Rockstar Games has scaled a mountain with Grand Theft Auto V, creating the best-looking, best-sounding and, most importantly, best-playing version of gaming's most notorious franchise.
Scaling one peak, however, reveals another—their cloud-piercing ambition to create a great ensemble video game drama, an epic of intersecting, interactive lives. Rockstar doesn't summit that new peak as impressively with GTA V, but in its first attempt at such an audacious feat, makes a good go of it.
Fans of the original flower defense game were understandably miffed when they discovered the official follow-up would be launching exclusively on iOS, but what really worried folks was the "free-to-play" business. Luckily, Plants Vs. Zombies takes a different approach to in-app purchases than most mobile games.
Rather than alienating fans of the original game by locking content behind pay walls or dumbing-down gameplay for more casual players, Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is only going after players who lack the patience or skill to make it through the game on their own.
The Ouya doesn't promise a brilliant future. It sells at $99 using a less than top-level Tegra 3 quad-core processor. As an Android device, it signals that it'll probably be displaced by a better iteration as chip prices go down. Ouya execs have said as much. There's no 10 year lifecycle on Ouya 1.0.
You get the Ouya for the now. You get it for the summer of 2013 and the fall. You get this to wedge it in the gaps of your gaming life. There are some good games, but not many, and they're hard to discover. The Ouya is a fascinating experiment and can be fun for those for whom $99 isn't much to plunk down.
Company of Heroes was a game for true armchair generals. There was no resource collecting, no tank rushes, none of the hallmarks of other games that look like they're about a clash of armies but are really little but mouse-driven sprint races.
Seven years is a long time between wars, though, and now that we have a sequel, people are expecting a lot from this game, the first time Company of Heroes has ditched Western Europe for the Eastern Front. So what's new?
The PS4, Xbox One and Wii U are all very different consoles, but there's one thing I wish all three had in common: their digital pricing. Something they could learn from the PC.
Steam gets a lot of credit for rejuvenating the PC gaming market, and there's one area it deserves more praise than anywhere else: its regular, highly-discounted sales.
In Gunpoint you play as Richard Conway, a trenchcoated spy-for-hire who, after a job gone wrong, finds himself caught up in a paranoid, 70s-style corporate espionage plot. You'll guide him on infiltration missions as he sneaks into apartment buildings, high-security compounds, office complexes and weapons-manufacturing labs.
Gunpoint may be a stealth game, but Conway isn't some Sam Fisher-wannabe, crouching in the shadows and garroting unsuspecting guards. His methods are a bit flashier, and a hell of a lot of fun.
Prison Architect is like 'SimPrison', if there ever was one, made by people who seem to be damn near fearless about making video games about uncomfortable topics. The game is from the indie studio Introversion, who have also made the saddest/best game about nuclear war.
Here's a brief interview with Introversion's own architects about their newest work. They served up some fascinating answers about the possibilities of a game about building and running a prison.
You love your PC. It's a place you can work at, but more importantly, it's a place you can game at. The thing is, if you're using a traditional desk-and-chair setup, the more you game on the PC, the bigger the problem you're creating for yourself.
The Metro series is set some years after nuclear war has ruined the surface of the Earth and put an end to civilization as we know it. In Russia, survivors have retreated to the Metro, re-forging a bleak semi-existence in the tunnels beneath the city. This is the sort of game that mentions, in its opening cinematic, the very real possibility that God is dead.
Last Light assumes that players got the "bad ending" in Metro 2033 and took the option to blast the entire population of "Dark Ones" into oblivion. The subsequent discovery of a single surviving Dark One sets the plot of Last Light in motion.
"The game is stupid," Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon creative director Dean Evans proudly proclaimed during a recent press event — not foolish pride, but pride in foolishness. Ubisoft has done great and terrible things with the game engine, transforming it into a nightmare world, where wild boars roam the purple plains, backs covered with neon graffiti.
Blood Dragon's story unfolds through a series of 2D cutscenes that wouldn't be out-of-place in an NES-era adventure. And when those scenes end, it's into a day-glo nightmare from the early days of MTV.
Simulating the physics of water has always been tricky and game engines sometimes still have to use dodgy mechanics to make it feel real. But the above demonstration of this new fluid simulation technique proves that slowly but surely we're getting there.
Game developers have been stuck with DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory for the past decade. While this hasn’t harmed first person shooters (they only have to manage a handful of objects at once), it has been poisonous to other genres. Next time you’re playing an RPG in first person with no party you can refer to DirectX 9 and 2GB of memory as a big reason for that.
Like many PC gamers, I've often wished a machine capable of putting the power of a gaming rig in a portable device. Gaming laptops are lovely and have their place, but that place is often on top of a desk. After a week with Razer's new Edge gaming tablet, I realize what I really wanted was to play Bioshock Infinite in the bathroom without burning my thighs. All hail Razer, deliverer of dreams.
Razer's only review guidelines before sending along a Razer Edge loaner was that I not tell them I used it in the bathroom. I am a review guideline freedom fighter, deep in the trenches, pants around my ankles, balancing a $1,499 gaming tablet on the side of the tub before redeploying to less secluded front. And why not? I don't have to stop playing until the batteries run out.
BioShock Infinite isn't just a worthy sequel to a much-loved predecessor. It also manages to be about America - touching on its past, present and possibilities — in a way that makes it a must.
You haven't been to a place like this before. The fictional floating city where Infinite is set is all clockwork platforms and brass gears, its many sections populated with hucksters, strivers, lovers and schoolchildren. One minute, you're walking past a sheer drop, the next a park swings down into the open space.
When you're not building and recruiting, you're following arrows and doing what the game tells you to do. There are optional side-quests, yes, but they're almost always marked on your mini-map, and they're way too easy to find and finish.
But it's still StarCraft. It's still a joy to go through the now-familiar ritual of training and killing, and even the easiest missions are designed with the attention to detail that we've grown to expect from this series. And even the easier moments exercise your mind in the way that only a real-time strategy game can.
To many fans of the original city building simulation series, the idea of an online multiplayer game that required even solo players to be connected to the internet at all times seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Maxis' latest creation is easily the most compelling SimCity I've played since the 1989 original. It's also a disaster.
The real joy of playing a game on PC is that, thanks to mods, your entire experience can be improved by the work of dedicated fans.
Because some mods are so extensive, transforming almost everything about the source title, we felt it was only fair to list 12 of the best of them here, since they may as well count as their own new games.
Cold rain drizzles outside. Inside, everything is pink, round, and frilly. The first floor of this otaku (geek) retailer is plastered with release info for new PC games—adult PC games. The shop is located in Den-Den Town, Osaka's geek and gaming district, on a street known as "Ota Road", short for "otaku road". It's easy to stumble into shops like this and find an array of dating games, some of which are erotic.
The vast majority of these games are not exactly mainstream in Japan, but their presence is palpable in a geek neighborhood like this. But what Western gamers think of PC games—the games from developers like Valve and Blizzard—aren't. It's not that those Western PC games don't exist; they just don't smack you in the face.
It's been a heck of a year for games. We've had our highs and we've had our lows, but more importantly, we've all turned those highs and lows into animated GIFs for the rest of the internet to behold.
With that in mind, let's see what the best ones were.
We'll start with a few of our favorites.
There was a moment on Sunday when I thought the PC gamers had been hiding something from me. They'd been telling me that PC gaming wasn't the complicated hobby that it used to be, that it was more streamlined and less of a pain. They'd told me that I didn't need to be an auto mechanic if I didn't want to be, that I could just drive without ever flipping up the hood.
And yet there I was trying to be a PC gamer on Sunday and having a tough time of it. I was feeling stymied yet again. I was having what I now hope are my last doubts, because today I've just about run out of excuses to fear PC gaming.