Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Challenges in Gaming

Appropriate challenge is something many game developers try their hand at, and fail harder than a DVD rewinder.

There are two kinds of challenging gameplay. There's the kind where after completion you take a minute to bask in the knowledge that your superior skill and reflexes helped you triumph through the section, and then there's the kind where after countless attempts, being foiled not only by bad design but by bugs and glitches as well, you finally manage through sheer fucking repetition and luck, and take a moment to go online and find the bastard that was responsible for the section, and then entertain thoughts of doing something terrible to them.

It had been a while since I experienced this kind of frustration, as it seems to be less common in the good games of this gen than the good games of last gen. But while playing through the Jak collection this weekend I came face to face with the second example. Jak II's vehicle section are among some of the worst in gaming history. If you aren't playing against an AI that simply doesn't have to follow the same rules as you do, then you're getting stuck on the world geometry, or having your vehicle blow up because you ran into a fly, or the game just flat out refuses to accept your victory. The vehicles in this game have all the structural integrity of plastic beer cup, and all the handling and finesse of a bicycle with two inch handle bars.

Not only is the racing in this game atrocious, but they decided to make it the main focus of the gameplay, which is like making a celibate monk director for your porn flick. All but 3 races in the entire game take place in the city streets, which happen to be populated by droves of mindless pedestrians on the ground, and the hover zone is full of the aforementioned flying plastic beer cups. But that's only half of it. The ground is also littered with Krimson (Because Mortal Kombat has shown us that cool people replace Cs with Ks) Guards, which will enter high alert if they so much as feel the breeze coming off your car as you pass by. You then get to contend not only with the mobile obstacle course that is the pedestrians, but also an entire fleet of hover bikes with mounted guns, hover APCs with mounted guns, and foot soldiers carrying assault blasters and guns that shoot arcing electricity.

Jak 3 slightly improves upon this issue by giving you slightly better ground based vehicles and dumping you in the middle of the desert. But Naughty dog immediately fucks that up by making sure you can't drive for two seconds without 5 bandit vehicles spawning all around you, and this continues for as long as you're in your dune buggie.

You know, for a games with such tight platforming it seems that they got the rest of their ideas for gameplay for the inebriated, spliffed up rejects of Insomniac and Rockstar. Admittedly the gunplay isn't nearly as bad as the driving, but that's like saying that your amputated arm doesn't bother you as much as your terminal bowl cancer...

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