Are Games Becoming Over-Produced?
I finished Resistance 2 single player (on hard): There is tons of amazing tech here (particularly the mo-cap animation), the environments are loaded with gorgeous visual variety, and the weapons and action mechanics are tight. But, one big negative really stuck out: it felt too scripted and and forced.
They completely removed the health bar and the ammo/weapon management. There are no maze elements to navigating the levels and the game purposefully doesn’t let you back-track so that players don’t get lost and frustrated. They loaded the game with tons of auto-checkpoints that neatly separate the action into distinct battles so there is almost never any forced replay. They also loaded the game with variety (the visuals, enemies, weapons, and combat change quite a bit throughout the game) to eliminate complaints of repetition.
All of these changes were made very purposefully and probably came from extensive user feedback studies and focus group testing. The problem is that all of these changes really dumbed down the experience. I felt more like I was passively moving through a scripted semi-interactive tech demo than actually playing a game.
Resistance 2 was still a lot of fun, the giant fire fights didn’t have this overly scripted feel to them (they’re still linear, but they felt very interactive), and this game isn’t the only one with this problem. Call of Duty 4 (single player), for example, was worse. It felt every bit as blatantly scripted and forced and linear, but lacked many of the cool highlights of Resistance 2. (BTW, I feel more comfortable criticizing Insomniac’s games, because I’ve been such a big fan, where CoD4, I didn’t want to rain on everyone else’s parade.)
Also, Uncharted, Bioshock, Ratchet & Clank, Dead Space, God of War, Manhunt (only mentioning PS2/PS3 titles): these are some of my favorite games from the past few years, but they all fall into this category: heavily scripted, produced, and completely linear experiences. Even as the developers are getting better and better of making this style of game, and as much as I love the mentioned games, and admire the work that went into them, I feel like the general structure and formula is really wearing thin.
So what else should games do? From the little I’ve played of Far Cry 2, that’s a good example of what I don’t want: the same linear game play with a repetitive quest/hub/navigation system thrown on top of it. Games need to develop new hooks: something that makes them fun and addicting beyond merely shooting/dodging and clearing gorgeous levels.
So what do you think? Are you fine with bigger and better versions of games like Uncharted and God Of War or are you getting a little tired of that formula (or a little of both)? Do you think this type of game has passed it’s peak?