Next-Gen Games still have Problems
As a gamer, I view the next generation of game platforms as a chance for developers to strut their stuff. Show us some great new graphics. Show us some great new gameplay not possible before. But I also expect developers to have learned some from previous mistakes and make the whole usability thing work better as well. And I also want the developers to give us more options, not fewer.
First off, GRAW. Now, I have to say that this is one great game, and my quibbles are few. But I have to wonder how many people actually play-tested this thing in multiplayer offline mode. As I’ve complained before, setting the options before gameplay begins is a pain. The use of the ‘B’ button is inconsistent and frustrating. But that’s not the worst of it. Why can’t the players change their names? We haven’t found any way to do this. So the people that are playing the game are Todd, Player 2, Player 3, and Player 4. Which is really annoying. I’d like to know if I killed Viper (unlikely, if you know Viper), or if Scae potshotted me. None of this Player 3 killed you nonsense (or whatever the wording is). And if you can change the names, and we haven’t found it yet, that’s just as bad! The UI should be easy to understand and manipulate! This mars what is otherwise quite a great game. (Pssst! Anyone know how to change the names? Is it possible?)
Second, I’ll look at the larger offender, PGR3. What are some important things in a racing game? Great graphics. Yup, sure. PGR3 has that alright – it looks great. Great gameplay mechanics. Yup, it sure is fun racing around those tracks, but frankly the experience isn’t much (any?) better than PGR2 was. What about a large variety of cars to race? Well, here they fall down. They’ve got a bunch of fast cars, sure. But where’s the Mini? The Beetle? A BMW? I wanted to drive that Audi again – crap, it’s not there. The decision to go with the over-170MPH club was an extremely bad one, IMHO. As well, they way they organized the cars in PGR3 was confusing as heck. In PGR3 you chose “Compact Sports” or “American Muscle” or somesuch. It was easy to know what kind of cars you’d get in each class. No longer. Now each class of cars is virtually indisinguishable from any other. How are you supposed to remember what class your favourite cars are in? A real disappointment.
But it gets worse. What about the fact that they only give you five cities with a few tracks each to play? PGR2 had a much wider selection of locales for your racing pleasure. It feels like they ripped out all the best tracks.
What else? Oh yeah – getting into multiplayer mode is more complicated. You don’t just select multiplayer. No! That would be too easy. You also have to go into the blade and add players there. What the heck? It’s messed us up a couple times already. But that’s not the worst of it. No no no no. Two-player? Two-player? What happened to our beloved four-player mode???? GGGGaaaaaargh!
Frankly, when you put all these problems together, you come up with one conclusion: PGR2 is better than PGR3. I eagerly await the day PGR2 is added to the Xbox 360’s compatibility list, because then we’ll play a real racer at Todd’s place. Sure, it won’t be as pretty, but it’ll be a lot more fun.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a knock against the Xbox 360. It’s a great platform, and we’ve seen some good stuff on it. It’s the developers that still have something to learn. When they charge us that next-gen premium for a game, I want to get a premium product.
I know two games is a small sampling, but so far these problems have been quite annoying, especially the deficiencies in PGR3. Let’s hope that as developers get used to the Xbox 360 that they polish their games more and try to at least match the previous generation games in functionality, playability, and enjoyability. After that, ratchet it up a notch or two. This is next-gen, after all.