The Future is Pixel Flavoured
July 24, 2011 § 5 Comments
I stand before you a broken man. I’ve just watched the gameplay trailer for Battlefield 3, and I was impressed; the visuals border on Crysis 2-beating – the sublime Frostbite 2 engine powering the destruction on a massive scale, from buildings coming down to sniper-rifle bullets biting chunks out of stone.
Everything has impact, both literally and figuratively.
One thought, however, dominated my mind as I watched:
“There is no way in hell my PC is going to run that”.
I can’t complain, really. PC gaming has been surprisingly system-friendly for a few years now, my 300-quid-2-years-ago rig has run just about everything I’ve thrown at it and hardly missed a step. Even when I replaced my monitor with a 22-inch HD TV, a few games stuttered a bit on high settings, but it was manageable.
One game in particular didn’t like the higher resolution, however, and that was Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Online, with a full 32-player server, meant some crippling stutter. Lets just say BF 3 is going to gently kill my PC.
The main reason for my long-in-the-tooth rig holding up so well is, undoubtedly, the console market; every AAA title these days has to be multi-platform, for some reason. And as such, has to run on the 5-year-old architecture of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Compared to the current consoles, my PC is actually quite beefy.
Battlefield 3 is one of the first properly big titles to forsake the consoles maximum required specifications and has been developed for the big guns of the PC world, making it the first real test of contemporary PC hardware in some time. A 32-player Bad Company 2 server makes my poor old beast struggle a bit, imagine what its going to be like with a 64-player BF 3 server with all the bells and whistles on… I can actually hear it whimper as I say that out loud. There there, it’ll be alright…
So, is it time to grab the shotgun and put the old girl out of her misery? Hell no. Because, even as DICE grab the reins of the mighty PC-beast once more, determined to push it to the edge and beyond – something else is rising from the ashes. Something that was thought to have died out many years ago; starved of ideas and force-fed prohibitively convoluted licence agreements… The Bedroom Coder has returned.
Of course, the wiser (read: smart-arse) of you will say they never left; a constant trickle of low-tech, pixel-flavoured treats have always been here, if you knew where to look. But I’m not talking about Fancy Pants 2, or some games-are-art submission where the aim of the game is to work out the bloody controls; I’m talking real games. Games you can buy for little to nothing and enjoy for many late nights to come. Games that will run on any hardware from the last five to ten years. Games you actually want to play. Games that make you forget all about those nasty new games that hurt your poor PC and make it feel inadequate… There there, I won’t put you in the bin, I promise.
Here are a few of my favourites.
Frozen Synapse £18.99 on Steam (2 copies)
Easily recommended to anyone who ever liked X-Com. FS is a turn-based WEGO strategy game. Available on Steam; you get two copies of the game – one for you, one for a mate, and it’ll run on just about anything with a CPU.
Terraria £5.99 on Steam
Addictive and bastard-hard. If Megaman and Minecraft had an illicit affair, this would be the result. Great fun, even more so with friends. The net-code is a bit crap, however using Hamachi solves most of the problems. Again, will run on just about anything, but expect some slowdown with huge maps if your PC is single-core.
Trackmania Nations £Free on Steam
A really fantastic game for the price (nowt), although I would refrain from classifying it as a racing game; more a 4-wheeled puzzle game. Half the fun is trying to finish the mad custom courses you find online. Its simplistic control system and a huge number of tracks makes this the most accessible game on here, and the hardest to master. TMN is pretty system-light, it’ll run on just about anything bigger than a netbook (and it’ll run on that too, just not very well).
Team Fortress 2 £Free on Steam
Don’t look at me like that, I know it’s not indie and it needs a decent-ish PC to run, but it is the best free first person shooter there is, and my 3 year old PC (Athlon X2, HD4850 and 4 gig RAM) runs it fine maxed out. Look, there was this, Quake Live or some god-awful free2play counter-strike-without-the-charm thing on Steam. This is the best.
This is just a sample of the ever-increasing buffet of quality gaming to be had on a budget, and it doesn’t make your ageing rig cry tears of impotence. There are many other gems – Minecraft, League of Legends, Battlefield Heroes, and the like that deserve a look. Keep an eye on sites like RockPaperShotgun or PC Gamer for more indie gaming news and new releases (indie developers don’t tend to advertise) and don’t be afraid to try out the slightly odder looking ones (Eufloria springs to mind, fantastic game, looks like a hippie’s nightmare).
Who needs Battlefield 3?
(I do… *cries*)