Tag Archives: Ghost Recon

I-besoft, We-besoft, Ubisoft

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Rejoice, oh fans of Crytek’s 2004 classic Far Cry. Ubisoft have announce that a….how do I put it, redux? Re-release?…..of said First Person delightfulness will be available as of February 11th in the form of Far Cry: Classic. Updated visuals, brand new cut scenes and other jiggery pokery means that for just $9.99 (US Bucks y’all) you can go back to the Island where it all began and retread those most hallowed of grounds in all their glory….

…….Not if you have a PC though. Sorry, did I forget to mention that bit? That’s right, Far Cry: Classic – originally released solely for the PC back in ’04 if you recall – will not be given a PC release.

Aaaaaand that little event perfectly sums up Ubisoft, who are the subject (or should that be target) of this particular episode of my game ramblings.

Here’s the thing about ole Ubi; they have made – and continue to make – some of the best games put to code. But where once the name Ubisoft was synonymous with edgy, hardcore titans like the Tom Clancy Series (at least, I think it was, right?), now they fall into the same category as other bloated, faceless, corporate monoliths like EA and are known for their lazy and third rate approach to anything even resembling a PC game. And that’s the bit that stings.

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Waaaaay back in the mid 80’s Ubisoft – started by 5 brothers in Brittany – made deals with Electronic Arts, Sierra On-Line and MicroProse to distribute their games in France. Success quickly led to other deals in other territories and before you could say Rainbow Six, Ubisoft started their own development arm.  Today, they boast around 30 individual studios (some founded by Ubi, others acquired over the years) in 19 countries. They employ the world’s second largest amount of in-house developers and can claim to be the third largest independent games developer on the whole ruddy planet. So well done them. But success, as usual, comes at a price. Ubisoft’s price was their connection to the very fans that made them what they are.

Up until 2004, every Tom Clancy game (all owned by Ubisoft since they acquired Tom Clancy’s own Red Storm Entertainment after the very first Rainbow Six game back in 1998) was released on PC. We are talking around a dozen Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon Titles, with all of their DLC’s and sequels and extra bits and pieces, many of which were solely available on Windows. Not to mention titles like Far Cry, the Rayman Series, and a whole grab-bag of random titles that helped build Ubisoft into a giant on the development and publishing stage. That changed – slowly at first – but then as the inevitable wave of cash poured in from the console market, Ubisoft left the PC world behind. Forgotten. Betrayed.

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It feels as if they almost resent the PC market now. Their games, not all, but most, many of which with sooo much potential, are invariably chucked through their in-house ‘porting machine’ that seems to require little more than “Press 1 to port to PC”. And lo – a PC version of Rainbow Six: Vegas is shat out like an unwanted colonic tumour and left to fester in its own bile. Leaving half finished games riddled with more bugs than a Ukrainian prostitutes toilet seat. Connection issues, crash to desktop, GPU incompatibility, key-bindings (I mean, key bindings, what the actual fuck?) Jesus, Far Cry: Blood Dragon doesn’t even run on my machine to this day and Ubi’s tech support was like talking to office IT punks who can barely manage to change printer toner. Trying to have a 4-player co-op session on Vegas 2 really was like being in Vegas in that it was a roll of the fucking dice whether or not we’d get a game at all.

And it’s as if they don’t even give a shit. I mean, they barely even hide their contempt. There’s precisely dick in the way or after sales support. Almost no patching. Ghost Recon: Future soldier even had their PC version canned after not much time in development without even a fucking press release out of courtesy to their fans. And then what happens? A year later the Ubisoft Porting Machine dumps out the PC version with barely a whimper, like it didn’t even touch the sides. Was it worth the wait? Was it fuck. What a load of tripe. The potential in that game had me salivating; pre-planning tactical scenarios and custom load outs with my clan for weeks before hand. What an unmitigated disaster, a total waste of my life and a scar of disappointment that will never fully heal.

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That’s what is so painful; when Ubisoft nail it, they really nail it. When they don’t, it feels like they simply don’t care about the PC market any more. If it wasn’t for the fact that Vegas 2 was such an unbelievably good game – once you managed to get in there – we would have simply thrown it to the side and cracked on with something else. But God it was good. Naturally we expected the same from Future Soldier. We were wrong.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest title I’ve played of theirs, and guess what? It’s very good. A clean PC port, excellent gameplay, and challenging to boot. So why the inconsistency? How was Ghost Recon so badly done and yet Blacklist seems to have made the transition effortlessly? It’s for reasons like this the phrase “don’t hold your breath” is so common within the circles I dwell when talking about Ubisoft, because you just never know. All faith has gone. When you talk about Valve, Gearbox, Irrational, Crytek, these guys have had hits, and misses, but you can’t shake the feeling in your heart that these guys want to make good games; artists constrained by the shackles of commerce. Ubisoft, EA, Activision, these are the billion dollar goliath’s, raking in cash, buying up indie-developers and swallowing their souls. Money machines, worrying ever so slightly about the whole creative side of things – and yes occasionally turning out fucking good games.

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That is where they dwell now; the mighty halls of big industry gaming, where the PC crowd are very far from The Master Race. It’s all Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs and other AAA titles.

It’s a rollercoaster ride with Ubisoft. You never know which way it’s going to go. The problem is though, they have stung me too many times for me to give them the benefit if the doubt. In fact it’s now the opposite. As much as I may get excited at their upcoming releases, ultimately I assume it will be yet another ruined opportunity. It will take more than Splinter Cell: Blacklist to change that.

And so what of Ubisoft’s future? Rainbow 6: Patriots is still apparently in the works despite a horrendously bad production thus far which ended up seeing the entire creative team ‘deleted’ and Ubisoft essentially starting again from the ground up. The Division is the next title incoming (due sometime in 2014), and once again it looks like it has vast stacks of potential, with a current-gen breakthrough in destructible and dynamic environments and an excellent 4-player co-op system. But guess what, it was only confirmed that it would have PC release after they asked fans via Twitter to sign a petition and declare interest. I mean Jeeeeesus.  They’ve also hinted at a Far Cry 4 which, after the instant classic that was the series third instalment, I am already excited about.

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Each one of those three titles alone has the potential to be truly epic and to be a contender for game of the year. But they also have the potential to be crushingly disappointing.

I’m hoping for the former, but guess what, It’s Ubisoft, so I won’t hold my breath.

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I Guess Disappointment Can Be Pretty Disappointing Sometimes.

There are two things in this world that tickle my dirty loins and get the sweaty juices flowing like little else on the Earth. Films is one. Games be the other. The reason I mention the films thing in this ‘gaming-only’ zone that is The Mighty G-Blog, is that there’s a curious paradox that has becometh between the two; very curious indeed. There are oodles of similarities between the two mediums which I shan’t go into here (oodles of differences too of course), but as they both sit atop the list of my ‘preferred things’ in this life there is one notable oddity which exists – or rather, has been created – by my lumpy old brain, and which one cannot apply any known forms of reason or logic to.

Anticipation, and the way my head manages it.

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Both mediums have the capacity to easily give the ole oblongata a stiffy, but with film I have – through years and years of painful education at the school of Bitter Disappointment (featuring such classes as ‘trailers can make anything look good’, ‘watching a remake is almost never a good idea’ and ‘Star Wars – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’) – learned that there are so many variables, so many marketing tricks, so much that can go wrong (and so easily) in film, that I can usually overcome those initial, primal pangs of giddy excitement when I hear of a project in the works or coming soon, fairly easily. Although the road was a long and difficult one, you are more likely to hear me use phrases like “has potential” and “looks interesting”, and other such grown up things when looking at films on the ‘coming soon’ roster.

‘Games’ however is a different bucket of clams altogether. When it comes to future games on my radar I still not only get the ridiculously optimistic buzz, like a kid with ADHD waiting for Christmas morning, but it doesn’t go away; it lingers. It hangs around like the sickly sweet aftertaste you get from drinking too much coke. I know it’s wrong, I know it’s not good for me, I know it will invariably lead to the familiar taste of bitter disappointment and at best simply not live up to the overhype I’ve created in the flappy meat-box I call my head. It’s not like I’m new to gaming, it’s not like I haven’t been stung – oh so painfully stung – by this time and time before (more to follow on that…). You’d think the bits of my brain that deal with anticipation and logic would be tickled in the same way by the expectation of both films AND games, but clearly there is some alternate path that the ‘games’ bit journeys on throughout the squishy pink shit behind my face and somehow gets lost on the way and ends up in the “wow look a shiny thing” section. This anomaly can only be explained by my messed up brain head not making thinking happen proper.

Let’s take Brink for example – let’s just take a fucking minute here everyone, and have a good, hard think about that, shall we? I know it’s not easy, and I know it’s not pleasant, but Jesus on the fucking cross if we don’t confront this shit it’s just going to eat away at us.

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Brink. Developed by Splash Damage, published by Bethesda. It hit the shelves in August 2011. 12 months or more I’d been lusting over it like some dirty, middle-aged peeping tom fiddling with his junk in the back row at London fashion week. I’ll never forget the build up. The initial teaser trailer which started on the macro shot of that eye, then the slow zoom out that followed. Outstanding graphics and animation. 2 factions. 4-player co-op. FPS mayhem. The customisation; skins, weapons, masks, kit. Jesus I’m starting to get a semi just reliving these memories for fucks sake. The free-running element, that un-fucking-believably good cinematic trailer which went from one character to another as they sniped and shot and mowed down and hacked and grenade each other in a bullet ballet of free running, gunning, blood splattering cacophonic mayhem.

Then it came out. And we played it. And it was a Greek fucking tragedy. It was basically Team Fortress just with more punk. And let’s be brutally honest here shall we peeps, if I wanted to play a really decent Team Fortress style game I’d play Team fucking Fortress wouldn’t I. What a fucking shit shame. And lo, the unwelcome and ungodly feeling of disappointment poured over me like a bucket of warm cum.

Brink is still a word met with a painful silence in the gaming circles I inhabit. So as the Slaughtered Lamb fell as silent as the Yorkshire moors at the mention of a pentangle, so my Clan and I fix a thousand-yard stare at the mention of Bethesda’s greatest tragedy. Regret. Pain. Disappointment.

This is true also of Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Oh the potential. Such awe inspiring potential. The gun-customisation was a wet-dream for gun-nuts such as myself. The kit and the tech. It’s a tactical shooter. We followed its development even when for sooo long it was announced it wouldn’t even have a PC release. But we kept the faith. God how I wish we didn’t. They clearly just waved a magic wand and cast a cheap little ‘console-porting’ spell on it, stuck it on a DVD or 2 and shipped it out. Disappointment. Again. From Ubisoft. Again.

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[Dead Island is nothing like this ^]

Dead Island. Techland’s survive-a-zombie-infested-island, 4-player co-op published by Deep Silver. Now who remembers THAT trailer? One of the all-time great gaming trailers. And what did we get? We got heavy on detail, low on gameplay. Boring, easy, lame. The trailer was a lie; a marketing ploy. It represented neither the atmosphere nor the ‘survival’ feel of the game (and by that I mean the actual game had neither). Disappointment.

And then there was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Where the fuck do you start with that? I followed that game, and I do mean closely, for 3 years. Some poor fucks out there paid the whole 6 year ticket. It was the perfect set up, perfect. Colonial Marines, y’know, from Aliens. 4-player co-op. Xenomorphs. Like in the FILM!! Gearbox Software. GEARBOX people! The legendary developers that brought us Borderlands! This couldn’t fail, it was simply too easy to get right. It was a sure thing. It couldn’t fail! Shows what I know. I mean, it wasn’t exactly a disaster, but it was just ‘alright’. 6 years in development, 3 years of scraping the internet and the forums for tiny morsels, any hint that it hadn’t been canned. Developed by Gearbox software. ‘Alright’ just doesn’t cut it. I still blame Sega for that clusterfuck rather than Gearbox, but hey, that’s just me. Disappointment.

The list goes on. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (Tethering…WTF!?), Duke Nukem Forever, Arma II, Fall of Cybertron….etc etc. Disappointment, disappointment, disappointment.

Of course, there is the opposite too. The games that you hoped would be good but were actually absolutely Earth shatteringly brilliant. Payday, Left 4 Dead, Crysis 3, Sniper Elite, Max Payne 3. Then there’s your very, very rare beasts; the ones that you were so excited about and so hyped that they could only fail – but didn’t. Bioshock Infinite springs to mind. These last two lists are all too small though. Such is the way of both game and film, it probably won’t be as good as you think. But I suppose that’s OK if your brain works properly, and can manage the expectation. Like mine does with film. Not like mine does with game.

Maybe it is all down to Star Wars: Episode 1. Maybe that is the kind of life-altering blow of hyper-disappointment that forced the film-side of my brain into taking a step back – “I will never be hurt like that again”, sort of like some bitter defense mechanism. Maybe I should stick to the Safe bets; the games you know won’t be absolutely groundbreaking but will fill a gap and be decent enough and hey, maybe even surprise you a bit. Things like your (modern) Resident Evil’s and Dead Space (usually console games) and the like.

So what does the future hold? Take Down: Red Sabre, Shadow Warrior, Thief, Titanfall, Metro: Last Light (still not played), and further on Wolfenstein, The Dead Linger, Elite, Dying Light, Hellraid, shit even the Steam Machines……to name but a few hopefuls. I’m sure there’ll be some disappointments in there. But hopefully some class acts as well.

The question is, will my brain learn? Can I force it to? Or will I be destined to have disappointment in gaming as a haunting mistress for the rest of my days.