Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Problem with Perfection...

Nowadays games are getting closer and close to emulating real life, but it seems like the closer they get to achieving this goal, there more glaring their faults become. I often finding myself thinking “if they did this, then why didn’t they do this, this and this?” when playing these games.

First off is the graphics, which always seem to fall into the realms of the uncanny valley, people just don’t look quite right for reasons we can’t always put our finger on and they look rather creepy more than anything else. Not someone you’d want to wake up to see sitting on the end of your bed frankly. It’s not just with people though, environments and items too, I find some games look too perfect, everything is pristine and looks brand new. Everything is neat, tidy, straight and looks brand new and that’s just not realistic and in some sense ruins immersion.

Then we have actual faults in the gameplay, or the writing which is the main focus of this article. First up, GTA4. A lot of people tend to complain about this for the whole “friend” system that was introduced because you had people ringing you mid-gunfight to ask you if you wanted to see pixelated boobs, which I don’t, for a number of reasons. But, my main issue with this is it’s in no way realistic, why is there no option to invite more than one friend out? That’s both more realistic and more efficient to build up friendships, plus characters could interact with each other a la Mass Effect/Dragon Age for more fun times. Also, why are their only a handful of friends? Towards the end of the game [Spoilers Ahead] you meet up with an old childhood friend and do a few missions for him then at the end of one of missions phone him up, tell him to take care and that’s it – done. So you can go for a drink and be best friends with a guy you’ve known for about half an hour, 27 minutes of which was spent ventilating drug dealers but you can’t with a guy you’ve known since childhood? Maybe it’s just me but that seemed a little off and when GTAIV was trying as hard as it could to be realistic something as odd as that sticks out like a sore thumb for me [End Spoilers].

Second game to receive a verbal lynching is The Sims 3 which I find suffers a similar fate, I appreciate this could probably be fixed with mods but nevertheless it still feels a little off. The moodlets, a new feature added to Sims 3 that give a bonus or penalty to your Sims mood based on recent events or their environment but they don’t seem right to me. Getting married or having a child gives you a bonus for a day or two, can’t speak first hand here but surely after a wedding you’d be stoked for a big longer than two days? Having an accident in front of your crush gives you a negative one for a few hours (again not speaking first hand but if I did that I’d be livid for weeks). Splitting up with a partner will always yield the same penalty regardless of if your Sim has been with them for three hours or three months. I appreciate I’m probably nitpicking here but it’s just something that bugged me and it wouldn’t have taken much development time to make this a little more realistic, something Maxis where clearly trying to achieve. There’s loads of other things that bugged me too and it feels like for every step forward The Sims 3 took over The Sims 2 it also took one step back and this is the first thing that comes to mind.

On another note, more of qualm with a genre as a whole and not a specific game but shooters that pride themselves on being realistic when they are anything but. You get shot in the knee, you ain’t walking, simple as. Shot in the back? You’re probably going to be in too much pain to move, or worse. Of course, one bullet resulting in death or incapacitation would ruin the fun of the game so this is unreasonable to expect but how about we stop calling them realistic? People complained how Modern Warfare 2’s story was “farfetched” and “too Hollywood” yet no one raises an eyebrow when people will happily stand up after they’ve received a .50 sniper round to the stomach and start unloading into you. Seems a little silly to me. Yes, Modern Warfare 2’s story was very Hollywood, but so was every gunfight, bullet wound and knife injury.

With games like Ratchet and Clank, Saints Row and Pok√©mon then I find I don’t care about their faults in basic logic, because they don’t try to apply them in the first place. But the moment a game tries to achieve realism then all its faults seem to glow brighter than Christmas at Graham Norton’s.

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