Unfortunately, a lot of games dip. They start out fun, maybe because the gameplay is new or style is unique, but inevitably become stale. You do something over and over enough and eventually you start cutting corners. You look for the fastest way out because you no longer care about playing the game, but are invested enough that you are playing simply to see the end. Iíve found this usually happens to me when frustration meets repetition. When I am playing the same stage and doing the same things within it, but unable to progress for whatever reason. And so I reach the Burnout Phase.
Hitman: Absolution (the game I just completed) is a good example of this. I spent most of the first half doing my best to subscribe to the gameís reality. I patiently tried to solve each stage the way I was instructed and would reward me the most points. I tried not to kill non-targets, hid around corners and learned guardsí routines, went out of my way to find tools that could be used as distractions. I did all this because I wanted to believe that this is what a person would have to do if they were trying to infiltrate a compound. They couldnít be spotted, then run and hide for a minute and things would be cool. So if I got spotted I would restart the checkpoint and approach the level a different way. But each stage is built like the last, and I never felt like I was in control. The game is dependent upon patience: That the player is willing to play through each level multiple times and hide out in corners to time how the enemies moveóand do this for hours and hours on end.
It reminded me of Mission Impossible for N64.
It reminded me of hell.
At a certain point I no longer wanted to play this game anymore. Eventually my patience ran out and I stopped caring about the world the game was trying to create. Iíd get into shootouts and kill targets in the least-stealthy way possible, simply because it was the quickest and I just wanted to get through the game. If you set levels up so that there is no variety of objectives from one to the next, it wonít matter that there are interesting and rewarding ways to solve those objectives, youíll still feel like youíre playing the same stage over and over. When that happens I will do my best to find ways to cheat it. I donít want to do this, but I also donít want to be stalled out in ANY level (in ANY game) for more than a few minutes/tries, especially when I feel like I just completed the same thing the level before. Testing my patience is the fastest way to take me out of the reality of a game. It makes me realize Iím playing a videogame, which makes me realize Iím doing something that might not be the best use of my time, which makes me wonder why I ever bought the product. For a linear videogame, I imagine this is not how you want your audience to feel. You want to challenge them, obviously, but you donít want to piss them off. And it can be a very fine line.
Hitman can be a fun game, but the story was uninspiring and the gameplay got repetitive early on. Maybe variety would have made it interesting to me, or a story that wasnít riddled with clichťs, or maybe I would have been disappointed no matter what. I find myself reaching the Burnout Phase in the majority of linear (usually third-person) Action games that I play. It could be that the genre just isnít for me (though Iíve found some games of this type to be extremely fun) but I also think developers need to focus on why players might hit this wall. Is it storytelling or is it poor design; or maybe a combination of both. Maybe something else entirely.
There really is no reason to complain about Hitman. This game presented itself as something (a stylistic, far-fetched, man-vs-the-world action adventure) and had the decency to stay true to what I was told to expect, and I will appreciate any form of creativity that respects its audience that way. My main concern, and this goes against everything we have been conditioned to as game players (and really as humans), is that Hitman was too long. In so many cases, with so many things, less is more. But because we are paying a premium for a service, we want to be able to squeeze as much out of that service as possible. If an Action game like Hitman is only 4 or 5 hours long players will feel robbed, even though for both gameplay and storytelling purposes itís detrimental to drag these games out much longer than that. These kinds of games are less interested in telling an intriguing story as creating an atmosphere, only atmosphere doesnít hold up over the stretch. Then the only thing keeping a playerís interest is the gameplay, which also struggles to hold up after a certain amount of time. And this is where repetition meets frustration.
The last thing I want is for something like a gimmicky car chase to break up the monotony, but aside for a heavy mix of gameplay elements that continually allow you to grow, any game is bound to get stale. When thatís the case it makes sense to shorten the length. The only way to avoid the Burnout Phase is to end the game before the audience reaches it. Of course, if they could bring down the price as well, then wouldnít that just be preparation meeting opportunity for all us gamers.