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I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Resident Evil 4 vs Halo 2

There is, in my mind, a fundamental difference in design paradigm between japanese developers and western developers. To me, this is epitomized by the fact that Resident Evil 4 just dropped into my life like a fucking hydrogen bomb and Halo 2 sort of whirred into it like a toy rocket.

Again, why were we looking forward to Halo 2? Does anyone even remember? We wanted closure to the storyline, sure, but beyond that? What were we expecting beyond more of the same? Wow we can run around in another FPS and shoot bullets out of our guns, and THIS TIME, IT'S NORMAL MAPPED. Halo 2 arrives on the xbox, and it's intended to be the ultimate showoff of Microsoft badassedness. A true next-gen rep.

Then Resident Evil 4 comes along on a technically inferior console, looks miles better by any standard, features truly interesting and innovative levels of interaction and supreme direction of game events. RE4 may just be the first truly interactive movie experience. Cutscenes mingle so freely with the gameplay and feel so natural that you never even question the difference. RE4 is a true evolution of a concept. Halo 2 added a dual wield system and ugly bump maps.

I have nothing but a world of love for Bungie. They are among the upper elite in western game development, simply because they truly put love into their work. They care for their product and it shows. Halo 2 is a supremely slick online multiplayer game, and it's a perfect complimentary product to Xbox Live. However, as a game, it is just that. It doesn't transcend anything, it doesnt attempt anything new, and it rehashes so much of its predecessor that the experience is one of refined deja vu.

RE4 creates something i haven't seen before, yet within a familiar framework. It doesn't break with the basic control schemes of its predecessors, and the combat system is fundamentally similar. Why does "innovation" in this day and age mean doing something crazy like Katamari Damacy or Chu chu rocket? Granted, these two are among my favorite games ever, but the manic retreat us/european distributors make from games that don't follow an established commercial direction and fails to include the latest tech buzzwords is nothing short of alarming. It is as if you have a market split in two, one segment being "what makes money" and the other being "the crazy niche stuff". Are we running out of grays?

I'm not asking for a first person shooter that controls via a gyroscope on the controller and pulls the trigger when you clap your hands. I'm asking for a first person shooter that can match an *inch* of the interaction RE4 offers with its enemies. FPS games follow an incredibly simple dialect of pure output. When you shoot at an enemy, you lose ammo and he takes damage. When the enemy shoots at you he loses ammo and you take damage. This is the essence of shooting. There are severe limits to how far you can push such a basic outline; we haven't had any real innovation in the genre since Duke 3d.

Oddworld: Stranger attempts to play around with this framework and is mostly successful, merging 3rd person platforming with first person shooting almost seamlessly. The sad fact however is that Stranger won't sell. Not because it's a poor game, because it most certainly isn't, but because it isn't getting the industry backup it deserves. Instead, Halo 2 tin cans are still being pushed onto the market to feed Microsoft's technology induced hysteria.

Halo 2 is a sweet game of deathmatch, but it is *nothing more*.
Resident Evil 4 pushes the envelope and offers genuinely fresh experiences.

If you want to safeguard the quality of future games, you go out there and pay for RE4 and give Halo 2 the slip. I paid for them both, and Halo 2 wound up looking like that silly 80s tshirt that i cant believe i once wore. Resident Evil 4 will stand as a game that revived a dying formula. Halo 2 will stand as a game that compounded a stagnant one.

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