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PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds Guide

I’ve played a lot of PUBG now, 129 hours to be exact. That’s two hours more than the amount of time it took someone to saw their arm off because they were stuck between two rocks, so you know I’ve had a lot of time to think about the game.

One of the things that can be frustrating is introducing someone new to the game. It’s a squad game, so of course it’s more fun when more of your friends play, but it’s also an Early Access game with no tutorial, no skill-based matchmaking, and a pretty horrendous learning curve for people that haven’t played this kind of game before (or people that are really used to the other games in the genre). With that in mind, this is my effort to help new players find their feet, and hopefully teach more experienced players a thing or two I’ve learnt along the way.

Part 1: The Lobby
Part 2: The Jump
Part 3: The Drop
Part 4: The Looting
Part 5: Early Combat
Part 6: Getting into the Zone
Part 7: The Final Twenty

Part 1: The Lobby

The lobby is absolute chaos, but it’s also the closest thing to a practice that you’re going to get. If you’re quick you can grab any of the guns off the table (or there are snipers in the towers and more guns in the bunker/buildings) and mess around with them for a minute or so. This time is invaluable as the guns all have their own strange quirks. Ever notice the SCAR is fine with single shots but jumps around all over the place if you move at all while shooting? Or that the M16 has burst fire but no auto, while the M4 has full auto? Or that the M24 doesn’t have any iron sights at all? All of these things are a bad thing to discover in a firefight so you can take your time to get a feel for the guns. Practise shooting people at different ranges, take pot shots at the people inevitably standing on the wing at the top of the crashed plane – you can’t hurt them but you’ll see if you hit them from the blood splatter. Until you get to grips with the game, practising in this area is going to be a huge help.

Part 2: The Jump

Once the plane loads in, you’ll have a rough idea of the options open to you. Broadly speaking you can get to anywhere within a quarter of the maps length/width away from the plane’s route. Of course there’s a lot of randomness to deal with, you never know where the other players will jump, but you can make some educated choices. If the plane flies directly over the military base, the tunnels, or a town, it will be busy. If the plane misses all of those, the next closest one out of them will be busy.

A busy landing spot isn’t necessarily a bad idea, sometimes if you’re in the mood for a quick game you can get a few kills if you’re lucky with loot, and occasionally you’ll luck out and end up with a huge looting area all to yourself. It’s important to communicate with your team in duo or squad (if you put markers down by opening the map with ‘m’ then right clicking, everyone can see them) and try to keep an eye out for other people when you’re on the way down. Knowing where another team is looting might be the difference between an early death and being able to set the perfect ambush.

Generally if you’re looking to win, you want to find somewhere with at least one large building for each member of your team, and a guaranteed car spawn. The west side of Yasnaya Polyana has four apartment buildings and a garage between them with a guaranteed car spawn. That’s usually a pretty good location to get looted up and then drive to wherever you want to go, and if you see too many players heading there, you can always head to another part of the city.

Part 3: The Drop

As I said, you can travel about a quarter of the map from the plane’s route on your drop. To do that, aim as high as you can (hold alt to still look down) until your parachute opens, once it does you can keep rocking backwards and forwards pressing ‘W’ to keep your forward momentum going. As soon as the parachute is open, check all around you by holding alt to see what company you’ve got. Information is important!

If you’re landing in a town, generally you should aim for rooftops with loot spawns. If you find a decent gun you can often shoot people who are landing around you, if you don’t you still have options of heading into the building or jumping off and going somewhere else. Fall damage in this game is surprisingly lenient, so you can jump off even the apartment buildings without taking enough damage to kill you.

Part 4: The Looting

As soon as you land, you need to find a gun to defend yourself. Generally this will mean grabbing a shotgun or SMG. All the shotguns and SMGs can be devastating at close range (where most of the fights will be in the first five minutes) and they’re fairly common all over the map.  Assault rifles are also useful (the AKM in particular does a lot of damage in auto) but sniper rifles and pistols are only worth it as a last resort.

The 1911 pistol isn’t too bad but suffers from a small clip and a lack of accuracy over any kind of distance. The p92 and revolver are a nightmare to use. The p92 is weak, inaccurate, and has a fairly small clips while the revolves just takes forever to reload. If someone is jumping around you’re going to have a hard time doing any kind of damage.

Once you have a gun (seriously don’t worry about anything until you have something to defend yourself with) you need to get the essentials. Your priority list should be something like Gun>Backpack>Armour>Health>Spare Ammo>Attachments>Frying Pan>throwables.

The backpack is self-explanatory, but the armour is extremely important as it gives you an extra chance in a firefight. The reason health and spare ammo are so far down is because it’s rare that you’ll actually get to use them if you don’t have the other things. Don’t worry about getting too many bandages, they heal only a tiny amount and take quite a while to apply. Instead you should be searching for Medkits (full health) First Aid Kits,  painkillers, and energy drinks.

Spare ammo is useful but all too often I’ve got a backpack with 200 bullets in that I’m never going to use because firefights are often so quick. Once you’ve got three or so magazine’s worth, you’ll be fine for the rest of the game. Remember if you kill people you’re often able to take their ammo anyway. In terms of attachments the big ones are the Ext. Quickdraw mags, scopes, and suppressors. Suppressors enable you to shoot long range without giving your position away, which is invaluable in the late game.

The Frying Pan is the only melee item worth picking up because you carry it on your back and its model is bulletproof. This means if someone tries to shoot you in the butt, you’ll be fine and it happens far more than you’d expect.

The throwables are less important because they’re currently extremely reliable. Of course in certain situations a well-placed grenade or effective smokescreen might save you, but it’s rare that you’ll ever find these hard to get. They’re all over the place and will just be picked up as you loot everything else.

Part 5: Early Combat

Whilst your looting, you’ll often hear someone else running around near you. In PUBG, combat is all about getting the drop on people. If you hear footsteps, try to make sure you’re in cover (avoid windows and open spaces) and then stay as still as possible while looking around. Sound is incredibly important in this game, and running around is going to give you away, even outside in fields. Work out where they are, then wait until you have a decent shot. Say someone walks past a window and have time for a single shot, if you take it you’re only going to (at best) damage them slightly, but you’ve now given away your position and let them know you’ve seen them, this gives them the advantage. If you see someone at a window, set up so you can look at the door and shoot them once they leave. If you see someone hiding behind a tree, make sure you line up a decent headshot before you take that shot.

Of course if you’re playing with a group, everything changes. Communication is key, and in a hectic firefight effective communication is rare, but essential. Call out directions using the compass (numbers are fine) and try to give information about distance straight away. Saying ‘there’s a guy over there’ doesn’t help anyone. Saying ’15, 100m away, two guys’ gives your team nearly everything they need.

If you’re separated from your group, remember the compass directions might not be the same for them, so try to use landmarks like ‘green roof’ ‘left rock’, etc. As you play with a group you’ll find your own names for things and get better and better at letting people know what’s happening. Remember to let people know if you’re going to shoot, or if you don’t want them to. Remember if someone calls for help, you should be dropping everything to get to them. A dead team member means you’re now outgunned in any fights against full teams, it’s always worth risking everything to save people. It also makes the game a lot more fun.

As you’re shooting, remember this game isn’t Call of Duty. You need to account for flight time, bullet drop, and their movement. If someone is running right to left 100m away you can line the crosshairs up with their head and aim a cm or so to their left to hit them. If they’re 400m away you might need to aim a few cm above and to their left, long shots are difficult.

If your opponents is in cover, consider your options. Can you get a throwable to them? Do you have a teammate who can flank them if you give them the information? Are they hiding behind a car? If they are just shoot the car with full auto, it’ll explode in no time and kill them outright.

As you drop enemies in group modes, remember if they get knocked down they still have a teammate up. Only when the last one dies immediately do you know that team is done for. Using a downed enemy as bait is particularly effective, so don’t always be too quick to try and claim your kills. Definitely don’t loot anyone until you’re complete sure everyone nearby is dead.

If you’re looking for a fight, remember all the doors in this game spawn closed. So you should be looking for building complexes where some doors are open but others aren’t (implying that people are still looting) or cars that have their brake lights on (cars always spawn with their lights off but you can only turn them off again by pushing forwards a little after you stop, which most people don’t bother doing). Always make sure you have the advantage before going into fight, especially if you’re with a team and a few extra seconds would give them time to set up and cover you.

Part 6: Getting into the Zone

As you play you’ll notice a white circle on the map and a countdown. Once that countdown reaches zero a blue circle will start encroaching from the edge of the map until it reaches the white circle. The first zone will take ages to come in and you can comfortably escape it driving in any vehicle. It will do very little damage if you are in the blue zone and you can last for a very long time, so don’t panic too much and run out into the open while you’re trying to get to safety.

Towards the end of the game, the zone gets more and more dangerous. By the fourth circle being in the zone at all will drop your health quickly, and once it reaches the white circle, the damage is doubled which can down someone from full health in a few seconds.

Always be aware of where the zone is and make sure you have a plan to get to it, staying on the edge of the zone is a good idea as it means no-one will be behind you, but be aware the zone is random and could spawn on the other side of the circle from you, forcing you to move just when you don’t want to.

While you’re moving, you always need to be thinking about how visible you are. Standing on top of a hill is a great way for people to see your silhouette against the sky, so never stand on top of things. If you think people might be looking at your area, try to move as little as possible, movement is a dead giveaway.

If you’re in a team, consider where they are too. Can you see their blind spots? Can you get to them if they need help? Don’t crowd into the same cover spot behind a tree or room in a building, it makes it much easier for enemies to spot you, and if they shoot at your friend and miss, they’re possibly going to hit you!

Part 7: The Final Twenty

So you’ve got this far, you’re looted, you’re in the final zones, and you’ve hopefully got a few kills under your belt. How do you actually win?

Concealment.

As the numbers tick down and everyone gets closer together, you’ve got to stay hidden. Hide behind trees if you want, but remember you’ll always be exposed to people behind you. Long grass is excellent to go prone in, but it means you’ll be unable to move quickly or shoot anyone easily. Buildings can help you to feel safe but once there’s only a few buildings in a zone, everyone will be watching the windows and doors.

Each zone is different but you need to make a decision about where you can be to still move as the zone constricts, without letting people know where you are.

The most important thing is not to give yourself away by shooting unnecessarily. If you have a suppressor, feel free to pick off the players you can see, but remember players within 20ft will be able to find you easily. If you have someone discover you, put them down quickly, but other than that you really need to avoid firing your gun because it lets every other player know exactly where you are. In an ideal world you want to wait until the other players kill each other and it’s down to you and one other. If they’ve been shooting, you now have the advantage in that you know where they are, but they can’t find you.

Now you need to get yourself into a good position, make sure your energy bar is full (down those painkillers and energy drinks), and strike as hard and fast as possible.

Hopefully you’ll be home in time for some chicken dinner.

If you have any more tips and tricks please let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to this guide!

 

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Five Tips for starting out in No Man’s Sky

So we’ve been around the galaxy and back, all the way to the centre! So we know a few things about what’s going on in No Man’s Sky. That being said, a lot changed in patch v1.03 so in this collection of tips and tricks we’re going to stick with what we know that might help you out in No Man’s Sky.

1. Only take what you need

No Man’s Sky is going to be a nightmare for the kleptomaniac RPG players that love to pick up everything they see just in case they need it later (only to never use it in case they need it even later). Although the inventory upgrades are great, so you can now hold much more in each slot of your inventory, there’s so many different things you’ll pick up, it’s not practical to keep grabbing everything. It’s always handy to have a stack of plutonium, heredium, carbon, and iron, but anything else should only be considered if you’re saving up to make something right now, or if you think it can fetch a pretty penny. Things like gold are always valuable, and seemingly not that rare, so it might be worth grabbing a stack of that. To help you find things, plutonium is found as big bright red crystals poking out of the ground, and is very common, but important because it helps lets you recharge your thrusters to take off and your life support, so it’s handy to have a stash just in case you land on some desolate wasteland, and keep it topped up. Heredium is harder to find, and appears as big blackish blue square pillars on the landscape, but is used to make loads of different things. Early on you need a tonne of it, and even later you need it to build warp cells. Carbon and iron are everywhere, with carbon making up all the lifeforms and iron making up most of the rocks, but it’s important to take some with you when you head back into space in case someone on a space station needs it. It’s surprisingly hard to find rocks and plant matter on a space station! Thamium9 is super important too, powering your pulse engines, but it’s in nearly every asteroid, and loads of red plants on the surface, so it’s always easy to find more if you ever run out.

2. Line up your upgrades

All of your upgrades in your exo-suit, ship and multi-tool belong to a certain type. If you have upgrades of a similar type (so beam next to beam, warp drive, next to warp drive upgrade) they get a not-insignificant boost to their power. This is useful when you’re looking at new multitools and ships, as you not only want to the most slots possible, but you also want to make sure the existing immovable features like hyperdrives are in good places where you can connect other things to them. Plan ahead for your exo-suit, it’s a good idea to have a column dedicated to life support, one for shields, one for jetpack, and so on.

3. Focus on multi-tool upgrades first

There’s no point getting ship upgrades early because you’ll change your ship fairly quickly and you can’t swap over upgrades to a new ship. Your exo-suit is very limited in capacity at the very start so you really want to save that space for minerals until you’ve got a few more slots. You’re multi-tool on the other hand is a great thing to upgrade. Get the scanners as quickly as you can so you can find things, then also be sure to get some weapon upgrades and grenades. Grenades can often end a fight with wildlife in a single shot and they also let you dig out anything that might be buried by the terrain. The upgrades are also super cheap!

4. Get to an Atlas station quickly

While it’s tempting to dawdle on all the amazing planets you see, and that’s a big part of the game, making a beeline to the first Atlas station should be a priority. Once you’ve visited one then you will be find a space anomaly in the next solar system and there you will get an Atlas pass recipe. When you get your Atlas pass you can enter a lot of locked doors and open locked containers, making much more of all of your exploring. You should be able to get there in about five jumps from the start, so it takes a bit of scavenging first, but after that jumping will become a breeze and the galaxy really opens up to you. Plus it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a videogame.

5. Don’t be afraid to fight the sentinels

When the sentinels are breathing down your neck, it’s tempting to panic, but they’re surprisingly respectful if you hold your ground. Your laser is better than theirs so if there’s only one or two, take them out and it might just deactivate the alert and let you off scot-free. If you try to get in your ship and fly off to space sentinel ships will spawn around you and chase you down, and they’re a slightly bigger headache than their planetary brethren. If you really need to go on the run while you’re on a planet, get into a building. They won’t follow you and often it’ll get rid of the alert too. Don’t try to jump in a cave as you’ll often find yourself trapped in a dark room with sentinels and possibly angry wildlife all ripping you to shreds. Then when you die you’ll have to jump back into that same cave to get your stuff. Good luck with that.

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H1Z1 Battle Royale Tips

The Battle Royale mode in H1Z1 is a compression of what a real life zombie survival situation might be like. Take a bunch of people, give them something to fight for (their life), limit their resources (the space to live in), give them tools to fight each other, choices are made hard and fast. Rounds can only last a few minutes or over 30. Here’s a few tips to get the most out of it. They probably focus more on defensive techniques over offensive ones so don’t consider these the only path success.
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1.       Get a headset with a mic and use it
So have a headset and use it. Whether to talk to a teammate (see below) or taunt someone the mic is worth it. What the headset also helps bring is positional audio, so if you hear someone speak, you will know what direction they are coming from.
2.       Bring a friend or more.
In Battle Royale you can play solo, in a 2 man team or 5 man team. If you have a friend (you can trust) why not convince them to join you, or more of them if you can. Sure if you want the glory you can run solo, it might be a tenser experience but starting out its more fun and more reliable to have more eyes to spot things and more brains (you hope) to plan your next move.
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3.       Watch where everyone is dropping in and don’t go there.
When you start the round you will be parachuting in, with any team-mates in tow. Resist the temptation at the beginning to crowd in to where everyone else might be dropping in. Pick a spot that looks a little less popular and go there. Buildings are better as they are typically more likely to have stuff. Getting the stuff is important, but you don’t necessarily want to start out the round with a fist fight. Unless of course you have complete confidence in any lag being in your favour.
4.       Get to know the gear.
It will take a while to figure out what your preferred weapons are, and sometimes you may not have a choice, but it’s worth doing if you can. Knowing if you prefer a .44 to a 9mm is worth it because it will inform how you choose to start a fight (or finish one)
5.       Don’t move for the gas until you need to.
Sticking to the edge of the gas wave might be a bit risky, but you should always have enough time if you need to move. Being in the center of the radius may mean you have to travel less distance, but more often than not using the whole space available will keep you alive for longer. Chances are you’ll encounter less people, and people are what will get you killed.
6.       Use to cover lines when moving
An obvious thing to say, but when you need to move from point to point use a tree line, wall or something to gain some respite from the open ground. Spotting something moving through open ground is a whole lot easier than in the forest so don’t give others that advantage.
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7.       If you are picking the battle, do it to your advantage.
You might spot someone in the distance and have your pistol ready to aim, but think before you fire. Can you expect to win in the encounter, are you up against one person? Or two? Do they have better weapons than you? Visibly better gear? Better cover to use? Before you pull the trigger try to assess whether you are in a stronger position or not. The game is about surviving to the end and that doesn’t mean you have to shoot on sight, or kill everyone, all you need to do is be the last one standing.

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Lessons learned in thousands of hours of online FPS games

We’ve logged a few thousand hours across a several team based online shooters, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4, and Team Fortress 2 as well as dipping in and out of Counterstrike, Day of Defeat and the occasional iteration of Call of Duty. With all this experience, which is somewhat useless in the real world, we thought we would try and share some smarts to help anyone who wants to get more into the genre.

 

 

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There’s always a bigger mountain.

We’d like to think we’re pretty good at FPS games, especially once we get into them, but one of the key things we’ve realised is that there will always be someone better than you, or someone who is having a better round than you. The most important thing is to be having fun, or there’s no point in playing. So play how you want to to have fun. Sometimes we don’t bother using the tried and tested tactic that is more likely to win, sometimes we just try something else to keep the games fresh. You might not always win, or always maintain a positive k/d but we guarantee you will learn something and have fun doing it.

 

 

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Tactics can beat skill.

Following on from the last point about there always being a better player, the counter point is that there is always a way to beat them. If you are playing a team based mode, I.E anything that’s not a deathmatch, with the help of your team you can win. Is someone camping a corridor so well that no one is getting through? Well don’t keep running down it, figure out what the counter is and use it, use grenades, use smoke cover or perhaps go a different route? Give yourself the best chance of success, don’t just try the same thing again and again you will beat the situation if you haven’t thought about trying anything different.

 

 

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Teamwork is the best way to win.

A great idea is nothing in a round of Battlefield’s rush mode if you are the only one doing it. If you die there will be no one to back you up. Working with the team is still the best way to get something done even if you have to try and encourage them to do it. We wouldn’t like to think how many timesweI’ve typed ‘flank’ into the team text chat. The first time in a match no one will know what we’re talking about but sometimes by about the third time, or when we’ve switched to saying ‘GO AROUND!’ it might start to work and that choke point the team were stuck on, gets attacked from a different angle and we progress.

 

 

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Every failure is an opportunity to learn something.

Every time you lose an encounter with an enemy, think what was it that caused them to win it? Was it because they were camped in some sniper spot you didn’t know about? Or because they had some other tank counter measure you hadn’t unlocked yet? Always be thinking; what did they have over me in this instance? It may not always be obvious or it may just be the fact that they shot first, but sometimes you can learn something. Even if it’s ‘this isn’t fun anymore’ that’s how you know it’s time to take a break from the action before you get angry at the game.

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Replacing the Thermal Paste on an AMD Graphics Card

With our R9 290 not in warranty and starting to misbehave (fluctuating clock speeds and constantly hitting 95 degrees celsius as well as black screen crashes if we had two monitors plugged in), we decided to take it upon ourselves to replace the thermal paste. At first this sounded absolutely terrifying but it turned out to be much easier than we expected. So here’s a brief guide on how to do it. Please realise that this will void your warranty. If you’re still in warranty just send it back to the retailer.

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Why would you do this?

Thermal paste is the material that is sticking the processor of your GPU to the heatsink of whatever is cooling it. If you have a normal card this will usually be either a series of heatpipes, or possible a set of metal fins behind some fans. The thermal compound is designed to draw as much heat as possible away from the processor. It’s much more efficient at doing this than air is, so the idea is that it creates a complete seal between the processor and the heatsink, without any air bubbles at all. If your compound was put on badly (as ours was) or has somehow decayed, it might be worth putting more on. If your card is overheating but the fans are working fine, this is almost certainly why.

What do you need?

  • Your GPU (ours is a Powercolor PCS+ R9 290 4GB)
  • A set of small screwdrivers
  • Thermal Paste (lots of good ones out there, we used some from Coolermaster than came with a fan we bought for the CPU, but this is probably the best. It’s crazy cheap.
  • isopropyl alcohol 
  • Microfibre cloth
  • A clean flat surface

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How to do it

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  1. Disconnect your GPU from your PC and take it out. Usually you will have to turn the power off to the pc, take out any connections, remove the power cables that lead straight to the GPU, then unscrew the screws on the bracket at the back of the PC. now the only thing holding it in should be the PCI slot itself. You can press the little lever on the right hand side and the whole thing should slide out easily. Don’t force it, or you could damage either your motherboard or the GPU.
  2. Place your GPU on the flat surface and work out how the heatsink is attached to the board. The heatsink will have the fans attached to it. In the case of our Powercolor R9 290, it was simply 4 screws on the backplate in a square around the processor. You might also have to disconnect a little  power cable that will tie the fans to the board, that will just slide out of its socket, but be careful as it’s quite delicate.
  3. To remove the screws, try to loosen them all a bit at a time, don’t take one out then go on to the next. Normally I go diagonally so do one corner, then the corner opposite, then do the same again for the other two. This means there won’t be loads of pressure on one part of the board which could potentially crack something.
  4. Once you have all the screws out, put them somewhere safe and gently lift the heatsink off. Depending on the kind of thermal paste used before, it might just fall off or it might need pulling or twisting a tiny bit. Be careful and make sure you don’t touch the surface of the heatsink or the processor. These are the things that should be covered in gross old thermal paste.
  5. Now put a little isopropyl on the microfibre cloth and gently rub away all of the thermal paste that was left on there. If any has leaked to less sensitive parts, feel free to use a cotton swab or even a toothpick to make sure you get it all.
  6. Now both the heatsink and the processor should be shiny and completely gunk free. With your thermal paste, drop a very small amount (about the size of a grain of cooked rice) right in the middle of the processor. I know it doesn’t look like enough and it’ll seem like when you put it down it won’t be covered, but the idea is that you want an incredibly thin film and if you spread it yourself you’ll make little bubbles of air that will ruin it. Just trust me!
  7. Now you need to make sure you can link up the heatsink with the processor smoothly in one go without wobbling or smearing the paste. We did thisupside down because then we could line up the screw holes easily, but it’ll depend on your GPU. Just make sure you can put them together in a way that won’t let them move at all while you screw it back together – this is probably the trickiest part. If you mess it up just clean the thermal paste off and do it again.
  8. Screw the GPU back together (make sure you reconnect the fans if you did disconnect anything) and then put it back in the machine. You don’t need to wait or anything, when you screwed the heatsink down it will have spread the paste immediately.
  9. Switch your PC on and use something like GPU-Z or MSI Afterburner to monitor the temperatures. Hopefully they should be much lower than before! Ours was working much better after doing this, although it didn’t solve our black screen issue.

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Evolve Alpha Guide and key giveaway

The Evolve alpha is upon Xbox One owners and coming to other platforms soon. If you’ve jumped in already you might feel a little overwhelmed by the choices and different playstyles open to you. We’ve had a lot of fun with it so far but it’s definitely frustrating if you’re on a losing team. So to help out here’s a guide for each role in the Evolve alpha, we’re going to assume you’re using the default characters for each class as it’s an alpha. At the bottom of the page we also have a giveaway for one Xbox One and one PC alpha code (guaranteed access). Good hunting!

The Monster

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In the alpha you’re going to be playing as the Goliath. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s surprisingly nimble, but that doesn’t make him invincible..

  1. When you spawn, run. The hunters will spawn directly on top of you, you don’t have time to get used to the control or start eating, you need to get away as fast as possible. If you have charge, use it to get away and make a beeline for one of the corners of the map. For now avoid the buildings or the coast, they’re too open and there’s not enough opportunities to eat. Where you can climb onto a cliff and then use your jump to reach other cliffs and double back a little, this can help you to lose the hunters.
  2. Once you’ve got some distance, sneak and eat. You can sneak with the B/Circle button and this will stop you from alerting your prey or the hunters. You need to chow down on some of the smaller beasties in the jungle and ideally get to level two and maybe even three before you ever come across the hunters. This means killing one or two beasts, eating them, and then getting away like you did for number one. If you spot the hunters, run away from them. You’ve got plenty of time to do what you need to do, there’s no sense in taking them on while you’re weak.
  3. Evolve as soon as you can. Once you fill up the blue circle the game will tell you to find somewhere safe to evolve, don’t take too long worrying about this. Just climb up somewhere high and hit both triggers to evolve. This will make you much more powerful, add or power up an ability and even get some health back.
  4. If you’re trapped, go high. This will be less useful once the game has been out for a while, but for now you can escape most of the hunters simply by climbing. Most levels have some kind of high points dotted around whether they’re cliffs or structures and it’s more of a pain for the hunters to attack you if you’re up there. Often they’ll have to use the slow jetpack climb so you can just keep sensing (click in the right stick) and then knock them away once they get up there. Don’t forget to use all of your abilities as they do a lot more damage than your standard attack.
  5. Go for the power core. As soon as you hit level three, go straight for the power core. Lots of players still don’t get that you can win like that in your third phase, so they might still be trying to hunt you down outside. Instead you want to go straight there and do as much damage to it as quickly as possible. If you have over half health by now it’s probably worth just attacking the core rather than the hunters, just charge them out of the way if they become too much of a problem. The core is surprisingly flimsy and the inside of that building is a deathtrap for the hunters who can’t use things like orbital strikes.

Assault

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In MMO terms, Assault is the DPS and the tank all rolled into one. You’re going to be the doing the bulk of the damage to the beast and you’re going to be trying to take the hits as much as possible.

  1. Don’t stop running. You need to be on the monster at all times. The longer it takes you to kill the monster the stronger it gets and since you’re doing the damage, you should be shooting it as much as is humanly possible. Use your machine gun for long distance but whenever possible switch to the lightning gun to do incredible amounts of damage. Your squad shouldn’t be fighting the wildlife, it just slows you down, but and occasional lightning blast into smaller enemies early on might deprive the monster of a bit of food.
  2. Time your shields. You have a shield that makes you invincible, don’t waste it. Wait until the monster uses flamebreath or picks up a rock before you switch the shield on, if he’s just swinging at you your jetpack should be enough to let you get out of the way. A double tap of A/X will let you boost a little and you can keep on firing. Save your shield for when he’s really gunning for you or when you need to revive someone because everyone else is down. In general you shouldn’t be doing the reviving, you should be shooting.
  3. Use mines when the arena comes up. As soon as the arena comes up, throw all of your mines down and then run forwards. The best use of them is to get the monsters attention, then as your shield is running out back over the mines to stun the beast. They do a fair bit of damage and in the chaos of the firefights it’s hard for the monster to tell where they are. Don’t think too much about your placement, that’s time you could be shooting.
  4. Aim for the weak points. This might sound obvious, but the sniper can create weak points and you should be aiming all your fire there. You do much more damage this way and can drop a monster shockingly quickly if you’ve got a good aim.
  5. Don’t die. All too often you see assaults standing there receiving a beating without any kind of protection. If you don’t have your shield and the support guy can’t help you out, you should be moving as much as possible to avoid damage. If you go down the monster is almost unstoppable so don’t let yourself get killed. Just keep using your jetpack, shields and mines to keep yourself safe..

Trapper

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The trapper is probably the most fun to play, unfortunately it’s also the class where there’s the most risk of messing things up for everyone else.

  1. Get that shield down. You have an amazing ability with the mobile arena. Once you get close to the monster you need to drop that ASAP. If you miss it you’re on a long cooldown and the monster can easily escape so you have to be sure. Don’t waste time doing anything else when you’re close, this is your main role and your biggest priority. Remember it’s something you throw so you can send it a little way away from you.
  2. Use the harpoons all at once. Your second most useful ability is the harpoon, the arena is huge and you need to tie the monster down as much as possible. With harpoon traps you can fire them behind it and they will leash it to the ground until it turns to attack them. This means it’s stuck for a second so your team can unleash hell and the monster will stop damaging your teammates for a second.
  3. Revive team-mates. Your gun is probably the worst in the game so you doing damage is less important than anyone else. Because of this you’re in a good position to go revive anyone who gets downed. Of course you have to watch that the monster doesn’t take you out too, but with your harpoons and communication it’s not too hard to keep people going.
  4. Use the high ground. You need to be able to see the monster before it sees you and the easiest way to do that is to keep high up. This also means you’ll have an idea of how far away it is for you to use your trap. Daisy will follow the monster at all times but you don’t need to be right beside her, you can go high up so you can get to a position asap once it’s been spotted. You shouldn’t ever really be on the jungle floor unless you’re reviving someone.
  5. Don’t forget you do have a gun. Although your gun is terrible, it still does do some damage so if there’s nothing else to be doing you should be shooting the monster. Every little helps!

Support

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Support is an interesting class that creates one of the most difficult strategic dilemmas in the alpha. Do you help your team or shoot?

  1. Save the orbital strike for when it will hit. The orbital strike is powerful but it’s also really slow and the monsters tend to move around a lot. Communicate with your team and make sure you use it when the monster is harpooned or tranquilised or evolving. Also let your teammates know when you’re going to use it as it will send them flying which can be a pain if they’re about to use one of their own abilities.
  2. Only use your shield when you need to. Your gun is amazing and only Assault does more damage than you do. Save your shield for when a teammate needs invincibility for something specific. If it saves them from death or helps them to revive someone, then it’s worth it. At all other times you should be shooting the boss constantly.
  3. Revive if you have to. If the trapper and/or medic are down you are the next best role to go and revive someone. Pop your cloak and get them up before your cloak switches off. Be aware though that you are losing a lot of damage if you’re reviving someone so be sure it’s really worth it.
  4. Cloak on cooldown. What this means if that you should be popping your cloak every time it is available. It stops the monster from seeing you which means you can get closer with your team. If you let everyone know once you have it, you can group up a little and try to help the trapper get close by to use the mobile arena.
  5. Stay high. Just like the trapper your abilities are easier to use when you can see everything, try to stay as high up as you can so you can keep your laser cutter trained on the monster at all times and select good times to use your orbital strike.

Medic

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Unlike medics in nearly all games ever, in Evolve you actually get a good gun and a lot to do at any given time. People will often blame the medic for a failure but if you stay on top of things you can make all the difference.

  1. Snipe as often as possible. Your gun lets you create weak points on the enemy. It does a decent amount of damage on its own but those weak points mean your team can drop the monster incredibly quickly. Shoot as often as you can, you don’t even need to use the sight until you’re a long way away (at which point you should be running to get closer anyway). The monster is huge, just noscope.
  2. Keep it tranquilised. Your tranquiliser gun will not only slow the monster down ,but it will highlight it through walls for everyone else. As soon as one fades off, shoot another. The range is incredible on this and it will help the trapper enormously if you can keep the monster in sight. In normal fights you’ll often be switching between the sniper and tranquiliser rapidly so it might help to take the perk that increases the speed of swapping weapons.
  3. Revive from a distance if you have to. Your healing gun can revive from a distance, so it’s definitely an option but it is also incredibly slow. If it’s easier, just run up and revive the old fashioned way. In general it’s better if the trapper does the reviving once the arena is up so you can keep sniping away.
  4. Don’t waste your healing burst.  Your healing burst is insanely powerful but clearly it relies on your team being clumped up. In general it’s better to communicate that you’re going to use it, and let people come to you. The alternative is to try and stick by the Assault so you can keep him topped up. Just be careful that you don’t get taken out yourself, dodge away whenever you need to.
  5. Listen. People will need healing, it’s inevitable, so listen out for them and pay attention. Your healing gun has a huge range but you still have to actually use it if you want your team to survive. Don’t heal people who are at full health, spend that time shooting/tranquillising instead.

So hopefully some of these tips will help you out. If you have any more questions just ask us on Twitter @TP_Review

Giveaway

To be in with a chance of winning an alpha code on Xbox One or PC just drop us an email on contact at tpreview.co.uk with ‘Evolve Alpha Giveaway PC’ or ‘Evolve Alpha Giveaway XBONE’ as the subject and follow us on Facebook using the link below. We’ll draw winners at 8pm GMT 31st October.

Congratulations P Wilson and W Buchanan!

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A guide to learning Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Over the last two years I have played quite a lot of Starcraft. I’ve gone from being completely new to the game up to Gold in 1v1 and Platinum in 2v2.Along the way I’ve levelled all three races up to max and tried almost every strategy and tactic in the book. Clearly I’m still not a master in any way – I’m still learning a lot every time I play. That being said I’ve made enough mistakes and wasted enough time on things that I think I can give some advice on common problems and some of the best ways to learn.

Contents

1. Setting up your PC
2. Watching and Learning
3. Picking a race
4. Macro
5. Micro
6. Unit compositions

 

1. Setting up your PC


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Setting up your PC is vital to making an environment where you can play – and learn – effectively. When I started out I was playing while sitting on a bed, using a TV as my monitor. None of this was ideal but sometimes your living situation dictates where you need to game. The important thing is to get in a comfy chair/position where you won’t need to move around and to make sure your mouse is on a stable flat surface. For every half-second you spend shifting your seat or your mouse is unresponsive for whatever reason, terrible things could happen. You also need to make sure you are far away enough from your TV or monitor that you can easily see the whole screen at once, particularly the lower left corner. Keeping some focus on your minimap is essential and if you’re sitting close to a big TV, this is going to be a problem.

In terms of settings there are different schools of thought. I personally play with everything on ultra because the game can look so nice. Often when you watch streams you’ll see that everything is ugly as sin. That’s not because those streamers have terrible PCs, it’s because when you go to tournaments you have no idea what hardware you’ll be playing on. If you are used to Ultra settings and you turn up and can only play on very low you’re going to be thrown off your game because it looks dramatically different at lower settings. If you practise with everything on low at least you can always switch PCs to that. Some people argue that it makes cloaked units (dark templars, banshees etc) easier to see as well. If you’re not expecting to go to any tournaments, it’s entirely up to you, if they are your aim you might want to turn everything down. Regardless of your preferred quality make sure that you are running the game at 60fps. Some movements and decisions need to made in split-second timings and keeping the game fluid is going to be important to you.

Lastly if you’re going to be playing for extended periods (we strongly recommend taking breaks every couple of hours) make sure your monitor/TV isn’t set too bright. You need to be alert and focused while playing Starcraft and if you have the brightness or contrast up too high (or backlight on LED screens) you’re going to get eye fatigue and start missing things or potentially damage your vision. Look after your eyes – they’re probably the only ones you’ll ever have. If eye fatigue is a problem for you it might be worth checking out the Gunnar glasses. I know they seem gimmicky but when we reviewed them we were surprised to see that they actually do have some kind of effect and it could solve a problem for you.

2. Watching and Learning


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Thankfully there are loads of different ways to watch other Starcraft players. We use Twitch.tv a lot and at any time of day you’ll finder streamers and often tournaments. It can be really useful to watch tournaments such as WCS due to the commentary which will often explain to you why certain things are happening. It’s also possible (and potentially even more useful) to download replays right into the Starcraft 2 client from sites such as Team Liquid and GGTracker. While watching replays in the client you can see the game from different players’ points of view and slow down or speed up the game at different parts, as well as seeing statistics like Actions Per Minute (APM) or their resources lost. When you’re starting out it can be a great way to learn build orders as at any given time the first two minutes or so of a game are often quite similar and managing to pull off those starting sequences effectively will help you no end.

It is worth noting that you need to be careful when basing your play off professionals as they will use strategies that simply won’t work for you at first. For instance many Terran players will use a single bunker when playing against Zerg. They’ll get rushed by speedlings and be able to hold them off effectively while you’ll try to do exactly the same thing and get destroyed. This is because all the other skills that Terran player has will help them to overcome that threat effectively while saving a few hundred minerals by not walling off. Unless your scouting, micro and game sense is as good as theirs, you need to spend those minerals on some supply depots or an extra bunker to wall off. Similarly high-level players will be able to make pushes work with a handful of units due to their excellent control and ability to multitask while taking fights without losing any units. Until your micro is that good it’s simply not going be easy enough to imitate.

Lots of channels on Twitch will be dedicated to teaching people how to play and you can find hundreds of Youtube videos that explain everything in a lot of detail. It’s worth watching those big tournaments and expert streamers for entertainment and to get some ideas, but you can’t just copy what they do and expect to win.

Once you do have some games under your belt, make sure you watch replays of games you both win and lose. If you’ve won it’s always interesting to watch back and see if you could have won even quicker, or if something you thought you did well turned out just to be dumb luck. In a recent 2v2 game with Le Petit Dodo we thought we’d held off an attack amazingly and managed to counterattack and take them down. When watching the replay we realised one of the opponents had long periods where they weren’t building anything and they had only expanded to extra bases when the fighting was already lost. If we’d tried the same tactics against a competent player we never would have won using the same strategy so it was good to realise how lucky we’d been.

When you are watching your replays back look for large scale mistakes that you’re making and where you’re losing pace. Do you expand early enough? Does your army size take too long to get going? Are you spreading creep? Are you remembering to upgrade? Are you scouting at the right times? Try to identify one of these issues and then in the next few games focus entirely on that. Keep going until you avoid that mistake naturally and then move on to something else. If you try to take on too many changes at once you won’t learn to do any of them well and you won’t be able to work out exactly that’s causing an issue.

3. Picking a Race


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You might not hear this on Reddit very often but Blizzard do a very good job of balancing all of the races. Never pick your main race based on whichever one is apparently ‘OP’ (overpowered) at any given time, a single patch can change it in an instant. It’s also not a good idea to go for Random until you’re confident with the game as each race plays so differently it’ll take you much longer to earn any of them well. Instead have a play against the AI, watch some streams and then try to make an informed choice. If you don’t gel with one, just move on to another until you find something that seems manageable to you. From my perspective these are the main differences between the races.

Terran

Terrans play the most like old-style Command and Conquer. There’s a heavy emphasis on logistics with base building and transporting units being incredibly important. Once a Terran’s production gets going it’s incredibly hard to stop so it can be extremely satisfying to have streams of units marching across the map. Unfortunately Terrans do lack any exceptionally strong single units, with Ghosts’ nuclear weapons and Battle Cruisers rarely being particularly useful. If you enjoy planning out bases and maximising production Terran might be a good place to start and they also have some tools like scans and mules that can make sure you avoid common irritating problems.

Zerg

I currently play Zerg and they focus on map control and an unmatched ability to repopulate their units once they get going. Zerg can cope better than the other races with losing units so if your micro isn’t great they might be a good place to look. Zerg do have a wide variety of options available to them at any given time and have some interesting spellcasting units that allow them to control areas with abducts, blinding clouds, fungals and burrowing. Zerg are also the easiest race to get an early fighting force so if you’re worried about getting rushed, Zerg find it much easier to defend than some of the others. Unfortunately they can be frustrating as once you lose map control, the end-game can become very difficult unless you’re able to use the more complicated units very effectively. There’s quite a lot to remember as you play Zerg with creep spread, larva injects and a need for constant expansion.

Protoss

Protoss revolve around few but highly powerful units. They are exceptionally tech-based and many of their units fulfil the ‘glass cannon’ archetype, fulfilling a single role exceptionally well but having some real weaknesses that can be easily exploited. Because of the power of Protoss armies and their ability to be effective even off two bases, Protoss can be an intimidating enemy. Learning unit roles and counters is vital when playing as a Protoss and you need to learn to scout effectively or your expensive army might end up being completely useless. Once Protoss gets going it can be seemingly unstoppable and the term ‘Protoss Death Ball’ is frequently heard in tournaments. Protoss excel in longer games and are potentially the most challenging to play due to nearly every unit have castable abilities that must be used in order to be effective.

4. Macro


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Macro means the large-scale management of your army and production and for a new players it is the main thing you want to be getting right. You need to be able to expand quickly and get an army up ready before you are attacked. If you can master the art of Macro you’ll win many fights by simply destroying your enemy when they push an attack, and then being able to respond before they can replenish. The key elements of macro are drone/probe/SCV production, expansion, supply management and production capabilities. You want to always be making mining units until you have 16 on minerals for each base and 6 on gas. Once one base is maxed you should be expanding if it is safe to do so, maybe earlier for Zerg. You need to make sure you always have enough supply to create another handful of units and finally you need enough production to make use of all of your income. Any minerals or gas sitting in the bank is completely wasted so you should be aiming to spend absolutely everything unless you are saving up for a particular reason. 1000 minerals could be 20 units that could be harassing an enemy base on preventing an expansion or it could be a set of defences to protect your newest expansion against stealthed units. When watching replays if you ever have a huge bank, are capped at supply or your income is below everyone else’s, try to fix this as a priority.

5. Micro


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Micro is less important early on but when you watch streamers you will see a lot of attention paid to it. Basically micro is the ability to control units in such a way that you maximise the damage they inflict while minimising what they sustain. This requires an intimate knowledge of ranges and damage values that you can find all over the internet (remember it changes with every patch so make sure you’re reading a current source). In essence you will want to be able to make sure that you don’t just send your whole army to attack as one big blob. You need to assign hotkeys to different groups of units (hold ctrl and press a number, then hold shift and press a number to add units to that group) and then control them in groups. Make sure your longer-range units are behind those with more armour, keep your flying units away from AA, be ready to use abilities with the press of a button. When you have good micro you can learn to ‘kite’ your opponents by moving yours back, attacking and then repeating over and over again. This stops melee or short-range enemies from being able to get a single shot off. This tricks means Phoenixes can take down swarms of mutalisks without any damage, marines can destroy zealots, zerglings and banelings and Stalkers can become almost invincible once they have blink. In Bronze and Silver leagues just worry about Macro for now, but above that Micro skills are going to start winning you wars.

6. Unit Compositions


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Another key element of Starcraft 2 is unit composition. It’s all too tempting to find a powerful unit you like and then just create an army made solely of that. Unfortunately that’s a recipe for disaster. Unprotected Collossi can be taken down by Speedlings, Mutas can be eliminated by marines, even carriers, thors and ultralisks can be rendered useless if they don’t have support.

Try to get into a habit of combining strong armoured tanky units (Zealots, Marauders, Roaches) with damage dealing ranged units (Stalkers, Marines, Hydralisks), some kind of crowd-control caster (Sentries, Ravens, Infestors), detection (Observers, still Ravens, Overseers) and maybe some AoE (Colossi, Siege Tanks, Banelings). Of course depending on what your opponent has opted for you might be able to exploit a weakness. If they have no AA (they’ve gone for mass Roach/Zealot) you can go with Banshees, Mutas or Void Rays. If they’ve gone for all armoured units you can focus on units like Immortals that have a bonus against armour. There’s hundreds of interesting interactions between units in Starcraft 2 and gaining experience in what works against what is part of the fun of learning the game. You do need to remember to pay attention to it though.

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Most of all, just remember to have fun with the game. It’s easy to burn out when you’re learning a new competitive game and Starcraft can be as frustrating as any other. Battle.net attempts to match you in such a way that you’re winning 50% of the time, so you should be expecting to lose half of your games. If you can see those as learning experiences, you’ll only ever get better.

 

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