By SpikeDelight 21 Comments
Did you ever notice that developers these days are continuing the trend in their games of putting more and more enemies in, just to pad out the length? Take the Star Destroyer sequence in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed this year for example. I think it would have been safe to say that everyone would've been happy just doing the analog motion of ripping the craft out of the sky (without the stupid alignment thing) while really cool stuff played out around you like the way it happened in the trailer. No getting up every five seconds to deal with annoying TIE Fighters in a badly designed arena. Things like this remind me of the masterpiece that is Shadow of the Colossus. In Shadow they didn't add anything that would break the tone of the game as a whole. It was only you, your horse and the giant colossi. Nothing else was populating the world but a few lizards crawling on the ground, which were hardly enemies. They were just there to scamper away from your horse's galloping hooves (and get stepped on). Not every game has a tone of desolation as Shadow did, but they should be holding onto what makes their game interesting. Not enough developers think about their product as a whole anymore. They just think of what will happen throughout the length of their game and then proceed to make everything else on a moment-to-moment basis. The scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda pulls Luke's X-Wing out of the swamp was entertaining and engaging without any extra crap thrown in there. There were no enemies or action scenes between, just the struggle between a living being and the Force.
I'm not saying that there shouldn't be action in games at all, but most great games know when to break the action for an interesting part that doesn't involve killing enemies. Gears of War 2 for example, ended an incredibly action-packed segment by throwing you inside a giant worm's insides and asking you to just marvel at the sights; the only real action happening was the running between lethal parts of its digestion system. Yeah there were a couple of those spider-things you shoot at, but most of the time you were supposed to be running past them anyway. That was a very focused part of a great game. This focus made cutting the arteries with your chainsaw all the better as well, as your only enemy was the ever-increasing pool of blood surrounding you. If they added 3 Locust Drones to fight after each artery was cut, would that have made you enjoy that segment any more?
I think games nowadays have to cut most of their ties with their 8-bit brethren. Sure developers can learn from them by using the mantra of "find something fun to do and keep doing it" like Epic did with Gears 2, but padding your levels out with useless enemies meant only to make your sequence more frustrating and add 'challenge' is idiotic. Games don't need to have challenge at every turn. Sometimes gamers are refined enough to just appreciate the spectacle of something great.