The games we hate to love

Yes, we know they’re bad. Yes, we know they’re ridiculous. No, we can’t stop playing them anyway

Ah, PlanetSide, my favorite game of all time, and red-headed stepchild of MMOs and FPSes everywhere. Hmm, perhaps I love it due to my own ginger persuasion? You’d think so, considering the disdain or simple “Planet-what?” most FPS gamers lay on the baddest-ass online shooter in history.

Imagine you’d discovered the most amazing FPS ever, but you couldn’t convince any of your friends to embrace it? PlanetSide is an unwieldy beast: huge computer spec demands, dated graphics, a confusing and unforgiving learning curve and worlds so big it sometimes takes a while to get to the fight. Oh, and it costs 15 bucks a month.


Above: The scene from my room on any given night for the past
SIX YEARS

I’ve tried to get friends to play with me, but impatience for immediate action and severe reluctance to pay for a shooter ended almost every attempt I made (shout out to Darkemans, the one friend who saw the light). So why have I paid $15 a month for six years (holy God, do the math) to play an FPS? How about a persistent world so huge that a single continent dwarfs just about any FPS map you’ve ever played? How about the ability to have 400 players all fighting on one map? Let that sink in. Four. Hundred. Makes your 32 man Deathmatch reassess the size of its balls.

On cold, lonely nights, I sometimes weep tears of splash damage at the thought of all those FPS gamers out there that never gave my beloved PSide a chance. Oh, it’s not perfect - there is plenty to complain about, and that’s why it’s my favorite game ever, not the best game ever.

Since Sony Online Entertainment practically never advertised the game, the players created their own “ads” such as this one from long-time PSider Radant:

Above: Bask in the awesomeness. Makes you wish you’d played it sooner, yes? Ignore the 2003 graphics

Still not convinced? Here’s what you can do in the game: wield mega shotguns, laser-bazookas and camera-guided missiles; fly fighter jets, invisible transport ships and barn-sized gunships; wear power-armor with jump-jets or shields; drive or gun tanks, buggies, hovercraft and mechs; command platoons of up to 30 troops; become an invisible saboteur/assassin; perform orbital drops, giant EMP blasts and call down satellite lasers that can fry 50 enemies at once; and participate in the biggest, most chaotic, most jaw-dislocatingly awesome battles you will ever see in an FPS.

If you’re ever in game, give me a holler. I go by WorldofForms (Vanu Sovereignty), UndeadDeer (New Conglomerate) and ShimmeringSoul (Terran Republic).

The SmackDown series isn't terrible. On the contrary, THQ’s wrestling franchise rivals EA Sports entries in depth, playability and customization. You are presented with almost too many options in the most recent 2009 entry - you could get lost for hours in any number of modes the game throws at you. So I and everyone I know should absolutely adore the series, correct?


Above: Not dumb

See, I do... but it’s wrestling, man. I’ve grown up knowing sports entertainment was fake and it’s more than a little embarrassing to openly admit to being a fan. The game is a simulation of a simulation, if you can even call it that. It’s like playing a Cirque du Soleil game. Both share the lack of clothing, the penchant for pyrotechnics and the same homoerotic connotations.


Above: Theatricality!

And every year I lap it up like it’s my Madden, but without “coach’s challenges” or “salary caps” to worry about. I only get disqualified if I hit a guy with a chair when the ref isn’t looking. I can also throw him through a flaming table or drop him off a ladder. I can make a wrestler in blackface if I wanted (I would never, though) and have him wear a unitard with the American flag on it. Doesn’t that sound awesome? NO! It sounds incredibly ridiculous and I love it for that.

True Crime offered more genius touches too. The dojos, for example, improve fighting skills like in San Andreas. A karma meter indicates your good cop/bad cop status, which isn’t unlike the morale decisions in GTA IV. True Crime was a trailblazer, even if by default of release dates.

For me, True Crime: Streets of LA provided the perfect stop-gap between Vice City and San Andreas. I was just as surprised as you are reading this that it then went on to have a special place in my heart. It’s just a shame that the sequel was the buggiest game I’ve ever played. But at least the original got it right, regardless of what you might be thinking.

Game makers like to think that if you take two good concepts and smash them together, you'll make twice as much money. Reality has proven time and again that when you take two good games and smash them together - say, Grand Theft Auto and Twisted Metal - you more often get crap. And one such piece of crap is Roadkill.

As Mason Strong, a guy driving an El Camino with a machine gun in the back, you roll up in the town of Lava Falls, your first stop in the "massive living world of Hell County." The opening cinema shows a hooker in a corset and high heels (and not much else) spewing vulgarity; that should give you a pretty good idea of what's to come. Just add a ton of bullets and blood and you've got your next 10 hours of gameplay.


Above: You get out on the road, and you kill. Hence, Roadkill. Questions?

Mind you, the game does deliver on its promise: it's a big open environment with GTA-style missions and lots of car combat like Twisted Metal. It also delivers majorly cheesy accents in the voice acting, and a weird selection of music (on selectable radio stations, natch) from third-rate rock bands and hip-hop guys you've never heard of.

Maybe the choices were supposed to be ironic, but dammit, it's fun to run over pedestrians to the strains of "Don't Fear The Reaper" - especially when those pedestrians then cling to your bumper, thanks to rudimentary ragdoll physics. It's a morbid, B-grade slasher film that gets off on its own irreverence, and honestly, it's hard for me not to get sucked in. The developers really committed to the concept of being completely splattery and unabashedly unoriginal.



History has already forgotten Roadkill, despite its best efforts to be super shocking and burn itself into the annals of history. (It got close... just remove one of the Ns.) If it weren't for the intentionally over-the-top language and violence, the game would not even be a footnote. Ultimately, there were a lot of games that ripped off GTA, from its style to its violence to its structure... and this was one of them.

Mar 26, 2009

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