Checking my mailbox, I saw the package, picked it up, and mouthed a phrase starting with "F" and ending with "yeah." I could not wait to lather myself in this crap. I grabbed a beer, sat in my gaming chair, and booted it up. The game was the critically loathed Rogue Warrior. I’ll save you from all the details about the terrible experience; you can discover those by checking out the reviews. What I will say is that I played the entire game, and I’m glad I did.
Promotional screenshots of muzzle flashes can sell any game.
How could this be possible, though? Rogue Warrior has almost no redeeming qualities: everything is broken and the best part about that game is the credits (seriously, the end song is second only to Portal's). So why was I glad I played? Maybe I felt the need to punish myself, or I possibly have no taste in games. But perhaps I wanted a reminder of how awful games could truly be.
I’ve played video games with a passion ever since Nintendo targeted my demographic back in the '80s with their marketing blitz. With each passing year, gaming evolves, and I love being able to say that I was there from the beginning. If a title brings something new to the table, I have to check it out. Mainstream or indie, I want to be part of it.
Rogue Warrior brings absolutely nothing. If Roger Ebert ever got his hand on this game, he would blog a big ol’ “game over” post for us all to get angry about. But Rogue Warrior will teach you more about intelligent design than most triple-A titles. It serves as a reminder about how far the medium has come.
After playing Rogue Warrior (no seriously, don’t play it) and experiencing the complete absence of any aim assist, you will want to write Bungie a letter of thanks. Want a crash course in level design? The confusing environment and poorly placed enemies will tell you exactly what not to do should Microsoft ever sign you to make a timed exclusive. How about intelligent A.I.? Those cardboard cutouts masquerading as terrorists in Modern Warfare show more smarts.
Could you ever appreciate your mom’s brownies without knowing how horrible plain oatmeal is? The same logic applies to games. The only way that we can describe something is by reference; we base all of language upon our ability to point to something else. How can you praise a game without being able to compare it against the truly awful?
Many of us have a limited budget when it comes to games, so we only indulge upon the good stuff (and rightly so). But can you truly appreciate the reveal of the ominous spire in Half-Life 2, the tight controls of Devil May Cry, or the storytelling of Mass Effect 2 without also knowing how easily it could have been painfully bad?
These are not just features checked off on the back of the box, these are outstanding achievements in game design. Those developers are at the top of their field and really give us the very best, and it seems crazy to suggest Rogue Warrior to anyone with its muddy textures, ridiculous storytelling, and shoddy gameplay.
But that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm suggesting that you to go play a game that everyone says to avoid at all costs. When I go back to my Halos and Mass Effects, I'll smile at the hundreds of things they did right rather than bitch about the two things they did wrong. If you're a gamer who loves to chart the growth of the medium as much as I do, play Rogue Warrior — if nothing else as a reminder of great game design.