PC Per(sonal) Game of the Year 2011

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 8, 2012 - 02:36 AM |
Tagged: opinion, gaming, game of the year, fps, deus ex: human revolution, deus ex

I have to say that 2011 was a pretty good year for PC gaming. Sure, it wasn't without some drab moments; however the diamonds in the rough more than made up for it. Those gems are the PC games that especially stood out for being of quality stock and most of all were awesomely fun.

Skyrim and Battlefield 3 have received a good deal of attention and praise among the PC Per staff, but I'm going to toss the guys a curve ball and name Deus Ex: Human Revolution as my personal favorite PC Game of the Year 2011. Here's why!

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Well, first a bit of history. Growing up, I was always a big PC gamer (earliest game I remember is Digger on an actually floppy floppy disk), but somehow missed the first Deus Ex. I read about it year after year on various technology and gaming sites' "Greatest PC Games of All Time" lists, but somehow never picked it up. A couple years ago, I saw it pop up on a Steam sale, so (naturally) I bought it and gave it a shot. There was a lot of hype behind it, and as such it had a lot to live up to.

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Try taking away my equiptment now!

Unfortunately, it never really came close to living up to all of the hype and praise that people gave it. That is not to say that it's a bad game, just that compared to the newer games that I was used to it wasn't my personal favorite. From the perspective of comparing it with games of its time, it certainly is an interesting release and relatively really good. Compared to the much improved graphics, controls, budgets, and hardware of years later (when I finally played it); however, it simply did not measure up. One of my main gripes with the game was that the AI was not all that great and at some points would have super vision that could spot me from a football field away in the shadows. Had I played it when it came out and had games of that era to compare it to, (and the nostalgic love) I'm sure I would be among those singing it's praises but as a late comer to the game I just wasn't interested.

While PC gamers grew up with Deus Ex, I grew up with the Metal Gear Solid series and I absolutely loved sneaking around and being Solid Snake. Sure, the story was a crazy one, but the same could be said for Deus Ex. That's not to say that I didn't play PC games like Doom 3 (I went from Wolfenstein 3D to Doom 3 due to not growing up with constant internet access living out in the boonies and not having the money for a powerful GPU) but that the games that most stick around in my mind as favorites and fond memories were things like MGS (whereas others may have held Deus Ex for example). I did find Deus Ex's story interesting though even if I wasn't too impressed with the graphics or game play, so when I read that a new Deus Ex was coming out and that it was getting the proper PC attention (thanks, Nixxes!) as it should, I jumped on the chance to play it. Now that I have built a few PCs and have a decent video card, playing the new Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a "no-brainer".

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Enough vents to make even Solid Snake jealous!

To make what could be a long and spoiler-ific story about Deus Ex: HR short, the game is my personal game of the year because it made me feel like Solid Snake again, vents and all. The conversations, hacking, story, augments, and graphics were all really fun and memorable. From walking around the city and listening to the people to punching through a wall to take out an enemy to sneaking through the vents and reading all the emails the game was immersive and I found myself staying up all night not wanting to go to sleep in favor of breaking into my co-workers office and reading their email... umm all in the name of keeping the office secure (some Head of Security I was!). Some of the comments I blogged about just after completing the game include that despite the long loading times, there are more vents than you can shake a stick at and being able to stealth around was very fun. More specifically, I noted:

"The emails and conversations that you overhear walking around the city are nice touches that help immersion. Some people have complained about the graphics quality; however, for what it is I find them to be very good. For a multi-platform game, it certainly runs well on the PC, which is an exceptional feat in this day and age!. . . . I have to say that it was an awesome experience!"

I'm sure that Ryan will disagree that Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the Game Of The Year, but for me it was very memorable, fun, and far exceeded my expectations. Now that I have found out about some cool sounding mods for the original Deus Ex, I may have to give it a second chance ;)

I invite the rest of the PC Per crew to share their personal Game of the Year as well as you, the readers! What was your favorite game this year, and why?

Runners up included Saints Row: The Third which is also crazy fun and Portal 2 who's story was awesome but came out so early in the year that it slipped my mind as GOTY.

Some of us have fond memories of turn based games

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2012 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: gaming, jagged alliance

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were lucky enough to get their hands on Jagged Alliance - Back in Business, a game that was on its way to surpassing Duke Nukem Forever's record for longest game in development.  The new incarnation of the beloved turn based squad combat game is, as many fans are aware, in real time with a pause button to allow you to issue commands.  On the other hand it seems that the game is exactly like JA2 in that RPS recognized every tree, fence hole and building from JA2 ... and those who played it through multiple times will likely recognize them too.  One of the biggest changes, at least for the version they played with, is the lack of fog of war; when you hit a map you can see every single enemy and their moves, even without line of site.  As it turns out the enemy AI is even dumber than you thought.  Check out the full preview here.

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"I’ve been playing an early version of Jagged Alliance – Back In Action, the upcoming remake of one of my most beloved games. I keep my copy of Jagged Alliance 2 atop a giant stack of Soldier of Fortune magazines, which stands between an ashtray containing a smouldering over-sized cigar, some satellite surveillance photos of a dictator’s villa, a few scattered dogtags (some with bulletholes through them) and a pile of empty shell casings. I don’t know why I keep a lot of that stuff but I guess it reminds me how much of a man I am. Can Back In Action do the same?"

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Serious Sam takes his PC gaming ... seriously

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2011 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: gaming, serious sam, serious sam 3 bfe

In a nice change from many other recently released games, Serious Sam 3 was obviously designed with PC gaming in mind.  While it is still a DX9 game, the developers spent a significant amount of effort pushing DX9 as far as it could go to provide you with great visuals and an options screen that gives you a lot more control than other recent console ports games.  [H]ard|OCP's testing shows the game scoffs at high resolutions, with the performance at 2560x1600 being essentially the same as at 1920 x 1280.  AMD holds a slight lead in performance over NVIDIA, though not enough to really brag about, either manufacturer will give you a great experience while playing this game.  Check it out here.

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"Croteam's latest installment in the Serious Sam series takes us back to a time when first person shooters were designed around fragging endless waves of zombified enemies, cover did not exist, and rocket launchers were semi-automatic weapons. This DX9 game comes packed with graphics options that push the current generation of graphics cards to the limit."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Holy failed patch Batman!

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dx11, batman arkham city

Batman makes it three for three as far as failed patches go for the current major releases.  Battlefield's patch was probably the best of the three, Skyrim being the worst with Batman's simply failing to deliver what it promised ... improved DX11 performance.  [H]ard|OCP recently reviewed the original game and now has published the results of their testing with the new patch.  The good news is that most of the stuttering and crashes have been fixed, leaving only significantly lower performance when in DX11 mode compared to DX9.  Originally you could expect a 50% reduction in fps when enabling DX11 and NVIDIA users can expect the same results at this point, AMD users will see their performance reduced by even more than pre-patch though the game its self should be more stable.  If you want to run Batman Arkham Asylum at high resolution, you better have two GPUs.

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"Days after our Batman: Arkham City Gameplay Performance and IQ review was published, the game was patched. The patch was ostensibly reported to fix DirectX 11 performance problems plaguing the game, but does it really do the trick? Where do our DX11 video cards stand now?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

The NVIDIA Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Tweak Guide Is Now Live

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2011 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: tweaks, skyrim, nvidia, gaming, elder scrolls V

NVIDIA has put together a comprehensive tweak guide for getting the most from Skyrim. The tweaks themselves also apply to AMD GPUs so just because you aren't running an NVIDIA GPU right now doesn't mean you should skip checking out the information they've posted. Much of the information deals with the settings you find under the options menu, from choosing how you want autosaves to work to how far you should set your draw distance to.

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They focus on the effects of the graphical settings for the majority of the article as it will be there that most of the tweaking will be done. Results of combining FXAA and MSAA are covered, both in terms of visual quality and performance impact at several different resolutions. As well, textures and shadow quality are examined in depth, including object detail. There are settings which seem to give you improved visual quality with little to no impact on your frame rate, options such as reflections, anisotropic filtering and actor fade can be turned up without crippling your system.

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From there they get into the real tweaks, requiring you to edit .ini files (make a copy first) and become acquainted with the console. The steps to disable V-Sync to uncap your frame rates and ditch the annoying mouse stuttering, increase your field of view and fine tune the shadows of Skyrim are revealed. They also cover the console commands in the game, not just how to turn god mode on and off but also how to teleport, turn off grass and other effects for troubleshooting, setting up batch files that can be run during the game and even the 'triple q' quick quit to desktop.

Source: NVIDIA

Batman can clean up everything in Arkham City except for the new villain that goes by the name of DX11

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2011 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: dx11, batman arkham city, gaming

We have seen previously that at the time of release, Batman Arkham City was not really a DX11 game.  Sure you could enable DX11 but it would make the game unplayable.  [H]ard|OCP were one of the first to complain about the performance and recently they revisited the game now that we have some new drivers ... and were disappointed again.  Right now the best experience you can have is with a GTX580 and with DX11 effects disabled.  [H] feels this is truly sad as tessellation would bring a lot to the atmosphere of the game but until DX11 is fixed you simply won't be able to see the game as it should be.  Their recommendation is to hold off on purchasing this game until they have fixed it.

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"The Caped Crusader has returned to crack more skulls on the streets of Arkham City. Rocksteady has enhanced the venerable UE3 engine with DirectX 11 and PhysX support, but can this aging graphics engine really handle such large, richly detailed outdoor areas? You might be surprised."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Antec Will Support USB 2.0 Motherboards In Eleven Hundred and P280 Cases

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 7, 2011 - 09:38 AM |
Tagged: p280, gaming, eleven hundred, cases, antec

While it is not often that users upgrade their computer cases without also updating the internals (at least compared to the opposite scenario), Antec still has you covered. If you purchase an Antec P280 or Eleven Hundred gaming case to house your trusty computer components that are only up to USB 2.0 compatible the two USB 3.0 ports are useless as the internal connector will not be compatible. Fret not; however, as the company has listened to user feedback and will now ship users a free adapter so that the front panel USB ports will be compatible with your motherboard (though only up to USB 2.0 speeds, of course).

Antec has been quoted by Maximum PC in stating that “We have hear the feedback you and your readers have given us regarding the USB 3.0 internal connector.”  The further detailed that the specific compatibility issue is with the internal header connection, which would not work with older motherboards.  As of today, users in such a predicament can visit the Antec website’s support page here or call 1-(800)-22ANTEC in the United States to request an adapter. The adapter is free; however, an invoice or other proof of purchase showing you bought one of the affected cases will be required.

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The Antec P280's front panel USB 3.0 ports

I have to say that this is quite good on Antec’s part and it shows that they are really listening to customer feedback. For more on the company, why not check out the latest Inside Perspective interview with Antec?

Source: Maximum PC

So you want to play Batman? Dump the DX11!

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: gaming, batman arkham city, dx11, oops, consolitis

Just in case you were under the impression that Ryan was the only one having issues with DirectX 11 in Batman Arkham City, check out the problems [H]ard|OCP had.  DX11 was essentially unplayable even on multi-GPU systems, with NVIDIA handling the game a little better than AMD.  Using DX 11 in the game enables HBAO and tessellation as well as something new for NVIDIA users called Multi-View Soft Shadows, which do add to the visual quality of the game, if you are willing to live with an average 30fps or so ... with bonus stuttering.  Even better, this is yet another example of a game with its frames capped by default, not quite as bad as Need For Speed The Run but it is still limited to 24-62fps until an .ini file tweak is performed.

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"Batman: Arkham City is upon us, and we wanted to give you a preliminary look at how performance is stacking up. We've found some issues running in DX11 that seem to be a detriment to gameplay. DX11 may not be the best option, at this time, for this game, our performance data and feedback explain why."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

The best console port I've played yet ... at least when Skyrim feels like letting me play

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2011 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: gaming, elder scrolls V, skyrim, consolitis

Starting Skyrim for the first time was an interesting experience, obviously you once again start as a prisoner but perhaps one with some serious brain damage as reality seems to move in starts and jerks as if your eyes had a stuttering problem.  Eventually the stuttering cleared up, providing a weekends worth of gaming but by Tuesday the stuttering had returned.  It became clear that it was time to embark on every PC gamers favourite pastime; troubleshooting the game you just bought in the hopes of some day playing it.

Some troubleshooting revealed a serious case of consolitis, the game was not Large Address Aware and limited its self to a maximum serving of 2GB; the adoption of 64bit versions of Windows being very limited by the end of 2011.  Even more damning was what happened when Intel's SpeedStep technology was enabled in the BIOS, the CPU would dip to about 60% of its maximum frequency when you played the game and the process would use under 10% of a core, maybe two if you were lucky.  GPU usage was variable and was sometimes actually sitting at or above 90% usage, but for the most part varied widely. 

A little research showed that SandyBridge owners and those with the previous generation of chips who overclocked above 4GHz were not having many problems, proving that the brute force method of overcoming consolitis could work.   For those who haven't upgraded yet and are waiting for the new year to do so, they must either wait or find a more elegant solution.  To the intarwebs!

INI file tweaks are always popular and Gamefront has a few, the most notable are bMouseAcceleration=0 and iPresentInterval=0 which disable mouse acceleration and V-Sync respectively.  As well, over at Skyrim Nexus is a modified TESV.exe that makes the game LAA and more importantly does not need to replace the main executable in your Skyrim folder so that you won't need to worry about having a modified executable.  As well adding the string +fullproc to the end of the path in your executable should help Skyrim utilize a bit more of your processor.  In the end though, more tweaking is needed for some PC gamers to fully appreciate the latest Elder Scrolls game and more time needs to be spent researching general tweaks as well as Bethesda specific ones.

If you are experiencing no issues with Skyrim, but would like to tweak it to look better then [H]ard|OCP offers a guide for a variety of tweaks and you can grab a variety of game mods from GameFront.

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Now if only BF3 multiplayer would stop locking with a loud noise that sounds suspiciously like a raspberry.

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Need For Speed: The (30fps) Run

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2011 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, need for speed, gaming, games, elder scrolls V, consolitis

[H]ard|OCP has been having a hard go of it with recent game releases.  CoD Modern Warfare 3 was described as being useless for benchmarking as any mid range GPU can play at maxed settings even at high resolutions.  That discovery came after the Rage incident, when benchmarked it hit 60fps and refused to move, no matter what hardware was thrown at it.  Picture the expression on the reviewers face when they fired up Need For Speed: The Run expecting the Frostbite 2 engine of Battlefield 3 fame to torture their test bench only to find a similar result to Rage, except locked at 30fps.

Thankfully for the continued sanity of their review team, [H] also got hold of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to benchmark.  Benchmarking this game was much more productive, especially in multi-GPU setups and it also revealed a small oddity with the games auto-detection of graphics settings.

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"Need for Speed: The Run was released today, utilizing the Frostbite 2 engine, same as Battlefield 3, it should have some pretty good graphics. However, after we dove into this game this morning, we found that it falls rather flat for a PC game. We'll talk about performance and image quality in this article."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP