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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

The 50 best free games on PC

No free-to-play, just free.

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Rockstar employees speak out against crunch controversy

The company gave them permission, uncharacteristically

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Somewhere, deep in the darkest recesses of the Uncanny Valley lies a strange, jagged sinkhole. Nobody knows how deep it goes, or even if it has a bottom to reach, merely that its pixellated walls seem to vibrate and shimmer as you move around them. Welcome to the PlayStation Zone. the Spooky Retro Bundle 2 on Itch is a collection of seven (mostly) PSX-styled games that channel the spirit of this particularly unsettling era in 3D graphics into something deliberately unnerving. Below, trailers for the bundled games, plus some additional scares to start your weekend with.

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I'm not entirely sure why, but there are some people who really liked the Battlefield games when they were at their most gritty and pseudo-realistic. World War 3, released into early access today and developed by Necrovision studio The Farm 51, is for them. Destructible maps of Warsaw, Berlin and Moscow, customisable guns and a realistic armour system for both infantry and vehicles give this one its own distinct edge. Below, the release trailer, featuring some guns that probably don't explode like that in the game itself.

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My brain is not up to playing Executive Assault 2 today. I could maybe handle a basic RTS, or maybe an FPS but not this complex hybrid of both plus space combat. Making its early access debut yesterday, it's a sequel to Hesketh Studios's 2015 Executive Assault. In the first game, players commanded a robot army RTS-style to take down your corporate rival's CEO, leading from the front in FPS combat. In the sequel, you're juggling all that and the third dimension as the battle moves into space. Below, a little video peek at the game, including some impressive fleet combat.

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As Halloween horrors go, a genetically-engineered megamurderer who knows dozens of ways to kill and will wear your clothes to replace you in your everyday life already seems pretty spooky to me. He's a dark one, that Ian Hitman. But to celebrate the season of Goth Christmas, IO Interactive are making him even spookier with new themed contracts for H1tman and treat-not-tricking everyone by making the full Colorado episode a free trial for the next fortnight. This isn't for keepsies, unlike IO did with some earlier episodes, but it is an opportunity to get spooky for free.

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It's the weekend for a lot of you already, so here's a little something free for the next few days. Four somethings, even. Five, if you've got a VR setup. There's probably a few more lurking around that I've missed, but there's a bundle of free weekends running concurrently on Steam right now: RTS spinoff Halo Wars: Definitive Edition, baseball fighter Lethal League, physics puzzler Crazy Machines 3, co-op hack n' slasher Eden Rising: Supremacy and for VR gunslingers, Hover Junkers, all accompanied by steep discounts.

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Feature: An invigorating first step towards a mechanical keyboard?

MSI Vigor GK40 review: Membranical meets RGB

Let's face it, we all fear change and spending lots of money, which is probably why many of us still play games on cheap, squidgy membrane keyboards instead of sharp, expensive clicky-clacky mechanical ones. There's nothing wrong with membrane keyboards, of course, but they're not always best-suited to faster-paced games that require nice, quick and responsive finger-tapping.

As a result, a good way of dipping your toes into the mechanical keyboard waters to see if you like them is to try a so-called 'membranical' one first. These hybrid keyboards offer the best of both worlds, allowing you to ease yourself in gently to the CLICKY CLACKS without forcing you to stump up buckets of cash on the best gaming keyboards money can buy. The latest one to land on my desk is MSI's Vigor GK40, which touts itself as a membrane keyboard with mechanical-feeling keys that costs just £52 / $52.

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Valve are starting to clearly disclose the odds of receiving a rare bonus wizard costume in your Dota 2 loot box of wizard hats, adding an in-game pop-up stating your chances. This is for the "escalating odds", which go up as you open more and more of a certain loot box, and will always track your current chances. The odds were vaguely available before in a roundabout way, as Chinese law requires companies to disclose loot box odds, but seeing it in-game is easier than tromping across the Internet in search of translations of Chinese blog posts.

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It's never fun to report on a game launching at the start of the week and the developer making major staff cuts before the weekend, as is the case with Dreadnought developer Six Foot. As reported by Game Informer and confirmed by Six Foot's Chief Operating Officer, the Dreadnought studio (working in collaboration with Spec Ops: The Line outfit Yager) has let go "about a third" of its workforce. According to Game Informer's sources, the game has struggled to bring in the money required to keep everyone at the studio paid.

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Feature: Low-pressure area

Mellowing out with management games

My body betrayed me last month, trapping me in my bed when it wasn’t sending me rushing to my poor, overworked loo. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t work and so I turned to management games to take my mind off the virus squatting inside me. Juggling budgets, disasters and production chains might not sound particularly relaxing, but there’s also a swathe of low-pressure sims that serve as a brilliant panacea for stress.

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Feature: An epic adventure returns

Have You Played… Grandia?

Those in Europe might not have heard of this late PlayStation-era RPG. It's one I remember vividly, thanks to its distinct steam-punk vibe and memorable battle system. It's not only coming back, but is also finally coming to PC later this year. Perhaps this time it'll get the recognition it deserves.

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Feature: Cheap graphics cards, CPUs, and games galore

Best PC gaming deals of the week – 19th October 2018

It's that time of the week again where I swap my hardware hat for my deals herald hat. What does a deals herald hat look like, I hear you ask? Good question. It's sort of like a chaperon, if you must know. I asked for a bicorne, but Graham was having none of it. Said I'd only go and stage a revolution to turn RPS into a Nintendo site - which is fair, because that definitely sounds like something I would do.

But enough about hats. Let's talk deals! Bandai Namco and Bethesda are both having jumbo sales this weekend, while over on the hardware side we've got more graphics cards, CPU and gaming mice deals galore. If you don't see anything you like, remember that Black Friday is coming up soon at the end of November, so it may well be worth waiting for that if you're in the market for new PC bits. For now, let's do some deals heralding.

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Feature: Armored Brigade inspected

The Flare Path: Iron Curtain Call

Before the Su-17s showed up, the defence of Großenlüder was going like clockwork. Dug in behind wire and minefields, my Chieftains were dominating. Their poppy-brushing 120mm guns had barcoded the eastern horizon with pillars of black smoke. Nothing of Soviet manufacture had made it as far as the village, and nothing looked likely to. But then the napalm came. Tumbling canisters of molten lava delivered by low-flying, thunder-trailing Fitters. Tumbling canisters of molten lava that burst on impact, turning protective vehicle scrapes into Hadean pools of flame.

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Less than two months after finally launching Dirty Bomb in full, Splash Damage have announced they are stopping development on their free-to-play FPS set in merrye olde Londone tahn. The servers will stay up as long as enough players keep on playing, they say, but don't expect any big future updates. Splash Damage say that, despite a big effort to renovate and finish it, the Enemy Territory-style shooter simply wasn't making enough money to justify continuing live development. So it goes.

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Feature: Blop till you drop

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 review

CODBLOPS: *snarls* Person: I’d... I’d like to shoot some people, please. CODBLOPS: *spits* HOW? HOW would you like to shoot people? Person: Well PUBG: *coughs* Person: Um CSGO: *also coughs* Person: Overwatch: Hi!

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 reminds of an ugly, angry man who’s trying to sell me guns. It’s not that I don’t want to buy those guns, I just wish the man didn’t have to yell so hard.

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Nothing strikes a chill through my heart like delays to long-anticipated cross-platform play systems. Sadly, that fate has befallen Rocket League - a roadmap update has revealed that the "RocketID" system won't arrive until early 2019. You can actually already play with friends who are using smaller, lesser boxes, but only in private matches. Which defeats the whole point, really.

There is some good news: the Halloween event is up and running, in case you want to dress your car up like spiderman wearing a haunted house as a hat.

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The lads are going to kill me. I promised them the stag party of a lifetime, a fifty-lad pub crawl from Zharki through Georgopol then a boat ride to Primorsk and a dune buggy race to Mylta, closing by breaking into Mylta Power in search of radioactive goop to chug. I've had special tour t-shirts printed. They've all booked this weekend off work. And now, with no notice, Playerunknown's Battlegrounds has scrapped its debut 50v50 event mode "due to a critical error". The lads are going to be gutted. They're going to kill me.

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Feature: No free-to-play, just free.

The 50 best free games on PC

As a shameless button-masher, I'm so happy to see this series return, and with its latest iteration - Soulcalibur 6 - landing on PC for the first time ever. Bandai Namco's other long-running fighting series that isn't Tekken, Soulcalibur is about swords (and other melee weapons), ring outs and regular moves that can do enormous damage. This one debuts with a respectable 19 returning fighters, two newcomers and (as guest character) everyone's favourite grouchy monster-botherer Geralt joining the party in a thematically fitting crossover. Below, the launch trailer.

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Time to get your sea legs on and step aboard a ship full of maritime mysteries in Return Of The Obra Dinn, released today and latest from Lucas Pope, creator of Papers Please. A first-person murder mystery presented in grainy monochrome, players fill the well-worn shoes of an insurance investigator for the East India Company in 1807. A ship long thought lost has turned up again, and all the crew have been replaced with very dead skeletons. There's a mystery to solve, and only a deductive genius (who can also see the past) can crack the case. Sleuth on.

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Feature: Injustice League

Lego DC Super-Villains review

Right, quick version: Lego DC Super-Villains is another franchised Lego game, and if you've played any they've made since around 2013, you already know everything you need to know about it. Open city (Gotham and Metropolis to start) mixed with missions, eighty billion characters, nine hundred trillion collectables, lots of silly cutscenes, tons of bugs, abysmal vehicle controls, and enough to do to keep you, your kids, anyone else's kids, busy for the rest of their lives. Done. Now I'll waffle.

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With talk of crunch and working conditions casting a shadow over Rockstar's console launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 next week, the secretive company also behind Grand Theft Auto seem to have invited employees to speak openly about their experiences. It's an uncharacteristic and curious move, having employees try to clean up a PR mess created by co-founder Dan Houser's thoughtless boast that he and his small senior writing team have worked a few 100-hour weeks on RDR2. Rockstars who've chosen to pipe up today generally say nah they don't have it that bad, as you'd expect, but perhaps it's a promising sign that public opinion is turning against crunch enough for such a secretive company to want to present positive views.

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Fast and messy Wolfenstein-ish retro FPS Project Warlock is out now. First from Buckshot Software and a temporary GOG exclusive, this is an old-school FPS that takes inspiration from a lot of genre peers, but primarily Doom. Big swarms of expendable monsters, a booming double-barrel shotgun and maze-like levels packed with secret areas. Set across five shareware-inspired worlds with a new look and set of enemies in each, it's pleasantly nostalgic but backed up with some nice modern-day lighting and particle effects. Below, the launch trailer.

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Monarchic decide 'em up Reigns was always close in spirit to Game Of Thrones. Thanks to a cross-promotion deal that I'm certain someone sold their soul for, they're now one and the same, and out today. Reigns: Game Of Thrones combines the Tinder-inspired UI of Nerial's series with the multiple perspectives and familiar world of HBO's wildly successful TV novel adaptation. The game lets players control multiple characters and bodge their way through their own custom timeline in a way that would sound like fan-fiction if it weren't an official game. Below, the launch trailer.

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One of the biggest complaints often levied at wireless gaming mice is that they're simply too slow and heavy compared to their wired rivals. Despite being free of snagging cables that somehow manage to get in the way of everything at all times, that liberty often comes at the cost of latency and reliability, with the extra disadvantage that they've now got to carry a battery round as well as all their various bits of wireless gubbins.

Strides have been made to rectify these challenges, of course. Razer's Mamba + Firefly Hyperflux combo managed to get round the latter problem with its featherlight 96g wireless mouse that magically charged itself just by sitting on its mouse mat, but it also cost an arm and a leg. The ambidextrous Logitech G Pro Wireless on test today, however, goes several steps further - it not only weighs an almost impossibly light 80g, but Logitech's Lightspeed Wireless tech claims it has a lag-free, 1ms report rate connection. And it's quite possibly the best gaming mouse I've ever used.

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Much as Black Lab have improved on their strategic Battlestar Galactica Deadlock with patches and expansions, until today's DLC - Anabasis - it lacked the TV show's sense of looming dread. While the new addon also expands the game's main strategic campaign, its most exciting feature is a new survival mode inspired by the TV series. An isolated fleet retreats back to Caprica from deep space, pursued constantly by Cylon forces across a random series of losing encounters. Below, a launch trailer fresh enough to make me forget for a moment that the show is 14 years old.

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Feature: They finally Gwent and did it

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales review

Thronebreaker has been taking me for a ride. Fighting monsters and blackclad horsemen in this card-game-sorta-RPG is a bit like being on a bumpy mine cart. You’re going up and down and swiping lots of gold along the way, the ride is smooth then boring then exciting then dull. Sometimes it could use a diesel engine. Or something more environmentally friendly? I don’t know, this metaphor is breaking down. There’s been a cave in, the mine’s closed, everyone go home. What I'm trying to say is: Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales has a few problems with pacing and a dry story in places, but otherwise it's a decent singleplayer spin-off of Gwent and the cards are worth a shuffle.

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Feature: Shoot everything until it stops twitching

Have You Played… Shadowgrounds?

For a developer who can't seem to get enough of wizards and weird physics puzzles, you might be surprised that Frozenbyte's first game wasn't anything of the sort. Indeed, the Finnish studio best known for puzzler series Trine and more recent fantasy co-op shenanigans Nine Parchments cut their teeth on a sci-fi, top-down shooter called Shadowgrounds. They even made a sequel! Shadowgrounds: Survivor, they called it, because one game about blasting aliens in dark military hangars simply wasn't enough.

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Listen up, Molyneux, because Epic Games know how to do a cube. Kevin (I don't know who first named the cube Kevin) is pulsating.

Kevin first showed up in season five of Fortnite Battle Royale, when it took to romping about stamping glyphs all over the map. Then it rose up underneath Loot Lake, creating a floating island with a vortex underneath that you can do cool tornado murders in.

Kevin's spent the past couple of weeks revisiting the scenes of its past graffiti-based crimes, and yesterday it started pulsating. The house on that island is also getting increasingly cubified, so my guess is that we're about to see more of the map follow suit.

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When two stag or hen parties chance upon each other down Espionage and merge, the ground trembles at the might of their combined banter and windows the length of Victoria Street rattle to their roars. I cannot begin to imagine the consequences if twelve parties should join forces. We'll find out this weekend in Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, as the stag & hen battle royale will tonight launches its first 50v50 event mode. God help the people of Yasnaya Polyana. You can buy some new threads too, as the devs are whopping a wad of Plunbucks in apology for that recent server-sorting screw-up.

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Back in the day, when we first started RPS, a lot of my day was spent searching through GameTrailers (sniff, thanks GameTrailers) to find interesting-looking videos to write snark underneath. Now we force Dominic to do that, by means too criminal to describe, because there are only so many years you can do it for before you need to kill again. But I can't stop myself from posting the new Accounting+ trailer from Crows Crows Crows, early in the morning before the rest of RPS has crawled out of the communal treehouse hammock, because it's the best thing I've seen in over two hundred years.

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