"Hey check out the graphics on this new FPS!"
"OK great, is it fun?"
"Well, not really, but looks at those graphics!"
This is what it's coming to? For folks like me who've been around a few console generations, remember when games were fun, and not about getting on some leaderboard, trash talking kids on a headset, or "OOOH IT'S PRETTY SO IT'S THE BEST EVER!"? Also, remember when game developers didn't take things so seriously?
Case in point: Grand Theft Auto 4. When this game came out, I thought it'd be over-the-top hilarious fun like San Andreas and my all-time favorite, Vice City. Now, I won't call GTA4 a bad game. If it were bad, it wouldn't have sold millions of copies. My problem is it seems to take itself way too seriously. There's humor, but it doesn't have the same feel as GTA before. They took out a lot of things that made GTA: SA loads of fun like the light RPG elements and just plain goofy fun. The story and gameplay feel so heavy-handed that it's not fun for me. It's kinda depressing really.
Now let's look at another example: Saints Row 2 (never played the first one). In this game you build your own character from scratch and go on the wildest, zaniest missions I've ever seen in a game like this. Crazy exaggerated physics, lots of stuff to blow up, and tons of activities that don't feel like chores. Of course being able to play the whole game in co-op helps. It's fun.
Things like graphics and epic soundtracks don't make games fun to play. It's the gameplay; it's always the gameplay. The tone of what you're playing helps too. Some examples:
- Just Cause 2. Weak story, hilariously bad voice acting, but ohhh so much fun. Blowing s*** up, flying around, causing absolute mayhem wherever you go. That's entertainment.
- Red Faction: Guerrilla. Yeah, there's a dramatic plot there, but really it's an excuse to tear down buildings with a sledgehammer.
- Tenchu Z. It looks bad, it sounds bad, hell it's not even in English, but sneaking around, making your own ninja, getting stealthy kills with up to 3 friends. Hell yeah.
- Earth Defense Force 2017. Looks cheap, but blasting giant insects and robots and whatnot with tons of weapons works great for me.
A game doesn't have to have a multi-million dollar budget to be good, or super-realistic visuals and physics to be your Game of the Year. It's how you play it that determines quality. Now there's plenty of top-tier games that are plain awesome like Uncharted or Mass Effect, but don't count out the lesser-knowns like The Saboteur or Deadly Premonition. You might miss out on a kick-ass experience.