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Amazing game innovations you never even noticed

Fable II is all sorts of incredible. There's plenty to astound and amaze, but there's one easy-to-overlook feature that has really impressed us. The dog. He's loveable, he's faithful and, if you treat him right, he's useful too. But if Peter Molyneux hadn't done such a fine job highlighting the brilliance of Fable II's pooch, would we even have noticed?

And that got us thinking. What other features haven’t been praised enough or were hastily glanced over in favour of more obvious innovations? And so, in the spirit of Peter and his wonder dog, here are a fine selection of recent features that haven't been given the credit they deserve.

Game: Braid
Innovation: The timer
Braid is an outstanding world. Well, seven outstanding worlds to be precise. The puzzles, the art and the music are all exceptional pieces of work, and have been recognised as such. It's not what impressed us most, however. Instead, our eyes were drawn to a seemingly inconsequential feature which highlights the work involved in undertaking a project such as Braid: a timer.

 

Let's explain. In its simplest form, Braid's all about rewinding time - and hence your actions - to solve puzzles. In-game items which sparkle green obey a different set of rules, and aren't affected by your time manipulation skills.

Absolutely everything in Braid's worlds adheres to this law. That the speedrun timer - a feature which many gamers won't ever see and an 'item' which has every reason to be classed as a separate entity from the rest of the game - also stays true to Braid's rules is a breathtakingly anal detail most developers wouldn't even consider, and it's a degree of robustness other games should strive to emulate.

Game: Alone In The Dark
Innovation: DVD Menu
So Alone In The Dark had its fair share of problems. So much so, in fact, that in the end Eden's masterpiece came precariously close to becoming a disasterpiece. But tucked away in AITD was one of the year's most exciting features - and no, we're not talking about the messy inventory system or the propagating fire. It was, of course, the level select menu which allowed you to play the game as you wanted - even to the extent of skipping entire chapters.

Truth time: it made our job of going back through the game to take pictures for reviews and guides much bloody easier than usual, but that's only the start of it. For most people it's a feature that rarely came into play; after all there's little point in skipping ahead and missing chunks of the game you've paid to play.

What the DVD-style menu should be praised for is its charity. It allowed those who were stuck - either due to their own inadequacies or one of the game's many - to jump ahead and cut out plenty of frustration. It even gave people a chance to replay favourite sections without revisiting other areas or even needing a library of different save files to load from, and it was a Godsend for people wanting to mop up missing Achievements with the greatest of ease.  Games aren't cheap, so the ability to play them on our terms is one that's always welcome.

Game: Metal Gear Solid 4
Innovation: Podcast

The Metal Gear Solid series is no stranger to breaking down the fourth wall, but it took things to a new level with Metal Gear Solid 4. The in-game podcast is the ultimate acceptance of the game's medium, especially as Snake himself will grow less tense just by listening to it.

We've seen similar things before, albeit in the guise of developer walk-throughs. Both Half-Life 2 and Portal feature developer commentaries, and the extra features keep on piling up. Konami has taken the idea to the extreme with the integral podcast, which is reality within an alternative reality, but if EA go ahead with plans to cram Blu-ray discs with extra game media when there's space available it won't be long before they come up with even more outlandish ideas to push the boundaries.

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25 comments

  • Beaver - November 15, 2008 2:27 a.m.

    i agree with sumthinsacred
  • pdiddy0819 - November 10, 2008 1:53 p.m.

    this game looks awesome...and i will be able to get if for free just for filling out surveys at-http://www.rewards1.com/index.php?referrer_id=448414
  • Tomsta666 - November 10, 2008 9:36 a.m.

    I noticed the Tomb Raider grime thing. At first I thought the poor old girl had picked up a nasty rash
  • AMayer - November 8, 2008 2:47 p.m.

    I'd like to add that in Gears 2 in the section that has to with, um, chainsawing large artiries in half, the crew get visibly dirty with blood. So, ya.
  • lucklesswonder - November 8, 2008 5:57 a.m.

    For a minute I thought the arrow was pointing at Lara's ass. Or maybe I was just looking at her ass. There's probably a subtle distinction, there.
  • EvilZeus - November 8, 2008 12:56 a.m.

    I like the idea of the podcast, and i agree with Webswinger, Deadgirls sounds like a person who cares waaaaaay too much about the wrong things. As for the grime on lara croft, it's something i would probably have assumed was there from the beginning if i had played that game, but kudos (cudos, kutos???) to GR for noticing it. The End.
  • GoldenMe - November 7, 2008 11:53 p.m.

    Agreed with WebSwinger.......about the stick.
  • TheWebSwinger - November 7, 2008 11:09 p.m.

    @Deadgirls: take the stick out of your ass, please. Many games have been awful and not included the DVD menu. I for one praise it. And as for the MGS4 podcast, I think it's amazing. Watching Snake listen to a podcast about the game he's in from from the real world makes my head asplode.
  • georgeguy - November 7, 2008 9:15 p.m.

    never thought of these...
  • DeadGirls - November 7, 2008 8:07 p.m.

    I am not impressed at all with this article. The dvd feature in Alone in the Dark was an innovation? It was a necessity because the game was so bad that most of it needed to be skipped. The ipod in MGS4? A shameless in-game advertisement brought to you by the Apple Co. bastards. In fact the term "Podcast" is bullshit, you don't need an iPod to download and listen to an mp3.
  • GIJoe01 - November 7, 2008 3:15 p.m.

    dirty?
  • curtw_819 - November 7, 2008 3:05 p.m.

    wow that i never thought of these things as being innovative(the grim is cool)
  • CAPST3R - November 14, 2008 1:33 p.m.

    mgs4 is 99.9% perfect. just needs the mk2/3 to be able to fire stun darts.
  • SumthinSacred - November 9, 2008 8:27 p.m.

    Hmm... that's a nice behind pic of lara... I mean a nice pic from behind lara... =]. Personally i was looking at her legs, and her butt.
  • berryween - November 9, 2008 4:16 p.m.

    Sorry about the double comment
  • berryween - November 9, 2008 4:15 p.m.

    I agree with thewebswinger, Deadgirls may need surgery to remove that stick. I have never played MGS4 but the other MGS's have similar moments and I believe they are a great way to ease the serious tone.
  • berryween - November 9, 2008 4:15 p.m.

    I agree with thewebswinger, Deadgirls may need surgery to remove that stick. I have never played MGS4 but the other MGS's have similar moments and I believe they are a great way to ease the serious tone.
  • Marioninja1 - November 9, 2008 12:10 a.m.

    I agree with AMayer (except I have a small grudge with a glitch, that damn cave in Acsension took about an HOUR to get where I had to!(never the less, GOW 2 is still amazing and one of my Favorite games so far, but Fallout 3's tied with GOW 2 though)
  • AMayer - November 8, 2008 2:46 p.m.

    I'd like to add that in Gears 2 in the section that has to with, um, chainsawing large artiries in half, the crew get visibly dirty with blood. So, ya.
  • bron1417 - November 7, 2008 8:49 p.m.

    player DNA=win

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