[Featurama] Sorted: Fixing the Games We Love

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Let’s face it, there’s nothing a game developer loves more than to be told by some guy on the Internet how their game could be improved. Thankfully, that’s where I come in. It’s been said that any movie, book, game, etc. has a soft underbelly — some flaw that at least partially hampers the experience, and makes one wonder what could have been if only they had fixed that one little thing. It’s generally understood that there is no such thing as a perfect/flawless game.

Except for Super Metroid. This game is perfect.

Every game, regardless of how well it executes, has at least a few issues. Identifying them is pretty much a professional sport on the Internet, but I’m going to take it a step further – I’m going to fix them so they theoretically become more fun for me. ME!

[Metal Gear Solid 2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoo boy, everyone’s got an opinion about this one. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the best entry in the series (that’d be MGS1), but I respect the hell out of what Kojima tried to do with MGS2. It came out right near the beginning of the PS2 generation, and it’s still one of the better looking games on the system. It did player agency years before Bioshock and rage-inducing twists a whole decade before Commander Shepard was asked to pick a colour.

[So What's Wrong With It Then?]

I know what you’re thinking…but it’s not that. Raiden’s campaign is just fine as it is (for the most part anyway). I’ve done at least 30 playthroughs of MGS2, and I’ve enjoyed it each time. There’s still this lingering feeling however that it feels…incomplete. It’s got a lot of great content (especially the ‘MGS2: Substance’ reissue, but something was missing that prevented it from being truly amazing.

[The Fix]

The Snake Campaign.

Let’s be clear; playing as Raiden is essential to the experience. I get that this game is all about experiencing Snake from an outsider’s perspective. Still, it would be amazing to have as a ‘second playthrough’ option the ability to do Snake’s half of the Big Shell mission. Not only would it be great fun to make your way through his half of the complex, defusing bombs, taking out guards, and engaging the bosses in new environments, but it would address one glaring flaw in the game: There are two stories happening in Metal Gear Solid 2, and as it stands we only get to really experience one. It’s true that Snake’s campaign would be considerably shorter than Raiden’s and would feature far fewer story points, but being able to play through from his perspective would offer yet another layer to a game that already has at least 50% more than pretty much any other one out there.

[Far Cry 2]

A lot has been written about Far Cry 2, mostly because it’s a game that brushes up against greatness in so many ways, and then just bogs the player down in annoying little details. People like Ben Abraham and Anthony Burch have written about doing permadeath runs in this game, arguing that it forces you to make tough decisions about how you approach your objectives as well as how you deal with the buddies that you meet. I highly recommend checking out Abraham’s log of his run through Far Cry 2. It’s tense, gripping and very fascinating. That being said, there’s no God damn way I’m going to do a permadeath run of this game. It took me a year and a half to finish it as it is. On Easy! So, fuck starting all over just because I got run over by a mercenary in a Pinto.

The ultimate shame: Being run over by a car with no gun attached.

Far Cry 2 looks amazing, is a solid shooter, and has an unbelievable versatility in how you can get your killing on. Some of the problems with it are your need to keep taking Malaria medication, your guns jamming at inopportune times, and the amount of driving you need to do to get around. I’m actually okay with all of those things. The Malaria problem is a little annoying, but it’s never that hard to get pills. No biggie. Jammed guns are great because they provide you with a bunch of ‘oh shit’ moments. Besides, as long as you visit your weapons stash every now and then, it’s fine. The driving? It admittedly can make the game drag, and I could do with a few more bus stations, but it’s not the end of the world. So, what do I have a problem with?

[So What's Wrong With It Then?]

Respawning guard posts, damn it. Every time you pass through one of these intersections you have to stop, get out, and deal with 4-6 mercenaries. It’s never that difficult, but it’s just a pain in the ass to have to deal with it over and over again. Obviously, the developers have them respawn because they’d simply end up with an empty map. What’s a malaria-ridden mercenary to do?

[The Fix]

Learn a lesson from San Andreas.

Part of the problem is that these checkpoints are never that much of a challenge. How about amping up the challenge for these parts of the game? That way, when you defeat them it feels like a real accomplishment rather than an annoyance. Once the post has been cleared, you can claim it like the gang territories in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Maybe the game can populate the area with soldiers of whatever faction you’re working for. Also, the area shows up as colour-coded on the map so you know what’s been claimed. The more areas you claim, the easier it is to get around. Periodically, also like in GTA: SA, a section of the map can be challenged for by a rival faction, which makes you decide whether or not to go back to defend/retake it. It’s a nice sidequest that potentially extends the playing time, yet also makes it easier for you to carry on without having to get into meaningless battles every two minutes.

[Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]

No Russian…Definitely one of the most controversial levels in recent memory; particularly for such a popular mainstream game. There are a lot of opinions out there about this one. Some people feel it’s a brave look at the sacrifice one must make for a greater good, while others argue it’s a cheap and crass ploy to create chatter. Personally, I was kind of impressed that such a mainstream title would have that kind of balls, yet it certainly was lacking in its execution.

[So What's Wrong With It Then?]

The thing is this: You come out of the elevator, Makarov and his men start shooting, and you have a choice to make. Do you compartmentalize your gag reflex, maintain cover, and join in — or do you open fire on the shooters and deal with the consequences later? WHAT DO YOU DO? Well, as it turns out the answer is ‘just follow along and get to the end of the level…and fuck you for thinking you have a choice!’

[The Fix]

This one actually would require very little work to make No Russian way more meaningful and powerful. You have two options in this level:

1. You get out of the elevator, maintain cover, and play it out like normal.

2. You get out of the elevator, decide you can’t stand for this, and start shooting. What’s different about this is that maybe you can kill a henchman or two. For story reasons, Makarov needs to be invulnerable which is fair enough. He ends up killing you, but as you die he stands over you and says something like, “You were dead before you got out of that elevator. We know who you are”. Then, and this is the really critical part, the game moves onto the next level. That’s it. You get one shot at finishing No Russian and if you don’t make it, the game carries on. While it’s true that it doesn’t really give you much incentive to finish the level knowing that it will end up making no difference, maybe that’s the point. At least it would give you the opportunity to die on your own terms. You’d still be a pawn of circumstances much bigger than you, but at least you’re less of a pawn of the developers.

[Mass Effect 3]

Umm…nope, not touching that one.

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

Born in 1844, I bring a lot of gaming experience to the table. In my day-job, I work for a public library which carries, amongst other formats, video games. I'm very interested in observing and documenting the growing pains this industry is experiencing as it is dragged kicking and screaming towards something resembling maturity. Join me!

  • Nolan McBride

    Nice work Mike! I’m glad you brought up Far Cry 2 cause that’s one I feel belongs here. I had pretty much exactly the same issue (here: http://shootmeleereload.com/2011/12/15/developers-stop-the-spawning/) and I really like your solution. Making it feel like turf wars instead of endless respawning or, alternatively, an empty map would make it more dynamic and ultimately fun.

    Also, I like the idea for MW2. I hate sections that remove all player agency, especially when they’re meant to have narrative significance. I think adding just a little goes a long way though.

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