Fifty square kilometers of African terrain. That’s how much open space you have to accomplish Far Cry 2’s primary objective: Kill the weapons dealer known as the Jackal, who has been supplying both sides of a bloody civil war in the game’s fictional setting. If the sheer size of the game world sounds daunting, just consider the fact that it’s densely occupied with dozens of towns, numerous encampments, and a whole population of NPC characters (potential allies and enemies alike). Far Cry 2’s expansive environment is undoubtedly its most notable asset, but what’s really impressive is that the game is filled with enough compelling action to actually make use of it.
We’ve played plenty of World War II shooters but have yet to find one that makes us care for its characters like we did for Tom Hanks and Vin Diesel in Saving Private Ryan. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway comes close and rekindles our love of gritty 1940s warfare with its perfect combination of nail-biting tactical shoot-outs and a gripping character-driven story—an admirable feat in modern first-person shooters.
Prince of Persia may have missed its left turn at Albuquerque en route to the PC, but that doesn’t lessen its value as a game. Inability to die and ample backtracking, though? Those might give you second thoughts about leaving your wallet unguarded around the game’s princely thief. Luckily, Maximum PC has you covered. Prince of Persia, lose the jewel case; we’re getting all up in your space.
1. DRM-free is the way to be – Once bitten, twice shy. PC gamers can’t stop ragging on EA for its use of “draconian” DRM (Will Wright’s next game won’t be out for a few years, guys! You’re getting a little excessive), but Ubisoft is attempting to nip that mistake in the bud with its announcement that Prince of Persia: Mandatory DRM Edition won’t ever see the light of day. Kudos, guys! Now please don’t use this one gift as a measuring stick for the overall effectiveness of DRM. After all, we’re talking a single drop in a bucket big enough to build a wicked-awesome sand castle. Plus, no one likes an Indian-giver.
2. Death and taxes – In Prince of Persia, you can’t die. Ever. See, as it turns out, one only needs a magical princess in order to attain immortality. (Yeah, suddenly Mario’s never-ending quest doesn’t seem so selfless.) Miss a jump? Princess Elika’s dainty, yet freakishly durable hand lashes out and saves the prince from actually discovering what’s at the bottom of one of those bottomless pits (Hint: Grues). Same goes for your totally bitchin’ triple back-flip sword-cannon ball that looked way more like you getting stabbed in the face. Really though, the prince’s person-shaped bottle of death-repellent doesn’t turn the game into an overly easy snoozefest. Since the princess’ bulging forearm tosses you back to your last checkpoint, “death” still happens. However, you’re not forced to sit through a loading screen or anything like that. Quick and simple. But…
Ubisoft has had a strange, and ugly history with DRM (read: Far Cry 2), but it looks like they’re aiming to change that.
The latest Prince of Persia game will have zero DRM on the PC in the name of an experiment. “You’re right when you say that when people want to pirate the game they will but DRM is there to make it as difficult as possible for pirates to make copies of our games,” stated UbiRazz, a Community Developer for Ubisoft. “A lot of people complain that DRM is what forces people to pirate games but as [Prince of Persia] PC has no DRM we’ll see how truthful people actually are. Not very, I imagine.”
It’s nice that Ubisoft is giving the PC gamer market an honest chance in the world of DRM. This blogger just hopes that it actually helps our cause, and doesn’t end up making things much, much worse.
You didn't think escaping the three least popular letters in the alphabet would be that easy, did you? Today, Ubisoft Forum Manager "bukowski113" confirmed Spore DRM's "The Empire Strikes Back," placing yet another title under SecuROM's much-maligned rule. According to his forum post, Far Cry 2's DRM will work as follows:
You have 5 activations on 3 separate PCs.
Uninstalling the game “refunds” an activation. This process is called “revoke”, so as long as you complete proper uninstall you will be able to install the game an unlimited number of times on 3 systems.
You can upgrade your computer as many time as you want (using our revoke system)
Ubisoft is committed to the support of our games, and additional activations can be provided.
Ubisoft is committed to the long term support of our games: you’ll always be able to play Far Cry 2
In short, it's more or less unchanged from Spore's variation on the theme. We'll be buying Far Cry 2 anyway, though. After all, we just enticed a bunch of readers into taking up their pitchforks, so we feel we've done our part in the protest. DRM is bad and should be hated!
EndWar, a voice-controlled RTS hoping to finally end the war against finger-straining controller-based console RTSes, may soon be expanding its supply lines into PC territory. Even better, the news comes from a source PC gamers can't help but respect: former Total War dev Michael de Plater.
“Yeah,” he said, when asked if a PC version of EndWar is in the cards. “There’s no reason not to.”
"Console RTS. Crap. Next." Right? Wrong. de Plater, currently creative director on EndWar, continued:
“The stuff I worked on previously was Total War, which are PC games. In many ways, gameplay-wise, it’s a modern warfare, Tom Clancy version of Total War.”
We're not completely sold, but de Plater's words certainly put a damper on our parade of cynicism. Besides, we can't wait to talk a big game while simultaneously attempting to back it up -- and type up articles for your enjoyment, all at the same time. It'll be a nice excuse for our awfulabysmal unique RTS skills.
Hate the blissful feeling that accompanies plucking a brand new game from the patch on launch day? Think digital distribution is just too convenient? Well then, you'll be one of the backward-thinking few who actually appreciate Ubisoft's Far Cry 2 pre-order deal. Simply stroll over to your nearest participating game store, place a few dollars in the cash register, and unlock "hours" worth of crucial gameplay! Have a looksie at what's on the other side of the hoops you'll soon be jumping through:
The Georgian: The Georgian informant has gone into hiding at the Fuel Depot in UFLL territory, find him and discover what your predecessor learned from him about the Jackal’s location.
The Bolivian: The Bolivian informant is on the run, trying to escape the country by stealing a plane from a small airfield in APR territory. Try to get to him before your predecessor does.
Special Delivery: Your employers have more information for you about your predecessor – learn the location of his new dead drop and raid it to find information about his secret meetings.
Le Francais: A French smuggler and arms dealer who may have been providing arms to the Jackal has been tipped off, and your predecessor is trying to stop him from crossing the border. Find out what Frenchman’s price is.
For those of you who don't pre-order, or who plan to (legally) download the title, we don't really know what to tell you. So far, the "bonus" seems to be limited to retail channels, but we'll contact Ubisoft for more info.
In the meantime, however, don't worry too much. We already pre-ordered the game months ago.
In the past, I've clambered to the top of my soapbox tower in order to wax ludological about why games should be fun. While riding back down the escalator from atop my exceedingly ritzy box, I gazed upon my audience, hoping that I'd at least imparted one tiny nugget of info: I don't care about difficulty -- I'll even turn a game's masculinity meter down to "Very Easy" -- if it means having a good time. Lucky for me, many of today's game developers seem to agree with my sentiment. They hold our hands like an overprotective mother herding her child across the street. They give us failsafes for our failsafes. They design their games to be "fair."
But therein lies the problem. Personally, I think games should flip us a double-sided coin every once in a while. If the scales never tip, then what impact do our choices have? Take, for instance, BioShock. Whether you saved the Little Sisters or ended them, you still gained roughly the same amount of Eve, and bonus powers were negligible. BioShock was supposed to have us wracking our brains every time we made a choice. Your life versus the Little Sisters' -- power because of necessity versus mercy. Instead, though, the whole thing was a sham.
More recently, Mercenaries 2 made a similar mistake -- essentially replicating its weapon set across the game's different factions, making your choice of gun-toting employer basically meaningless.
And guess what? The onus for this trend rests on our shoulders. If the aliens have nicer weapons than the humans, we hop on message boards and join in a chorus of variously pitched whining. Single-player or multiplayer, if a game isn't perfectly "balanced," we get uppity.
So maybe we should just ease off our "!" key and let developers flex their creative muscles from time-to-time. A few failed attempts would be well worth the successes other games might reap.
But what say you, MPC readers? Should games continue down the sterile road toward same-same fairness, or would you prefer developers give some meaning to our choices, even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process?
Either way, this installment of the Roundup is just what you're looking for -- mostly because you're already reading it. Today, you'll find news about a wicked-cheap font from which X-COM now springs, a good reason to nab an Xbox 360, and episodic gaming's great failing.
Last night, before tossing and turning for a good three hours, I finally finished George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones." I'd been nibbling my way through the book -- a 900-page tome -- since late May, so I was understandably thrilled to see its final page, as well as its wildly out-of-place ad for the "A Game of Thrones" collectible card game. But AGoT's only the beginning of a planned seven-part series that began in 1996. Needless to say, AGoT's sequel has been on shelves, Amazon, and wherever else books are sold since before my age had taken on a second digit, and because AGoT ended on a huge cliffhanger, I nabbed the second book from my local Borders with all the subtlety a frothing nerd could muster, clasping it in my hands with a grip that bystanders described as "air-tight."
However, if I'd voraciously devoured AGoT back in '96, I'm fairly sure my satisfied smile would've flipped upside down. The final chapter felt like a build to the climax, but then -- as though it was a badly planned rollercoaster -- the story just ended, leaving readers dangling for roughly two years. (Yeah, the bad kind of rollercoaster.)
Obviously, literature isn't the only medium that backhands its users this way. Games, too, have a habit of rolling out large, red, inappropriately timed stop signs just when things are getting good. Even worse, development cycles now pack double the staff and take twice as long to complete compared to only a few years ago. Looks like the wait between sequels will only grow more arduous before it tapers off.
So, what's the least satisfying game ending you've ever come across? How did you react? Did you pen an angry email? Boycott the sequel?
This installment of the Roundup features the successor to a top-notch game with an abysmal ending, a peek behind the scenes of a controversial game that's attempting to tell a titanic, cliffhanger-laden tale, and so much more. See the stunning conclusion after the break.
Each year, we ask, "Was this the best year ever for games?" A good deal of the time, our answer tends toward "Yes," with a few nostalgia-maniacs vehemently worshipping 1998 instead. "Oh, they're just raving fanboys," I've always thought of those stuck in '98. "Their opinions are rooted in so much misguided subjectivism that even a bulldozer couldn't budge them."
However, a recent post at the always-interesting Sexy Videogameland gave me some insight into another, altogether more-acceptable reason for gamers' unyielding grip on the past. The post, by Leigh Alexander, of course, took a look at our tendency to play a game once, shove it into a nice, dusty shelf corner, and leave it there with no hope of excavation. Why do we do this? Especially when, as Leigh pointed out, many of us were happy to bury months of our lives in a single game back in the day.
But the answer's simple, really: You're reading this column.
As a bleeding-edge gamer, when you're not playing a game, you're probably reading about other games -- basking in the ever-brightening glow of a new title's hype -- and getting yourself psyched to play them. This column, with its daily dose of the latest gaming news, only helps propagate this trend.
Really though, does it matter? As Leigh pointed out, our consumer-focused society breeds hit-driven industries. Movies, TV, sports -- you name it. "15 seconds of fame" is an apt phrase. So we're just like other media. Big deal. But I think it does matter. I think games, by virtue of their interactivity, are meant to break the typical, rapid-fire hype cycle. And that's why so many gamers love 1998. The year was chock-full of top-notch titles, but gamers still spent hundreds of hours with their favorites -- testing boundaries and pushing limits. Why? The hype train as we know it hadn't quite picked up steam. Print was still strong and the Internet wasn't the all-knowing force that it is today.
And therein lies the problem. As the gaming industry grows -- as the press expands and the hype train takes on new carts -- it defies its own potential. Someday, games will shrug off the shackles of linearity, but will gamers stick around to experience those trailblazers in different ways? Or will our own anticipation for The Next Big Thing get the best of us?
Today's Roundup details a couple of initiatives that could grab at gamers' ankles and never let go, but will they work? Can't say. But for now, my commentary will have to suffice. It's all past the break.