Gaming Apathy: “I’ve Seen It All Before”

I’m starting to lose interest in gaming. I’m not about throw the PS3 in the bin but so far this year I have purchased about two games, last year I must have bought at least twenty. Instead, I have joined Blockbuster and rent the games that everyone else seems to love because I cannot justify spending the cash. I’m suffering from gaming apathy and there is one very simple reason: I’ve seen it all before.

Innovation has vanished from the games market this year and been replaced by safe bet sequels with rehashed game play. Readers of a sensitive disposition should look away now as I’m about to slaughter some sacred cows.

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Brutal Legend looked good from the first previews but as time rolled on I became wary. Rented from Blockbuster for seven days, but took back within two. Brutal Legend is a good game – a game called “Viking: Battle For Asgard” from two years ago: run about an impressively large map, whacking bad guys with your axe, finding side missions and then have a big battle open up new areas to explore. It’s fun, but so was Viking two years ago and I really don’t want to play the same game again.

Guitar Hero has spawned DJ Hero which, and lets be brutally honest, is the same game as Guitar Hero. I don’t care what controller you use, you still press the coloured buttons when the dots scroll down the screen.

Uncharted 2 – exactly what was different from the original? Yes it looks better and the cut scenes are beyond superb, but in terms of gameplay it was the same. Take cover, shoot bad guys and leap around buildings.Things have been tweaked but there was simply nothing new – it doesn’t matter if you are taking cover on top of a moving train or behind a bin in an alley, all you are doing its taking cover from the bad guys. There is a car chase sequence and what do you do? Leap from vehicle to vehicle and kill bad guys. Why can’t I take control of the truck and drive it for a bit, ramming the bad guys off the cliff edge, then jump out, shoot some bad guys, then a bit more driving? Uncharted: Drakes fortune did not have driving, this was a missed opportunity to add something new to the series.Think of fun it could be with a co-op option, taking turns clambering across the steering wheel while you mate drives then swapping places and you can drive whilst your friend kicks the bad guys off the back of the truck.

Near the end of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune you meet fantasy creatures which are hard to kill – guess what happens in Uncharted 2. I really lost interest in the game at this point because it just felt lazy; it was recycling elements of the previous game. I did force myself to complete the game, killing the final bad guy by shooting completely obvious glowing things when he was standing next to them. That took all of one second for me to work out as I had played the same scenario in so many games before. No challenge at all.

God Of War III. You can put those machetes away readers, my wings are like a shield of steel, yes, I am going to criticise Kratos. Upon loading the demo and initially was very happy, Kratos I’ve missed you slaying foes and kicking ass!Then I reached the section where you had to jump from Harpy to Harpy. That felt very familiar I’m sure I’ve done this before and hang on – didn’t Dante have the option to switch between big fist things and a longer ranged weapon? And come to think of it I’m Kratos and I am in super duper HD but I’m running about slaying monsters using the exactly the same moves as the original God Of War. What’s changed? Bugger all.

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time – I own every single R&C game but was slightly let down with Tools Of Destruction as it was just previous R&C in Hi Def. All that extra computing power gained from jumping from PS2 to PS3 had been spent on graphics, not on game play. I finished it and when “A Quest For Booty” came out, I bought that, played it for ten minutes and have not touched it since. Same characters, same weapons, same setting. Loaded up the new “Crack In Time” demo. Ooh look, Ratchet has hover boots like he hard before, and wow, he’s got at least two new weapons and six which are the same as the previous game.You know what? If I am shelling out £40 I want complete set of brand new weapons, not just a couple, and I want the crates redesigned they have looked the same for years. Does every planet in the R&C universe have only one crate supplier?

M.A.G. – Run about a battlefield in a FPS and shoot things. Oh fuck off. You too, Modern Warfare 2, I’m bloody sick of FPS games.

With game’s today so much emphasis is put on the story (“A collaborative screenplay written by Shakespeare and Dan Brown”), the utterly gorgeousness of the graphics (“Hand painted by Salvador Dali!”) and the twenty nine hour orchestral soundtrack (“Composed by a super group consisting of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Pink Floyd and Flo-Rida!”) when was the last time you saw a press release that said “Featuring brand new game play”? It’s all about the “experience” of the game not the game itself the marketing people tell us. Here’s a suggestion for games company: The tens of millions of pounds you have spent on celebrity voice acting and mocapped stunt men, get rid of them. Spend the tens of millions of pounds researching and creating new game play. A hell of a lot of games are getting praised for having a good story or a celebrity actor and they seem to be used as distractions so you don’t notice the game  – the part where you control the character – is exactly the same as the one you played two years ago.

I know it’s very easy for me to sit here and rant and any game designers reading this will be telling me to fuck off and if it’s so easy why don’t I give game design a go. I know it’s hard to think up new ideas but even I could think up eight brand new wacky weapons for Ratchet and I’m sure you all could too.

The two games I have bought this year have been Buzz! because it was dead cheap and good for parties and Eyepet. I bought Eyepet because it’s nothing like any other game, I knew from the minute I plopped the disc in my PS3 I was bout to enjoy a gaming ‘experience’ unlike anything I had played before. It has no celebrity voice-overs, it has no motion captured stunt laden scenes and it is one hundred percent GAME. Given the choice between 40 hours of beautifully scripted, perfectly acted cut scenes from Uncharted, scenes so gorgeous they put Hollywood movies to shame or the first half an hour of Eyepet, I would choose Eyepet in a split second…

and breathe. I wrote the above last night, and as you can tell I was annoyed. I’ve read it back this morning when I’m a bit calmer but I’m standing by my argument. My aim is not to annoy developers, or to detract from the sheer beauty and storytelling of Uncharted, or the technical achievements of 60FPS Ratchet and Clank, nor the genius idea of bringing Jack Black in to a heavy metal world or the mindboggling 256 player M.A.G. Thousands of people have worked day and night to create these games and I appreciate their hard work, I just wish games companies would go back to being games companies not faux movie studios.

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