Category Archives: 1st/3rd Person Shooter

The Order 1886 – The Review

The Order, Calm Down

Intro

Yesterday, when I wrote my Initial impressions piece, I was unaware just how close I was to the end of The Order 1886. I guess a more accurate title for that piece would have been the ‘three-quarters-of-the-way-through review’ – but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue right.

So, I’ll just elaborate on a few of the points I made in that post, draw a few more conclusions and illustrate it with a few more screenshots. I know – original.

Cherry on the cake?

I had hoped that the final part of the game would redeem it from my earlier criticisms. It kinda didn’t. There’s a lot that gets tied up and a lot that gets resolved story-wise – a plot which I still maintain is well-written and thought out. But there is no real shock factor. What The Order really needed was a twist, a ‘Luke I am your father’-moment that completely blew my mind. Instead, I watched a well-modernised version of the Knights of the Round Table, which mashed Jack the Ripper into the same Lycan-Vampire mythology that Twilight sprang from. Okay, that’s a little harsh, the (voice) acting for The Order is so much better than in any of the Twilight films.

What’s weird is that the concept would have been brilliant as a serial, ideally a sequence of graphic novels or a TV mini-series. However, it also works great in the game. Just not spectacularly.The Order, Lycan

The elephant in the room?

Yes, I am going to touch on how short the game was. But can I just say first that how long a game is should not be a measure of it’s success. I’m still ploughing my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition and Assassin’s Creed: IV trying to get every collectible and Trophy, when in truth I lost interest in doing so about 60 hours into each game. In fact, given the way the story of The Order unfolded, there wasn’t too much more they could reveal without ruining any interest in a sequel. Yes, I want to know if Isabeau and Grayson are going to patch things up and I also want to know why the werewolves and vampires aren’t trying to kill each other – like in every other version of that mythology. But if they had answered those questions there would really be no point in making a second game – other than to rake in a bunch of cash. Yes, I know that it’s a gaming INDUSTRY, but, just just for a second can we pretend that that ISN’T a good enough reason to produce another.

So, I understand why some things were missed off and why the ending was quite so abrupt. What I don’t quite get it why there appears to be nothing after completion. Not even a New Game+. I even watched all the credits just to make sure. No, you just go back to the title screen, there’s nothing else under the Extras menu and you can’t skip cutscenes on your replay (when you go back to collect everything for Trophy purposes). So as far as replayability goes, there’s essentially nothing for me to do now…The Order, Igraine

I could understand the game being short if they were planning to release episodes periodically to add to the story, but I’d feel really cheated if they charged me, cause I’m not sure that I feel that I’ve got my money’s worth yet. As far as I’m aware, there are no plans to do this for The Order and any story development will have to wait until a second instalment comes out. That’s fine, I’ll just do some multiplayer… oh, wait…

Okay, I’ll put the difficulty up and play the game again, give myself a real challenge, what’s above hard? What do you mean there’s no Hardcore difficulty? Not even a ‘Very Hard?’

Well… I guess I could go back to playing Evolve… Oh, wait. That’s the game I bought the week before, which was made by a completely different company.

And the monkey fell out of his bunk

Yes, I threw my toys out of my pram a little here. But I’m not the only one who will have done so. In fact, compared to some, I imagine I’ve been fairly reasonable. I did enjoy the story and the attention to detail is excellent (there’s a great picture of the docks floating around on the page somewhere which should illustrate this pretty well). However, just because something looks great, doesn’t mean it feels great. And I feel really let down here.The Order, Dock Vista

I stopped giving out ratings for games somewhere towards the end of last year when I couldn’t decide on whether or not I could give Far Cry 4 such a harsh review and still grade it higher than Far Cry 3 – I changed my mind eventually. But it won’t take too much imagination to guess how The Order would have scored. Ten years ago this game would have been a marvel, a masterpiece. But we barely had HD TV back then and iPods weighed so much that you had to make sure your jeans fit really well when you put one in your pocket.

Sorry 1886, but you’re history for a reason.

The Order, Final Act

 

 


The Order 1886 – Initial Impressions

The Order, Galahad

Intro

Before I play a game I’ve been looking forward too, I try to stay away from sites like Gamespot and IGN because I know, though they mean well, they tend to either over or under hype games. Take Destiny for example, this was a game that was hyped to insufferable measures and ended up being a big let down.

Despite my best efforts, I exist in the real world for the time being, and everyone who wasn’t going crazy about EastEnders Live on Twitter, was talking about The Order 1886. We’ve known for a while that it was a narrative-driven third-person shooter based roughly on the concept of The Knights of the Round Table. All of this is true. What the internet and social media told us to begin with, is that the game was short, predictable and whilst technically brilliant, lacking in any real imagination.

The World

No matter which company it is, game developers are getting really good at showing off their world early on in the game, whether it being through great vistas or panoramic views into the distance. The Order doesn’t disappoint. After the basic introduction and the slow and tedious introductory part of the game, there is a great view of Victorian London. Now, cards on the table, I’ve been to London a fair few times and I also dated a steampunk-wannabe for a while, so I’m pretty up to date on what this period should look like. As you can probably tell, this is leading into some serious gushing about the graphical detail of the game, and the depth and field of vision. Had you assumed that, you would be ridiculously correct.

The world is dark, literally.

The world is dark, literally.

What you do start to notice after a while though, is that the entire game appears to be shot through cinematic widescreen, and not just the cutscenes. It’s clear from the graphics and the smooth transition between cutscenes, interactive-cutscenes and normal gameplay that nothing is just a 2D reel. Everything has been rendered into the world, and it all looks amazing. But the camera is fairly close up to Sir Galahad (the protagonist) and is difficult to shift around, and even during gameplay, you still have these black ‘cinematic’ strips across the top and bottom of the screen.

The Experience

I’ve been moaning for a while that nothing I’ve played recently has had a decent story, and I can safety say that The Order has finally done the job for me. The concept alone is pretty great, but the execution in a cinematic format is brilliant. It’s a game that fans of Final Fantasy will particularly enjoy, because it has that same narrative style. Plenty of cutscenes, a few twists and exemplary script-writing make this game essentially one long film you can move around in. Which works…

… some of the time. It works with regards to the RPG elements of the game, and the continuous story without any of the usual ‘game’ interruptions, such as having to go back to a hub to gear up or farm or choose a loadout. But it doesn’t quite roll perfectly with the third-person shooter element.Izzy, The Order, Clean

When someone says what set the bar for third-person, I can’t help but hear Mad World in my head and think of the Gears of War trilogy, they got so much right in that game. The Order feels similar, but with clearly better graphics and a different, yet equally cool,  approach to weapons. The way the story is opening up, at the point I currently am in the game, it’s starting to feel a little bit like a Resident Evil game. There are elements of interactive cutscenes reminiscent of the RE series, and the Lycan element to the game also features some graphically violent scenes that wouldn’t look out of place next to Chris Redfield.

A lot of these features make for good components to games, however, The Order feels at the moment like I’m being force-fed the story, and have little to make in the way of decisions or choices. I don’t really even get to pick which weapons I want to take on a mission, and stealth is dependent on whether or not the task at hand specifically calls for it – so there’s no sneaking around back alleys garroting people in the middle of a firefight.

The pros, the cons and the unknowables

All the pros at the moment are in narrative and execution. The script is great, and although I’m not really empathising with Grayson (Galahad) I do see how his character makes the decisions he does. They also hired real English people to provide the voices, rather than relying on Americans who can put on an accent. I really want to find out how the story ends, and I’m not overly concerned just yet at how short it is. However, if all the rumours are to be believed, The Order looks to be a great platform for a second instalment.The Order, Knight

The story and concept for the game would be the sort of idea that TV executives would go for in today’s market. It’s a period drama, set in the already familiar world of Victorian London, and has plenty of scope for violence, inappropriate relationships and supernatural happenings. If someone had sat infront of the bosses of Syfy and pitched this, then we wouldn’t be getting a Sharknado 3, we’d be getting a 12 episode run of The Order, America’s new hit TV series.

But unfortunately, this is where the praise has to stop. The camera angle I already touched on, and it would be fine if you had the extra inch or so on the top of bottom of your screen that you normally get, but the cinematic experience robs you of that, making the field of vision in combat quite limited.

The weapons are cool, so plus points for that, but you can’t really choose a particular one to fall in love with, when in most cases you have to use what’s been given to you for that particular event. I’m also struggling to see how the game is going to provide any replayability. I often highly criticise multiplayer-modes that feel like an add-on and haven’t been well developed, but The Order doesn’t have one at all! I spent most of last week moaning about Evolve, but at least I’m now starting to see the replay factor of the game. For The Order I started my campaign on Hard, and haven’t found all that much challenging yet, so I’m not going to need to replay the game for any Trophy that has a difficulty barrier, and most of the collectibles are down the same routes as all the mission objectives – you don’t really have to go out of your way to find them.

The redemption for The Order might come from it’s value as a line in the sand. Someone on twitter refered to the game as the Ps4’s Ryse. For those who aren’t familiar, Ryse was an Xbox One exclusive that was applauded for its graphical capability but not really for its innovation. It was essentially a ‘look what our new hardware can do’ from Microsoft.

If The Order is to be the PS4 version of that, then so be it. The problem may just be that it took them so long to get it onto the market. Other games have already pushed the console quite far. Sure, The Order is the best visual experience I’ve had yet on the Ps4, but it’s certainly not the best game.

Team Galahad

Team Galahad

Conclusion

My initial conclusion is that I’m not going to draw one… yet. I want to see just how short the game actually is, especially if I feel like there’s been a great deal more they could do with the story. I’d also like to check out what options are avalaible to the player upon completion. If you remember my article for Shadow of Mordor, it took me less than 48 hours to get my Platinum Trophy, and I can’t exactly fault The Order for being short if it takes me longer than two days to replicate the same feat here. Let’s just say that while I don’t have high hopes, I do have realistic expectations, and as long as there are no really awful surprises from the game from now till the end, then I’d be happy to put my disk down and say, “well, that wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

Who knows? I might even mean it.


Evolve: Medic Class Guide

Medic Class Header Evolve

Intro

There wouldn’t be much point in getting slashed and clawed at by a monster if you didn’t have someone on your team to patch you up. Healing is a long-standing tradition in RPGs and the medic in Evolve doesn’t really break the mold.

 

No matter how good your team is you’re still bound to get a few cuts and scrapes along the way. Thankfully, you’ve got these guys to save your ass.

Universal Ability: Healing Burst

Regardless of which of the three medics takes your fancy, you’re going to have to learn to use Healing Burst properly. It’s a short-range AOE heal, which boosts the health of everyone (including yourself) by about 20% – 25% of their max.

Using it efficiently is pretty simple. Press the heal button every time you can and try your best to stay close to the group. The move benefits greatly from perks which reduce the cooldown on Hunter abilities and as the most efficient AOE heal, you’re going to have to master its use if you want to be the medic. It’s also one of the few healing abilities that can actually heal the medic themselves, so it’s important you get good at using it early on.

Despite being a useful move, to use Healing Burst you have to be fairly close to your team, which opens you up for splash damage. The best way to avoid this is to sprint in, use the ability then jet-pack dodge away from your teammate.

First Hunter: Val

Requiring no prerequisite to unlock, Val is the opening piece on the board for any wannabe medics. She’s also a pretty bad-ass sniper.

Val is the first medic you'll be able to play as.

Val is the first medic you’ll be able to play as.

Val’s main benefit is that she can heal from a distance as well as using the class ability Healing Burst. This makes her a much more efficient healer than Lazarus, especially when combined with competent support play. Simply put, Val starts taking pot-shots with her sniper rifle until a team mate starts to get his or her face smashed in. Then there’s a flick of a button and out comes the Medgun. A stream of green light flies out of one end and her teammates get their health back. Don’t overestimate it’s ability though, it’s not enough healing power to keep up with a constant onslaught. No medic has that ability, there has to be a certain amount of dodging from the rest of the team, or even Val’s healing power will mean nothing in the long run.

 

Second Hunter: Lazarus

Lazarus has the weakest overall healing power of all three medics. His only actual ‘heal’ ability is the class’s Healing Burst. When playing as him I highly recommend using a perk which reduces the cooldown time on all Hunter abilities so you can keep up with the damage coming your way – however, this isn’t always necessary.

Lazarus has limited healing, but has the game's best resurrect.

Lazarus has limited healing, but has the game’s best resurrect.

In spite of his poor healing ability, Lazarus can resurrect dead comrades, including those who are actually waiting for the dropship. Laz can inject life into your body and bring you back at full health. Depending on how well your team manages the Monster, this can be more useful than healing in it’s simplest form. Plus, his lack of consistent healing makes Lazarus less of a priority target for the monster.

On the offensive, Lazarus has excellent sniping abilities, and like Val, can pick off weak spots on the monster. Combine this with his Cloaking ability, he can remain alive and undetected while reviving the dead and creating weak spots. The only question here is whether or not the player controlling Laz can handle healing duties well enough without the ranged heals that Caira and Val have available to them.

Third Hunter: Caira *Fatelighter Favourite*

The final healer, and unequivocally the best, Caira is the reward for injecting some serious time and effort into leveling up the previous two characters. Her abilities are best utilized by a player who likes to stay mobile and is quick on the switch – although that could apply to any of the three characters. She can go from healing your entire party with Healing Grenades, straight to Napalm Grenades which set the Monster on fire. However, she doesn’t have a cloak and is likely to be one of the primary targets for any player controlling the monster. Choosing to play as her doesn’t require anything special as you’re already familiar with Healing Burst and basic weapon balistics from leveling Val and Lazarus. However, you should pay attention to the tutorial video and learn  quickly that you can heal her by shooting Healing Grenades at her feet and using the Burst technique.

Caira is the final unlockable medic.

Caira is the final unlockable medic.

Personally, I’ve found that she works really well in a team with Abe. If the player controlling Abe keeps Stasis Grenades in the right place the team never really has any problems – but that’s true for any group. Plus, her Acceleration ability can give the whole party a speed boost when running away or tracking the monster, something which works particularly well on Rescue game modes. It’s also fairly useful trying to follow Monster tracks on Hunt. It’s effectiveness is also useful on other time-sensitive missions such as Nest.

Last but not least, Caira is also my favourite playable medic. If used correctly, Healing Grenades can resurrect a team member from over 100 meters away. Even in solo/bot-based parties, she’s great to use as a playable character because of her Acceleration ability. However, the real reason she’s my personal favourite is because some of the dialogue around her character is actually good, a little predictable maybe, but it’s still some of the best.

General Medic Stuff

This should go without saying, but medics should stay as far away from the Monster as they can. Depending on the situation, you are the most valuable team member, but also the most vulnerable. Learning to manage the switch between offense and defense is the most important thing to master. Spending too much time on the defense may mean that you make yourself a target, while spending too much time on the offense may lead to key team members such as the Trapper to fall in battle.

Good perks to choose with a medic are Jet-pack related, the more you can keep in the air, the easier it is to dodge and stay safe. There’s also a pretty strong argument for taking one with damage resistance.
Perhaps early on the most important is cool-down reduction, and I can’t stress that enough. Healing Burst is the only move that heals yourself enough to be an ‘Uh-oh!’ move, and you’re going to need that sort of move more than I’d care to admit.

 

 

 


Evolve – 4v1 versus Fatelighter – The Review

Evolve - GoliathIntro

It’s a rare occurrence that I manage to get a review off within a week of a release date, but on the actual day of a release? Unprecedented on the site, but it’s happening here.

Normally I like to take a longer look at a game, but I didn’t think this was necessary with Evolve for a few reasons, all of which will be detailed further below. But for now, let’s go over the basic concept – and feel free to stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Humanity tries to settle on a planet, the planet’s wildlife fights back. Humanity flees back into outer space and tries again on a different planet.

4 v 1

Aside the fairly unoriginal concept, 2k did a pretty good job at putting together a fairly slick and interactive multiplayer game. It’s not got anything close to the depth and narrative that the Borderlands series has, but there are elements of gameplay that scream 2k. The eccentric characters for one, a trait which is becoming almost synonymous with the developer. Sadly, there’s no Claptrap, but there are a few other robots roaming around to provide cold-bodied comic relief. There’s also your fair share of tough-guy-types, the sleek and sultry support classes and the cowboy-hat-wearing sharpshooters. Par for the course then.

There's nothing like a guy with a gun when you're fighting a monster.

There’s nothing like a guy with a gun when you’re fighting a monster.

All of these characters are assembled to aid the rescue of civilians from the planet of Shear. Flipping the usual First Person Shooter cliches on their head, Evolve doesn’t give you control of a super warrior who battles hordes of blood-thirsty monsters all at once – always somehow overcoming the odds and achieving a heroic victory.

Rather, you take control of one of  a team of four Hunters to do battle with one all-powerful monster. There are 12 hunters to choose from thus far, three for each of the four classes – Assault, Support, Trapper and Medic. This method is used in place of a more traditional loadout system, and the player assumes a character with no option to change their weapons and gear.

If the player has purchased any of the special editions of the game, then you get automatic access to eight Hunters without needing to unlock them from the go, as compared to the standard edition where the player has to unlock characters by achieving certain goals on another character.

Now the One

So, that’s the story of the four. The one, as already alluded to, refers to the monster which the player can choose to take control of. This makes the game effectively asymmetrical, as claimed in the original brief for the game. However, due to class balancing, asymmetry doesn’t apply to the gameplay. Four v One is only a mathematical representation of the fight, in truth it’s an even playing field, with most players who haven’t changed the default difficulty, discovering that regardless of which side you play success isn’t easier for either the Monster or the Hunters.

The three monsters the player can take control of are the Goliath, the Wraith and the Kraken. Each have their own special abilities and powers, but in essence you can drop them into the three basic RPG roles of Warrior, Rogue and Mage.

This is a Goliath. Where's David when you need him?

This is a Goliath. Where’s David when you need him?

The Battlefield

Enough for concept, how does it play? First and foremost I could just copy all my previous ranting about graphics, framerate and texture rendering and apply it to this game. As you’d expect on the PS4 or Xbox One it’s fluid and well-pieced together. Each environment is created with specific advantages and disadvantages in mind, but they too appear to be evenly matched for whichever side you’re playing. The non-playable wildlife is also fairly well scripted, lots of them tend to run away, some of them like to stay and eat the player. Nothing new there then.

I suppose when the game was being developed the intention was that each environment would pose a different challenge, which is both true and not. As much as I’d like to write about how each world provides a unique experience, I can’t. Each environment feels more like multiplayer maps on a regular FPS – you’ll have your favourite, but you can work each of them quite well. Most of the success you’ll have in Evolve comes down to how good the Monster is – whether a player or a bot.

Game types

On each battlefield there are numerous game types which can be undertook, each lasts between 10 and 15 mins on average, but could be more or less depending on player ability. Regardless of which type you’re playing on, the condition for victory remains the same. Once all four hunters or the monster have died, it’s game over. Simplistic, to say the least.

This does mean that you can ignore the actual aim of the game completely if you wish. On mission type Nest, the Hunter’s are supposed to destroy six eggs belonging to the Monster in order to achieve victory. But if they kill the monster without destroying a single egg they still win. Similarly, on Rescue, instead of killing the required five civilian targets, the Monster can just destroy the four Hunters.

Every game mode is 4v1, hence its heavy involvement in the game’s marketing, but I already feel that this is something that will need addressing in the future, as this is essentially the entire point of the game. Taking away the slightly updated model, this game is essentially the same format as Tekken, Soul Calibur and Street Fighter – in regard to the fact that the entire purpose of the game is one v one (or in this case four v one) combat. This neatly lands me on what I feel is the game’s biggest test, as it were.

Less of a trap and more of a Pitfall

Less of a trap and more of a Pitfall

The entire concept is based upon this repetitive fight between four Hunters and one Monster. Slice it anyway you want, this isn’t going to last forever. The closest thing the game has to a campaign mode is Evacuation, in which the player has five days (read: five matches) to either destroy or save the civilians on Shear. This is essentially the game in its entirety. You can of course do these missions in a less rigid setting, using the quickplay mode and taking on each match as you wish. All of this is available online as well as offline, but it adds little in the way of variety. You and your four work-friends can team up to face down your boss as he/she controls the Monster if you so wish. But I have serious doubts about a game which prides itself on having a potential 800,000 combinations for the missions.

First, this sounds very much like the so called 2million weapons in Borderlands. Factually true, but if you pick up two weapons that look the same but one has +11 fire damage, and one has +12, it’s still the same gun.

Here, it’s the same principle. You can play with all 12 characters, but you’re just playing with an aesthetically different version of one of the four classes.

Is it fated to have the same failing as Destiny?

This isn’t a philosophical question. But has Evolve focused too much on trying to make a playing field where one person can beat down on four, and ignored the basics of gaming? We need more than just a premise, we need a story.

I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give Evolve the same review I gave to Destiny. All the potential is there, all the ground work for a truly amazing game. But they’re relying too much on the formation of a solid and dedicated online community so the game can achieve the same cult-craze that Borderlands did. But I honestly can’t see people obsessing over any of these 12 Hunters as much as the Vault Hunters or Moxie.

That doesn’t mean I think the game is going to fail, not at all. I think it’s going to have a very prolific, but a very short-lived, spell of success right between today and the release of The Order 1886.

It’s all style and no substance. What we really need for this to be a great game, is to wait a few million years for it to evolve into something that can form a society, rather than the primitive instinct-driven mammal it is now.

There’s no harm done from 2k, it’s a good notch to have in their bedpost, but it’s not the one they’ll be telling all their friends about in ten years time.

 

 


Fate v Destiny – A Review

Destiny 1

Intro

Destiny was introduced as a pipe-dream. It was to be one of the most ambitious projects in the world of gaming. Responsibility for this was handed over to one of the most prestigious game developers the modern age had seen: Bungie. Activision were called upon, no doubt to draw in the COD playing masses who appear to have more disposable income than sense, but it was Bungie’s baby – if you buy into all the easter egg-like clues hidden around on ODSTDestiny 2

It’s been nearly four months since Destiny launched and already there have been a fair share of ups and downs. But has this over-hyped, over-budgeted next gen gift actually succeeded anywhere other than financially? If you’re a solo player, the answer is sadly no.

Facts and Fiction

It’s New Year’s Eve 2014, and I’m preparing to go out and get irresponsibly drunk. If you’d have asked me on 9 September what I’d be doing today, I’d have told you I’d be playing Destiny. Unfortunately, Bungie’s mega-project was all hype.

I waited till now so they could fix all the bugs that would inevitably come with a ‘shared-world shooter.’ The project was so ambitious that I felt it only fair to not judge it on release week, or for a month afterwards when the community ravaged the developers with suggestions and ideas.

Credit where it’s due

The devs get a great deal of praise from myself for their ambition, but with all that came a great deal of risk. The risk payed off financially. The project had millions pumped into it and made a great deal of profit, but while the company pandered to the masses, it left its Halo roots behind and lost those who worshiped the ground the Master Chief walked on. Destiny 3

The game’s world is huge, and it features three planets all of which include elegantly drawn enemies and well-worked AI. It’s a fairly simple concept to be sure, and despite the best efforts of the story writers to come up with something that matched the epic Halo rings, they failed.

The evisceration of the story

You are revived by a floating machine that has Peter Dinkage’s voice, brought to life and introduced to the shooter-style gameplay. This is brilliant, believable and more importantly than ever for a game of this magnitude, doesn’t disappoint. However, then comes the downhill spiral.

Playing through the game the first time is great, and reaching level 20 feels like it unlocks a great deal of the endgame – even if the reality is different. The daily missions and strikes are good to get EXP and reputation, and once you hit the level cap they are the best way to get geared up. But trust me, If you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth already, stop now or prepare for the disappointment.

The Endgame is lame

Most games following this format expect you to gear up gradually once you hit the level cap, then hit all the dungeons, then the heroic versions and then the raids before finally getting the best gear in the game for your class. As there are only three classes in the game and all of them can use the same weapons, opposed to having a one in ten chance of getting the correct piece of gear (see AoC, WoW, LOTRO, Eve etc.) you have at the very most, one in three.Destiny 4

Not only does this reduce the time it takes to get your character raid ready, but the only part of the game with matchmaking is for the strikes. Essentially, you can only get 80% geared without having friends who play the game. Before my friend even got his disk I was 20 and had two Purple items, the rest were very good Blues. As the raids aren’t match-made, and you can’t communicate via the headset, coordinating a PUG is impossible. Much like highschool, Bungie are punishing you for being unpopular, by only letting you get a certain level of gear.

They did try to fix that, by increasing the availability of Purple drops from Strikes. This is another area of the game that needs working on. Not just because of the repetitive nature of the Strikes, but because of the unequal distribution of loot. Fate Destiny 2

See the picture floating around somewhere on this post, I got two blue items, so did the random player who joined just before I finished the strike solo. Good play does not get rewarded. And good players who don’t know five other players, who can all match their playing schedule, can’t raid and are stuck at a certain gear level. One which doesn’t take too long to reach.

Ontop of that, there’s the repetitive nature of all the killing and gear farming. Overall, the game has about roughly 20hours of solid gameplay before the repetition kicks in, and then up to infinite depending on how much you can tolerate. Most people are going to switch off after about 60.

PvP to the rescue?

So in my most pessimistic hour, I turn to the PvP to save the game. The one thing I will say is that it’s fair. Players are balanced out rather than having someone with superior gear blast you into oblivion. Then there’s the option to rely on your equipment should you choose. The Iron Banner events were a big hit, but thankfully optional. Another upside is that gear progression in PvP follows the same line as it does in PvE, so there is inevitably some cross-over.

It's clear to see what's up with Destiny.

It’s clear to see what’s up with Destiny.

What’s good about PvP is that it follows the Halo system much more closely than the CoD system. Plus points for that. However, it lacks the depth that it’s older brother had. Reach was the pinnacle of Halo multiplayer, with modes for all sorts of players to enjoy. Not only was the campaign amazing, but the multiplayer had modes for PvE enthusiasts. Score Attack was one of the most frequented firefight playlists – while the concept of Halo‘s firefight is desperately missing from Destiny. Entrenchment co-op doesn’t seem to feature so far in the game, and it’s a shame especially when it would be the perfect addition to increase the game’s replayability.

Not an MMO

You’ve probably read that Destiny isn’t an MMO. But anyone whose touched one before knows better. A level cap and character progression based on gear and item rarity are all things that reek of RPGs, and then there’s the whole ‘constantly connected to the internet’ thing that makes it the first M and the 0. Factor in the other players you see around you and you’ve got your final M. There’s no denying this is an MMORPG, perhaps even a MMOS-RPG (S is for Shooter). But the level of depth required for those games is the Mariana Trench and then some, on what Destiny has.

I’m not going to dress it up pretty, or expand on any of these points because they are so obvious. What I am going to do is give Bungie some advice (even though they’ll never read it)

Stop running from the MMO label. Neither Bungie or Activision needed each other for this project, either could have done it alone. However, you decided that it would work better as a co-op project and you were right. What you need is to bring in a third party, at least in a consultancy basis. See if your deep pockets can remember back to 2005 when WoW was one of the biggest games on Earth. Find someone who was there working on character development and bring them on board. All the game needs is a little more depth. You’ve got FPS fans, from both sides of the coin (Halo and CoD), but you haven’t touched the online market that exists in true MMO gaming. Crack that and Destiny can take over the current gaming market for good.

I’m going to be bold here and say that Fate beats Destiny. I have depth, chocolate cookies someone who wants to play with me tonight. My Destiny disk can’t say the same thing.

 

 


Far Cry 4: Review

Far Cry 4, Pagan Min

Pagans and Pilgrims

More than a year ago I gave Far Cry 3 a 91/100. Not only was this the highest rating I’d given a game at the time, it was only beaten by The Last of Us – a game which, to this day, is still one of the only ones worth paying full retail for a videogame.

High praise indeed if I do say so myself. But self-indulgent nonsense aside, let’s get down to the serious stuff.

Intro

In what sounds more like the plot of a terrible comedy series than a spectacular videogame, Ajay Ghale returns to his parents’ native land to scatter his mother’s ashes. There’s an issue with insurgency in the area, and we join Ajay as the vehicle he is on suffers attack from the Royal Guards of Kyrat, who are under orders from crazed dictator Pagan Min. Escaping with his life, Ajay is rescued from Min’s palace by a group of rebels that his father helped unite to face the aforementioned bad guy.

Buy into the premise, and this sets Ajay off on an adventure around the Southern part of Kyrat in search of a way to travel north and scatter his mother’s ashes at the place she requested. Only, Min’s forces are guarding the North. So our protagonist signs up with the rebels and wages war on the slightly psychotic local leader.

Kyrat

Kyrat is the perfect mix of environments. Tying together the graphical capabilities of the next gen (well, this gen) consoles with the larger capabilities of optical disk storage, the world is simply massive. It feels larger than Rook Island, but is probably about the same size. The first major difference is that there has been a vertical component added, and the inclusion of the ‘Buzzer’ microlight means that traversing the jungles, plains and snow drifts just got simpler.

Lakes, trees and snowy peaks

Lakes, trees and snowy peaks

Size aside, there is also a lot of variation of terrain. Areas of dense vegetation in the green south areas compliment the snowy peaks in the north. There’s a few craggy cliffs and a nice selection of lakes, rivers and waterfalls along with a temple or two to make this a fairly accurate representation of the Himalayas.

With varied areas like this, the wildlife on display is similarly impressive, although the AI could use a little work.

All the Far Cry regulars return, including rhinos, tigers, bears and wolves. The most ferocious is of course the honey badger, while the docile elephants can be ridden by Ajay and used as mini-wrecking balls.

The Economy

These creatures are likely going to be the cause of the first death of many players. No matter how experienced a FC player you are, you are going to think it’s a good idea to try and kill a rhino with your bow – trust me, it won’t end well. It’s a good job that there’s plenty of weapons available to kill things with. The first chance you get to shoot a gun is brief, and you aren’t supposed to be very good. By the time you gain full control of Ajay, and can set off on your exploration, you’ve got a few kills under your belt and can work your way around a pistol and an Ak-47.

What’s great about the economy in Far Cry 4 is that if you’re a veteran, you can just go straight into your preferred play-style and start collecting materials, hides and feathers from animals to upgrade your gear. If you’re a newbie, you can follow the story a little bit and learn the basics before heading out into the wild by yourself.

So what’s the problem?

You can copy and paste the above paragraph and 90% of it would apply to Far Cry 3 as well. Here lies the problem with Far Cry, and in fact, Ubisoft as a whole at the moment. What they excel at is replicating a previous game, and adding a few bells and whistles. What they aren’t that good at is starting from scratch with a similar idea to a previous game. Every Assassin’s Creed but Black Flag was a cut-and-dry copy of the original, with the occasional addition of a new plaything to keep everyone forking out the £40 or so for a new disk. In this respect they’ve essentially become the same as Activision and Call of Duty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d have made the exact opposite comment if they had changed too much, but I wouldn’t have compared them to Call of Duty, and that in itself would be a great compliment.

No matter how good a game is, it must stand out from it’s predecessors, especially if the game is jumping generations. Far Cry 3 & 4 are more like brothers than father and son. This isn’t entirely their fault. The gaming dynamic has shifted, efficiently kicking out a new title every year has become priority one, but in doing so any evolution in gaming takes a backseat.

Gameplay always has to have some similarities to its predecessor, but the characters don’t. First, I’d like to tip my hat to Troy Baker, who does an excellent job with the voice acting for Pagan. He is indeed one of the most interesting antagonists in the Far Cry series. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Ajay.

Rhino in Far Cry 4

The wildlife looks great

Far Cry 3 featured a spoilt rich-kid in over his head who eventually evolved into a cold-blooded killer out of necessity to save his friends. But the evolution of the character was what was interesting. How Jason became more and more depraved, eventually becoming addicted to inflicting pain himself, was not only a realistic outcome of his time on the island, but was a pre-requisite for him to be a hero in that environment.

I’m only about 15 hours into Far Cry 4 and already Ajay doesn’t seem to have that level of development. From the word go he seems okay killing and shooting people, like it was what he was born to do. That’s great, except he’s an American who never set foot in Kyrat before his mother’s death. It would be an understatement to say that I’m not a big fan of Mr Ghale.

Conclusion

Sooo, It’s not looking good for Far Cry 4. At the moment. I’ve not been in the world very long, and it looks like the conflicting views of the two Golden Path leaders could open up some interesting story lines. However, the one to watch is Pagan. He’s the real star of the show here, and whether he evolves into a cut-and-dry bad-guy is going to be very interesting. There’s also the addition of Co-op play in the campaign which I’m yet to try out. Hopefully, it will be a welcome extra on a game I’m trying so hard to love.

It should be a dream come true. A free-roam FPS on the PS4? How could we ask for more? Well, trust me… you will.


Far Cry 3: Review

The Irony between Free-Roam and Slavery

Far Cry 3 Intro

A sentence so vague and ambiguous, that when whispered by the Protagonist’s Girlfriend; you’d be forgiven for wanting a little more context.

But when you’ve been kidnapped by a Psychopath, learnt your friends are being killed and tortured and just watched your sweet, caring boyfriend throw explosives at pirates from the back of a truck… You become well aware that life is a Far Cry from what it used to be…”

Intro

When Jason Brody went on holiday with his brother’s and friends, the young daredevil had no idea just what sort of adrenaline rush he’d gotten himself in for…The game begins with Jason and his older brother grant tied up in a makeshift cage, looking for a way to escape and save the rest of your friends from being sold to slavery, ransomed off to their families, or worse…

Rook Island

Rook Island is the setting for Far Cry 3; a giant tropical paradise filled with wildlife, adventure and all the fun your basic hedonist could indulge in to appease his appetite. This is what you originally came for, sun, sea and happiness.

What you actually got was the worlds biggest middle finger, and now, you are stuck on this island that is home to a lot of mean and nasty things that want to rip you into several smaller pieces, either for demented personal reasons, or for lunch. Either way, aren’t you glad the first friendly guy you met gave you a gun?

Trees are a good place to hide...

Trees are a good place to hide…

Inventory, Vehicles and Money

Rook island has an economy, a twisted and hopefully illegal economy based upon slaves and drug trafficking. That being said, there are more ‘honest’ ways to make money;  and trust me, you are going to want to make money. Money buys guns, guns kill people and it just so happens that you’ll have to kill a pirate armada to save your friends. Of course to get to the armada you are going to need to navigate through the jungle. Thankfully it’s only home to about 50 different things that want to kill you! Besides… You’ve seen people kill tigers with a handgun…

Killing things gets you money, its cliché, its predictable, but in video games, it works. (Almost) Everything you kill will drop some form of loot, either in the form of Vendor trash, such as Playing Cards, Poker Chips and sometimes old tech or pelts and hides from the indigenous species that can also be used to augment your carrying capacity.

As far as size is concerned, Rook island is to Far Cry as Skyrim was to… Skyrim. They are both free-roam and the wet dream of a free-roamer; ridiculously huge. Rook island might be a tad smaller than the world from the Elder Scrolls: V but it feels so much bigger. That’s why its a good thing you have something other than a horse to get you around.

Scattered across the island are vehicles such as boats, jet ski’s, Hang-gliders, an assortment of cars as well as my personal favorite, the Quad Bike.

Since Far Cry 2, they’ve fixed the terrible driving and replaced it with something that is close to ‘realistic.’ Driving is still not perfect, the wheel animation will throw off people who can actually drive as the rotations are misleading, but the handling has significantly improved. It has become a much harder feat to throw a car off a cliff by accident.

Perhaps all these vehicles have made Far Cry 3 feel huge, even at full speed and on the road you find yourself checking your map and being surprised at where you actually are compared to where you thought you were. During the opening few hours of gameplay it feels like the cars are slow, even though you are barely managing to keep it on the road. This just highlights the capacity of the world, which is an aesthetic masterpiece painted in the mind of the most ambitious explorer.

Unlocking the Map is a Priority

Unlocking the Map is a Priority

Jason’s Evolution

Jason wakes up at the ‘start’ of the game branded with a ‘Tatau’ that will apparently make him a warrior. This tatau grows longer down his left arm for every skill you gain as you progress, with the entire arm being covered once all skills have been mastered. Your ink, much like a gang tat, changes the opinions of the villagers, who are reluctant to accept outsiders. But as you start to kill the pirates, liberate outposts and perform side missions for them; they understandably warm towards you.

The main plot of the story is predictable, Jason fears for the well being of his family and his actress girlfriend whilst trying to save his friends. The 18+ PEGI rating will tell you one of them is likley to die and the vicious and vile Vaas, to be the killer. You can predict that he’ll be the one you have to kill at some point, but that dosent mean you shouldn’t enjoy the journey.

Gaining control of Jason for the first time in the open world is an overwhelming experience. Sure, it takes some time before you get the opportunity explore, mostly due to the large numbers of deadly animals out there. But to begin with everything feels very linear and safe, almost like saving your friends has a simple; ‘Do this, Do That’ approach.

Each friend has their own tale of rook island

Each friend has their own tale of rook island

It feels that way, for about 10mins, then you find yourself on top of a creaking radio tower quite literally scared out of your mind, looking for a way to access the island map.  Each step you take on this tower makes you cling to the fear that it’s about to come crashing down with you on it. Right there, in that moment you actually feel the fear that Jason does, and straight away you see the brilliance of the game.

Ignore the Weapons and Explosives, the storyline and free roam world that would take days to fully explore. Forget the realistic wildlife and battles to the death with everything from Tigers to Komodo Dragons. Instead, look upon Jason as a manifestation of yourself, your nerves, your fear and watch how practice really does make perfect.

When you start this journey, Jason is a scared trust fund kid who is in way over his depth; the first time you sneak into an outpost both Jay, and the player will be nervous and cautious. Fast forward a few missions and you are casually throwing grenades under cars, sniping the heads off pirates and wrestling with rare and vicious animals. By the time you are at the end game, Jason is not just comfortable killing, he craves it, he needs it, he LOVES it… And I can guarantee that you will too. What once was a panicky flail of bullets aimed at the clothed in red pirates, has turned into a sadistic and ritualistic act where no longer will the bullet suffice. Instead you rush across the battlefield and plunge your knife into his throat, before throwing another at his friend 30 feet away, killing them both.

Dragon's aren't mythical, they just don't breathe fire...

Dragon’s aren’t mythical, they just don’t breathe fire…

Whats more, killing people in this way provides far more rewards than you’re basic headshot and feels much, much more satisfying than that grenade you got lucky with. As the game gets progressively more sadistic you notice Jason becomes embroiled in the sickness of it all, and by the time you’ve saved your friends you’ll be questioning your own morality. The world of Far Cry sucks you in with its gameplay, tortures you with its storyline and absolutely wrecks your ability to play lesser open world games.

I’m not usually one to side with an 18+ rating, especially in games like GTA where violence and illegal activity is predominant. I can understand (though i can’t openly support) why some parents let their 13 year old play GTA, but in this case, no matter how cool a guardian you think you are… You are gonna want to lock this game out all together if your child is under 16
Whilst most of the REALLY dark stuff is suggested rather than shown, the excellent voice acting and facial capture software instigated will invoke a sense of disgust in all but the most sociopathic players. There are certain bits in the game where you really don’t want your son/daughter asking you to explain what is happening, because the answer will terrify even you.

Conclusion

Far Cry 3 contains at least 72 hours of quality playing time, although if you just barrel down the story missions you might as well have used the disk as a frisbee and bought something else. To be fully enjoyed, the game needs to be played by someone who is a perfectionist or a completionist. Although the game can also tailor for sadists and sociopath’s, the real heart of Far Cry lies in exploration. Ultimately the game is a DO NOT MISS title, the story is emotional and well written, although its packed to the brim with political incorrectness and anarchy, hitting the 18-35 target market straight on the head.

“I cannot quite get over how much vulgarity and sadism went into this game, but like comparing hollywood sex scenes to amateur porn; when it’s handled tastefully the effect is astronomically more potent.”

Despite what is going to be my first review above 90/100, you wont find much new here. If you are looking for the next big game changer, you are going to have to keep on waiting. Far Cry 3 is a master piece, a truly magnificent achievement and a game that is going to keep me busy for at least the next week. But it runs the same as the other big free roam games: you can go where you want, do what you like, but eventually you’ll run out of side missions and have to finish the story, and the game is repetitive; sending you on ‘hunting missions’ for people or animals that are carbon copies every time you pick one up. The game gets progressively more sadistic and the plot becomes more than just about getting off of rook island alive; developing into a revenge fantasy about making sure the people who did this, don’t. But whilst there is the occasional twist you won’t see coming, most of it is as predictable as gambling in Nevada.

FC3 Score

Whilst Far Cry doesn’t break the mould, and there are a few interactivity issues with looting, you know that when someone asks you if its worth full retail there is only one answer: A Bloody and violent YES!