Weekly Roundup: Observing Canines

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Despite my rantings last week, it was later on that evening that Uplay’s authentication servers came up, and I had about half an hour’s worth of gaming before needing to head to sleep. The starting missions that get you into the game were a very good introduction to the game, but the following day or two afterwards I completely ignored the story and went around town stealing money, cars and tunes for about six hours.

I also managed to find an NPC that would send you on these ‘digital trips’ that will take you into minigames that have different objectives and missions to complete: Spider-Tank, Psychedelic, Madness and Alone (though I know you can access them at any time, I’ve only really done them when I’ve found someone to send me on one). I’ve only had the opportunity to try out the first two over the past week and of the two, I definitely enjoyed Spider-Tank the most. It’s pretty self explanatory – you drive around in this robotic spider capable of climbing up the sides of buildings or crawling along the ceiling of underpasses. Oh, and it has cannons. The goal in this minigame is to cause as much havoc as possible through different missions such as “Destroy X vehicles” or “Kill Y cops”.

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The other game I tried, Psychedelic, is certainly an interesting trip. Bright neon colours, bouncing around the place like a flying squirrel on giant flowers that spring out of the streets and buildings of Chicago… I’m just happy I’m not actually high when I try it out. The idea is to bounce from flower to flower until you get to the end of the course and you unlock more levels, and missing a flower sends you back to the previous checkpoint. You can earn more points the closer to the middle of the flowers you bounce on, with multiplier bonuses for the middle of the flowers themselves. Extra points for highscores can also be earned by flying through the rings between the flowers.

There’s also Madness that involves running over demons and Alone that’s a stealth mission to restore electrical power back to the city, but I’ve yet to try either of these out as there’s so much stuff to do! There’s many other mini-games that I’ve tried out such as Cash Run, a classic-style arcade game where you run up and down buildings like a crippled Altaïr, picking up gold coins while dodging the red ghosts. Purple clocks give you bonus time and the idea is to get all the coins as quickly as possible. I was terrible at this because I got into the mindset of Assassin’s Creed and ended up just running into walls too often or hitting ghosts I shouldn’t have.

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There are also other minigames you can play including Chess, Poker, Slot Machines, Drinking Games and the NVZN Alternate Reality phone game, all of which I’ve yet to get round to playing as really, there’s still the whole running around town, checking into different locations and stealing everyone’s belongings and spying on everyone that is still entertaining for at least a few hours, all while occasionally being a vigilante or escaping the cops. I also might have spent a little too long cackling maniacally at being a Spider-Tank…

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Weekly Roundup: Uplay? I wish I could.

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Admittedly, this isn’t exactly a roundup of the last week (it was pretty bland anyway), but I thought with the Tuesday release of Ubisoft’s WATCH_DOGS that I would spend the weekly roundup on my initial thoughts on the game. With an early shift at work, I pre-loaded the game in the morning, got home from work completely shattered and went to have a nap when I got in anyway, then after a bite to eat in the evening decided to load it up to have a quick gander to write something up tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Uplay strikes yet again with problems for me to actually connect. I’ve had problems with the Uplay client in the past with Assassin’s Creed IV, Settlers 7Anno 2070 and Far Cry 3, so when I realised that WATCH_DOGS was through Ubisoft I had my initial worries that a hyped up game such as itself would have troubles. With a pushed-back release, I thought that they’d be able to iron out any wrinkles and be able to prepare their servers for what would have been an avalanche of people attempting to access the Ubisoft servers to try and play their games that always insist on being always online. I don’t mind the concept of always having to be online, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I was against it with how much I enjoy Blizzard games, but don’t let authentication servers go awry when you’ve spent so much time and money in promoting the game in the first place. All it ends up doing is placing your game and your company in a bad light, because suddenly you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people who can’t access your game. I’d hate to be one of the people in charge of their support twitter page right now anyway, let alone their other support lines of communication – though brownie points for being active and providing some kind of updates to a solution that I can understand has no ETA.

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So I thought I’d hit up some reviews on the game from those that could actually play. I’ve tried to avoid YouTube playthroughs as I didn’t want too much of the game spoiled (despite however much of the promotional material I’ve seen over the past year or so), but gaming critics seem to be overall impressed. Although there have been concerns as to whether or not it would just be a Grand Theft Auto rehash, but the stealthy open-world sandbox game appears to have held its own with the critics themselves. Checking out consumer gamer reviews on Steam on the other hand and there appears to be a constant barrage of reviews of the game not working properly on PC systems with AMD components, with constant crashes after 5 minutes of gameplay, cutscenes with just audio, freezes, high-end rigs with dismally low fps, and many other problems.

After ~1hr of waiting around though, I managed to get in! I have to admit, I’m quite happy I didn’t spend most of my day trying to get online, but with so many games having this kind of trouble with Uplay, you’d think Ubisoft would have learned by now how to handle their authentication services. Nevertheless, with another early start tomorrow morning I would have liked to get more chance to play this and share my own personal experience with you guys, but that might have to wait for next week’s roundup. For the time being though, it seems my Nvidia card seems to be holding up well, so whether or not it is just AMD that’s out of luck is another matter, and my first foray into this fictional hacking world is stable and solid! At least I’m assuming some of the screen tears in some cutscenes are intentional for the overall atmosphere for the game…