What ELSE I’ve Been Doing Lately Instead of Writing This Column

Published on March 22nd, 2013

Last time around I discussed all of the television I watched while on the mend from open heart surgery. Well, rest assured, my recovery process was more than just sitting idly and watching television. I also played VIDEO GAMES!

A word of preamble: I tend to slip somewhat behind the bell curve on video games, at least in terms of how up-to-date I am on the latest new releases. A combination of limited funds and limited free time usually keep me a few months behind the crowd. So what follows is my take on two video games, both of which have already been discussed virtually to death by those that are more dedicated to the art of gaming than I. This is also a roundabout way of saying that I will happily accept donations of new or gently used Xbox 360 games. I’m not proud.

I received two new Xbox games for the holidays, and those have consumed the bulk of my gaming time ever since, putting an end to what had been an almost year-long monogamous relationship with Skyrim. The first of these games was the latest in the Assassin’s Creed Series, cleverly titled Assassin’s Creed 3. (Although technically it’s more like AC5, when you consider that AC2 had a pair of sequels, AC: Brotherhood, and AC: Revelations, both of which are super awesome, and I highly recommend them).

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I started the AC series with AC2, and was told by reliable sources that I had made a good choice in skipping the first. So my Assassin’s Creed experience has been firmly tied to the protagonist of the last 3 outings, Ezio Auditore. Ezio is… well, let’s just say it. Ezio is sexy. He’s tough, masculine, sensitive, intelligent, witty, and clever. I thoroughly enjoyed playing his journey over the course of three games. And therein lies the problem with AC3 – The protagonist, Connor, is… well, let’s just SAY it. Connor is a tool. He’s sullen, grumpy, and basically comes off like an angry teenager throughout the entire course of the game. He’s so uncharismatic that I found myself not really caring WHAT happened to him.

There’s also a weird Forrest Gump effect in this game where apparently Connor was present at EVERY major event in the Revolutionary War. I dig that one of the central premises of the AC games are that history as we know it is wrong, but I draw the line at learning that Paul Revere rode shotgun on that famous midnight ride, screaming frantic directions at our hero is a fussy voice.

 

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AC3 supposedly offers us the conclusion to the framing story of the franchise, that of Desmond Miles, a modern-day assassin. I had a pretty great time doing the modern-day missions, but I found the ending to be lackluster. Instead of blowing me away, Desmond’s choices and fate just gave me an overwhelming sense of “…Oh. Well, Okay, then.”

AC3 has a lot going for it, though. There is a first-act twist that literally made me gasp, an awesome new mechanic in ship-to-ship combat, and side missions that I actually found fun, instead of tedious. I spent a lot of time in AC3 hunting – Just relaxing, roaming around the frontier, killing everything that moved. I learned that if you were a beaver trapper in the frontier, you were basically a coward and a slacker, since beavers are apparently the easiest creatures in the world to kill. You can literally walk up to a beaver in AC3 and kill it with your bare hands. Cougars, on the other hand, are nature’s fiercest predators, and take no shit from anyone. Also, bears are like city busses. You don’t see any for twenty minutes, and then five come along at once. And maul you to death.

Not all side-missions are created equal, though. Fuck you, Ben Franklin. I will NOT be recovering all the pages of your stupid almanacs, mostly because they seem to be sentient and deliberately evade capture. Way to make the Poor Richard’s Necronomicon, douchebag.

One of my only complaints about AC3 is a complete overhaul of the combat system that, to me, seems unnecessary. Combat is more cinematic now, but also more difficult to pull off in my normal button-mashing style, relying instead on timing and counter-moves in a style that Batman: Arkham City did first and did better.

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Of course, sometimes a change in the combat system would be welcome. The other game I received over the holidays was Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The CoD games haven’t really fundamentally changed their control systems in, basically, ever. So if you have ever played a First Person Shooter, and particularly if you were already a seasoned veteran of previous outings in the series, you are good to go. You will be pwning noobs lickety split. If you are new to FPS in general, or if, like me, you start to suck at the genre the minute you add in other human beings, than you will swiftly find yourself violated six ways to the weekend by kill-crazy rampage-beasts. Now, I know that there is a campaign mode in the game where I can gleefully tromp along in a single-player environment, difficulty set to “Unbelievable Sissy”, but I am strangely reluctant to try it. Knowing that there is a multi-player option in games like Assassin’s Creed and a single-player option in games like Black Ops are like knowing there is riboflavin in my Lucky Charms. I guess I am theoretically pleased it is there, but it’s not really what I’m looking for when I buy the product.

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Bioshock: Infinite comes out next week. Based on my feelings about the previous games in the BioShock franchise, I will confidently say, without having played it for even a second’s time, that it is the greatest game ever. Based on my track record with keeping current on these things, I look forward to playing it sometime this fall.

If you followed me on twitter @travisholyfield you’d have been able to watch me freak out about how badly I suck at video games in real time! Get on it, people!

And again, if anyone wants to send me their old XBox games, you can always drop me an email. Happy gaming!

Travis M. Holyfield
travis@comicimpact.com