Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick thoughts:

Well, I finally beat Farcry 2 today, but after completing the single player campaign, my main impression is that Farcry 2 suffers from a problem that's becoming all to common.

You see, Farcry 2 is absolutely gorgeous. I mean it's jaw-droppingly beautiful, from the way the sunlight shines through the trees to the grass swaying in the breeze. It's the first game I've ever played that's made me believe that 100% photo-realism is possible.

The gameplay? Meh.

Unfortunately, that's what the games industry seems to focus the vast majority of its time on. Not making sure games work and are bug free, not making sure they're actually fun, but making sure that they're a lot prettier and shinier than the last one.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for great visuals and quality art direction, but in Farcry 2, while I really appreciate the way the foliage breaks apart and reacts realistically when my bullets fly through it…I'd much prefer to have plants that don't react and have Ubisoft fix the buggy AI and some of the glaringly obvious gameplay issues.

Sadly, the same was true of the first Farcry. Farcry 1 had huge open landscapes that where stunning for the time, but so much time was spent on making the game pretty, no-one realized that super-fast bad guys that could kill you with a single hit where incredibly frustration.

Let's just say Farcry 2 continues this tradition.

For example, whether the bad guys see you appears to be completely random. I've been hiding behind tall grass in the shadow of a cliff at midnight wearing camo and I've been spotted by a guy 500 yards away who can somehow see right through a solid tree. I've also charged into a guard post, blown a bad guy's head off with a shotgun, only to have the guy standing three feet away not react at all.

Yeah, the scenery is beautiful enough to make me stop regularly just to enjoy the view, but if it comes down to a choice of realistic bad guys or realistic plant life, I'll take the realistic bad guys.

There are also some real issues that I can't believe didn't come up during testing, things hat are actually simple to fix. I understand that game developers work to strict deadlines and sometimes things like recoding all the AI just aren't possible…but would it have been so hard to allow console players the option to save anywhere instead of save points?

Now, normally, save anywhere versus save points could be argued all day. However, in Farcry 2, it can sometimes take twenty minutes or more just to get to where your mission starts…and that journey might include numerous battles.

Basically, travelling for twenty minutes to get to your mission, spending a further twenty minutes sneaking through an enemy infested encampment before dying and having to start all over again just isn't fun. More than once I threw down my controller in frustration…would it be so hard to have a 'save' option in the menu?

Basically the games industry needs to learn a lesson:

It doesn't matter how good a game looks if it isn't fun to play.

Here's the thing, your average gamer will forgive poor visuals if the game is fun, but it doesn't work the other way around. Just look at something as simple as Pac-Man or Geometry Wars. Geometry Wars was Xbox Live Arcade's 'killer app' and people are still playing Pac-Man almost thirty years after its release. Why? Because they're a hell of a lot of fun.

On the other hand, remember "Bad Boys: Miami Beatdown"? Neither do I…because it was shit.

Yes, we want our games to look good, but the most important thing is fun.

1 comment:

MC Etcher said...

Yeah. The number of poly's can be quantified - so can texture mapping, particle effects, frame rate, etc.

'Fun' cannot be calculated by the computer - the producer might yell at the programmers: "Make the game 15% more fun!" but how to accomplish this is far more art than science.

Which is why we have the discrepancy between technical prowess and fun factor.