Personally, I don’t like to exaggerate negative aspects of specific video games I cover in my article. From Destiny to DotA, despite the fact that I find flaws in many of the games I write about, I like to highlight what’s innovative and exhilarating about each of the games, what makes me enjoy them, and analyze trends in industry. However, two nights ago, I watched AngryJoeShow live on Twitch playing Battlefield: Hardline. Throughout tens of hours of gameplay, we pointed out glaring flaws that I found essentially made the game “soulless” – and many of the stream audiences agreed with it. In this article, I’ll cover some of the common flaws in the recent games that many of us found might become an industry trend and potentially compromise franchises and ruin reputations.
Battlefield: Hardline is still a decent modern FPS, with some twists to gameplay. Besides some of the balancing concerns, there is a problem I discovered in Hardline that is reflected in many other recent entries: a completely uninteresting storyline. While trying to portray itself as an epic cop drama with protagonists wrestling moral choices and vital decisions and some comic reliefs, Hardline’s plot and presentation achieved neither humor nor emotional values. Personally, I found the overall plot predictable and outrageous, without much rationality, and I was also unable to invest in the dialogue and flow of the story because of both discontinuity and strange turns within the story. I remember some games for their dramatic moments, be it Aerith’s death at Sephiroth, or making the life or death decision at the end of Beyond: Two Souls. Underwhelming storyline was an alarming trend in big games last year, with many developers focusing on game mechanics and features. It is okay to have a mediocre storyline with a few awesome moments, it is not okay for a game to have lazy or non-existent story. While it is important for a game to have good features and mechanics, the storyline is what make a game unique, separating a great one from a sea of good AAA titles.
My second concern of recent trend is seemingly incomplete games that prevent unique ideas from developing and becoming truly awesome. Games like EVOLVE, The Order: 1886, and many others all fall flat on this category, despite the fact that I still consider them to be great games. EVOLVE’s asymmetric combat and personalities are memorable, but the overall content it offered was limited in terms of characters, maps, and game dynamics, turning it into a “grind fest” with the promised excitement drowned out by boredom ten times in magnitude. The Order: 1886 featured great concepts, amazing voice acting and storylines, and above average gameplay, but the game was too short, with no replay value, making me yearn for the bits of gameplay between the long and fun-disrupting plot. These two games were representative of many other AAA titles that could have been epic and history-making if developers put in more effort in the right place, but instead, we have games with crowning moments of awesomeness ruined.
Modern AAA games are often complicated because of fancy technology and tools they use. This does not means they should be full of bugs. Many games in recent year suffered additional costs or even publicity damages, but the worst offender was definitely Assassin’s Creed: Unity. With standard full retail games becoming more and more expensive, I, as an engineer and hardcore gamer, expected good quality product in return. With that said, while small glitches might be tolerable, forgiven, or even entertaining, game-breaking crashes and fun-ruining bugs are not. Quality Assurance and Control is not expected to be perfect, and, to be honest, I loved glitches in Skyrim that sometimes sent me to space. However, as seen sometimes on internet and in forum discussions, I think obvious bugs and glitches should be fixed before their release, not after.
Glitches might plague a AAA title, but we can all agree on “cancer” of the industry recently has been microtransactions in major releases. I personally first encountered a real-money store in a major publisher release in Dead Space 3, I was shocked to realize EA was willing to take more of my money for in-game shortcuts on top of $40 that I already paid for that game. 2014 saw in-game transactions in many big titles, with purchases including anything from skins and remodeling to additional equipment, power, and even shortcuts, and the price range of these items ranges from few dollars to over a hundred dollars. Personally, I don’t know the cost breakdown of a game, but I think millions of copies sold of a $60 game nowadays should be substantial, and any additional in-game stores seem like money-grabbing schemes. Furthermore, in-game stores that offer shortcut could undermine how much we enjoy the game by taking out the process in which we work hard to earn them. While some games’ stores are arguably fair, when I paid for a game already, I expect a full package. Bottom line, this is not mobile games, and microtransactions are the opposite of integrity and fun.
Moving onward, it was important for us gamers to acknowledge games’ shortcomings while having fun. While each of our opinions might be different, I think some flaws in video games are truly commonly acknowledged as facts. Personally, I would like to see these flaws addressed and not ignored, and then we can have more polished games that we can cherish.