Souls Do Not Harvest Themselves : Thoughts on the Far Cry 5 Reveal

After teasing the new Far Cry game with brief vignettes and the above image promising a heavily-armed religious cult in the rural United States, Ubisoft dropped an official reveal trailer earlier today. More than one, actually: each of the three supporting characters got one too (more on them in a a minute), but I’ll be focusing on the main trailer, and what I think of the game at this early stage (it’s out early next year). I’m generally a fan of the series, though the only installment I enjoyed without serious complaints was 4. Far Cry games nail a big open world that’s enjoyable to traverse and managed to make a hunting minigame genuinely worth doing, but they seriously stumble when it comes to story and character. Make a great, charismatic lead villain, slap him on the box and don’t tell anyone that he’s only in the game for fifteen minutes, that’s been the running theme since 3.

The villain this time around is Joseph, running the aforementioned cult in Hope County Montana; the trailer shows that he expects the whole county to accept his “loving” embrace, and those who don’t are threatened, kidnapped and roughed up. “We want you, accept you, and we will take you, willingly or not”, Joseph states. They seem to have the run of the place, driving around in jeeps with mounted guns, patrolling the streets with assault weapons and doing so unopposed by the looks of it. Not seen in the trailer is the player character, who is reportedly A) a deputy sent to arrest Joseph and B) created by the player, which I generally consider a plus, I’m a fan of create-a-characters. Now why they send one person (and not even a sheriff) to arrest the head of what is essentially a private army is beyond me, but they do have help. The three characters given their own trailers are commercial pilot Nick, bar owner Mary and priest Jerome, all sick of the cult and its grip on their home, and all packing heat. Jerome actually kills two cultists in the trailer off-screen, and Mary runs into trouble at her bar. Also of note is a shirtless man with what appear to be the names of the seven deadly sins carved into his flesh, presumably a higher-up in the cult. The trailer emphasises that the freedom, fun and bombast that define the series’ gameplay is here in full; quad bikes, dolled-up big rigs and Nick’s plane, explosions, angry bears and enough guns to arm an uprising make it look like taking down Joseph’s cult will be a good time. The name of this article: “Souls do not harvest themselves” is written on a board outside Joseph’s church message-of-the-day style, so the game clearly has a sense of humour. On the strength of the trailer, I’m really looking forward to Far Cry 5. The setting, villains, the characters they’ve shown and the story of one lone cop banding together with decent locals to take on a bloodthirsty religious cult sounds fantastic. If they handle it right, I can see it being on my game of the year list next year. It’s right up my street. On a more cynical note, however, I can’t overlook the fact that this is a Far Cry game and could well suffer from the problems of its predecessors, namely the important, named villains getting little screen time and the player character being annoying. That said, I am hopeful that it’ll dodge those potential pitfalls, and what they’ve shown off so far makes me confident it’ll be enjoyable if nothing else. I’ll write about new trailers and gameplay footage as it’s released, and fingers crossed it continues to look this good.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18

Thoughts on: The Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Announcement

Ubisoft officially announced their new Assassin’s Creed in a live online presentation. I watched it, I thought things about it, here they are for your eyes to look at. LET’S DO THIS THING.

As had been previously leaked/reported/speculated, it’s set in Victorian London. 1868 to be precise. You are Jacob Frye, a “Born and raised Assassin” who along with his twin sister Evie are launching a street gang-backed class war against the rich, ruling classes of London. From the off, it looked very similar to AC Unity (which was set during the French Revolution), and Jacob doesn’t seem to have much character other than “Violent psychopath, but he’s wearing a top hat so I guess he’s kind of posh too”. They haven’t shown much off though, so that could change. I’m interested to see where his sister comes into it, and at one point during the gameplay demo they were shown to have an apparently Indian ally, so that could be an interesting angle, if played right. That was about it for story. Not much to go on, but I’m already a bit unsure about it. The Assassins up to this point have all been shown to have an at least somewhat noble side to them, but Jacob appears to just be a thug, besides his ultimate goal, which is admittedly a good one. Also it’d be nice to have another game where you get to play as the Templars: “Rogue” has made me firmly on their side. But I’ll reserve full judgement until the game comes out.

As for his equipment, he’s packing a mean looking Kukri, brass knuckles, a revolver and a gauntlet including a hidden blade and a rope launcher for quick ascension and zip lines. Concept also shows that the cane shown in the picture above hides a sword. The gameplay demo showed that horse-drawn carriages can be used as vehicles and can apparently be parkoured over, and that the hand-to-hand combat system is a lot faster, more fluid and rather brutal. Though it seems to have the AC Unity problem of eschewing quick finishers in favour of whaling on opponents. At one point Jacob used a throwing knife to drop a load of suspended barrels onto an enemy, and the trailer and concept art briefly showed the inclusion of “Sherlock Holmes”-esque fighting pits, which I for one will be spending a lot of time in. Oh, and this might just be me, but “The Blighters” and “Bloody Nora” are stupid names for a gang and a gang leader respectively. “The Blighters” I can let slide during the time period, to be fair. But for those unfamiliar with British English, “Bloody Nora” is an exclamation used to express shock or surprise something, it’s not some tough name for a gang leader. The demo ends with a multi-bodied gang brawl in the streets, and Jacob proclaiming that everyone there now works for him and his sister.

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic. I still really love Assassin’s Creed, I love a Victorian London setting and I’m sure this will turn out fine, but I’m a little put off by how the characters could turn out, especially after Arno. It also seems like they missed an opportunity to have an Indian main character. “The Order 1886” made good use of real life badass Rani of Jhansi, but instead Syndicate opts to continue the series’ recent trend of having white protagonists. Still, I’m looking forward to it.

It releases on October 23rd, despite the footage shown being pre-alpha. So hopefully it won’t be in the same state AC Unity was at launch. Hope springs eternal.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

 

Thoughts on: MGSV The Phantom Pain has a release date, plus some other interesting news

Well, it’s finally arrived: my most wanted game of 2015 has a release date. MGSV The Phantom Pain is launching September 1st 2015, so I have a while to wait, on a hill smoking a Phantom Cigar. Frankly I wasn’t sure if it was going to launch this year or be pushed back to next, so the news was a pleasant surprise. The special edition has also been announced:


(All rights belong to Konami and Koji Pro. I am not claiming ownership of the game, nor am I trying to sell you one of these)

Clearly the stand out is the half-scale replica of Big Boss’ bionic arm, which has been shown gripping a Playstation controller, so it does appear to be dexterous to a degree. In England it’ll set you back £99.99, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s worth it. I obviously think it is, but why should you trust my opinion? We’ve most likely never met. You should buy it though, it looks awesome.

As for the interesting news, Kojima made two statements at the time of the release date announcement:

1) That this will be his last Metal Gear Solid game.
We’ve heard this before, but part of me thinks he might be serious this time. Given the much darker, climactic tone of The Phantom Pain and its status as both the finale of the “Big Boss” part of the series and the last rung on the ladder before “Metal Gear”, it’d make sense for him to end it here. His magnum opus will be complete, spanning several decades of game time and nearly twenty seven years of real time. Makes sense for him to finish it, and move on to saving “Silent Hill” (which I’m completely hyped for also). Having said that, he’s mentioned looking for someone to remake the original “Metal Gear Solid” with his shiny new FOX engine, so whether he completely hands over the reigns or stays on in some role remains to be seen.

2) That Big Boss won’t say much, and the story will unfold through actions and other characters’ dialogue.
This seemed a strange choice due to Kojima getting Kiefer Sutherland on board, but it makes sense for the game. Big Boss is older and wiser here, and he’s gone through an incredibly traumatic series of events, so it makes sense if he’s not particularly talkative. He didn’t have a whole lot to say in Ground Zeroes, either, and that suited the tone well. He’s a man of few words this time around, and we’ll have to wait and see if it pays off. Presumably Miller and Ocelot will pick up the slack.

Right then. Until the game’s release (and my review of it) I won’t be posting any more about it, unless something really drastic or important is publicly announced, because I’ll be avoiding any potential leaks. Until then, I’ll be reviewing a whole host of other games and playing a lot of Ground Zeroes to get myself ready.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Thoughts on: The E3 2014 Trailer for “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”

The newest trailer for my most anticipated game was leaked earlier today- “The Phantom Pain”. For those who are unaware, I’m a huge “Metal Gear Solid” fan, I’m incredibly hyped for “The Phantom Pain”, and judging by the trailers it could well end up being my faveourite game of all time, should the story be as good as it looks and the gameplay be as good as it was in “Ground Zeroes”. Anyway, that trailer. I’ve seen both the Japanese version and the English one, and I wanted to give my thoughts on what I saw. I will be talking explicitly about what happens in the trailer, so if you want to see it fresh then avoid this piece. I’ll be breaking things down into points- things about the trailer that stood out for me, not necessarily in chronological order.

The Song

“Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield playing throughout most of the trailer provides a suitably somber, dramatic backdrop to events, with the chorus standing out: “I’m nuclear, I’m wild. I’m breaking up inside. A heart of broken glass. Defiled. Deep inside the abandoned child. Of course the song wasn’t written for the game or anything, but it seems very apt, particularly given the tone of the trailer.

Bloody Big Boss and the horrific aftermath

One of the first shots in the trailer, and one that’s returned to later. A scorched, harrowing aftermath of a battle with corpses strewn about all over the place. Snake walks through the landscape alone and bloodied. In the later shot his face is completely covered with blood, and, on his knees, he tilts his head back and roars at the sky. This looks to be pretty late on in the game, and I imagine this will be one of many “tipping points” Snake has in the game. I can’t speak for who Diamond Dogs were fighting, but as I said- a lot of the battlefield is scorched, with many burned bodies, burnt-out cars and helicopters. It suggests some kind of powerful explosive. It could well be a nuke. That sounds unlikely, but Snake has survived three nuclear explosions in his life, and although he was never this close, he was quite nearby the second two.

Diamond Dogs Memorial

A powerful scene not open to much interpretation, this one. Snake, the now-rescued Kaz and a small group of Diamond Dogs soldiers watch over a funeral pyre for a number of coffins draped in the Diamond Dogs logo. The plan is to throw their ashes into the sea, but instead Snake grabs a handful of ash and rubs it on his face. It’s a bold shot, and establishes Snake’s mood during the difficult time. When did the soldiers die? My thoughts are during the ending of “Ground Zeroes”- Snake presumably put any memorial on hold while he rescued Kaz, so this would make sense. This scene is a great one in showing just how hard Snake and his men take the loss of their comrades. It’s combined with another scene I’ll get to later. Also, not only is Kaz present, but…

Outer Heaven

…they’re standing on a whole new Mother Base- now called “Outer Heaven”- Big Boss’ base in games set later. There’s a shot of Kaz and Snake admiring it from ground level, a short clip of Ocelot presiding over three soldiers undergoing target practice (one guy is shooting from the hip), and also two soldiers fighting while a crowd watches. I can’t quite decide whether I think they’re training or genuinely having a scrap, but the next point on the list might clear that up somewhat. I like that they have a new base up and running (Kojima did mention this before hand but it slipped my mind) and it’s nice to see Ocelot helping out.

Self-destructive Snake

A short one, but a very interesting one. That fight I mentioned is broken up by the big man himself- one of the soldiers pulls a knife. Snake grabs the dude’s arm and, much to the soldier’s distress, Snake sticks it into his own chest. Now two theories come to mind for me here. The first one is if it’s an actual fight, and Snake’s making some kind of “If you hurt each other, you’re hurting me, and us all.” demonstration to make them cut it out. The second is if it’s training, and his point is “Knives aren’t welcome here- it could go horribly wrong, like so.” I could be wrong in either case, but that’s what comes to mind. Intriguing, anyway.

Big Boss vs Eli

This is a very big one for me, despite only taking up a short amount of the trailer. Eli, the little boy shown in the “Red Band” trailer last E3, and thought by many to be a twelve year old “Liquid Snake” (one of the men cloned from Big Boss’ DNA and “brother” to Solid Snake) swings at Big Boss with a plastic chair before pinning him against a wall with it and pulling out a blade, much to Big Boss’ seemingly genuine worry. Soon after this there’s a shot of Eli running and then lunging at Big Boss, only for the latter to CQC the former to the floor and apparently slam the blade into him. This one raises a lot of questions for me. Does Eli know who Snake is, or is he just trying to escape from somewhere? If he is Liquid Snake, does Big Boss know Eli is his “Son”? How can Big Boss be so easily overpowered by a twelve year old? Is he in shock from seeing his “Son” for the first time? Is he unprepared what with having to fight a child? What about the apparent stabbing? If Eli is Liquid, it’s unlikely he stabs him, and it obviously wouldn’t be a killing blow. My thought? That blade’s going into the floor next to him, and the next words out of Big Boss’ mouth are some variation on “I’m not here to fight”. Also, this is now the second trailer for “Phantom Pain” in which Snake possibly murders children (the first being the cage full of African kids in the “Red Band” trailer. I’m still really not sure if he’s shooting them or not, but that’s an opinion to be explored at another time.) Also, Eli has what looks like “NEVER BE GAME OVER” written on the back of his top.

Quiet

Firstly, a woman who appears to be “Quiet” (the scantily-clad sniper from the “Red Band” trailer) dressed in battle fatigues limps away from an assailant, only for said assailant to grab her and dunk her head under water while her hands are tied. In a later scene, a woman that definitely is Quiet shows off some impressive hand-to-hand skills; using a downed attacker as a springboard to launch herself up onto another assailant with one foot- bouncing off him to pounce on a third, whom she apparently kills or at least incapacitates with what looks like a blow or slash to the throat, though it isn’t directly shown. If the woman being submerged in water is indeed Quiet, this is probably part of her backstory which Kojima said will make everyone who made a fuss about her clothing feel ashamed, which makes me think: Is she dressing that way to lure people into a false sense of security? I’m really unsure of the reason why, particularly as Kojima said it was partly because he wants people to cosplay her. I’m eager to find out. As for the latter shots, she’s got some pretty slick moves, and I look forward to seeing her in action more.

Even in death we are Diamond Dogs

The really moving part of the trailer: back to that shot of Snake with the ashes on his face, Kaz asks “We’re not burying them at sea. What then?” The following exchange happens: “We’ll make diamonds from their ashes. Take them into battle with us.”
“A shining light to our brothers in arms. Even in death…”
“…we are Diamond Dogs.”
Again, I love this part for showing just how hard Big Boss is hit by the death of his men, and how highly he thinks of them. It also brings a beautifully poignant context to the name “Diamond Dogs”. It’s not just a David Bowie reference.

The trailer has its share of awesome title cards like the rest of the game’s trailers, this time being: “Tormented by phantoms” over a MSF logo, “Spirits of Ground Zeroes” over an XOF logo, “Time for Retribution” over a Diamond Dogs logo and finally “Venom Awakens” over the new Outer Heaven logo

Skull Face and Metal Gear

Snake and a blindfolded Skull Face (the fantastic villain from Ground Zeroes) get out of a jeep inside a hangar containing what is either the recovered “Metal Gear Zeke” from “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker”, or a newly created metal gear. Either way, Diamond Dogs has a metal gear, and they now mean even more business than they did before. What really intrigues me here is Skull Face- what’s he doing in Outer Heaven with Snake? Is Snake just showing off his arsenal in an attempt to intimidate? Or were his claims about him and Big Boss going way back legit? I love Skull Face as a villain and I’m really interested to see where he fits into everything.

(I also want to point out Snake taking out a knife and smiling at it while next to what appears to be an unconscious Chico, Snake putting a bag over Huey Emmerich’s head and Ocelot injecting him with something, and Snake shooting four soldiers at the end that appear to be on his side. Perhaps they’re under someone’s control or infected with something? Maybe this is after Snake takes the first major step on his road to being a villain? Hard to tell really)

So those are my thoughts on the E3 2014 trailer for “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”. I’ll be writing pieces on anymore footage of the game that’s released. Suffice it to say this trailer got me very, very excited for what’s to come.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

A few thoughts on… Ubisoft’s new take on game development

So just now I read a story on The Escapist (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/125997-Ubisoft-No-New-Games-Unless-They-Can-Be-Made-Into-Franchises) in which I learned that Ubisoft are not planning to release any new games that cannot be turned into franchises. They stated that apparently that’s what people like and want, and that gamers need “A chance to decide that [Watch Dogs] is going to be hot”. Notice the wording there was “That” and not “If”. You don’t get a chance to decide if it’s going to be good, just that it’s going to be good. 

Anyway, this new move from Ubisoft is a foolish one for one main reason: how will they decide what’s going to be successful? Through market research and focus groups? You know- those things that definitely always work out well for publishers and the games they publish? I’m reminded of when David Cameron said the government should be giving funding to independent films that will definitely go on to be “King’s Speech”-style blockbusters. This is a stupid, misguided way to do things. Supposing Ubisoft releases Watch Dogs and it tanks? Do they then recall every copy of the game and burn them? What if it gets to the point where every one of their games goes up in smoke and they’re terrified to take a chance on anything else? Unlikely, yes, but possible all the same. One reason they gave is that the “Fire and forget” style of development doesn’t work for triple A games, and that it’s too expensive. The very wording of that statement seems to be the problem here- “Fire and forget”. You know what? Don’t “Forget” about it then! Release a game and keep supporting it- develop meaningful DLC for it (by “meaningful” I mean at the very least don’t make it ripped content or on-disc. Create some extra content that makes sense and adds something without feeling like it should have already been included), create patches (if neccessary) and the like. If the problem is it’s too expensive to “Fire and forget”, then don’t bloody forget about it. 

So yeah, I think that’s a bad move by Ubisoft. Only time will tell if this new system will work for them, but I for one hope it doesn’t.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert

Viva La Playstation! or, how Sony won E3

So then, it happened. The first day of E3 is over, both Microsoft and Sony have had their big conferences and we can now formally begin choosing sides in the upcoming console war. However, as first skirmishes go, I think the Sony press conference was a lot like dropping a nuclear warhead on a village of jungle pygmies. It was spectacular, horrifying, and absolutely brilliant to behold.

Microsoft was already off to a bad start, before E3 even began. Their reveal of the Xbox One, with its stupid name, ugly case and perma-kinect (because the only thing people love more than having a camera pointed at them all day is to know that it’s always listening to you). They also failed to produce anything resembling games, instead featuring an overly long video of sports personalities talking about disingenuous bollocks and then a trailer for CoD Ghosts with a motion capture dog (which will definitely die) and more sun shafts than you can shake a stick (or the laws of physics) at. Coupled with the fact that used the words TV, more times than gamers, and couldn’t manage to deliver a consistent message about DRM post reveal conference, people were understandable worried about what to expect from the new christened Xbone. However, Microsoft, after seeing the less than stellar reaction across the board promised ALL of the games at E3. And to be fair to them, they delivered pretty well on that. There were an infinitely greater number of games at their E3 conference. They even had a few decent exclusives, including Dead Rising 3, the inevitable new Halo, and possibly most shocking of all Metal Gear Solid V. except Metal Gear wasn’t actually an exclusive, they just got overexcited on twitter.

sunshafts
because Science, that’s why!

All in all, an acceptable performance from Sony. They set out to win people back, and I certainly don’t think it hurt. After all, this is the future. £429 for a console that won’t play used games, has to make daily check in with the cloud to function, and is always staring at you, like the brain damaged cousin of Hal from 2001, is what we can expect from a console nowadays, right? Nope! Because just a short time after, the PlayStation 4 happened.

The Sony conference started inauspiciously enough, talking about their current consoles, the PS3 and the Vita. A variety of games was detailed for each including The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V and Batman: Arkham Origins. All very promising current gen titles. And then, things really began to get interesting. The PS4’s controller was revealed a while back at the initial announcement, but the actual hardware itself was shown in full at E3. And it was pretty. A stylish matte and shiny black affair, with blue lights that make it look like the sexy cousin of Hal from 2001. Score 1 for Sony.

They then decided to have a brief talk about the TV and movie functions of the PS4. Notice the word brief. What Microsoft spent most of its reveal time discussing was dealt with in about 5 minutes by Sony. And it then became immediately apparent that this was because any more TV stuff would get in the way of the ALL of the games. Because Sony brought a lot of games to the party. The first section of the event was used to show off some familiar (but still impressive looking) first party titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall, Driveclub and my personal ‘ohmygodfuckyes’ moment infamous: Second Son.

Then Sony pulled out the little guns. Their support for indie developers was made abundantly clear, featuring demos of Don’t Starve, Transistor and something called Secret Ponchos (which I will buy, no matter the quality). The confirmation was made that Sony will allow people to self-publish games on the PS4, making Microsoft’s demand that they find themselves a publisher seem crotchety and mean spirited.

In truth Sony could probably have left it there, and had all the hype they could have wanted. But they weren’t done. Not even a little bit. They followed up with their reveals of third party support including very impressive demos of Assassin’s Creed IV (the stream of which crashed, proving at least that it wasn’t a trailer) to the increasingly intriguing cyber-terrorist-em-up Watch_Dogs. They even showed a teaser trailer for a Mad Max game, which looks to be a nice antidote to all the serious semi-realism going on at the moment. even Square Enix got in on the action, showing off Final Fantasy 15 and the second numbered sequel in the Kingdom Hearts series.

ps4
it’s looking at the future. largely because it is

PlayStation Plus was back with a vengeance also, with Sony stating that the service will continue, with no need to buy another subscription if you’re already a member when the PS4 is released. The service will continue its services of cloud saving, discount and fucktons of free games. The first being Drive Club, from the launch day, and going on to include several of the indie titles mentioned above. There was however, a small razor blade in that particular stick of candyfloss. Online play will require PlayStation Plus. However single player games and all other functions of the PS4 will not. Given that this was the Xbox 360 current scheme, and given how much content is on offer under PS+ it seems like a bit of a no brainer. On the subject of DRM and online the confirmation that PS4 games can be traded  and sold freely between players got a colossal round of applause, as did the news that there will be no need to check into the cloud every 24 hours as the Xbox does. Honestly, at that point they could have just told Microsoft to go and fuck themselves and everyone would have applauded. Which they basically did, releasing a 30 second video on how to share PS4 games. Turns out you just hand them to someone else, and that’s it.

The conference finished up with a demo of the new FPS-MMO from Bungie, Defiance. It looked pretty, looked like a lot of fun to play and most importantly, enemies dropped loot. Tasty tasty loot. And then came the death blow for Microsoft, the aforementioned nuclear detonation that laid waste to the Xbone and all who followed its heretical path. The price. £349. £80 cheaper than the Xbox One. The over the audience’s rapturous applause, you could just about hear the sound of Xboners wilting under the ice cold shower of PlayStation superiority*.

There’s no arguing that Microsoft set the bar low with their two previous conferences. They didn’t provide enough games initially, have enough indie support, 3rd party excellence, or give away crap tons of free games. But that didn’t stop Sony from picking up the bar, lifting it above their heads, and beating Microsoft into a coma with it. Granted it’s a while before both console are released, but I already feel fairly certain which camp I’ll be in.

Xbox One is dead! Long live PlayStation 4!

*I apologise for the graphic nature of this metaphor

By Reuben Williams-Smith
@r_williamssmith

New Assassin’s Creed officially announced

There it is- Assassin’s Creed IV. “Black Flag”

Ubisoft have announced that the latest in the series will be pirate themed- featuring new protagonist Edward Kenway- father to Haytham Kenway and therefore grandfather to Connor Kenway; the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed III. Alongside a poster, a map was released detailing the Caribbean islands- hinting at the game’s location.

More information will be released Monday 4th March, and a release date was temporarily seen on the game’s official site: 29th October 2013- also on next generation consoles. The Playstation 3 version of the game will feature an hour of exclusive content.

Personally I think this is a brilliant idea- I’ve wanted a pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed since the second game, and the Caribbean setting sounds like it’ll suit the idea well. The main character being an Assassin and father to Templar Haytham Kenway should add a layer of conflict to the story, perhaps akin to the conflict between Haytham and Connor in Assassin’s Creed III. 

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18