Watch Dogs (First Impressions)

This is a verrrryyyyy early first impression.  I played the tutorial crap and did the first mission, then drove around and collected some check-in points.  But first impressions are the most important, right?!?

We got Watch Dogs for “free” with a new video card, which is convenient because I really really dislike Ubisoft and their disdain for PC gamers, so it meant I could try it at release instead of stubbornly refusing to give Ubisoft any money until it was dirt cheap on Steam.  (The greatest tragedy of the gaming world is that Ubisoft has the Anno franchise… alas).

I somehow managed to avoid the uPlay fiasco because I downloaded it (something I was apparently lucky to be able to do), immediately turned off cloud saving, then went into offline mode.  I did that because I hate uPlay and it fucks everything up far too often for me to trust it.  Well guess what!  It fucked everything up for everyone who stayed online.  I was able to go offline and play relatively unhindered, but it sucks for anyone who actually wanted to try the multiplayer invasion PvP stuff.  Of course, every time I boot it up, it whines at me about how I should really go online because I’m really missing out!  Ugh, uPlay.

But anyway.  Bitching about uPlay is low hanging fruit.  Instead, I will bitch about the game.

One positive thing I will say about Watch Dogs is that the enforced tutorial was NOT onerous.  It did have the little popup tooltips telling you what buttons to press to make shit do shit, but it didn’t get totally in your face and force you to stop, or prevent you from playing with your abilities until it had painstakingly explained the controls to you (despite the controls being exactly the fucking same as every other game, because if they weren’t exactly the fucking same as every other game, you would be doing it wrong.)  Of course, it’s able to get away with it by not giving you any abilities to start!  But that is an acceptable compromise.  I did dislike how it sort of dictated where my first skill point should go, though.

The opening mission was decently interesting, and it really didn’t explain much to you at all.  Some people might even find it confusing, but I enjoyed it.  I’m getting sick of having every game handhold you through the opening minutes.  However I do feel like it needed a bit more exposition, if only to help the player bond with the main character a bit more.  You’re sort of dumped into this guy, you have no idea who he is except you may have an idea that he’s a hacker if you’ve heard anything about the game before, and you’re sort of scrambling around trying to figure out why he’s doing what he’s doing.  Why you are doing what you are doing.  We’re hacking a stadium to escape because… uh… we’re stealing money?  We hate these guys?  I’ve already forgotten why he was even in there and I was just playing it last night.  It’s the same sort of problem books run into when they give you no reason to root for the protagonist.  Why do we care?  He knows why he’s doing what he’s doing but we’re sort of tagging along in a clueless haze, trusting that we will also care about his success once we know the whole story.  The problem lies in keeping the reader/player interested long enough to become invested in the story… but I guess when you’ve got a 60 dollar initial investment into it you might be more motivated to plow on.

Once you’re out of there it dumps you into the world and you are free to dick around, or move on with the story.  I dicked around a bit, realized I had no idea what I was doing (I’m stopping crimes?  So wait, am I a badass hacker thief or some sort of Spiderman do-gooder who also occasionally steals cars and robs ATMs?), then moved on to the story hoping it would all become clearer.

It sort of became clearer… but it also became a lot whinier.  We’re clearly meant to empathize with this guy, but it’s so heavy handed that I think I made an “ngh” noise out loud.  The line: “*dramatic pause* But now I’m afraid of the silence.” was so… you’re just trying way too fucking hard here, jesus.  Instead of empathizing I actually started to actively dislike him.

My biggest complaint (so far) is with the controls.  I enjoyed the opening mission because it was very Splinter Cell-ish – hiding around corners, using gadgets to distract or incapacitate guards so you could advance without anyone detecting you – and my only complaint was that everything was done with the same gadget, which just had different contexts.  I was sort of hoping that would improve as the game went on, but instead I just unlocked more contexts for my gadget.  There are craftable doodads which might alleviate the problem, but I disliked how they’re all stuck on a god damn flyout wheel and feel very awkward to swap between.  I hate flyout wheels.  I have lots and lots and lots of keys on my keyboard.  I want to use them to make switching items quick and efficient.  I want to select which button does which skill so that I can place my most used items exactly where I want to access them.  Fuck your flyout wheel.

But mostly I hate the camera.  First, an aside – I dislike how everything is enforced third person nowadays.  At least give me the option of first person if I want it.  I prefer not having a third of my screen be taken up by my avatar.  The character movement is really awkward and clumsy.  I’m not sure if I can articulate it better than that… it just feels like it’s imprecise.  I turn the character around and he kind of wobbles and flails and then I have to fine tune the direction I want him to go in.  I think it’s related to the mouselook camera not picking up diagonals properly with the WASD movement, because it’s designed for a control stick instead of mouselook and they didn’t bother to optimize it for mouselook.  Instead of turning gracefully, he does an about-face when you try to turn with a key, probably because it’s directly translating your keypress into a flat-out controller stick movement instead of having proper keyboard control.

The camera as a whole just feels floaty and awful.  The reason I hate controlling cameras with controllers is because it feels floaty and imprecise, where a mouse can move a camera with speed and precision.  I have a high DPI mouse and just a tiny amount of movement can swing a camera around for a quick scan of an area, but also instantly stop on a target in the middle if I spot something interesting.  I like having that level of control.  But even with the settings at maximum, the camera in this game feels like I’m using a controller, i.e. floaty and awful.  It’s not so bad that I won’t get used to it, but it’s annoying knowing that it’s deliberately awful because it’s designed for a controller, and they didn’t bother to optimize their mouse option.  I HAVE a controller for my PC and I did try it that way, but the camera is just as awful, which makes sense because the whole reason I dislike it is because I hate controlling cameras with controllers.  My husband tried the Mouse/Keyboard route then opted for the controller, but is disliking it as well.  His comment was “My favourite open world games are ones with great movement, and this game has the worst controls.”

Once you get out into the world you realize it’s not Splinter Cell, it’s Assassin’s Creed with GTA cars.  They’ve even got “parkour” challenges, which is another fad I’m hoping will stop polluting games soon.  It makes sense in AssCreed.  It doesn’t even make sense for a hacker vigilante to be a ninja wall runner.  Of course, I tried climbing some walls and he huffed it up the side of a box like he was a 40 year old man with arthritis, so maybe it does make sense.

The camera continued to betray me out in the open world, and I actually came across something I really dislike about contextualized commands.  I was doing a mission where I was chasing someone down, and I tried to use my gadget to gadget his ass.  Just as I went to hit the button, the cursor popped over to a camera nearby instead of the target I was trying to aim at.  I didn’t notice in time and hacked the camera instead, which made my dude slam to a halt and changed my view to look through the camera as the perpetrator ran the fuck away from me.  Sigh.  Having buttons change their function in the middle of delicate maneuvers really does make it feel like an AssCreed game.

And there is camera bobbing while running.  >:(
No headaches yet though, so I will refrain from ranting.  For now.

I’ll play some more this weekend, possibly while drunk, and see if it starts to suck me in.  I’m not sure how optimistic I am though, given that my husband isn’t too impressed either.  His short and sweet review is:  “Feels like a game designed by a committee.”

—-

[edit] Okay I played a bit more and the gameplay is improving as I adjust to the still shitty controls (mouse sensitivity cranked up helped movement a lot but the flyout wheel is still intolerable and I’m going to neglect my craftable items because of it…), but the characters and writing hasn’t picked up yet.  I’m hearing it starts out slow and gets better so fingers crossed.  I really hate this guy, though.  ugh.  So far the only character I like is his asshole psychopath friend.

It feels like they tried to pull all the most popular gameplay parts of GTA and  Assassins Creed (open world, cars, exploding shit, theft, parkour, a plethora of collectables and unlockables to find in your spare time), and slapped the dramatic overtones of The Last of Us on top, presuming that would somehow make it even more successful.  It’s kind of like dumping the wrong condiments into a recipe and assuming that it’s a good condiment that worked in someone else’s recipe so it will make the dish better by default.  It’s really not working.

[Edit again] The entire point of a stealth game is that you have the option of solving scenarios with clever stealth mechanics instead of just running in with guns blazing (although ideally you could just do that too).  So why is it that I am constantly pushed into a mandatory gunfight scenario in this game.  I just did a mission where I successfully snuck past every guard and got the objective without detection, only to have my buddy go “Hey look there’s lots of Fixers coming sucks to be you!” and suddenly I’m shooting 30 guys and a helicopter, despite being completely undetected up to that point.  It was so scripted that it even reset the gun I was holding once I walked past the checkpoint.  This makes me irrationally angry and I don’t even want to bother with this shit.

Advertisements

Zombex

There are no reviews of this movie – as of the time of writing, metacritic and rotten tomatoes don’t even know it exists (oh how I envy them).  I feel the internet requires this review deficit to be remedied.  Because it might save someone from watching this horrible god awful piece of shit.

My husband picked this one out because he likes zombies and he said “4.7 is actually a pretty good IMDB score for a horror movie”.  Halfway through watching it (I use the term “watching” loosely because I was trying not to watch, honestly) I went looking for reviews and found it actually had a 2.6 on IMDB, but most things hadn’t hadn’t quite updated to reflect that yet.  I expect that number to continue to fall.

It’s so remarkably bad.  It is a study in bad movie making.  People take pills from some pharmaceutical company and oops it actually makes them into zombies.  Also it makes their eyes glow nuclear green (because that makes sense), and after they fall behind some scenery and stand back up again in a fresh zombie-like state, random body parts have instantly decayed off of them FOR NO GOD DAMN REASON WHATSOEVER.  Then people act like skimpily dressed bad-ass heroes (in extreme slow motion, because that makes it more bad-ass) and randomly break into lesbian sex scenes.  Ignore the fact that they are very obviously shooting their weapons into nothing, and the scenes of the “zombies” collapsing and popping their fake blood packets to create blood spray patterns that in no way match physics were filmed separately, possibly without any other actors present at all.  Also the entire thing was filmed with some sort of 1980’s Kodachrome Instagram filter over the whole thing.  God what the hell is this shit.  Is this what you sit through in film school student film exhibitions?  No, students must produce better films than this or no one would teach film school courses.  We didn’t finish it, but we did skip to the end just in time to see the amateur swipe to credits (I’m pretty sure that’s a Windows Movie Maker feature) that put a cap on the whole thing.  WHY IS MALCOLM MCDOWELL IN THIS. WHAT.

My previous bar for worst film was “The Tomb” which boasts a 1.5 on IMDB.  It still wins, but damn if Zombex didn’t give it a run.

Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies is labelled “Comedy/Drama”.  This is a lie.  Absolutely nothing funny happens in this movie.  It’s an hour and a half of people drinking beer and whining about relationships, with no interesting plot to speak of.

The thing I enjoyed most about this movie was that my husband picked it, so I got to make fun of him for 90 minutes.

Jack Reacher

I hate writing reviews about things I don’t feel very strongly about, but to be honest I barely remember watching this.  The most exciting thing that happened was both of us falling asleep and then turning it off.

Our experiences were probably coloured a little bit by watching Mission Impossible 4 recently, but I feel like even if you didn’t compare the movie to massive explosions and scaling the side of a building using malfunctioning spider-man gloves and crawling through the insides of a massive overheating computer… nothing much happens in Jack Reacher.  A sniper shoots some people in a seemingly random attack and everyone talks about why.  And they keep talking about why for the next hour and a half.  I hate to sound like one of “those“, who need explosions and gunfire to stay interested… but by the time the (completely unremarkable) answers start to be revealed, you don’t give a shit anymore.

Long Time Coming

Long Time ComingLong Time Coming by Robert Goddard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I give up. I hate leaving books unfinished, but when I put off reading for several months, it’s time to move on and read something interesting again.

It started out so promising! Mysterious motivations and intrigue, espionage and promises of action, plot twists! And somewhere roughly 30-40% of the way in, it all became so… so… incredibly generic. All the words started blurring together and I just didn’t give a shit anymore. But I couldn’t stop reading – what if it got better!!!! I spent several weeks of opting to watch late-night TV rather than read (there’s the first clue…) and then I picked up the book, determined to take a chunk out of it, and went “Oh, they’re in jail now? When did that happen? …who was that again? ….. do I care?” and I knew it was time to give up.

This is probably an absolutely thrilling story for someone out there. But not me…

View all my reviews