These games are not what you think they are

Why Sonic's not a platformer and Final Fantasy isn't an RPG at all

Far Cry 2

Perceived genre: FPS

Actual genre: Open-world Stealth

"Wah! We get attacked all the time". "Wah! The enemies are too aggressive." "Wah! We hate all the wilderness driving and we hate getting mobbed when we arrive at a mission". So say the Far Cry 2 haters, but they can just bugger right off, because they've missed the point of the game by a full 180. Far Cry 2 is no gung-ho action shooter, regardless of the Boys' Own adventure setting and proliferation of explosives. Instead, it's a stealthy survival game, where meticulous planning, a sedate pace, and intelligent use of the environment are key.

Rush into a camp and you'll get wasted. Drive too close to a camp and your engine noise will get you wasted. Leave your headlights on at night and you'll get spotted. And wasted.

But spend ten minutes crouching in the tall grass, scouting out the terrain of said camp, and you'll make a good start. Explore every nook of the surrounding mountains for hidden routes, sniping spots and hidey holes, and you'll be onto a winner. Move conscientiously, use quiet weapons - or none at all - and take an evasive yet predatory approach to combat and you'll dominate. Because it's not CoD. It's an open-world Splinter Cell in first-person. You can just blow up a lot of crap too, if you want to.

P.N. 03

Perceived genre: 3rd-person Shooter

Actual genre: Old-school Shmup

As part of Capcom's much-fabled exclusive Gamecube line-up, all eyes were on P.N. 03 when it arrived. Unfortunately, most eyes quickly looked away again, accompanied by a sickened utterance of "Grurk!" from their respective mouths, and a little bit of vomit. Which is a damn shame, because while the game is severely stiff and tricky to play when compared to something like The Club or Resi 4, it actually works pretty damn well as an old-school arcade shooter. Imagine a hardcore 2D shmup with the camera pulled down behind the ship instead of above it and you'll be getting the idea.

People criticised P.N. 03 for its rigid movement, repetetive action and protagonist Vanessa's lack of versatility, but while all of those criticisms are valid when discussing traditional third-person action games, in a shmup they're genre staples. Vanessa can't run and shoot at the same time, but between her strafing cartwheels, high, bullet-evading jumps and Resi-style 180 spin, she's got all the tools she needs.

Enemies spawn in with rigid predictability, but that's the point. This isn't about emergent improvisation. It's about learning enemy positions and fire-patterns in order to concoct a precision response. It's about fast, practiced execution and time-sensitive combo multipliers. It's about rattling through previously impossible levels on a calculated score attack, blasting away rhythmically while techno pulses in your ears. Basically, it's a shmup, and while it fails out of context, it's pretty damn fun when played with your Radiant Silvergun head on.

Sonic Unleashed

Perceived genre: Platformer

Actual genre: Time Trial Racer

So, we were disappointed again. We half-knew we would be. Some of us all-the-way knew. But as abominable as Sonic Unleashed is when compared to the Mega Drive games we hoped it would ape, there is a way to get a little more enjoyment out of it with a change of perspective. We know that it seems to unhealthily feed into Sonic's current state of denial that he was ever in anything good, but you're just going to have to accept that it's not a platformer. At all.

Instead, play Sonic Unleashed as a time trial racer. God knows, between the on-rails speed emphasis, twitch navigation and QTE reaction tests it's much more that than it is a traditional Sonic game, regardless of occasional 2D camera angles. Accept that there's no satisfaction to be had in the old jumpy exploration department and concentrate on shaving seconds off your times by honing your racing line instead. We're not promising that it'll be amazing, but it'll be more enjoyable than driving yourself one step closer to suicide with comparisons to the good old days. Just ignore the Werehog sections entirely, eh?

Doom 3

Perceived genre: FPS

Actual genre: Survival Horror

Once the "ZOMG! IT LOOKS LIKE REAL ZOMBIES!" excitement wore off, it rapidly became fashionable to bash Doom 3 for it's cheap monster ambushes, lack of set-pieces and reliance on shadowy old-school corridor shooting. To that however, the Doom 3 apologists of Radar say merely "Pah!", probably while foppishly slapping someone in the face with a glove. Because while Doom 3 definitely falls short when compared to the narrative-driven pacing and variety of modern FPS, when played instead as a first-person survival horror, it's brilliant.

Play it on one of the harder difficulty settings - lights off, headphones on - and the claustrophobic interiors, well secreted closet monsters and slowness of your character make for a kicker of a tense experience. When played with the right mind-set, the lack of plot is more than made up for with isolation, uncertainty, darkness and the knowledge that you're outmanned and outgunned by some of the foulest monsters ever to drool the blood of the innocent.

In fact, it's integral to the experience. Yes, Doom 3 has nothing like All Ghillied Up or Highway 17, but if it did it would lose what it does do well. Which is to put you in a near constant state of cardiac arrest and cause you to look over your shoulder for the rest of the day, probably to see a large pile of poop trailing behind you. Good work, Doom 3.

Bad decisions, bad timing and PR-mageddon


Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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