Monday, January 18, 2016

Didn't I just blow that up?

Instead of attempting to catch up on Assassin's Creed India I will refer you to the podcast. Listen for the specific moment that I make Chance's wallet cry out in pain.

...

Just Cause 3, however, deserves more discussion.

There was a promise made many, many years ago by Red Faction that it and its sequels never managed to deliver on: truly destructible environments. The hardware at the time of its release just could not handle the math required. The last Red Faction game, Red Faction Guerrilla, came much closer, as did Just Cause 2.

Just Cause 3 still does not quite let you blow up anything (as Crackdown 2 promises) but it provides a better approximation than any other game I have played. If there was more to the game than that I would enthusiastically recommend it. Instead I am slowly getting bored of blowing up the same gas tanks in similar looking bases. Every town has the almost the same layout and feel, rendering them indistinguishable from one another. The feeling of deja - kablooie is inescapable.

As a point of comparison let's go back to Mad Max. I liked Mad Max, not just because it scratched the open world collect-athon itch but also because it had cool characters, a great hook in customizing the magnum opus, combat stolen directly from the Arkham games, and a lot if detail in even the most mundane environments. Little encampments were scattered all across the map and there was no reason to visit most of them other than to kill their inhabitants and steal their scrap. Reason enough for Max, so I visited them all. And they were all different. Max would go from crawling through a crack in a mountainside to spelunking into buried boats and each time the look and feel would be distinct.

It's possible to make a smaller scale game feel big by adding this kind of detail. Square mile wise, Just Cause 3 dwarfs Mad Max. Last night, just as I was beginning to wonder where the rest of the game was, I found that I had not zoomed the map out as far as it could go and that the world was fully five times larger than I had first thought. But what good does that do when everything on the first island looks and behaves the same?

The longer I play Just Cause 3 the more little things begin to bother me. Each section of an insland must be liberated and there are around five or so individual places that require attention. They are not shown on the map until the player stumbles across them. For the larger cities and bases this is not a problem as their outlines are plainly visible but there are checkpoints staffed by a scant few soldiers guarding an incredibly flammable fuel tank that are much more difficult to find. Trust me, I want to let them go, but I can't. That is not how this kind of game is played.

So I will soldier on, fighting the man and blowing up his shit. But I do not promise to not complain about it.

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