Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Das Uberscripten

I've been playing Ghostbusters the videogame. The only little problem with the game is that it's bad.

The issue here is that the game manages to be less than the sum of its parts. It has all the pieces of a really great game but, like Doom 3, manages to put them together into a very tepid experience.

In part this is detail work, like the fact that their mouth animations aren't turned up enough and the fact that their AI is so bad it makes me cringe even now. But mostly the problem is that the game is overscripted.

Overscripted games are becoming more and more common. These are games where the developers obviously intended to make a movie, but accidentally put in some interactivity. Every step is carefully scripted. You will fight N enemies in Y configuration, then A and B will talk to you, and you need to pull lever C to fight M enemies in Z configuration.

This is adventure game mechanics. And there's nothing wrong with adventure games, except for the small fact that their mechanics are the reason they died. Today's adventure games carefully support their adventure game mechanics with a heavy dose of Other Stuff, and even then they still don't reach mass approval.

The most terrible thing about Ghostbusters is that it really could have been excellent. All the pieces are there. Great atmosphere, interesting weapons and enemies, some really cool Mario Sunshine elements, quality voice acting, and really memorable characters. All combined with a world-class IP.

But its like world-class IP means death. There are so many things that went wrong with this, all of them involving overscripting.

Why was I playing a new kid? The whole point of Winston was that he was the window character. Why do we need a new one, exactly?

Why does it have to be linear? Is there any reason I can't get a dozen hot spots around the city and choose which mission to do when?

And why - WHY - isn't there a secondary gameplay element? You can't have a horror game without a secondary gameplay element, the pacing doesn't work out. Some games use puzzles (there are "puzzles" in Ghostbusters, but I wouldn't call them that), but in this case I can think of dozens of other secondary gameplay elements I would have liked. For example, helping Igon with his science or Ray with his research. Or how about ghost-dueling with the other Ghostbusters using trapped ghosts? Or how about some slice-of-life KOTOR crap with the other Ghostbusters and the HQ? Hell, even a political minigame to try to mitigate negative press.

Endless stomping through dungeons doing overly scripted fight followed by overly scripted cut scene and repeat over and over... that's just not going to cut it.

Have you played it? What do you think?


Borut said...

Well, the reality of the situation is that this game will be so very much better than a new Ghostbuster movie - the intention is the same, to cash in on your familiarity and love with those characters and that world.

Only in the movie, you have no gameplay (not even linear) that gets you from one previous movie reference to the next, and a 2009 fat Dan Akroyd.

Oddly enough, I think this realization enhanced my enjoyment of the game.

Craig Perko said...

Mine too, but that's erased by the minute-long loading clip which is both loud and identical every time. If I had known that it wasn't a game, I would have put it on easy so I wouldn't have had to sit through the loading screen so many times.

A movie would only have one loading screen, a fifteen minute one at the beginning where they shout car ads at you.

Why not just do a digital movie?

Ryan said...

I didn't realize they had made more games. I started off thinking you were talking about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostbusters_video_games#Ghostbusters_.28Activision.29

Craig Perko said...

Naw, that would be odd. The new one's worth playing in the future, when you find it in a discount bin for $20.

Isaac said...

Haven't played Ghostbusters, but agree on the overscripting. That would be the reason I keep retreating to strategy games, which at least admit to themselves that they're actually games. Even JRPGs let you wander around the map.

Actually, just how much secondary gameplay is needed? There's a lot of RPGs that combine an inconsistent combat system with a half-hearted adventure game system. Maybe draw the line between Dungeon Siege and Diablo?

Craig Perko said...

hmmm... Maybe I should do a post specifically on the topic of secondary play...