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Edge #157, Christmas 2005
When writing this column for Edge there are often things I want to get off my manly chest which don't warrant an entire article. Niggles and irritations that would need to be stretched unnaturally to cover the required 900 words. Adhering to the ethos that nothing is ever wasted, here are my leftovers - things I'd like to throw into the Gaming Room 101:
Being the Alien in Aliens Vs Predator games
Are any of the Alien films told from the Aliens' point of view? Do you sympathise with the Aliens in their struggle against the evil human tyrants? No, you do not. Can we please, for the love of Jiminy Cricket, have an Alien game — or an Aliens Vs Predator game — where you don't have to play from a supposedly invincible bad guy's point of view? It reduces tension and focus. It reduces the atmosphere. It devalues one of the greatest cinematic creations of all time — even more than Paul W Anderson.
Cutscenes you can't skip
I'm not a fan of cutscenes as it is (and I speak as someone who has written them), but if you are a frustrated screenwriter, and have a hackneyed story featuring underdeveloped characters, that you feel the world needs to hear, at least give us the opportunity to skip it. I reserve special scorn for Far Cry Instincts, and the several-minutes-long, unskippable demo which you have to sit through EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU START THE GAME. Unless there's something wrong with my copy, this is the single worst game design decision ever made. Ever. A suitable punishment for the individual responsible would be forcing them to watch a four-minute breakdance routine whenever they wanted to enter their home.
Alien worlds as the climactic level in otherwise urban firstperson shooters
As ex-Wurzel Gummidge Jon Pertwee once remarked: "There's nothing as scary as coming home and finding a yeti on your toilet in Tooting Bec." In other words, it's scarier if you juxtapose the familiar with the unfamiliar, because it gives the viewer - or the player - a point of reference.
Star Wars works because its alien worlds are usually a mix of real-world architecture and real- world geography. Far too many alien environments in games appear to have taken their inspiration from prog rock album covers. This is why I enjoyed Halo, but found vast swathes of Halo 2 to be as dull as Durham, with its near-endless levels set in that ruddy huge, abstract, purple spaceship thing.
3D Sonic The Hedgehog games
They're no fun. Go back to 2D!
The fact nobody ever talks about Resident Evil being a rip-off of Alone In The Dark
How come Resident Evil is always credited with creating the survival horror genre when it stole everything wholesale from Alone In The Dark? The interface, the tension, the camera angles, the puzzles, even the mansion setting had all been established by Infogrames' Edwardian scare-fest. Why did the company never take action!?? It baffles and frustrates me slightly more than it should.
Difficult sections in otherwise easy games
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath was ruined for me by that virtually impossible bit where you have to run out of a building before it explodes (or something). What made it worse was that it came in the middle of an otherwise beautifully pitched game. Because I couldn't be arsed with wasting days of my life repeating the same section I've never finished Stranger's Wrath
Brand loyalty in gamers
Fair enough if you support a football team, but why would anyone in their right mind display loyalty to a corporation like Microsoft or Sony (or Sega or Nintendo or Commodore)? Games is games, and turning a blind eye to the faults of a profit-making business, and dismissing other brands in support of your own, is at best blinkered, and, at worst, cripplingly sad.
Consoles with numbers in their names
Has there ever been a more meaningless name for a console than the Xbox 360? They might as well have called it the Stipend-Fan-Ta-Ham-Besselectom 4.
"But how do we make them realise it's an all-new Xbox, and not the old box in new pants? We need a new angle. Of course - angle! That's it! Xbox 90-degrees! We'll make it so they can stand it on its side, because they like that, the kids. No, wait. Why have only 90 of the degrees when you can have all of them? We're talking Xbox 360-degrees. Xbox 360! I'm a genius."
Except, of course, it probably didn't happen like that, and bloated consultants were doubtless paid millions of pounds to spend months thinking of a suitable trademark.
Mr Biffo co-founded Digitiser, Channel 4's Teletext-based videogames section, and now writes mainly for television
Do you know of any important moments from the annals of Digi history that have been omitted? If so, then mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.