Last week I went over the five features that I think every game should have. You can see it over there, at the top of the Most Popular bar (take that, Miklos) *brushes shoulders off*.
This week I’m doing the Ying to that Yang with five “features” that every developer needs to cast aside immediately, locked away in the Jumanji box forever. With that obscure reference out of the way, let’s get to the list.
Incongruent, Nonsensical Gameplay Sections
I’m not sure if any of you know what I’m talking about here, but this is really something I hate.
You’re playing a game, happily shooting faces or driving off cliffs or whatever, and then suddenly you’re playing pinball. Or tower defense. Or solving a slider puzzle.
I don’t like slider puzzles. They make me feel stupid. I’m a 27-year old man and last year I was stumped by a form board designed for 7-year old children. I don’t like to be reminded of that day. I like to shoot Nazis in the face and try and forget that I have the visuo-spatial awareness of Schrodinger’s cat.
If I’m playing an FPS, it’s because I want the experience of playing an FPS. I certainly don’t want to suddenly be thrust into managing an army in an RTS mini-game or playing a weird form of Tetris.
The two worst offenders that come to mind is that mind-numbingly dreary section of Mass Effect 2 where you have to scan planets for resources and that time Assassin’s Creed: Revelations turns into tower defense for a while.
It’s usually executed poorly, it makes little to no sense and it isn’t even what you signed up for in the first place.
It’s pretty much like deciding to go drunken go-karting only to find yourself on a jumping castle mid-lap. Except with less vomit and terrified children.
Pandering To The Lesser Mortals (like me)
I admitted a few columns back that I’m getting old, and have started playing games on much easier difficulties because, you know, old man.
That being said, I hate how easy games have actually gotten. Difficulty levels are okay, but they’re also kind of lazy. They mostly just make enemies stronger/faster/more accurate/shoot fireballs and increase the number, or other such minor tweaks.
But the core gameplay itself is just… easier. There’s a three hour tutorial with little popup windows everywhere, like every piece of furniture in the room has become sentient and had a great idea.
There are puzzles occasionally, but they generally only really demand the level of intellect required to operate a toilet. Everybody is Wolverine; with a 5 second breather behind a tree required for every 100 bullets you take to the crotch.
All because grumpy assholes like me can’t be bothered to play a game that requires us to use more than one hand at a time.
“That Wizard Came From The Moon!”
Bad writing, bad voice acting, bad dialogue, bad story. Out with it. Not every game has to have a crackling narrative driving the gameplay, but if you’re going to have something at least make it decent.
It’s one of the most overlooked things, and one of the most important. I cringe every time I play a Call of Duty title and there’s some muscled black dude cracking jokes and saying “Aw, hell no!” while carrying around his boom box.
Horrific gender/race stereotypes are bad enough, but then you have the cookie-cutter tough guy dialogue which makes things even worse. Nobody actually says, “You’re going to pay for this!”
Unless you happened to drop a snowglobe at Cardies.
I recently went on a bit of a spending rampage during the GOG.com sale, but honestly it’s hard to realise how much cash you’re blowing when it’s in R15 increments. Nostalgia got the better of me and I now have an entire library of games that were made before Miley Cyrus was out of diapers.
“How does this link to underwater gameplay?” you may be asking yourself. “Tenuously, at best,” I might answer.
I was playing Carmageddon 2, having a grand old time running down bobble-headed pedestrians and a large species of elk, when I made the horrific error of T-boning some hapless motorist into the sea.
And that is the exact moment the fun ended. The physics made no sense, it was annoying as hell and essentially impossible have anything approaching fun.
This is true of literally every underwater level ever made; they’re all about as pleasant as bodysurfing broken glass and are there purely as a scheme to sell more controllers. On average, 257 349 controllers are broken per water level per 2 million copies sold .
These other things are mostly annoyances, but dodgy controls repulse me more than a semi-cooked potato.
When you’re on your third attempt of what should be a really easy jump, but there’s a two-second delay in the button press and the camera is facing the wrong way, falling to your death becomes something you contemplate re-enacting in real life.
The worst offenders are third-person titles usually, but a platformer with bad controls is like driving a car with the pedals switched around.
Or watching a movie where every actor is replaced with Sarah Jessica Parker.