There’s something about video game sequels that make people very irrational. Outside of annual titles like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, most games take two to three years before a proper followup arrives (longer, if you’re a Final Fantasy fan!). Yet, despite a respectable amount of time between most series installments, critics are quick to grow restless with a franchise’s signature mechanics and gameplay. It’s understandable that going into a sequel, some people will to want to see significant changes to the source material in order to find the experience worthwhile, but dismissing a video game that’s one or two entries old for becoming redundant just seems outrageous to me.
IGN’s review of the L.A. Noir DLC Reefer Madness is a good example of this. In the review of the main game, reviewer Hilary Goldstein said “L.A. Noire does something we’ve never seen before”. Flash forward to a couple of months later when the DLC dropped, and Greg Miller told readers that whether or not they’d want to play the new content “depends on if [they] are really itching for a new case to do the same old thing in”. “Same old thing” being an incredibly odd thing to say considering the concept was “something we’ve never seen” two months prior!
That’s a more extreme example, of course, but it’s not uncommon in principle. Too often, reviewers are quick to penalize a sequel for not straying enough from the path. What’s vexing is that the path many of these games stick to is wholly unique to a given franchise. Games like Pokemon, for instance, are incredibly different. There have been imitators over the years, certainly, but as has been demonstrated for over a decade now, no one can match Nintendo’s lovable monster catching series. So when a new Pokemon drops, I’m more than happy to play through the same familiar trappings because I can’t find them anywhere else.
There’s more to a good sequel than pure familiarity, as no one wants a series to rest on its laurels time in and out, but in the end, if something is fun, I want to play more of it. Video games are a bit different from other forms of entertainment in that so much of the audience’s enjoyment is derived from the experience of playing. No one is proclaiming that watching and playing football has grown stale after decades of the same thing, after all, so it’s totally reasonable to want to play video games from a particular series over and over. They’re games, after all, and the most important thing about any title is that you have a good time playing it.