The hunt for gaming originality; a subject likely to haunt game developers and irritate gamers to no end. The last thing you want to do is pick up a new game and feel like you've been here before. Think that story sounds familiar? It's probably because you've played one of these games already...
With most video games being just a thinly veiled excuse for males to employ various forms of cataclysmically unrestrained but really very necessary force, it's perhaps not surprising that game plots do not always compare to Shakespeare or Scorsese. Too many settings are as well worn as your Sony PS3's firmware updater, and here are ten of the most wearily familiar… Has the likes of Modern Warfare 3, Halo and Grand Theft Auto made the list? See below to find out.
A lady has been kidnapped
(Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros, Final Fight, Donkey Kong, Altered Beast, Bad Dudes)
The classic damsel in distress scenario has been with us since cavemen grabbed their first head of hair and uttered a possessive "ug". Its combo of unbridled machismo, testosterone and conveniently ring-fenced boss battles still unites plumbers, tight-jeaned martial-arts experts and shape-shifting centurions to this day.
A valuable has been stolen or lost
(Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, Tomb Raider, Borderlands, Fallout, Oblivion, Animal Crossing)
It's testament to the Zelda series' enduring charm that it continues to make trumped up fetch quests magical and interesting. As devices go, however, it's just a lazy way to cover up how small the game is. If a Londoner told you to go to Sheffield to get them a knife and, upon your return, sent you back there for a fork as well, you'd tell them where to go - and perhaps question their random obsession with cutlery. In Gameland we're still complying, and cutlery is one of the more reasonable item requests.
Aliens have invaded
(Space Invaders, Halo, Crysis, Resistance, Gears of War, Duke Nukem Forever)
Nothing quite gets the blood pumping like a good intergalactic scrap. Is it that defending an entire planet against alien invaders is a proud and pressing responsibility? Or that blowing up seven-foot reptiles from distant galaxies is a politically correct way of sating your inner warmonger? As a joypad-toting Donald Rumsfeld might say: "If it bleeds green, the kill was clean."
Bricks are falling on top of you
(Tetris, Columns, Dr Mario, Lumines, Super Puzzle Fighter, Klax)
In reality this would be as terrifying as it would be swiftly terminal. In the parallel universe of video games, however, spontaneous outbreaks of plummeting blocks are a Day-Glo, fairground Wurlitzersoundtracked plot option. Even parents like them, prompting the question, "Just how much acid did Mum do in the 60s?"
Someone's double-crossed or killed you or a loved one
(Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Heavy Rain, Yakuza, Street Fighter II, Max Payne, Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell: Conviction)
If revenge is a dish best served cold, the wronged antagonist is a character best served grizzled and hard-bitten. Covered in scars - physical, psychological and graphical - and laden with dog-eared family photos, cut-scene-triggering flashbacks and two sawn-off shotguns full of emotional baggage, our hero is the thinking man's lead character - especially if he's thinking about finding increasingly large weapons.
The world's overrun by zombies
(Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, Dead Island, House of the Dead, Zombie Apocalypse)
Dead has long been the new living, with few things able to resurrect a tired gaming scenario quite like the smell of rotting flesh. Away from the well-worn franchises above, Call of Duty: Zombies and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare recently proved that there's no game that can't be improved by the addition of undead flesh eaters. The suggestion by Dara O'Briain at this year's Video Game BAFTAs of FIFA Zombies is surely being storyboarded as we speak.
You need to kill green pigs armed only with furious winged avians
Okay, there's only one game that does that, but we're getting a bit tired of the Halloween, Xmas and movie tie-in versions now, thanks...
You're in a vice-ridden city
(Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Crackdown, True Crime, The Godfather, Shenmue, Leisure Suit Larry)
In which you head to the nearest red light district, buy an entirely trivial product that doesn't actually do anything, endanger the lives of some innocent passers-by and mess with a crime kingpin. Usually in that order.
You've been enlisted in the army
(Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Ghost Recon, Cannon Fodder, Operation Wolf)
They say the first casualty of war is innocence. The first casualty of war games, on the other hand, is originality; the fog of battle can't disguise the fact that we've been on the same tour for eternity. On one hand, they're the perfect political satire, where the "don't think, just shoot" mentality pervades. However, the time for a "deserter" option, where you can flee the battlefield's invisible walls for a spot of "undercover reconnaissance" on a Caribbean
You've lost your memory
(BioShock, Shadowrun, Bayonetta, Prototype, Alone in the Dark, The Witcher)
As intriguing premises go, the old "Who am I? And how did I end up on this morgue slab?" is gaming's equivalent of cinema's "Is life just a dream?" starter for 10. Cue much soul searching and frantic running around in search of a big, bad life-threatening conspiracy, only to unearth a rather linear storyline with a predictably unpredictable twist. No wonder you couldn't remember it...