Once upon a time, there was always a little booklet nestled inside the packaging of a video game. It was called an instruction manual, and you could usually judge the complexity of a game by how thick it was. Once upon a time, the first thing I did when I bought any new game was read that thing cover to cover, sometimes more than once. Often it would have lots of interesting flavour text about the game’s world and its characters, alongside all the usual stuff about control schemes and mechanics. Once upon a time, these things were really important.
“Once upon a time” refers to relatively recent years – within the last decade, certainly. There’s probably a generation of gamers who don’t remember manuals at all, but there are many more who remember them as a fundamental component of a game’s whole experience. Instruction manuals weren’t just for giving the player necessary information; the best were stuffed with all kinds of ancillary content, from artwork and maps to pages full of interesting storytelling.
Contemporary gaming has rendered these things pretty much obsolete. I can’t remember the last time I even looked at one. Very few releases these days include them at all. Nintendo 3DS games, for example, have digital manuals installed on the software itself. You can have a quick look if you need to, but you probably won’t.
Continue reading Opinion – Video Game Tutorials
I’m still playing The Crew. More importantly, I’m still having a lot of fun with it. Since I hastily scrawled my first impressions, I’ve been collecting some more thoughts while I’ve been driving around. Here they are in no particular order.
It’s vital that I stress again how enormous and visually diverse the gameworld is. I don’t know if this is the biggest map I’ve seen in a video game, but it’s most certainly up there. Admittedly it’s a world designed to be enjoyed at speed, as if you pull over to take a close look at things you won’t see much fine detail, but still. It isn’t just an aesthetic thing, either. All the different weather effects and types of terrain alter the way your vehicle handles, as well as the style of driving you’re partaking in. I like that I can rumble across the Nevada dunes in a monster truck one mission, then rocket around a proper racetrack in a circuit-spec speed machine the next. If nothing else, The Crew’s world is one of this year’s biggest achievements in gaming.
Continue reading Final Thoughts – The Crew
As it happens, I was correct about Splinter Cell: Conviction. Most of the points I made in my previous post about the game remained valid throughout, and nothing the experience offered succeeding in challenging my opinion of it. This is still a pretty bad stealth game, and still an uncomfortably drastic step away from what I believe made the series great in the first place.
But, while negativity is often a lot of fun, I’m always much more focused on the stuff I liked and saw potential in, and Conviction has a lot of that. My issues with the game are almost entirely based on mechanics which play havoc with the stealth, or things I deemed to be specifically non-Splinter Cell. Some of those I discussed in the prior post. The rest are self-explanatory matters of preference which only really arise when Conviction is taken as part of a greater whole rather than an individual game.
Continue reading Final Thoughts – Splinter Cell: Conviction
As insane as it feels to be typing these words, my initial experience with Ubisoft’s new MMO-style open-world driving game, The Crew, has been overwhelmingly positive. I sank about six hours into it this afternoon, and I’ve got some preliminary thoughts I’d like to share before I give it another chunk of my time.
Most importantly, it works. That isn’t something which should be particularly noteworthy, but after the winter Ubisoft has had this year it’s genuinely surprising they’ve released a game that’s actually playable on Day One. I had a minor update to install (I forget the exact size, but it was around 100mb) and that took about two minutes, then I was off. The always-online framework was active; there were plenty of other folks driving around with me, and the option was there to take part in PvP and PvE events if I wanted to. I didn’t test any, but that’s just me. I very rarely touch multiplayer due to my natural dislike of people, so I was paying more attention to whether or not the game would let me ignore these things. And it did.
Continue reading First Impressions – The Crew
For the fifth game in a series that has always been a beacon of excellent stealth design philosophy, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a surprisingly terrible stealth game.
In fact, I’m not even sure Conviction is a stealth game at all. As a man who has been referred to in various official media as “the greatest stealth operative in the world” for quite a while now, Sam Fisher is either being spectacularly misrepresented, has lost his touch, or simply doesn’t give a shit anymore.
Continue reading First Impressions – Splinter Cell: Conviction
Whatever your girlfriend might think, bigger isn’t always better. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is big. The biggest the series has ever been, easily. But it’s far from better. Wildlands couldn’t hope to compete with the two Advanced Warfighter games from 2006 and 2007; and it’s even inferior to the stripped-down Ghost Recon: Future Soldier from 2012. It’s just big. Bloated. Unhealthy. If size matters to you, then so might Wildlands. I guess the heart of the series is still in there. But it’s covered in fatty deposits and it only beats once every few hours. Wildlands moves, but it never feels alive.
Again, and again, I’m reminded that not everything needs to be bigger; that not every video game franchise needs to expand outwards. Ubisoft’s death-by-a-thousand-icons design is wearing so thin these days that I can see straight through it. And to think that an open world used to mean something. Used to matter. It stood for things – possibility, freedom, fun. It was the kid’s toybox writ large; “play” personified. Now it’s a rote checklist of mundane distractions. Wildlands has all the usual suspects. You can sweep weapons, upgrades and skill points into your trousers like a cartoon bank robber, pester convoys and patrols, lead the toothless rebel populace around like sheep. Interrogate this guy, kill that one, capture the other. Blow this up. Defend that. Stop for a minute. Paint shark teeth on your gun, try on a new hat. Do these sunglasses go with this outfit? Remember, a tattoo is for life. Pick something artistic. There are outposts to capture. You want to look good while you’re warmongering, don’t you?
Continue reading Review – Ghost Recon: Wildlands
For Honor imagines an alternate Middle Ages in which medieval knights, Vikings and samurai all live within about five minutes of each other, which funnily enough is the kind of world I’ve imagined for so long that I feel as though I should be getting royalties from this. I’d be doing pretty well for myself, too. For Honor has shifted a remarkable number of copies considering it’s a multiplayer-focused duelling simulator. I suppose even for adults there’s an implicit desire to find out which of your favourite historical warriors are the hardest. It’s a timeless argument that has its roots somewhere in kids insisting that their dad can beat their mate’s dad in a straight fight. That idea has a lot of legs. For Honor is a franchise waiting to happen, really. Maybe the sequel will explain where all the pirates went.
One of the first things For Honor asks you to do is choose which faction to belong to. I selected the Vikings because I feel as though my life has a lot less raping and pillaging than I’d like, but it turns out the choice only applies to multiplayer, and that regardless of who you choose to align with you can play as whoever you like, thus rendering the choice utterly meaningless. I’m glad I agonised over it for half an hour, because it isn’t as though I have anything else to be doing.
Continue reading Review – For Honor (Story Mode)