You Tell Me: Are Longer/Harder Games Automatically Better Games?

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With last week’s reviews of both Modern Warfare 2 and Ghostbusters, both being games with short campaigns, it got us thinking… what length is appropriate for a single player game?

This actually had me thinking of it from a slightly different viewpoint. You see, my wife and I are both playing through Modern Warfare 2’s single player campaign at the same time. While I am slugging it out the first time around on the hardened difficulty, she is happily cruising along on regular.

I get more of a challenge, not to mention a longer amount of playtime, while she just simply experiences the story and will run through the game a lot quicker than me.

Does this instantly mean that I get the better deal? I’m not so sure.

We posted up an article last week about Lazygamer (Gavin) finishing the game on the easiest difficulty in just on around 4 hours and 44 minutes. He obviously pointed out that a sub 5 hour campaign ain’t exactly the longest he has ever played through. Many of you argued that he would have gotten a lot more time out of the game had he played on a harder difficulty level.

As mentioned earlier, I am playing on Hardened and at around the four hour mark I have been told that I am only roughly halfway through the game. Am I getting a bigger challenge? Sure. Am I having a better experience than my Wife or Gavin? Not so sure.

I enjoy a challenge and there are many out there like me but hardened has been pretty tough at times so far and when I say pretty tough, I mean “Screw you, you stupid game, I don’t give a crap if there is a rocket launcher across the road on the roof, there are also like 9 million guys with guns who want me dead” kind of tough (nevermind veteran).

Don’t get me wrong, I am still enjoying the hell out of it, the only major difference is that when I hit a roadblock that requires me trying to get through a section over and over again because I am just dying like a noob, I obviously become frustrated. This is something that the other two didn’t really experience. So then, I am getting more play time but does that mean I am actually having a better time?

I have also played other games in the past on harder difficulties for the same reasons, more challenge and more playtime but then I never actually get around to finishing them after getting stuck. Did I have a better experience than people who actually got to see the end credits?

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above: I think this level added 2 hours onto my COD 4 final playtime

A friend playing on Hardened difficulty told me today that he had just finished the game in just under 8 hours and that sounds pretty reasonable to me, especially considering that Modern Warfare 2 is more about the multiplayer than the single player.

Problem with this, is that Modern Warfare 2 will be bought by zillions of people and of those people, an absolute ton of them will be casuals that get pulled into the biggest game launch of all time, I mean, who the heck isn’t going to buy this game (*PC gamers COUGH*).

All of those people new to gaming or consoles are going to want to play but couldn’t be bothered with a challenge, heck, to them using thumbsticks for a first person shooter is a challenge in itself. Those folks are all going to pay full price for the game, only to have their full priced game be over in a matter of a couple of hours (keeping in mind that a lot of these people will not be interested in the multiplayer).

Modern Warfare 2 also offers a mind blowing “Hollywood” action experience over the course of a few hours as opposed to a game like Fallout 3 that was a lot slower paced and involved a lot of walking, inventory management and so on.

Two very different game types that need to be looked at differently. Does the fast paced scripted action make up for the shorter game? If you pay the usual movie ticket price, do you expect a tight 2 hours plot or a 5 hour, slower paced movie? Does longer still mean better?

So here is the question for you folks and I want to hear your side of things on this topic. Harder equals longer but possibly a less enjoyable experience. Shorter could prove to be more fun, especially for casuals and those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands.

It’s your turn, tell us what you think.

Last Updated: November 16, 2009

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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