Video Games

Bullet Points: Far Cry 3 (Dislikes Edition)

UPDATE! I was wrong about a few things here. This is because I am dumb. Corrections have been added.

Observation: If I play a game for a few hours, and then quit, there’s often a residual bit of the game knocking around in my brain for a while. It’s usually a bit of audio that gets repeated in the game a lot. For instance, if I’ve been playing Plants vs. Zombies, it’s the crunching noise the zombies make when they eat my plants. If it’s Bioshock, maybe it’s the pleasing sound that plays when you loot a container. It can be the sound of an oft-used gun reloading, some sort of common ambient noise, or music from the game’s soundtrack.

When I finish up a session of Far Cry 3, what sound is left rattling around in my brain for a couple hours? The music from the game’s menu screen. The sort of low-key five-tone ominous music sting that you hear when you hit the Escape key to open the menu any one of a hundred times in the space of a few hours. Doooooo-deee-DOOOOOOO-deeee-DOOOOO. That. That is what I’m left with.

I propose that if your massive open-world game filled with driving, running, shooting, looting, and swimming leaves me with the music from the MENU SCREEN echoing in my head, you’ve probably done something wrong.

The reasons I’m in the menu so much?

  • There is no quicksave. There is, actually! F9. I looked through the game’s handbook under the heading “Saving Your Game” and it’s not mentioned there, but Roberto on Twitter sorted me out. Apparently, it’s not documented in the game (I certainly didn’t see it anywhere, and I tried F5, which is where it was in Far Cry 2.)

More on that in a sec, but since we’re talking about saving your game, there are also these:

  • There is a single save slot for your current game.
  • Loading an old save starts you off not where you saved the game last, but the nearest safe location.
  • There are no manual saves during an official mission.

Let’s go over all this.

It’s an open-world game in a simply massive game world that you are constantly doing unofficial (not main-quest related) things in: fighting, hunting, looting, crafting, running around doing dangerous shit all the time all over the place. And you can’t quicksave. That’s baffling. Does Ubisoft not know that PC games crash sometimes? Do they not know that some people (me) suck at games and die suddenly and unexpectedly for being sucky? Did they forget that they packed the world full of dangerous animals and things that explode and guys that kill you and cliffs you drive off and a bunch of other things that end your life before you’re ready? Do they know that might not be such a big problem if the player could tap a key every now again and save his or her progress?

Nope. Instead of tapping a key, you have to go to the damn main menu, where that damn music is playing, and click save. And I do that a lot, for the reasons above: PC games crash, I suck, and it’s a dangerous world full of death. That’s why that damn music is stuck in my head after a few hours.

I was wrong. Sorry, Ubisoft, you were nice enough to provide a quicksave option, and I retract that portion of my whining. Though you might have pointed that out somewhere, like in your in-game instruction manual on how to save a game. (Click for larger image.)

AND, you have but a single slot to save your game, meaning you are constantly saving over your progress. So, say you finish the game, and want to go back to almost the beginning but not quite the beginning? No, you can’t. You can’t revisit any prior points of your game-life, because you’ve saved over all of them. Not to mention, when you save your game through the menu, you get a prompt: “There is a game saved in this slot. Are you sure you want to save over it?” every time. Uh? I don’t have a fucking choice, why are you even asking me?

PLUS, if you load a saved game (rather, the saved game, as you only have one), you don’t even start off where you saved it, you start off in a nearby safe location. So, if you’re out in the wild and you spot, say, a graveyard, but don’t have time to explore it, you might save your game there and expect to pick it up right there, later. But no, you get teleported to wherever and have to try to find that spot again later.

ANDPLUS, if you’re on a mission (as opposed to just exploring or goofing around) you can’t save manually at all, you have to use the checkpoint save system. And the checkpoint system, as all checkpoint systems are, is pretty iffy. There was an official mission early in the game that was essentially teaching you how to stealth-kill dudes, and you had to stealth-kill three dudes, one by one, to collect items on their bodies, and then go to another location with what you collected. I killed them, I took their stuff, and I reached the distant location. Then the game crashed. When I reloaded, it took me back to the start, before I’d stealthed the dudes to death. Why not checkpoint after the third dead guy? I’d learned stealth, obviously, there was no need for me to learn it again.

Anyway. That’s the save problem. The game does autosave nicely for you in certain situations. If you reach a radio tower (they take some effort to climb, and falling is a real possibility), they save when you reach the tower so you respawn right at the base. That’s nice. Also, if you’re approaching an enemy outpost, it saves for you and respawns you where you were approaching from. These are handy. The rest is just irritating.

  • The game menu itself is not well designed

Crafting is a pretty common activity: you can craft various syringes for giving you temporary abilities, and you have to craft a ton of pouches to carry your gear around in. Most often, you’ll be crafting your own health syringes, so you’d think maybe there’d be a hotkey to enter the crafting menu, but no. Just go the the main menu (DOOOO DEE DOOOO etc) and click on Crafting. There is a hotkey! I am a dumb. It is F1, which I somehow never managed to press during the entire game. Even by accident. I didn’t see this anywhere in the documentation either, but I probably still should have tried it.

Here’s the crafting menu screen. You can click to enlarge.

Okay, there’s the word SYRINGES, which is helpful, and a little description of whatever you’re planning to make, also helpful, and the list of basic types of syringes that you can double-click to expand and see what they are and then make them, one by one. So, if you need some meds, and some hunting tonics, and maybe a couple other things, you have to do a bunch of clicking and double-clicking. Which is probably unnecessary because there are roughly forty-five acres of completely empty space they could have used to avoid a bunch of pointless sub-menus. Here, I boxed the useful info in red and pointed out the extra real estate:

Look, I know these giant empty useless menus are there for console gamers, because they’re sitting way back from their screens, and a ton of small text would be hard to read. And I’m not saying cram every single crafting option onto the same page, but at least use SOME of the pointlessly empty space to help us spend less time fucking around in Menuland (DOOOO DEEE). There’s no reason for the syringes to have submenus. Also, again, hotkey the crafting menu. How hard would that be?

  • Notifications are all up in your face all of the time.

This is a really irritating issue early in the game, that sort of fizzles to a minor one later. When you start playing, you quickly acquire a lot of information. The people you meet, the weapons you unlock, new skills, new locations, new animals, new everything, and each and every time this happens, you’ll get a little box on your screen inviting to to learn more about them via (sigh) the menu (DEE DOOO DEEEEEE). And hey, great, I like learning about things, but some of these boxes won’t go away until you tap Escape and then tap it again, at which point another one will pop up. Obviously, the further you progress, the less of an issue it is, because you’re encountering fewer unfamiliar things, but the first couple hours of the game is a party and notifications were invited and they brought all of their goddamn relatives.

Even worse: your main objective? The one you’re planning to ignore for eighteen hours because you want to go fuck around in the jungle and hunt for relics or shoot at sharks or chase deer with a flamethrower or do some hang gliding or whatever else? About once a minute, your main objective will pop up on your screen. Then it’ll fade. Then it’ll pop up again. This never stops.

You know how Far Cry 2 showed your main objective? Red circle on your map. You know how it informed you what the objective was? It didn’t. If you wanted to know, you’d  — GASP — hit escape and visit the menu! You know, the thing the menu is actually FOR.

Other notifications, helpful ones, still find ways to be annoying. There are times when you’re approaching a location, and for reasons I won’t say, you may be unsure whether or not you’ll be fired upon. A box pops up saying, “Hey, this is a restricted area, they will shoot you,” which is helpful. Only it keeps popping up, even if you’re having a giant gunfight with the people it’s trying to warn you about. I may not know if someone is planning to shoot me, but if they start shooting me, I can probably figure it out from there.

Apparently, a patch is due shortly for the notification problem — we’ll see what it addresses.

  • BREAKING NEWS! Uplay is a garbage thing

Oh, Uplay! You almost didn’t make this list! I was not thrilled to buy FC3 through Steam and then realize I had to sign up for Uplay as well, but I begrudgingly did. And for a while, Uplay seemed perfectly benign. It auto-logged me in, it didn’t really pester me with a bunch of crap, and while it took some extra time to connect and synchronize or whatever the hell it does, it didn’t really bother me the way Origin does (by being a garbage thing).

UNTIL, when I went to boot up the game today to take some screenshots of the menu for the bit above, and suddenly Uplay couldn’t connect, and couldn’t synchronize whatever, and it told me to contact tech support, and gave me some error messages, and told me my account had been accessed from another location, and took several minutes to even let me start the game, and when it finally did, I found that my saved game (my only saved game dooo dee doooo) was trapped in the “cloud” or whatever the fuck and I couldn’t access it because Uplay was farting up it’s own butt and couldn’t connect and apparently didn’t save my only saved game on my actual computer.

So, Uplay is a garbage thing. Super. Doo dee doo.

Video Games

Bullet Points: Far Cry 3 (Outposts Edition)

Apart from the animals, the enemy outposts are the best part of Far Cry 3. Handily, the animals sometimes play a part at the outposts as well.

Unlike the security checkpoints in Far Cry 2, the outposts in FC3 are generally big, well staffed, and once captured, don’t repopulate with jerks. (On the other hand, I just cleared the final outpost the other night, and I’m a little sad — I sorta wish there was an option to auto-repopulate them). FC3′s outposts are also way more fun to assault than FC2′s — there are a lot of options for causing havoc.

What follows is my bullet points list of what makes the outposts so much fun. I don’t think it contains spoilers, per se, but I did enjoy discovering the various aspects of the outposts myself as I played, so if you haven’t played FC3 yet, and want to go in completely cold, you might want to skip this.

  • Outposts can be seen from miles away.

They’re marked on the map with red flags, but you can also spot them from a great distance: just look for a telltale column of black smoke. The smoke is a pretty awesome touch: the map in FC3 is massive and cumbersome and can’t be used without pausing the game (unlike Far Cry 2′s fantastic in-game handheld map) so being able to spot an outpost from a mile away without having to consult the map every few seconds is a time-saver. Thanks, video game!

That’s a long walk, but worth the fun that results.

  • You can scout them with your camera.

Looking at enemies through your camera tags them with an icon, depending on what kind of enemy they are (see the screenshot at the top of this post). General goons get a little skull and crossbones, snipers/rocketeers get crosshairs, dudes who will run right at you get a lightning bolt.

(I think it might be more fun if the game let you tag them yourself: “That guy is on a perch and he might he holding a rifle; I’ll tag him as a sniper.”)

Once an enemy is tagged, you can see their icon no matter where they are. Maybe this is a bit too easy, but I like it.

This bear is probably the first and final step to capturing this outpost.

  • Some outposts have penned animals. Penned animals can be freed. Freed animals are awesome.

Sometimes the goons will have a captured animal inside a wooden cage, and you can shoot the cage open from cover. The escaping animal will cause a distraction, or maybe a death or two, if it’s a dog or a giant bird. If it’s something like a bear, your work is pretty much done: the bear will kill the shit out of everybody and capture the camp while you sit somewhere safe and watch. Thanks, bear! You’re the best. Also, I have to kill you now, because I want to loot the place.

Tigers are also grrrrreat for completely wiping out enemies.

  • The guards can call for reinforcements by triggering alarms. If you let them. Don’t let them.

Alarms look like a telephone pole with an electronic horn on top. They’re important: alarms will be used by goons to call in reinforcements unless you disable them, and the goons will try to sound the alarm the instant they know they’re under attack. Reinforcements aren’t a joke, either. It’s not like a couple guys show up in a jeep. There’s a big swarm of goons who show up: in vehicles, in boats, on foot. I’m not saying it’s not fun, but the fight can quickly get out of hand when multiple squads arrive.

Alarms have a control panel near the base of the pole, which can be disabled in a few ways. If you sneak into the outpost, you can disable them– all of them– just by manually turning off a single panel. If you’re not confident you can stealth in, it can get tricky: there’s usually more than one alarm pole, and there’s often not a clear shot on all of the panels from the same location, so circling around the camp for a bit is essential to find a good sniping spot where you can hit both panels. If there’s anyone standing nearby, though, they’ll notice the shot, even if you have a silenced rifle.

  • You can completely stealth-kill the whole outpost, but I tend not to.

You can stealth-stab dudes pretty effectively, especially since you can throw rocks to distract them and get them to turn their backs. Working your way through an entire outpost, offing dudes quietly, isn’t without its charms. Thing is, I’m coming to FC3 straight off of Dishonored, and, I dunno, I kinda had my fill of lurking around stabbing dudes in the neck, I guess. I did one or two outposts by skulking around and stabbing, and it was satisfying, but with all the guns and toys in the game, I’d rather have some big loud messy fights.

  • Proximity mines are great, unless no one steps on them.

If I do decide to sneak into camp to disable the alarm, rather than shoot the panels from a distance, I also make sure to drop a proximity mine next to the alarm panel. Even if the alarm is disabled, someone will probably try to ring it once your attack begins. Now they have a little present waiting for them. While you’re scurrying around during the firefight, there’s nothing more satisfying than hearing the boom of someone stepping on the mine you planted, and knowing there’s one less guy to face.

If I can get away with it, I sometimes plant additional mines in likely spots for foot traffic. Next to a vehicle is a good spot: if you’re sniping from a distance (I often am), someone may decide to jump into a Jeep and come after you: the mine will blow when they get close to the vehicle. A gap in the fencing is also a good spot to lay a trap for anyone who decides to rush out after you.

The only problem is, sometimes no one steps on your mines. This isn’t a problem for you specifically: they won’t go off if you step on them. But once you’ve captured the outpost, your allies will immediately show up, often in a speeding vehicle, and start walking around talking to themselves. If you have a mine or two on the road, it will blow up their car. If you have some scattered around the camp, they might walk over them. If one of your allies gets blown up, any others will blame you, and you’ll have to retake the camp all over again, this time from your friends. Which, admittedly, can be kind of fun. Still, I generally try to avoid harming my comrades, so after I win the outpost I have to rush around collecting all my mines before they get stepped on by my homies.

  • Outposts are often filled with explodey things already.

Some outposts are essentially explosions waiting to happen, littered with gas canisters, propane tanks, or standard-issue exploding barrels. At the very least, they’re a great distraction, and will draw out enemies who are inside of buildings. At best, they’ll take some bad guys with them when they explode. It can also be fun to drop some C4 near them while you’re skulking around, and detonate them remotely from a safe distance.

He is neither stopping, nor dropping, nor rolling.

  • Molotov dudes are fun/scary

There are these dudes who walk around with a bunch of Molotov cocktails strapped to their bodies. Shooting them will, as you might expect, cause them to burst into flame, which causes things around them to burst into flame, which can be quite useful. What you might not expect is that, while they are on fire, they are not quite done with you yet. They will run right at you, setting everything on fire in their path, which can be a rude awakening if you have a nice little sniping spot you’re fond of.

  • Unpredictable things happen.

It’s completely satisfying when things go according to plan. I handle the alarms, my mines get stepped on, I drop the snipers before they spot me, an animal thins the enemy herd, a fire I’ve started forces goons out of cover, or I take down everyone silently. But it’s also fun everything goes wrong.

Once I was moving into position when a boar attacked me and I freaked out, firing a million noisy bullets that alerted the outpost to my presence. A few times, an enemy patrol drove up just when I was getting started, giving me extra enemies from I hadn’t prepared for on a flank I hadn’t mined. Once, I was driving toward an outpost and didn’t realize it was located at the bottom of a cliff: I couldn’t brake in time so I had to jump from my vehicle, which plunged down into the outpost, more or less announcing my arrival (killed a couple dudes, but they were replaced with reinforcements). And, once I was sneaking around planting C4, got spotted, and ran out, frantically detonating the C4 to cover my escape, only I’d laid the C4 along the route I was escaping with and blew up my own stupid self.

  • This dog killed a dude and then teabagged him.

Good boy.

Not a standard feature during an outpost fight, but it happened.

 

Video Games

Bullet Points: Far Cry 3 (Animal Edition)

I’m gonna have a lot to say about Far Cry 3 in the next few weeks, as it’s a game with a lot of fantastic features and some seriously baffling shortcomings. So, I’m gonna go piece by piece, and I want to start off with one of the high points: the animals.

There are a lot of animals in Far Cry 3. From farm animals like chickens and pigs, to sea creatures like sharks, rays, and turtles, to birds like vultures and these horrible vicious walking birds that I can’t remember what they’re called but they’re very mean. There are bears, panthers, tigers, leopards, boars, buffalo, komodo dragons, crocodiles, and even crabs (though they’re not mudcrabs, as everyone is not constantly discussing them).

The animals have a couple purposes: you can hunt most of them for their skins, which allows you to craft things, like extra holsters for more weapons, bigger ammo bags for more bullets and explosives, and bigger satchels for more health syringes. They also have second purpose, a more important purpose, and that is to make the game incredibly and hilariously unpredictable. The animals roam where they want, and often in the midst of exploring or combat, they’ll just sort of pop up and make a big hilarious mess of things.

Here’s my bullet points of the most enjoyable, funny, and deadly animal encounters I’ve had:

  • While exploring, I came across a group of pigs crossing a bridge. I just think that’s about the best thing I’ve ever seen.

ERMEHGERD: BERGE PERGS

  • Climbing a radio tower, I heard shouting and gunshots below, and figured I’d been made. Nope. Just a komodo dragon attacking and killing two enemy soldiers, and then proceeding to chase down and kill some nearby goats. Somebody was hungwee!
  • I was trying to flush an enemy thug from behind a tree, so I chucked a grenade. He saw it, took two panicked steps out from cover, and was promptly savaged to death by a leaping tiger neither of us knew was there.
  • After taking over an enemy stronghold, I found a cage with a giant walking bird in it. I said “Aw, don’t lock up a giant bird, you jerks!” and let it out. It promptly kicked the shit out of me.
  • While creeping through tall grass toward an enemy stronghold, I heard a grunt. I looked to my left and saw a pig just as he looked to his right and saw me. We both went on our way, me to conduct my violence and him to conduct his pig business.
  • Deer on a beach? Why not. Deer on a beach.

I hunted them with my most reliable weapon: the Jeep I was driving.

  • I successfully fended off an attacking leopard, only to turn around and get the shit kicked out of me by one of those giant walking birds. Again.
  • While perched on a cliffside, trying to snipe an enemy on the road below, a boar charged me from behind and knocked me off the cliff, to my death.
  • While taking an extended hang glider tour, a vulture swooped in and flew along side me for a bit. Good idea. Stick with me, and you’ll have plenty of corpses to dine on. Possibly including mine.
  • While cornered in a shack by two enemy soldiers, I heard a roar. Then nothing. When I peeped outside, I saw a leopard had dispatched them both.

Who’s a good leopard? You is! Yes you is!

  • While trying to run over a komodo dragon with an ATV (I HAD MY REASONS) he slithered out of the way and I drove off a cliff and died.
  • After taking over a stronghold, a group of those big walking birds wandered in and basically kicked the shit out of my allies. I just sort of watched, thinking there was no way three guys with automatic weapons could lose a fight to four birds. But lose they did. Those birds are jerks!

My money is on the bird.

  • Finally, there are sea turtles. They don’t try to kill me or nothin’.