Collectibles, cheats, modifiers, achievements and alternate endings are just a handful of devices used to create a sense of “replay value” in modern video games. Once upon a time, when arcades were afire with flashing lights amid a chiptune chorus, most of these concepts didn’t exist. Though they’re admittedly a little before my time, it isn’t hard to imagine the joy players would get out of classics such as Pac-Man, Tetris, and Space Invaders despite having to play the same sequences over and over. As long as there was a high score to beat, that was all the replay value this older generation needed.
For better or worse, things are dramatically different today. Although a handful of games slip the net each year, the majority are tagged with a mandatory bells and whistles designed for the second playthrough and beyond. Some, like Uncharted 4’s modifiers, allow players to distort subsequent playthroughs in weird and creative ways. However, many fall into that same rut, building themselves around a checklist of hidden objects and challenges used to unlock trophies and achievements. To be fair, Uncharted 4 has these as well, and we’re at a strange point now where these padding techniques are almost impossible to avoid amongst today’s constant barrage of games.
There are some developers that manage to strike a good balance, but it’s no easy feat to pull off, making their product fresh and engaging enough to warrant subsequent playthroughs in the first place. After all, the last thing a studio wants is for fans to label their game as “too short” or lacking in content. That said, the concept of replay value is starting to mean less to me as the years go by. I still love to get my money’s worth when paying top whack for new releases, yet I can rarely find the time and/or motivation to go back to them once the credits start to roll. Of course, that excludes games which have a multiplayer component.
With my backlog only getting worse over time, I can no longer boot up a game I’ve already completed without feeling the urge to swap it for one I haven’t. Uncharted 4 is the latest victim to what some might see as irrational behaviour. Having sunk a few hours into my second run, I was torn away by an unfinished copy of The Evil Within. It’s a much weaker game in comparison, yet knowing that I’ve yet to beat it made it more appealing to my mind.
It seems that many of the team share my predicament when it comes to actively replaying video games. In short, we often find ourselves strapped for time. Aside from Bubble Bobble, Tuffcub will only go back to certain games if they’ve been remastered on newer systems, like the recent Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls remasters.
Providing an appropriate meme Dave only replays a select number of personal favourites. These include classics such as Streets of Rage 2 and Gunstar Heroes, which he usually goes back to every year. Among them are slightly longer games from his childhood including Final Fantasy VII and a suite of Mario games.
Nostalgia has had a similar impact on Kris. For him, the Sonic franchise is entrenched firmly within his heart, older Sonic titles making a regular appearance. Local multiplayer titles also seem to find their way back off the shelf, especially the Mario Kart series and Soul Calibur II.
In recent memory, the only game Aran has gone back to is Journey when it launched on PlayStation 4. Like many of us, he uses his own spare time carefully, seeking out new experiences instead of simply digging up old ones.
How about you, dear reader? Tell us if you’re the kind of player who will play through a game several times in a row, hunting for every last collectable, or if you’ll only revisit something truly special from your childhood?