There's a good reason as to why this review has taken a while to get here. Kyrat is massive, there are simply so many things to do in Far Cry 4. As soon as the first introductory mission had passed, I ignored the story completely, jumped into Little Nellie and took to the skies, cackling and running down honey badgers from the air. hunting things is actually the best way to start Far Cry 4, to be honest. The ammo pouches and loot sacks you have to begin with are rubbish, and so skinning the various species of creatures roaming the Asian forests and mountains provides the only way to expand your arsenal. And believe me, you'll want to expand you're arsenal.
The other day I went for a swim in a serene lake. A glimmer caught my eye and I swam below to find a cornucopia of rare treasures and a shiny new gun. Then a pair of massive Demon Fish decided they wanted to eat me for lunch, and I panicked and mashed some buttons and fled the scene with the barest sliver of life left, retiring to dry land and a hut where a demonic mask sang foreboding songs at me. Then some Royalist punks came by in a red truck, and I set them on fire and stole their things. Truck included.
The things you can do with fire in this game...
There are moments in Far Cry 4, often when you've climbed your way above the skyline -- Kyrat is a mountainous places, far more so than the islands of FC3, and you have a grappling hook to help you traverse the undulating landscape in this game -- when the game takes your breathe away. It's a game still tethered to last-gen, using a last-gen engine and assets, but the development team have done a phenomenal job of making Kyrat look stunning. This is a world that's simply captivating to be in and explore, littered as it is with geographical and architectural wonders, not to mention collectibles that reveal more about the place. Kyrat is a fictional country, but it has elements of Kashmir and Nepal about it, with the Himalayas to the north and the notion of a beautiful, mystical country torn apart by war.Click here to read the rest of our Far Cry 4 review >>
So there are to be no playable female models in Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Unity introduces co-op to the Assassin's Creed formula, allowing you to play with up three of your friends. In order to make this fit in with the story, each player will see themselves as Arno in their own games but be able to choose and customise their public appearance -- i.e. how they present themselves in the games of other. You'll still be able to customise your gear, and you'll have all of that with you when playing with others, you'll just appear as a different character to other players. And that character will have to be male.
It's annoying that were back here again with a company that's actually been fairly good at fostering inclusion of late. Assassin's Creed actually flipped the script in terms of delivering a protagonist that didn't fit the white, male stereotype when it came to Liberation, and did so in a way that was pretty relaxed given the scrutiny Avaline would come under. That's just the nature of things that deviate from established norms, even when those norms are somewhat lamentable. Anything different -- in this case to traditionally white, male protagonists with voices like a cement mixer -- will attract extra attention and pressure. But, to Ubisoft's credit, they let the game do the talking, and it was a cracking little game, with Aveline proving to be a wonderfully drawn character. Before that, we had female assassins in Brotherhood and Revelations, female avatars in the multiplayer components. There's precedent for this, and Ubisoft Montreal themselves set it!
So why not here, in Unity?
"It's unfortunate, but it's a reality of game development," said Ubisoft technical director James Therien, speaking to Videogamer. "It's not a question of philosophy or choice in this case at all.
"It was a question of focus and a question of production. Yes, we have tonnes of resources, but we're putting them into this game, and we have huge teams, nine studios working on this game and we need all of these people to make what we are doing here."Click here to read more...
Good God, Aiden Pearce is boring. Another one of those characters who mistakes having a growl for a voice and a long list of cookie-cutter grievances for being someone with depth and drama to their persona. Aiden isn't a particularly interesting character, he doesn't inspire empathy, sympathy, admiration or anger. I tried to sum up some of his more notable qualities and I ended up staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page for a good ten minutes.
Chicago has a good crack at trying to make Mr Pearce more interesting by association -- constantly serving up opportunities for him to simply be a cipher by which we can live out our own hacker-centric flights of fancy, but then that Christian Bale-esque voice creeps back in with another stab at gritty narration, and Ubisoft try to convince us that Aiden is someone who matters via Tom Waits impressions, and all I want to do is give him a Strepsil.
The comparison with GTA is coming up a lot, thanks in part to Ubisoft's Big Mass Market Decision to quietly sideline the more original aspects of Watch Dogs in favour of traditional open world staples (guns and driving, yo!). But I actually think Watch Dogs as a franchise has the potential to go further in terms of game world interaction mainly due to the level of playful control you can eventually exert over the city's systems. That can't be said for the game's story or characters, mind, Aiden in particular. Rockstar revel in phenomenally detailed character studies (consider how fantastically crafted John Marston was as a complex character), but Ubisoft Montreal, though they can hit heights, have a Connor for every Ezio.
To be fair to Connor, mind, even he's better company than Aiden.Click here to read more...
Watch Dogs has its moments.
Interconnected future Chicago is a hacker's playground. You'll infiltrate heavily guarded compounds without even setting foot in the building, leaping between CCTV cameras like a digital ghost. You'll turn car chases into carnage as you detonate sub-street steam pipes and raise bridges, speeding away from pile-ups that would make Elwood Blues doff his fedora. Vindictive players will terrorise panicking criminals by remotely sending them threatening texts and arming their grenades, an unseen terror who eventually sneaks in to mop up stragglers with a baton and silenced pistol.
When its hacking, gunplay, stealth and driving come together, the result is pure water cooler magic.
Unfortunately these moments are wrapped in an open-world game that's arguably too big, flabby and formulaic for its own good, but they still make Watch Dogs well worth playing.Click here to read more...
If you're waiting for our Watch Dogs review, sorry, but this isn't it. Our review copy only arrived on Wednesday, so as the start of a new franchise, I'm not willing to pull the trigger until I've tested it to destruction - from ending to endgame content. Expect our final verdict on Monday or Tuesday. However, after putting in a serious shift over the last few days, I can report that it's an interesting blend of different influences that strongly reminds me of all manner of games and movies.
The popular comparison seems to be GTA if you look at numerous user reviews, forum comments and even several critical reviews. Or "GTA-clone" to be less charitable. It's a shame, but totally warranted, since Watch Dogs is fiercely reminiscent of Rockstar's series in its first couple of hours. Once again we find ourselves jacking cars, evading police, running over pedestrians and shooting everything that moves (with much more fluid mechanics than GTA has ever offered, admittedly) in a gritty open-world city, while an embarrassment of nonsensical side-missions seem to be lifted from a checklist of open-world tropes. Time trials, minigames and challenges. Great. We have GTA already.
But that isn't entirely fair, because if you expect Grand Theft Auto and play it like Grand Theft Auto, of course Watch Dogs will remind you of Grand Theft Auto! Conversely, if you go in with an open mind and try to rid yourself of as much hype as possible, Ubisoft's anticipated hybrid feels more like a crazy mash-up of Swordfish, Blues Brothers, Splinter Cell, Paranormal Activity, Dark Souls and even a little Defendor for good measure. So without further ado, here are my current impressions of Watch Dogs both good and bad... and what it reminds me of most.Click here to read more...
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PS3 | PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox 360 | Xbox One | PC | Wii U
RPG games are usually big-budget epics with the promise (threat?) of at least forty hours running time. Ubisoft's Child of Light is here to change that assumption by providing a low-priced downloadable alternative. Others have failed quite miserably (Hello, Mars: War Logs), but ze Germans made a solid effort with the tough Rainbow Moon. But with Ubisoft providing genre classics in action, shooters and platforming (Assassin's Creed IV, Far Cry 3 and Rayman Legends if you're asking), we can't wait to see how they handle an RPG.
The first thing we all noticed about Child of Light was of course the visuals -and they don't disappoint. Using Rayman's UbiArt engine, Ubisoft have this time favoured a watercolour approach to the visuals instead of bright colours and cel-shaded lines. This has resulted in a classic fairy tale aesthetic that gives the game its own unique endearing personality throughout the ever-changing landscapes.
Less lovable though is the way the story is told in achingly forcing rhyming verse. It's downright painful at times and the only genuine sour note in the whole experience. The story itself sees a young girl awaken in the dreamy landscape of Lumeria, trying to make her way home to her sick father. To do this though she must overcome an evil queen and help out a few locals with fetch quests. Hardly breaking the mould, but in all honesty I wasn't pinning my expectations on the story for this one and am happy enough to trade it off for the sake of the purdy visuals.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS4 (tested) | Xbox One | PS3 | Xbox 360 (tested)
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Apologies to those of you who've followed my writing on Assassin's Creed over the last couple of years as I'm going to repeat myself a little bit here, but for those of you coming into this review in need of a little context, here's the beef: Assassin's Creed III was a sprawling, clunky, overstretched, uneven adventure with a dull central character and too many diffuse game components that failed to come together to present an engaging, cohesive world. There was little freedom, too much linearity in a paradoxically gigantic world, a lack of verticality (the first thing anyone does in AC is climb the nearest tall steeple or spire), and an abandoning of the thing that had made the franchise great. The key has always been in the title: we want to assassinate people.
Thankfully, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag does much to bring stalking one's prey however you like back in a big way.
We'll get to the pirate stuff itself, but let's look at how the more familiar elements to the series have been tweaked up and expanded upon for this game. The best things from Assassin's Creed III -- things like running assassinations, the wide variety of darts, and treetop parkour -- have all returned. But now there's verticality to go with that. Not on the scale of the urban hives of activity that Rome and Constantinople and the Crusader cities presented to us, but enough to warrant more than enough rooftop hopping.Click here to read more...
The final touches are being applied to our AssFlag review, but here are five reasons why Black Flag marks a return to form after the somewhat divisive AC3...
Pirates will always be cool. The Romanticising of buccaneers and privateers-turned-pirates presents a fantastic opportunity for an open world game. When I spoke to lead writer Darby McDevitt back at Gamescom a few months ago, he'd said that this was a story he'd always wanted to write, and that the decision to tell the Kenway family saga led to a situation where the dates fell nicely into place.
It's not difficult to see why the time period and location make for a cracking setting for an open world title. For starters, the systemic nature of Ubisoft's world-building in AnvilNext makes for an ocean packed with targets, dangers, and opportunity. The Tropics make for versatile settings, with bustling ports and dense jungles often sharing a single island.Click here to read more...
Our review is due early next week but, in the interim, here's a little look at a segment relatively early on in the game in which Edward Kenway, our swashbuckling protagonist, links up with famed pirate Ben Hornigold to run down a few Spanish ships. We take a look at the new and improved naval combat systems in Ubisoft's latest Assassin's Creed adventure, and deliver an early verdict on proceedings.Click here to read more...
The review is underway (we're aiming for Friday), but in the interim here's some Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag gameplay footage for you. We've captured the first quarter of an hour of Edward Kenway's story, which manages to pack in a naval skirmish, some tropical free-running, and chasing down a sailor so we can steal his stuff.Click here to read more...
We've been excited for Watch Dogs ever since Ubisoft stole the show at E3 last year. The systemic world of Big Brother-ridden Chicago set our minds racing at the potential for emergent gameplay and open-ended mechanics.
But exactly how are Ubisoft going about implementing all of these systems? Where did the idea for Watch Dogs come from in the first place? How distinct are the action and stealth elements of the game?Click here to read more...
With Watch Dogs being one of a handful of games looking to bridge the gap between current-gen and next-gen consoles, we asked creative director Jonathan Morin if this dual-focus had impacted the development of the game at all.
His response was a relatively simple negative. Why? Well, he said that it was because the release window for next-gen had been up in the air when development began on Watch Dogs, and that the team were already looking to push the limits of current-gen when the PS4 and Xbone were finally revealed.Click here to read more...
Given the open nature of Watch Dogs, its red-and-blue Reputation system, and an in-game media network that feeds into the world's systems, it might seem the perfect subject for multiple possible endings based on the player's actions as Aiden.
But creative director Jonathan Morin explained in a recent interview with Dealspwn that it's precisely because the game is so open that the developers didn't want to enforce their own branching narrative structure.Click here to read more...
You can get a fat rundown of my initial impressions of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag here, but basically it would seem that things are looking up for the series. For a franchise that has always really only ever been as good as its time-travelling setting, taking the series deep into the Golden Age of Piracy and combining the core mechanics of Assassin's Creed with a vast, open, naval sandbox reminiscent of Sid Meier's Pirates!, looks to be a masterstroke.
Following on from my conversation with lead writer Darby McDevitt at Gamescom last month, we sat down with producer Martin Schelling at a recent preview event to have an all-encompassing chat about Black Flag. If you're interested in the nature of this piratical open world, if you're wondering why and how music came to be such an integral part of the experience, if you're itching to find out what's going on with the world outside of animus in this game, hit the jump and watch the video. It's a good one.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PSN | XBLA (current & next-gen) | PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Child Of Light was too big a secret to keep. As an interactive fairytale, respectful homage to classic role-playing games and a gorgeous use of Rayman Origins' UbiArt engine, Far Cry 3's creative director couldn't help but let the cat out of the bag at GDC.
You can hardly blame him, because after getting hands-on with Child Of Light at a Parisian preview session, I can report that it's shaping up to be something very special indeed.
The story follows Aurora, a young girl marked by destiny in a fairytale world that toes the line between whimsical and thoroughly twisted. Packing a massive sword, fake crown and a hovering magical companion called Igniculus, our heroine sets out to bring light to the darkness in a hybrid between 2D exploration and classic turn-based battling.Click here to read more...
It's another tidbit from the Ubisoft camp today, as the publisher has unveiled Child Of Light - a sidescrolling title that is "inspired by fairy tales and epic poems," according to a post made on Ubisoft's website.
Players will assume the role of Aurora, who is charged with bringing light back to her kingdom and defeating the Dark Queen. Joining her on her adventuresis a floating ball of light named Igniculus, which can help light the way through the darkenss (and can be controlled by a second player.) Stylised after J-RPGs, as well as including turn-based battles, the game will reportedly include a skill tree "closely resembling what we saw in Far Cry 3." The game will also be built using the UbiArt engine which brought Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends to life.
Child of Light will be available on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC & Wii U next year.
I was very impressed in deed with what I saw of AssFlag at Gamescom this year, particularly with the fact that freeform assassinations are back in a big way.
But one of my biggest worries, following on from AC3, was that Ubisoft might over extend themselves once again -- producing a game world that was vast, but ultimately to disconnected, disparate, and diffuse to be particularly engaging.
This new vidoc from the dev team takes a look at how they're trying to avoid anything like that in Black Flag, and focuses heavily on how the team have tried to create an engrossing, cohesive game world that feels vibrant and alive.Click here to read more...
I must admit, I was impressed by my hands-on time with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. It might be that Edward's story sees him play the role of pirate for a far greater period of time than assassin; or perhaps it's the return to the roots of the series with freeform assassination missions making a return; or could it be that the on-ship, naval gameplay is far more intrinsic to the entire experience than it was in Assassin's Creed III?
The answer is simple: it's all of the above.
But my time with the game itself, PS4 controller in hand, was brief. I needed something more, and luckily my guide through the demo happened to be lead writer Darby McDevitt, who, with the final business day of Gamescom drawing to a close, was happy to give me an interview and chat about where the team was taking the saga with this title.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS4 (tested) | Xbox One | PS3 | Xbox 360
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
You could have been forgiven for forgetting that Assassin's Creed III had "assassin" in the title. There was one example, maybe two if you squinted, of some actual assassinating in Connor's adventure. For the most part, it was a bloated mess, punctuated by lengthy fetch quests, instafail linear sections, and walking lengthy distances as colonial luminaries delivered historical lectures in audio that kept fading in and out of earshot. To be honest, we've rather been lamenting the series' slow abandonment of freeform assassinations, but it appears that the decline of stealthy sandbox murder-plotting might be at an end.
Black Flag is bringing them back in a big way.
Ubisoft have expanded Edward's set of clandestine tools. The blowpipe is particularly fun, sending guards to sleep or, better yet, sending them into a berserk frenzy whereupon they promptly attack their chums. But by far the most welcome change, is that Edward won't prematurely reveal himself when he performs ranged attacks or attempts to skewer a nearby guard. Gone are the days of a professional security type coming over to investigate, lured into the perfect position for a sly and stealthy assassination, only for our murderous protagonist to stand up as if to shout surprise, wrecking the "Avoid Detection" objective, and completing his grisly business almost insultingly visible to all. Now Edward can grab people from the bushes, whistling from leafy cover and snatching guards unaware without tripping the detection meter. The same goes for darts and guns and knives. Click here to read more...
Click here to read more...
We're back with our final look at The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot. In today's episode, Carl provides commentary as he puts the Mage and Archer through their paces, before demonstrating the replay mechanics and turning Jon's castle into a smouldering ruin. See it all after the jump.