PC Zone is the longest running, and it is generally accepted, the best, PC games magazine published in the UK. It launched in the Summer of 1993 (first cover : X-Wing - the first of many Star Wars related covers) and carried two 3.5-inch disks. At that time, the staff consisted of Zero and Game Zone regulars such as Paul Lakin, Duncan McDonald and David McCandless. The reviewing style was markedly different from any other games mag at the time - the quirky background information (for instance, the review of the first Gabriel Knight game was accompanied with a short article about the practice of voodoo) and mature writing style were a refreshing change from the comic-book simplicity of most console mags.

The long-running Mr. Cursor column made its first appearance. After a couple of years, floppies gave way to covermounted CD-ROMs. For a while in 1995-96, the mag had a different editor and became a bit too laddish - there were many failed attempts to duplicate the humour of the Mr. Cursor column. The reviewing standards have never dropped though - the only reviewer with whom I have had any serious beef was the cartoonist Charlie Brooker, who consistently over-rated console ports (such as Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy 7).

Currently, the mag is edited by Chris Anderson, and has a slant toward more multiplayer gaming. The marking scheme has been revised to prevent Playstation-style over-zealous marking of big titles : It is now very difficult for a game to score more than 90%. The readership has fluctuated over the years, but has generally stayed on par with the nearest rival, the inferior PC Gamer.

Also, seemingly in defiance of the laws of economics, PC Zone is the only mag to be cheaper now than it was when it launched seven years ago. (At one point it sported 164 pages and 2 CD's for a mere £3.00)

Update: The magazine is now edited by Dave Woods, is slowly undergoing a creeping deterioration in quality, and costs between £3.99 and £4.99 with two CD covermounts.

Seeing as the somewhat inferior PC Gamer has a somewhat superior node, i've decided to even things up. PC ZONE, as it is officially capitalised, is one of the two most popular PC games magazines in the UK. Despite having a lower total circulation, it has a higher subscription rate, suggesting it is good. They celebrated their 10th birthday in April 2003.

The current PC ZONE staff, as well as a bunch of no-good freelancers, consists of...
Dave Woods
Jamie Sefton
Martin Korda
Anthony Holden
Rhianna Pratchett (indeed, daughter of Terry Pratchett)
Mark Hill
Keith Pullin
Chris Anderson

Phil Wand (not a games reviewer, but writes a great Dear Wandy hardware problems page)

Previous staff have included the cartoonist Charlie Brooker, responsible for the Cruelty Zoo cartoon that got the mag pulled from the shelves once, FPS UberFragMeister Macca (David McCandless), and reviewer-cum-porn photographer (no pun intended) Mallo (Paul Mallinson).

Monthly features include the First Look preview section, the Bulletin news section, the full-blown Previews part (which in the June 2003 issue played host to the exclusive UK preview of Half-Life 2), the ever-accurate Reviews, an informative Hardware section with Dear Wandy and Watchdog letters pages, an online-oriented Extended Play section, and finally the End Zone with the Mailbox, the A-List of top games, the Retro Zone and a final page of usually random humour (currently hosting a revival of Mr Cursor).

Unlike the slightly bizarre at times PC Gamer, PCZ is funny, but keeps the reviews objective. Its percentage scoring system is more trustworthy than the other magazines on the market, as it's based on the rather obvious assumption that 50% is an average game While PC Gamer might give out 90%s left, right and centre, PCZ reserves them for the very best. For example, in the June 2003 issue, only one game out of nine scraped a 90% (Rise of Nations). One weakness with PCZ, however, is a tendancy to get very excited over upcoming games, only to give the final game an average mark (recently Devastation, Viet Cong, and Unreal II (thanks to Kage_Prototype for reminding me) to name a few. To be fair though, at least they don't write them off until they're seen the final game, and they're obviously not afraid to go back on what they've said.

I've read PC ZONE on and off since June 1998 (the Force Commander issue, just before the magazine changed to its current stencil font) and would say the quality has remained at a constant high level, although they still get letters about their praising of the awful SiN.

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