The Division 2 kept my friend and I entertained for 4.5 hours

Opinion, Video Games
Image courtesy of Giant Bomb

Day 4 of the Write A Stupid Thing Every Day, or W.A.S.T.E.D, quarantine challenge that I’ve imposed on myself.

By: William Chandler

I had a pretty rough relationship with The Division at its release in 2016. Outside of acting as an excellent test of my computer’s new graphics card, I found very little to like. Its repetitive and bloated mission structure offered no enjoyment other than a sort of zen like state one could enter when shooting things, which lasted only for a short while. Then there’s the story, which is an ineffective and melodramatic chain of events about an outbreak of a super flu and the subsequent downfall of society. Huh. Like that could ever happen. Anyway, I still played it for nearly 50 hours because I couldn’t seem to stop. Buried deep within The Division is a great game and maybe, just maybe, The Division 2 has dug deep enough to find purchase.

The gameplay of The Division 2 remains much the same as the first but it feels more satisfying. I understand that is an immeasurable quality but you’re just going to have to take my word for it. The movement system is improved in its responsiveness and the animations for taking, leaving, and vaulting cover are just sublime. Honestly, all of the animation work is great. The gunplay feels similar but a bit more punchy thanks to less bullet spongey enemies, which was a major complaint I had with The Division. Enemy units may take far fewer shots to kill, but so do you. This leads to encounters feeling fast and brutal with the tide of battle swinging hugely in one direction or the other very quickly. If you aren’t keeping track of the locations of the enemies well enough, you may find yourself surrounded and in trouble fast.

Honestly, many of the improvements are small and focused around mechanics orbiting the core loop of the game. You still have a large city map to scavenge through, undertaking main and side missions, with a healthy dose of collectibles and looting to pad out the game’s length. However, this time the world reacts to your accomplishments. Upon completing a number of missions for a settlement, that settlement undergoes a visual and functional upgrade that reflects your progress, just like your base of operations. This goes a long way to keeping you invested in the game beyond the story. This time the story is mostly inoffensive but sadly remains a focus of the experience with frequent cutscenes that drag on a little too long, which is especially true for a game that is primarily intended to be multiplayer. I don’t have time to sit around while my whole party watches cutscenes independently of one another. Maybe force everyone to watch them at the same time? I dunno.

Who knows if any of this is enough to keep me playing into the late game but I am truly enjoying my time right now. For now I have a pal or two to play with so we’ll likely stick with it.

Critical Analysis: Far Cry 3

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

Purchased on Steam and reviewed on PC using an Xbox 360 controller

Remember when Far Cry was exclusively about mutants, mercenaries, and hawaiian shirts? Those were simpler times. I really enjoyed Crytek’s old design philosophy of making linear, story driven shooters that frequently featured extremely vast open sections which allowed you to tackle some objectives in a multitude of ways. That shit was what made Crysis so enjoyable to play in my opinion. Well, that and throwing countless North Korean soldiers through the walls of shitty village huts. You know what Far Cry 3 has going for it? Fucking radio towers.

I kid, I kid. Far Cry 3 is, in all honesty, a very well made FPS with some extremely solid mechanics that have been polished to a mirror shine, a decent story, and shooting that feels just right from start to finish. Ubisoft, having long ago taken over the development reigns from Crytek, appear to truly be doing their best. But making an open world game is really tough. You have to design this massive environment that the player can roam through, fill it full of shit to make it feel alive, sprinkle it full of objectives and missions to keep the player entertained, and ensure there are plenty of easy ways to get around. These are the areas in which Far Cry 2 often struggled and, unfortunately, Far Cry 3 still struggles in.

They have certainly made a massive environment for the player. Too massive, in fact. There are two islands of a similar size and they often times feel absolutely fucking barren. I mean, it’s a massive improvement over Far Cry 2’s game world, and Ubisoft have completely nailed the atmosphere of a tropical island, but the actual content (story missions, side missions, hunting quests, etc.) would fill up a game environment roughly half the size. The only good reason that the rest of the land even exists is to allow for even more enemy bases that the player can then capture in order to reduce the frequency of enemy patrols in the area. Something that I imagine most people will want to do considering how ridiculously annoying those patrols can be when you’re minding your own fucking business trying to commute to your next mission or hunting down four more raccoons in order to carry a couple more grenades, and then some random dudes in a jeep cruise up and fill your ass full of lead.

The base clearing mechanic is genuinely fun, too. It harkens back to the “tackle an objective in any way you choose” days of yore that I mentioned earlier and am quite fond of. That said, just about anything becomes boring the 30th time you do it, and by the later hours of the game I was definitely growing tired of it. This issue is mostly to do with the checklist like nature in which you explore, uncover, and capture more points of the map. Similarly to the Assassin’s Creed series, Far Cry 3’s map starts off completely obscured and must be gradually uncovered by scaling and activating radio towers, of which there are 18. However, unlike Assassin’s Creed, your ability to get around is marred heavily by the terrain and proves to be a chore without any map to guide you, so locating and activating the radio towers can actually prove to be quite time consuming.

Indeed, my biggest problem with Far Cry 3 is the exact same one I had with Far Cry 2. It often feels needlessly padded with unnecessary content, stretching out the total play time to a length that makes many of its mechanics feel dry and uninteresting over time. The hunting mini game, something that should be an enjoyable and immersive experience, later feels like a fucking chore because of the stupidly large number of upgrades. One could claim that this content is entirely optional, however, I couldn’t imagine completing the game without at least a few of these upgrades because the player starts out with such a low ammo and syringe capacity. Even the story meanders around foolishly towards the middle, creating ridiculously frustrating scenarios that push the player’s goals ever so gradually out of reach without any good reason time and time again ad nauseam.

Thankfully, the characters are varied and interesting enough to keep the player invested in the story even at these points. The writing is far from good, sure, but it is absurd and exaggerated, much like the plot, and feels tonally appropriate throughout. The villains, Vaas and Hoyt, are deliciously insane in their own fascinating ways and lend to some of the game’s greatest moments. Too bad these moments are spread far too thin across a game as lengthy as this.

I enjoyed playing through Far Cry 3 if perhaps for no other reason than to say I finally completed it after numerous restarts since the game’s launch nearly a year and a half ago. That said, there are so many elements that made the actual playing part of the game feel like a second job. Activate the radio tower, capture some bases, kill some animals for upgrades, kill some people to gain skill points, play through several story missions, then rinse and repeat for a dreary and draining 30 – 40 hours. Far Cry 3 really is the best example of why less can sometimes be more and it’s extremely frustrating to see a good game be held back by a bunch of small problems, but one can only hope that Ubisoft will realize the true potential of this franchise with Far Cry 4.

Or maybe they’ll just ignore all of that shit and needlessly throw in four player coop.

Total and complete self validation

News, Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

The other day I wrote about how some people were pretty upset about Far Cry 4’s box art because they felt it was racially and sexually controversial. Many worried that it would feature a white and potentially gay antagonist that would punish the natives, furthering the patriarchal agenda in the process. Well, needless to say I was pretty annoyed and thought that they jumped the gun before gunpowder was even invented, but more importantly, stated that he appeared to be decidedly not white. I’d just like to say that I was totally right, so feel free to shower me with praise at your leisure.

Thank goodness creative director at Ubisoft Montreal, Alex Hutchinson, was here to back me up.

But William, you may find yourself thinking, he COULD still be gay and is still likely the antagonist. That is very true. But who cares. He isn’t white, which means the internet will probably be fine with it.

Far Cry 4 celebrates 1 day in the public eye, has already pissed off a bunch of internet people

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

This thread on Neogaf came to my attention sometime last night and really got something going in me that I haven’t felt since the Hotline Miami 2 “rape” fiasco. The thread is entitled “Far Cry 4’s art is racist and the antagonist is (potentially) gay”. A quote from the post:

A few months after the Far Cry 3 writer said “we won’t see gay protagonist in AAA game for a while over sales fears” comes the announcement of Far Cry 4. 

The moment I saw the picture below, I felt my heart sank. An evil character, wearing all purple, having an edgy stylish modelesque haircut, hand resting on a guys head…I instantly thought they could be making a gay antagonist. 

Okay, for a game that really only exists to us in box art form thus far, this is quite an assumption to make. I mean, perhaps he’s just an intriguing fellow who appreciates grooming and personal style. To the author’s credit though, he does say “could be making a gay antagonist”, and I agree on that front. They certainly could be. But why would it matter?

While there is nothing inherently wrong with a gay antagonist, it worries me that it might not be done right. Also if the only time we have gay characters in games as main characters that are bad guys, what message does that send to people? All gay people are bad, or it will just fuel their hatred they already have towards gay people. I can see it now, people thinking “Finally, I can call a character in a game a faggot and he will actually be one.”

This is where he really loses me. Gay people have been portrayed in games numerous times already, albeit in a way that was not flamboyant, meaning that rather than being gay characters, many of them were regular ol’ characters who just happened to be gay. To me, that is more realistic in many contexts as the fact that a character is gay would not be of the highest importance to the plot in most games, making it just another aspect of the character of a person. Bioware games were great at proving that just about any “type” of personality could also be gay. And the type of person that already harbors ill will towards gay people would not be swayed even with the presence of a gay protagonist, or a ‘properly done’ gay antagonist.

Frankly, I don’t see why this matters at all even if the protagonist were overtly homosexual. It is merely the way that character is written and in no way is expected to be representative of an entire culture or group of persons. You see, I wasn’t aware it was the responsibility of the games industry to create the picture perfect ideal of every single human being or human collective on the face of the planet, just in case someone might get the wrong impression otherwise. Artistic interpretation is, by the way, a thing that exists. A body of work in an artistic medium should be respected as such, rather than some sort of hidden anti-(insert sensitive thing here) agenda.

But, the worst aspect of this post is the part near the bottom where a bunch of people on twitter call the box art racist because a relatively light skinned man is treating another human poorly. One guy even tweeted it directly at Ubi and and the FarCryGame twitter account. I mean, I may be subconsciously submitting to the patriarchy here, but the stylishly dressed man looks like a light skinned asian fellow with bleached hair to me. And would that fact make it more okay? I don’t get how violence against other humans is okey dokey as long as a potentially gay, white man isn’t inflicting it upon the innocent, dark skinned natives because that makes gay people look bad and furthers the white agenda somehow.

The blowback from the aforementioned Hotline Miami 2 scandal was so immense that it forced relatively small time company Devolver Digital to make some changes to the scene in question, altering their original artistic vision in an admittedly small way just to make concessions to some internet bullies. A fact that bothers me to this day. I doubt a major publisher like Ubisoft will need to do the same, though, which pleases me greatly. To be honest, I doubt they ever even needed to, because all of these claims are baseless presumptions.

But even if the worst fears of the SJW community come to bare in Far Cry 4, they could always simply abide by an ancient consumer proverb.

If you don’t like it, don’t fucking buy it.