Before I start this thing, keep in mind it represents my opinions only; before you try hunting me down and try to do me grievous bodily harm, you’re entitled to disagree with me, in fact, please do. With that in mind - with some highly subjective views, here’s my top ten overrated and overused things in video games:
10 - Regenerating Health
This can be seen as an odd choice, mostly because a lot of players would say it’s the opposite of overrated and is in fact hated (I’m one of them); but to developers it seems to be the go-to method of healing these days, especially in games where there’s a lot of shooty-bang-bangs. It’s something I wish would disappear entirely and it was one game that made me realise it quicker than most - Duke Nukem Forever. Not a great game, in fact not a very good game, but one that could have been so much better if it had a good old-school walk-over-health-pack healing system for one reason - exploration. Duke Nukem 3D was a game I enjoyed as a young ‘un not because of the shooting (satisfying though it may be) but because there was reason to explore. I could find those extra health kits in secret rooms, or atomic health or hidden weapons, none of that was present in DNF because it wasn’t required. Weapons needed for specific sections were laid out before an encounter, and health.. sorry, ego came back naturally meaning there was no reason to put hidden shields, health packs or weapons for the more thorough player to find. Bad move, developers. Stop it.
9 - Levelling Up
This is one that used to be saved for RPG’s where it made sense to progress in power as you generically saved the world, but these days it’s in everything from RPG’s to First Person Shooters. True enough, it’s in a different form you may know as ‘Ranks,’ but calling a spade a spade, it’s levelling up. In Final Fantasy you learn new spells that make you more powerful; in Call of Duty you unlock new perks to give you an advantage; in Forza Motorsport it’s ranking up so you can buy faster cars. This is necessary in some cases (see Forza) because it’s just not possible to make the game worth much of your time if there isn’t a sense of progression; but in shooters the sense of achievement should come from killing someone, or helping your team to victory, not from getting a new weapon with red tiger-print paint on it. “But Call of Duty is played so much because of the ranks!” I hear you cry. BS, I say. Quake 3 - to take a popular multi-player centred game - didn’t have unlocks for ranks: it wasn’t needed because the game was frantic fun on its own merits, not a false sense of achievement. The guns were lying around the maps and there was a mad rush to get those before anyone else - you didn’t get them for killing 30 people with headshots with a pistol from 30 metres away while it’s raining on a Wednesday.
8 - Kratos
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR GOD OF WAR 3 - And so after two overused things, we’re on to our first overrated thing; or rather, character. Now again, before you wish the plague on me, I love the God of War games. Truly, absolutely adore the combat and the Greek mythology surrounding it, but lets face it, Kratos is a bit of a dick. In the first game he’s a bit of a bad-ass who tries to brutally murder his way to redemption; in the second, he’s an angry child who murders anyone who gets in the way of his self-centred quest for vengeance; and in the third game he’s just an unbearable annoying a-hole: willing to kill everyone that exists, literally willing to sacrifice the entire world for his petty vengeance. It’s the whole theme, Kratos wants his vengeance and he’ll do anything to get it, no matter the cost. I’m sure it could have been handled better, but as the series went on, Kratos got more and more un-likeable yet he’s still hailed as a great character - he’s not. Being horrible isn’t character depth.
7 - “ONLY YOU CAN SAVE US, HERO!”
This applies to basically any game outside of simulation titles or sports titles. You’re the sole person who can put an end to the worlds problems and save us all. To use an example in a game I actually like, take Star Wars: The Old Republic - if I play as a Jedi Knight, I’m the one person that can save the galaxy; not the other hundreds of Jedi Knights doing the same quests for the same people as me, they’re worthless, only I can save the galaxy because... shut up. In an MMO sense, Funcom’s forthcoming The Secret World gets this very right, with one of the earlier lines of dialogue being something along the lines of “you are not a hero, you’re not ‘the One,’ you’re a grunt like everyone else.” Know what, I preferred thinking I was a small part of the bigger picture in that game than being told I was the grand saviour in SWTOR.
6 - “Quickly, Use Those Chest High Walls For Cover!”
This is something that has become more prevalent this generation than any other, the chest high wall. Gears of War, Mass Effect, Splinter Cell, Max Payne 3, even my beloved Uncharted series. Every other game involving a gun and even some without now comes with a free chest high wall cover system. While I have no idea if this is accurate or not, I fully blame it on console controllers inability to support a proper lean function, and boy do I miss those days of crouching behind a wall with a crouch button, then hitting the button to actually lean out to see around corners from a first person perspective instead of gluing myself to a wall and swiveling the camera around, giving my character the unnatural ability to see around corners and over obstacles.
5 -Bullet Sponge Bosses
This isn’t something I would have complained about, usually, but after recently re-playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution (I’ll preface this by saying I actually love the game, so the complaint is with good intentions), it’s hard to notice how disgustingly bad the boss battles have been designed. Shoot them with all of your ammo while hiding behind one of those pesky chest high walls. Eventually they’ll fall over. This is not how a game like Deus Ex should handle boss battles - I play the game stealthily, I have no need for weapons. I get to the first boss with two tranquilizer darts and a stun gun, I’m then forced to run around to the Benny Hill theme tune throwing explosive barrels at him. Not cool. Give me a cerebral boss battle, please. The bosses are as augmented as me: let me find a way to ‘deactivate’ them, or somehow sabotage their implants to bring them to their knees, don’t force me to carry an entire arsenal I’ll never use outside the boss battles!
4 - Dialogue Wheels
Choice! Give me choice, developers! To use The Old Republic as an example again and its predecessor, lets go back to 2003. All us RPG and Star Wars fans were playing Knights of the Old Republic, loving the choices we could make and the answers we could bring to conversations, as well as the questions we asked. It may have been a list of dialogue lines in a simple black border at the bottom of the screen, but it was very effective, giving you a large amount of options to select in conversations. Now fast forward to 2011, The Old Republic gets released, and we have that Mass Effect-style wheel where we get precisely three options for EVERY conversation. No more, no less. Not only that, they don’t actually reflect the option I choose at times. I select “It’s not right.”, my on-screen character says “This isn’t the right thing to do, there are other right ways to go about doing this. It’s not right.” That was an exaggeration but you get the point. Why can’t it just say the exact line I chose? Because they can’t fit the exact spoken line on-screen because of their stupid in your face dialogue wheel, it takes up too much space!
3 - Post-Apocalyptic Settings
This one may strike as odd coming from me, it’s well known to those who know me one of my go-to games is Fallout 2, a game that encompasses everything the setting is about, but that was made in 1998, with the original a year earlier. Everyone else seems late to the party and now it’s popping up everywhere, from RPG’s to racing games to shooters to adventure games. It’s just a setting, but it’s one I’ve had enough of. I can go back to Fallout 2 or other older games that use it as a setting happily because I’ve grown used to them being in that setting; it doesn’t stop me groaning to myself whenever a new trailer is released for a new game that uses it, as much as I’m looking forward to it. That includes you Borderlands 2: you’re not excluded because you have lots of loot. And no, I won’t count loot as something that is overrated or overused. It’s perfect in every way and more games should have a looting system. All games, in fact. Even racing games.
2 - Lara Croft
Another odd choice you may think, and this doesn’t mean I don’t like the Tomb Raider games, in fact I do, even the somewhat crappy Underworld. It’s Lara herself that is the issue here. When I was a kid all that mattered was that Lara had those glorious triangular boobies and wore badly pixelated short shorts, but as I’ve grown up (debatable, I know) I’ve taken to liking lore and story more than most other things in my games. To put it simply, Lara Croft is boring. She’s dull. She goes to a tomb to find something ancient, a megalomaniac tries to kill her along the way, the end. There’s other bits and pieces, like the stuff with her mother in games from Legend onwards, but it’s not interesting. The Norse mythology and Arthurian legend were interesting, Lara was not. With that, I’m very much looking forward to the forthcoming reboot. I’m hoping it can add depth to what is an incredibly drab character whose only traits are being extremely well endowed and having an English accent.
1 - Mario
Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers and the sequels, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, New Super Mario Brothers, handheld Mario games, Paper Mario, Super Smash Brothers series, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Pinball, Super Mario RPG, Super Mario Kart, Mario Baseball, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Party, Mario and Sonic Olympics, Mario Is Missing, his appearances in games he has no place in like Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes.. I don’t even think I got anywhere near them all. He’s everywhere and I’m not his biggest fan. Although I won’t lie, I look forward to the day where Mario is in a first person shooter DM-like game so I can shoot him right in the moustache.
WELL, that was negative. I may do a top ten things I DO like to balance it out, I’m not negative about everything, I swear. Did I mention that I like loot?