Solo Gamer Reviews

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The Future of 5 Video Game Franchises

The following games are confirmed sequels to great, groundbreaking titles. Following with the theory that, in video games, sequels should improve upon originals without sacrificing what made those games great, I'd like to identify what I believe to be the core issues that should be solved and the wonderful things that should remain completely untouched. In many cases, information about these sequels has already confirmed or dashed my hopes, but let that not dissuade us from taking an objective view. Now, as with any speculative discussion about an upcoming work that is not my own (like in my rants about the future of Zelda and Metroid), I disclose that these are just the opinions of one fanboy who does not take himself seriously enough to believe that he is right on all points or that the game developers have any responsibility to listen to his ramblings.

Release Date: 8/3/2010
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Sites: IGN | Gametrailers

Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the biggest surprises of last year. Here's a game that is based on a comic book, but it actually gets it right. The game is so good that a sequel hardly seems necessary, but one was announced shortly after the release of the game.

However, there are a few weakspots in the first game. The story is painfully short, the world is too small, and the RPG-style upgrades are mostly pointless. Luckily, all three of these things can be fixed at the same time in the upcoming sequel. If you make the game world larger and more intricate (perhaps expand the setting beyond just the asylum), the story will by necessity be longer and there will be more time in the game to amass more upgrades. Those upgrades should be much more powerful than those of the first game, so that they are practically necessary by the end.

Also, there needs to be more of a downside to the detective mode so that the player doesn't spend the entire game with it on. Many players missed out on many of the game's great visuals because they kept detective mode on, and the hidden secrets became a little too easy to find as a result. The simplest fix would be to make it so that you cannot fight (or at least not well) while in detective mode, or if that's too restrictive, perhaps half of the secrets could be made invisible in detective mode. Along those same lines, I'd like the Riddler--the character who left all the secrets lying around--to actually appear in the game, instead of being unseen throughout.

Other than that, however, the game needs to remain pretty close to the original. The gameplay is awesome and should be touched as little as possible. Perhaps the fighting mechanics could be tweaked a little and the stealth portions could be a little more varied (more than just gargoyles!), but that's about it.

Release Date: 8/31/2010
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Publisher: Capcom
Sites: IGN | Gametrailers

One of the first big hits of the Xbox 360, Dead Rising made the zombie apocalypse a whole lot of fun. You can run around an entire mall while hordes of zombies lumber around you. Nearly everything can be a weapon, and that kind of zany sandbox made the game an instant classic. However, as anyone who has played it for any extended period of time knows, there are certain aspects of the game that make it intensely frustrating.

There are certain things that should be taken out immediately, like Otis' annoying phone calls that prevent you from defending yourself for as long as he rambles. Additionally, the photo mechanic, while amusing for the first game, shouldn't have much of a place in the sequel.

But probably the things that need to be improved more than anything else are the shooting mechanics. In the first game, you can encounter enemies with guns, and when they shoot you, your character spazzes out, stumbles around for a second, and loses any aim you were trying to acquire. This is beyond frustrating. Also, the AI of your fellow survivors needs to be vastly improved, for there is nothing quite as aggravating as somebody you have to escort to safety who is caught in a corner, running left and right against nothing while the zombies close in on her.

However, as long as the style of the game remains the same (namely a short, scripted sandbox adventure that needs to be played through multiple times to see everything), I would not change the contentious save system. The only thing I might do is make it possible to play more than one game at a time, but I would keep the inability to revert to anything but the most recent save. This encourages the player to play the game again, and in so doing, it is likely the player will improve his or her skills and stumble across things he or she hadn't seen in the previous game. There is no "perfect" way to play Dead Rising, and the sequel should be the same. Allowing you to have multiple saves in the same game allows you to try to perfect little spans of time in the game, and that is not cohesive to a game where there are multiple ways to achieve multiple goals. Besides, the game is short enough that anyone frustrated by this is clearly too impatient for their own good. Perhaps there could be a game mode for these types of players, but I would make it so that playing this way disables most--if not all--of the major achievement points.

There are other things that I would try to improve. In the original, it is possible to mix food ingredients to make special concoctions, but it is painfully limited. I'd extend this idea all over the game and allow you to not just mix food but also items to create improvised weapons. It could be as simple as a lighter and a can of hairspray, or it could be as complex as a giant toy robot outfitted with rotating machine guns and spinning chainsaws.

Still, while that sounds like a lot, the core ideas of the game should remain the same. The zombies should be slow and stupid, everything should be a potential weapon, and there should be multiple simultaneous goals. The thing that definitely should not be touched is the sheer fun and playfulness of the game.

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