Friday, 7 February 2014

Just not meant to last...

Today I'm going to talk about a brief fling I had with a game called Just Cause 2. We ha some brief fun together, we saw each others flaws but stayed for our strengths. Eventually though, there's that one flaw you just can't ignore. For me, it's the bad checkpoint system.

Just Cause 2, you have a checkpoint system that flies against what you stand for, and encourages aberrant play during your missions.

If you don't know the game, it's an open world car jacker like Grand Theft Auto, but instead of a city, your playground is the entire island nation of Panau. Your mission is to take down the current regime, as you destroy government property and cause general chaos, missions unlock. This is one of the largest world maps available in gaming today, it's beautiful, it's full of activities, it's begging to suffer numerous explosions. 

Playing on 'experienced' difficulty, I could have rampages, but actually had to worry about military response. Things could easily get out of hand, and I tended to die often. I was fine with this, it was challenging, thrilling and at no point did I ever die thinking it was unfair. Upon death, any progress made was saved, those fuel tanks I blew up? Still blown up, but I reset to the closest allied stronghold. These are not close by, it could easily be 7-8min travel, by car to get back to where I was. That, or pay for 'extraction', a form of quick travel available to locations you've discovered already, where you jump from a helicopter. This was a time vs money thing, and it was fair. It wasn't all that cheap either, everything from auto-travel to guns was rather expensive and you could run out of funds fast if you weren't careful. I was planning! I was watching my heat! Most importantly, I was enjoying myself.

Too bad about about the missions though, because they really killed all of this. Missions always start far from the objective. On average you have 4km of travel from where the mission starts to where you need to be. You cannot 'extract' during missions so it's time to jack a car. Missions also take place on the world map, so all the normal things are there was well, the things you need to be destroying and collecting. So far so good. I go around destroying some things on my way to the numerous objectives of what I need to take out. Heat goes up, army responds, let's say I died. Well, that was probably my own fault, let's try again. Ok, everything has reset, that was expected. Hmm, all the collectables I got are back, and all the non-objective things I destroyed are back too, this doesn't happen normally. It's a mission, rules are a bit different, but what's this? I'm 4km away again. Ok, that irks me a bit, couldn't have started me back at the place? I try again, play more careful and for example's sake we'll assume I died again. Well... time to jack a car... again....

Here's what I learned. The point of the game is destroying things, things littered everywhere. Fuel containers, broadcast towers, radio masts, SAM turrets. This gives you 'chaos', a mark of progress as missions unlock at certain levels of accumulated chaos.

Once in a mission, you are to ignore them. Sure it's fun to blow them up on the way, but it's only extra heat, heat that will get you killed. As much fun as it is to destroy all this stuff, by your 3rd time driving back to the mission, you'll wish you had just stuck to the objectives. If it's two radio towers, you just take down those two radio towers. You finish the mission and THEN you can go back and start destroying/collecting things. It creates aberrant behavior in that the game turns from 'all the things' to 'ignore all the things' if you want to succeed. 

This in itself I could accept, if it wasn't for having to drive back, EVERY TIME.

I suppose one answer could be to tone the difficulty down, so I could just get through and see the story. But A) That diminishes the challenge, B) Doesn't fix the checkpoints and C) The story, writing and acting are HORRIBLE, and not the reason to play the game.

I suppose I could just ignore the missions, but as with Grand Theft Auto, there are many things gated behind story progression.

My response has been to stop playing. 9% game completion, almost a crime in my book as I quite enjoy finishing things, side quests, collectables. But the checkpoint system just doesn't work for me. Like Shadowrun when it first came out, I need to let it go.

Also like this jet...

It's not me Just Cause 2, it's you. Gather your data and get out of my hard drive, we're through.

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