Lo Wang Returns to Fight Demons in the new Shadow Warrior

Title: Shadow Warrior73af76807e737e8f3ffa2817c36f6d25
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Distributor: Devolver Studios
Platforms: XBOX One, PS4

The following review is based on the
XBOX One Version of Shadow Warrior, HD.

More Entertaining Than:
Painkiller Hell and Damnation

Less Entertaining Than:
Serious Sam Gold Edition

Pros:
-Beautiful graphics
-Serene soundtrack
-Deliciously bloodthirsty
-Occasional humor

Cons:
-Concept seems outdated
-Repetitive game-play
-Long-winded
-Lackluster storyline

Verdict: 6.5 (out of 10)

When it comes to the argument that games these days need to be longer, I am often at the forefront. In the case of Shadow Warrior however, ironically, I am of the opposite opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Shadow Warrior is great when it works, but, so much of it doesn’t. The opening of the game is borderline fantastic. The humor is immediate, as is the volume of blood, and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing as my katana turned vicious soldiers into hapless pieces of meat.

Not long into the opening, lead protagonist Lo Wang is introduced to Hoji, a spirit banished from the Shadow Realm, who joins the player on their quest to find the mystical sword, that will inevitably bring an end to the horrific demon invasion, that Wang unwittingly helps start.

This premise is well conceived; it is what comes after that unfortunately falters. For one, the game is attempting to balance seriousness with humor. The back-story involving the Shadow Realms and Hoji’s exile is incredibly deep and meaningful, however it does not have the attention it deserves in order to spur any prominent reaction from the player. The tranquilly serene soundtrack which plays when you are not drowning in the blood of your enemies is very nice on the ears, and conveys the depth the developers obviously wanted for the title. This soundtrack though lasts about as long as a bar of chocolate does around me, and before long, the general rock anthems which too often occur in shooters, is blasting out of your television.

Instead, the developers tend to focus more on Wang’s and Hoji’s punchlines, which blur the line between ridiculousness and hilarity. The humorous fortune cookies which can be found, alongside the bunnies which are often discovered fornicating somewhere on the battlefield, only furthers the idea that this is not a game the player ought to take too seriously. This seems to contradict the locations which Wang traverses though, each of which have been made void of life after everyone has been slaughtered by demons. Rather than acknowledging the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have been murdered, he strolls over their mutilated corpses as though they aren’t even there at all. On top of this, the human opponents you encounter seem to be as equally unaffected as Wang, regarding the unquantifiable level of death that surrounds them. Strangely enough, the developers found enough time to push their own wheelbarrow, with games like Serious Sam 3 and Hard Reset been frequently advertised, to the point that I occasionally had to remind myself what game I was even playing.

What is most annoying though, is the repetition. After the beginning, almost every level is a carbon copy of the prior. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a locked door. You find a key to open said door. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a door locked by a sigil. You kill a bunch of monsters. You destroy a statue which breaks the sigil. Then, you repeat. Hold the phone though; sometimes, you need to destroy more than one statue, or hit a switch, in order to open a door.

But it’s not just the game-play which is repetitive; it’s the environmental setting. There’s a moment when you are fighting in a ship yard, and perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t gone on for five levels, many of which begin to look exactly the same after a while.

Now, although the visuals are gorgeous, and cannot be faulted, the length of time it took to navigate an area, like the ship yard, does nothing to effectively show the attention that has been provided to the graphics. A dull atmosphere like this one takes away from several of the other locations you visit, which brilliantly take advantage of the new system’s abilities. Furthering this argument, in games like Halo 4, there is one primary mission per level, which continuously keeps your attention. In Shadow Warrior, you may have one primary mission for several levels, and after a while, you begin to wonder if you are ever going to accomplish your mission objective at all.

The addendum that in many levels the player is forced to go backwards and forwards to complete objectives only intensifies this nuisance. There’s one level later on when you must retrace over your own footsteps three times in a row, and what would have made this laborious task slightly less agitating, is a compass. No aid however is provided to finding objectives, and on more than one occasion I found myself waltzing around an area trying to find the exit. Additionally, the sub-missions, including turn the valve, or find the key, are about as interesting as they sound, and the fact you need to repeat them several times over during the campaign takes deja vu to an all new level.

The continuous onslaught of demons and sigils moreover, eventually feels less like entertainment, and more like speed bumps, which deliberately cause traffic congestion. In a game spanning 17 chapters, it is unnecessary to hold the player up in a vain attempt to make the game last for longer than it probably should. Although I have no qualms with defeating a barrage of enemies, the fact the demonic legions only come in so few flavors does nothing to enthrall. After killing the 100th enemy in a level, which looked remarkably similar to the previous 99, even I begin to lose the urge for battle. The massive, yet infrequent boss encounters tend to shake things up, and the challenge of fighting an enemy the size of a tall building is the breath of fresh air the game is hopelessly lacking.

Furthermore, the fact that the player is unable to govern many of the choices that Wang makes over the course of the campaign seems rather restrictive. There are numerous moments when Wang makes what can only be described as a rather douche-bag move, and instead of having the opportunity to choose an alternate path, you either act like a douche-bag, or, you act like a douche-bag.

Fighting agaisnt the enemy though is made somewhat more entertaining with the wealth of upgrades Wang can apply to both himself, and his weaponry. While cash is used for the armaments (and the player needs to suspend their disbelief, for I find it hard to believe that cash can literally be found every couple of meters on the street), chi is applied to Wang’s abilities, and Ki crystals are used to strengthen demonic powers. Although Chi can be found, a great amount of its energy is siphoned from the demons that you kill, and much like in Uber Soldier, the more violent you are, the better the rewards.

The opportunity to use demon hearts, and even their heads agaisnt opponents, proves advanetgous in battle. Additionally, been able to block incoming projectiles with a shield that surrounds the player, and having the ability to heal your wounds are fantastic bonus features agaisnt the unending waves of monsters. The key combinations however (for instance, to heal, you need to tap the movement key to the right twice, and press the left trigger) can occasionally be more of a hindrance. The abilities you earn are more mandatory than optional, and when you are battling a wealth of massive creatures, like warlords or crystal demons for instance, you are less concerned with the buttons you are pressing, and more on taking out the opposition. The addendum that the keys need to be pressed in just the right manner (not to quick, but not to heavy either) means there are numerous times when you don’t execute the ability you were after, resulting not only in failure, but occasionally in death as well.

Weapon upgrades on the other hand prove to be just as unreliable, but for a completely different reason. Although each weapon can have alternate firing solutions and damage boosters applied, and true, in the case of the rocket launcher and shotgun, these are quite apparent, more often than not, the katana seems to be the most reliable weapon. As an example, there was a moment when I fired a torpedo from a rocket launcher at the wings of a boss monster, only to have the round go right through it! This was not the only time this particular incident occurred either, which repeated during battles with other creatures as well. However, for those who grow bored of Wang’s default sword, they can wield either the classic katana from the original game, the hammer from Serious Sam BFE, or several other melee armaments available from the options menu.

With the Halo Master Chief collection on the horizon, alongside Doom 4 arriving sometime this century, it would seem that remakes are in vogue. What makes Shadow Warrior quite disappointing is, rather than rejuvenating the franchise, it seems so outdated. When the original Shadow Warrior arrived, mindlessly killing monsters, finding key cards, and traveling through one level after another with no real goal was common practice. Today however, where gamers (I presume) are interested in enjoying mature story-lines, portraying detailed, well imagined characters, alongside the opportunity to choose how their story ends, these lacking opportunities cause Shadow Warrior to fall short.  Though there is some enjoyment to be found in the game, much of it is buried beneath unnecessary occurrences, that cause what little plot there is, to become lost amidst mindless repetition and an over-excessive, unjustifiable quantity of violence.

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Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed Review

Developer: Acquire
Distributor: NIS
Platform: PS3, PS Vista
Release Date (Australia): 16th October, 2014

Pros:
-Lovable characters
-Witty, humorous dialogue
-Outstanding soundtrack
-Gorgeous cinematics
-Uniquely fun and original

Cons:
-Awkward camera movements
-Outdated in-game graphics
-Frequent loading screens
-Unfair combat scenarios
-Difficult fight mechanics

Verdict: 9.5 (out of 10)

For over ten years, I have been a fan of Anime films and television programs, but until now I have not attempted to become involved in an anime video game. Perhaps some may question why my first foray into anime gaming would be Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed, however, the originality of the product, not to mention its attractive atmosphere, gorgeous female warriors and hilariously witty and intelligent dialogue, is sure to captivate a vast quantity of people. Right from the opening, the game feels a lot like an Anime television series, with a beautiful introductory movie clip introducing each of the major characters, while an entertaining musical score and impressive vocal talent delightfully peaks your interest at what awaits you on your journey.

The graphics of the cinematics however do not last. Although cinematics play a large role in the game, which is an incredibly loquacious piece of fiction, they are an alternate variety than what you may have come to expect from other titles. The game itself fades out into the background as the characters are displayed in front of you. Only their eyes and mouth move, and their faces employ a wide array of emotion, conveying embarrassment, happiness, grief or anger, with their dialogue textually appearing beneath them. After these occurrences, the game returns to normal, the graphics experienced during the exploration and fight scenes being rather dull in contrast with games today, the eyes of the characters especially, when visible, appearing rather alien and lifeless. Despite the graininess of the image, it does retain a great depth of brightness and vibrant beauty, although the fact the game was originally released in Japan a year ago clearly illustrates that by today’s standards, it is unable to compete with the flare that games are displaying now on the new consoles.

When walking down the street, despite the comic style setting, you cannot deny the feeling of reality which coats the world around you as you explore and take in the sights. This however comes with its own limitation. Unlike in FarCry 2 and 3, where the entire world was explorable, and very rarely did you even see a loading screen, in Akiba’s Trip, you frequently bump into areas which require loading (you also bump into a lot of people too, but that’s a different story). The city is separated into districts, and each one requires a short period to load before you can gain access. This can be somewhat avoided with the use of fast travel, however, as with many titles, these areas need to be initially unlocked.

Set in the technologically profound, and entertainingly captivating location of Akihabara, Akiba’s Trip is one of those titles that falls into the love or hate category. It also requires the gamer not to ask many questions, for even suspending your disbelief over the course of the game will potentially leave you with a variety of queries. Providing a unique take on the vampire genre, Akiba’s Trip, rather than conceiving the normally unsettling atmosphere one might assume for a game in this genre, throws you into a world which is always bright and sunny.Referred to as ‘synthisters’, the man made vampires you encounter, rather than consuming blood, devour energy, and how they were made, and for what reason, alongside how they can be possibly stopped, are three of the major plot points which push the game forward. Moreover, rather than the stereotypical stakes and garlic one might expect to find attached to our company of ‘freedom fighters’, sunlight is the primary weapon of choice, and apparently, the best way to stop a vampire’s rampage, is to strip them down to either their panties, or their tighty whitey’s, and watch the exposure to the sun obliterate them.

When battling agaisnt an enemy, often they come equipped with head gear, a top, and bottoms, each piece of their attire having to take substantial damage, before it is capable of being ripped clean off. If several enemies have weakened attires, the player is able to chain strip, meaning, by following the key prompts, the character can automatically strip several pieces of clothing one after another, rendering the enemy less problematic. The way in which clothing is entertainingly removed can be altered by applying different combat skills to your person, which can be obtained from reading material. The best possible comparison I can think of is The Matrix, where knowledge on fighting is uploaded to the character’s minds. Additionally, you are, later in the campaign, able to activate special combat styles after attaining enough juice from battle, which deals extreme damage to enemies, and often reverberates onto others in the immediate vicinity. How a vampire can run around without a top and suffer no excruciating pain from the sunlight is beyond me though. How the bodies of the attackers are not damaged by the excessive blows they take, or how exactly the clothes can be removed in the fashion that they are, all very interesting questions that come equipped with no answers. Like I said; this is a game that you are meant to enjoy, rather than consistently analyze.

Fighting during the game is very basic, with each attack connected to a single key on your controller. To attack head gear, press the triangle; for the torso, use the circle, and for anything beneath the belt, use the ‘x’. However, what makes combat an unnecessary challenge, are the camera angels. Although you can personally pivot the camera anywhere you want, during combat this becomes a nuisance, when your primary focus is the deterioration of your enemy’s attire. On more than one occasion, the enemy fell out of the frame, and I was unable to see how much damage, if any, I was inflicting. On top of this, if you happen to begin moving out of a general area, say, into a side street, off the beaten track, the position of the camera will become similar to a bird’s eye view, something which cannot be manually altered unless you move out of the immediate area. Additionally, battle mechanics in general can appear rather difficult, and although the controls are easy to master, employing them appropriately is a different struggle altogether. On countless occasions, when attempting to confront one particular enemy, the character instead attacked another. It would have been an idea to have a way to aim your attacks at a specific target. Instead, over the course of the game, you inevitably, inadvertently, attack, on occasion, complete strangers. This happened a number of times to me whilst patrolling the streets, in which I accidentally happened to find himself in a fist fight with an officer of the law, rather than an enemy synthister, an act which subsequently led to my arrest.

Combat in general is already made quite challenging by the fact that rarely is there only one opponent you face down, with often, anywhere between four and eight plus assailants getting in your way. Although you usually enter a fight with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)) beside you, even the assistance they provide is unable to quell the steady advance of the opposition, who appear to, on many an occasion, be equipped with better equipment than you. Moreover, during combat, you are unable to alter what weapons or clothes you happen to have on your person, but you are able to repair your attire at the press of a button to replenish all that was lost to damage. However, this slow process always leaves you vulnerable. Although some could argue this is equal to a healthy challenge, there is a point when a challenging scenario becomes intolerably unfair, and appears to be a developer’s way of making a game last for a greater period of longevity than it would without the frequently overbearing battles.

Attempting to thwart the threat of the synthisters however occasionally seems to be not as pertinent as building relationships. During the game, you portray Nanashi, and rather than being the quintessential hero one may expect, he is rather, a geek, unfortunate enough to be transformed into a synthister. He, along with his friends, who form the Akiba Freedom Fighters, their base of operations held at the gaming venue MOGRA, take it upon themselves to try and save the city. Although the player’s name can be altered, and during conversation, when subtitles appear, the other characters refer to you as the name you provide yourself, the physicality, and features of Nanashi cannot be changed, which I found a little restrictive. If it is any conciliation however, your character is able to frequently alter their chosen attire.

Over the course of the game, there are a number of (gorgeous) female characters, including the mysterious Shizuku, the multi-talented Rin, the athletic Tohko, the well presented Shion, and the foreign Kati, either of whom your character is able to form a romantic attachment with, as long as you don’t stuff up. In Mass Effect, it was mandatory to have conversations with people you wished to romance, and a similar, albeit, more difficult concept is applied here. Rather than alerting you with what is possibly the best response when prompted to say one of three possible sentences, the game challenges you to realize which statement or answer would best attract the woman you are attempting to woo.

The dialogue options the game provides to you are not necessarily separated into good or bad, but often have varying degrees of sarcasm or sexual innuendo attached, and it is up to you to decide how you want to be viewed. In Mass Effect, the most positive comment was always located at the top, while the most bad ass were at the bottom. Such a technique is not applied here, with options always been randomized in their location. Occasionally you can appear humble, violent, or even laid back, but again, many a response comes equipped with its own pros and cons. Luckily, the game does assist you in tallying how well your rapport is with each available woman. By communicating with Yuto, a young man who considers himself an expert on the female psyche, he notifies you where each woman stands, and appears only too happy to admit when they feel nothing at all – sick bastard!

At times I felt constrained by the often lacking opportunity to speak, and I occasionally wished to be granted the option of retaliating agaisnt attacks directed towards my character. This was especially true with regards to the character Kaito, who not only had sarcastic quips to make about my efforts, but was trying to move in on my territory and steal my Shizuku! That dirty mongrel! I hiss inappropriately in his direction!

On the other hand, there was something undeniably poetic about much of the dialogue, for not only Nanashi and the other freedom fighters, but for the enemy as well, with a beauty that swept you up in the motivations and passions of the characters. At times, even the player could not help but relate, and understand the reasoning behind antagonist’s decisions, which not only made them enjoyable as bad guys, but an interesting contrast to the heroes.

One of the best characters however had to be Nana, Nanashi’s ‘adorable little sister’ as she called herself, who, apart from having some of the best witty punch lines and responses, was also capable of advantageously crafting new material. Been able to splice together several garments to create a more durable outfit, or even merge a number of ‘weapons’ to make them more efficient in combat. The fact there was no limit to how many items could be merged into one, ensured these upgrades could immeasurably assist in making your character’s offensive abilities more powerful, and their resilience to attacks exceptionally impressive. On a side note, notice the quotations around weapons? Well, the equipment you offensively use to smite your enemies in Akiba’s Trip are not the stereotypical variety one may be used to seeing. Although there is a collection of boxing gloves, balls, bats, swords, sticks and umbrellas to choose from, there are also brooms, guitars, posters, monitors and laptops, with basic home made appliances and everyday utensils been customized for combat. Depending on the size and shape of the weaponry will also weigh heavily on how your maneuverability is affected in combat.

Unlike in other games, upon finding a new dress or weapon, you can instantly fix it to your person without having to worry about the level you are on. Taking part in the main quest is only able to progress you so far, and it is during the side quests and the battle arena, that the player is able to acquire better equipment. Side jobs, including hunting down synthisters, communing with everyday citizens, and helping people with basic dilemmas, not only provides you with money, and a degree of popularity amongst the locals, but almost always results in some kind of fight that allows you an opportunity to find equipment. The same goes for the battle arena, and as you progress forward, you are able to fight stronger opposition. If finding items becomes a little strenuous, you can simply buy something from one of the many stores, however the prices do seem a little exorbitant, although as I live in a country where we use ‘dollars’, I’m unsure how much the ‘yen’ is actually worth in contrast.

Annoyingly enough though, side quests come equipped with a time limit, and you are only made aware of this by checking on social media. During game, you are provided with an e-mail account, which people use to contact you, and a Pitter profile, that allows you to keep up to date with public opinion. The level of detail which has been applied to the social media spectrum of the game is amazing, with there been a huge abundance of Plips, each one feeling as though it could have easily been written by a real world individual. On top of this, Akiba’s Trip makes use of apps, with one such nifty gadget you are provided having the capacity to tell who is a synthister. By taking a picture with your camera, you are able to tell the fake people from the real, and attack the enemy on site, wherever they may hide.

Moving on, the game’s ending happens to arrive very fast, so much so, it is almost unexpected. One second you are attempting to decipher how you might thwart the enemy, and the next, you are in the midst of the final boss encounter, striving to secure a resolution. In a game running for ten plus hours, the conclusion seems to settle out of nowhere after experiencing a storyline which seemed to indicate it would build to something considerably longer. This however is not a criticism, the ending maintaining the same consistent feel as the rest of the product, and unlike many American games, does not leave you up in the air, but ends conclusively, although I might recommend you invest in a box of tissues. Once the game has been finished, a wealth of benefits are unlocked, which resolve a number of the quandaries that some gamers (myself included) may have had with the original play through. If anything though, it is sad to say goodbye to the characters, who were excellently and wholeheartedly conceived. But like any good friend, the characters never truly leave, and at the insert of a disc, they will gratefully return.

Akiba’s Trip is a uniquely fun experience, and although some could refer to it as a perverted storyline, the unyielding humor consistently reminds you not to take yourself too seriously when embarking on this adventure. Moreover, despite been occasionally predictable, and although revisiting the same locations, and fighting in similar areas can become repetitive, the wealth of options at your disposal regarding what weapon you could use makes almost every encounter different. Additionally, the option of choosing which NPC to accompany you (something which is occasionally provided) allows you to not only experiment with who is the most physically adept team member, but grants you the opportunity to potentially get even closer to the Goddess you are trying to ensnare. If you are looking for a fun, comedic adventure, with little emphasis on explanation and contemporary issues, and a strong emphasis on romance and butt kicking, look no further than Akiba’s Trip, which is sure to quench your appetite for all things crazy and unreal.

The Evil Within is Aptly Named – for it Awoke the Evil Within Me

Title: The Evil Withinthe-evil-within-logo
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Distributor: Bethesda

Pros:
-Devilishly bloodthirsty
-Simplistic controls
-Upgrade system
-Exploration yields fruitful rewards

Cons:
-Vague storyline and plot
-Bland graphics
-Excruciatingly limited resources
-Occasionally unresponsive and slow
control system
-Camera can prove frustrating

Verdict: 5.5 (out of 10)

This year’s Destiny had a lot of hype, but after completion of the short campaign, what remained was a series of frequently repetitive occurrences that made about as much sense as an ashtray on a motorbike. The Evil Within is not necessarily in the same boat, but it certainly originates from the same dock. After watching several astounding trailers, and reading the verdicts of professional gaming companies online (Ausgamers gave the Evil Within a 10), I was expecting something considerably more entertaining. Australia’s newspaper The Age noted how The Evil Within was ‘a grand rebirth for survival horror’, and had this been 1998, or 2002, I probably wouldn’t bother voicing an argument. Today however, I would presume gamers want a little more from their games than relentless chase scenes and inexplicable gore, with an almost non-existent plot. For me, on the most part, I found the Evil Within annoying, for reasons I will explore in this post, the scariest part about the game quite possibly being its price.

Perhaps I might have found more enjoyment if the protagonist was someone a little different than Sebastian Castellanos. Although I won’t deny, I’m sure he’d make a great detective, but the lead in a horror game? He is out of his league in this alternate universe. Although he proves himself courageous in a fight, his delicate body is quite the contradiction to his character, and the fact that he, at the beginning, cannot run more than a couple dozen feet without becoming crippled with exhaustion, is frustrating. He doesn’t just stop running though – usually he has to bend over, panting like someone who just ran a  marathon, all the while, whatever thing you were running from, draws ever closer, and when battling boss monsters, who can kill you with a single hit, the distance between you and the bad guys, is precious.

Moving on, throughout the game, a majority of the levels are an incoherent mass of hysteria, and reminded me a fair bit of Painkiller, in that one level does not exactly continue on from the other, and you rather find yourself going from one random location to the next, and this similarly occurs during levels as well. Often in games, locations are meant to yield information on the plot itself, but such is forfeited by this peculiar technique. Again, like Painkiller, the environments are rather drab, with a mixture of browns, blacks, grays and (of course) reds, making up a quantity of the environment, and although everything is well constructed, the lack of any lively color makes the game look and feel like a graveyard, which does nothing to exploit the power of the new systems (I myself played this title on the XBOX One).

While exploring these strange environments however, you are able to find news clippings, audio and doctoral files from other individuals, and a back-story regarding Sebastian, and from chapter five onwards, you begin to piece together the kind of life that Sebastian has experienced. It is sub-plots like these that make you want to continue, in order to alleviate your quest for answers, however the slow pace the answers are provided means there is a lot of trekking through strange territory, that on more than one occasion seems to have no real pertinence to the shadowy storyline.

The most hectic part about the game though, is the lack of resources. This is where upgrading becomes most paramount. At the beginning of the game, the amount of reserve ammo or health-packs your character can carry is pitifully low, and you are forced to choose between making your character’s life line stronger, or upgrading the number of resources you can hold. Upgrading is done by acquiring glop from around not only the environment, but from the bodies of deceased enemies, who (rarely) drop something you can use. During each level, you may hear the sweet melody of music serenading your eardrums, which means that by walking through a mirror, you are able to enter a safe haven, which seems to exist between not only the game’s worlds, but time itself. Here, you can save the game, find information on certain back stories, restock on supplies (during the Evil Within you may find small statues which internally contain keys, that then unlock cabinets containing goods), or upgrade your character by shocking yourself in an electric chair (yes, you read that right).

Continuing on with regards to the lackluster resources, I have no problem with a challenge, as long as I receive a reward afterwards that will incentivize me to persist with the unending struggle. The reward that is received however is hardly agreeable compensation – often, a collection of new antagonistic monsters appear, sometimes even in areas previously cleansed of enemy combatants. As previously noted, enemies drop very little in the way of loot once deceased, and been forced to waste valuable resources dispatching these new creatures is a frustrating hindrance. What is most annoying though, is that you receive, early on in fact, an arsenal of powerful weapons, but you can hardly ever use them, and rather, your character seems to spend more time running from the enemy in a vain attempt to avoid as many encounters as possible, rather than using the weapons for the reason they were made. The frequency of these chase sequences reminded me somewhat of Prince of Persia, Warrior Within, in which a great portion of the game is spent running away from the monstrous Dahaka.

The addendum that enemies don’t normally stay dead unless set alight is another conundrum faced, and since matches are even more scarce than ammo, you are forced to choose who you purge with fire delicately, as you never know what lies around the next corner. That is even if Sebastian lights the enemy up at all. On several moments, the game refused to let me set an enemy alight unless I stood in a certain position, and by that time, the target had already begun to drag its gory remains to its feet, forcing me to repeat the entire process all over again. If you happen to die moreover, upon returning to the game (there is a checkpoint system, alongside the opportunity to manually save your progress), resources will either be different, or not available at all. There was one moment when I uncovered several bullets from inside a container, but when I returned after having died, it was completely vacant.

On this note, a number of the resources are hidden in boxes, containers and cabinets, and you are forced to demolish these, making unnecessary noise that alerts nearby foes. Occasionally, you are also required to work with an NPC (non-playable character (for the uninitiated)), and their clumsiness in knocking over items is aggravatingly brutal. They might as well put up a neon sign. On the subject of lighting, Joseph is allowed to carry a lantern with an unending shelf-life, however the light is just as much a monster magnet as the unfortunate onset of sound, which can be triggered by bumping into a table, or stepping on some glass, which adds a good deal of realism to the game. Sounds can however, when properly employed, be used as devices of distraction, which can allow you the opportunity to sneak up on unsuspecting foes, and stealthily kill them without the use of ammo. Going into a fist fight with an enemy is seldom a recommendation judging by the amount of damage a single combatant can inflict, but stealth kills offer a solution to this quandary. Stealth kills are not impossible, but the chance that the enemy will turn and see you is very likely, so careful precision is always a requirement. Of course, the fact that the crouch button needs to be held down, alongside the addendum that Sebastian cannot use firearms while crouched, makes this all the more complex. Additionally, with regards to stealth, Sebastian can, rather than kicking a door open, slowly push it forward, the eerie squeak of the door being questionably loud. The point I’m making by including this assessment is with regards to the camera angle during this stealth tactic. As Sebastian opens the door, for several seconds, you have no control over the camera’s location, and instead of seeing what threat exists in the following area, you have to wait until Sebastian is in the room to regain control, putting the character at unnecessary risk.

Returning to the subject of checkpoints, occasionally, they fail to reboot the player where the checkpoint was received. There was one moment in particular, where I received a checkpoint behind a condemned building, but after having died, I rematerialized atop a flight of stairs, in plain sight of an enemy, who then proceeded to hurry after me. With regards to the enemy in general, although they are capable of detecting the player by sight and sound, they don’t appear largely intelligent. On one occasion, I was chased into a room by a cluster of creatures, who then proceeded to run amok, bumping into one another in a frenetic attempt to acquire me. Not only was I able to escape without taking any damage (which was a rare occurrence, I must say), but witnessing the creatures blindly bumping into one another like a gaggle of brainless bots was certainly something to behold.

In general, most enemies appear much the same; humans who have endured a wealth of torture, with bits and pieces hanging off their bodies. Although the graphics render their mutilated forms in vivid detail, which you cannot help but admire (when you are hidden, at least), most enemies are simply reminiscent of zombies, and after having seen one, you have, on the most part, seen them all. Although on occasion you find creatures that are very different, and the boss encounters are certainly reminiscent of this, such is rarely commonplace, rendering the excitement of been pursued by yet another zombie-like creature moot after it occurs for the sixteenth time that hour. Despite a lot of creatures requiring little more than a wealth of firepower in order to have their existence brought to a close, sometimes creatures require a degree of strategy. Not long into the game you encounter a certain enemy that has the habit of becoming invisible, and so you are required to watch the environment; if a puddle of blood is disturbed, or an item is inexplicably knocked over, the chance the creature is near is very high.

Besides enemies, there are also traps that players need to be on the look out for.  One is unable to stroll confidently into a room, else the chance they will be turned into a pile of bloody innards from an unexpected device is quite likely, and these become all the more frustrating when you are been pursued. Bombs, bear traps, electric wires, retractable spikes, among other contraptions, await you in every single level, and unless you have your wits about you, a lot of cheap deaths await the novice traveler. Alongside traps though, there are also puzzles, the act of solving them moreover proving to be quite fun. Occasionally dire ramifications await those who, for instance, happen to incorrectly put things in the required order. Puzzles can involve applying knowledge found in a picture or diagram into a real world scenario (like looking at the picture of a body, and then cutting open the mutilated flesh of some poor sap in the location specified by the drawing).

Occasions like these, not to mention the inexplicable wealth of blood, appears to be the frightening scenarios players were promised upon purchasing this title. Unlike in Alien Isolation, where the terror is in your face, watching Sebastian being torn to shreds by creatures is hardly anything to become squeamish over, and for the most part, I found myself chuckling at the sight of limitless violence. When other ‘frightening’ scenarios are produced, they are normally cliched and predictable, and it is nothing you wouldn’t have seen before. In conclusion, as the title of this post suggests, the only ‘evil’ I found was my own, after becoming rather angry with myself for having bought this particular product. Although I won’t deny, there are some impressive moments, these are so fleeting and minor, that between the lacking resources, pathetically weak protagonist, and bland locations, they are unable to satisfactorily save the Evil Within from itself.

An Unforgotten Heroine Fights to Reclaim Her Memories in REMEMBER ME

Title: Remember Meremember_me_capcom_game_-_cover_art1
Developer:
DONTNOD
Distributor:
CAPCOM
Platforms:
PC/PS3/XBOX360

Pros:
-Beautifully detailed environments
and graphics
-Uniquely interesting, psychologically
powerful and captivating storyline
-Personally customisable upgrades
-Fight scenes are fun
-Entertaining puzzles
-Nice, digitally inspired musical score

Cons:
-Camera angels can occasionally
be irritable
-Controls take a while to learn
-Limited availability to exploration
-Vast quantity of hints take away
from one’s general enjoyment

Rating (out of 10): 8.5

Summary: A character oriented, powerfully gripping sci-fi oriented title with a terrific, lead female protagonist who pushes the narrative forward until the very end.

This particular review is based upon my experience with the XBOX360 version.

‘My name is Nilin, and this time, you will remember me.’

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Female protagonists; in movies they are a dime a dozen. It isn’t everyday a warrior woman comes blasting through the doors, but in games, every so often a woman of unfathomable grace comes exploding through the screen with unparalleled charisma, potential and power. Remember Me’s ‘Nilin’ is certainly soon to join the ranks of these prior heroines. Unlike the stereotypical dragon slayer, Nilin exhibits emotions. She does not like the idea of innocents being caught between her and her target; she feels empathy towards others, and she is concerned whether her actions are helping those around her or if she is simply another antagonist. This alone makes her an incredibly well rounded character that you immediately begin to enjoy playing as. Of course, the fact she can take on a large group of fighters all at once and get out reasonably uninjured and is additionally a gorgeous minx with the body of an hour glass does not hurt her alluring appeal either.

I apologise if I come off sounding like a sex crazed loon – that is not my intent. So often in games, female characters are objectified as sex symbols. Take Angie from Psychotoxic for instance – she spends the game running around flaunting her thong. This decision by the developers takes away from the experience when portraying a certain character. In the games industry, often female characters are visualised as being unable to acquire the same large audiences as games where males play the lead role. Epic Games for instance back in March admitted that they would never have the leading protagonist in any Gears of War game be a heroine. Adjunctively, according to online sources, it has been speculated that Dontnod Entertainment had some difficulty attempting to acquire a distributor for Remember Me as it was doubted that the game could acquire such a mass audience, with the review on Gamespot going so far as to say that Nilin was focused upon too much, which prevented the other characters from coming to life. Many of these characters are men, and in this particular title the men take the back seat whilst Nilin drives the narrative forward.

After each Episode (level), Nilin reminisces over what has happened thus far and thinks about the ramifications of her choices and the kind of person that she is. In most games the player shoots first and never contemplates the consequences of their decisions or the loss of their humanity from taking another life, which is a major difference about Nilin; she does. This vulnerability of hers is perfect at showing her humanity. True, she is a hero and there is the expectation that she is to be big and strong, but she also comes off as the kind of young women you could totally be BFF’s with. This assists with her becoming such a likable and very understandable character, for the player does not just see her physical appearance, but her emotional interior as well, and it is very enjoyable to watch such a real character coming to life before one’s eyes.

Nilin herself, although as previously mentioned is physically beautiful, her physicality is not what is focused upon. Many other games seem quite  misogynistic when developing women as pure sex objects, whereas Nilin is fully clothed. Sure, her cleavage is partially visible, but unlike in many games where a woman’s breasts stick out from her chest like two cannons on a pirate’s ship, in Remember Me, the lead female protagonist is not exactly flat chested, but her lady parts are not the focus of what draws the gamer to admire her so – it is her character as a woman; her emotion; her charisma; her attitude. The actress who voices Nilin, Kezia Burrows, does a fabulous job at bringing the character to life, but her mannerisms also assist with this. When she is splashed with water, Nilin sighs and grunts, throwing the water off her body and wiping it from her face. She shields her eyes from fire and she looks behind her when running from enemies as to know exactly where they are. She gasps and sighs in all the right places and when she is anxious she reassures herself ; ‘okay, get up Nilin! You can do this!’ These small aspects make her so much more human, and although I will admit that games are simply designed to entertain, sometimes sheer action is not enough to do just that. Sometimes a person can be as entertaining as an action scene, and Nilin herself is a real pleasure to watch and control throughout the entire experience.

Okay, first things first; Remember Me is powered by the Unreal Engine. I don’t know about others, but I on occasion cringe when this is revealed to me. Either, the graphics are going to be really good (Mass Effect, Bioshock) or they’re not (Gears of War (1), Singularity). Luckily, Remember Me is the former, rather than the latter. The cinematics often move from Nilin walking into a new environment to broadly showing the entire region in all of its futuristic appeal. Towering skyscrapers, large flying ships and intricate holographic advertisements are just some of the marvelously detailed creations the player will bear witness to, each of which is beautifully conceived, showing the impeccable vision that is Neo Paris 2084 in all of its glory.

Remember-Me-02

The characters too are well detailed, especially their clothes, which look amazing upon each of the individuals, whether they have a pivotal role to play or are simply civilians you happen to walk by. The robots too that live amongst the humans are additionally well designed to such an extent you can see the detail in each and every one of their parts, from their wires to the metal casing that surround their exterior.

Walking near businesses and other such buildings and like places will cause holographic screens to immediately appear around you, articulating what the place is and what is on offer. The developers have gone to a great extent to make the player feel as though they are a part of the world, and by God they have done an amazing job at making the world welcome the player with open arms into the future.

Of course, although I have described how beautiful the future of Paris is, it ain’t exactly a Utopia. SENSEN, a massive monopoly in the future is in the business of memories; buying, selling, changing; you name it. This here is the most lucrative venture in the future. Memories are knowledge which in itself is power, and SENSEN dominates it all. A person can for instance purchase a happy memory rather than living it, and happy memories can be stolen just as easily. A world where your thoughts; your feelings; everything you are is free to the highest bidder? Now that is something else entirely!

Errorists on the other hand are a small group of people fighting to keep their memories to themselves and to bring SENSEN to its knees. These people seek to remove the unjustly error of creating such a tyrannical business. Nilin herself is one of them; one of the best as well.

The game begins with her memories unfortunately being sucked right out from her skull. The sound of her screaming in excruciating agony as her brain is wiped of all knowledge is almost too much to bear as shudders no doubt run up and down your spine. The game itself is not violent in the sense that blood is sprayed across the walls; all of it is psychological. People plead for their lives as you go to rip into their minds; people scream as their brains implode from the inside. This game may not be in your face violent, but it certainly ain’t for the faint of heart either. Today we live in a world where our thoughts and memories are sacred, but the very idea that they are not and can be stolen is unbelievably frightening, and the developers cash in on this particular ideology.

The opening cinematic of Nilin losing her memories immediately causes the player to feel a great deal of sympathy towards her. Although initially we do not know this young lady, we will be playing as her and almost feel her pain as our own. She stumbles out of her cell, being led down the hall, told that her pain has only just begun and there is one final process to completely eradicate all of her thoughts that she is yet to experience. Nilin is forced into a queue and is then made to watch as people have their final thoughts sucked out, their screams ricocheting about the halls.

Safe to say not everything goes according to plan, with Edge, the brother of Nilin contacting her and efficaciously assisting her to break out. With little knowledge of her surrounds, the player and Nilin form a quick attachment, for neither of us know anything about the city, who we are, or what we are supposed to do, which further helps us adjust to her as not just a character, but as a human being. Nilin is initially scared and freaked out beyond belief, and although it is not typical to see the heroine losing it, this moment works unbelievably well.

Nilin however cannot be too freaked for long because soon enough she needs to get dirty. Although Nilin lost all knowledge of her fighting skills and her abilities, she is a fast learner and can adequately reacquire them. At the beginning of the game Nilin is unfathomably weak, and the combat scenes seem a bit of a drag – they take time to complete and the fact that the keys take a while to learn additionally doesn’t help matters. Nilin’s health is unfathomably low and if you are anything like me, you feel as though Nilin will be unsuccessful initially in the first few fights. In fact at one point a cinematic causes Nilin to lose most of her health and then forces her to go up against a good five combatants; not very fun!

Nilin as previously mentioned does reacquire her skills, which is only too good to be true! In the BACK menu, the player is able to enhance Nilin’s abilities. Her fighting skills come down to three separate flavors; damage, regenerate and recharge. Now, each attack does ‘damage’ per se, but the player is able to increase the overall efficiency of each attack. Regenerate on the other hand (Y in combat) will provide the player with a small boost to their health with each critical hit. Lastly, recharge provides an extra boost to Nilin’s abilities, enabling her to use them more often. A mandatory cooling down process is activated after each use, and by using the recharge ability, Nilin is able to quicken its pace.

During the game, the player is able to personally customise their abilities, to a certain degree of course, but they do have a little leeway denied in other games that strictly state ‘you must follow this particular upgrade tree.’ In Remember Me, the player can create their own. With each attack combo, the player is able to select what benefits Nilin will acquire. For instance, the player could create an attack that does ‘damage, regenerate, damage, recharge, recharge.’ There are a multitude of other options of course; this here is just an example.

These combos however are not quite as easy to perform, as one needs to remember which keys to press. One can always return to the skills screen to see what is needed to successfully pull off a particular combo. Nilin will still acquire the benefits of each key that is successfully hit in the appropriate order, however, as soon as the player hits the wrong one, a new combo immediately begins.

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When Nilin’s abilities are used however, which is where the ‘recharge’ comes into it, none of this really matters. The player can more often than not press any key at any time depending on the power they have selected (only one can be used at any given time) and these do an unfathomable amount of reliable damage. When going up against groups of opponents, well, let’s just say they never stood a chance! When this happens, it is incredibly fun to watch for the enemies are basically helpless to even halter the attacks that Nilin devastates them with.

Nilin can increase her attacks effectiveness and decimate her opponents. She can toss in a grenade that will destroy enemy defenses, or she can render enemies temporally incapable of standing up for themselves, allowing her to attack them whilst ensuring they cannot fight back.

During combat, Nilin can flawlessly dodge out of an enemy’s reach (A), with the game alerting the player to an enemy’s attack before it takes place, giving them fair time to efficaciously move Nilin from one location to the next before she sustains damage. On top of this, Nilin can jump over her opponents, allowing her to continue her assault, or even her combo, on her opponent’s back, front or wherever she damn well pleases. Or, hell, she can just as easily jump to some new prey and inflict pain and suffering upon them too.

If this is not enough, Nilin can perform a devastating finishing touch (B) on some particular opponents that have been defeated, but not yet decimated. These often involve destroying one’s mind, and the player cannot help but cringe and smile at the exact same time as they watch enemy’s minds being invaded as Nilin thrusts her fist through their heads.

The issue with combat has nothing to do with how it is orchestrated, but more along the lines of how easy the scenes eventually become. As soon as the player becomes accustomed to the controls and Nilin begins to reacquire much of her old capabilities, she can smite her enemy with ease. Even when going up against a number of enemies at once, the chance of Nilin falling becomes less and less likely, which renders the originally challenging atmosphere moot.

However, even with this said, sometimes the game does go to the extreme, and the player finds themselves up against a large mass of bad guys. True, these scenes are not always terribly challenging, but on a few occasions you cannot help but stare in awe at the sheer amount of enemies the game has just thrown at you, and it’s even more ludicrous that the game expects you to survive. Of course, Nilin has to, but in reality, it is doubtful even a well trained militarian strike team would come out without a scratch.

Boss battles too are not genuinely terrible to face down, although all of them do originally appear incredibly powerful, each of which always presenting something new, not two battles being alike in nature. These battles often are a little time consuming as you attempt to discover the appropriate methodology needed to eradicate the threat, each boss being a fun challenge to decimate. Some bosses are best eliminated by being in close proximity to them as to keep from allowing such combatants the use their long range attacks, whilst others are the exact opposite, and it is best to keep as far away from them as possible until Nilin has the advantage of striking a vicious blow.

One part of the battles that is entertaining is that not every opponent can be efficaciously eliminated in the same manner as the last. Robots for instance can only be eliminated by blowing them into smithereens. On other occasions, some opponents carry shields that must initially be broken before the enemy themselves can be attacked, and other opponents are immune to all attacks until their defenses have been temporarily taken offline. Simply put, the player is forced to adjust to every fight differently, which keeps the fighting fresh and invigorating which ensures it does not become stale.

As entertaining as these fight scenes can be, and I am not denying that they often are very fun to fight through, the game often works best when it is not a pure fighting experience. There are a few occasions when it is just fight scene after fight scene after fight scene, and on a couple of those occasions I personally felt like saying ‘okay, enough is enough!’ More often than not I acquired more enjoyment when Nilin was evading security, climbing through areas or taking out a couple bad guys every so often, not when she was forced to go up against entire armies time after time.

However, moving back to the topic of complete and utter destruction, every opponent killed delivers points that unlock additional upgrades to help with combat performance. Additionally, there are bits and pieces of upgrades available across the world for one to acquire. Collecting five health upgrade devices will permanently provide Nilin with another health bar, which is damn well necessary in preserving her existence. Power upgrades can increase the longevity of her abilities (again, five are required) and memory fragments too are placed about the environment which allow her to recover her memories about the futuristic world we inhabit.

For these to be acquired, the player needs to explore, and a problem can be encountered here. Although environments are large and beautiful, they are also restrictive. As soon as a player goes in the direction of their objective (more often than not unintentionally because the game doesn’t exactly say which way is which) a cut scene will often begin to play, after which Nilin will not be allowed to venture back because often she is sealed into the next area. On top of this, the game often checkpoints when this occurs, preventing the player from reverting to their previous automated save to ensure some further exploration can be achieved. Basically, if you miss an item; you miss it permanently, which is just frustrating.

If the game can be relied upon for one thing, it is checkpointing, which seems to happen quite frequently. On top of this, after every major battle, often Nilin can find a health kit around the corner which will replenish all of her lost vitality. If this is not enough, the game also babies the player a little more often than it probably should. Whenever something is unlocked, the game provides helpful hint after helpful hint, explaining every little thing in great detail. Although this proves to be of assistance, since every rookie Remember Me player is initially a layman on first play through, the wealth of information can sometimes make one feel a little as though the game is belittling your general intellect; if something is explained, it doesn’t need to be reiterated with alternate words or phrases. This is not only a little insulting, but also takes time away from kicking ass and taking names, and after acquiring a new upgrade the first thing you want to do is test it on the first poor sap you can lay your fingers on, not be told all about it over and over and over.

Although as previously mentioned, the game is initially very beautiful, the first level (not including Episode Zero) is set in decadent slums, which although look finely crafted, do not reflect the gorgeous visuals which can be procured later. The fighting is not nearly as fun as it is later when going up against SENSEN Security, for it feels wickedly sick to outsmart a large cluster of well trained soldiers. For the first hour, although the visuals are stunning and the storyline is captivating, the gloomy atmosphere and surrounds, along with the enemies you encounter is blatantly dark and grim. The game in fact seems to lag at the start, but by the second episode you are finally introduced to a far wealthier area and the game does what it does best; entertain your socks off! If only the first hour could have been just as effective, then I might have been hooked right from the start, but instead, the player is forced to wade through a wee bit of the game before discovering how much of a gem Remember Me truly is.

Although one will no doubt spend a bit of time admiring their environment, visuals themselves play a large role in the game. While moving about the world, image files can be uploaded to certain locations that show where an item can be found. If the player wishes to later find said item, they need to study the environment the photo showcases. Visuals again have a large role to play when shifting through a player’s mind and altering their memory. When this occurs, the player is able to rewind a character’s memory back, and as it begins to play once more, they have the opportunity to alter certain aspects of the world the memory occurred in; they can move items, exchange objects, turn things on or off; there are a vast quantity of actions that can be taken. Visual cues are provided to help show when the player is able to take action, however these are fast and can be easily missed, hence the mandatory need for the player to pay particular attention to their surrounds. Of course, dire ramifications can occur if the player inadvertently changes something in the memory they shouldn’t (there is always a set mission directive when altering a person’s memory, and it is not always as simple as changing every single thing). On occasion the player will need to repeat the process several times to acquire the desired effect, the game being alarming kind to the player and allowing them the opportunity to continuously repeat the process until they have succeeded without the need to return to a checkpoint, et al. These particular puzzles are genuinely fun to solve, and the challenge they bring adds another unique fixture to the game. Although such can prove a little annoying (due to the fiddly controls), they never lose their appeal, and if anything, the only really disappointing factor about these are the significant lack of them, being an incredibly rare puzzle to find in the game.

Breaking into a person’s mind and kicking ass and taking names are not the only occurrences which transpire throughout the campaign, with Nilin adjunctively climbing through numerous sections. Climbing is very similar to other games (Enslaved: Odyssey of the West, Fuse, etc) and is often hardened with certain difficulties that Nilin must on occasion cross. These obstacles can include navigating around hazards, or even timed sequences when she must hurriedly move across a piece of the environment else she becomes knocked off. Climbing however is not without its hindrances, for it is in these moments that the camera decides to take over, the player no longer having any control where it decides to settle itself. On more than one occasion the camera decides to place itself in the most inconvenient location; either being extremely far away or at an odd angle. Whenever this occurs, on occasion the player is forced to venture a guess in which direction they may be forced to navigate in if what they are forced to jump to cannot be acutely seen. This is not always the case mind you, but when it does happen, it is certainly limiting to one’s enjoyment and is thus not as flawlessly articulated as other games where climbing sequences are engineered to a higher standard.

But don’t let any of these potentially negative issues remove any of the positive ideologies I have previously discussed, or even cause you to immediately fathom that the game is not worth procuring. Although original in its nature, the main reason a player will perhaps participate in such a campaign will be due to the character of Nilin herself. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Nilin has had her memory stolen from her and is thus made to reacquire all that once made her who she is. To do this she is forced to help a number of characters, from her brother to other Errorists fighting to bring down SEMSEM. Due to this, over the course of the game Nilin wonders if she is really doing the right thing, and if she had her memories, would she actually be participating in such actions? Fearing that she may very well be working for an enemy organisation and is being manipulated; the constant fights she has with her own consciousness; and the journey she must undertake to discover the truth about who she really is, is an adventure in itself as amazing as the actual game.

In conclusion, despite a couple of issues, such do not take away from the player’s enjoyment, and Remember Me will ultimately prove to be a fun, futuristic experience quite unlike anything the player has discovered before.

Image References:

http://apa340.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/the-creepy-cull-of-female-protagonists/

http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/remember-me-review-caught-between-prescience-and-commerce/

http://www.gamingadvance.com/new-remember-me-gameplay-shows-off-innovative-combat-system/

http://www.justpushstart.com/2013/06/remember-me-review/

Insanity is catching in FarCry 3

FarCry returns on an island paradise corrupted by Hellish warlords and the scum of the Earth

FarCry should most definitely be a common gaming title on the ears and lips of players who are eagerly enthused with First Person Shooters.

The original game in the franchise (released in 2004 on PC, with the HD reboot unveiled in 2010) offered the player a new experience in the First Person video game genre, with gorgeous visuals and an island paradise setting that was ruled over by merciless mercenaries and shrouded in a horrific conspiracy that could forever change the world. Going up against tyrants, soldiers of fortune and monsters that were known only as ‘Tridents’, the player travelled through twenty levels of strategic combat scenarios, covertly annihilating enemies and encampments, whilst neutralising and demolishing enemy structures and key support services.

If there was one thing that FarCry did thoroughly well, it was to convince gamers that a tropical paradise was not all it was cracked up to be, and the next time I found myself in Bali, I looked around the tropical paradise, expecting mutants to jump out at me from one corner, and mercenaries from the other.

The sequel (released in 2009 on all consoles) went in a completely different direction. With Crytech, the original designers of the game shifting their gaze to focus on the promulgation of the ‘Crysis’ franchise, Ubisoft, the game’s producers, kept the rights to the game’s name and began to develop the sequel.

Set in Africa, the player was immersed in an action role playing game experience, where their actions would inevitably result in what conclusions came to fruition. A great number of changes went into the development process of the second installment in the FarCry franchise which inevitably separated it greatly from the original, with the action oriented RPG becoming best known as the game that S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl attempted to be.

FarCry 2 was met with both skepticism and appreciation. Some enjoyed the new scenarios, the unbelievably gorgeous visuals of the savannah and the overall evolution that the game had gone through. Others however preferred the original, and were somewhat irritable that the game had changed so drastically.

On that note, FarCry 3 offers the players the ability to once more return to an island paradise. Instead of providing a synopsis of the story, allow me to quickly begin the analytical process of dissecting the game’s qualities.

Before I do that though, here is one of the more recent videos for the game which outlines the overall storyline the gamer will be involved in experiencing. For those who are unfamiliar with the overall storyline, I urge you to watch this trailer. It only goes for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds and will efficaciously fill in the blanks. I would like to note that I am not the original author of the work at the following site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJpBeBllyxA&feature=fvst

The first major change to the gaming franchise is the character. Not the name or anything, but the heroic traits that he possesses. Upon the instigation of the game, the character that you portray has absolutely no survival skills; he is a virgin in regards to violence and murder; and is a novice in any and all strategic militarian battlefield supremacy techniques.

This is a significantly different scenario than what was produced in previous titles in the franchise, with the lead characters being polar opposites to the new hero. This adjunctively helps the player become further immersed in the world for they will instantly feel very comfortable, or uncomfortable as the case may be in the shoes of the game’s protagonist.

Our hero in FarCry 3, Jason Brody, is literally a tourist. Luckily however, he learns extremely fast, and so does not remain prey for very long. To upgrade your character to a suitable standing upon the island, you need to spend experience points in one of the three key areas; the Heron, which presides over abilities consistent with long range weaponry, aiming and the accuracy of any and all firearms; the Shark, which is fitting as an image of destruction for it presides over one’s ability to survive, giving rise to greater health bonuses, healing properties, potential damage immunities and brute strength, allowing you to become fit for a full combat experience. Lastly, there is the Spider, which presides over one’s stealthy capabilities, allowing you to move faster, go undetected, and covertly evade and neutralise threatening forces.

The point system does not however work the way it does in games the Likes of Mass Effect and Dead Space, where you must level one section of your character’s particular skills as to level up the next. In FarCry 3, much of the player’s skills are unlocked by completing missions and other quests, or by achieving certain tasks; for instance, one skill asked that five enemies be killed by grenades; another asked for ten opponents to be killed by machine gun emplacements; and another asked for a Bull Shark to be neutralised. On that note, the way to acquire higher levels is to play the game, rather than gain points from achieving certain goals.

However, acquiring points is not exactly easy, as the player only gains one every one thousand skill points, which are attributed to the player from kills (special kills such as head shots and covert strikes having greater rewards), the successful completion of missions (you can acquire more by not being detected, having no friendly casualties during the operation, etc) and by acquiring many of the secret artifacts located randomly about the island.

Finding said artifacts proves to be a valuable, rewarding and fun experience, providing to you free reign to do whatever you please and explore the wide open terrain. Other games the likes of FarCry 3 might have loading sequences as the game renders new areas and prepares for new segments, but this is not the case, the continuous freedom playing an incredible part in the player’s general ability to do whatever it is that he or she may choose.

Additionally, some items, the likes of plants, or more accurately, the leave of plants, prove to be some of the most efficacious and necessary parts of the game. All leaves can be mixed together to create powerful potions, the likes of health vials, the ability to absorb more punishment from certain attacks, the ability to domesticate certain animals for a certain time period, et al.

On the subject of health, your health bars will naturally regenerate – unless you have being poisoned or crippled by some other means. In that case, health packs and other like items are necessary to ensure one’s survival.

Moreover, the controls in FarCry 3 are different again than from previous installments in the franchise. Learning these controls will alone take a couple of hours to successfully master, and even then you are likely to every so often make a costly mistake. Not long into my play through, I accidentally clicked the grenade button whilst looking for the switch weapons reticule, and thus alerted every enemy in the base I was assaulting to my presence. Switching weapons is also a bit of a hindrance, for many games that include a weapon wheel will often pause the game whilst you select the next weapon – not FarCry 3. Whilst switching weapons the world around you will continue to move, and if you are under attack , the enemy will proceed in their attempts to eliminate you.

This leads to the next aspect of the game – the difficulty. The game in general is not terribly challenging per se, but the health of your player is incredibly weak and is depleted at an alarmingly rapid rate. Jason is not up for much punishment, and even after you upgrade your health and overall strength, a good couple rounds from any weapon will remove a cube of health, and when you are being shot at by an assault rifle, you can easily imagine how quickly your life line can be reduced from maximum capacity to absolutely none. A single swipe or bite from a predator will often remove a single cube, and when under attacks from herds of animals, or a larger beast the likes of a tiger, the chance of survival is limited exponentially.

As mentioned previously, you can easily restore your health with kits which you develop on your own or find scattered across the island, however, these will prove useless whilst engaged in a firefight. You cannot actively heal whilst you are running for your life, and when you pause to heal you allow your enemy not only the opportunity to reach your position, but allow them to take pot shots at the bulls eye you inadvertently place upon your back. On top of this, if you continually receive punishment from your opponents whilst you are healing, the hit points you lose will be immediately taken away, so by the time you have healed, you may only gain a fraction of what you were supposed to receive.

However, moving back to assigning points and the overall strength of the protagonist, not everything is quite as enjoyable. At its heart, the game is more of an RPG experience than that of the second game. What that means, is that you will be continuously picking up random pieces of grot, looting the bodies of your enemies and their places of residence and completing random missions for the occupants of the island. This would not be such an intolerable hindrance at times if not for its annoyingly realistic scenarios.

The loot sack your character has at all times needs to be expanded over time else you will continuously be alerted that you have officially run out of room for the forty seventh time in the past half an hour. This can be done by skinning animals that you find across the island – you read that right. As mentioned in the last paragraph, the game is incredibly realistic when in contrast with its predecessors, but one may have to wonder if it has gone too far. True, the realism in games is often what the general public wants, but suspension of disbelief plays a powerful role in fictional pieces of media and players are well accustomed to occurrences transpiring which would be unbelievably impossible in reality – take the ability to carry objects. In games the likes of Gothic, the player is capable of carrying as much as they choose without becoming over encumbered. Basically, the billions of items the player carries weighs nothing more than a feather upon their shoulders, when in reality it would consist of a nice 3,999,999,999,999 kilograms.

Adjunctively, the character’s wallet is in need of expansion if you wish to carry more money, and your ability to carry arms is also in need of an upgrade, with the character initially only being capable of carrying one weapon, which can thus be boosted to accommodate an additional two upon the body of the protagonist.

So, with that in mind, the player will constantly be seeking out wild animals to assist in their ability to carry that which they require to successfully survive the island, which inevitably results in quite a bit of bloodshed and a fair bit of repetition. Safe to say that animal activists will not be impressed with what Ubisoft have done here.

True, it is not every day you can fight a Komodo Dragon or go head to head with a Bull Shark, but if you skin one animal you have basically skinned them all. Of course, any and all skins are applied to your inventory, so that which you require to build your inventory is also one of the major factors which reduces its size – ironic. It is natural to assume that an animal skin could take up one block in one’s inventory, but the idea that a leaf could do so is simply absurd. That’s right – one leaf shrinks your inventory by one, and since you will no doubt be cutting down a lot of them, expect half your inventory to almost always be filled with random leaves.

In regards to the island moreover, the environment is incredibly detailed, and to say that the graphics are gorgeous would be one of the greatest understatements ever conceived. The faces of characters are brilliantly exposed with a detail that will leave you mesmerised as your converse and dispatch your opponents, and the island in general is graphically flawless, the vibrant colour of the scenery and atmosphere drawing you in with beautiful, unflinching effects.

Errr, do you wish to go out for coffee later?

Like with the last game, the island will move from morning, noon and into the night, none of which lasts a particularly long period of time, but will ultimately affect your experience all the same as battling at night time is very different than what it is during the day.

Of course, just a note – do not be shocked by the sheer size of the island. The map you are provided generally makes the number of islands that the player is stranded upon appear to dwarf even the United States, which might suggest the longevity of time you will be stranded there. The main mission is made up of enough jobs that will probably keep you playing for around 10 – 12 hours, but the additional side quests and the continuous freedom will keep you engaged for quite a bit longer, the general length of the game being determined by the general style of game play the player chooses to exhibit.

The environment has being upgraded from previous experiences furthermore and can benefit you at times rather than prohibiting you from successfully navigating an area. When falling down a cliff, your character will immediacy begin to slide, which reduces the damage you sustain from the fall. The game will adjunctively tell you when to interact with the environment, which can include leaping up to higher ledges, and the use of vines (which players might remember from FarCry Instincts) adds an environmentally interesting approach to clambering up mountains and other such areas.

Missions in FarCry 3 are more constrained than what they were in previous games. In both of the predecessors in the franchise thus far, the player had free reign to approach mission objectives any which way they wanted, and although FarCry 3 is more free and open than any of the games before it, this specific aspect of the game has not being carried over. When playing through missions, players are forced to go about them the way the game wants. There is always one direction; one method; and sometimes even one type of weapon that must be used to ensure successful completion of the operation, else you will automatically fail.

Upon failure of an operation, the game automatically reboots the player at the last checkpoint. If that is not annoying enough though, any vehicle you had with you at the moment your last checkpoint was activated will have subsequently vanished without a trace and you will have to pursue any and all objectives on foot, which is, as one can easily imagine, often a slow and grueling process.

Furthermore, unlike in FarCry where the player was forced to discover checkpoints in order to safely secure their progress thus far, or in the sequel where the player could only ever save the game by making their way to specified save stations, in FarCry 3 the save system has changed again.

When happily navigating the islands, the player can save the game whenever they wish. This is disabled during missions, and it is then that the player is forced to rely upon checkpoints.

However, there is only one save slot, and every time the player chooses to save their progress they are subsequently overwriting their last save, so often you need to be vigilant and careful when it comes to saving your campaign else you might find yourself in a problem that you cannot escape from.

Returning to the concept of missions, in general they range from a wide assortment of duties, some of which will require significant travel arrangements to be made. Vehicles again make a helpful asset throughout the campaign, a long list of jeeps, regular old fashioned cars and sea worthy vessels being at your disposal. The new ability to fast travel to locations which you have previously conquered adds an additional helpful application to the game and allows you to go back to a store (or a locker, as both serve the same purpose) to sell and buy products before travelling back to where you were beforehand.

As a side note, just like in FarCry 2, enemy vehicles patrol the roads, and will attack you if they spot you.

On the mention of ‘conquering’ areas, this is a new part of the game. The map itself is bare at first, although certain points of key interest are displayed, everything else from routes, to the locations of certain animals and places of interest are not available. The locations of radio towers are however, each of which have being supplied with an inhibiter which prevents them from sending a signal to your map which will display everything that an adventurer will need to survive. Taking out the jamming transmissions upon these towers is a necessity in that sense to progress through the campaign.

Towers are not all that requires conquering though. There are two ‘teams’ upon the island who are fighting for its dominance and control. There is the Rakyat, the people who your character sides with at the beginning of the game, who have the banner of a blue flag presiding over their territories to symbolise their control over the area; and then there are Vaas’s Pirates, the enemy, who run beneath a red banner. Segments of the map outlined in a red colour reveal areas occupied by the enemy, and parts of the map clear of any red show where the Rakyat have dominance.

Like in a tournament, one of the game’s goals is to seize control of the enemy controlled sectors by invading them, killing the enemy occupants and in doing so, seizing control and having the Rakyat officially move in. Once an area has being cleared of hostiles, the enemy do not secure dominance in that sector again.

Die you rotten bastards!!

The enemy in general is rather intelligent moreover, but the AI can be easily beaten if you covertly evade their actions. Enemies patrol encampments and other such areas, but do not bother to turn around if you silently creep up behind them, allowing you to progress through entire areas without even using a bullet.

However, the sheer volume of certain groups can sometimes make this almost impossible and additional strategies need to be implemented. On occasion enemies will even call in reinforcements, which you certainly do not want occurring.

When in open combat the enemy will take cover, throw grenades to draw you from the cover you have taken, and flank your location, Your compass however, which shows the locations of pissed off bad guys is so good at doing its job, that you can always clearly tell where the enemy are flanking you from, which makes them so much easier to dispatch.

Depending on the weapons that you have unlocked (or are at present using), these will primarily be the arms that the enemy take up, which, much like in the second game is FarCry’s way of giving back to you what you use to dismiss the enemy. The magazines your opponent’s drop though are not worthy of mentioning, for a couple of rounds is not nearly enough to sustain you through a war, and replenishing your ammo at stores and lockers is often a frequent quest.

In regards to the weaponry, there is a wide assortment of pistols, SMG’s, assault and sniper based rifles and other equipment which can be used at your leisure. Although slots need to be developed to accommodate for more equipment, the player will often feel most at home with that which they no doubt initially equip upon their character. Some items can additionally be upgraded with equipment the likes of scopes, silences and additional attachments to enhance the general accuracy of the weaponry at hand to make your character more dangerous in battle.

Moving onto the driving force of the game, the major goal is to secure the release of your friends from the island. Although Jason and his friends believed the islands to be a beautiful paradise, the sudden realistaion that it certainly fails to live up to their original expectations is present by the fact that they have each being captured and are subsequently scattered about the island and are in dire need of rescue. This in turn is the primary mission for the player, but like with all games, the general notion of ‘I’ll help you if you help me’ plays a significant role whilst interacting with the inhabitants of the islands.

What I will say about the storyline is that it can at times be more emotionally in-depth than the previous experiences in the franchise, and over the course of the game you learn about the lives of each character and how they each came to be in the situation they are in now. The story is driven by themes of friendship, family and love, which influences Jason in attempting to save his friends, even at the cost of his own life.

The fabulous orchestral musical score which on occasion rumbles through the game enhances this experience and empowers these emotional moments and themes with an incredible sense of urgency.

In conclusion, FarCry 3 appears to combine aspects of FarCry 2, Red Faction 3 and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic to create an experience which is better than James Cameron’s Avatar (the videogame) but perhaps not quite as enjoyable as FarCry 2.

Image References (Harvard style)

-Andog Hype 2012, Far Cry 3 unveils two new characters: Dennis and Citra, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.analoghype.com/video-games/playstation-3-news/far-cry-3-unveils-two-new-characters-dennis-and-citra/>

-Cheat Code Central 2012, Far Cry 3 Preview, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.cheatcc.com/ps3/rev/farcry3preview.html#.UKvuqYaDfIU>

-Wikipedia 2012, Far Cry 3, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Cry_3>