Been there, done that.

Posted on 10/09/2010


Gaming is a curious hobby. Ever since it’s move into MTV advertised audiences, rapidly exploding production costs and the ever fastening move into the mainstream-stream of mainstream media it seems the number of games that are just like some other game that came before – but with a little twist, addition, tweak or just a lot of more polish – seems to rise by the year.
When I was younger, not a lot, mind you, only maybe two or three years ago, I didn’t really bother. As long as a game was entertaining, well produced and just plain fun, it was okay with me.

Then something changed. Maybe I played too many games. I started to become a lot more critical of the games I play and which ones are worthy of my money. It started when I got late to the Crysis party early this year. I had played that game before. Only I had not. It must have been some other generic-but-good-looking shooter. I know, Crysis does some things very well that other shooters don’t. But at the end of the day, the neatly implemented superpowers and the connected resource management, the well behaved AI and the all in all neatly balanced and rapidly customizable guns don’t alter the core gameplay of shooting dudes in the face.
I’ve done that. I’ve been there.

And ever since that feeling is following with a stunning amount of new releases.
The most recent example is the demo to the upcoming Platinum Games title ‘Vanquish’. To make things clear, I adore Platinum Games / Clover Studios. Loved every minute of Okami, laughed as God Hand handed me my ass on a silver platter, spent uncounted hours with Bayonetta. And now Vanquish.
In theory, the game does everything right. It delivers just exactly what Clover does best, namely the essence of what makes Japanese games good, cranked over the max, loaded with tounge-in-cheek-over-the-top. A ridiculous story that knows it’s total bull filled with characters who are the best and worst “this can only happen in a videogame” types money can buy, quipping the beefiest of beefy one liners. The gameplay top notch videogame crazyness.
Everything I love about Clover games is there.

Yet there is also that nagging feeling. Been there. Done that. How many towering, laser-and-missile dispensing super robots with glowing weak points have I dispatched in my gaming career? Rhetorical question. I’ve lost count anyway.
I can’t say that I even have the feeling that Clover is attempting to deliver something that is really and truly fresh. What they with Vanquish, is polishing an existing formula to the max. Those are Video Games for Video Gamers. People who understand what this game is about. Where it is coming from. I do. And I have to admit to myself that I am tired of that. Like an old fan of Tarantino movies who also knows his source material and influences and grows tired of yet another 70s action flicks inspired meta-movie.

Yet of course not all games that treat beaten paths are knowingly-winking-and-nudging titles like the ones Clover/Platinum produces. There’s tons of games out there, even high production quality stuff, that doesn’t even try to push the envelope and just delivers old wine in new shiny skins as we say over here.
I am afraid of the other big releases I’m hoping to enjoy this year to also feed this nagging feeling. Maybe I’m getting too old for this. Or maybe I need to be on the lookout, skip the boring samey-samey sure-selling high gloss stuff while sticking to the titles which actually deliver fresh ideas.