Monday, 28 September 2009

Permanent Death, Episode 8: Finding Frank & Assisting Andre

FOREWARD to Episode 8: For those in the know – that is, anyone who has played Far Cry 2 to the end at least once – the section of the game I am in middle of is very, very time consuming. It feels like it stretched out for hours. Which is probably accurate because I takes hours to get beyond just doing more and more missions for the two factions.

I couldn’t find where I read it, but Clint Hocking, Creative Director for the game has mentioned that some portions of the game were at least three times as long as intended. I am fairly sure this portion of the game is one of those sections, as it drags on forever with mission after mission leading you seemingly never closer to The Jackal. Even the war itself hardly seems to move.

Along with the plodding pace comes a certain endurance race approach to playing the game and with that so does the story. The Permanent Death story between the first few missions after arriving in Port Soleo and the eventual final faction mission adopts a kind of holding pattern. I do missions, I kill people, I see the sights, but nothing really changes and I don’t really take any serious risks. I wondered whether to even bother with conveying the details of this chunk of the game; it certainly doesn’t reflect the sense that death is an ever present threat, although I suppose it still is. It just doesn’t feel like it.

Long story short, I’m getting bored and worn down by the game and I think a lot of players are by this point. However, for the sake of the tale, I press on.


I’m sick of this waiting. I’m tired of getting nowhere in my search for The Jackal, so I decide to bust straight into the UFLL and demand to see Mbantuwe for some answers.

As I approach, however, I notice that the familiar guard on the door is talking on the phone and doesn’t seem all that keen on letting me in. My hand hovers uneasily near the holster of his sidearm and I wait for him to finish his call. After putting away his phone, the nameless guard tells me that the UFLL bosses are too busy for me right now and I consider just shooting my way in.

But I resist temptation, knowing that in town and surrounded by several dozen soldiers I would probably not escape with my life. I really do want to finish this. So I temper my annoyance and listen to him tell me about some foreigner, some expat mercenary, who the APR has captive at the small hut-village of Sediko.

It turns out that the foreigner is one Frank Bilders and reports of his demise, it would seem, have been exaggerated. I knew him by reputation and I fought hard the urge to address him with a “Frank Bilders, I presume” but he beat me to it, telling me to get out separately and to meet up later at what passes for a bar in this country.

Checking my map back on the road, I hurry back to Pala, hoping my little detour had given the UFLL bosses time to un-busy themselves. The guard – the same one as before – lets me in to see the bosses. Voorhees slides a manila folder across the table at me and menaces like a gorilla. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t really paying attention and I only remember that I was to go kill a guy at the Polytechnic research station.

Andre, however, had other plans. He wanted that guy to instruct a pilot via radio to drop some cargo in an easy to collect location, and I was going to force him to do that at gunpoint. Or machete point, as it may have been. Before he could do that, I had to go get some map to specify where to drop the cargo.

So I took a drive up to the border-town of Sepoko, and on the way I crossed the notorious unnamed bridge north-east of the airfield, losing my transportation to a vigilant rocketeer with a clear shot.

I stopped at a safe-house on the way to my destination and then blew through a couple of checkpoints. Upon reaching the outskirts of Sepoko I started taking some long distance fire from the East but I didn’t figure they would be close enough to actually hit me and I thought even less that they’d be crazy enough to follow me.

It was a dangerous assumption because a short while later, after having to bail out of my vehicle under the withering fire of close-to-medium range AK47 fire and sporadic but deadly accurate sniper rounds from the town, I was also being fired upon from behind. Add to that a crazy jeep driver roaring up beside me and jamming his truck between a tree and the cliff-face and I’m juggling quite a few plates.

I start a few fires, put down some soldiers and thank my lucky stars the soldier firing an RPG at me from inside the complex can’t aim to save his own life and instead managed to keep firing into the junk and detritus between us. The scope on my Assault Rifle made it easy to take him out from a safe distance and I approach the complex using what little cover the fire has left.

Inside I swap to my SAW and do quite a bit of spraying and praying, making my way to the building containing the map Andre wanted. It doesn’t really seem all that different from the map I use to get around – couldn’t I have just lent him my copy? I resign myself for the time being to the task at hand and take my frustrations out on the nameless soldiers that seem intent on announcing their position and movements to me while I creep around behind them.

Andre calls to check up on my progress, and I inform him that I have his precious map. He sounds pleased on the phone and tells me to head to Polytechnic and persuade the radio operator to notify the pilot where to drop his cargo. I hot-foot it to the Polytechnic compound, parking my jeep under a shady tree.

I spy with my little eye, some soldiers lounging out the front. I decide to light a fire under them. When it burns down I move in closer, picking them off one at a time using gaps between buildings and the open windows until there doesn’t appear to be anybody left. I hear the radio operator calling out to anyone still alive.

Inside the building is incredibly gloomy for such a bright day outside, and as he spots me I rush him with my machete, thrusting it against his neck before he has a chance to draw his fat, gleaming side arm. I hand him the instructions to give the pilot and taps out the message and pushes send.

Now I’m stuck with a living, breathing dude who I have no use for, and who has a large and deadly pistol on his belt. A large and deadly pistol that he is probably itching to turn on me the second I give him a chance. Then I remember that the original mandate was essentially the assassination of this bloke, and his services were just for André’s, and hopefully by inference, my benefit too.

However I’m mentally unprepared for this kill and it throws my game, I forget to use my flare pistol – what has been my calling card for a while now – and I instead put a SAW round into his skull at high velocity. I track his limp body as it flops to the ground, mesmerised. Andre calls and tells me the plane is on its way.

I go outside and watch its lumbering progress across the sky and only later notice the detail that it already had its landing gear out. I consider how short the air-strip is and hope it doesn’t run out of runway.

The quickest way to the airport is a swim across the river, up the other side and past the safe-house. A small gap between the otherwise impassable mountains exists on the north-eastern face but it’s time saving nature is offset by having to run a notoriously dangerous roadblock. I get lucky, however, and skirt round behind some buildings and, oh joy of joys, I get far enough away that they don’t give a proper chase.

Well, except for a patrol jeep, but he was coming from the opposite direction.

I end up in a position with a view looking west across the runway to where I can see the fight between Andre and some assorted soldiers.

I don’t know where he stashed the cargo from the plane, but I assume it’s nearby and after beating off the soldiers Andre tells me to go.

Back to Pala I go and the same UFLL doorman is there to greet me. I go inside, still no closer to The Jackal.

Post Script: Justin Keverne recently interviewed me about the Permanent Death story, asking some really great questions. You can read it here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Permanent Death: An Announcement

So today is the 23rd of September, 11 months on from the day that Far Cry 2 was released upon an unsuspecting Australia and the world. It’s fitting then that I have an announcement to make about the Permanent Death saga.

On the 23rd of October, one year to the day that Far Cry 2 was unleashed, I will be making available the entire Permanent Death story in beautiful, full-colour PDF for your reading and perusing pleasure. For a good idea of the quality of the end product, here is a short teaser containing the first couple of pages up to the end of the first chapter (around about Episode 3 on the blog). The overall effect is something akin to a graphic novel, but is also quite obviously influenced by machinima.

The PDF will be completely free, however if you find that its multiple hundred pages of full size screenshots and artfully arranged text are worth something to you I only ask that you please consider donating something. There will be absolutely no obligation to donate, or any recommended amount - just whatever you can afford and whatever you think it's worth. It will be licensed under a creative commons, non-commercial, attribution license, so you will be free to share it with any others that may appreciate it.

While there haven’t been any new episodes posted to the blog, I’ve been charging ahead in the story and am up to Episode 10 (and still alive, to boot). I will begin posting again later this week, and will hopefully finish the game/story in time to reach the end by the planned date. Mark October 23rd in your calendars.

As an aside; sometime within the next day or two, the SLRC lifetime page views will tick over to a staggering 40,000. A sincere Thank You to everyone who’s read, commented and linked to SLRC in the nearly 2 years it's been around. Here’s to plenty more.

SLRC Does Midnight Launches

Every so often I get the urge to go outside. Most of the time, however, I ignore it and go back to working at my PC, but other times I just can't shake that wanderlust and so I need to go somewhere.

On Monday night I certainly went somewhere. Specifically, I went to the official Australian midnight launch of Halo 3: ODST at my own local Westfield. Umm... because Penrith is the Australian Hub of Halo game playing, I can only assume.

I thought my experience at the event was worth some kind of retelling so I wrote it up as a piece for Kotaku AU. If you can stand the wonky back-and-forth between present and past tense I think it's a pretty cool story, and I really did get the feeling of camaraderie with some of the other gamers in line.

I see it like this - if us massive, unrepentant gamer nerds can't be ourselves when we're standing in line with 200 other excitable dudes (and a couple lasses) just like us, then where can we be? I'm totally rockin' for more midnight launches from this experience, if only to meet other strange and wonderful gamers like I did on Monday night.

Gamers are Good People.