Timing is Everything?

A few nights ago, I was sampling the delights of Monday Night Combat for the first time, having seen pretty much everyone on my gaming list give it a go, and very fun it was too. However, as is often the case with me, my mind was wont to wander on one of its legendary ‘thinks’ and, being the generous chap that everyone knows that I am, I felt compelled to share it with all of you dear readers. No good looking to the exits I’m afraid, they’re all firmly covered and locked. Just settle down nicely and, the less talking there is at the back, the sooner you’ll all get to go outside and have fun again. Ok? Everyone sitting comfortably? Nobody needs a wee? Well tough, you should’ve gone before I started…

The thing was, as good as MNC was (and it really was rather jolly fun), it did remind me heavily of something that I had played before. The obvious comparison is Team Fortress, with the ridiculously proportioned cartoony characters and over the top weaponry. That wasn’t it though – it was reminding me strongly of another game – a game that I feel did not get it’s deserved time in the sun. That game was Red Faction: Guerilla. Think about it for a second – the jetpacks, the various upgrades, the frenetic third person gameplay. The two games are really quite similar in many ways that aren’t necessarily immediately apparent, but which I felt busting through after only a few minutes of play.

But even THAT is not the really controversial claim I am going to make. No, it gets better – I would argue that Red Faction was the better game. Now, you could argue that it damn well should be, being as how it was a full priced physical release, but what I mean is that it was MUCH better. It had more game modes, bigger teams, bigger and more varied arenas, fully destructible scenery and a variety of interesting backpack based upgrades. And all of that was in addition to a pretty decent (if somewhat workmanlike) campaign. By the measure of my own modest friends list, RF was a bit of a flop however. Sure, it came along at a time when my friends and I were still tearing up the original Bad Company and Gears 2 for hours at a time, with little room for anything else, but it all started out so well. Quite a few of my friends bought the game on the strength of the multiplayer demo, and for a few nights, we all tucked in with gusto, enjoying the change of pace from the other games we had been playing and commenting on how interestingly tactical the game could be. It seemed destined to become a staple part of our multiplayer repertoire, and then… well then it just wasn’t, anymore. For no reason that anyone could properly articulate whenever I asked the question, RF dropped off everyone’s radar quicker than the proverbial lead balloon.

Why is it then that a new game that seems to tick all the same boxes, albeit in a slightly less comprehensive way, has been taking up so much of people’s play time of late? To be fair, this is not a phenomenon confined to games I would argue – back in the late 80s Timothy Dalton’s tenure as James Bond came to a crashing halt when Licence to Kill tried to take the franchise in a new and gritty direction, to the universal chagrin of critics and the movie going public alike. Fast forward nearly two decades and Casino Royale is released to universal acclaim for doing pretty much the same thing. Okay so the gap between RF and MNC was smaller, but the principle remains the same.

The sheer presence of Timothy Dalton can make ANY movie grittier... um... yeah ok, almost

So-called ‘experts’ will tell you that it’s all about the elusive ‘X factor’ with any entertainment product – some people/films/bands/games have it, and others don’t. But how do you explain two very similar games garnering such different reactions? The only answer that I can come up with is sheer dumb luck. Look at the recent release of Split Second and Blur – I know which I would describe as the superior arcade racing experience, yet inexplicably (to me) Blur seems to be the more popular game.

So there you have it – another Greg Top Tip… Monday Night Combat is to Red Faction: Guerilla as Daniel Craig is to Timothy Dalton – proof that, in the war for entertainment popularity, sometimes copying your homework from the slightly odd kid in the corner who always gets a B will net you an A*. Or something.

Until next time kiddies…

Last five articles by Greg



  1. Rook says:

    I have Red Faction: Guerilla but never got around to playing it, and it’s on PS3. I downloaded and tried Monday Night Combat but I wasn’t fussd on it; maybe it’s a good multiplayer game and that’s not really my playing style.

    And I prefer Split Second too, I didn’t really get on with Blur.

    Can I go now?

  2. Greg Greg says:

    Ok. Rook can go. Quietly please – no need to disturb the others as you leave. Pick your feet up boy!

  3. Samuel Samuel says:

    I have Red Faction. I bought it thinking it would be like the first two games… it wasn’t, exactly, but I did have fun with it. Until something else distracted me. I forget which game it was, but something absolutely demanded I give it my attention, and Red Faction kind of got left behind.

    I found the Monday Night Combat demo underwhelming. Of course, that might be because I don’t have a Live Gold sub at the moment, so I wasn’t able to do very much with it. But that’s not all of the story, I just don’t find it grabs me in terms of the basic idea behind the gameplay. Red Faction on the other hand, was a great diversion for a while, and I will eventually get around to finishing it, or at least playing it some more.

    On that basis, I have to agree with your assertion that Red Faction is by far the better game.

  4. Richie rich says:

    I’ve not played MNC because the rules state that any online XBLA shooter that doesn’t have Battlefield in the title is doomed to be an online ghostland. Red Faction: Guerilla was really good but yeah, I can’t actually bring myself to go back to it. Ever.

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I haven’t played any of the games mentioned, although I did win a copy of Red Faction: Guerilla for XBox and just sold it instead of playing it. I had other games on the go at the time and it wasn’t interesting enough to make me want to add it to my queue.

    You’re right about timing though, and it’s the same in every industry really. When Guns & Roses first released Welcome To The Jungle it bombed like you wouldn’t believe, and nobody gave a shit about them. Fast forward a year or so later and it gets re-released but THIS time a couple of known DJs enthused about it, a few magazines said “hey, this ain’t bad” and… *drum roll*… huge seller that spawned the incessant nasal whining we’re all too familiar with today. The one thing that spoils Burnout Paradise for me is that Paradise City is the ONLY song you can’t stop from playing. Joy. Alanis Morissette and MUSE are also in the same vein though, there were two Alanis albums before Jagged Little Pill but I bet most people have never heard a single song, and a lot of the grind-crazy MUSE fans probably think that Origin of Symmetry was their debut. It’s all about timing, as you say.

    I digress, slightly. TV shows are the same though and it’s quite incredible the number of shows that get a first season run with no notable viewing figures, only to come back for a second season and suddenly become hugely popular and sustain a decent following. I think the way things work these days is that the media really has to get behind something before it becomes popular. I remember watching the X-Files pilot on Sky back in 1993 when nobody had heard of it and thought it was great… then when HMV released a special box set of videos with three per box (which had a spot UV “The X Files” wording to span across all outer box spines) it only got as far as the second box and no more were made. I contacted Fox by email and, amazingly, got a reply back stating that they had never actually made any more in the series as they never expected them to sell. Typical Fox, eh? As soon as the media started talking about it, however, the series took off like wild fire.

    It’s mostly a question of hype, I think.

  6. Greg Greg says:

    Mark – exactly. Same thing with The Offspring – they were unheard of by the ‘mainstream’ until Americana – I lost count of the number of people who asked me whnen it released whether I had heard of this new group called Offspring(!)

    I remember seeing the X Files for the first time back in 1993 – it was at a friends house – we were never rich enough to have Sky when I was a kid – and I fell instantly in love. Then it came out on the BBC and I was well chuffed – I remember seeing the pilot and falling head over heel in lust with Scully – then going to school the next day and being told by everyone that she was terribly plain and dull. And we all know how THAT one worked out….

    You’re probably right – hype is everything these days, but I think tied up with that there is the perceived ‘cool’ of a particular brand associated with the product – like you say some well known DJ’s endorse G n R and suddenly they become huge. I don’t think it helped the case of Pure when it was released that it was a ‘disney’ game, and I think the same probably applies to Split Second as well.

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    Interesting piece and something to think about. I’m one of those few who actually really enjoyed License to Kill, so I’ll probably enjoy Red Faction if I ever get around to it, though I rarely do multiplayer, so perhaps it will be lost on me. Timing is key for a lot of things…as someone else who will use TV as an example, so many good shows have gone to the wall thanks to the timing of the shows. Fox, as Mark says, is a classic example…they neglect good shows, move them constantly around in the schedules, cancel them for weeks because of American Idol finals and then strop over poor viewing figures before cancelling. Then you get a dodgy show which gets renewed because it was in the right place at the right time or because it had Matt leBlanc in it or the bloke who played Angel. Pah.

    Greg makes an interesting point about Split/Second and Pure…the Disney label probably doesn’t help one bit which is a shame as they have got some good notices.

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