It’s hard not to see what Rockstar was trying to do with LA Noire – wow the audience with awesome execution and an innovative movie-like approach to storytelling. This, however, meant that we got a beautifully-rendered city of Los Angeles with almost no incentive to explore and fully enjoy it. It was nice to see a rockstar like Rockstar (pun intended) show appreciation for a cult franchise like Ace Attorney with the investigation segments, but Cole Phelps accusing a witness of commiting the whole crime when the player has doubts about something adding up, that’s a bit of a piss-off. The worst thing is all it would taken to fix that would be adding a preview of what Cole would say for every particular dialogue option.
Before Mirror’s Edge, first person platforming has never been done for a reason – it just doesn’t work. EA certainly deserves respect for trying something different (not something that EA was known for at the
time), but Mirror’s Edge was innovation just for the sake of innovation. When trying something new, it’s never a bad idea to think about ways to avoid forcing it. In Mirror’s Edge’s case, an optional 3rd person view mode would have made Mirror’s Edge a much better game. After all, the environment design was nothing short of awesome, with the sterile city conveying the feeling of a totalitarian regime perfectly, even though we don’t get to explore it outside of the linear paths.
It really sucks that a game like Heavy Rain is on this list. With its awesome execution and deep storyline, it definitely deserved all the acclaim it got. Still, when making a game that plays like a movie, it’s important not to overdo it. Uncharted did it right by having Nolan North’s lovable character and spot-on voice acting give us a break from the linear action. Heavy Rain, on the other hand consists of essentially QTEs (which are much more fitting for dodging falling objects that brushing your teeth), cutscenes and “Press X to Jason”, which prolonged a story that would only last a few hours at most otherwise, even though it’s very well written.
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Giving everyone a personal screen when playing multiplayer with friends seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? But when the personal screen is the GameBoy Advance, a full portable console, that changes things considerably. The fact that Crystal Chronicles was released the same year as when the GBA would be getting replaced by the Nintendo DS doesn’t help things. While this may have been a good strategy to sell a console nearing the end of its cycle, multiplayer sold separately is a bit of a rip-off.
Final Fantasy XIII
Linearity is hard to call innovation, but it was a first for the Final Fantasy series in Final Fantasy XIII. Sure, it’s hard to tell a good story when there is too much freedom, but the freedom is what contributed to the success of Final Fantasy every bit as much as the story, if not more so. Final Fantasy VIII’s story wasn’t all that great, but it’s still a classic thanks to the freedom and the junction system which let us customize the characters any way we wanted. Final Fantasy XIII does get batter later on, but that’s no excuse because if the game fails to keep the player’s attention until then, that can only be blamed on the developer.