Shorter Games Equal Higher Quality?
Over the past few years and especially in this new generation, veteran gamers have often complained bitterly over the length of certain blockbuster titles. Some people just want to get as much bang for their buck as humanly possible, and if a game takes only about 10 hours or less to complete, it feels like a rip-off.
But does it? Really? The only substantially long game of 2008 that will likely be considered for Game of the Year is Grand Theft Auto IV, and at this point, it seems to be an anomaly. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots might take about 15-20 hours but it's only about 6-8 if you don't count the cut-scenes, and other competitors are relatively short as well. Dead Space falls into the 6-8 hour category as does Mirror's Edge, and we hear that Gears of War 2 won't take longer than 10 hours, either. We beat Resistance 2 in about 12 hours (which felt shorter than the original title), and unless we start talking about sports and racing games, all we're finding are a lot of experiences that can be classified as "short." Look at last year; we gave Game of the Year to two games and neither of which would be considered long: God of War II and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. So the question is: should we really be complaining?
Granted, with online multiplayer becoming such an important factor, the single-player adventures aren't everything anymore. Hence, even though shooters like R2, GeoW2 and the upcoming Call of Duty: World at War are kinda short, one could play countless hours online. Remember last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare? 5-hour single-player; 5-million hour multiplayer. Then again, maybe we should also consider that developing games in this new generation is extraordinarily expensive - as any studio will tell you - so the more quality involved, the shorter the experience. The money will run out eventually for most developers, so a 6-8 hour game might be the new target mark for a title that delivers in every possible respect.
But hey, there are still plenty of long games out there if you want to look for them. Take Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, for instance, and we seem to recall Bioshock taking about 20 hours. Then there's always the PS2 RPGs that can take the once-standard 40-60 hours (like the Atlus Shin Megami Tensei series), and GTAIV and Saints Row 2 can drain away plenty of hours as well. It's just that we've perceived a significant shift, and now we're starting to wonder... When we hear a game will take less than 10 hours, should we immediately start to consider it an excellent game?
11/11/2008 Ben Dutka