From a PM:
[quote=XXXXX]You may ignore this message if you so desire, but I would at the very least like to express my concerns. Looking at your reviews, it seems that you are actively giving your opinion on games on a regular basis, and I commend you for that. However, all credibility I had for you was lost at the point where I found out that every game that has gotten any sort of unanimous critical acclaim, you seem to have rated very low.
I began to theorize on whether you were simply going against the crowd, as most do. So, I began reading a couple of your reviews (namely BioShock, Half Life 2, GTA IV) and to my deepest surprise, you got all of your facts straight on, for the most part. This either meant that you have really been doing your research, or you actually own all of these games game.
I have nothing against expression of opinions, but it seems that you have gave these hyped games a low rating for the sole reason of them being hyped. I don't require any sort of response, but I am curious as to exactly what made these games so bad, because all reasons you expressed in your reviews have been so minor that it seems you were nitpicking every problem you had with a game to come up with some sort of reason/conclusion to support your review.
Or, on the flip side, you may actually and coincidentally dislike every single game that has gotten any sort of praise and I may be simply wrong; however, I find this extremely unlikely. As I previously stated, I don't require an answer, but I am very, very curious.
Before I get to the topic at hand I would like to sincerely thank you for being civil and not resorting to the standard name calling that many of my viewers resort to. Though on the flip side this discussion won't be anywhere as colorful and hilarious.
First off (now on topic), I believe a numerical/point-based system for reviews are highly limited, and I prefer the words associated with the score, i.e. 5= mediocre.
Mediocre is how I'd rate the games you brought up (Half-Life 2, Bioshock, GTA4). Here is why (reiterating what is already in the reviews):
Half-Life 2: Let's be honest, this franchise does not exactly have the strongest story. While I can see how being in Freeman's shoes may give the illusion of being immersed in the game world, I found it both unsuccessful, and even if it were, there isn't much else that draws the player into the game world. Freeman is essentially a floating pair of hands, in a blandly designed arena.
Not much is really explained of what really transpired during the lead up to Half-Life 2, and nothing is really explained during the game, everything thing just "is." The only way you can really learn about the lore is through articles on the internet. Is this problematic? It wouldn't be if the game were stronger in other areas (more on that soon), but the game lacks any real character aside from Issac and Alyx (who, on the same coin, feels like a marketing decision). All the enemies look exactly the same (yes, you can argue that the combine is highly organized and has a uniformity to it, but at least give more divisions combine troops, and at least an actual "at ease" walking animation), the characters aside from them are just as un-interesting, and the weapons in this game lack "charisma."
To expand upon the enemies and characters, I need only to say "zombie" to prove this point. Is there any variation at all in them? Well, yes, within each archetype, but all slow/fast/poison/combine zombies are exactly the same visually, and to deal with them requires no advanced tactics other than back-peddle and hold down on mouse button. Again, you can say this is a minor gripe, but you have to admit, it does get boring as hell, and it would be nice to have some variation. Have zombines wielding their weapons (and they fire them randomly), fast zombies crawl on ceilings and walls (not storm drains) and give them mobility to get to you from other ways other than the same few choke points, and most importantly give at least one more variant model for each kind. For a game that was in development for so long, Valve could have gone the extra inch to add some variety, but like every aspect of this game (and arguable every other valve game ever) they didn't.
The guns too aren't interesting, and when this happens in a FPS, this isn't good at all. Seeing as the game's main character is a mute, and nothing other than his hands and guns are visible, to have the main characters (the guns) be boring really makes the combat (most often the selling point of a FPS) also boring. For starters, other than the 357 magnum, none of the guns have that certain "punch." They're simply bland to look at and use on the enemy, and though the first Half-Life game had somewhat similar issues, the guns at least had "character." The guass gun and the snark (with its awesome idle animation) are clearly standouts. However you will need to use these guns a lot because you will often find yourself in situations where you're outgunned and need to hold off waves of advancing combine/zombies. While the concept of fighting off waves upon waves of enemies may seem like fun (as it is in Serious Sam), in this game it it gets boring quickly because of the aforementioned lack of variety in enemies (who aren't too smart to begin with). Last but not least on the topic of guns, while the hit detection in this game is decent, enemies take too many hits before dying. Of course this can be responded with, "that's for difficulty's sake," I will respond with: in a game that tries somewhat ground itself in "reality," like with the presence of (mostly) realistic physics, and little details like ears ringing after being close to an explosion, it would be nice if the enemies weren't bullet-sponges. Maybe only add it a "realistic" mode where you are also susceptible to the same threat of dying.
Because of the boring nature of the guns, the gravity will get a lot of usage when not facing hordes of enemies. While it is fun in concept, the game relies too heavily on it (though I would say, the inclusion of more puzzles would make the game better), and after a while it becomes nothing more than a gimmick in a game that only ends up resembling a tech-demo or a game developer's new engine.
Aside from the story/character/weapon aspects of the game, the environments really aren't too far ahead in quality from a much older game Unreal. While it was permissible to have a huge but barren game world in a FPS in the mid-late 90s, doing the same nearly a decade later is only a sign of bad level design. It is enough the game is extremely linear and only caters to an action-orientated play-****with no stealth elements, but the world has to have the same washed-out boring textures with nothing to explore?
I could go on further (like in my review or even beyond), but I believe the score I gave it was sufficient, it really is a mediocre game.
...the following critiques are truncated due to time constraints, if you want more in depth info, read the reviews...
Bioshock: You got atmosphere, but nothing else. Bioshock is painfully linear, the combat is poor (when compared to many games before it), the "rpg"-elements (like upgrades/plasmids) are half-assed. For a game that was made by people who were responsible (and/or influenced by) for the epic game Deus Ex, this game is dumbed down.
GTA 4: Does it really do anything different or better than its predecessors? So much so to warrant a perfect score from many publications? Not saying the game/series is inherently bad, but the game really is a jack-of-all-trades: you can "do a lot," but none of it is any good. And considering they stripped away the most endearing parts from San Andreas, you're left with "just another GTA" game with slightly improved combat.
Is my aversion to hype a factor in my views of these games? Not really, because they simply aren't that compelling.
What innovations do any of these games bring to their respective genres? To be perfectly honest, nothing. And in many cases they take steps backwards.
Are they worth spending money on (i.e. lining the pockets of developers who are more or less creating games by the numbers instead of an actual work of art)? Unfortunately I did (much like nearly all the games in rated/reviewed lists), but I will have to say no.
Do I automatically dislike popular things? It really depends on what media we are discussing, but with games I don't think so. In fact, when I do pick up a really popular game I play it a lot. I try to learn everything about it, beat it at least once per difficulty level, maybe use noclip to look at the level design and get a feel for what the creator intended. I do believe games are art, but not all of them are, and I think a lot of reviewers and players suffer from two major problems: a lack of critical opinions and a short attention-span.
Having played hundreds upon hundreds of games in my life (since I was 5ish: I learned how to navigate DOS before I started the 1st grade) I seen and played a lot. The switch from big floppies, to smaller, and then to CDroms; ega to vga, etc. One thing I've always noticed is that many games simply aren't that good, and many were simply just rip-offs. The ones I found to be the most interesting were ones that did something different from before. But this doesn't apply to just games: movies, comics, music, so on and so on were subject to this rule. Why? What is the point in escapism (pick your poison) if you're doing the same thing over and over again and/or there is no redeeming value in the (insert medium here)? With a lot of games, you're not doing anything really different, but many of them get a lot of praise.
This is where the fundamental problem comes in. This praise fuels (insert medium here)'s industry, and results in more of the same being churned out and because people have poor memories, they really don't mind because they can't see they're being taken for saps.
If we take a critical look at things, and there were more voices to point out how mediocre almost everything is (and stop giving money to lazy developers) I bet we'd see far more innovation, variety, and all around better games being made.
And yes, of course this all just an opinion, but take a look at what you're playing/watching/reading. Look at the merits of said item. That's all I ask for.
/consumer advocate mode
(sorry if I come off as pompus :/)