The best PC games of 2013

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Dead Space 3


Publisher: EA
Release: February 8
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The sudden appearance of a co-op mode in this venerable space-horror franchise may sound like the marketing department got a little trigger happy with the back-of-box checklist, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, didn’t we all the say the same gloomy things about Mass Effect 3’s excellent multiplayer? Secondly, Dead Space already showed it could deliver terror to a twosome in its (actually terrific, sadly undersold) Wii light-gun game. What’s more, the game’s roots have hardly been forgotten: it's still perfectly possible to play the game on your tod. This one promises to add themes of insanity and perception to the traditional jump-scares and body-horror.

In our review we called Dead Space 3 "an excellent horror game burdened with action pretensions", so it seems we had reason to be optimistic after all.

Tomb Raider


Publisher: Square Enix
Release: March 5
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Vulnerability and survival are the watchwords for this reinvention of the Tomb Raider series, which finds a young and unworldly Lara Croft shipwrecked on an island - a far cry from the backflipping, dual-wielding daredevil treasure-seeker who murdered her way through polygonal archeological hoards during the mid-nineties. Crystal Dynamics are certainly brave in taking this iconic character in such a dark, mature direction - but will the cost to our heroine’s empowerment prove too great a price to pay?

Kinda. "Visually stunning and meticulously staged, but hindered by limited depth and stifling linearity" was our verdict when we reviewed Tomb Raider.

Strike Suit Zero


Publisher: Born Ready Games
Release: January 24
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Space combat has proven popular on Kickstarter but the interplanetary dogfighting of Strike Suit Zero wasn't born from the crowdfunding process. Instead, this rather beautiful off-world blaster had been a while in development already and will be using the $175k it raised to, uh, kickfinish the project, and then kickpolish it, too.

Tempted to give Strike Suit Zero a spin? Make sure you read our review first.

Fortnite


Publisher: Epic Games
Release: TBC 2013
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Perhaps keen to prove that there’s more to Unreal Engine 4 than high-definition beefcakes gunning down space goblins in the destroyed beauty of a future city, Epic Games’ first proof of their new technology will be the cartoonish tower defence game, Fortnite. The clean, chirpy visuals belie technological innovation, however: UE4 will allow players huge freedom in the way they construct their anti-zombie fortifications, editing each wall with a 3x3 grid. The plan is that the game will have a long-tail, with many post-release updates, eventually allowing players to construct Rube Goldberg-style machines of death.

Starforge


Publisher: CodeHatch
Release: TBC 2013
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Minecraft with guns, realistic graphics, and both ground and low-orbit construction. Interested? Starforge is a ridiculously ambitious crowd-funded indie project that's already come a remarkably long way. You deform terrain and build a fortress to protect yourself from aliens, and when all else fails, use a shotgun to blast them into pieces. If the small team can make those weapons feel nice to fire, it'll be a winner.

Remember Me


Publisher: Capcom
Release: June 3
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“We’ll always have Paris,” as the saying goes - not so much in the Neo-Paris of 2084, when memories can be erased or altered by Memory Hunters. You play as one such mnemonic saboteur, called Nilin, herself rendered amnesiac by agents of the oppressive Parisien regime. Thirdperson acrobatics and assassinations ensue as you try to piece together the conspiracy, and featuring the world’s most complicated sounding combat system. You also get to wreck men’s minds by jumping into their memory and replaying events to reconfigure their recollection. Convince someone they killed their girlfriend during an argument, for instance, and you may just drive them to suicide. How lovely.

Cast your mind back to June and you might recall our Remember Me review.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist


Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: August 20
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Ninja-spy Sam Fisher without voice-actor Michael Ironside is like bread without butter. Talking butter. Sardonic, gravelly-voiced, talking butter. But despite the new vocal chords lent to Fisher, this sixth outing for the sneak-em-up series may yet prove to be more loyal to the action of the earlier games. While Splinter Cell: Conviction saw Sam on the lam, decimating a small army of enemies with little attempt at secrecy, Blacklist’s latest trailers show off non-lethal takedowns - much more to the tastes of the discerning spy.

We rather enjoyed the multiplayer mode when we stepped into Sam Fisher's sneaky shoes this September. The rest of it? Not so much.

Lost Planet 3


Publisher: Capcom
Release: August 27
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Previous instalments in this thirdperson shooter series have been an intriguing but not always comfortable mix of Gears of War and Shadow of the Colossus, with players cooperatively slaying giant beasts and hordes of future-pirates on the world of EDN 3 - in the first instance a bleak ball of ice, thawing to a steaming jungle in its sequel. This game promises to be a prequel, so we can assume a few stiff breezes and frosty mornings. It also promises to be more narrative-led - which is worrying given the entirely charmless fiction of previous games. More worrisome still is the fact that the original developers aren’t on board, replaced by Spark Unlimited, responsible for crimping off the reeking digi-turd which was Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. Brr.

Star Trek


Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release: April 23
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Bridging the gap between JJ Abrams' reboot and the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness, this tie-in will certainly deliver Hollywood glitz with its cast - and usually that would be all you could expect. But this is being handled by Digital Extremes, a studio with an admittedly mixed portfolio, but one riding high after the triumphant carnage of the Darkness 2. They may well have the chops to enliven even the most linear thirdperson actioner.

PSA: Star Trek is a game you should most likely avoid.

DmC: Devil May Cry


Publisher: Capcom
Release: 25 January
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There were wails of anguish in console-land when this reboot of beloved demon-bashing combo-brawler Devil May Cry was first announced. But if the word from those with review code is good - and so far the mutterings are most auspicious indeed - then few complaints will survive the game’s release. It seems that British devs Ninja Theory may have the moves to make even Bayonetta blush. The one worry is how well it’ll port to PC, a duty outsourced to Polish team QLOC - but a promised 60 FPS, with no maximum limit, is a rather good start.

It was supposed to be terrible, but DmC was actually pretty great, as opined in our review.

Smite


Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Release: 2013 (closed beta out now)
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Hi-Rez, the makers of the exquisite Tribes: Ascend, have had this thirdperson take on the DotA formula in beta for some time. Instead of defending Ancients with a team of eccentric legendary warriors, however, here you fight to protect your pet minotaur with a cross-pantheon selection of gods taken from major world religions - a fact which has proven controversial with men of the cloth.

Dark


Publisher: Kalypso Media
Release: July 4
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A stealth action game in which players take on the role of a vampire anti-hero attempting to bring down a shadowy corporation in a futuristic cel-shaded city - or “a world of blood and darkness” as the press release rather hysterically puts it. As well as being possessed of supernatural sneakiness, our protagonist can face down the police and all many of night-time terrors with a range of vampiric powers that allow him to turn to smoke or close for the kill with lightning speed.

Are you afraid of the Dark? Once you've read our review, you sure will be.

Battle Cry Of Freedom


Publisher: Flying Squirrel Entertainment
Release: TBC 2013
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Ambitious indie multiplayer game set during the American Civil War. Promises battles with more than five hundred players, buildable barricades, trenches, and explosives, and even musicians that can play a range of period-appropriate tunes. It's still very early days, but worth keeping an eye on.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified


Publisher: 2K Games
Release: August 20
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This action-based reboot of XCOM met with such acrimony from fans of the original turnbased strategy game that its release date scurried off into the distant future, allowing Firaxis’ more loyal squad-tactics remake, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, to take centre-stage. The game finally emerged under a new moniker, The Bureau, a name that made clear this was a sort of side-story, rather than a potential new direction for the celebrated series.

You can read our The Bureau review here, if the government hasn't got to it first.

Monaco


Publisher: Pocketwatch Games
Release: April 24
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Players take on role of primary-coloured pixellated thieves, each with specialised roles, in this four-player top-down heist game. It’s great: it won the IGF and a whole bunch of other gongs way back in 2010. Where’s it got to since? Sources assure us it is indeed still in development, and not spending ill-gotten gains in the casinos of Rio de Janeiro as rumoured.

Cross Of The Dutchman


Publisher: Triangle Studios
Release: TBC 2013
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Though the promised demo has missed its October launch date by some way, the signs are that development on this action adventure title still continues apace. Based on the folk legend of Frisian freedom fighter Pier Gerlofs Donia, this hopes to be a historically loyal recreation of the story and setting, despite the lush caricaturish style.

Rambo: The Video Game


Publisher: Reef Entertainment
Release: Early 2013
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While Rambo has since become synonymous with action by dint of its excessive sequels, it’s far from certain that the first film, which is largely about a man undergoing a PTSD-induced meltdown in some woodland, will really adequately satisfy as a shooter. Still, it can’t be any worse the Ubisoft’s recent efforts with The Expendables, right?

Legend Of Dungeon


Publisher: RobotLovesKitty
Release: September 13
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This may just be the reason Kickstarter was invented: to fund a four-player roguelike dungeon crawler with a delicious pixel-art style. And presumably the people who helped it hit its funding target six times over agree.

Super Comboman


Publisher: Interabang Entertainment
Release: Late 2013
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A 2D platformer/beat-'em-up hybrid with heavy emphasis on - you may have guessed - combos. Super Comboman sees you rock a sweet mullet and a talking fanny-pack while slamming enemies with an unending string of slickly animated moves. Cute stick-album art-style, too.

Retrovirus


Publisher: Cadenza Interactive
Release: 31 January
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A shooter with six-axes of freedom, Retrovirus matches the zippy pace of FPS games of yore with the stomach-spinning spatial freedom of disorienting shooter classic, Descent. As an agent of the resident anti-virus program, you must defend a computer system from an infectious onslaught with a slew of physics-enhanced weaponry like gravity wells and chain reactions.

Forced


Publisher: BetaDwarf
Release: October 24
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This arena-based fighting game pitches its top-down co-op combat somewhere between Left 4 Dead and Diablo, with four divergent classes and a cooperative combo system. Players battle together through a series of gladiatorial arenas, defeating waves of gruesome fantasy creatures with the aid of a globular spirit mentor, who can assist them by swiping pick-ups and interacting with things “outside the physical realm”.

Dungeonland


Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release: January 29
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Set in a lethal medieval themepark, Dungeonland is a class-based co-op action game for up to four players. The perspective may put you in mind of Diablo or Torchlight, but with its promise of tossable sheep, ludicrous costumes and frog facts, its tone clearly finds inspiration elsewhere.

Humans Must Answer


Publisher: Sumom Games
Release: July 11
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While one bunch of ex-Stalker developers went on to make Survarium, a multiplayer Stalker game in all but name, others had clearly had quite enough of The Zone and its bleak, unrelenting peril. Instead, they’ve gone on to make a 2D bullet-hell space shooter in which a race of space-faring chickens attempts to wipe out the galactic scourge of mankind.

Mew-Genics


Publisher: Team Meat
Release: TBC 2013
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There have been few clues from developer Team Meat as to what genre this feline-themed game fits into. The occasional screenshots have teased some sort of damage system - that much we know - and Team Meat’s portfolio would suggest a bias towards action. But given that the screenshots also teased “poop-rates” the mind boggles at what sort of action that might be.

State Of Decay


Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release: TBC 2013
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Undead Labs are a more than a little bit late to the zombie-survival-open-world-game party, but hopefully their entry will be a little less controversial than War Z’s debut. This one promises an ever-evolving world with fortifiable strongholds.

Overgrowth


Publisher: Wolfire Games
Release: TBC 2013
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Anthropomorphised rabbits, wolves, cats, rats and dogs kick seven bells out of each other in this thirdperson kung-fu adventure game set in a pre-industrial world. The spiritual successor to 2005’s Lugaru, it’s been a long, long time in development and the creators’ ambitions have sprawled, expanding on the original’s fluid combat system with context-sensitive attacks, reversals and environmental interaction. It also comes with a sandbox mode and suite of editing tools.

Warframe


Publisher: Digital Extremes
Release: TBC 2013
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You wait for one free-to-play online shooter with a disyllabic name beginning “War-”, and then two come along at once. Not to be confused with Crytek’s near future blamfest Warface, Digital Extreme’s effort is a procedurally generated co-op affair set in a sci-fi universe. Players take on the role of the Tenno, a race of space-ninjas battling against their former overlords, the Grineer, by suiting up with specialised exoskeletons known as Warframes.

Archeblade


Publisher: Codebrush Games
Release: March 2013
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A third-person multiplayer brawler which combines the character-specific movesets and combos of arcade fighting games with the cooperative tactics of a team-shooter. The devs were forced to cancel their Kickstarter, but still say the game is on schedule for its March release.

The Showdown Effect


Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release: March 5
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A sort of 2D side-scrolling Action: Half Life, The Showdown Effect features up to eight players battling it out with weapons ripped from the hands of cheesy 80s action heroes. It’s a roll-call of cliches - but Magicka creators Arrowhead Studios have shown themselves to be pretty pithy fellows. You can sign up for that macho madness at The Showdown Effect’s beta page.

The Showdown Effect is out now - and we've only gone and reviewed the damn thing too.

Sacred Citadel


Publisher: Deep Silver
Release: April 16
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A three player side-scrolling beat-em-up with a rather sumptuous art-style, Sacred Citadel sees players overthrow the oppressive Ashen empire with a slew of melee combos and acrobatic death-dealing. It also promises to update the arcade formula with RPG-lite upgrades and, according to the website, “flawless gameplay”. Good to know.

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters


Publisher: Spicy Horse Games
Release: TBC 2013
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Another action-RPG paying homage to Diablo, Akaneiro: Demon Hunters has the considerable advantage of Spicy Horse Games’ aesthetic sense, which introduces an ink-wash art style to the faux-isometric click-fest. It’s also very, very loosely based on Red Riding Hood, transposing the story to feudal Japan and introducing hordes of monsters to splatter apart. It may be a slight departure from canon, but it’ll be free-to-play and co-op, so who’s complaining?

Ether One


Publisher: White Paper Games
Release: TBC 2013
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First person adventure that takes place in the 'broken mental structures' of a woman called Jean. It's the first part of two, and it's got lofty aims - the devs claim to want to 'explore the importance and fragility of human memories'.

The Adventurer


Publisher: The Farm 51
Release: TBC 2013
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An action adventure FPS set in the 30s with a globetrotting, treasure-hunting theme - sounds more like an Indiana game than and indie game. The Adventurer doesn’t seem abashed about its inspiration though, promising tomb raiding, traps, lost treasure and a list of exotic locations from Egypt to the Arctic.

Collateral


Publisher: Dancing Dinosaur Games
Release: TBC 2013
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Pitched as a cyberpunk taxi-driving game, Collateral’s twitchy car combat recalls something of the Twisted Metal series - except here, the cars fly, dogfighting amid a garish, futuristic cityscape. It’s not likely to be an overly serious dystopian vision, however, as witnessed by the giant, bloated Elvis statue in the city centre and the numerous nods to The Fifth Element.

Tiny Barbarian DX


Publisher: StarQuail Games
Release: May
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What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to play retro 2D action games, much like the excellent free Tiny Barbarian. Following that success, StarQuail Games have successfully Kickstarted Tiny Barbarian DX - a series of four further short-form adventures which expand our diminutive hero’s combos, improve platforming, add boss-fights and giant mounts and even boost the protagonist’s height by a whole pixel. The first episode is due in January with the rest to follow shortly after.

Volgarr The Viking


Publisher: Crazy Viking Studios
Release: September 13
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This sidescrolling action game almost doubled its Kickstarter target and is already well on its way to completion. The game comes from a veteran duo of 2D arcade games, and lists a number of venerable influences - Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Castlevania and Rastan - promising to adapt the best ideas from each into this violent hack-and-slash.

The Dead Linger


Publisher: Sandswept Studios
Release: 2013
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Another first-person zombie survival game promising the world - in this case literally, since the game boasts a “planet-sized” post-apocalypse to roam. This is quite a small planet, however, going by the wiki’s figure of 25,000 square kilometers. But unlike Day Z, here it’s all procedurally generated and the claim is that you can interact with anything you see. It’s a long way from fulfilling all of its pledged feature-set however, with a good deal of work to be done to get before it competes either visually or mechanically with existing zombie shooters. Paid alpha access is already available at a reduced rate.

Nekro


Publisher: darkForge Games
Release: Q4 2013
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A top-down action game that namechecks Dungeon Keeper and Myth, Nekro sees you take on the eponymous role of a dark lord of the undead, raising monsters from the ground to raze townships to the ground. The more you destroy, the more powerful you become, and you can even craft your own spells by combining reagents you find around the randomly generated world. Even better, the game has defecating pigs.

Zombie Playground


Publisher: Massive Black Inc
Release: TBC 2013
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It all started with Jason Chan’s awesome illustration of a group of kids battling the shambling grey hordes from atop a helter-skelter. Some time (and near enough $170k of Kickstarter funding) later, and that pre-teen zompocalypse concept has congealed into a thirdperson team-shooter. Though it may be viewed through a child’s imagination, with fanciful touches like tentacled biology-class mannequins and neon-coloured toy guns that fire actual sizzling plasma death, the copious gore attests to the fact that this is certainly not a game for kids. It’s got a pumping soundtrack too, courtesy of hip-hop producer Aesop Rock.

Moon Intern


Publisher: LarryPixel
Release: November
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On the surface a side-scrolling action game, Moon Intern quickly reveals itself to be something much more reactive and dynamic, with missions, jobs and events being generated on the fly to suit your playstyle. One day you may find yourself delivering lightbulbs and the next exorcising a haunted space station - each mission allowing for a variety of solutions, and whichever you choose biases the selection of future missions towards either action or puzzle. Some events are so drastic that they may change your relationship with every NPC in the colony. Thrillingly ambitious stuff, wrapped in a charming retro presentation.

Mercenary Kings


Publisher: Tribute Games
Release: TBC 2013
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The creators of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Wizorb return with another retro-styled title, this time in the vein of Metal Slug - but with weapon crafting. They’re also looking to build in some of the co-op magic of games like Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Online, with the superbly eccentric talents of master pixel-pusher Paul Robertson providing art direction.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch


Publisher: Young Horses
Release: TBC 2013
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If you’re not inspired to buy Octodad: Dadliest Catch for the pun alone, you can test the waters with the free original game, in which you attempt to control the flailing limbs of a sea-creature attempting basic domestic chores. Similar cephalopod-based physics-enhanced calamity is promised in this sequel, as our protagonist attempts to conceal his nautical origins from his increasingly suspicious human wife.

Skullgirls


Publisher: Marvelous AQL
Release: August 22
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Reverge Labs/Lab Zero Games have put a ton of effort into this indie fighting game, which has slowly but surely built up a sizeable community over the years. The divisive character art will likely alienate some, but beneath that you'll find an extravagant, stylish fighter that's constantly being tweaked and refined. A recent, successful Kickstarter funded a few new characters, highlighting just how expensive they can be to make in the process.

Dust: An Elysian Tail


Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release: May 24
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A sidescrolling, anthropomorphic action RPG featuring absolutely terrific art and animation. You're Dust, an amnesiac hero with a sentient sword that doesn't seem to mind being used to slaughter monsters. Imagine an unholy union between Diablo and Devil May Cry – now add lots of cute, colourful animals and you're somewhere near Dust's combo-heavy fantasy world Falana.

We rather liked Dust when we fought our way through it earlier in the year.

Resident Evil: Revelations


Publisher: Capcom
Release: May 24
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This (originally handheld-only) spin-off reintroduced claustrophic environments, and even a few scares, to a series that had long since abandoned them in favour of action sequences and dismal QTEs. Revelations was set primarily on a cruise ship (albeit one filled with slimy slug-zombie-things), so naturally it was the first in the series to feature underwater sections – it also, impressively, boasts a sidekick even more annoying than Code Veronica's Steve Burns.

King of Fighters XIII


Publisher: Warner Bros
Release: September 13
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SNK Playmore's technical fighting game has finally come to PC, with improved netcode to boot – one area that has typically been lacking in previous games. The base game hasn't changed too much from the console version, but the new community, and better online, will hopefully give this contender a second wind.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow


Publisher: Konami
Release: August 27
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MercurySteam's sumptuous action-adventure was revived for the PC shortly after its sequel was announced, giving us plenty of time to cross it off our to-impale lists before Gabriel 'Begbie' Belmont returns for Lords of Shadow 2. If you were expecting a platformer like the early games, or a Metroidvania like the more recent handheld ones, prepare for disappointment/surprise: it's essentially God of War/Devil May Cry, but set in a beautiful, dark medieval world.

Mortal Kombat Komplete


Publisher: Warner Bros
Release: July 3
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NetherRealm's Mortal Kombat reboot boasts a surprisingly detailed story, the usual memorably ridiculous characters, and more discarded spines than the bin outside your local butcher shop. How does it hold up to the likes of Street Fighter, Skullgirls, and the recently released King of Fighters XIII? Not too well, competitively, but there is fun to be had in discovering the game's many gory finishing moves.

Is Mortal Komplete Komplete any kop? Have a read of our review to find out.

Saints Row IV


Publisher: Deep Silver
Release: August 23
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With IV, Volition's open world crime series has shed most of its similarities to GTA, while smoothing off its remaining nasty edges in the process. You'll probably remember it for the superpowers though, for the aliens, for the fact that you play as the United States president – but most of all you'll remember it for its dubstep gun. It is literally a gun that fires dubstep.

"Gloriously stupid" and "stupidly good" - that was our view on Saints Row 4 after we joyously bounded our way around Steelport back in August.

Batman: Arkham Origins


Publisher: Warner Bros
Release: October 25
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Set five years before Arkham Asylum, Origins features a youngish Batman who hasn't yet biffed most of Gotham's criminal underworld into Blackgate prison or Arkham Asylum. Because it is the way of things, Bat's latest...earliest open world adventure will also feature multiplayer, which in one mode at least pits Batman and Robin against henchmen working for The Joker and Bane.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag


Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: November
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After the disappointment of Assassin's Creed III, can IV redeem the historical stabfest for disenchanted fans everywhere? Well, Jimlad, it features swashbuckling and an expanded sailing component, so we're hopefully in for a proper pirate game at least. With the convoluted sci-fi nonsense (mostly) tied up in the previous entry, Black Flag may be relatively Desmond-free too.

Quadrilateral Cowboy


Publisher: Blendo Games
Release: Late 2013
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“When you have a top-of-the-line hacking deck armed with a 56.6k modem and a staggering 256k RAM, it means just one thing: you answer only to the highest bidder.” Blendo Games' follow-up to the brilliant Thirty Flights of Loving takes hacking back to the good old days – the 1980s – when the Matthew Brodericks of the world were busy nearly starting World War III. It's proper hacking game that involves lots of typing, rather than dumbed-down minigames.