By Sweep 9 Comments
Its hard to encapsulate the potentially infinate variable experiances in a block of type. You can be as expressive as you like, but you cannot account to how a random reader will react to the events when placed in the hot-seat themselves. There have been games reviewed which are, for want of a better word, broken. These are usually the result of underprepared or rushed developers, and fall apart when presented to the ruthlessly critical gaze of the consumer. I'm going to dump Castle Crashers in here, not because i'm looking for excuses to talk about it but because its a recent example that you will probably be able to relate to. When exposed to the over-hyped rush of the general public who smother servers with unpredictable tenacity, the game cannot hold its ground and the weaknesses of such a small design team are revealed. Its hard work, and I for one do not think any less of those working at the Behemoth, but their game is clearly suffering as a result. It probably worked fine when they were testing it with 20 guys in their office, but hundreds of thousands is harder to accommodate.
The alternative is a matter of taste. Reading through various Too Human reviews revealed there is a great lack of actual flaws to the core gameplay. The game does not crash, the graphics are by no means underwhelming, the pace is executively snappy and to the point. The experiance we are presented therefore is one of opinion. Some people like and enjoy trawling through space dungeons searching for gear. Some people take pride in devoting their time to generate the maximum badass character and then wreak havok with him online. A lot of people like this, which is why World Of Warcraft seems to work. What cost Too Human its perfect score was, at the end of the day - a lack of personal preferance.
There are a whole bunch of games that fit into this category of "good games that not everyone will like". Assassins Creed was one of my favorite games for a few months, until I realised that searching for flags wasnt really that enjoyable and thus defeated the point of my experiance. Some other players may have chosen to ignore that section of the game completely and their experiance may have (Will have) been boosted as a result. We like to think of there being an incentive to our games, and we as players like to be rewarded. If the reward is to small then we wont bother. Experiance points encapsulate this perfectly. But was it always this way? Did you need the lure of Achievement Points to enjoy Ghouls And Ghosts? No. That wasnt important. There was a certain amount of pride and competitiveness which seems to have been lost in modern games in the name of functionality. Everything needs to result in something important. It continually baffles me how people can enjoy a game like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon and then whine about the lack of context in a game like Assassins Creed. Both games are hypothetically perfect, in that they are both working computer games. And at the end of the day, computer games are meaningless procrastinations. Its a harsh reality.
So if we remove the functionality of a review and its savagely oppressing guides which much be adhered to - then we are left with, effectively, the soul of a game. How does it feel. The end problem with this again, is taste. I like shooting Zombies. Others may not see the point. (They are fools). And there are a million other things that we now have to take into account, like is it appropriate for kids, whats the online community like, does it live up to PR boasts, does it meet the fanboy hype, how good is the developer support pre-release (I am considering getting Burnout Paradise as a result of being constantly impressed with the maintained quality of its dev support). We allow all these little things to factor and influence how we look at a game, and I feel that this can overshadow the game itself. We can choose to block all this out at the cost of becoming misinformed and losing our insight as to what titles are worth the expense.
I dont really know where i'm going with this, i'm basically typing and reflecting at the same time. I guess the point i'm making is game reviews are about trust. If I read a review by Jeff telling me a game was terrible but then my best friend told me he was having a blast playing that same game, I would probly go buy it. No dis-respect to Jeff, but at the end of the day that guy is a stranger to me. Through my (excessive) use of his websites I have vaugely come to learn that he can be trusted on certain topics, and that he is cynical enough to have a realistic view of most games he is playing. Therefore I have a certain amount of trust and respect for his opinion. But that doesnt mean Jeff is preaching the Gospel. (I'm going to stop talking about Jeff before he files a lawsuit)
So... yeah. Sometimes it amazes me how willing we are to be convinced by the opinion of some random dude on the internet. Some egghead starts shouting mess on a blog or forum and suddenly everyone is nodding their heads like string puppets. A game review score is not the final word. People - exercise some assertiveness. Instead of jumping on a bandwagon go and play the game for yourself on the offchance that you have a really great time. Thing back over your favorite gaming experiances and they are unlikely to be the mainstream blockbusters. I would choose Dead Rising over Call Of Duty 4 any day...
Thats all I got for now. I'ts a bit messy but I hope you can walk away understanding something of the message i'm trying to get across, although I probably made it a lot more complicated than it really needs to be. I just enjoy writing stuff.
Thanks for reading