What I Know

« November 2007 »

Memo to Neversoft: YOU ARE DUMB.

It's the writer's first credo. "Write what you know." And I've tried to take it to heart. Luckily, my ego is big enough to let me believe I know hundreds of reasonably interesting words each day.

And even if what I know isn't reasonable, and even if what I know isn't that interesting, that doesn't change the fact that I know it. Know it in my bones and in my organs. Know it on a cellular, nay, a subatomic level. Quantum knowledge. A fundamental truth of the universe.

Battle mode on Guitar Hero 3 is a gigantic retarded barnacle grafted onto an otherwise sleek watercraft of awesome.

This would normally be the point in the column when I would inquire into the thought processes of my hapless victim, rhetorically pretending to need some insight into their incomprehensible stupid decision. But I know exactly what Neversoft was thinking. They were justifying their existence.

You see, every once in a great while, a game comes along that has everything it needs. It's a complete experience. The fat has been trimmed. Everything a player might want to do is possible, and things that might irritate them have been removed. When this happens, the game is usually hugely successful. Guitar Hero 2 was one such game.

The problem is, hugely successful games get sequels. And the rule is, sequels must have new features. Because if they don't, reviewers will slam for being "more of the same". Now, if you have a game that has everything it needs, and you add things it didn't have, then what are you adding? That's right, class. Things it doesn't fucking need. Like a Battle Mode.

How do I hate Battle Mode? Let me count the ways. First, it's fucking trite. You've got two players in a head to head competition. Hey, let's give them a way to fuck with each other! Like literally hundreds of games before! Sure, most of those have been Tetris remakes and Tetris clones, but still. Been there, done that, sold it back to GameStop for three bucks in credit.

Second, of all the games to add a mode like this to, Guitar Hero is the worst. It's the closest thing to a game of pure skill the industry has ever produced. Nothing is random. The notes come down. You either hit them or you don't. There's no enemy AI, no no cheap deaths, and nothing but your own ability* to blame when you fuck up.

Battle Mode adds that random element in the form of power-up "attacks". Do well, and you earn one at random and can hit your opponent with it. Of the five attacks, at least three of them make you do things completely outside the core gameplay. The whole sorry mess is a waste of time.

Which leaves me at a complete loss as to why Neversoft would compound their crime by FORCING everyone to play Battle Mode against the computer in order to beat the game. Throwing in gratuitous "features" is bad. Making me use them is worse.

Nobody bought Guitar Hero in the hopes that one day, they could go up against a computerized version of Slash in a shredding solo competition and beat him by cutting one of his guitar strings at an opportune moment. It's an experience that nobody wants, yet one that Battle Mode simulates perfectly.

And all of this is completely separate from the way. Battle Mode folds, spindles, and "categorically does not torture" the game's difficulty curve. Something Neversoft had to have realized at some point, but decided not to care about since, well, they'd already built the Tom Morello model, and it'd be a shame not to use it.

* OK, you could blame an old or broken controller, but that's been an unavoidable constant since the days of the 2600, when it was usually true.