First, I’m a huge fan of both franchises. My obsession with religious cult storylines far outweighs my desire to bathe, and I’ve read all the companion books for Gears, which I feel is saying something. Furthermore, I have a great deal of respect for Cliff Bleszinski after he admitted the war-spurned trilogy was born out of his divorce, and maybe that’s the reason I’m having issues with an Alpha Squad-centric prequel. Yes, Cole and Baird are awesome, but they’re supporting characters, devices to help propel the main thread which was the loyalty and unwavering commitment between Marcus and Dom, a thread, I’d like to point out, that came to a wonderfully bittersweet conclusion last year. The big questions were mostly left unanswered, sure, but the resolution was in line with the message: it sucks, but that’s life. Just look forward to tomorrow. So I’m a little confused as to why there’s another game, especially one set in the past. For the record, I’m madly in love with Baird, but what good is knowing more about him? It doesn’t change anything; it just feeds the franchise, makes it fatter and less nimble, and what’s more, war crimes? Insubordination? Stop me if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve heard about that before… i.e. Marcus and the entire first game.
And then there’s Dead Space 3. My heart honestly sunk when it was announced; granted, I should’ve seen it coming since Visceral leaked the plan long before DS2 was even out, but still, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I get the second installment; Isaac survived hell on Earth and was short-changed in the end. He (and his fans) needed a shot at justice, and I was satisfied beyond words when he got it. The ending to DS2 was so cleverly self-aware and funny, dare I say it was a near perfect send-off. It soothed my wounds and left me happy, but for some reason I’m being asked to rip the stitches and jump back in, and for what? So Issac and his new friend can hop across the universe and quell necromorph outbreaks? To be honest, I’m a little worried that this excellent series is starting to follow the Saw movies’ footsteps and will fade to a washed-up, tired “scary” slasher with a vaguely recognizable trademark.
Full disclosure: I’m a marathoner. Last month, one episode of The Mentalist turned into four straight days of every episode of The Mentalist. I once played FF7 for twenty-nine hours before passing out in front of my TV. I like to OD on what I love, and it’s only natural, especially in gaming. The emotional responses games elicit are nothing short of amazing. They turn players into both the actor and the audience—force them to deal with situations on two totally different levels—and when the ride’s over, it can be heartbreaking. Then the lingering question becomes: do creators leave it alone or re-envision it for the love of the fan? The first promotes artistic integrity while the other shows the little guy matters. Somewhere along the line though, it seems those choices started being ignored in favor of cashflow, and the numbers at the ends of titles kept piling on, or worse, a colon would show up. Apparently, one studio head said the issue was old gaming consoles; developers’ drive and inspiration were all but gone, but I have a hard time with that. We’ve been using paper for years, and we still manage to eke out a Harry Potter or Anna Karenina every so often. Is it a fear of comparison maybe? We don’t want to be accused of stealing from X, so… let’s just be X: Part 2? Do executives really not care about storytelling, or is the First World so geared towards consumerism that little else matters? We want it, and we want it now? One thing’s for sure, the notion of simplicity and originality within that concept seems to have been ditched, and “more is better” has taken its place, become the norm. Work is revisited and revisited until its core principles aren’t recognizable anymore. I watched it happen with the Silent Hill franchise, Resident Evil, Jurassic Park…
Now, I know this a flawed argument; character development can be more in-depth if it happens across multiple titles, series can blossom, bleh blah bleh. The problem for me is what’s been done already with Issac and Delta Squad is so deft and strong within their contexts, I’m nervous the continuations will only sully their good names or at least leave a bad taste. Yes, re-envisioning is phenomenal. It’s what helps keep us moving forward as a society, but there’s a difference between metamorphosis and selfish appropriation, especially for financial gain. The saying is “quit while you’re ahead.” The market is saturated with C-grade product, and instead of putting their noses to the grindstones, it seems developers opt for picking over the fur of sleeping dogs who should be left alone. But maybe I’m wrong; maybe they know something I don’t. I mean, Wuthering Heights 2: Bloody Redemption does have a sexy ring to it.