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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Feature: Get me out of here

Escape From Tarkov is brutal, stressful and exhausting

*Click*, went my gun. Not the good, Richard Beymer kind of click. The "you're out of ammo and definitely dead" kind of click. The survivor in my sights had shrugged off my first few shotgun blasts, leaving me at the mercy of his assault rifle. He turned, shouted, and aimed. Then his gun clicked too, and I charged him with my tomahawk.

It was a glorious moment, but nothing else in Escape From Tarkov has lived up to it.

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Never you mind that leaks confirmed it last week - Bethesda say The Elder Scrolls Online's next major expansion is Elsweyr, desert homeland of the feline Khajiit. It's a part of the Elder Scrolls world that I've always wanted to take a ramble around, though it seems have a dragon problem at this point in the timeline. On the plus side, that means big fights against huge scaly mega-reptiles. On the down-side, fur probably burns pretty hot. The expansion lands on June 4th, sandwiched between several dragon-themed bits of smaller DLC. Check out the fancy story trailer below.

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Assassin's Creed Odyssey offers more player freedom than any other game in the series, including letting you steer your protagonist's sexuality. As a feature, it was widely praised, and Ubisoft have proudly marketed the game on how much it respects and reacts to player freedom. Unfortunately, the latest chapter of the Legacy Of The First Blade DLC undermines this in favour of leading the player into an inescapable 'canon' heterosexual relationship. Understandably, some players are upset, to the point where Ubisoft have issued an apology and a statement on the issue. Potential spoilers abound below.

Update: Kotaku have a more detailed statement from Odyssey creative director Jonathan Dumont, which you can find below.

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Feature: Your new best graphics card for 1440p gaming

Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 review: Just as good as the GTX 1070Ti for a fraction of the price

Ever since Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 came out in 2016, it's not only been the de facto, bestest best graphics card for flawless 1080p gaming, but also the go-to GPU for cash-strapped 1440p-ers, offering smooth, if slightly less shiny, frame rates for a much lower price than Nvidia's more capable GTX 1070 or GTX 1070Ti. It was a fantastic card when it launched for $249, and it continues to be one now for even less, with some of today's cheapest 6GB cards going for $240 / £220.

Its RTX 2060 successor, however, kicks things up a notch. It's another £100 / $100 more expensive than the GTX 1060, with Nvidia's Founders Edition on test here going for £329 / $349 while third party cards currently start at £350 / $350, but when it comes to speed, it's in another league altogether. Whereas the GTX 1060 struggled to hit 60fps on higher quality settings at 1440p, the RTX 2060 sails past that number and then some. It can even push into the realms of 4K without throwing a hissy-fit. In truth, this is what today's GTX 1070 owners should be looking to for their next upgrade, because this, dear readers, is one seriously powerful graphics card that goes way beyond what we'd normally call 'mid-range'.

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Tom Clancy's The Division 2 launches in March, but those confident enough to put money down on Ubisoft Massive's MMO-lite shoot n' looter get to play around in its post-apocalyptic Washington DC early. A beta weekend will be running from Thursday, February 7th to Monday, February 1th, it'll be open to all pre-ordering players, but those merely curious in the game can sign up for a chance to get in free here. Below, a predictably patriotic and bombastic story trailer, and a breakdown of some of the PC version's finer features.

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The past week's flurry of accusations, counter-claims, big-money deals and license revocations between Unity and Improbable seems to have come to an end. Developers using Improbable's SpatialOS cloud server tech can breathe easy, and resume development as normal without fear of the floor dropping out under them. In a Unity blog post here, the company say they've reinstated Improbable's Unity licenses, and have altered the terms of service so that they are no longer in breach. Developers are now free to use any third-party services they wish, although not all will be officially supported.

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Riot Games have unveiled a new set of company values, intending to look forward to a bright and friendly future following last year's public dissection of their garbage workplace culture of harrassment and exclusion. The League Of Legends developers say the manifesto they wrote in 2012 "served us well for many years, but didn't evolve along with us." What they continue to miss is that their company values--the actual values their company fostered and hushed protestations against, rather than any values they might claim to have--did not serve all people well, only those who thrived in that environment. Rewriting a webpage doesn't mean anything when their actions demonstrate they're unwilling to make big changes.

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There are few thrills as videogamey as weaving through a barrage of very deadly bullets in slow motion. Katana Zero looks to have that in spades, plus the never-not-cool ability to deflect bullets with your sword, back to their unwitting owners. Askiisoft's samurai platform slasher has been on my radar for a while now, thanks to looking like a blend of Hotline Miami and Samurai Gunn, and today's trailer has me itching to play it. The pseudo-80s 'neo-noir' aesthetic may be a well worn groove at this point, but synths, swords and slow-mo still makes a potent cocktail. Take a peek below.

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The Adeptus Mechanicus are one heck of a Warhammer 40K faction. These shadowy racist warrior monks are more machine than human and worship a trinity of machine gods. They say stuff like, “From the moment I understood the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me. I prayed for the strength and certainty of steel. I aspired to the purity of the blessed machine.”

Those words are from the intro to Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, an excellent turn-based tactics game that really gets the AdMech. Yet developer Bulwark Studios hadn’t even played 40K before they took it on. In order to make it, this small team had to negotiate decades of sacred lore and intense fan expectation while also being disallowed from following existing tactics templates, even 40K’s. Such is the challenge of making a licensed game, but sometimes great things can emerge from stricture and a dose of inspiration.

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I was told before playing Metro Exodus that, as with the previous Metro games, it is important to think before you act. Seize every quiet opportunity to craft another med kit, a molotov, another filter for your mask. Continually take stock of your, er, stock. And it’s true, there is grim satisfaction in sneaking up behind a weird anti-electricity pseudo-Christian cultist and knocking him out without making a sound. In disarming the noisemaker traps before you run into them. In taking out a ghoul-like Humanimal with a throwing knife to the head, and pulling the knife out to use on something else. Reduce, reuse, recycle, as they say.

But it’s also good to pull out a sawn-off shotgun and blast a Humanimal in the face with it, alerting all the other Humanimals in the area so you can faceblast them as well.

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IO Interactive, the Danish mob behind Hitman and Kane & Lynch (look, I still swear K&L2 is interesting), today announced they've opened a new studio in Malmö, Sweden. Given that there were ditched by former owners Square Enix and faced an uncertain future only 20 months ago, before going independent, this is a pleasing turnaround. I am glad they're apparently doing well enough to expand, especially as 2018's Hitman 2 is a cracker. Surely now it's time for Kane & Lynch 3, eh? Eh? Anyone? Eh?

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What if tech support helpline jobs weren't a crushingly unhappy grind for poor pay but a gateway to a world of intrigue? You can catch a glimpse of that in the Tech Support: Error Unknown free demo released today. It's one of those games where your whole view is presented as a computer desktop--Uplikes, as the genre is known far and wide in honour of Uplink--and we play with a variety in-game applications and scripted responses to resolve customers' issues to their satisfaction.

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Feature: Let me, the king of skateboarding, explain

Skater XL claims to be a skateboarding sim, but is it realistic?

I am an excellent skateboarder. In the year 2000, I took my skateboard to school and showed everyone in class what the “trucks” were. They were astounded and definitely did not ridicule me. Since Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I have been an eminent skateperson in the virtual realm too. I am the 44th best player of OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Ollywood (on the PlayStation 4). I am the only one at RPS who knows how to sundergrind. It’s a thing, but don’t google it, it's under a lot of other results.

So I am happy to play Skater XL, a skateboarding sim that recently came to early access on Steam, because I must show you how unrealistically it presents the hobby which I love, the pastime at which I excel without peer. It is a shocking distortion of the sport.

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An eclectic mix of decent games including local multiplayer sillyfighter Gang Beasts, head-spinning puzzler Gnog, and everything simulator Everything are bagged up together in the latest Humble Bundle at a good price. The Humble Double Fine Presents Bundle is its name, gathering games Double Fine published rather than ones they've made themselves. They have an unusual eye like few other 'indie' publishing labels, though they often don't seem to capture the public's eye, so maybe you'll have a look now their games are cheap, aye?

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Remember that ill-fated Star Wars game codenamed ‘Ragtag’ that was being made by Dead Space developers Visceral? It was supposed to be an Uncharted-inspired single player action adventure, helmed by Amy Hennig, director of the first three Drake ‘em ups. But it got cancelled (amid various development problems) and the whole project was thrown to Canadian studio EA Vancouver who were then told to make an open world Star Wars game out of the bits and bobs. Remember all that? Yeah, that open world game is cancelled too now, according to folks who’ve spoken to Kotaku.

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I'm a big fan of Hades. You'd think an early access roguelike wouldn't be a great fit for the Bastion devs, but I should never have doubted Supergiant's ability to knit a story around whatever genre or development structure they please. Last night saw the release of the Chaos Update, and there's something else lurking among the balance tweaks, art changes and new room types. That something is Primordial Chaos, and they've got a deal for you.

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Feature: Push with your knees, not your back

The Joy Of shoving people in Hitman: Blood Money

The first time I pushed someone downstairs in Hitman: Blood Money, I felt faintly guilty. Not because I'd just killed a person, but because The Agency, my bar-coded assassin's employers, had gone to the trouble of providing me with a wealth of lethal equipment. Yet here I was, sending people to their deaths without touching a single item. Was I putting someone out of a job?

Five minutes later, my concerns had vanished, replaced by a sense of malevolent joy as I explored the lethal potential of Agent 47's "shove" ability, a feature that's strangely absent from subsequent Hitman games.

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Feature: Justice for Seth

Have You Played… ReCore?

Sometimes, there are game announcements that sound perfect. The creator of Mega Man and the director of Metroid Prime? Yes please. I don't care what it's about. Whatever it is, I want it. Then you see another trailer, and another, and you think: "Hmm… this isn't quite what I had in mind when I imagined a Metroid Prime meets Mega Man mash-up, but I'm sure it will be brilliant anyway! It's got to be, right? RIGHT?"

Then you play it and realise your mistake. This isn't Metroid meets Mega Man at all. This is ReCore, and it's one of the biggest disappointments of your entire existence.

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Another visual novel in Mages's Science Adventure series (Steins;Gate et al) is headed to PC, and very soon. Chaos;Child launches next Tuesday, January 22nd. It's a dark teen psycho-thriller mystery set in the aftermath of an earthquake that wrecked Tokyo's Shibuya ward. There's a series of grisly murders to be investigated, and they probably related to a group of youths whose delusions and fantasies can rewrite reality itself. It's all very anime, but the Science Adventure series is typically good stuff, even if nothing can quite top the original Steins;Gate. See the trailer below.

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The next game bringing far too many Gokus to PC is Super Dragon Ball Heroes World Mission on April 5th. Unwieldy title aside, this one's a bit different from the usual fighting game fare - it's a collectable card game, though it doesn't bear much resemblance to Hearthstone and its ilk either. It's the latest in a series of arcade and 3DS CCGs by Dimps, featuring a mixture of strategic positioning, button-mashing and timing challenges to boost attacks. World Mission, fittingly enough, is the first in the series to see an English release. Take a peek at the reveal trailer and a look at the game from its debut live-stream below.

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The past year has been rough for a lot of smaller studios, and the latest casualty may be Forgotten Key, developers of the rather lovely exploration adventure Aer: Memories Of Old. Despite the game being well received, the obviously talented studio say here that they've struggled to find investors and keep the lights on. Unless something changes soon, the team will disband. Kindly, they've released prototype demos of two games they were hoping to make. Vind is a spiritual successor to Aer (though not a sequel), and Down The Well is an exploration adventure inspired by Scandinavian folklore. Trailers for both are below.

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Forza Horizon 4's latest update giveth and taketh away. While generous in how much Playground Games are adding free to their driving sandbox, the party is over for the Carlton and Floss dances, which have been patched out. Not surprising, given that they're the subjects of two separate legal battles with Fortnite developer Epic Games. Still, it's not all bad - update five adds seven Mitsubishi cars free, a new free-for-all adventure playlist and a ten mission cab-driving story featuring some iconic taxis. Below, an hour-long developer stream showing off the new stuff.

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There's a twist in the tale of the today's latest Nvidia driver, as it finally adds support for FreeSync monitors. For years now, there's been a GeForce tax if you wanted a screen with Nvidia's brand of adaptive sync - that is, the one that can adjust its refresh rate, and therefore in-game frame rate, with wild abandon, and more importantly without that icky screen-tearing effect or harsh frame rate step-down of V-sync - and Nvidia G-Sync screens have traditionally cost far more than the open source, AMD-supported FreeSync standard.

That changes today, with the latest GeForce driver officially ushering in support for adaptive sync on 12 FreeSync monitors, but more importantly the option to give it a go on any FreeSync screen on the basis that it may or may not work, or indeed be very good. On mine, it does. You can touch me if you want to.

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Onimusha: Warlords is out now on PC, just days short of its 18th anniversary on consoles. Capcom's samurai-themed hybrid of precise hack n' slash combat and survival horror puzzling was always the awkward middle child between Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, but it had heart. Rather than a remake, the PC version of Onimusha: Warlords is a straight remaster. The pre-rendered 2D backdrops are a bit sharper than before and expanded to widescreen, and a new control mode has been added for those wary of the game's original 'tank controls', but the game remains largely unchanged. See the launch trailer below.

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It looks like the next American Truck Simulator expansion will go even deeper into the lands I long for, into the trees and mountains of Washington state. WA! Land of Twin Peaks. WA! Birthplace of riot grrrl. WA! Home of Frasier Crane. WA! Where Valve are. WA! With that nice Twitter account saying if Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle. WA! Where rain is good. SCS Software haven't formally confirmed Washington is the next state coming to their haul 'em up as DLC, but from the teasing screenshots they shared today it sure looks like it. WA! We may lose Alec to the woods around Snoqualmie Falls.

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Feature: All dogs are good dogs

Premature Evaluation: Heartbound

My dog has been dead for longer than he was alive, which means I’m long past having any right to fondly remember him as I stare through a rainy window, or to hear his bark on the breeze on warm evening walks along the old railway track. He’s just way too dead to be taking up that kind of emotional bandwidth any more. How weird would it be for a man in his thirties, with a workplace pension and more than one Oxford shirt, to indulge in routine nostalgia for the animal who lived in his house when he was twelve? Plenty weird.

But weird as it may be, games like Heartbound mean I still think about my dead dog often. I think about how he would stare right into my eyes whenever he was laying dog eggs, as though silently accusing me of being some kind of canine pervert. I think about the time he stole an entire roast chicken from the neighbour’s house and then disappeared into the hills for three days, waiting for things to blow over. Or when he turned up one morning in the front garden holding something that looked a lot like a mauled sheep torso. Oh you murderous little scamp. You will never be held accountable for your crimes, because you are dead.

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Warhammer's Tyranids would be difficult to placate in a traditional 4X strategy game. They'd always be offering you bum deals for your biomass, sending heretical missionaries to spread the good word about biomass, claiming they saw your biomass first so it's rightfully theirs, rivalling your tourism industry with such attractions as Biomass World and Eurobiomass, delivering notes sneering at your meagre biomass, and tainting your culture with television broadcasts like Biomass Hunt, Biomass Judy, and NCIS: Biomass.

Thankfully there is no diplomacy in the grim darkness of the far future, only war, so the Tyranid faction which hit Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics Of War today as DLC will simply devour you, your cities, and the soil beneath your feet as they amass biomass.

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The game which sounds like summer hols at your posh boarding school gal pal's chateau spent riding horses and investigating the secrets of the grandmother who lives in the attic but is in fact a build-o-farm 'em up, My Time At Portia, today launched properly. A bit like a 3D take on Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon and such, it's about farming and fighting and crafting and grinding. Fraser Brown found that tedious when he played Portia shortly after its early access launch, but player reviews do seem positive a year later.

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Feature: Dead baby foxes

The First Tree review

There is a fine line a lot of introspective indie games are walking, between a careful exploration of memories and events, and solipsism. For me, The First Tree leaps over that line with a clumsily implemented, wildly incongruous double-jump. Sanctimonious from the opening moments, this is a mediocre third-person exploration game made nauseating by the most self-obsessed narration I've ever encountered. It makes Dear Esther look like Tolstoy.

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