Best of 7th Gen: #19-Far Cry 3

by Matthew Thompson (Images-Ubisoft)

(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)

Far Cry 3

Options, Options, Options. Far Cry 3 wasn’t the first game to allow me to take a multitude of different approaches in combat scenarios. Far from it in fact, but I think it really made me realize how important this was to me. The varied ways in which you could take on baddies was shown off the best in my favorite feature in the game: outpost takeovers. Enemy outposts were littered throughout Far Cry 3’s island paradise. By defeating all the enemies in these spots you would gain access to new missions and the like in the surrounding environments. But the real reward wasn’t what you got for controlling the outpost, but the fun you could have taking them over. You want to go in stealthy, sneaking up on enemies and slowly thinning them out, you can do that. Maybe even turning off the alarms on your way through, so if things go awry there won’t be any reinforcements coming your way. Or you could perch up above the spot with a sniper rifle shooting out the alarm triggers before knocking off all the guards as they scramble to try to stop you. And you haven’t really lived until you’ve strapped C4 to a jeep, drove it towards the gates and hopped out before you blew it to smithereens inside the enemy encampment. Efficient? Not really. Fun? Hell yes.

All the various outposts had unique setups which would encourage trying different approaches. Some had animals locked up inside which you could free and set against your enemies provided you could stay clear of their wrath yourself. The animals added a lovely element of randomness to these wonderful combat encounters. I recall scouting things out from a cliff that hung over one location. Just as I was finalizing my plan of attack a tiger came in and did most of the work for me. One sniper shot later and the outpost was mine. Another time as I snuck up in the dark to one post’s outer fence a pack of dogs came across me. Of course in fighting them off, I alerted the enemy. The result was a mess and I loved every second of it as I tried to fend off human and animal alike in an effort to rid the area of the opposition’s presence.

Far Cry 3 2

This brings me directly to another aspect that made Far Cry 3 shine: it was full of memorable moments. Animals were a big part of that. It could be random run-ins like the ones I described above or when you were seeking them out. I’ll always remember finally conquering the Black Panther in one of the game’s wild hunts as well as taking out sharks with a grenade launcher (only suckers take them on in the water) to get that shark skin I needed to create a new holster or wallet or whatever it was that Far Cry 3’s silly video game logic was asking of me.

Its open-world nature and the kind of unexpected events it can bring on are part of the appeal of this series since Ubisoft has taken it over. It really helps it stand out from some of its more linear contemporaries in the genre. But it also provided plenty of unforgettable moments during its more scripted sequences. While the narrative itself wasn’t anything worthwhile, it provided some excellent missions. There was burning down the marijuana fields with your flamethrower and feeling the effects if you got too close. There was getting to use your sweet new wingsuit for the very first time as you made your way to the second island. And while taking to the air in a helicopter for a rail shooter in an FPS isn’t remotely original, setting it to “Ride of the Valkyries” helped the one towards the end of FC3’s campaign stick with me. Even the side missions where you explored ancient ruins were a nice change of pace. And any time Vaas was on-screen was entertaining. I wish he had a bigger presence in the game, but he made the most of the time he got and remains one of my favorite video game villains.

Of course, all this wouldn’t be good for much if the mechanics weren’t so rock solid. Shooting feels great and I love all the various ways you can perform melee takedowns by jumping from above or throwing one guy’s knife at another. It was also one of the games that made me fall in love with the bow during its recent resurgence across the gaming landscape. Sprint slides, driving, fast travel… it all worked well.

Far Cry 3 3

Sneaky stealth kills while creeping through its lush jungle environments. Engaging in explosive firefights in old abandoned barracks. Dashing across its clear blue oceans in a jet ski taking in the sights. Soaring through the sky with the aid of your wingsuit. They all came together to create a lovely gaming experience filled with memorable moments and made Far Cry 3 my favorite first-person shooter of the seventh console generation.

A few more things:

  • Far Cry 3 was a fairly easy choice for me as far as best game in the series last-gen. Blood Dragon is great though and has an amazing sense of humor, but I felt 3’s combat scenarios and core gameplay generally worked better. Far Cry 2 is a good game too. It has some things I wish would have made it into 3, but in general is too flawed of an experience to compete with its sequel overall.
  • I feel like I gave Vaas short shrift here, but I plan to do a top five villains of seventh gen list as a supplement to the continuing top 25, so I’ll delve in more then.
  • I tried with all my might to enjoy FC3’s co-op mode, but it was kind of a mess. Unpolished and lacking many of the things that made the singleplayer campaign special to me.
  • Clue for #18: The only sports game on this list.

Killzone: Mercenary Campaign Impressions

by Matthew Thompson (All images courtesy of the KZ: Mercenary page found here)

Killzone Mercenary 3

Ever since the Vita was first announced, I have dreamt of seeing certain genres done justice on a portable platform for the first time. For one, the Vita’s dual analog setup looked like it might finally deliver the FPS I coveted on the go. It seemed  my best hopes came in the form of the Killzone project that was shown briefly during the reveal of Sony’s next generation portable system. It had a quality developer behind it, a suitable amount of time in the cooker, and was an original experience designed for the Vita rather than just a port. On the other hand, Killzone is more of a multiplayer series and since I was looking for something good to sink my teeth into solo, it might not give me what I want. But I had to give it a try to see for myself.

The shooting itself feels really great in Killzone: Mercenary which despite some of its other shortcomings is a constant in the series. I still love the M82 rifle… maybe a little too much as I rarely swapped it out for another firearm. There were times where I equipped a sniper rifle of some sort to take on certain encounters for strategic reasons, but other standard rifles were no substitute for the M82 in my opinion. In my other slot, I ended up settling on a shotgun that lit enemies on fire which is always a plus and gave me something for up-close messy confrontations to go alongside my versatile go-to assault rifle with the occasional rocket launcher mixed in when the situation warranted it.

Killzone Mercenary 1

Guerrilla Cambridge has done a good job matching the feel of the controls on consoles, but they couldn’t quite pull it off perfectly. As good as the hardware of the Vita is, it lacks a couple of shoulder buttons and clickable sticks when compared to a standard controller. Putting crouch on the same button as sprint led to some slight annoyances when trying to duck behind cover and no dedicated grenade button meant they are a little trickier to work into frantic firefights. And I could have done without the swipe-based melee attacks.

The level design is thankfully more reminiscent of the earlier entries in the franchise than the PS4’s Shadow Fall. The more linear structure means the focus can stay on shooting and avoid the pitfalls that dogged SF‘s campaign when it tried it’s hand at non-combat scenarios. I also enjoyed the various abilities granted by your Vanguard particularly a drone that would fly by my side and zap enemies which would help thin numbers when I felt a bit overwhelmed by a large swarm of opposing soldiers.

There is a story here, but I doubt anyone will care much about it. I did like that as a mercenary for hire you ended up fighting for both sides of the conflict which meant taking on Helghast and ISA soldiers at different times throughout the game. And I appreciated the little history recap that set things up before the game sent you on your first mission.

Killzone Mercenary 2

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the graphics. While Killzone: Mercenary isn’t as beautiful as Tearaway or some other standout Vita titles, I think as far technical proficiency it has to be tops on the system. It is hard to not be impressed by this aspect of the game even if the color palette and art leave something to be desired.

And I can’t finish talking about Killzone: Mercenary without mentioning how I found the length of the campaign to be totally unacceptable, finishing it in under four hours. I know campaigns particularly in this genre and maybe more often in portable games have gotten shorter and shorter over the years, but I have never come to accept it. I suppose the game wants to you to replay missions for money and under different parameters. It is supposed to fit into the merc theme I think. But it seems a little cheap to try to add extra replay value this way. If I enjoyed the core content more, I’d probably be more lenient on this aspect because then I’d probably play it through a few times just because I liked it so much. But that just isn’t the case here.

Again I realize this is a series about multiplayer first and I’m sure there is great fun to be had in Mercenary‘s MP modes if my samplings of other Killzone games’ competitive components are anything to go off of. I guess I was just hoping some game would deliver that great FPS campaign I want so badly on a portable and I was hoping, maybe against reason, that this could sate my appetite in that regard. But with its short story mode and solid gameplay, the campaign itself is just an above average one at best. It does reiterate what I already believed to be true after playing even the lesser title Resistance: Burning Skies, the Vita could give me what I want in a portable FPS. It’s certainly capable, but it just hasn’t done it yet. And I’m not sure when it will.

Best of 7th Gen: #24-Resistance: Fall of Man

by Matthew Thompson (All images courtesy of the Resistance: FoM page found here)

(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)

Resistance Fall of Man Logo

Coming into this past generation, Insomniac was second only to Naughty Dog on my favorite developer list. And while I was much more excited to see the Lombax jump into next gen, their new IP for Playstation 3 was something I was curious to check out as well. It was this title, Resistance: Fall of Man, that helped keep me busy during the early months after Sony’s new console launched. Even seven years later, I have lots of great memories of the game that introduced me to the PS3.

Resistance was a big departure for a studio who had most recently developed colorful platformers like Ratchet & Clank and Spyro the Dragon. The drab color palette and grim setting were a far cry from the beautiful alien planets I’d explored in their PS2 series. And the cast of characters wouldn’t exactly fit in with a purple dragon or a wise cracking robot. But there was one common thread for people like me who fell in love with the studio because of their work on the Ratchet & Clank series: creative weaponry. And it was here that Insomniac’s new FPS series would find its identity.

Resistance Fall of Man 1

Each weapon came with a clever secondary fire. For some of the more basic weapons, this alternate fire wasn’t particularly inventive, but effective nonetheless. The fairly standard Carbine rifle was equipped with a grenade launcher while the Rossmore shotgun allowed players to fire both barrels at once for some added punch. These secondary fires shined brighter in Resistance’s more creative weapons. The Bullseye allowed you to shoot a tag. If you connected with an enemy with said tag, all your bullets would home directly to the target. Tagging a baddie and quickly sliding behind nearby cover before firing and you could watch your bullets bend to track down your enemy while you stayed out of harm’s way. The Auger’s bullets would shoot through walls and its alternate ability would place a shield in front of you which would protect you from enemy fire while allowing Auger bullets to burrow through and take out the opposing Chimeran forces. The unfortunately underutilized Hailstorm unleashed bullets that would richochet off nearby walls until they pierced enemy skin while its alternate fire sent out an autofiring turret that would unleash a flurry of bullets on surrounding foes. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jak 3’s blaster upgrades when using this armament… which of course was a very good thing.

And that describes only a handful of the game’s unique arsenal of guns. Insomniac’s creative juices also seeped their way into the grenades. The most memorable was the Hedgehog grenade which after thrown acted as a proximity mine of sorts sending quill-like spikes into any foes who approached it. This was good for setting traps or just heaving into a group of enemies during frantic shootouts.

Resistance used all these funky weapons across a few different modes. It packed a lengthy solo campaign filled with memorable moments and large-scale skirmishes. The story wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but I do feel it was the series best. The narration technique worked well and the game featured the introduction of some fascinating lore involving the origins of the Chimera who acted as your main opposition in the series.

Resistance Fall of Man 2

I think my greatest enjoyment from the game came through its multiplayer though. While my number 25 choice on this list helped introduce me to online multiplayer, Resistance: Fall of Man allowed me to share my brand new PS3 with friends by way of its excellent local multiplayer. It started with the campaign’s splitscreen co-op which is how I first experienced the game playing through the whole of it alongside my brother. And Resistance’s competitive modes continue to entertain me and friends at get togethers to this day. The fantastic weapons and pickup-style setup made this just my kind of multiplayer FPS while a myriad of scalable maps made it easy to find areas suited to our four-player matches. If only there were bots then this multiplayer would be about as good as it gets.

It also birthed the wonder that became known as Rocket Subway. My friends and I experimented with all kinds of weapon combinations to mix things up. It was on the claustrophobic Subway map that we struck gold. Armed with just rocket launchers on this small map, you were always seconds away from perishing. Climbing the stairs to the area’s central room was something you did cautiously. You never knew if you’d be greeted with a rocket to the face or a rare chance to sprint to its enclosed back room and be the one to pick off the next person who dared ascend the steps. And there was the awful clicking sound that meant you were out of ammo and likely out of luck. What followed was either your certain death or the off chance that someone was in the same dire situation as you. Then you could engage in the awkward dance of death that was a melee battle in this mode. Would you find glory as the winner of such a confrontation or suffer the shame of dying this way. And there was always the possibility that you both were blown away by a third party while you flailed about. These are the joys of Rocket Subway. It’s not the most satisfying way to play Resistance, but it is the funniest. So any time Fall of Man’s disc finds its way into my PS3 on game night, we always finish with a round of Rocket Subway and its always a blast.

Resistance Fall of Man 3

Resistance: Fall of Man delivered on both the campaign and multiplayer fronts making for a fantastic overall package. It was a great way to help kick off the seventh generation of consoles for me and the fact that I still play it from time to time to this day is a testament to the kind of fun it can deliver.

A few more things:

  • My favorite weapon is probably the Bullseye. The Hailstorm is close, but its ammunition seemed a little rare. I do wish it appeared in the other games though.
  • I did consider choosing Resistance 3 over this one for a brief time while making this list. It had a well-paced campaign and its Ratchet-like weapon upgrade system was an amazing addition to series. I’d highly recommend FPS fans play it and Fall of Man. But with R3‘s campaign lasting a measly five hours and Insomniac going the complete wrong direction with the multiplayer, it really can’t compete with the original and the memories it holds for me.
  • I did not consider even for a moment including Resistance 2 on this list which will certainly end up on a most disappointing games of last gen list if I decide to craft a blog for that along the way.
  • Clue for #23: One of the greatest party game experiences ever in my opinion.