Battlefield 4 PC review

Evan Lahti at

Battlefield 4 wants you to break it. Demolition has been, to varying degrees, its distinguishing feature since DICE made Battlefield: Bad Company 2 destructible. In BF4 it takes the form of massive, shatterable centerpieces in each multiplayer map. A concrete dam you can ruin. A dentable radar telescope. A crippled Navy destroyer that, with an encouraging explosive push, can be run aground in Paracel Storm. On Siege of Shanghai, which you may have played during the beta, it’s a glass skyscraper that’s centered on control point C. Throw enough C4, RPGs, or tank rounds at its four exterior support columns, and the tower will jenga to the ground, leaving a grave of split concrete behind.

Dota 2 review

Chris Thursten at

Of the half-dozen people I started learning Dota 2 with, three still play regularly. Though there are hundreds of thousands of players of our approximate skill level populating the matchmaking queues, the four of us are more like each other than we are like anyone else playing Valve’s isometric wizard-’em-up.

Spending a year learning to shuffle a gaggle of fantasy heroes up Dota’s teetering stack of rules and game mechanics will do that to you: we’ve developed a secret language of our own, one that runs parallel to the talk of creeps and lanes and farm and rax common to everyone who plays the game. “Whack a ward on the donkletron I’m going to stick one up their jungle” is a sentence I can say out loud and be completely understood by at least those three people. For some reason, there’s also a lot of singing involved. It’s a lot like being a sailor.

Bioshock Infinite review

Tom Francis at

When I finished BioShock Infinite – don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything – I was dumbfounded. I wanted to tell someone what I thought, but for a moment I had absolutely no idea. I’d experienced a kind of excited panic, then total delight, then momentary confusion, and then a rush of extraordinary sights, powerful scenes and sudden twists that left me struggling to keep up.

It’s a spectacular ending. It’s just a shame it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

The War Z review

Evan Lahti at

I can see the benefits to having an identical twin. I mean, being followed around by someone that shares all your genetic traits must be like having a constant, you-shaped reminder to distinguish yourself. It’d probably make you a better person.

When The War Z revealed itself last July, jumping into DayZ’s still-fresh footsteps, the hope—mine, at least—was that the games’ doppelgangering designs would drive a mutual ambition between them. One that gamers would benefit from. Both Z’s throw you into a vast, brutal sandbox filled with players and zombies. Both scatter a mix of boring and military items within their worlds, and make food scavenging as necessary as bullets.

Far Cry 3 review

Tom Francis at

I don’t know what an Undying Bear is exactly, but I’ve vowed to kill it. I hope it’s just a name. This is a mission for the island’s Rakyat tribe, and Rakyat tradition dictates that I must defeat the creature with the infinite-ammo pump-action shotgun they’ve given me. A recent tradition, I would guess, but one I’m happy to honour. The truth is, I have an ulterior motive for finding and killing the legend: I’d really like a new rucksack.

A lot of what you do in Far Cry 3 raises perplexing questions: why would a rucksack made from the skin of the Undying Bear hold more than the one I made from four dead dingoes earlier? Can’t I just make one out of six dead dingoes? What is it about Undying Bear skin that facilitates a particularly capacious rucksack design? And more to the point: if it’s never died, how would anyone know?

But as I scramble away from it, panic-firing my traditional tribal pump action, what I’m actually wondering is this: when did Far Cry 3 become so good?

Dishonored review

Tom Francis at

I think I can jump onto another light fitting from here. I’m wrong. I slip, fall, and land inches behind a gold-masked Overseer looking out of the fifth-story window. I only have a split second headstart in getting over our mutual surprise at the situation, and I use it to stab him in the neck.

A second after his body hits the ground, I hear carpet-softened footsteps coming down the hall. Panic. After mentally rejecting three even crazier ideas, I hoist the Overseer’s body over my shoulder and jump out of the window.

Dishonored is mostly a stealth game, where you play a kind of assassin, in a somewhat steampunk city. Those floundering qualifiers are part of the fun: you don’t have to hide, you don’t have to kill anyone, and while the city of Dunwall mixes matchlock pistols with crackling Tesla tech, it’s a rusty, crumbling place that feels unique.

Borderlands 2 review

Tom Francis at

Borderlands 2 is a first-person shooter that randomly generates the guns you find, varying damage values, clip sizes, accuracy, and even how many bullets they fire at once. It’s built like an RPG: you level up by killing things, improve your character’s abilities, and find higher-level guns to kill higher-level beasts and bandits on a rocky, backwater planet.

That was already compulsive in Borderlands 1, but here the formula’s been tweaked to ridiculously addictive effect. I think I had one or two guns I really liked in Borderlands, and the rest were necessary but uninspiring situational alternatives. In 2, I have a full loadout of weird, powerful and satisfying weapons I love, and an entire ‘alternate’ set in my backpack that I switch in and out to compare potency.

Diablo 3 review

Tom Francis at

I have to start this with a warning, then a little tantrum, a few insults and a dash of paranoia. Apologies to those of you who already know what I'm going to say and are either fine with it or all raged out - you guys can skip this section.

Diablo 3 can only be played online. You can play it on your own or co-operatively, but neither mode works when Blizzard's servers are down, and neither mode is fun when Blizzard's servers are slow. In my six days of playing it, I got disconnected twice and experienced unplayable lag five times, each time when my own internet connection was working fine. At times, the servers were down for hours.

That's pathetic. There are valid reasons for forcing multiplayer characters to play online, but none for excluding an entirely offline single player mode. If you don't have a connection you can reliably play multiplayer games on, don't buy Diablo 3. Skip the rest of this review. Blizzard have chosen to exclude you completely, and I'm genuinely pissed off by the hostility and callousness of that decision.

For the rest of us, it's worth knowing that the $60/£45 price for Diablo 3 doesn't mean you'll always be able to play it. The game itself would have to be phenomenally good for all this to be worth putting up with.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review

Tom Francis at

Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything here - I'll steer clear of anything story-related beyond the premise. With another game, that would be tricky. With Skyrim, the stories that come from how the game works are often the best ones.

It's a frozen nation, just to the north of where the previous game, Oblivion, took place. A pleasantly brief introduction sets up the plot: Skyrim is in the middle of a revolt, you've been sentenced to death, and dragons have just shown up. Good luck!

At that point, you emerge from a cave into 40 square kilometres of cold and mountainous country, and that's it. Everything else is up to you.

Even after spending hundreds of hours in Morrowind and Oblivion, the sense of freedom in Skyrim is dizzying. The vast mountains in every direction make the landscape seem limitless, and even after exploring it for 55 hours, this world feels huge and unknown on a scale neither of the previous two games did.