Yes, I like an eclectic game. Sure, I appreciate a beautiful atmosphere as much as the next guy. And no, I wouldn’t like my head tested. I just don’t like the holier-than-thou Ico on PS2.
Of course, part of the reason I don’t love Ico is fans insisting that I’m wrong, or don’t get it. Quiet down, children, I do get it. I just don’t like it and don’t want to join your cult. I’m not going to pretend I’ve played it for more than a few hours, either. I haven’t. I have, however, seen enough to know that it’s a lot like dragging a surly child through a particulalrly treacherous shopping centre.
Although I can appreciate the unique experience Ico provides, my idea of immersion happens to stretch further than solving puzzles and beating smoke with a stick. And while, at times, I can be an emotional robot, I definitely have enough RAM to compute a lovely storyline when I see one. Dragon Quest VIII’s plot, for example, almost made me cry like a baby. The horned-boy and his ghostly companion’s plight, meanwhile, is lost on me.
Want more fuel for your hatred toward me? I don’t think Shadow of the Colossus is all that either. There - I said it.
Boring. Full-of-itself. Distilled snobbery. Tedious, frustrating and filled with laughably emo prose.
That’s how I feel about Braid, a game I excitedly bought and downloaded the very first day of release. I have made three separate attempts over the last seven months to give the game a fair shake, but its pretention and obliquely maddening puzzles turned me off every time. I realized I was forcing myself to like something just because everyone else loved it.
That’s the biggest problem with Braid: you're not allowed to hate it. I think many gamers and journalists honestly love this game, but I also believe that many jumped on a "games as art" bandwagon. Add to that all the press Braid’s creator, Jonathan Blow, got as the poor little auteur making it all by himself and, suddenly, you look like a cruel monster for criticizing it.
Above: So much meaning...
Braid may have fooled the world into liking it, but the avalanche of praise stops here. Not because I'm not getting the dense meanings of it - oh, the guy lost a girl, but in reality he is chasing this girl in reverse, accidentally making himself the hero and the villain of his own game! And oh, isn’t the stage layout just so chic with the Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. references!
Blargh. I may be glad that this game exists more than, say, a new Army Men title, but it needs to get over itself big time.
GTA: San Andreas hit gamers like a rush of crack to the brainstem. It was universally loved for being the biggest, most open-endedest game world ever created. Its narcotic potency somehow managed to veil millions of delirious fans from the fact that the game looked like crap, had awful controls, and was so full of pointless side-missions that it was choking on its own grandeur. One thing is clear: there is no end to Wonder Bread suburbanites who want to experience urban America at a safely mediated distance.
People loved San Andreas because it introduced scads of new gameplay ideas, like forcing you to take your character to the gym to buff up. Herein lies a major irritant: why waste time improving the "strength" of some clunky virtual being, when you could be at the gym learning to kick two-by-fours in half? Games should transport the player to another place, not serve as a nagging reminder of the neglected real world. It creates a cycle of self-loathing and recrimination in people who are interested in life beyond the couch. Better go work off those jumbo dogs, Dogg. Now that's realism.
Above: San Andreas can be summed up in one word: "excess"
So let's all take a moment to thank GTA: San Andreas for putting the Mature in immature, giving every maladjusted teen shooter a ready-made excuse for their actions and for reinforcing (or reinventing) negative stereotypes in the mainstream press. We'll fight to the end to defend your right to fantasize about running over hookers in purloined vehicles; we just wonder why anyone thinks that's fun.
Why is Gran Turismo praised for being the most boring racing game on the planet? This mega-delayed, stuffy PS2 driving sim is so concerned with realism, it forgets to be enjoyable.
Having a zillion cars is nice, but who needs the low-end jalopies? We play games to get away from reality, not to be reminded of it. Sure, it's technologically impressive that the piece o' crap Corolla you're stuck with in the game handles just like the piece o' crap Corolla in your driveway, but it's not pleasurable.
Above: So realistic, you can almost see the reflection of each driver yawning in nearby cars' indestructible side panels...
Apparently, the much-touted incredible depth of simulation does not extend to actually touching anything. Your car may drive like it would in the real world, but your personal force field breaks the racing entirely, enabling you to consistently ricochet off other cars on tight corners instead of slowing down. The game finally makes a concession to gameplay over simulation, and it undermines the entire rest of the game. Whoops.
And for what reason? That whole "you can't damage licensed cars" excuse is bullcrap, as games such as GT-killer Forza Motorsport have proven. Sure, many other racing games don't show damage, but they're arcade racers, not simulations. Which apparently means they have a better sense of speed, more gameplay options and online modes, while GT4 has... photo mode? That's a fair trade.
Now, let’s talk about the PSP version, Gran Turismo 4 Mobile … aaaaand … we’re done.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, you can slag on the old games, but you’re living in the past! This is the PS3 era! Gran Turismo 5 is going to fix everything!” And judging from the demo, you may be right – but that’s assuming the full game ever actually comes out. While franchises like Burnout, Midnight Club, Dirt, Race Pro, Pure - I could go on, but you get the point - are busy cramming ever-fresher and exciting forms of fun into the on-track racing, the Gran Turismo 5 dev team is busy delaying the release date (we’re hearing 2010 now), and adding in-game MySpace pages and the ability to watch TV.
Above: Gran Turismo 5: coming in
2007 2008 2009 Screw it, we don’t know - hey, wanna watch Top Gear?
Meanwhile, we have yet to see the destructible vehicles we were promised, so you can still bounce off other cars. How is that realism? Yes, the cars in Gran Turismo 5 are pretty (the backgrounds? Not so much). But at this point, it’s so far overdue they should just cancel the PS3 verison and start retooling the game as a launch title for PlayStation 5.
Mar 25, 2009
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