Welcome to the Inconvenienced Blog. This is a Comedy and Gaming Culture Site all rolled into one. Alongside humorous articles, we'll also be be giving our thoughts on games, and the gaming industry as a whole.

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21 October 2007

Tragic Games

No, I'm not referring to games with a good plot that make you miss a character. I'm referring to those games that have one or two strong, very unique gameplay elements...but ultimately fail because the game is completely unpolished. They turn out buggy, with the mechanics badly used and just not fun. Here are a few examples.

1. Just Cause
Just Cause is a story about a Spaniard stuntman-turned-secret agent named Rico trying to overturn a regime somewhere in a group of islands. The game failed because it tried to be GTA, and didn't even get that far. The cars are impossible to drive, jungles make driving much more frustrating than cities (dodging every single tree is NOT FUN. Neither is driving on the main road) and it seems like the police are just ALWAYS after you.

What COULD have made the game almost a smash hit is the parachute. Rico has a re-usable parachute which you can stow and take out multiple times in one fall. Besides using it to fall great distances, you can use a grappling hook on cars, then use it to parasail above them. Also, after falling a long way, you can translate the momentum forward and travel quite a long distance by gliding with it.

Since Rico is a stuntman, you can also "jump" from your parachute to a vehicle, then shove out the driver and take it for yourself. Or, when being chased, you can jump out of your car and into the pursuer's.

But this is one of the points where the ideas fail. Wouldn't it be great to jump to their mounted turret, and take them out before jumping back to your car? There's also the tendency for all your crazy ideas to fail. I'd like it if the game were to encourage action-movie behavior by letting an abandoned car roll alongside another car without slowly veering away, or by taking out all those damn trees that result in so many chase-scene buzzkills.

2. Penumbra: Overture

Those without enough money to actually BUY a game may remember the free one called Penumbra. It was a horror puzzle game in which you didn't really get much that you would call a weapon. The physics system was even more refined than Half-Life 2, and you could interact with things beyond just grabbing and throwing them. Doors were opened by moving the mouse left to right. Levers were pulled by dragging the mouse back. Drawers were...you get the idea. It really helped the immersion factor.

What DIDN'T help immersion was having enemy animations with about 3 keyframes per attack. Some reviewers said the wolves in Overture just seemed to vaguely move upwards towards you for their 'leap'.

The problem is, you can only have a horror game if the player can die from their lack of reaction. So this essentially means there WILL be combat. But the interface is built in a way completely unsuited for killing anything. It seems about the equivalent of playing Postal by going to your inventory and using the command "Use Glock on Man" 27 times. (yes, that joke is sort of taken from Zero Punctuation)

This is especially disappointing because physics puzzles are even better than HL2 in a controlled environment. I was able to use a wooden board in Penumbra to make a ramp up to a vent, and I could imagine controlling something like a steering wheel. Fighting wolves though...let's not go back to Tomb Raider.

3. Far Cry

Far Cry wasn't exactly bad. It got about 90 scores on Metacritic, but every reviewer could see this one cliff in the game at which you just start falling. Far Cry was fantastic; besides being THE most updated graphical benchmark for DirectX 9 (and soon DirectX 10), Far Cry was a real thinking man's shooter.

Well, since this phrase is thrown around more than an asthmatic kid's inhaler in a game of Monkey in the Middle, I'll elaborate: It really pays off to look at a situation first. First time I played, I saw a beach full of enemies and assumed I should kill them. I proceeded to do so, and the game's mechanics certainly didn't discourage it. But next time, my binoculars found a little path on the opposite side of the cove...I drove my boat over and crept up it. I was able to tap the tower sniper on the shoulder before knocking his lights (and precious bodily fluids) out with a machete, then continued to sneak up on my objective without even being spotted by anyone. Since this objective was a jeep...the situation then evolved into an interesting car chase.

Far Cry is known for giving people entirely different situations through its wide open environments. But the problem is, this doesn't happen when you're indoors, and that's what much of the game consists of. While it's possible to use vents to get behind enemies, much of the game's tactical thinking gets lost about midway through. Beyond that is the fun-to-play qualities of your enemies that gets lost as you encounter mutant "Trigens" which use all the different attacks you'd expect a crazed monkey to use. Primarily...just leaping straight at you while absorbing all your bullets.

Even Crytek admits this is where they got lazy. They wanted their game out before the Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 fan-covered wonders. This becomes especially apparent in the game's "boss fight" which is essentially just 4 of the toughest bad guys in an open area where there's not much you can do except use noclip to get by, which is literally what I DID after about 5,000 tries at full health and decent ammo.

Crytek hopes to solve these problems in Crysis, although Ubisoft is also working on Far Cry 2. The games look equally impressive, with Far Cry 2 actually converting some Crysis fans. My computer can run Crysis in DirectX 10, so maybe someday I'll put up my review of it.

So that's everything I can think of. Comment on some other games that would've been great, but sucked.


drunkymonkey said...

Sin Episodes had the potential to be the first real commercial experiment in episodic gaming. To play, it was a fun, stylised and, dare I say it, old-school shooter, peppered with satisfying headshots and boobs.

The problem being that no one bought it, and Half Life 2 Episode 1 came out at around the same time. Relic are not making any more episodes, and while I did enjoy those few hours of sublime shooting, I can't help but think it was money unwisely spent.

Matthew said...

I totally agree with Far Cry. Such a waste. Here's hoping Crysis avoids the pitfalls.

I did enjoy the one time I played Just Cause, though...