Picture of Will Porter

Will Porter

Will ‘Velvet Owl’ Porter is a roaming freelance writer who most recently worked with The Creative Assembly on Alien: Isolation. You can find out how cold/hungry he is by following @Batsphinx on Twitter.

Featured articles

Chet and Erik's stolen zombie game

From the archive: Long before Left 4 Dead, the Valve pair were making a very different zombie game.

SWAT 4 retrospective

It's a fair cop.

Far Cry retrospective

We liked them apples.

The cult of TotalBiscuit

The life and times of professional YouTube malcontent John Bain.

I asked my Twitter followers what they thought about Total Biscuit yesterday. The response was as instant as it was polarised: 'he's arrogant', 'he's passionate', 'he's unique', 'he's rude', 'he's got a God complex', 'he's just a dude', 'I can't forgive him for something he said, and how he refused to back down'. In two short years he's become more marmite than man.

Freedom Fighters retrospective

Keep the red flag flying.

Every now and then seemingly every development team on Earth will become obsessed by something glittery. They'll crowd round it and make hubbub noises, before dashing back to their design coops to create their vision. For a slice of the last decade the obsession was rudimentary NPC squad control. Every game was at it whether it needed it (Brothers in Arms, SWAT 4, Republic Commando) or not (Half-Life 2, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault). Freedom Fighters, however, did it best.

Painkiller: Hell & Damnation review

Do not exceed the stated dose.

Hell, by Painkiller's estimation, is other people running endlessly towards you. Mad axe-monks, skeletal WW1 soldiers in gas masks, children splayed in two by shotgun blasts and men eternally trapped in their duvet covers come laundry day: all desperate for a meet and greet with hero Daniel Garner's whirring blade.

007 Legends review

The sky is falling. The sky is falling.

Bond is strapped to a metal table. Above him an industrial laser powers up and a red beam begins to eat away at the surface between his legs. The laser starts to move up towards his joy department while nearby a villain gloats. "Do you exshpect me to shell?" barks our hero. "No, Mister Bond!" shouts Bobby Kotick. "I'm sending you out to die!"

An audience with Syndicate

How a regular northern teen became a YouTube gaming sensation.

I'd finished my interview with Tom Cassell, and it had gone fairly well. Although, something did feel like it was missing. "Would you mind if I walked with you for a bit?" I asked. "So I can see it happen?" Tom was enthusiastic - he is about most things. So we took to the floor of the Eurogamer Expo.

Retrospective: Project IGI

All your bases.

Sneaking into bases is just the best thing. There's the feeling of anticipation as you scan the perimeter of a hulking military installation, the satisfaction of stealth kills and security camera outages as you breach its walls and (of course) that feeling of utter terror when the alarm is triggered and identical men in red berets start sprinting in rough diagonals towards you.

Revisiting Black Mesa

Is the long-awaited Half-Life mod a remasterpiece?

It's Black Mesa, but not quite as you knew it. A tight edit of the familiar, the sublime and those ridiculous scientist ties, this free re-imagining of Half-Life is packed with new dialogue, subtly altered levels and all the fiery and physical powers that the Source engine can imbue.

For much of the build up to 47's return IO Interactive and Square Enix have blushed and hidden behind a marketing plan whenever awkward questions like "Is there actually any proper Hitman?" crop up. This has been a shame. Linear stealthing past roaming ultra-sweary gangsters in libraries and orphanages is fine and dandy, but it's not why we love Hitman. Neither, incidentally, are sequences in which 47 performs a series of full-frontal takedowns on a squad of bondage death-nuns.

The Cunning Stunts of Stainless

The Carmageddon story: from controversy to Kickstarter, via Portia the Pig.

The Isle of Wight doesn't really do excitement. My wife, an Islander, often regales me about the time BHS in Newport installed an escalator - and she joined the crowds of people queuing up to have a go on it. If you ignore the increasingly chronic youth unemployment (as most do) the Island is a place of beautiful green fields, cream teas and a well-supported donkey sanctuary. It's not where you'd expect to find the birthplace of Carmageddon.

The Cat House is a high class brothel, a dramatic white building sat far above the city of Dunwall's harbour. Your mark is a regular customer, and he's currently cavorting with a masked lady of the night in its lavish penthouse - you, meanwhile, are crouching unseen on a window sill, peering through ornamental glass.

When Crysis has been great, it's been Predator. When we surveyed Korean encampments from a distance, planned our assault and attacked from the trees we were essentially Arnie and his travelling band of musclemen. When we cloaked, pounced, cackled and clutched enemies in our oven-mitt hands we were that super-powerful Predator, toying with our prey. For the sequels to both Predator and Crysis, however, a transfer to an urban setting left some feeling that pig-faced tusk-alien and Nanosuit had lost something special.

SimCity Preview: A Classic Returns

Things'll be great when you're down town…

I was never a particularly good mayor. I'd do my town planning with all the care and attention of council official who dearly wanted a buzzing metropolis, but presumably had something of a drink problem. Power-cuts, soaring crime, noisy protests, bits of roads that didn't actually go anywhere; things always seemed to fall apart. Often the only option was to put my poor urban conglomeration out of its misery, finished off with a quick dose of earthquake and/or alien invasion.

Far Cry 3 Preview: Trouble in Paradise

Does Far Cry's multiplayer sink or swim?

It always pans out the same way. You turn up a bit late and slightly sweaty, because in East London every street looks the bloody same. You then get shown a Powerpoint presentation extolling the virtues of 'Big Shooter Next' multiplayer, and soon after you and your fellow journalists are herded next door where sixteen glowing screens are humming in darkness waiting for you.

Civilization 5: Gods and Kings Preview: Restoring the Faith

Firaxis' expansion reintroduces some of the series' complexity.

By the time Firaxis had pumped out Civ 4's second expansion, Beyond the Sword, the legendary history-builder was as tight, wide-ranging and complex as it had ever been. No small world wonder, then, that when a trendy, slim-line Civilization 5 scooted in on a pair of wheelies and did a 'Fonzie-point' with thumb and forefinger towards newer players some Civ acolytes elected to stay behind.

The joy of the massively multiplayer sci-fi shooter Planetside was the war stories. In another life my name was Commander Batsphinx, and I fought for the New Conglomerate. Sometimes when I find myself drinking with old comrades we reminisce - telling tales of war that the younger generation don't seem to understand. The time we defended that vital bridge with hundreds of our brave boys against those bastard Vanu. The time we defended a fort when outnumbered by Reavers and won the day. That time we camped that spawn tube again and again and again.

Mass Effect 3 Preview: The Good Shepard?

BioWare sets the galaxy on fire.

The townsfolk have been listening to Shepard pulling the old "Commander who shouted 'Reaper!'" ruse for some time now. First she (he, if you're feeling obtuse) shouted 'Reaper!' when she discovered that the caretakers of the Galaxy were about to sweep up all known galactic civilizations. Then, in Mass Effect 2, she shouted 'Reaper!' after she'd fought against a big icky monster that had been made from human body parts, and had all/most/some of her underlings killed in the process.

Syndicate Preview: Need a Reboot?

Starbreeze's game concerns and delights in equal measure.

You come to Syndicate with expectations. It's unavoidable. Your eyes can't help but flit over the screen, desperate to find nostalgia that's survived unscathed. Occasionally they succeed. The fabled Eurocorp corporation, that jagged and efficient-looking world map, the spotlight street lamps and the cold and business-like mission run-downs all trickle cold fire through your synapses.

Retrospective: Max Payne 2

Let the bodies hit the floor. (Sometimes the ceiling).

When someone says they're not excited about Max Payne 3 my automatic reaction is to screw up my eyes and give them a hard stare. The statement, and often its calm delivery, destabilises me. Who is this person? Why do they have this wrong level of excitement? The balance nubbins in my ears revolve gently while I'm derailed onto a track several degrees asynchronous from reality. Max is the dearest of all my friends. How can he not be yours?

Assessing COD Elite

New maps begin to drop. Do they justify the Premium?

The grand entrance of Call of Duty: Elite at the gun-toter debutante ball wasn't graceful. Backstage she nervously applied the finishing touches to her camo paint while she listened to the unexpected wolf-whistles as Modern Warfare 3 shimmered down the red carpet. It was her time to shine: the moment she'd been built for. Yet as she approached the doorway a stun grenade became dislodged in her purse, and fell...

Champion Jockey

Just let your feet go clippety-clop.

In the words of an ancient meme, I love horses. What's more, after three years of working freelance in a home office dungeon, I've developed a flutter fixation. I have a Paddy Power account (other holes to pour your money into are available) that seeps small change to every ebb and flow of John McCririck.

Retro: The Good Old Naughty Days

Putting the seedy into CD-Rom.

Throughout modern history a dedicated band of men have held a candle, or indeed anything cylindrical, for ladies who don't wear clothes. Or were dressed like a sexy cowgirl or something. I can only assume that it's a common complaint among young gentlemen even today, otherwise all the pretty Babestation ladies talking on phones would be displaying clear signs of mental illness.


Bird of play.

The guns have fallen silent in 2007's Warhawk. Not long ago it was a continual cycle of Battlefield-style multiplayer tangles between troops, tanks and futuro-planes. Now, due to our cruel PSN-enforced absence, the Eucadian and Chernovian armies have little to do but share the occasional cigarette, take a football into the no man's land that lies between CTF points and begin to wonder whether they're not so different after all.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Ten hours played. Your questions answered.

I murdered a tramp in a bleak cyberpunk future and I am unrepentant. I shot him in the face twice – once to watch him die, twice for a more pleasing ragdoll.

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