All I want for Christmas, is two.

I’m completely serious. What I would have liked to see out for the Christmas break, was not only the long-awaited sequel to Mass Effect, but Bioshock 2 in addition. Why the hold-up? I’ve got a fairly damn good idea why we’re waiting until late January/early February.

Fear.

Why fear? Well, it’s long been said that an artist’s greatest fear is the first creative work he engages in after his stunning début, be it four years into his career or four days. Imagine how Dan Brown felt after (some would argue, anyway) catching lightning in a bottle with the ridiculous appeal of The Da Vinci Code, only to realise that The Lost Symbol needed to be an improvement?

It was, of course; but mainly due to the fact that The Da Vinci Code, when compared to the stellar Deception Point, Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress, was horrendous, predictable and not all that exciting. But with videogames, are we seeing a major difference in what is required? It’s not just about a better narrative, or one that solidly connects to all the plot points of its predecessor. We need new achievements (or rather, less that involve doing the same fucking thing four hundred times in a row), better graphics, a better engine, and of course more DLC than the last title had.

Did I mention the DLC must also be cheaper?

All right, so I’m ranting a bit. The fact still stands that, for what it’s worth, the sequel to a game I love comes out on the 29th of this month, and I’ll be damned if it’s not an improvement. But the fear, the raw anticipation the online crowd exudes is comparable to a pack of wild, rabid dogs awaiting several bloodied steaks due to cascade at any moment over the barbed-wire surroundings of their violent existence.

These dogs, or fans, if you will, are no more than amateur critics. Of course, Shephard will still be nimble in combat, but turn like a god-damn Panzer when simply strolling around the Citadel (or, in this case, Omega Station – props to those who read the fiction). Of course, the level cap will be lower – was the “level 30” Power Gamer achievement not enough indication of this? Why should we need to get to level sixty when the skills screen clearly shows we could maximise almost everything in less time, with a less complicated attempt to get Shepherd’s big number to go from one to the hallowed two?

With Bioshock 2, I feel somewhat more apprehensive. The multiplayer is all very well – it’s been written into the lore (hilarious, as by validating this odd multiplayer world, 2K are essentially validating third-party content as a part of their own mythology, damning those millions of modders who spent hours upon hours tweaking Fallout 3 to display just the right amount of nudity – in most cases, full-frontal). But the concept of it to someone who’s already worried about Levine’s lack of involvement?

It’s blasphemy, I tells you.

Why should we forage for reasons to pander to the multiplayer masses? Let them have their Call of Duty, their Halo, their StarCraft. Stay away from the single player experiences that we hold dear to our hearts. In terms of contemporary gaming, it’s bad enough we’ve got collectibles in almost every game, excused by the pitiful reasoning given by the developers in the form of “but they work so well with gamerscore!” Modern Warfare 2 is mainly a multiplayer game, ridiculous and slightly offensive short campaign aside – but there are no achievements for the online content. Why? Because your reward for engaging in multiplayer, as it were, is social interaction. Us lonely bastards, us single player enthusiasts – we need those achievements. Give us ten missions, and let us turn the difficulty to “easy” and have fun. Don’t make me play NINJ4ST4R99 fifty times for ten gamerscore I could’ve gotten by healing for the first time.

It’s clear, however, that 2K have no desire to ever return to the narrative space that made the idea of a trilogy so exciting: the war between Fontaine and Ryan, before Rapture’s fall from grace. To see those streets, immaculate and shiny in their below-the-surface, 1950’s wonder would have been an experience to cherish. But alas, they are forging forward chronologically, and no doubt the battle for control and development in Rapture will one day surface as a sub-par RTS title for consoles, relegating the idea’s originality to the bargain bin and stealing from us the ability to experience Rapture properly.

I’m aware the appeal of the broken down, the destroyed, is in the vision of the environment as it once was. To see “New Year’s Eve 1959” banners draped on the floor and covered in soot, blood and other miscellaneous detritus that points to an apocalyptic war, is heartbreaking. If only they’d reached the 60s – it would’ve all sorted itself out, maaaaan.

Sequels are becoming more and more frequent – some of them necessary to continue a sturdy, popular narrative – and I look forward to every single one of them. Have the developers learnt? Has the franchise grown? The protagonist married who? He has how many kids? All of these questions motivate the franchise-committed gamer to lay down his wallet in an attack of new IPs. But for how long? Eventually, even the Land Before Time got shunted into straight-to-VHS format. Will the same happen to Gears of War?

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