May 03, 2012

Sometimes Immersion Goes Too Far

I love AAA title video games.  Well, most of them.  Some franchises today are considered AAA only because they made it to the second or third iteration in a franchise.  By that time gamers have figured out the formula and it's just gotten to the point of being stale (I'm looking at you Killzone 3, Gears 3, and Uncharted 3).  Being a AAA title doesn't immediately mean you'll have a great story (Killzone), great writing (Gears), or great gunplay (Uncharted) in your game.

Let me be clear though:  I don't want my little gripes to get lost in the fact that these are still great fucking games, and well worth your money and time, even if they have little flaws.

One of the things about Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception that just bugged the living shit out of me was not a running quick-time event sequence, an unclear puzzle solution, or lackluster gun aiming.  While most everyone under the sun you talk to who has played or even watched the games will praise Uncharted (and the franchise) as being a big budget Hollywood film in video game form, or fawn over it's use of dynamic cameras for a more cinematic action, I still can't get over that bullshit hand on the wall thing that Drake does as he moves around in Uncharted 3.
Naughty Dog has made their reputation now over the course of three games as bringing life-like characters, great stories, twists and turns into the video games medium.  How could they glaze over this seemingly small detail that doesn't need to be there?  Why not just cut it out of the game entirely?  What purpose does it serve other than to annoy me?

Sure, you ask anyone who's played Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and they'll probably mention the horribly long and over-used "trip-out" session featuring Drake running through a foggy market yelling out "Get off of me!", "No! Nononononono!" in signature Nathan North fashion.  Yeah, that's annoying, but that's story related to showcase how much Drake is tripping balls on that serum concoction given to him through blow-dart - it doesn't last the whole fucking game.

But there it is.  Glaringly obvious as Drake runs around.  Not in a climbing sequence, or one of those "tight fit" corridors you have to squeeze through; it just happens when Drake gets remotely close to a wall or column.  He'll raise his arm up and gently touch the wall, column, or pillar as he moves by.  Like he needs steadying?
After seeing the trip-out running level, I started to think that throughout the rest of the game Drake must have some lingering effects from that serum, or he's tripping bawls on ecstasy and needs to touch something every 20 seconds.  Like he's there running around looking for his ancestors lost gold fortune enjoying all of the intricacies of the block work in castle ruins and loves the little fabric detail from the rug vendor in the Egyptian market as he passes.  I JUST NEED TO TOUCH SOMETHING!

I understand the reasoning for putting it into the game - immersion.  You begin to feel that the character - the polygons and pixels that make up Drake - is a living breathing person that moves, reacts and sounds like one.  This idea would have worked if this whole wall touching wouldn't happen all the damn time and it wouldn't bend Drake's shoulders and arms back in weird obtuse angles.  Hey Drake, do you really need to touch that piece of the wall 3ft behind you as you move?  Is that piece really all that special than the next?  Oh, you found a nice hole in that block for something else?  Egyptian gloryhole maybe?
I know that developers are constantly looking for ways to engage and immerse video game players into the universe and connect them with their created characters. I get that.  That's a good thing for the industry.  But if this is the type of bullshit that developers feel is immersion in their games, give me some slider in the menu system that would allow me set the immersion just under this.  I don't care if Drake has slightly clunkier animations;  I would be perfectly happy with Uncharted:  Drake's Fortune style animations.

I haven't quite finished Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, so I don't know for a fact that Drake doesn't get shoulder surgery in the next chapter to fix his wonky arms, or is put into a decompression chamber to come down off of the massive amounts of ecstasy he took.  It all could work out in the end.  In any case:  Naughty Dog has made one hell of a series with Uncharted and Nathan Drake.  I only hope The Last of Us (the next title Naughty Dog is working on) includes lots of wall touching.  Who knows, maybe they'll include a wall touching mini-game?