Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Far Cry 3 (Impressions)

December 4, 2012
PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal

Published by  Ubisoft

The bow and arrow makes my little Predator heart sing for joy. Far Cry 3 (2012)
Far Cry 3 has a strong narrative and sense of character along with solid game-mechanics that aren't difficult to master.

Far Cry 3 is a worthy addition into the critically acclaimed series. It is fun and offers a variety of gameplay however, it doesn't match the brutality of the second game that made it a classic.

The first hour of the game I found myself rather disappointed that it wasn't a different game, I wanted it to be more survival oriented. You play Jason, a twenty-something rich-boy who is kidnapped and in a pretty bad spot, he is shocked at the prospect of killing people, skinning animals and the like. I felt fear at first about survival, this guy isn't some invincible navy-seal or high-tech nano-suit, he's just Joe-schmoe. I was ready to have to worry about thirst, hunger, sickness, etc. but even on the hardest difficulty setting it's not overly challenging and is not really a survival game at all, it's just an open-world FPS. Once I got over the comparison to it's predecessor and what I wanted/thought the game was going to be though I started having a lot of fun.

There are some similarities to Just Cause 2 (2010) except this is less playful and insane but on a positive note, the missions and side-missions feel more purposeful than in JC2. There wasn't a real point or reward in doing side-missions there whereas here, every side-quest has an adequate reward for the player, either allowing fast-travel, more weapons, map of the terrain, etc.

Far Cry 3 has a strong narrative and sense of character along with solid game-mechanics that aren't difficult to master. There is a good 30 hours of gameplay with side-missions in the single-player campaign. The multi-player has a co-op mode with its own narrative but I've only played a few times because it wasn't as engaging as single player.

It's a fairly straight-forward FPS with open-world aspects but you also spend time hunting animals (or being attacked by animals while trying to do something else) which can be challenging and sometimes humorous. While playing in-game I was about to attack a group of soldiers who had a bear in a cage. My brilliant plan was to shoot the cage and release the bear who would then dispatch the guards for me and the guards would weaken the bear for me so I could harvest its valuable pelt. Right as I was about to shoot the cage undetected, a leopard attached me from behind which pushed me right into the guards path. I shot the cage to release the bear but that just meant I was being attacked by guards with assault weapons, a leopard and a bear. Needless to say I died fairly quickly.

You will learn to hate Komodo Dragons, Tigers and most of all: Deer; they are fast buggers which seem to be nearly invincible.

The bad aspects of the game is that dying is painful because the game only saves in certain places and often I have lost 20 minutes of gameplay because of this poor design.

One of my biggest dislikes of this game is that you are forced to use Ubisoft's UPlay which is their distribution, DRM and social platform. Personally, I hate having to install these garbage pieces of software the likes of which include Rockstar Social Club, Origen, Games for Windows Live, etc., and having to create yet another online account just to play. I'm ranting about this in particular because I re-imaged my machine half-way through playing this game and while I copied my game-saves, when I moved them to my new computer they wouldn't work. I opted out of Uplay's Cloud Save Sync as many people weren't able to access the game when their servers were down. This means I lost about 12 hours of game-play that I really didn't want to redo (but will).

I recommend a buy or rent if 30 hours of single-player gameplay isn't worth the full retail price. Personally, I can't see myself spending too much time in the multi-player.


Words by Trent Allgood

Far Cry 3 IRL

Guys, guys, check out this fan-made (though clearly Ubisoft sponsored) tribute to Far Cry 3, the last blockbuster of the year that's hitting store shelves today! It features our first-person protagonist storming an enemy camp, rescuing a pretty prisoner, and then making a daring escape... all in live-action. Sure, the green screen effect is overly apparent, but the long takes they had to set up and pull off are undeniably impressive. Gamers are well aware of YouTube producers FreddieW and possibly Warialasky. Well, now you can subscribe to devinsupertramp as well. He's done a lot of extreme sports photography, but starting with last month's Assassin's Creed III IRL it's clear he's one to keep on the TTWCVG radar. (Speaking of FreddieW and Far Cry 3, check out Far Cry Vacation.)

Oh, and I think we can all agree that this is loads better than Uwe Boll's vision of "Far Cry."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Crew Post: Story vs. Gameplay

What is more important in video games, story or gameplay? The question is simple and the conversation may be endless (or maybe it will just be monotonous)... Nonetheless that is the query we're thrusting upon the Crew this week. Read some of their thoughts below and please add your voice to the matter in the comments below.


I am going to go ahead a pick a side for the sake and the fun of argument and go with gameplay. I'm a writer (pretentious alert!), and to me stories and storytelling are one of the most important matters under the sun, so you do not need to tell me how crucial it is, but you simply cannot have a great game without the gameplay to match it. Hell, you cannot even have games without it!

Ah, the classic story of the paddle and the ball who loved her. Pong (1972)
Games themselves began without regard for story, I'm talking about Pong and the 20+ years of possible precursors. They are called "video games" because they require an interaction between a player and what they are seeing on a screen, or, to put it simply, gameplayWe don't/didn't want games to remain in those prehistoric states, so the medium progressed over the years until we were bringing narratives to the experience which also brought the comparison to it's distant cousin, film (the other medium of moving pictures). It's gameplay that sets games apart from animation.

A rather promising title marred by its infuriating controls. True Crimes: Streets of LA (2003)
Specific stories, and their virtues, are entirely qualitative. They are an art and are therefore infinitely open to opinions. Gameplay is much less so. Sure, Joe might not have a problem with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's controls while they are so infuriating to Bob that he'd rather spend his weekend milking a cow, but you will find far more people agreeing upon the poor controls of True Crime: Streets of L.A. than whether it's narrative is any good. Gameplay is far more quantitative. It deals with facts from the controls (e.g. "you push 'A' to jump and push 'B' to shoot") to the objectives (e.g. "you jump over the pits and shoot all the Nazis to beat the level"). They are basics and will never be as interesting as the boundless extent of storytelling, but they are required for the experience and the medium itself. I have been mostly vague here with only a few examples, but hopefully I have set some of the groundwork in place for the rest of the crew to share their thoughts on the matter. Let me conclude by telling you about two very different games I play:

With no story to speak of this game is a blast to play! Cut the Rope (2010)
I play Cut the Rope on my iPhone every so often. The drama of getting a piece of candy into an adorable toad's mouth makes for a very dull chronicle, but I play because the gameplay works so well, frequently introducing new wrinkles to puzzles. I recently and finally started playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. It is a glorious adventure with striking locales, stand-out characters, and yes, an entertaining story. If the gameplay (including the shoot-from-cover mechanic) were not in place as is, this would be a disaster of a game that had me only pushing forward to see the next cutscene, which is where games cease to be games really. Obviously the best of video games excel in both story and gameplay. Hopefully we will continue to have experiences that blend the two so well that this argument will dissolve over time. I am in part referring to emergent narrative, something I would love to talk more about but I am four paragraphs in and ready to pass the baton of this Crew Post.


I agree with the end of J.S.'s post. A good game requires both great gameplay and a great story. The two need to compliment one another. Yes you could definitely play a game that didn't really have a good story if the gameplay was good (i.e. Angry Birds anything), but without that story the replayability of a game goes down significantly. I've had this opinion for most of the time that I have been a gamer. But at the same time, if a game has gameplay that you can't stand but a great story it makes it that much more difficult to get through, and I have been known on occasion to give up on such games (i.e. the Assassin's Creed series).

With it's frustrating stealthy gameplay, I've never played through an entire game in the Assassin's Creed series.
Assassin's Creed III  (2012)

However, that being said I recently been more converted to the ways of a magnificent game called Minecraft! It truly is the shining example of a game proving that you do not need a story. I'm sure I have spent endless hours on the game that has no story to speak of. It's just a free world roamer where you can do almost anything you could think of. I've built my own waterfall, a giant log cabin on a mountain top, a castle, and even a portal to Hell. There is not one other game that I can think of that you could say that about.

Some great examples of the amazing things you can do in the game. Minecraft (2011 PC, 2012 Xbox)
With my conversion to Minecraft, I have to throw my hat in with J.S. completely. Without gameplay a game just isn't worth it. You just have to have an open mind capable of imagining all the things that the game doesn't give you, which gives you more of a feel of being a kid and playing make believe. Except in this case you can truly make anything. Now I'm off to play some more Minecraft after finding these inspiring images! Now on to the next member of the crew on this Crew Post.


While I won't argue story isn't important, it obviously is. Think of your favorite games ever and likely they all have amazing stories and characters e.g. Portal, Skyrim, Bioshock etc. However I think gameplay is far more important. While not limited to this, games are meant to be fun and if the gameplay isn't fun, it's not going to get a lot of love. I thought Mafia II had a compelling story and good gameplay but it quickly grew tiresome and I never ended up finishing it. Whereas the original Borderlands had fun and engrossing gameplay in spades with a very poor and unimportant narrative. Which game do you think got 50 hours of gameplay and which got 10?

Why is there a giant worm attacking you? It's not part of the story and it really doesn't matter Borderlands (2009).
The Worms series, Team Fortress 2, Counterstrike, most RTS (yes, they have campaign modes but that's not the fun part), and any sports game have basically no narrative and yet they are great and unique games which have provided countless hours of entertainment. What's more, multiplayer isn't a narrative driven event, it's solely gameplay. Those countless hours playing the original Halo weren't because of the worth of the singleplayer story it was because it was ridiculously fun. I'm not going to dismiss storytelling, but it is clearly backseat to gameplay in my opinion.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Humble THQ Bundle: Save Money & Save a Publisher

Earlier this week The Humble THQ Bundle was announced and launched. This was somewhat a surprising for two reasons. 1) We usually get months or more to breathe from the last Bundle being sealed; this time it was only a couple weeks. 2) Humble Bundles are typically a batch of independently developed games; after all, it used to be called Humble Indie Bundle. Well, this time they've teamed up with far-from-indie developer /publisher THQ to push six A-list titles, and a seventh (Saints Row: The Third) if you beat the average. (Note: Two of the games in this Bundle are stand-alone sequels to Company of Heroes).


The troubling trajectory of THQ stock. (Source: Hard Core Gamer)
It's no secret that THQ has been in trouble lately, even on the verge of bankruptcy. As one of the top commenters for the above video on YouTube said, "In this case THQ is the charity." There is a actual charity to select in the payment sliders, but the default is giving most of the proceeds to THQ. This remarkable Bundle has only been running a few days and it is passing the $3 million mark.

I have no animosity towards THQ even though they've published plenty of real commercial clunkers over the years. The game industry is an industry. By the same token I have personally spent hours upon hours with some of the games they've brought to light, their recent partnership with Double Fine is particular noteworthy. I guarantee any gamer who looks over the list of their published works can say the same, for better or worse.

The metros of a post-apocalyptic Moscow is but one of the gaming experiences available. Metro 2033 (2010)
You've got until December 12th to pay what you want for a handful of games, including Darksiders and Metro 2033. You also get the soundtracks for the included games which is worth the price of admission alone, unless you're feeling particularly generous. You will never find a better buy than this and you can directly aid a desperate game company. Yes, it's the games themselves we care about, but somebody has to create them and sell them. For consumers the Humble THQ Bundle is a winning situation no matter how you slice it, I cannot say the same for the company at hand, but this will surely help.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Are These the 10 Best Games of the Last Decade?

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Half-Life 2

World of Warcraft

Shadow of the Colossus

Wii Sports



Mass Effect 2

Red Dead Redemption

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Red Dead Portal of the Colossas... I would play the hell out of this game!
Are these the 10 best games of the last decade? Maybe. It's a very well-rounded list in my opinion, even if they are all triple-A titles, with the possible exception of Wii Sports. I'm not sure what you'd call that one... These are the 10 choices that make up the new poll up on Entertainment Weekly that simply asks, "What is the best video game of the last ten years?" It's immediately clear that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is missing from this list, and not a single Grand Theft Auto, but I suppose Red Dead Redemption fills that void nicely and then some. The Big 3 (Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony) and the PC are represented, though not a one is an Xbox exclusive. No Halo to be found. But what else is missing from this list? The unprecedented emergence of indie games this last decade has truly been a life-force for hardcore and casual demographics alike. Minecraft, Braid, Cave Story? Is there one worthy to represent all of them? And even then, why just one? And what about hand-held gaming including the iOS and Android explosion of downloadable titles? To be fair, Darren Franich mentioned most of these things in his accompanying article: "In the end, we picked 10 games that represent an industry simultaneously hitting its peak while staring down a brave, scary, fascinating new era." There's all very well, but Minecraft still needs to be on here. 

Which of these 10 would you vote for and which game can you not believe they left off?

Baby Hands Sammy Jackson: the host of this year's Spike Video Game Awards.
Franich announced that the results of this poll will be revealed at the 10th Annual Spike Video Game Awards next Friday (December 7th).  I think I'm one of the only people I know who has actually watched those. They're no Oscars, that's for sure (and that's doubly damning because of how many people hate on the Academy Awards), but they are the biggest ceremony of its kind that the medium currently has. I just wished the producers cared less about celebrities and more about the bloody games. Samuel L. Jackson will be hosting the Awards this year... Yep, it's going to continue to be about the celebrities and not about the games isn't it?

The nominees for Game of the Year...
At least this year's nominees for Game of the Year had some variety, including two downloadable titles: Assassin's Creed III, Dishonored, Journey, Mass Effect 3 and The Walking Dead: The Game.

I'll attempt to watch the "ceremony" again this year and will likely blog about the winners of the poll (decade) and the top prize (year).

Words by J.S. Lewis