In honor of Peter King’s “5 Things I Think I Think” musing on the NFL, I present my own “five things” on games I have recently played.
Let’s kick things off with 5 Things I Think I Think about…
1. I think I’m in love with the “sandbox” approach to shooter battles. The game Far Cry was when I was funneled through hallways and tunnels is probably a game I would have played and enjoyed, even if at a C+, B- level or so. The game Far Cry was when I was allowed to sneak through brush, survey hostiles in the distance, plan a course of action, and execute it, is a game I loved.
For a game that wasn’t strictly a stealth action title, I was surprised at how reasonable and “fair” the enemy’s ability to detect the player was. There were very, very few instances of “how the heck did he ‘see’ me?”. I always felt comfortable that, if there was enough brush in front of me to block them from my view, I would in turn be blocked from their view.
I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to approach situations from many different angles. I often eschewed taking vehicles and running through what was clearly a planned “vehicle” sequence, opting instead to creep through the vegetation. It was extremely satisfying to be able to exercise a little creativity in playing the game. So many games really force you to flip the “off” switch in your brain and just follow in-game cues. How many times have you been playing a game and asked yourself, “what am I supposed to do?”, instead of, “how can I approach this?”. As gamers, we’ve become conditioned to try and seek the designed course of action. Years and years of “locked” doors and invisible walls have taught us to turn off the brain and follow the cues.
Given this newfound love for “sandbox” FPS battles, it seems like kismet that the FPS games at the top of my “to-play” list are the following: Crysis, Crysis: Warhead, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, and Far Cry 2.
2. I think the mutant menace was extremely overstated. I didn’t play Far Cry back in 2004-05 (save for the demo), but like any forum-dwelling gamer, I’m well aware of its reputation: “a great game, until those damn mutants showed up”. So when the mutants - Trigens - showed up in level 5 (of 20), I thought the jig might be up. I’ve been disciplining myself to pull the plug on games before they outlive their ability to entertain me, as it’s my nature to simply want to finish them anyway. So, from mission 5 onward, we were on orange alert. And a few early encounters almost led to premature deletion, as getting pounced by one of those bastards was essentially insta-death.
But just before it all fell apart, the tides turned. I got a semiautomatic combat shotgun, giving me a capable counter to the pouncing mutants in close encounters. Then the “CryVision” night vision/thermal goggles were acquired, allowing me to hunt them in the outdoor areas. The mutants didn’t dominate the rest of the game, as new enemies are often so prone to do - just when a mutant-heavy sequence would become tiresome, the game would swing back to encounters against theÂ reasonably clever human AI enemies. And most important, the tunneled indoor areas always gave way to more expansive outdoor segments, returning the game to its bread and butter.
I would have preferred the game sans-mutants, which makes Far Cry 2 appealing, even if it’s quite a different game. But the mutants failed to live up to their game-destroying reputation.
3. I think I like ridiculous, juvenile “sexual content” a little too much. Please don’t misunderstand me. I know a pathetic appeal to teenage nerd sexual fantasy when I see it. Like the obnoxious fawning from the demon girl in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. But here’s the thing…
… I just don’t care.
I love it. Exaggerated virtual girls with over-the-top, oversexed attitudes and bodies to match… I love it all. No matter how fake, or how transparent the manipulation, I’ll happily wallow in a sea of horny video game girls.
4. I think waiting a few years to play the game was a good idea (also: Steam sales are the best). When the game was new, playing Far Cry at 1680x1050 with everything cranked to Very High would’ve been a pipe dream. But with a nice midrange 8800 GT, that’s exactly how I played the game, with a framerate that was permanently well above 60 fps. So, so butter smooth. I’m a stickler for framerate. Nothing looks better than a game that runs silky smooth. I have Far Cry 2, and I can get good framerates with decent detail settings right now, but I’m not firing up the game again until I get my new video card.
I bought Far Cry a couple of weekends ago, during Ubisoft’s week of Steam sales. The weekend sale was a 4-pack: Beyond Good and Evil, Far Cry, IL-2 Sturmovik, and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, all for $9.99. I already owned BG&E and IL-2, but I figured that would just make Far Cry and Dark Messiah $5 each. I definitely got my $5 out of Far Cry.
I’ve never regretted a Steam sale purchase, but I continue to regret purchases I didn’t make (WHY did I not buy Vampire: Bloodlines for $10 back in October??)
5. I think I’m glad I played the game on Medium difficulty. Far Cry was not a forgiving game. I think one of the reasons I was able to live with the mutant presence was because I wasn’t playing on one of the advanced difficulty levels. Playing on harder difficulty levels is something that I’m trying to discipline myself into doing. Too often, I cheat myself out of a rewarding challenge by just going with the default difficulty setting. Although it is fun to just blast through a game with no frustration, I have found that, like a badly coached sports team, I “play down” to the competition. I just cruise through on autopilot, and eventually find certain parts hard because I’m not really trying.
Far Cry was not one of those games. I have no doubt that I could have prevailed on higher difficulty settings, but with a lot more frustration. Certain scenes clearly exist to beat the player senseless and force him/her to re-play the section many times in order to “get it right”. I was certainly annoyed by a couple of them, and I have no doubt that dealing with them on a hard difficulty would’ve put a real dent in my enjoyment of the game. For this title at least, chickening out was the right way to go.