THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What was the last game or service you subscribed to?
- Which keys do you always rebind?
- How do you hold your mouse?
When people say a game has "aged badly" a lot of the time what they really mean is "it was released before I had developed any critical faculties and didn't know good from bad". It's not the games that age: We do.
But sometimes a game is superseded by the new, its controls outmoded and its best features done better. And that's fine. We can look back at games we used to care about and say we wouldn't play them again while still acknowledging they rocked our world when we were young, either because they were the best thing around in their day or because we just didn't know any better.
What game did you love at the time but find hard to go back to now? Here are some of our answers, let us know yours in the comments.
Alice Newcome-Beill: Mass Effect
Honestly, the original Mass Effect is a difficult game to revisit. Knock inconsistent animations and rushed endings all you want, but the later Mass Effect games incorporated a lot of features that made the game more accessible and streamlined. Some of this did unfortunately come at the cost of excising many of the RPG-heavy features that drive people to adamantly defend the initial entry, but the original Mass Effect moves at a near glacial pace when compared to its successors and has more menus than a Fuddruckers. The lens of nostalgia is a powerful one and ultimately, I feel that the original Mass Effect is a game that's still remembered fondly for its narrative but has had its gameplay tinted through rose-colored glasses.
Jody Macgregor: Grand Theft Auto 3
When it came out I played Grand Theft Auto 3 all the way through and had a great time. I was happy just cruising around listening to the radio, but I also did every single mission (though I never did bother collecting all the hidden packages). At the time my only annoyances were trivial stuff like "the ambulance tips over too easily", but now everything about its dinky little world, its sneering tone, its silent protagonist, and its annoying NPCs rubs me the wrong way. It's pretty rare for me not to be able to replay games I used to like, and I'll happily go back to Fallout or Morrowind or Thief: The Dark Project (after remapping the keys, I'm not crazy), but everything about GTA 3 makes me itch. If I want to play an old city sandbox these days, I'll take Saints Row 2 instead.
Christopher Livingston: Team Fortress 2
I played TF2 nightly for probably about a year. I've got over 400 hours in it, which is the most of all my games (on Steam). I have, from time to time, attempted to rekindle my love affair with it, but it's never lasted longer than maybe a few rounds.
I'm not sure why, really. The game has definitely changed since the early days—there are so many different weapons (and hats) now that it'd take me a while to catch up with everything that's been added. But I think it's mainly that I've grown less interested in team-based shooters over the years, and I'm more into team-based experiences like Sea of Thieves, where there are other things to do besides blasting away at the other team.
Wes Fenlon: Sonic Adventure 2
That's right, I'm not ashamed to admit it: I bought Sonic Adventure 2 Battle for the GameCube, and I liked it. I had a Sonic Adventure 2 poster from Electronic Gaming Monthly on my wall (that part I actually am ashamed to admit). Even back then I knew large parts of it weren't especially good, like the weird Knuckles levels where you hover around and climb up walls, or the bland Tails/Eggman levels where you walked around blowing up robots. But the Sonic and Shadow levels I really liked, and there was still a part of me that thought Sonic was cool.
Looking back, I think most of this game would cause my physical pain to play, what with its rudimentary camera controls and painfully stupid cutscenes. It's kind of hard to believe it's on Steam, with "very positive" reviews, no less. I played a ton of this game as a teen, but that was mostly for the sake of the Chao Garden, a sim minigame where you raised cute little pets. Unlockables throughout the game (and if I remember correctly, some things you did in missions) would affect how your Chao evolved. It was pure and fun and popular enough that someone even made a fan game for Chao raising, years later. The only good thing to come out of Sonic Adventure 2—except for Shadow the Hedgehog, who would go on to star in the most edgelord videogame of all time.
Jarred Walton: Ultima Underworld 1/2 and System Shock
I loved the originals back when they were new—I managed to defeat The Stygian Abyss even when we didn't have the Internet, and without a hint book. I don't even think I felt the controls were bad at the time, as running around a 3D (or at least faux-3D) environment was just something completely different. But, the controls were soooo bad.
I went back to replay these games several years later, and couldn't even manage to get through the opening bits. Using the left mouse button for movement? Who thought that was a good idea? And rebinding the controls wasn't even an option on these old DOS games.
Retrospect after new control schemes have become entrenched is an interesting thing. We didn't all have WASD and mouselook muscle memory ingrained when these games were new. Maybe in an alternate universe Looking Glass Studios defines the way all 3D games are controlled and it's Quake and Unreal that feel awkward. I used to think not playing with inverted mouse was weird as well, and now I can't stand it. Anyway, I had hopes that the reboots would be good, and I'm sure they're better in some ways than the originals—the controls can't possibly be worse—but I think it's best if I just leave them all in the past.
Andy Chalk: Destiny 2
I played a LOT of Destiny 2, from launch day up to Warmind, and I liked it a lot. The story is hot nonsense and I have an intense dislike for Zavala and whatsherface, but it's awfully pretty and shooting stuff is fun, and I really enjoyed jumping into the action with my fireteam regulars. I was never "good" at it in any traditional sense, but my Power level was maxed, I kept up with the weekly Strikes and Nightfalls, and I usually avoided embarrassing myself too badly in PvP. It was good. And then it wasn't. I'm not sure what flipped the switch, but one day I just stopped playing—and I did not miss it one bit.
Several months later, well after the release of Forsaken, I let myself be peer-pressured into giving it another go. It was a complete bust. I played an hour or so of the campaign and it was a hard "nope"—I could not possibly care less about who these people were, what they wanted, or why robot guy was dead—and my final spin through the Crucible was an exercise in tedium that I only powered through because I didn't want to disappoint my friend. And I know the game is vastly improved now, and lots of PC Gamer folks are big on it, but I don't care. I tried, guys. I really did. It's just not going to work out.