As we approach the end of the 2013, I have been taking a look back at the previous twelve months and how the gaming world was shaped. Last week, we looked at the first quarter and saw how Bioshock Infinite blew our minds, Dead Space 3 soiled our underwear and EA became the most popular company in the world with their masterful handling of the Sim City debacle. This week is quarter two, with a couple of big hitters breaking cover into the gaming world, and Microsoft follow Sony’s lead and make their move…
The early half of quarter two saw a couple of games make an appearance to fairly muted response. The eagerly awaited and supposedly spiritual successor to Mirrors Edge Remember Me came to almost complete indifference, ironically being remembered by almost no one. Also failing to make waves was Fuse; as quickly forgotten as it was hotly anticipated, despite its novel take on weaponry and team play.
Things improved for petrol heads as GRID 2 finally made its arrival; providing an alternative to the clinical mastery of Gran Turismo and Forza, and the arcade recklessness of Need For Speed. I must confess that I did get a little bit over excited at the time, finding myself with copies on both the PC and Xbox, and despite following the slightly bizarre and unconventional storyline it was just the kick the genre had been waiting for.
Speaking of a bit of genre kicking, in a month that included new additions of Dead Island (Riptide) and Resident Evil (Revelations – Yes I know it wasn’t technically new but needs must), we were all pleasantly surprised to find a new pretender to the zombie killer throne had arrived in the form of indie spectacular State Of Decay. A true example of how enjoyable and immersive gameplay conquers rough around the edges graphics and occasionally erratic AI, we found ourselves hurtling through the storylines.
Next up was Animal Crossing – New Leaf; presenting us with the opportunity to at least pretend that we like the outside world and are not dark loving, interaction shunning and crispy snack devoted layabouts. With the cutesy diabetes inducing sugar sweetness that characterises some of Nintendo’s most successful titles, gamers flocked in their hundreds for reasons that I’m still yet to fully understand.
Then, casting a shadow over all that went before it, Naughty Dog strode triumphantly onto centre stage, unzipped and showed us goods. The Last Of Us was immediately heralded as one of the greatest of all time, with Playstation fanboys wetting themselves in giddy excitement and their Xbox counterparts pretending they didn’t care before going home and crying. Funny story; I got to go and have a go on The Last Of Us prior to release, and my experience was this – First it broke and I got a blue screen that made the demonstrator appear a little uncomfortable, then I found it buggy and a bit samey. I was immediately ostracised by my Playstation loving friends, the entire gaming community, and dismissed as a jealous Xbox brand loving casualty. Lesson learnt, never have an opinion on anything.
Next up was the hugely anticipated and entirely unpronounceable Ouya console, finally making its appearance after a Kickstarter campaign took the internet by storm. Available for £100, we all so desperately wanted it to be great. It was a beautiful little thing, sitting on your shelf more like a polished ornament than the chuntering hulk that is my early edition 360. Sadly, the fact that we’re all still sitting here hoping that Ouya will be a success is fairly reflective of it’s impact.
Finally, the big one. E3. Thousands made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles to worship at the altars of the big three, and this year they were really bringing the goods. Such was the clamour and excitement surrounding Sony’s announcement of the PS4 we’d all sort of missed the fact that they hadn’t actually shown us the console yet, and Microsoft had promised something special. Lurking under the veil of mystery and anominity was Durango, and we were all salivating at the thought of what might be.
As their devoted public lay prostrate in front of the main stage, Microsoft’s winner of the Most Punchable Face award Don Matrick shined up his boots and dished out a big swinging kick in the nuts to the faithful. Always on Kinect, 24 hour online check-ins, no trade in games, no backwards compatibility; the news kept coming. All the while with Don Matrick’s smug face telling you that you were wrong and this was in fact what you actually wanted. Then he quite literally did that; when asked what people who couldn’t connect to the internet would do, his response was blunt – “We already have a console for them, it’s called the Xbox 360”
Rumours scattered the internet of facial recognition meaning your friends couldn’t play with you, that lending a game to a friend would mean they had to pay almost the full price of the game to be able to play it, and Microsoft’s buddying up with EA following their Sim City successes drove many to despair. Photo’s even emerged of the Xbox One stands at E3 being set up, showing that they actually contained PC’s and not the console that people were supposedly demo-ing. Many took the bizarre step of cancelling their Xbox live subscriptions (a process they were to find surprisingly difficult) and trading in their 360’s, as if it would make any sort of difference what so ever.
Aside from anything else, the thing looked like a Betamax machine.
Sony, in what was perhaps the most satisfying presentation in their history, simply walked onto the stage and said “yeah, you know everything they said they were doing? We’re not doing any of that”. Once the standing ovation had eventually died down, we were treated to the welcome news that Sony would continue to support their older consoles as well as press on with the new one. Unusually, Sony had chosen to restrict Gran Turismo 6, normally a flagship title to the PS3, and the 4 would receive the new and slightly ropey looking title DriveClub. Even more impressively, it was announced that FIFA 14 would be released on PS2, news which was met with bewilderment and a unanimous look of “What? Seriously?!”
E3 also gave us a look at Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Dead Rising 3 and a variety of other exciting new titles, but there was only one thought on everyone’s mind – Microsoft had really dropped a turd.
Next week we check out quarter 3; with some furious backtracking, eagerly awaited releases and possibly the current generations finest hour, it’ll be waiting for you same time same place.
Oh my word it’s only four weekends until Christmas.
As the year draws to a close, it’s time for us all to get drunk and overly familiar with people we shouldn’t at works Christmas parties, to panic wildly as the presents you had told your wife/girlfriend/mother that you’d already bought is sold out everywhere, and for us all to mourn another twelve months passing by without Half Life 3 being announced (get over it! It isn’t going to happen!). It is a time of over indulgence, and I have been afforded the luxury of getting the opportunity to take a look back over the previous 12 months in the gaming world without the usual constraints of being factual or politically correct. Onwards!
Excuse me for my use of slightly more colourful language than usual, however I’m afraid to say I can’t think of any other way of describing this feeling without using the language of the gutter. For most people, there will be one or two instances a year where you’ll find yourself in a situation where in your mind you’re saying ‘shit….shit….SHIT!’ For example, this weekend I saw that look on the face of my brother as he was relocating his piano, and the delicate balance of his strength versus gravity perilously swung against his favour. It’s the look you’ll see in the eyes of men on the Pamplona Bull Run as they realise that they’re on a tight street, a bull is moments away from taking an extremely keen interest in their spine and they’ve forgotten their door key. For me, the last time this happened was about a month ago, and I was trying to carry a wardrobe down a set of spiral stairs on my own. I wont bore you with the details, but you wont be surprised to hear that the story ended with me handing my credit card over with my now fingernail-less right hand paying for a new wardrobe.
Picking up where we left off a week ago (read that one here if you missed it), Drew is busy detailing his hunting experiences with Ubisofts masterpiece FarCry 3. Having long since forgotten about the storyline, he has taken the role of curious wilderness man, hunting and killing like a man possessed. Here is the second instalment of his trials and tribulations on the Rook Islands, and if we’re honest things haven’t got all that much better for him…
I Like Turtles
Having honed my crafting skills still further (in spite of the unfortunate incident with the crocodile), I was now distracted from the storyline. I found myself now exclusively looking for animals to hunt, and the pirates as an unnecessary distraction. I mean I couldn’t kill and skin a pirate; FarCry 3 is a playground for those who want to be Bear Grills, not a medium for Silence Of The Lambs style serial killers to get some practice in. Anyway, having learnt an important lesson about 4x4s and crashing into cliff faces (I’ll help you out – it makes them stop working), I was walking along a Cliffside path looking for some pirates to ambush and rob. As I looked out to sea, a beautiful full moon cast a shimmering glow across the Pacific Ocean and the beach far below. Idyllic. Although my keen hunter senses had spotted something far more interesting. Far below on the beach, snacking on seaweed, were three giant tortoises. My mind boggled at the possibilities of what I could fashion from one of them and, with visions of teenage mutant ninja body armour in my eyes, I scaled/fell down the cliff.
As I reached the beach, the tortoises clearly heard my approach. Slightly baffled by this strange man falling down a cliff, they soon realised that they were in danger. As I drew closer they retreated, quivering in fear inside their shells. Cocking my shotgun, I crouched down to ensure that I could not miss, and fired a round inside each of their shells. As I looked upon the carnage, only one thought went through my mind; ‘I’ve just shot a giant tortoise in the face. What the f**k am I doing with my life?’ Having turned off my Xbox, drunk some cider and taken a long hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror I turned to Twitter with my newly acquired guilt and thousand yard stare. Fortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, redemption came from an unexpected source…
Screw You Jaws!
I am now the master hunter. I’ve killed, lions, tigers, crocodiles…erm…tortoises; but one of nature’s great apex predators still eludes me. As I stood on the jetty of a beach hut that I had raised to the ground, a pile of dead pirates on the beach behind me, I stared out into the glistening blue sea. Far on the horizon, I saw what I was looking for; the tell-tale fin of the Great White Shark.
Time to go fishing.
I jumped on my jetski (JETSKI! HUNTING SHARKS ON A JETSKI! WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING?!) and headed out into the deep blue sea. As I drew alongside the unperturbed shark, I killed the engine and raised my AK 47 and emptied all my ammo into its back. The shark casually swam away. No matter, I thought to myself, I shall go mano o mano with it, and take it down with my machete. Into the water I went and, adopting my most convincing ‘Come at me bro’ pose that I could manage whilst bobbing on the surface, I waited. As the shark lined up to attack, I steeled myself ready to strike. As the shark approached it opened its fearsome jaws and I clicked to strike it down with a swing of my blade. This was not the perfect moment to realise that I was unable to use my knife in the water, and the shark savaged me angrily. Deciding once again to run, I swam frantically back to my jetski, climbed aboard and raced for shore.
Like a shipwrecked mariner cast adrift on a desert island, I lay on the beach recovering, ruing my hubris and planning my next move. Then however, I was surprised to see that my new found nemesis swimming casually, not ten feet out, having stalked me all the way back to shore. I strafed along the beach, and the shark followed. I looked around but there was no sign of any ammo anywhere; I was going to have to take down my fishy friend using brains. Bugger.
I edged along to a small river flowing into the ocean, and the shark followed into the narrow and shallow channel. I bravely stepped in to the water to cut of its escape, then ran away like a girl as it took a swing at me. Then a thought occurred; When all ammo runs out in FarCry 3, all that you’re left with is some C4. Frantically I threw lumps of C4 into the river, explosions erupting all around the startled shark. I chased it up and down the river until finally, I caught it full in the face with C4 and my foe sank to the bottom dead. Admiring my kill, I failed to notice the small group of pirates who, presumably having heard someone blowing stuff up, had come to investigate. Having no ammo and no C4 I was a sitting duck, and as I hadn’t managed to skin the shark, I didn’t even get anything to remember my epic battle with. As I respawned, I found to my dismay that my fallen foe was now happily swimming around back out in the deep blue sea, and my inventory was devoid of any shark related loot.
There are hundreds of moments just like this that litter FarCry 3, making it one of the truly epic gaming experiences of the past 12 months. If you’re a pre-owned section surfer such as myself, this really could be the best 40 – 50 hours of gaming you’re going to find.
For those unfamiliar with FarCry 3, it’s quite a simple premise; pirates (not the ‘drink up me hearties yo ho’ type, the Somali gun wielding type), drugs, beautiful panoramas and killing literally everything. These four things are combined in a variety of different ways, and whilst it would be easy to wax lyrical about how much I love this game (I do, in case you wondered. I really do), instead I am going to list some memorable moments I experienced whilst discovering the Rook Islands.
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