We all like to complain about the lack of originality in gaming (well… we do) so let’s point out the things that we’ve been seeing too much of, as of late. That’s about it but it’s not like anyone reads these introductions so I will just get to it and elaborate as I go.
Oh, and in the process, let’s review a game called Rage. For those who don’t know, it’s an outrageously (we did) gorgeous shooter, from id software, that combines some very tight old-school gunplay with combat racing and a few other awesomesies. Fuck it. I’ll just go ahead and tell you now that it’s a very decent game and you should buy it but only if you like that “old school” part because you are going to find…
As I was playing Rage, it got me thinking: is there a video game, where a major problem does not get resolved through factory explosions? Hell, even action movies like the Terminator, Minority Report or Captain America seem to always make sure that any given fight ends in the middle of some production line, like any given door has a natural, fantastically high chance of leading any given angry person there.
I guess, villains need to manufacture evil somewhere, so it makes some sense for dudes like Snake to feel the need to snoop around or for Sergeant Hale to come looking for one of those shoot-to-start-countdown-to-massive-fireball reactors. Some smartypants developer cleverly figured that at one point, and now, a factory level has suddenly become such a staple that even games that don’t have to have them for logical reasons, do. Whether its’ a sci fi fantasy like Star Wars: The Old Republic or even a fairy tale RPG like Fable 3, chances are that it features a factory of some kind. And in Gears of War, the characters seek out and fight their way into a fucking abandoned factory because their car broke down (because every factory manufactures car parts, you see). It’s like game developers want any excuse to take us there but why??
Can you think of a setting more bland? It’s not like game developers save money on action sequences by placing them in some already fucked up environments that plants generally seem to be. Unlike movie studios, they have the freedom to create any location for the same money so why do so many of them use the opportunity to make freaking rusty interiors with pipes and broken machinery? Sure, there is a certain creepiness factor that makes it OK for a game like Left 4 Dead 2 (and it does have one) but we’ve been to the damn factory a million times by now and they all look like Quake 2.
It’s become completely uninteresting and due for a major shake up. At this point, if a main character avoids the place altogether, by sending over an attack helicopter to take care of a plant, and goes to the mall instead, that will be just fine by me.
4. Cover Me Sequences
In all honesty, I got to enjoying Rage a lot more than I thought I would when the game started. Sure, most quests were all about shooting, but they were all done like somebody actually gave a fuck. As a matter of fact, the next day, my muscles were sore from all the bathroom-break-delaying couch grinding (it was that fun!). But then suddenly, I got the urge to turn the game off and go to bed, and I did it because I was required to do what I call babysitting. You know, the shit even tweens get paid for.
There are several variations on that and all of them are fucking horrible. Possibly the most common type is some non-player character mindlessly walking their rigid ass somewhere or opening some lock for the exact duration of time that the bad guys keep coming to kill them. The NPC is usually completely involved in the activity, oblivious to all the fucks they should probably be giving about the enemy gunfire blasting them in the ass. That becomes your job and it sucks.
From Resident Evil to Dead Rising to Saints Row to Grand Theft Auto, nearly every shooter has to include that bullshit sequence and it’s always the worst part of the game. With a decently balanced gameplay, you should be struggling to survive yourself; keeping someone else breathing is asking a bit much. And what kind of a plan has one person opening a lock out in the open, in the middle of gunfire anyway? Perhaps it’s something not worth fucking doing. Just saying.
The idea of sticking you with a brain dead retard was probably quite a clever way to change up the gameplay, at some point but it’s been proven without a reasonable doubt to be the exact opposite of ‘fresh’ or ‘different’. Thankfully, the Rage sequence wasn’t very frustrating or long but merely seeing that setup killed my excitement faster than live sauna championship (look it up at your own risk). Please, let that shit go.
3. Womb Levels
I don’t mind all things gross in the least. I cleaned a litter box today and I didn’t even wince at all the literal shit. The problem is actually when gross stuff is so played out that it’s no longer gross or interesting. I’m talking about all the so called ‘womb levels’ that are basically caves, plastered in live guts and flesh, making your exploits resemble a dramatic recreation of a bowel movement.
At one point, it was probably original and disgusting. Someone did do a good job coming up with something so fucked up, and it does seem like a challenging feat to accomplish, but it has long lost the intrigue. Clumps of flesh are not exciting or memorable in the least anymore. Today, it’s just “oh, another organic level” which looks about the same as any other. I’m no proctologist but I bet that if you’ve see one colon, you’ve seen them all. I mean, it’s not like we are checking for cancer here so why do it when it’s no longer shocking?
Why are we in there anyway? As far as I’m concerned, if you have a need to fucking enter something fleshy with a weapon, it deserves a good nuking from afar. I understand that aliens are super messy when it comes to meat so it’s unavoidable when a game deals with those guys, like Duke Nukem or Prey do. And in the pictured Halo 3, Master Chief had a reason to go in, as he was rescuing Cortana after she was swallowed by a plant from The Little Shop of Horrors but it’s time to change it up or let it go already.
Rage did a good job of steering away from featuring a full-on rectum but they did include some patches of what looked like fish guts from hell and that made me worried for awhile, in anticipation for the all too familiar blandness. Thankfully, id showed restraint, and some later levels in the game are actually nothing short of stunning. The art direction in the Jackal Canyon had bits of Bioshock: Infinite, Prince of Persia (2008), and New Vegas: Honest Hearts (imagine a much prettier version) all mashed together for some insane action. So, don’t worry about having to play turd in this one.
2. Vehicle Sequences
Don’t get me wrong here, I love operating vehicles in games, when it’s implemented very naturally, as is the case with something like horses in The Elder Scrolls or the buggies in Rage (and vehicles are done very well there, by the way) or just about anything in Halo. I’m also not talking about the sequences, where you fight through moving trains or planes, or that awesome part in Uncharted 2, where Drake hops from truck to truck, whooping ass. I’m talking about those odd single vehicle levels in games that don’t otherwise feature vehicles.
For one, it rarely makes sense. I mean, you journey on foot for over ten hours, without ever encountering a working vehicle, but then you find one right as you have some remote place to get to. Alright, fine, but why does the trip always have to suck so much? There are always some annoying obstacles or a whole fucking vehicular army ready to materialize our of nowhere, like they’ve been fucking sitting there waiting for you to get some wheels.
Such sequences usually boil down to either you operating an incredibly unwieldy machine through some extremely linear levels, like you do in Gears of War, or someone else does the driving and you having to shoot a machine gun or a flashlight, like you do in Gears of War… and Uncharted… and Resident Evil 5… and nearly every other game there is.
Stationary weapon sequences are rarely fun anyway. Who thought that gamers would enjoy operating a stationary weapon, while it shakes like the thing is being driven by Chunk, in the middle of a truffle shuffle? The only game that I can think of where it was kind of fun was Metal Gear Solid 3 because it looked insanely cool but even that was a pain in the ass. Everywhere else it’s just the latter.
1. Tutorials For Dummies
Game tutorials themselves are great when they are done well. Hell, they are a must! I find that some great games suffer not only critically but probably commercially, as well, because their developer didn’t get to or couldn’t be arsed to put together a proper tutorial sequence. As a matter of fact, I’m playing one such game right now. Icewind Dale is currently kicking my ass over my lack of understanding of the Dragons & Dungeons rules.
OK, to be fair, a tutorial is nearly impossible for that particular game because the damn manual is 155 pages of hardcore nerd talk, which is 108 pages longer than the manual for my laptop that I use to play it. And you know what? That’s fucking awesome. Just think that games used to be that thought out. Once you figure out all that D&D crap, you can play and re-play the thing endlessly. I imagine.
These days, on the other hand, we have games starting with tutorials that teach you to look around and walk. Seriously, in this day and age?
It’s not a big deal when it’s just a quick little looksie, as is the case in Rage, but what is generally the point? If you don’t know what the fucking gamepad sticks do, you should probably not be spending $60 on games that require a level of proficiency with them. And please, for the love of all that is not fucking annoying, don’t make these (or any) tutorials unskippable anymore.
Oh, right, and on the final note… Rage does have most of these in some fashion but none of them are a problem for this game. Apart from the fact that the PC port is quite shitty, this game just oozes quality even when it goes for the old and tired stuff. Some areas are very cool, the babysitting is not frustrating in the least, the art style can be quite inspired, the vehicles are fun and the simplistic tutorial is very quick. And, by the way, the game does incredible animations. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s a solid shooter that probably deserves more attention than it got. 8/10.