XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

The first time I read The Hobbit, I was 11 and I was fascinated by it. The year after that I got my very own copy of The Lord of the Rings. It was Easter so I had a whole week of holidays on the countryside at my grandparent’s. I took the books with me, climbed a big olive tree and read the 3 volumes without stopping. I almost gave up eating or sleeping, I just went through the whole thing without the ability to raise my eyes from the page. After I finished I sat there for some minutes looking into the horizon. Then I took book 1 and started reading again.

XCOM is my Lord of the Rings of gaming. It is the game that made me be the gamer I am, bad at FPSs, horrible at RPGs and uninterested in real time, lootfests, MMOs or sports games. I think it is easy then to understand why for me this is a very difficult review to write. The problem is that no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot get perspective on the subject. I am an XCOM fan and I feel about it in a very emotional way.

I am still going to try. But I warn you, this could get ugly. And long.

A new hope

Let’s get through some basic facts first. For starters, it is important to remind you what we are talking about here. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the 2012 remake by Firaxis of the 1994 game UFO: Enemy Unknown (or XCOM in the US). Firaxis got the original name rights from a long chain of sales since the demise of Microprose. Some years later, in 2010 they decided to launch a turn based strategy game that would “reboot” the franchise. They intended to also release on the consoles as a turn based game.

Best game ever

All this is well and good and has happened before to other franchises. The problem is that as it happens, UFO: Enemy Unknown is the best game of all time. So Firaxis was saying that they could pull off taking the Mona Lisa, painting over it and making it better.

The lead designer of Firaxis for the XCOM project spent a lot of energy trying to explain to all the old and grumpy XCOM fans (i.e. me) that he too was an old and grumpy XCOM fan. And that he intended to respect and cherish the heritage. There is a very dramatic video where he says he’s going to keep “Everything” from the original XCOM design. But we all know that they always say that and we all know that it’s never true.

Not the best game ever

However, as the marketing campaign for XCOM started releasing information, they showed that at the very least they had put money into the project. XCOM would have nice graphics, good music and decent production values. Someone was betting money on the theory that there was still a good game in the old design and furthermore, a game that could sell. That was a relief and made me hope for something realtimeish with maybe one or two of the old aliens. But then they said it’d be turn based. And with two layers. And it’d have a story. And I grew… curious.

I followed the news until I saw the first gameplay video. What I saw made me a believer. They really had done a 3d environment with a turn based squad tactics game. That was all I needed, so I closed the video, preordered the game and went into information blackout mode. I did not want to know anything more. XCOM has to be played in the dark, at least the first time. This was roughly 3 months ago, when I let myself start hoping.

Hopes versus reality

So how did I feel when I finally unlocked the predownloaded version of 2012 XCOM? It reminded me the feelings that I had when I was waiting in line to enter the cinema for the first Lord of the Rings movie: Total fear and terror. They were going to ruin it, I was totally sure. They were going to take my childhood memory and make a farce out of it. It’d be like the Phantom Menace or maybe even worse. I just did not see how they could do justice to the game.

After 22 hours of gameplay I can stop to write this review and say that I really like the new XCOM. It manages to pull off an incredible feat. It takes most of the good stuff from XCOM and it makes it cool, really cool. So cool in fact that I think in some small parts, this game is (gasp!) even better than the original.

XCOM (old and new) is a two layer game. On one side we have the strategic level. In this area we fight a real timeish strategy war against the alien invasion of the Earth. Your task is to develop an organization that is capable of protecting the countries in the XCOM organization. As the aliens attack using UFOs, this implies detecting the UFOs, shooting them down and hunting down the aliens whenever they touch the ground. When aliens land, they have a tendency to terrorize, abduct and destroy anything they find, so your war is not going to be fought just on the air but also on the battlefield.

XCOM cleverly hides it's main base under a kid's ant farm. They'll never find us there...

There is a very irrelevant mini game related to the air battles that is a direct carbon copy of the original. However, the real meat of the game is the land battles. This is the second side of XCOM and the main area of focus of the whole game. It is a turn based squad level combat game with 3D destructible environment.

Here comes the micromanager

The real genius of XCOM’s design is how tightly the tactical game is tied to the strategic. Because what you do in one game impacts on the other, you will start taking decisions according not only to the constraints of the situation you have in front of you, but also thinking about the other side of the game. For example, you will choose to risk stunning an alien instead of killing him during a tactical battle because it’ll help your strategic effort. Or you’ll prioritize development of a weapon that will help you on the field while you delay other strategic moves. There are many examples of these systems working in the XCOM design, but suffice it to say that they make the overall game much more tense and interesting.

In the original XCOM, this strong links came at the cost of micromanagement. You had to manage inventories of ammo, grenades, many types of weapons, arm every squaddie for every battle, manually pick up items from the field if you wanted them back… lots and lots of micromanaging.

The original tactical combat also did fall into bean counting sometimes. It was a time units based system with unit facing. It allowed lots of flexibility but it required a lot of numbers in your head.

While preparing the new game, Firaxis identified micromanaging as their enemy.

As a consequence, the new game has as little micromanaging as possible. And incredibly enough, it works. Research is straight forward. Manufacture is straight forward. There is no ammo in the game. You have an infinite number of basic weapons and ammo. The black market does not allow you to sell the stuff you build, so it is much simpler (and harder). When you fight, you instantly pick up all the stuff. The base inventory is straightforward and equipping your soldiers works most of the time.

Dumb and Dumber?

Hmmmm…. ok I know that so far it sounds like they are dumbing down a deep game for the console crowd. Well, yes and no. At it’s core, the strategic game is very similar to the old one. You have more limitations and more needs that you need to fulfill. It follows the overarching story arc’s script the same way as the old one but I’d say it is a little more difficult. I miss the geoscape’s total control of the first game, the multiple bases, the radar coverage woes and the night/day cycle impact on the battles. But on the other hand, the strategic game is now faster and more difficult. The big “money cheat” of the old game, the black market sales of manufactured weaponry is sadly now gone. So you’ll be in money trouble all the time. Overall, I’d say that the strategic level of the game is a resounding success.

The big shocker reveal is that 2012 XCOM’s tactical combat game is completely different from the old one. And it’s a shocker because Firaxis has tried to convince us of the contrary.

The combat turn is composed now of two actions. You can move twice, move and overwatch, move and shoot… it is easy to understand. The map has a grid overlay that did not exist in the old game and that shows you visually where the unit can go if it still wants to shoot or overwatch. It is pretty simple and makes the game much faster.

Pro tip: gasoline explodes

The new XCOM has discarded unit facing and that helps greatly with unit movement. The problem is that this has a big impact in flanking, the way fog of war works and has made stealthy tactics impossible. Additionally this time the aliens do not have a bigger range of vision than you. When you see them, they see you. That means that there are no more of the famous XCOM “shots from the fog that kill your commander without anything you can do about it”. In the old XCOM you could do many things apart from shooting. You could flank, you could use diversion tactics, noise was important and so was the day night cycle and it’s impact on visibility. You used to carry loads of flares to throw into the dark areas and then had to go pick them up from the ground and throw them again into the dark further ahead. All that is now gone. When you see them, they see you, they position themselves and off you go shooting and doing tactics under fire.

The flight of the bullet

Although I can nitpick about other some aspects of the new game’s tactical combat, there is only one thing that really nags me: The new game has no ballistics.

Let me explain: In old XCOM, a shot was traced from the muzzle of the gun until it touched its target. That meant that if you had some dispersion in your shot, the bullet might hit something before reaching it’s target. This had interesting consequences. For example, shooting at an alien standing behind your squad mate was very, very risky. Now it is no longer the case, the shot teleports into the square of the target and it may or may not hit, but it does not follow a realistic trajectory. As a side consequence, reconnaissance by fire is no longer possible, so you can no longer shoot at a wall to uncover the alien behind. Well, you actually can but only using the rocket launcher. Yet another nice tactic that is now gone.

See? No ballistics! See?

Why is this alien so angry?

So is the tactical game easier? Absolutely no. It is very hard, but more limited.

So how come that a game that has less tactical options than the original is so hard? If there are less possible strategies to choose from, then it’d seem easier to choose. Well, no. XCOM 2012 is hard as balls because 2012’s XCOM aliens are the stuff of nightmares.

The new game has taken all the original set of nice aliens for us to enjoy: The Sectoids and Ethereals that mind control your soldiers making them turn round and shoot their comrades, the Mutons that shoot perfect shots and have twice the hitpoints than you or the Cyberdisk that is basically a combat helicopter. They have also added some new ones like the Berserker and the one that I won’t talk about but that you’ll get to enjoy when you find the purple UFO (You are going to LOVE the purple UFO).

The bloom of the Chrysallid

And, most importantly, they have kept everybody’s favourite, the Chrysallid.

This beautiful piece of walking hell has a very funny power. When in melee range it grabs the soldier or civilian next to it and not only kills it in one attack, but it makes a zombie out of the victim’s body. Fail to kill that zombie on time and out of it a new freshly spawned Chrysallid appears. Now, think of the economics of one Chrysallid between 18 civilians on the other side of the map.

Chrysallid snacks come conveniently packaged

To make things funnier, this baby runs like a maniac (roughly double than you), it has more hit points than in the old game and the final, delicious touch: in 2012 XCOM Chrysallids appear in groups of 3.

I had a classic XCOM moment with my squad while I was assaulting an alien base. In the biggest room in the base I had a big firefight with three well protected Mutons. After killing two of them, the third retreated into the shadows. I advanced my men carefully, leaving time for the overwatch.

The perils of being point man

Lieutenant Pieman, my lead assault trooper, moved to crouch behind a pillar barely 3 squares ahead of his previous position. That is when he revealed 3 Chrysallids. They turned towards him and charged blindly towards him. The first one fell after taking fire from Pieman and from Dusk’s sniper laser rifle. The second one got nearer but fell under Sass’s and Tokette’s fire. The third one advanced, Tokey took a shot but failed and the thing ran next to Pie, lifted him up and cut him into pieces. It then segregated eggs that placed inside the body of Pie and let them grow there. And then it was the end of the Alien’s turn. Tokey (in a surprisingly realistic turn of events) panicked and started crying for his mom. Then he turned around and shot Tokette who went down cursing in Afrikaans (the late Tokette was Southafrican).

So there I was, with a full turn ahead of me, one woman down, other turned into a zombie and a third a useless pile of cowardice. And a Chrysallid. And in a few turns, another one.

Ok, let’s do this in style: Dusk cooly raised his awesome sniper rifle and in a single shot to the head killed the Chrysallid. Dimmy (who had been reloading in the previous turn) shot the zombie and put it’s hit points down to something manageable. It was all up to Sass, so pice of cake.

I have to stop and explain that Sass is a badass assault trooper with more than 37 kills under his belt. He is also responsible for all the risky stunts like running next to an alien to stun him or crossing under fire an open space to give first aid to a fallen soldier. Yes, in XCOM Sass kicks ass.

So Sass looked at his chances of getting a distance shot and he did not like them. So he simply run next to the wounded zombie of Pie, stopped right in front of it and shot it in the head. Yay, go XCOM!

In the next turn, I remade my formation, rewarded Tokey’s performance by giving him the point and advanced carefully.

3 squares further ahead, the fog of war revealed 3 Chrysallids more.

What flavour is your terror?

So yes, XCOM 2012’s combat tactics are simpler. But seeing these monsters charge down a corridor towards you and knowing that you might kill the first one with all your reaction shots but that behind there are TWO MORE is… pure XCOM terror.

They are angry for some reason.

When you get down to it, XCOM’s old combat was gripping not because of tactical depth (although it had it) but because of the permanent threat of a total party kill. It could happen in any moment and it made you count every single time unit. XCOM 2012 is an amazing game because it understands this perfectly well and puts you in exactly the same situation. There are special missions along the scripted parts of the campaign where you will simply hit a wall of resistance so strong that either you are incredibly lucky or you’ll have to retreat, regroup and probably still lose everyone. And that is awesome.

The veredict: 5 apples out of 10 grapes

The overall package comes out really well. The game is beautiful, fast, very spectacular, it has lots of tension and a lot of strategy in it. It is a properly long game with very uphill difficulty curves and a merciless Ironman mode that has forced me to restart 4 times the whole game.

Should you buy this game? Well… after all it is the second best of all time, so I’d say that the answer is yes.

XCOM 2012 is an awesome game, a triumph of style and focused game design. It has strong decisions in it’s design that may not have been mine, but they are not bad decisions. It is a different game but it still manages to capture the atmosphere, the tension and the beautiful sense of consequence of the old game. I think that after 18 years of wait it is much more that we could ask for.

Oh, and yes, I did really like the Lord of Rings movies, even if the books are still better.

YWBL4DA @ Rezzed

Setting out early in the morning, the journey to the conference was exciting enough and thats before we even got into the Brighton Centre. I had traveled down with a couple of other members of YWBL4DA (Sassenach and Rifter) and on arriving successfully at the Brighton park & ride we went to take a look at the bus station to see when the next bus into town would be. On learning that it was over an hour away it was suggested we walk the two point something miles to the coast where the conference centre was.

What we thought was going to be a casual strole down to the coast took us over perilously high mountain climbs and steep crevasses that clearly no sane person would normally walk especially when a bus is provided. Too far now to turn back we had no option but to press on. The bad turned to worse when roughly half way through the walk, the heavens opened and a downpoor of biblical proportions lashed at us for the remainder of the way added torrential streams that we had to forde as we decended the cliffs to the sea.

Soaked to the bone and considerable blisters developing on my feet we finally made it to the front doors of the conference centre just as the sun came out from the clouds and the weather started to improve. Never mind that though we were heading in doors to get dried off.

I will break down by game / talk which is roughly in chronological order as well:

This was the first thing we went to see behind the secretive 18s only curtain, Borderlands 2 had quite a large setup with a good 10 or so machines set up to play. Sass, Rifter and I were all able to sit down and get a game together although GearBox in their wisdom had set up the demo units with only Xbox controllers to play which was a little disappointing at a conference aimed at PC gamers.

In terms of the experience, the level we got to play was the Hyperion Plaza level which has been shown in some of the released gameplay videos, the mission is to cut down handsome Jacks (The main bad guy) statues. This was later shown in a play through by Randy Pitchford which I will cover a little later on.

The game felt very slick, the graphics seemed slighly nicer although familiar and the change in colour pallette, something Randy joked about, was very welcome. On the whole it offered the experience I wanted as a fan of the previous game, dont expect radical change but lots and lots of little improvements and UI feedback which make the game more fun. Things like having better feedback on which elements are doing damage to the target or which elements they are able to ‘resist’. The guns themselves being wholly more interesting with lots more visual effects to differentiate them. The skill trees being more involved offering entirely new methods and attacks rather than just stat boosts (although these are still available too).  The enemies being more varied and demonstrating damage in different ways such as arms and legs being blown off robots or soldiers dropping heavy shields if you hit them in the right place.  These all added positive nuances however it was still familiar enough to settle back into the same general flow of the previous game.

On the whole a very positive demo, the game has lots more detail and feels more frantic than the previous. Nothing Ive seen has made me regret preodering, although concerns still remain regarding its PC optimisation despite Randys assurances on this front.

On the subject of Randy, as I mentioned earlier we also attended his presentation and Borderlands demo.  Ive already talked about the game experience and largely the same points were emphasised so im not going to cover that again. Randy, assisted by two colleagues did a live walkthrough of the same level that was available on the exhibition floor. He talked a lot about the areas that they had improved on as well as picking out a lot of the additions, mostly picked out above, throughout the demo. All in all it was a slick presentation although I would say more geared to the ‘whooping and shouting’ of an American fan base than the rather more reserved English audience he was confronted with.

Interestingly, based on a show of hands survey that Randy opened with, pretty much everyone who attended the presentation was previously a borderlands player and I would estimate that there were a good 70-100 people in the room.

In terms of the questions he answered, I highlighted the fact that one of the more fun experiences, namely the vault run in the Knoxx DLC required a hack and an exploit to be able to do repeatedly, and asked had they learnt from this?

He confirmed that they were aware of the exploit and specifically hadnt ‘fixed’ it. Borderlands 2 plans for considerably more end game activity so that it can become a ‘hobby’ his word not mine.  Essentially the delivery of rewarding, repeatable content is something that they are looking to provide.  Experiences such as Crawmerax which were added in the previous game.

Somebody else from the crowd threw a suckerpunch in the name of Duke Nukem which Randy deflected and then followed up with a question regarding the PC Love Letter (which details how Borderlands 2 is going to be optimised for PC). Randy was quite defensive at this, largely re-inforced what the letter said but didnt really offer any specifics. He said that they hadnt had time to put in all that stuff in Borderlands 1 but it will go in this time. Essentially they had previously prioritised the console release.

My take, turning up to a PC show with Xbox pads is poor show really. Also the multiplayer setup menus and connectivity were a little ropey too. Appreciate this was a demo but its looking worryingly consoley at the moment.  Hopefully this will improve prior to release.

No SDK is planned and no ‘active’ support for modding. They anticipate that the community will provide the tools as they did before. He alluded to the fact that Gearbox developers had helped steer the community in the right direction on these tools which would suggest they weren’t necessarily against the hacked weapons / upgrades etc that occurred in the previous game.

Someone also asked about whether any of the endgame material required multiplayer groups, specifically 4 players. Randy said it is something that they have considered but not for the initial release as they want the content to be balanced amongst both multiplayer and single player users. He said it was something they wanted to explore in future DLC where they could make it clear to the purchaser that it was aimed at multiplayer groups so as to avoid disappointment.

Finally someone asked about multi device integration ie PS Vita or Smartphone. Randy asked what the asker thought the usecase was and they highlighted the inventory and skill tree which would be suitable for a touchscreen device. Randy said it was something they were aware of but havent initiated yet as they do not believe in leveraging technology for the sake of it. Not discounted but essentially seems unlikely.

Overall I thought that Randy came across as a little defensive in his positioning and his question answering. An interesting stance for him to take and again gives me a niggly feeling about how well optimised this will be for PC. Time will tell I guess. As I said, on the whole the game looked and played very well.

Also in the over 18s section it was obvious that Sega had provided a healthy budget for the show with massive billboards, queues into the game and two marines and an Alien stomping around the place.

The game itself however was a little disappointing in truth. What they had on display was simply a TDM match on a single level between a group of 5 aliens and 5 marines. SEGA employees were playing as the aliens which meant that you could only play as the marines.

On the upside they provided keyboard and mouse as well as Xbox controller (razer products I noticed).  The YWBL4DA boys all gave a good account of themselves having positive K:D ratios (Sass achieved the highest) however our two other teammates being Xbox controller users were simply killed again and again and we ultimately lost to the SEGA Aliens.

As for the experience it was pretty meh. It felt very similar to the TDM mode in the recently released AvP game which I think was a bit of a mistake for SEGA. For me this game will win or lose on its 4 player coop campaign mode which is the only real differentiator between this and other Aliens franchise games but sadly this wasnt available to see.

I quizzed one of the SEGA guys to try and get a feel for whether it was going to be a scripted coridor shooter and he didnt do a great deal to dispel this view. I said I wanted Left 4 Dead with aliens but he tended more to the story and the scripted events and bosses.  Admittedly the story looks strong as do some of the events discussed and it was slick on the PC, looked pretty etc, but Im still not expecting great things in terms of originality and longevity.

An interesting one to attend as they didnt really have anything ‘new’ to show that you couldnt have played already. I think this was a case of broadening their userbase as well as giving Dean a platform for how he wants to take the project forward.

Sass got to fly around in a chopper which he ultimately crashed into a tree. We joked about the possibility of other people finding the crash site and thinking they were going to get epic loot and actually just finding out some muppet crashed it.

Im not going to go into impressions of the game, as most likely, you’ve played it, and if you havent, then you should.  What I am going to say is that we had an opportunity to talk with Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall  as well as another senior DayZ community member.

It becomes clear very quickly that the growth and popularity of this game has far exceeded their expectation with Dean claiming that they have now attracted just under half a million players.  I think its fair to say that the pressure of maintaining the momentum of the project as well as staying in touch with the community is taking its toll.

For my part, I think that Bohemia would do well to get their PR team onto this sooner rather than later.  They need to support Dean in focusing on expanding his idea and distributing this to the ever growing fanbase, but also provide him with the experienced support to manage the community and organised events.

Dean did a good job with the presentation and made lots of interesting points regarding the future directions he is looking to take, but this was slightly marred by a display area whos PCs were down during several parts of the day and limited promotional materials to hand out to interested attendees.  Problems like these are easily fixable but not without people to help you.

There is no doubt that DayZ is going to go on to be a success of some measure, but without this support, the question remains at what cost.

Had a really interesting chat with the lead developer of this about how he feels about Firaxis and whether they have stolen their thunder. Was also able to talk to him about the kickstarter experience and what its meant to him.

Essentially he thinks they are ultimately developing different games. Hes quite realistic about which is ultimately going to be more successful but thinks that the games will appeal to different or even both audiences.

His take is that Xenonauts is a faithful revisit of the old game. Its not looking to change anything fundamentally but simply fix a lot of the issues that remained in the original as well as give it a new coat of paint. They are about to go into BETA and expect to finish the game this year.

He believes that Firaxis are essentially taking the flavour of the old game but bringing in lots of modernisation to appeal to the current market. There will ultimately be similarities however its obvious that it is going to be quite a different experience to the original.

Having spent some time talking to Firaxis and seeing their latest promo I can confirm he’s probably right. The question however still remains whether people will be willing to buy both.

Regarding kickstarter of which he succcessfully recieved £150,000 in funding it was quite interesting to see how he coped with the change. He talked about the massive increase in communication that he had to manage and how as essentially a one man team it was quite hard keeping up with all the emails he received. He confirmed that the nature of kickstarter is that although this dies down a little you do have to maintain that level of communication which can be challenging when you are trying to work on development too.

I have to say it was a very positive chat and although the Firaxis game looks to provide more of the experience im interested in, the talk with him on friday made me far more interested in his product.

I had a very very brief play of it and its largely as you would expect. If you have played Xcom then you know what you see. The graphics were reminicent of the late 90s isometrics rather than the early 90s and the artwork was top quality. Game play felt intuitive although the alpha we were playing crashed due to a bug.

Had a dedicated presentation room to themselves and ran several sessions during the course of the day. This was overkill in my view, they had a new gameplay video to show but that was largely it as they didnt go into a great deal of detail on the game.

The video showed a staged setup of a terror mission that essentially enabled them to show off some of the entry level marine tech, some of the alien classes and the later stage technology you will research. I say staged as this was put together specifically for the purpose of the trailer and will not represent real gameplay.

That said some of the elements it brough out were nice, it was good to see how the graphical engine and the replays are coming along, the interaction with the environment such as taking cover and ‘hunkering down’.

They showed off the class system which basically enables you to start leveling up a character the longer they stay alive, rewarding them with stat increases but also perks along a class tree the more they get promoted.

There wasnt anything on either the global view or the base view. Although Sid Meier was modelled as a Psy enabled sargeant which raised a chuckle from me as I watched. The presenter seemed to appreciate that at least one of us knew who he was.

I asked the question about whether multiplayer was going to be included to which I was answered that ‘we are not allowed to talk about multiplayer’. I suspect that its on the cards but they are not sure how they are going to get it working yet.

Other questions were largely about the vehicles (tanks), weapons, research and materials to which the answer was its all more or less the same as the old game.

Outside of the demo I asked one of the guys about how base battles were going to work and hes said that they tried to get them functioning with the new view but its not going to happen. Ultimately the decision has been taken that in the old game when a base battle happened it was too OP in favour of the Aliens and ultimately too damaging. This has been removed for the initial release however they are not ruling it out for a future update.

Overall the presentation shouted a lot, but didnt really have a great deal to shout about. Heavily restricted by PR I imagine, although what I did see looked good. Made me feel even more sorry for the poor Xenonauts guy.

Im covering this off both as a game we played as well as a presentation.

Both Sass and Rifter had played before so were familiar with the game. I on the other hand was coming in pretty cold, I was aware of the concept but not really in any great detail.

Talking to the guys it was clear that the concept was interesting, essentially an asymetrical forces lineup of aliens vs marines FPS combat with a commander fulfilling an RTS role over the top of that, building base components and providing orders and direction to the FPS players.

The game engine is lovely and all their own work, something ill come onto later. The concept is sound too and for the most part the implementation is slick.

The parts where I think they have missed a trick are that the game relies heavily on the capability of the commander. They admit themselves that if your commander doesnt know what hes doing for the first 30-60 seconds of the game, its likely you will go on to lose that round.

For me this is essentially going to limit the appeal as it seems that has a very steep learning curve.

Coupled with that the commander is expected to manage the other players predominantly through voice comms. There are some on screen indications that he can provide but essentially he is looking to pursuade people to follow him by talking to them. For me this is the critical gap. Games like Bad Company and Left 4 Dead provide indication of what is required from the player by on screen prompts. Heal this, remair that, go here, defend this etc etc. My view is the commander should be able to do 80% of his work through this method, communicate with his players by giving them on screen indications to follow rather than through voice communication. If the remaining 20% makes him an excellent commander then great but a reasonable commander should be able to ‘do the job’ simply through the interface.

Without this I think they are going to be putting a lot of burden on a single player who is going to be subject to a great deal of vitriol should the team lose. Not a great way to get people to play your game.

Presentationwise it has to be said that in my opinion this was one of the best. The guy presenting did come across as a little too PR’y at times but on the whole, knew his subject, was able to dip in and out of his presentation and a live game at will, and was generally able to enthuse the audience on the product which only a few seemed familiar with.

Some key points that I took away:

The engine is entirely open source and they are fully commited to supporting modding. Infact they are actively relying on the community to improve certain components as they dont have the bredth to do it themselves. A sensible although brave approach in my view. Realistic considering their resources.

The game is going to be deployed via steam and uses all their technologies including VAC. Expect to see it released there soon.

They are actively targetting being an E-Sport and are looking to do all they can to make this happen. Based on what I saw it could be a very fun game to watch in this fashion, something that they are keen to highlight. They seem to get both that E-Sports need to offer the level of competition required but also the visual spectacle to support viewers. They are promoting their own events internally and are hoping to grow that. The dynamic of the RTS view and the FPS view could be very visually appealing but the speed of the game could make it difficult to commentate on. Worth checking out though in my mind.

I came away knowing it wasnt really my type of game but I would be quite interested to watch some co-ordinated matches.

Literally got minutes with this before we were kicked out of the Conference Hall. It was still pre-alpha but looked very very slick. Chris Delay of Introversion had been around but we missed him so did get a chance for a chat.

Essentially this is ‘Theme Prison’ with the same build mechanic and darker sense of humour. Even in the few minutes we played of this its potential was clear. Definately something to keep an eye on

And The Rest…

There was a bunch of other games we checked out including Shootmania which looked slick and clearly targetting the e-sports arena. Basically an alternative to Unreal Tournament in the brief view I had of it. Didnt spend any time with Secret World or TERA although they were both there. There was another space shooting game in the mould of Freespace and Freelancer both of which the developer cited as heavy influences. I cant remember its name.

We came away with a bunchload of free stuff including codes for Ghost Recon Online, discounts on Borderlands and Serious Sam 3, various T-Shirts and other bits and pieces.

I also played Battlefield 3 again and still dont think Im missing anything.  Sorry EA no Origin for me.

DayZ Review: The triumph of the zombie

Ok, first of all, please take into account that this is just a hasty review on an alpha of a mod.

I am going to write it after only 18 hours of gameplay and beleive me, that is nowhere near enough. I have decided to write this down because this mod is currently overshadowing the almighty Diablo 3 in the PC gaming space.  It is a huge sensation and a lot of people are asking themselves whether they should invest in ARMA2:CO or not just to play an unfinished mod.

ARMA2: Shooting at tiny, tiny pixels

ARMA 2 is a relatively unknown game, specially if you compare it to other big modern military FPS. It is a hardcore simulation tool, with heavy emphasis on infantry combat. As most east european simulatons do, it is basically a level designing tool where the programmers give you a very deep physics engine, a very well designed map and lots and lots of cool toys to play with. In this case you can use tanks, helicopters and all sorts of infantry to create any and all types of combat situations.

Once you get in the game it becomes the slowest, most open first person shooter you’ll ever play but also the most complete. It uses advanced damage models and ballistics, a very interesting voice comms engine and it can be used to play massive multiplayer battles. You can hop on any vehicle, go anywhere and do anything you want. It is absolutely fascinating.

As most east european games, the menus are really old fashioned but functional and the interface is counterintuitive and complicated. ARMA2 is also hugely resource demanding and quite buggy. But, also as many good east european games, ARMA2 looks fantastic. It is more ambitious than any other FPS, feels incredibly realistic and once you get into it, is a wonderful story making tool. I really like ARMA2.

However, ARMA 2 has a flaw that has kept me from playing it more: the theme is really dry. The more realistic it gets, the more obvious it is that real modern military is really boring subject matter. Even when you play it in ideal conditions, there is nothing interesting happening in this game. Modern real soldiers act more like doctors than like heroes. Also, because it is realistic, the distance of the engagements is such that you’ll basically shoot at single pixels and announce their deaths with no hint of emotion. Cold and calculating with no hint of emotion, ARMA2 is a game in desperate need of epicness.

DayZ, an alpha of a mod for a buggy game

Of course, over the last years, ARMA2 has developed your typical small core of rabid hardcore fans, who mod for it, play it in huge 200 multiplayer battles and generally bother no one while they have fun testing 40 different models of fragmentation grenades.

However, it is out of this slow trickle of mods and this small community that came DayZ. A New Zealand programmer from the company that designed ARMA2 (Bohemia Interactive) used his holidays to program the mod. He did it with a clear goal: player freedom to create stories and take decisions. He told no one about his project and when he thought it was more or less ready for a little bit of stress testing, he asked some friends to hop in on the server to see how it would handle the load. He had a single server for 50 people. That was 2 weeks ago. As of today, there are 74000 unique players, ARMA2: CO has become the number one bestseller on Steam and this guy keeps adding servers trying to catch up with demand. And it is not working, demand has not reached it’s peak yet.


Simple, DayZ takes the huge accomplishment that is ARMA2 and makes a game out of it. It is a hard, brutally difficult, slow paced realistic game, but it is a game.

The setting is classic, there has been a zombie apocalypse and you are a survivor. You are stranded on the beach somewhere with some basic equipment, but you’ll need to scavenge heavily to survive. You’ll need an steady income of food and water, you’ll probably need new medical supplies and even if you do not want to, you are going to need more bullets.

The area where you’ll survive is called Chernarus and it has everything in it: Cities, villages, forests, castles, hospitals, airfields and lots, lots and more lots of infinitely respawning zombies. Oh and 50 other players, I somehow forgot about that.

In order to get supplies, you need to explore abandoned structures, where you’ll find that random loot keeps respawning. This seems trivial, except that zombies spawn from those same structures. In other words, if you stay in the forest you’ll starve. And if you go in the cities, you’ll die horribly.

If it sounds easy, believe me, it is not. Zombies run, see and hear. They hurt a lot and will mob on you at the sound of your (very few and very precious) bullets. They zigzag and will pursue you relentlessly for hours until they get you somehow. Getting into a town is a nerve wrecking stealth game, where patience is key. It is extremely difficult to avoid those zombies and still keep on getting enough supplies in order to survive. But it gets worse, much, much worse.

There are survivors that have guns with sniper rifles. And even worse, they have friends with more sniper rifles.

Bandits (survivors who have killed other survivors) tend to populate the hills around the biggest coastal cities, where poor survivors enter at their own risk in order to get some food. When they manage to get out with some supplies, they are actively hunted by those bandits who have spent their time getting better weapons and are ready to use them. Sometimes they’ll even act as survivors to lure the trusting loner into a deserted area where they can shoot and kill the survivor without alerting the zombies around them.

If you add all these factors, you understand why as of this writing, average life expectancy in DayZ is 28 minutes. It had gone up to over an hour, but the programmer updated the mod and more than doubled the number of zombies in the game.

Good people is being killed, robbed and betrayed all over Chernarus, all for a can of beans.

Sandbox simulators as storymaking tools

So there you have it, a huge chunk of beautiful terrain, lots of zombies, some ammo and bean cans and nothing else. This game has literally nothing else.

And yet, I would argue that that is plenty and more than enough for a game. It allows you to decide and out of those decisions, create your story.

The first meaningful decision is whether or not you are going to play as a killer. If you do, you’ll become a bandit. Your skin will change to reflect that and your humanity score will go down. Everybody will see you and know that you are a killer so it’ll be difficult to trick other into trusting you, whether or not they themselves are bandits. However, it can be done.

Death of a bandit by a well equipped survivor

If you do want to become a bandit, then you can simply start hunting players and taking their stuff. You’ll die often but your career path is simple.

If you do not want to become a bandit and will only kill in self defense, the question is simple: How are you going to survive? What will you eat? Will you stay near the coast, where there are more supplies but more bandits and zombies? Or will you go inland to the small villages where it is hard to scrape by but there are less enemies?

This game is about deciding about all the details that can make you succesful and failing catastrophically or succeeding epically. If you want to compare it to anything, you can compare it to Dwarf Fortress, EVE and the upcoming Project Zomboid. Losing is fun because it will end the unique story that you have created. These games are all about consequences and about enjoying the dilemmas you face. DayZ adopts this design philosophy to the extreme.

The triumph of the zombie

DayZ would simply make no sense without the zombies. They are the great equalizer,  their presence means that no one can stay put and build a strong defense. Everybody has to be on the move constantly as there is no way that you can hold a building against the zombies. No matter how good your equipment is, you never can forget the zombies in this game. They will kill even very strong players if they stop being careful. In my case, I have fallen prey to the zombies specially when I was very well armed, because I got reckless and paid for it. I will tell a typical DayZ story that happened to me yesterday.

I joined a server where it was nighttime and decided to cross the whole map in order to get to a famous weapons depot. It would not be easy, there were many dangerous zones in the way and the zombies could jump you at any time if you approached a village carelessly. I narrowly escaped many times the wandering zombies, but I was actually more worried about bandits. This particular weapons depot is famous all over Chernarus, there are many bandits who choose to stay around it and get easy prey. So I approached the zone really carefully and in the middle of the dark. If they found me, they’d probably shoot me on sight.

Sure enough, I saw a team of survivors get out of the depot, just as I was approaching a hole in the fence to enter from the back. They were using good infantry tactics and would have killed me easily, but they passed at less than 15 metres from me and I moved inside undetected. It had taken me around 3 hours of gameplay to get to this point, navigating in the dark and avoiding enemies.

I entered the depot and quickly found my price: a bolt action Remington shotgun with a flashlight attached. It is an awesome weapon for this game and pretty rare. The flashlight is a very welcome bonus as flares and glowsticks are completely useless. In the depot I got loads of good gear, like ammo, a bigger backpack, smoke grenades… I was loaded.

My mission had been a resounding success, I just needed to get back to my meeting point with Tokey and we’d go on looking for a weapon for him. In one hour, I’d be there.

And then it happened. Just as I was crawling in the dark to get from the weapons depot and into the line of trees, out of nowhere a zombie stepped on me. Zombies usually will not see you in the dark if you crawl and don’t make noise. I have had zombies pass at less than a meter from me, no problem.

However, this one stepped on me.

I rose up to run away and ten meters later, it was not one zombie but five, I was bleeding  profusely and it was then when I realised that I had no ammo for my shotgun, I had put it in the backpack instead of in the gun. I tried to change weapons to get my pistol, but that slowed me down and I fell under the hits of five angry zombies, not 50 meters away from the weapons depot.

I died horribly, shouting curses in the night and respawned on the beach, very far away. Probably my body was looted by another survivor.

I loved it.


I think this is a very difficult game to reccomend, simply because I do not know if you are going to see cool stuff or not. It impossible to predict. For example, I once watched from within the trees as a survivor lit some flares in the ruins of a medieval castle and tried to kill off the zombies within it. The flare projected against the wall of the catle the shadow of the survivor falling under the zombies, it was really atmospheric and cinematic. And it also was unscripted, it happened like that because that guy had decided to go there and I had decided to be there and to not help him.

Those moments are awesome and more powerful than any other game I can think off right now. No one strives to create those stories in a package that is so elegant as DayZ. It is a FPS with very, very complex technology and very deep decision making. But mechanically, it is simple to understand how it works and it has a ton of atmosphere. It is amazingly well designed to et out of the way, to just let you take pure decisions and cope with the consequences.

I think any gamer would enjoy that part of the game, but I think there needs to be a big warning. This game is very, very rough. It is an alpha. It is still going to change a lot and maybe it’ll never be finished or polished. Right now, it is difficult to install, difficult to update, difficult to join a server and even more difficult to find a daylight server. There are 70000 people trying to play a game that should be testing with 50. If we are lucky and Bohemia Interactive are clever, they’ll give this guy resources to prepare a serious DayZ module for the upcoming ARMA3. Then we’ll be cooking with gas.

I realise that I have been frustrated with DayZ’s lack of polish and I feel that some gamers will feel even more frustrated than me. Personally I think that the game is way worth the price of ARMA2:CO, but be prepared to be patient. You can lose your equipment to bugs, be reset in a server crash… many bad things can happen, but that is also part of the fascination and remember that we are talking about a free mod.

All in all, I think DayZ is the best PC game this year and much better than anything I can think of from last year (yes, including Portal 2, Saints Row 3 AND Crusader Kings). I absolutely reccomend it to you. If you are ready to cope, that is. Cope with the bugs, cope with the servers, cope with zombies and most of all, cope with bandits. Be ready to suffer, as this game is about overcoming the huge odds against you. If you do, the moments you live will be yours and only yours. Nobody will discuss with you what did you do with the prisioners in the airport, it’ll be just you there and nobody else will ever be in that same situation, ever.

If you are ready to cope, I will tell you only one more thing. As of rigth now, only 64000 of the 74000 players are alive. The other 10000 are victims to the bandits or to the zombies. It is unfair and I want to do as much as I can to stop it. I am slowly trying to build a YWBL4DA police force that will protect the innocent in the sandy beaches of Chernarus and I am looking for volunteers. It’ll take a load of time and effort, we’ll have to be ready to store extra weapons and ammo, find the right tools for the job, find out how to avoid losing our own men and try to find ways to help survivors.

So what do you say? Can you cope?

PC Gaming Hardware – What PC to Buy Guide

I was inspired by the articles Ive been reading in UK PC Gamer and PC Format on this subject and thought I would do one of my own as I seem to spend most of my time recommending to friends and family what to buy.

To that end I have put together two systems to meet both ends of the market. Both systems are designed specifically with gaming in mind are are complete systems including all necessary peripherals such as screen, mouse, keyboard etc.

The first system is targeted at entry to mid level gamers who are looking for ‘out of the box’ performance. A system that will play all the latest games, possibly offer them some easy upgrades in the future but will largely just do what they want at an affordable price.

The second system is targeted at gamers who like to spend more time inside the case of their PC tweaking and upgrading to get the best possible performance.

So here they are:

The Entry to Mid Level System:

Coolermaster Elite 335

Cost – £34
A decent build quality case that isnt too showy (if you arent into that sort of thing) but has the capability to be (if you are). Lots of features inside which make it both easy to build and nice to maintain.

Power Supply:
Coolermaster GX 650W

Cost – £58
Plenty of power headroom for most upgrades you might consider later, 80% efficiency which should give you a nice stable platform. Spending less on a PSU is usually false economy especially in a machine you plan on using for games.

Intel Core i5 2400 3.1Ghz

Cost – £148
Unless you are planning on overclocking there really is no point in spending money on the higher spec K series chips and on the whole for gaming its best to put the money into graphics power. This i5 sports intels turbo boost and has more than enough power for games.

Gigabyte GA-Z68P-DS3

Cost – £72
Excellent highend Sandybridge board with lots of upgrade potential (including support for Ivy Bridge this year) as well as support for mSata connectors to enable Mini SSDs to use Intels caching capabilities.

8GB Crucial DDR3 1600MHz Ballistix Sport

Cost – £35
RAM is very cheap at the moment but prices are creeping up. Lifetime warranty and good service from Crucial when you need it. I would also say that we are now getting to the point that its worth having a minimum of 8GB RAM for gaming comfort.

Graphics Card:
XFX HD 6870 1GB

Cost – £133
A decent low cost card that will fill all your gaming needs on a single monitor. Also cheap enough to consider chucking in a pair to run in crossfire in the future should the inclination take you.

Hard Disk:
Hitachi 500GB 7200RPM 16MB Cache

Cost – £52
Hard disks are still pretty expensive but prices are falling quickly from their peak. I wouldnt be rushing out to buy them just yet though.

Optical Drive:
Samsung 22x DVD/RW

Cost – £13
With the exception of Sony which I would tend to avoid, all optical drives are the same so buy the cheapest. No real point getting Blu-Ray yet unless you are planning on using the PC as a media centre.

Sound Card:
Asus Xonar 5.1 PCI with Headphone AMP

Cost – £26
This card has no onboard processing so it wont boost framerate, however having a plug in card gives a much cleaner experience to sound by separating it from the electrical noise of the other onboard components and the headphone AMP will improve the sound output for unpowered headsets.

LG 23″ IPS235V

Cost – £142
LG are leading the charge for low cost E-IPS screens and at this price and with the favourable reviews they are generally receiving its hard to argue in favour of the older TN panels any more.

Gigabyte M6900

Cost – £16
Clearly modelled after other successful gaming mice, Gigabyte have pulled together a very attactive combination of functionality, performance and price. Its very hard to justify more expensive options with this on the table.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4

Cost – £33
Microsoft are closing down their gaming peripherals brand so these are going for bargain prices. Back lit, anti ghosting and macro keys make it hard to beat at the price.

Plantronics Gamecom 367

Cost – £19
High quality sound, comfortable for long play sessions with a reasonable mic attached. All the convenience without the cost.

Total cost of the above:


The Enthusiast’s Overclocking System:

Corsair Carbide 500R

Cost – £88
It may not have the ‘moar lights’ mentality however there are few cases on the market that run cooler or quieter than the 500R and they are significantly more expensive. Couple this with the fact that the Carbide is a joy to build with and its perfect for the person who plans to spend a lot of time dipping in and out of their case.

Power Supply:
Corsair TX750M 750W Modular PSU

Cost – £87
Plenty of power headroom for upgrades and overclocking, 80% efficiency which should give you a nice stable platform, and a modular cabling system to manage airflow. Its pricey but when you are playing with voltages, a PSU you can trust is critical.

Intel Core i5 2500K 3.3Ghz

Cost – £172
No I didnt choose the i7K. Why not? Performance-wise, particularly with overclocking the i5 and the i7 are similar, the only real benefit of the i7 is hyperthreading which actually can impact games for the worse rather than the better. If you are planning on doing lots of video encoding then get the i7 otherwise save your money, the i5 is rock solid.

Asus P8Z68-V PRO Gen3

Cost – £147
This Asus board sports all the features you would expect from a highend board as well as plenty of future proofing options. Support for both Crossfire and SLI as well as both PCI 2 and 3 makes it adaptable for graphics and the features offered by the Z68 chipset should see you for a while. The addition of bluetooth is a nice touch too. This board doesnt come with some of the overclocking functions that some of the ‘for gamers’ boards do at the higher end however it does come with the ASUS CPR suite to help protect on some of your more adventurous overclocks and the BIOS has more than enough features to get you going.

16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600MHz

Cost – £75
RAM is very cheap at the moment but prices are creeping up. Lifetime warranty and good service from Corsair when you need it. Additionally on this set you have the benefit of decent heatspreaders to support overclocking and also quad channel support should you look to take this RAM with you into a future board that supports it (currently only the socket 2011 boards support quad channel but its a good guess for Ivybridge).

Graphics Card:
2 x Gigabyte 560Ti OC 1GB

Cost – £350
The 560Ti coupled with SLI technology arguably beats everything on the market currently and that argument can only really be held against the GTX590 or AMDs latest 7000 series offerings which two of these cards is significantly cheaper than. Gigabyte overclock this out of the box for you, but the decent cooling will let you take this further. The only real hindrance is the 1GB memory which will be mirrored in SLI not expanded. Truth be told, now is not the time to buy graphics cards, wait until Nvidia show their hand with their new Kepler cards which should be a matter of weeks.

Hard Disk:
BOOT: Corsair 120GB Force 3 SSD

Cost – £120
SSD prices have been unaffected by the price hike on platter based harddisks and are currently going through quite a coup. This Corsair disk is about as fast as you can buy and 120GB should be enough to get your system running nicely.

STORAGE: WD 2TB Caviar Green

Cost – £105
Given the high prices of platter based harddisks at the moment this isnt actually a terrible price. Decent cache and SATA III connectively should see it meet you storage needs happily, and the slightly lower spin speed and power consumption should keep the noise down.

Optical Drive:
Samsung 22x DVD/RW

Cost – £13
With the exception of Sony which I would tend to avoid, all optical drives are the same so buy the cheapest. No real point getting Blu-Ray yet unless you are planning on using the PC as a media centre.

Sound Card:
Asus Xonar D2X 7.1 Surround Sound

Cost – £85
Firstly this is a top notch card which will deliver awesome sound, however it also has its own processing capability thus easing burden on your CPU which may help up your framerate. Was a tough choice between this and the Creative Titanium however I went with Asus as Creatives drivers are still truly awful.

Asus PA238Q LED 23″ IPS

Cost – £220
Consistently reviewed as the best IPS monitor in its class for both image replication and gaming response time. The picture quality is excellent, the panel and the stand are well designed the only real complaint is the 16:9 ratio rather than the preferable 16:10 but that really is nit-picking.

Logitech G400

Cost – £25
The remake of the MX518 which is commonly regarded as one of the best gaming mice produced. The quality and the value of this mouse are second to none.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4

Cost – £33
Microsoft are closing down their gaming peripherals brand so these are going for bargain prices. Back lit, anti ghosting and macro keys make it hard to beat at the price.

Roccat Kave Solid 5.1 Surround Sound Headset

Cost – £64
After forking out the cash for such a decent soundcard you want a set of cans that are going to make the most of it which rules out anything using USB. This headset has a true surround sound system connected by each channel direct into the soundcard and the experience is hard to beat. The mic attached is decent and convenient if there is only one complaint it is that these can be a little heavy and may be comparatively less comfortable than other headsets.

Total cost of the above:


Digital Distribution: Some thoughts on EA’s Origin

Competition is needed fullstop. It has to be said that the good value currently experienced in the digital distribution market is only due to Valves experimentation with pricing models that has led them to offer the value that they do rather than competition in the marketplace. Given the recent sales, this is something I am sure we are all most appreciative of.

I am fully aware that services such as Direct2Drive, Good Old Games and others offer digital distribution and do a good job too in terms of service and pricing in comparison with Steam however EA is looking to go toe-to-toe with Valve in terms of providing an offering that holds exclusivity for anticipated AAA titles, provide an online community and communication platform as well as digitally distributing games from multiple publishers. EA, being one of the largest publishers of video games across all formats have the connections, the games portfolio and the funding to be a credible threat to Steam.

Unlike Microsofts poorly conceived Games For Windows Live, first impressions would suggest that EA have looked at what has made Steam popular as well as some of its biggest critisisms and have attempted to build a platform to rival that of Valves and it has to be said that from a user experience perspective this has largely been achieved.

There are a few teething issues which should be expected from a new platform however the experience of buying, installing, playing a game and communicating with friends feels very familiar and largely intuitive.

It could be argued that EA have missed an opportunity to innovate here and are simply building on the success of the already established valve platform unlike services such as Onlive who offer a genuinely unique service however given the amount of investment that has been required from EA to build this why rock a stable boat.

For the last six months EA have slowly and relatively quietly been withdrawing titles from the Steam platform. All other digital distribution platforms seem unaffected so far however Steam is now seeing fewer and fewer EA titles with the highest profile absentee being Battle Field 3.

EA have cited a number of reasons surrounding this gradual withdrawl, blaming valve, blaming legal requirements, miscommunication and various other factors however the shift is clear. If you want EAs future AAA titles, you will need to have an origin account.

This in itself is not neccessarily terrible as Valve themselves adopt the exact same approach with their own titles which has relatively recently got the backs up of store retailers however this was initiated in a world where there was no established alternative digital distribution platform and as such the long term effect of this on us as consumers needs some consideration.

To play valves games you have to have valves platform, the play EA’s games you have to have EA’s platform. Whats to stop Activision, SEGA, Ubisoft and others all adopting the same route? The future of your PC could well be that you will be running a plethora of distribution platforms with different groups of friends, communities and games. Worse still, should this occur rather than creating competition it actively avoids it. There is no competition if you can only buy a product from one place and therefore you can charge what you like.

PC Gaming for a long time has enjoyed comparitively cheap prices in comparison to buying a game on a console which given the investment required in the PC has always historically felt justified. As time passes however, PC hardware has become cheaper and consoles more expensive (at least at release) to the point where there now isnt a great difference in the price. Games too are seeing price hikes where before £20-25 was common and £30 was high, more and more AAA releases are seeing price points of £39.99 and even £45 at release taking them on a par with their console versions.

Back to my initial point then, competition. Should steam be the only route to digital distribution? No it shouldnt. But similarly a marketplace where everything is segregated and pricing has no competition will do far more to damage the PC games community that we currently know than the apparent monopoly we exist in.

Does Origin indicate the downfall of PC gaming? No it doesnt and it certainly shouldnt be claimed that it does, however by avoiding the aspects of competition and capturing an audience as well as the somewhat dubious terms and conditions that need to be agreed to for registration it has to be said that Origin represents a good example of what a global publisher wants you to accept rather than neccessarily what is good for you as a consumer which I think will become more and more relevant as digital distribution furthers its expansion. Its down to us to shape the service we want to receive.

Games of 2012

Well, now that the the Steam sale is finally over, we can declare 2011 completely gone. I think it is a perfect moment to list the games I am most looking up to in 2012.

First of all, I have to say that I do not expect a lot of big titles in 2012. Many developers have put their best stuff on hold waiting for the new console cycle, so I expect this year to be an indie year. And yet, in spite of that, I am going to start the list with a non Indie title.

Stars Wars Kinect

This is probably the most important game of the year, at least concerning it’s impact on our community. The reason is obvious, our very own Dimmy is part of the hard working team and we all really, really want his game to do awesome so that his studio can thrive and make another game, although maybe this time Dimmy could convince then to do  something we can play on a PC…


This game has it all, it is indie, it is coop, it is class based and it is original. The idea is to plan a heist using the skills of 4 different types of thieves, each one controlled by a player. It uses top down perspective. It could be a real hit for us if the levels are well designed.

Project Zomboid

This one is really ambitious. It is a “realistic” zombie apocalypse simultaion. It is real time, multiplayer and very, very indie. I have played the demo and alpha versions and I have to say it is very good, but very hard. Think of it as the Dwarf fortress of zombie games, but multiplayer.

Dead State

Another zombie game, this one looks to be more focused on base management, interaction with characters in RPG style and specially, turn based combat. I do not think it will be multiplayer and I do not think it will be for everyone, but it certainly is in my top list.

World of Warplanes

This is going to be like World of Tanks but with me kicking everybody’s butt. I love flight sims and I will enjoy this one for sure. It is another one of the excellent batch of F2P games that is coming out lately.

Torchlight 2

This one is also known as “the game that killed Johnny”. It is Torchlight and it is coop. I am sold.

Planetside 2

Yeah Tokey, I know…

And that is my list! I am sure you all have loads of ideas, please post them here!

EDIT 1: Tokey’s ideas

World of Warships

Just grabs me more than warplanes, im basically hoping for a version of Battlestations Midway that isnt broken!

Guild Wars 2

Hopefully finally breaking that MMO mould and showing how things can be better

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Im hoping for this to be the next big 4 player co-op and Aliens is the perfect setting if these guys can pull it off

Borderlands 2

Not sure if this is due 2012?


Having never really delved into this style of gameplay which is now possibly the most popular genre right now this seems to be the time to get involved

Mech Warrior Online

Ive missed the mechwarrior series, hopefully this will be great!

Fallout Online

Interesting because its by Interplay and not Bethesda. Ive nothing against the new Fallout but it was the old ones I fell in love with. Im hoping for that same spark plus as you all know, I only play multiplayer games these days.


EDIT 2: MP’s ideas

Starcraft 2

This game needs no introduction. Ultra competitive multiplayer RTS made for superhuman korean teenagers, version 2.2

Planetside 2 – BETA Signups!

OK, ill be honest, I did consider not posting this up as the fewer of you that signup the more likely it will be for me to get into this, but its not fair of me to hold back what could be the most incredible gaming experience you are likely to get involved in for years to come.

Its safe to say I’m fairly excited about this one!

If you want to get involved in the BETA the signup is now publicly available here

True Multiplayer – Co-operative games with more than 4 players

Our little group have now been hitting a bit of a wall recently where we have more than 4 players that want to play a game but can only find co-operative games that support groups of 4.

Obviously games like Bad Company allow you to have more on the same team however critically, squads can only be 4 players which makes co-ordination trickier and given that we are a friendly bunch we are mostly trying to avoid competitive games.

There has been some discussion in the forums about games that could allow us to play with more than 4 players co-operatively however our attempts so far have met with mixed results.

Any one else found a solution to this problem?

Below is a list of some of the suggestions our group has made so far:

  • Age of Empires (1, 2 & 3)ArmA
  • Artemis
  • Baldurs Gate
  • Burnout Paradise
  • Civilization (3, 4 & 5)
  • Counter Strike
  • Dawn of War (1 & 2)
  • DC Online
  • Diablo 2
  • Dino D-Day
  • Dungeon Siege
  • Hiddern & Dangerous 2
  • Icewind Dale
  • Killing Floor
  • Loki: Heroes of Mythology
  • Marathon Infinity
  • Mechwarrior 4
  • Open TTD (Transport Tycoon)
  • Rainbow Six
  • Sacred 2
  • Serious Sam (1, 2 & 3)
  • Silverfall
  • Supreme Commander
  • SWAT (3 & 4)
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Titan Quest
  • World in Conflict

The biggest challenge seems to be finding something that is readily available and isnt a complete nightmare to a) get running on modern machines and b) still has support for multiplayer

If there are any other suggestions I am definitely interested in hearing them!

YBL4DA Game of the Year awards!

The end of the year is approaching fast and I have to say it has been a very good year for PC games. We have had plenty of good stuff to sink our hungry teeth into but as always, the question is what did you like best?

I am going to open the discussion with a list of categories and I will comment my personal choices. Everybody is welcome to contribute their comments and their own favourites. At the end, I will make another post with some kind of consolidated results. So here are the categories:

1.- Best single player:

2.- Best MMO/Free to play:

3.- Best Indie game:

4.- Best Coop Game:

5.- Biggest surprise:

6.- Biggest disappointment:

7.- Best Game of the Year:


So what are your choices? Do not hesitate to vote, the more votes we have, the better.

Indie Galore

Both of the big indie game distribution campaigns have been in full force in the last couple of days but I will kick off with news from Indie Royale who have just launched their ‘Really Big Bundle’ which includes:

  • Really Big Sky
  • Runespell: Overture
  • Cthulhu Saves the World
  • Eufloria
  • BONUS: Breath of Death VII

All of which are available on both Desura or Steam.  At time of writing you can get all of this for less than £2.70 which is not a bad deal or if you are feeling charitable to others you can help push the price down by paying more.

Not to be beaten, the Humble Bundle team have added Dungeons of Dredmor to their previous Introversion bundle which you will recieve if you pay more than the current average ($3.99 at time of writing).  For those of you who have already paid for this bundle it will automatically be added to your account, just log back in to retrieve the code for your distribution platform of choice.

In addition to this you will also receive access to two bonus prototypes from Introversion as well as the source code to Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON and Uplink!

I have to say that rightly or wrongly the Indie gaming scene never really grabbed me before but the work that Humble Bundle and Indie Royale is doing to promote them is making them almost unmissable!