Games Inbox: Nintendo Switch unfit for purpose, Elden Ring at The Game Awards, and Metroid Dread love

The Monday letters page debates the influence of tech performance websites on gaming, as a reader reminiscences over Pokémon Red/Blue.

PLEASE NOTE: We’re currently preparing our content for over Christmas and the New Year, which will include several Reader’s Features. So if you have an idea for an article, on any gaming related subject you like, now would be a great time to submit it, at the email address below.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

All good things…
Very interesting Reader’s Feature at the weekend, about the Nintendo Switch and the increasing influence of tech sites like Digital Foundry. I completely agree that these sites and channels are a bad influence on fan discussions. What once was an interesting insight into exactly how games perform, and how they compare on different formats, has become a witch hunt against any game that doesn’t prioritise graphics above everything.

As was said, there’s no appreciation for the art of games and the few little nods they give to it just comes across as patronising and insincere. I don’t like any of that content and I wish people wouldn’t pay attention to it. But, unfortunately, it’s a lot less subjective than a proper review critique and so people get lots of fuel for their ‘number wars’.

All of that said though, I do believe the Nintendo Switch is reaching the end of its useful life. There’s no doubting that Bayonetta 3, in particular, is stretching it almost to breaking point and I’m not sure the console is going to be fit for purpose if Nintendo intend to keep it going for another two or three years.

I don’t know if Nintendo really plans to make Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom their last big name first party game but if that’s not that plan it probably should be. The Switch has been fantastic, one of the best consoles ever made, but nothing lasts forever and I’d like to see it go out on a high, not kept working until the very last minute.
Royston

Award winning
Agree with everyone saying that The Game Awards were a lot more watchable this year: some funny moments, good reveals, and the actual awards largely went to the right choices. I’m certainly very glad that Elden Ring walked away with all the most important ones, as I feel it is miles ahead of God Of War Ragnarök, which while good is nowhere near the same level of imagination and craft.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looked good, Bayonetta Origins was a nice surprise, and so was Hades 2. I do wish we’d have heard about some Elden Ring DLC, but all we got is the promise that there’d be more of… something to do with the game. Whether that means something different from the expected expansion or they’re just being overly coy I don’t know.

Also loved GC’s enthusiasm for the Hellboy game and generally their coverage in general, which was excellent as always.
Coffey

GC: Thanks.

Nothing to dread
I bought Metroid Dread from the Currys website in the Black Friday sales for £29.99 (great price, poor shopping experience) and despite being apprehensive about the reported difficulty, you were spot on back in your review: it is solid but never unfair. Every time I’ve died, it’s because I didn’t pay attention.

I think I’m in the second half of the game now but it’s really highlighting a problem with the Switch: because I don’t need the TV to play, I’m probably (definitely) playing this game far too much right now! I was the same with The Witcher 3.

I’ve been putting off buying Elden Ring all year because of the difficulty level, but this Metroid Dread experience has certainly made me more comfortable with the idea of that. I’m just holding out for a good sale now.
FoximusPrime81 (gamertag/NN ID/Twitter)

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Gameplay dinosaur
I thought I’d chime in on the Horizon feature this weekend.

I wholeheartedly agree with the entire feature. I personally cannot fathom how Horizon is being pushed to be the next big Sony franchise, with no signs of slowing down.

I am baffled that it was nominated for Game of the Year and that so many people seem to agree that it was Game of the Year.

Of course, opinion is subjective, and we all have different tastes, but surely all the praise it gets is just hyperbole or exaggeration? I would best describe Horizon as a slice of toast with no butter or anything on it… it does the job, but would anyone really choose to eat that with so many other options available?

While I agree it is probably the most graphically impressive game we have seen this gen so far, that does not excuse all the shortcomings. I feel if it was a different game the shortcomings wouldn’t be forgiven. So why are so many people forgiving Horizon? Or even calling it Game of the Year?

The story was bland (I couldn’t even tell you one plot point I could remember); the characters, including Aloy are soulless (again I couldn’t tell you anyone’s name from memory); combat is mindless on normal and below, then on harder difficulties the janky controls and item management are so convoluted it becomes nearly unmanageable.

The gameplay loop is boring, (endless Ubisoft map markers that lead you to essentially nothing), non-interactive world with set climbing points, endless mind-numbing side quests which essentially boil down to fetch quests or go here and kill some stuff, most of which have mandatory GTA style ‘follow this generic character and listen to 15 minutes of pointless chatter which you’ll completely forget when you get to the destination.’

I feel as though at times we forgive games all their shortcomings if they have outstanding graphics, but graphics don’t make a game.
Anon

Communal gaming
I am loving your content and am finding myself reading it more and more often thanks to the all-knowing wisdom of Google’s algorithm. So, I’ll chime in this week!

Best and worst titles of a long running sequel… is anyone not going to write about Pokémon?

I was born in 1993 and remember playing Pokémon in my second year of school, it’s muddled among some of my earliest memories and so, it’s very special in my mind. Back in those days we all used to play Pokémon Red and Blue and did so extensively, back-to-back, and then again. We’d play it on everyone’s Game Boy.

Today we’re helping Johnny, tomorrow my copy and so on… Magically, I barely knew how to read, there was this collective knowledge of what was going on in the game. We knew how to clone Pokémon, multiply rare candy, how to find MissingNo., catch Mew and everyone would do it over and over again. The Pokémon League was on all the time. I later played Pokémon Crystal in a more serious gamer mindset. Still have that cartridge and I keep it with tenderness.

I am now 29 and considered getting Scarlet and Violet on pre-order but my adult brain is totally incompatible with the fiasco I have seen after the reviews came out (never buy pre-orders guys!).

The magic is completely lost but it might be a case of ‘It’s not you… It’s me’ because I totally understand snotty six-year-old kids getting as much of a kick out of it as I did back in the day!
Benny

GC: How exactly are you interpretating the ’fiasco’?

Frame rate inspectors
Great piece by Arrestor about lack of respect for Switch. Frame rate debate is a hilariously irrelevant game for 12-year-old boys to justify their parents’ £500 outlay.

Do these people realise how stupid they look chasing eerily smooth photorealism? It’s akin to naive visitors to the National Gallery who claim Dutch photorealism is ‘better’ than Mattisse and Van Gough’s impressionism.

I’ve games running on my slither of pink plastic (tiny Switch Lite) that put my son’s noisy, power-hungry PlayStation 4 to shame. I genuinely can’t believe such a tiny, tiny device can offer half the power of its hulking peers let alone nearly the same. Manhunter, Bayonetta, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, and Skyrim!

I’m sorry, but Switch and Nintendo are lightyears ahead of the dull, brash money men at Microsoft who succeed by aggressively buying in talent to glue onto their misshapen mothership, forcing a smile from their new cult members for a Christmas card or two before their next move. Lightyears and lightyears ahead.

Merry Christmas frame rate inspectors, and huge thanks to GameCentral for its daily slice of sanity amid a storm of misinformation.
will sargent

Come back later
Nioh 2 is a really good game that’s currently ‘free’ on PlayStation Plus but why, oh why, is it so unnecessarily overblown?

Brilliant combat but way too many game mechanics thrown at me (mostly half-understood, could be me to blame there) and I’m only on mission one. I have yet to grasp the concept of ‘shiftling’…

Less is often more Team Ninja, streamline yourselves. Look to FromSoftware for illumination.
Chevy Malibu (PSN ID)

GC: The game is undoubtedly bloated but… you’re only on mission one. Plus, From hardly seem the best example of effective streamlining.

Personal performance
I’ve just finished reading Arrestor’s excellent Reader’s Feature regarding the increase of performance-related reviews, particularly in relation to the Nintendo Switch, and spearheaded by Digital Foundry. This is something that was always more PC-centric, rather than consoles, mostly in part due to the variance in PC graphical capabilities.

For example, I read many performance-related reviews when Red Dead Redemption 2 came to PC, as I wanted to understand what type of performance I could expect on my, then ageing, graphics card. These ‘reviews’ serve a purpose, and they’ve helped me decide whether I should wait for a driver update before jumping into a new game or whether to play at 4K with 30fps or bump up the frame rate and reduce the resolution.

However, as Arrestor highlighted, these reviews rarely, if ever, talk about the artistic merit of a game. The story, the characters, the style, the sounds, the atmosphere that is generated, these are the aspects that will have a much larger effect on whether you believe a game is good or not.

I was recently browsing Reddit and came across a thread where Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was in discussion, with one Redditor questioning its universal praise by writing: ‘Not sure how anyone can think this is a good game when the frame rate is so unstable and falls to around 10fps in Kokiri Forest.’

This is such a bizarre statement to me. Breath Of The Wild’s frame rate does drop in Kokiri Forest and would it be better if it didn’t? Of course. But, to write off an entire game because of such an issue, I find sad. I’ve been replaying some N64 games recently, where the frame rates are rarely stable and often lower than 20fps, but you know what, I still enjoyed these games, and so have millions of others.

The Inbox has been full of letters recently regarding review scoring, and what is considered a good score. One thing stands out, and I think it’s more of a comment on society overall nowadays, you have to be either all in on something or absolutely detest it. The latest video game is either good or bad, that new Star Wars TV show is either incredible or terrible, the frame rate of that new video game never falls below 60fps or is unplayable.

You can’t be in the middle, we don’t seem to be interested in anything that works great 99% of the time, if there’s a flaw then it’s highlighted in bold capitals and shouted from every social media platform telling you that you therefore cannot enjoy the product.

Recently, the Switch does appear to be receiving more and more of these performance-related critiques, and whilst I think this is in part due to the above, another key aspect that is playing a part is the Steam Deck. Valve’s latest offering is basically a handheld PC, capable of playing most PC games, with lots of graphical options that you can tinker with to allow you to find a performance level that works for you – and this is great!

However, the Switch is not a handheld PC, the games are made for the system and do not need to come with an array of graphical options. Is it an absolute travesty that some Switch games run at 30fps? No, they’re perfectly playable. It’s okay to highlight flaws and to note performance issues, in fact I believe GC did exactly this in their review of Breath Of The Wild, but did it cause them to lower the score? No, did they recommend some people skip it if they favour performance over everything else? No, because in doing so you would be missing out on one of the best video games ever made.

Digital Foundry’s reviews serve a purpose, but let’s not start using their output to chastise others for finding enjoyment in a game that has ‘performance issues’.
Matt

Inbox also-rans
Given the efforts they’re going to, in order not to show anything, I am going to be shocked if that Suicide Squad game turns out to be anything other than a disaster. Apart form anything why are there only four characters, surely one of the main draws would be all the weird and obscure characters but they’ve just picked the four most boring ones.
Kimble

Anyone else enjoy Hideo Kojima games but find the man himself to be a bit of an ass? Why is he pretending everything about Overdose hasn’t already leaked? He’s online so much himself there’s no way he’s missed it.
Brunt

This week’s Hot Topic
As the year comes to an end, for this weekend’s Inbox we want to know what you thought of 2022 in gaming?

The pandemic might be over, but it still casts a long shadow over the games industry, with release schedules and preview events still adversely affected. But what did you think of 2022 overall? What did you think of the standard and volume of games and what were you favourites?

What did you consider were the major trends in terms of gameplay and the industry at large? And which news stories do you feel will go on to become most important for the future of gaming?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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