Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Unlockables

I picked up the new Goldeneye: 007 game for the Wii over Christmas. This is a classic game for me, one I spent many hours with in high school, whiling away afternoons with friends. In fact, I never played the single player game when this was on the N64, so finding out that Nintendo was remaking the game inspired a lot of nostalgia for the days of sitting on the couch and blowing my friends up.

So you know what happened when I picked up the game with some friends on New Year's Eve? I found out that half the features I wanted had to be unlocked, including the proximity mines (AKA the greatest video game weapons ever). There was much nerd rage to be had.

Seriously, why do game designers do this? What possible reason could there be to make players spend hours and hours playing one game mode to unlock features in another? I'd say it's to get people to play the game for longer, but it's not like designers get paid by the hours people play the game. It reeks of artificial padding.

I can think of worse examples, of course. Wario Ware on the Wii required you to beat the single player game before you could even access multiplayer. I've played DDR games where you had to progressively unlock each difficulty level for a song. Smash Brothers is defined by all of the unlockable features, which is pretty obnoxious if you bought it to play with friends. It's pretty disheartening when you crack open a game, anticipating a heavily advertised feature, only to find that you have to play the game endlessly before you can access it.

Consider this a negative review of Goldeneye for the Wii. The one feature I was looking forward to, proximity mines, is only unlocked through online play. How? Why, by earning experience and gaining levels through good performance. Oh, and what level do you unlock proximity mines? Level 53. Yeah, whoever made that decision can go suck an egg.

Edit: Forgot to add probably the most important point: This sort of gameplay has a limited shelf life. That is, the online community with which to play the game is only going to be around for so long. What happens when that well dries up? Will that content be forever locked away?

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