Thursday, May 26, 2005

Color Me Unimpressed

I've been perusing
the copious amounts of E3 content over at Gamespot, because apparently I have no life nor a desire for one.

It would be wholly inaccurate to say that the games previewed were lackluster, simply because luster seems to be pretty much the only thing they possessed. "Pretty . . . graphics . . . " were the only words the monsters could muster.

Which is my backhanded way of saying the descriptions were dull and uninteresting, with no fascinating stories or compelling play mechanics to be seen.

I wanted to do a game-by-game breakdown, showing how unbelievably stale the forthcoming games sounded. But after reading about thirty previews with nary an original thought in sight, I decided to just recap what I retained as the relevant phrases.

Multiplayer capability! Multiplayer with vehicles! Multiplayer with different types of weapons and characters! Destructible environments! Breakable statues! Detailed bullet decals! Realistic damage! Weapons! Shooting things! Jumping! The same action sequences you've seen a million times! Characters with no depth! No moral ambiguity whatsoever! Everything you've done over and over again with very little discernible difference other than the slightly-improved eye candy!

One exception that I noted (there may be more, sure): Shadow of the Colossus (though I think they should've kept it as Wanda and the Colossus - I guess that title wasn't 'edgy' enough).

Nowhere in all the hoopla could I find anything but the vaguest reference to story or drama or emotions or tickling anything but the sex/violence button. That and a spate of barely-justified sequels.

And the shitty thing, the really shitty thing is: I'm gonna end up playing a lot of those games, and I'm going to enjoy them. Really enjoy them.

I know I'm going to like Starcraft: Ghost. And the next Civilization. And whatever Nintendo's got cooked up. Plus a bunch of RPGs.

Actually, you know, I'm probably going to end up liking everything but Prey.

My name's John, and I'm an addict.


Anonymous said...

Well to some extent we can try to blame big corporate america for what you're lamenting. Games cost a F&%#-TON of cash to produce especially with all those graphical whistle and bells that people clamor for (and even the best of us miss if they aren't there). The risk of being really outside the box is that you'll lose all that money and then go out of business. So really the companies that have the cash to be innovative are the ones that have survived by not taking risks. So then if you look at the old innovative community it was the mod community. Perhaps it's just me but the mod community isn't nearly as strong as it once was and I suspect it's because the tools necessary to mod our graphical wonders are getting more complex. I remember when a decent understanding of geometry allowed a player to create his own doom levels after an hour or so of learning an interface. I also blame the rise in console development and use among older players as it is very very unfriendly to the mod community. If you want innovation look to smaller companies with big ideas. Oh yeah and Shadow of the Colossus is just an artistic looking version of a zelda type game. People fawn over it because nobody played ICO yet it's considered a "sleeper" classic.

n0wak said...

Three words and a number: Okami, Metronome, Killer 7.

Though, granted, the last one IS all about violence, so maybe not so much that.

So replace the last one with Dreamfall.

Deacon said...

I'd agree that the mod community is becoming more difficult to break into - you basically have to be an indie developer more than a hobbyist.

And actually, I did play ICO, and it was pretty remarkable for what it did, which was present an almost silent-movie type of narrative but still evoked emotions -- every battle felt tense, I remember feeling wonder and awe in certain places. And the level design made you really focus on looking around, without ever really being impossible to find your way forward.

Shadow of the Colossus doesn't quite give off a Zelda feel to me. It feels different because they are sticking to a theme (some may call it a gimmick) that requires a player to think perpendicular to most games, which typically require hordes of enemies to be dispatched. By having fewer yet larger enemies, the enemies effectively become part of the environment to be surmounted, and puzzles to be solved AS WELL AS enemies to be defeated.

But I guess it's probably nothing new, either. I just like the tack the company takes - ICO created compelling narrative (for me, at least) from almost nothing, which is more than a lot of games do with cutscenes and full voice-acting.

I specifically pointed out that game because none of the reviews I've read really talk much about any special graphical flair they have, other than a specific artistic style (which is very different from saying 'whee, reflective surfaces!') and the feel they want for the gameplay, how it integrates into a unified experience. In other words, stuff I like to know.