Zero Perfectation!

Zero Punctuation is a weekly feature on The Escapist by reviewer and professional troll Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw who got employed at The Escapist in August of 2007. His previous work were a couple of hilarious if slightly inaccurate reviews on youtube, which earned him enough attention that he could live his life playing games and whine in the most ungrateful way possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good rant on faulty mechanics, and I’ve been a fan of Yahtzee for quite a while, but his constant, ever more inaccurate whining about the tiniest little “flaw” is starting to get to me. And when I say “flaw”, I mean design decision that does not entirely live up to Yahtzee’s expectation that every portion of every game should be a fucking cakewalk.

Yahtzee’s recent ‘Mirror’s Edge’ review in particular annoyed me. Yahtzee talks quite a lot about innovation when reviewing games that have little of it and focus on polishing ideas that already exist in other games, but when an opportunity to play a highly innovative game like Mirror’s Edge presents itself to him, all he does is bitch and cry at the very innovation itself. The very idea that Mirror’s Edge is flawed because  it’s a platformer in first person goes directly against the very innovation he is so keen to push when it is not present.

Mirror’s Edge is an amazingly innovative game with  incredibly intuitive controls, a nice sense of speed and incredible flow, broken off by the stray puzzle or fight to keep monotony from creeping on. What more is Mirror’s Edge? A quite easy, way too short game. Yahtzee, on the other hand, seems to have difficulty gripping the timing of mostly extremely generous jumps in first person that would have embarrassed a seven-year-old. This is all fine, until you start blaming the game for it at which point it becomes whiny. Yahtzee actually goes as far as blaming the incredibly clean, clear, helpful visuals for his failure to adapt. Nothing short of amazing, and Yahtzee’s response to accusations like these are that he reviews games “for the people”.

Yahtzee’s audience, on the other hand, is NOT “the people”, it is mostly quite hardcore gamers that has been playing games most their lives and should know better than to be misled by one guy’s bitching over a game he and he alone has trouble controlling.  However, by the comments on his review, this is not the case. Long-time gamers are laying their money at his feet, waiting for him to guide them in the direction of some mythical game of innovation and polish that don’t exist and never will exist.

Another point Yahtzee makes is about the story in Mirror’s Edge, that he finds rather dumb and hard to follow, pointing out that we have no evidence of any kind that the bad guys in the game really is the bad guys.  My response to this is that while the voice acting is at times sub-par, the overarching story is not all that confusing. Without spoiling too much, the basic outline is that the main character, Faith, is a ‘runner’ – a courier of sorts that transport messages for clients not wanting to be overheard by the government. Set in an extremely tightly controlled city where most actions are crimes, the runners are one of the last forms of criminals present in the city. This is all told and hinted at as early as the opening cinematics, and picking it up should be no problem unless you are way overzealous in your use of the “skip” function.

Yahtzee also comments on the controls, saying that when jumping to a lege your view gets obstructed by the wall you are facing, and the game’s pacing forces you to make a blind jump because turning around is too slow. This is just simply false. One of the shoulder buttons is mapped to a quick 180 degree turn, enabling you to keep up with the game’s pace at ease without having to rely on blind jumps.

All in all, Mirror’s Edge is a great game with some flaws, most notably a kinda dodgy collision detection that can cause problems for the first hour until you get used to it, some extremely boring combat, and some cheesy dialogue. This is all countered by the intense high-speed chases with bullets flying past you, the visuals, the absolutely brilliant soundtrack and the very fact that it’s a platformer in first person that actually works, and better than most side-scrolling and third person ones too.

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~ by Johnny Niska on December 31, 2008.

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