I don’t know what this says about me as a person, but I find that I’m generally much happier when the books I’m reading and the music I’m listening to and the games I’m playing are really good. As it happens, I’m reading a great book,* and I’ve been getting back into some old music I’d forgotten about,** and after the crushing disappointments of both Need For Speed Most Wanted and Assassin’s Creed 3, I’m fully invested in at least 3 great games.
1. Let me continue to sing the praises of Far Cry 3, for starters. I hereby fully apologize for any disparaging comments/thoughts/opinions I might have had pre-release. I never really cared about the earlier games, and the E3 presentation didn’t do all that much to impress me, but MAN. Now that I have it in my hands? It’s giving Borderlands 2 a serious run for its money for Game of the Year.
I spent 2 hours last night in the game, not even doing any story missions – just hunting and crafting, liberating outposts and climbing radio towers. It’s quite shocking to see how pretty much everything AC3 got wrong, FC3 is getting right – starting with those radio towers. In AC3, you basically climbed the same 2 or 3 buildings, or the same 1 (one) tree. In FC3, though, each radio tower is its own mini-platforming puzzle. It’s nothing terribly difficult to figure out (at least, not yet – I’ve only unlocked 4 or 5), but it keeps the experience fresh each time – not to mention, of course, that some radio towers are also festooned with assorted wildlife. I managed to climb one tower last night before almost getting eaten by a fucking leopard, who jumped out of nowhere – and by the time I got up to the second floor, the leopard was being stalked by 3 fucking gila monsters.
There are real, tangible incentives for doing at least some of this side stuff – the hunting in particular is actually pretty necessary as the amount of stuff you can carry at the beginning of the game is barely enough to keep you alive. I haven’t done any of the assassination missions, and I’ve only done one of the Great Hunt missions, but I’ve also been plenty busy as it is just exploring and opening up the map. I’m almost a little reluctant to truly dive into the story until I’ve crafted enough stuff, actually – and it’s just as well, since I’m still having a blast.
2. I’ve mostly found the Lego games to be quite charming and fun and playfully respectful of their respective franchises, if also occasionally stuffed with maddeningly frustrating platforming elements. But I’ve gotta hand it to Traveler’s Tales - Lego LOTR is one hell of a package. The Lego formula works to absolute perfection with this IP, and the improvements they’ve made – to the camera, to the hubworld, to pretty much everything – are quite staggering. The trademark Legoese has been replaced with actual dialogue from the movies, which is a little odd at first, but it generally works quite well. Precision jumping is still shitty, but thankfully there’s not a tremendous amount of it. If you’re a fan of either Lego or the LOTR movies, there is absolutely no excuse not to play this game – this is a guilty pleasure that’s 100% guilt-free.
3. I’ve made no secret of my fanboy status with respect to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and so I gobbled up yesterday’s iPad release of GTA Vice City before I got out of bed. Ironically – and I know this is a somewhat controversial thing to admit, given that I’m most certainly in the minority – Vice City is probably my least favorite entry of the post-III-era console games. *** Still, that said, it’s obvious that there’s still a tremendous amount to love, and the fact that I can play it on my iPad – and the fact that it looks and sounds as good as it does – is nothing short of amazing. The iPad controls are about as good as they can be, given the nature of the touchscreen – they make sense, and it’s pretty easy to get up and running in a short amount of time. I don’t know how much time I’m going to spend actually playing it – I didn’t really play all that much of the iOS version of GTA3, either – but I love knowing that I have it on my iPad. (It stands to reason that San Andreas is in the works, right? I would definitely play the hell out of that one.)
* Justin Cronin’s “The Twelve“, which is perhaps not quite as good as “The Passage” but it’s still pretty great. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the new Kindle Paperwhite – it’s totally worth the upgrade. And the X-Ray feature is indispensable.
** including stuff like Cornelius, Tony Allen, and especially Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate’s “In The Heart of the Moon”
*** This is something I’ll most likely have to address when I get around to the inevitable GTA5 wishlist post, which is most assuredly in the works.