Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday afternoon tidbits

Oof, what a busy week. Good thing I wrote a couple of posts ahead of time, or you would have had nothing! At least the links have made it through unscathed.

As good as Far Cry 2 is, in my travels it seems like most people are too deep into Fallout 3 to care much about anything else. If you've overlooked this fascinating and absorbing title, at least check out a couple links and consider playing it later.

-First, Chris Remo at GameSetWatch wrote about Far Cry 2's slow burn, the process by which the game's sluggish pace initially seems offputting before casting an unbreakable spell. Also at GSW, an interview with Jean-Francois Levesque, the man who programmed the game's dynamic and unpredictable fire effects, which add a lot to the gameplay.

-PixelVixen707 examines the ways in which Far Cry 2 is the latest game to offer you gutwrenching choices -- or not, as the case may be. There is something to be said for the fact that your character is given an awful lot of unsavory things to do in this game, and while you could always choose not to accept the mission, you would then have nothing else to do. Games are great because they give the player control over how their events unfold, but sometimes I appreciate when they force me to do things I may not want to do. I'm playing a role. Think about how boring would books or movies would be if every character was just like you.

-Last but not least on the Far Cry 2 tip, Ben Abraham calls the game "Clint Hocking's masterpiece." Ben did a great job discussing theme and not plot details, so don't hesitate to read it for fear of spoilers. For all that the game's grim and humorless tone works, a part of me wonders if the designers let themselves off the hook by leaving out the real consequences of your actions on innocent people. Then again, the whole point of the story is losing your own moral bearings, so maybe it doesn't matter. Someone ought to write a post about that.

-L.B . Jeffries wrote a wonderful look at The Darkness, one of last year's best games. On that post, I commented:
Great analysis. I loved this game when I played it, and in the—what is it—16 months since then, it’s stuck with me. I think about it often. Really glad to see it’s had legs, and didn’t vanish down the usual hype->hate vortex.

Even with a game like Far Cry, which I’m truly enjoying, I always get stuck at things like a buddy system, wherein I’m supposed to like my character’s friends just because the game tells me I should. The Darkness is singular in that it really made me care. I cared about Jenny. I hated Paulie and Shrote. I loved the fact that the main conflict wasn’t an overblown end-of-the-world scenario, but just a vendetta between two angry men.
Seriously, this game is $19.99 at Amazon (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), and will take up probably 10-12 hours of your time. Well worth it.

-I'm a little giddy to have contributed to Bill Harris's "Friday Links" on Dubious Quality. Sadly, it's just a link that I sent him about a "War of the Worlds" hoax in Ecuador, and not a link to this blog. Someday...

-Not like he needs the traffic from me, but this week's Zero Punctuation review of Dead Space is noteworthy. Yahtzee douses the flames of fanboy passions with a brutal -- and, it must be said, deadly accurate -- review. The content of our reviews was much the same, but his tone just seems ballsier.

-Speaking of Dead Space, have you heard a single person mention it since Fable 2, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, or LittleBigPlanet came out? And here I thought it was "an achievement that rivals greats like Half-Life 2 and BioShock."

That's right, I linked to my own blog in the Friday afternoon tidbits. What.


Sparky said...

I have to say, I ended up setting Dead Space aside shortly after encountering the unkillable foe. Now on to Fallout 3...

x said...

After being disappointed by Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, and Gears of War 2 (not that I expected that last one to be a contender), I'd have to say that Dead Space is easily the best game I've played this holiday season. Going in with no real expectations may have helped, but it really took me by surprise. Normally I can at least see where Yahtzee is coming from, but a lot of his criticisms of this game seem wildly off the mark.

I'm glad to see that Popmatters post about The Darkness, though. I still feel as though that's one of the more underrated games of 2007.

Mitch Krpata said...

What's your beef with Far Cry, Lemmer?

x said...

It was all gameplay related. I managed to make it to act two, but when I was tasked with starting over from scratch, I realized just how weary I was.

I guess I was expecting more of an FPS take on Grand Theft Auto, which is why I was surprised to find just how relentless the NPCs are; you can't travel five minutes without being attacked by a Jeep or encountering a hostile checkpoint. I can totally understand why they did it, as it ties into what PixelVixen and Jeffries said in their editorials -- the game didn't set out to provide the open-ended experience of a GTA game, as Hocking was actively working against what he called ludonarrative dissonance. To some degree, it works. Constantly being coerced into fighting not only drives home the urgency of the situation, but it also provides an excuse for the ridiculously high body count that is inherent to any FPS. You may be a morally bankrupt mercenary, but more often than not you're acting out of self defense against people just like you. The mechanic works for narrative purposes, but does it do anything to make the game fun to play?

From the very first time you boot up the game, you're met with a real sense of foreboding that most games can't even match (Dead Space, for all its theatrics, never gave me the same sense of creeping dread I got from this game). I respect what they were going for, but after a while it was hard to say that I was still having fun playing it. I think that's a problem that upcoming games are going to be facing more often -- is it possible to create a fun experience without making light of real-world conflicts? I've seen that question posed countless times about games like Ghost Recon or Brothers in Arms, but those games are always mired in Bruckheimer territory, rarely stopping to actually reflect on the situations they present. Far Cry 2 really is about the slow burn in every respect, with a measured pace designed to let the atmosphere and (relative) reality of the situation sink in. I was willing to meet it halfway, but after a while I was just left feeling exhausted and kind of depressed.

Mitch Krpata said...

That's funny, I was reading your comment and nodding my head the whole time -- those are all reasons why I liked it so much! Ultimately, I guess I prefer games that make me feel bad. Don't know what that says about me. I'll cop to feeling the same way you did upon reaching act 2, though. Instead of being excited that there was so much more ground to cover, I found it daunting and, as you say, wearying.

I think Far Cry does make light of real-world situations, only in the sense that they really keep the innocent protected from the game world. Despite some of the mission objectives you have, you don't directly kill innocent people, and only bad guys seem to exist in the world map. Which, while not realistic, actually does help the game stay tonally and internally consistent.