making firing a two- or three-step process. You have to right click, then left click to shoot, or right click, press shift to aim down sights, and then left click. Pretty bold to brush off decades of shooter design with your control scheme. At worst, aiming feels clunky—partly due to the uneven framerate, which we'll dig into—but at its best, it's deliberate and weighty.
James: Weighty is right, because even aiming down the sights is a challenge. The FOV gets real tight and mouse sensitivity doesn't adjust much to compensate. It feels like a shooting system built for taking careful, stealthy shots from the foliage rather than the usual jump-crouch dances we're used to. We’re only a few days into the first closed alpha, so I hope everyone learns to take it slower. I want to hunt other players—crouch, hold my breath, and take aim. Once we all start using characters we’ve invested a few hours into and have something to lose, I’m guessing the shootouts will become quieter and more abrupt overall.
Chris: I can at least vouch for the satisfaction of chucking a molotov into a crowd of zombies. Clusters of them (currently) have a nasty habit of spawning in late, especially as you're running, and as Steven and I were sprinting toward what looked like a clear bridge, a pack of zeds suddenly appeared right in our path. I was hoping to save the cocktail for other players, but it seemed like a good time to light the monsters up. Their screeching and screams were damn satisfying after spending most of the match trying to avoid them whenever possible.
Tyler: More scary that the shootouts, and certainly more disgusting and upsetting, are the dying horses lying in fields, rotting alive, neighing at you—giving away your position and tempting you to put them out of their misery. There are crows, too, that loudly burst upward when you near. Sound is a friend and an enemy. And it's hideous. Too spooky for me to go at alone, I think.
Steven: I love all the noise-making tripwires. Chris and I fell for that old horse trick too. It was terrifying—but we didn’t have long to think about it because the noise it made immediately got us shot at.
Chris: I wasn't expecting the horse to move, but once it did (and it scared the hell out of me) I was expecting it to get up and run. And then I thought it might be some kind of zombie horse. And then I wanted to heal it. And then I kind of wanted to shoot it so it would stop making noise already. We've all got problems, horse.
Steven: Chris took a bullet and had to heal up, and it was then that I realized we were surrounded by all three teams. Our only option was to sprint past that stupid horse and hide in some corn.
Evan: I do not appreciate it when the dogs with the molten eyes gaze at me from across a field. I do not like it.
Tyler: I am more concerned about the bees, Evan. Not the bees!
Evan: I'm sorry I let the bees get you. I blasted that beekeeper in the face! Nevertheless, the bees persisted.
Tyler: A lot of things happened at that dock that we regret.
But yeah, in the daylight, it felt like the monsters were too much of a non-factor—we had to make a lot of noise and mistakes to get them to even consider making a snack of us. They did make us reroute, though. But we learned on the night map that there's a snowballing effect. Shoot off a gun: bees. Shoot at the bees and guess what? More bees.
Steven: The night map feels like some kind of Resident Evil 7 multiplayer. Sometimes I'd hear a groan and start sprinting, not knowing if anything was actually chasing me, or if my sprinting might cause something to chase me that wasn't already. You need information, but getting information, like by turning on your shoulder lamp, can change the information you get—it might attract a zombie, or a player. So you have to try to live with as little information as you can manage. Tense.
Chris: I feel like the monster groans are a little too amplified. I'll hear something and it sounds like it's right next to me and I'll freak out and spin around and it's a good fifteen yards away. I'm appreciative that I know it's there but a little tweaking of monster noises is in order. Gurgles shouldn't carry as far as gunshots do.
Tyler: At least hitting zombies is easy. Players not so much. One guy one-shotted me with what I think was a handcannon after I nicked his leg, but that was after both of us playing peek-a-boo and missing for a good minute. Same deal with my other duel, though there was more close range dancing. In the end neither of us could hit the other with a bullet, I misjudged the melee timing, and he whacked me. But as Evan alluded to, the biggest problem is the framerate drops. Hard to shoot someone down an iron sight when he's moving at 5 fps.
Evan: Oof. When we said that Hunt: Showdown could be the next Crysis, this isn't what I meant.
Tyler: The stuttering is worse than the bees. And it's especially bad when you're strafing and jumping in a duel, which is when you need a perfectly smooth framerate. I'm on a GTX 980, you're on a 980 Ti, and we were only running it at 1080p, so it wasn't us.
Chris: My first couple matches were nearly unplayable at times, I was experiencing (also with a 980) not just framerate drops but complete freezes for sometimes as long as five seconds. It was bad, much worse than what you guys were dealing with. Once I came back from a freeze to find myself on fire (some clever zombies carry lit torches, somehow) and another time a player had shot me dead while I was locked up.
Evan: But surprisingly, our hardware editor Bo Moore was seeing very stable performance on an Intel i7-6700k / 980Ti setup. I watched over his shoulder and he definitely wasn't experiencing the frame dips that I was at home, despite running the same GPU. Is this a CPU-bound game? I'm puzzled.
Hopefully it isn't a permanent problem we're seeing, because at moments, Hunt is gorgeous. The tone of the art, the sound design, the fidelity of the world and the lighting are knit together wonderfully.
Chris: Turning off Vsync, updating my drivers, nothing helped my issues. The patch today didn't appear to address any optimization either.
Tyler: Obviously optimization isn't what was being tested here—there are virtually no graphics options in the alpha—but I hope it can keep looking as good as it does and run much more smoothly upon release. Relatedly, did you think the film grain was a bit much? It was a lot of film grain.
Evan: Had to floss afterwards. Hopefully that'll be one of the sliders once the graphics settings become available.
James: I think we're all looking forward to seeing it mature. CryEngine can be quite the resource hog, but with enough time in Early Access, I'm optimistic that the devs will wrangle enough of the problems in to make it a smoother experience. I mean, if Crytek can't get CryEngine working well, then everything is meaningless.
We also don't know much of anything about progression, how the other monsters work, or what future maps will look like. My gut says it'll be in Early Access until December, minimum.
Evan: I'm fine with that. Hunt is embryonic, but its map, sound design, and theme are more compelling to me than the other survival games I've played. If Crytek can keep its various monsters scary as players get acquainted with them and smooth out the performance issues we've seen, this could be a great game.
Fourattic are a Spanish studio who ran a successful Kickstarter for their game Crossing Souls, which looks like the Goonies and Fat Albert and maybe Stranger Things all mashed up together. It's about kids in the '80s getting into hijinx, which involves a magic crystal that lets them travel to the land of the dead. As you do.
This behind-the-scenes documentary doesn't contain a huge amount of new info about the game, but it does have some insights into what it's like being an indie studio in Spain. Fourattic have an office in Seville (no longer in a literal attic), and like indie developers around the world they've become part of a local community that supports each other.
They've also had help from Devolver Digital, who are publishing Crossing Souls. It's a game with an '80s aesthetic and a rad soundtrack, so it seems like a good fit for Devolver's portfolio.
Crossing Souls will be available via Steam on February 13.
One of the most distinctive things about the Deus Ex series is its music: Hearing the opening notes of the original Deus Ex theme in the midst of the very first Deus Ex 3 teaser took my breath away, and it still leaves me all a-tingle when it plays. So when Elias Toufexis, the voice of Adam Jensen, retweeted something about "Icarus," "Embrace What You Have Become," and @LeMetropolitain, I was naturally intrigued.
The video is a performance of the two tracks, one from Human Revolution and the other from Mankind Divided, by the Montreal-based Orchestre Métropolitain.
It's all very serious and somber, as befits a proper orchestral concert, but lest there be any doubt about the videogame connection, footage from various Deus Ex teasers plays on a large screen suspended above the musicians, complete with Nano-Ceramic Blade murders and—perhaps a little awkwardly—a message inviting people to preorder the game ahead of its launch in early 2011. (There's no indication as to when the video was recorded, but Eidos Montreal just posted it today.)
It's a very cool translation of some great game music, even if nobody in the chorus takes the initiative to sing, "I never asked for this." The full video is below, and you can listen to Michael McCann's originals on YouTube: Icarus here, and Embrace What You Have Become here.
Hacktag is a two-player co-op stealth game about two spies from rival agencies working together to infiltrate corporations. It's set in "a parallel world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals," and launched on Steam Early Access last summer. Today, developer Piece of Cake Studios announced its offical release date: February 14, 2018.
You can play Hacktag solo by swapping between the two spies, but like Piece of Cake itself, the game was built from the ground up with co-op in mind. It supports local and online co-op, as well as online challenges and leaderboards. One player puts their boots on the ground as the Agent, opening doors and air vents and slipping unnoticed past guards. The other player is the Hacker, who collects information and manipulates mainframes and other spy stuff to help the Agent progress.
"While some tasks can be accomplished by either player, many tasks require the cooperation of both," Piece of Cake says. "For instance, opening a locked door requires the Hacker to electronically unlock it while the Agent physically opens it."
Hacktag is currently available for $20. Its price will not increase upon exiting Early Access. In fact, it will be on sale for $15 the week of its release.
It’s been a long time since a fighting game has caused as much excitement as Dragon Ball FighterZ. Billed as the first competitive Dragon Ball fighting game, its bombastic 3v3 combat has captured the imagination of everyone from the Dragon Ball fan whose never thrown a Hadouken before, to Evo champions looking for their next challenge.
When you consider that several big name fighters in the last year or so have failed to capture the casual crowd or have been mired in controversy, it’s a minor miracle that the excitement for Dragon Ball FighterZ has not dwindled since its reveal back at E3 2017. As a new crop of players is set to join the fighting game community off the back of DBFZ, I’ve chatted to a handful of community members about the hype surrounding the game, its potential to positively impact the fighting game community (FGC) and how to make this new blood stick around.
While most of the hype surrounding Dragon Ball FighterZ comes from the overwhelming popularity of the license, it has grown to a fever pitch in the FGC due to the prestige associated with its developer, Arc System Works. There have been plenty of Dragon Ball fighting games—with Super Dragon Ball Z being developed by ARIKA, the studio of Street Fighter II designer Akira Nishitani—but Dragon Ball FighterZ is the first fighter developed with the competitive crowd in mind. With Arc System Works’ glowing track record with Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, they seem the perfect people for translating Dragon Ball’s over-the-top action into a proper competitive fighter.
According to three-time Evo champion Carl “PerfectLegend” White, the FGC had “been waiting for a [truly] competitive Dragon Ball fighting game for a very long time,” so the reveal of Dragon Ball FighterZ, with Arc System Works as its developer, was as if the community’s prayers had been answered. Rather than being localized within the anime fighter community, the excitement for Dragon Ball FighterZ stretches across every sub-group within the wider FGC.
“The vast majority of the FGC is massive on Dragon Ball” says veteran commentator Ryan “Ketchup” Neal, with its place as both a tag and anime fighter earning it extra kudos among those communities. With its announcement also coming after continued unease surrounding the tag fighter king, Marvel vs. Capcom, Dragon Ball FighterZ raised the spirits of the FGC. For Derek “Nakkiel” Bruscas, a top anime fighter player, DBFZ has had him making “new contacts/friends with people who I very likely never would have spoken with otherwise”, showing the game’s potential to bring together players across the various niches within the FGC. Factor in the influx of casual players, and people coming from the Dragon Ball Xenoverse community—the other major Dragon Ball game on the market at the moment—and the FGC is set to grow even larger and more interconnected.
And even if this vision of a more united community does not come to pass, there will be a guaranteed boost in spectators and competitors, thanks to DBFZ. It is already the most popular game at Combo Breaker (one of the FGC’s major summer tournaments), its Twitch viewership during the open beta was the highest seen for a fighting game outside of Evo and it could find itself alongside Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. Melee within the “top three biggest turnouts for every major event this year”, reckons Alex Jebailey, head TO of Community Effort Orlando. Outside of tentpole events, players have taken the initiative by planning tournament circuits, like Brucas’ local community in the Pacific Northwest creating a special “Budokai League”, with its winner being flown out to a US major of their choice.
With players coming from different communities to compete, Neal imagines there will be plenty of excitement coming from seeing if “particular games will spawn a consistent amount of successful players that came from them.” Expect some fierce rivalries and tense exhibition matches once Dragon Ball FighterZ gathers steam.
Grassroots support can only go so far though; Dragon Ball FighterZ will need continued developer support if it hopes to rival the likes of Street Fighter V. A character pass has already been announced, adding eight new characters (come on Master Roshi and Toppo), but there’s been no news on an official tournament circuit yet. Bandai Namco is no stranger to running events like the Tekken World Tour, but it may pay to let DBFZ build a faithful audience before trying to compete with the Capcom Pro Tour.
“I'd like this game to have time to grow organically within the community” says Jebailey, as opposed to it being pushed as an esport from the very start. While the competitive audience have been in mind, Dragon Ball FighterZ has not been built with esports at its core—a refreshing change compared to other recent fighting games. So it may pay for Dragon Ball FighterZ to remain as a grassroots endeavour in the short term, while a wave of new players get used to its combat systems.
And it's this surge of interest from players who aren’t embedded in the FGC that is Dragon Ball FighterZ’s biggest strength. It has broken the record for the most popular fighting game launch on PC, with over 43,000 players playing on launch day, beating out the previous recorder holder Tekken 7 by well over 30,000 people. Should Dragon Ball FighterZ manage to retain half of those numbers, it will be a game changer. The FGC is determined to keep these newbies around, as there is already a glut of beginner guides, videos and primers to get you up to speed. Bruscas has started his own tutorial series, White has a dedicated DBFZ Discord for those looking to play and Neal and his twin brother are streaming their own path to mastery over on their Twitch channel.
“There's going to be plenty of ways a newcomer can learn” says Neal, but the most important lesson will be leaving “whatever ego exists from other games at the door.” Champions can come from any source, so don’t overlook anyone in this exciting new world of screaming, spiky hair and energy beams.
With Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition out now, SoulCalibur VI on the way and the line-up for Evo 2018 being announced in just over a week’s time, Dragon Ball FighterZ comes at the best time if you want to get into fighting games. Its relative accessibility compared to other fighters makes it a great place to start, with it teaching you fundamental skills that can be applied to other fighters. Plus, its shared DNA with both anime and tag fighters will make the transition to those subgenres easier, should you be interested.
As for the wider picture, the FGC now has “crossovers [with] the wrestling world, lots of other celebrity avenues and cross promotions” says Jebailey, with the recent Super Saiyan Showdown between Dragon Ball voice actors Sean Schemmel and Christopher Sabat generating huge interest from people outside of the scene. The combination of outside interest, a willingness to nurture new players and support from both its developers and the grassroots community, Dragon Ball FighterZ has every chance to have the FGC stand toe-to-toe with its esports brethren.
Gigantic, the free-to-play MOBA-hero shooter crossover that launched in mid-2017, will come to the end of its run on July 31. Publisher Perfect World said the game enjoyed "outstanding support" from an "awesome community," but in the end that community wasn't big enough to keep the wheels turning.
"Discontinuing Gigantic was not an easy decision. The game is a unique and exciting experience that captured many hearts and minds. Unfortunately, it did not resonate with as many players as we’d hoped," Perfect World wrote.
"Over the last several months, the teams at Motiga and Perfect World looked into viable options to sustain Gigantic. However, the current state of the game has restricted options for further progress and relevant content updates, and delivering basic features while also fixing long-standing issues was more complicated than expected. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find an impactful solution that would help Gigantic break through in a crowded market."
One of the reasons that Perfect World found the ongoing development of Gigantic so challenging could be the fact that it pulled the plug on the developer, Motiga, in November 2017. Motiga CEO Chris Chung said at the time that "Gigantic was not making enough revenue" to justify the studio's continued existence, and while a small number of developers were kept around to continue supporting the game, the writing was clearly on the wall.
Rubies and Hero Packs can no longer be purchased, but all Heroes will be free for the remainder of Gigantic's uptime, including the newest addition, T-Mat, who was just introduced in the January update. Any existing Rubies and Crowns will remain in player accounts for use in the now-discounted Gigantic Shop, and currency will be awarded in-game as usual.
The closure, announced less than a week after Epic confirmed the coming shutdown of Paragon, is an unfortunate end to a game that faced numerous challenges during its development period and showed real promise when it finally released. But even then we noted that "it's not clear if the sacrifices of its developers will ever pay off," and the player numbers on Steam tell the tale: The average concurrent player count has been in the low hundreds since October 2017, and currently sits at just 167.
Anchorhead just arrived on Steam and Itch, 20 years after its original 1998 release. Michael Gentry's classic work of interactive fiction has received a visual update and additional content for its re-release, but it's not trying to hide its origins: it's still a text adventure in the Infocom mold, an interlocking story built around puzzle-solving, inventory management, and exploring a large map of interconnected locations. It bears reexamining, both because it's a pivotal game in the history of interactive fiction, and because of the place it might occupy in games culture in 2018.
A Lovecraftian gothic story, Anchorhead puts the player in the shoes of a woman whose husband recently inherited a mansion left behind by distant relatives—and, of course, he also inherited their family curse. Anchorhead revels in Lovecraftiana, and at times it feels like a tour of the highlights: there's a monstrous child like in The Dunwich Horror; there's shades of the hereditary possession of The Thing On the Doorstep; there's the cult-gripped New England town straight out of The Shadow Over Innsmouth complete with a homeless man who'll exchange exposition for whiskey.
Like Lovecraft, it's obsessed with decay, antiquarian histories, and above all with writing. There are reams of newspaper clippings, cryptic journals, and archaic tomes to uncover—paper has been shoved into almost every nook and cranny.
A confluence of setting, theme, and genre lifts up Anchorhead. Lovecraftian protagonists are everyday people, often scholars or investigators, thrust into horrific circumstances. Anchorhead's focus on all of the ancillary reading, the mundanity of its puzzles, all of that fits. And while many parser-based games of this era avoid NPCs because of how hard it is to make them lifelike, Anchorhead has a fairly expansive cast.
Part of what makes that cast work is a willingness to lean into adventure-gameness, sometimes to the point of straining realism. But it also works because the small town of standoffish, sullen people is a relevant trope here. Michael, the protagonist's husband who is suddenly not himself, appears stiff and mechanistic, but rather than undermining the story, this enhances it.
Of course, being tangled in Lovecraft's obsessions can be uncomfortable, too. There's no real way to wipe the rancid racism off Lovecraft's writing, and in some of its passages Anchorhead seems too close to it for comfort. At the same time, it features an explicitly female player character (a rarity in interactive fiction at the time, and nonexistent in Lovecraft) and sometimes seems to recast the horror at the heart of its story as a sort of patriarchal specter—definitely not something found in Lovecraft.
Not everything works. Where solving the mystery is also a sort of puzzle, it sometimes leans on over-exposition and redundancy of information in a way that is decidedly un-Lovecraftian. It struggles to give enough clues in enough different places for someone playing the game blind—something that makes the game feel overexposed when you play it with a walkthrough, which is the experience a lot of players get. Mercifully, it makes no attempt at emulating Lovecraft's prose.
For all its narrative depth, Anchorhead is still a text adventure through and through. Its world revolves around hidden crawlspaces and the time-worn practice of picking up everything that isn't nailed down. It's possible to render the game unwinnable on day three because you didn't pick up a towel on day two. It's that kind of game, large and unforgiving, and playing without a walkthrough is definitely frustrating for all but devotees of the genre.
There's a sharp break in the history of interactive fiction right after Anchorhead: 1998 saw the release of Photopia, a mostly linear, mostly puzzle-less interactive story that reads now as a clear antecedent to the personal and literary work that would come out of Twine many years later. Parser games would become shorter, more experimental. When they are driven by puzzles, those puzzles are friendly and jokey (Lost Pig, Taco Fiction), and gently try to lead you towards finishing the game rather than leaving room for failure.
Anchorhead, then, sits in an awkward place. Though widely praised, it's still an example of a design language that was soon abandoned in favor of something more accessible. The re-release also fits in awkwardly with the gaming world of 2018.
For a long time, parser games struggled with their inaccessibility and niche quality—getting mainstream gaming websites to even talk about them (especially in terms other than "Text adventures? Wow, they're not dead!") was an uphill struggle. Now gaming has opened up to the arcane, inaccessible, and unyielding in an unexpected way.
Minecraft became the biggest hit in a generation while being pretty much unplayable without consulting a wiki. Dark Souls incorporated outside assistance and "walkthroughs" into itself as a mechanic outright. Shenzhen I/O was a success perhaps because it asked you to print a long manual to be consulted from a three-ring binder, not in spite of it. Our ideas of frictionless, self-explanatory, soft play—dogmatic and dominant throughout the 2000s, and frankly distressing to fans of niche genres like roguelikes and parser interactive fiction—have dissolved in the face of the clear success of games that don't play by those rules.
At the same time, interactive fiction has definitely passed Anchorhead by, and there are few descendants of this kind of design around to compare it to. It's the last great example of the sort of puzzle-and-exploration-driven design that Infocom championed. A type of design that seems out of place in our game-saturated world, that was meant for the obsessive enjoyment of players who could pore over a single game for months at a time, trying to find its secrets.
Befitting its Lovecraftian themes of familial collapse and doomed lineages, Anchorhead has no real grandchildren to compare itself to. So much of its design—the puzzles built around "medium-sized dry goods," the possibility of silent failure, the twisty little passages—are things that quickly became either quaint or actively reviled. It's probably the last game that both included a maze and was widely praised by the interactive fiction community.
Games like this were the product of a hobbyist obsession with recreating Infocom's classic 80s games, with a seriousness and understanding of that design that was only possible to hobbyists. But the community they spawned, and the tools they built, were eventually turned toward experimentation—toward trying to discover new forms instead of refining an old one to a sharp point. Anchorhead is that sharp point, so complete in its use of these ideas that trying to follow it up with more of the same must have seemed pointless.
This leaves the re-release of Anchorhead in a strange place. If this were a brand-new game, it's hard to imagine a reaction from the interactive fiction community that wasn't a bit bemused someone put mazes into a game in 2018. At the same time, maybe now is the best time in a long time to present something like this to the general gaming public—maybe tastes have shifted toward it. Anchorhead will never be a universal hit, but I'm curious to see what people who haven't been steeped in interactive fiction make of it.
And if you haven't played a parser game before, maybe give Anchorhead a try, especially if you enjoy this brand of horror. If you do: save often, and on different files, and don't be afraid to ask for help or get a walkthrough. In 2018, I think we can admit that's just part of the play in games like this one.
The pantheon of great videogame weapons is dominated by shotguns, rocket launchers, and the odd sword or hammer. And it makes sense, these tools are responsible for the large majority of blood you’ll spill in most games. It’s a shame though, because there’s something wonderful and elegant about a perfect grenade toss—that graceful arc through the air before unleashing untold, instant destruction. If the rat-a-tat of a gun is the string section of an orchestra, grenades are that ear-splitting crash cymbal. Pound for pound, grenades can be every bit as satisfying—and there’s no shortage of wacky grenades that rival the most absurd guns.
In honor of these little death dealers, we’re rounding up the best grenades in PC gaming—from the satisfying shockwave of FEAR’s frag grenades to the divine chorus that spells doom for your team in Worms. If you like watching things explode (or implode!), we’ve got some good ‘nades for you.
Few grenades are capable of triggering horrific childhood memories quite like Worms’ Holy Hand Grenade. I vividly remember the dread of seeing one plop down next to several of my worms, a chorus of angels singing a triumphant “Hallelujah!” before blasting them all straight to hell. It’s the enormity of God’s holy wrath contained in the tiniest of weapons. Compared to Worm’s other assortment of absurd weaponry, the Holy Hand Grenade is elegant and simple: You throw it and count to three—four shall thou not count, neither count thou two, accepting that thou then proceed to three—and revel in the obscenely large explosion capable of destroying a huge portion of the map. And if the initial blast doesn’t finish off your enemy, you can always rest easy knowing it’ll send them soaring through the air to a watery grave. Monty Python might have invented it, but Worms’ hilarious variation is what really made this one of PC gaming’s most iconic grenades. — Steven Messner
I generally don’t like a damage-over-time ‘nades, but until these were nerfed they were straight up broken in Destiny 2. Pulse Grenades are arc-powered pineapples that are exclusive to the Warlock Stormcaller and the Titan Striker subclasses, the latter of which could carry two at once with the top skill tree. Toss a Pulse Grenade down and the initial impact sends enemies pinwheeling through the air. Anything not killed instantly is then flash fried by repeated bursts of electrical energy that look like a fire in a sparkler factory. The funny thing is that Pulse grenades were absolutely garbage in Destiny 1, but for the sequel they were buffed to be good enough to melt bosses, whilst almost every other grenade got reduced to water balloon effectiveness. But that’s Bungie’s sandbox balance team for you. The daft bastards. — Tim Clark
*Slow motion voice* Get dowwn!
I don't know what porn is, but watching a N6A3 fragmentation grenade explode in slow motion is grenade porn. The explosion bends the air into a visible concussive bubble, a shockwave that sends office supplies flying and men's asses to the ground. There's a half-second of quiet as everything floats away from the grenade's center, and then pop, fire and shrapnel fill the screen and dissolve the men and their asses into errant blood spatter textures and goofy little giblets. It takes some time for the smoke to clear. Exhale with it as you try to convince yourself FEAR came out over ten years ago. — James Davenport
Killing Floor 2 is so focused on shooting and blowing stuff up that even its medics get to shoot you (with love) and blow you up (with vitality). I love that KF2's medic class doesn't have to slow down or weild a Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch-like proton pack to do the job: just alt fire to stick a teammate with a healing dart, or throw a medic grenade to pop a cloud of blue smoke for everyone to suck into their lungs. It’s not the most impressive visual effect, but nailing a toss and capturing your struggling teammates in the cool, healthy embrace of your medicinal gas, which also damages Zeds, can prevent a team wipe—and I love saving my teammates by violently chucking metal at them.— Tyler Wilde
Would you rather your digital avatar be torn limb from limb by bits of shrapnel or would you rather lose control of it altogether, forced into some stupid boogie nights wiggle as your executioner watches and laughs? Sure, Fortnite Battle Royale's Boogie Bomb is cute, but the reality is a horror show, a tool built for humiliation. Death by one such mirror-plated 'nade is like being taken to the influencer gallows, where you're forced to tromp around and bash cymbals together for a meme-hemorrhaging audience before the floor gives out. I'll take the shrapnel, please. — James Davenport
The best grenades don’t always have to have to do something wacky, sometimes it’s all in the presentation—and in that regard the Thermal Imploder is unparalleled (except by FEAR’s N6A3 ‘nade, maybe). EA’s Battlefront stuck relatively close to Star War’s canon when it came to weaponry, but the Thermal Imploder is an exception I’m willing to make. The blast effect is gorgeous, but it’s really the bwah-bwuuuuh! of its detonation that makes this grenade stand out. If FEAR's frag grenade is grenade porn for the eyes, then the Thermal Imploder is grenade porno music for the ears. — Steven Messner
The fanciest flash grenade in video games, Ying's 'candela' spits out not one but six independent flash charges in quick succession, making it hard to shield yourself from. It also has strangely nuanced throwing behavior. If you cook it, up to three LEDs will illuminate on the candela before throwing. The more lights that are lit, the further the tactical light ball will roll along a floor. And separately, you can simply affix the thing to any 'soft' wall in Siege to flash through the wall. It's fun to hurl into a bombsite or hostage room, knowing at the very least you've sent anyone inside scattering. — Evan Lahti
I played most of Borderlands 2 solo as Maya, so singularity grenades, which suck enemies into a little black hole before exploding, were my best friend. I sampled a few other grenade mods in the early hours, but once I found my first singularity, I never looked back. I'd actually hold onto low-level singularity mods instead of using higher-level bouncing betty mods and the like. They're that good, especially for Maya, whose super skill preys on clusters of enemies. They're also fabulous with rocket launchers, and I have fond memories of gawking at their Geforce PhysX particle effects. Remember when that was still novel? Where do the years go... — Austin Wood
On the surface, frags in XCOM are not that impressive. You can cause more damage by shooting someone, their range isn't great, they destroy equipment so you can't salvage stuff off anyone you do manage to kill with them, and lining up that bubble showing where they will land can be annoying. It's not flashy, it's not special, it doesn't draw attention to itself. It's the Jimmy Stewart of handheld explosives. But the humble XCOM frag grenade is in everybody's inventory from mission one, they destroy cover, and you don't have a percentage chance to miss with them. They always lands where you want and cause enough damage to kill a baseline sectoid. The number of turns where I've messed up every easy shot and found myself in a situation where someone's fucked unless I can cause precisely three points of damage to that one guy over there are beyond counting. In those situations, the XCOM frag grenade is the best.— Jody Macgregor
If the twenty first century has taught us anything, and so far it probably hasn’t, it’s that blowing people up is bad. But for real transgressive thrills you can’t beat setting (pretend) people on fire. I think my love of immolating NPCs began with TimeSplitters on PS1, because Free Radical Design went the extra mile to code in really scared HOLYFUCKIMONFIRE screams. But it was with The Division that my pyromania took root. I main the Firecrest gear set which is built around setting dudes on fire. Mostly with the rinky dink flamethrower turret, but also with the extra Incendiary Grenades the gear grants. Pop one of these spicy little peppers and it spills liquid napalm over a satisfyingly wide surface area. Enemies caught within the nade’s roast radius start flapping around like, well… like their arses on fire. With the Wildfire talent enabled the burn spreads to their colleagues in that satisfyingly organic way that Ubisoft games seem to have nailed. I dunno, man. Burning is just the best. — Tim Clark
Avernum 3: Ruined World, an HD reboot of Spiderweb Software's old-school fantasy RPG, is out now. It's $18 on Steam and GOG through Wednesday, February 7, and $20 on Humble and Spiderweb's site. There's also a free demo available here.
Spiderweb bills Avernum 3 as the conclusion to the initial Avernum trilogy, but also describes its story as self-contained and approachable for people unfamiliar with the series—which I imagine plenty of people are, given its complicated history.
There are technically six games in the Avernum series (the non-canon Blades of Avernum notwithstanding), which is itself an expanded remake of Spiderweb's Exile series. The first Exile released in 1995, while the original Avernum released in 2000. Avernum 6 released in 2009.
In 2011, Spiderweb decided to reboot the series while leaning even more heavily on Exile. Which leads us to 2012's Avernum: Escape From the Pit, which carries the subtitle of the first Exile game. Avernum 2: Crystal Souls followed in 2015, and now Avernum 3: Ruined World has capped things off. It's complicated, yes, but it works.
Cloud9 became the first North American team to win a CS:GO major over the weekend, defeating the favored FaZe Clan in tight overtime action. The following day, a very different sort of eye-popping mark was set when a Dragon Lore CS:GO weapon skin sold for more than $61,000.
Dragon Lore ranks highly among the most expensive CS:GO skins to begin with, but this one was particularly valuable for a couple of reasons. First, it's a souvenir skin, which are available exclusively from souvenir packages that only drop during Valve-sponsored CS:GO tournaments. Dragon Lore is actually the rarest skin in the Cobblestone Packages, which currently sell for a little north of $30 each on the Steam Marketplace.
This particular skin is also "factory new," and its stickers are all "unscratched," each of which compounds its rarity even further. And the timely pièce de résistance is that it bears the autograph of Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, the MVP of the ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 where Cloud9 made its mark.
The skin was originally purchased for $35,000 by a collector named Drone, who told Polygon that the selling price, despite being so much higher than what he paid (which seems absolutely nuts to begin with), was as low as he was willing to go. "I didn’t originally get into this game solely for profit," he said. "I just got very lucky a couple of times, and money is more valuable to different people. I’m very lucky in my financial state to where I can afford to buy these skins and it does not affect me."