How many times will we have to hear about Modern Warfare 2
? Well, a lot, and this blog is no exception; the biggest game of the year also happens to be the shortest (Not really, but BURN). However, at 5 hours, it's also the most jam-packed, adrenaline-filled, action-packed adventure of the year, surpassing even the likes of Nathan Drake's sophomore attempt. It's well-paced and it never holds up until the last shell cartridge hits the ground, even if the "No Russian" level is the game's only misstep (Various people, Rice and Rev in particular, have gone into why). But I'm not here to talk about "No Russian"; I think we all know where we stand on it at this point; I'm here because this game, as well as others, begs a few questions about the length of a game and it's relation to the quality of the experience.
Now, let me get off of MW2
for a while to talk about a few other games, one of those in particular being Portal
. Remember Portal
? Of course you do; it took the gaming world by storm only two years ago and has yet to leave the collective consciousness of the videogame-playing audience. Well, the biggest complaint about the game was that the game was too short; at a terse 4 hours (and that's being generous), it was an experience that was brief to say the least. But in my opinion, and in the opinion of basically everyone else on the planet by this point, is that it's brevity was the best part about it. Well, okay not the best part, but it was the perfect length for that game; it never overstayed it's welcome and it left the player satisfied with the experience after completion. The mark of a great game is the desire to have more of it and still feel as if the experience was enough to qualify the time you put into it.
and Modern Warfare 2
stand together as the very definition of "short but sweet". These games simply work
at the length that was appropriated to them, and if they were cut down or bulked up at all, they would lose a very big of their appeal; their ubiquitous nature. Let me use an analogy: you have a peanut butter sandwich. Now, you only have so much peanut butter you can use, but you have tons of bread you can use. However, you know that the peanut butter will be spread perfectly over a single slice and simply folded in half; the bread-to-butter ratio is perfect. You could use two slices and make it a bigger sandwich, but by doing so, the bread-to-butter ratio becomes 1:2. God forbid you make the ratio 1:3.
Modern Warfare 2
, and games of this ilk are the perfect 1:1 ratio; a set amount of gameplay (peanut butter) spread over an appropriate amount of time (bread). In terms of narrative-lite shooters, the 1:1 ratio floats between 4 to 8 hours, where as other games like Half-Life 2
have enough gameplay differentiations and plot to make the 1:1 float at a much higher place; you have an equally satisfying experience, but it lasts longer. In other words, as a purely single-player affair (say the buyer doesn't have Xbox Live or internet capabilities), Bioshock
has more economic value than Modern Warfare 2
Since quality is a subjective thing, the measure of economic value for videogames is their length of able enjoyment; Modern Warfare 2
has 5 hours of fun for 60 USD and Bioshock
has 12 hours of fun for 60 USD; in this case, the obvious choice would be Bioshock
. But this scenario brings us to the big question: does economic value, determine the quality of a game? I say no; absolutely not. This is not an argument about modern reviewers or something, God knows they go through enough undeserved chagrin to cause a mass suicide. No, this is about the relationship that this article is titled over.
You see, if we are to measure a game's economic value through the amount of enjoyment that can be derived from it, then we are leaving out the biggest part of the equation; some games are too damn long, and therefore, are less valuable since the overall experience is underwhelming. Take for instance the difference between Persona 3
and Persona 4
; both games are equally long, both floating around the 50 to 60 hour mark, but I'd say without a doubt that Persona 4
is the better game. It's a matter of pacing; in Persona 4
, you are always moving forward, and not very often are you going through the same motions week after week like you do in Persona 3
Plot is doled out in generous chunks and special events like camping trips or school trips happen frequently, always giving the player a goal; a mark to show their progression. In Persona 3
, which is by no means a bad game, and is in fact one of the best JRPGs on the PS2, but you spend much more time in Persona 3
just going through the motions with no events coming up anytime soon than you do in Persona 4
. If Persona 4
is the 1:1 ratio of a 60 hour JRPG, Persona 3
is the 1:2 ratio; you still have a good amount of peanut butter, but sometimes you feel like there might be just a bit too much bread.
You see, length and pacing are synonymous with each other; in my mind, they occupy the same space. You see, Modern Warfare 2
is a much more intense game then Uncharted 2
, not because it's any better at pulling your adrenaline strings (A train barreling down on you and nearly falling off an icy slope are both cardiac killers), but because the experience is so much more brief. This is not to say Modern Warfare 2
is better than Uncharted 2
or that Uncharted 2
needs to be shorter, but that the marked quality of Modern Warfare 2
, intensity, is elaborated due to it's brevity.
Much like MW2
, Uncharted 2
's primary quality, it's roller coaster nature, is perfectly fitting for a more protracted, 13 to 15 hour experience. You see, its the set of falls and climbs, slow parts and intense parts, that make the experience so much more fluid. Uncharted 2
is extremely well-paced for such a cinematic, action plot-centric piece; if the game were only 5 hours, you'd be left with a mouth full of peanut butter, which takes a really long time to get off the roof of your mouth (and even after, the taste sticks with you in the worst way...). You would lose a big part of the impact; the fact that, in the vein of Metal Gear Solid 4
, it's a globe-trotting adventure. If it were only 5 hours, it'd seem much too brief.
You see, games can only have so many gameplay innovations/types and plot points to support the length of time that they occupy; if you don't find that tasty 1:1 ratio, then you could be left with a game that feels like a sandwich that lacks substance. It would have too much bread.
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