Vive Pro tested: the visual upgrade VR desperately needed, but is it enough?

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A short while ago, I got to stick my sweaty face into HTC’s second generation PC VR headset, the Vive Pro, which was on show in the UK for the first time. The headset boasts a higher resolution and OLED displays, among other upgrades, and so the question is whether or not this can overcome VR’s visual shortcomings and give the medium a much-needed second wind.

Well, it’s definitely a big improvement – but that’s also something of a double-edged sword.
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Free games of the week

Ever wonder what happens out in space? Discovering lost recordings left inside alien structures by a previous astronaut might peak your curiosity. This astronaut wanted their final words and thoughts to be documented, but they don’t seem to have made it back to Earth. While you float across space, listening to the different entries, try to discover what truly happened in this part of the void. If space is not your thing, perhaps trying to communicate as a raven in a world full of humans, or reliving memories around your favorite convenience store, is what you want to do this weekend. You could also raise a childhood hero, or even just eat some meatballs! It’s all up to you – I just provide the games. Read the rest of this entry »

What are we all playing this weekend?

I cannot get over 5ive’s song Battlestar, which I heard for the first time this week. 1) Come on, it’s a banger. 2) Oh my god they reference Star Wars all the time. Sure, I may have started a post or two with an image of the wrong sci-fi series at some point in my career–entirely by accident, always, completely–but this is such a firm and confident and JOYOUS commitment to completely cacking it up that I beam every time the chorus starts. Logs show I listened to it twelve times in a row on Wednesday. I can only dream of being as great as 5ive.

What are you playing this weekend? Here’s what we’re clicking on!

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Hands on with Final Fantasy XV in bonkers 4K

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There’s a moment about half way through Final Fantasy XV where you have to say goodbye to your stag-do-cum-road-trip adventure and actually start saving the world. It’s the same point that sees you swap your ridiculously large car and the sweeping fields of Lucis for a boat, and then a train, that carries you, quite literally, in a non-stop line toward the game’s conclusion, where its open world suddenly becomes much more closed in. Read the rest of this entry »

Metal Gear Survive’s scuzzy microtransactions: paid saveslots, cash for emotes and buy-a-boost

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I’m having a significantly better time than I’d expected with Solid crew spin-off Metal Gear Survive, but something about it does rub me up the wrong way – and I’m not talking about whether or not it stuck a dagger in Kojima’s kidney or how heavily it borrows from other survival games. Like Metal Gear Solid V before, microtransactions have crept into Survive, and though they’re not at all necessary to either singleplayer or co-op in the open-world base-building survival sandbox, they do push against the limits of fairness. $10 to buy a second character slot, for instance, or $2 for a one-day temporary boost to the points required to level your guy up. And this is in a game that costs $40/£35 upfront. Read the rest of this entry »

How Doki Doki Literature Club’s subversive satire explores the power of visual novels

What if your favorite game got removed from Steam, but nobody seemed to notice? That’s what happened to Muv-Luv Alternative, a nigh-hundred-hour visual novel from Japanese developers Age that some have called the magnum opus of the genre. It’s currently the highest-rated title on the Visual Novel Database, barely eclipsing the better-known Steins;Gate. But in January, the censored non-18+ version of the game disappeared from the Steam storefront without explanation, with members of the development team apparently scrambling to get it back up, using the discussion board to document their progress, or lack thereof. Very few sites reported the news, and understandably so: according to SteamSpy, this hyper-niche game with its adoring fanbase has sold just shy of 10,000 copies on Steam, roughly half of its predecessor.

Meanwhile, a newcomer to the genre, that broke many of the rules that epics like Muv-Luv follow, was reaching millions of people. This is the story of Doki Doki Literature Club.

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How small game makers found their community with Bitsy

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A year ago Bitsy released on itch.io – a humble game making tool described by its creator as a “little editor for little games or worlds”. Since its release, more than 600 games have been made using the tool by 300 different authors.

On the surface Bitsy is an unassuming engine. It lets you create small pixel-art rooms that players can explore by interacting with the people and objects within them. Its simplicity hides a surprising depth, one that has drawn in a community of game makers. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Lego Racers 2?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

I was never really into Lego as a kid, but I was sure as hell into Lego Racers 2. It was the first open world game I played, which sent me on a tour across rich, varied lands long before I’d do the same in the likes of Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect. Ok, so maybe those worlds weren’t quite as detailed: but once you beat the boss of the dinosaur one your car would start leaving fire trails behind it, and that counts for a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

The Flare Path: Waives and Waves

All that needs to be said about the tragicomic Flight Sim Labs affair has been said several times over. I could add my tuts to the tut heap or write something confessional about the handful of times I’ve found myself mingling with pirates and cracksmen, but I think I’d rather devote today’s FP to sky sailing and semaphore signals, BoBing wargame makers and bobbing whalegame players. Read the rest of this entry »

Best PC gaming deals of the week

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This week is a fun one. Not only because I get to briefly mention Tex Murphy again in an article (though, admittedly, that is a fairly big factor) but because the deals have been plentiful. Onto Tex Murphy business though – you can get Tex Murphy cheap right now and you should, if you have a weak spot for film noir, adventure games or general silliness.

As usual, we’ve got deals that’ll work in the UK, deals that’ll work in the US and some deals that will work in both the UK and US, as well as presumably many other places. Let’s get started.

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We perhaps need a little bit more education: Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Discovery Tour

The announcement of the Discovery Tour was a source of much rejoicing. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games have for many years built these extraordinarily detailed cities, that are swiftly disposed of as the series’ annual development cycle demands fresh urban grist for the mill. The recreation of Ptolemaic Egypt was by far Ubisoft’s most remarkable, and the idea of using it as an educational tool, a living museum of sorts, was well received.

In practice, Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt (to give it its given name) is a peculiar thing, made with much ambition, but seemingly little understanding of how education actually works. Read the rest of this entry »

Metal Gear Survive is wild, irritating, thrilling, familiar and incomparable

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The obvious worry for a Kojima-less Metal Gear, even before it staggered into well-worn zombie survival territory, was that there was no way it could be anything like as off-the-chain ridiculous as a true Hideo joint. I think that’s true whether you’re one of those who considers him to be the auteur’s auteur or one of those who reckon his stories are equivalent of giving an 11-year-old infinite money to play with.

Funny thing about the newly-released Metal Gear Survive though, based on around a day in its dusty deathscapes: ‘ridiculous’ is very much the operative term. It’s just that it’s a very different kind of absurdity to Metal Gears past.

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Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition: all your PC port questions answered

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The royal boyband roadtrip adventure that is Final Fantasy XV is almost here. In just under two weeks, Square Enix’s ginormous JRPG will finally arrive on PC, a little over a year after it first came out on console. Yes, it gets a little bit bogged down by its wonky story beats, but to dismiss it because of that would be to ignore all the brilliant things it does right, like chronicling your journey with amazing photographs. It also helps that the PC version looks properly brilliant. Yes, you’ll need an Iron Giant-sized PC in order to run it, but more thoughts on that are coming separately soon.

Here, I have a talk with the game’s technical director and lead programmer Takeshi Aramaki and game design and development manager Kenichi Shida (and their translator) about all things XV on PC. We cover just about everything but if you’re after hot mod chat that’s over here. There was also a surprise gatecrashing by the game’s director, Hajime Tabata, about ten minutes in, so I got to hear what the big boss had to say about the PC version as well. Let the battle music commence. Read the rest of this entry »

The rise and rise of .io games

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19-year-old Brazilian developer Matheus Valadares announced his game Agar.io on 4chan on April 27th 2015. Within weeks it had been picked up by free online games site Miniclip, as well as popular Twitch streamers and YouTubers. In a May 2015 video with 8.2 million views, PewDiePie called it his “new favourite game,” and he subsequently covered it at least nine more times.

Agar.io quickly became so popular that a genre was born. Despite not having any formal connection, the “.io” domain extension has become synonymous with an extremely popular segment of browser multiplayer games, characterised by simple graphics and player vs. player mechanics. Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: What counts as a JRPG?

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You’d think we could agree on four simple letters. But nothing is ever straightforward on RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. This week the gang are talking JRPGs, or Japanese role-playing games to use some real words for human people. Does a game have to be made in Japan to be defined as an JRPG? Or does it just need some bright colours and lots of turn-based battles? Maybe it only needs a boss behind a boss (and then another boss behind that one)? Come with us into the petty world of the genre bouncer, as we examine the shoes of dozens of games and decide whether or not they’re allowed into the JRPG nightclub.

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Have You Played… Mr T’s Alphabet Games?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Sorry to disappoint you, but Mr T’s Alphabet Games did not feature the gold-encrusted hero of the A-Team, teaching you how to navigate the letters A, B and C between messages of assertiveness and respect. No, it was an educational game for the BBC Micro, in which the manifestation of the alphabetic character ‘T’ guided you through a quagmire of basic English. One day my mother discovered me, a five-year-old with a passion for self-destruction, in front of this game. I was screaming as loud as humanly possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Kingdom Come Deliverance: a guide to lockpicking

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The Middle Ages was no picnic. No wonder that, in so many RPGs, you tend to nick everything that hasn’t been nailed down – anything to give you an edge over the harsh environment. Every true hero naturally includes lockpicking and maybe even pickpocketing as part of their repertoire – you don’t save the world without first breaking a few locks. (Also, heads.) Despite its more grounded world and its more mundane protagonist, when it comes to stealing, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is really no different.

As you might expect, the game’s most valuable items are usually stored behind locked doors or in secure chests, with complex locking mechanisms barring your way. That’s why the Lockpicking skill is one of the most essential in the game. It doesn’t matter if you want to get equipment, food or other treasures – they can all be locked away from prying eyes.

Therefore, this article reveals everything you need to know about lockpicking. We’ll start with the lockpick itself, the most vital tool of every master thief. Then we’ll introduce you to the skill and its various upgrades. After that, some advice on how to overcome locks more easily, and how not to get caught while doing so. Read the rest of this entry »

Kingdom Come Deliverance: walkthrough, tips and tricks

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an atypical roleplaying game even putting the lack of supernatural creatures aside. There’s a greater focus on simulation, and a much steeper learning curve – getting into it is not easy or overly intuitive, especially compared to the the majority of games that tend to lead you by the hand. Explanations for Kingdom Come’s various systems are particularly hard to come by, so if you’d rather not bash your head (and indeed your lockpicks) against every secured door you see, then take a seat, pour yourself a Saviour Schnapps, and have a gander at our in-progress guide to the game.

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Kingdom Come Deliverance: side quests

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Kingdom Come Deliverance: The Good Thief

This will likely be the first side quest you come across, unless you flee from Rattay immediately after waking up there. Once you’ve finished the intro and gathered your things, go and talk to Miller Peshek, who will give you this multi-part quest.

It seems you’ve racked up quite the debt by lying unconscious in his mill the past two weeks, which doesn’t exactly seem fair, but then it is the Middle Ages. Peshek wants you to repay the money he’s had to spend on herbalist appointments and whatnot, and if you want to be debt-free in 1403, you should get Peshek off your back ASAP. Unfortunately, the actions the miller requires of you are not exactly… savoury. Read the rest of this entry »

Has No Man’s Sky been improved by its updates?

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Update Night is a fortnightly column in which Rich McCormick revisits games to find out whether they’ve been changed for better or worse.

I died fifty times before I felt the hand of god.

Trapped on an unbearably hot world in No Man’s Sky’s survival mode, I died to the teeth of a stubby legged Tyrannosaur. I died to a roving band of sentinel robots, upset that I dared to plunder their planet for ore and isotopes. I died during blazing storms, the already extreme temperature ratcheting up to 300 degrees celsius, and cooking me alive in my space suit. Most often, I simply died from exposure as my suit’s life support drained away and left me without any oxygen to breathe.

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