Guest Article: The Review Mentality

Story. Gameplay. Graphics. Multiplayer. Replay value. These are only a few of the criteria that games are rated by in a review. However, they are not all equally important. Some reviewers seem to think that a game having more gimmicks than the Empire State Building has windows is worth giving it a through-the-roof score. Or some think that games with terrible campaigns but terrific multiplayer is worth a high score as well. And sometimes, they let gimmicks distract them from major flaws that would have easily picked up on otherwise.

I do have some evidence to back up this view. One example is Modern Warfare 2. Consider its predecessor, CoD 4. It had a campaign that was full of incredible set pieces and blood-pumping action that was tied together with a very good story that was compelling without any twists to try to bait you along. The multiplayer, though unbalanced due to the admittedly innovative RPG-lite structure, was very fun and was complemented with a collection of okay-to-amazing maps. It is one of the best FPSs of all time, and remains the best Call of Duty game to date, with a well-deserved 94% on Metacritic.

Okay, now for the sequel. A campaign with plenty of cool set pieces, like Cod 4. Okay, fine. Nothing wrong with that. The Spec Ops mode? Utterly brilliant. Great both solo and cooperatively, these challenges were indisputably the highlight of the title. The story? The story is one of the biggest pieces of bullshit that I have ever seen in a video game. Already, it cannot live up to its prequel, as the campaign was for many, including myself, the most memorable part of the game. The story was so bad that it cast the entirety of the single-player in an ugly light. The competitive multiplayer? Unbalanced to the point of unfairness. Marathon and commando. Those three words should conjure many a frustrating memory of players zigzagging around the map, always just ahead of your crosshairs. The nuke. Capable of ending the game a third of the way through it, leaving any fun that could have been had to burn along with the rest of the map. That dual-wieldable double-barreled shotgun that can take people out from a surprisingly long distance, that even Infinity Ward noticed had to be fixed. The list goes on and on. And yet, no one seemed to notice. Tens and nines all around, and, worst of all, gets an average review score that is not only near CoD 4’s, but higher.

Really, people? Are you so blinded by the endless number of perks and new weapons that you failed to see flaws that make the game almost legitimately bad? Why were no one’s expectations raised by Modern Warfare’s robust single-player and relatively restrained competitive modes? Why did everyone treat it like the first in a series, when it should have been compared strongly to its prequel? Player’s expectations should have been taken into consideration. Furthermore, if publications were actually worried about fan backlash, are they really so afraid of losing their readership if they rate a game lower than fans want? If so, they deserve to lose their audience anyway.

And, with a more recent example, id Software’s latest epic, Rage. Graphics? Arguably the best in the industry so far. Gamplay? Gunplay so satisfying that even the measly revolver feels like a .50 cal, and driving that gleefully defies the laws of physics for the sake of fun. Co-op? Small missions that actually are tied into the game’s main story in ways that I never expected. Story? Not bad, not great. Just competent enough to pull you along through the visceral action that was delivered. Main criticism? The story. People seem to love to say that gaming has evolved, and that story in games is becoming more and more prominent. But the truth is, in shooters, that is not always the case. Recent “big-budget” shooters like Bulletstorm and Call of Duty have not had good stories, and no one complains. And now, with the same scenario occurring with Rage, nearly everyone complains about the story? Really?

Rant by Andy Spencer

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