Let me tell you the story of two recently released games. They’re both sci-fi themes, both set in alien worlds, they have characters that run, jump and shoot, and even fly in space. They both feature flashy graphics and have been made by a hardworking group of talented people. But for all the things they have in common, there is one key difference between them, hype. The games I’m speaking of are Destiny by Bungie and Velocity 2X by Futurlab. Now a lot of people who aren’t in the know have only heard of one of these games. You see, Destiny has been a shadow looming over the entire gaming industry with an alleged behemoth $500 million dollar budget, it’s very presence has mysteriously prompted the delay or “pushing” of other games to get out of it’s way, and while this game only let sites get their hands on it, causing reviews to be late, and in time to cash in on a bounty of pre-orders, the just is still out if this game is even good. I’ve spent about a dozen hours with Destiny as this point, and what I’ve found is a game with a confused identity. Like a moon populated by fallen, the game itself feel hollow. Bungie seems to have spent years developing a game with incredible art style, a wonderful score, and a slick UI that just falls flat to me. They amassed talent the likes of the popular Peter Dinklage and even Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles, even fired one of the more talented gaming music composers in Marty O’Donnell in the process, and for what? Destiny is so hugely ambitious it seems to have the problem that plagues genre defying games, it’s a jack of all trades and master of none. It’s not a competitive shooter, it’s too slow, clunky, unbalances, and un-customizable for that. It’s not a great science fiction game. It lacks heart, a point of view, a compelling protagonist, or decent plot. It’s not even a MMO, with lack of community coordination, collaboration, meaningful interaction outside of shooting, and a sea of people with muted microphones. It’s no wonder Bungie always tried to avoid calling the game an MMO in the lead up to the games release. Meanwhile, a week before Destiny hit my console, all of us Playstation Plus users were offered up this game called Velocity 2X. The only thing I knew about Velocity 2X at that time is that Colin Moriarty was touting it as an amazing follow up to an amazing Vita game on every episode of Podcast Beyond that I could remember. So like everyone who has PS+ does, I grabbed the download, locked it in, and figured I’d get to it. You know, sometime after the Destiny fever had broken.
Only the fever never got going, and after being given another Crucible bounty that I didn’t have any desire to complete, I decided to go back to my main menu, and give Velocity 2X a try. I realized over the next few hours what a huge mistake I had made. Futurlab’s Velocity was a slick, sublime, speedy experience. Wholly different from Destiny, but more than that, it was better. I know comparing the two is apple’s and oranges, but I think the comparison is fair. Velocity feels like a complete package, enough story to carry you along, a skip button for those of us who don’t care for it (something that I’d pay for in Desinty, especially when you’re replaying missions, and terrible acting.) What’s more everything in the game is explained and in service of the theme of the game, fast, frenetic speed. The game feels like a perfect, thoughtful package carefully considered and designed. They know exactly what parts of what levels will drive you crazy and what moments feel satisfying to the player.
What’s an even larger travesty is that in the console gaming space, so many people would look over this title if it had a price tag of even $10, let alone something like $60 or $90 for a collectors edition. I found myself buying the extra DLC for Velocity if nothing else but to ensure that the developer made something off of me.
Over the past few months, Futurlab’s Twitter’s account has been peppered with them creating art for notable game journalists and other people in their Velocity art style in a charming and unobtrusive marketing campaign to get people to take notice, while Bungie has been churning out completely ridiculous (albeit very cool) commercials with live action and cinema quality CG. It dominates the headlines and ad space on gaming sites, and fills up live streams on Twitch, it’s talked about, on TV, and movie theaters. It all feels a little bit like a middle aged, balding man buying a Porsche to garner affection from younger women. It’s the actions of a gaming mega-coporation that needs to extract all of your spare cash, over-hires and lays off, create new revenue streams, and doesn’t care to create games that they cant annualize versus a superiorly crafted gaming experience that is hard to imagine any lover of video games not enjoying. It’s the difference between convincing everyone to buy your game through an assault on the senses through advertising, and brute force messaging, and making something so good, that it speaks for itself.
I’ll still being playing both of these games in the coming weeks, but when I have a chance to tell family it’s Velocity 2X that I’ll be telling them about, not Destiny.