15 February 2013

Review: Mercenaries (Xbox)

When I play this game I feel overwhelmed, helpless, clueless, bored and lost. I can not for the life of me understand the ratings it got at the time (mostly eights and nines out of ten). The world is ugly, uninteresting and very lifeless. The vehicles have no feeling in them what so ever, all the missions are "go there, capture that person" which keeps my motivation at an all time low. On the cover I can read "go anywhere, blow up anything", but as soon as I got myself seated in a tank I discovered that I could not even run down a tree. Or a bush. Or a two feet fence. There just is no speed, no fluid gameplay and no clear oversight. I worked my ass off the first couple of sessions to become friends with the Chinese faction, and then I had to do work for someone else and then everyone hated me again. The very few vehicles I meet out on the road mostly want to kill me, and seems to be endlessly spawned once you had enough and try to take them down.

I have played many of these kind of games, I love Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row and Just Cause. I have done this before. But never have I felt so understimulated at the same time as frustratingly confused. Why is the simplest tasks in the game the very hardest to do? Needless to say, I really struggled with this one. After maybe five hours of playing this mess I caught myself playing the game just to being able to write this review. It felt like such a horrendous waste of time I contemplated just throwing the game in the trash. This gets no money at all online (I bought it for £0.01) so why bother trying to sell it?

Anywhere you go there are roadblocks and all kinds of stuff in the way for your vehicle. It is quite frankly mindboggling how a game hellbent on freedom prevents you from going anywhere without making it a pain. I gave Mercenaries a fair and thorough chance to shine and develop some nice characteristics in about five long sittings - but I now just feel empty. Yeah, thanks for nothing Pandemic.

12 February 2013

Review: Far Cry: Instincts (Xbox)

When I first heard of Far Cry: Instincts, I thought it was Far Cry "but for Xbox". Oh boy was I wrong! It has a storyline of its own, new abillities, a lot of extra material and a complete and versatile level editor. A lot of bang for the buck, so to speak.

Jack Carver is one unlucky camper. He manages to yet again find himself in the middle of a big showdown where he has to adapt to the circumstances to be able to survive and escape in one piece. This time around he gradually, with a little help from a mysterious serum, evolves into something more than human and before you know it you are throwing your enemies high up in the air and running almost as fast as some of the games many vehicles. This may sound offputting to some, I know I for one like my first person shooters to be plain and more about aiming skills than a circus, but it does add to the story and it just works. The abilities are introduced in a slow pace so that you can explore them at your own speed, and they really help out a lot once you are comfortable with them. I also felt here is where the seed to Crysis and that series' "ability wheel" was planted. I also see a lot of what would later become Far Cry 2 in Far Cry: Instincts, as far as the level layouts goes.

As with the first installation of Far Cry, Instincts soon changes the scenery from tropical island to run down areas and a lot of indoor action. From colorful and alive surroundings to dark gritty corridors and one generic industry landscape after another. I did not like it the first time and I did not like it now. That is why I really love the level editor that is included on the disc. From here I can create my perfect multiplayer maps with full control over every little aspect - and sure enough my favorite template is the tropical one. Since the Live service for the original Xbox is permanently shut down there are no user made content to download and play around with, but I imagine it must have been so much fun when the game first came out. Such a shame I did not try it out until now.

So yeah, in spite of a visually boring last third of the time spent in the story mode and somewhat stiff controls in some regards I would say this is one of the best first person shooters I have ever played on Xbox. It certainly beats Halo, that is for sure.