Archives for posts with tag: Ubisoft

Last week saw the release of possibly the most hyped game of recent times, as Ubisoft’s open-world hackathon Watch_Dogs finally made its way onto shop shelves.

I think the level of hype has worked against the game somewhat; like many, I was incredibly excited about it when it was first shown at E3 in 2012, but every subsequent showing stripped a little more of that enthusiasm away. Also tempering my excitement was my cooling interest in Ubisoft’s output as their games begin to trend more and more towards homogenisation; now everything is an open-world with skill trees and lots of ‘stuff’ to do. I thought I’d love that, until I’d just had enough of it. Far cry 3 was about the limit for me – I loved it up to a point, and then I suddenly couldn’t even be bothered to finish it.

It doesn’t help that much of that ‘stuff’ I talked about is uninteresting. In Watch_Dogs, you can’t walk the length of a block without some pop-up informing you that some more ‘stuff’ is now available, or that some identikit mini-quest has been triggered in your vicinity. It feels a little strange to say the game has too much content, but when much of it seems to be filler, it makes me feel overwhelmed with pointless crap.

It’s putting me off going back to the game, if I’m honest. Going forward, I will probably just be focusing on the main story missions, but I really wish I could turn off the extraneous filler that I’m only going to ignore anyway – perhaps I’m not the obsessive-compulsive gamer that I once was, but I’m finding that it’s on the verge of ruining the experience for me. Having said that, there are a few additional things that I will be doing, such as hacking ctOS stations (as they’re generally fun little environmental puzzles), and the digital trips, which I’ll touch on later.

One criticism I saw in a few reviews was that the city feels lifeless and dull, and that’s something I can’t really agree with. Strolling around the city – in between ignoring all the prompts, of course – you can see couples kissing under bus stops, people playing keepy-uppy, others engaging in street rap battles and plenty of people staring, zombie-like, at their phones. Toying with the people of Chicago by messing with traffic lights and bollards also brings out some great reactions and one-liners, too. Below is a video I put together showing some of the life in Chicago, as well as me just having a bit of fun trolling the populace.

Moreover, the city is given life through the ability to passively profile everyone you see as you walk down the street, listening in on their calls, intercepting text messages, learning their purchasing behaviour and political leanings and even their sexual proclivities.

Unfortunately, much of this information seems to have been included simply to be provocative. I get that a large part of the game is about invasion of privacy, and that the ease at which Pearce is able to learn almost anyone’s darkest secrets at the push of a button is intended to underline this, but it often comes across less like timely criticism of our digital information age and more like lurid voyeurism.

I’ve been somewhat negative on the game so far, but there is certainly fun to be had. There’s a fair bit of mileage in playing with the city infrastructure to troll random bystanders, but for me the real fun comes when you need to infiltrate a guarded area. Watch_Dogs smartly rips the cover and movement system from the last couple of Splinter Cell games, which allows the player to stay out of sight, swiftly moving from cover to cover as needed. This is all great if you want to play the game as a third-person cover shooter (which is totally viable), but what’s more fun is to use the game’s central theme of hacking to get to where you want to go without even needing to fire a bullet.

Staying out of sight, you can hack a nearby camera to survey the area, jumping to other viewpoints as need be. You can then see all the available hackable elements that you can use to bring down your foes. It’s a fantastically fun (and oddly calming) slice of gameplay that allows you to sit back, somewhat detached from the action itself, and act as and when you please. For me, it’s stuff like this that validates Watch_Dogs‘ tagline of “hacking is our weapon” – not only does the game give you powerful yet easy to use tools, it changes the way you’d generally play through such an encounter. You can see how this plays out in another of my videos below.

I mentioned digital trips earlier, and this is an element that I’ve only just come across in the game. Digital trips are small virtual reality-style mini-games, yet even these have skill trees to unlock. So far, I’ve only played the Spider-Tank game, which basically puts you inside a Fuchikoma, and it’s a whole heap of fun.

Your tank is highly mobile, capable of climbing everything, jumping from building to building, firing a chain gun, and finally engaging in an arachnid “HULK SMASH!” melee attack. Leaping around the city clambering over buildings frees you in a way that can never be realised while playing as Aiden, and it’s exhilarating to clamber up a building before leaping from the top, hurtling towards the ground before slamming down to wreck everything around you. I would probably play a full game of this, if it was more fleshed out, and I can certainly see me putting in a few hours, as well as trying out some of the other trips. Below you can see a video of my first attempt at Spider-Tank.

I must admit that I’m finding it hard to be drawn back to Watch_Dogs at the moment – I’m still on Act I. As I said, it certainly has its moments of fun, but it also has an equal amount of mundanity. I have both Wolfenstein: The New Order and Murdered: Soul Suspect calling to me from my shelf, and surprisingly Borderlands 2 on the Vita is consuming the majority of my gaming time at the moment, so I think I’m going to have to stick to the main story and bomb through it. Hopefully, once I’m a bit further into it, I’ll be enjoying it a lot more.

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colaurora
Today marks the European release of Ubisoft’s gorgeous RPG/platformer hybrid Child of Light. Built on the UbiArt Framework, the same engine powering the recent 2D Rayman games, Child of Light is a downloadable fairytale-inspired title written by Far Cry 3 scribe Jeffrey Yohalem. The game stars Aurora, daughter of an Austrian duke who wakes in a dream-like world and must find her way back to her own reality, meeting up with a number of companions along the way, including the helpful blue firefly Igniculus.

I pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition, which contains a download code for the game, a 24-page art book packed with plenty of beautiful concept art, a light-up Igniculus keyring, some DLC extras, and, curiously, a poster by famed Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano. Aside from the development team possibly being influenced by his work, I’m not quite sure why it’s there – as far as I know he didn’t work on the game. I’m not complaining though, being something of an Amano fan (and an owner of this), and it’s an utterly glorious poster. Images of it don’t quite do it justice; it’s rich in both colour and detail, and printed on thick, high-quality stock. It’s just a shame that it’s been tightly folded to fit in the box as I’d love to frame it.

I decided to try out the PS4’s video recording features for the first time, and made a video of the first fifteen minutes of Aurora’s adventure, which you can see below. Curiously, the game seems to strip out audio during gameplay, making my video oddly silent. Considering that the intro cutscene features full audio, I can only imagine that this is a ‘design decision’ by Ubisoft – I tried making a few other videos from the game and sadly came up with the same results. It’s a strange decision on Ubisoft’s part – perhaps it’s to do with licensing issues surrounding Cœur de pirate‘s soundtrack. Either way, it means you can’t enjoy the game’s audio, but you can still get a look at the game’s lovely visuals, and read on below for my impressions from my brief time with the game.

I managed to play the first half-hour or so and thought I’d get some thoughts down on (virtual) paper. The first thing you’ll notice is the visuals. This is an exceptionally pretty game. Screenshots and videos don’t quite manage to communicate just how beautiful the hand-drawn art that makes up the environments Aurora must travel through is. You really need to see this in all it’s glory on your big screen to fully appreciate it. The soundtrack is nicely understated, allowing you to focus more on the visual side of the presentation, though I think I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to it next time I play it, as all I can remember now is that it didn’t get in the way.

In terms of gameplay, I was strongly reminded of two games, at least in the early stages. The first of these is Limbo, Playdead’s puzzle-platformer from 2010. I said at the top of the piece that Child of Light is something of a hybrid between two genres, with the platforming seeming to take up the majority of your time. It has a similar minimalist feel to Limbo, a similar pace of movement and a similar floaty jump. Just as in Limbo, one of the first things you’ll do is grab and push a block to reach a higher platform. There’s also some light puzzling to contend with, which I hope will continue through the game and provide some decent head-scratchers.

None of this is a bad thing, considering what a playable game Limbo is, but of course Child of Light doesn’t share the former game’s bleak, lonely tone. It’s not long before you stumble upon Igniculus, who you have to control with the right stick (or the DualShock 4’s touchpad) and right from your first meeting you’re gently taught how he can help you out. While platforming, Igniculus can whizz around the screen collecting glowing orbs (which can help to refill Aurora’s HP and MP) as well as holding enemies in place to allow Aurora to get in position for a back attack. Of course, Igniculus can also help you out in battle.

Fighting is a different proposition altogether, taking the form of a turn-based battle system in the grand old jRPG tradition. Aurora stands on the left of the screen, her enemies on the right, and at the bottom of the screen is the time bar, with icons moving along it representing both Aurora and her enemies. The last quarter of the bar is the casting bar; every action has its own cast time – the more powerful the attack, the longer the cast time, and anyone who takes a hit while casting may find their attack cancelled and be pushed back down the time bar. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Hmm, that sounds an awful lot like Grandia“, then you’re right. Because it’s lifted straight out of Grandia. Of course, in Child of Light, we also have Igniculus on our side, and using the right stick we can hinder enemies, slowing their progress along the time bar to give Aurora a chance to get an attack in.

It’s very rewarding to be able to get a strike in with Aurora, delaying an enemies attack, and then use Igniculus to hinder the same enemy, allowing Aurora to overtake them and strike again before your opponent has even had a chance to retaliate. Igniculus’ ability to slow an enemy isn’t unlimited however, as it’s governed by a meter (which can often be refilled by gathering blue orbs in the corners of the screen) meaning that rather than being a win button, it becomes a resource that you have to use effectively to gain the upper hand.

This being an RPG, there are of course level-ups and skill trees, though I’ve only levelled up once in my short time with the game, choosing a ‘Starlight’ ability that hits dark-aligned enemies hard. A few reviews I’ve read have mentioned that the game is very easy on the default normal difficulty, so I started the game on hard, hoping for a bit of a challenge. I want an RPG to expect me to make thoughtful, effective use of both my abilities and build, so hopefully the hard setting will offer that kind of experience.

I do have a couple of minor issues that I hope will ease as the game goes on though. Firstly, all of the game’s dialogue is told in rhyming couplets, and these can be quite forced at times, eliciting the odd groan. In general, the dialogue is solid enough (and I have no doubt that this is eased somewhat by the fact that none of it is voiced), but setting yourself the challenge of telling an entire story in rhyme pretty much ensures you’ll have to fudge it every now and then. For the most part, it manages to help sell the dreamy fairytale setting, but don’t expect it to be flawless.

Secondly, unless you’re playing in co-op, you’re expected to control both Aurora and Igniculus at the same time. Aurora is on the left stick, with Igniculus on the right, and it often means you’ll stop moving one so that you can control the other with greater ease. In battle, this isn’t much of an issue; when Aurora can take action, the game will pause, giving you time to move Igniculus near an enemy in case you need to slow them down and then choose an action for Aurora to carry out. In platforming, it can slow your pace somewhat – if you leave Igniculus in place and move Aurora he won’t follow, so you find yourself trying to move both at the same time so as not to leave him off-screen.

Hopefully, both of these issues will prove to be minor niggles that I’ll get used to, as I’m really enjoying the game so far. I can see myself flying through it over the next few days – reviews peg it in the range of 12-15 hours, which, while admittedly short for an RPG, is fine for a downloadable title. It’s genuinely surprising, not to mention encouraging, to see a huge, AAA-publisher like Ubisoft not just taking a punt on a smaller downloadable title like this, but actually getting behind it too, putting out plenty of ‘behind the scenes‘-type videos on Youtube to drum up interest in something that isn’t the usual huge-budget sequel. More like this please, games industry!

Ubisoft have released a trailer announcing the ‘Insane Edition’ of forthcoming tropical island shooter Far Cry 3.

The ‘humourous’ trailer reveals a Vaas Wahine bobble-head (really, Ubi?) amongst a host of other bits and bobs, a full list of which follows:

  • Exclusive survival kit packaging
  • A 12cm Vaas Wahine bobble head.
  • An Essential Island Survival Guide
  • Access to all unlockable content, including new single-player missions

See the trailer below.

Ok, I have to admit that I’m not particularly excited for Far Cry 3. I wanted to love Far Cry 2, and sometimes that was easy: I remember assaulting a castle with a buddy and escaping by the skin of my teeth, only to lose him in the ensuing chase; a tense, nervous shootout in a trainyard where I somehow managed to sneak around and take everyone out; swimming underwater past an enemy outpost before mounting my one-man assault from a more favourable angle…

But for every edge-of-the-seat battle, there was an equally annoying situation: sneaking through grass only to be spotted from a mile away (and subsquently sniped with an AK); respawning enemy checkpoints (which only got worse once you passed a certain level of notoreity, meaning you’d be chased and run off the road at least once every ten minutes); weapons jamming at the most innopportune moment (a problem which instantly disappears if you stumble upon a golden rifle, making you wonder why they included the mechanic at all).

I had high hopes for Far Cry 2. It disappointed me so completely that I’m not even planning to buy the follow-up. But then, the shortcomings of the previous game are well-documented, so perhaps Ubisoft have addressed them. I’ll be waiting to find out how Far Cry 3 plays before dropping my hard-earned.

No price has yet been announced for the Far Cry 3: Insane Edition. The game releases on 360, PS3 and PC on September 6th.