I like the trade-in culture of console gaming a lot. Not so long ago, as an exclusively PC boy, it was a bit alien to me. Not ET alien. Not Alien alien. Maybe something more along the lines of Mike and Angelo. A bit odd but not wholly unappealing.
Many of the electronic boutiques (capitalised and not) near me simply wouldn't take in PC games.
These days, I find myself in the blessed situation of, having bought a few pre-owned games when I first got my 360, being able to basically recycle that same £40 or so, over and over.
I bought Dead Rising and found that, without a big TV, it was basically unplayable - something I really should have gathered from Nick's review (which lurks downstairs somewhere like a feeble-minded but ultimately well-meaning goblin).
I traded in Dead Rising for GRAW2 and a great deal of enthusiasm for Valve's up-coming Left 4 Dead.
I completed Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior (is that right?) Two, in a little less time than it takes for me to say its name. Though enjoyable, I had no particular interest in playing it again. Those bits in films where the Marine Corps get together and shout, "Hoo-ahh," at one another make me squirm and GRAW2, every now and again, felt like a protracted session in the company of such men.
I traded it in for Bioshock and, whatever praise and criticism one could plausibly heap on that particular title, I got a resounding impression - as I played it - that I wouldn't want to give it another go. I would end up dissecting it, analysing it too much and, ultimately, ruining it.
Preferring to retain that original sense of shock and awe, I traded Bioshock in for Assassin's Creed.
There was some furore (in the purely, circle-jerk/circle-slap internet sense) over Assassin's Creed. Penny Arcade valiantly defended it despite large amounts of middling scores, claiming that reviewers, in the rushed necessity of having to review the game, missed what's fun about it. The hours you can spend hopping about the Middle East, climbing stuff and blending into crowds.
Now, undeniably, Assassin's Creed does excel in this area. My housemate spent a whole day doing exactly that, just running about, picking fights with guards and dancing away, chirping merrily to himself. The joy of catching archers unawares with the hidden blade takes a long time to abate.
But the game is also, undeniably, crippled in certain areas. The sci-fi framing of the entire story is a mistake so woeful it is genuinely hard to see how it ever made it into a game so technically staggering. They spent a lot of time making every rooftop in Damascus look different but they didn't realise the bit where you quit out of the fun just to go and take a nap (press X for instant REM sleep! Tap A to control snoring!) was utterly wretched?
In fact, the whole story-telling technique of the game is abysmal. Bioshock was not extraordinarily subtle where this is concerned, either, but it handled itself with a certain amount of aplomb and I'm a sucker for aplomb. On top of that, it very rarely put the game on pause to tell you a story. You could listen to everything while on the move, while fighting Splicers, while getting on with something.
In Assassin's Creed, every time you wish to speak to an NPC, you have to pull up a chair and make sure you're sitting comfortably. Brilliantly, there's an option to press a button at certain points to zoom in on the un-convincing facial grimaces of the speaker, thus seamlessly combining endless, un-entertaining cutscenes with that other element of modern games that everyone loves: the quick time event. And so, the coffin is sealed on the whole sorry affair. Back to the Gamestation it is.
That's too rash, obviously.
What seals the coffin on Assassin's Creed is the sneering unlikeable whine of the lead character, the pathetic simplicity of the combat and the realisation you should probably have, unless you're Penny Arcade - about halfway through - that you're not really playing the game. To move Altaire around, you press and hold three buttons and choose a direction.
Unless you pick a staggeringly stupid direction, Altaire can basically go anywhere and climb anything. Its strange, at first, the way the game forces you to act like a puppeteer. Its enticingly novel. But the detachment it creates is, in the end, what killed the game, stuck it longboat and set fire to it for me.
All this stuff about player immersion and then Ubisoft go out to make a game that keeps forcing you outside of the character, outside of the primary world and - for good measure, or maybe out of spite - outside of the secondary world too.
And all you want to do, as you sit on the fiftieth bench and listen to some guy with a beard witter on forever with none of the humour of, say, NOLF all you want to do is scream, "This isn't Brecht. This isn't fun. Technical accomplishment aside, this is the absolute epitome of mediocre and it makes me want to drive forks into the squidgy gaps between my toes."
And so, finally, a couple of days ago, I traded in Assassin's Creed for Bully.
Jachap is still not sure whether that title pun works on any level.