Ten great games with terrible storylines

Nice video game, shame about the plot...

  • Great video games with terrible storylines

    Alfred Hitchcock once said that to make a great film, you need three things: "the script, the script and the script."

    Unfortunately, the video games industry has failed to take this sentiment to heart. We've lost count the amount of times we’ve been immersed in a single-player campaign, only to have the atmosphere ruined by ropey dialogue, unexplained plot holes or [[xref:|deus ex machina]] that pop out of nowhere. Clichés also abound, with the same tired old genre tropes cropping up again and again (and again).

    Ironically, if the average video game was a movie, it would be written and directed by Uwe Boll.

    In the following slideshow, we take a look at some universally loved video games that didn't quite deliver on the story front. While they remain great games in their own right, a little spit-and-polish on the script could've turned them into something truly special...
  • R-Type

    “Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!” That’s the entire plot.

    Okay, we realise this came out in the 1980s before video game plots were considered important, but they could have tried a little bit. Blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire? That's just rubbish.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

    The boys at Infinity Ward certainly know how to make a sterling FPS -- but they can’t tell a coherent story to save their lives. Not only is the campaign in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 maddeningly short, it’s also messier than a post-nuke Sergeant Jackson.

    Roach and Ramirez’s globe-trotting mission feels like a soulless roller-coaster ride that hurls the player from one incomprehensible set piece to another. The character beats are all-too brief, and the plot — with its rapid-fire cross cutting and frequent betrayals — is often difficult to follow. There are several big plot twists in the game that are very poorly foreshadowed; you simply don’t get the emotional payoff that you should. Even the character deaths somehow feel cheap and tacked on.

    The decision to unleash hell on American soil also ruins the game tonally. This is B-grade science-fiction dressed up in military fatigues. Sure, the attack on the White House might be thrilling, but it’s also completely implausible. By dialling the spectacle up to 11, Infinity Ward robbed the franchise of its gritty authenticity — it feels more like Starship Troopers than Black Hawk Down and the plot suffers as a result.

    We suppose that's the only good thing to come out of [[artnid:341103|Activision's stoush with Infinity Ward]] -- all the chief writers have now left the company.
  • Final Fantasy VII

    Final Fantasy 7 contains some great story arcs -- the fall of Midgar, the death of Aeris, the Golden Saucer -- but overall, the plot doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense. It starts off promisingly enough, with a rag-tag squad of freedom fighters battling an oppressive corporation. But once the world has opened up, the story becomes increasingly more convoluted and messy.

    The lashing of pseudo-science, unlikely character origins and weird Japanese mysticism all conspire to rob the game of its once-compelling narrative. And what exactly happened at the end, with all those weird lights and Aeris’ unexplained resurrection? Even the ending to Akira made more sense than that.

    Cloud’s backstory -- turns out he was a simpering, spiky-haired wimp -- also leaves the player cold. No wonder chicks prefer Sephiroth.
  • Every fighting game, ever

    If there's one video game genre that doesn't require a plot, it's the one-on-one fighter. They're about people punching each other -- further explanation is fairly unnecessary. And yet, the majority of these games are steeped in intricate backstory, covering everything from the characters' motivations to their favourite foods and blood type. Usually, the mythologies and ongoing narratives are so exhaustive they could fill a book -- when all we really want to do is punch each other.
  • Killer 7

    Uh... WTF just happened?
  • Dragon Age: Origins

    Dragon Age: Origins is arguably the most hackneyed RPG in the history of the genre. The plot is a creatively bankrupt mishmash of a hundred cheap fantasy novels, all churned into a flavourless paste. Every character you meet speaks reams of 'Ye Olde Fantasy' pap in dodgy English accents, and the overriding plot is as clichéd as they come.

    The principle cast all do solid voice work (especially the lovely Claudia Black as Morrigan), but that can't make up for the risible D&D plot. Anyone who enjoyed the storyline to Dragon Age: Origins needs to get laid; plain and simple.
  • Resident Evil series

    From [[xref:|the very first frame of FMV]] that opens Resident Evil 1, Capcom’s survival horror series has trodden a fine line between scary and pants. There’s only so much dread a zombie can muster when faced with gaping plot holes, wooden acting and misplaced racism (yeah, [[artnid:326185|we went there]]).

    It wouldn’t be so bad if the games were conscious homages to B-grade horror, but we’re actually supposed to take this stuff seriously -- just look at the humour-free movie adaptations for proof. And therein lies the true horror: series creator Shinji Mikami doesn’t even realise he’s being cheesy. In his demented brain, these games are tense, tightly-constructed thrillers.

    Also, who could forget Barry's infamous line from the first game: "Jill, here's a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you." Truly this is the worst line of dialogue in the history of spoken language.
  • Super Mario Bros.

    Super Mario Bros. on the NES is considered a classic favourite and remains the best selling game in the Mario series.

    But have you ever stopped to think the story revolves around a chubby Italian plumber jumping around in a disgustingly colourful landscape to rescue a Princess called Toadstool/Peach from an oversized turtle?

    Along the way, he likes to indulge in his hobby of collecting coins. Oh, and he kills things with his anus… What the?

    Shigeru Miyamoto must have been munching on mushrooms when he came up with that story (see what we did there?)
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves mimics the action movie blockbuster superbly -- which is to say it’s hugely entertaining, but also kinda dumb. It's essentially a generic slice of Indiana Jones Lite, with some Tomb Raider thrown in for good measure.

    The epic set pieces in Uncharted 2 are offset by some very pedestrian storytelling. Sure, the characters are engaging and likeable, but the tale they star in is completely bereft of innovation. Throw Tia Carrere into the mix and you could be watching an episode of [[xref:|Relic Hunter]] (with slighty higher production values). To top it off, it suffers from a hugely underwhelming ending: one of the biggest no-nos of effective storytelling.

    Like Michael Bay's cinematic oeuvre, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is all about the quips and the spectacle.
  • Metal Gear Solid series

    Whether you love the Metal Gear Solid series or hate it, there's no denying that its storylines are usually a bit too convoluted for their own good. This arguably reached its zenith with Metal Gear Solid 4.

    In the words of gaming veteran Stuart Campbell: “There are things worse than death, and that includes wading through nine hours of wannabe-Z-movie cutscenes of dribbling nonsense written by an overindulged Japanese scifi nerd for the occasional brief snippet of video game.” We couldn't have put it better ourselves.
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