December 5, 2012
[Before I get into today’s post, I must link to this newly leaked footage of Ruffian’s cancelled Streets of Rage reboot. Streets of Rage was one of my JAMS back in the Sega Genesis days; my brother and I played all 3 games for hours and hours and hours. I’ve been wanting an HD remake for years, and Ruffian seemed like just the right developer to pull it off (even if Crackdown 2 was a shitshow), and so this is very much the epitome of a happy/sad thing.]
I’d be hard-pressed to explain just what’s happened to me over the last few weeks; it could be that the anxiety medications are finally kicking in, or it could be my shift from trepidation to acceptance and now genuine excitement about being a new father, or it could be the simple act of driving a car into New York City and thereby kicking a deeply-held fear square in the teeth. I suppose it’s some combination of all of those things, but whatever it is, I’ve been feeling like a new, changed man. And it feels good.
(It feels good even though I turn 37 on Saturday, which is a weird, crooked number that is much closer to 40 than I feel comfortable with.)
In terms of gaming, this feeling of change has manifested itself already, without me even realizing it. For one thing, as my friend Gred correctly pointed out, I feel a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders now that I’ve given up on Assassin’s Creed 3. Ever since I started this blog as my half-hearted attempt at breaking into professional game criticism, I’ve felt compelled to play (and try to finish) as much as I can get my hands on, even if only so that I can be part of the conversation – even if that conversation is really just me listening to podcasts and reading smart people on Twitter. The reality, of course, is that I am not a professional game critic, and I just don’t have the time to spend playing stuff I don’t enjoy just for the sake of being an observer of other people’s conversations. And now that I can accept that, I kinda like it.
Continuing in that vein, I will not be playing Hitman: Absolution. I’ve never been able to get into that franchise in previous entries, and their horrendously ill-conceived Facebook ad campaign (covered here with the usual great aplomb by Leigh Alexander) turned me off completely. I don’t want anything to do with that game or that franchise ever again.
Switching back to the “changed-man” vein, I am playing Far Cry 3. This is notable (for me, anyway) for three specific reasons:
- I had absolutely no intention of ever playing this game until the reviews starting coming in;
- I’m playing it on my PC, instead of the 360; and
- I’m willingly playing a first-person shooter, even though I’ve been bitching endlessly about shooter fatigue.
And since I’m into bullet points today, I’ve chosen to play FC3 on my PC because, among other things:
- my 360 has been making terrible sounds lately and I’d really like it to last until GTA5 (unless there’s a PC port; this also goes for Bioshock Infinite);
- because I don’t want to kick my pregnant wife off the living room couch if she’s comfortable;
- because the game probably looks better on my medium-grade PC than it would on my 360; and because… drumroll….
- I kinda don’t give a shit about Achievements anymore.
As for the game itself… I’ve heard it described as “Skyrim in the jungle with guns”, and even though I’ve only played for an hour or so, I certainly can see how that description makes sense. This is one of the most dynamic open worlds I’ve ever seen; things are happening around you constantly, and not just necessarily to you but to your enemies as well. As an example, I was wandering around hunting for boar when a group of pirates happened to drive up and began attacking me; but then a pack of rabid dogs started attacking them, whereupon I just hung back, patched myself up, and made sure I was ready for whoever survived. This was not a scripted sequence – this is just something that happened.
And even though I only played for a short time, my shooter fatigue never kicked in. This is partially because the game is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s really easy to get lost in the scenery. It’s also partially because there is SO MUCH TO DO. It’s not just shooting enemies; it’s hunting animals and gathering plants, and about using the materials you get in those hunts and gatherings to craft materials that you absolutely need in order to survive. There are radio towers you must ascend and disable – which, as in Assassin’s Creed, opens up an area of the world map. There are pirate outposts you must reclaim for the natives, which turn into fast-travel points. There are these Trials, which are essentially shooting gallery mini-games, which reward you with points and XP. Yes, there’s XP – this is just as much an RPG as it is a shooter, with skill trees and abilities and such.
I can only give the game two knocks thus far. The first is that the main bad guy’s name is alarmingly close to my own last name – they’re not spelled the same, but they’re pronounced almost identically, and he’s a scary motherfucker, and more than a little intimidating. (The opening sequence of FC3 is absolutely outstanding, and the bad guy’s performance is a particular stand-out.) The second, more problematic issue is that the game’s display never shuts up. The game is constantly reminding you of your primary objective, even if you’re deliberately doing a side objective; it is also constantly telling you every time it updates its in-game encyclopedia/codex/whatever, which is unnecessary and annoying and requires too many button presses to get rid of. This can be frustrating, in that the developers have crafted this amazing, immaculate world for you to explore, which you are constantly being interrupted from exploring. They won’t just let you be. Granted, there are wild animals and forest fires and pirates pretty much everywhere, so it’s not like you’d ever truly be at peace in the world – but at least you can be immersed in that experience without constantly being reminded that there’s other stuff you need to be doing.