Last week on the Diecast I kind of sneered at the story in Rise of the Tomb Raider. In my column this week I kind of back off from that by suggesting that the story is fine in broad strokes, and it’s the over-abundance of needless cutscenes that kills it. And now that the column is up I realized this problem is more widespread than I thought: The cutscenes were the worst part of Hitman Absolution. And like I said in the article, they didn’t do the Thief reboot any favors either.
Square Enix has a bunch of talented game developers working for them, but someone at the top has decided to turn them all into shitty filmmakers. I suspect it will take a few more crappy games and millions of dollars in needless expenses before someone comes to their senses and dials back on this nonsense. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and right now I bet the wannabe movie-mogul behind this is still thinking this is the developer’s fault.
If you were curious about the “laser sauna” rant in the Diecast, below is what I was talking about. Warning! Shamus gets angry and swear-y:
Laser Sauna Rant
— Shamus Young (@shamusyoung) February 2, 2016
A bunch of dudes are holding a room. They’ve filled the room with red smoke. The floor is ice, and there are a few holes in the ice where you can pop up. There are a few crates around the room, if you can get out of the water long enough to hide behind one of them.
The first problem is that the stealth mechanics are backwards. Usually stealth means you can see better than your foes, so you can sneak up on them without being seen. In this case, you’re blind while under the ice, and can’t tell where the dudes are until you poke your head up. And if someone happens to be looking in that direction, you get shot. There’s no way to actually see if the coast is clear before you emerge. Also, the smoke makes it very hard for the player to see, but your foes don’t seem to have that problem. Often I found myself getting shot from an opaque (to me) cloud. Note the screenshot above. You can see which way the guns are pointing thanks to the lasers, but you can’t actually see the dudes. Do they have their back to the hole, or are they facing it?
The second problem is that the AI is a stupid broken cheating asshole. Guys were always homing in on me, even when they didn’t know where I was. In fact, they did so even when they didn’t yet realize Lara had entered the room. You can see their laser-sights pass through walls (derp) and the lasers seem to track you as you move around or swim under the opaque ice.
Third, the game gives you bad and wrong advice. Lara whispers something like, “Be patient. Let them come to you.” Doing so will get you killed. If you tread water in a hole, they will see you long before they’re close enough for you to ambush them. If you hide under the surface, they will walk over to the hole, see you anyway, and shoot you.
And let’s not even get into the break in tone: This series has been all about this desperate struggle to survive cold, injury, and hunger, and now suddenly Lara is swimming in freezing water with no ill effects.
"Foes have ridiculous cheating powers but you can win because the AI is stupid and you have health regen."
Win or lose, that's unsatisfying.
— Shamus Young (@shamusyoung) February 2, 2016
I died many, many times because I was trying to properly stealth the room, and the game will not let you do that. There are too many guys milling around, you have no sense of geography or enemy movement, and it’s not clear how visibility works in this section. And when you kill a dude, a replacement instantly drops in from hammerspace somewhere above the smoke. I’d shank a dude, and his replacement dropped in just as the kill animation ended and before anyone knew he was dead.
I also had guys see me over cover. Sure, that’s realistic that a grown woman can’t hide behind a knee-high box, but that’s not the logic the game has been using up until now.
When I play stealth it’s because I want to ghost an area. I want to kill all the dudes without ever being seen. This is not that. In the end I basically beat it by acting in the most immersion-breaking and contrived videogame-ish way possible: You swim up to a hole, and if a guy is nearby you mash Y for Lara to pop up and shank him. Guys will see you and you’ll get shot a bunch of times because you can’t abort the procedure mid-shanking, but you can jump back in the water and let health regen fix you up.
If there was some trick you could use to do this right, I don’t care. The game put you in an unfair and nonsensical situation, changed the rules, and then gave you bad advice. Fie.
What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?
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