Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ZA Critique: The Thing

Decided to adjust course a bit for this ZA Critique and talk about a game’s flaws instead of its virtues. One of the things I wish critics would engage with more is discussing why something is bad. Praising a game is typically not a tricky affair, you know when you’re having fun and you know when the game is doing what it already carefully explained it was going to do. Explaining why something is bad is much, much harder. You have to establish what the game was going for, at what tiny part of that process it breaks down, and then how that subsequently wrecks everything else. Scribbling off the generic “dull level design” or “same old concept” does nothing for either developer or fan. So often people just turn the game off when it begins to fail, they don't give it the time to fail fully and to its ultimate conclusion. Sometimes you find out that the only thing the game was really guilty of was not doing things the way you expected. Other times, you find out there's a reason you expect a game to behave a certain way.

The Thing is a survival horror game that leans on the sunny side of combat based. A very interesting infection game design is in the game, but it falls apart because of the linear nature of the infections. A cool mechanic for fear exists along with a system that makes you depend on your squad mates more than the average shooter. Unfortunately, it does not rely on this system to deliver the narrative and instead just shoves it all down your throat through cutscenes.

By no means do I think you have to play every game to completion. But you need to play it long enough to be able to explain yourself adequately to both fan, developer, and hater alike.

You have to develop a meaningful relationship with crappy games.

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