GameFront 2010: The Absurdly Shortest Games Of 2010

So what makes a great game great? If you gamed in 2010, the overwhelming answer to that question was probably “make it long as possible”, since so much of the year’s output was longer than Hamlet.

Surprisingly though, a few developers disagreed and they turned out products of varying quality that seemed designed solely to defy the idea that more = more. Sure, sometimes, it was just a matter of wanting more than you got (despite having already gorged yourself), and sometimes, a game was so ridiculously short it was almost as though it were the product of generations of Scottish equestrian science. Either way, in a year where 20+ hours of gameplay is the rule rather than the exception, the short games stood out like a sore thumb chopped in half, even if they just felt short, especially if you dropped 60 bucks a pop and want to get your money’s worth for as long as possible.

So who’s right, team Length or team Brevity? Actually, Liberace was: too much of a good thing really is never enough. Here are Gamefront’s staff picks for the absurdly shortest games of 2010.

Kane and Lynch 2

Phil Owen

Look, I pay the same price at the book store for a 650-page Turtledove book as I do a 250-page Asimov book, but I’m not going to complain; Asimov is far superior to Turtledove in every way, and it doesn’t matter if he puts out something short because he’s so damn good. To continue the book analogy: Buying Kane and Lynch 2, however, is like getting a 100-page James Frey book for the same price as a 1,000-page Asimov compilation.

Believe it or not, I was pretty pumped for Kane and Lynch 2. Despite its flaws, the game’s predecessor was a quite satisfying experience, one that was full of ridiculous but quite inspired set-pieces and screamed curse words.

The day I got my copy of KL2, a friend and I got comfy on the couch, ready to get this party started. At 5:30 in the evening, we began. At 8:15, it was over.

We had completed the entire campaign in under three hours. We were unhappy, and not just because it was so short, of course; the campaign was boring as hell, too, and it failed to tell even a half-compelling story. Sheesh, guys.


Star Wars: Force Unleashed II

Phil Hornshaw

It’s kind of sad, actually. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed had potential, and while it was short, most of us had a lot of hope for a sequel that would have fixed all the compiled issues of the first title. Instead, The Force Unleashed II is brutally short; The average player can wrap it up in maybe eight hours. You can barely squeeze a weekend out of it. At the standard cost of $60, that’s an awful ripoff, even for Star Wars superfans.

Now, everybody else here will be quick to point out that length of game does not necessarily equate to its value, but I think it matters, certainly. We’re not talking about a game that was a complete experience, and yet short because that was the kind of story it told or the pace it kept. We’re talking about a really freaking short game — a game that feels like it’s short because the developer decided to include less content in the package game on purpose, as a method of cutting corners and shortchanging the player (you know, like Kane & Lynch 2). Force Unleashed II isn’t a game after which you go, “Aw, I loved it, I wish there was more.” It’s a game that feels like you got duped into buying it.

For instance, at one point, you travel to Dagobah, get out of your ship, walk about 20 paces, watch a cutscene with Yoda for no apparent reason, and then leave. The game recycles just about every single location from in the second half from the first, highlighting what feels like extreme laziness. When a rebel ship gets boarded, you go all the way through it from front to back, then all the way back to the front. The first stage has you fighting your way out of a Kamino cloning faciltiy — the last is you blasting your way back in, on the very same paths.

I can’t even understand what Lucasarts was thinking when they put this game out with so little content, especially when the last game was chided for its brevity and it was much longer than this one. Maybe they figured that putting the Star Wars brand on something will get people to buy it — I can’t think of another reason, but that makes this a fleecing of the fanbase, which is even more depressing.

Force Unleashed II would have been a stellar downloadable expansion pack for the first game. As its own disc, however, there’s no excusing its brevity and price tag.

Ross’ unsolicited opinion: What was LucasArts thinking? George needs a new diamond encrusted hot tub, that’s what. And this game shows it. Phil is absolutely right about it feeling like DLC, and the only hope is that from now on, the only company allowed to touch the Star Wars Galaxy in a video game is the one currently blowing our minds in a galaxy near, near close.

Mass Effect 2

Shawn Sines

I’ve given up. Measuring the quality of an experience by its play length is a pointless exercise, but we gamers seem to equate value with time spent. When looking back over 2010 it’s hard to think of a game that I wanted more time with than Mass Effect 2. Now wait before you shoot me, I guess I see the opposite as a good thing – if I’m not ready to leave then the game is always ridiculously short. The problem stems from the 40 hours of play time in ME2 and its DLC content.. but I guess I’m just contrary. Other than ME2 there just weren’t any titles I wasn’t ready to exit at the end.

Ross’ unsolicited opinion: I’m actually annoyed with Shawn because I was going to say something very similar about ME2. 2010 has been a year of LOOOONG games and what makes one really stand out is how, even when I’ve spent 40+ hours, for the 3rd time in a row, it’s still not enough. Maybe BioWare has invented digital cocaine, or maybe I have too much spare time, but even with a staggeringly huge main game and several lengthy DLC packs, I want more. And more. I find myself annoyed, right now, just thinking about the fact that it’s nearly 2011 and we haven’t had the second of the “bridging 2 and 3″ DLC pack. Maybe the Uncharted series has the right: literally one and done until the next sequel.

That said, BioWare, please do not interpret this in any way to mean Mass Effect 3 should be shorter, or that there should be less DLC. Just feed the addiction without judgment or restraint.


Mafia II


Ben Richardson

I honestly don’t understand the point of designing a giant open world and then doing so little with it. Mafia II kept its production values consistently high, which I’m sure will be cited as an explanation for the short single-player campaign, but the amount of content it offered out of the box was criminally small.

You’re effectively confined to following the single-player missions, which take about an hour each and do not appear in abundance. Considering all the effort that went into constructing Empire Bay from through ground up, there’s hardly anything else to do. No one’s expecting Mafia to suddenly transform into Grand Theft Auto, but a few more sidequests and mini-games would have been very, very welcome.

LIMBO

Mark Burnham

I’ve already written a fair amount about LIMBO–in my review, and I also gave it a nod for one of 2010’s hardest games. So in honor of this post, I’ll keep it short.

LIMBO is 3-5 hours long. Sneeze and you’ve beaten it. But I don’t think this is a bad thing. Afterall, a game is only “too short” when it fails to deliver value commensurate with its price tag, right? Length does not necessarily = value. We derive value in games from a whole host of factors: game mechanics, atmosphere and art direction, immersive music, story, challenge and reward, solitary moments that give you joy and remind you that to stop playing is worse than to continue.

LIMBO packs more of those moments in 5 hours than many games in 2010 did in 20+. While it certainly does end abruptly–which was kind of slap in the face–it managed to satiate and entertain with minimal material.

Ross’ unsolicited opinion: LIMBO is one of the most amazing games I have ever seen. It’s the perfect combination of stunning (and artistically innovative) graphics, truly challenging gameplay + Nintendo hardness, and pure fun. The art-deco, BandW graphics and old school platform-puzzles feel like Super Mario Jazz Age. Love it, in other words, and though my sneezes are apparently considerably shorter than Mark’s, I agree that one thing it is not is long. Most of what Mark says rings true, but the abrupt ending is the reason it’s too short, rather than just long enough. Unlike Hydrophobia, which is also way. too. f*ck*ng, short., there is no solid promise of a sequel. Whether or not the 5 hours or so before the ending is amazing, and yes, yes, a thousand million billion time yes it is, the lack of even a perfunctory “to be continued” leaves you feeling hollow and frustrated. Replay is severely diminished because no matter how much you liked it, you know how it’s going to end. The inherent frustration in the word truncated is rendered, literally. Kind of like BSG.

That said, if they announce a sequel, all is forgiven.

Halo: Reach

Ross Lincoln

Yeah, I said it. This is Halo: Reach in one sentence: Go here; shoot that; hear Nathan Fillion be awesome for 5 seconds; go there; shoot that; the vehicles are hard to control; planet falls but the good guys win strategically. Oh, also, people speak Hungarian, which would be awesome if the game had anything resembling an in-game encyclopedia like Mass Effect’s codex. But, sorry, no. Imagine if Mass Effect 2 was DLC on par with Ratchet And Clank: Quest For Booty, but you paid full price for it. Just when you’re getting into it, it’s over. Kind of like losing your virginity.

Ok, I get it: the appeal of games like Halo and most modern combat focused FPS shooters is in their multiplayer features. But I don’t like being called homophobic or racist epithets by 12 year olds*, and I actually like the satisfaction of a story well told and well played. Reach is a blast to play. The Forge is easy, fun and provides hours of non-story excitement for you and your friends. But this the vaunted prequel to the classic main series, allowing the player to experience one of the most important events in the Halo universe. So thanks for the approximately 7 hours of story guys. You’ve successfully utilized the full capacity of the Playstation One.

Look, if George Lucas had treated the horrible Star Wars Trilogy like Bungie treated Reach, the world would be better off. But Reach would have been improved by Jar Jar Binks. I loved it. I play it lots. But I really would like something more to do.

*NOTE: I am a white male. And I have still been the recipient of anonymous N-bombs on anonymous online play. WTF, America’s youth?

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6 Comments on GameFront 2010: The Absurdly Shortest Games Of 2010

Cpt. Dump

On December 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

SWTFII WONT WORK ON MY SUPER 4000 DOLLAR COMP AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alex06

On December 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm

C&C4 is not in this list? BLASPHEMY! That game took me 5 hours to complete.

Ross Lincoln

On December 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Alex06, you’re absolutely right. It was so short that I completely forgot about it, also much like losing my virginity. Consider it a footnote to this list.

Seriously, C&C makers, next time do better.

Heru

On December 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

Didnt help that C&C4 sucked hard either. I also wanna nominate the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 campaign. Like Reach, I know its more about the MP, but 4 hours? C’mon DICE.

Ross Lincoln

On December 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Word.

oujisan

On December 31, 2010 at 2:06 am

ME2 was awsome enough to play over and over and different again and playing ME1 over again just to get a different options in ME2 :P