EPISODIC GAMES SHOULD BE WRIT­TEN TO TAKE AD­VAN­TAGE OF THE FOR­MAT, NOT OUR WAL­LETS.

There’s a place for games re­leased in chap­ters, as long as we can play on our terms

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION - Si­mon Bram­ble

Episodic Hit­man games are no more, af­ter de­vel­oper IO de­cided to re­vert to a tra­di­tional all-in-one re­lease for fu­ture in­stal­ments. I think it’s the wrong move.

Hideo Kojima, whose cut-scenes should come with an in­ter­mis­sion (in Me­tal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Pa­tri­ots, one clocked in at 27 min­utes), told one in­ter­viewer that “mas­sive, long games will be a thing of the past”. And while I don’t think sin­glere­lease games with the scope of Hori­zon: Zero Dawn or Mass Ef­fect: An­dromeda are go­ing any­where soon, Kojima is onto some­thing.

Take those taut Hit­man episodes. With each out­ing a self-con­tained labyrinth of pos­si­bil­i­ties, piece­meal re­leases gave Agent 47 time to flex his fi­bre wire. Know­ing that the next level wouldn’t be re­leased for a cou­ple of months en­cour­aged me to pace my­self, to take the time to lis­ten out for tell­tale leads and to de­vise elab­o­rate death­traps that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Saw movies. Had I played Hit­man: The Com­plete First Sea­son as a tra­di­tional boxed re­lease, I would have missed out on that cre­ativ­ity and nu­ance by set­tling on the most ob­vi­ous as­sas­si­na­tion method be­fore blun­der­ing on to the next mis­sion on my to-do list.

LIFE IN PIECES

One of 2016’s stand­out games was Life Is Strange, the time-trav­el­ling teen drama. An en­tic­ing mix of Twin Peaks and Per­sona 5, it played as a more in­volv­ing TV show, draw­ing you into young pho­tog­ra­pher Max’s world and giv­ing the choices you made real weight in later episodes. Best of all, it kept track of those de­ci­sions and let you com­pare them with other play­ers’. What would have hap­pened if you hadn’t stopped to take a photo of the se­cu­rity guard rough­ing some­one up? How would Vic­to­ria have re­acted if you hadn’t made fun of her?

The prob­lem with episodic games comes when they feel like they’ve been chopped into bits for greater profit. Games only work as episodes when they’re de­signed to take ad­van­tage of the for­mat. If they aren’t, yet a pub­lisher is hell­bent on drip-re­leas­ing, at least give us the choice of play­ing chap­ter by chap­ter, or binge-play­ing the lot.

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