Monthly Archives: January 2018

Far Cry 4

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Liberate your parents’ homeland from an eccentric despot.

PC Release: November 18, 2014

By Ian Coppock

This month’s tour of anarchic third-world dystopias continues with Far Cry 4, the most recent mainline installment in the Far Cry series. Though Far Cry 4 does away with its predecessor’s setting and shakes up the franchise’s storytelling conventions, there’s no doubt that this game is still pure, unadulterated Far Cry. How so? Well, grab a hang glider and a machete, because it’s time to dive into Far Cry 4.

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Far Cry 4 was the one decent title that Ubisoft released in 2014. Following the ho-hum debut of Watch Dogs that May and the disastrous launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity that November, players were suspicious that Far Cry 4 would be as buggy and unpolished as those titles. Fortunately, Ubisoft stepped up to the plate in the final weeks of 2014, releasing a game that both ran well on PC and was largely bug-free. That was certainly more than could be said for Watch Dogs or Unity.

Far Cry 4 continues its predecessors’ proud tradition of providing a lawless open world for gamers to go stark raving mad in. Players can explore a world teeming with enemies to kill and treasure to discover, with plenty of shooting and crafting to boot. Most of the world is also open to players from the get-go, though it’s probably a good idea to level up before tackling that impenetrable mountain fortress.

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DIEDIEDIEDIEDIE

Though the fundamentals of Far Cry‘s open-world design remain intact in Far Cry 4, the game trades out Far Cry 3‘s tropical island setting for the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat. Players behold this mountain nation through the eyes of Ajay Ghale, a Kyrati-American who journeys to his parents’ homeland to scatter his mother’s ashes. What should’ve been a simple pilgrimage becomes much more complicated when Ajay is captured by Pagan Min, Kyrat’s flamboyant and tyrannical king.

After being shuttled to the world’s most awkward dinner of crab rangoon, Ajay gets rescued by the Golden Path, a rebel movement dedicated to ousting Min from power. Ajay learns that his father was one of the Golden Path’s founders and is offered help scattering those ashes in return for joining the fight. Once again, it’s up to the player to liberate a beautiful albeit lawless land from the clutches of remorseless bad guys.

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Min (pictured left) is not the world’s most empathetic boss.

The Far Cry series teaches that there’s no better way to take care of remorseless bad guys than by remorselessly riddling their bodies with bullets. Far Cry 4 bursts at the seams with weapons, which range from suppressed pistols to powerful rocket launchers. Players can get their hands on all of this hardware pretty quickly. Just like in Far Cry 3Far Cry 4‘s guns feel satisfying and make for some of big-budget gaming’s best first-person shooting. Many of the weapons that were present in Far Cry 3 make a comeback, but Far Cry 4 adds plenty of brand-new rifles, LMGs, and custom signature weapons.

Of course, players who aren’t in the mood to make lots of noise can also sneak around stabbing people. Far Cry 4 has even better stealth gameplay than Far Cry 3, allowing players to slip from cover to cover in quick rounds of cloak’n’dagger. Distract a bad guy, sneak up behind him, and liberate his jugular from the rest of his neck. Players can also access all sorts of suppressed weapons for stealth killing at a distance. Sneaking might not always be as fast as shooting, but hey; better to take an extra five minutes killing five bad guys than to let one hit the alarm and summon 10 more of ’em.

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So much for training honey badgers to be sleeper agents…

Players can pick and choose skills that suit their play style thanks to Far Cry 4‘s RPG system. Ajay can level up by completing missions and killing bad guys, giving players points to put toward such perks as faster healing and better sneak attacks. These abilities are streamlined into two skill trees that generally reflect attack and defense power-ups, and some skills can be upgraded multiple times. It’s fun to experiment with different combinations of perks to nail down that ultimate mountain warrior skill set.

Finally… the animals. Far Cry 4 is overrun with even more hostile wildlife than Far Cry 3. A few animals, like tigers, return from the previous game, but Kyrat is also overrun with new critters like honey badgers, snow leopards, elephants, and rhinos. While it’s fun to encounter these animals out in the wild and their hides make for great ammo bags, one facet of Far Cry 4‘s wildlife design feels gratuitous: the birds. No joke, eagles swoop down and attack the player because logic. The constant bird attacks are as annoying as they are nonsensical, as players frequently get talon’d while trying to scope enemies or just enjoy the view. Someone at Ubisoft is clearly a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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You cannot be serious.

If all this talk of guns and exploration sounds like Far Cry 3‘s talk of guns and exploration, that’s no coincidence. Far Cry 4 replicates Far Cry 3‘s gameplay nearly wholesale, from finding treasure to shooting baddies to capturing enemy outposts. The setting may have changed, but players can expect Far Cry 4‘s gameplay to be all but identical to that of its predecessor. At this juncture, the point of tonight’s review becomes less about how Far Cry 4 is “pure Far Cry” than about why players shouldn’t just give Far Cry 3 a second playthrough.

To be fair, the claim that Far Cry 4‘s gameplay is a mirror-image of Far Cry 3‘s is untrue in at least two respects. Firstly, the game adds a grappling hook so that players can climb cliffsides and mountains like a pro. Given Kyrat’s excess of vertical space, this only makes sense. Secondly, players can now shoot from behind the wheel of a vehicle, which is a welcome change of pace from Far Cry 3‘s much more pacifistic driving. Far Cry 4 also introduces mini-helicopters, but they’re rickety things that can only fly so high before crashing. That thin Himalayan air is a real b****.

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Mayday! Mayday!

Far Cry 4‘s zeal to copy its predecessor seeps into the game’s art department. Though its graphics are sharper than Far Cry 3‘s, Far Cry 4 re-uses nearly all of its predecessor’s character and world animations. Everything from Ajay’s herb-gathering animation to bad guys taking a smoke has been recycled from Far Cry 3. That may not seem like a big deal on paper, but any sequel that reuses animations and assets from previous games has a much harder time establishing its own identity. Such is the case with Far Cry 4.

Players can also expect Far Cry 4‘s missions to be congruent to Far Cry 3‘s. Ajay is faced with the same bout of exotic animal hunts, outpost takedowns, and head honcho headhunts that Jason took on in Far Cry 3. All of these missions are fun, but Far Cry 4‘s reluctance to try new mission types is disappointing. If the point of these past few paragraphs hasn’t been hammered home yet, here’s the skinny: Far Cry 4 feels more like a DLC for Far Cry 3 than its own game.

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MIC DROP

…Or does it? It’s true that Far Cry 4‘s gameplay is unambitious, but the same cannot be said of the game’s story. Plot, at least, is where Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 diverge, with the latter having a much more compelling story than the tale of Vaas and the Rook Islands. Though Ajay Ghale is an uninteresting character who speaks almost exclusively in quiet murmurs, he’s far more introspective and believable than Far Cry 3 point man Jason Brody. That the protagonist’s parents are from Kyrat also gives the player an actual connection to the setting.

Meanwhile, Far Cry 4‘s supporting characters provoke both mirth and cringe. Ajay gets some help from some complicated characters, including two British marijuana enthusiasts and an African warlord who found Jesus. Far Cry 4 also dabbles in choice-based narrative, forcing players to side with one of the rebellion’s two constantly feuding leaders. It’s not an easy choice: one is a religious nutjob and the other is an aspiring drug lord. This rift helps keep the story’s tension high and makes it difficult for players to see which leader is better to support in the long run.

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So you’re telling me that I have to pick between legalizing child marriage and getting the locals hooked on heroin? Good Lord.

Far Cry 4 is one of those games in which the villains are more compelling than the protagonists. This is almost certainly a minority opinion, but main antagonist Pagan Min is a funnier, more interesting character than Far Cry 3‘s Vaas. Min’s royal proclamations are darkly hilarious, as he rants about everything from the perils of lighting candles to how he’s a much better Asian despot than Kim Jong Un (“Why doesn’t Dennis Rodman visit me?!?”). Min also possesses an air of deep tragedy that Vaas lacked, which becomes apparent as players discover why the king has taken such a particular interest in Ajay.

Indeed, the whole of Kyrat is rife with much better lore, writing, and storytelling than Far Cry 3 possessed. Ajay can delve into several layers of the land’s history, which add to the fun of exploration just as much as the promise of treasure. Players even have the option to explore Kyrat co-op, so long as P2 is okay being stuck as the eternally unfunny Hurk. Far Cry 4‘s multiplayer mode is much more hit-and-miss, and isn’t really worth delving into now that it’s all but dead. Also… was it mentioned that players can ride elephants into battle?

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Charge, Stampy!

While it’s a shame that Far Cry 4‘s gameplay is in near-complete lockstep with that of a preceding title, the game is saved from feeling wholly derivative by providing much better storytelling than Far Cry 3. Players who get into Far Cry solely to shoot things might feel like they’re rerunning Far Cry 3, but other players might also be pleasantly surprised by how good the tale of Ajay Ghale and Pagan Min is. It’s worth it for gamers in both camps to at least try the title, especially since Far Cry 5 is still a few months away.

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You can buy Far Cry 4 here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Hello Neighbor

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Discover what your weirdo neighbor is hiding in his basement.

PC Release: December 8, 2017

By Ian Coppock

2018 seems to be off to a spooky start! First, there was Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, a game about managing a restaurant by day and surviving in it by night. Now, there’s Hello Neighbor, a title about sneaking into the house of a creepy man who, despite an impeccable mustache, gives off quite the nefarious air. It’s time to investigate what he (and this game) are concealing from fatally curious horror gamers (cough, cough).

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To say that Hello Neighbor was highly anticipated is an understatement. The game enjoyed attention from such big names as PewDiePie and Markiplier, both of whom played the alpha version on their YouTube channels and enjoyed the experience. Indeed, what horror fan wouldn’t enjoy a game about unearthing the dark secrets of a seemingly benign neighbor? That premise smacks of such great films as Rear Window, and to see it in a video game is awesome.

Even though Hello Neighbor enjoyed warm fuzzies from the gaming community, that didn’t stop a few red flags from poking through the proverbial basement door. Early builds of Hello Neighbor started out with a tutorial, but for some reason that was nixed from the game’s third alpha. Players noticed a few bugs that went unaddressed in new builds of the title. Finally, the game’s release date was pushed back from August of 2017 to last December. None of those are particularly good signs, are they?

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Bruh? Bruh? Where the game, bruh?

The final version of Hello Neighbor begins little differently than its preceding alphas. The game takes place in a cutesy, 1950’s-looking suburb that resembles the Milkman Conspiracy level from Psychonauts. The player character, a small boy, is out playing one afternoon when he suddenly hears bloodcurdling screams coming from his neighbor’s house. He then catches sight of the neighbor shoving something into the basement and, rather than tell his parents or call the cops, decides to investigate the noises himself.

The neighbor isn’t too keen on receiving visitors, and avoiding him is the game’s main challenge. Players have to take care in sneaking around the man’s house, lest he get his hands on the child and prompt a level restart. One of the big selling points that developer Dynamic Pixels tried to push was the neighbor’s sophisticated AI; for example, he can notice if a window’s been shattered and react by setting a trap or boarding it up.

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Hmm… those tomatoes weren’t there a second ago…

So far Hello Neighbor sounds like a pretty good deal for fans of suspenseful thrillers, but that deal becomes raw when all the game’s bugs enter the picture. Hello Neighbor is, without a doubt, one of the buggiest games of 2017. Seemingly every facet of this title’s design is broken as of writing. When the game does launch, it often does so at a wonky resolution. It corrupts save files. It withholds achievements. It frequently crashes to desktop or causes the entire system to crash with it.

Hello Neighbor’s bugs go beyond system performance and seep into the minute-by-minute gameplay. Its physics are floaty. Items frequently clip through walls or into the blue hell beneath the game world. The player character freezes. The world’s textures sometimes phase out and are replaced with a green-and-pink overlay. Finally, there’s the much-vaunted “dynamic” neighbor, whose AI is so broken that players can sometimes remain unnoticed even if they walk right in front of him. Alternatively, he can occasionally spot the player through walls or even from across the house.

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Phoning it in, eh buddy?

Dynamic Pixels vowed to fix Hello Neighbor and has released a few minor patches to that end, but the fact that the game was released in this state is absolutely unacceptable. It’s always disappointing when a game is clearly shunted onto the Steam store before it’s finished; worse still that players are charged $30 for it. A few die-hard fans have argued that the game isn’t so bad in comparison to its first alpha, but that’s a stupid argument. What the game was at one point is irrelevant; its “finished” state is what consumers are paying for and therefore all that really matters.

As many players are probably guessing by now, Hello Neighbor‘s options menu does little to nothing against this torrent of problems. Not that it’s a great options menu anyway; there are a few token toggles for graphical quality but no option to rebind keys or play in a windowed mode. It’s also a little strange that the game doesn’t have a Steam workshop page considering the dev’s announcement of a (presumably canceled) modding contest.

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You’re not even trying, dude.

The icing on this s*** cake is that even if Hello Neighbor ran flawlessly, it still suffers from some colossal (and juvenile) design flaws. For starters, the game drops players in without so much as a tutorial. Sure, it’s simple to infer that the goal of the game is to break into the neighbor’s basement, but Hello Neighbor doesn’t even provide a primer on what the controls do or how to use them effectively. Hello Neighbor gives no hints as to how to spot mission-critical items or even pick those items up once they’ve been found.

Additionally, Hello Neighbor can’t decide if it’s a horror game, a puzzle game, or a platformer. The title meekly glues elements of all three genres into a single roughshod mess, expecting players to hammer out solutions to opaque puzzles, engage in clumsy first-person platforming, and avoid the neighbor all in one meaty gulp. Hello Neighbor is little kinder with its hints for puzzles than its cues for platforming, so have fun figuring out where to go and what to do.

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Am I supposed to hide in the fridge or use it for a puzzle? Who knows!

None of these problems, though, hold a candle to Hello Neighbor‘s most frustrating flaw: its resets. Whenever players restart a level, the game simply respawns them at that level’s beginning while leaving their inventory intact. So, if the player loses a mission-critical item or alters the environment in an unhelpful way, that item will remain lost and the environment altered even if they hit that restart button. Here’s some news for Dynamic Pixels: putting the player back at square one is not a restart. That’s not going back to an earlier state of their gaming session, that’s just moving them away.

Oh, and as a quick aside, the controls in this game are clunky as all hell. Players can only throw the items they pick up, with no option to set them down gently (don’t worry though, because Hello Neighbor frequently disallows players from picking items up at all). Amazingly for a horror game, Hello Neighbor also lacks any sort of lean button, making it much more difficult for players to spot a prowling neighbor.

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I’d rather face the neighbor than this game’s bugs.

Okay, so does Hello Neighbor get anything right? The game’s sole positive quality is its aesthetic. It’s not nearly enough to save the game, of course, but Dynamic Pixels nailed creating a tense environment. The game does a good job of juxtaposing a rosy paint job with the feeling that something morbid is afoot. This setup lends the game a paranoid vibe in line with murder-mystery media and the works of Alfred Hitchcock.

Unfortunately, the visual aspect of that motif is all Hello Neighbor really gets right. The game’s sound design is amateurish; sounds abruptly cut in and out of the world and are not mixed or leveled properly. The neighbor’s grumbling can be heard from a mile away but the sounds of appliances around his house either loop conspicuously or suddenly stop mid-play.

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Mornin’, Phil.

The true pain of Hello Neighbor lies in its unfulfilled potential. For all the negative things written about it in this review, its concept could’ve made for an amazing horror game if it’d been executed properly. Unfortunately, Hello Neighbor was barely executed at all. The game is unfinished, unpolished, and replete with more bugs than an exterminator could shake a stick at. Players would be better off leaving a flaming bag of feces on their real-life neighbor’s doorstep than trying to navigate this half-baked trash heap of a title.

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You can buy Hello Neighbor here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Far Cry 3

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Rescue your friends from the clutches of an insane pirate lord.

PC Release: December 4, 2012

By Ian Coppock

Are there any gamers out there who are ready to feel old? No? Well, too bad, because Far Cry 3 is five years old. It released a half-decade ago as of last month. Crazy, huh? Feels like just yesterday Vaas was torturing McLovin on the pristine beaches of the Rook Islands. With Far Cry 5 only a few months away, now feels like a good time to stroll down that avenue of memory lane.

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Though few would guess it from looking at Far Cry nowadays, the series got its start as a linear sci-fi shooter. The original Far Cry was developed by CryTek, and dealt less with trying to survive in an anarchic open world than battling mutants and stopping mad scientists. After Ubisoft bought the rights to the series, the publisher used Far Cry 2 to reinvent the franchise as an open-world shooter grounded in more realistic enemies and obstacles.

Far Cry 2 succeeded in exploring open-world violence, but the game was a very rough cut of that concept in action. Far Cry 3 heavily refines what Far Cry 2 pioneered, doing away with the focus on ultra-realism in favor of an emphasis on player freedom. Far Cry 3 also focuses a bit more on story and narrative, with larger-than-life characters built to complement its wild world.

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Kitty!

Far Cry 3 begins when a group of rich kids from SoCal decide that it’d be fun to go skydiving in lovely southeast Asia. Unfortunately for them, the island chain they land on is ruled over by a psychopathic pirate named Vaas, who promptly imprisons all of them and plans to sell them into slavery. Player character Jason Brody escapes from Vaas’s camp and finds refuge with the native Rakyat people, who’ve also suffered greatly under Vaas’s reign.

Even though Jason is a rich American kid who’s never wielded a gun in his life, the Rakyat inexplicably believe him to be a hero whose coming was foretold in some ancient prophecy. As Jason, it’s up to players to travel across the Rook Islands, defeating Vaas’s pirates and freeing Jason’s friends one by one. Jason isn’t alone in his quest to liberate his pals, receiving help from such eccentric supporting characters as an expat botanist, a Liberian soldier, a crazed CIA operative, and an obnoxiously sexualized island priestess.

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I don’t have my seat belt on I DON’T HAVE MY SEAT BELT ON

Right off the bat, Far Cry 3‘s premise is difficult to take seriously. The game expects players to believe that a white Cali kid who probably grew up in the same neighborhood as the Bluth family can somehow succeed where dozens of battle-hardened brown people failed. The white savior complex is strong with this game, and it’s a complex that Far Cry 3 expects players to buy hook, line and sinker.

Jason Brody’s evolution as a character is similarly hard to buy without guffawing. Sure, the kid starts out timid and unsure of himself as he makes his first trips around the islands, but the game depicts him gradually tiring of a “civilized” life and becoming enamored with stabbing people in the jungle. It’s not impossible to buy that time in an anarchic hellhole could do that to a person, but Jason’s character change feels painfully forced even when accounting for that notion.

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Genocide is fun!

Fortunately, Far Cry 3‘s supporting characters are much easier to buy than the posh kid-turned-jungle killer. The Rakyat guy who earnestly believes that Jason is the hero is even harder to take seriously than Jason himself, but each of the other characters has his or her own believable air of tragedy. The aforementioned botanist is easy to feel sorry for between his being exiled and his daughter being dead, while the CIA agent stokes laughter with his over-the-top boasts of American greatness.

Far more fascinating than Jason’s allies, though, are his enemies. Vaas is easily one of gaming’s most entertaining villains, conjuring up a blend of laughter and cringe a la the Joker or Reservoir Dogs. Whether it’s pontificating on the nature of insanity or brutally executing a prisoner, Vaas is a fascinating character to watch and is believable as a product of Far Cry 3‘s environment. It’s just a shame that he’s not the primary antagonist; that other guy is way less interesting.

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Vaas is the jungle and the jungle is Vaas.

The narrative binding all of these characters together is much less memorable than the characters themselves. All players have to do is rescue their friends one at a time in a rinse-and-repeat cycle that feels conspicuously like the early Assassin’s Creed games (coincidence, Ubisoft?). Far Cry 3‘s story is built exclusively around prepping for and executing these rescue missions, culminating in one of the dumbest, easiest-to-make story decisions of recent gaming years. It’s difficult to elaborate without spoiling, but suffice it to say that the choice is built up in apropos of nothing and is therefore easy to make.

Story enthusiasts won’t find much earth to till in Far Cry 3, but that might be because storytelling is not this game’s point. The story missions are meant to serve as beacons between which players engage in hours of adventuring fun around the islands. The true narrative highlights of Far Cry 3 lie not in its cutscenes or writing, but in jumping off of mountains and engaging predatory animals in the jungle. That might be part of the reason why so many critics compared Far Cry 3 to Skyrim.

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Another lovely day in paradise…

Open-world adventuring is what Far Cry 3 does best, and the game still does it better than most of its contemporaries even five years after release. Players are given two massive islands to explore and can search every nook and cranny from the tallest mountain peak to the deepest depths of the ocean. Because this is a Ubisoft game, players can bet that there are plenty of collectibles and treasure chests to find out in the world, with loot that can go toward buying bigger and better guns.

What’s that? Guns? Far Cry 3 is so rife with firearms that players could be forgiven for thinking they’re the national currency of the Rook Islands. Players can wield everything from pistols on up to LMGs; no matter its class, each gun in Far Cry 3 feels powerful and is a pleasure to wield. Players can also go in loud with a variety of grenades or sneak around stabbing people with a cool tribal knife. Far Cry 3 packs light RPG elements, allowing players to level up and obtain upgrades for sneaking or shooting.

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This right here is an example of a “shooty” gameplay style.

Getting around the Rook Islands is a breeze thanks to the Rakyat people’s fondness for cars and boats. The game’s vehicle controls are a bit clunky (especially in rocky terrain), but players can adapt to that beat up old Jeep with some practice. It’s just crazy that Far Cry 3 disallows players from shooting while driving, which is especially inconvenient during high-speed chases. Players who are up for more scenic travel can hop onto a hang glider; just make sure not to crash into a cliff. Oh, also, bring a parachute, because there’s no other safe way off of a hang glider.

In addition to finding guns, treasure, and more guns, players can also explore the Rook Islands for side missions and conquerable outposts. The former comprise survival challenges like killing a set of bad guys with only a knife, while the latter make for some great gun battles. Capturing enemy outposts allows players to obtain gear and see new locations around the islands, as well as encounter fewer pirate patrols. Each of the Rook Islands has its own brand of bad guy, which staves off the feeling of repetition that might otherwise come with constantly capturing outposts.

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Gently does it… gently does it…

The final piece of Far Cry 3‘s gun-toting, jungle-sneaking puzzle is crafting. Players can make bigger and better ammo bags from the hides of the Rook Islands’ various animals… nearly all of which are man-eating carnivores. Seriously, any ecologist who says that tigers are endangered needs to go to the Rook Islands, because there are literal swarms of them prowling the jungle. The idea of tigers, Komodo dragons, wolves, crocodiles, dingoes, sharks, cassowaries and other beasties all coexisting in one ecosystem is laughable, but it also makes Far Cry 3‘s world a thrill to traverse.

Far Cry 3‘s gameplay requires some suspension of disbelief, but it makes for one of gaming’s smoothest open-world packages even though it’s five years old. It’s refreshingly easy for players to get into a Jeep, capture an outpost, switch over to a boat, dive into shark-infested waters, and then hang glide home for lunch with pockets full of doubloons. Couple this ease of exploration with no shortage of fun missions, and the result is a game with an uncommonly acute understanding of the phrase “open world.”

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DOWN, FISH!

The icing on Far Cry 3‘s cake of blood and violence is its presentation. Even a half-decade later, the game still looks pretty good. Players can expect lots of brightly lit, brightly colored tropical environments that are consistent in their quality… sans the occasional floating patch of weeds. This island paradise’s only other drawback is its draw distance, which causes objects to pop in a little close for comfort and can only be adjusted so much in the game’s options menu.

Far Cry 3‘s sound design is also top-notch. Guns go off with satisfying force and the island’s fauna produce no shortage of startling noises. The game’s voice acting, a category that Vaas actor Michael Mando wins handily, is believable and compelling even if the story could be more so. The Rook Islands might be a hellhole, but they make up one of the most beautiful hellholes in recent gaming memory.

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Paradise awaits for the cheap, cheap price of your soul!

Far Cry 3 is an easy title to enjoy as long as players ignore the narrative. This game’s story is a badly paced exercise in forced character development and white savior-ism, despite the admirable efforts of Michael Mando as Vaas. Its gameplay, by contrast, is a smoothly concocted round of open-world adventuring that is guaranteed to provide dozens of hours of fun. Come for Vaas, stay for being able to snipe a tiger from a mountaintop while high on strange herbs. That should be the Rook Islands’ slogan.

Oh, and… Ubisoft? Hurk isn’t funny.

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You can buy Far Cry 3 here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator

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Manage your very own killer robot-infested pizzeria.

PC Release: December 4, 2017

By Ian Coppock

Hoooo boy, is it really time for another Five Nights at Freddy‘s game? Even by contemporary industry standards, the number of sequels in Scott Cawthon’s smash hit horror series is getting a bit gratuitous. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator may not have a number in its name, but this is the seventh FNAF game to release in just over three years. Still, Cawthon’s accrued no shortage of fans with his series about possessed animatronics that murder unsuspecting night guards, so power to him for that. Meanwhile, it’s time to see what this game adds to the burgeoning Freddy-verse.

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Released at the beginning of December, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is a game that combines two strange bedfellows: management simulation and survival horror. Unlike in previous FNAF games, players have the opportunity in FFPS to manage their very own killbot-inhabited pizzeria. That’s right! Any hardcore FNAF fan who’s ever dreamed of franchising a demented pizza place can do so in this title. Whether it’s picking the paper plates or installing favorite arcade games Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator lets players do it all.

Well, at least during the daytime. For while the business sim portion of the game is replete with colorful little tasks like expanding the restaurant floor and building stages for animatronics, things take a sinister turn after the “We’re Closed” sign fires up. Players have to sit at a computer (conspicuously positioned between two open vents), and close out for the day while trying not to get murdered by Freddy Fazbear & Co. Who knew that signing off on time cards could be so dangerous?

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“YOU DIDN’T PUT IN MY OVERTIME, HUMAN!”

Don’t be fooled by FFPS‘s Steam store page. Beneath the veneer of pixelated mini-games and Cawthon’s cute little anecdote about starting a pizzeria lies a horror game that’s in lockstep with previous FNAF titles. Sure, managing the restaurant is a big part of this game, but players live and die by their ability to survive five nights alone in a monster-infested restaurant.

Not to say that the management portion of this game isn’t without its own challenges. Players start out with a bit of cash with which to buy attractions, and have to do so in a way that balances their restaurant’s atmosphere, fun, and a few other meters. Successfully evening these meters out will result in lots of happy customers (and lots of money), but screw something up and the restaurant might be liable for a lawsuit. The series’ cute little disclaimer about murder and dismemberment doesn’t apply here; if one too many kids breaks an arm in that discount ball pit, it’s off to court for the player.

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Eat the pizza, you little goblins!

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is a big believer in that old adage about spending money to make money. The only way to upgrade the restaurant is to buy more hokey junk to fill it with, which unlocks bigger catalogs with better items. As players build an ever better restaurant, they can accrue points that’ll go into the game’s final score. Any restaurateur who can guarantee good customer service and avoid getting eaten by the attractions will go far at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, Inc.

All told, the restaurant-building portion of FFPS is fun, if simplistic. Players simply pick items of varying quality from catalogs, then install them in one of a few pre-allocated spots. While longtime FNAF fans will probably have enough fun with this stage of the game, it would be so much better to be able to see actual people in the restaurant. Merely picking places for stuff to go and then peacing out for the day makes the management component of this title feel shallow. Even racking up a high score for good Freddy Fazbear feng shui only does so much to stifle the ho-hum of seeing a hollow restaurant.

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Don’t be fooled. This is just the opening minigame.

As previously mentioned, the other half of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator comprises not getting killed by the restaurant’s animatronics after everyone’s gone home. There’s not a whole lot to be written about this segment of the game that hasn’t already been written five other times about five other Five Nights at Freddy’s games. Just like in every other game, players are confined to a small, vulnerable spot and have to rely on quick reflexes to avoid getting jumped by murderous robots. Before anyone asks, the answer is yes: the game’s five nights get increasingly difficult.

Every FNAF game has its own obstacle that keeps players from watching the robots, and Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is no different. Instead of monitoring electricity or office doors, players have to complete various end-of-day tasks on their PC while also being on the lookout for unwelcome guests. While ordering napkins and cleaning the oven seems simple enough on paper, the catch is that the player’s computer and ventilation system are both extremely loud. Turning off either will make it easier to hear monsters, but also prolong finishing up for the night.

Faz5

GAAAAAAAH

Although Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator provides one of the series’ smoother survival experiences, it really illustrates just how much of a one-trick pony Five Nights at Freddy’s is. As always, players are expected to watch out for monsters while also putting up with some truly ludicrous environmental hazards. Leaving the fans off for too long will cause the temperature to rise quickly and boil the player alive… because apparently this restaurant is in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert in July. This setup isn’t as egregious as that of the first game, in which the doors were powered by electricity instead of, y’know, gravity, but it cuts pretty damn close.

FNAF‘s total reliance on quick reflexes makes these games feel more akin to clickers or infinite runners than survival horror titles. A decent survival horror game relies on thick atmosphere to build the player up until that first encounter with a monster, whereas FNAF can’t wait to throw all the monsters it can at the player as soon as possible. This setup makes the game’s scares feel a bit cheap, and Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator demonstrates that Cawthon’s formula has not and will not change anytime soon.

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And what do YOU want?

If both of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzera Simulator‘s gameplay elements end up shallow, at least they’re well-connected. The animatronics comprise the missing link between managing the restaurant by day and surviving in it by night. At the end of each day, players are presented with an animatronic that some “charitable” soul left by the dumpster out back, and they can opt to adopt it. Successfully salvaging the animatronic can land the player tons of cash for daytime operations… if they’re willing to tolerate that animatronic trying to kill them the next night.

This element of the game isn’t FFPS‘s scariest challenge, but it is the game’s most interesting. Players have to judge how well they can get by with or without the cash that each animatronic brings. The choice is tough: do players take that cash at the expense of a tougher survival challenge the next night, or throw the animatronic back outside and forfeit that extra dough? Each would-be Freddy Fazbear superstar has to consider whether they’re better at climbing the corporate ladder through thrifty management or withstanding hordes of killer robots. Both scenarios present their own obstacles.

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Well now I’m just hungry.

All of these FNAF design choices, both new and old, are presented much the same way that FNAF games have always been presented. This game relies on its predecessors’ combination of crunchy pixels and Flash-style visuals to get its unsettling points across. For anything that can be said about Cawthon’s reluctance to innovate new gameplay, he does succeed in sharpening and refining FNAF‘s visuals with every new game. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator also features much stronger colors and smoother animations than previous FNAF games.

Cawthon also gets credit for continuing to improve his games’ sound design. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator‘s voice acting comes through crisp and clear… as do the creepy, creaky noises that the animatronics make. The cutesy restaurant music sounds a tad stifled, but that’s probably to reinforce the game’s retro feel. As always, Cawthon also insists on making the monsters’ screams about twenty times louder than the rest of the game just to ensure that those adrenaline glands kick in.

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Let’s get cookin’!

Despite the inclusion of a brand-new management mechanic, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator doesn’t advance the FNAF universe in a meaningful way. Sure, the game’s generated the usual deluge of fan theories and little kid fandom that every FNAF brings, but the game’s reliance on formulaic jumpscares is a bit disappointing after Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location at least tried a few new things. Players who are already heavily invested in the Five Nights at Freddy‘s universe will no doubt enjoy the title (especially since it’s free), but everyone else can safely skip it.

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You can buy Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.