10 free Steam games reviewed

Kat takes a look at free single-player games distributed over Steam, and in doing so scales the heights

29 Oct 2010

Got Steam? Got no money? You've got no problem. We've taken a look at the best and worst of the free single-player games (and a couple of the more substantial stand-alone demos) to be had on the Steam network.

Please note that many of these are local install only and will not be linked to your Steam account for play on other machines. Demos that consist only of content available in the published game will only be eligible for a maximum rating of 4/5, no matter how brilliant they are. Full games are eligible for a full five-star rating.

America's Army 3
Get it at: http://store.steampowered.com/app/13140/
Single player rating: 2/5

America's Army 3 is the official promotional game of the US army, built on the Unreal 3 engine. And people say armed conflict never did anything useful.

Character creation, complete with stirring background music, is a fairly straightforward affair. You get to choose a login name, as well as naming your soldier. You can choose your appearance, too, from one of 13 character portraits (male, natch - although women can serve in most parts of the US military, including the Marine Corps, army infantry is still a boys-only affair). This being an FPS, however, your looks make approximately no difference whatsoever.

The game opens with enlistment, which is illustrated by what is possibly the worst still-artwork slideshow we've ever seen, earning the game comedy points, if nothing else. Having joined the ranks of America's finest, you've got to get through basic training. This proved to be tougher than expected, as the Unreal engine really doesn't lend itself to the kind of pinpoint-accurate manoeuvring you'll be need to get through even the initial obstacle course.

Qualifying as a marksman is similarly tough, to the point of being virtually impossible at lower resolutions thanks to the distance of your targets. Just like in real life, there's no snap-to auto-aiming here, and the game's accuracy requirement is unforgiving, even if you have the target lined up between your sights. The weapon physics appear to be pretty accurate too, with our M16 automatic rifle giving a tell-tale pull to the right with every shot.

The problem here is that the entire single-player game consists of training. There's plenty to learn, as each of the many weapons you can earn the right to bear has its own set of commands and tactics. However, this is exactly what most gamers want to get through quickly. Unfortunately, training is required if you want to unlock tasty weapons.

The meat of the game is in multi-player, and if you've got (a) friends, (b) a working net connection an (c) the patience to learn all the commands you'll need, this tactical shooter could work for you. Sadly, we grew up hyperactive after eating too much sugary cereal, and thus prefer more instant carnage. We'll be over on the next server, headshotting zombies.

Codename: Gordon
Get it at: steam://install/92
Single player rating: 2/5

Codename: Gordon is a "side-scrolling adventure in the Half-Life universe". If you ever wondered what Half-Life might have been like if it was designed as a side-scrolling platformer in the style of Commander Keen or Duke Nukem (the original 2D games), then Codename: Gordon should satisfy your curiosity. It's an amusing concept, but the default controls don't work too well - we were particularly annoyed by the fact that the position of the mouse cursor determines which way Gordon is facing, as well as the uncomfortable stretch between using the WASD keys for movement and the space bar to jump. Might improve with careful control key reassignment, but is otherwise doomed to be little more than a curiosity.

It's not listed or searchable on Steam, but can be installed by entering the link above into most browsers (although our copy of Chrome failed to detect it as a URL).

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