28 February 2013

Far Cry 3... the reckoning (part 3)

Continuing on with my thoughts on the game:

**I originally mistakenly thought that they were DLC but appear to actually be the normal trials you see around the game world. 

- Goddamnit! Do I have to hear the same exposition phone call every time I pick the game back up? You literally have a sign on the screen saying "Choose to follow the story or explore the island" so I don't need to be reminded of the story each time if I'm choosing the latter option!!

- The radio towers are akin to the vantage points in Assassin's Creed or the watch towers in The Saboteur. I'm going to be kind and say that they're about half-way between those two examples with respect to the enjoyment I get from doing them all. They're kind of a chore and they don't really benefit you that much except that you have no way to see the map otherwise - despite manually exploring areas yourself.
I feel like the better solution would be to have the map revealed depending on your exploration - as per the Elder Scrolls games - but also to have large swathes uncovered with more detail from the radio towers. As it stands, I'm mostly doing them because I have to if I want to be able to get around efficiently.
I see maps on sale but they're for chests/crates and whatnot, not for the area geography.

- The rope climbing mechanics are a bit poorly done. I understand the idea behind them: you want a clearly signified portion of the area that the player knows they can traverse (same with the vines). However, in practice, you find that you'll float or move in a strange manner over distances that you normally could not. In effect, your (or at least my) suspension of disbelief is momentarily lifted whenever I encounter one of these triggers... whether it's from hovering horizontally across a gap to hit the climbing animation or if I climb ABOVE the ledge, only to fall back down onto it after I'm finished.

- I'm increasingly feeling like most of the animals are pointless. Their skins are mostly not useful for upgrades thus far and although I was saving them in case I needed them I'm finding that extra upgrades are actually locked to DLC**... which is annoying to have pointed out to you in the main game.

- The side quests... Ugh.. I've done a couple now and they're completely uninteresting. Not to mention illogical. They are all locally-based in the geography of the game so that the poor attention spans of the mindless generation of players do not get bored. Couple this with the fact that you are LOCKED to that quest until you've completed it and you'll get a bit more than annoyed if you happen to fail it and are reloaded back into the area. This is worse than the "going out of bounds" message, as at least with that you get a warning - even if, due to the vehicle handling, you are unable to act quickly enough to stop it.

One particular mission springs to mind where you have to recover tablets stolen by the military in the past. I was thinking, "Oh, cool. I'll have this passive side mission as I go around the island, able to make inquiries or something." But, no. All the tablets are literally less than 300 metres away from the quest initiation point - which doesn't make sense if they were stolen... much less does it make sense that I magically know WHERE THEY ARE! Even if it's not the exact spot, I can pinpoint them to an accuracy just less than public GPS signals.

Ugh! My head hurts.

- The "out of bounds" message. I don't get it. Sure, if I'm headed out to open sea I understand that you need to make the player head back. But I can literally see the land in front of me. It's just a bay and there's a radio antenna over the other side I want to get to with this boat that was helpfully placed on the coast! You're telling me that I have to skirt the land and go this really circuitous route that I could do in a car? What's the point in that?!

- Oh and this one is a bit of a spoiler:

Those stupid stone doors that you have to blast. I mean, come on! Nothing else in the game world is destructible so why would the player think that this particular thing was? I saw the first one I found and it had a weird symbol on it and behind was a relic. So I assumed there was some sort of quest item that allowed me to mystically unlock the door or something. I got stuck on a side quest (the tablet one mentioned above) and decided to look at a walkthrough: the answer? Blow the bloody doors off!

It's just weird that they stuck that in there - you're not utilising any learned skill set and it's completely at odds with the permanence of the rest of the game world.

26 February 2013

Far Cry 3... the reckoning (part 2)

More thoughts from within the game as I'm playing it:

- Movement speed is a bit ridiculous. I'm pretty sure (though I'll have to test it) that you sprint faster than Usain Bolt! Especially when you're sliding up hills and whatnot. This also applies to jump height as well.

- The levelling system appears to be quite badly broken. I level up really quickly but have nothing to spend the points on. I'm mainly doing the main missions but basically everything is locked. Sure, I guess I can get around to doing a load of side missions but maybe they should have slowed this aspect of advancement down a little as you are basically being reprimanded for not playing their open world game exactly how they want you to. Add to this the fact that clearing bases doesn't count as a mission and I'm feeling pretty limited on advancement in this game.

- Weapons don't appear to degrade. This is one of the reasons why the initial weapons are so powerful: there's no advantage to having to buy or collect new weapons as they stay good. Especially since all the mercs carry the same handgun, assault rifle and shotgun... it makes economic as well as tactical sense to use those so that you never worry about ammunition.

Of course, I haven't yet worked out whether each ammo type will work across all weapons in that type. Maybe that's a thing. They don't tell you about it though and I didn't bother reading the PDF manual... I mean, is that a thing? Do people read PDF manuals?

Actually, I think I worked out in this latest playthrough that ammo is ammo and applies to the class of weapon rather than the specific weapon. Still, for someone who has at least a passing knowledge of firearms and ammunition, that's not intuitive because in real life these weapons do not generally use compatible ammo types.

- The game engine feels really solid and well put-together. Want to change graphical settings while in-game, along with whether it's windowed or whatnot? No problem at all. Also, Alt-Tabbing is no problem either. I can't count the number of games where these simple things are just not stable or present. ALSO, the game loads pretty quickly.


Last one for tonight:

- The depth of field effect is really badly used in this game. I shouldn't look out over the horizon and see everything coated in vaseline whilst the things nearby are so crispy clear that I can see the lack of aliasing on the edges (or whatever it is!). I get what they're trying to accomplish but, at some point, you have to realise that when the player is focusing on the view of the island, they want to see it in all its pretty glory, not as a blurry landscape, absent of any detail.

25 February 2013

Far Cry 3... the reckoning (part 1)

So, as you may have surmised from my last post, I'm playing Far Cry 3. I thought that I may as well post my thoughts on it as I go through the game and then follow up with a final "review". I've heard a lot of positive blurb surrounding this game but am going in relatively fresh so we'll see how my cynical self takes it.

Thoughts 1:

- Far Cry's visuals aren't blowing me away. I know it's silly, but... I remember the first game by Crytek. I was literally amazed at the open-worldedness of the game from the start. It was beautiful as well. This game is pretty... but somehow that's become average - even in an age when plush greens and sandy beaches aren't often seen in game landscapes.

- FOV controls? OH YEAH! Seriously, this is a huge selling-point for me. Okay, they're not unlimited in their application but as soon as I discovered them (about 20 minutes into the game) I switched up to 100 degrees... then, upon getting into a vehicle, I put the setting to the maximum. With widescreen displays and with me sitting less than 3 feet away from the screen (it's only a 21 inch LCD) I just get disoriented in every game that's set at a ridiculous 60 - 85 FOV. They feel so claustrophobic - especially when the weapons take up half the screen as if your character is hunching over the barrel of the weapon in question!

In many games that don't offer this as an option I usually try and look at console hacks to increase it past whatever it's set to... and even then, sometimes I set it higher - e.g. Dishonored; where I set it at 100 FOV despite having, IIRC, the option to set it between lower FOV settings manually.

I have a strange feeling that they're cheating though.. as the transition from 100 to 110 was not very noticeable compared to the same change in the quake 3 engine.

- The old "take control away and make the character/player look dumb" or as I like to refer to it as: "the FEAR clause" in in full effect. You're such a badass on normal (I should have put it on hard but had no idea normal would be this easy - it did say for players with first person experience!) and you level up so quickly that the enemies don't really have much of a chance to take you out and so they have to wrest control away from the player and have them defeated in a cutscene.

Notable entries in the FEAR clause prize-winners stable:

FEAR (and first generation expansions, both canon and non-canon) - I mean, how many times did Paxton Fettel lay you out for five minutes by blind-swinging at you from around a corner?!*

Fallout 3 - the capture by the other faction (I forget the exact name!) in the bunker.

LA Noire - all those times you were clotheslined!

Mass Effect 3 - any given boss fight.

- The save system is really wonky. The save option in the main menu does nothing and appears to only be a placebo like those seen in action RPGs. The save system will physically reset you to whatever random time it decided to save you from a mission or base capture. However, it WILL retain your level and loot progress. Still, for a PC game, not ideal.

- The voice actor for the Vaas character is really good... like Mark Hamill as the Joker good!

- I have WAY too much money and not enough things to even bother spending it on. This is something Far Cry 2 did really well - you wanted to get new weapons because they were better! In this, the bog-standard weapons are good enough - at least for the 6+ hours I've played - even though they are inexplicably unable to be upgraded as the other weapons can.

- I'm not convinced on the physical upgrade system yet. You can harvest loads of animals - most of which you won't need early in the game but which you KNOW you will later on (or at least suspect: as each upgrade moves you on to an ever harder and rarer animal)... but you have no way of stashing these prizes anywhere so you have a choice: either discard them and HOPE you find them later on or you lose precious space in your very limited inventory.
For my money, it's not a terribly interesting gameplay choice since the base weapons are all really powerful and ammunition isn't included in the carrying inventory... so all's you're missing out on is $10-50 items that you get from the pirates that you are forced to head back to base to sell - worthless junk. You can still loot all the money, munitions and ammunition you want. So, in summary, I have no idea why the developers put this in the game...

More to come!

*I can't speak to the sequels as I don't remember FEAR 2 at all and I haven't yet played FEAR 3 but since we kill him in the first game I'm assuming he's not around to do it again!

UPlay nightmares...

"I'm bored." I sulk.

"I don't want to play anything in my pile or anything I've already played. I don't want to watch anything either. I need something new and fresh!!"

"I know I'll get a new game. Hmmm."

Walks down to the shop.

"€60 for FarCry 3 on PS3? But I have steam and I KNOW it's only £30 on there. Let me get it on Steam instead! I is smart!"

I download the game, write a letter and watch some supernatural whilst this is happening.

"D'oh! I forgot this was an Ubisoft title." I mutter as the UPlay prompt comes up. "I know I have an account but I can't remember my password! Let me recover it to save time."

"Recovering" the password actually does no such thing since, you do not get the same password you had used, instead you change the password to a new one via your registered email account. My hopes that Ubisoft is employing or contracting people who are competent when they have such a poor understanding of simple English is fading.

I enter the password - apparently it's very "strong" - and everything proceeds fine but then my account will not let me log in upon trying to do so via launching the game. Some errors about being offline but then I sort that out and it's just the password thing.

"I don't get it." I say, frustrated.

I google and search for an answer and nothing is to be found except other people who have similar problems. In an attempt to solve the problem, I uninstall and reinstall (from the official site, not a steam download) the UPlay software. No difference....

"So, it wasn't a corrupt install."

Then, in a stroke of familiarity, I realise that I had a similar problem with Skype. The problem then had been that Skype allows you to enter a certain number of characters: not more, not less. However, it doesn't stop you from doing so - like you would think any half-competent software developer would consider doing for their stupid users*.

I "recover" my password once more - this time counting the number of characters I use. I was one over budget the first time!

Since I'm now logged into UPlay and I have a visible "CD key"  (despite this being a digital download) I think to myself, "Why not just register it now?"

I discover, upon trying to do this that the UPlay store is completely useless. You cannot register games in your account or in "my games" nor in the store itself (which, incidentally appears to be a completely separate component of the UPlay experience, one it has to load in a separate window - even when you're online and already connected to the Ubisoft servers)...

"Hmmm. Let's try loading up FarCry 3 and seeing if it'll prompt me then." I puzzle.

NOPE! I appears that I need to close the existing instance of UPlay in order to open up a new UPlay instance and play the game. WTF?!! Just use the one that's open you idiots! They're the same goddamn piece of software for Christ's sake!

So, I close UPlay and let Steam open it's particular brand of special UPlay - with all the same options and whatnot. I register the game. So far so good. But then I think, "Okay, I don't have the fastest rig in the world... I don't want to be running two services simultaneously in a Matroyshka-esque 'elephants all the way down' scenario to run one game. Let's see if I can just use UPlay, since Steam apparently doesn't want to let me play without having it running in the background."

NOPE! UPlay doesn't even recognise the fact that I own the game. Hmmm. This is more than a little annoying. It's pretty unfriendly to your paying customers, to be honest.

I wanted to play a game, a good game. I was already avoiding Ubisoft always-on DRM and completely forgot that FC3 was a Ubi title and would have completely avoided the game if I'd have realised when purchasing. Now I'm stuck with some inferior piece of crap software that is worse than Games for Windows!

Seriously... and developers and publishers wonder why people are switching to Free to Play and mobile games? Get a clue!

I wish I'd paid more and got the damn game on console.

The worst part is that Steam treats the UPlay software as the game itself, meaning that I can't do anything else in steam until I manually close it down each and every time!!

*Stupid users is an official term that software developers use - I know this because I speak to them quite often. This also applies to network admins as well.