I’m Ihmhi, and I’m a Battered Gamer.
You know the whole “Battered Wife” stereotype… turn on Jerry Springer or Steve Wilkos and you have a 25% chance of seeing an overweight redneck woman saying “He still loves me!” or “He don’t know any better!”
I’ve been going through my game library lately, playing some games that have a lot of good things about them (“I still love them!”) but they have a lot of gleaming flaws (“They don’t know any better!”). These flaws can actually make the game painful or frustrating to play, and yet I still play them!
Sure, some games are minor offenders (Can’t remap controls in this day and age? What the HELL.), but some are pretty bad. I’m going to throw down a few of the more egregious examples, and I’d like to hear yours as well. As with some of my previous posts, this may read like an advertisement, but that’s just because I love gaming so much. (However, if any of the companies involved would like to give me a comically large wheelbarrow full of money to be a consultant, I am currently in the market for a new job…)
Beyond Good & Evil (PS2, Xbox, GC, PC)
If you haven’t played Beyond Good & Evil, well, that’s because you were probably playing one of the other, better-advertised, more popular games that came out at the time: Prince of Persia Sands of Time, SSX3, SOCOM II, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Final Fantasy X-2, Mario Kart Double Dash, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Manhunt, Max Payne 2… BGE didn’t have a chance. It didn’t help that Ubisoft really didn’t, you know, actually advertise the game.
The good things first: Beyond Good & Evil is a work of goddamned art. If I ran the Smithsonian, I would get one of those gameplay videos that Gamestop shows of a game playing in a loop and put it on one of the walls of a museum running on a 60″ HD television right next to the painting comprised solely of a white canvas with a purple triangle in the middle that’s the breakthrough piece of the minimalist movement. BGE was made by the same guy who made the Rayman games and it was envisioned as a trilogy – I’ve never had the opportunity to play any of the Rayman games, but I know how awesome they are – right up there with stuff like Banjo & Kazooie. That alone should speak for its quality.
The graphics are beautiful for a PS2-era game. The soundtrack is awesome: take a listen to any one of the songs. (Granted, the last one is a bit insane, but it’s meant for a crazy hoveboat race through a futuristic Venice-like city. Trust me, it’s appropriate in a gameplay context.) The characters are interesting and the gameplay is solid.
First, there’s the issue of the yet to be released sequel. Ubisoft (who, by the way, can rot in hell) released this teaser trailer almost 3 years ago. They released this gameplay trailer almost 2 years ago. The game is currently in limbo. It doesn’t help that the first game ends in a cliffhanger. For you fans of Mirror’s Edge (one of the few console games I actually liked enough to purchase), take note: Beyond Good & Evil did the whole “maniacally running through city rooftops and streets while fighting a totalitarian government” thing about 7 years before Mirror’s Edge got around to it.
Secondly, the PC Port didn’t have the option to remap controls. Got a gamepad? Too god damn bad, enjoy playing a platformer/action game with a mouse and keyboard. Thankfully there’s a wonderful program called XPadder. XPadder lets you remap one input device to another (like, say, a USB game controller), so you can replace mouse movement with the right analog stick, change spacebar to the X button, etc. As far as the game is concerned, you’re still pressing space. I bought XPadder and it’s worth every penny. (Now every game supports game pads, whether they want to or not!) It’s also great for things like joysticks or trackballs or whatever the hell device you want to use for your gaming without having to hack around in the game’s code.
But I digress. Not being able to remap controls is a cardinal sin in my book. I hate the games that have options like “Controller Setup A, B, and C. You want custom? Fuck you, our way or the highway.” Thankfully, for us PC Master Race folks, this is no longer an issue, but the poor, downtrodden console peasants will have to make do with playing the game that brilliantly assigned “shoot gun” to the L1 button.
So for BGE, my main gripes are tiny technical things and the fact that they’ve taken what could have stood up to Banjo & Kazooie or Zelda or [insert awesome action-adventure game here] as a timeless franchise and screwed the pooch. They screwed the pooch so hard that the pooch requires emergency surgery to halt internal bleeding. The pooch is going to be pooping out of a hole in its side.
And despite all of this, I’ll still load it up every few months or years, and take 8 hours to play through the whole game end to end. He doesn’t know any better! *thwack* *sob*
You can get BGE on Steam for around ten bucks. If you enjoyed the Zelda Games, or the Banjo games, or any of the games where you hop about and have fun solving puzzles and fighting over-the-top enemies, it’s worth your money.
Oh, and if you want a TL;DR version of the gameplay, you’re a photojournalist/investigative reporter. That’s right, it’s Pokémon Snap with a hot, ass-kicking chick who doesn’t dress like a whore (I’m looking at you, Lara Croft, and so is every other able-bodied male ages 14-49).
Evil Genius (PC)
It’s just like Austin Powers: The Game, except you play Dr. Evil instead of Austin and the game doesn’t suck (beyond the following reasons I’ll be listing for it sucking).
You’re an Evil Genius. You build a secret lair, you get very disposable mooks to man your facility, and you try to take over the world!
You build out your entire lair. You train your mooks, send them on missions, fend off government agents, fight off an insane combination of James Bond and Rambo, and generally do evil things in a 1960’s Bond Villain style. Overly elaborate death traps? Sure, that’s my base’s front door.
Evil Genius came out around 2004. I heard about it then and was interested in it. About 5 years later it popped up on Steam on sale for $5 (normally, it’s $10) and I snapped it up. I spend more than that on cigarettes most days, so it wasn’t a huge risk.
Man, sometimes… I’d rather have had the cigarettes.
The game has a serious case of GIBE: Good Idea, Bad Execution. Where shall I begin?
You can only directly control your Evil Genius and his high-level Henchman. All of your disposable mooks are, well, idiots. Rather than run to a gun cabinet and arm themselves during a Red Alert, they’ll fistfight the veritable Green Berets. (Skippy and any other former soldier can attest to how much of a bad idea it is to punch a Special Forces soldier, especially if they’re armed and traveling in a group.) I’m still not sure if this is bad AI or if it was a brilliant design choice, as I get very much into character and say things like, “Get them, you incompetent fools!”.
The game isn’t entirely clear on how to earn money, and boy howdy do you need money. An average income is around $10,000/minute, and most good items cost at least $1,000. Thankfully, you don’t pay your mooks a salary, but anything you need to build in your base is gonna cost you. This is one of those games where reading the instruction manual, burning it, and then reading game guide on it isn’t an act of shame – it’s absolutely necessary.
Evil Genius is complex and interesting, but the game tries so very, very hard to make you hate it. And yet every few months, I’ll come crawling back to it because honestly no one has been able to do better as far as I know. It’s my fault he hits me!
(Side note to the readers: I’ve heard good things about the Dungeon Master and Dungeons games; are they any good, or do they suffer from the same problems? Let me know in the comments!)
Alien Vs. Predator (PC)
No, not the iconic PC game from the late 90s; the remake that came out February of last year. Oh wow, I just noticed it was made by the same people who made Evil Genius (Rebellion). Well apparently Rebellion has a problem with taking what should be an awesome idea for a game and making it work right.
I received Alien Vs. Predator as a gift on Steam. I wish I could refund gifts so my friend can have his money back.
The only good thing about AvP – and there is so, so much wrong – is multiplayer with friends. The single player is horrible. The controls are horrible. The entire game reeks of being rushed, poorly planned, and poorly designed.
AvP beat the hell out of me for putting dinner on the table 2 minutes late. I left him and I haven’t looked back.
It’s on Steam for $20. Take the $20 you’d have spent on this game, and buy both Evil Genius and Beyond Good & Evil instead.
Oh man, where do I start.
I was coaxed into buying Global Agenda 3 days before launch. This is one of the very, very few games that I actually got not only on release day, but before release day. (As an example, I waited a month to buy the Orange Box pack. The Orange freaking Box!) I paid full retail price.
The same friend who purchased AvP for me (the poor, dumb bastard) kept selling me on this game. He said he’s in the beta and it’s fantastic. “Dude, trust me, you’ll love it!” God damn him to hell for being right.
Global Agenda is a (mostly) third-person shooter where you play a futuristic special agent. (Indeed, the players are called “Agents”, and the guilds are called “Agencies”.) Everyone has powered armor and laser guns. If that doesn’t sell you on it, I don’t know what will.
Oh, I know! How about the fact that GA was originally going to be a subscription-based game, i.e. $10-15 a month to play it. Now it’s free to play. Wanna try out GA? You can go download it, for free, right now. And honestly, despite all of the bad things I’m about to say about it, it’s still worth it. Most of the game is good.
First and foremost, Global Agenda was originally going to be a MMO. Expect leveling, grinding, and hunting for epic lewts. Expect big raid-style battles. Expect having a moron in your party ruin the occasional game.
GA shined everywhere except for AvA – Agency Vs. Agency play. It was one of the big selling points of the game – you fight over spaces on a world map, build factories and whatnot to produce devices to assist you in winning, and eventually you can “win” the map by meeting a certain condition. Fantastic idea, right? Sadly, said fantastic idea fell flat on its ass when it met with the real world.
An Agency known as Protocol and their cohorts dominated the game. I’m not talking about the fact that they were the best (they were) – they literally dominated the entire game. For the first full year of play, nobody but them actually won an AvA map (there were several; five, I believe). If someone else made the attempt, Protocol & Co. would bring the hammer down and stop them, then win the map just to show them up.
Protocol was comprised of a tight-knit group of people who have been gaming together for years. Despite everyone’s best effort, nobody ever won a real, major victory against them.
That’s not to say Protocol were assholes. With the exception of a handful of members, every single one of them were upstanding guys. I still game with a few of them, and large portions of my Agency (and others) treated these guys as worse than Nazis. When you’re at the top, people tend to hate you.
Protocol took a very cut-throat clan vs. clan environment and took it to its logical Darwinian conclusion. They used the best gear and the most reliable tactics. They bribed potential enemies and turned them into allies. They sold themselves out as mercenaries, raising funds for themselves and ultimately causing other groups to fight between each other rather than band together and focus on them. Honestly, they were like the British Empire – magnificent bastards who were adept at exploiting the weaker folks around the world and ultimately staying on top.
About half a year after the game came out, Hi-Rez (the company that made Global Agenda) announced a full-on revamp of the AvA mode. Protocol dominated it again. Hi-Rez seemed incapable of creating a system which couldn’t be gamed and ultimately dominated by a single, small group of about 30 elite players.
While I admit that something like this is a problem that any game with a competitive group element faces, the easiest solution constantly seemed to evade Hi-Rez (and boy howdy, how often did I push for it on the forums!). Had Hi-Rez had the sense to split the game into brackets (Elite players, Intermediate Players, Newbie Players, etc.), that may have largely curtailed Protocol’s domination of the game. Conversely, Protocol may have just made up a bunch of shell agencies (which they’ve done many times to great effect) and dominated all of the ladders at the same time. They never attempted a fix of this sort, and to be honest it probably wouldn’t have worked. This is the sort of problem you need to get a PHD consultant to fix, to be honest. I’d like to be able to wholly blame Hi-Rez for the clusterfuck that was AvA gameplay, but honestly there are more problems with trying to put rules on human nature and creativity than there were with the game system itself.
Eventually, Protocol realized that they were basically killing the game. They had caused entire Agencies to ragequit. Trust me when I say that it is incredibly frustrating to fight them in a 10 vs. 10 match; you’ll get 1 kill on them for every 5 or 10 they get on you. Protocol largely stopped their swath of destruction, resorting to holding their own lands and continuing with mercenary work. Protocol eventually moved on to other things, and while a few of them still play the game they are not the dominating force that they once were. I hear that there is still “that one agency” at the top, even though it’s no longer Protocol. And honestly, that’s how it is in almost every other MMO.
That’s the real bad stuff about Global Agenda. Sure, he hit me a little too hard that one time, and I didn’t really deserve it. Even so, Global Agenda is a cuddler and knows how to make up for his rampant alcoholism by being great in other ways.
Aside from the clusterfuck that is AvA play, the game is split into PvE and PvP. There’s different gametypes and varying styles of play. All of them are balanced, and the high-end PvE content is genuinely challenging. Actually, the mid-end PvE content is challenging – the high-end stuff is goddamned unforgiving.
PvP follows all of the standard shooter game tropes. Capture the Flag, Capture the Zones, etc. There’s a 4 vs. 4 sort of deathmatch mode, but largely the game is based on team play. Theoretically your gear isn’t as important as your skill – elite players with mediocre gear can fight evenly agaist a mediocre player with elite gear. PvP is fun and you can play it for hours.
PvE plays like a level in the old Goldeneye game. You have enemies to kill and objectives to complete. You can opt to go in guns blazing, or do things a bit more stealthy. If you trip an alarm, Bad Things (TM) happen and you generally have to fight off elite, angry mobs.
The gameplay itself is pretty solid. Everyone has jetpacks. Really. Jetpacks are a standard feature. That alone makes this game fun.
There’s four classes (Assault, Medic, Recon, and Robotics (Engineer)), and each of them can be “specced out” much like talent trees in WoW. You can follow some of the tried-and-true builds, or you can create something that simply should not be through sheer ingenuity. People said a Robotics Melee Tank was impossible – I made it work. Granted, Assault is better at tanking (and can actually fight from range), but I proved that it was indeed possible.
Visually, the game is beautiful, even on lowest settings (which I had to use, and I’ll get to why I had to use those shortly). Players can choose different types of armor (purely cosmetic) and color it any way they please – very rarely do two players look the same. This is also perfect for a free-to-play model since they can offer additional cosmetic incentives that don’t actually affect the game, a win/win all around.
The only other real downside of the game is the technical issues. Global Agenda was built on the Unreal engine. Unreal is one of the best game engines for making wide-open spaces without lagging the game to hell. If you’ve ever tried to play on a Source game with a huge open field (or something similar), you’re going to see your FPS drop lower than Dubya’s I.Q. on a bad day.
Global Agenda somehow managed to make huge open areas that caused your FPS to plummet. If you have a high-end system you’ll be fine, but on a mid-range computer like mine you’re going to be in a lot of trouble. When the new Sonoran Desert zone came out (huge and very open), I couldn’t really play it. I gave up the game at that point, although I’ll probably come back and play it someday soon, even just because I’m now considered a premium-tier player in a Free to Play game (as I already purchased Global Agenda).
Despite the two really bad things (AvA and some technical issues), GA is for the most part pretty good, and it’s worth it to download the game and check it out. Sure he might smack me upside the head every once in a while, but he’s handsome and brings home the bacon.
I have very valid reasons for not playing some of the games I’ve listed here. The only one I actually don’t touch at all is AvP – it’s the only Steam game that I’ve actually uninstalled, the only grey spot on my Steam library.
But for the most part, I’ll play a game with glaring flaws even though I should know better. Sometimes I just can’t resist it, or sometimes there isn’t really a better alternative out there – yet.
I’d love to hear your stories of the games you play despite all of the reasons the games give you to avoid them entirely. Drop them in the comments; it’ll be like a support group.