When I drive back to the starting village in White Gold, I find a group of villagers having an informal dance party. It’s a great serendipitous moment, one more games should have. Their dance moves wouldn’t make the grinding strippers in Fallout: New Vegas envious, but it adds more character to the world. Most games are too obsessed with explosions and gore to include wonderful details like this one. I even stop to admire the scene for a few seconds before I machete one peasant, fire a burst from my M60 into another peasant, and launch a grenade into the crowd.
After the jump, let us prey
Ha ha, just kidding. I’m nice to most of the civilians in White Gold. After all, I wouldn’t want to hurt my reputation score with the civilian faction. Damned if I know if the civilians ever do anything important for you, but money is tight in this game and I could use their stupid sidequests for extra pesos. Some NPCs will try and be a hero and fire at you, and I could do without that annoyance. Killing civilians won’t upset the government faction however. Whatever the citizens of this small Caribbean nation are paying in taxes, it’s too much.
It’s hard to keep everyone happy, so for this playthrough the guerrilla faction are the whipping boys. Both the mafia and the government have missions against them (and vice versa), and those are two factions that have stuff I need. Consequently I’ll lose access to the guerrilla missions unless I bribe them later (so much for ideology!), and my helicopter will be harassed by their patrolling Hinds when I’m in transit between islands. I don’t know if it’s accurate to call them guerillas anymore, now that they’ve graduated to their own freaking air force.
Right now I’m driving around the first island, Espada, doing dirty work for the head of the bandit faction, Juarez. He’s keeping old Diego hostage. Diego’s the sailor who can take me to the center island, where I’m supposed to meet my CIA contact. Never mind that this is a sandbox FPS and I can just steal a boat; the next part of the “main quest” won’t trigger until Diego ferries me over. I do have the option of just killing the head bandito and taking the key to the cell, but I need the money and I want to stay on good terms with the faction.
I’ve been driving all over this stupid island doing dumb jobs for the government, the mafiosos, and the bandits, trying to get some decent cash and get on with the next part of the story. I just got done with some Mafia smuggling, so I’m driving south again on the ring road. I pass a firefight between two factions. Unlike the Far Cry 2 team, the White Gold developers somehow figured how to make factions fight someone other than the player. This game does have a black mark that Far Cry 2 thankfully avoided: the starting village has a wrecked car on the side of the road, with a huge spider lying dead in the fender. Oh god, I’m gonna have to fight those at some point, aren’t I? I go through the mountain tunnel that’s been dynamited open (another side quest I did) to a seaside town that’s low-rent in two senses of the term. It’s supposed to be a crumbling ghost town, but the blah textures for the buildings look like someone redid one of Jagged Alliance 2’s bland maps in the original Half Life 2 engine.
The bandits are holed up in what looks like a derelict three-story seaside motel. The boss wants me to kill some random civilian who’s worried about his brother, then a priest who’s been speaking out against the gang. I feel kinda bad about being a murderer for hire, but I just pretend I’m playing Assassin’s Creed and the priest is a member of the Illuminati, who are trying to enslave humanity with a glowing coconut. It’s not like playing a level in Hitman or Assassin’s Creed though. I just walk up to him and blow him away with one shot from my Colt Anaconda. The only difficult part is when I’m supposed to go back and get his crucifix, which is I think is bugged until I kneel down in the grass and notice a tiny object. Great quest design, guys! Has Bethesda called yet?
My one-man death squad merrily skips back to the motel. Another job or two and this mission line is over, and Diego is free. I really don’t like Juarez though, plus I already killed him in a previous playthrough. So I leave a going-away present for him and his girlfriend.
I run to the top of the motel, cutting down a couple bandits on the way, then parachute from three stories into the water. I don’t want to hurt my bandit relations too much, so I swim back under the surface to the dock where Diego is waiting. In the distance some henchmen are running along the beach, looking for me near my last known position. I’ve got to hand it to the developers. They probably didn’t have a quarter of the budget, but they’ve completely shown up the idiot savants who made Far Cry 2. Like Far Cry 2, the vegetation makes it hard to acquire targets. Most decidedly unlike Far Cry 2, your enemies actually have to work to find you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a shower.
Tomorrow: cocaine is a hell of a drug
Sapper Gopher is a software developer who works mostly in Java. Appropriately enough, he was in Tahiti last month.