Recently, I fired up Steam because I bought Skyrim at a reduced price. I looked through my library and I’d forgotten how many great games Valve have released on the Steam platform.
For those living under a rock on Mars and don’t know who Valve is and what Steam is then let me fill you. According to Wikipedia:
Steam is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation. It is used to distribute games and related media online, from small independent developers to larger software houses; Valve has also announced plans to expand the service to include non-gaming software in the near future.
Steam provides the user with install and automatic management of software across multiple computers, community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality. The software provides a freely available application programming interface, Steamworks, that developers can take advantage of to integrate many of Steam’s functions within their software products, including copy protection, networking and matchmaking, in-game achievements and micro-transactions, and support for user-created content through Steam Workshop.
EA thought it was such a good idea that they too released a method of delivering digital media via their Origin platform. Unlike EA, Valve’s version has been around since 2002. So I thought I’d pay homage to Valve and some of the games delivered by Steam to our PCs since 2002.You’ll notice most of the games listed use the “Source” Engine (conveniently since Steam is a product of Valve) however some are also 3rd party.
Half-Life 2, the sequel to Half-Life, is a single-player FPS following the antics of protagonist: Gordon Freeman. HL2 takes place approx. 20 years after the disaster at the Black Mesa facility which ripped open a dimensional hole thus allowing nasty aliens (called the Combine) to traverse and begin harvesting Earth and its resources – this includes the native homosapien population!. Between you and Gordon, you have the opportunity to visit some fantastic looking locations, drive buggies, boats dodge headcrabs and kick some ass!
The story line of HL1 and HL2 is gripping and an engaging piece of Sci-Fi action. If you’ve never played either – do yourself a favour and get going, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, HL2 uses the Source Engine where HL1 used the old GoldSrc engine. Why didn’t I mention HL1? Its a fantastic game but I feel that the Source engine in HL2 makes it more accessible for today’s market.
The legendary CS:S. Counter-Strike is a remake of Counter-Strike using the Source Engine release way back in 2004. CS:S is an online-line multiplayer team-based objective-orientated first person shooter (what a mouthful!) There are two teams: Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists. Each round has specific map objective to complete; objectives include rescuing hostages, defusing a bomb or a mass-kill of the opposing team. The more rounds won; you win the game. Once you’re killed during a round, players do not respawn until the round is finished – this is especially tedious when you get killed by an arsy headshot at the beginning of the round. CS:S is evolving into Counter-Strike Global Offensive.
CS:S is an emotion game to play; let me explain. You might find yourself playing against hackers, a team of n00bs, or a team of guys who make it their life’s mission to be the best. Lag might play a big part as some servers don’t respond with accurate hit-reg. Overall, great game with consistent gameplay. Its now cheap and still loads of fun with a cult-following. The last update was this year and is still going strong.
What I love about Valve developers is their sense of humour and creativity. Portal (and its predecessor Portal2) is a classic example on how to make engaging games. Portal is the love-child of a FPS and a puzzle game. Synopisis: you play a character called Chell who is challenged to complete puzzles and obsticles using a portal gun. A portal gun creates a two portal ends: one blue and the other orange. By creating portals, you can move objects through these portals to complete obsticles, be able to propel yourself through one end from heights to gain speed to traverse large open spaces and appear in areas where you wouldn’t be able to reach.
The beauty about Portal (and Portal 2) is its clever puzzles, story line and the quest for the ever elusive cake. Mike Patton from Faith No More also makes an appearance as a voice actor and the closing credits includes a cute tune called “Still Alive.” Both Portal and Portal 2 are definately worth spending a few bucks on and a rainy afternoon.
Day of Defeat: Source
I was, at a point in my life, addicted to DoD:S. I was even in a clan (but we sucked) – many hours was spent punching opponents in the face and giggling my arse off. Anyway, Day of Defeat is FPS multiplayer game set in World War II. You either play US Army or be part of the German Wehrmacht. Each with access to six classes. The weapons used in DoD:S are based on real weapons used in the period and each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Being a squad-based tactical shooter; players need to use each class together to complete objectives. The two map types are fairly basic: control all the flags or territories; the other is detonation where players pretty much rush and plant explosives on enemy positions.
There are no vehicles as such in DoD:S however some do appear as props or objectives in detonation game modes. First released on 26th September, 2005 – its still updated today with achivements and a heathly Australian server base. Love it. Why not mention DoD? I’m sure I’m insulting some old-school players but, again, the Source engine did it for me. DoD while it had a British class simply lacks polish by today’s standards.
Left 4 Dead
Zombie survival at its best. I love Left 4 Dead and everything it stands for. L4D is a 4-player co-operative FPS multiplayer game. L4D uses Valve’s Source Engine and was released way back in 2008. Synopsis: L4D is set in a post-apocalyptic virus pandemic where humans turn into highly aggressive zombies. Playing one of 4 characters; players must work together throughout regions to reach “safe houses”. The difference between L4D and other games is that players or “survivors” are pitted against AI zombie classes which feature nonlinear gameplay.There is varying AI difficulty which and depdending on which you chose might see less health packs, more zombies, and harder bosses with higher-than normal hit-points.
The beauty about L4D is that while each map/campaign might have the same layout – the AI Director dicatates what type of zombie will play next depending on how well or badly the team progresses. L4D features 4 game modes: Campaign; Versus; survival and single-player. SP is self explanatory; campaign is the same as SP but with other dudes on the net however Survival mode is the same as campaign without the ability to respawn – if you die in Survival mode – game over. Versus is where you can have up to 8 players: 4 as survivors and 4 as the Infected. If you like survival horror then you’ll love L4D and it sequal L4D2.
Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat
Insurgency is not for the faint-hearted. INS (as its known) is a free mod for Half-Life 2 and is a team-based FPS Multiplayer tactical shooter. Similar to DoD:S and CS:S in terms of game modes – you play either US Marines or The Insurgents and is based in Iraq. The team are very structured, two squads and with no more, generally, than 16 players to a squad.
The other difference is that players are limited to player classes (Gunner, Rifleman, Engine or Marksman) – and tries to achieve realistic environments and gameplay; the most notible is the lack of crosshairs – that’s right boys and girls, the only crosshairs present are on scoped weapons. I honed my Battlefield: BC2 and 3 skills on this game. I love it; however the lack of crosshairs might frighten off some but once you get used to being able to play properly its very rewarding. Get into it – afterall its free.
I did say Steam games, right? I have to mention Killing Floor. Another survival co-op horror FPS with some nasty bio-modified creatures to blast. Created by TripWire in 2009 and powered by the Unreal 2.5 engine (modified) players endevour to survive “waves” to attacks by creatures. Filling Floor is set in London in a time where a company called “Horzine Biotech” is contracted to conduct military experiements involving genetics and cloning.
The problem is when the clones and experiments go a little bit Frank Spencer and start to mutate in undesirable ways; the situation gets a little bit hectic.. Basically, the end result is hordes of mutated creatures storm the streets, and surrounding areas of London. Players are pitted against the AI and are not restricted like L4D on the number of players in a team.
What’s special about Killing Floor is the slow-motion gory-kills dubbed “Zed Time” where if a player headshots an opponent resulting in a fatality there will be a special slow-motion “fatality” shot to celebrate the kill. Each wave is calculated based on how the team is performing in terms of difficulty to and at the end of each round players have the ability to purchase new weapons, armour, ammo and upgrades from a mechant who randomly appears throughout the rounds. If a player dies during a round they don’t respawn however as long as a single player survives the round each dead player respawns. Killing Floor represents a clever and original format. It might not look the prettiest but its loads of fun, especially if you mange to secure a good team.
Every now and again I get plesantly surprised. Borderlands (and BL2) is a mash between a western, a FPS, RPG and sci-fiction type game. Released back in Q4 of 2009 by 2K Games and created by Gearbox Software. You can purchase the retail box or via Steam. BL features the excellent Unreal Engine 3 to power it. Does it look brilliant? Absolutely.
The graphics are almost rotoscope-esc and are fantastic – vibrant colours and smooth graphics. Gameplay: Bear with me on this: BL is a FPS with RPG elements meaning at the start of the game players must choose a character – there are 4 to choose from. During the game, players play through quests assigned to them via NPCs or from “bounty boards”. Quests can earn cash, experience and players can complete in-game challenges to earn more points, experience or cash.
Players roam the planet Pandora – various locations include junkyards, caves, and ride on buggies to get around. Buggies, BTW have mounted guns to blast mutants and creatures! Another RPG element is the ability to upgrade weapons and armour (including shields) to gain more distance, damage and capacity.
There is quite a lot to BL (and BL2) that I can’t do justice in a quick “10 ace steam games” blog – but I suggest you check out BL and get into it.
OK, OK, don’t shoot me – while Garry’s Mod isn’t a “complete” game as such because there is no objective – GMod is more of a sandbox environment where players can manipulate objects within the map placed by other players. There are two guns availble: the Physics Gun and the Tool Gun. Let me explain the two. The Physics Gun allows players to pickup, manipulate or adjust objets within the game. The Tool Gun allows players to combine objects to create other setups that players can use.
Because Garry’s Mod is a sandbox and uses the Havok Physics engine, players can use Gary’s Mod to setup ragdoll situations or “posing”. Its good for creating situations for recording videos like YouTube fun.
Garry’s Mod does allow Mutliplayer which comes in the form of being able to build scenes, contraptions and placing objects together.
Anyway …. I hope you enjoyed my quick “9” list. Back to Skyrim …