(This is another edition of , a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
I’ve almost beaten Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine after receiving it just yesterday. It’s got a rather cool multiplayer mode, but the single-player campaign is looking to be a particularly short affair. This is common among third-person action games, especially those with multiplayer, where six to eight hours of single-player gaming seems to be the limit. To some, this is a gross oversight, because according to a particular segment of gamers, eight hours just isn’t enough. No matter how good the game is, no matter how interesting its story or unique its ideas, a game that’s only eight hours long is a poor monetary investment.
The issue, according to these skeptical fellows, is that every game needs replay value. One hears that term a lot — replay value — and I have to say I’ve grown rather tired of it. I’m sick of it because people don’t know what replay value actually means. Through frequent misuse, the term has mutated to mean multiplayer or co-op — something that consistently delivers fresh content. On the contrary, that’s not what replayability is at all. By the very definition of the phrase, replay value doesn’t mean playing fresh content and indulging in new experience. Replay means — quite simply — to play something again. To redo. To play the same thing you just played. In other words, a game’s replay value is not in whether it has multiplayer, downloadable content, or any other extra mode. It means one thing, and one thing only — is it good enough to play again?
Let’s take a look at one of my favorite games — Metal Gear Solid. While it does have a negligible new game plus mode (infinite ammo or optic camouflage depending on which ending you got the first time), it is inherently a single-player game with little in the way of what some would call “replay value.” No multiplayer, no fresh content, just a linear experience that does the same thing every time you play through it. However, Metal Gear Solid, to me, has a ton of real replay value, because of that one important factor — it’s just that damn good, and I want to play it again. I absolutely love Metal Gear Solid’s story. I adore the characters. I think the boss fights are really engaging and the stealth gameplay still holds up today. I’ve played Metal Gear Solid more times than I care to remember, because it has real replay value.
When I am done with Space Marine, I will review it on Destructoid and say that the campaign is short. People will comment, and some will declare that they won’t pay $60 for a short campaign with no replay value. But Space Marine is a game I am going to keep, and play again, because it’s just too much damn fun to throw an Ork to the ground and stamp its head into paste with my big metal boot. Even without the multiplayer, it has a ton of replay value, determined by the simple fact that I want to replay it. That’s all a game needs to boast replayability — it has to be fun enough to encourage people to come back after the credits roll.
Once you embrace that, you find that a game’s paltry six or eight hours of gameplay has become twelve or sixteen hours. If it’s really good, you’ll quite possible be able to bump it up to eighteen and twenty-four hours. It’s all about how much it draws you back — how engrossing the combat, addictive the puzzles, or compelling the story. I’ve gotten more gameplay out of Metal Gear Solid than I have from any thirty or forty-hour RPG, because it’s one of those games I can just dive into again and again. Hell, I’ve replayed the single-player in Gears of War about four times, because as silly as the story is, it’s a great little action yarn with some excellent pacing and solid action. Again, without even mentioning the multiplayer, I’ve gotten so much replay from the Gears titles.
The next time someone bemoans the lack of replayability in a game, ask them what they mean. If their complaint stems from missing multiplayer or some other extraneous content that wasn’t available, then please do me a favor — cut them. It doesn’t have to be a major, scarring cut. Just a small slice across any exposed area of the skin, just to send the message that what they said was absolutely abysmal and that they ought to be justly punished for their stupidity. Afterward, calmly explain that replay value doesn’t mean what they think it means, and if the game was fun, and worth playing a second time, then they just found exactly what they were looking for.
Because after all, if replayability meant what we’ve taken it to mean, then Pac-Man is two f**king minutes long.
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