Despite the better than expected reviews, there’s something about Transformers: War For Cybertron that just isn’t clicking for me. I enjoy transforming, especially into a jet and flying around the map, but it still isn’t enough. The weapons are decent, but weapon selection has never bothered me before or even been a major factor in the amount of fun I have, with the notable exception of the Ratchet and Clank series. So what gives? I should having a blast, but all I can muster up is one great big “Meh”.
Then it hits me like Megatron backhanding Starscream: I’ve played Uncharted 2. And Uncharted 2 was, to me, the definitive 3rd-person shooter, one that set such a high standard that few games can live up to it. It almost ruined the genre, really. This is not to say that other games, such as Gears of War, are not fantastic experiences themselves, as I enjoy that series also, but Uncharted 2 was able to grab me in a way that few games could. So playing an average 3rd-person shooter is likely to make me want to play Uncharted 2 more than anything else.
The same issue applies with the platforming in Uncharted 2, I recently played the demo for Enslaved and the climbing in that game consists of pressing the stick in the general direction of the glowing handhold and pressing jump. There is literally no way to die or make a mistake, so it makes me feel like it’s a waste of time. After playing games like Uncharted and Prince of Persia, Enslaved feels like a giant step backward and likely wouldn’t hold my interest for very long, although I will still give it a decent chance to woo me.
So I started thinking about other games that define their genre, at least me. What’s fun and interesting about this line of thinking is that everyone will have a different idea of what set the bar for a particular genre. Eddy, as previously mentioned, always thinks of Final Fantasy VII when playing JRPGs and why wouldn’t he? Hell, I think of it, too! That game was a landmark and the graphics and epic feel of the world swept millions of gamers like Sephiroth in the Lifestream. Why do you think almost every other JRPG, including Final Fantasy VIII, are reviled by some people? Because they want those games to be more like FF VII.
One game that comes to mind for me is Street Fighter II. Even the newest installment, Street Fighter IV, doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me. In fact, part of that is Capcom’s own fault: when they released Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix a few months before SF IV came out, it rendered the latter game obsolete for me, especially since of many of the moves were the same for the characters from SF II, which was all 12 of them. I’ve spent so many hours playing SF II over the years that I really have no interest in learning all the mechanics of a new fighting game, Street Fighter or otherwise. Only something like Marvel vs. Capcom is capable of capturing my interest, but Tekken, Soul Caliber and even Mortal Kombat can’t hold a candle to throwing fireballs as Ryu, so why bother spending time learning the ins and outs of something that I may not even enjoy?
FPS’s are also a genre that has its share of titans that look down on the rest of the mortals. Halo, of course, is one of the elite, as evidenced by people still playing Halo 3. Counterstrike is up there as well, having been around even longer than almost every other series. Though I am enjoying more and more FPS’s lately, I tend to stick to my favorites when it come time to buy. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 didn’t really do much for me, as I had already put in tons of hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. The differences in BC 2 ended up annoying me and I honestly believe it’s a great game, but I didn’t want to learn the feel of it.
The king of all of these is World of Warcraft. I pity anyone who would even think they could release an MMO that could dethrone WoW. People may leave for a bit to try something new or, you know, feed their kids, but they usually come back, more eager than ever. And now, with so many people having invested so much time and energy into their characters in WoW, I don’t blame them for not wanting to try anything new. Most new MMO’s are trying to capture the magic that Blizzard harnessed, but with a different skin and most WoW users aren’t going to bother, especially due to the high quality that they already experience there.
This is a problem that has only recently cropped up. In the older days of gaming, back during the SNES, NES and even PS1/N64, I don’t think it was that difficult to switch between different games. You could play Mario for hours and then play Sonic and not miss a beat. It’s only now, with complex control schemes and different engines that feel so alien after getting used to a different game that I’ve run into this problem. The other day, I played a demo for something, I can’t remember which game exactly and when I looked at the control scheme, I just started laughing. It was insane. Every single button had a use and it was all different from what I’m used to it. The first few minutes of the demo looked like Bambi trying to walk for the first time.
Sometimes it comes down to asking yourself, are you a fan of the game or of the genre? I love RPGs, but I haven’t played very many JRPGs not made by Square Enix. Therefore, it took me a lot longer than most other people to become tired of the same tropes we are exposed to by JRPGs, like grinding and androgynous protagonists with amnesia and unique swords. If I were to play Starcraft, I would be fooled into thinking I am an RTS fan, but really, I only enjoy a few of them.
There are plenty of games that are so far and above the rest of the chaff in their genre that it almost feels futile to develop a game in said genre unless they are really going to go for broke and break the mold with something really original.
My question to you is, are there any games that you feel rule the roost and therefore, you don’t even bother with anything that is too similar? Has there been a game you thought was going to be a lesser rehash of your favorite game but it surprised you?