So the other day, I was a little bored so I decided to pop Crackdown into my Xbox 360 just for old times sake.
After a few minutes, it dawned on me that playing Crackdown, especially co-operatively with a buddy, was some of the most fun I had ever had in my recent years of gaming. The reason was quite simply that although the game had pretty much no real campaign, a whole bunch of issues and was mostly bought because it gave gamers access to the Halo 3 Beta, it was actually really and truly fun.
This got me thinking about what they did right, as too many times, gamers focus on what’s wrong with a game too much of the time. So with that in mind, I decided to put together a list of games, or certain elements in them, that most gamers never fully appreciated and why they shouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon.
From Gears of War’s active reloads to Grand Theft Auto’s cover system and a PC MMO that understands your needs, I take a look at a few great decisions in gaming that have made life all the better for all of us gamers out there. The full list, after the jump.
Grand Theft Auto IV’s Cover System
So many people were being astounded by the size of Liberty City and the scope of the game, not to mention being annoyed with the friend system, that many of us never fully appreciated exactly how good the cover system was.
It needs to be remembered that no GTA had ever attempted a cover system, but with cover systems being the new “in thing” in next generation gaming, Rockstar wanted to join the cover party.
I realised a short while ago, whilst reviewing the “Lost and Damned” DLC for GTA, that considering that it’s a sandbox game, with so many different elements, locations and movable objects, that the cover system actually worked remarkably well and had a feel to it that puts most dedicated third and first person shooters to shame.
Gears of War’s Active Reload
Reloading is like brushing your teeth, it’s necessary and just a part of your routine, but deep down you really wish that it didn’t have to exist.
While reloading has always been a huge element in shooters and your tactics while on the move, Epic did something special by making reloading a special element all on it’s own, and by doing so, added even more challenge and fun to their game.
Hit the reload button once to reload your weapon, hit it again in a smaller grey area and you reload even faster, but hit it at the moment that the little indicator moves over the little sweet spot, and you have yourself a small boost for the next 10 seconds or so. Not only have you reloaded quicker than usual, but your bullets are stronger, the torque bow charges quicker and some weapons even shoot faster.
The active reload is a great example of how to revolutionize a simple and familiar element in a game in a way that it adds even more depth to the system and a unique feel that separates it from the ocean of shooters available on the shelves today.
Crackdown’s Fun Factor
As I said earlier in the article, Crackdown holds a special place in many gamers hearts. So many gamers never even bothered to play the game, but those who did all have fond memories of super-human abilities that gave gamers a feeling of freedom and excitement.
Whilst playing it recently, I stopped to try and take notice of what it was exactly that made it feel so good. I realised that Crackdown is almost a perfect example of what console gaming should be. Granted, the campaign itself is lacking, but every other element in the game oozes with inspired design and a definite goal of keeping things fun.
While the visuals have been made in a comic-book style, with thick black outlines on the characters, the details are still very much there.
There is nothing quite as awesome as sitting and watching your Agency vehicles transform and improve when you climb into them with a high driver skill level, and then having it topped off with incredible sound and deep boom of bass as the car reaches it’s full potential, emitting a light shockwave from it’s base, just awesome.
The ability to soar in the air from building to building in such a simple and easy fashion, or pick up a truck and effortlessly toss it at a foe was the main draw of the game though, making anyone playing the game feel like they are untouchable and free.
Crackdown had it’s problems, but at the end of the day, it captured all of the true elements of proper console gaming and bundled it into one small and explosive package. It really is a shame that it was exclusive to the Xbox 360, because I think that it was really one of those games that should have been played by as many people as possible. If you own an Xbox 360 and you are looking for something to play, get yourself and a buddy to go and pick up second hand or marked down copies and play through the game together, you will not regret it.
The Lack of Subscription Fees in Guild Wars (PC)
I haven’t really played PC games much over the last few years, but one game that had me throwing countless hours into it was NC Soft’s Massively Multiplayer Online title, Guild Wars.
The reason is quite simple. For someone like me who has become fed up with keeping up with PC technology, Guild Wars is perfect. The game can damn near run on anything with the processing power of a pocket calculator (but still looks great), actually works decently on even a 56K modem, has a lot more going for it than World of Warcraft in my personal opinion but most importantly, I don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee.
This means that if, after months of not playing it, I want to hop in and mess around, I can. I don’t have to reactivate accounts and then pay for it, or even worse fall into the World of Warcraft trap of paying for a monthly account that I never actually use every month.
The way that the game is structured is that every six months, NC Soft would release a whole new expansion that you could choose to buy or just completely ignore. I ignored the first expansion, Factions, as I was still having fun with the first one (this game is absolutely massive) and then decided to buy the second expansion when it came out six months after that. The expansions and the original can completely function without each other, so you decide which appeals to you and which doesn’t.
It’s titles like this that understand the needs of gamers, they know that we don’t have all the time in the world to play games, and so have structured that game to work for anyone, and on their own terms. What’s even better, is that the game only updates areas if you enter them, so you won’t have to sit and download massive updates for areas that you will possibly only enter after hours and hours (or even months) of play. There was definitely someone very smart heading the Guild Wars project.
While so many people are sitting grinding away in World of Warcraft whilst paying a monthly fee, there is a whole group of PC gamers out there, who know that they are getting the better deal with focussed objectives, quick traveling, great graphics and no extra money being spent.
If you have been thinking about trying out an MMO, pick up a copy of Guild Wars, they are going for dirt cheap now (R150 or something like that), and still have plenty of fully populated servers.
EA’s Skate: Taking On The Big Guns, And Succeeding
For the last decade or so, when you thought about a skateboarding game, you thought about the Tony Hawk series.
The series was really great in the beginning and I remember having tons of fun with it, but like any series that gets mindlessly regurgitated every single year, it started stagnating terribly. Even so, it was the big name in videogame skateboarding and to take it on was a huge task, not to mention a gamble.
But then Skate arrived on the scene, with it’s Flick-It system and focus on a more realistic skating title, and before you could do a kickflip backside tailslide, they had Activision and the Tony Hawk team on the run.
Now things have changed, the Tony Hawk team had to take a timeout to rethink their strategy and while Skate 2 maybe pushed a little too far into the unrealistic territory that Tony Hawk has already used up, they can still proudly say that they took on a really big name at it’s own game and won. Now that their is some serious competition, we can all look forward to even better games in future, as the two companies duke it out for the crown.
Street Fighter IV – Going 3D, but staying 2D
I know that the heading might sound a little confusing, so let me explain. Too many game companies look at next-gen sequels or remakes as a great opportunity to take something that everyone loved, then flush it down the toilet and create something so completely different that it may as well have a different title on the box.
The world has enough 3D fighters, Tekken, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, Virtua Fighter and they are all great in their own way. Why then would the creators of the classic old 2D titles ever want to take their beloved franchise and massacre it with 3D graphics and a completely new fighting system.
Nothing broke my heart quite as much as the first time that I played Mortal Kombat Deception (or whichever one it was with the new weapon styles and all that jazz). I crouched and hit the High Punch button, only to find that my character had not performed an uppercut. Why on this lovely, green earth would you take one of you most classic and trademark maneuvers and change it. The uppercut in Mortal Kombat was almost as important to the series as the fatalities.
Now even though the Street Fighter series had an attempt at the whole 3D fighter idea a while back, which failed miserably, they made the best choice in the world when they opted to make the graphics in Street Fighter IV 3D, but keep the gameplay on a 2D plane, as well as the way that the moves work.
I hadn’t touched a Street Fighter game since around about the time that I played X-Men vs Street Fighter on an arcade machine about 8 years ago, but spent a lot of my youth wasting friends in Street Fighter 2 on my SEGA Megadrive (and a short stint with the HD Remix). What a pleasant surprise when I popped in my new copy of Street Fighter IV to find that all of my beloved and favourite characters still worked exactly the same.
Sure the game has changed over the years, and is a little more complex with it’s Super and Ultra combos, but nothing can touch the fact that Street Fighter IV instantly brought back great memories of the good ol’ days, and then actually made me feel like I was straight back there once again. Pure gaming bliss.
So What Is That Special Something?
There are so many different elements in videogames that have made us sit back and be forced to appreciate what they have done. There are tons and tons of gaming elements or decisions in the design that haven’t been included in this article, but one thing that they all have in common is that they were special in one way or another and ultimately added to our gaming experiences or made gaming more fun or easier for us in the long run.
Can you think of anything special that you have seen in a videogame that you realised needed some appreciation.
Leave a comment and let us know.
Last Updated: April 9, 2009