Shifting the Focus: Gameplay vs. Visuals

Editor: Christiaan Joubert

We’ve started to find ourselves slowly crawling into this part of the “gaming age” where consoles and PCs have some much processing power to spare, that developers go ahead and write gaming engines for water, cloth, emotions or if you’re part of Team Ninja: BOOBS!

Team Ninja

Is this a bad thing? HELL NO; And yes. Let me explain why I feel the way I do. I believe a good principle to make anything by should be to first flesh it out and make a good (if not great) “whatever-it-is-you-are-making”, from there you add on to it to compliment it and make it more appealing, but not for the sake of raising its value.

If I had to use a non-gaming example then perhaps I could point a finger at the knives and swords so freely available at any local flea market. They have extras built in from lighters to bottle openers, all for the sake of raising the value of that sword so that it can be seen as worth more because of all the extra “bells and whistles”. Just don’t try and cut anything with it, or you may notice the most dangerous part is actually lighter that was built into it. Then enter Toledo swords. (If you don’t know Toledo, click on the link, it’s well worth reading – these guys used to cool swords in live pheasants stomachs!) My family owns two of these beautifully crafted swords and I can tell you from personal experience you will pay a fortune for one. The sword you buy will also only be a sword, nothing more. However these become heirlooms, of gorgeous folded steel, guaranteed to turn the heads of anybody who so much as just glimpse upon them.

Why do so few developers do the same with games these days? There isn’t a single title out there that has “ugly screen shots” on the back of its cover, but then you play it and you wonder if anybody bothered to stop and see if the game plays properly for longer than 5 minutes. (That’s right Assassin’s Creed 3 – I’m looking at you!)


Just so I don’t seem like a big “mean bully” let me fling some disappointment at two other titles I really wished didn’t suck for me: Halo 4 & Killzone 3. Killzone 3 I never even finished, because aside from the multiplayer the game felt like homework and a tutorial for cussing like a pro. Halo 4 on the other hand had no excuse! The foundation was there – All 343 Industries needed was to dust off the engine from Halo Reach, focus on a brilliant story and there you go.

Instead I find a game with subtle touches missing, touches that used to make Halo… well, Halo! Fans will all know that energy based weapons do more damage to shields, while kinetic weapons do more damage to flesh. It was a touch that added to the strategy and gave players a reason to mix things up. Now Halo 4 came along and did away with it and gave us what is basically nothing more than the same weapon system with 3 different skins. (Or “looks”, for those who don’t understand the terminology). Besides that, having an enemy that can teleport right next to you and kill you with a single hit (on the hardest difficulty setting) is not only annoying, but it’s a decision that shows a lack of experience and taste!

Don’t get me wrong, I pre-ordered my copy of Halo 4 months in advance and I was watching everywhere online to make sure that if they released a “Legendary Edition” then I would be the first to secure one! I even wanted to buy a limited edition Halo 4 Xbox 360 console just so I could get the limited edition skin for online play. Sadly, this game was not worth any of it and as far as I’m concerned the fight still finished with Halo 3.

Halo 4 Review

When your core focus shifts from making a game that’s fun and exciting to making something that just looks nice and makes the platform it was built for look like “the toughest kid on the playgrounds” then I have to ask you … What’s the point?

This is the part where I thought I would be adding Gears of War Judgment, while pointing and laughing at Epic games. I was really revving myself up the whole first few minutes of gameplay: “Who do they think they are? With the subtle cell-shading and their new button mapping… blah, blah, blah.” Then it happened, I fell madly in love with the series again.

After playing Gears of war 3, which felt like homework, and like a team I admired had lost their passion. This new title that seemed like mindless cash in at first, came along and swept me off my feet. Those fancy water physics? Gone! Want to kick a locust’s head around like in the first few games? Well too bad! But was it fun to play? HELL FREAKING YES! Was the feel and the atmosphere back? “Oh yeah!” Well what about mindless collectibles that looked like part of the environment anyway? “Are you crazy? Those are gone too, we’re back to cog tags only now!”

Gears of War Judgment Review

I could write an article here just praising Epic games on the amazing job they did and going back to basics for the sake of a more fun experience even at the expense of tech that took a lot of time to develop (even though almost nobody really probably noticed it ). That being said, I now have to ask:  Why the hell did it take so long to figure out it would be a good idea to also let us melee with the lancer?

As a certain Red Dead Redemption protagonist would say, “If you find yourself in a hole the first thing you need to do is stop digging.” So why do we have development studios who think a game with more bells and whistles would win us over better than a game that’s just fun? If there is one thing a game like Angry Birds proves, is that having a good time should always take priority; Unless it’s a game that is broken all together – then it’s like a horse with a broken leg… Just take it outside and put it out of its misery! Don’t try selling us DLC for it! Just move on already and make a new one and don’t stuff it up this time.

Every now and then someone seems to smuggle their way onto the ITF Gaming ship of life… These stowaways are referred to as “Guest Contributors”. They are awesome minions that write like demons and don’t mind when we poke them with a stick

  • carrie_les

    de….de…de…. delicious BOOBS!!!

    • Christiaan Joubert

      Those were hard work!
      Took MANY MANY MANY man hours of hard labor.
      Its serious business!

      Pffft!!! Ok … I just can’t keep a straight face anymore!!! XD

  • heavenshitman1

    PS4 is being hyped as the uber winner of next gen. Sporting the best processing power. But its primary input is still dual analogue. FPS games will still play like PS1 (when it got dual analogue)
    Hows that next gen gaming??

    • carrie_les

      Completely agree. The PS3 ( and 4, i assume ) already/will have USB ports. Why the hell will game companies not introduce a keyboard and mouse control option also ? And no, motion controls, across the board, suck ass. KZ3 worked…..kinda….with the move and gun attachment thingy, but even that crumbles, when sat next to mouse/keyboard control.

    • Christiaan Joubert

      Random …
      But yea … I agree :/

  • Øverlord

    What’s up with that link? Why is it taking me to Facebook to redirect me to another site? Irritating …