Watch Dogs … room for improvement?


This is the last post I’ll be writing on this heavily hyped and popular game now I have had more time to really get to grips with it.  So there are a few things I’ve noticed and a few things I wish had been implemented better … or at all.

Ubi Soft have done a great job with this recreation of Chicago and its a blast to explore, especially with all the extra side missions and wealth of people and things going on. What did puzzle me was the amount of bus shelters – but not a single bus! Also why aren’t there any Taxis in this city? Just seems like a complete oversight by the developers. Also strange that Police seem to be absent for the most part until you do some sort of crime. Shouldn’t they be on patrol anyway?  Then the pedestrians which at first glance are well done and individual, it soon becomes apparent that there are a ton of repeated lines of dialogue like ‘what is going on in Chicago’ and ‘she has a crazy perfect ass’ but spoken by different pedestrians and in different areas of the city. A tad lazy for an apparent next-gen experience.

Watch-Dogs-1

The weather system is at first impressive and I can’t fault the thunder / rain effect. Even the slight smoggy look at certain times of the day is impressive, but wouldn’t it be cool if there were other effects catered for, like snow? As seen in The Division, but perhaps time of year is a factor, so a wintery sequel? Hmm.  Building interiors lack some detail and I think they could have had a few more areas you can go inside and explore. It doesn’t feel as interactive as GTA V and that was a game on last-gen hardware. Oh and why is this city, like many open world games completely unpopulated by children and animals? I get it, we don’t need to see a child run over by a crazy gamer or shot at point-blank range, but hey – not very ‘real’ either, is it? Couldn’t it be implemented so that such incidents would have a much bigger impact on your reputation compared to regular pedestrians? Just a thought.

watch-dogs-2

The cash system is far too generous. I haven’t once during the time I have played, lacked money – I either pick it up from fallen foes, steal it off pedestrians or its just plain given to me … lots of it. Makes the whole buying weapons, pills, clothing part of the game a bit boring if its so easy to come by. Oh and as for weapons, getting hold of high powered items like the grenade launcher, very early on, makes many of the missions rather easy. Shouldn’t such hardware get unlocked the more I progress, or as I have mentioned, wouldn’t more of a lack of cash make such cool weapons worth ‘saving up’ for etc… with cash earned perhaps during side quests? I actually had the grenade launcher around the start of the game. On the subject of weapons, how about customization and individual weapon mods, like perhaps a silencer on a sniper rifle…?

The game has some very cool ideas though. The way you can hide in your car following a police chase feels very cop thriller territory, and the story itself, whilst very serious in tone, has the feel of a cool high tech TV series or a movie, with characters that feel real – to me at least. I love profiling pedestrians for some of the weird job titles etc. Also getting hacked during my game is very clever and fun to track down the hacker and blow him away…lol. Some have said the driving is a bit off. I disagree. This depends on the car you use, and feels believable to how real world cars react, as in over-powered ones spin out very easily etc. The bikes are awesome, by the way.

watch_dogs_3

That extra six months of development, I do wonder where it went . . was it getting the core gameplay principals just right, or adding silly (but fun) diversions like digital trips and cash runs? Personally the time given to such mini games could have been better put to use on limiting the repeated dialogue, giving us buses and taxis to ride (not just trains…) and general polish (yes the game has bugs…). Oh and don’t get me started about the radio… firstly no stations and no DJs? Granted this is Ubi Softs first stab at this sort of GTA-like game, but really? It’s been a stable mate of this style of game for years.

So for the inevitable WD #2 I hope we don’t just get more of the same, but Ubi Soft dedicating themselves to delivering a fully immersive, open world experience with all these little details intact – believe me they matter.

State of play


I don’t write on here much about videogames these days … choosing to concentrate on movies as  a whole.  Yet sometimes games come along that make me sit back and my mouth fall open – their excellence too obvious to go un-spoken (or un-written) about.  Two such games I’ll be reporting on are the PlayStation exclusive action / adventure The Last Of Us, and the hotly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V.

thelastofus

I have just come from a lengthy game of The Last Of Us, a sort of The Walking Dead inspired action game where you’re pitted as Joel, who has to escort Ellie, an immune teenage girl from one side of the states to the other so to take her to a science lab and possibly find a cure for a virus that has all but destroyed mankind.  Developers Naughty Dog of the famed Uncharted series have truly delivered their masterpiece.  First and foremost it looks stunning, with highly detailed, life-like environments and ultra-real character animated and human behaviour I haven’t seen done quite so well anywhere else.  You get the feeling each character is alive, especially the full of personality Ellie, your computer-controlled partner for much of the game.  Add to this gameplay that allows you to be strategic, upgrade your weapons and traverse each environment with an almost-open-world freedom – and this is a game that not only looks great, but plays great also.  Combat in my opinion has often been Naughty Dog’s Achilles Heel, but this time its fun and clever, with a great use of various types of weaponry so you can plan your way through each encounter however you see fit.  The story too is highly involving, very emotional and above all else – real.  Story telling of this depth is rare in videogames, but here it’s on par, if not surpassing at times those you see in a blockbuster movie.  Take note Hollywood.  Essential.

Then we come to GTA V, a game I just can’t get enough of.  The open-world of San Andreas / Los Santos is easily the biggest in the series and has so many areas to explore and secrets to find, that just driving around, causing chaos is a game in of itself.  Now add to this a first in the series, three very individual characters to control, Michael a former mobster now in witness protection, Franklin a typical hood gangster, and then there’s Terry, a psychotic hillbilly nutjob.  GTA has often been about its characters, its tongue-in-cheek humour and its satire of modern living-  and that continues here, with the same funny, sarcastic radio DJs, the great, varied music, and above all else, a joyful disregard for taste and decency.  GTA is the gaming world’s rebellious cousin, and he’s on top form here.  Developer Rockstar have pulled out all the stops, with a vibrant never-looked-so-good game world, believable characters and situations, with plenty of nods to movies and TV shows.  It’s the kind of game you keep in your collection and even if you don’t want to do any of the 60+ missions, this game offers more fun per minute than almost any other game out there (with this time, the whole world open to explore from the start).  It’s adult humour and subjects aren’t for everyone however, and the frequent strong language and sexual or violent moments can get a bit much – but it’s to be expected in a series that has always pushed boundaries and caused controversy.  Either way this is a must play.

Sitting back and looking at the above games, makes me wonder just what is the next generation going to bring us?  These two games look amazing, with more effects and ideas going on than we’ve seen for a long time, a pinnacle of design and programming, and dare I say it, artistry, that trumping them next generation won’t be easy.  We can’t possibly get the technical leap we had from say, PS2 to PS3, but with technical limitations further widened, developers have even more power at their disposal, and games of this style or even things we haven’t imagined yet, could just be around the corner.  I remain on the fence as to whether its needed – our currently consoles still very capable of wowing us – but it’s certainly exciting times we live in as gamers.

Update


Just a short post trying out the Windows Writer software available in Windows Essentials that’s meant to make blogging easier.  Also using this opportunity to update my readers on a few things I am looking forward to and doing at the moment.  Been reading the rather enjoyable book ‘A Step Too Far’ by Tina Seskis.  Proving an easy read and as someone who isn’t an avid reader … it’s not too long at three hundred and odd pages, compared to the tomes of say, Stephen King clocking in at an intimidating one thousand plus!  I am also using reading again as a segway into perhaps writing, a hobby of mine I would love to start doing again, and have found a way by putting my hand to short story writing, some of which I might publish on here one day.

Other than that I have been enjoying Breaking Bad (currently on season 3) and Ray Donovan.  Both proving very enjoyable and come highly recommended.  I am also currently watching the final season of Dexter, one of my all time favourite shows, but this season sadly is leaving me rather cold so far.  Last night I watched (not exactly) classic 1982 horror The Entity, that I think is probably way too obscure to grant a review on here, but proved kind of interesting, and the based of an apparent true story aspect kept me focused, even if the badly acted and poorly framed experience got me yearning for something more modern, high def and wide screen (!).

I am not that interested in gaming right now but have pre-ordered the way too good looking Grand Theft Auto V for XBOX 360, and am looking forward to it, despite failing to complete (at least so far) games such as Hitman Absolution, Dead Space 3 and to a lesser extent the mostly ‘meh’ Remember Me. 

Movies on the horizon I plan on reviewing though, include: James Macevoy gangster thriller Welcome To The Punch, Elijah Wood serial killer remake Maniac, Rob Zombie horror-fest Lords Of Salem and also attempt to review classics newly coming to Blu-ray such as Edward Woodwood chiller The Wicker Man and Tobe Hooper sci-fi gore / nudity classic Life Force.   Oh, and also don’t judge me for wanting the Blu-ray set pictured below, even if the latest Studio Ghibli release it houses (From Up On Poppy Hill) isn’t exactly on my must see list:

Along with work, life and other things that crop up, plenty to keep me busy and some interesting stuff on the horizon I’ll no doubt enjoy blogging about. 

Craig.  Winking smile

L.A. Noir – impressions


This was one of my big hopes for 2011.  Rockstar Games’ much anticipated cop adventure game, borrowing from the likes of Grand Theft Auto as well as movies like L.A. Confidential.  The hype surrounding it made a big noise about the revolutionary facial technology that can put real actors into a game world, and the prospect of playing a game that is less about running around with a gun, and more about investigating crime scenes and interrogating witnesses, certainly made me sit up and take notice.  So what is the game actually like to play?

You are ex-war veteran Cole Phelps, starting out as a beat Cop who quickly rises through the ranks, going from Homicide to Vice to Arson.  At first it feels ver much like GTA in the large open world (you get a fully re-created Los Angeles to explore) and being a good guy instead of a criminal is refreshing.  Once you get into the meat of the game, searching crime scenes etc, it’s very unique and interesting, and looking for clues is quite unlike anything out there, that I have played at least.  Also sitting down and quizzing witnesses or suspects is done well, with a system where you must ask questions, which are based on the evidence and clues you have found, and going by what answers the witness / suspect returns, you can choose between believing them, doubting their honesty or calling them a liar.  At first this is tricky to get to grips with, but once you understand what the game is asking of you, getting the job done and putting criminals behind bars can be very satisfying.

Graphically this is impressive, especially as far as the characters and various people you meet are concerned.  The technology is very good, even if the odd recognisable face (did I just spot Matt out of Heroes?) can look a little weird.  The city although very detailed pales in comparison to GTAIV for things going on and stuff to do, and can’t hold a candle technically to Mafia II either.  Also the game suffers quite badly from frame-rate slow down, and it’s obvious that the game world isn’t fully realised with many repeated lines of dialogue from pedestrians and a fair few bugs.  But it creates a great atmosphere of 1940s America though, and for that at least, it does what it came to do.

My main gripe with the game is the repetitiveness of the cases.  I am about half way in, and so far nearly every murder has been a woman and the investigations have constantly resulted in the same on-foot or by car chase, which is nothing we haven’t seen done many times.  Ok, the on-foot stuff is fairly slick, but when you’ve done it five or more times in a row, it gets boring very quickly.  I feel overall that this is a game with a great technology behind it and some good ideas, but for my money at least, it just doesn’t feel very well realised and lacks the variety and compelling story to make it much more than bargain bin fodder.  The kinda game you won’t regret buying cheap or trading-in for, but it’s not one I’d recommend at full price.

Red Dead Redemption – impressions


It’s taken me a while to get around to this one, as there were a few games I wanted to play instead.  Yet with the summer games droubt upon us, I felt it was as good a time as any to sink my teeth into Rockstar’s much acclaimed Wild West action adventure.

You play as John Marston, a cowboy with a mysterious past looking to right wrongs and make a name for himself in the West.  Saved from death by a local rancher called Bonnie, you start out helping her daily work and also doing missions for local law enforcement.  Along the way you’ll find side quests and random encounters that bring the world of the wild west vividly to life.  This is a gorgeous looking game with Rockstar’s tried and tested graphics engine coming a long way since GTA IV and the old west has never looked more atmospheric or picturesque.  Gorgeous vistas, sunsets and huge wilderness and vast plains to explore that are packed with detail and life.  Playing the game, shows that the overall open-world template isn’t that far removed from GTA, and riding a horse, lassooing enemies and gunfights are as much fun as you’d imagine.  Like GTA the game can get a little bogged down with the wealth of things to see and do, and making progress is hampered by the constant distractions of the world, which to be honest is only a small gripe that can be levelled at similar games.

Overall though, I’m having a blast, and the controls, the story and the missions are all well done and easy to get into.  It’ll probably last me a fair while too, knowing how epic Rockstar usually makes its games, so I’m sure I’ll have much more to report on in the coming weeks.