With every high profile game released there are numerous editorials, op-eds and forum posts surrounding the game. These range from "You wouldn't believe what happened at the midnight release party!" to "OMG Local Retailer X is horrible, don't shop there because I didn't get my game yesterday." along with the usual predictions of the video game industry's impending doom. For the most part these are all worthwhile reads. What gets my goat are the "Game X is overrated!" complaints. Halo 3 isn't the first or the last game to receive such criticism but it certainly has gathered a lot of folks claiming it is "overrated".
I'm not saying that everyone who says a game is overrated is simply wrong. However, I think the basic reasoning behind most of these claims misses its target. What follows is my is my interpretation and comments regarding many of what I see as the more misguided "overrated" claims regarding Halo 3.
"Halo is no that great because it is just...."
This statement is usually followed by the observations that the Halo series is "just" a sci-fi FPS, and that is absolutely correct. Halo 3 is a sci-fi FPS, chances are it won't blow your mind. It won't wash my car and it won't do much more than provide you an opportunity to have a good time. Just like every other video game out there, including other truly great games.
Why Halo 3's common elements with other games should bring it down below the level of great, or even very good, is beyond me. Personally I've been burnt out on the sci-fi shooter scene for quite some time, but it's not like I can hold that against Halo. The series is six years old and I have my doubts that the story arch would hold up well if time travel was involved just to introduce a new setting, at least not until the first trilogy is completed ;)
"Halo does not live up to the hype."
Hype is an ambiguous thing. When a game is accused of being overrated it seems the hype is often mentioned. For this journal's purpose I'll consider hype is the grand sum of all the media coverage, advertising and promotional spam, and even the fanboy spazzing on internet forums and etc.
If you've ever spent time talking to some of the biggest fans of just about anything out there you probably already know that no game, product, or anything will ever live up to the heights that they hold it to, at least not to us outside observers. Halo 3 is not the first, second, or third coming of your favorite best or worst deity, even if some other folks think it is. Yet that that's no reason put down the game.
I'm a ridiculously big Civilization fan. I once hung out early in the morning at a store waiting for Civ III to arrive. To outside observers the game is not worth that kind of effort or excitement. My or anyone else's excitement, and possibly foolish actions, relating to the game shouldn't be held against the game. Holding a fan's actions against a game is the kind of reasoning you hear from some of the crazy anti gaming crusaders. That is just plain silly.
Regarding advertising and related promotional spam, as annoying as it can be I find that also difficult to hold against a game. The endless TV commercials, painful website flash advertising, and groan inducing Mountain Dew "game fuel" adverts might go as far as being downright embarrassing but that has little to do with the actual game.
Overrated in terms of Money, Success, Ratings
Let's just get one thing out of the way when it comes to sales. Like a lot of other things life sometimes things just aren't fair. Is Halo 3 worth the insane amount of money it absorbed in sales on the day of release? I don't know. Do games that are nearly as good rake in nearly as much money? I'm willing to concede that the answer is no. Even conceding that last point it seems silly to judge a game basted on its success. Sales and profits really shouldn't factor into it. We don't think less of our favorite games that didn't sell as well as they should have. Doing the same thing to games that sold better than we expect or think they should is just silly.
Of course what this all boils down to is games should be judged simply for what they are. Factoring in hype, fanboys, crazy PR people, and profits to me seems like a good way to find something to gripe about a game that doesn't have much to do with the game itself. Such a practice would mean that just about every game is "overrated" particularly if you listen to the hired PR guns out there or happen to be surrounded by fanboys. That's not to say it is easy to ignore all that stuff. I think those of us who follow the industry are particularly prone to get a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to "system sellers" and all the info and media that we absorb. Filtering all that out and just looking at the game on its own merits can be a challenge.
I'm about as tired as anyone by the Halo 3 media blitz. Some of the fans are disturbingly ... ravenous (nearly as much as SSBB fans). I'm not even much of a Halo fan myself. If it wasn't for the fact that the Call of Duty 4 beta ended and won't be released until November I might not have picked up Halo 3.
Having played Halo 3 I know that the Halo series still isn't my personal cup of tea. Yet that doesn't mean I can't recognize the great game that is there. A nice campaign with some impressive production value and ridiculously rich multiplayer and community features that few games even come close to offering all add up to a great game. That holds true even if I'm not quite as excited as Microsoft or the advertising would have me be, or as excited as some other people are.