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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mafia II – impressions


The problem for me with open world / sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row is that the messing around, freedom etc becomes more entertaining than the actual story.  Then of course the messing around gets boring and the missions go on and on and on, until I’m bored.  I’ve still never completed GTA IV, and so the prospect of this game didn’t exactly make me rush to buy it when it first came out.  Yet one thing that always did appeal was the period set real world gangster approach, ala The Godfather and Goodfellas, and for style and atmosphere, this game has it in spades.

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