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HOLY SHIT WATCH DOGS 2 IS GOOD?!!!!

First off I must start with an apology. My health hasn’t been exactly great these last few months (Crohn’s disease is a bitch) and combining a lack of energy that comes with Crohn’s and a commitment to keep working a full-time job has left me wanting to nothing but play games, drink and sleep, sadly leaving shamefully little time for writing. BUT NO MORE! I need to keep writing, It’s what I love. I may not be a first-rate, or even a second-rate writer but still, I must keep it up. So I will endeavour to keep up my writing from now until the world is destroyed in Nuclear fire after Donald Trump reads that mean thing I wrote about him on twitter.

Enough delays, on to the headline:

HOLY SHIT WATCH DOGS 2 IS GOOD

Now in my time with this blog I have made it fairly clear how I felt about Watch Dogs 1 . How the lead character is a terrible human being, how the writing and story are misogynistic, hurling women into the fridge at drop of an “Iconic hat” (Thank you, Jim Sterling, for the 3 years of build up to that punchline) I once wrote how I’d try to salvage the series  Killing Aiden Pearce, replacing him with Jordi and moving the action to Las Vegas and going the Saints Row route of mayhem with the powers the game gives you.

Thankfully the developers ignored my sage advice and instead went even further west to the City of San Fransico and dispensed with Aiden Pearce in favour of one this year’s best new protagonists Marcus Holloway. Well written and incredibly likeable, Marcus is what I want from a new generation of leading men and women in games. Gone is Aiden’s loathsome stoicism and batman like posturing, replaced with Marcus’s easy charm and laidback demeanour.

Marcus isn’t alone, of course, he’s joined by a gang of “Hacktivists” in the form of Deadsec who for the most part are all really likeable and engaging characters and yes I am including the guy with a helmet that emotes with emojis

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His name is Wrench and I love him

The whole tone of the game has shifted from the dour fight for justice to being part of a movement that wants to justice but also wants to have a bit of fun. There is a mission where you hijack a talking car and drive it around, listening to Marcus and the car having a chat as they escape the police.

The game has adopted what I think will be known as the Saints Row 3 shift. Where once SR was a mere GTA knock off, it grew beyond what it once was and embracing ever more farcical insanity just for the hell of it. Watch Dogs 2 has yet to go “Fighting an alien emperor while wearing Power Armour while You got the Touch” but it’s certainly going for a brighter tone that I for one love.

I’ve only played about 7 or so hours of Watch Dogs 2  so it could, of course, fall apart in the next few days as I discover that Marcus is an MRA or something terrible like that. But until then I must say I’ve never been so glad to be so wrong about a game. (Also we need to talk about Battlefield 1 soon)

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E3 Top picks

So E3 has been occurring this week and it’s been a pleasant enough experience but with few big talking points. There (to my mind) have been little in the way of big new games being announced that haven taken the press and the public by storm. A few games, however, have been announced that have certainly earned my attention and I’d like to share them with you today.

First up

STATE OF DECAY 2

Without blowing my nerdgasmy (EWWWW) load too quickly allow me to say how much I looking forward to State of Decay 2. SoD 1 is maybe my favourite game of all time and I can’t wait to see what Undead Labs have been cooking up with the sequel. This is such a killer app to me that it makes me wonder if I should A. Buy one of those new Xbox’s that people are on about or B. Upgrade the living shit out of my computer. Maybe both. Anyway, I’m really hyped for this, so hyped I may even try the multiplayer out with my podcast co-hosts.

The Walking Dead Season 3 and Batman – Both by Telltale 

Who’d have thought it, I excited for a Telltale game, the answer is literally everyone because I am a massive fan of theirs?  When I heard they were doing the third season of Walking Dead I was rather happy “Woo” I said. Then when my sources (The Internet) unveiled that they were doing a Batman series as well, well words can not describe how awesome that would (and surely will) be. By now the Telltale formula is well established and typically always effective at telling new stories in old settings. The fact they’ve been given what I hope is free reign over the Batman characters and storyline gives me tingles at what sort of cool stuff we’ll be seeing them do with the caped crusader.

For Honor 

Now personally I felt that Ubisoft’s offering this year was a little weak. A new Watch Dogs game gives me nothing but a sense of dread and the other offerings while having potential are yet to wet my whistle. For Honor is, however, one game I have on my radar that does slightly interest me. Medieval battles and sieges are something of a fascination for me and games which have them in abundance are always on my wish list. Speaking of which

Mount and Blade Bannerlord

Here’s a game you may have missed in the chaos of the last few days and one you should surely have your sights on. Mount and Blade 2 is an ARPG set in a realistic medieval realm which lets you do what you want. Be a trader, knight, raider, king. If you want to do it you can. I’m a big fan of the original game (Well Warband)  so I am really stoked to see what I get to do in this one (Also it will doubtless get a game of thrones mod at some point)

Days Gone 

You see that? That is how you do fast zombies. With little to no talk about this game before E3 this game really came out of nowhere and my oh my does it look good. Granted that it’s a little rough around the edges but did you see how the zombies moved? How they acted more like ants or water. Obivously it’s early days for this particular game but it’s one I’m going to be keeping a very interested eye on in the future (Probs won’t be out till 2017)

 

 

I will never get tired of Trumbull

Zombies are to video games what mildew is to my bathroom, troubling abundant but tolerably present. At this point in time, we appear to have struck a happy compromise with these shambling horrors, using them to bring drama and conflict to scenarios in games such as the Walking Dead by Telltale or the good old fashioned cathartic joy of smashing their heads into the blunt end of the baseball bat. In return, we granted them near ubiquity in Videogames, the likes of which even makes the trusty Ak-47 a little jealous. These undead denizens of our iron sights are the primary antagonists of one of my favourite games of all time, but it’s not because of them. It’s because I will never get bored of exploring Trumbull Valley from State of Decay.

Now State of Decay is a game you’ve probably heard about (If you follow me on Twitter it’s one of my most frequent talking points) but for those poor sods among you who are in the dark to this particular joy allow me to briefly sum it up. State of Decay is open-world survival games set in a fictional valley in northern America that is currently overrun by Zombies. The goal it to build up a small settlement with a bunch of other survivors, scavenging for resources, weapons and vehicles. It was just one of those many zombie games released in the wake of DayZ, with the noteworthy distinction of being actually good.

Mechanically the game is nothing noteworthy, with a basic levelling systems for various character attributes, combat mechanics that grow as your characters do and driving that feels a tad floaty (4×4 can just flip over on tight bends). It’s not the base mechanics though that drew me into the world of State of Decay but the world itself that I so loved discovering time and time again.

Trumbull Valley isn’t a special place, there are no cities, no shady government facilities or bastions of occult power. All that makes up Trumbull is a sparse collection of settlements of various size all strung along a circular road with a large expanse of farmland in the middle and mountains to the north. It’s this normality, this air of the every day that makes Trumbull so fascinating to explore. Many of the locations you’ll end up scavenging for resources tell their own story. An old fairground filled with military equipment now abandoned once the army pulled out or was overrun. A campground scattered with entrails and a rifle that never fired a shot.

One of my favourite books is another piece of zombie fiction called World War Z by Max Brooks. It’s an anthology telling the story of a Zombie plague that sweeps the world and the fight back humanity desperately wages to take back the earth. One of my favourite parts is where a pilot is explaining her training and told that when confronting the walking dead or the scene of a massacre is to never think of them when they were living, to never eulogise them. It’s a natural impulse to come up with stories about locations or zombies and it’s one that State of Decay plays with beautifully.

To date, I’ve played what Steam claims is 223 hours worth of State Of Decay and almost all of this time was spent in one of the games DLC’s called Breakdown, where the game lets you off the story leash and lets you discover Trumbull at your own pace. From the start of any Breakdown playthrough, you’re given the same level of freedom that you would find in Skyrim or GTA, a huge world to explore at your own pace, allowing you to write your own survival narratives.

Fallout 4 Thoughts – Automatron DLC

So After about 4 months or so Bethesda have at last released the first bit of DLC for Fallout 4 in the form of the Automatron. If the title and picture up top haven’t yet clued you in, this DLC is all about our robotic friends in the Wasteland. Well all about killing Robots and building your own robotic friends out of the charred remains of less friendly robots certainly.

Hope you like Robots: If killing a ludicrous amount of Robots ain’t your thing then I will happily advise you to save your money and avoid the Automatron.

Oh GOD, COMPANIONS: My character build is all about stealthy tactics, using long range weaponary to take out my foes before. Naturally then I like to play the game as a lone wolf, slowly creeping through buildings, picking off my targets as I see fit. What I don’t want to play is a DLC all about giving me robot companions with A.I so bad that I can no longer play the game as I want to. No longer can I be the lone bullet in the dark, instead I’m the lone bullet in a well-lit area thanks to a bloody robot mate of mine firing lasers into anything that moves. Seriously, why would Bethesda make a DLC about companions who have never been very good in any of their games?

Build a Robot, If you want: One of the DLC’s biggest additions is the robot workbench that allows you to build and customise all manner of Robots to fit whatever role you’d like them to have. Hell, you can wipe out your towns filled with real people and have friendly robots do the townspeople’s job, which is neat. I guess. If I had 20 hours and a fuck tonne of resources to waste on that.

The customization for the robots* works a lot like the way you’d mod your guns, swapping out various bits and pieces to alter stats and abilities to suit your play style. But, since my playstyle doesn’t involve having bloody huge walking cans following me around the place I’ve found them a little bit shit, to say the least in almost all cases.

As you can probably tell I’m not the greatest fan of the Automatron. The main questline is a bit lacking with all the predictable twists, turns and robotic misunderstanding of morality you’d expect in a world where human brains are used to pilot robots.

DLC for these Bethesda open world games has always been hit and miss over the years, most of Fallout 3 and Skyrim’s DLC was forgettable with New Vegas getting some interesting pieces of DLC to play around with (Although the Sierra Madre one is hell on earth)

From what I’ve heard about future DLC for F4 we may be in for some good times soon but honestly, there are a ton of better games out there right now you to pouring your time into.

Far Cry Primal Thoughts – Part 2

So it’s been about a week or so of playing more Far Cry Primal and I’m ready to spout more wise words on various aspects of the game. 

Let’s talk about the Map – So you’ve probably been seeing a few things on social media saying that the map of Primal is almost identical to that of Far Cry 4. Having looked at the evidence myself I can safely come down on the side of “Yes, it’s the same. Now who cares?” Now I never played FC4 so maybe I can’t share this weird sense that I was robbed of some poor map designers 2 or 3 years of their life just so I can feel like I’m playing/exploring somewhere new. 

Also, while we’re on the games world and map let me say this: It’s really big! Not even joking, it’s bloody huge, or at least feels huge (Which is what I tell all the ladies) this probably comes down to the fact the fastest way to get around is by riding a Sabertooth tiger around who is permanently pissed off at having to lug a shaved Ape about and not eat them (The Ape is human BTW)

Wooly Rhinos are dickheads – Let me share a tale of woe that befell me while stalking my prey through the wilderness one day. As I chased my target (A bloke who needed shooting and looting) the target ran into a herd of Wooly Rhinosaurs who decided to then guard the corpse of the now dead feller with all the ferocity you’d expect from something called a Wooly Rhinosaurs. In my attempts to lure these befleeced bastards away from my prey, I was rammed, gored and verbal abused (I think) by these fluffy gits more times than would seem possible. I was assaulted so I often I was expecting their horns to be whittled down after such frequent heavy blows to my fragile human skull. I only managed to limp away from the encounter after climbing a rock and setting fire to anything in sight. The fire by the way just angered them further and they decided to attack my pet badger.

Oh yeah did I mention I have a pet Badger – He’s name is Brian May and he is unstoppable. 

The most dangerous game of all …..Man – Now, for the most part, I’ve found FCP rather easy to play. The difficult is only a factor in the first few hours or so and once you’ve got a few basic upgrades and skills the game quickly becomes a nice big murder sandbox for all the family. That is until I find a chieftain to fight and suddenly the game becomes a tiring grind to play in which I must smash my face up against a brick wall to till one of us stops caring.

Think I’m done with this game – Now according to my in-game progress I’m about 65% through the game and at this point I think I’ve found pretty much everything do and see  that I wanted to in a stone age survival game. I’ve played about 20 hours or so of hurling spears and swinging clubs around that the game has lost it’s novelty value and is now like every other Far Cry game where you’re max leveled enough to be basically unstoppable. So yeah I’m probably going playing less Primal and might just revisit it in a few months time.

Thoughts on Far Cry Primal – Part 1

At last! A new game from 2016 that I can write about over the course of a few weeks that doesn’t devour all my free time like X-COM 2 (Which is still just great). Yes, Far Cry Primal is out, finally giving all us comfortable couch potatoes the chance to hunter and gather are way around vast, unspoiled lands that are filled to the brim with homicide cave men and killing machines of various different species. So what do I think of FCP then? Well after a few hours in the game I’m ready to give some first impressions on the game and a few quirks I’ve found with it.

I Don’t give a shit about the story – *Gasp* In 10000 BCE people didn’t speak English, this is a widely accepted fact. Now I do from time to time watch foreign language films such as Old Boy, The Raid 1&2, Battle Royale (Really any film with Asain people murdering one another) and I diligently read the subtitles to try and understand the film, what can I say I’m just odd like that. But in a game that where every character is speaking what I’m going to politely call “Gibberish” I just don’t have the patience to read a series of subtitles all telling me to “Go murder that other bloke for his stuff”. So yeah I’m skipping most of the story cutscenes, please tell me if I’m missing the caveman version of Othello would you?

Damn is this game pretty – I should have taken a few screen shots to prove my point but my word is this game gorgeous on the PS4. I’m sure it’s lovely on the Xbox as well and on the PC, it will actually perform fellatio on the user at higher settings but yeah it’s pretty.

I AM THE BEASTMASTER – I can ride a sodding Sabertooth Tiger into battle. GAME OF THE YEAR – Also I can set an owl to attack people – GAME OF THE DECADE- and the owl can drop bombs filled with Bees – GAME OF THE CENTURY!

What’s so special about Northern Wood? – Ok, like the other Far Cry games, Primal has a bugger ton of crafting and gathering for the player to perform and it all involves finding the correct leather pelts for particular items. Please inform me how the skins of a deer and tapir differ in such a way to make one usable for crafting a bag of meat while the other is useless? Please do tell.

So yeah, I like Far Cry Primal, now I’m off to play some more and make friends with more murderous killing machines.

X-COM 2 – The PR war

I’ve been playing a lot of X-COM 2 because it’s brilliant and you should probably be playing it instead of reading this blog (It’s what I’ve been doing instead of writing it) The game is the most part terrific and I’m already planning my second playthrough but one part I’ve found slightly lacking is the games weak sauce approach to how the everyday men and women of the world are treated in game.

Let me explain:

When fighting across various urban environments, it’s not uncommon for civilians to be caught in the crossfire of battle. At the start of most levels, your team will be in concealment, allowing them to move across the map unmolested by any aliens as long as they keep a reasonable distance from them. Aliens aren’t the only thing that can detect you and blow your cover, civilians can to and if you get too close they can absolutely ruin your plans by revealing your position on the map and attracting nearby patrols to come and blow holes in you.

In this way, civilians act as minefields which you must skirt around in order to proceed. You have no way to ‘disarm’ the threat they pose and so must treat them with extreme caution. This is because in the world of X-Com 2 you are the aggressor, the terrorist, the bad guy in the eyes of the people on the ground who the aliens have control of. At the beginning of a campaign this status as the enemy makes sense, but as the game progresses and the war becomes a little more even this doesn’t change in any way aside from a small cutscene close to the end of the game showing the people rising up.

To me, this is a missed opportunity (or an idea that will be expanded on in an expansion in a year or so) that could have added another interesting set of mechanics to the way each game plays out. Let’s call this part of the game the PR War. Everything you do either has a cost or boon to your perception by the public. Play the game in a very PR friendly way and you’d get bonuses to resources and have more recruits joining up. But play in an unfriendly way and you’d find that the public would be rising up against you, pressuring ADVENT to bring you to justice or even setting up vigilante groups to hunt you themselves.

Say for instance I’m given a mission to either kill or kidnap a VIP of the alien forces. This VIP is human and will typically be in a highly urbanised environment with plenty of witnesses. If I kill the VIP in a hail of bullets this footage could be played back to the civilians by ADVENT to show just how nasty I am and causing a penalty to my public perception. But, If I kidnapped the target, there would still be a penalty (Kidnapping is still pretty bad in most people’s eyes) but it would be reduced.

Now in a game where you are already juggling so many competing resources and strategies at anyone time I can understand why no one would want to add this further layer of complexity to a game that already devours time like I devour crisps, still I thought it was a fun thought experiment that I wanted to share and get your opinions on.

 

 

Just Cause …. It’s Shit ….. 3

The name Just Cause is the sweetest treat to any reviewer out there. It’s the perfect set up for countless jokes about the games quality and the off the wall hijinks you can get up within it. “I Just used a statue’s head as a wrecking ball attached to helicopter then used it to smash a load of fuel tanks, why? Just Cause!” So far so trite.

Cracking jokes about this series name is the video game reviewer equivalent of “What’s the deal with airline food” a punchline to itself that no one ever laughed at the first time round.

The Just Cause series is one of gaming’s oddest creations. Starting on the PS2, this series has seen three games in the series that are basically flashier more explosive versions of the first one. You play as Rico Rodriguez, a CIA agent with a reckless disregard for the laws of physics, self-preservation and the precise uses of what a parachute can and can’t do. Across each of the three games of the series, Rico is used as a tool to spark revolutions in various fictitious dictatorships (All inspired by real world ones) across the world (Hence the rather one the nose Che Guava imagery on the box of the first game)

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Having played each game in the series I’ve got to say I’m rather fond of both Just Cause 1 and 2. They are dumb games that gave the player a hit ton of explosives and said “See that red thing, blow it up”. They were the Michael bay of video games, with a dash Robert Rodriguez to help lighten the mood (These could basically be Machete games).

It is then with great sadness that I can report that I’ve had absolutely no fun playing Just Cause 3 at all and will, in fact, be trading it in at my local Game shop the day this piece goes out.*

When I first sat down with JC3 I immediately had a problem. My hard drive was full and I needed to unload some data. First I uninstalled Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. A decent game but one I haven’t played in about a year so no biggie. But JC3 demanded a greater sacrifice which I gave it; Witcher 3. I know I’ll never finish Witcher 3 but me uninstalling it was me admitting to that fact, something I’m not sure any game critic is allowed to do.

When I had finally allotted the massive amount of Hard Drive space to allow JC3 to lounge around the PS4 I was met with a massive install time that let me catch up on watching some old episodes of Family Guy that were on TV at the time. One of them was the episode where Lois becomes Mayor and is then persuaded to pour toxic chemicals into the town’s lake. It’s an alright episode, a funny gag with Jason Vorhees but nothing too special. Also, who is Donnie Most?

While the game was installing I did have the chance to play around in a small portion of the game, allowing me to practice with the wing suit for a bit, but I found that after a few minutes doing this I had kinda had my fill already. So I went back to Family Guy, Stewie is kinda funny at times ain’t he? Not a good sign.

When I finally got the game running I started it to find the game ran like shit. Several minute long loading screens between deaths and a frame rate that dropped to single figures whenever I picked up speed on the roads. I tried to get into it but then I crashed after an hour and I decided I wanted to sleep more.

The next week followed a similar pattern. I tried to get into the spirit of the game, liberating bases, blowing shit up etc but the game was just terrifically dull in almost every way. The shooting (Which has never been great in these games) was weak and felt like I was pelting  my enemies with piss from Rico’s flaccid johnson.

Explosions felt milquetoast and underwhelming.

Driving was like handling a Rhinosours with a pair of electrodes to the nut sack. Dangerous to everyone around me and lethal to me.

After a week of trying and trying again to like this game, I failed to find a redeeming quality to this game other than the occasionally amusing voice acting. While we’re on VA in this game, What the fuck is David Tennant doing in this game? He’s pretty funny in it for sure but couldn’t he be doing better? Telltale, hire David Tennant for your next series, use his talents.

I finished Mad Max, I found it tolerable if dull at times. I finished Watch Dogs, I found it hateful but passable to the end. I didn’t finish Just Cause 3 before I traded it in. It didn’t offend my storytelling sensibilities, it just bored the living shit out of me and I never want to play it again.

 

*This isn’t a review

Fallout 4 Thoughts – Part 2

Gather round! I’ve played a few more hours of Fallout 4 and I’m starting to see a lot of the games charms. Yesterday I was pretty critical of the first few hours and I’ll stand by my points that the game does an abysmal job in tutoring you in a few major parts of the games crafting and base building mechanics. But, I’ve started to muddle through the initial learning curve and I’m starting to find a game I’m desperate to keep playing. That being the case let’s make this quick.

I think I love Boston – Before yesterday I knew nothing about the city of Boston other than the fact it was populated entirely with Ivy league colleges and things called Red Sox. So as I’ve started to explore the ruins of Boston, particularly the harbour side, I’ve grown to find the place to be really awesome to explore. I’ve barely started to scratch the surface of the city but what I have found has been delightful, with every new blip on the radar causing me to push on for a just a few more minutes at a time.

In celebration of the fine city of Boston, here is Boston (The Band) being awesome.

Why Do people keep walking away from me? – One of the big changes that this game has brought to the Bethesda formula is the way conversations work. I talked a little about this yesterday saying I didn’t really like it too much from a personal standpoint. But after playing a few more hours I can say I don’t like it from a mechanical point either – It doesn’t work!

On several occasions, I’ve been trying to get the attention of an NPC only to have them start talking but also have them moving away so the reply box closes and I have to run after them. This is happening with such regularity that I really think it needs a patch to sort it out.

I have a deep love for my rifles – Throughout many playthroughs of the Fallout games that I’ve had over the years one thing has always remained consistent – I love the rifles these games have on offer, particularly the Hunting Rifle, a bolt action rifle that feels amazing to shoot. Luckily for me then that I found a body of a rifle pretty quick in the game and have been devoting myself to upgrading it, modifying the frame, changing the barrel and stock as well as adding a fancy scope that now makes it my go to for long-mid range combat.

A Skelton is more than enough – One thing I’ve always liked about the Fallout games is the world building itself. These a world that clearly has hours and hours of time and effort poured into every location and building. Many of the games building have tiny vignette stories that show you just a glimpse of what was life before bombs dropped. These tiny moments that you can only read on black and green screens and infer from the charred husks of the dead are among some of the games more powerful moments. These silent stories allow you the player to glean only the smallest details of the dead, forcing you to eulogise on their behalf for a few moments when all is quiet.

For instance, this Diner I stumbled across while trying to escape a firefight had me take a moment to try and understand what happened there.

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I’ll probably write about this subject at length in a few weeks time, but when you’re playing for yourself look around at a few of these scenes and see what you make of them.

So that’s another roundup of my thoughts on Fallout 4, now excuse me while I go polish my rifle again……