HOW MUCH MORE MO­MEN­TUM MIGHT FAR CRY 5’S STORY HAVE HAD IF THE GAME DIC­TATED THE PACE IN­STEAD OF THE PLAYER?

Open-world is in a rut – bring back cor­ri­dors

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION - Phil Iwa­niuk

There’ll al­ways be Lud­dites call­ing for a re­turn to the ‘old ways’ in the face of any tech­no­log­i­cal or cul­tural ad­vance­ment – it’s hu­man na­ture. Never mind that the old ways in­volved chil­dren up chim­neys and as­bestos roof­ing. Old is fa­mil­iar. Old is com­fort­ing. But when I say I want a re­turn to cor­ri­dor shoot­ers, I don’t want to go back­wards.

I want games to keep mov­ing for­wards. And as Far Cry 5 re­cently demon­strated, they’re not do­ing so un­der the open world de­sign tem­plate that’s proven so dom­i­nant through­out the last gen­er­a­tion. That’s no slight on Ubisoft Mon­treal’s lat­est in a spe­cific sense: it does every­thing you could ask an open world shooter to do. There are lakes to cruise by boat, many a dirt track to have a quad bike ad­ven­ture on, and nigh-con­stant con­flu­ences of en­e­mies, big ex­plo­sive events, and ag­gres­sive lo­cal wildlife. A wilder­ness won­der­land. And yet you can’t shake the sense that you’ve seen and done it all be­fore.

Be­cause you have. Sure, the veg­e­ta­tion might have been dif­fer­ent, and the ex­act breed of ag­gro fauna too. But by this point we’re all so well-drilled in tak­ing down an en­emy out­post, mark­ing each hos­tile with our binoc­u­lars then sneak­ing up to break their spines, that we could do it re­ly­ing on mus­cle mem­ory alone. And this isn’t just a Far Cry thing: there are echoes of it in every open world I visit. Every new in­stance when I find my­self gath­er­ing herbs from a road­side bush, sprint­ing be­tween map mark­ers, or watching a new map re­gion ap­pear in colour, I be­come more like that bad lad off The Ma­trix, Cypher. He looked at the code so long that he only no­ticed the peo­ple it cre­ated – well, I’ve looked at fac­sim­i­les of the same game for so long I only see the code.

Here’s what I pro­pose: let’s give the open world thing a rest. We were all very ex­cited about be­ing free to run off into the hori­zon any di­rec­tion on the map ten years ago, but by now we’ve learned there’s prob­a­bly not much go­ing on over there and it’s likely not worth the slog. So let’s put the whole con­cept aside for a while and, in its ab­sence, let’s see what can be achieved in lin­ear games.

WALK THE LINE

Tightly chore­ographed se­quences, in­evitably con­nected by cor­ri­dors. This was, for a long time, the pre­vail­ing mind­set in shooter de­sign, and it gave us genre-chang­ing ti­tles like Doom, Half-Life, and BioShock. Lin­ear games still ex­ist, ob­vi­ously, but they’ve been pushed side­ways slightly from the lime­light over the last decade, crop­ping up less fre­quently than Far Cry in its many guises. Lin­ear games can still cap­ti­vate, as 2016’s Doom and 2017’s Wolfen­stein II: The New Colos­sus both did. How much more ex­cit­ing might it have been to ex­pe­ri­ence the Project At Eden’s Gate Cult and the Seed fam­ily at the top of its hi­er­ar­chy via a con­strained, fo­cused ex­pe­ri­ence like Half-Life 2? How much more mo­men­tum might the story have had if the game dic­tated the pace in­stead of the player?

Un­like the afore­men­tioned Lud­dites, I’m not say­ing we throw all our open world games into the fire and dig out our PS1 copies of Doom. Open world games have many more won­der­ful evo­lu­tions yet to come, but let’s give them some space for that to hap­pen. It’s hard to rein­vent the genre on a yearly cadence.

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