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Feature: The Top 5 Free PC Game Mods
by Chris Hawke

There are many advantages to PC gaming over it's console counterpart. Games are usually cheaper, graphics can be tinkered with, and, of course, there are mods. Wonderful, wonderful mods. For modding, you need to know your stuff and be creative, but have a grasp of what works and what doesn't. Which is exactly why there are a lot of rubbish, pretty broken mods out there. Thankfully, there are some who are excellent at the modding process and, as long as you own the game, you can easily get their missions, graphical updates, total world conversions or funny nude mods (of there are loads). Here's a list of our favorite 5; chosen for their brilliance, creativity, working order and the fact they're free. And free stuff rules.

5. Extreme Graphics Enhancement

Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Author: rinuextreme

GTA IV was great on consoles. Unfortunately, the PC version had some problems. Weird graphical glitches were just one of them. Now, most bugs are long gone, but the game still looks a little rough around the (jagged) edges. Here's where the Extreme Graphics Enhancement mod comes in. It does what it says on the tin, basically making the world of GTA IV much more beautiful. It improves vehicles' handling, damage, physics and details; tweaks weapon damage; re-textures blood splatter, trees, and fences; smooths out reflections; makes explosions more beautiful; and even changes the population density to make the world feel more realistic. If you have GTA IV on PC and feel it looking lacklustre, you need this.

Installation Difficulty: Medium - while the downloading and installing is simple, the latest patch for GTA IV has caused some troubles with certain mods, including crashes, so you might want to wait for a new patch to fix that.

4. GreenWorld

Game: Fallout 3
Author: Khyrin

With Fallout 3 set 200 years after the first bombs fell, you'd have thought that nature would have found a way. I mean, look at Avatar. You can so easily see that nature is the good thing, and will basically always triumph. So why is Fallout 3's world so grey, and bleak, and frankly, ugly? Never fear, for Khyrin has made the GreenWorld mod, turning the desolate landscape into a garden of lush green. Love Oblivion's wonderful vistas and stunning forests, but long for the guns and slow motion destruction of Fallout 3? You'll never have to make that choice again, as GreenWorld combines the best of the two games and hands it to you for free. It has some weird English in it, and makes sniping harder, but sniping was always boring in Fallout 3; close-up headshots usually work best.

Installation Difficulty: Easy - if you can follow instructions, you can install this.

3. Research And Development

Game: Half Life 2/The Source Engine
Author: M. Bortolino

There are a lot a Source mods out there. Millions, possibly trillions (No, not quadrillions. Idiot.) of people are taking the Valve engine and doing what they please. However, none work so well as Research And Development. A single-player experience of around 6 hours, without any guns (execpt your trust grav-gun), it feels as if it could have been crafted by Valve themselves. Incredibly clever but non-frustrating puzzles (including one brilliant segment involving light), makeshift riot shields, deadly train rides and, amazingly, a build-your-own, working car. With rockets. It's got a coherent story, great puzzles, superb gameplay, and perfectly crafted levels that require thinking but never make you want to punch through your LCD monitor. Will suppress your want for Episode 3 for a while.

Installation Difficulty: Easy - follow the 'readme', and it should be simple. It also works perfectly when adding it as a 'non-Steam game' on Steam.

2. Island War - Ultimate Free Roam

Game: Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Author: TemplarGTX

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising was a mixed bag. There were sparks of pure brilliance: you've got your face buried in the dirt as helicopters fall around you, bullets smack dirt and artillery puts an end to everything within 300 feet - that kind of awesome. Then, there were times when the AI would glitch, or the unfriendly controls and poor vehicle handling would get you killed almost before you began. Multiplayer was essentially dead on arrival due to the lack of dedicated servers, but one brilliant feature was the 'mission editor'. Surprisingly in-depth, it allows you to quickly throw a mission together and have some insta-fun. But TemplarGTX wasn't content with a throwaway objective or two; instead, he took the 277km² island of Skira, made it fully playable with AI spawning randomly at towns and villages, changeable weapons, access to every vehicle in the game, every weapon in the game, up to 4 squads of USMC friendlies, activation-based objectives, AI re-haul, damage system overhaul, a chopper taxi-service and so much more. Visit the homepage and check for constant updates, constantly fixing bugs, adding new objective types and generally making the awesome happen. If you own the game, this is a must have.

Installation Difficulty: Easy - just find the Codemasters folder, open up dat_win, and copy all the files into the Mission Editor file. Couldn't be more simple.

1. S.T.A.L.K.E.R Complete 2009

Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow Of Chernobyl
Author: artistpavel

We've already mentioned this mod before, but nothing quite comes close to describing the incredible amount of detail involved in this mod. Not only has artistpavel collaborated with other modders to remaster every single texture in the game to rival most '09 games, but he's tweaked the AI, added 'freeplay' mode, thrown in a sleeping bag (which, surprise surprise, developer GSC are now using in the next game, Call of Pripyat), overhauled the old weather system, put in new night vision goggles, textured and fiddled with all the weapons to make them more realistic, fixed nearly all the bugs in the game, replaced sounds, fixed the often broken English, added new scopes, a new HUD and a new repair system - and that's just a quarter of the total changes. Rightly, artistpavel and his mod have earned critical acclaim from the likes of PCFormat, Eurogamer, Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, as well as easily topping the most downloaded mods on several mod sites. Oh, and add the that the fact that artistpavel is a really, really nice guy, and that S.T.A.L.K.E.R is around £3, there is no reason why you shouldn't own this.

Installation Difficulty: Medium - while installing the mod is usually easy, patching can be a bit of a struggle for those who don't know their computer lingo. Thankfully, those in the know should be able to easily help you out.

Oh, what's that? We missed out your favourite mod? Well don't just stand there - put it in the comments section! Keep your eyes fixed to Gamer's Guide To Life for more greatness in 2010.


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- Chris Hawke

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