Late to the Party - Discovering a Game After the Hype



For all the damage it has done, I'm happy to say that the PSN outage has brought some sunshine into my life. If not for the month long PSN down-time and the subsequent welcome back offer, I would never have played Super Stardust HD. Over the last week, I have been thoroughly smitten by its simplistic charms and addictive gameplay. To paraphrase a famous bar owner, I have been bitten by the Super Stardust bug and it has burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and the feeling is indescribable.

Making my selections of PSN freebies, I had few expectations for Super Stardust. I had long overlooked Housemarque’s twin stick shooter, even when it had been heavily discounted, as I had convinced myself that it just wasn't my thing. How wrong I was. It is a joy with its vibrant colours and fast but simplistic gameplay, which make it one of those games where a ten minute session soon turns into a two hour marathon. I have lost count of the number of times this week that I have turned on my PS3 with the intention of having just one quick go at SS HD before loading up and getting stuck into Killzone 3 or LA Noire, only to spend my entire evening blasting away meteors and giant, space centipedes instead. My week long neglect of Helghast and 1940's murder victims has been criminal. In fact, this post would have been at least three paragraphs longer if not for the more-ish nature of SS HD.

Discovering a video game well removed from release, after the hype has dissipated, can often times be far more rewarding than jumping on the bandwagon of the most current, high profile releases. When it comes to the biggest, brightest and newest games there are few secrets, as we are exposed to more reviews, spoilers and marketing than ever before. Therefore, SS HD has been one of only a select few games that have been able to take me by surprise in recent years, experienced long after their initial release.

I’m only referring to games of this generation here, as discovering and enjoying a retro game for the first time, years later, is a different thing entirely - somewhat of an acquired taste, especially if you have no emotional ties to the game in question. As I found with Shenmue (my experience with the DC classic can be found here), when you remove nostalgia it can be difficult to fully appreciate any piece of gaming vintage and look beyond the ravages of time. The technological advancements of the medium, especially in the last 15 years, make a ten year old game look so much more dated than a film, for example. Games just don’t seem to age as well as other comparable media, or at least I'm not as patient with them, so for now I'm just looking at current generation titles.

I'm embarrassed to say that it took me a year and a half to discover Naughty Dog's Uncharted. Time and time again I declined to buy it; a game from a series which I wasn't familiar and sporting one of the worst front covers to be found in the PS3 section. That's right, I passed-up Uncharted for over a year because I didn't like the front cover as it made it look like some sort of two-bit adventure game, done on the cheap. It wasn't until a friend virtually forced a copy onto me that I finally relented and ended up completing it three times in the space of a week and a half.


The offending cover

Its impossible to recreate the experience of falling in love with a game which you had zero expectations for, no matter how hard you try to duplicate it with other games. With exhaustive internet coverage few releases now escape me, and those that do do so for a reason i.e. they are so wank that the gaming press don't waste their time covering them. If anything, I now find that the internet hype-machine makes me over-expectant for big releases. I was convinced that LA Noire was going to be the second coming, until I played it and it failed to live up to my inflated expectations.

Burnout Paradise is another fine example of a game on which I had enforced a mental block. I was familiar with the Burnout moniker and had seen it sat at my local game shop numerous times, but in my mind it was little more than another racing game. You know, the one with the white front cover that is always sat next to Bioshock. My ignorance paved the way for a wonderful discovery, as once I relented I found myself playing it for the best part of a year with like-minded friends.

Being slow on the uptake with Burnout was fortuitous, as I was able to jump straight into the Ultimate Box which included a year's worth of updates and improvements. This is where waiting can be most advantageous as you are able to experience games in a more complete state from the outset, not to mention the savings you make by not purchasing each expansion separately. Game of the Year editions are a worthwhile reward for any patient gamer, as you receive unparalleled bang for your buck. Borderlands GOTY edition was a steal at £14 ($22) earlier this year, as I got an excellent game even larger than my appetite, for a relative pittance.

There are of course some drawbacks to biding your time in discovering a game, especially with online multiplayer now being standard. For every Burnout Paradise and Uncharted 2 that retain a healthy online community long after release, there are a dozen whose servers are shut down prematurely due to a lack of players. Some of these online components are superfluous, included merely to tick boxes, but there are others that are worthwhile but doomed to a short life due to their niche appeal. Call of Juarez Bound in Blood and Red Faction Guerrilla both offered unique and well-designed multiplayer modes back in 2009, but anyone buying them today would struggle to get a game and their experience would be worse for it.

As my interest in the gaming industry deepened, and my taste in video games became more exhaustive, I never expected to stumble upon another dated gem. I was best pleased when the PSN offer finally opened my eyes to Super Stardust HD, and the fact that it was free was the icing on the cake. It may well be in vain, but I will keep looking, or rather not looking, for another Uncharted to dash my preconceptions and remind me that new doesn't always mean better.

Comments

  1. I employ this dynamic as a genuine tactic. If you really want to enjoy a system, ignore it for one to three years.

    (Disclaimer: This trick doesn't work on the Wii.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. All the people who already bought a 3DS are nodding their head in agreement.

    Yes, it was almost the opposite for the Wii. You had to jump on the bandwagon early, before the novelty wore off.

    ReplyDelete

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