Evil Rant

Real Life: The Game

When talking about video games, I've heard many people say that certain features are good because they add realism to the game and that games should try to be more lifelike. But have you actually taken a look around? Real life is a horrible game and no one should be trying to imitate it.

The graphics, while top of the line from a technical perspective, have very poor art direction. It's an eclectic mish-mash of styles and color palettes that shouldn't go together. The character design leaves something to be desired, as most individuals you will encounter have a repetitive, unimaginative aesthetic, as well as having nothing interesting to say and add nothing to the main story line. This brings me to another sore spot, the plot.

While this game doesn't seem to be very story driven, it does have an extremely long and convoluted narrative. Even though the plot is hard to follow at times, at least there are multiple story arcs and endings. The dialogue usually doesn't add to the story and is poorly written.

Once again, as with the graphics, the sound is top quality but the implementation is lacking. All audio is high definition surround sound. But the voice acting is terrible and the soundtrack is non-existent most of the time. Most sound effects are either annoying or repetitive.

The gameplay consists of the player trying to survive as long as possible until you inevitably lose. There is no way to actually win or even a goal for what winning would consist of; the best you can hope for is to get a high score (which is extremely difficult given the large and highly competitive player base). Because of this, and the shear length of the game (a single game can last decades), there is no replay value at all. The game occurs in a persistent multi-player environment that is an open world. When you initially create your character there are no customization options and your character's appearance is selected for you using a complex equation. But as the game goes on, you can collect a variety of items to accessorize your character with.

Although the gameplay allows a wide range of freedom to do whatever you want, most players spend a majority of their time acquiring in-game points known as "money". This money can then be used to purchase items or services within the game.

This game is very time consuming and is not for the casual player. Your character requires a large amount of maintenance. Your character needs fuel, known as "food", which must be obtained either through use of in-game currency or it can be made through one of the many crafting systems in game. You must also log off for approximately 1/3 of an in-game day or your character's performance will be greatly impeded.

There is relatively little combat, especially when compared to the length the game goes on. Most combat that occurs is player vs player (PvP); but it is highly unbalanced, heavily favoring those with larger, more powerful items. And with permanent death, no additional lives and no save points; it's best to just stick with crafting.

Partially due to the lack of combat, your greatest enemy will likely end up being boredom. When you're not busy trying to earn more points, you will probably occupy your time by socializing or engaging in mini games; but both of these activities are ill-conceived. When attempting to socialize, the first thing you will notice is the complete lack of a consistent user interface (UI). Instead of a UI, your character is forced to use in game items to communicate with anyone who's not within your character's immediate vicinity. These communication items cost points to acquire and use, in addition to occasionally having bugs and taking up valuable inventory space. The lack of consistent, easily identifiable gamer tags can also be a bit disconcerting.

Mini games on the other hand can be quite fun and at times, even over shadow the base gameplay. There are thousands of them to choose from that range from kick the can, to football, to Metal Gear Solid 4. But if you're only playing this for the mini games, I'd recommend just purchasing those games separately so that you can forgo the rest of the experience.

The first person camera system is very limiting and can sometimes cause nausea. This game would likely have benefited from a toggleable third person view.

There are numerous cut scenes in game. A large portion of these are very well done and entertaining but add little to the overall story and can sometime go on for hours. Fortunately most can be skipped simply by moving your character to another area.

For a game with such an emphasis on socialization, the community as a whole is very bad. Although the game has an enormous player base (I'm not sure why, but it does) most players you will meet will be of average intelligence, which is not a good thing. The community is fragmented, with many guilds and factions refusing to even speak the same language or go to the same land mass as you. It seems as though most players didn't take the time to thumb through the instruction manual, and then require basic assistance from other players.

Speaking of the manual, the customer support is atrocious. There's no direct help from the developers or publishers at all, either online or phone support. Some players still experience basic gameplay flaws, such as not being able to move their character or the camera not functioning properly, and there's been no word on when or if these bugs will be fixed.

Even though this game was the original, when compared to more recent games in the same genre (such as Second Life or games from The Sims series), Real Life: The Game comes up lacking. While at times, the graphics, sound and mini games are excellent; there is a general lack of substance. It's full of minor annoyances and design flaws that have been worked out in other titles and thus does not get my recommendation.

4.5 of 10

To reiterate, real life makes for a terrible game and no one should be imitating it. And that, among other reasons, is why including greater realism in games is not only unnecessary, but can actually prove to be a very bad idea.

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- Vicious

December 5, 2008