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Jidai Geki's blog

4:45 AM on 04.22.2010

Splinter Cell: Conviction review

Sam Fisher’s back for his fifth outing, although it’s taken him a while. Originally announced back in May of 2007, and featuring a shaggy hobo-Sam on the run from the law, the game was abruptly put on hold and taken back to the drawing board. The game was initially touted as some sort of latter-day Assassin’s Creed with frenetic hand-to-hand combat and destructible environments, which was evidently a vast departure from your more traditional Splinter Cell outing, and it may have been this departure which led to Ubisoft scrapping it and going back to basics.

The end result is more Splinter-Celly than the initial concept. Kind of. Whatever desire Ubisoft may have had not to stray too much from the franchise staples, they have, for better or worse, strayed anyway.

The game opens with a brief recap of two key events depicted in Double Agent: the first, that Sam’s daughter was killed by a drunk-driver, and secondly, that Sam killed his boss and best friend, Lambert. Those who played DA will remember that killing Lambert was optional, and it’s indeed rare that a franchise goes with the ‘bad ending’ as the canon ending, but it nicely ties off Sam’s links with his past life, with the notable exception of Sam’s very own Oracle, Anna Grimsdottir.

Cut to Malta. Sam is sitting outside a small café when the waiter hands him a complimentary mobile phone and Bluetooth headset (as I hear frequently happens in Maltese cafés if you tip well), and Sam’s old pal Grimsdottir warns him of an impending attack. The effectiveness of a secret agent who manages to get tracked down by both a former colleague and an army of mercs notwithstanding, Sam takes this in his stride and gets to the sneaking around and killing right quick. This first level also serves as a sort of tutorial, with brief flashbacks to a botched burglary at Sam’s home walking you through the new combat mechanics.

And it’s obvious from the get-go that the emphasis in Conviction is very much on the combat, rather than the stealth. The stealth is still there, albeit very much in a pared-down, peripheral manner that makes it more of a precursor to looking bad-ass rather than a legitimate gameplay tactic.

Hiding bodies is out. Choosing between lethal and non-lethal close-quarter kills is out. Picking locks is out. And for some bizarre reason, EMP pulses now stun people. I’ve never had an EMP go off in my vicinity before, but previous Splinter Cell games and that episode of 24 where they detonated one are as good as any physics major, and they tell me that they don’t tend to stun people.

The scaled-back stealth is now complemented by the much-vaunted ‘mark and execute’ system. Some have expressed concerns that this system would be overly simplistic and take away a lot from the careful, tactical approach in previous games, and they’re absolutely right.

Depending on the weapon you’re wielding, Sam can now ‘mark’ a number of enemies from one to four. When you’re ready, you pull the Y trigger, and whoever you’ve marked who is currently in range is dropped with a quick, accurate headshot.

This one simple mechanic instantly changes the gameplay dynamic from methodical, cautious stealth to run n’ gun. You could still theoretically try to pick the guards off quietly, one by one, but it’s completely redundant when you can instakill a group of four, as guards rarely huddle together in groups larger than this. The one caveat is that in order to acquire the ability, you must take out a guard with one close-combat kill first. This largely reduces completing the game to the following tactic:

1. Equip the pistol with the highest number of marks.
2. Close-combat kill isolated guards.
3. Mark and execute any groups of guards.
4. Repeat.

‘Mark and execute’ is complemented by the new cover system, borrowing heavily from any action or semi-action game post-GOW. Hold LT, and Sam hugs the nearest available cover. Focus on any other piece of cover near enough to Sam and press the A button, and Sam sprints for that piece of cover. It works well and helps in flanking enemies who are aware of your last position, but it’s rather incongruous in a Splinter Cell game.

The close-combat kills are fairly sexy, with Sam brutally shooting people in the chest/knees/face at point-blank range, hammering elbows into the back of unsuspecting guard’s heads, and wantonly breaking necks at will. The only real complaint here is that the kills are randomly lethal or non-lethal, removing another choice from the player. Luckily it’s largely irrelevant, as discovered bodies elicit nothing from the guards save a ‘shit, he’s dead!’ or something similar: no alarms will be raised, and unconscious guards will not be revived.

Another fairly well publicized feature is the ‘interrogation’ feature, recalling THQ’s The Punisher’s similar mechanic. Sam grabs certain bad guys by the throat, who curiously almost never fight back once he’s grabbed them, and guides them around a small portion of the environment, smashing their heads into TV’s, fridges, sinks, urinals, and anything else that’s handy. A particularly brutal moment in the co-op sees one of the two SpecOps agents take a recalcitrant Russian’s face and slam it into a red-hot stove for several seconds, which was actually pretty damn hardcore. It’s fairly good fun, as only OTT videogame brutality can be, but it suffers from being very formulaic- each interrogation consists of grab guy, guy refuses to answer question, beat guy, guy gives up some information and then clams up, beat guy… and so on.

When the player is not ramming random goon’s heads through toilet doors and is trying their hand at some, y’know, sneaking, the level of colour on-screen is used to indicate how visible you are. When hidden in shadows, the colour drains out of the environment, leaving only enemies and environment hazards in colour and everything else in black and white. It’s stylish, certainly, and is a nice visual cue to indicate your level of visibility, but it suffers slightly from the Arkham Asylum curse of gorgeous visuals that never get seen.

And speaking of Arkham Asylum, I wouldn’t be surprised if the designers had taken some cues from it, resulting in the ultimate irony of the console market’s defining stealth franchise borrowing ideas from a game itself influenced by Splinter Cell. In B:AA, the enemies always knew Batman was around, or nearby. This is exactly the same in SC:C, even when it makes no sense: in one mission, you infiltrate a secret R&D laboratory. Even though Sam raised no alarms and was seen by nobody, for some reason the guards knew he was coming, shouting threats and insults. Ditto the ‘last known position’ system: when you’re spotted, a ghost image of Sam appears in the place the enemy saw him last, leading them to spray the area with fire and fling frag grenades at it. This again echoes the random bursts of fire from panicked goons in B:AA.

The last conceit which absolutely screams B:AA is the sonar goggles/detective vision option. Gone are thermal, night, and electromagnetic vision, replaced instead with some cool new goggles that see through walls and detect enemies, weapons, and environmental hazards. For a franchise that has always adhered strictly to realism, this last is particularly jarring, unless they’ve invented goggles that detect body heat and shit that can be blown up/dropped on someone.

The biggest problem with these goggles is that they render a number of gadgets largely useless. Why bother using a sticky cam when you can simply flip on sonar vision and see through the wall? What’s the point of the snake cam now? This is especially telling in the co-op mode, where you begin the game with the goggles and so have absolutely no need of any other recon options. In the single player the goggles are not acquired for a while, which means that Sam’s other recon options are still useful for a good portion of the game.

The co-op mode, more or less as meaty as the single-player mode, is a welcome addition, and it’s really nice to see that some developers still offer split-screen on a single Xbox as an option, rather than forcing people to system-link or go on Live.

Boasting a completely different story and characters to the single-player, the co-op follows a joint mission between Third Echelon and their Russian counterparts. The two operatives involved, Archer and Kestrel, play the same as Sam in the single-player mission, although they look slightly more badass in their ninja-esque balaclavas and tri-scope nightvision goggles.

The co-op starts with a far more stealthy approach than the single-player, and it’s somewhat refreshing to get back to Splinter Cell basics, insofar as that’s possible. However, later levels drop completely any pretence towards stealth, and you find yourself in the same situation in which you’re frequently placed in single player: armies of bad guys that all know you’re there, and the only way out is to shoot your way out. It’s very disappointing to find oneself in a full-out combat situation in a game that’s not really made for it, as three or four shots will drop you. It’s like playing Gears of War, but instead of being a heavily muscled armour-wearing WWE reject, you’re a frail pensioner with emphysema.

Of course, all of this is not to say that SC:C is a bad game. It’s not at all; it’s fast-paced and it can be a lot of fun in parts, most particularly when getting the drop on isolated enemies. In-game objectives projected onto different surfaces is a nice, stylish touch, and the new ‘last known position’ mechanic actually makes it fun to toy with enemies, luring them into remote-mine traps or flanking them and breaking their necks, and this indeed remains the franchise’s most satisfying aspect: striking from the shadows and vanishing again just as quickly. It’s just a shame that so many of the small things that centred the game around pure stealth have been removed and replaced with more action-oriented elements, and you’re pretty much left with Splinter Cell: Gears of Arkham Asylum, which sounds far more awesome that it actually is.

In terms of longevity, you’re looking at around five to seven hours each for both single-player and co-op. This is fleshed out somewhat with Rainbow-six-esque ‘hunter’ missions, where you take control of either Archer or Kestrel and eliminate all the bad guys in a given area. A nice idea here is that alerts means reinforcements get called in and the number of guards you have to take out goes up by ten or fifteen; its implementation is somewhat flawed, however, as guards will call their mates in when a chandelier comes crashing down, but not when they find a colleague who’s been shot in the face.

As a standalone game, SC:C is solid and fairly decent fun, if a little short. As a Splinter Cell game, however, the whole experience smacks of the console trend of watering games down to make them more ‘accessible’ and ‘mainstream’. Apparently most publishers think the console demographic consists of lobotomised chimps, as we’re seeing more and more of this sort of thing recently. It’s just a shame that it had to happen to the Splinter Cell franchise. Purists will be very disappointed; everyone else will have a decent time, and the move to action over stealth will probably broaden the franchise’s appeal a great deal.   read

9:08 AM on 03.06.2010

Jim Sterling needs to shut up about everything

Well, that was a fairly strongly worded title. Perhaps too strongly worded; after all, Mr. Sterling is entitled to wax lyrical on whatever topic he likes, up to and including 'franchise fanboys' as he did in this article. He is, of course, free to bemoan rabid, arrogant, unreasonable gamers he feels are stuck in the past and are unable to accept any changes to their beloved franchise. Of course, on the flip side of that coin, those same fanboys are free to say whatever they like regarding the direction of their favourite franchise. Especially when they're doing so on a site dedicated specifically to that franchise.

Mr. Sterling links directly to a review of Fallout 3 on the Fallout fansite 'No Mutants Allowed' in his article, as proof of how franchise fanboys are "something more malevolent, more subtle, and altogether more damaging than your average Sony loyalist or Microsoft defender." I particularly like the use of that word: 'damaging' (italicised for emphasis) because I'll be goddamned if these people aren't ruining the shit out of the financial fortunes of Bethsoft, Blizzard and Sega.

I have to point something out, Jim (and I realise you'll probably never read this article, but what the hell): if you go to a Baptist prayer meeting, they might talk about God. If you go to a political debate, they might talk about politics and stuff. If you go to the most infamously partisan Fallout fansite in existence, there might be some anti-Bethsoft backlash. You go shit-digging, you find shit (feel free to interpret the meaning of the word 'shit' in this context in any way you see fit). So way to go on that awesome piece of investigative journalism there, Jimbo.

Which brings me back to how 'damaging' these fans are (and I'm focusing specifically on Fallout here; I couldn't give two shits about Diablo or Sonic). Exactly what are they 'damaging' with their dissatisfaction? Certainly not Bethsoft, who are raking in more money than ever. Certainly not the masses, who ate up Fallout 3. Apparently nobody but you, and I obviously have the utmost sympathy for someone who is sick of having anti-Fallout 3 rhetoric shoved in their face when visiting a militantly old-school Fallout fansite. Next I'll be coming across racist comments on, or references to a supreme being on

There's also a fantastically laughable reference to these fans bitching more 'than the critics' in that article. That would be because videogame critics are notoriously sycophantic and slavishly devoted to the manufacturers of the products they review. If they don't play nice, they don't get advance review copies or sneak previews. Never before has an industry's critics been so dependent on those they are supposedly critiquing. Hell, the vast majority of what the guys over at NMA say (and I'm referring here to the articulate, reasoned articles of the staff, rather than to some of the slavering, rage-fuelled forum-goers who wish death on everyone involved in the making of FO3) makes a lot more sense that anything a mainstream reviewer had to say about the game. Mainstream gaming journalists are soft. They glossed over the bad stuff in FO3 and fed the egos of Messrs. Hines and Howard who, had FO3 been a movie, would have been convinced that it was the greatest thing since Gone with the Wind.

Which brings me to my point: I love that people are that passionate and critical about gaming, because somebody needs to be, and it's not going to be Gamespot or IGN. Unfortunately it doesn't really mean that much in the grand scheme of things; people who have never heard of the masterpieces that are FO's 1 and 2, other than 'some crappy old PC games Bethsoft made awesome with 3D and exploding mutant heads' don't care about the people who frequent Duck and Cover and NMA, and write them off as drooling maniacs.

The industry needs to be held to a higher standard critically. It's not. And it's a damn shame, because it means that games that are good, but not great, are lavished with ridiculous praise whilst having their shortcomings overlooked, and so they'll continue to be replicated. Sharp, well written dialogue will be replaced with stilted, hackneyed writing, and only the minority will mourn it. Words like 'choice' and 'consequence' will be bandied around by the console devs, and when they merely pay hollow lip service to these concepts, they will lauded as groundbreaking innovators of the industry.

And Mr. Sterling does not need to shut up about everything; he just needs to realise that these fans are at worst harmless, and at best, saying what the so-called 'journalists' should be saying.   read

3:42 AM on 07.11.2009

Fallout + Doom + Independence Day = KEWL

Perhaps more mind-numbingly depressing than the idea that Bethesda are going to release an expansion pack for a post-apocalyptic RPG which is basically Prey 1.5, is the startling notion that, judging from comments I've seen elsewhere, people are generally looking forward to it.

I mean, seriously. Fucking DLC centred around aliens? In my Fallout?

Any sort of lip service Hines and his merry men were paying to the notion of faithfulness to the franchise has been blown right out of the water with this commercial, watered-down, asinine, kitchen-sink approach to developing games, and for as long as I personally have fought back against claims that the console market is for ADD tweens and testosterone-addled morons, it's pretty hard to defend against any such accusations when such indiscriminate genre-blending is applied to a franchise once renowned for its depth, complexity, dialogue, storyline, and replayability.

This follows on the heels of such classic DLC as Operation: Anchorage, an expansion pack for a post-apocalyptic RPG which involved running around gunning down the Yellow Peril in a pre-war Alaska, and Point Lookout, a post-apocalyptic expansion pack in which you fight the guys from Deliverance in a swamp. Way to exploit that franchise you paid almost 6 million dollars for, Bethsoft. Hey, while you're on a roll, why not release Fallout vs. Predator, a post-apocalyptic romp through a very post-apocalyptic jungle where you fight an alien hunter using only your wits and your rudimentary, PA-style technology such as alien blasters and laser swords?

Let me make it clear that I'm not a OMG EVERYTHING BETHSOFT DOES SUXXORZ kind of Fallout fan. FO3 wasn't a bad game, it just wasn't really very Fallouty. Excellent dialogue was nixed in favour of dialogue ranging from fair-to-middling to godawful, for instance, a true sense of choice and consequence was replaced by Megaton, and children were not removed from the game (which is the decent thing to do if you're going to get all uppity about morally objectionable content in a game where billions of people have been wiped out and millions more are slaves, prostitutes, drugs addicts or murderous cannibalistic psychopaths) but instead made invincible and really fucking annoying. This was balanced out by a genuinely fun-to-use VATS system, decent visuals, a breathtaking wasteland to explore, and a storyline which was, at times, engaging.

I digress, however. The point is that Bethesda have the licence now, and after FO3's sales that's not going to change. Fine. However, does buying something truly make it yours to use and abuse as you wish, or do you have a responsibility to the creators of an IP like Fallout, and a responsibility to the expectations of franchise fans? What, indeed, is the point of spending all that money on an IP, if you're going to shoehorn every conceivable genre in and abandon the precepts of the original franchise?   read

6:14 AM on 03.16.2009

Playing with yourself: a title cleverly intended to suggest both single-player experiences *and* onanism

I'm not a fan of the increasingly online-centred, smack-talking frag-accumulating direction the gaming industry is taking. I'd rather watch some plot being developed in my very offline copy of Mass Effect, instead of grinding and fighting countless identical 'mobs' in World of Warcraft. I'd rather play through Half-Life 2 and its subsequent episodes, alone, in my living room without another living soul around, than load up Halo 3 and hammer the jump button in a vain attempt to avoid the uncannily accurate hail of bullets some American 13-year-old is directing my way.

Single-player gaming is and always has been the defining aspect of gaming for me. If I made a top-ten list, I doubt that even one entry would be an online or multiplayer-oriented game. In fact, all my favourites that spring to mind- Fallouts 1 and 2, the Hitman franchise, Bioshock, the Half-life series, most console RPG's- have a very heavy emphasis on the single-player experience.

The thing about multiplayer games, especially online when you're playing with strangers, is that it makes it all too obvious that you're playing a video game. Disbelief outright fails to be suspended when, in Left 4 Dead, the fucktards that Xbox Live has thrown me together with decide to hare out of the safe room and charge pell-mell throughout the level in a bid to reach the end as quickly as possible, until they get strangled to death by a Smoker sitting half the world away laughing his arse off about how lame they are. On the aforementioned Halo 3, people bounce up and down like caffeine-addled rabbits to avoid getting shot. Every game-breaking exploit that exists is, um, exploited by the majority, and in doing so it forces the rest of us to also use these exploits lest we get killed.

When I play a game, I like to get into them. I like to act like my character would act. In Hitman, I almost never make 47 run because, shit, he's 47. He walks calmly towards his target, cool as a cucumber, before breaking out the piano wire and strangling them to death in an impossibly cool animation. In Left 4 Dead, I actually have more fun playing alone with the three AI-controlled survivors accompanying me. This, in a game designed for multiplayer. At least the fucking AI behaves like a scared zombie apocalyse survivor actually would.

It fills my heart with joy that almost all attempts to bring MMORPG's to the console market have failed, because nothing sucks more than spending five hours making potions in a bid to raise your alchemy skill to the next level so you can make another slightly more powerful potion. MMO's are almost all exercises in mind-numbing tedium, and pale in comparison to single-player experiences where you, the player, are the centre of your own universe for a while.

After all, isn't that what gaming is about? Becoming someone different, sometimes someone fantastic and unique, with the power to alter whichever world you're playing in for better or worse? Isn't it better to listen to Kain wax lyrical on his plans for world domination, rather than listening to some spoilt, cantankerous teenager half a world away, emboldened by the anonymity of the internet, detail how he fornicated your mother in various exotic and bizarre ways just the night before?

People often bitch about stupid AI and that combatting computer-controlled opponents lacks the intensity of pitting your wits against another, real-life human being. This is sometimes true. Most of the time, however, it's not. Remember descending into the depths of Rapture in 2K's excellent Bioshock, and your first encounter with a crazed splicer? Now replace that crazed splicer's scripted scene with some moronic fucktard hopping around, babbling incessantly about how you're going to get 'owned' before kicking you out of the game because you killed him.

Online multiplayer is, in many respects, like taking a classic film and arbitrarily assigning a number of dipshits with asinine screen names to fill parts once played by Brando, Deniro or Depp. It's taking a medium that is often deep and often powerful, and making it about who can get to the rocket launcher first.

Single player is the exact opposite. It's doing what games are, in my humble opinion, there for: escaping from the mundanity of the world for an hour or eight and being somebody else, whether that be a haunted Eastern European gangster, or the galaxy's first human Spectre.

And, in any event, rocket launchers really fucking suck.   read

11:05 PM on 03.14.2009

Sexism in gaming

Almost all gamers have heard of the lamentable Custer's Revenge, a title that, had the videogame industry been more high-profile at the time, and had Jack Thompson been on his little crusade, could quite possibly have singlehandedly led to the fall of the industry at the hands of society's self-proclaimed moral guardians.

I've never played it myself, but I'm familiar with the premise, as I'm sure most are: dodge arrows fired at you by those damn Red Injuns, make your way across the screen, and rape the shit out of an Indian (*ahem*, I mean "Native American") woman named, appropriately enough, 'Revenge'.

The game features the finest pixellated naked people to come out of the videogame industry in 1982, complete with grotesquely caricatured naughty parts for both the eponymous Custer and his rapee, Revenge.

Putting aside the (obviously) objectionable and tasteless issue of a game where rape is the objective, two things spring to mind about this title. Firstly, it represents a trend in gaming that continues to this day, that of objectifying women across the board and making them little more than shapely sperm receptacles, sometimes for the gamer's character (Conan and God of War spring to mind) and sometimes for the gamer himself (yes, I'm making an assumption here, but they don't put Lara Croft and Bloodrayne in games to satisfy the female demographic).

Secondly, Custer's Revenge sold 80,000 copies, twice as many as any other game released by developer Mystique. This tells us something that we already knew about the gaming industry, like many other industries; sex sells. And I'm not disputing or lamenting this, it's a fact of life.

What I am lamenting is that it's an across-the-board phenomenon for essentially the entire industry, with almost no exceptions. The movie industry as a whole has the pornography sub-industry, as well as a slew of pseudo-pornographic titles featuring the fine 'acting' talents of such women as Holly Valance and Jennifer Love Hewitt, and the music industry has Britney Spears and T.A.T.U.

But those industries also gave us Citizen Kane and The Godfather, the Beatles and Elvis Presley. There's a world of difference between Debbie Does Dallas and any of Scorsese's back-catalogue.

This is a point we haven't yet reached in the (admittedly, still fairly nascent) gaming world. Onechanabra was recently released to Western gamers, and a million teenagers are probably excitedly murdering hordes of nondescript enemies with their scantily clad 'ninja babes' right now. Tecmo's DOA franchise has gone from using its female characters' assets as a selling point to their fighting game, to simply dropping the fighting bit altogether and concentrating on the girls with the Extreme spin-off series.

I struggle to think of a woman in a videogame portrayed as anything other than a buxom/leggy vixen who's good with her fists or a sword/gun. Sometimes they're given a little character: Lara Croft occasionally imparts some wry, innuendo-laced witticism, as if her upper-crust English accent somehow lends intellectual weight to the fact that she's essentially limber eye-candy. Meryl's character development in Metal Gear Solid was excellent, what with her blushing if you stared at her breasts and needing a big strong man to rescue her during the title's endgame.

There's the odd deviation, of course. KOTOR II's Kreia was a poor man's Yoda, albeit (spoiler warning!) a bit more evil. And- gasp!- not even a little sexy. GTA IV is the bravest any developer has got, as far as I can remember, with its porky Queen-Latifah-wannabe gangster queen, Elizabeta.

Don't get me wrong- I'm not saying that we should outlaw gorgeous women from games, and I'm not saying that developers should adopt an 'ugly women' affirmative-action policy where they have to put a certain number of fat/ugly chicks in their games. Hell, I'm sure like most men that if I'm playing Tomb Raider, I'd rather be playing as Lara Croft and not Roseanne Barr.

I'm not trying to come across (and I realise that I might have done) as some sort of prudish, holier-than-thou 'deep' gamer. I enjoy the pixellated eye-candy as much as the next guy. I'm just saying that an industry that's come so far so fast should perhaps consider maturing a little insofar as its perception and portrayal of women is concerned. There should be more to the market than ninja babes and impossibly hot archaeologists.   read

4:35 AM on 03.14.2009

Retarded videogame conventions that need to die in a fire

One time, about seven or eight years back, I remember having the distinctly unpleasant experience of playing the N64's WWE title No Mercy in career mode. A fine game in multiplayer, the hair-rending, eyeball-exploding unfairness of its single-player mode caused me to suffer a minor nervous breakdown, fountain optic fluid all over my TV, and incur the wrath of my dear mum for repeatedly shouting at Triple H that he was a "stupid piece of shit motherfucking cunt". Needless to say, various contrivances thrown in by the developers in some sort of misguided, out-of-touch attempt to provide their customers with a "challenge" meant one of the most frustrating, imbalanced gaming experiences I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Which leads me onto the crux of any frustrating gaming experience: developer contrivances thrust into the game in an attempt to either shoehorn you into doing exactly what they want you to do, or else in a wholly misguided attempt to provide the gamer with a "challenge". Read on for a (not exhaustive by any means) list of the most annoying contrivances ever implemented (and implemented still) into a number of otherwise-fine games...

Formulaic boss fights

Everyone's been there. A huge boss which dwarfs you in size, which fires some projectile or other periodically. You dodge, you attack at the exact moment that the boss is vulnerable, repeat ad nauseam. Tired, clichéd, boring, no fun whatsoever.

An even more frustrating off-shoot of this practice is that of immediately resurrecting the defeated enemy as soon as you've won- BUT WITH THREE TIMES MORE ENERGY, INSANE NEW POWERS AND GLOWING RED EYES. What the fuck is wrong with these developers? Have they overdosed on 80's slasher films or what? I'm not surprised any more when a boss gets back up, I'm not surprised when he grows horns and huge claws, and I'm not surprised that I now have to fight through this stupidly difficult battle with 1/5 of my original life gauge intact.

How, then, to do a boss battle right? Innovative boss fights that are both a challenge and entertaining. The first fight with 'The Russian' in THQ's 'Punisher' is a perfect example of this: styled exactly like an action film brawl and excellent fun. Lose the tedious pattern repetition and unexplained omnipotence of the boss in question.

Way to do it: 'The Punisher' (only one boss fight from this game qualifies. The rest fall into clichéville.), the 'Hitman' series (With a few exceptions, 'bosses' are normal humans and die like normal humans).

Way not to do it: Every game you've played that features bosses

Invisible boundaries

Ooh, that's a nice little forest over there, I'll go and check it out. Wait, no I won't, because I inexpicably cannot get there due to a magic invisible barrier.

If you're going to restrict freedom in a game, for God's sake use a plausible reason for it. Broken cars, police barriers, ANYTHING as long as you have a damn good reason for having the barrier there. Locked doors need to go as well. 'This door is locked' doesn't cut it when your character has a fucking grenade launcher. Haven't these people seen Terminator 2?

Way to do it: GTA: San Andreas, Morrowind, Splinter Cell series

Way not to do it: Predator: Concrete Jungle, a plethora of others that I can't be bothered to think of.

Unrealistic 'realistic' games

Yeah, I'm talking to you, Splinter Cell. All right, it mostly does a grand job, but when I shoot a guy in the head with a pistol I wanna see an entry an exit wound, and I want to see his brains hit the wall behind him. Want to keep the ESRB rating down? Don't make games where the protagonist is a bad-ass secret agent who routinely opens up terrorists with his combat knife.

Way to do it: the 'Hitman' series, Soldier of Fortune

Way not to do it: the 'Splinter Cell' series

Floating items

Keep that bollocks in the arcades. When I'm playing a game I don't wanna see a magic floating sparkling shotgun. I want to see a plain old shotgun lying on the floor, and I don't wanna see it stored in the most unlikeliest of places. Who leaves weapons lying on the ground in the middle of a city? Oh, and I want to see my character physically pick the item/weapon up, rather than just running into it and it disappearing. Dull, tired, unimaginative.

Way to do it: Can't think of any off-hand, but there are SOME games that get this right.

Way not to do it: GTA: San Andreas, Doom

Crappy stealth missions:

Is there anything more irritating than a completely misplaced stealth level in an action title? If I want stealth I'll pick up Splinter Cell or MGS, thankyouverymuch. When I'm playing a Hulk game I wanna smash stuff up. Don't be giving me your 'negotiate a laboratory as Bruce Banner' bullshit.

Way to do it: Don't do it if you're an action title.

Way not to do it: the Hulk, Predator: Concrete Jungle

Characters who can't jump or swim for no good reason:

Die already, game developers.

Disappearing bodies

Another 80's coin-op throwback, presumably to preserve memory and ensure the game doesn't slow down. I seriously despise it. Bodies do NOT disappear in real life, nor should they in games that extoll the virtues of their realism. Or any damn game, for that matter.

Way to do it: The Splinter Cell series, the Hitman series

Way not to do it: Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 5(!)

Contrived puzzles

Resident Evil. Silent Hill. The 'Legacy of Kain' series. All feature crap puzzles you have to solve in order to advance and make no sense whatsoever in the context of the story. Why the hell would a group of scientists and researchers install some random picture-based puzzle in their mansion to get a key for another room to get a jewel for ANOTHER puzzle? They wouldn't. It's shite, I don't want it in my game.

Comic or film games that are unfaithful to provide a 'challenge'

One of my biggest beefs. X2: Wolverine's revenge features Wolverine's healing factor, of course, and his famous adamantium claws. However, when your claws are popped, your healing factor stops working. Join me in uttering 'what the HELL?!?'

I've read quite a few Wolverine comics, and his healing factor does not stop working when his claws are unsheathed. Clearly, the developers sat down at their brainstorming session and said to themselves "Gee, if we let them have Wolvie's healing factor throughout the entire game, it'll be too easy and not as enjoyable. We should limit that."

Wrong, you idiots. You should keep your filthy hands off a much-loved character's powers and keep them in the game AS THEY ARE IN THE COMICS. People are playing a Wolverine game because they want to be Wolverine. I WANT to be incredibly difficult to kill and able to shred hundreds of men to pieces. I don't know about anyone else, but I'll take fun gameplay over a contrived 'challenge' anytime.

The list goes on. The Hulk loses energy in his game, even off basic things like small arms fire. Last time I checked, NOTHING stops the Hulk. So put it in the game. Afraid it'll make it too easy? I don't care about easy or hard, I care about fun. Make the game longer. Add more features. But don't put contrived values on the character to try to prolong the lifespan of your shitty title.

The same goes for Predator: Concrete Jungle (yes, this one keeps popping up, because it gave me a life-threating aneurysm with its fucking awful gameplay a few years back). You can cloak, but even with a full energy metre, your cloak will deplete in less than five minutes. Does anyone remember that happening in the films?

Few games get this right, Spider-man 1 and 2 being the ones that spring to mind. The recent Hulk games have done something to redress the balance. Also, although a thoroughly mediocre game, the 'Superman Returns' movie tie-in had the boldness to make the Man of Steel actually indestructible.

Game developers dictating player 'morals':

Ok, so there's been a (completely unfounded) backlash against the video games industry in recent years for its supposedly negative influence on kids. However, when I'm playing an otherwise incredibly violent FPS (I refer to the recent western 'Call of Juarez' here, but other games have done it as well) I expect to be able to shoot whomever I wish, innocent or not, dead wolf or not.

It's just the lamest thing in the world when you point and shoot only for your character to lower the weapon and say 'I can't do that' or 'that's not an enemy'. Who's the player here, bitch? Games that force a 'game over' when you kill an innocent are just plain gay, too. If you want to punish me for it, punish me in-game like GTA does- send the cops after me. Don't foist your morals on me in a contrived method which interrupts the flow of the game.

Checkpoint saving

News flash, devs: this isn't the mid-nineties, I'm not playing on a 16-meg cartridge, and my console has a hard drive. With this in mind, I'd love it if I got to choose where I can save my game. Making your friends wait half an hour to go out because you've 'just to finish this level' pisses them off, and it pisses me off.

Movie license cash-ins

I doubt these'll ever go away, and it upsets me considerably. Half-assed, poorly produced cash cows designed to coincide with summer blockbusters which are mediocre at best or just plain terrible at worst. The devs keep cranking 'em out because they know little Timmy's mum and dad will buy it in a heartbeat, and little Timmy will think that it's the best thing EVAH even though the rest of the videogaming community recognises it for the poorly realised sack of turd that it is.

These games commit most of the cardinal sins I've already mentioned. Floaty objects, invisible walls, stupid and unimaginative bosses, contrived puzzles, dumbed-down characters- gah.

Retro remakes

Bomberman was good. In fact, it was damned good. I enjoyed playing it. I still do enjoy the original on multiplayer; it's simple, easily accessible, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Stupid, turdy 3D remakes are not fun. They take the original concept, suck all the innovativeness and originality out of them, and force it on unwilling gamers of old and the 'untapped' market of younger, newer gamers. Younger gamers play it and wonder what all the fuss was about, older gamers try to strangle themselves with their joypad wire until they realise that this is 2009 and the pads are wireless now.

Some old games I just don't wanna play anymore, and I'd rather they sit in the rose-tinted world of my memory. Whenever I get my hands on a game that I loved as a kid, I'm sorely disappointed because it's nowhere near as good as I remember it and, with the likes of Gears of War and Oblivion, damn straight it's not gonna be as good as I remember it.

I love how much the video games industry has evolved and continues to do so. Playing video games is, sadly, one of the most important things in my life, and I wouldn't be without it. I was born right near the start of the industry's birth, and I feel that it's matured whilst I've matured (physically, if not mentally). We've gone from Space Invaders to Metal Gear Solid, from Pong to GTA. It's now a multi-million dollar industry with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson providing voices for characters.

I appreciate where all of this came from and what made it possible- I just don't want to play it anymore. And I certainly don't wanna play a badly executed rehash which, despite its pretty graphics and interface, fails to honour the legacy of the original. Leave the past where it is and concentrate and making original titles which add to the legacy of videogaming, rather than detracting from it.

Giant Spiders

I swear to God, if I see another game that's randomly thrown giant spiders in as an enemy, I'm going to hunt down and kill the developers. It's so tired and clichéd. Fighting giant goddamn spiders is BORING and yet people still feel the need to put them in games. They're even in games in which they have no place, such as Call of Juarez, which is a Western. I mean, seriously. A goddamn Western. What the hell is wrong with these people?

And there you have it. A lengthy, but still not exhaustive, list of everything wrong in video games. And I've not even touched on DLC. The legend of how much most DLC sucks beyond all recognition is a story that, sadly, will probably fill another equally lengthy article.   read

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