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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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The ranks of the Jagged Alliance series, with its myriad sequels, remakes, expansion packs, mods-gone-pro, cancelled MMOs and unofficial spin-offs, rival only the So Solid Crew in terms of headspinning numbers and impossible-to-remember names.

After a frankly turgid couple of decades, it's back once again for the one-time king of turn-based mercenary argy-bargy. Can Jagged Alliance: Rage score the Arnie-does-X-COM series a critical and/or commercial hit for the first time since 1999?

Announced today, it's due out later this year, and looks like this...

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Feature: Stinker tailor soldier spy

Phantom Doctrine review

Everything I'd read about Phantom Doctrine excited me. Unravelling Cold War conspiracies in a spy-flavoured XCOM was an enthralling elevator pitch, and the details seemed to back up that promise. Yes, you can brainwash enemy agents and yes, your enemy can do the same. Yes, there's an emphasis on stealth and deception, employed on both a strategic management layer and through tactical turn-based missions that don't always devolve into firefights. Yes, part of the game involves cracking case files to investigate sinister threats.

Is any of that actually any fun? Nope.

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The developers behind Paladins, Smite, Realm Royale, and Tribes: Ascend today announced they're formally splitting into distinct new studios to handle their big games (no, not including Tribes) under an overarching publisher. At the very least, this should assuage some fears about Hi-Rez's track record of ditching older games when their limited teams shifted over to newer games. For now, it seems their three core games are secure. Hi-Rez are also opening two new arms, one company focused on running esports events and the other making art assets. To speak in business terms, all of Hi-Rez's limbs are possessed by alien parasites and wrenching out their sockets to skitter off on lives of their own.

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Things are looking up for The Chinese Room, the studio behind Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, as they've been bought by a group who also own Snake Pass devs Sumo Digital. It seems like a big reversal of fortune, letting The Chinese Room get stuck into work again. Around this time last year, the English studio laid off their development team and went quiet after financial and personal pressures became too much. They did say they might return, and here they are as part as Sumo Group.

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The world of World Of Warcraft is once more at war, now that Battle For Azeroth has launched this morning. Sylvanas has torched Teldrassil because reasons, the Alliance have sieged Lordaeron to get at her, the rest of the Horde aren't too pleased with all this, and aw, to heck with it, let's everybody rumble again. As the expansion bumps the MMO's story back into murderous motion, it also boosts the level cap so players can murder better, adds new lands to murder in, new modes to murder through, and new playable minor factions to murder as. WoW: it's really murdertime now.

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Well, would you look at that? Nvidia have just lifted the lid on their brand-new Turing graphics cards - and ghee whiz do they look powerful. Don't get too excited just yet, though, as the only cards Nvidia announced last night at computer graphics and animation conference Siggraph are (yep, you guessed it) all professional Quadro RTX models: the Quadro RTX 8000, Quadro RTX 6000 and Quadro RTX 5000.

That said, with Turing now well and truly out of the bag, I reckon we'll most likely see those coveted GTX models get unveiled at Nvidia's big Gamescom event next week. So let's take a look at what's in store, because if the capabilities of Nvidia's new Turing Quadro cards are anything to go by, the consumer GTX versions will make today's best graphics cards look like yesterday's news.

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“Don’t you go to Goa,” a wise band once sang. Well, eat my dust, Alabama 3. I’ll go wherever I please, up to and including Goa. But fair enough, I can’t afford the airplane ticket. I’ll have to just play strategy game Europa Universalis IV’s upcoming Dharma expansion, which is reworking the Indian provinces on September 6. It’s adding ruthless European charter companies to the region, as well as monsoons, the caste system and a bunch of “scornful insults”.

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After four seasons of mental and physical anguish, plucky orphan Clementine is nearing the end of her story. The first episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is out now, with three more to follow over the coming months. Telltale say that this is the end of the story of Clementine, who's now found herself an orphan of her own to look after, though I don't know if I'd also take that to mean this is their final Walking Dead game. Either way, the first episode is out now, and has a demo already out so you can play the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the end for yourself.

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While Black Mesa may be rebuilding Half-Life's world on a slightly more modern foundation, modder James "MrGnang" Cockburn reckons there's some life in Valve's old GoldSrc engine yet. Half-Life: Echoes is an impressive mod released last Friday, putting the player in the shoes of a scientist elsewhere in the Black Mesa facility when everything goes to hell. Cue the usual running, gunning, fighting soldiers and weird aliens, all while marvelling at some genuinely impressive architecture that I just hadn't thought possible. Just be warned - this one pulls no punches.

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From bleak sci-fi to kinky bondage sex-comedy, and now an 80s glam-tinged road trip RPG? You definitely can't accuse Love Conquers All Games of being one trick ponies. I've seen Get In The Car, Loser! doing the rounds on Twitter for a while, with a fair bit of buzz surrounding it, but only now does it have a store page up on Itch. It's the latest from the creators of Ladykiller In A Bind, and reminds me in equal parts of Final Fantasy 15 and Valkyrie Profile - it's due out later this year.

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While most of what I know about ancient Chinese history comes from the Dynasty Warriors games, that's a pretty good foundation to start with, judging by Total War: Three Kingdoms's new trailer below. We get to take a whirlwind tour of its impressively pretty campaign map, courtesy of warlord Sun Jian. If nothing else, it's very pretty, and it being rendered in-engine gives us a brief peek at what the game will look like, assuming you have a decently beefy PC.

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Read our finest PC game reviews

Monster Hunter: World review

It caught on in a flash

78

Dead Cells review

What a handsome rogue

72

Yakuza 0 review

Yakety yak, Heat attack.

65
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There's just one week to go until Nvidia's big Gamescom surprise, but will it be the arrival of their new Nvidia Turing graphics cards or something else entirely - something, perhaps, like a bolt from the blue shock announcement about their upcoming Big Format Gaming Displays? We won't know for sure until next Monday, but just in case Nvidia do pull a fast one on us, here's a quick refresher on everything we know about Nvidia's BFGDs so far, including who's making them, what their specs are, and how they might finally make PC gaming in the living room a reality.

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While I'll never be fully comfortable playing games set in the contemporary forever-war continually in the background of modern life, I must admit that Insurgency is a solid little shooter. Originally based on the Source mod of the same name, it offers realistic class-based tactical manshootery both competitive and co-op. For the next two days, it's free to grab in order to promote its upcoming sequel, Insurgency: Sandstorm, due out next month. Grab it now on Steam, keep it forever.

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While you're busy trying to rummage in monsters' guts to make a new hat from them, Capcom are currently rummaging in Monster Hunter: World's technoguts to try and solve technical problems that are preventing many players from gutdiving. Capcom said today that they have "been receiving numerous reports that players are experiencing connection errors after every several times they depart on quests." That's a far more generous summary of the server situation than many I've seen from players who aren't best pleased with a £50 game they can't properly play. Capcom do say they're investigating this, as well as several other problems, but don't give an idea of when we might expect fixes.

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Five years ago, co-op FPS crime 'em up Payday 2 was a scrawny little thing with only a few missions to its name. Now it's a massive, still expanding ball of hyper-criminality featuring permanent crossovers with five film universes, arguably putting Reservoir Dogs in John Wick canon. To celebrate its fifth anniversary today, developers Overkill are rolling out a week of free updates, starting with cyber-masked heister lady Joy, formerly exclusive to the Switch version. The Ultimate edition of the game (including almost all DLC) is also 80% off for the week.

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Feature: We'll surely avoid scurvy if we all eat an orange

Sea of Thieves players are taking the game out of PvP and into game shows

Online games live and die by their audience. Give players the tools to create unique stories and foster closer relationships and there’s no guarantee they’ll go out of their way to use them. Often they resort to their baser instincts.

This was arguably the case when Rare released their pirate sandbox game Sea of Thieves, back in March. It was an extremely common occurrence for new players to load in and be instantly sunk on sight by another group of pirates, griefing simply because they could. But, over the following months, there’s been a noticeable shift in the game, with the player base evolving beyond just PvP. Now, players are breaking out of the monotonous grind to Pirate Legend and taking advantage of the game’s full potential, creating memorable stories and community events out on the seas. This is in part due to a frustration with the base game, and the lack of explicit story and community content delivered by Rare.

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Sega have relaunched the first patch for Yakuza 0, aiming to fix several crashes in their delightful dad simulator, after its initial launch last week went a bit wonky. 'Patch 1', as it's snappily titled, first hit last Monday but Sega reverted it within hours after discovering it caused several unintended new bugs. After a week of fixing and testing, here it is again, come to spare us all the anxiety of being separated from our two dads.

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Feature: A metaphor for something sad, probably

Video: Platformer Gris is so delicate I won’t spoil it with my honking voice

I imagine many of you see the word video in the headline and assume it’s just going to be Noa or me gabbling over game footage. And while gabbling/footage hybrids do make up 98% of its output, the RPS Video Department knows when to put a sock in it. One such occasion is the arrival of Gris, a wistful adventure that new Spanish outfit Nomada Studio is calling a narrative platformer. I think this means you jump about a bit but the jumping is secretly a metaphor for something sad. Why not watch this gorgeous 15 minute demo - free of any foghorn-like analysis - and work it out for yourself...

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Feature: Monstrous

Steam Charts: Entirely Original Edition

OK! OK! Look, thank you, yes, yes, I know, thank you. Yes, it's very exciting that I'm here with this week's Steam Charts, but come on, please, sit down now, that's really enough. Oh, come on, all of you, you're lovely, but it's only little me. Goodness gracious!

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Devolver Digital's whole brand is edgy nostalgia but it is weird they're casting a misty-eyed gaze back to the distant year of 2012, when "Friendly!" shouts in DayZ were the sound of the summer, with multiplayer online survival murder sandbox Scum. We'll get to relive those halcyon days soon, as Devolver have announced an early access launch date of August 29th. Prepare to once again trudge through woods, drink from streams, and worry about how many centilitres of blood are left in you, all the while trying not to get murdered by others.

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Designing my own machines is a fantasy I often eagerly sign up to, then abandon when I remember I'm crap at it. For me, freedom is entwined with failure - though perhaps TerraTech can check my over-ambition. It has you roaming about on an alien planet "where you design and build your own creations through a mix of crafting, combat and discovery", ostensibly collecting minerals for a resource-stricken Earth but actually pumping them into fancier vehicles. Payload Studios have launched version 1.0 after four years spent tinkering in early access, though they've still got plenty more planned.

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Hello, it’s Monday. Would you like to leave it all behind and become an inspector who solves crimes but is also a frog? Yeah, me too. As luck would have it, The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game will let you realise this desire. It’s about a frog with a brown jumper and a magnifying glass coming to a spooky island to investigate strange noises. Ah, but not yet. It’s still being clicked together by its creators, and planned to come out some time this year. Back to those non-amphibious spreadsheets, I suppose. But maybe… yes, let's do it. Let’s investigate the game’s froggy trailer. Just a peek.

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Update: There are still 10 days left with in which to enter the EGX Gamejam for a chance to exhibit your work at the show. Read all the details below.

Original story

We're teaming up with our corporate siblings behind EGX, the annual games show in Birmingham, to celebrate their 11th birthday with a contest. Like great emperors demanding tribute, they want you to make a game around the enigmatic theme "eleven" in honour of this year's EGX being their eleventh. The winner(s) will get to show their game at EGX in September for free, with the booth and hardware provided as well as a UK train ticket and hotel room for one person. The sheet of paper I've been handed calls this a "game jam" but it sounds like a contest to me. The contest runs for the next four weeks so hop to it.

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Grasshopper Manufacture, the Japanese studio behind loud and stylish games including No More Heroes and The Silver Case, are bringing their free-to-play survival stabfest Let It Die from PlayStation 4 over to PC. First released in 2016, Let It Die is a brash action game set in a post-apocalyptic helltower where we fight upwards at the bidding of Uncle Death, a Grim Reaper who looks just a little like a dude in a Halloween costume. It's a bit survival-y too, having us eat food as we loot and stab upwards. I've heard some okay things about the PS4 version, once people got used to it, and I'm curious to have a look myself on PC this autumn. Now watch these murders.

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Popular Overwatch livestreamer and ex-Dallas Fuel professional player Félix ‘xQc’ Lengyel was handed a 15-day suspension from Overwatch yesterday, after being repeatedly reported for abusive chat. This is only the latest in a long line of disciplinary actions taken against the player, who is scheduled to appear for team Canada in the Overwatch World Cup next month.

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“There are no rules here. Just enjoy,” reads the opening of the description for the recently released VR game Museum Of Symmetry, and it only gets more intriguing from there. It bills itself as “part invitation, part dare,” and “a VR metaphor for life,” making me quite regret not owning a HTC Vive.

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As QuakeCon 2018 continues, so too does Bethesda Game Studio's steady drip-feed of information about their games, and specifically about post-apocalyptic multiplayer survival RPG Fallout 76. Its E3 showing left a lot of questions unanswered, and last night Gary Steinman, Todd Howard, Jeff Gardiner, and Chris Meyer shed some light on those lingering unknowns, including player progression and anti-griefing measures.

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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for entering the 6th day of sleep derivation prescribed by your NHS insomnia clinic. I can see the logic, but not much else through these bleary eyes of mine. Luckily I've already rounded up the best writing about video games from the past week.

The most important piece this week (and beyond) is clearly Cecilia D'Anastasio's on Kotaku. She's been investigating the culture of sexism at Riot Games for half a year, and spoke to two dozen current and former Riot employees who "say the company's culture is steeped in sexism". The volume of sexist practices cited here demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that these examples aren't "explicitly opposite" to Riot's culture, as they claim, but the substance of it.

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