Let it be known that my taste in games is a bit bizarre. No matter where I go, I never really seem to get into games that the general consensus finds "masterful", and I tend to take a fresh dump on a lot of games that people love and would defend with their lives and virginity (see my Skyrim review as an example). I have my reasons for not liking certain games, but I also appreciate a lot of games too. But what do I look for in my games? I seem to jump around a lot with my reviews, critique wise, but I haven't laid down any ground rules with the way that I look at things. All of us look at certain aspects of a game before anything, and it will be different for just about everyone. Here is how I'm different.
1. Am I walking in a straight line?
I'm one of those crazy people that likes going the linear route as opposed to something that is usually open world. I have no idea where I get this likeage from (although older Megaman games from my kid-hood seem to come to mind), but I always love seeing what type of stuff developers can put into an adventure. That doesn't mean I love typical FPS campaigns from the likes of Battlefield 3 and Homefront though, as the developers of those games seemed more intent on jamming their game with needless filler, a la explosions that seem totally disproportionate to the actual thing that is exploding. It's simply not using what you have to your advantage, and I've already talked about this in depth, so I won't go any further in that.
Portal 2, as I've rated it a 9.5, is one of my favorite games of this generation. While I failed to mention how short this game is (I did, but not as much as I should have), I still feel that this is one of the most respectable games of this generation, all because of it's center focus of having a reving difficulty in a linear game. I've also taken a liking to games like Dead Space 2 and Resistance 3 for such game practices. What might throw people off is the fact that I loathe Killzone 3 for practicing this too, and I hate it so much because it completely backhanded what made Killzone 2 an awesome linear game: by making everything a straight line with no challenge, no thought, and over-reliance on a fancy engine that doesn't even look that spectacular. But now I'm repeating myself again.
2. Does it look sharp?
I know this makes me a horrible person, actually caring about the graphics in the game I'm playing, but this is actually really important to me. I always find that a big turn-off with a lot of games I hate is that they usually aren't defined or athstetically pleasing on the eyes. This might contradict my views on Killzone 3, but it's not wrong for a person to find one aspect that's good but hate just about everything else. When a game has a sharp appearence that seems to just leap off the screen, I usually find myself really enjoying what I'm playing, regardless of what it is.
This is kind of a childish way to judge a game, but it's something that I never really hold against a game if it doesn't have it. Portal 2 doesn't look like anything special, and is actually kind of messy in a lot of aspects, but to flip around what I said before, just because you don't like a certain aspect of something doesn't mean that you can't appreciate everything else. I think that main reason I stuck with the Lost Planet series through all of it's hate was the constant stream of eye grabbing visuals that on the MT Framework engine seems capable of. Resident Evil 5 used this engine too, and while I know I'm supposed to hate this game for obvious reasons, I can't help but enjoy it while I'm playing just because of how good it looks.
It's nothing too important, and it's kind of a personal deal maker for me. I don't think I'll ever hate a game that has that certain visual edge that was obtained with games like Lost Planet 2, or Shadows of the Damned for a more recent example.
3. Is it the complete super-awesome-Super Bowl package?
What comes as a more of a personal opinion to me, I like it when games seem to be complete, right from the box. There are very few games this generation that seem hell-bent on being as far from complete as humanly possible for the soul-purpose of selling me more of the game bit-by-bit for more money. I'd draw such examples as Dark Souls, or Rage, which offer me just enough content to the point where I'm satisfied, but not bored by the end. It's a balance that's very hard to strike with a lot of developers, and it doesn't help when they're trying to nickel and dime their ways to this balance. When a game somehow gets it right from the start, then it's definitely going to be a special game, at least in my eyes.
This quality is becoming more and more scarce as we go on through this generation, but with games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, my faith in more developers getting this aspect right is still there, and still hopeful that one day every single developer out their will stop messing around and actually make quality games like their jobs say they're entitled to. Who knows when this day will come, but until it does come, I'll hold this trait high, as something of a seal of quality.
4. Is it attempting to be dark/epic?
(From the get-go, who would've honestly thought this was a concept art for Resident Evil 5?)
Back to visual athstetics. I love it when games have a grim tone to their overall package. Again, very few developers attempt to do this, and I don't mean with just survival horror games, I mean with just about everything. Games like Alice: Return to Madness have shown that games can be artistically pleasing in a dark sense, just as much as a game with a lighter tone. Don't get me wrong, I do like the lighter, colorful appearence of games like Super Mario Galaxy and El Shaddai, but what usually reaches my mind faster in terms of personal preference are darkly lit coridors, creepy atmosphere, awesome/scary looking monsters and demons, and just about everything else that might raise a game to my all-time high standards.
I'm not one to scare easily. In fact, I thought games like Dead Space 2 and Silent Hill: Downpour pretty much lacked what makes games REALLY scary. I found other games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent to be lacking in this category too, surprisingly. I guess I'm usually too busy thinking about the other three things on this list so much that I'm not even paying attention to what is supposed to be scaring me. But I do appreciate the effort that developers go through to create these darker games, and while they might not scare me like they should, I do like the creativity that goes into making sure that easily frightened people end up foaming at the mouth after an hours worth of play.
These are all heavily factored into my reviewing criteria, but when it comes to just enjoying my games, I turn off all of my critical senses. Except for these 4 traits, and a few others that I didn't mention. What it comes down to is a bit of a phsycological preference; what mind-set I like to stick with when I sleep through my days. It may seem like I'm a rather dark, straight-forward person, but I'm actually the total opposite of the traits that these four qualities represent.
How about you guys? What certain trait do you usually admire when you're playing a video-game? And for that matter, what trait of life do you just love seeing when you get the chance to see it?