Though we’re a minority, I’m sure there are other sane gamers who don’t like Grand Theft Auto IV (PhD candidates, scientists, immigrants, democrats, people like you and me, etc.). However, while many people find fault with the racial stereotypes, indolently violent solutions to everything, the way moving cars appear to Nico’s right every time you look left and how the game makes you commit real-life crimes, I think those are hilarious. Plus, those problems are hardly unique to GTA.
The deeper flaw in the design of Grand Theft Auto IV is how the game emphasizes realism over fun. There are realistic doors that you can’t open and realistic buildings that you can’t enter. It has realistic ways to use the E-break in your ordinary cars, as well as unremarkable guns, a modest wardrobe and down-to-earth stereotypical enemies. Would it have killed them to put in a minigun, banana hat and Godzilla attack cheat?
Above: Why don't you get to hang from the bottom of a helicopter?
Some would argue that the realism adds to the fun, but after the new-game shine on the first few heists wore off, GTA felt like a car-stealing/driving simulator with nice scenery. This is supposed to be a game, which means I’d like a bit of creativity instead of a racetrack in disguise. Yes, the city looks beautiful, but the buildings are just eye candy. There’s nothing to find by diligently searching every alley that can’t be bought from any of the cookie-cutter stores. What we’ve got with GTA IV is a very professionally polished game set in an austere city that didn’t bother with the sloppy fun stuff.
What do you get when you cross on-rails shooting with repetitive techno beats and wireframe graphics from 1982? You get spank material for hordes of pseudointellectual game journalists eager to mistake novelty for art, and art for fun.
Rez isn't a bad game, necessarily. In fact, if you like your games short, easy and pretentious, it’s friggin' awesome
. An on-rails shooter about an evolving stick-man, Rez casts players as a hacker flying through a computer network, which is really just a thinly veiled excuse to substitute wire models, bright colors and cool effects for actual graphics.
It does have a unique hook, though; as players shoot stuff (done by painting multiple targets with a cursor and letting fly with a few heat-seeking missiles, or whatever their virtual equivalent is), each sound effect makes up a beat or note in the level's throbbing music, which grows increasingly more complex the further you get into the game. But "complex" doesn't automatically equal "good." The trippy techno tracks are all pretty unmemorable regardless of your input, and usually sound off-rhythm because of it. And no, the Japan-only “Trance Vibrator” (or the 360 controllers that replace it in RezHD) doesn’t make them any cooler.
Yes, yes, I know – I’m missing the point. To focus on Rez’s pedestrian gameplay is a mistake; it’s about the experience as a whole
. And to be fair, Rez’s visuals are a fun experiment, and I’ll even admit they can be hypnotic in spite of their minimalism. But they don’t make Rez an enjoyable game
Above: HD or no, it’s all the same
Original presentation aside, Rez is still an on-rails shooter about painting targets with a cursor and shooting missiles at them. That’s inescapable, and so is the fact that there’s no real story or variation to keep me invested in the action. Rez is all flash and no bang, a game that’s mildly entertaining while it lasts, and that isn't long.
To hear seemingly every other reviewer on the planet gush about its “brilliance” and “synaesthesia,” though, you'd think Rez was an unparalleled masterpiece. Instead of, you know, a music-driven version of a game we’ve already played a thousand times before.
Mario Kart rubs me the wrong way. I hated the way the SNES version controlled. I hated the way the N64 version looked like garbage with the worst draw distance I’ve ever seen in a multiplayer game. I hated the GameCube’s “switch-up” reliance on having two drivers throwing asinine weapons like last minute blue shells that disrupt the entire race.
Above: The stupidest thing I’ve ever seen
And I hate hate hate the Wii version. I hate how Nintendo stripped features to make the game more appealing to more people. That’s a clever way of saying, “dumbing down for the idiot masses.” They decreased the amount of drivers, they included terrible rubber-banding AI that makes you wonder why you’ve even started a race if skill was never involved, they packaged it with a dumb looking Fisher-Price plastic wheel and they put Mario on a goddamn, super-detailed motocross bike.
Above: Have fun looking at your quarter of a television screen
Plus, I don’t have any fun with it. I race and hear the same canned wallowing whenever someone is rammed off the track. I collect the same mushrooms and the same lightning bolt power-ups. And after five minutes, I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing.
But the DS version… I like that one.
The Sims wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t, literally, the best selling game of all time. Not only is its popularity the likely inspiration for the plague of casual crap on white background boxes currently polluting retailers everywhere, it’s the complete antithesis of what games are about for me.
ABOVE: The Sims - your gateway to sad
I suppose it boils down to a simple question: “Why do you play games?” Personally, I like traveling to untold worlds, filling the shoes of a powerful hero and achieving the otherwise unattainable while completing a consistent series of goals. Escapism, if you prefer. Quite simply, I want to ignore all the rules and routine of civilized existence, and momentarily leave behind the ceaseless mundanity of everyday life… and that just so happens to be the core aspect of The Sims’ gameplay.
It’s baffling that there are so many people willing to play games, yet are so boring and unimaginative that their version of “role-playing” is washing polygonal dishes with shorter hair. I’m sure plenty of you have some way of justifying the purchase of each and every new expansion just to train a terrier and/or find that perfect hat. But how can you possibly reconcile any amount of money spent on a gaming rig, if you’re only going to use it to perform monotonous chores you’d probably pay someone else to do, if only you could afford it?
Above: Now that’s more like it!