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Methodical madness: why Far Cry 3′s smarter than you think

Tuesday, 5 June 2012 00:02 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Can a juxtaposition between thought-provocation and in-your-face nudity be taken as seriously as Ubisoft Montreal would like? Nathan Grayson plays the E3 build of Far Cry 3 and talks to lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem.

Far Cry 3

Follows Jason, a 25 year-old from LA, on a messy jaunt around a tropical island.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal.

Out September 4 in the US and September 6 in the EU.

Releasing on PC, 360 and PS3.

Far Cry 3 is trying desperately to be the smartest, most thought-provoking shooter on the block. The demo I played, however, began with a topless woman writhing in pleasure on top of my character and ended by killing me with tigers and fire. (The tigers, technically, were also topless.) At first glance, you’d think Ubisoft Montreal was trying to bridge the distance between these two goals with some kind of blind, nigh-impossible Hail Mary throw. Guns, explosions, (literally) in-your-face nudity, fire, leaping off cliffs and knifing thugs Ezio-style, and pondering the larger implications of our medium’s fascination with ultra-violence? Yeah, one of these things is not like the other. According to lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem, however, that’s the point.

“We started out with Far Cry 2,” he explained during a post-demo interview. “We shipped that game, and then it was like ‘What are we going to do with [Far Cry 3]?’ So we turned everything over and looked at everything, and there was a point where it was going to be similar to Far Cry 2 – I guess you would say gritty and realistic.”

“But I think trying to put a serious narrative wrapper on a game – and when I say serious, I mean Schindler’s List serious – I don’t think that can happen yet. The mechanics are so wild in games. You have a guy who’s killing 35 people in ten minutes, and you want to do something that’s about the gravity of killing? It’s almost funny. There are all these moments in games where it’s doing a really serious narrative, and the gameplay ingredients are funny – in a good way. They’re joyous. There’s joy in interactivity. So I think fighting against that puts you in the – I guess you’d call it – uncanny valley of storytelling.”

So obviously, Far Cry 3 definitely isn’t Far Cry 2. But what is it, then? Well, to hear Yohalem tell it, it’s “a game about games.” The silly, over-the-top FPS cliches are out in full force, but they’re marching to the beat of an entirely different drum.

“We put the player into all these situations where they expect things to happen in a certain way, because Jason is a 25-year-old from Los Angeles. So, on some level, it’s the western world’s view of what’s supposed to happen in a videogame. And then we say, ‘OK, how are we going to subvert this? How are we going to challenge it or cause you to look at it in a new way?’ It extends to the game itself. You’re getting XP and you see it on screen, and that’s part of the story. There’s reaction to getting that XP and the feeling they get when they level up. That’s part of the story,” he explained, referring to tribal tattoos on Jason’s arm that represent XP and unlocked skills like improved aim, the ability to hold your breath for extended periods, and some positively brutal executions.

One final enemy – an armored man with a flamethrower – emerged, and I got the bright idea to shoot the door off another tiger cage. This one didn’t even try to earn my trust. It just beelined straight for me, jaws and claws held in stance that said, “Are you going to finish those intestines?” So yeah, that’s how my demo ended – with two tigers mauling me while I was on fire. It was pretty great.

In other words, Far Cry 3′s goal is to crank up everything we take for granted about shooters to a point where it’s so defeaningly loud that we can’t ignore it. So, sure enough, my demo kicked off with a topless, tribally painted woman moaning and monologuing (moanologuing?) at Jason atop some kind of strange ceremonial pyre. “You are a warrior,” she said, face partially illuminated by the flames all around her. “You live for battle.” Then Jason stood up, took a few steps forward, and addressed a horde of tribal fighters. “We are the warriors of the Rakyat,” he bellowed, “and I will lead you to victory!” So basically, it’s male power fantasy 101 – and also oddly reminiscient of Avatar, which (at least, in reference to that particular part) Yohalem claimed was very intentional.

It’s quite a – I am sighing loudly as I type this – far cry from the stranded, terrified Jason we met last year, and Yohalem chalked that up to the game’s story progression. “This game is about killing in games, but it’s about killing in games,” he emphasized. “It’s not about killing in the dark, gritty, realistic Schindler’s List way. The player’s joyful experience of playing a game and killing, and the player becoming a killer – Jason’s journey mirrors that.”

After that, the scene skipped to Jason standing atop a gorgeous, sun-seared cliff, surrounded by so many shades of green that I felt like I was inside a box of Crayolas. Now, I experienced this demo multiple times – both playing it myself and watching others – and while Ubisoft can claim it’s nailed the balance between linearity and openness that’s eluded so many others, it was really encouraging to see it in action. For instance, our presenter began by taking a dive so powerful it could’ve parted any number of seas (red or otherwise) into the waters below. I, on the other hand, bellyflopped so embarassingly that even the oceans themselves cringed upon hearing it.

Admittedly, the mission itself was fairly linear – go to Vaas’ lair, infiltrate it, discover (shock!) he’s not there, escape from exploding fire trap building, kill more dudes, etc – but battles were impressively multifaceted. Where the presenter coolly stalked through the balmy jungles, slowly picking off baddies with arrows from his high-tech bow (“Have you noticed, like, every game is into bows right now? It’s because of Hunger Games,” joked Yohalem), I played as though I had the body of Rambo and the brain of Evil Kenevil. Sure, I was constantly riddled with bullets and rather gleefully knocking on death’s door, but my enemies were already inside – and they were on fire.

The fairly brief demo culminated in an incredibly chaotic battle outside Vaas’ now-exploded home, and it was there that the open nature of combat really shined. The presenter, for instance, cut down the crowd of ten or so enemies like they were a slightly unruly lawn. At one point, he even managed to knife a man, pull the pin from the grenade on his profusely bleeding body, and “300” kick him – off a roof – into a truck with a pesky machine gun turret. Both – somewhat predictably, given the way grenades generally work – exploded in a glorious blaze of satisfaction. And fire. Lots of fire.

I, meanwhile, opted to improvise, and it was then that I was most reminded of Far Cry 2. Basically, everything went horribly, horribly wrong, and it was wonderful. After fleeing through a couple buildings and stabbing my veins with so many health needles that I was sure some doctor was going to walk up and hand Jason a “great job” sticker and a lollipop, I caught sight of a tiger cage. So, cackling maniacally, I shot its door off and watched as the tiger mauled the face right off an unsuspecting thug.

And then I learned a very valuable lesson: tigers are dicks. The striped embodiment of biggie-sized feline spite, of course, immediately turned on me – which surprised me at the time for some reason. Probably because I’m a bit thick. Then one final enemy – an armored man with a flamethrower – emerged, and I got the bright idea to shoot the door off another tiger cage. This one didn’t even try to earn my trust. It just beelined straight for me, jaws and claws held in stance that said, “Are you going to finish those intestines?” So yeah, that’s how my demo ended – with two tigers mauling me while I was on fire. It was pretty great.

There is, however, still a lot we don’t know. Will, for instance, over-the-top action and writing collude to create a noticeably different effect from the player’s relationship with The Jackal in Far Cry 2? I mean, this demo – played properly and not with death by tigerfire – ended on a trippy hallucination that had Vaas pull the player’s gun to his face, at which point it morphed into Jason’s. Then, with his trademark mix of charismatic suave and foaming-at-the-mouth psychosis, Vaas shouted “You are me, and I am you.” So, will it be third verse, same as the second? I don’t know – but an incredibly bizarre halucination of Vaas seductively pole-dancing has me convinced that Ubisoft Montreal’s at least taking this theme as far in the opposite direction as possible.

Far Cry 3′s multiplayer.

And of course, there’s the question of whether Far Cry 3′s really open or just Crysis 2 open. And while we have no way of knowing for the time being, Yohalem had some fairly encouraging words on the subject.

“Most sequences are approachable from 360 degrees,” he said. “So people who love Far Cry don’t have to worry. In reality, this is kind of a hybrid of Far Cry 1 and 2 with a really rich story. Far Cry 1 had a ton of linear sequences. You got the sense that they were open world, because you could wander horizontally a lot. But you were constrained by, like, a canyon. So you were basically being funneled to one particular spot, but you didn’t feel it.”

“It is an open world. Again, part of what we’re trying to explore is, when the player’s going off on missions, there’ll be something to the side, and the player’s like ‘Oh, what’s this and what’s this and what’s this?’ So Jason is doing that too. He’s on this island trying to save his friends, but then he’s distracted by an artifact he wants to find or stealing a vehicle. So Jason is moving away from the search for his friends because he’s attracted by what’s going on on the island. So the player’s narrative and Jason’s narrative are the same. And the friends will react to that. There’s a sense of ‘Wait, what were you off doing? You were out joyriding and stealing cars instead of saving us?’”

That comparison, however, is rather simple, and Far Cry 3 – by and large – seems dead set on being a creature of an entirely different sort. So no, it’s not some long-winded, perfume-soaked love letter to Clint Hocking’s brain, but honestly, we don’t need another Far Cry 2. Far Cry 2 was Far Cry 2. And in that sense, Vaas’ notorious spiel about the definition of madness is pretty applicable. Why keep doing the same thing over and over with such a potential-packed franchise? Yohalem and co, then, aren’t aiming to pave over what’s come before, but they’re not afraid to build something that stands on its own either.

“The way that [Far Cry 3's] similar to Far Cry 2 is that they were trying to push what a game can be. I think we are as well, but we’re doing it in a very different direction. All the movies that have stuck with me – like, for instance, Terminator has all these ideas about what the state should be and how it ultimately becomes all powerful. Or there’s ET, with youth versus authority. For me, the great blockbusters of the past were always about deep social issues.”

ET and Terminator, however, didn’t have flaming betrayal tigers. So maybe – just maybe – Ubisoft Montreal’s on to something here.

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6 Comments

  1. KAP

    I find it ridiculious how we has gamers get all up in arms with a little nudity or violence against females yet killing so-called terrorists or finishing a title with a couple thousand kills is fine?! WTF!!!

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Clupula

    B-but didn’t this site tell me that nudity was bad? And boobs in game were sexist and all that?

    I’m so confused by the mixed messages…

    #2 3 years ago
  3. DSB

    To me this kinda sounds like the kind of empassioned PR stump that ends up way overselling the game.

    That’s certainly how I felt about Far Cry 2. They were promising the sky, but the reality was a lot closer to home. Pinch of salt has been pinched.

    @2 That’s Nathan Grayson, he’s a pervert. He’s also on RPS, but we try to ignore that so we can still allow ourselves to like his stuff. It also explains the terrible puns.

    Pat Garrat is the defender of the femmes. VG247 is all about range.

    Isn’t there a song about misogony and wholesomely, writing together in perfect harmony? If not, there should be.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. roadkill

    Wait? Why is nudity a problem again? Are you not men? Or do you simply not like women?

    #4 3 years ago
  5. polygem

    nudity is not a problem. sexism is. there is a difference. nevermind.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. roadkill

    @5 And where do you see sexism?

    #6 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and Splatoon with it to PAX East next month. The E3 2014 build of the game lets eight players transform into squids in a race for “splattered-paint dominance.” Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will also be playable and featured in stage presentations at the Nintendo booth. Upcoming or newly released Nintendo […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium information seems to have slipped out early

    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]