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Why Aren’t Games Fun Anymore?

Posted by on February 24, 2011 at 3:26 am

This is bizarre: almost every game I’ve purchased in a physical format – a shiny disc in a plastic case – I’ve wanted to immediately resell. What the heck is wrong with me?

This problem has gotten so bad that I don’t even like buying games on impulse anymore. I’ll give you five examples in the past 13 months:

Bioshock 2 - A great presentation couldn’t have saved how fun this wasn’t. I played through this game on review for one of our podcasts (in a previous life) and there was absolutely no joy in plowing through these levels. It lacked the originality of the first game, despite having a better-presented story, which wasn’t a game I returned to once I completed it. This game got traded in immediately.

Just Cause 2 – This game was an absolute blast and my second favorite title of last year. Unfortunately, the way I played the game – by methodically pushing through large swaths of geography knocking out dozens of enemy outposts and airfields along the way – ramped up the difficulty to a point that the game was no longer enjoyable. The sandbox nature of the game was destroyed (and it is truly one of the largest sandbox games ever created) because I just wanted to screw around in the game. I put in almost 35 hours before I stopped touching it altogether.

Alan Wake – I had anticipated this game for years because I loved Remedy’s Max Payne games (more the first one than the second, but that’s another article) and their crazy gun + bullet time-based gameplay. Wake‘s story was enthralling and I really wanted to see the game through to its end, the problem is that the worst part of the game was actually playing it. There’s little fun about shining a flashlight on a batch of enemies and then shooting them with physical rounds over and over and over again in the dark. In the woods. Over and over. Flashlight, then pistol. Over and over. I held onto this game primarily because I shelled out for the collector’s edition and the strategy guide… the collector’s edition of the strategy guide, of course.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit – I loved the original Hot Pursuit (which was the third one, I understand) back in 1998 and was really pining a new NFS title that wasn’t about tuning and tattoos and being fly. Unfortunately, despite how much better this game was over its predecessors of the past decade, the snap-to drifting and tracks that spread through miles of sprawling, forgettable countryside (rather than the more detailed and closed off, arcade-y style urban tracks of its roots) meant that the races were unenjoyably boring and samey. I’ve put six hours into this game and done a few multi-player games and I just want to get rid of it.

Far Cry 2 – Sandbox games intrigue me. The previously mentioned Just Cause 2 got a ton of time out of me and Fallout 3 got nearly 70 hours from me, too. I had heard about how repetitive this title was, but considering I got this game for free, I’d throw it a bone. I’ve put two hours into it and for the most part, I never want to play this game again. Similar to Just Cause 2, you’re a solitary badass that works for or against various factions in a big jungle environment, the difference being that you aren’t a badass, in fact you have malaria and the game reminds you of it a bit too often, and the game hinders certain mechanics (like driving, or merely trying to navigate through the stupid game) to produce a more ‘unique’ experience and it sucks and I hate it.

I’m not giving up on retail releases, but it seems that in this race to spend $10, $20, or $30 million on a game’s production, they’re denying base, fun experiences in favor of chasing some interactive dream that isn’t worth the grind to experience. Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Duke Nukem Forever are on the top of my list, but I’m hoping I’m not wasting my plastic on this plastic.

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