Co-opting cultural forms for no money: I ain’t in it for the wealth. (Haiku! Gesundheit…)
It has been six months, my pretty no readers. Now this happens. (Read on I guess why not…)
Inspired by Darksiders II and my lack of compulsion to figure out a boss battle therein.
It all started when the dame walked into my office. The first things I noticed about her were her legs – they seemed to go on for days, like a boring movie, or a particularly determined hunger strike. They went all the way from her ankles to her torso. Lemme tell ya, these were legs, all right. And then, before I could notice anything else, she was at my desk, looking at me with those dark, burrowing eyes of hers; those deep, brown eyes, perfect if not for the fact that the left eye was slightly, lazily askew. She looked at me, with those terrifying, penetrating eyes, or at least with one of them, and that’s when I knew: I was gonna have to stop narrating my life out loud, at least with her around.
She was crying now, probably sensitive about her damn broken eye. Or maybe her tear ducts were screwy too, how was I to know? I was just a guy with a grudge, a gun, and a finely-carved desk made outta the finest woods the office’s previous owner could buy. Point is, it was an expensive desk, and her tears were ruining the varnish. I had to get to the root of her problems, and fast, or I was going to have an afternoon’s scrubbing and polishing to attend to. And the only thing I was in the mood for polishing off was this scotch, see. And the only thing I cared to scrub out was two-bit crime.
I bought Bioshock Infinite.
Say what you like about Mass Effect (and I say there’s a lot to like about Mass Effect), but the best thing about it was definitely watching your Commander Shepard return in each game, relationships, decisions, and genocidal mistakes all in tow. The space-journalist who remembered when my Sarah Shepard space-walloped her in the face; Jack growing from a psychopathic murderer into a psychopathic murdering instructor because I’d helped her mature; Liara writing a lovely entry about me into her time capsule thingy, only to find out I’d been a right cad while she was off being not in Mass Eff 2 very much; Mordin. It didn’t really matter that my Shepard looked a bit different in each installment because of Bioware’s weird relationship with FemShep and their struggle to deal with her, if not statistical*, then at least moral superiority over poster boy ManShep. (Apparently, their ideas for dealing with it went thusly: roundly ignore it for Mass Eff 2, then get all weird and passive aggressive about it for Mass Eff 3, and make it impossible for me to get her hair looking right, damn their eyes.) Even though some details changed, the important bits remained—her odd mouth, her proudly not-extinct-yet redheadedness, her staunch refusal to stick to cover reliably. It’s a very different relationship to have with a character, one that you created, and shaped, and spent 60-plus hours with.
Up until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t really think of a series that had offered me anything similar.
There’s a draft sitting on my hard drive* of a thing I wrote almost two weeks ago regarding Polygon’s review of SimCity, probably the most disastrously-launched PC game in history. How disastrous? So utterly, unremittingly disastrous that some people received refunds without even looking for one, while others asked for refunds and were denied and threatened with being locked out of their Origin accounts if they kept being so annoying about it. People were unable to play a needlessly always-online game because EA’s servers couldn’t bear the brunt of people trying to play a needlessly always-online game. Those who eventually managed to work their way through the EA Server bossfight only noticed all the problems the actual game itself had.
The Challenger had a more successful launch than SimCity.
The story of how Far Cry 3 came to exist is a delightfully jumbled one. First, Crytek made Far Cry, starting that studio off on an amusingly ongoing run of games with disappointingly unimaginative puns in their name. Crytek’s next game, Crysis, would be published by EA, whilst Ubisoft, publishers of the original Far Cry, developed Far Cry 2 internally. Despite being a spiritual sequel and a direct sequel respectively, neither Crysis nor Far Cry 2 bore any tangible relation to the first Far Cry. Far Cry 2, under the stern gaze of director Clint Hocking, was a splendidly jarring and off-putting game that was well-received critically, hated by many people, adored by other, better people, and featured the single most annoying enemy in the history of shooters in the form of the second map’s mortar-firing TOOL OF THE DEVIL who would die painfully in lovingly-simulated fire if I could just find him. Then, Clint Hocking left for Lucasarts then Valve, Assassin’s Creed became a worryingly ubiquitous megafranchise for Ubisoft, and now here we are with Far Cry 3, which is unrelated to all of the aforementioned games.
The story Far Cry 3 itself wants to tell is also jumbled, although less delightfully and more frustratingly and incompetently. Ostensibly telling the tale of booze-then-power-drunk holidaying idiot Jason Brody, it purports to be a bitingly clever satire of the modern first-person shooter, with its jingo and excesses and ultraviolence and haircuts, but its effectiveness is dubious-at-best, and the general feeling of “this didn’t work very well at all, really, did it?” it leaves you with is only exacerbated by the mad, lunatic rantings of its writer. Even ignoring how much it suffered for coming on the heels of the superior trope-questioning tale of Spec Ops: The Line, FC3’s attempts at second-guessing the genre and the player’s expectations are lazy and cack-handed, and often undermined by the game itself.
But perhaps the most simple story I’m left with after playing Far Cry 3 is a tragedy: a tragedy of an FPS that is brilliant at being an FPS, but dementedly incapable of focusing on being an FPS.