Is it time video games regained their purity?

So many jacks, so many trades...

Ironically, Call of Duty's multiplayer does stick to that one thing – and look how successful that is. It simply gives you a brilliant shooting system and lets you have fun with it. Indeed, tinkering with it in Modern Warfare 2 has arguably over-complicated the game and made it less enduring.

But other games seem to want to give us everything. A sandbox world, RPG elements... Even a game that sets out to let you do likeJust Cause 2 feels it has to tack on a ropy story and disappointing delivery of missions. And ninjas. Unexplained ninjas. And then there's the stealth section that has to be in every game, because people love stealth. It was even in The Wind Waker. You can't say it made the game better.


Above: Isn't this cool enough? Let's add disappearing ninjas

And then there are racing games that all need to have hundreds of cars, hundreds of layers of decal edits and a whole array of driver aids to pacify people who want to hold accelerate all the time. If that's what they want to do, let them do it - they'll enjoy the crash animations that this generation offers. Sheesh.

So what's the obsession with variety? There just seems to be this fear in the industry at the moment of being too one-note. To use a musical comparison here, you can either have one instrument play all the notes at once and fail to deliver any kind of lasting melody, or you can just play an unforgettable power chord. If After Burner Climax were a sound, it would be the last note of a rock concert.


Above: After Burner Climax does one thing, turned up to 11

Thankfully, there are a few great examples of modern games that do one thing without appearing to be 'too retro'. Trials HD may feel like a bit of a curio alongside the more conventional games on XBLA with its devastatingly simple go/stop control system, but it had the entire GR office in a choke hold for weeks. Ragdoll bails and impressive lighting effects keep it contemporary, but the basic gameplay could have been achieved on a NES.

Geometry Wars and its sequel are universally acclaimed for their brilliance – but the whole game is based around a square, 2D grid. Super Stardust HD is similar, and while it has loads of game modes, they're all based around the basic idea of moving your ship around what amounts to a flat playing arena without getting blown up.


Above: Super Stardust HD is extremely underrated and often dismissed

Then there's Portal, which we declared theperfect videogame– that's built entirely around a single gaming mechanic. Did anyone complain about that?

Why don't we have more games like this? And why are all but one of the examples above consigned to XBLA and PSN? A great videogame is a great videogame, no matter how it's packaged. Gamers won't feel short-changed if the concept is good enough.

I want to see some full-price games that are so fantastically programmed, their longevity and appeal goes beyond the quantity of their parts.

23 Apr, 2010

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The longest-serving GR+ staffer, I was here when all this was just fields. I'm currently Reviews Editor but still find time to speedrun Sonic levels and make daft Photoshop articles.
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