In a World Full of Sequels, Where is the Originality?

Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Metal Gear Solid 4, Street Fighter 4, Resident Evil 5, and all those other major franchises.  Where is the originality?  Why has the idea of a new game and by new I mean new engine, look, feel, something we haven’t seen before, gotten such a bad rep?  I know it’s not an easy thing to do, but it sure can be on e of the most rewarding.  Lately developers have spitten out new and exciting titles (that are now slated for sequels) such as Bioshock, Uncharted, Infamous, Left 4 Dead.  These games received much praise!

This issue does not stop in the game industry.  It has hit the movies hard.  You think with all the X-men movies, Twilight movies, DC movies, that the studios would have run out of source material, but they seem to scrap up other things.  Very rarely do we sit down in a theater and get to experience a new cast, story, dialogue, and approach that we haven’t seen beaten into the ground. 

I would like to see a holiday season come around without the usual video game sequels or a summer come about without the predictable blockbusters.  Even if it fails its good to see the effort.  I’m not saying that I do not support the sequels, I mean who doesn’t, lets the get the gaming community/moviegoers excited about seeing something completely new!


Left 5 Dead

(if you include my calm)

contributed by: The 300

Before I start burning them, let me start by first building the bridges.

Left 4 Dead is an incredible game.

I’ve played it almost every night since it came out, and by the time I shut down my console I’m either ecstatic and proud of my performance, or searching a darkened room for the battery pack of my controller that self-ejected after I flung it against the floor in an enraged moment seconds before. To me, those two pendulumic outcomes may vary in their degree of emotional gesticulations, but they always occur in some respect. And it is in that fact, I can say with certainty, that Valve has made an incredible piece of gaming software.

I loved Fallout 3, and I enjoyed exploring their varied world, but I never reveled in glee after a particular battle. I never giggled like a pony-tailed Clarie’s girl after a specific quest was fulfilled. And I realize that these two games are far apart on the ‘how much alike are these two games?’ spectrum but the same could be applied to Halo or the mega-nostalgic game: Counterstrike.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thrown a fit over Counterstrike before (being pegged with a headshot by someone spinning 360 degrees while bunny-hopping at approximately 300 yards away can do that to you), but the emotion from that experience was genuine anger. I lost to that particular poon not because I wasn’t good enough, but because he understands how to cheat properly. The weight of cheating usually outweighs the heft of just being plain good at the structured game at hand.

More-over, Halo2 and Halo3 both can be a bit predictable at times. If the other team picks up the one rocket launcher on the map, starts flying about in the Banshees, and also has control over the Warthog? The weight my friend, is on their side, and unless some major theatrics occur, you can basically log out right then. Game Over. You lost. Also, the weapons of the Halo franchise are indeed varied, but they can also, in the right hands mind you, make the maps incredibly unbalanced. For instance, if you pick up the sword and shotgun in the right levels, you can completely own the map. Have the sniper rifle and rocket launcher? You can own the rest of them.

The one saving grace that the Halo franchise has going for it, is that many people…to be honest…are really not that good at it. Out of ten I would give most players a five, possibly a six, and please understand, I’m not trying to imply that I am a nine or an eight or whatever. I’m just saying that in many Halo2 or 3 games you can out maneuver people if you know what you’re doing. And while out maneuvering people can lead to some exciting moments, the excitement comes from being able to out balance the already weighted system. Your happy because you beat the system, not the people playing.

Those examples only go to show what makes Left 4 Dead a better systems in many ways, and flawed in a few others. First and foremost, the game is centrally a co-op feature. The bulk of the game is made to be that way and although they made versus an option, they also made it secondary. World of Warcraft (just stay with me here) also has PVP servers, but one will find that many, and by many I mean millions, of people log in everyday to join up with their friends to topple not only huge monstrous foes, but also to just hang out. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call WoW one of the biggest co-op games of all time. (praise be to Everquest for helping pave the way…may God rest your soul)

The camaraderie in Left 4 Dead is intense and forced onto players in such a way that makes them work together as a team. If your favorite past time is pwning noobs and running solo, shotgunning your way through whatever obstacles a game throws at you, try something else. This game is trying to teach you to love your X-box friends, and in theory, it works extremely well. In practice however, it runs into a few snags.

I still have a few achievements left to get on Left 4 Dead. Achievements that I want to get. So I guess it’s time to log in and join up with my friends to try and topple an entire level in Expert.\

Oh wait…none of my friends are online.

Okay I’ll try calling a couple of buddies.


Okay they aren’t answering. Hmm…

Yep, a few texts later and I could only find one guy to join up with.

As a side experiment, try beating an entire level on Expert with just one other person playing.

Go ahead.

I’ll wait.

Well…if you actually tried it then I’m assuming it’s two to three hours later, the two remaining computer players have run into fire a couple of times, decided to charge a two ton tank with a pistol or sniper rifle, and have come to the conclusion that the best way to cross a gap between two buildings is by perpetually throwing themselves off one side towards the vicinity of the other. If you didn’t try it, then I’m guessing many of these images, if not every single one of them have already passed through your head. This is where the formula breaks down.

Maybe my X-box friends suck, maybe we aren’t that organized, but I’ll be damned if I can actually play that game with more than one other person on any given day for any length of time. I guess I could just randomly join a session online, but I’ve played Diablo 2, and I know how that crap works. I’ve joined random Halo3 parties many times and aside from XxxsomethinggayxxX and XxxsomethinggayxxX(1) racking up some serious kills, I’ve found that many people online, aren’t that reliable.

Besides that, this game is more then just co-op, with its ‘save your buddy system’ ensconced so tightly within the structure of its being, this game in particular just screams to be played with friends. Without friends your alone. Left for dead. Sure you’ve got computer players, but the sporadic, flailing and wildly unreliable prescience of three computer players, turns the game from the fun it should be, into a rudimentary study of NPC/player relationships.

“How far forward do I have to move, to move you Bill?”

I have actually found myself asking this question.

Finding the answer to said question is usually just me…sighing heavily and mumbling:

“Dammit Bill!”

The game is incredible when you play by their rules. Valve makes an admirable attempt at enabling you to play without human help, and in any other difficulty level, they succeed. Expert on the other hand,  that level of difficulty was made for one thing: raiding parties. Left 4 Dead shows us that the anger you’re feeling at a game poorly played has nothing to do with the fair or unfair game mechanics, it has to do with the disappointment in yourself or your whole team. Never before in a game have I felt completely at fault for the rest of the team dying.

For example: when someone gets covered in smelly Boomer vile, they get angry. They get upset not because they themselves are now more in danger of dying but because, they have now unleashed hell on their party. They feel responsible, and what truly amazes me the most is the relationship that forms when your are with a good team as opposed to a poor team.

When you’re with a good team and covered in puke, one would imagine that because the risk of death is less for everyone involved, that you would be less upset, but I find the inverse to be true. When I’m with a bad team, and every turn is countered with a crappy misfire or some loose cannon running off into the distance only to yell at us to hurry up because he got pounced by a Hunter, I find that I don’t care when I’m jumped by a Boomer. I don’t even really care if I die. It’s only when I’m with people who are good at what they do, that things start to make a difference to me. My friends play very well and we all know that one small mistake from any one person can start the downward spiral that will end the game early. One boomer spit-up, one french kiss from a smoker can spell disaster, so we all try and up out game.

I guess in the end, Left 4 Dead  is at the very least, a great teaching tool for 13 year olds. Little snots who ride on the wing of a Banshee, only to jump off in mid-flight, headshot my ass from across the board, land on the rocket launcher spawn point, use that rocket launcher to blow the crap out of our competing Banshee, snipe the driver of our warthog, plasma the gunner, and then proceed to call ME a douche.

Yeah, that was fun!

Now, where in the hell did my batteries go?


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