"Wow I suck," I thought to myself as I sweated through a demo of GRIN and Capcom's upcoming sequel to the beloved Bionic Commando. The nice gentleman from GRIN guiding me through the level was being extremely patient with me, but I sensed he was a bit frustrated as his simple instructions - run, jump, press A to shoot out your arm and then release when the blue hourglass shape appears on the HUD to signify the optimal angle - were consistently met by me falling into a pit, or off the side of a bridge, or any number of places that you could fall.
"The controls are skill-based," he explained with a smile, taking the controller and easily navigating the part I was having issues with. He made it look so simple, but then I suppose he's logged a few more hours on the game. He tells me that once you master the controls you'll be able to do amazing things. Unfortunately fifteen minutes isn't long enough.
It's a pity, really. Despite the sometimes confusing graphical design that makes enemies hard to see, I can sense the potential for fun in the game. When I can do the things he can do I am sure I will have a blast, but how long do I have to wait?
Later on during E3 I talked to some other members of the press and found that I wasn't alone. Bionic Commando isn't a game you can really get a feel for just by playing for a quarter of an hour. Unfortunately that's all of the time most writers have to spend, and instead of walking away feeling fulfilled they wind up either unsure of themselves or unsure of the game.
It used to be that a steep learning curve was the norm for video games. You had to first master the controls and then master the game. Now we've come to expect a certain degree of intuitiveness with our video games, and that intuitiveness isn't there for Bionic Commando. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? I suppose if a demo gets released before the game comes out that helps players perfect the system for free it could be fine, but I don't know if I am ready to lay down $60 on a game I'm not sure I'll be able to play.
What do you folks think? Is it better to be able to pick up a game and play immediately, or is the challenge of mastering the skills needed to control your character essential to the gaming experience?