For console gamers, it’s been a depressing few weeks, as we discover that next gen apparently means consoles that turn into expensive paperweights if we have the temerity not to report in for internet policing every 24 hours, death to the idea of ever renting or lending games, and that some platform holders are so spineless they will leave it up to publishers with the anti-consumer track records of EA and Activision to decide whether you will be allowed the privilege of selling on the game you legitimately own.
That’s not to say that PC gamers haven’t had to put up with their own share of idiotic, always-on, DRM-ed to the hilt rubbish over the last few years - often from the two aforementioned publishers, funnily enough - but the joy of an open and endlessly tweakable platform is that, no matter how hard they try, not one company can ultimately control where and when we get our gaming kicks.
So let’s put the doom and gloom to one side, and celebrate the development talent that freely share the results of their creativity, whether original experiences or expanding and redefining the work of others, with a look at the best free games and mods to hit the Strategy Informer Downloads section last month.
Because, whatever the future holds, FREE + GAMES = AWESOME.
So. Many. Free. Games.
This month, in the spirit of celebration mentioned just a few short paragraphs ago and because frankly so many excellent and varied free titles were uploaded during May, I’m going to highlight several and encourage you to give as many as you can a spin then let me know your personal standouts in the comments section below. So in no particular order:
Not one but two open-source versions of influential strategy classics: FreeCiv has been around a fair old while now and you can get the 2.3.4 version here, while OpenXcom has hit the 0.9 point release and is well worth a spin if last year’s reboot of the franchise took your fancy.
From strategy on to RPG now: If you’re a fan of SquareSoft’s titles from back in the 16-bit days before everything was ILM-style cutscenes and 20 hour corridor tutorials, you should definitely download Lunar Wish: Orbs of Fate.
The Stairs is a genuinely creepy paranormal horror affair that’s so gloomy it makes Amnesia look like it was set on a Club 18-30 holiday in Tenerife. Download the full game here.
I’m not even going to try to categorise Save The Date into a particular genre. You’ll probably not play anything else like it this month. PC version can be grabbed here, and even our Mac OS X and Linux brethren can get in on the, erm, action.
I’ll be honest with you: I’m pretty much zombied out - at least until the next season of Telltale’s Walking Dead games arrive. So I wasn’t particularly enthused for Dead Island: Riptide even before it featured the single most tasteless Collector’s Edition bonus in human history.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t admire those who take their zombie killing seriously, and are going to damn well mod something until the undead meet their stringent requirements. The George Romero Survival Horror Edition mod does just that, tipping its hat to the great man himself not just in the title but in rejigging Riptide’s mobile deceased to more closely resemble the old-school shambling horrors from his films. Combat is fiddled with as part of the mission to create an emphasis on just surviving (unsurprisingly). Zombie bites are now fatal full stop, and the only way to put one down permanently is to take the head clean off. Oh, and once they’ve seen you, they don’t stop coming, unless you put something like, ooh, an ocean between you and them.
There’s a load more tweaks included. You can grab the main George Romero survival Horror here, a fix patch for it here, and not one, but two add-on packs for even more Romero-themed goodness.
In other mod news
I mentioned StarDrive in last month’s column, and it continues to attract the attention of modders eager to buff it up into something halfway decent, with Tech Level Mod V1.01B being a prime example, adding as it does roughly a gazillion new Modules, technologies and ship designs. Oh, and eight new armours. Grab it here. And make sure to read the installation instructions, as it needs a bit of copying-in-all-the-right-directories.
If you’ve got a thing about the size of your hedgehog, then Super Sonic Generations is for you! For the surprisingly-not-completely-rubbish Sonic Generations, it mods all the characters up to resemble their Super Forms all the time, as well as tinkering about with certain skills and HUD elements. Download it here.
Mount & Blade mods continue to be far and away the most popular in the Downloads section - seriously, M&B players must have hard drives measuring in the hundreds of terabytes considering how hard they hit our servers. Mount & Gladius 3.01 has been particularly hammered this last month. It’s a Warband mod set in Roman Empire times, lining the Romans up against a Gaul faction. There seems to be plenty of regular online events going on for the mod’s community too, so go grab it here.
You know what there isn’t enough of in Grand Theft Auto IV? Vehicular-inflicted death. Or so the creators of the Carmageddon mod seem to believe. This tweak turns every car in Liberty City into a nigh-on unstoppable killing machine through the simple expedient of making their wheels accelerate whenever they touch a surface. Like a road. Or a wall. Or a ceiling. As you can imagine, total madness ensues. You can get the base GTA IV mod and handling files, and a EFLC-specific mod and handling files too. Vroom!
Beard Mod of the Month
Easy winner here, due in no small part to, erm, being the only beard mod uploaded last month. This add-on hirsutes up everyone’s favourite Cop Having The Day From Hell Who Can Also Slow Down Time, Mr. Max Payne, specifically in his second outing Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Did I mention it was for Max Payne?
You can grab the thrillingly titled Beard Mod 1.0 here (it also swaps out his trousers for some self-proclaimed “cool pants”. Obviously). You should do it, because beards are brilliant, no matter how many times my girlfriend tells me the exact opposite.
And that’s it from me for another month. I’m off to enjoy the British sunshine before the weather reverts to type and it rains non-stop for the rest of the year. If you can’t wait till next month’s round-up, don’t forget that humungous amounts of new mods, maps, patches and completely free games are added to the Strategy Informer Downloads section literally every day. Because we're nice like that.