James Wallis levels with you

Games I Started But Failed to Finish in 2007

Bioshock (X360)
Not quite sure why. I was absolutely sold on the demo, apart from its one appalling moment of narrative idiocy. WoW more alluring, I suppose.

Endless Ocean (Wii)
I only got this the week before Christmas, so I am still playing it and I will finish it, I’m pretty sure, I’ve just not had the time. It’s rather wonderful, in a space somewhere between Animal Crossing and the chill-out early levels of Ecco the Dolphin that I’ve written about before—you can do tasks, see sights, collect sets and get better clothes, or you can prat around being a scuba diver without having to mix with any of those wankers from BSAC. I am loving this, though the above-water graphics are very last-gen, it’s got Enya on the intro, and the dive-discipline is distressingly lax.

Excite Truck (Wii)
Look, can we just say that “unlocked all the principal vehicles and/or tracks” counts as “finished”? Or there’s going to be a bunch of race-games in here. I am not a platinum-medal completist.

Gears of War
I just lost enthusiasm after about an hour. I keep meaning to go back to it but I never do.

Halo 3 (X360)
I beg dispensation on this one. I didn’t buy it when it came out, I waited for my lovely wife to give it to me for my birthday a few weeks later, and then I’ve been waiting for Christmas so I could play through it on co-op with my brother-in-law. Now, either it’s me misunderstanding the controls or you can’t save your progress in co-op. So I will plod through it on solo, but I have to re-upholster my special gaming chair first. (That’s not a weird metaphor. It’s looking a bit threadbare, that’s all.)

Rayman: Raving Rabbids (Wii)
Some brilliant minigames in here, plus some not-brilliant minigames, and a good deal of unnecessary faffing about with cut-scenes and filler that quickly become annoying. Look, Wii developers, do not sell your products as party games and then make purchasers have to work through it in solo mode to unlock the multiplayer bits. Warioware Smooth Moves, Sonic and Mario at the Olympics, stop trying to skulk away while I’m bitching about the French.

Resident Evil 4 (Wii)
There came a point, fairly early on, where I stopped believing in the game. I was very conscious that I wasn’t killing zombies with a pistol, I was pointing a light-gun at collections of texture-wrapped polygons, and not really enjoying the experience. Plus I’ve hated Capcom’s movement systems since its early PS1 games: they all feel cumbersome and slow, as if my avatar is wading through entrails. I really wanted to like it, I paid full price for it and everything, but this has nothing new to offer and many old faults to lament.

ST.A.L.K.E.R. (PC)
I’m not a big PC gamer, and didn’t realise how lamentably under-specced my desktop machine was. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. looks great, the little of it I could see, and I am still enthused by the concept (it’s an FPS based on a very long, very slow Tarkovsky movie that’s half in black-and-white, you can see the immediate appeal… or at least the immediate appeal to someone like me), the reviews, the idea of playing it, and the tiny bit of the game I played before my PC wheezed to a stop and begged for mercy.

World of Warcraft (PC)
A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

Categorised as: world of warcraft


  1. Graham says:

    The moment of narrative idiocy you complained about in Bioshock previously is explained before the end of the game.

  2. james says:

    Yeah, but… if Buffy had done something credibility-bustingly out of character in the first episode of her eponymous TV series, I would not have stuck around to the penultimate show of the season to learn there was a good reason why. I would have flipped around or stuck on a DVD of Homicide instead.

  3. Tom Armitage says:

    I put Bioshock on temporary hiatus when it decided to send me on what looked like a hugely tedious fetch-quest. I’m sure I’ll return to it, but I’m dreading all that fetching.

    Sorry you didn’t like RE4; I played it on the Cube, and it’s still one of my favourites games.

    Re: Gears of War: it’s a lot easier to push through (and far more fun) in co-op. I’d like to play it again at some point, so if you fancy some Live co-op, give us a shout. It improves immeasurably with a friend (and I liked it to begin with).

  4. james says:

    I don’t think you’ve ever been over here, Tom, so let me finish the reupholstery and we’ll have an evening.

    Fetch-quests hold no horror for me—I play WoW.

  5. NickD says:

    Gears of War – yes, it really does need two players in Co-Op. As with all FPSs, IMNSHO, it’s a lot better played with friends. Also in co-op it does prevent the other main character running around bumping into walls, getting stuck in corners, lumbering into obvious fields of fire… or all those other things that AI players still tend to do.

    I never played it much solo, but heard enough that I decided I didn’t want to ;)

  6. NickD says:

    From my brother, who tended to manage our Halo3 co-op games:

    It saves automatically as you play through or you can use the SAVE & QUIT option in the pause menu.

    Only 1 save is available so if playing a solo campaign don’t start a co-op one as it’ll overwrite it (I think).

    It saves ‘checkpoints’ in co-op so that when you die you don’t go back to the beginning but you can’t really save during a game because I guess of LIVE issues and it being multiplayer.

    You do get a restart point part way through each level, which can be selected in the Campaign lobby, provided you’ve got that far before, and 2 on levels 6 & 7 as they’re larger.

    But the best idea is to play through a level in it’s entirety, time permitting of course, and when you go to play again use the Campaign lobby to select your next level although it should be chosen automatically.

  7. I just finished Bioshock and would very, very strongly recommend you play it. They do some interesting things with the narrative, besides the fact that it’s just fun to play.

  8. james says:

    But… but… what about getting my lock to 70?

  9. Ant C says:

    I was about to post that I finished EVERYTHING in Excite Truck, but I think maybe I haven’t done all of the Challenge levels. Did all of the main races on S, mirrors included though. Normally I’ll bail immediately after finishing the main game and usually trade in / flog the game immediately (cf:Bioshock), but ET completely hooked me. In my top 5 of the year, for sure.

  10. james says:

    I unlocked and beat the spacey-track in Excite Truck, and decided that was enough. But for a game with middling reviews, it turned out to be a little stunner. I’ve deliberately avoided doing my top 5 of the year, but my top five most played would probably be:

    World of Warcraft
    Excite Truck
    Puzzle Quest
    Zelda: Twlight Princess
    Spider Solitaire

    … only one or two of which would feature in my favourites for the year.

  11. Graham says:

    I am late in returning to this.

    Buffy is a television show. Each episode is designed to provide a satisfying narrative experience in its own right, separate from each season as a whole. A game demo, sadly, is not designed to do the same thing.

    A better analogy than Buffy would be a book; you wouldn’t start a mystery novel and then complain that you didn’t understand every character’s motivations by the close of the first chapter.

    Admittedly, it’s far more grating when a character you’re ostensibly controlling acts in an inexplicable manner. But to criticise a narrative without finishing it seems unfair.

    Buffy was totally freaking awesome though.

  12. james says:

    I wasn’t talking about the Bioshock game demo; the game itself contains exactly the same narrative brake-slamming moment. And If Buffy‘s not a good enough analogy for you, let’s talk about 24 instead. What if Jack Bauer had injected himself with steroids in the first fifteen minutes of the show? Do you think that might have significantly damaged the audience’s ability to empathise with this everyman-hero, even if it was subsequently explained somewhere around hour 20?

  13. Tom says:

    Did you ever go back and finish this, James? If not, do you plan to, someday? This conversation becomes a lot easier if we can talk about how and in what sense this event gets explained.

    Assuming no and yes respectively, to be on the safe side, let’s just say there are lots of other things in the bits you have played that also don’t make any sense yet, but we’re so used to accepting them without explaination in other games that a lot of us don’t question it.

    I didn’t question the injection thing – I’ve played hundreds of games where my character does something stupid without my consent in a non-interactive scene, and that drives the plot forward. Generally I only mind it if this action ends up having a negative effect

    The game is on your side of this debate – it thinks all these things we’re expected to put up with in games are ridiculous, and it mocks them pretty viciously. You just don’t find out until a pivotal moment in the second half. It knowingly commits the genre’s sins in order to satirise them, but in the end admits that it’s not much better itself.

    If the spontaneous injection is so incongruous to you that you’re not motivated to play further, then sure, it’s failed. It banks on our built-up tolerance for these inconsistencies to tide us over until it can explain them. Then it banks on that smartness to make us forgive it for never entirely rising above them.

    Worked for me.

  14. james says:

    I never did finish Bioshock but enough idiot bloggers have given away enough spoilers that I know what happens to justify that first injection cutscene. And I still think it’s game-breakingly ludicrous. I can’t think of another moment in another game–at least one that takes itself seriously–to compare. There are many moments where protagonists do stupid things but injecting yourself with a random syringe of glowing fluid without being asked, not even kindly, if you would, is without precedent.

    Saying that “our built-up tolerance” for the stupidity of games should get players past moments like this is a cop-out, it’s an excuse for lazy game-story design that will only lead to more lazy game-story design, and it will continue to alienate new or returning players who think this generation of games might have something to offer them.

    I am sick of the flawed status quo begatting more of the flawed status quo. It does not happen in any other medium. Even comics creators have realised that they can tell proper grown-up stories without mile-wide plotholes these days, even if it did take them a few decades to get there. But if fucking games journalists are happy to give games designers a get-out like this, what hope is there?

    And that is why Greg Costikyan rocks.

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