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These games are not what you think they are

Some games can't be trusted. Labelled as a particular genre, sold as a particular genre, hell, maybe even be designed as a particular genre, they nevertheless refuse to do as they're told and instead play as something completely different in reality.

Sometimes it's a good thing, introducing players to genres they'd ordinarily never touch, hidden under the guise of something else. Sometimes it kills the game's chances dead, leading to its evaluation on the wrong terms entirely. And sometimes... Sometimes it's just plain old confusing. Read on, as we unmask the real games hiding underneath some of our favourite facades.


Bioshock

Perceived genre: FPS

Actual genre: RPG

If there's one criticism that keeps coming up amongst the Bioshock doubters, it's the fact that the shooting mechanics don't hold up against the likes of CoD and Half-Life. And they don't. In comparison, Bioshock's shooting is a clunky affair, lacking the immediacy of the former and the variety of the latter. But that's not the point. In fact that line of argument is like criticising the combat in a Zelda game for not being as sharp as that in Devil May Cry.

The thing is, as much as Bioshock was sold as a shooter, the shooting isn't its primary focus, just as combat tends not to be the focus of most action RPGs. Because it is an RPG. Now before you go comparing it unfavourably against the choice-driven likes of Fallout 3, consider the trappings of the more traditional Japanese RPG.

A linear story with only light explorative deviation allowed from the game's main "route". Character customisation, but only within the confines of attack, defense and a couple of abilities. Enemies and locked areas which react to progressively learned new attacks. Progressive levelling up. An emphasis on tone and narrative above all else. A mysterious male hero on a voyage of self-discovery? And speaking of which...


Final Fantasy

Perceived genre: RPG

Actual genre: Interactive movie

Just where is the role playing in the average Final Fantasy game, exactly? Yes, there's a story. Yes, there are engaging characters. Yes, there is weapon and armour customisation. But the actual playing of a role? Nope. Barely any.

What we have in Final Fantasy games are essentially interactive storybooks, wherin the narrative progresses completely independently from the player's input. You might have defeated that boss and saved that town, but everything that happens as a result is a pre-scripted scenario during which 'your' character becomes the possession of the developer once again, saying and doing only what they wish.

The player input lies only in reaching the next point at which the story is advanced, and never in actually advancing it first-hand. Random battles can neither be picked nor avoided. Character choice never comes into it. The tale is always epic, but it contains little more role-playing than pressing play on a DVD remote.


Resident Evil

Perceived genre: Survival Horror

Actual genre: Point and Click Adventure

Ah, Resi, the series which cemented the survival horror genre as the freshest new export of the 32-bit age. 3D zombie killing, tense scenarios, thick atmosphere, dripping, isolated fear... All good stuff, but all peripheral elements disguising the fact that the early Resident Evil games were actually just an extension of a much, much older genre.

Take away all the shadows and gore from Resident Evil, and what are you left with? Fetch quests, highly obscure logic puzzles and a fairly pedestrian pace. It might all be broken up with the occasional zombie attack or boss fight, but essentially what you're doing in a pre-4 Resident Evil game is the same as we were doing in the PC point and clicks of old, just in 3D and with shotguns.


Viva Pinata

Perceived genre: Virtual Pet

Actual genre: RTS

Oh how we groaned when we saw Viva Pinata. We knew that Microsoft had very probably bought Rare with the intention of absorbing some of the N64's bright, shiny, family-friendly fun into the Xbox 360, but was an animal-collecting Pokemon rip-off the best they could come up with? And lo, Viva Pinata did bomb amongst the hardcore. Which is ironic given how stupidly hardcore a game it actually is if you want it to be.

It's basically an RTS in reverse, where instead of trying to wipe out an external threat, you're juggling a tactical balance in order to keep your own units alive. Because unlike the average RTS army, they'll eat each other to bits given half the chance.

It's all about resource management (Can you afford that fence? Are you making enough money from your Pinata produce output?), understanding unit relationships (Want that Pretztail? Better start breeding Quackberries as bait then. Want a Quackberry? Better dig a pond) and dealing with the terrain around you (Did you remember to keep the gate shut? Why haven't you got enough land to keep your Pinatas safely separate?), making it as RTS as it gets. Many people don't realise that of course, as VP cleverly lets the player set the pace at every step of the way, but crank things up and you'll be drowning in micro-management within minutes.

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50 comments

  • jamminontha1n2 - February 18, 2009 6:58 p.m.

    that part about final fantasy was hilarious
  • GIJoe01 - February 18, 2009 7:01 p.m.

    Lol @ FF
  • RebornKusabi - February 18, 2009 8:13 p.m.

    I got one, though it probably won't be as clever! WARNING: It's kinda long... --Silent Hill 2-- Perceived genre: Survival Horror Actual genre: Drama Silent Hill 2, and the series as a whole, is usually thought of and pigeon-holed as a Survival Horror game series which while it does have elements of the former, the latter is far more prevelent in it's works as much. Sure there is disturbing visuals and raping super-monster but the game series has delved far more into Drama and Character Study works more prevelently that it is depressing to hear from fans of Resident Evil that the series is a RE-clone. More so then Resident Evil, the series has made it's marks on the gaming world as a story intensive, philosophical study as well as a developed and thought out character study on how madness effects each person and the concept of what absolute reality is- that last idea closely resembling Plato's Allegory of the Cave, an idea that the first Matrix movie used extensively. The characters also deserve another mention, as even though some of them execute horrible deeds, are still developed enough so they come off as generally sympathetic characters instead of always being "Chaotic Evil". Even something as elemental as "Monsters" are in reality walking, talking themes of both the main characters and their resultant reality that they live in. Sure, with even all of that said about the games, people will still assume that the series is Horror and find that last part of the games lacking; Fatal Frame and it's claustrophobic feelings of hopelessness are more palpable then Silent Hill, Resident Evil has more scare chords and jump-out scares that terrify as well as a "1 vs. 100" feeling of being outnumbered. With those two mentioned games, Silent Hill might SEEM lacking but the initiated of the series fans have always known and will still always know that regardless of it's merits and fallacies, we will always come back to Silent Hill for more smart horror without having to pander to the genre's artificial standards that it has grown into. Without meaning offense, you go to Resident Evil for the short-term jolts and exhilerating action and you go back to Silent Hill for the longer term haunting of the games and the slower, more methodical pacing along with beautifully executed characters and smart theme-y monster designs. Was that really long? I don't know, I just started writing and couldn't figure out what to cut! Anyways, loved the article and obviously as you can see, it made me think a little bit!
  • ELpork - February 18, 2009 9:13 p.m.

    That's way more then 5000 characters.
  • aerialsky - February 18, 2009 10:27 p.m.

    Ehmmm... What about SPORE Perceived genre: I'm not sure Actual genre: RTS
  • skelt - February 18, 2009 11:33 p.m.

    GTA IV perceived genre: hooker killing cocaine party actual genre: awesome wait... those are the same thing
  • McSpermie - February 19, 2009 12:03 a.m.

    No it's like 2500 characters
  • jesusfrk15 - February 19, 2009 12:11 a.m.

    that was a pretty sweet article. im actually interested in far cry now.
  • Cwf2008 - February 19, 2009 12:24 a.m.

    Ah poor skelt... GTA4: Perceived genre: Open world shooter? Actual Genre: Crap on a disc
  • minimaxi - February 19, 2009 3:28 a.m.

    glad to know that a lot of people agree that FF is not an actual RPG. Although FFVII remains my all-time favorite game, slapping the term 'role-playing' on most jrpg's sounds blasphemous, after playing the likes of NWN and Vampire Bloodlines. I call the real genre for jrpg is stats-based story-driven super-long adventure game with extra hair
  • phoenix_wings - February 19, 2009 4:13 a.m.

    I wish I could play FPS...:(
  • garnsr - February 19, 2009 4:19 a.m.

    Ahh, tentacle!!! Shoot, shoot!
  • frag - February 19, 2009 6:02 a.m.

    I agree 100% with doom3. i used to play doom, haunted house mod at night in the same proposed setting. Then i did the same with doom 3. there wasn't a trail of poop behind me, i wore diapers!!!
  • DabilahroNinja - February 19, 2009 8:31 a.m.

    What about... Ninja Gaiden 2 Perceived Genre: Action platformer Real Genre (according to XBLMarketplace): HIGH SPEED NINJA ACTION!!! I never knew such a genre existed, heh.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - February 19, 2009 9:36 a.m.

    RebornKusabi: Post of the week so far. :) Your prize? This imaginary trophy, unfortunately. WaffleLeech: Interesting point. I personally wouldn't go as far as RTS, but the strategy elements of Bioshock's combat definitely shouldn't be downplayed. With the right equipment and planning you can clear a room almost without firing a shot. It's massively satisfying. DabilahroNinja: I never knew either, but I'm glad it does. Something like that really should be an official term.
  • thereaper52 - February 19, 2009 4:29 p.m.

    i played farcry 2 as a stealth game its hard as fuck untill you get thew 40 diamonds to the stealth suit then its easier.
  • Red - February 19, 2009 5:27 p.m.

    I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with the bit about Far Cry 2 being an "Open World Stealth" game. It isn't. It's not that the AI is too good, it's broken. If I crouch in tall grass, under a big tree, in the shade, fifty yards away from the road, and I still manage to get shot at...that's not good AI. Snipers will spot you in impossible to see locations. Patrols will turn around and make a bee line directly toward you after shooting a silenced pistol at the gunner while behind cover. It's not stealth at all.
  • amorda - February 19, 2009 6:49 p.m.

    Great article, but it made me thinks some interesting things. I feel like it demonstrates the lack of proper dialogue that we as players use to discuss videogames, in that we focus too much on what a game is "supposed to be." No other media seems to be so rigid in attempting to fit it's products into genres and discuss them from that angle. It's interesting to see how a player's opinion changes just based on camera angle. For example, if one were to see a gun sticking out of the bottom of the screen, the reaction seems to be, "Okay, this is a first person shooter," not "I'm holding a gun." When reading a book or watching a movie the reaction of the user is typically not "you got drama in my comedy," it's to react to the things that are actually occuring. I think part of the issue is that most genres for other mediums are not based so much on basic technique. No one says that low angle shots are for romantic comedies only, or that the placement of the subject to the verb defines that book as science fiction. Perhaps that just an inevitable part of the way that we interact with the medium of videogames, and not the specific videogames themselves. I don't know. I feel like the breakdown of P.N. 03 said it best, and, again, it's a great article. I'm glad that it points out that a game can be brought down by what some expect from that "genre."
  • Flapjackturd - February 19, 2009 9:19 p.m.

    class pick of doom 3 your defo rite bout sonic unleashed
  • deathrebellion - February 20, 2009 10:43 a.m.

    lolz @ FF RE & Doom

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