Far Cry 3 – Review (PS3)

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Far Cry 3 puts you in the shoes of Jason Brody, a rich kid who is partying with his friends on a tropical paradise island near Bangkok. However, as becomes apparent in the game’s opening, everything is not quite as idyllic as it seems.

With your friends scattered and captured it’s left up to you to try and get everyone together and escape from this hellish nightmare.

Fortunately there are plenty of guns around and lots of armed enemies to take out in the process.

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The setting is beautiful and the developers have done a great job of creating a stunning and believable environment for you to mess around in. And mess around you will because Far Cry 3 is positively loaded with things to do in addition to the story missions.

The story itself starts strongly, wavers in the middle and finishes well – though it felt like there were different directions Far Cry 3 could’ve gone in that might’ve been better suited to the early story stuff. I certainly would’ve liked to have seen it take longer for Brody to turn into a frenzied killing machine after his fantastically timid beginnings but having said that, it does fit in with the story stuff that follows.

Enemy AI is ok on the whole, though it has to be said it’s at its best when unscripted emergent events happen – like wild animals rushing in and attacking you and your enemies. Some of those moments were superb and gave the game a real feeling of vitality and freshness.

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The missions were good overall and I felt that Far Cry 3 was well paced, aside from a few instances and one particular ‘boss’ battle that felt a little out of place. Mainly due to it’s length rather than it’s place in the story.

Having everything in first person gives the game a nice feel, especially when driving a vehicle. And it says a lot that for the most part I avoided using the fast travel system and would just drive wherever I needed to go.

On your travels you’ll encounter random enemy patrols or wild animals and for me, these were some of the highlights of my playthrough. Likewise capturing enemy bases was always fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge presented by the radio towers you need to activate to unlock chunks of the map.

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I did feel the story outstayed it’s welcome a little, possibly trimming an hour or two off the campaign might’ve helped but the characters dreamt up by the developers are pretty awesome and it was nice to see some colourful personalities that were fun to interact with.

Unfortunately during an early mission I experienced several game breaking glitches that meant restarting the mission. Whether it was a game crash, an online connection error that froze the game on the pause screen or something else, it meant redoing the same mission 4 times, which was pretty frustrating. The game also locked up on me a few times beyond that and because of Far Cry 3’s lack of manual save options I lost a fair bit of valuable progress.

I found the multiplayer offering to be pretty robust and good fun. There isn’t anything revolutionary here but it’s solid and will offer further hours of gameplay within the universe. There are also a batch of co-op missions that you can tackle with friends which further boosts your potential playtime.

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Overall, after initially being impressed with Far Cry 3 by the end of the game I felt a little let down by the way the story developed. I felt a couple of great characters were wasted and I suppose having enjoyed the opening it just highlighted the disappointment by the time the game ended. Added to that were the technical issues that disrupted my playthrough and it made for a slightly disjointed experience.

Rating: 7/10

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Assassin’s Creed III – Review (PS3)

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I felt the opening few hours of Assassin’s Creed III were great. As set up for the main story it does a great job and working through these closed, more linear parts showed that Assassin’s Creed doesn’t always have to be about the size of the open world area.

Unfortunately once you get to the main crux of the game Assassin’s Creed III struggles under the weight of being a fully fledged ‘numbered’ Creed title.

Discounting the story, which seems to increase in insanity with each installment  the Assassin’s Creed games have gotten better with each title. This hit a plateau between Brotherhood and Revelations, with the latter feeling a little tired. Unfortunately Assassin’s Creed III, despite the new setting, also suffers this fate.

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It’s not all doom and gloom though – firstly the character animation (which also featured in the Vita spin off Liberation) is superb. The movement through trees and the forest is wonderfully natural, especially in the snow.

Movement looks fluid and believable for the most part, although I did hit an issue that seemed to affect a few people – namely in some of the cutscenes no characters mouths were moving. So conversations would be happening between two characters gesturing to each other but with mouths tightly clamped shut. It looked weird and, of course, dragged you out of the game for the moment.

The naval combat, while fairly limited, was also fantastic and great fun. It looks like lots of people agreed with me, seeing as the recently announced Assassin’s Creed IV will be a pirate game.

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I also enjoyed the hunting missions and some of the Homestead/side missions. Although everything is still very much map led – all of the stuff you can do is indicated with a marker. Which I don’t have a problem with for main missions but it would be nice if more games adopted a more Red Dead Redemption style of side stuff that you can pick up by interacting with characters that aren’t highlighted etc.

Sadly the story stuff is the weak link here, a lot of the missions felt like too much of a slog and some of them just weren’t very interesting. There were a few highlights and for some of the time it was great to be in control of Connor.

However another issue is that Connor as a character was almost totally devoid of empathy or emotion. He was a selfish brat with no redeeming features. I’m all for playing as characters that are a bit of a fool and go through a decent character arc but I didn’t feel Connor changed much at all over the course of the game.

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As the Assassin’s Creed games have got more and more successful they have moved away from the actual assassinations of the original game. There isn’t the planning and scheming to take out a target anymore – simply head to a marker and kill everyone.

It was something I mentioned in my recent Hitman Absolution review but one part stuck out for me when playing Assassin’s Creed III: tasked with taking out a target I headed to the map marker, sneaked up on him and activated what I thought would be an instant kill and instead was greeted by a health bar which triggered an alert in all the guards I’d just sneaked by. And that to me is disappointing.

So the campaign starts well but ends up fairly average. What of the multiplayer?

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Ubisoft have been tweaking the online of Assassin’s Creed ever since they introduced it and here it’s at its refined best. With a whole host of modes and a much improved stun mechanic. I had great fun dipping in and found the multiplayer to be tight, responsive and very competitive… even when just starting out.

So it’s a mixed bag really – while the game makes some good forward steps (character animation/naval combat/improvements in online play) it is let down by a plodding story that has one of the most disappointing characters in the series. Assassin’s Creed III is a good game, it just doesn’t compare to the adventures of Ezio Auditore.

Rating: 7/10

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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – Review (PS3)

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Ok before we get started, in the interests of full disclosure I must state I didn’t (or more accurately couldn’t) finish Metal Gear Rising. I made my way through 99% of it but after 90 minutes of trying I admitted defeat on the final boss.

Set 4 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rising sees you take control of Raiden once more – though he has changed somewhat since the Metal Gear Solid 2 days 🙂

The most glaring difference, as seen during some cut scenes in MGS4, is that Raiden is now mostly machine – a cyborg, fitted with an exoskeleton and lots of nice weaponry just waiting to be upgraded.

Metal Gear Rising is not a stealth game like previous Metal Gear Solid titles – the few stealth sections in Rising feel a bit out of place in my opinion. This is a game all about destroying your enemy rather than avoiding them. And you have lots of ways to dispatch your foes.

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Raiden’s main weapon is a katana which he can use to slice up his opponents, especially satisfying during ‘blade mode’, where time slows down and you use the right analogue stick to swipe your sword through any other cyborg in your way. It can also be a big help – a red box will appear on enemies while in blade mode, hit it with your katana and nail the circle button prompt to absorb your foes’ energy – refilling your life bar.

You can also parry enemy attacks by pressing square and pushing the left stick in the direction of the attack. Enemies give off a red light before they attack but unfortunately that doesn’t indicate when to parry, just that they are going to attack.

It makes it overly difficult to judge attacks and from what I understand on easy you only have to press square to parry, which sounds like a better option for these lower (easy/normal) difficulty settings. It just meant more frustration for me as I could parry some attacks but not others. I felt Platinum Games nailed the parry/attack mechanics in Bayonetta and Vanquish so it’s disappointing to see what they’ve delivered for Rising.

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Couple this with some big difficulty spikes and it’s a recipe for trouble. When you’re having to spend almost two hours fighting the same guy (Hi Monsoon *waves*), even if it is over two battles, on Normal difficulty then I feel the game is doing something wrong.

Graphically the game looks a little rough around the edges at times and I noticed a distinct stutter and frame rate drop during some of the scripted Codec calls. However the cutting in blade mode is stunning and it’s amazing to see your damage rendered in real time.

The story is focussed around PMCs (Private Military Companies) and how they benefit from war, or even just the threat of war. Raiden uncovers a sinister plot that one of the PMCs is carrying out and vows to stop them. It’s not really anything spectacular but serves as a nice back drop while you’re chopping up cyborg soldiers and massive robots.

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There is little mention of Raiden’s past (beyond him being a child soldier) or much else linking back to other Metal Gear games but there are a few things fans of the series will pick up on and the return of one character in particular had me smiling.

As I said at the outset of this review I didn’t actually finish the game. I was stuck on the last boss and sadly Metal Gear Rising doesn’t give you the option of changing the difficulty at all. I can’t remember the last time I failed to make it through a story-based game. I sunk a lot of time into that last boss and wasn’t making any progress at all so decided that my time could be better spent elsewhere.

It would’ve been nice to have had some middle ground with the option to drop the difficulty down while playing bits you were having trouble with. It’s the lack of flexibility that killed the game for me. I do like challenging games but being stuck on the same boss/area for an hour at a time isn’t fun. While some people might get off on finally beating that part, I just felt drained.

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And to be honest that kind of typifies my experience with Metal Gear Rising. For the majority of the game I was comfortable, in control and having fun. Then I would hit a crazy difficulty spike and just end up frustrated. My advice, unless you love a hugely challenging experience, would be to just play this through on Easy first time out and enjoy the ride. Rising is a fun and over the top action game, I just didn’t enjoy playing it.

Rating 6/10

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Hitman Absolution – Review (PS3)

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It still amazes me that Hitman Absolution is the first Hitman game we have seen on Playstation 3. For such a strong franchise on the PS2 I would’ve thought Agent 47 would have cropped up sooner than this!

In Absolution, Agent 47 has gone rogue after carrying out a mission in which he kills his former handler ‘Diana’. As a complex plot unravels you will be tasked with using all of your Hitman skills to track and eliminate targets to get information.

This game has a much higher emphasis on story than I remember for the previous games which leads to an issue that a lot of people complained about – the fact that for some missions you don’t actually assassinate your target. What I mean is that once you get to where they are a cut-scene takes over and events play out as scripted.

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This makes sense in terms of exposition, especially if the target needs to give you story info before dying but it obviously goes against a part of the Hitman ethos, which is planning to kill the target with the freedom of a choice of options.

Thankfully there are numerous other targets that you can take out however you like and I personally didn’t have a problem with the ‘cut scene deaths’.

The controls are tight and Agent 47 handles well. I liked the feel of the shooting and felt that they did a good job of making your shots seem like they were landing with a suitable punch.

Graphically Hitman Absolution is great, it has a slight cartoon sheen but that only heightens the look of the game in my opinion. The design of the levels has obviously been done meticulously and you will have great fun working out ways to get through them.

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The biggest plus for me in this game is the instinct meter, a finite source that can used in a number of ways.

Firstly, you will always have a very small amount of instinct available – this means with a press of R1 you can see enemies through walls, see which route they will take and get an idea of who is around you. This makes planning your next move a lot easier than having to hope an enemy isn’t around the corner!

In an offensive capacity you can slow down time, tag a number of enemies and then have Agent 47 immediately take them out when time restarts. Very handy for unexpected crowd control but it drains your ‘instinct’ all the way.

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Defensively ‘instinct’ allows you to blend in with your surroundings – if you are on the verge of being discovered in disguise you can hold R1 and the cries of ‘hey you, do I know you?’ will be replaced with ‘ah he must the new guy that’s starting today.’ This is a fantastic mechanic for lesser skilled assassins like myself. It gives you time to recover a mission that might otherwise have been blown and saved me on numerous occasions.

Disguises also play a big role here, if your cover is blown the quickest way avoid further detection is to change clothes. However, be warned – in a nice touch, people wearing the same uniform/clothes are a lot more likely to notice you are a stranger (as they would know the other people they work with). But that’s where the aforementioned instinct comes into play.

The enemy AI is pretty good and certainly if you raise a full scale alarm it’ll take some luck and good judgement to avoid death. If you’re just spotted or suspicious it’s fairly easy to get away by breaking line of sight and hiding in one of the many cupboards/boxes etc scattered around the levels.Hitman4

For the most part you’ll likely want to play stealthily and see if you can get through the level undetected. But sometimes you just want to let some steam off and shoot some bad guys 🙂 Hitman Absolution allows for both but be warned, a stand up gun fight makes things pretty difficult. And the unfortunate checkpoint system doesn’t help matters.

Rather than saving your progress or allowing a hard manual save the game has specific checkpoints in a level that you can activate. It just feels a little out of place for a game that gives you so much freedom in other areas.

The online offering is the rather excellent ‘Contracts’ mode in which you can play through a level of the game, mark your own targets and set conditions before uploading the level for the world at large to play. You can also play through other people’s creations and the whole thing is good fun and fairly easy to do.

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It was a refreshing change to play a game that gives you a lot of freedom to approach and deal with targets as you see fit. It’s also a stark reminder of how far Assassin’s Creed has drifted from it’s roots. As an example in Assassin’s Creed III I made my way slowly and quietly up to a target, hit the attack button to assassinate him only to discover he had a ‘health bar’. The attack on him diminished his health a jot and alerted all the guards in the area. In Hitman Absolution I can get close to a target, take them out and make my escape in any number of ways. Thankfully there were no health bars!

I can’t recommend Hitman Absolution enough. There are a range of difficulty levels (the higher ones remove instinct etc) so whether you want to get into Hitman or are a long time fan of the series, this game has a lot to offer. It’s not perfect and sometimes a little wonky AI or level design comes into play but this is a great title that you can have a whole heap of fun with.

Rating: 9/10

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