Part 1 – Preface
Part 2 – Personal Opinions
Part 3 – Redefinition
As Rich Stanton says in this recent article for The Guardian:
“A perfect game is such a complete realisation of its concept that you can’t imagine it ever being surpassed”.
I like that throughout the article his focus rests squarely on the effective realisation of an artistic concept and not necessarily flawlessness. Stanton goes on to suggest that meticulously streamlined design is also “a good guide for perfect games” and I once again agree. In fact many of the games I’ve referred to previously in this blog support his definition of perfection and emphasis on inspired minimalism; classics such as NBA Jam, Donkey Kong Country and Stanton’s examples of Tetris and Street Fighter II certainly meet this high standard for streamlining and essence of concept.
It will come as no surprise to gamers that people love to create lists, especially when it comes to selecting the cream of the crop. Rather than vainly attempt to add any further wisdom to this age old debate I’m going to illustrate why I’m on board with a couple of the other esteemed games Stanton and his Twitter followers decided are candidates for the label of ‘perfect’. So without further ado, in order of appearance…
Format: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Release Year: 1993
“… What makes [Doom] perfect is that, even though other games have improved on elements of it, the overall design has not been surpassed within its type.” -RS
One of the first games we owned for the SNES was FPS pioneers id software’s genre-defining Doom. Based on its brilliance we added another id release Wolfenstein 3D to the library as well, but Doom always had that special something about it and was revered by critics (and by ‘critics’ I mean my Dad). With a genuinely foreboding atmosphere, complex level design, archetypal weapon systems and impeccable pacing, Doom established the blueprint for generations of shooters to come. Where would the contemporary video game society be without id’s space marines with shotguns I ask you?
The memories formed while watching Dad and occasionally jumping in to tackle the alien hordes myself are an intense cocktail of foreboding and adrenaline. Though I have to admit that the monstrous cries in the darkness have lost a little of their ability to induce terror as I’ve aged, back in the mid-90s I found that Doom blended action and horror very effectively. The only other game I’ve played that created the same electric, edge-of-your-seat tension has been Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, but more on that below. Thinking back on the ominous atmosphere of Doom reminds me how much I look forward to picking up a PS4 sometime and getting into The Last Of Us. Better late than never, right?
As a side note, following the release of Doom and Wolfenstien id went on to give us the Quake series (good fun on N64) and more recently Rage (good looking on PS3, but I’m not so much of an open-world fan) so it’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about crafting a good shooter and will continue to do so into the future. If not they can expect a lot of disgruntled space marine fans knocking on the door…
RESIDENT EVIL 4 – WII EDITION
Format: Nintendo Wii
Release Year: 2007
I’ve previously written about the wonderful pairing of game and technology that came about with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft’s iPad release. What was a solid, free-to-play CCG became perfect for those needing to play one handed and without sound (i.e. parents of babies) when ported to Apple’s trusty tablet. Reading that Resident Evil 4 was already an award winner before I experienced it for the first time on the Wii suggests that Hearthstone is simply following in RE-4’s successful footsteps, and that these examples of technological innovation aren’t just flashes in the pan.
I believe that, like playing the drums or singing in harmony, there is just something inherently and fundamentally satisfying about losing yourself in a good FPS. As you may have concluded from the universal lauding of Doom, when there’s a story to unravel, a great evil to undo and an epic crisis to avert, it’s a good feeling to have the weaponry at hand to save the day. There’s also the added bonus of not having to wade through the pesky ethical and financial considerations that would and should slow things down in real life. Resident Evil 4’s Wii version puts the gun in your hand – literally – which took my mind straight back to the many teenage hours spent at Carousel shopping centre attempting to master Time Crisis II (time well spent). The Wii may often be written off by ‘serious gamers’ as a casual toy console, but if you’re after a real sense of immersion and quality FPS action RE-4 Wii Edition has to be on your to-do list. The only thing that would improve this further would be Oculus Rift support, but as the Rift didn’t exist in 2007 this might be overly harsh criticism. Resident Evil 4 was also one of the first games I’d completed that came with substantial unlockable post-game content in the form of replays as different characters and arcade style challenges, which added further value to an already worthwhile package.
“Resident Evil 4 is designed to be gaming’s Die Hard, a pure action set-piece thrillride from start-to-finish, and it maintains this momentum throughout.” -RS
Above and beyond ticking all of the regular game review boxes (gameplay, graphics, storyline etc.), Resident Evil 4 on the Wii represents a streamlined and pure realisation of zombie apocalypse. The fact that RE-4’s direct sequel was absolutely awful serves as a sad confirmation that this perfect zombie shooting moment was indeed a fleeting one.
So once again I’m left thinking that I have to get my hands on The Last Of Us and relive some of these thrilling ‘first play’ experiences. Perhaps this final installment of the Unbeatable Game series may at some point get an expansion after all…