Playing With Fools
Happy Weekend TAY!
I was going to try to write a joke post this weekend to honour April Fools Day, but I’ve been playing with “fools” for a couple of weeks now and the laughter died long ago.
I finished off Killzone Shadow Fall last weekend and there isn’t much praise I can give this PS4 launch title. “Bored” was the general state I found myself in while playing it. The AI is to blame here and I am at a loss to explain why the AI in Killzone Shadow Fall is so much worse than the AI in many games from a decade ago. Guerrilla sure makes a pretty engine and I’m glad the tech has moved on to Horizon: Zero Dawn but if games are going to move forward, then they need to move forward as a whole. Incremental increases in visuals are a hollow offering if the gameplay and AI seem to be taking a step backward.
What I did find interesting about Killzone Shadow Fall was how it feels in a post-Trump election world with the themes of refugees and xenophobia. There is even a “bigly” wall, but the Helghast didn’t pay for it. The story isn’t very interesting overall, but it does provide some lessons that are applicable for the times we find ourselves in today.
After Shadow Fall was finished, I chose to play Mafia III in hopes of finding some more interesting gameplay. I think I chose poorly.
The previous Mafia titles are some of my favourite open-world games. They offer unique gameplay twists on the GTA formula and have wonderfully compelling storytelling.
I was slightly nervous moving to Mafia III since 2K Czech (developers of the first two Mafia games) had been shuttered during the early development of Mafia III and new developer Hanger 13 took over. It is always hard to see the people involved with your beloved series cast aside in favour of new staff.
Mafia III looks to be based on the Illusion engine used for Mafia II, though there has never been (to my knowledge) any confirmation as to what engine is actually powering Mafia III. The game is visually impressive, though the tech likely won’t blow anyone away today.
The best part of the visuals is the volumetric lighting which gives a realistic feel to the time of day. This game has some of the best looking sunrises I’ve ever seen. The screenshot here doesn’t really do it any justice as this is something that needs to be experienced in motion.
As for the rest of the capabilities, the engine is competent without breaking new ground. I enjoy the art direction quite a bit and everything appears to be generally polished. I don’t like the amount of blur or softness to the visuals and it seems like there is very little that can be done to remedy this issue. The game definitely looks much crisper when scaled from 4K to 1080p, but the 4K resolution results in an average frame rate of 30fps versus the 60fps at a native 1080p on my machine. Of course, I want the increased frame rate, so I’ll just deal with the fuzziness.
I like almost everything about the game. The story is fantastic (I’m a sucker for a good mob story), the combat mechanics work very well (better than most in comparison to other games in this mould), and the fully fleshed out stealth mechanics are a welcome addition.
The driving is fun, though it isn’t offering anything revolutionary. This aspect of the game feels very similar to Mafia II.
The huge disappointment, and where the game really unravels for me, is the AI. It is just dumb in a way that ruins most of the other gameplay elements.
The AI in Mafia III has no group dynamics and ends up feeling like a decade-old stealth game. You are able to draw out each enemy individually and dispatch them with no danger to yourself. Even worse is when the AI enters “search mode” and then they will one by one make their way to your location to be slaughtered. I’ve had them actually line up in single file to walk through a doorway where I wait to insta-kill them. *Tip to devs, make your AI not approach a hill of dead bodies by themselves.*
I almost never have to fire a gun and I have no current need for any money at all. I never buy weapons since, up to this point, there is little use for them.
It is a crying shame. AI is a core component to a satisfying experience in almost every genre of gaming and foolish AI has the potential to ruin what is otherwise a competent and enjoyable game. I’m basically playing Mafia III for the story now and hope that things may improve as I go along. Currently, the combat scenarios are a boring and bland time-waster to get me to the next story bit. In a post “The Last Of Us” gaming world, we shouldn’t have to deal with such ridiculously simple and silly AI search routines.
I am hoping to get to more Mafia III this weekend and maybe I’ll see some more Rock Band 4 with the family. My wife and I are getting ready for a trip to Vancouver in just over a week, so my time will be limited.
So, what are you playing this weekend?