2010 was a year in which I noticed a change in my attitude to videogames: I became more interested in the principles and mechanics behind videogames rather than particular titles themselves. Increasingly, I used games as time-fillers, distractions and OCD tasks rather than as prime-time entertainment. Also, I completely tired of game narratives.
Here are some unordered thoughts about some boxed games I played last year:
Fallout New Vegas (Obsidian Entertainment)
I love Fallout 3. I love it to bits. I’ve played through the mammoth story three times, to the concern of my girlfriend. Ropey textures: fine. Bugs and glitches: no problem. VATS targeting system: A-OK. So why does New Vegas, with an identical engine, feel so off?
The locations are part of the problem. Fallout 3 had some amazing central locations, including Megaton, the Jefferson Memorial and the Museum of Technology, each of which felt distinct and full of specific perils. New Vegas feels disconnected and even the Vegas Strip itself seemed bare. I’d expected each of the hotels to be rich with detail, but they felt like a slog. I also spent frustrating sessions trying in vain to climb mountains that were stubbornly inaccessible, ruining the open world vibe.
I think I’ll mainly have to chalk it up to fatigue, though. While I’d be happy to explore the familiar world of Fallout 3 again, New Vegas felt like an oddly vague callback.
Demon’s Souls (From Software)
As many reviewers have noted, this is a stubbornly cruel but wonderful game. However, after two months of irregular play, I finally hit the wall – I think I’d need to dedicate an unreasonable amount of time to progress much further. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) the difficulty, you’re never in doubt that the game is beatable, if only you STOP MAKING STUPID MOVES. The most fun I had were in the early levels, before the structure of the game is made apparent. I spent hours creeping around corners, shield raised, terrified of whatever might spring out from darkened corners. To learn all the nooks and crannies and later play those same levels with supreme confidence felt wonderful.
Also, Demon’s Souls contains a pleasing absence of story. I am fighting skeletons and demons because they are there. That is all.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft)
I’ve already reviewed this game in an earlier post. Amazingly, I rarely felt lethargic playing this title, and even the cutscenes and nonsense plot held my attention.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios)
This game was understandably adored last year. It captures the mood of the comics well and the combat is satisfying. My attitude to the main story was so-so: it was what it was. But the game came alive for me during the optional hunt for secrets scattered about the open world. This, I think, says something about my gaming type. I’m aware that most of the games I become most engrossed in are those that fuel my collector / OCD impulses.
Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream)
I got to the party scene and my save game became corrupted, losing my progress. I’ll play this again, but I’m saving my reactions until I’ve finished a full playthrough. For the record: more like this, please.
Seriously, stop it. Another lengthy, humdrum game enlivened by collector fixation. Mostly, I appreciated the absence of cutscenes or explanation, but the bulk of the game did rather boil down to collecting and upgrading weapons. But – Krom’s Canyon was probably the most enjoyable single bit of level design I played this year.
The rest of the boxed titles I played in 2010 (Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Split Second, Modern Warfare 2, Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, Sports Champions, New Super Mario Bros Wii) were just, you know, fine.
So, conclusions… well, reading this list makes me sigh. I feel I’ve misused videogames in 2010 and turned some top-grade entertainment into simple fetch quests. The notion of fun doesn’t really enter into my experiences of most of the above titles – rather, I played most of them as a furrowed-brow distraction technique in place of doing things I really ought to be getting along with. I’m unsure whether this is partly down to the collection of often generic titles – many of them feel like polished versions of older games – or whether I’m starting to lose the love.