I’ve been playing Dead Rising 2 for around half an hour now. I always stick it in when I have a lust for creative, violent bloody mass deaths – baseball bats with nails through, fast slamming sledgehammer shots, or just throwing a chair at zombies’ heads and watching them recoil angrily. But I currently can’t do that. I have to wait until the in-game time hits between 10 and 11am so I can do a mission. If I don’t do this mission, the game kicks me back to the Load Game menu. If I do anything else and lose track of time, I don’t get to the mission in time – I have to start it by 11am in-game. One hour in-game is four minutes of real time (nowhere near enough to finish a sidequest or get from a further-away area of the mall to the trigger).
And you know what the worst bit of all is? The missions are frequently balls. One a while ago saw me riding a motorbike, chasing down and trying to jump on a train so I could fight my way across the carriages and to the game’s main antagonist. It was executed awfully. The motorbike feels like a hoverbike – it floats around and isn’t nice to ride. Enemies trying to bomb the bike look naff. Dodging the bombs is a matter of luck – there’s no time to react, you’re either hit or you’re not (though a pipe bomb to the face is only worth one hit point of damage, apparently). The train is clearly in a loop, as the corpses of zombies you haphazardly kill are then passed again a minute later. And the carriage section is pathetic. At one point you have no choice but to walk into enemy fire for several seconds (which again does next to no damage) so you can somehow attack an enemy.
But while all this is happening it really makes me wonder why more people don’t include a sandbox mode in their games. In some cases it’s worse than others. Dead Rising 2 is a bad example – as far as I know there is no way, unlockable or otherwise, to just be able to go around and kill zombies. Whether it’s a time limit, the game’s constant need to push you in a direction you don’t want to go for a mission you don’t want to do, the killing of zombies is almost always limited to “en route” – when you have to walk from one destination to another. Grand Theft Auto is a lighter example, but still one nonetheless – you only have to do one or two introductory missions before you are actually free to wander, but then to unlock three quarters of the map and all the fun minigames, weapons, cars etc, you need to progress further through the story. This is hours of your time – unlocking the full map can take 10-20 hours, while actually finishing the game, getting rid of all the little mission blips and things, is more like 30-50.
You know what I’d like in GTA? A true sandbox mode. It doesn’t have to be connected to the “main game” at all. I want something where I get the whole map instantly. I want a bunch of options that can do things like alter my health (normal health, infinite health, one hit and I’m dead, etc) and ammo (normal, infinite, normal but infinite clip, infinite clip and ammo). I’d love a load of modifiers resembling GTA: San Andreas’ and Saints Row 2’s cheat lists (if you own either game but haven’t played with the cheats, look them up on the internet and go and play with them ASAP – they’re amazing) – silly things like superpunch, crashing into other cars making them float away comically, having it rain pedestrians then having dead pedestrians immediately float up to the heavens. Useful/fun things like spawning any vehicle infront of you, or destroying them all, or turning them all bright pink, or turning them all into Smart cars. Stuff like that, for me and I’m sure countless others, would make the game incredibly more fun, while still keeping the normal game 100% intact.
Dead Rising 2 would benefit from modifiers I’m sure, but the lack of a mode in which you can just kill zombies is baffling to me. I can only imagine the meetings of the developers, in which nobody even suggested a freeform mode, or the one or two that did were scoffed at by the rest – a group of pretentious pricks deciding none of the game’s fans knew what they wanted (I saw tons of requests for such a mode after the original Dead Rising was just as awkward to play).
The only way to have any kind of fun like this is to play on PC, but even then nothing official offers anything remotely similar to this. You have to rely on unofficial modifications to bring about sandbox modes (if you’ve ever played Gmod, aka “Garry’s Mod”, or seen videos of things made in it on YouTube, you’ll know how remarkably fun it is).
You can pick any game with “sandbox” gameplay and immediately come up with ideas that could have been implemented was a “sandbox mode” included. A couple of other examples I can come up with spontaneously as I type this:
Burnout Paradise: “Invincible traffic checking” – in Revenge, if you rammed a car smaller than yours from behind, it would send them flying and your car would continue unhurt. Imagine how fun it’d be if you could play around, hitting ANY other vehicle, destroying it spectacularly but not throwing you into a multiple-second crash animation. Or what about a simple key press crashing YOU? When it’s not part of a race, slow-motion detailed crashes can be fun to watch. You could also have sliders for damage levels, perhaps with a cheeky “Gran Turismo” mode in which no cars ever took any physical damage.
Skate 3: To some extent this actually does have a sandbox mode – there’s a Free mode in which you can change the density of traffic and pedestrians (no pedestrians = gorgeous), and in any mode you can spawn skating equipment or mode existing equipment/other skatable items like benches and ramps. Could have the ability to spawn pedestrians/traffic wherever desired at will, play with your own physics to allow super-low gravity, slow motion etc (akin to the cheats/tweaks found in the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and 3 – 3 also had a badly executed but fascinating nonetheless “First Person” mode).
All my opinion though. I’ll still go nuts when the next Grand Theft Auto comes out. It’s just that a sandbox mode as suggested above would make me go Marmite Cashews, not regular, bog-standard nuts.