In space, no one can hear you go "Oh, is that it? Really? Oh. OH!"
So the tree is back in the toilet cistern, you’ve unravelled your novelty jumper ready to re-knit it next year, and we’re all sick to the gills of leftovers from traditional festive favourites such as boiled pelican, parsnips in Lilt and croquembouche.
Yes, Christmas is over again, and it’s now down to the important business of selling all the stuff you didn’t want to fund buying the stuff you did want that your mum wrote down the wrong number for when she went to Argos (which is why you ended up with stuff you didn’t want in the first place).
One such thing I bought myself with my ill-gotten gains was a copy of EVE: Valkyrie for the PSVR. An offshoot of the EVE Online MMORPG (whatever that means), it’s a 3D space shooter. Except of course, because it’s in VR, it’s a space shooter where you can spend an inordinately long time staring in wonder at your own simulated knees before falling off your chair from motion sickness.
Mr Biffo reviewed the game last year (observe here), so I won’t retread the same ground too much – suffice to say I felt much the same as he did: it looks lovely and occasionally stunning, but it’s far too short.
Plus the pay-to-win microtransactions on top of a huge asking price for not very much is really pushing the cheeky boat far too far up everyone’s canal for comfort. In fact, had I not snagged a copy for well under half price in a sale I’d be fairly livid about the meagre offerings.
What bothered me in particular though, and is the reason why I’m writing this nonsense, is how I felt reality, and what I was led to believe it would be, really didn’t match up on this occasion.
Y’see, PSVR owners get a small taste of the game as a demo level comes bundled on the disc you get with the headset. It’s certainly what lured me into buying the game in the first place, as from that little taster it seemed like the game would be deliciously pitched somewhere between Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.
But note: if you see a bee on a jar’s label it’s important to check whether what you’re buying is sweet, sweet honey or merely a jar of crushed bees. And EVE: Valkyrie is sadly more towards the Sting & Thorax Paste end of things.
Sure, I’d read the reviews that said it was short (and yes, I probably should have read more of them before buying it). But this isn’t short and sweet as in something like SuperHot; it’s short and painfully disjointed like a broken toe.
From the demo, you’d naturally assume that there’s some sort of overarching narrative going on that the full game would flesh out. However, playing the game proper reveals that you, as a clone of a dead pilot, are just replaying chunks of your own memories. Chunks that don’t really fit together in any way at all, but more exist to just give you a trial run in various ships and on various maps.
It’s essentially like ripping random chapters out of sci-fi books, gluing them together and trying to pass it off as a story all of its own – with a vague excuse about disjointed recall to cover for the fact none of it follows on from the last bit. Also: to add insult to injury there are pitifully few of these chapters.
Of course, what’s really happening is that the campaign mode is prepping you for online multiplayer.
Which is fine, but I’d much rather have been told that up front and had it narrated as the training it so blatantly is. Had it been clear from the demo version that there was essentially no real single player mode, I’d probably not have bought the game at all given that’s what I was really looking forward to.
(As an aside, the bonus VR mission that comes with Star Wars: Battlefront shows that you can easily do a great, short, self-contained story in a wider universe. In fact, I’d argue that that single freebie mission is a better ‘game’ than EVE: Valkyrie’s campaign is).
EVE may have been the straw that ruined the camel’s posture, but suffice to say I’ve been getting really hacked off for a while by bait and switch titles that promise something – and quite often a very specific thing – and then utterly fail to deliver it.
Or, the ‘it’ in question is a much, much smaller it than you were led to believe. Especially when genuinely fabulous stuff like Titanfall 2 that has a brilliant single-player campaign and fantastically fun multiplayer underperforms, because, in part, it’s seen by many as ‘the same old thing’ rather than being an indie darling or offering some astounding new benchmark of size or quality.
To name a handful, look what we’ve had recently: No Man’s Sky – framed as a literal universe of endless wonders and infinite worlds, but all the ‘wonders’ look the same and functionally the ‘game’ is barely more than a stupefyingly monotonous tat-collecting simulator.
The Division – a shooter all about prepping for PvP and PvE endgame content where the endgame content was, for a long period, clearly woefully underplanned and then utterly broken. Or Steep – sold as an exciting winter sports simulator, but the bit the developers chose to replicate most accurately is the long, slow trudge through the snow before a few seconds of zing.
Of course it’s impossible to not be excited about new stuff – for example, my subconscious is trying to drive my left hand to preorder a Nintendo Switch as I type this with the other.
And being stupid habit monkeys we all also tend to take in and retain stuff, and lend more weight to information that supports what we already hope is the case.
But if 2016 has taught us anything apart from ‘don’t be a celebrity if you want to live’, it’s that not being as objective and informed as possible before deciding something is probably a really terrible idea.
Which all leads me to wonder whether it’s time we should all take up a new year’s resolution or three – no more preorders, no more going on review scores alone without properly reading a range of reviews first with an open mind, and no more booze.
Or more accurately, no more ordering games when drunk. It might mean we don’t get to play games on day 1, but it might also mean we end up enjoying what we do play an awful lot more, and that we end up supporting the games that deserve it and not the ones that toot their (sometimes misleading) horns the loudest.