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Games are a medium of iteration, not revolution. We just have to accept that. That's why the people who make them are called game developers, not game pioneers or game wizards. Solid design is a case of building upon what went before and improving it with new ideas and new tech. That's what sequels are for. Sometimes though, no-one rememers that.
Either a sequel doesn't change enough, or the changes it makes are misguided enough to detract as much as they add. Those are the sort of games we're talking about here, so read on and point your most accusing fingers as we name and shame.
Attempted improvements: Insta-kill Critical Finishers, Star Wars characters, Ivy’s ever-more traumatised spine
But it’s on this list because: Soul Calibur IV was a case of prettier, bigger, shiner, and very little else. By part IV, Soul Calibur’s slick, accessible torso-filleting was pretty much perfected, but rather than overhauling things in any significant way for the next generation, Namco took the safe option and just HD-ed the crap out of it.
The combat was the same, augmented only by a breakable armour system and some massive finishing moves, and in practice they didn’t really change anything at all. The window of opportunity and circumstances necessary to trigger the finishers meant that they rarely ever became a practical factor in fights, and while we’d be cynical to say that the breakable armour was really only there so that you could strip the female fighters mid bout, we are cynical, and the breakable armour was really only there so that you could strip the female fighters mid-bout.
But even worse was what Soul Calibur IV gimped from previous iterations. Soul Calibur III’s character creation mode returned, but with considerably less options in terms of weapon disciplines. And more upsettingly, the traditional story mode (the absolute meat of SC II and III’s single-player component) was replaced with the dull-as-matt-finished-gravel Tower of Lost Souls. Which basically consisted of fighting a load of increasingly hard dudes over a very long period of time.
Also, Yoda was in it. Why the f*ck was Yoda in it?
Attempted improvements: Bigger scale, a move to America, expanded multiplayer
But it’s still on this list because: Those bullet points unfortunately skirted around most of the original Resistance’s main problems. While Resistance 2 had some genuinely impressive – and huge – set-pieces, its core shooting just wasn’t inspired enough to stand up to the greatly-improved competition. It wasn’t as tight as Call of Duty 4, wasn’t as tactical as Gears of War, and lacked the AI of Halo 3.
The fact is that for all of the spectacle, Insomiac’s core combat model still wasn’t sophisticated or satisfying enough. And ironically, one of the moves intended to make up for that – the move from the small towns and historic cities of England to the skyscrapers of the USA – succeeded mainly in robbing the series of its unique personality.
Resistance 2’s stronger multiplayer showing certainly helped, with the 60-player, objective-based games and eight-player co-op filling out the press release quite impressively, but sadly, all of the effort put into them seemed to have detracted heavily from any much-needed improvements in Resistance’s core gameplay. And at the end of the day, that’s the stuff that really matters.