The Best Free Games of the Week

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Tom Sykes at

Some guy once said that the only certainties in life are death, taxes, the endless geyser of internet anger, and good games that happen to be free. I can't do much about the first three (sorry), but I've cherry-picked the best of the last one and stuffed them into this here weekly column for your edification. Read on for a charming fishing game, a maddening rotational platformer, the world's first beard-based puzzle game (I assume), and a safari adventure starring arguably the greatest predator of all: man a marble. Enjoy!


H1Z1 footage shows that, yep, it looks a lot like DayZ

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Tom Sykes at

The Long Dark's creative director reckons the apocalypse doesn't have to feature zombies - but, erm, here's one more open world post-apocalyptic game that does. As announced last week, Sony's entry into the DayZ genre is the wittily (if clinically) named H1Z1, a game that differentiates itself from Dean Hall and Bohemia's game by...well, that part's not totally clear yet, but it's been a fairly democratic process so far. H1Z1 game designer Jimmy Whisenhunt and technical director Tom Schenk took to Twitch a few hours ago to show off the game as it stands now; you'll find 50-odd minutes of walking, zombie-battering, scavenging and driving, in a game that admittedly looks very pretty but so far doesn't seem to boast any distinguishing characteristics.


Procedurally generated grand strategy The Last Federation out now

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Tom Sykes at

Arcen Games' The Last Federation only came to light in February, and yesterday the grand-strategy-featuring-turn-based-shmup-combat-bits saw release. One day the secret of Arcen's astounding productivity will leak out - my money's on founder Chris Park owning some sort of Time Turner - but before that dread reveal we have plenty of time to wallow in their copious, innovative, if not always entirely successful output. The Last Federation is now available on the official site or on the Steams, along with your standard slight reduction in price and beautifully impenetrable launch trailer. I have no idea what's going on in the next two minutes, but just look at all the tiny lasers and explosions.


Saturday Crapshoot: Amazon: Guardians Of Eden

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Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, interactive movies are about to make a bit of a comeback... so let's flashback to before the technology made them possible, but people were still willing to try.

It's New Tex Murphy Week next week, and I'll be honest, I'm excited. (Though I haven't played it yet, so I'm only hoping it doesn't suck.) As well as being a big fan of the original interactive movies... though less so the adventures that spawned them... I've always had a bit of a soft spot for FMV. I remember it when it was the impossible technological dream, the future of gaming, the disappointing present, and then the best-forgotten past, and honestly it made the jump to the second half of that with good cause. Still, there's something so endearing about the goofiness of a greenscreen, amateur actors desperately trying to carry stories by first-time scriptwriters, and all that, that I still look back on them a little fondly.

But Amazon? Amazon was an interactive movie that couldn't even wait for CD-ROM. Be afraid.

Pillars of Eternity soundtrack previewed in music release

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Patrick Carlson at

A brilliant—but troubled—philosopher once said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." In gaming, music is often the only familiar companion on a journey to strange places and new worlds. With that in mind, it's surely a good omen that developer Obsidian has given us a chance to preview the soundscape being written for its upcoming RPG, Pillars of Eternity.


MechWarrior Online contest puts free BattleMech up for grabs this weekend

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Patrick Carlson at

One good way to get pilots into the hot seat of a new 'Mech is to let them fight for it. This weekend MechWarrior Online is giving players a clear path to ownership of a hulking and asymmetrical Thunderbolt variant—win five matches and the machine is yours.


Skyrim mod Skywind recreates Morrowind, will include revamped crafting and voice acting

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Ian Birnbaum at

Skywind, the pleasing portmanteau of Skyrim and Morrowind continues to look really, really good. Remaking Morrowind in Skyrim’s engine is a mammoth task, and a new development video breaks down the many ways that a legion of volunteer modders, voice actors, and artists are bringing the Elder Scrolls classic into the modern age.

H1Z1 survivalists can vote to create custom servers

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Patrick Carlson at

H1Z1 wants to give us a more personal apocalypse. The upcoming zombie MMO will let players vote to establish and join custom servers, according to a new Reddit post from Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley. The system will revolve around a token system the developer hopes will let it gauge the interest and commitment of the free-to-play game's player base before it ramps up support for a specific custom server.


Cortex Command gets Steam Workshop, renewed development commitment in update

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Emanuel Maiberg at

Cortex Command is one of those indie games that’s in perpetual development. Data Realms founder Daniel Tabar released version 1.0 before Early Access was a thing. We reviewed it poorly, and Tabar admits that the game wasn’t really ready to launch. The nice thing is that he and his team never stopped taking feedback from the community and improving it, as the big build 30 update makes clear.


Square Enix: DRM is "essential for the foreseeable future"

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Ian Birnbaum at

In a new interview, an executive at Square Enix has doubled-down on the company’s DRM policy. The executive claims that DRM protects profits at the end of the day, and that’s the most important thing to any development studio, big or small.


Updated: The Elder Scrolls Online item duplication bug forces Zenimax to shut down guild banks

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Ian Birnbaum at

An economy-crippling bug caused The Elder Scrolls Online to disable its Guild Banks on North American and European servers early Friday. Developer Zenimax has already put together a fix in the latest patch, but some users are complaining that they’ve been trying to warn developers about the problem for weeks.


Take On Mars: Expedition One launches, ready to put humans on the Red Planet

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Emanuel Maiberg at

You will never step foot on Mars. Let that slightly depressing feeling that you were born in the wrong time sink in. Now cheer up and take comfort that you at least have the technology to play pretend in a videogame. Bohemia Interactive has released the first portion of its manned mission content for Take On Mars for current Early Access players.


Brutal Doom update v20 to add ragdoll physics, more brutality

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Emanuel Maiberg at

I didn’t think it was possible for Doom to get any better, but mods make everything better. The absurdly violent Brutal Doom mod is doing a great job of keeping Doom just as shocking and visceral of an experience as it was when it first came out 20 years ago, and the newest version will add ragdoll physics—because when I shotgun an Imp, I wanna see it tumble.


Tropico 5 pre-orders now available for swag-filled physical, discounted digital versions

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Emanuel Maiberg at

You know that a publisher has faith in its game when it starts offering special editions with silly bonuses. You may think of the Tropico games as a niche PC series, but this recently announced Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition argues otherwise. It’s not quite as silly as, for example, Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition that includes everything but the actual game, but it tries.


The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

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Tim Clark at

Each week PC Gamer probes the previous seven days to scientifically establish what rocked our world and made us despair for its very future. As usual, we begin with the good stuff…

Ask PAX: PC gamers on the state of PC gaming

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Evan Lahti at

One of my PAX East discoveries was that a media badge and a camera gives me full license to talk to strangers. After our panel on Friday, I spent some of Saturday cruising the LAN and BYOC area and the rest of the show floor to survey PC gamers on what they're playing, what they're looking forward to, and what they love about our favorite hobby.


Dark Souls 2 comparison video: Xbox 360 vs. PC at 1080p

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Cory Banks at

Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition was a bad port of a brilliant game. Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, is a well-made PC port (even super-modder Durante thinks so). But just hearing that isn't enough: how much better does it look on PC than on consoles?

To find out, we made this video of side-by-side comparisons between the Xbox 360 version and the PC version running at 1080p, with all settings set to max, on the Large Pixel Collider. Let the footage be the judge—which do you think looks better?

The Long Dark's creative director explains why the apocalypse doesn't need zombies

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Tim Clark at

From the Aztecs worrying about the sun disappearing from the sky, to Hollywood's endless variations on the end of the world, it seems like every civilisation is fascinated with the idea that it might be the last. Perhaps it's a sign of humanity's general narcissism, with each generation secretly hoping to be the one left staring into the abyss at the end of it all, because that might make us special. Or maybe folk just like seeing what happens when stuff goes really wrong.

The Long Dark is going to deliver a comparatively restrained, but no less frightening, vision of our demise. It's a survival game, funded on Kickstarter, which has already generated plenty of buzz for its startling visuals, which are being overseen by art director Hokyo Lim, who previously worked on The Unfinished Swan. The end of the world has rarely looked prettier.


Minimum rescued from limbo by Atari and Human Head, heading for Steam Early Access soon

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Tom Sykes at

Blocky multiplayer shooter Minimum was announced this time last year, and now it's been re-announced under new development and publishing teams. The reason for this is that original developers TimeGate (infamous for co-developing the execrable Aliens: Colonial Marines) filed for bankruptcy shortly after the game's announcement, leaving it stranded in a sort of cubey limbo. Now it's back, and it's heading for Steam Early Access, under former Prey 2 developers Human Head.


The Flock trailer shows the asymmetrical stealth horror game in action

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Tom Sykes at

As any fool with a spirit level would be able to tell you, multiplayer has never been all that symmetrical, but that hasn't stopped developers from attempting to unbalance it even further. Left 4 Dead's competitive multiplayer, for example, is as asymmetrical as a Shoreditch haircut, pitting a team of zombies against a team of normals and giving each an opposing goal to achieve. The comparatively minimalist The Flock takes things in a tenser, less action-packed direction, using elements of Capture the Flag and Doctor Who's 'Blink' episode to fuel a shadow-drenched horror game for four players. It looks faintly bloody terrifying, as you can see from the first gameplay trailer, below.