These days, my other gamer friends are getting more and more surprised whenever I tell them I still haven’t gotten around to playing Bioshock. I’m a bit surprised myself, considering one of the reasons the game was so highly praised was its method of storytelling. As far as I can tell, it’s learned from the Half-Life school of putting the player in the body of a voiceless protagonist and never withdrawing. No cutscenes, just scripted sequences. Since I consider the Half-Life series the current pinnacle of narrative gameplay, you’d think I would have grabbed Bioshock as soon as possible, right?
Tycho, at Penny Arcade, has apparently been taking umbrage at MSG4‘s cutscene-heavy composition as well. Having actually played the game, however, (I unfortunately don’t own a PS3,) his arguments against it have more weight than mine:
I actually like the story of Metal Gear, but it’s not told well. I don’t care if a cutscene is long provided that it’s well paced, but these cutscenes aren’t simply long, they’re eternal – and they feel even longer than they are because they’re pure overreach. The script is insipid, didactic, and its insights are trite. The humor doesn’t work, period, and it works even less against the backdrop of perpetual war. I’m the story guy around here. I make up a story if a game doesn’t have one. Here, I was so starved to express any kind of volition whatsoever during these interminable slideshows that eventually I discovered a way. I only started to enjoy Metal Gear Solid once I began skipping the cutscenes.
That tends to be what I’ve heard about the series. The story, at its core, is a good one. But it’s implementation is flawed. When a gamers’ enjoyment of the game is reliant upon skipping a solid half of your games content, (according to IGN, it really is that much,) then you’ve failed as a game designer. It makes it all the more grievous when you look at how few gamers actually watch cutscenes anyway. I can count the number of friends of mine who actually watch the mission intro cinematics in GTA4 on one hand.
That’s not to say Kojima doesn’t have talent. As IGN’s own Australian reviewer states, he’s simply in the wrong line of work. I think it’s clear at this point that what he really wants to do is direct computer-animated films. Which, seeing what he’s able to do with that medium, I say someone needs to give the man a film contract.
Read that again, because no matter how many times I read it, I still can’t believe it. At first I thought it was a typo: 90 minutes of cutscenes. Which by itself is pushing it for any game. But no, and the fact that all these reports are specifying cutscenes as plural makes it sound like there will be more than one 90-minute break from the action.
Platforms: PC, 360
Given a choice between two similar games, I’ll always go for the one that has a sense of humor. My favorite adventure games are the early classics made by LucasArts; hilarious games like Monkey Island and Full Throttle. I prefer Serious Sam to Painkiller, Portal to Halo, and Team Fortress 2 to Call of Duty 4. It’s to its advantage then that Penny Arcade’s new adventure-RPG hybrid On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is so genuinely funny, because it adds an attractive sheen to the dull gameplay.