PlayStation 3 Revisited

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on November 27, 2006

Over the holiday weekend, long after my Technology & You column on the PlayStation 3 had been published, I finally had some extended time to play games and also watch them being played by some younger, and more game savvy folks. What I am about to say will probably win me even fewer friends in the gaming community that the original column, but I found that while the action is exciting enough, the games tend to suffer from a boring shallowness.

The problem for me is a lack of any real strategic elements to the games. I’ll generally exclude the sports games from this judgment, especially the better ones like Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL 07, which really do require some solid understanding of the game to play well. The problem I have with these is the sheer complexity of the controls. And I don’t expect a lot of strategy in racing or martial-arts games.

My real disappointment is with the genre known as first-person shooters, best represented among the initial PS/3 releases by Sony's Resistance: Fall of Man and Activision's Call of Duty 3. Despite terrific graphics and frame rates that make the action seem cinematic, at the conceptual level these really have not progressed very much from the "monsters in mazes games from the dawn of personal computing, where you wandered around a maze, hoping to kind and kill the various monsters lurking there before they killed you. The mazes are now battlefield farmhouses and enemy trenches and the weapons and controls are a lot more sophisticated, but the general idea is the same.

Both of these games feature stories that are little more than settings for the carnage. In Resistance, you fight alien mutants that have taken over Europe; Call of Duty is based on a badly distorted version of the battle for France after the Normandy invasion in world War II. The basic rule in both games: see the bad guy, shoot the bad guy. Each level requires you to solve some minor tactical problems: charge or advance stealthily, which weapon to use when. But there is no room for any strategic thinking; you just carry out each mini-mission as the game has planned it for you. The Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty at least had some little puzzles built in. In the PS3 edition, these seem to have been replaced by contrived situations that require you to use the motion-sensing abilities of Sony's Sixaxis controller.

I'm not asking game developers to turn their products into high-level intellectual activities. But it would be nice to see some elements that required players to exercise their brains as well as their reflexes.

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Reader Comments

Dave Taylor

November 28, 2006 09:14 AM

Seems like you're posing a bit of a conundrum, Stephen. On the one hand you want a more strategic game, but on the other hand you're saying that the games that do have a strategic element are too difficult to master?

Also, if I may say so, this is the most sloppily edited blog entry I've seen here on BW for a while. Lots of typos to be fixed.

M.T. Paige

November 29, 2006 01:28 PM

Let me start by addressing Dave "Mr. English" Taylor: You sir don't understand what blogging is all about. It is about writing down what you think at that moment in time. You don't do a bunch of drafts or proofread it. You just type! Also, if I may say so, you are a uncouth whacko.

Stephen, you are right...the PS3 is all flash and no substance!

Leon

November 29, 2006 06:15 PM

There are games at the strategic level sir, it's just that they aren't going to be out immediately on a brand new system such as a ps3. Pc games in particular are known for the type of game play you seek. in fact, an entire genre RTS which stands for real-time strategy is dedicated to the strategy game. some of the most successful game titles ever made such as starcraft or the warcraft series are prime examples of how "brainy" games succeed in todays gaming environment. Just to clear up some misconceptions, games HAVE come a long way.

Steve Wildstrom

November 29, 2006 10:08 PM

@Dave Taylor
Given the nature of blogs, they don't get edited (though M. T. Paige notwithstanding, I try ot avoid posting the first thing that pops into my head.) Any mistakes are my own and my only excuse is that I'm net to the Typepad software and a bad typist.)

When I said the sports games were too complicated, I really just meant the mapping of of a lot of complicated moves to a lot of things on the controller. It's hard to think strategically when you're trying to remember what the circle button does. I suppose I would surmount that if I ever had enough time to devote to any one game.

Probably the most strategic games around these days are role-playing, but I'm not sure there's a good implementation on a console. If there is, it would have to be Xbox Live.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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