PC Gamer
strike suit zero

Review by Ben Griffin

In 2299, mankind has settled among the stars, multiplying to colonise planets that just a few decades ago it could only dream of reaching. It’s all thanks to The Signal, a mysterious transmission that gave Earth the recipe for interstellar travel. But with humanity spread throughout space, decentralised across a new frontier, fractures ripped apart the ranks and aggressive splinter groups emerged to contest Earth’s right to rule. This is where Strike Suit Zero finds its conflict, a deep-space-civil-war shooter looking to resurrect the long-dead-likes of Freelancer and X-Wing through zero-gravity combat and 360° battlefields.

Slow to start, Strike Suit Zero powers up like a rusty hyper drive. The first few missions lock away customisable upgrades and trade on wafer-thin dogfights with similarly able ships: you’re given the flimsiest fighter with the weakest plasma cannons and tasked with cleaning up space, hunting vagabonds by lining up reticules. This cosmic community service may well have you hankering after something with a bit more bite to it: IL-2 Sturmovik for instance. Despite the backdrop of striking blue nebulae, half-colonised worlds and fractured fringe planets, tasks amount to ‘kill X number of X’. It’s too little stretched across too much.

Mercifully, it gets better. This is Born Ready’s idea of holding back pudding until you finish your main course, and pudding in this case is a giant space robot – the Strike Suit to be precise – and when you’re designated test pilot by an enigmatic AI, it signals the start of the game proper. Destroy enemies to earn Flux, and you can transform into the Gundam-esque Strike Suit and unleash ferocious new powers.

The Strike Suit, deployed correctly, is the smart bomb of the game. Mecha mode lasts no more than 30 seconds, but each tick can be spent picking apart squadrons using the many tricks up your armoured sleeve. You can paint targets, fire off plasma volleys, and deal greater damage at greater frequencies. Your Strike Suit is a simple concept among simple concepts, nestling beside the shield and health mechanics (shields regenerate while health doesn’t), braking, boosting (use the former to turn sharply and the latter to evade) and EMPs, triggered to fry rockets on your tail.

No matter the scenario, whether assaulting a space station, escorting a convoy or protecting a vulnerable ship (there’s a lot of this), combat remains largely the same due to the arcade-basic leanings of the game. Strafing runs prove a primary tactic time and time again as you fire at a target while your shields take a pounding, then scatter before your health is affected. You’ll come away with none of Sturmovik’s heart-pounding war stories, facing frustration instead as uneven difficulty spikes and idiotic friendly AI lead to the end of the capital ship you’re tasked with protecting for the fifth time in a row.

Upgrades attempt to keep things fresh. Before each level, you’ll kit out interceptors, fighters, bombers and the Strike Suit with swarm missiles, heat-seekers, plasma bursts, shield-disruptors and unguided rockets, and while it doesn’t have the depth of other giant robo-games like Hawken or the consoles’ Armored Core, it adds a personal touch. There’s a nagging feeling of inconsequentiality though, with everything a variation on a theme: this blue laser or that one?

SSZ does an admirable job recreating the intuitive and instantly accessible flight combat of the games it holds in high regard, but comparisons with the likes of X-Wing and Freelancer aren’t valid when mission design is so simple and your wingmates are so dumb.

Expect to pay: $19 / £12
Release: Out now
Developer: Born Ready Games
Publisher: In-house
Link: www.strikesuitzero.com

PC Gamer

Not to be outdone by Chivalry's addition of expanded content, Paradox have provided some details on what's upcoming for their bloody medieval combat game War of the Roses. It includes more information on yesterday's announcement of Brian Blessed's involvement - a premium DLC pack will add him in as the game's narrator.

"Blessed’s booming voice will inspire knights by announcing in-game events and warnings, giving new meaning to the iconic command to 'Kill the enemy!'" reads the press release. I'm not sure what other meaning there could be for the command "kill the enemy", but if anyone can find one, I'd bet Blessed can.

Also announced is War of the Roses: Kingmaker - a gold edition of the game that will bundle together all DLC and exclusive content. "Kingmaker will also introduce two new game modes—Assault and Assault Castle—where knights will face new attack and defense scenarios that aim to truly test their skill as a team."

Finally, all editions of the game will receive the "Outside the Law" update, adding in a new deep forest map, along with new armour.

A free trial for War of the Roses is due to take place from the 6th February.
PC Gamer
Even PC Gamer got its own headgear

Gabe Newell and beard delivered approximately one interesting fact every 45 seconds or so over the course of his recent hour long talk at the University of Texas at Austin. Newell chatted a lot about success of the Team Fortress 2 barter economy and the huge amounts of direct income item makers have managed to turn around in the last year or so.

"To be really concrete, ten times as much content comes from the userbase as comes from us. We think that we're super productive and badass at making TF2 content, but even at this early stage we cannot compete with our customers in the production of content for this environment," Gabe began.

"The only company we've ever met that kicks our ass is our customers. We'll go up against Bungie or Blizzard, or anybody, but we won't try and compete with our own userbase, because we already know that we're going to lose."

Gabe threw out some really concrete and large numbers to illustrate his point. "The most anybody has earned in a single year is $500,000, so they're making content, selling it to other customers, and we have a revenue share with those people and their takeaway is $500,000.

"The first two weeks that we did this we actually broke Paypal because they didn't have - I don't know what they're worried about, maybe drug dealing - they're, "like nothing generates cash to our userbase other than selling drugs". We actually had to work something out with them and said "no ... they're making hats."

It sounds as though professional modelers from within the industry were making a killing. "We knew that people at other game companies had employees that were making more money being users in our framework than they were as employees at their company, so we're like, "okay, this is weird."

"We started to see things like inflation. We started to see deflation. We started to see users creating their own versions of currencies, mediums of exchange. Countries started to create regulatory structures. In Korea you actually have to create the equivalent of a W4 form for your players to account for the virtual income they get in playing your game."

And that was the moment that Valve decided to hire an economist. You can read much more about the intricacies of Team Fortress 2's complex, evolving hat economy on the Valve Economics blog.
PC Gamer
Arma 3 - main targets tree

Bohemia Interactive are renaming the main island of Arma 3 to Altis. According to their press release, Bohemia hope that the new name will reflect the Mediterranean identity of the island, but, "distinguishes it from the real-world Greek island of Lemnos, which has served as the main source of inspiration."

"In view of recent events, the team no longer feels passionate about using the previous name, 'Limnos', and hopes that the new identity, ‘Altis’, will help emphasize the fictional nature of the game." Those recent events, of course, being the 129 day detainment of Bohemia employees Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar, now released on bail.

"As part of the creative process, our virtual environments are often rooted in real-life locations and, during development, they evolve and grow along with our design," said Arma 3 project lead Joris-Jan van 't Land. "The resulting fictional environment is often close to its inspiration, but it's never exactly the same - nor would we want it to be. For us, 'Altis' echoes the Mediterranean heart of our island, but differentiates it from any undesired real-life connotations."

Atlis is a 350 kilometre square island, inspired by Greece's Lemnos. Bohemia stress that it was created based on publicly or commercially available data. Arma 3 will also feature a smaller second island, Stratis (approx. 20 km²), which will keep its name.
PC Gamer
playstation 4

The first clues as to how powerful the next generation of consoles will be has popped up on Edge. "Sources close to the hardware" clued them in on a more PC-like, developer-friendly architecture that will run on a 1.6GHZ eight-core AMD CPU. Current dev kits are apparently running on 4GB of GDDR5 RAM. More below.

Edge mention that Sony are pushing for that figure to be scaled up to best Microsoft's eight gigs of DDR3 by the time the console launches at the end of this year in the US and Japan, and early 2014 in Europe.

According to an Edge source that's seen Sony and Microsoft's dev kits, the new Playstation is “slightly more powerful” and “very simple to work with." It will run on the AMD "R10XX" architecture. These are the first ball-park specs for the next generation of hardware that developers will be working with, which provides a bit of a hint at the leap in fidelity we'll see on PC in the coming years as devs dig into that extra memory.

Sony used a cryptic video to tease what's thought to be a full reveal of the PS4 on February 20. I'm off to try and wrangle a few extra cores for my weary CPU.
PC Gamer
Skyrim OST thumb

Bethesda have made a number of soundtracks from their back-catalogue available digitally, many for the first time. Albums for Dishonored, Rage, the two Fallouts, as well as Jeremy Soule's excellent Elder Scrolls scores have been released. Now you can pretend that simple chores are epic undertakings, re-imagining your vacuuming as a fight against giant spiders and their webs. It's not just me that does that, right?

Most of the soundtracks are available for £8, although the 53 track Skyrim score is inevitably a bit costlier at £15. The only problem with the deal is that they've only been released to iTunes, Apples abhorrent mess of music store. Is a Spotify upload really too much to ask for?

Still, battling against the creaking iTunes may just be worth it for songs like this.

PC Gamer
Corsair Vengeance M65

The Vengeance range of gaming peripherals has been a great success for manufacturer Corsair, and the update to its impressive wee gaming mouse, the Vengeance M65, is going to do nothing to change that.

Corsair pretty much make everything that goes into putting together a gaming PC these days. In fact, I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see them badging up CPUs, motherboards and graphics cards in our Corsair-dominated future. But despite the broadening focus, now encompassing a huge range of components and peripherals, one thing has remained reassuringly constant - an emphasis on quality. So it was with the original Vengeance M60 mouse: a quality gaming rodent, with a 5700 max DPI capability and a rock-solid laser sensor backing it up.

What’s changed with this Vengeance M65 then?

As you might expect from the iterative nomenclature, and the fact they’re using an identical chassis, there are no radical stylistic additions here. Under the hood, however, Corsair have upgraded the laser sensor, shifting from the Avago LaserStream ADNS-9500 to the ADNS-9800.

That gives the M65 a maximum DPI setting of a relatively massive 8200.

Personally, I love high-sensitivity gaming mice, but with a DPI setting that high I generally find it a little too twitchy. One unexpected loud noise later and I’ll find myself facing in a completely different direction on-screen thanks to a slight involuntary jitter of my mouse hand.

You can pick up the M65 in Military Green, Arctic White or Gunmetal Black.

So what’s the point in shifting over to a mouse with a DPI setting you may never use? Well, it’s not just that headline figure that makes a difference - even lower down the DPI scale the improved Avago sensor makes its presence felt.

The translation of movement from your mouse movement to the screen is incredibly smooth, with none of the slight twitchiness I’ve experienced in using the M60 and M65 mice side-by-side. It’s an incredibly accurate mouse, right up there with the best of them.

This is an impressive update to an already impressive mouse, and given that it’s hitting the street with the same £50/$70 price-tag of the M60 - and you can pick it up in Stormtrooper white - the Vengeance M65 gets a big thumbs up from me.

It may not come with a huge range of extra buttons (the pricier M95 will cater for those needs), but if you’re after a sensitive, well-priced laser gaming rodent the Vengeance M65 is an ideal candidate.
PC Gamer
StarCraft 2 heart of the swarm

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm will be the focus of two invite-only competitions at Major League Gaming's upcoming Winter Season event. It should give us a nice opportunity to see what the pros can do with those jerk Widow Mines.

First up will be the Winter Season Showdown, a 56 player showcase that will take place on weeknights and select Sundays between February 4th and March 8th. That will be followed up, after the game's release, by a 32 player Exhibition Tournament at Dallas, Texas, between the 15th and 17th of March. All matches will be streamed from the MLG website and Twitch channel.

It's an exciting prospect for esports fans. The Heart of the Swarm meta-game is still changing rapidly as the pros figure out the best strategies, and fit practice around existing Wings of Liberty commitments. It's slightly disappointing to see both events using an invite-only format. Having a qualifying structure would have been great chance to see some serious drama, by opening up the possibility of major upsets from newcomers who'd twigged to some unpredictable builds.

You can see the full broadcast schedule at the MLG site.

Thanks, Polygon.
PC Gamer
webgame header eye

Today is a good day for hiding, escaping, approaching and, er, shooting coloured blocks to make them disappear. You'll find all that and slightly more in the following webgames, a couple of which are brought to you by the letters G, G and J, which collectively stand for Global Game Jam. Read on for horror, HORROR, and maybe even some HORROR, plus a game that is basically Tetris With Guns.

Traal by Alan Hazelden, Jonathan Whiting Play it online here.

These indecipherable documents appear to be written in alienese. That or French.

If a tree falls in the forest and there are no people around to hear it, does it make a sound? Yes, obviously, because of all the animals, but the same doesn't appear to be true of a pixelly little guy with a flashlight. The dude in Traal - I'm going to call him 'Traal' - is non-existent to the various creepies that inhabit his very green dungeon, that is until he turns in their general direction and his torch-beam blasts them in the eyes. Creeping through each area is a matter of stealth and puzzle-solving, then; as you're unable to turn off your torch, you have to rely on walls to block the beam from your enemies' gaze. As a stealth or a puzzle game, Traal is unusual, tense and rather inventive, but the absolute best part is how your character looks like an adult jelly baby.

I Can't Escape by David Maletz, Chase Bethea, Josh Goskey, Natalie Maletz Play it online here.

The walls have eyes, but at least they don't have ears.

I Can't Escape is a dungeon crawler minus the role-playing, focusing instead on the horror of being dumped in a vast subterranean prison, with only your thoughts (and a bunch of creepy eyeballs) for company. Obviously you have to escape, but as the name suggests that's not going to be particularly easy. It's simple enough to descend into the labyrinth, but hard not to get irrevocably stuck in a sort of Labyrinth-esque oubliette; each floor is full of weak floors and holes, doors that need keys, and with things-that-look-like-ghosts lurking on the periphery of your field-of-vision. I'm not sure it's even possible to escape from I Can't Escape, but I'm looking forward to seeing people try. (Via Indie Statik)

Crush by Issam Khalil, Cat Musgrove Play it online here.

You fancy the blue cube, by the way. Hey, I'm not judging.

Crush is a game about sidling up to a person you have a crush on, while fending off unwanted conversations and fighting your desire to immediately do a 180 and run as far as possible away. I think it captures that awkward, terrifying, butterflies-in-your-stomach-feeling rather well. Every time you try to get close to the object of your affections, your body (in this instance, your body is a red cube) rebels and turns the other way. As an exploration of anxiety/panic attacks, I found Crush quite moving and effective, despite having no idea how to win out over my frustrating body. (Via IndieGames)

Super Puzzle Platformer Plus by Andrew Morrish Play it online here.

PROTIP: Spikes hurt.

Adult Swim's latest brill browser game is the clever Super Puzzle Platformer Plus, which introduces Tetris/Columns to the platformer genre like it's no big thing. It is a big thing, because it's one unholy mashup that works incredibly well. When it gets going, Tetris gives you more than enough things for your brain to worry about, but SPPP adds one more: the little guy with the gun tasked with blowing unwanted blocks from the screen. As with every game of this sort, you'll want to create as many coloured chains as you're physically able, but here that carries a significant risk: chains of identically coloured blocks are more resistant to bullets, the bigger the chain, the harder it is to break. Developer Andrew Morrish is currently working on Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe, which adds a two-player Vs mode, in addition to a host of other stuff.
PC Gamer

Gabe Newell recently spoke at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs about productivity, economics, political institutions and the future of corporations. The school have now posted the full lecture. In it you’ll find information about how Valve operate, and why their unusual structure works for them, as well as the success of the Steam Workshop, and that Valve are supposedly the fourth largest bandwidth consumer in the world. If you’ve a spare hour, and an interest in the thinking and numbers behind the PCs largest distributor, it’s well worth a watch.

Thanks, Kotaku.