Seriously, kids. This has got to stop. We can’t keep relying on Grand Theft Auto to control the future of video games any longer. Yes, they’re great games, and I enjoying playing them, but these uncreative copycats are flooding the market and it’s really starting to bother me. If I have to hear one more announcer in a game ad jizz his pants over how the game he’s screaming about has “mission based gameplay” like it’ some miracle innovation, I’m going to shoot out my TV, Elvis-style.

“Mission Based Gameplay” isn’t all that new. Heck, Mega Man first did it first years ago when it came to non-linear game progression. Beat a bad guy on his turf, kill him and take his powers to use on other bad guys. On THEIR turf. This isn’t anything new. Oh, but now the mission selection is integrated into the gameplay itself. Oh, well, excuse me. Wait a second. Yeah, been done before. A little game for the NES and Sega Genesis called Ghostbusters.

Admittedly, there’s been a few games in the past five or six months that have taken the whole non-linear �mission based� thing and ran with it. Final Fantasy X-2 and Jak II, both already being paragons of unoriginality due to the fact that they’re sequels, at least make good use of the gimmick with a good story, excellent graphics and fun gameplay. As long as you’re going to rip off elements from another game for yours, at least make sure the rest of your game is well done.

Otherwise, it’s more or less four years ago when directors were ripping Bullet Time off from the Matrix, and not giving a rip about the rest of the film. Just so the ads can scream �Matrix-like Special Effects!� Well, woohoo! If I want to see Matrix-like effects, I’ll watch the Matrix, not your poorly written, horribly acted kung fu sci-fi film. At least some thought and care went into that. I more or less feel the same way each and every time I play Road Kill, which, thankfully, is a fairly rare occurrence.

What REALLY irks me is when you see an ad or a review for a game going on and on about a game and how it’s just like GTA, when in reality, it’s not. Take for example the PS2 release of the well received PC game, Mafia. I’ve read more than one review on how the game is just like Grand Theft Auto but in the 1930s. Not exactly. In GTA, you had the option of not doing ANY of the missions at all. You simply could drive around and run over people and cause massive amounts of trouble. Granted, you were provided with bigger and better weapons if you completed the missions, but they were entirely optional.

Games like True Crime: Streets of L.A., Mafia, and the like? Not entirely the same. Granted, in True Crime, you can spend your time driving around and stopping crimes, but eventually you’re going to have to end up at your destination to move the story along, mostly because the outside-the-story action wears pretty thin after a while. Mafia’s the same way. Yes, you have the option of stealing cars and running around a massive city, but it still leads you by the hand, scene-by-scene. They’re both fun games to play, but they’re hardly non-linear. If anything, they’re closer to The Getaway, Sony’s own version of a GTA-style crime drama, than GTA itself.

The point is, there’s too much piggy-backing going on, and frankly I’m getting sick of it. For every Jak II, we get a Spyhunter 2. For every True Crime, we get a Roadkill. For each Final fantasy X-2, we get a Simpsons: Hit and Run. Ok, granted, that one’s not so bad, but my point is clear. We need something new, rather than just a new Grand Theft Auto.

By Kevin Sullivan – 02/18/04

Screenshots for Mission Based What?