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When has a megagame delivered the goods?


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2 hours ago, Kevvy Metal said:

TLOU2 absolutely delivered and pushed narrative gaming forwards. I’ve never played anything like that where you’re in control of two very different sides of the same story. 

Pffft 

 

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2 hours ago, CarloOos said:

 

Also, I'm calling bollocks that none of the guns are fun to fire. Blasting antlions to bits with the shotgun? Blowing combine soldiers away with the magnum? The combine heavy assault rifle with the super cool mini reload animation? All dope.

Honestly - I never found a weapon in HL2 that felt more satisfying to use than equivalents you'd find in say Duke Nukem or Serious Sam 2, or Doom 2 - back in the day. Apart from the gravity gun, everything else can be beaten on the "feels" front (IMO). For me, HL2's guns are workman-like. Almost all of Halo's arsenal knock them out of the fucking park.

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8 hours ago, Moz said:

Half Life 2 suffers terribly from Seinfeld-isn’t-funny syndrome. The physics, environmental storytelling, constantly switching-up gameplay and tasteful characterisations just didn’t exist to any significant degree until it came along. Those things have been so completely absorbed and standardised across the medium. As a result it doesn’t stand up half as well as it should unless you have firsthand experience of the context in which it came out


I had a post along these lines, but it was kind of echoing this - so much of the modern FPS blueprint was seen in HL2 (and, in a way, HL1) but it went under the radar of so many people, whether that was because they didn’t have a PC or their PC wasn’t good enough. If you look at it now then it might not seem special, but within the context of other games available at the time there was nothing else like it.

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7 hours ago, CarloOos said:

 

Yeah, beat me to it. In relation to the games of the time, HL2 was staggering in so many ways. It might not have had the combat loop of Halo (what does?) but it was massively influential in almost every other area. Arguably it was the original Half Life that started the whole 'heavily scripted, highly cinematic odyssey' thing but HL2 really took the characters, storytelling and world building up a level.

 

Easy to forget how mind-blowing the entire physics engine (not just the gravity gun) and the material shaders were at the time, too. Wood that floated, metal that sank, different weight ratios, different amounts of friction. The attention to detail has rarely been bettered since.

 

Also, I'm calling bollocks that none of the guns are fun to fire. Blasting antlions to bits with the shotgun? Blowing combine soldiers away with the magnum? The combine heavy assault rifle with the super cool mini reload animation? All dope.

 

Yep. I remember sitting with my jaw hanging loose watching headcrabs ragdoll around realistically as they died. Maybe it wasn't the first game to do it, but it felt like it added a new dimension of realism that wasn't there before.

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5 hours ago, MarkN said:

Honestly - I never found a weapon in HL2 that felt more satisfying to use than equivalents you'd find in say Duke Nukem or Serious Sam 2, or Doom 2 - back in the day. Apart from the gravity gun, everything else can be beaten on the "feels" front (IMO). For me, HL2's guns are workman-like. Almost all of Halo's arsenal knock them out of the fucking park.

 

I really like the Half Life 2 shotgun. Honestly I just like the feel of that engine, goldsrc and all the variants. It's why I love Titanfall 2 so much. I've said before that you could make a source engine/variant game about shooting rainbows at kittens and it would still feel snappy and satisfying.

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The thing that sticks with me most from Half Life 2 weirdly is the facial animations. It was light years ahead of anything at the time. This was still the era of eyebrows twitching between indifferent and angry key frames. Even today it's still convincing and manages to sidestep the uncanny valley in a way more advanced games don't. A relatively tiny thing when you compare it to the physics, but indicative of the overall ambition on display.

 

Also cross bowing a Combine soldier to the wall or on-the-fly radiator bludgeoning a zombie don't feel good? Moments of nastiness in the combat sandbox that are more cathartic and wince inducing than any of the Doom 2016 canned executions.

 

EDIT: I actually played the original Xbox port first, and the quality still shone through. Swinging the shipping crate on the crane around on the Highway level and scattering Combine like bowling pins - it was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

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I'm not a big fan of Half-Life 2 but it definitely fits the bill of being a megagame that delivered - mega budget, mega hype, promises of being beyond anything seen before. As amazing as the tech and world detail was, I ultimately found it to be a little dated in terms of gameplay mechanics and design in a post-Halo world (physics stuff aside).

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Half Life 2 can’t be separated from its context. Not only did it push animation, facial capture, environmental story telling, physics way beyond the state of the art for the time, it also launched a digital sales platform.

 

there was nothing, not even slightly, like City 17. Even the riff on the train journey at the start of half life ending up in the train station.

 

everyone else was building flattish shaded polygons or shooting alleys.

 

hard to remember after fifteen years of call of duty.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Benny said:

Elite definitely delivered.

 

I completely missed Elite as i was too young to understand what it was.

 

Although!   Elite II  Frontier  COMPLETELY absorbed me  - and i was playing it on an Amiga :o

 

Damn I want to play it again now :lol:  off i go on an internet mission...

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26 minutes ago, matt0 said:

The thing that sticks with me most from Half Life 2 weirdly is the facial animations. It was light years ahead of anything at the time. This was still the era of eyebrows twitching between indifferent and angry key frames. Even today it's still convincing and manages to sidestep the uncanny valley in a way more advanced games don't. A relatively tiny thing when you compare it to the physics, but indicative of the overall ambition on display.

 

Also cross bowing a Combine soldier to the wall or on-the-fly radiator bludgeoning a zombie don't feel good? Moments of nastiness in the combat sandbox that are more cathartic and wince inducing than any of the Doom 2016 canned executions.

 

EDIT: I actually played the original Xbox port first, and the quality still shone through. Swinging the shipping crate on the crane around on the Highway level and scattering Combine like bowling pins - it was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

 

My decaffeinated brain read that as fascist animations, and I really struggled to comprehend the rest of the post.

 

Anyway - Half Life 2 is quite interesting in the new context of being the precursor to HL: Alyx. That game still uses the old numerical health system and has the slightly modernised design of fewer guns with an upgrade system. But it has a stronger than ever focus on physics-heavy dense environments full of environmental storytelling. They've tripled-down on that, in a world where most studios are flirting with or fully embracing open world design, they've gone the complete opposite direction and built a game where you spend ten minutes dicking around in one room, reading posters, touching everything and taking your time. How much the design requirements of VR and the technical limitations of Source engine have to do with this I'm not sure. But Alyx (without getting into spoilers) does carve a path for a future non-VR Half Life. You come away with the feeling that they've rediscovered a love for the world and they're keen to do more. What a future mainstream non-VR Half Life looks like I really have no idea.

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Just now, Moz said:

 

My decaffeinated brain read that as fascist animations, and I really struggled to comprehend the rest of the post.

 

I was expecting a possible Archer_Phrasing.jpeg. This was much darker.

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Yeah Half Life 2, obviously. It was a huge step forward in immersive world-building through marrying technical advancements and show-don't-tell storytelling. Whatever you think of linear FPSs, it delivered the genre's perfect form and massively raised its bar, which is what the hype promised.

 

I think probably also Quake, the level of hype I remember for that was ridiculous (most of it from David McCandless) and on a technical level it felt like an astonishing leap forward when it came out. And then the netcode Carmack developed for Quakeworld became essentially the basis for multiplayer gaming as we know it.

 

Ocarina of Time as well, obviously. In fact I think that delivered even more than it promised.

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God of War (2018) changed basically everything about the formula. Different combat system, different perspective, different type of storytelling and sits at 94 on MC.
 

Also: Metroid Prime.

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Not sure if it is a total 'megagame' but we shouldn't forget just how mind blowingly good Ninja Gaiden was on the original Xbox. That mad guy in charge of Team Ninja was bigging up how it was going to be the best 3rd person combat ever and totally hardcore and every weapon would have more moves than SF2 - and it totally devlievered. Not only on the combat front but in the artwork and music and atmosphere. A total masterpiece that took a decade for anyone else to come close to, including Team Ninja.

 

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7 hours ago, MarkN said:

Honestly - I never found a weapon in HL2 that felt more satisfying to use than equivalents you'd find in say Duke Nukem or Serious Sam 2, or Doom 2 - back in the day. Apart from the gravity gun, everything else can be beaten on the "feels" front (IMO). For me, HL2's guns are workman-like. Almost all of Halo's arsenal knock them out of the fucking park.

 

I should say that comment wasn't specifically aimed at you, I've seen plenty of people express the same sentiment over the past 10 years. You're all wrong of course. :P

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In recent years, Rez Infinite proved that VR can be an astonishing medium.

 

I don't think there's been much this generation that has been a leap forwards, it's all been about refining and polishing to the nth degree what was already there.

 

Next gen, I'm most looking forward to much reduced load times. It's going to make SUCH a difference - it's the most revolutionary thing about it, which is amusing when you consider that we used to have cartridges. Hopefully game design will utilise this effectively, too.

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1 minute ago, Eighthours said:

In recent years, Rez Infinite proved that VR can be an astonishing medium.

 

I don't think there's been much this generation that has been a leap forwards, it's all been about refining and polishing to the nth degree what was already there.

 

Next gen, I'm most looking forward to much reduced load times. It's going to make SUCH a difference - it's the most revolutionary thing about it, which is amusing when you consider that we used to have cartridges.


Yes, I think this is key. This generation only seemed to allow greater picture quality which probably actually held back genuine advancements as expectations of visual fidelity are through the roof. Hence games like RDR2 and TLOU2 are visually stunning but, as games, are fairly conservative iterations on their last-gen counterparts. 
 

And I guess you don’t really see PC games pushing the envelope (like Crysis and Half Life 2 did a while back) as you need console versions to ensure a return on investment in today’s world. 

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3 minutes ago, Pob said:

And I guess you don’t really see PC games pushing the envelope (like Crysis and Half Life 2 did a while back) as you need console versions to ensure a return on investment in today’s world. 

 

Will PCs now hold back non-exclusive console games for a while, I wonder? Not in terms of graphics and how they run, obvs, but in terms of game design still having to factor in load times, as comparatively few PC gamers yet have SSD drives which load data as fast as the new consoles do.

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I think we need to draw a distinction between megagames and games that are just very good. I would class a megagame as something hugely anticipated that promises to do something that wasn't previously possible, or promises to do something on a previously unimaginable scale. Not sure RE4 or Ninja Gaiden count, good as they are.

 

I'd probably cite GTA IV as an example of a game that seemed to expand the boundaries of what was possible in a game. Note that I'm not making any great claims about the mission design or the story or the characters, or even the aiming controls - I'm talking more about the simulation of the city, and the way that it's an open-world physics playground that lets you do all kinds of emergent tomfoolery. Like, the first time I played it, I was astonished at how the pedestrians reacted to what you do. Drive close to them, and they shrink away, or hold up their hands to ward you off. If a cop grabs your car door handle, you can drive off, with him clinging to the side. If you shoot someone standing on a stairway in the leg, they fall down realistically, with their gun firing off randomly as they bump on the steps. You can barge into someone, grab their coffee, and throw it at their head. You can shoot out the tyres of a car individually, affecting the handling. Point a gun at a car driver, and they'll either put their hands up and run off, or floor it to escape. Run over a newstand, and bits of paper go everywhere. Even the glitches were fun, like the way the swings in the playground would catapult your vehicle through the air if you parked on them.

 

Doing all this in a true open world was incredible in 2008. The game itself didn't do the greatest job in capitalising on the freedom the engine offered - there was this weird contrast between the super-scripted missions, and the possibilities offered by the engine - but it really felt like a proper sandbox, where the game set up a number of underlying rules and systems, and let you fuck with them.

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GTA5

RDR 1 and 2

Mario Oddysey 

Metroid Prime

Halo 2 and 3

Sunset Overdrive

TLOU 1 and 2

Street Fighter 2 Turbo

Rise of the Robots. Obviously. 

 

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1 hour ago, Moz said:

They've tripled-down on that, in a world where most studios are flirting with or fully embracing open world design, they've gone the complete opposite direction and built a game where you spend ten minutes dicking around in one room, reading posters, touching everything and taking your time. How much the design requirements of VR and the technical limitations of Source engine have to do with this I'm not sure.

 

The constraints of VR will have massively driven that. Catering to motion sickness, space issues, the potential for seated players etc. means that you're going to want more of your game to take place in smaller arenas that the player can explore, rather than skittering around a larger playfield. Plus, when you give the player the ability to interact with the environment beyond what's possible with a controller, it seems wasteful to not make full use of it.

 

Whether or not Valve would continue with that for future, non-VR games (oh please let there be future games) remains to be seen but having just finished The Last of Us 2, you can see a lot of crossover in design with Alyx. That too is a game that often asks the player to just slow down and take in the environment, be it a sprawling overgrown city square, or a single room in an abandoned house. Not to mention that one level in TLoU 2 that could almost be a direct lift from Alyx if they weren't developed simultaneously.

 

With Half-Life always making use of the environment to tell and complement its story, I wouldn't be surprised to see them remain with tight knit linear areas rather than try to create something more freeform. But then it's Valve, so either we get something we don't expect, or we get nothing.

 

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I've been disappointed by megagames over the years and I've moved away from AAA titles until recently. And the one that comes to mind for me recently is Death Stranding.

 

This was going to be a complete disaster and I was quite happy to watch this from a distance. And then one week out this trailer dropped.

 

 

And all of a sudden I was in despite knowing that I was setting myself up for a massive disappointment.

 

I was not disappointed.

 

It has it's issues. Kojima either needs to be confident enough to cut content or he needs a better editor. The game would be a lot better if it left the untangling of mysteries up to the audience. But the bulk of the game in the middle is free of this and it feels like an indie remake of Mike Singleton's Midwinter. By making a game about hiking and balancing your load the landscape feels more real. The ghost things are easy enough to avoid once you can read the signs in the landscape, after that the real enemy is the weather and rushing. Never have I dreading tripping so much. The social aspect is actually really well implemented. And if nothing else the game made me a massive fan or Low Roar.

 

 

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See, I would dispute the notion that Death Stranding is a megagame at all - I think it is very much an indie game in spirit.

 

Whereas I think the kind of game described in the OP and throughout this topic is something that aims to be truly ‘Mega’ - massively ambitious but also truly mass-market. I don’t think Hideo Kojima ever thought that Death Stranding was going to sell 10 million copies.

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That period in the 1980s - 1990s where you'd read about arcade machines in the computer mags. Mean Machines, C&VG and Ace had a monthly round up.  I remember a 2 page spread about Powerdrift that made it look awesome. Might have been in a Spectrum mag that one. You'd never know if an arcade near you would ever get the games you read about so that day you walk in and see it there for the first time.. it really felt like these game delivered a big shake up, with new hardware and big cabinets.  I've written here before about the first time I played Ridge Racer Full Scale and Daytona but I'm sure I'd read about them months earlier.

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