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The Linear, Or The Sandbox Game?

I was a little surprised, when perusing some Reader Reviews on various gaming sites, with some of the negative reviews from other readers with regards to the game Bioshock. It goes to prove, I suppose, that one could develop a game certified to cure cancer and you’d still find people who would have a criticism, generally because the very type of game is something they are opposed to. While I realize the irony of writing an article about my personal opinion, I figure the least I can accomplish is shed some more light on the primary issue raised.

One of the biggest problems stated in such comments was that the game was too linear. This strikes me as a rather odd statement, for the specific reason that the plot of the game was specially designed to add a level of, well, urgency. You’re stranded in an underwater city, filled with psychotic murderers and gene-altered crazies and, what, you’ve decided you’re going to take a cheerful little stroll around the city? Get some honey at the marketplace whilst dodging killer security droids?

“Right, boyo, now what you’ve got to do is-”

“No time to save your family right now, Atlas, there’s a loafer sale in the marketplace.”

“…what?”

“Half-off on all shoes with blood splatters.”

As far as I could tell, you do have the option of backtracking to any of Rapture’s sections, via the travel submersibles, and since enemies do regenerate, you would have the option of fighting more of the place’s residents. The only real limitation, and by extension I can assume the only real complaint, is that the storyline itself is linear; you can’t simply skip ahead to the last boss, or the middle boss, or decide you want to fight the bosses in order of their hair length.

When did this sort of thing become a bad? As much as I enjoy playing a game for its wonderful, free-roaming, special-effect driven fun, (coincidentally, I am salivating at the prospect of the eventually-arriving Prototype,) I also enjoy a game with an interesting story, and I don’t particularly care if I don’t have the option of skipping all the ‘small’ bosses to get right to the good stuff. I suppose the moment you pop a DVD in, you decide to chapter skip to all the really important/cool-looking plot points, and just watch the dull stuff after?

The prospect of a cinematic game, (and, no, I don’t mean cut scene infested,) shouldn’t be something to sneer at. Rather, it’s an attempt to create a well-structured world, to be discovered bit by bit, and by extension to give you just a little bit of hand-holding to make sure you actually discover it. I’ve seen a few of my gamer friends play their first person shooters in a decidedly twitch-based method; they’ll jerk their viewpoint left to right, up and down, like a hyper-caffeinated bobblehead, and will therefore miss anything that hasn’t been all but shoved in their face.

The sandbox game is certainly a fun addition to the gaming universe; Fallout 3 ranks among one of my favorite titles, same with Oblivion. However, at the same time, it’s not the end-all system that absolutely everyone should follow, no matter what they might actually want to make their game about. If you can’t bear to deal with a game that actually demands a little bit of patience, and won’t show and tell you absolutely everything on the proverbial first date, then stick to your sandbox titles.

Otherwise, I’ll be sure to invade the Gears of War review section and leave several reviews with the following gist,

“Yeah, well, I hate Third Person Shooters, so this game sucks, because I hate Third Person Shooters.”

P.S. Before I get a lot of irate comments, I hate neither Third Person Shooters, nor Gears of War.

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