Mega games get mega reviews in a megaly disordered fashion.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Continue? 10...9...8.....

Remember that? Remember when you used to go "Oh man, I hope I got enough points for a continue otherwise I am fuuuuuuucked!". Remember when the weight of a dozen enemies or a giant mecha-boss would bear down upon you and you'd go: "Pah! I have a continue! Trollololololol!". Or the "I...I did it. I finally defeated Robotnik! What year is it?!" This is about that.

There was a time before downloads, before CDs, before memory cards when all you would need to play a game was the console, a cartridge, a D-Pad and two or three buttons. And it had the hardest fucking games in the world. Seriously: take any five of your favourite childhood games and think about how many of them you actually completed. Hell, I know I never completed Batman Returns/Mercs/Toejam and Earl/James Pond (without cheats, anyway). The only one of the five that I did was Sonic, and only because I played it hundreds of times. And that's my other point: how many times did you play a game that you got for the Mega Drive or SNES? Each of those times you weren't bored with it, either. You just perfected each level until you got closer and closer to beating the last boss. Take that through to nowadays and count how many games you haven't completed. Not through boredom, or because you put the controller down, but just through sheer difficulty. I can only think of one: Dark Souls. This isn't a review of that game, but I will say that it's worth a look in: genuinely challenging, not because the enemies have a bajillion HP but because it requires hard work, finesse and preparation. Fuck, I know it's joining the "never completed, badass, oldy" game group for me.

But here's the problem: each game you pick up nowadays is designed for you to complete it. There's no: "have you beaten the last boss?", just "have you beaten the last boss YET?" and it's caused the whole gaming experience to change. If you start a game knowing you will finish it then the challenge is partially gone. You are essentially just playing an (incredibly) interactive film and it's caused the game designers to have to make games more interesting or better designed to accommodate that. If you compare retro games with modern games,then modern games have incredibly deep stories and excellent cut scenes that you can immerse yourself into so that you get more satisfaction from playing the entirety of the game. Retro games had none of that. Take Sonic vs Mass Effect: Sonic 1 has zero storyline, it's purely just "run forwards, hit Dr Robotnik/Eggman til he flies away". That's it. But managing that was hard, and each time you beat Robotnik you gave yourself satisfaction with no need for the game to do it for you or for a super cutscene to appear and make you go "shit, that's cool, I want to carry on".

I'm not saying that modern games are bad or easy though, just that it's a completely different experience nowadays, and that's probably why a lot of gamers are disappointed with modern games. If you take away the joy of finishing a game being special then you've taken away a core mechanic of games that needs to be replaced. Bioware has this down good with their personal, tailored, choice based story systems, but apart from that most other games have got achievements and trophies. A lot of reviews ignore these when reviewing the game, but they can make or break some game experiences. All your achievements are logged, so proudly displaying the fact that you completed Dead Space 2 on hardcore (3 saves, no checkpoints, minimal items) setting is something to be genuinely proud of and is an excellent replacement for the old "I won!" purely personal achievements. Where most games go wrong, though, is that the majority of achievement points are given to you on completing various chapters of most games. That's not an achievement, that's just playing the game, just give one achievement for finishing it. But if achievements are done right they bridge the gap between the modern cinematic gaming experience and the butt-fuckingly hard and rewarding retro games scene and give you a rewarding (and challenging) gaming experience. Want to try  some? Go and try to finish off the achievements for Dead Space 2, Super Meatboy, or Portal 2. It will be hard, but fuck: you will feel like an absolute fucking boss if you manage them.

Just saying.

Also, buy Dark Souls. Then sit there and cry while you try to kill the bosses. No amount of grinding will help you here. Dark Souls is to Skyrim what childbirth is to a hug. 

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