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New Challenger: In Which The Colour Brown Is Asked To Go Away

It’s that time of year again, where we get buried in hundreds of dewy-eyed retrospectives and an overwhelming amount of awards. This is the season for awarding things, after all. I have a few of my own on the boil, but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear those, tee hee! On to business then; I thought I’d go about things slightly differently and name a few things in video games I’d like to go away now that 2011 is on its way out. Not always bad things, but things that we really have seen enough of in the last year.

For me, the very first thing that springs to mind is the zombie. Over the last year (and a bit) we’ve seen zombies on a tropical island, zombies in the wild west, zombies here, zombies there, zombies, zombies everywhere, zombies in your best-selling FPS and even zombies on the moon. I think we should just say “that’s it, enough with the zombies already!” before we end up with Zombies Under The Sea or something… If we’re really lucky, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us will be either a new take on the subject or different enough from a zombie virus to take it away from the bajillion other similar games out there. Otherwise, it will have to do something pretty good to make it stand out from the crowd.

I've played enough zombie games to know where this is going...

I've played enough zombie games to know where this is going...

The problem is, I can see why zombies are an ideal enemy for us to kill; we get the satisfaction of the kill whilst avoiding any potential guilt brought on by shooting a fellow human being. They also make squishy sounds and shout rather a lot, which sounds like most of the teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. So they relate to the market well. It’s a pretty safe bet these days to release a game where you kill the undead, we know such games sell well and have a lasting appeal for gamers, and that they have the redeeming feature of making multiplayer more conducive to teamwork than, say, Call of Duty’s online, where mostly people play with an every-man-for-himself approach.

The best part is, we might already be coming out of the seemingly endless tunnel of the living dead; the Resident Evil series is moving towards biological mutations and other squelchy alternatives and The Last of Us seems to involve some kind of mind-controlling fungus. Maybe we’ll get to explore all manner of differently distorted specimens of the human condition over the next few years. Well, we can dream.

At least the sun is shining!

At least the sun is shining!

Something else that could vanish from the gaming world is the number three; we’ve had Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Killzone 3 and so on seemingly ad infinitum. The people behind the curtain, funding video games and such, are losing their grip on what’s fresh in favour of drawing out franchises and trying to get as much money as they can through people who have to have the next instalment in this story or that shooter before coaxing even more money out of them by way of DLC. I’ve written before about how the AAA list of titles is becoming more and more generic and safe. It’s very rare that a new game can start to rub shoulders with the huge-budget bigger boys, but it occasionally happens; remember Batman: Arkham Asylum? Many people did, hence the overwhelming success of Arkham City. A success I feel was earned and well-deserved as I haven’t felt the same sense of wonder as I had when playing that game for a long time now.

What about the colours grey and brown? We’ve had some games this year that prove we can make something interesting and captivating without the ‘gritty realism’ of a blandly coloured landscape framed by bland weather. There have been a few less blandly coloured games this year; in late February us Europeans finally got Kirby’s Epic Yarn, reliably fun and colourful in true Nintendo fashion; we’ve had El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, a game praised for its aesthetic despite being shunned on almost every other front; finally, and most recently, there was Rayman: Origins, lauded for its presentation and also generally for being a great game. We have the best graphics that have ever been available to us just waiting to be explored and exploited, but developers seem to keep relying on these dreary colours as one of the keystones of realism. Ok, so I’m not asking for every game to be exploding with rainbows, but something a little more exciting to look at would go a long way towards making the visual presentation of games a lot more enticing.

Looks rather good actually!

Looks rather good actually!

Finally, as I draw this seasonal titbit to a close I want to discuss one last thing: downloads. I can allow that maybe some unforeseen issue comes to light in the wake of a game’s release à la Skyward Sword, where something genuinely needs to be done, but releasing a game knowing that you’ll be asking gamers to download an update before they play for the first time is going too far. The implication of this is that people without a fast or reliable internet connection are either spending hours downloading something that could’ve been on the disc if things were a bit more organised, or they are playing an incomplete or potentially broken version of the game. Call me old fashioned, but back in the day the game on the cartridge or the disc had to be perfect because once it was out in the wild, that was it. Is it so much to ask that I can just put my game in the console and play it?

So there you have it, a few things 2012 could do without. I’m looking forward to DLC becoming even more intrusive and obnoxious, pre-order bonuses taking even more content away from the discerning gamer and online passes growing to be even more of a pain in the ass. On the flip side, the wait for Luigi’s Mansion 2 will finally be over and the world probably won’t be ending. Tune in next week for a spot of post-Christmas praise and a slightly more upbeat outlook (read: less complaining)!

Video games were a part of Chris's life from the Mega Drive onwards. He has many happy gaming memories, including the first time he collected all the chaos emeralds in Sonic 2, collecting all SSBM's trophies (yes, all of them) and, more recently, collecting far too many platinum trophies on his PlayStation 3. In the real world, he has a degree in French and is currently living in Frankfurt, Germany. Follow him on Twitter @DPrime_Chris

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