Bitpicking: Too fast, too long
Video games require good pacing. In this regard, games are just like any other type of entertainment, like books, movies and music. If something starts off too slow, you might lose interest. At the same time, if the ending feels rushed, you might feel somewhat irritated. While this is the case for other media, the issue of pacing in video games isn't just with narrative. If a game is divided into chapters, there shouldn’t be a large gap in the length of each chapter. Likewise, the transition from one chapter to the next shouldn’t be abrupt. I'd only be scratching the surface if I said video games have complicated pacing. This week, I’m taking a look at one of my favorite games of 2013 thus far, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and ranting about its horrible pacing.
Revengeance is an amazing game, no doubt about it. From the get-go, the game is an amazing ride. Having said that, the eight missions that the game throws at you all vary in length. Some missions will be a good 30 minutes longer than others. That may not seem like much, but when the game lasts around six to seven hours, it becomes a problem. When you consider the fact that one mission takes at least 1/8 of the game’s overall play time, there’s something obviously wrong.
There are two inherent problems with uneven play times for missions in Revengeance. The first is that there is no way to start in the middle of a mission, or anywhere else for that matter; you can only start at the beginning. There are two particular missions I enjoy because the boss fights are spectacular. Sadly, these two bosses are in two of the longest missions of the game. If you want to fight the boss or go play a segment of the mission that you really had fun with, it’s impossible to do so unless you go through the entire damn mission. Normally I don’t really have a problem with this, but when the missions are long compared to some of the others, it can be a bit irksome. It doesn't help that the longer missions have mini-missions within them. In fact, ***SPOILER ALERT*** one mission is only a boss fight that lasts around 10 to 15 minutes. It’s only a boss fight. Why the heck are the two bosses that I’m talking about not in their own two separate missions? It just doesn’t make any sense.
The second problem is that the shorter missions lack substance. Now, I’m all for bosses having their own missions for relative ease. Earlier, I complained about long missions with bosses feeling weird when there are missions with just boss fights; the reverse also holds true. The longer missions with bosses had that climactic build-up and felt complete. You start relatively slow at the beginning of the mission and go off with a bang. In a mission with just a boss fight, there’s no buildup and release; it’s just release. It’s an odd contrast. In many ways, the two mission types conflict with each other and are at odds.
Using a game from last time’s Nitpick, DmC: Devil May Cry, we can see a better example of good pacing. There are two types of missions. First, there's a normal mission where you have to hack your way through some objective; these take roughly 30 to 45 minutes. The second type is a boss mission. You only fight the boss in these boss missions; this separation is extremely nice, as there’s a clear pattern and progression that the game is trying to accomplish. The pacing in DmC is pretty well done. The progression missions are all the same length, and all of the bosses have their own missions. Revengeance doesn’t do this.
So what does all of this have to do with pacing? I stated earlier how the missions are all different lengths and that has something to do with bad pacing. Actually, it’s only part of the problem. If you haven’t figured it out by now, pacing goes beyond gameplay time. It’s also about gameplay itself. The pacing and breakdown of the game is ruined because of the weird division in gameplay. The game completely disregards the typical boss fight at the end of a mission by just throwing in one boss after another; it’s definitely different. It’s easy for someone to look at what Revengeance does and say that it’s something great. Sadly, I feel otherwise. Revengeance fails to divide the game into portions that resemble each other in some way, shape or form. By not having a pattern, continuity is lost, a steady flow is never established, and the result is something messy.
There’s a lot to love about Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. However, just because I love it doesn’t mean it hinders me from recognizing what it fails to do. While it is subjective to say that the pacing is flawed in Revengeance, there is no denying that the way the gameplay is divided up is rather odd. The decision to constantly disrupt any pattern in its mission design is something I can't enjoy. However, maybe the lack of pacing is a message in and of itself. Revengeance is an absolutely insane game with a bombastic and flamboyant nature that has no regards for common video game rules. Maybe the pacing of the game does the same. Whether this is the case or not, my stance will not change.
Next time on Nitpick, I’ll be discussing bad games. Correction, bad movie games. Oh boy. There are a whole lot of them and you should be excited. Well, perhaps not. These ARE bad movie games after all.
Simon Chun is GameZone’s freelance writer and RPG buff for all things new and old. Check out his twitter @kayos90.