A retrospective of Unreal, from the people who made it

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Unreal turned 20 years old this month. The extraterrestrial first-person shooter spawned (and showcased) a game engine whose descendants still motor on today. To commemorate all those screaming prisoners and innocent alien creatures killed at the hands of jumpy players, I got in touch with a handful of the original team and asked them to share their memories of making the first Skaarj conflict. This is how Unreal was made, from the perspective of the programmers, designers, artists and musicians who were there. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: 10 Vampyr tips to prevent an undead apocalypse

Sucks to be you, pal.

I was going to call this article ‘10 Vampyr tips to stop you sucking at sucking’, but this doesn’t reflect my experience with the game. As you’ll have read in Alec’s delightful Vampyr review, the act of drinking blood is a wicked temptation. It’s the quickest way to slurp up XP and lower the combat difficulty, but comes at the cost of depopulating the world of potential stories and causing regions of the map to sink into enemy-infested chaos. It’s better to stretch your non-slurped XP as far as possible then, so I’m offering advice about surviving with as few necks bitten as possible.

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Wot I Think: Vampyr

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“Forget everything you think you know about vampires,” the noblewoman in period dress tells me, in her straight-out-of-Hammer cut-glass accent. This was during our latest night-time meeting (for we cannot walk in sunlight), shortly after I’d caught her secretly sinking her teeth into the necks of the dispossessed, and shortly before I’d been beset by agony upon trying to enter a church. I don’t know what foolish notions her ladyship thought I had about my new status as a fellow vamp – maybe that they all have Welsh accents, or drink blood via their toenails – but ambitious, atmospheric fangs ‘n’ conversation game Vampyr doesn’t often veer far from the current neck-biter hymn sheet.

It sure does veer in almost every other respect, mind you. I’m not sure that 2018 will yield many games quite as expansive as Vampyr, but what I wouldn’t give for a director’s cut that oiled its creakiest coffin hinges.
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Video: Watch dino fights and raptor escapes in Jurassic World Evolution

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Remember the bit in Jurassic Park where John Hammond airlifts a live Ceratosaurus into the food court? No? That’s because it didn’t happen, which was a huge failing of imagination on Spielberg’s part. Hammond was all about show business, after all, and business doesn’t come showier than a dinosaur eating tourists as they exit a burger joint. Obviously, the makers of Jurassic World Evolution don’t encourage you to feed guests to the ‘talent’ – it makes for a doozy of a TripAdvisor write up – but that it’s done with just three mouse clicks suggests they know exactly what they are making.

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BattleTech devs talk slowness, mods and what to expect from the next update

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I’ve been on something of an emotional journey with Harebrained Schemes’ turn-based mech combat game, BattleTech. I was turned off by its unusually slow animation speeds and drawn-out wars of attrition during my first dozen-odd hours of play, but a combination of speed-up mods and deepening understanding of rules the game itself did not take the time to explain saw me fall ever-deeper in love with it. Many people, especially fans of its tabletop source material, adored BattleTech from the get-go, but others expressed similar concerns to me about its pacing – and soon enough the developers announced that their forthcoming first major update would offer new, official speed-tweaking options.

So, I bounced a few questions off BattleTech game director Mike McCain and ended up with some candid answers about exactly what we can expect from those options, the original design intentions behind the game’s languid pace, how the team feel about it being altered by mods and why they’d “love to improve on” how BattleTech currently explains how to best take down a giant killing machine.
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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for maaaaybe going to the UK board games expo. I’m writing this from the past, so I hope future me is happy with whatever decision he made.

For PCGamesN, Jake Tucker wrote up the story of how his twitch stream got ambushed by fans of an unpleasant ‘influencer’ known as Dr DisRespect. It’s a reminder of how awful some folk on the internet can be, but the best part is about how not all of those fans were there to hurl abuse. Reading it has changed my impression of how homogeneously hateful the followers of certain streamer types are, at the same time as vindicating my existing assumptions about a large percentage of them. Read the rest of this entry »

Free games of the week

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This week, you can sell junk at a magical yard sale, play as zombies in a take on dodgeball, or become a pigeon flying high above the sky. If being a bird or fighting zombies aren’t things you are interested in doing, maybe you’d rather take on a beautiful platformer on an alien planet, or steal all of the town’s loot with your magical sack. This week’s free games are full of fun worlds to explore. Read the rest of this entry »

What are we all playing this weekend?

Has E3 started? Maybe E3 has started. The games industry’s marketing megablast unofficially begins earlier and runs longer every year, and if the announcement of Rage 2 in mid-May wasn’t the start, Ubisoft confirming Assassin’s Creed Odyssey after word of the game leaked via some promo tat surely was. Expect more leaks, teasers, rumours, and daftness as we lead up to the official start of the unofficial start with publishers’ press conferences next weekend. It’s a hectic time of year for me but ah, I do half-enjoy seeing what my brain does when it breaks over a seemingly endless week of ludicrous hours. Full of surprises, that skullful of slop.

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

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Being a bad dad in Crusader Kings The Board Game

Crusader Kings

It didn’t take long for the deals to start flying across the table. We hovered over the weathered map of medieval Europe, shouting out offers and threats between excursions to the Holy Land. There were marriage proposals, bribes and even an assassination plot or two. Like its PC progenitor, Crusader Kings The Board Game has a knack for generating stories, but it does it in a couple of hours, not a couple of days.

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Unknown Pleasures: Ten new games you could play

Rap won't save you.

Hello and welcome to the source of all digital joy. It is, of course, Unknown Pleasures, where you can find some good games you may not have heard about.

Screeching a colourful stream of profanity this week: memory divers, demonic invasions, and solving a murder by killing hundreds of other people. Oh, games.

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Wot I Think: Moonlighter

It took a little while to get going, but goodness me I’m hooked on Moonlighter now. Take a good dose of rogue-lite action-RPG, add in permanence of equipment, and then delicately smother in a shopkeeping sim. It’s a game about raiding dungeons at night, then working in the days to sell the loot from your store. Read the rest of this entry »

Best gaming SSD 2018: Top SATA and NVMe drives for your PC

Best SSDs 2018

Buying an SSD can be hellish when there are so many models to choose from that all quote exactly the same read and write speeds as everyone else, which is why we’re here to help you in your quest to find the best gaming SSD for you and your budget. Simply put, you need an SSD. Mechanical hard disks (HDDs) are fine for storing lots of games and photos, but let’s face it, they’re pretty slow. With an SSD, on the other hand, the jump in speed will make Windows load in seconds, programs open in a snap and cut game loading times to ribbons.

So if terms like SATA and NVMe this and M.2 and PCIe that make your head spin, you’re in the right place, as below you’ll find all of our current top picks for gaming, as well as in-depth buying advice on how to pick your next SSD. Now that I’ve had the WD Black 3D NVMe SSD in for review as well, I’ve updated this list to reflect what’s changed in our current rankings. Whether it’s for gaming, general performance or the fastest speeds money can buy, we’ve got you covered.

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The Flare Path: Gongs and Gripes

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Although Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord doesn’t do medals, The Flare Path does. If you’ve been following the fortunes of Caent’s doughty defenders for the past three weeks, you may be interested to learn that a) the scenario used is now available for download, and b) several units involved in the action were decorated for their efforts.

(This week’s FP also includes some impressions of 303 Squadron: Battle of Britain, an Early Access air combat game that’s more Defiant than Spitfire at the moment.)

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Best PC gaming deals of the week

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This week’s batch of deals includes, but isn’t limited to, a big discount on Dragon Ball FighterZ. That would explain the gratuitous use of a Vegeta image just above this very text. At least that’s the reasoning I’m using. Other than that, there’s also discounts on everything from graphics cards to Frostpunk and even another chance to pick up Sleeping Dogs for less than the price of a Brighton coffee.

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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Shadow of War’s captain Baranor stands out by fitting in

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Warad, a child from the southern lands of Middle-Earth, is taken from his family and sent north as a hostage of peace. Adopted by one of the principal families of the country, he takes on a new name — Baranor — and rises through the ranks of the Gondorian army to become second-in-command of one of its principal fortresses. One of the few men capable of keeping the forces of darkness at bay. With that background, you’d be forgiven for believing that Baranor is the main character of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. He isn’t, initially. He’s a prominent NPC in the campaign (even fighting alongside you in some missions), a player skin, and finally, in DLC campaign Desolation of Mordor, he’s the starring character.

This growth is impressive, not just because he’s a cool character, but because Baranor is a playable black man. Someone who, in many other fantasy games, wouldn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »

Best gaming monitor 2018: Top 1080p, 1440p and 4K HDR displays

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When it comes to upgrading our PCs, we so often forget that one of the most important parts of our system is the big black box sitting right in front of us, which is why we’re here to help you find the best gaming monitor to suit your needs and budget. Let’s face it – buying a new monitor is hard. It’s one thing to look at the specs, but trying to judge whether that screen actually produces a good picture or not is nigh on impossible to do from the comfort of your own home.

Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you, as below you’ll find a list of all our top recommendations across a multitude of different screen sizes and resolutions. Tried and tested at Castle Shotgun itself, the only monitors you’ll find here are the ones we’ve had sat in front of our own eyeballs and measured with our trusty X-Rite Display i1 Pro calibrator. Naturally, this means we’ll be updating this list as and when new gaming monitors come in that we think deserve a place on our coveted hot list. Case in point: BenQ’s new EW277HDR, which sits newly-crowned as our best 27in 1080p monitor.

We’ll also take you through everything you need to know about screen sizes, resolutions, refresh rates, panel types, inputs and adjustable stands. By the time you’re done here, you’ll be fully equipped to find the best gaming monitor for you. Let’s begin!

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Corsair HS70 Wireless review: My new favourite wireless gaming headset

Corsair HS70 Wireless

PCs are a messy business. Most of us have wires up the wazoo, and probably not an insignificant number of knots and snarled cables to go with them. Problem is, not many of us are willing to forgo the speed and reassurance that comes from having a wired set of peripherals – except, that is, when it comes to our headsets. Life is so much better when you’re not getting throttled as you desperately try and untangle yourself from your wider pool of leads and flexes when you need to answer the doorbell or go downstairs for dinner, but good grief wireless headsets do cost a lot of money, don’t they?

Fortunately, Corsair have taken note, as their brand-new HS70 Wireless headset has finally arrived for just £100/$109. That’s a heck of a lot more appealing than the £140/$160 demanded by HyperX’s Cloud Flight and even the £130/$150 you’ll need to spend on the excellent Steelseries Arctis 7. Corsair hasn’t skimped on features, either, as you’re still getting virtual 7.1 surround sound and up to 16 hours of uninterrupted play time. Can it break into our best gaming headset rankings? Let’s find out.

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Wot I Think: Cultist Simulator

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In my time with Cultist Simulator, I’ve browsed hidden book shops for arcane grimoires, sent loyal acolytes on doomed expeditions, and felled nosy investigators with poisoned tea. I’ve been reduced to begging in the street for opium money, and I’ve sacrificed followers with antique daggers in secret rites to restore my vitality. Weather Factory’s first outing is what I imagine playing solitaire with Necronomicon pages might feel like, if those pages then formed a map to the location of a much older, much more cryptic tome that made the Necronomicon look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Read the rest of this entry »

Overlordy: Turn 20

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When it comes to scenario durations, CMBO is as pedantic as a parks department pedalo führer. Unlike its successors, it always halts battles at precisely the advertised time. Overlordy will have no false dawns… no painfully extended death rattle. The defence of Caent will end in exactly sixty seconds’ time.

(Overlordy is a 20-turn open-to-all game of Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord in which German forces are orchestrated by commenters while British units are computer controlled. For a scenario outline and summaries of earlier turns, click here). Read the rest of this entry »