Falling Short

Going back to when the mainstream video game market began, things were very insular.  The gaming mags would still feature all of the upcoming releases, but it was always just a month or so prior to the street date, so what you were seeing was always the finished product being put through its paces by those given early access.  The benefit of this was that pretty much every game released was watertight, in terms of bugs, because there was no opportunity to let the masses get their hands on it beforehand.  The downside, however, was that there was no way for the buying public to throw their two cents in to the mix and offer opinion over what was good and what failed to hit the mark.  It could be argued, of course, that it’s got absolutely piss all to do with the end-user’s opinion as games are, after all, the brainchild of those who created it and it’s therefore their right to decide what goes in and what doesn’t.

These days, however, there’s an incredible sense of entitlement within the gaming community whereby those who part with their hard-earned cash (or their parents’) feel as though their voice should be heard and taken notice of when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be included within the latest releases, especially when pre-existing franchises are concerned.  I used to be of the belief that those with that sense of entitlement should just shut the hell up and put their money where their mouths are – buy it if you’re happy, and keep hold of your money if you’re not.  You don’t have a right to dictate how a developer should steer their ship, and they’re far more qualified to make a decision over what should go into their own IP, beyond the wishes of someone who just happens to think that someone’s helmet should be blue rather than green.

Remember the entitlement that came after the Mass Effect 3 ending?

My belief has changed over the last year, to the point where I now understand where these complainers are coming from.  I don’t necessarily think they’re right, of course, but if they think that there’s something missing from a game and it could be made better by including something, then it’s their prerogative to stick to that notion.  Whether the developers pay attention to their whims as the social media platforms explode with ideas and suggestions, however, is a different matter entirely.

It wasn’t until Fallout 4 came out that I had my first experience with soapboxing.  I had looked forward to playing this for so long, and had ventured to Los Angeles three times in the hopes that it would make an appearance at E3, but it never actually happened until the year that I decided not to go.  Even then, I think I’d have been bitterly disappointed by what was on display, as it leaned more towards crafting than exploration and questing.  Regardless, it was set in the Fallout universe, was being brought out on the new-generation consoles, and would therefore tick all of the usual post-apocalyptic boxes.  But it didn’t.  The second it unlocked, I started to create my character and, after settling for someone who I could quite happily look at for the duration, I set off on my merry way.

I won’t get into all the issues I have with the game, but I gave up playing before even reaching twenty hours of gameplay.  Now, when you consider that I’ve played Fallout 3 and New Vegas through at least twice on Xbox 360 and several times on PC (each with different mod sets installed to enhance the visuals and gameplay), you could easily be looking at over nine-hundred hours on each title.  So for Fallout 4 to lose favour with me before hitting the twentieth hour, something was definitely wrong.  Apart from the fact that they were using the same tired engine as before, so all the character models were dreadful when compared to other modern releases, the textures were some of the lowest-resolution I’d seen in a long time, and the quests were beyond tedious.

It was the emphasis on crafting which turned me off most, however, even though most of my time in Trials HD was spent creating ball-busting tracks, and practically every moment in any of The Sims iterations were spent ignoring the gameplay and focusing on building new and interesting properties for my characters to get bored with.  The difference with those games, however, is that they’re very much build-centric and not focused on developing a character over a series of weeks and months, while simultaneously solving the world’s ills with clever conversation, myriad skills, and the odd bullet here and there.  Fallout is, above all else, based on character development and exploration.  The quests have always been pretty solid, albeit a bit fetchy in places, and there’s always been a compelling reason to keep going.  I felt robbed, and think that there should have been a lot more emphasis on what made Fallout 3 and New Vegas enjoyable, rather than trying to capitalise on the build-crazy worlds of Minecraft and The Sims.

Then we have the new Need For Speed.  Take away the dodgy cut scenes and pointless storyline and you’re left with a solid racing game; the vehicles themselves have an insane number of upgrades and enhancements available to them, and the variation within the individual challenges is enough to keep you coming back for more.  The problem, however, is that it takes a great deal of effort to build up enough cash to upgrade your vehicle, and once you’ve gone as far as you can, the only thing left to do is to move on to another vehicle and make that your primary focus.  When it takes countless hours of grinding to build up the bank balance to the point where you can splash out on something better than you already have, there’s nothing worse than finally deciding on one particular vehicle and then having it end up feeling like a brick to drive.

There’s absolutely no reason to leave out the option to have a time-limited test drive of each vehicle.  It doesn’t even need to be for very long; even just the option to select a vehicle and choose which situation you’d like to have it tested within – race, drift challenge, stunt driving, or whatever – and then be dropped straight into that scenario for thirty or sixty seconds to get a feel for how the car handles on a basic, unmodded level.  Sure, it’s not going to let you see how well it’ll drive once you’ve spent another $200k on upgrades, but at least you’ll know if it has heavy steering or wanders all over the road.  It’s the difference between having that $500k sitting in your bank and then suddenly realising you have nothing because you’ve bought a piece of shit, or knowing before you buy whether you’re going to making the right decision.

With The Division, you have the option to have multiple characters, which is great for those who want to look at different play styles or have one mission-centric build, one for the Dark Zone, and perhaps even one built for roguing.  The problem with this is that you still have to grind each of the characters to get them to a specific level and combat weight before being able to fully utilise them.  The ideal scenario would be to switch between loadouts quickly and easily, so if you’re about to enter a mission where it’s best suited to a demolition-style character, you can hit the ‘up’ on the D-pad to bring up a wheel of custom loadouts, select the one which would have talents and skills set up to work best with explosives and plunge straight into the action.

Then, if your next mission happened to be against a mob with a heavy sniper contingent, you want to stay as far back as possible and would be better to have a loadout which focused more on the marksman skills and weaponry.  Being able to quickly select this at any point during gameplay would make it easier because, after all, this is a ‘live’ game where jumping into the menu doesn’t pause the action in any way, so the last thing you want is to have to switch between six different gear pieces and three weapons, let alone all of the skills and talents, when some guy is beating down on your head with a baseball bat or unloading a dozen cartridges into your chest as they run towards you.

It also means that you can create a specific PVP loadout, so that forays into the Dark Zone can be done with weapons and gear that’s best suited to surviving against other players.  And imagine if you came up against rogues with shock turrets but you had your skills used up with a healing mod and pulse, and the only way to take them down would be to counter their playstyle with one of your own.  Quickly switching to a loadout with incendiary weapons and talents would likely stand you in better stead against them, but there’s no way to do that just now.  You have to either do your best with what you have, or run for the hills and hope that they get tired of chasing you down.  Which is never the case, as rogues live for the chase and kill.

Call it a sense of entitlement, or call it simple common sense.  Either way, there are so many things missing from games which, to some, are glaringly obvious.  With it being easy to reach out to devs through social media these days, it should be easy to get that idea over to them, but the chances are they won’t pay any attention.  Despite all of the complaints from the Fallout community over the focus on crafting, they still went ahead and brought out two separate DLCs which are geared towards those who go for building over questing, and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of higher-resolution textures for those who don’t want our modern games to look like they’ve been made for last-gen machines.

Rogues. Under the ground, breaching the game’s walls, and invincible.

The Division developers are forever coming under fire from their community over the number of bugs and glitches present in the game, and yet whenever a new patch is released they’ll tend to focus on ridiculous things like preventing people from entering a mission at the end for a quick turnover, and completely ignore the fact that some people are losing entire characters, inventories, and others keep getting kicked from the game entirely.  Then there’s the rogues who exploit every possible hole in the code to make sure that decent players can’t get very far in the Dark Zone.  So if important issues are being overlooked, then what chance do we have of getting them to make play-style changes?  None, really.

So there you have it.  Despite my complaints and mutterings of ‘shut the fuck up’ to all the entitled gamers over the past few years, I have now found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of effort that some devs are putting in to things that I think are obvious improvements to gameplay.  Yet if you try to mod the game yourself to introduce these changes, you end up being banned or having accounts closed down for breach of contract.  Regardless of what we, the end-users, think, there’s nothing we can do but put our heads down and just get on with it while we accept that the games we looked forward to end up falling short of what they could be.

Last five articles by Mark R


There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment