We are here to condemn Grand Theft Auto IV, and other equally great games, not out of hatred, but out of love. For it does no good to point out the flaws in bad games as bad games by definition cannot be saved.
No, we aim to save gaming from the abyss by pointing out the sins of games like the Elder Scrolls and Half Life series, games made by creators who actually care. It is in that spirit that we proclaim the commandments that they have broken, so that they may be redeemed.
Who are we? Just a bunch of gamers who got really, really bored. What are the consequences for breaking these commands? Well ... we might start reading books or something.
Therefore, we declare ...
7Thou shalt let us play your game with real-life friends.
Grand Theft Auto IV, MotorStorm, Shadowrun, etc.
Quick, tell us what the following games all have in common. We'll give you a hint, one thing is that they were all among the top 10 most popular games of 2007:
Guitar Hero III
Super Mario Galaxy
Madden NFL 08
Guitar Hero II
Mario Party 8
But what else? If you answered, "None of them contain male frontal nudity" then, well, you haven't gotten the 122nd star in Mario Galaxy. If you said that these games all have multiplayer that's intended to be played with friends in the same room, you're right.
Likewise, what's at the top of sales in 2008? Smash Bros. Brawl.
The advantage that consoles have over, say, PCs, is that you can play from your comfy sofa. The reason the sofa is considered the pinnacle of furniture technology is because there's room for other people on it.
Yet, here's Grand Theft Auto IV, boasting about its robust multiplayer, and if you think "multiplayer" means inviting the gang over to play, get drunk, laugh and high-five each other until the break of dawn, too bad. You can't do that. Want to play with friends, they must be kept at arm's length, faceless at the other end of a broadband connection. Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer is a world without hugs.
They'll say that GTA IV's vast open world makes split-screen impossible. OK, what about MotorStorm? It's a goddamned racing game, and they won't let you play a real-life friend on a split screen. A racing game.
Sorry, you know damned well that technical limitations aren't the reason everyone is dropping split screen. Every previous generation had it, in times with much less powerful systems and few widescreen TVs.
This system had 4 MB of RAM.
You're dropping it because four players on a split screen are playing off one $60 copy of the game. Four players playing online need four copies ($240).
And these are the same people who're baffled about how the Nintendo Wii was able to depants the whole industry with its cheap, underpowered little machine. Hey, maybe it's because they're the one company that still seems to realize humans need interaction with other humans. Real interaction, not trash talking over a headset behind fake names.
By the way, some of you are scratching your heads about having the obviously single-player Mario Galaxy up there on the list. Well, it turns out Nintendo included an option so that at any moment, a friend can pick up the second controller and, with the pointer, help the first player collect items and shoot at enemies. It's a small thing, but it means a guy can get his girlfriend in on the action and cut off her complaints that his gaming is taking away from his time with her.
So when she comes over, do you think he's going to put on his GTA IV headset, or pop in Mario Galaxy? Here's a hint: The second choice gets him closer to touching boob.
6Thou shalt not pad the length of your games.
Mass Effect, The Godfather games, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion IV, ah, fuck it. Any open-world game this generation.
See, here's the thing. We don't mind short games. Portal was a short game, everybody loved it. It was four hours of joy. Short is fine, as long as you adjust the price accordingly.
What you have started doing instead, game industry, is taking your short game and inventing some arbitrary way to pad the length. Such as:
Putting huge stretches of land between objectives.
Wow, what an awesome sprawling landscape your game inhabits. So sprawling that we have to ride a fucking horse for 20 minutes to get to the next mission. You also make it so that it's often not clear what the next objective is, and thus we must wander around aimlessly until we stumble across it. You then add up all of this cumulative horse riding and aimless wandering and boast that your game has "50 hours of game play."
"We must reach the citadel! It's 800 miles that way."
It's padding, plain and simple. And so is ...
Adding pointless, mandatory fetch quests.
The Metroid Prime series is guilty as hell of this, letting you get near the end before you have to track back across all the old levels and retrieve a bunch of shit. Twilight Princess turned us into a dog and made us go retrieve magical pearls for what felt like days at a time.
Games like Oblivion and Mass Effect give the illusion of almost infinite length, but their endless "go into another identical dungeon and retrieve X" side quests are just slightly remixed copies of previous levels.
Those games get a little bit of a pass because their repetitive side-quests are optional. Which brings us right to ...