Archive for Ubisoft

Review: Assassins Creed Brotherhood

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Baggie

Assassins Creed Brotherhood is the latest in the Assassins Creed series by Ubisoft. The series is based on free-roaming combat/stealth/movement gameplay, based off Desmond, a modern day Assassin, reliving genetic memories of his ancestors through a machine called an Animus.

The game starts back with Desmond, a modern day Assassin, on the run from a corporation lead by Templars that are trying to take over the world using supernatural artifacts. The Assassins are currently set on acquiring on of the said supernatural artifacts, which involve Desmond going back to the life of Ezio, the protagonist Assassins Creed 2 (AC2). This time you visit renaissance Rome, which has fallen into poverty and decay due to Templar rule. You set out to restore Rome and kill Cesare Borgia, the captain of the Vatican military forces, whom is intent on conquering all of Italy.

The real world gets a little more use than previous AC games, with more time spent doing stuff in outside the Animus, as well as the option to leave the Animus and talk to your fellow Assassins, as well as run around outside. It’s a nice feature, considering there’s so little real world in the previous games it makes the small bits of character development and interaction all the sweeter.

Unfortunately the story itself isn’t quite on par with it’s predecessor AC2. Cesare as the antagonist is an amazing idea, having someone who actually looks like he could prove a challenge is a nice change for the series, where half the bad guys are overweight and can’t defend themselves. Truth be told the only thing that was keeping them alive was plot armor, and the only difficulty in fighting them is they have an unreasonably large damage resistance.
But whilst the character is fairly interesting, the executing is disappointing. Just as the ball gets rolling in Rome he leaves the city, and only arrives back near the end of the game, and then appears very little before the end, so doesn’t get enough screentime to really flesh out his character, and ultimately the plot suffers a little for it.

The main missions follow the same formula as twice before in AC2. Befriend the thieves, courtesans and mercenaries. Then do missions for them. Then more story missions. Then end boss. It’s not a bad formula but it’s getting a little stale since we’ve done it twice before, the only difference is most of the missions are a part of the sandbox, not the storyline, so you can breeze right past them by accident and not really consider doing them. Which I did.

However, while it’s not the best, the story is still above average game writing, and is in no way a deal breaker. Especially when considering the upgrades to gameplay, which is much the same as AC2, with some noticeable improvements to, well, pretty much everything everything.

Combat has been altered to include chain kills, where you can instantly kill an enemy by attacking him as you’re performing a counter kill, and you can start a counter kill whilst you’re performing an action, meaning combat is now quicker and more fluid, as opposed to previous titles where combat was pretty much waiting for people to attack and then counter killing them. While this would normally mean combat is incredibly easy if it was used against enemies in AC2, Brotherhood has a higher concentration of enemies to dispatch and requires you to use different moves in order to defeat the different guard archetypes, which means it keeps the same challenge combat had in AC2. In addition to this the existing weapon system has been updated so that some of the ranged weapons, i.e. the hidden gun and throwing knives, are ‘attached’ to the primary and secondary weapons respectively, so in combat you can hold attack to use a quick ranged attack which is immensely helpful with the inclusion of more difficult enemies and a horse riding guards, and adds to the combat system so it flows even better. Also included is 2 new weapons, the crossbow and poison darts, which make stealth gameplay much much more practical, which was somewhat of a problem in the first two games. You can also now carry heavy weapons, if you purchase the appropriate equipment for carrying them. Oh, you can also throw heavy weapons. Into people. Very hard.

Movement on foot is the same, however horses have been improved dramatically, with the ability to ride horses around the city, jump off them onto poles, jump from horse to horse and assassinate someone, a whole bunch of horsing around really. It adds a lot and makes moving around Rome a lot easier, huge as it is.

After a while you can also train rebels to become Assassins which you can send on missions to gain them experience, or use them in combat during the game, it’s a cool little system, and definitely can help during a tough mission, but feels like it should have been expanded on more, maybe specifying Assassins to combat roles or something.

The missions themselves are sometimes extremely creative and intuitive, and other times “Go to x, perform standard action Y”. Something that helps is the 100% sync, a system that gives you optional rules for the mission, e.g. do not be detected, do not touch the ground, do mission in allotted time. It adds a bit of playability to the game, added with the ability to revisit different parts of the game at  will, but it’s sometimes more annoying that interesting.

The city of Rome is extremely impressive as cities in the franchise are, having interesting ruins to explore, amazing buildings to climb, and the standard amazing AC world system of civilians and soldiers mingling in an amazing display, complete with different amounts of poverty as you renovate the city. It’s also HUGE.  Huge enough horses are required. Maybe too huge, reminding me of the San Andreas problem of taking forever to get anywhere, but a fast travel system is included and usually easily accessed, as long as you remember to fix up the access points.

The multiplayer component of the game is a very interesting idea. When I heard of AC multiplayer, I assumed it would be terrible due to the out of place combat system. I did not assume they would remove combat entirely. I also did not assume the fun.
It’s a game based on many objectives, though the main experience is assassinating. You lock on, press attack, and it’s an instant kill. However you can stealth around, hide in crowds of look alikes, and outrun people to avoid getting killed, and use many different techniques to kill, getting more points for kills based off stealth rather than high profile moves. It works well, but it contains an unlockable weapons, items and perk system which is apparently mandatory for multiplayer games now, and the unlocks are so very unbalanced it makes my brain hurt. It’s very fun, but it’s often luck based and item based rather than skill based, and it’s pretty likely if not certain the multiplayer community will die fair quickly, but is a good experience nonetheless.

Something I’d like to come back to is the pacing of the game. Assassins Creed 2 has superb pacing. Hell, it might be the best paced game I’ve ever seen. It uses environments, combat skills, characters, money, movement abilities. Something new is regularly happening, whether it be Carnevale in Venice, finding new factions to ally with, or being trained in new combat styles, either something interesting is happening or you have a definite goal. And in addition to that new side missions would appear every so often giving you the option to play them if you wished some quick fun action of your choice, or you could leave them for later and do more story missions.
However in Brotherhood they’ve put more content into the open sandbox mode, letting the player theoretically choose their own pacing of whatever.
However there’s an issue. People suck at pacing.
They’ll often feel obliged to do one thing or the other, and if you don’t break it down into small chunks at semi-frequent intervals they’ll either do too much mindless fun and get bored or not enough and get bored.
And as a result of the moving of content, the story doesn’t have enough raw content, making it feel short, while more content is put into the sandbox, which feels rather inconsequential as a result. Still fun and creative missions, but if they aren’t supplemented with regular story/character/whatever development, they feel like they really don’t matter too much. I mean, of course they don’t matter, they’re side-quests, the idea is to make them feel like the matter.
Overall however, Brotherhood is a very fun game, includes many improvements to the AC formula, including an entertaining multiplayer. Definitely a worthwhile entry in the franchise.

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New, Used, Abused: Farcry 2

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , on August 11, 2009 by Baggie

Foreward: When I bought this game at the GAME store in Bathurst, they gave me a copy of the Fortune’s Pack DLC for free, which gave me new vehicles and weapons (as well as Multiplayer maps, but the multiplayer community is dead). Woo GAME! Buy your games from GAME! I just wish they had a better name.

Farcry 2 is a game by developers Ubisoft, in stark comparison to the general formula of sequels the game actually has nothing to do with Farcry, besides shooting people really.

You start off the game as 1 of 9 different playable characters, tasked by a US Government divison to kill a chap called ‘The Jackel”, who’s been supplying arms to both sides of the conflict (I chose Andre, he had the most similar hair and name to me, always a plus.) However within your first few seconds of precious cutscene you contract malaria somehow and passout. Then you awake to find the guy you were sent to kill NURSING you back to health, though he seems a little pissed that you’ve got orders to assassinate him. He however seems like a genuinely nice guy, you know, past the psycotic arms dealer thing. He then lets you live, telling you you’ll have to find something else to do with your time.

Genuinely, I felt I wanted to keep out of his hair. For a guy you’ve been sent to assassinate to mend you up from the brink of DEATH, it seemed like the least I could do. Unfortunately I was swept up in a cascade of storyline, and was rescued from death by one of the warring factions, the ULFF. At least I THINK it was the ULFF. It was pretty difficult to tell, both sides don’t have that much difference between them.After a couple of missions I was pretty much released into the open world, to enjoy the diverse forests, barren deserts, etc.

First thing that’s notable is the game is in first person the entire time. No 3rd person cutscenes, no vehicle-cam, just straight FPS. And it’s really immersive, especially with the fully visible character body, the expressive 1st person animations of your character, and the minimal HUD. It draws you in very skillfully, which makes it pretty decent to me already.

The first couple of missions were pretty standard, go to certain place, destroy certain object/person. It’s a tried and true method. But the first thing that struck me when I left the local mission-town, the outpost I’d wiped out a couple of minutes earlier had mysteriously repopulated.

First thought was that I felt the game had cheated me somehow. Though I slowly realised that in an actual war places of strategic importance generally don’t go left alone, especially since the opposite force had proceeded to drive away at breakneck speed after clearing the place out.

Made sense, so I figured I’d do my best to stay out of the people’s way. But that was easier said than done, most of the place is contained within heavy bushland, meaning that it was more or less unavoidable that I’d have to fight some people in my travels.

Now normally I don’t have a problem with fighting. Hell, it’s why I play games in the first place, but the idea of killing enemies when they’re going to be replaced in 5 minutes just feels so… pointless. I mean in most games you can clear out an area and bam, you’ve got a safe zone. You’ve made the world, particularly this 20×20 metre square, a better place. But here, you’ve got to slog your way through countless hordes of people, and while realistic, it just feels irritiating. Of course the other option would be to have the camps stay cleared, but frankly that’d lead to me clearing the world in a couple of hours and somehow there’s a war going on after all the troops have died.

I kept on with the missions, but they had a bad case of being very similar too. I mean the objectives were different and there was always a reason for them to be done, storyline wise, but they boiled down to killing the people in the area, pressing ‘e’ on or blowing up the object in question.

This game has a bad case of what is referred to as ‘combat fatigue’ (Coined by the nice chaps at Valve). It’s when the player has been fighting for far too long, and it begins to make them feel frustrated, of course how much too long is is different from person to person. Typically you can break this up by giving the player some constructive puzzles or something similar to release the tension, but this game can’t really pull that off, being a Sandbox game. They have a fun mechanic where you can hunt for dimonds hidden around the world, and the exploration, though annoyingly limited in some areas, is very fun, but there’s a big wall for me when it comes to driving.

Africa, being a very large place, will require you to do some driving if you want to get places. I mean you can walk, but it’s probably faster to drive. While the driving is alright in itself, it makes you wait a fair ammount of time until you can get to your desination, which kind of irks me. I mean I play games to unwind etc, not to practice a driving simulator.

The storyline, is truely intruiging. I crave more, which keeps me going through this game, which at times I feel like a bit of a slogfest. The Jackel is someone that, while seemingly evil, there’s more to his intentions than initially revealed, and I can’t help but think he might be onto something. The only problem is to get to these wonderful parts of story I must go through missions that become pretty much all the same and travel that feels like I’m doing the 2 hour drive from my Uni to home. And because I want more of the story, the more I try to rush through the missions and combat, which makes me more frustrated

All this frustration and hopelessness though makes me feel like it was at least partly intentional. Maybe they were trying to illustrate how pointless war is, or emulate the feelings of the character who’s seeking revenge on the person who robbed him of his career.Though this may be silly to assume, it could equally be they thought that players like constant combat.

The buddy system is quite good, you have NPCs scattered around the world, guys you didn’t pick as your character, and guys that’re just there to hang around you. How you find them can be pretty cool, I rescued some random chick that’s plane fell out of the SKY. They can rescue you when you die, a sort of backup system, but when they’re in the world with you there’s a chance that they could die.
First they’ll go down, and call for help. From there you can choose to heal them, leave them, or put them out of their misery.
Though sometimes it’s not enough. They’re not uberhumans (well maybe they are, but they have limits), they can die. I was raiding a treasure stash with my buddy Josip, and it ended up in a massacre. They died, and he was there, crying for help. I put in 3 syrettes into him, before he passed out and died. And I felt genuinely sympathetic to his demise, which is a landmark for me personally, it takes a lot of effort into making people feel for a charcter they know doesn’t exist.

Something random I’d like to mention are the fire physics in the game. They’re absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen fire that’s been programmed so well. You throw a molotov at a patch of grass, the grass will burn down. And any trees, people, wooden buildings etc that’s in it’s range. It’s really pretty and actually serves a tactical advantage as well, the AI coming to investigate and try to put it out.

This is a really good game, and there’s so much to like about it, but personally I find I can’t play for too long without getting so bored with the compulsory travel sections and the constant fighting. The environments are stunning, and everything fuctions really well, and the storyline is really intruiging, but it’s a bit of a slog to get to the good parts. Pick it up if you can stand constant fighting and are partial to a bit of high quality storyline.