So, you're a genetically modified super soldier, and you work security for some shady character or other. You don't ask too many questions. Suddenly, just minutes before you're scheduled for a coffee break, you feel a bullet thunk into your head.
Being a super soldier and existing in a video game, you survive this initial assault. Now what do you do? Duck? Hide? Run away? If you're doing your job, your reaction will include alerting some of your co-workers. If, on the other hand, you stand still and allow the gunman to carefully re-aim and shoot you several more times, congratulations. You're a bad guy in the Crysis universe.
"I swear if that guy shoots me a sixth time I'm totally going to say something."
To be fair, some gamers say they actually don't want the bad guys to go cowering behind a crate every time there's gunfire, Killzone 2-style. That can actually be annoying. That's why they like zombie games, where the enemies are just mindless shambling targets to absorb our nine-millimeter wrath.
Fine, but then that same gamer finds himself having to depend on that A.I., in the form of the hair-pulling frustratathon known as teammate A.I. Let's enjoy this clip of an A.I.-controlled player in MLB 2K9, trying to pick up a routine fly ball and doing several somersaults instead:
They've Been Trying Since...
Nineteen fifty-fucking-two. The game was OXO, the very first digital game. It pitted the player against a computer A.I. in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Fifty-seven years ago.
Teammate A.I. goes back to A Boy and His Blob, on the Nintendo Entertainment System (1989). You controlled a boy, who had an A.I.-driven blob sidekick. While hardly the most independent thinker, this is still the earliest example of a player being able to give instructions to a CPU teammate, and the A.I. being capable enough to work out what it's supposed to do.
"NOW GO FORTH, BLOB... AND SLAUGHTER!"
It was a tantalizing glimpse into the future. Hell, with the advances in technology, in a couple of decades we'd have a digital best friend who could engage us in stimulating debate and comfort us when we were troubled!
Fast forward 20 years...
Why we're losing hope:
Her name is Sheva Alomar. The game is Resident Evil 5. And unless you're playing on the "just let me win, damn it!" difficulty setting, she's the A.I. partner who is about to make your life a living hell. Behold as she accidentally rides a conveyor belt right into a blast furnace. Watch as you carefully lay timed mines in front of the giant mutant bat monster, only to have Sheva follow behind you picking the fuckers up and putting them in her pocket.
"Hey, you dropped these."
And that's in one of the best games of the generation, a title that's top-notch in about every other area. Probably no other flaw ruins great games the way this one does.
Will Never Get Fixed Because...
Because it's not a flaw, necessarily. See, Resident Evil 5 doesn't want you to play with A.I. Sheva. They want you to play with a friend, in the co-op mode. Specifically, they want you to play with a friend who you forced to buy a second copy of the game. And Microsoft wants both of you paying monthly subscription fees for XBox Live.
It won't get fixed, because there's more money in not fixing it.
Look, we understand that 80 percent of everything is crap. Movies, songs, etc. And that within that crap is a subsection of crap so spectacularly bad that it defies even the darkest reaches of human imagination.
But very few of the songs/movies/TV shows that get released are broken. You don't go to the theater and see movies where the middle reel is missing, or hear songs where the guy's guitar came unplugged half way through. But you do get that in the world of video games.
They call it shovelware. Cheap and often incomplete/broken games that get dumped onto shelves right alongside the classics.
And the thing is, the gaming industry has even less of an excuse than any other medium. Their entire model is built on licensing the rights to make games on their machine, which in a perfect world would mean they could slam the door on developers that make the gaming equivalent of a bicycle that sets your scrotum on fire.
They've been trying since...
From the day cartridges were invented, console makers have never quite figured out how to feel about other companies making games for their system. When Activision started making games for the Atari 2600 back in the 80s, Atari went to court to stop them.
They failed, and the industry almost drowned under a torrent of third-party shit that flooded the market. When the next generation came along, Nintendo locked access to their machine and invented the Nintendo Seal of Quality, a gold stamp that said each game had gotten the Nintendo's blessing and ostensibly had been checked for quality. Publishers were given limits on how many games they could release.
Well, that seems like a good solution. Now let's fast-forward 20 years...
Why We're Losing Hope:
When you were that 10-year-old kid we mentioned earlier, and you were imagining the kind of games you'd be playing in the magical future of 2009, were you picturing Ninjabread Man?
Or Chicken Shoot!
Will Never Get Fixed Because...
You know how when you're a rock star, all the bad stuff accumulates along with the success? The groupies, the drugs, the hangers-on, the depression. But the more successful you are, the less anybody tries to stop it. As long as the money is coming in, right?
Well, it's a lot like that. The most successful console maker is the one that attracts the most diseased, shovelware shit to its system. And because it's successful, it doesn't mind. Who cares about the millions of new gamers whose first impression of gaming is a $50 piece of frustrating, bug-ridden garbage. We got their money, that's all that counts. The industry is growing, everybody is getting rich and these stories never, ever end in a tragic, self-destructive downfall.
David Wong is the Editor of Cracked.com and the author of the upcoming horror novel John Dies at the End, which is currently banned in 72 countries.
Remember that Nintendo Seal of Quality we mentioned? Turns out that went to shit also: 5 New Games That Prove Nintendo Has Given Up. But there still is hope, as detailed by Swaim in 10 Video Games That Should Be Considered Modern Art.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see what we look at when not tossing the Wii Fit through the nearest window. Fuck that yoga game.