Friday, 23 August 2013

Ass In Ass's Creed 3

There’s something terribly wrong with the world.

Film directors appear to want to be video game designers and video game designers appear to want to be film directors.  And what we, that is those of us who are neither video game designers nor film directors, are left with is either films that have little or no story or video games that have little or no gameplay.

There should be a way to sort all this out.                                        

JJ Abrams should just be put back where he was found – presumably somewhere outside Ubisoft’s offices with a sign around his neck reading, ‘Will Make Wing Commander Games For Cash’.  And the ‘multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs’ ™ that made Assassin's Creed 3 should be given a camcorder, some period costumes and a handful of unexceptional GCSE Drama students.

And David Cameron, who incidentally is the spitting image of this game’s antagonist, should just join the Navy so he can fulfil his dream of sailing boats.  Over the River Styx.  While clutching the coins of the dead.

Assassin's Creed 3 is the latest instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we reached this point in 2010 with the release of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, or in 2011 with the nigh on identical Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

But it’s okay because the developers have found a way to reinvigorate the franchise.  They’ve removed assassinations from the game.

Yes, it is a strange move.

Instead what we have here is a series of cutscenes and loading screens lasting for roughly 10 hours and linked by gameplay that is largely reduced to ‘climbing things’ or ‘walking to things’ for decreasingly necessary or comprehensible reasons.

Like previous games the movement system still maps ‘run’ and ‘jump onto the nearest wall’ to the same button, which is a pity when a core part of the game mechanic requires you to ‘run’ away from mildly suspicious guards who go absolutely apeshit at anyone who ‘jumps onto the nearest wall’.

When the game is in full flow the free running over treetops can be exhilarating, the combat has been 
improved to flow nearly as slickly as the Batman Arkham series and the naval battles are nothing short of breathtaking.  If the next game was based around these naval scenes it could be spectacular.

But do games not have editors?  Like books have editors.  You know?  To stop them being shit?

It’s almost like the game designers made a brilliant game, the story writers wrote a brilliant story but the person responsible for co-ordinating those two departments was a disinterested chimpanzee who distrusted the notion of interactive entertainment and had been strapped to a chair for its entire life and forced to watch trashy American civil war TV shows.

The pacing and balance of the game is seriously flawed.  The enjoyable side missions of Assassin’s Creed 2 have been ‘tweaked’ back to the incomprehensible mess of Assassin’s Creed 1.  The protagonist is voice acted by someone who has had all their emotions removed.  I might have empathised with him on this point if he wasn’t such a cloying arse.

Clearly a lot of work went into making Assassin’s Creed 3 but unfortunately it’s rather like a U2 song.  Expensively produced but with little enjoyable substance and made even more frustrating because you suspect they could do better if they just took a step back to re-examine what it actually was they were meant to be doing.

As it is there’s no motivation to DO anything in the game.  The side missions are optional and devoid of 
purpose.  If you win you gain nothing.  If you lose you lose nothing.  You won’t ever unlock any more weapons.  You won’t ever learn any new abilities.  It must be what it feels like to be Robbie Williams.

Diary entries in the previous games were ingeniously integrated to provide you with real historical information on the Renaissance architecture you were scampering over in the game.  This made the whole experience feel borderline educational and briefly enabled me to fantasise about a utopian future where all educational and teaching needs are delivered purely through a series of checkpoints in a Need For Speed title or maybe delivered by the idiotic bray of Andy Townsend as a reward for scoring a goal in Fifa:

“And it’s 1-0 to Watford!  What a goal from Deeney!  The Magna Carter was signed in 1215 by King John 1.  Terrific stuff!”

Unfortunately in Assassin’s Creed 3 diary entries only pop up when you find a fox or a badger.  And frankly if I want to read something that’s dull, uninformative and trying but ultimately failing to be funny then I can just read my own Blog.

Saturday, 10 August 2013


I am not a racist. 

That’s what I always thought. 

But on closer self-analysis it appears I do become a racist when I play football simulation games. 

No I don’t make monkey noises when I pass the ball to Jermaine Defoe or spit at the screen every time it suggests I select a white player for the South African national team.

I do however have a team selection policy which, were I a real football manager, would be considered at best inappropriate.

Let me explain.

A large part of my enjoyment of playing FIFA comes from knowing and utilising the specific strengths of my players.  So if I know the ball is heading for Zlatan Ibrahimovic then I can make a quick decision for him to flick the ball on, use his strength to hold the ball up, go for a 1-2 pass or do something else that I wouldn’t otherwise unfairly force Gareth Barry into attempting.

So an important part of my enjoyment of the game becomes about being able to recognise which player is which.  And because the game is fast it’s important to be able to do this as quickly as possible.  And anything I can do to make that easier improves my enjoyment of the game…

So unfortunately the other white centre forwards I have in my squad simply aren’t going to get any games, lest I think I’m controlling Zlatan Ibrahimovic before realising with horror that I’m actually controlling Andy Carroll.

Andy Carroll is therefore sold, meaning I will need to scour the transfer market to find a black centre forward to replace him.  Preferably a small one.

Nothing controversial there.

But for some reason the game doesn’t allow you to conduct player searches based on a player’s ethnicity.  

Nor can you specifically send your scouts out with the remit of finding you a black defender, or a white red haired playmaker, or a little distinctive looking Asian chap who can play on the wing.

In the end my FIFA teams resemble the kind of regimented multicultural ideal you’d expect to find in the fantasies of a forward thinking OCD sufferer having a mental breakdown in 1960s Alabama.

And in doing this I am made to feel uncomfortably similar to Ron Atkinson, the ex-football manager who once referred to Marcel Desailly as a “fucking lazy thick nigger” and then went on a series of TV chatshows complaining about the criticism he was receiving and dismissing any allegations against him with the FACT that he's managed black footballers - in what I think is as close to a dictionary definition of a cunt as I can think of.

And really I’m an even bigger cunt than Ron Atkinson because I simultaneously practice negative discrimination and positive discrimination.  At least you knew where you were with Big Ron.  He’s a racist and a cunt.  The players in my Fifa team must just be confused.  When Florent Malouda asks me why he’s not in my first team I’ll have to reply “Because I can’t tell you apart from Ashley Cole” which, frankly, makes me feel like I’m the bad guy. 

Which is how Ron Atkinson would feel if he was able to comprehend the concept of shame.

I also doubt many managers in real football have signed as many players on the basis of the novelty of their haircut as I have in FIFA.  Liverpool’s managers aside.  Conduct a quick Google search of Andy Carroll, Djibril Cisse and Abel Xavier and you’ll quickly see why these players are among the finest to ever establish themselves in my FIFA teams.

Abel Xavier deserves special mention here.  An average player, but when the ball came near him I would sure know to pass the ball on to someone else. 

You see it doesn’t really matter how good the players in the game are because FIFA 13 is only as good as the person who’s holding the controller.  And in my case there is absolutely no correlation between ‘time spent playing FIFA games’ and ‘ability at playing FIFA games’.

It doesn’t matter how good Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen are in the game because if I play them together I will end up attempting through balls with Owen and trying to spring the offside trap with Rooney. 

Then I’ll lose possession and rely on Paul Scholes to break up the attack with a perfect sliding tackle before using the creativity of Gareth Barry to play a killer ball for David Beckham to use his pace and dribbling skills to run onto.

Although anyone who has watched England in recent tournaments will recognise that this pretty accurately describes the last 10 years of international failure.

Maybe the England national team could do with following my FIFA formula.

After all Arsenal only dominated English football when they had Henry and Bergkamp up front.  Newcastle enjoyed their best period in recent history by partnering Alan Shearer with Les Ferdinand.  Manchester United have based much of their recent success on the rock solid defence provided by Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.  And Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea dominated domestically by relying on Michael Essien and Frank Lampard to marshal the midfield.

You can prove anything with facts can’t you Ron?

Thursday, 1 August 2013


My first impression of this game was soured by the fact that whenever I searched for it on the net I would get a message telling me “The game Dishonoured does not exist” which I found annoying for two reasons.  Firstly because I was certain that the game DID exist – or at least about as certain as I was that anything in this world exists, and secondly because it highlighted my inability to retain crucial information in my brain for longer than 5 seconds.

It wasn’t a good start.

DishonOred professes to be a ‘stealth / action’ game but in truth does neither satisfactorily.  The stealth system has no easy way to work out whether you can be spotted or not and instead relies on rather shaky guesswork.  The combat is frankly so easy that, even on the hardest setting, every level can be cleared by just getting your gun out and shooting the handful of guards that run straight at you from some distance to attack one at a time with their swords.  Having a gun would be fine if ammo was scarce enough to make it feel like a treat but the fact ammo is relatively plentiful just makes the game feel unbalanced.  Throw into the mix the fact that you also have magical ‘powers’ enabling you to teleport, stop time, conjure up rats to gnaw enemies to death, blow enemies away with a wind and so on and it all smacks of the developers desperately trying to jazz up a stealth game they realised half way through production just wasn’t going to work.

Well you can’t have it both ways.

Without challenging combat the stealth system becomes redundant as combat carries no fear or reason to be avoided.  Once combat is initiated every guard in your area runs to your location to line up to be shot (or gnawed to death by rats, or eviscerated or whatever) leaving you to walk casually around an empty level to the exit lamenting the numerous, now redundant, hiding places you’ll pass on the way.

In the end I had to role play this game as a master assassin who has a crippling fear of blood and human interaction – crushing guards like ants only when I absolutely had to and then running away like a girl to hide from the next human punchbag that came running after me.

And while this allowed me to fully appreciate the interesting level design (which is pretty great) it made the whole experience feel slightly pointless.

The game is filled with potential that just doesn’t pay off.  Early on you pick up a device which allows you to hear secrets and background information about each character you meet in the game, from lowdown thugs to allies to bosses.  This is a great idea, and if I was immersed in the world it would be a really interesting additional layer of depth.  Unfortunately the characters and world are so bland and uninspiring that any attempt to fully engage yourself in the story or the world is about as enjoyably immersive as joining your dog in running after sticks and chasing down cars.

In the end DishonOred doesn’t deal with stealth as well as a game like Splinter Cell or Thief.   It doesn't handle combat as well as a game like Condemned or even Skyrim.  And it doesn't handle magic as well as pretty much any Ultima game you’d care to mention.  Add to that a bland world and confused storyline and frankly in hindsight my first impression that this game didn’t exist perhaps represents the zenith of my opinions.

If they made the combat harder, constructed a more original and interesting world, gave the characters greater depth and focused on improving the stealth system then the next DishonOred game could be really great.  Indeed the last level of this game almost serves to represent what could have been.  The guards are plentiful enough to make for a bit more of a challenge and your only goal is to get to the top of a small island, leaving you to discover the numerous routes to get there and choose different combinations of your powers along the way.

The ingredients are right – they just need to work out how to put it all together properly to make a LOVELY PIE.