Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tony Hawk's Underground and variety for the sake of variety

I'll be the first to say that I fucking loved Tony Hawk's Underground when it first came out, and even now, I still think it's a pretty good game, but it introduced (or popularised or gave us the worst example of it - we don't exactly know everything there is to know) a thing in gaming that I've grown to despise, and that is variety for the sake of variety.

If you don't know what it means, basically, it's when a developer introduces an element of play just for the hell of it. See, people think that doing the same thing over and over again is a bad thing. It can be if the element is mediocre, but if it's good, then fucken hell, I want more! Don't tamper too much with a winning formula, or if you are going to tamper with it, make sure that you mean it! Don't just shove some platforms and call it a day, thinking that we're doing something different when it feels like it wasn't even there once we finish that segment and get back to killing shit with swords/guns or performing various tricks on skateboards.

To make THUG relevant to this post, I'll say this - platforming in a hack and slash game is alright if they do it right; platforming in a skateboarding game is so out of place that no matter how good they do it, it just won't feel right. I wouldn't know what the latter scenario would be like, because the platforming sucks ass in this game! Loose, slippery and fidgety controls plague it. It always feels like you're moving too fast to actually stay on track when walking along small (not just thin) platforms unless you move with the d-pad (but who wants to do that - this isn't the first Crash Bandicoot game where you HAD TO because there were no analogue sticks back then). Not to mention that the driving - again, nothing to do with skateboarding, just thrown in there because VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE AM I RIGHT GUYS - suffers from loose controls and equally loose physics that just wouldn't make any sense. There are arcade physics and there are just crap physics, and this is the latter.

Maybe one too many reviewers called certain games repetitive because they're looking for things to criticize, maybe developers actually do want to add more to a game instead of just making it a generic hack and slash - I get it. Because the market is saturated with games that are almost interchangable, the only logical step developers would've thought of is to just add outside elements. Sadly, "just add outside elements" is usually as far as they go, because more often than not, while the main element is usually up to snuff, the additional elements tend to feel tacked on or plain poorly implemented, and they're shrugging in disbelief because they don't know what we want. Well, I can't speak for gamers everywhere, so I'll just say that I want a game that's fucking fun to play through and has a kickass story and kickass ensemble of characters - in my eyes, a story and cast of characters can help make a game stand out more than some tacky attempt(s) at variety. Presenting a memorable tale with a memorable cast of characters is how your game will stand out and be remembered for years to come. THAT is better than any lame half assed attempt at innovation.

That doesn't mean that developers should stop trying to innovate; just that they should think of other ways to innovate than just adding tacky shit that nobody winds up really liking.... and please don't get me started with LA Noire, which is basically Phoenix Wright in a film noire setting (oh man so fucking innovate!!! - actually, the facial technology is, but Heavenly Sword's is better so... yeah).

Oh, and THUG is a skateboarding game. Shove the platforming and driving up your ass - oh wait you already did that. Good. Now make some good games again, instead of this gimmicky trash you're doing now with the aborted fetus that is the skateboard controller... I really hope they beat me to that suggestion.

No comments:

Post a Comment