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Best of ‘Far Cry 5’ (Part 2): Five Greatest Attractions on Whitetail Mountains

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The Best of ‘Far Cry 5’ Part Two

Far Cry 5 is without a doubt one of our favorite games of 2018 so far. We’ve published a raving review as well as a list ranking our favorite characters, and now we bring you our list of the 15 things we love most about the game. Participating in this list is John Websell, Christopher Underwood, and Ricky D. Be sure to sound off in the comments below and let us know your thoughts as well.

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Overall there’s a lot of good that can be said about Far Cry 5 when taken as a whole, but what is it about Jacob’s region of Hope County, the Whitetail Mountains, that makes them so special?

First and foremost for me would have to be the fact that they’re mountains. Call it ridiculous but mountainous areas in games have consistently been my favourite type of biome to explore. It might have something to do with the fact that the area of Britain I live in is largely dedicated to arable farmland and as such is relatively flat and featureless, so the obvious difference in the morphology of the terrain has an inherent appeal. The Whitetails of Hope County may not be the most enigmatic of mountain ranges I’ve ever seen featured in a game, but they’re no less beautiful for that. Holland Valley with its golden fields of crops and the twisted waterways of the Henbane River are undoubtedly great but the unique verticality present in the Whitetail Mountains means that you never know exactly what’s waiting for you around the corner until you get there. Grappling your way up a cliff face to reach a seemingly isolated cabin only to find that it’s just part of a much larger encampment built into the mountainside with much more potential for hilariously deadly hijinx than you first thought is not only practically rewarding in gameplay terms but also helps to build player appreciation for the aesthetics of the world design. That Far Cry 5 can feature three such vastly different landscapes and blend them so seamlessly together is a testament to the evolving mastery of Ubisoft’s environmental artists and designers.

Whitetail_MountainsAnother great thing about the Whitetail Mountains is wing-suiting. Granted, you can wingsuit and parachute off of just about anything that’s more than a meter or two off the ground and if you’ve purchased the airdrop perk then you can do it at will when fast travelling, but the terrain of the Whitetails makes them uniquely suited to this pastime of the questionably sane. After barely surviving consecutive engagements with wandering squads of cultists and some bloodthirsty turkeys, there’s no more stylish or dangerous way to make your escape than to dive off a cliff before gliding elegantly to relative safety on the other side of a valley. Of course, the wingsuit is by no means a feature unique to the series but Ubisoft’s impeccable environment design really allows it to shine as a traversal mechanic and combat tool in a way that most other developers have never really matched.

CheeseburgerTwo other things that make the Whitetail Mountains particularly enjoyable are Cheeseburger the diabetic bear and Jess Black. As two of the named companions available in the game, they both offer up excellent combat support in the form of a walking tank and a silent assassin respectively. Both are an absolute delight to have tagging along. Cheeseburger serves as a terrifying distraction that keeps cultists occupied as you lay into them with all manner of firepower, whereas Jess is an extremely capable hunter who perfectly complements a more subtle approach to any given engagement. They may not have the self-evident utility of Boomer or the pyrotechnic audacity of Sharky Boshaw, but they fulfill their niche roles excellently and are always welcome in a fight.

The set-piece moments that occur at set intervals depending on how much you’ve built up the resistance gauge in each area may be a tad immersion breaking as there’s no real way to avoid them, but they each offer insight into each particular supporting antagonist and the part they play in the cult’s plans. Jacob is the Seed sibling charged with recruiting an army that will defend Eden’s gate to the death and beyond. However, such unfaltering loyalty is bought at a heavy cost: anyone wishing to join the ranks of Jacob’s army must first be found worthy by having their minds cleansed of all other ambitions. Essentially, they’re brainwashed into becoming the perfect soldiers. Players experience this first hand as Rook goes through a sequence of surrealistic, hallucinatory training scenarios prompted by an audio cue; in this case the song ‘Only You’ by The Platters. Each time this occurs players memorize the locations of every enemy in this psychic obstacle course until killing them is basically an act of muscle memory.

Far Cry 5This is brilliant for a couple of reasons. The first being that it reinforces the game’s point about the mechanical and functional nature of ordinary life (getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed repeat ad infinitum) being little different to being a brainwashed member of a cult. The same routine is drummed into you from the moment you leave school until you can’t really imagine another way of living. This is a huge element of the narrative’s politics that has been sorely (perhaps intentionally) overlooked by a large proportion of the gaming media. Yet it’s also brilliant because it ties the protagonist – the player – into Joseph Seed’s apocalyptic prophecy and makes them fundamentally vital to the game’s story, whilst simultaneously exposing the player’s function as a narrative and gameplay component. The lyrics of the song, the foundation of Rook’s brainwashing,  are being used by the developers to emphasise the fact that events could unfold in the story with his/her presence at the same time they make a wry nod to the fact that nothing could transpire as it does in Far Cry 5 without the player’s participation. It’s a surprisingly deft use of thematics and mechanics to offer insight into the metaphysical nature of gaming itself.

Tune in tomorrow for part 3 of this list. 

Part OnePart Two  | Part Three

 

Chris is a Cambridge, UK based freelance writer and reviewer. A graduate of English Literature from Goldsmiths College in London he has been composing poetry and prose for most of his life. More than partial to real ale/craft beer and a general fan of sci-fi and fantasy. He first started gaming on a borrowed Mega Drive as a child and has been a passionate enthusiast of the hobby and art form ever since. Never afraid to speak his mind he always aims to tell the unvarnished truth about a game. Favourite genres: RPGs, action adventure and MMOs. Least favourite genre: anything EA Sports related (they're the same games every year!)

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Fortnite’

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Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.

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You know, I never thought I’d be writing this article.

I thought Fortnite was going to be another one of those fads that came around quickly and left just as quickly, a fading blip of relevance like every other AAA game that releases and is buried under something better. Whether that be better looking, better playing, or just plain…better.

That never happened. Instead, what we got was a phenomenon.

There are only three other times in history where I feel like the world “phenomenon” really translates well: the original NES, PokéMania in the West, and the launch of World of Warcraft. However, Fortnite really captures the meaning of that word. It absorbed, and to a slightly lesser extent, continues to absorb large amounts of popular culture, integrating itself into the American ethos in a way that sent ripples throughout the larger, non-gamer market.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of a peak claim of nearly 250 million players. Most games don’t reach a fraction of that player base and those that do don’t often carry the clout that Fortnite accumulated for itself. Oftentimes, when a game is as mentioned and cited in the industry as Fortnite, it’s for unmitigated disasters or fads that quickly fade due to their failure to adapt.

Fortnite, on the other hand, has done nothing but adapt to changing player tastes, pumping out content on a hitherto unimaginable scale on an ever-expanding number of platforms. What started out confined to the typical trio of PC, PS4, and Xbox One soon expanded onto Android, iOS, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch quickly. Well-optimized ports and eventual cross-play enabled players to play with each other despite their own hardware choices. That two friends with an iPhone SE and a GTX 2080ti-equipped PC can play together is proof that Fortnite has done well to integrate players together from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

If anything, Fortnite has proven right a premise that Nintendo has preached for years: that the more accessible a game is, the greater the success that it can be. Fortnite’s accessibility didn’t stop at its incredibly easy-to-run game engine or its easy-to-learn gameplay loop, but also continued in its actual presentation. For a game ostensibly about hunting down other players Hunger Games-style until only one player remains, it has strikingly bright and appealing visuals. Characters and skins are not only instantly recognizable, but easily marketable, ensuring that all fans–yes, even the middle-schoolers you overhear at your local games store–can purchase physical, in addition to digital, representations of their favorite characters.

In many ways, Fortnite, and its publisher, Epic Games, remind me of NES-era Nintendo.

Did they operate calculating business with a keen eye for profit through manipulating kids’ access to the First Bank of Mom and Dad? Yes. Did they create playground, and message board, conversation starters that create narratives that continue exist long after irrelevance? Yes.

But, in the end, did they create games whose importance changed gaming forever?

Yes.

Ultimately, I think that is the biggest aspect of Fortnite‘s legacy: it is one of the few games that did not shackle its free-to-play players with unfair restrictions or give paying players unfair, buy-to-win advantages. For all that it offered: hours of fun with friends, inclusion in massive social events, and the ability to continue your play across nearly every console, it gave it all for free.

And that, I think, will endure long after all the V-bucks and Battle Buses have faded away.

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‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning

KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.

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kartrider drift

KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.

Push to Start

Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.

Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.

Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.

kartrider drift

Tantalizing Customization

While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.

One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.

KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.

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The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019

From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.

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Indie World

It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.

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The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.

Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.

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Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.

Indie World

Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.

Indie World

To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.

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Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.

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It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.

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The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.

These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.

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