There’s only one thing I like more than getting 20 hours of fun from a computer game, and that’s getting 40+ hours out of it. While not the most important thing in a game, replayability is certainly a key element in making a title memorable. Let’s look at a few games (in no particular order, both new and old) that do replayability very well.
Operation Flashpoint / Armed Assault
If it wasn’t for ArmA I’d still be playing OFP today, and that’s strictly for two reasons. The first being the terrific community of developers that has sprung up around it and the second being it’s built in editor. Happily, ArmA has the same two things going for it. I’ve never come across a title that has such a diverse amount of player made material for it in the form of addons and mods, and the editor is both rich and powerful while at the same time being easy to learn… as far as the basics go anyway. I haven’t even started the campaign in ArmA, I do the same thing I did with OFP. Start up the editor and make a quick mission to play from scratch. Last time I did this I put myself as a civilian on a hill overlooking a valley. On one end a mile or so out I put 60 or so BLUEFOR troops, a dozen tanks and half a dozen helos for air cover. At the other end were an equal number of OPFOR units. All of them had waypoints set for the bottom of the valley I sat above. I set that all up in about 10 minutes, then clicked preview and enjoyed the show. The tanks advanced, the troops engaged and the helos swooped in providing air cover. It was really quite spectacular with the OPFOR forces winning the day. The best thing about it was that after the first run through I did it again, but this time the BLUEFOR side won. Next time I’m going to take one of the sides myself and try joining the fight, or maybe I’ll get in an A10 and try my hand at close air support. That’s the beauty of OFP/ArmA… totally customizable, approachable and replayable.
Grand Theft Auto (any of them)
Say what you like about it, this is a series that does an astoundingly good job of building a world and setting you loose in it. Sure there are missions and a story, but it was often just as fun to fire it up and go wreak havoc in town somewhere. You don’t have to start the game to play a particular mission, you can just start it up to see what happens. Go beat up a hooker in front of a cop then take off in a stolen car. What happens? Who knows, but it’s great find to find out. Definitely looking forward to GTA4.
The grand Daddy of twitch, fast action shooters. Though I don’t play much any more, in it’s hey day that game had me locked in. When I wasn’t playing, I was thinking about playing and I’d go back to it time and time again. It had the benefit of being very simple to learn, and very hard to master. Yes, there were/are a finite amount of maps and the gameplay was/is the same every time, but there was something about the immediacy of it all that just made you want to get back in there on a regular basis. From what I hear Team Fortress 2 has this same sort of vibe, but I’ve yet to play it.
One of my all-time favorite titles, the original X-Com has gobs of replayability. Each tactical engagement was similar to the last, but different enough that you never knew what to expect. That and the ability to rename the soldiers after people you know (or whatever) was great. At the end of a mission you’d find that the X-Com versions of your best friend and your Mom survived the last mission and got promotions so you would just be dying to see how they’d do next time out. I ought to reinstall X-Com come to think about it.
There are countless more titles that are great as far as replayability goes. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section.