AAA – The Tipping Point

For me, the AAA gaming scene has reached tipping point this year and I’m now more reluctant to buy and more sceptical of any new game from big studios than ever before.

Obviously a lot of talk has been focused towards EA and Star Wars Battlefront 2 in recent weeks and I think rightly so. Personally I don’t like loot crates that offer anything other than cosmetic items, like Overwatch. I know that some people flat out disagree with any kind of loot box and that’s fine, but for me cosmetics are ok, just about.

The issues of loot boxes is a troublesome one for many reasons including the potential for it to be considered gambling, but one of the issues I have with it, is actually how brazenly companies put them in games now. They have become so standardised that it almost feels like more of a shock to not see them in the big titles. Before Call of Duty WW2 came out it was being advertised on steam a lot, but the screen I was always presented with wasn’t the actual game, it was an image of the in game credits – that was their selling point, that was the main focus of the adverts I kept seeing; that you could get bonus credits for pre-ordering. Then I saw one the streams for Shadow of War that actually focused on loot boxes and talked through them almost boastingly, like they were some kind of feature to be proud of.

It seems that gamers have had enough however, and the uproar that Battlefront 2 caused has actually had an impact with EA temporarily withdrawing the option to buy loot boxes with real money. They will be back, no doubt about it, but my hope is that some of these companies will now take more time to consider the implications of including loot boxes. I get that money needs to be made to continue with development and support for games, but there are better ways to do it than what we’ve seen in this example.

We can do better than this system

I’m not adverse to DLC, but I don’t particularly like the season pass model, mainly because people are usually being asked to buy in to something not knowing what it will contain. The Division was a prime example of being burnt by a season pass with so many players feeling let down by the content included in it. What’s wrong with just branding things as an expansion and selling/advertising it once we will all know what’s in it?

But it’s not just loot boxes that are swaying me away from AAA games; it’s also the sheer amount of disappointing titles. I’ve bought two games that I would consider AAA this year, two! One was Mass Effect Andromeda – which, whilst I liked I still felt disappointing by and I’ve still not finished it. The other was Destiny 2, again another game that’s come under a lot of criticism – and rightly so in some cases, although I really like it.

It could’ve been so much more.

Rewind a few years and I was buying the yearly COD games, Fifa, Battlefield, Halo, Gears of War etc… Come Q4 I was dreading the hit my wallet would take as we’d be hitting the silly season of games and I’d want about 10 of them.

But those days are gone! I’m just so bored of what’s being churned out at the moment. It’s a conveyor belt of copy and pasted (almost literally in some cases) ideas we’ve seen; games we’ve already played just with different weapons in our hands. The stories we’re being told every year, we’ve already played them, we’ve been that hero before; he just had a different name. Too much of it feels like a lazy cash grab at times, and I’ve become disillusioned by it all.

Again, I’m using Call of Duty as an example. Now, I’ve not played it, but I’ve now seen a fair amount of the gameplay and I have to say I’m glad I didn’t get it because I was considering it for a while if not just for the fact that it was a return to WW2. All the COD cliches are in there, over the top set pieces that no one would survive, boring on rails driving sections, linear paths to follow, check pointed enemies. It’s boring,  unoriginal and needs to change.

This train crash scene is ridiculous.

Sure, there have been some gems this year like Zelda, Mario and Horizon to name a few, I’m not trying to say it’s been all bad, but it feels like a top quality game is now the exception rather than the rule. It feels like companies are happy to release mediocre games or games that are unfinished and riddled with bugs because it’s ok, they can patch it post launch…

This year E3 felt really bland to me, I wasn’t particularly excited by it beforehand, and there wasn’t much that left me wanting more when it was all done. The only games that really stood out to me were Metro and Anthem with the latter looking like it could be contender to Destiny. But the more time goes by and the more controversies that arise from these big publishers the less enthused I become about it and the reality is, the more concerned I become about how it will turn out.

I shudder when I think about what Take Two are going to do with Red Dead Redemption 2.

Personally I find much better value from indie games and smaller studios. They’re cheaper in most cases and a lot of time actually have some unique and interesting stories to tell and play. I’d much rather spend £15 on a 4 hour story that’s unique than £45+ on a 6-7 hour COD campaign that I, personally don’t think does anything new.

One of the worst things about the whole Battlefront 2 debacle is that actually there are huge teams of passionate creators behind the game who’ve actually made a technically stellar game, it’s stunning in both visuals and sound design, but it’s been ruined and the reputation of the franchise has been torn apart due to this crazy loot system that’s been put in the game.

Everyone cheered when the announcement came that there would be no season pass for Star Wars Battlefront 2, but it was clearly a false dawn.

-Will

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