Games, like anything, rarely ever remain the same over long stretches of time. Sometimes this can be a very good thing. Others, this makes for a very poor transition period. To give a clear example of some good and bad cases, I’m going to begin with the good, continue with the average, and then pit stop at the bad. Let’s get this show on the road.
Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)
The first game set the pace for its entire generation. True, it was first a 2D stealth scrolling adventure on a console that existed before my birth, but its debut on Playstation was definitely it’s most monumental release. Creator Hideo Kojima even added the “Solid” to the Metal Gear name. You know it’s gonna rock when they do that.
Featuring a progressive and engaging storyline that was nearly unheard of for games at the time, you ventured through a plethora of engaging and trying maze like environments. It was the first non-linear game I’d ever encountered. You had a set number of objectives and completing them would get you closer to your goal, versus the go from point A to point B to save the princess. It was a whole new way of playing, and thinking how games could evolve.
Metal Gear Solid 4 (Playstation 3)
The fourth sequel to the game released last year. I had not followed the series outside of a short stint with MGS2 and the history lesson made interactive that was Snake Eater. However, something just clicked in the same way the first did with me. The levels weren’t quite as expansive feeling to me as in the first, although there were a few more story triggers in this release than the first. However, it managed to grow in ways that allowed it to keep up with the games that had released post launch.
Weapons had a more dynamic feel with aiming and firing more like a shooter, utilizing more buttons and increased control. We were also allowed to have free control over the camera which had JUST been added to the re-release of MGS3. The story was more fan service to end the series than a coherent thriller, but it still managed to be highly entertaining nonetheless.
Absent from the first game were huge set piece battles, one of which was probably my favorite boss fight ever, allowing you to control the iconic Metal Gear weapon itself. Not only had the series evolved graphically, but it had made key changes to its play style that would allow even new gamers to enjoy the franchise.
It’s ironic that the first time I played this console first person shooter was after it had been released on the PC. I had owned an Xbox for who knows how long, but never had Halo. I had seen it around on store shelves, never bothered picking it up even to look at the back of the packaging. This was the time when about the only research on video games I did was a $10 subscription to GamePro, so naturally I was going to miss something.
It easily became one of my favorite games of all time, so when I say that its series progression is only average, you might be a bit put off. I love it as much as anyone, but there are some things that need to be addressed. There’s nothing wrong with it by any means.
The first game had a distinctly scifi explorative feel which was unique for a game about an intergalactic religious war. We had no real involvement with anything related to its backstory, undertones, subplots, or – well what am I doing? I’m going all about the story in a GAME. Maybe that’s just it. It had a really well defined execution for a straight shooter. Brilliantly efficient shooting mechanics aside, its thrill ride was what reeled you in, and its story was at the time what hooked you.
Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
The third game was as big as everyone had thought it’d be. For those who don’t know, Halo is the fastest selling franchise in the globe. It’s sequel Halo 2 generated $125mil in sales in just one day. All eyes were on the third game in the series, as it was supposed to end the trilogy.
Gameplay wise the series had managed add in more variety with new vehicles and some new gear, but in the 3rd all it really did was seem to add on to a well established house. Halo 2 had made strives for online gaming on consoles, and can be single-handedly attributed to Xbox Live’s success. However, the ride stopped there.
With Halo 3, set pieces aside, it really seemed to be aiming towards more of the same. Each game had an almost cookie cutter storyline after the first, aimed to directly emulate the style of the first. Which was very odd given the wealth of outside story details presented to us in a variety of mediums during the games 3 year release windows. Add to that the fact that the maps launching with the game I thought were the weakest in franchise history, it didn’t really manage to keep me as well as the 2nd did multiplayer wise, or singleplayer as well as the first.
Still, that said, it did provide some key changes that the series needed. Co-op online with four players was enough to get you and your friends involved in skirmishes for days on end. Player customization was expanded in ways not seen in the previous games, and the all around bigger release and hype surrounding the new console made gamers effortless to find made sure you had plenty to fight with. Not a bad sequel by any stretch, but with a bit more work I’m sure they could’ve made it the game that every fan had dreamed of.
Okay. You’ve wondered what could possibly be used as an example for a bad sequel or poor series progression. Well, this one hurts, but it’s gotta be done. Hindsight is a b!@#%.
Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)
To be fair: I didn’t finish this game. *gets hit by a random bottle* BUT! I liked it a lot. I bought a Gamecube for it after all. This game wasn’t the same as the other Resident Evil titles, but I think that was a great thing. More action and more control over your character. Sure realism was destroyed by not being able to move in a way that made sense to survival, but a good game suspends belief and offers enjoyment. No one ever asks Mario why he can only walk in two dimensions. Well…until Super Paper Mario that is…
But I digress, this game made welcome changes to the franchise by keeping a more forgiving expansion system, awesome weapons cache, and a storyline that didn’t take itself seriously enough to stop being cool. So why is this game on the list if I thought it was amazing? Maybe because its little brother was so awesome it was retarded.
Resident Evil 5 (Xbox360/Playstation 3)
Let me say this. I did finish this game. It’s hard not to. It’s not too long, it’s got co-op, and its fun as hell. One of my favorite games of the generation. But it’s by no means the sequel it should’ve been. Resident Evil was about puzzle solving, exploration, and zombie fighting. The last game moved away from the traditional brain dead zombie hordes in favor of pack mentality savages. Nothing wrong, and the direction they took makes for a lot of high octane sequences. But this was basically a cheap, though fun, third person shooter with the Resident Evil name.
It’s barely survival horror. It’s not frightening or suspenseful. The only tension is the way the controls manage to get in your way from fleeing for your life. The over the top boss fights and enemies are a huge plus. Having some of the best visuals in a video game also help, but this isn’t Resident Evil by a long shot. It’s a good game, not a good Resident Evil game though.
By now you all have read this and can go tell your friends a little something about what it means to be a true gaming “connoisseur.” Or you can write me an email telling me how dumb I am. Both are acceptable. Just as long as you keeping gaming ;).
Phaethon is an avid gamer and writes a gaming blog called Couch Campus.