Ghost Recon Wildlands: Honest Beta Review

The following review is our own work, and as such squarely falls into our own copyright rules. Any pictures or videos shown in this beta review that do not belong to us, will be clearly cited.

And now…

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Oh boy, where to begin this review? I could tell you that for all intents and purposes it’s not far off the E3 teasers, and Ubisoft YouTube channels initial offerings; but really I can’t owing to a good and sound mind. I could tell you that the beta shows that the developer has learnt some key lessons from its previous release ‘The Division’ But again I’d be conflicted. All I can really do be honest on this one, and I suspect that other than the general game players out there; the fanboys are going to be pissed.

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The Bolivian Tourist Board Presents

Let me set the scene for the whole game here (Spoilers), you are a covert team of US Special Forces aka ‘The Ghosts’ you are sent to Bolivia to dismantle the Santa Blanca Cartel, who are responsible for the death of an American Agent, you also have to contend with the Military who seem to be out for themselves. And that’s pretty much it, I shudder to say this; it seems a little Division story wise.

The picture that gets painted throughout the Beta is that the Bolivian government in order to stop the cartel from killing everyone, just turned around and said ‘If you stop the killing, we’ll turn a blind eye’. Now this is not a good representation of a sovereign nation, or its government; Come to Bolivia, Drug Cartel’s more than welcome’.

Having said the above, the story I suspect will be a little more ‘fleshed’ out by the time of release on Tuesday. It’s not a bad story, just feels rushed.

Gameplay

I’m torn over how to approach this, there are a number of really cool points that came through during my play through. So let’s have some bullet points..

  • The character creation is a step up from ‘The Division’ You have a lot more depth to create your Avatar.
  • The Armoury is a good mix, your starting gear is more than enough to do what you need to do.
  • Story Missions are meaty, multi-part, and can get complicated if you don’t keep your wits about you.
  • Weather, sweet Jesus the weather; I thought winter in New York was amazing.
  • The game changes when it gets dark, meaning a stealth element emerges.
  • Combat Mechanics are charged, when you aim you see down the sights, the enemy will try and take advantage; it makes a change from the dopey AI in ‘The Division’
  • Finally, the game world itself; it’s all of Bolivia…
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Ubisoft via Google Search

The rub aka ‘Bad Bits’

I’m not going to lie, it’s not perfect by any means even though it was Beta. There were too many moments that smelt too much like ‘The Division’ So time for a few bullet points.

  • Vehicle Mechanics were in essence, defying the laws of physics, even for a video game. That said the Suzuki Hi-Jet clone handled like expected; top-heavy.
  • The AI is a huge question mark as both the enemy and your own AI team mates seemed to be a bit ‘Special’.
  • Ubisoft hopefully will fix the cover mechanics prior to release as they were broken, and seemed nothing more than an after thought.
  • Side Missions eventually became boring, and repetitive; even hunting for new gear became a ball ache.
  • The bullet drop for the Sniper Rifles is a bit like the vehicles; physics defying.
  • Don’t listen to the radio, it’s basically your local radio aimed idiots.
  • When you crash something, car or helicopter… You are fine and made of Asbestos.
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This brilliant combat turn ended in a flaming wreck – Flintlock and Sabre Collection

Conclusion and Rating

I’m truly torn over this game, it’s perfect in respects to other ‘Ghost Recon’ games, but at the same times you can tell that the same people who developed ‘The Division’ had a hand in this one. The movements, combat, feel just screams ‘Dollar Flu’ at me. I want to like this game, I want to hype it but honestly I’m struggling. The lessons that Ubisoft should have learnt from’The Division’ just haven’t been, it has the style, the ability, but yet screams Double A title being held up as a Triple A; Ubisoft need to show it’s fans something different, something finished and polished.

The below is a bit of footage from a fellow beta player Ben Salter on YouTube, it gives you a bit of look.

In the same respect though, it’s brilliant in concept and execution as it fits the bill for the new open game style that Ubisoft want to promote. The game world although not on par with ‘Witcher 3’ is still impressive, its vast, unforgiving, and crawling with bad guys. It’s got potential to have a decent longevity, as long as the DLC is worth the price.

So what do we think? Well we give the beta a 6/10, with the potential full release score being the same. I suppose just like ‘The Division’ it’s a bit of ‘wait and see’ especially over the coming months. We wait with baited breaths here at Castle Flintlock.

How Privacy is nothing more than a shadow

via Daily Prompt: Privacy

Everything in this blog is my own opinion, and the views expressed may not match your own. Any quote or picture is attributed to it’s rightful owner or publication. As such I have copyright on my stuff, and they have their own copyright (Complete with lawyers).

Sometime ago I got started on a blog based the notion of big data, it was meant to be a six part blog exploring the rise of big data in society, and how we as everyday citizens create the data for it. Unfortunately it is a big subject with many twists and roadblocks, one of which is Privacy and the other Freedom of Information.

Privacy in my own view is that although a god given right for every man, woman, and child, there will be exceptions where our privacy will need to be encroached is in my view when it is of a criminal nature, national security.

There has been a lot said recently about intelligence agencies, foreign and domestic collecting masses of data on us, in fact as I type I can hear news report indicating that the new president of the United States is planning on removing the CIA’s restrictions, although a scary prospect it does have a benefit; safety.

Over the years privacy has been a battleground as those who would have our lives kept under wraps, fight tooth and nail to stop the evil government from sneaking a peek at their private lives. But for all of the privacy battles we the people haven’t helped ourselves, in order to find out what the ‘Man’ knows we are able through government act to make ‘Freedom of Information’ requests for the details.

The ability to request this information isn’t just restricted to our own lives, we can request information on anything, anyone, any place. Surely in the argument for privacy, we are doing nothing more than nullifying the argument by making these Freedom of Information requests. How can privacy be privacy if we are able to do this? Is there a fault in the system? How do we know the person granting these requests is not only legally able to make the decision; but also morally.

The other side of the argument is that the government and intelligence communities should be able to access our information, albeit with a series of caveats controlling what information is accessed, what it is used for, and most importantly of all that it can be classed as ‘actionable’ in the view of preventing either a criminal act (Drug trafficking, Child Abuse etc) or to prevent an act of terrorism against the nation from enemies foreign or domestic. The person who should make this call should be beyond reproach, neither government or military, but someone who can see both sides of the argument, and differentiate between right and wrong.

The need for privacy is a human right which cannot be violated on a whim, but at the same time it cannot be ring fenced at the detriment of the law or national security; there are too many people and groups out there that would do us harm, they need to be stopped.

In conclusion, I value my privacy but respect the need for it to be breached for legal reasons. I would be abhorred to find out that a crime or terror attack had been carried out by a friend, and that information from my private life could have prevented it, and the only reason it wasn’t was that some social justice warrior’s fight for privacy had prevented the right people from getting to it.

F&S 2017

X-COM Enemies Everywhere

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As with all of our blogs we own all copyright on our own work, videos, and pictures; that been said we will give kudos and credit to any images moving or otherwise to their rightful owners. And with that let’s get it on..

“The devil finds work for idle hands”

It’s been quite sometime since I last wrote a piece for this blog, and admittedly I have a good reason; being a dad to an eight week old girl is bloody difficult.

During what time I have to actually sit and play games, I have found myself regressing back into the nostalgia of my youth with four games; one by defunct software developer Mythos Games, and the other three by established (In both development and piss poor customer after care) Firaxis Games. The first harks back to my early days of gaming on the Amiga 500, and the other three latter forays with the PS3, PS4, and PC; naturally with the exception of the fourth game soon to be mentioned; all are fine examples of what a real-time strategy game should be.

Back in 1994 at the grand old age of fourteen I stumbled across a game called ‘UFO: Enemy Unknown’ a game which would make grind my molars in aggravation as the internal dice rolls were clearly against anything human (something that would haunt me with the digital release of the Bloodbowl Games). The premise was simple, the planet is under attack by ET and his minions who want to conquer us, and the player takes responsibility for the stopping of this with titular global defence force ‘X-COM’.

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You know the AI just rolled a pair of sixes – Image from Amazon.com

 

 

The game itself is brilliant as it combines both the joys of RTS, with the frustration of base building and budget management. It is a theme which has never really left the game’s universe, although admittedly it’s been watered down quiet a bit with the later releases. But the point here is that whilst simple to learn this game was a nightmare to master, and nearly twenty-two years later it still is a major challenge at times.

Now I will admit I avoided the other games that came out between UFO: Enemy Unknown and the first of the Firaxis releases X-COM: Enemy Unknown in 2012; not because I got bored, my taste changed gaming wise. When X-Com: Enemy Unknown was released I was once again hooked, the graphics were astounding, the auditory experience haunting and sometimes chilling (You can hear them but not see them), and finally the enemies were rejigged and started to work together to beat you. It was a complete change to my usual fodder of Call of Duty, a game series which I haven’t touched since upgrading to a PS3.

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Boring!! – Image from Wiki Commons

So if UFO and X-Com are near perfect, what about the 2013 expansion/ stand alone ‘X-Com: Enemy Within’? Well I will admit it was basically the base game with a few extra chunks thrown in to make it feel fresh, I’ll also admit that it didn’t really shine unless you had the three DLC packs installed, but and it’s a huge but; it succeeded. The game developed into a more polished experience with the addition of new enemy classes, new classes for your own use like the MEC trooper and the ability to genetically modify your own soldiers with alien DNA; truly it brought about a new way of playing.

As far as complete games go Enemy Within kept me going until the release of the hotly anticipated (and not hyped) sequel XCOM 2 back in February of this year. There was no fanfare except for us loyal fans which should have been a very loud warning siren, but we were confident that it was going to rock; oh how we love our rose-tinted glasses.

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Promised so much, delivered an infestation – Image from Steam

Oh the humanity of the situation, where to begin with this comedy of errors? I suppose the first port of call is the state of the game at release on PC (Console versions are due at the end of September 2016), it had more bugs than the insect house at a zoo, it was a mess and Firaxis being the customer loving people they are pulled a Bethesda; they did nothing to exterminate the bugs. The graphics were glitchy on anything running less than 2gb on the graphics side, it was more choppy than the North Atlantic in the winter. The game itself had promise, albeit with the usual caveat of overdue pregnant pauses between actions, loading screens that took longer to load, and my personal favourite an AI which could shoot through walls.

Shooting through walls is also a good excuse for a question, if you can’t see the enemy because of a solid wall; how the hell can they see you? Answer me that Firaxis! And while you’re at it where is the flaming patch to fix the bug issues?

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If I shoot right there, the human will die!!

Digression and criticism aside, XCOM 2 isn’t really that bad once you deal with the issues. The Steam community are relentless and passionate to do the work for Firaxis (As they can’t be arsed to do it themselves) They have created modifications which speed up the pauses in combat, additional bits and bobs to increase longevity of a game which on its own will go stale. The current state of the game is pretty stable, the mechanics are somewhat questionable at times but they have made the animation of grenade throwing much better, the weaponry is a lot a better, the armour does its job better than in previous versions. The level design is what you’d expect of it complex and challenging, the auditory experience is better than Enemy Within for fear induced trouser wetting, the AI is as mentioned before more than capable of wiping you out.

The story is uninspiring and in the words of a friend of mine ‘A bag full of cocks’ It lacks solidity in its purpose, the whole the enemy has beaten us and created something called ‘Advent’ which is a front for genetically asset stripping the human race, XCOM has been destroyed and has become a quasi terrorist organisation, oh and you have been captured and need to be rescued to fight the alien menace; is overly busy and somewhat lacking glue. It needs whoever wrote the outline prior to the start of the project to be banned from watching Terminator: Salvation ever again.

Conclusion wise, I love the series and I doubt I’ll stop; it’s unique in this world of first person shooters, Zombies, and space sims which take forever. I’m playing XCOM 2 again because I got something wrong and need to correct it, I’m playing Enemy Within again due to it being one of the best games of its genre. I’m also playing UFO again but that’s because of masochistic tendencies related to games which I can’t beat, especially ones that were released so long ago that I should know better.

Scores?

UFO: Enemy Unknown – 8/10 (It’d be ten but it keeps annoying me)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – 9/10

XCOM: Enemy Within – 10/10

XCOM 2 – 6/10

 

Shakespeare and Gaming

Welcome weary travellers to our blog, the contents of which are ours, if we use anybody else’s work we acknowledge it. The opinions expressed within are ours and do not represent the developers, or the publishers; although we can get a bit snippy about other gamers. So with that in mind, let’s begin shall we?

When you break gaming down, whether it is single player gaming, or even online gaming there is almost something Shakespearian about the whole ordeal. It doesn’t matter whether it is a lone gunman trying to right wrongs, whether it be to the innocent or to cleanse their own souls. If it is online gaming then it becomes more Shakespearian rife with betrayal, love, and poetry in the chaos that always occurs. The same is said for the publishers and developers, who’s lives are flooded with love of the work, the betrayal as their labours are turned on by the players, and poetic justice as things go wrong and they try to weasel their way out of it.

Words, Words, Words – Hamlet

Everyone has an opinion on everything it is a failing unique to the human race, a trait which basically makes us assholes. Shakespeare in the above quote is simple in his description; everything is nothing but words and hollow ones at that. The gaming example has to be the lip service prior to release of any FPS game, sycophantic ramblings meant to sway the impressionable to buy what is in essence nothing more than a rehash of an old product. They expect loyalty to prevail and it does, but not with the seasoned gamer not wanting to get caught up in the nursery that is CoD or its ilk.

For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?

One of the great mystery’s of modern gaming is the complete lack of responsibility taken by a developer for the sometimes horrendous glitches, or the game breaking bugs found on release of the studio’s newest offering. Nobody is immune to this Shakespearean tragedy, Bethesda had possible one the greatest games exit from its hallowed halls ‘Skyrim’ the fifth game in the legendary Elder Scrolls series. On day one it needed patching, by the end of the first month other more worrying issues had reared their ugly helms; one of which was the issue of consoles overheating. Thankfully they fixed it and it’s still regarded as a true masterpiece.

But this was only the beginning as questions were being asked along the lines of ‘If they knew about this, why did they release it?’ The answer unfortunately was becoming more common as other studios followed suit releasing games riddled with bugs and glitches; the eternal quest for PROFIT.

It begs the question ‘If the game is unfinished or full of bugs on release, why should we part with our cash?’ Well the next quote from the Bard sheds some light on it.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

It’s so true, we see the footage whether it’s from E3 or from say YouTube and we buy into it. The whole point is a prime lesson in ‘Advertising 101’ You show your intended audience something that they will fall for head over heels, the best example is Ubisoft’s ongoing train wreck ‘The Division’ a game that was hyped to the point that people would have sold family members for it, the developer released game play footage at E3 and gamers fell in love with what was in essence a fantasy; nothing from E3 ever made the final release.

To quote Don Draper of MadMen fame (and strangely not the Bard) on the art of advertising

Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.

Screw the end product as long as you want it and are willing to part with your money for it.

So where does this leave the gamer? Are you a starstruck Romeo doomed to die for your one true love regardless of the consequences, or a you a Puck a fool for your muse whilst being clever and wise to the antics of the developers?

I suppose the conclusion to this little play is that there is something poetic yet tragic in the world of gaming, a want for the perfect game by both parties but yet never achieved regardless of the sycophantic reviews by those who are drowning in the advertising lie.
It’s the lie that gets us every time, whether it is ‘The Division’ the latest ‘CoD’ or ‘Battlefield’ The dream of what it is going to be never sways you from the niggling feeling that what you are going to get will be shambles. So how does it change? Well that’s for the next blog.

So finally in the words of the Bard

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.

 

 

Banished Review

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First there was Populus, then Sim City, then out of the blue indie developer Shining Rock Software released in 2014 ‘Banished’ a game which has breathed new life into a fast tiring genre. So before we begin the review, the standard disclaimer stands; this my own opinion and as such does not represent the views of the developer or publisher, any photos or videos shown in this blog are the authors and as such copyrighted.

Now on with the show.

Banished is a mixture of open sandbox/ survival/ city builder/  by the way of resource management. The games premise is very simple, you are responsible for five families banished to wilds die, your job is to provide them with a new settlement, clothe them, make sure they have food via farming, foraging, fishing, or all of the aforementioned; basically you are Morgan Freeman (God!). There’s no complicated back story getting in the way, no must do challenges or missions to muddy the waters, just pure city building at its best.

Graphically the game is beautifully presented, vast and lush forests that change with the seasons, rolling streams and rivers carve up the map, and the assorted flora, fauna, and natural resources like Iron and Stone just lay ready for mining. The building animations are well crafted, each building has its own little quirk, the houses once occupied have smoke coming from the chimney stacks, the mines have smoke and the sounds of metal on rock resonating when close enough. Virtually all the buildings have some form of animation, even the crops and animals grow as you watch. That been said there are a couple of niggles, the construction animation is in comparison to the finished building somewhat lacking, the villagers almost one-dimensional when trying to do something; how many times do you need to hoe a field in the dead of winter?.

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Copyright – Shining Rock Software

 

Game play has evolved from the usual fodder that occupies the city building genre, it’s very fluid and there’s plenty of control methods to enhance the in-game camera, and statistics. The stock game however comes with a limited number of building types, and you are limited to what you grow. The trading mechanic is highly annoying, order from one trader and there’s no guarantee that your order will be delivered when the next trader appears. You start the game with limited crop and orchard options, and unless on the lower difficultly settings no cattle, I’ll admit it’s a turn off for players new to the genre but realistically it’s not a deal breaker, if anything you work harder for the good stuff.

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Copyright – F&S

One thing I will give kudos to is the community, we have new buildings being created, language packs so the game is accessible to more players all across the globe, it’s possibly one of the most supportive, and amazing community’s I’ve seen for a game in a long while. As the game ages I think the community will have refined their modding techniques, and I think the developer will respond with more updates to take the mods into account.

Audio wise this game has a sound track, it also has a volume control; I turned it off fairly quickly.. Not good, not from a quality point of view but from a ‘Wtf is that?’ point of view; it’s on a loop the same music over and over again, it’s mind numbing. The sound effects on the other hand are good, each industry has a sound effect, so mining stone or iron gets the clink clink of a pick axe, trees get the hearty sound of axe on wood. It’s all very warming to hear especially when it’s an indie developer. Hopefully someone in the community will create an audio mode to replace the soundtrack.

So final thoughts and verdict? This is a game that’ll be enjoyed by both the purist and the newcomer, it’s not bogged down with a story or inane challenges to ruin it; it’s a pure city building sandbox. It can be frustrating to get to grips with but only at first, once you get to grips with the mechanics and the basic principles; this game will convert you. This game is a long term investment which just cries out for modding, but even at stock it’s highly playable, it will reward you for your efforts in self achievement; survive your first famine or plague, and you’ll understand. The only thing I can think could be improved is the soundtrack, but I have faith in the community to solve that one.

Final score? 8/10 would be higher but for that awful soundtrack.

F&S

The Assassins Creed Unity Review

Assassins Creed Unity – A pretty bleak review

Stand by ladies and gentlemen for the review that I said we wouldn’t do, and as usual the standard disclaimer of this is my own opinion on a game I finally finished (therapy begins shortly) and as such do not represent the views of Ubisoft. All pictures and Videos are the intellectual property and Copyrighted to the Author (ME!) Oh and may contain the odd spoiler.

Now I don’t normally go back on my word about reviews, especially when so much has been said about a game that has for the most part been ripped to pieces. This review is at best  a look at the Death of Assassins Creed games, and the new Assassins Creed games are taking us in.

Plot (Yes there is one..)

The whole game is set during the era of the French Revolution, the two prologue sequences are set in 1307  and 1776 respectively. A pretty interesting period of unrest, and a period of history for the Assassins Creed franchise to enjoy. Well it is and it isn’t, the opening sequence set in 1307 deals with the Templar’s trying to hide a book and sword (A piece of Eden no less) The player’s character is eventually killed by an Assassin (Surprise),  The next sequence is set in pre-revolutionary France where you control a child in a contrived vehicle by Ubisoft to tie up the loose ending of Assassins Creed Rogue. After that it’s welcome to Revolutionary Paris, and a would be Assassin who is just as likable as Conner Kenway in Assassins Creed 3. I’m sorry if this sounding negative but the plot is pretty weak, I’ll freely admit that certain elements have their moments; the majority of the time it just feels a little too contrived. The basic plot seems to revolve around an Assassin and a Templar who have become disillusioned with the age-old feud, and decide to work out a peace treaty ending the war. The death of the Assassin at the hands of an Templar Assassin Hunter and ends any hope of peace, well until Arno the new Assassin tries to make things right (I’m struggling to find any redeeming features for Arno at this point). Apart from that it just seems to be half-baked, and for the most part confusing.

Game play

The game plays like any Assassins Creed game post Revelations, the same beautifully rendered graphics, amazingly large game world, plenty of side quests to keep the most cynical of amateur reviewers occupied, and a sense of size as you hurdle past famous Parisian landmarks either at ground level or rooftop. The downside is that it’s bogged down in graphic related bugs, horrifying levels of clipping, frame rate drop offs to rival falling off the White Cliffs of Dover, overcrowding of NPC’s in tight spaces, uninspired and downright stupid AI, boring main quest missions, and finally a confused lead character who even before becoming an Assassin could do a Leap of Faith. The game play is too close to three for my liking, Arno just seems to be a polished version of Conner Kenway right down to his movement whilst ideal. The upshot and trust me it is an upshot is that it’s playable even with the bug infestation, it flows like a mountain stream crashing through a forest. Arno is less Assassin at first and more your atypical moody French brat, but as you progress he acquires a certain level of finesse and panache; it can get quite involving at times. The economic side of the game is there and it’s a bit more like Brotherhood, upgrading your safe house, and buying/ reopening places for bonuses.

Movement

Okay as alluded to in the Game play section, the buggy mess has infected the character movement bit. Arno is too much like Conner Kenway, almost to the point of being the same person. The free running is the same as it was in three and Black Flag, to the point that suicide is no longer an option it’s mandatory especially if you’re trying to climb something you need to be on top of. It can get rather annoying when your hard climb results either in Arno throwing himself off half way up due to a buggy control mechanic, or swan diving off the top of something because the Leap of Faith refuses to operate. Running is a truly inane experience even for the most seasoned Creed player, the slightest contact with an object/ NPC or Scenery results in being thrown to the floor, changing direction is badly done as you try to navigate around Paris without ending up on the floor. The initiation of free running to climb up a building is a lesson in Buster Keaton’s Slapstick 101, slamming into a wall at high-speed is hilarious; the first three times. Apart from that it’s business as usual, climbing is the same, as is the leaping between buildings; the control mechanics are the same as the last three games; there’s hardly anything new to report.

Combat

Where to start? Well the positives won’t take long. As with all Assassins Creed games there is a high level of weaponry available to use, ranging from a standard sword all the way to the vicious Viking artefact thing. You can choose either a one-handed weapon, two-handed, or rifle, this makes the combat planning rather sweet and releases a player’s natural instinct for their preferred way of killing. The fight animations are beautifully done, the AI is pretty deadly when it wants to be (It’s just let down by being too generic whilst out of combat) The assassinations are pretty sweet, I’ll admit I was sceptical about the new version of the hidden blade; but once you get used to it, it can dig you out of most holes. The enemy levelling is interesting as it can differ depending on your own level, picking a fight with a level five AI when you’re a level three is paramount to death unless you’re really lucky; reminds me quite nicely of The Witcher 3 and some of the issues I had with the bad guys in that.

Okay so the negatives are very visible ranging from a lack of precision, the inability to disarm an opponent, no longer being able to fight with the wristblades, and my personal bug bear; the inclusion of micro-transactions in order to get the best weapons (It is possible to get them in-game, but you’re in for some serious Del boy antics to do it). The overall arc is the same as it was with Three, Black Flag, and Rogue; the fighting mechanic is shagged and needs to be overhauled. The fact that Unity, the three previous games, and now Syndicate are suffering from the same issues clearly shows some blatant ‘That’ll do’ mentality from Ubisoft. Now I’m not going bang any further on about the mechanics as way too much has been written by other reviewers regarding the issues, but what I will say is that unless fixed this could be the straw that not only breaks the camel’s back; but also could drive the core Assassins Creed fans away from the franchise.

Final thoughts

The problem I have with Unity isn’t the buggy mess the game was when released, it’s the fact it’s nothing new in both the sense of evolution of the storyline, and the mechanics core to the game. It seems to me that since Revelations which neatly finished the Altair and Ezio storylines, Ubisoft feel they have to pump out an Assassins Creed game every year otherwise the franchise might be forgotten. So we’ve been inflicted with three games since Revelations, and none of them are truly any good; and all suffering from the same issues normally associated with a franchise in need of a break (Best reference would be EA’s ill-fated attempt to re-imagine the Medal of Honour franchise) So how does this fit in with Unity, well it’s annoying and sad that a well-loved franchise is dying of exhaustion in front of its fans eyes, and that the Developer/Publisher doesn’t see this; just the profit margins. The only way I can see to make the franchise ‘fresh’ again would be to rest it for a year, maybe even two in order for new blood to be injected into developing the next game, and also to be brave enough to push the release date back if it’s not finished.

So do I recommend Assassins Creed Unity? Well reluctantly yes, yes I do. It’s a good game once you get past the bugs and the lax storyline, it’s an explorers dream especially if you love Paris. I’d caution anyone buying it though just because of this review or someone else’s, this game will frustrate you and not in the normal Assassins Creed way; you are going to have your patience tested every time the game acts up. I’d recommend this game for the experience of what happens when a franchise is ready for a break, also for a game which regardless of how tired it seems is still a beautiful game, which still walks tall amongst the recent Creed games. I’d also recommend you buy this before you buy Syndicate (The latest offering) as it may help to understand the issues you’ll face there.

Rating 6.5/10

Epilogue: I’ve finally played Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and when the rage goes away I’ll review it. Needless to say it’s as bad (Even worse in places) than Unity. Also as a side note, Ubisoft have decided not to release another Creed game for a year or so in order to bring a better game to the table.

 

The Division (Open Beta) – Pre Release Review

Okay before we kick off with this blog the following disclaimer stands:

The following blog is my own thoughts on a title which will be released in March 2016, all images and footage have been taken from the open beta test without the need for an NDA. Naturally many may not agree with me on this matter, but hey were all human and one of our races failings is that we just want to comment, disagree, or have an opinion.

So without further ado, on with the show.

A while back I wrote what I thought was a gushing appraisal of a bunch of games that French Canadian developer/producer Ubisoft were planning on releasing in quarter one this year (January to March 2016) I was wrong, it came across as sycophantic; apologies.

The Division’s closed and open beta periods have ended and I got to give it a whirl in its open beta form (I was invited to test it in the closed beta, but chose to go on a cruise instead). The game is set in a post pandemic New York, the hook being that someone let off a rather nasty strain of Smallpox during the Black Friday sales; you can imagine the chaos. You play as one of the ‘Division’ agents sent to help take the place back.

From the beginning you realize two things, one it’s winter, and two it’s well all rather screwed up in the big apple. Once you have completed the initial Port Hudson tutorial and cut scene, you are free to explore, actually do anything you like. But you are also greeted by this lovely scene.

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8th Avenue looking rather sedate for a winters day

As you can see it’s all rather bleak and disturbing, more so when you come into contact with the few New York citizens that are still alive. You can help the locals by giving them food, water, or medical aid, and in return they will give you something; usually an item of clothing for you.

As you explore you find open shops (Limited number in the playable area for the beta) in which you’ll find parts for crafting, food, tools, electronic components etc. All will be needed for something in the full release. You also come across random encounters, so things like collecting data on the virus, clearing out bandits from locations, dealing with utility issues such as water supply or gas; there’s a lot to do and they are only the little things.

The main missions tend to focus on setting up your base camp at the US Post Office building opposite Madison Square Garden, rescuing key personal from the bad guys, and completing side missions to get better goodies and experience. All of the tasks can be completed in whatever order you want, although it’s best to have a plan; this is one of those games where a bit of planning can really help.

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The view from the post office, not a good sight for sports fans

Now I spent a good couple of days wandering around the play area which seemed to cover the Garment District from the Hudson River, and the Chelsea district. There is a ‘Dark Zone’ to be explored but we’ll come to that in a bit, which covered a patch from the Avenue of the America’s going East towards the river. So the play area was actually rather generous for a beta, what did surprise me though was the environment; not just a game with a day/night cycle but one with a climate.

Games rarely have anything above rain, word is that it’s rather difficult to build an ecosystem in a game, well Ubisoft have somehow managed to sort it out, Nothing screams New York in the winter than the below image.

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It’s night, it’s snowing and me and the peeps go for a walk

The above shows snow at night, that’s fine but it’s the atmosphere that goes with it, no noise, and more to the point after I took this picture; it got worse and I could hardly see the peeps in front. Also it’s does it all the time, I went sight seeing using a real map of New York as a guide (Which the developers must have used as I never got lost) and went looking for the Empire Estate Building, I found it and it’s in the picture; you may want to squint.

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It’s between my head and the MP-7 Stock

So what about combat? Well it’s fluid and pretty clever. The cover system is a much improved version of the one last seen in Ubisoft’s last Splinter Cell game ‘Blacklist’ it’s pretty much once in cover you look where the next cover is and hold the appropriate button down to run to it. The best example is by following the link, the video is a take down of two hostiles from cover; and yes I missed wide right with my first pistol shot.

 

The enemies are intuitive and will try and flank you if there’s enough of them. The weapon variety is set up so it’s random, so you won’t find the same weapon twice from the same goodies box, and it’s unique to each player. When you start the game (At least in the Beta) you were given a pistol, and M4 assault rifle, and an MP-5 sub-machine gun. As the game progresses you either find better gear, or buy new stuff from the suppliers at the base of operations. The gear comes in two varieties clean and contaminated, which brings me neatly to the ‘Dark Zone’

The Dark Zone is a Player versus Player kill area which also includes machine controlled enemies. It’s a bit of a wild west place, parts of New York where the contamination is still live and dangerous, a place where anything goes, and people can be dicks. Me and the guy’s found that you need to have your eyes on swivels whilst you’re in there, the rule is if you don’t engage another player/players you won’t be classed as a ‘Rogue Agent’ which means you’re fair game for other players; be prepared to tar the rest of the team at the same time as it’s not individual but group wide.

The prospect for cool gear is rife, the issue is that everyone else want’s it. But all things considered a bit of tactical thinking, keeping your eyes open, and moving from cover to cover and you’ll survive for a while. I’d stick a picture up but I was too busy being killed to take one.

So my conclusion on ‘The Division’? If you’re looking for a game which combines both open world exploring with PvP madness, then this game will suit you fine. The same can be said for the gamer who wants to just explore New York without the multiplayer, and the same for the multiplayer gamer who wants carnage. It’s all there beautifully packaged up in a truly amazing game.

The Division is released here in the UK on March 8th, and is available for pre-order from the usual suspects.