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.

Jams And Slams

Finn The Human, Spelunking, and the return of Heisenberg

I think every Friday I’ll try to post a list of the best and worst stuff that has crossed my various screens during the week. I’m calling it Jams and Slams because that’s the stupidest name I could think of.

This Week’s Jams:

  • Adventure Time. I saw the pilot for this cartoon a while back, thought it was cute, and promptly forgot about it. Then I caught an episode earlier this week and completely fell in love with it. It’s a cartoon kids will like because Jake the Dog and Finn the Human are brave, cute, and have silly, romping adventures in a magical world filled with oddball characters. Adults can enjoy it because it’s funny and a bit dark: Finn is the only human left on earth after an apocalypse (clues to which are scattered around the episodes), and the supporting cast of characters are often psychotic and dangerous. The best thing about just signing on to this show is that Cartoon Network reruns a handful of episodes per day, so your DVR can quickly be chock full of them.
  • Breaking Bad and Inside Men. Breaking Bad has returned for its final season, comprised of eight episodes this year and eight more next year. Walter White is now the full-on bad guy, less the loving family man and more the merciless Heisenberg. Inside Men is a four episode series broadcast on BBC America (the final, slightly disappointing episode aired this week), about a milquetoast money manager who plans and executes a multimillion dollar heist. Both shows have something in common: a wimpy dweeb reaches deep down inside himself and finds the cold, calculating heart of a master criminal.
  • Spelunky for X-Box 360. I’ve played my share of Spelunky on PC, the completely unforgiving platform adventure, and I’m pretty amazed at how the X-Box 360 version turned out. Dare I even say it: it’s better than the original. Unfortunately, I’m still terrible at it. Tom Francis, our ambassador to Spelunky, has written regularly and enjoyably about both versions.
  • Steam’s Summer Sale. Steam is once again selling ALL OF THE THINGS. And so, you will be reading about me playing Train Simulator sometime soon. Lucky you.

This Week’s Slams:

  • Conan The Barbarian (2011): Wow. I figured this film could go one of two ways: fun to watch because it’s fun, or fun to watch because it’s crap. Somehow, it’s just no fun at all because it’s astoundingly boring. I made two stabs at watching it on two different nights and fell asleep both times.
  • The Trailer for Looper. I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of this film. As I understand it, the mafia uses time travel to send their enemies into the past to have them killed, which seems needlessly complex and potentially disastrous. If you must use time travel to whack people, why not at least kill them first and then send their dead bodies back to dinosaur times? Also, why do it at all? Don’t they have rolled-up carpets and woodchippers in the future? But my main question is, why cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics to make him look like a young Bruce Willis, when even with distracting amounts of makeup and prosthetics he doesn’t look anything like Bruce Willis? And, if you’re going to cover Joseph Gordon-Levitt with distracting amount of makeup and prosthetics anyway, why not just make him look like Old Joseph Gordon-Levitt and have him play both versions of himself? The mind reels.
  • Pornographic Classics: Due to the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey, some classic novels like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea are being retrofitted and re-released with explicit sex scenes. The publisher asks, “You didn’t really think that these much-loved characters only held hands and pecked cheeks, did you?” No, I fully assumed Sherlock Holmes was humping Dr. Watson, and I was right.

 

Sim-plicity

I am a Bus Driver

Over the course of my long and storied gaming career, I’ve done a lot in service of saving the world. I’ve slain dragons, rescued princesses, and disarmed nuclear weapons (not to mention, detonated a few). I’ve protected the President, assassinated Hitler, and obliterated aliens from other galaxies. I’ve piloted fighter jets, submarines, battle mechs and interstellar space ships, all with the goal of saving humanity from utter destruction. Long story short, I’ve saved the world. A lot.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. Let other gamers save the world: I just want to live in it. Luckily, there are a number of down-to-earth simulation games that will allow me to do just that. Today, I’m looking at a sim called Bus Driver, by SCS Software, that lets me inhabit the presumably uncomplicated guise of a driver of buses.

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