Monday, July 30, 2012

Back in the CCCR (Control Customization Reviews, Revisited) - Killer 7

at 4:03 PM

Welcome to Back in the CCCR, a weekly feature where I'll be bringing you, the Internet stupidience, reviews of a mostly overlooked but critical aspect of the video game: the control customization options screen. You see, in the days of Benjamin Franklin, it was taken for granted that interface buttons would simply be labeled with their exact purpose, like on a keyboard. Functions like "jump" and "jump higher" were inscribed upon the arcade cabinets above the corresponding inputs. In fact, the earliest games simply came with a "WIN" button, but this was quickly recognized as too primitive and direct to keep players engaged. Soon games made their way to the home market and universal consoles were envisioned to function with numerous games, so the labels had to be generalized. Some controllers had so few buttons that the purpose was understood, like the Atari 2600's. A more complex, arcade-faithful approach was taken by the Intellivision and Colecovision for their nine-digit pads: game specific overlays that applied artwork and instructions to the layout. 
I've tried taping these to my N64 controller - it just never turns out quite how I wanted
By the time of the NES, it was realized that the player didn't spend much time looking down at his hands, rather memorizing the controls and relying on hand-die coordination. Thus, buttons were given generic names like "A" and "B" and were explained in manuals, tutorials, and menu screens. I'll save discussion of the evolution of these instructional techniques for a later feature.

These days, developers can't rely on the assumption that A will always mean "jump" and B will mean "B", nor can they help that players come into each game with a lifetime of law enforcement programming and the accompanying preferences. Thus, we have control customization options, allowing adjustment of everything from button assignment to axis orientation to sensitivity setting. However, some games manage this better than others. ASSHOLE developers like those responsible for Bayonetta assume some godlike prescience and offer no choices at all, wondering with childlike puzzlement why any of those other games would be so STUPID as to give the player choice. Modern PC games pretty universally provide 100% customization freedom, because they're made by people who actually have a single goddamn shred of sense in their brains. I'll take dozens of different stances in the ongoing West vs. East debacle that so entertains the gaming community, but you'll see in the progression of Back in the CCCR that this is one place where West dominates.

I won't bore you with any more of my endless insight and endless historical insight - there are a lot more of these to come and I'm going to have to pad the length somehow, so I better save some [endless insight] for later. For now let's get to our first review: Killer 7, a game I'm currently working through on Gamecube. Killer 7 is genre-defiant from the outset, so it's difficult to have any preconceived notions about the controls. The game's only movement is taken care of with "forward" and "turn around" buttons, which you'll hardly find in other titles. The shooting mechanic is an early adopter of what would soon become the modern standard, the RE4 model. Hold a trigger to draw/sight the weapon, and press another button to fire. That's just about all you'll find yourself doing. But of course, I'm not here to review controls, I'm here for the customization options.

Killer 7, a Japanese game through and through, gives exactly ONE setting to the player. This is the orientation of Y-axis aiming; traditional or inverted. No button assignment, no X-axis orientation, and no sensitivity. As awfully sparse as this is, the game gets away with it, since X-axis inversion is universally accepted as unnecessary for the first person perspective and there are so few buttons to use. The CC's downfall is one so preposterous that it may very well be a bug rather than a willing oversight. The options aren't saved! That's right. A game released in 2005 for some idiotic reason requires you to go into the settings menu EVERY LAST TIME you boot it. Get ready for some frustrating resets after sitting through the game's load times only to realize you forgot to set your preferences.

The verdict? Killer 7 gets a: Moronic out of 10.
You want me to fucking set the fucking options every time I turn on the fucking game? Why don't I pack it up, ship it back to Japan, and have your mother use her own blood to manually inscribe my preferences onto the disc at gunpoint?

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