As we alluded to in a recent feature, gamers are connected like never before, allowing for the ability to download DLC as they see fit. This also means that games can be patched by a game’s developers the same way. To be fair, this is something that PC gamers have been doing for years, but now that just about everyone has their machines hooked up via a broadband connection the use of post-release patches has increased dramatically. The more this happens, the more it feels like publishers won’t give developers the extra time needed to polish up a game, just to make sure it makes its release date.
Here are just a few recent examples of the increasingly disturbing practice.
Fallout: New Vegas
This was last week’s big release, and for good reason. It’s a follow-up to Fallout 3, which was not only one of the top games of 2008 but also one of the best western RPGs to release this generation. When the game works, it’s already dispelling the stigma that Obsidian is a second-tier developer.
Unfortunately, the qualifier “when it works” is never something you want leading praise. To be fair, Fallout 3 also had its fair share of bugs, but people have encountered them in New Vegas at almost every turn, regardless of platform. Just two days after release, people had already made top 10 lists for the different ones they’d experienced. While most of them are entertaining to some respect, there are also game-breaking ones such as the ability to get infinite caps (which was addressed in the game’s recent first patch).
Will we still enjoy the game, even in a work-in-progress state? Most likely, sure. But when did gamers have to start paying developers to beta test their games? Did we miss a meeting?
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Another recent game, we found Enslaved to be quite enjoyable. Much like Heavenly Sword, Ninja Theory made heavy emphasis on the game’s story and remarkable cutscene animation. Along with the solid combat, Enslaved had everything in place to be one of the better games of the year.
Of course, it wouldn’t be on this list if it was perfect. Some of the textures are pretty low-resolution, the framerate can chug along if the action gets too hectic, and there were a couple of instances personally where the game simply froze on me while playing. Overall, the game remains very playable, but if Ninja Theory had been given just a few more weeks to polish it up it could have been a dark horse game of the year contender. Instead we were left wondering “what if?” and that’s a special kind of disappointment.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Coming out the same day as Enslaved, this game had much more polish in the graphical department while still being a blast to play. The game was so good, in fact, that few critics had anything negative to say about the game at all as it sits pretty with an 84 Metacritic average.
But the one bug that players have experienced is major, and that’s the game’s tendency to nuke a players save file. Affecting only PS3 users, there is apparently no rhyme or reason for how it happens. Some people experience it just an hour or two into the game, which sucks but is still manageable. Others, though, are hit when it hurts the most, which is near the end of what amounts to be about twenty hours into their journey.
Worse yet, the game is yet to be patched, despite the fact that it came out over three weeks ago. While it’s understandable that it’s difficult to locate a seemingly random error, it begs the question: how the hell did the bug make it past QA? The fact that LoS shipped with such a stomach-punch of a bug swayed people into either buying the game on 360 (such as myself) or not buying it at all.
And who would blame them?
Bayonetta had a lot going for it when it released at the beginning of the year. The visuals were fantastic, the combat was weird yet stylish, and Bayonetta herself was easy on the eyes. In many people’s eyes, it gave Devil May Cry and God of War something to think about. That is, if you bought the game on the Xbox 360.
PlayStation 3 players were left with a port that was inferior on just about every level. The graphics were muddier, the frame rate was halved from 60 FPS to 30, and the game took forever to load. Of course, there would eventually be a patch to help relieve the load times by allowing you to install the game to the PS3’s HDD. While it was nice to be able to load the game, it was still ugly compared to the 360 version.
Reception for the PS3 version was so disappointing that Platinum Games decided to make the PS3 the lead platform when they announced the recently released Vanquish. Not surprisingly, that fared much better than Bayonetta as far as a quality product is concerned.
Tecmo Bowl Throwback
Despite the fact that there was very little to screw up with a PSN Tecmo Bowl release, this proves that not even PSN games are beyond the issue. The core game worked wonderfully, playing just like the SNES glory days, but the game was a mess to play online.
The biggest problem of all came from people simply being able to quit games online, with zero consequence. Of course, this is something that would be fixable with a simple patch. The reason that Throwback makes it on the list, though, is because Tecmo decided to stop working on a fix, even after they had said one was on its way. How they thought something like that would be acceptable is beyond us, and it comes across as a publisher caring only about profiting on nostalgia and thinking that people would be OK with it.