Even the finest games have their problems. Most games are either generally good or generally poor, but every so often there comes a game that manages to be a classic despite considerable problems. This article celebrates these flawed gems that defy the odds and transcend their abundant crappiness with a few shiny diamonds amidst the sludge.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
For a guy who can bench-press ten tons, the Spidey featured in this movie tie-in feels about as intimidating as if he was stuck in a bathtub. Then there’s the stock missions and abominable boss fights that make the story a chore to work through. Nobody remembers that part of the game, though; what people remember is running along a building, somersaulting off it, then letting rip with some web to soar into the sky a second before becoming another bit of New York graffiti. The web-slinging in Spider-Man 2 turns an ugly, maze-like environment into a playground in which to hone your parkour skills until you can cross the whole map in a few minutes with nary a break in flow. It’s this mechanic alone which has made the game one of the few movie-licenced titles to develop a serious cult following.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
There’s overwriting, and then there’s Hideo Kojima’s overwriting. The man could take the story of Doom and turn it into a fifty-hour trilogy with love rectangles, political strife and the occasional man made of bees. Then you have the Metal Gear franchise’s weird reluctance to catch up with modern innovations like cameras that give a decent view of your surroundings or the option to point a gun using fewer than five buttons. All the above makes Snake Eater a daunting beast to approach, so it’s a good thing that under the iffy controls there’s a satisfying stealth system that encourages experimentation and strategy, and those same cutscenes that outstay their welcome also show off a camp 60s spy thriller aesthetic that gives the whole experience incredible charm.
Red Faction: Guerrilla
There’s a lot of stuff to do in Red Faction: Guerilla. You can collect meaningless audio logs, avenge that brother of yours who got killed in a cutscene two minutes into the game, or even explore the featureless Martian landscape that somehow seemed more impressive when Carl Sagan was skimming along it in a giant snowflake. Alternatively, you can get in a truck, drive it off a hill so it wedges itself inside a building, then smash said building into gloriously rendered chunks with your magical sledgehammer and blow up whatever’s left with satchel charges. The choice is yours.
Let’s get one thing clear: Mass Effect’s universe is miles above the gaming average and highlights how little thought apparently goes into the setting of most other titles. The original Mass Effect marked a brave early EA effort into a new generation and is easily worth a look if you like your fiction speculative. It’s just a shame this is the game’s only real draw, since it was only my determination to enjoy the world and characters that let me look past the mediocre combat, unbearable inventory micromanagement and Herculian backtracking required to find all the juicy hidden pockets of lore. Mass Effect 2 might be the superior experience in almost every way, but the original is still worth slaving through to introduce yourself to the world.
Mass Effect rights – Electronic Arts
Spider-Man 2 rights – Activision
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater rights – Konami
Red Faction: Guerilla rights – Deep Silver