One of the great headaches of game reviewing is the challenge of finishing an entire game in time to write your review, especially when you’re on deadline, and the game is, say, Grand Theft Auto IV. With that game shipping to many critics only days before their eagerly-awaited reviews had to run, a lot of us actually had a chance to admit we hadn’t played it all the way to the end before filing. But the rest of the time, there’s a presumption that we actually will make it to the end. And if we didn’t, that we’ll be very, very quiet about it.
I don’t want to get into the lengthy backs and forths on this issue here. Instead, I just thought it would be fun to take a survey of the games I played this year – most of which I reviewed, for one venue or another – and try to determine if the ending actually mattered. Did my overall impression of each game change significantly once I got to the end? And why?
I tried to write this with minimal spoilers, but if you’re concerned, you might want to skim.
Here are the results:
THE ENDING MATTERED
Far Cry 2 – I was impressed that the game ultimately addressed the protagonist’s atrocities.
Fable II – Almost every major event and choice in the game feeds into the final scene of the game. How can you assess it – or appreciate it – without seeing the end?
Braid – Nothing stirred as much discussion as the epilogue, or had as much impact as the final sequence of platforming.
Rise of the Argonauts – … because I couldn’t believe that in an ostensible Greek tragedy, the ending was so cut-and-dried.
THE ENDING DIDN’T REALLY MATTER
Fracture – The story was inconsequential, and the bad boss fight was no worse than what came before it.
Dark Sector – Again, I was asleep long before the ending.
Condemned 2 – The conclusion was disappointing and inconclusive, but so was the rest of it.
Gears of War 2 – The last act was no better, or worse, or more eventful than any other part of the game. Even the penultimate act, and the resolution of Dom’s search for his wife, didn’t really change my overall impression of the game. Though I guess the lack of a bruising final boss fight, and the fact that the story gets more muddled instead of more interesting, might turn some folks off.
Noitu Love 2 – The final twist in the story is neat, but also feels tossed off.
Fallout 3 – If anything, I cut the final scene some slack in spite of a mindbogglingly bad bug that made the final sequence nonsensical (specifically: there’s a life-or-death decision – but the sidekick standing right next to me rendered the whole problem moot. Nice way to screw up the end of a brilliant game, guys)
So, there’s a limited sample. So far it suggests that the ending only matters if it makes a great game even better – otherwise, it’s either too little too late, or it’s worth overlooking. But this needs further research.
How about y’all? Which games really changed for you after you got to see the end?