Saturday, 10 January 2015

The fourth cry

Far Cry 4

Platform tested: PlayStation 4

Sequels often need to reintroduce themselves with new ideas to keep the franchise popular. Ubisoft did this with excellent results when they gave us Far Cry 3 in 2012. With it's large free roaming world  combined with RPG elements, it was a first person shooter with a difference. Set on tropical islands with a cool story and a wacky bad guy to boot, things that really put it as one of the best games I played that year. Far Cry 4 follows this blueprint, but perhaps slightly too close.

FC4 continues the "tradition" FC3 made with having a very distinct, insane and power hungry main baddy. While FC3 had the punk haired and completely wacko Vaas. FC4 introduces us to the seemingly calm and collected Pagan Mihn with a purple silk suit and a strange bleached hairstyle. I enjoyed the fact that you actually meet him right at the beginning of the game and it gives you a insight into his temper and strange behaviour. He is the dictator of the Himalayan and fictive country Kyrat. And yes, you guessed it, things turn ugly early on and you must fight your way through a huge map and free Kyrat from his dictatorship.

The layout is very similar to FC3; there are enemy strongholds throughout the map and radio towers scattered arcros mountain tops. Destroying these propaganda radio towers open up the dark areas of the map and taking down strongholds lets you slowly turn the map over to the Golden Path. This is a group set on liberating the country from Pagan Minh.

The story focuses on two leaders of the Golden Path, which each have their own plan on how to free the country. This leads way for choosing which side you will take and in turn gives the player a set of two missions to choose in most main story missions. It's a nice touch and often puts you in a dilemma of what to choose.

At times FC4 can seem like Skyrim with guns, it has a lot of RPG elements with side missions, levelling, XP etc. Maybe I just make the comparison because of the similar nature surroundings in the game! It really adds to the genre of shooters, and it builds further on what FC3 introduced us to. The game is about introducing a large and real world, with a strong focus on natural elements like forests, wild animals, huge mountains and lakes.

The game is visually stunning, I'm playing the current gen version on a PlayStation 4 by the way, with huge areas filled with lush forests, rivers, grassy fields for miles and incredible mountains surrounding it all. The game is literally jaw dropping at times and really is a huge leap forward from playing on last-gen consoles. The vegetaton is so dense, giving you the feeling of being in a real forest area. It really looks like you are walking through real nature. The distances is the game are insane, and it even lets you get a birds eye view over how huge it is by letting the player ride small helicopters around!

FC4 is a fantastic game, however there are some complaints I have. The most obvious for people that have played a lot of FC3 is that the game follows it's layout a bit too thorough. It can almost feel like a re-skinning of FC3. If you never played FC3, then this will be no issue and can be ignored, but for players familiar with FC3 it's feels a little too similar regarding the structure of the game, the way they portrait the bad guy and the exact same weapons.

Other issues are the over use of hallucinogenic/drugged up missions, that occur far too often and seem a rip off of a mission in FC3. I did enjoy the Shang-Ri-La levels though! I would also have liked a more presence of Pagan Minh, you simply meet him too few times to truly get the hatred or purpose to take him down.

All in all I really enjoyed FC4, I loved how the game starts off, but kind of felt a little overwhelmed by the large amount of stuff to explore and do at one point, but overcame this and ended up really enjoying my playthrough. I even enjoyed playing a bit of coop in the game, and it worked really well. Perhaps not the game of the year I hoped for, but a strong sequel that could easily have become even better had it taken more new elements into the mix.



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Don't drink energy drinks in the apocalypse!

Sunset Overdrive

Platform tested: Xbox One

This year has seen the Xbox One really pushing out quality exclusive titles, and has such narrowed the gap to the PlayStation 4's hardware sales. Well deserved, as I review yet another one of these amazing Xbox one exclusives of the year; Sunset Overdrive.

Sure, it's a post-apocalyptic game again. However, Sunset Overdrive takes a far less serious and very humorous approach to the genre. The story setting is funny as hell; there's a new energy drink launched by a company called Fizzco at a concert, you are the janitor at the event. The energy drink, called Overcharge, ends up turning everybody to nasty orange coloured mutants, and you need to help the other survivors get hold of the world outside the city! Frizzco has of course shut the city down and lets no-one escape.

The game introduces you fairly fast to the elements that make it stand out from other games. SO is as much about platforming and grinding to traverse the city as it is to actually shooting down hundreds of mutants. The platforming is clearly a result of Insomniac making the game; the guys behind the famous Ratchet & Clank series on the PlayStation consoles. Something further more proved by the large amounts of weird, stupid and funny weapons!

Simply walking on ground level through the streets will kill you really fast. SO is about shooting stuff with style, constantly moving. If you're not grinding or bouncing away from rooftops, car hoods or fence railings; you simply aren't playing the game right. This constant approach to keeping momentum is tricky to learn at the beginning, but really rewards itself when you get into the controls. A rather steep learning curve, but ultimately rewarding, so new players should give it a couple of hours before it sticks.

Your character, which you can design yourself with lots of wacky clothes, easily snaps on to railings and stuff to jump or bounce on. However, the game balances this with a lot of manual input, requiring fast reflexes from you to actually keep moving around the city. The movement will after some time become second nature, and as such you can concentrate on killing enemies far better. After a while you will look absolutely amazing as you are killing mutants, while performing amazing moves. People overlooking you playing the game will probably enjoy it at as much as the player! 

In many ways Sunset Overdrive is what Dead Rising should have been back in the day; free to approach things, in any crazy way you want, without time limits and horrible escort missions. I really love the crazy amount of enemies they throw at you, the ease you have at jumping around, avoiding them and just the over-the-top weapons that cause incredible amounts of mayhem. All this with a cool punk rock soundtrack on top! It's all about fun and although it tries hard to give the player this message, it doesn't really need to; the core gameplay is incredibly entertaining, even without the wacky cutscenes and funny dialogue. That's what makes a great game after all.

SO may not be a technically stunning game, it's 900p with a framerate at 30fps, but what it doesn't deliver in raw graphics output, it more than compensates with insane amounts of enemies on-screen, beautiful colours (I haven't seen such a colourful game in a long time!) and really stylish visuals that have this cartoonish quality! The game really pops on your screen pushing the colour scales of your tv set to it's limits, and will probably turn more heads than some gritty, realistic looking shooter. The colour palette and character designs suit it's platforming well, as it gives me a sort of vibe that older 3D platformers have. Think Ratchet & Clank's world, with human characters and a hi-tech cityscape.

It's probably one of my favourite games this year, alongside Infamous Second Son it's a free roaming game about traversal of buildings and multiple enemies to take down in your own cool way. It's definitely yet another great reason to pick up a Xbox One for Christmas (throw in Forza Horizon 2 to really seal an awesome gaming holiday) and you are in for hours of fun. It took me about 30 hours to complete and collect everything, so there's plenty of value too! I really hope Insomniac makes this a franchise with more titles futher along the line.

Actually, when thinking about it, this is my game of the year! It's so damn entertaining and colourful!