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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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I'm getting pretty burned-out on remastered vintage videogames, partly because they're ten-a-penny now and partly because PC graphics settings and mods mean it's often straightforward to make a golden oldie look better than ever. There's one notable exception to that for me, which is Elder Scrolls series peak Morrowind. Its spindly world of shroom'n'insects'n'ash'n'gonzo weirdness is seared onto my memory forever, but in 2018 it has neither the remarkably fresh stylisation of proto-3D like Quake or the just-about-getting-away-with-it Xbox 360 era. I love its look, but I have to play it with mods, to overcome the likes of draw distance limits and smeary character models. I'd love a remaster that kept the fundamentals but loosened up the limitations. Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard thinks differently: "for something like Morrowind, my personal preference is not to remaster it." Dagnabbit!

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Grand Theft Auto IV's fallen nightclub king Anthony "Gay Tony" Prince will return to help players run nightclubs in GTA Online, reveals a new trailer for the upcoming 'After Hours' free content update. That'll launch on July 24th, Rockstar announced today. Tony is coming to the west coast to help us lowly criminals start clubs, recruit talent, and get into explosive japes which honestly seem quite secondary to the business of playing songs for people to dance to. Today's trailer makes club missions look fairly story-focused, more like the ace Doomsday Heist than other businesses, and I hope that's true. Watch it below.

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Feature: Partial Recall

Far Cry 5 – Lost On Mars review

Far Cry 5 continues Ubisoft's on-paper rather charming habit of adding DLC to its games that completely transforms them into something else. Vietnam-themed Hours Of Darkness rather passed us by, but Lost On Mars joined us last week so I thought I'd take a look. It's... it's really bloody awful.

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Fish! Turtles! Dolphins! Tridents! All these and more washed ashore in Minecraft's Update Aquatic last week, but only for the Windows 10 version. Those salty friends have now appeared on the Java client, along with underwater ruins, shipwrecks and a special block that makes everything near it behave as if it was on dry land. I went for an underwater wander this morning. The developers have told everyone not to try annoying the dolphins, so naturally that's the first thing I set out to do.

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Feature: My personal torment

My, er, friend is finding To Hell With Hell rather difficult

A question for you: What should one do when one is reviewing a game, but it's far, far too hard for one to get anywhere in? I'm asking for a friend. A friend who's reviewing the early access for To Hell With Hell (THWH), a pixelly bullet hell roguelite that's tough as really bloody tough nails.

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Magic, vampires, and frogs are among the mysteries, dangers, and opportunities for pashing added to Reigns: Her Majesty in a free expansion yesterday. The 'Transformation Update' has brought 200 new cards to the reginal RPG, which draw in three new characters and potentially lead to five new deaths. The game's on sale to celebrate the launch too. And if frenching a frog gets me killed, so it goes.

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The next update for A Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia will introduce an 'Allegiance' system, similar to Culture in Total War: Rome II and Religion in Twattila, and Throners can now test it out in a public beta build. The whole idea of the Total War Saga subseries is to streamline and refocus but developers The Creative Assembly concede that some changes left notable gaps in their first Saga. So, for starters, here comes Allegiance to make people say "Obviously we should burn the monarchy before it takes root but I will say this fella's a good egg", with kick-on effects for politics and provinces in the historical strategy game.

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Round Christmastime, it's a tradition in my family to play Don't Wake The Dreamer by tiptoeing around an uncle sleeping off the sherry in an armchair. You don't want to know what happens when the Dreamer awakens. Perhaps inspired by this, as well as the stories of a hippy named Happy Lovecraft who was obsessed with higher powers in the stars, Cyanide Studio will deliver a similar game in time for the year's actual best celebration, Halloween. Their investigate-o-RPG Call Of Cthulhu will launch on October 30th, they announced yesterday. Be careful when navigating the rustling maze of Cadbury Heroes wrappers around Cthulhu's feet.

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Strategic card-collector Faeria made the jump today from free-to-play to a far less chance-driven model. Gone are booster packs or chests bought with real money - now you just buy the game outright and progressively unlock cards as you gain levels. Our resident wizard Brendan quite liked Faeria when he reviewed it last year, listing pacing issues and its free-to-play progression as its main flaws. As of today, at least one of those is no longer a problem.

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Feature: A pinball platformer

How a cup of coffee saved Yoku’s Island Express

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the difficult journeys they’ve taken to make their games. This time, Yoku’s Island Express [official site].

It wasn’t as if the tester was having a bad time. He was a pinball fan, after all. It’s just that every time he tried to reach for his coffee, the intensity of the game he was testing kept pulling his hand back to the controller. Half an hour later, he finished playing, picked up his cold coffee, and said he’d enjoyed the game. As he contentedly walked away, he couldn’t know that he’d brought about a turning point for its developers, who turned to each other and said, ”Did you see what happened there? This is not the game we want to make, right?”

This was the moment that made Villa Gorilla realise their game had lost its way, the moment that led to the game’s transformation into the smart and charming Yoku’s Island Express, a game that mixes platformers, adventuring in a freely explorable world, and pinball.

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Over the past several weeks I have sent a lot of interesting people who work in the games industry an email containing the following scenario:

"You enter a room. The door locks behind you. From a door opposite another you enters. This other you is a perfectly identical clone, created in the exact instant you entered the room, but as every second ticks by they are creating their own distinct personhood. The doors will unlock in 90 minutes. Nobody will ever know what happens in the room. What do you do? (assume the materials you need for whatever you want to do are in the room). Please show your working, if able."

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Though the Battle For Azeroth doesn't begin until August, distant drums can be heard beating for World Of Warcraft's next expansion. Blizzard this week launched the 'Battle for Azeroth Pre-Patch', a big update adding many new features in preparation for war. And to draw more recruits, Blizzard have revamped the MMO's pricing by removing the need to buy the base game. Subscriptions now include the base game and every current expansion, though Battle For Azeroth will still be sold as an add-on for cashola when it arrives.

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Exapunks is the next game from prolific puzzle-meister Zach Barth and his little studio Zachtronics, creators of the likes of Opus Magnum, Infinifactory and Spacechem. Set in an alternate 1997, Exapunks is about cyberpunk hacking, programming viruses called EXAs (EXecution Agents) to carry out your will, whether that's tweaking a game on an alt-history Game Boy or robbing a bank. It's hitting early access on August 21st.

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After its disastrous launch on July 10th, developers Xaviant have announced they intend to pull The Culling 2 from sale, refunding those who purchased it. In a very awkward and apologetic video (which you can see below), Xaviant's director of operations John Van Veld announced the studio's plans to cull their ill-fated sequel, and return to supporting the Hunger Games-inspired The Culling once more.

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Feature: 21 years older, 21 years wiser?

Video: Two Point Hospital isn’t just Theme Hospital 2

After three hours with Two Point Hospital I see similarities with Jurassic World Evolution. Okay, Frontier’s game sees you putting more people in hospital than getting them out the door, but it’s a similarly welcoming management game. You can read that as simplified and slow (as Fraser did in his Jurassic World review), but as an abysmal multitasker I appreciated a campaign that drip-fed ideas that could later stretch their legs in sandbox mode. Two Point Hospital’s career is similar in the way each new site introduces a wrinkle to keep you on your toes, and is one area where it clearly steps up from 1997’s Theme Hospital. The other areas? Why, they would be handily condensed in a video feature.

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Feature: A 24in 1920x1080 gaming monitor that's hard to beat

Acer Predator XB241H review: G-Sync and 180Hz goodness

After testing what seems like 387,001 monitors with AMD FreeSync support, I've finally got another honest-to-goodness Nvidia G-Sync one on my desk today, the Acer Predator XB241H - and boy, it's a good 'un. Part of Acer's XB1 range, this particular incarnation is the 24in, 1920x1080, TN model. It also comes as a 24in, 2560x1440 jobber and several different permutations with 27in, 28in and 32in screen sizes, but the main attraction of this particular string of letters and numbers is its lovely 144Hz refresh rate that can be overclocked up to a massive 180Hz for ultra-high frame rate gaming.

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Authentically old-school FPS Ion Maiden will feel just that little bit more retro when it arrives, as it's slipped to launching in "early 2019" according to developers Voidpoint and publisher 3D Realms. On the plus side, the game will now include multiplayer at launch.

The Build-based spinoff from 3D Realms's ill-fated Bombshell impressed both myself and John when it bombed its way into early access a few months back, which makes the extended wait all the harder.

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Feature: The endless march of time

The bestest and most top PC games of 2018 so far

We're just about halfway through 2018 (which has somehow taken both too long and no time at all). As is tradition, we've shaken our our brains around to see which games from the last six months still make our neurons fizzle with delight. Then we wrote about them here, in this big list feature that you're reading right now this second.

And what games they are! 2018 has been a great year so far, and our top picks run the whole range, from hand drawn oddities made by one person, to big mega-studio blockbusters that took the work of hundreds. And each of them is special to us in some way. Just like you are too. Click through the arrows to see the full spread of our faves so far. Better luck next year to the games that didn't make the cut this time.

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Feature: Special operations

Rainbow Six Siege operators: who to pick and which is best

After 3 years of updates, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege has 40 operators - the game's classes - to choose from. That's 20 attackers and 20 defenders, each with their own skills, gadgets and weapons for you to get your head around. This guide will go through them in their entirety, as well as making recommendations about whether or not to use them.

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Feature: Getting back into the fray

Rainbow Six Siege guide: tips and tricks to win matches

With over three years worth of additions and balance changes since its launch, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege could be quite the daunting game to get into for new and returning players. So to get you up to speed, this guide has been prepared with sections dedicated to ensuring you're playing optimally and know some of the more basic tactics that can be utilised going into each game. There are also some important things to know when specifically playing as the attacking team or defending team, as well as more in-depth stuff on each operator and the specific maps being added as the game continues its long run.

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"Will it run Crysis?" was an oft-expressed anxiety of mid-noughties PC gaming, but here in the chaotic end-times of 2018 we're faced with a new one: "Crysis can't run Crysis." Come October, there'll be no more multiplayer nanosuit shenanigans: Crytek are shutting the online component of Crysis down, apparently because the playerbase is just too dang small to make life support worthwhile. Singleplayer isn't going anywhere, you'll be glad to hear, but still: it's sad when something dies.

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Wrecking Ball will have spent 26 days rolling around the public test server by the time he's out, but everyone's favourite mecha death hamster is ready swing into Overwatch proper next week. On Tuesday July 24th, to be precise. That's it, I've done the news. Click through to see a cute announcement mini-vid from Blizzard, and me tut at myself for playing a silly amount of deathmatch mode recently rather than the actual game.

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Get out yer skinny tie, bald barcode boy. You’re going to Morocco for a two-week holiday. Hitman developers IO Interactive are letting folks download the third level of their innocent waiter simulator as a free trial. The 'Hitman Summer Pack' they call it. That’s nice. But it's only temporary, unlike previous free episodes which we were allowed to download for keepsies. The trial will last until until July 31 whereupon the whole episode will disappear from your library again and dissolve into a nearby crowd. Still, a two week murdercation in North Africa isn't bad. It’s also the best level from Hitman, and don’t let those sordid Sapienza lovers tell you otherwise.

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Your stag & hen weekend tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will have to wait, as Fear The Wolves isn't ready yet. The battle royale FPS from Survarium devs (and virtuaChernobyl veterans) Vostok Games was due to launch today but Vostok and publishers Focus Home Interactive announced only last night that the game needs more time. Sounds like testers have grumbled about too many technical problems for it to launch in its current state. The early access launch is now pushed back "a few weeks" to an unstated time later this summer.

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Some motherboards go in all for LEDS; others, like Asus' TUF motherboards, opt for a more rugged, industrial kind of look – which can make buying RAM for the latter a bit of a nightmare if you can't stand the idea of blinking rainbows or, heaven forbid, even the smallest dash of colour interfering with your PC's serious military vibe. Well, today I bring good news, TUF owners, as Asus have struck an armour-plated accord with Ballistix (who are part of storage and RAM giant Crucial) to create special TUF-themed RAM modules that will slot straight into your PC like a squad of camouflaged marines. I give you the Ballistix Sport AT.

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Hello! Why yes, something has changed - thank you for noticing. We're so excited to finally show you our new-look website. RPS's design hasn't changed much over the past five years, and in the five years before that it never received much more than an occasional nip and tuck. The result was a website design that we loved like an old friend, but which didn't reflect all that RPS - and PC games - have become. We needed a fresh start, so we made a list of all the things that mattered to us and went to work. We hope you like what we've made for you.

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Aliens have invaded - what's your your first weapon of choice? Laser gun? Nukes? Mugsters posits that an ice-cream truck will do the job. It's a vehicular action-puzzler by solo indie dev Reinkout and published by Team 17. I've been following development of this one ever since I saw some animated GIFs of it on the developer's Twitter feed. Why? Because it looks like N64 classic Blast Corps mashed up with a little Grand Theft Auto and maybe a dash of Body Harvest (for anyone that remembers that), so is entirely my jam. It's also out today.

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Jeff Minter of tiny indie outfit Llamasoft is back and hasn't changed a bit, if Tempest 4000's launch today is any indication. Take the 1981 vector-graphics arcade shooter Tempest, and pile on the psychedelic laser effects, pumping '90s techno music and weird Welsh humour until comfortably numb. It is almost excessively retro, very loud and is out now.

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Premature Evaluation is the weekly column in which we explore the wilds of early access. This week, Fraser’s been kicked off the HMS Horace and left stranded on Seeds of Resilience’s deserted island. He’s found a new job though: managing a colony of fellow castaways. Probably more game journalists. The sea’s lousy with them. I’ve been staring at the mostly static screen - an island with trees and rocks and not much else - for long enough that the ice in my drink has melted, and I’m still no closer picking tasks for my pitiful band of shipwreck survivors. I’ve lost count of the amount of hemp and wood and fish I’ve sent them to collect, and the thought of starting what feels like the same day all over again is just a bit too much. If I plant one more tomato, I’ll snap. I know I will. Starvation and natural disasters are minor threats compared to the tedium of living on a deserted island.

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Feature: A solid and tense card-battler, but not even slightly insane

Insane Robots review

Insane Robots is a hybrid card game/roguelite that truly believes it's wacky and zany and kerrayzee, in the manner of a middle-aged insurance salesman who kicks back by wearing a t-shirt reading "I'm bonkers, me!" while manning his six-burner gas barbecue with temperature gauge, modular hotplate and removable drip tray. Just don't make eye contact, yeah? It is, however, an entirely proficient game of turn-based hitpoint-nobbling, with a simmering sense of dilemma about whether to attack, defend or defuse. The escalating lethal frenzies of Slay The Spire it is not, but rather a series of frighteningly equally-matched battles, with nice sideline in bluff and gamble.

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