Gaming has a certain art to it, certain finesse. By and large, gamers want to enjoy a game, be challenged by it, be entertained by it and have them wanting more. There are precious few games that can achieve this. But is it a fifty-fifty split between story and game play? Some games have great stories, but are too short or the game play doesn't quite match it. Some games have great game play, but the story is lacking. Looking back, I've only ever played two games through twice, I'm picky that way. Reviewing both may shed some light on this debate.
The first game I ever replayed from beginning-to-end was Grand Theft Auto Vice City. As I type this, the only thing about the story I can remember was that the main character ended up in a super huge house at the end and was possibly in charge of all the gangs in Miami. I think that answers the first half of my debate. I have never found the GTA games to have compelling plots (Red Dead notwithstanding), but I've always enjoyed them at the time. In this iteration of the game, Rockstar added a great deal of 'other' game components to the game. While most gamers have picked up at least one GTA game, the basic recipe is the same throughout: build credibility mission after mission and ultimately take over the area. There are always side missions, only some of which are optional. This comes to the most memorable thing about the game for me: the ice cream truck. I would spend hours and hours just driving around, selling 'ice cream' and listening to the very engaging soundtrack for the game. I'd be doing this for no clear reason. Yes, the character would make money, and that is some slight goal, but not really. In GTA, money became negligible as you get further into the game. I really just did it because I enjoyed it.
Score one for game play, I think. It wasn't the story that had me coming back, no the game was fun to play, period.
The only other game I've played from beginning twice was Resident Evil 4. I'm a fan of horror games, but I did find myself unable to play this one after dark, or if the house was empty. Although I'm a loyal Silent Hill fan, I found this to be just as scary. The story in this game is very compelling; daughter of the president gets kidnapped by insane cult who turns out to be much worse than imagined. The game play for this game is actually extra-ordinary and quite revolutionary. The switch from first-person to third-person shooting throughout makes it realistic in a different way, even though Metal Gear does the same thing, for some reason, in a horror setting; I found this more engaging in this game.
As the story progressed, and the twists and turns were revealed through the plot, this game proved to be very well written and well directed. At times, yes, it showed signs of campiness, but that doesn't detract from the whole effect. Not in the least. If anything, its an homage to the old school horror movies we all grew up with. No, the story is really compelling, but was that what had me replaying the game? No, in all honesty, I did it because I wanted to unlock the unlimited rocket launcher. Seems silly, I realise, but once I had it, I blew through large section of the game, almost literally.
So does that give me two votes for game play? That can't be right, can it? I think gamers would pride themselves on playing games for the story, the first time around, but once you've played it, you're going in to unlock things or interact with a fully alive environment. I love a good game as much as the next gamer, but maybe I am like the traditional movie goer, once I've seen it, I've seen it, the story doesn't entice by itself.