Friday, June 09, 2006

MGS3 is one of the worst games ever.

Metal Gear Solid 3 fails on many points, but why don't I just give you the play-by-play?

First, Snake. This #1 big-time American super-spy is like a regular spy, only badass. He smokes cigars and won't put on his oxygen mask when the plane is about to depressurize.

He gets on the ground and that's when he discovers he had no equipment. He didn't bother asking about his loadout BEFORE he was in the middle of cold war soviet territory. Also, the mission is planned to be 4 hours, max, and he has a calorie bar... and a few minutes are spent explaining that he'll have to kill wild animals and eat them. Oh, I forgot to mention: this is all taking place in a swampy jungle in Asia. In radio range of the arctic circle. Something doesn't add up.

Once you thoroughly hate the plot, characters, and script - which is just great, considering this game is so full of cinematics as to be worthy of the title "interactive movie" - you finally get to the gameplay. Here's how it went down:

Area 1: No enemies. Snuck up on crocogator of some sort. Shot it with tranquilizer. Moseyed on up at a leisurely pace with knife to skin and cut out meat for later consumption. 10 seconds or less after tranquilizer hit - as soon as I got in melee range - captain toothy wakes up. He is not groggy at all, I can assure you. I almost die in the knife fight. These are the best fucking tranquilizers ever.

Area 2: Tried to sneak up on someone to neutralize. Got caught. Died. Tried again. Got caught. Ran past everyone to the next area. Soon died, but restarted in the next area, as though I had by any means completed this one.

Area 3: Read Area 2; exact copy.

Area 4: Actually was heard and managed to hide until the person thought he was hearing things, which was satisfying at this point. Snuck a ways into the area past a few people. Carefully looked around for 20 seconds or so to ensure no enemies were about, before leaving cover to get over a wall. Detected the instant I stand up. The game has made it clear that running past everything is no longer an option, so I try to run and hide a few times, but they see me more or less instantly in every single hiding place. I manage to tranquilize one person near the start of this area, then I die. As I "continue", I take 5 steps and see the tranquilized person, still asleep.

This is when I turned off the console. Aside from missing the point of video games - that you need to play them, not watch them - what game that is there, is an absolutely terrible one. This is the sort of gaming you expected in the days of the NES. And not even from the good ones.

Let me return to the point of games vs. movies. In paper and film, the more detail in your story, the better. This provides immersion. The opposite is true in games; if you want to immerse the player, make the plot vague. Give him side quests. Let him wander around doing whatever. Don't have every single character fully establish their every aspect before the player does anything. Don't force the player to operate by stealth in a jungle area that is, at the largest, the size of a living room. Immersion in non-interactive medium is about details of plot. Immersion in interactive ones is about details of environment.

You can't achieve the perfect amount of dramatic effect when the timing (and ideally the responses) are up to the player, and I wish developers would stop trying. Same goes for anime-RPGs like Suikoden and Wild Arms. It's not a TV show, it's a game. Let me play my character how I want to.

Examples? Half-Life 2 + episode 1. Now that's a charged story... and the player's character never talks. Not even at the player's discretion. There's no list of options of what to say, no talk button... he just never talks. Despite this, the story is more compelling than these other cinematic games. This is because the player character's head never says something that the player himself is not thinking. This is a rather critical aspect of an immersive shooter, in which the plot necessarily revolves around the player character's head. In other games, having the player character speak is fine. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a good example. But keep this stuff to a minimum. In the aforementioned, the Prince and his accompanying Princess give a huge chunk of their dialogue shouting to each other across the room, while the player continues to solve puzzles or do whatever he wants. This way, the dialogue can progress and the characters can develop, without forcing the player into some scripted set of motions that remind him: this character isn't you. We can take control away from you any time we want and there's nothing you can do about it. We'll let you know when you can play your game again.

Finally, skippable cinematics have their place, but it's more of an admission that you can't think of any good mechanics to progress the story, without going into movie-mode. The truly great games do not need skippable cinematics, even when played by someone who doesn't want a more detailed plot than "shoot; kill."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

MGS3 is not one of the worst games ever. Thats a pretty one sided, stupid comment to make. Not that im saying its a decent game, either, cause it isnt. Its a failure, a letdown, a lost oppertunity.
The fact is Hideo Kajoma himself wants MGS to be like 007. Its a massive influence for him. Thing is, he thought he could go wild on the plot, and make it godamn cool, instead of plausable and immersive. Probably because he had made a decent engine adaption, with nice details (animated stalks of grass ffs), shootable insects (more detail), and more dynamics, like stamina, and boss battles that were in a formation (Pain, fear etc, coherent)instead of just going with the flow (the plot). All these gameplay details, PLUS camoflague and its hilarity (scientist, skeleton, national flags) meant he probably gave it the go-ahead and frolicked back to the plot table, where he was intent on improving things.
But improving meant 007'ning, but as weve all seen and as he has hopefully learned, the two DONT mix. We get a dodgy trailer with singing, very Bond, a stupid incoherent plot that made no sense because he focused on coolness for the moment (again, most of the detail was put into the engine, biiig mistake when it gets taken out of the plot). And its all generally crap.
Not to mention the fact that the game is so easy it could probably be played through in 2hrs or so. On HARD, you can run through every mini-level, quickly forward the game clock and kill The End, and generally race through things, with only the plot cutscenes to slow you down. CRAP I tell you.
Where is the MGS1? Nowhere! Its changed for the worse, which seems to be a common reoccurance in the game industry these days.
Games are getting crapper every year. Although the irony is, Hideo has a wonderful position in development, as he controls everything. But, sadly, thats a very rare thing, and the ladder to prove yourself and get to that position has probably been burnt away over the years as everything gets more corporate. Stay awaaay from game design!

6/16/2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Mr. Wallet said...

Game Design is something I'm truely devoted to (recently records of my interest in game design as a life-long career were discovered, dating back to age 8). Even if one could not make money by designing games, it would be my primary hobby.

My dream is to get payed to do soemthign that I love so much, but if necessary I would be a hobbyist forever, with a shitty job to pay the bills.

As for letdowns and lost opportunities: I can see where you're coming from having seen things like, Final Fantasy Tactics watered-down into an overtly simplistic version of its former self. However, I never had such a devotion to the MGS series (thus why I didn't play 3 until recently), so this is not an embittered post so much as a confident assertion that it really is one of the worst games ever made.

It's not hard to name worse, but it's hard to come up with a large list. From what I've played, there's Path of Neo, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within... Uh... Gimme a second... a few free games on the internet... OH, Last Action Hero on the Game Boy (original), that thing was just awful. What else...

Well, point is, if I were to construct a list of the worst games I've ever played, MGS3 is an easy top 10.

6/17/2006 2:00 PM  

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