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From out of the darkness
Edge #180, October 2007
Many years ago I reviewed LucasArts' Outlaws. A long-forgotten wild west-themed firstperson shooter, I thought it was a fine, pioneering game, and gave it a suitably impressive score. Atmospheric and original, its sniper rifle predated GoldenEye, and the level set on a moving train would soon become an FPS cliché. Yet every other reviewer on earth seemed to hate it. I was incensed, chiefly because I knew that their reviews would damage sales, and harm the chances of there ever being a sequel. And they did.
And then I got even more pissed off when everything they all seemed to hate about Outlaws they loved when it popped up in GoldenEye.
I'm not saying I'm right, and they were wrong. Quite the opposite, in fact; I obviously like what I like, and the fact I'm often in the minority suggests that I'm the 'wrong' one. What's more, as I get older I'm becoming more stuck in my ways, and my taste in games is becoming increasingly at odds with the tastes of the masses. I'm increasingly being 'wrong'.
I mean, the games I'm playing most at the moment are as follows: Sims Pool on my iPod, Scrabble (on Facebook), and 42 All Time Classics (chiefly the darts game). Plus, I'm repeatedly making new Miis on the Wii, and playing with the globe in the Wii weather channel. It's hardly FIFA '07, or Colin McRae's 'Dirt'.
I'm still buying games, but I'm getting quite narrow-minded about the sorts of games I splash out on. In terms of proper games, realistic military shooters are sort of exclusively my bag these days. Or anything a bit post-apocalyptic (I'm preparing to drop my pants for Fallout 3). But, overall, most games that we're told are AAA just get on my titties.
Take Halo 3 (please!!!!). I couldn't be more underwhelmed at the prospect of its release. I despised Halo 2 with a fair old passion - any game that seems to emphasise its tedious cutscenes over its gameplay, and tries to convince us it's bigger than it actually is by repeating sections ad infinitum (the gaming equivalent of adding breadcrumbs to a recipe), is going to raise my ire. I've seen nothing about Halo 3 that suggests it won't just be more of the same, yet the world and his uncle is going cock-a-snooker-loopy over it.
Then there's The Darkness. Oh, man... The Darkness! It is undoubtedly the worst game - in my humble, independent, profoundly 'wrong' opinion - that I've spent money on in a long, long time. My reviewer's sense was tingling from the first screenshot, but the reviews were 4/5 or higher right across the board. Even my friend Anthony recommend it to me. "Best game this year", he cooed, like a big idiot. But no. You were all wrong. The Darkness is awful, and now I feel like the lone boy in the crowd, shouting that he can see the Emperor's balls.
Bear with me for a paragraph or two more, but what is it you all like exactly? The Darkness is like every 'dark' videogame cliché rolled into one. When cinema goes dark you get Se7en. When videogames try it you get - whooooo! - Shadowman, or Legacy Of Kain: Soul Reaver, or Max Payne (how the hell can you expect anyone to take your deathly portentous story seriously when your main character is called Max Payne?). It's painfully embarrassing. In fact, I feel embarrassed for not only myself for buying it, but the rest of you for not seeing it. It's terrible that this steaming crapcake of sixth-form poetry-level toss could be held up as a shining example of sophisticated narrative.
It does absolutely nothing new. It just recycles gameplay that was five years out of date five years ago. There's nothing in The Darkness I haven't seen dozens of times before. Even the graphics are fairly uninspiring. How many times have we seen a grimy New York setting, or subways, or heavy metal hellscapes? Same old iffy animation. Same old graphical filters and lighting effects. It's one big interactive yawn; just a bog-standard firstperson shooter with a hackneyed plot. Maybe in some weird way I was wrong about Outlaws, but with The Darkness you're all completely and utterly wrong. I don't care. I know I'm right this time, and you've all been collectively brainwashed, or something.
Aaaaaand... relax. Sorry about that. I just had to get it off my chest. You know how it is.
Anyway, the important point is that, while I may be at odds with what most gamers seem to want, the videogame industry is finally so broad that there really is something for everyone. With the Wii, and brain training games, and mobiles, and iPods and whatnot, the platforms - and the types of games we play on them - are ticking every demographic box. Even mine.
We're not quite there yet, but if you take a step back you can see the industry opening up like a flower (if that's not too poncey a metaphor). It's all about choice, and right now we've got more choice than we've ever had.
Hell, it doesn't even matter that you're all wasting your money on The Darkness; I can still trade it in, and come back and play Tetris on my mobile, and I'll only have lost about £30.
For pity's sake.
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 (email@example.com) right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.