This week's best free PC games
A quiet week for free PC games - pretty much all I could find was something called an ArmA 2 and some sort of war-themed hat simulator. Team Fortress 2 mean anything to you? Apparently that's free now. Luckily, the lineup is bolstered by some gorgeous indie gems.
Team Fortress 2
Valve. Get it on Steam.
So they actually did it. After all the rumours and speculation, Valve have announced that Team Fortress 2 will be free forever. If you haven't bought it and you never buy an in-game item, you still get all the maps, classes and game modes paying customers do. The only limitations are that certain rare items aren't available to find or craft, and you have less inventory space to store the ones you do find. But spend even £0.29 on the cheapest item, and you're treated as a paying customer and those few restrictions are removed.
Team Fortress 2 added an in-game item shop late last year, letting players pay real money for the many unlockable weapons and hats for each class. This switch to free-to-play comes with a huge new update adding even more of these items for almost every class. But if you're new to TF2, you won't care about that: you've got enough to learn without any extra items to think about.
A good way to learn the ropes is to play the King of the Hill mode - choose it when you look for a match, or if you're using the server browser, look for maps starting with koth_. It's nice and simple, just one control point to capture, so you can learn how the classes work in a controlled environment. The Medic is a good class to start with, since you're always appreciated and you can pay attention to what your team mates are doing rather than shooting people. Just keep the healy beam on the big man.
Arma 2: Free
Bohemia Interactive. Get it from the Arma 2 website.
Arma 2 is a hyper-realistic military sim with an extraordinary sense of scale and accuracy, but the single-player campaign that never quite hit the heights provided by multiplayer. Which makes Arma 2: Free an exciting prospect. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Operation Flashpoint, Bohemia have taken the best bits of Arma 2 and lobbed them online for you to grab without paying a penny.
All you miss out on is the campaign, the highest quality graphics settings, and the ability to use mods. What you can do is create your own campaigns in the excellent editor, or play those other people have created. The community is huge and creative, and you can find lots of the campaigns they've made over at Armaholic.
It's a huge and often scary game, simulating real war mercilessly. Group up with some friends, lay some explosives, and lie in a bush together for an hour while you wait for the enemy tank convoy to roll over them.
Atmos Games. Play it on Newgrounds.
I haven't seen a game so quietly beautiful in a long time. This 2D, silhouetted platformer has such an extraordinary sense of style that it's captivating within seconds - and that's before the game itself has even had a chance to get going.
When it does, it's a pleasantly floaty platformer about a robot. You'll jump, grapple and smash your way around the immaculately designed world as you first embark on a quest to recover your son's lost marbles, then find yourself involved in something a whole load bigger.
You gain new abilities as you work your way through the game, and the surprisingly strong and heartfelt storytelling keeps Skinny engaging throughout. I haven't enjoyed a browser game this much in ages. A very strong recommendation.
fexLab. Play it on Kongregate.
If you're familiar with the iPhone game Tiny Wings, you'll be at home with this armadillo-based equivalent. If not: you hold a button to roll down slopes, then release it to let the momentum carry you uphill and into the air. You can also, er, 'soar' by clicking the upper half of the screen to delay your descent, smashing through birds mid-air for no ethically sound reason. Gems on certain slopes give you an incentive to come down sooner or soar a little longer.
The game's (re)created very well, with some pleasant aesthetic touches giving 'Dillo Hills a much needed dash of its own character. It's peaceful, and pleasant, and a great way to spend a rainy half hour.