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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, Bulwark Studios's tactical dungeon crawler based on the Games Workshop mega-universe is out now. It pits the Adeptus Mechanicus (an especially barmy bunch of cyborg engineer-cultists) up against the Necron; what you'd get if you put Warhammer Fantasy's Egyptian undead and The Terminator in a blender. Systems-wise, it's a blend of FTL's choice-filled exploration and XCOM-like tactical combat, with your squad of mad monks facing down waves of robot mummies. Below, a launch trailer and a longer peek at its systems.

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It was a sad day indeed when AMD's three free games bundle came to an end at the beginning of November (bye bye, free Assassin's Creed Odyssey), but the good news is that today marks the start of a brand new, and arguably even better, AMD games bundle to celebrate the launch of their new Radeon RX 590 graphics card. If you fancy grabbing free copies of Devil May Cry 5, The Division 2 and the shiny new Resident Evil 2 remake, read on.

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Underworld Ascendant is out now, OtherSide Entertainment's crowdfunded spiritual sucessor to Ultima Underworld. For the younger among us, or those who had better things to do in the early 90s than trawl imaginary dungeons, that means it's a first-person action RPG with a focus on puzzling out creative solutions to problems. There's stealth, parkour and multiple ways through every level, with your choices on a three-branched skill tree affecting your options later on. It also has a very glowy high-fantasy aesthetic that reminds me a bit of Trine. The launch trailer lies beneath.

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Feature: Listen now, because you'll be dead soon

Podcast: The best post-apocalyptic games

The world ended this week. We documented the whole thing. But the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show, will not go quietly into the abyss of human history. It's not going to be felled by the atomic blast of Fallout 76. It’s going down screaming. Screaming about the best post-apocalyptic games out there, that is.

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EA have added a first-person camera view to The Sims 4, giving the opportunity to watch lives unfold from inside characters' heads. See through the eyes of an idiot guided by wonky logic and incomprehensible whims and desires, watching their hands touch and do things you know are foolish. And in the game. Oh, and a new expansion is out today.

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Sure you've touchtyped through zombie hordes in Typing Of The Dead, but are your fingers nimble enough to tap out exorcisms while dodging demonic bullet hell blasts? You'll get to find out in The Textorcist, an upcoming game which will have us both typing and dodging, dispelling demons with our fast fingers and hot feet. Mavis Beacon, eat your heart out.

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Feature: Hungry hungry dinos

Ark: Extinction review

I’ve built an army of inflatable flesh bags that puff themselves up to three times their normal size and then launch into the air like oversized, leaky balloons. They’re called Gasbags, and they’re my favourite dinosaur in Extinction, the latest expansion to Ark: Survival Evolved. Whenever I don’t fancy aimlessly floating around on the back of one, I can load any metal I’ve collected into their giant inventories and puff my way back to base. They’re brilliant.

Extinction’s new creatures are some of the best in Ark so far: alongside the Gasbags you’ll find new friends including the lumbering, sloth-like Gacha, which drop semi-randomised loot from giant crystals on their back, a teleporting robotic raptor/spider hybrid called an Enforcer, and a Velonasaur, which can fan out its facial fins to transform into a walking machine gun that shoots quills, shredding armour in seconds.

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Feature: The race for best 1440p graphics card just got a little hotter

AMD Radeon RX 590 review: A GTX 1060 killer?

Well, this is a surprise, isn't it? After all the hoo-hah of Nvidia's new and shiny Turing RTX graphics cards, AMD have gone and snuck in another mid-ranger right under our noses in the form of the Radeon RX 590. Alas, it's still not one of the long-awaited AMD Navi GPUs everyone's been whispering about - it's fundamentally a Polaris card just like the rest of AMD's RX 500 family - but it is the first one to use a 12 nanometer (nm) manufacturing process, which AMD say gives it a 12% performance boost over the still very much alive Radeon RX 580. Let's take a look, shall we?

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I’m really excited about Void Bastards. I mean, it’s a new deeply systems-driven FPS made by some of the people behind System Shock 2, Neptune’s Pride and Captain Forever. Of course I’m excited. You play as a desperate crim boarding extremely hostile derelict spaceships to loot stuff. It’s got cool guns and a striking comic book art style, and it’s the result of some extremely qualified unfinished business. I reckon that’s the best reason to get into making something special.

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Telltale's The Walking Dead, Monkey Island, Jurassic Park, and Back To The Future games have have been pulled from sale on Steam, though folks who already own any can keep playing them and other stores do still sell 'em - for now. This comes as the company goes through the final motions of legally shutting down, settling assets, and all that after laying off most employees in September and those remaining in October.

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Feature: It's well chilled

Have You Played… Waking Mars?

Waking Mars is possibly the most chilled out 2D jetpack game in existence. I came across it during that lazy, turkey-stuffed interim between Christmas and New Year's Eve back in 2013, and I've never felt such inner peace while playing a video game. It's a story of quiet wonder, where the aim isn't to destroy, evade or do battle with hostile, alien creatures, but to watch them grow and flourish as you venture further and further into the depths of our neighbouring red planet.

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Cute space survival sandbox Astroneer isn't far from the finish line, say developers System Era Softworks, it'll be bounding out of early access in just a few months - February 6th, specifically. The studio have some big plans for the release - the launch version will include a "new exploration-focused adventure", taking you to new planets full of interesting new things to poke around, or be poked by. The launch version will also support cross-play with Xbox One folks, hopefully ensuring a healthy and well oxygenated player-base for a while. A stardate trailer lies below.

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EA have now officially announced their Command & Conquer remasters, and they look to be in good hands. Several of the strategy classics's original developers are returning, including talent from ex-Westwood folks Petroglyph and original composer Frank Klepacki. Together, they're polishing up the original Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, along with its alt-history cousin C&C: Red Alert, plus all expansions for both games. Preempting the cynics amongst us, EA have also confirmed that there'll be no micro-transactions. The devs announce the news below.

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Feature: #CountryRoads #NoFilter

Fallout 76: Postcards from West Virginia

Over the course of my six or so hours with it so far, Fallout 76 has revealed its certainly a game that's more fun for what you see and come across than for how you act and what you do. It's lucky that the world itself, a bruised edition of West Virginia, is beautiful, putting Bethesda’s previous post-apocalyptic sets to shame in both its overall topography and in the details of colour and shape in everything from its trees and leaves to its burned out cars and anonymous cadavers.

Certainly, posing next to a freshly slain mongrel has never given me as much cause for a smile.

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One more fighter steps into the ring this November 30th, and cheaper than expected - Arika's Fighting EX Layer, spun off from the oddball Street Fighter EX series. Starring the returning, colourful and non-Capcom-owned cast of Street Fighter EX (plus a guest appearance from King Of Fighters's Terry Bogard) it's a fast and twitchy arcade fighter, and a good one at that. Originally released on the PS4 a little light on features, the upcoming PC version looks to be a much more fleshed out package of punches. Below, a honking great 36 minutes of PC version footage.

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Everyone wants in our our (Post-)Apocalyptic Day, casting doom and gloom all over. First Bethesda launched Fallout 76 early to meet us, and now the latest bargain Humble Bundle packs a load of games with visions of the future ranging from 'society sucks now' to 'slug cats have replaced humanity'. Its theme is 'Dystopian' and its games are pretty deece, with some you'll not often see bundled up, including the wonderful/horrible Rain World and smashing cyberpunk first-person spooker Observer. Some good games for a good price.

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They say truth is the first casualty of war, which makes This War Of Mine's latest expansion - The Last Broadcast - equivalent to playing on hard mode. Not only do you have to cope with the usual dangers of keeping a band of civilians alive and safe through a brutal, messy war, but this expansion has players riding the razor's edge - uncovering and reporting the truth through it all. It's the second of 11 Bit's three season pass scenarios, and introduces new systems, characters, locations and dilemmas to the uncompromising survival scenario. A trailer reportedly lies below.

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Feature: Hardy Perennial

Post-Apocalypse Day: high-def Mad Maxplosions

One of the post-apocalyptic games that many people think was overlooked was Mad Max. Created by Just Causers Avalanche, it's an open-world driving/punching realisation of the long-loved, thankfully now Gibson-free franchise. Sand, mutants, spiky cars, and explosions. So many explosions. So to celebrate this first day in our newly destroyed Earth, I've put together a gallery of things going boom.

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There's an odd appeal to constructing and decorating your own little space in an MMO - Occupy White Walls takes that concept, builds on it and discards all else. Released into early access today by Stiki Pixels, it's a free-to-play (entirely so at present) creative sandbox with an artistic focus. Players construct, light and decorate your own little art galleries, choose what pieces to display, how and where, and hopefully earn cash to expand further from visiting NPCs and the tips they leave. From the bit I've played, it's rather relaxing. An early trailer hangs below.

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Feature: Apoc Epoch

Aeon Of Sands has the smartest opening

I doubt it's just me who finds it incredibly hard to take in the infodump that begins most games. I try! I read, "It was the final day of the third season of the Sharmani, so Reslator gathered his bag and made his way down the Triamblate Path..." and I'm already just staring at letters, not absorbing information. It's just made up names in made up places doing made up things, and I've no chance whatsoever of retaining it, and worse, understanding it in context when the action begins.

Which makes the opening of post-apocalyptic blobber Aeon Of Sands, due out early next month, one of the most brilliant pieces of design I've seen in forever.

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Burgers or pizza? It's a question which has started playground debates, late-night arguments, and surely a fistfight or two. Fortnite Battle Royale aims to settle the question via the medium of digital megaviolence in a new event mode, Food Fight, where two teams of 12 with burgheads or tomatofaces must defend their hallowed restaurant mascot from enemy heretics. Yes, you really will need to get the hang of building and fortifying here. It's also a good chance to try out the new Mounted Turret item, which you can sit on to dakka dakka dakka all day long. Reader, I must tell you that I let burgers down.

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Feature: The post-apocalypse is a real grind

Death of a skater boy in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead

It wouldn't be a post-apocalypse without a diary piece. Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead is an old-fashioned roguelike that drops you into a crumbling world full of grumpy walking corpses. These zombies may be represented by a shambling ‘Z’, in keeping with the game’s ASCII origins. But they can also be rendered in gooey sprite form for ASCII-phobes. This is a cleaner-looking version that makes grass look (a bit) like grass and cars look (a bit) like cars. It’s still perplexing to a new player like me, but I won’t let an antiquated bunch of keyboard shortcuts get in the way of a good apocalypse. Especially when that apocalypse includes a “skater boy” in the character selection screen.

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After Fallout 76 launched early, it did fall down (76). In the wee hours of today, following its 'official' launch at midnight worldwide, Bethesda's post-apocalyptic multiplayer sandbox experienced a bit of server meltdown, causing disconnection problems for some players. Oh sure, maybe you can survive the irradiated wastelands and the griefers trying to nuke your base, but you can't run from technical issues. Thankfully, Bethesda say the problem was corrected and it ssshould now be running smoothly. But you, player dear, if you want to tweak things like the field of view angle and depth of field effect, you'll need to get your hands dirty yourself.

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Warning: Contains spoilers.

The first robot to be built in Japan, in 1929, was named Gakutensoku, meaning “learning from the laws of nature”. Its creator, biologist Makoto Nishimura, would later say of his mechanical progeny: “If one considers humans as the children of nature, artificial humans created by the hand of man are thus nature’s grandchildren.” The robot was unveiled at Emperor Hirohito’s ascension ceremony and later taken on tour. At one show was novelist Hiroshi Aramata, who wrote that when the machine shook its head it was “as if to express the agony of creation.”

To the android 9S , when we first meet him in Nier: Automata, such agony would be unthinkable.

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THQ Nordic have gobbled up yet more studios, today announcing they've bought Bugbear Entertainment and Coffee Stain Studios. Bugbear are the smash-happy Finnish studio behind racing games including Wreckfest and the first three FlatOuts, while Coffee Stain made FPS tower defence series Sanctum and wack 'em up Goat Simulator as well as publishing games including Deep Rock Galatic. It sounds like they broadly plan to have the studios continue to do their things, with Bugbear making roughhousing racers and Coffee Stain both making and publishing games.

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Feature: A visit to the shattered wastes of 2b2t

Lusting for ruin on Minecraft’s most apocalyptic server

It has become increasingly difficult to play games that aren’t about the end of the world. The apocalypse and its chaotic aftermath has grown into a collective obsession. We seem to have a cultural fascination, desire, perhaps even lust, to see things burn, violently breaking with the past. Even games that weren’t originally about living in the end times, like Minecraft, have been twisted into apocalyptic shapes.

Minecraft’s 2b2t server is notorious for its unprecedented levels of destruction (and for its offensiveness). It offers players a “neverending” sandbox that’s existed for almost five years, with “no rules”. That’s half a decade of Armageddon. This is gaming’s ultimate badlands, a fiery place of eternal apocalypse where the bombs are other people.

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Feature: Oh dear, we're still alive

Happy Post-Apocalypse Day, survivors!

After our end of the world festivities, we at RPS have counted our living. I have wired Brendy's head into the workings of a fun retro robot, Alice O has presumably taken to the high seas like in Waterworld, and we are roasting Matt Cox's limbs for sustenance while he's on a press trip and can't complain about it. Break open the spam, because it's time for a Post-Apocalypse party! Thank goodness we prepared some more themed articles, just in case. We've always been optimistic types.

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Feature: The Galactic Tribunal has spoken

The criminal who killed 9.5 billion people in Elegy for a Dead World

Elegy for a Dead World is what happens when a story starts too late. When no hero appears to defeat the evil aliens, to assassinate the corrupted president, to warn the world about the impending natural catastrophe. All that remains is silence, ruins, and a morbid curiosity to know how it all went down. The game lets you walk through the ruins of three different planets, but you can't interact with the environment in any way. Those worlds are already dead: no NPCs to rescue, no quests to complete, no monsters to kill. There’s nothing to do but write about what you see. You can go freeform, and write whatever (and whenever) you want. Or you can choose a starting prompt, and let the game fill the ruins with phrases to tweak and complete. After completing your tale, it gives you options to share it.  You can publish it within the game itself, or export it to a web page.

Or you could write it up for RPS, I guess.

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Feature: Global what?

Have You Played… The Flame In The Flood?

I really really really like The Flame In The Flood. I am terrible at it, rarely reaching even the mid stage of the river, but I love it. The flood of the title is one that has swept through America, swelling the banks of a regular river until it’s a wide and treacherous one. Only small islands of safety are left - an old fish bait shop, a homestead, a patch of wilderness - and they’re not even always safe. Sometimes there’s a big angry boar or a starving wolf.

The flame is you. And your little dog.

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