Economy of Effort

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Destroy All Humans! And Conker: Live And Reloaded (Xbox)

GameFly brought me a pair of new Xbox releases in the form of Destroy All Humans! and Conker: Live and Reloaded.

Destroy All Humans is a tale of a great game that wasn’t quite. I am reminded of a quote from someone on the Halo development team, who talked about how the core of one’s game boils down to 30 seconds of gameplay. Those 30 seconds you will experience over and over again. In Halo’s case, for example, those 30 seconds contain shooting, dodging, and piloting vehicles. You play those same 30 seconds over and over - the locations and context change, but the actions remain largely the same. So, the Halo dev’s point was, you have to nail those 30 seconds to make a great game.

Destroy All Humans nails the 30 seconds, but proves that it takes more than just that to make a great game. There is sheer gameplay joy to find in Destroy All Humans. Your alien character is capable of, among other things, lifting and throwing creatures, people, and objects telekinetically. There’s an aspect of thrilling discovery involved when you find that, yes, you CAN lift the guy up and repeatedly slam him into the ground to kill him. Or, lift him waaaaaaay up and let go, and just let gravity do the rest. And, one might say that you haven’t truly [i]lived[/i] until you have telekinetically thrown a cow (radioactive or otherwise) at your attackers and let the bovine’s mass do the dirty work.

Sadly, while the core gameplay is a blast, the game doesn’t provide a varied enough framework for it. Occasionally, you get to enjoy some real ingenious sequences (such as taking on the appearance of a town’s mayor, and speaking to the townspeople to calm their fears… that is, if you choose dialogue options like “Blame Communists” and resist the temptation of ones such as “Enslave Human Populace”). Most of the time, however, you’re doing the same sorts of tasks over and over, and getting shot at by one too many offscreen enemies. As the game ramps up the challenge, it forgets that the feeling of being a near-indestructable badass alien is what makes the game fun. When the enemies are capable of putting up too frantic of a fight to allow you to enjoy the fun of your abilities, things get less interesting.

As for Conker, well, there’s one beautiful looking game. Infuriatingly, however, the camera control issues of the original game are still largely present. Also present is the fact that the game is, by and large, a platformer - and despite my love of the witty yet horribly crude humor, I found that I still don’t enjoy 3D platformers very much. Except for Psychonauts, though Psychonauts managed to be as much of a 3D action/adventure game as it was a platformer.

Anyway, both games are going back in the mail tomorrow. I might try Conker again in the future, but right now there are some new releases that are a bit more up my alley that I want to get my hands on…