The Gamespot 360 Wall-of-Shame

In today’s media driven society videogames can live or die by the review score, but there seems to be more reason for us as gamers to read between the lines and understand that sometimes games just flat out suck.  When reading reviews and skimming metacritic and gamerankings, we should all try to watch out because even though all games tend to lie between ‘9.5 SUPER DUPER AWESOME’ and ‘5.5 pretty averagely good’ there are some really shitty games out there.  Too bad game reviewers for big media companies have to sugar coat their review scores now.

The ten point scale should be done away with.  This whole Too Human review fiasco has got me thinking about why all games tend to fall between 5 and 9 and never (well I shouldn’t say never, perhaps rarely) go below.  Most of the time if you can get to the main menu of a game, and maybe perhaps load the first level without the game crashing, the game is automatically average?  I think it’s time to move away from the comparing the grade school letter grades with the ten point scale.  What game sets out to be complete garbage and no fun?  Vampire Rain? I kid (somewhat), but in school an F is a shitty grade, and like it or not anything in the 5 range on a game review is an ‘F’ and means it’s pretty horrid.  Sorry Too Human- you have a nice niche audience, but for the masses you’ve failed.  Out of the two-hundred-and-fifty or so Xbox 360 games, only about twenty have fallen below the 5.0 range on Gamespot, and let me tell you these games are pretty bad.  It is a shame that when Too Human scored a 5.5 over there that the score is defended by saying it is simply an “average” game.  Let’s call it a niche game that sucks, but some people will love it.  It’s a shame that the 5 has become the excuse in defense of people saying the review was too harsh or unfair.

Jeff Gerstmann is an honest man.  When he reviewed Kane & Lynch: Dead Men nothing was held back.  In my book that makes him a more excellent reviewer.  Is his review right?  Why is he not allowed to say the game was a byproduct of some phlegm buildup in the developer’s throat and give it a 6.0?  Oh, apparently because Gamespot was advertising for the game on the front page, and there was an entire Gamespot Kane & Lynch Theme at the time.  It isn’t great use of the developer’s ad money when the site they are advertising on gives the game a crappy score, but is that Gerstmann’s fault?  I don’t think so- I think it’s the developer’s for making a shitty game and he was simply trying to be objective.  But that’s where the mighty hand of the dollar has come to today.  Gerstmann was out of a job at Gamestop and the review was pulled.  CNET says that he wasn’t fired because of the poor review score, but then why was he locked out of his own office the day the review was pulled down?  I doubt some butt darts went down in the men’s restroom within that small timeframe (or some other sort of sexual harassment problem).  Even Penny-Arcade called CNET out on this fiasco, but it’s too bad that comedy can’t make wrongs right.

So what I am really getting at is when there are so many games on the market, why should gamers have to spend their hard earned cash on shitty games with bought review scores and marketing campaigns.  We have plenty of great games to play, but it is unfortunate that not all game developers are capable of making the Half-Lifes, Starcrafts, and Bioshocks- that and those games wouldn’t be as special if all games were as good.  So what it really comes down to is don’t give into the fanboy-ish nature of the internet.  If there is a demo out- give it a try if you can and don’t bitch about how great a horrid game is after you bought it.  We all read more than one review so most of the time a consensus doesn’t lie.  And above all- Reviewers: You don’t have to defend your scores!  Even though all games set out to be fun, they all just can’t pull it off.  I am more likely to read (and enjoy) a harsh review than a sugar coated one, and I believe almost everyone can now thanks to Zero Punctuation.  It also will help keep gaming fun by not letting developers slack and churn out horrible Wii Sports clones.

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There is no denying that Blizzard has the most successful online games of all time, and one of the great things about the game is that it plays fairly well on almost every computer out there.  The game certainly doesn’t look bad, but it is definitely starting to show its age.  Fortunately, the people over at Blizzard just let loose in a few interviews that as more expansions come out for the game they are going to be implementing graphical updates.  They said not to expect WoW2 or anything too intensive; at least anything that would keep players from playing the game on their same hardware.  Rob Chilton explained that “usability” has always been more important to Blizzard than how technical they could make the game visually, and even though some players want that sort of an update, Blizzard isn’t going to stop taking money from any players anytime soon.

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Too Human was a pretty anticipated game, and for gamers nothing is worse than being excited about a game only for it to let you down.  The only thing worse than this is when you’re then insulted by the game’s developer for apparently not being intelligent enough to understand how innovative it is.  Now I for one was super excited for this game- it looks awesome if you ask me-but this is really out of context for the developer to defend the game in such a way.  If that were the case we would have the developers of most Wii games on gaming forums all over the net calling us n00bs.  How about just putting your effort into creating a game that actually works and make people have fun?  Apparently that’s harder than it looks, but PopCap Games has no problem ripping off everyone else’s game designs and making them real hits.

Now Kevin Pereira was on the net defending Too Human so apparently the game’s only good score comes from the G4 crowd: Kevin Pereira likes it and so does Adam Sessler.  I am glad they both had fun with the game, but that doesn’t necessarily make the gaming community (or Gamespot for that matter) wrong.  We all knew that the game sucked from the demo, and those who decided to buy it before trying the demo, sucks for you.

Gaming seems to becoming to get more subjective, but in fact I think it is just the problem of buyer’s remorse.  Gaming hardware and software have gotten more expensive and not many of us can afford the luxury of owning all the consoles and all the games so when one person makes the single purchase they need to feel like they made the correct purchase by defending it against others who decided against it or for the other platform.  I think the same thing applies here.  At $60 a pop, Xbox 360 games are not cheap and when you do find out that a game does suck and that Gamestop will only give you 30% of what you paid for it, the only thing you have left to do is bitch on forums about how everyone else is wrong and you are right.

So the moral of the story for Pereira is simply this: try renting the game before you disagree with all of the games reviews.  Dyack?  I’m sorry it took so long to make your game and you didn’t want to have to announce it for the Xbox 720, but suck it up, bite your lip and hire Jonathan Blow (the developer of Braid), because he knows what he’s doing.  Oh, and shut up if you can’t take the shit.

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The Wii is currently the best selling console of this current generation of gaming hardware, but for some it is hard to understand how this has become more than the expected gimmick it was thought to be at launch. Nintendo is a company that knows how to make gaming hardware, and we all know that for them games like Pokémon and the got-to-have DS simply print money for them. However, most gamers will agree that their primary game platform is not the Wii, but then why is this system still so hard to find after almost two years into its lifespan. Are there really millions of dusty Wiis all over?

The most obvious mistake that Nintendo made with the Wii was its lack of high-definition support. Sure you can all argue that 480p is technically considered a high resolution image, but compared to the competition it is simply a muddy mess when viewed on an HDTV. Nintendo argued at launch that there were not enough high definition TVs in homes for this to be important but most gamers who know that other game platforms exist probably already own an HDTV considering that 2007 was the year of the HDTV and most electronics stores rarely carry any standard definition televisions that aren’t smaller than 21” or so. As the years pass and developers try to get more out of the Wii hardware to keep up with the look of videogames of this new era, it is going to be hard to see the Wii living much longer when faced with a direct comparison to the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. The Wii is simply a Gamecube in a small package with a magic wand. Because of the lack of hardware power in the Wii it will continue to be a wasteland of PlayStation 2 ports and gimmick motion control games.

Another problem with the Wii is that there are not many games made by third party developers that are worth playing. Most people who buy the Wii, these ‘casual’ gamers simply want to get their hands on Wii Sports, and then let the system collect dust. Sure there are a few really good games on the system by Nintendo, but Zack and Wiki cannot hold Wii owners at bay against the onslaught of Wii Sports knockoffs like Deca Sports, the ever so popular Wii Play (ie Wii Remote with a game), Big Beach Sports, and I am sure the list goes on. The DS had this problem in the first year until developers started to catch on, but we are now in the second year of the Wii’s development cycle and I cannot even name one game not made by Nintendo that is even remotely exciting.

The Wii has this very cool remote. Yes, it is darn fun to play Wii Sports and it was probably Nintendo’s smartest move to pack that game in the box, but there are only a few random games where I can see this control scheme as being an advantage for a game. Game developers want to make one game and port it to all three platforms, but when they get to the Wii they have to come up with some funky motion control scheme to smack into it at the last minute in order to make the game simply work on the system, and most have controls that would be considered barely working. Any first person shooter will never be comparable to the counterpart on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and even games like Mario Kart Wii and that Wii wheel seem to not stand up to the likes of the Gamecube controller or Classic.

The online functionality is a joke. Seriously Nintendo… Friend codes? They couldn’t have made playing with someone you know more of a hassle, and I don’t know where they get off defending this decision by saying it has to do with protecting the children. It isn’t like we can really have a chat with anyone online either. On top of this the Wii’s online store is filled with games we have already played before and at a ridiculous price. Why should I pay $10 for Mario Kart N64 when I can find a copy on eBay for much cheaper, or better yet emulate it on a PC or an original Xbox console with superior graphics?

Nintendo has gotten away with too much in this console cycle for it to be considered good for the industry. They say they are the innovators but they seem to be holding the industry back by not giving the ‘casual gamer’ what they could be receiving from the competition. The Wii does have it’s place for fun; staying up late drinking with buddies and playing ridiculous games like Boom Blox, Smash Bros. Brawl, or perhaps playing Wii Sports with grandma, but that’s about the limit to the fun that can be had in the Wii. The flooding of mediocrity in the Wii’s software will inevitably be it’s downfall because we simply can’t keep playing Wii Sports over and over or holding out for the next big title from Nintendo. I am sure I could be wrong on many fronts, but I know I won’t be getting my main gaming fun out of my little old dusty Wii.

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I was finally able to fire up that God of War: Chains of Olympus demo yesterday, and boy was that one heck of a treat for any PSP owner. I went into the demo expecting more bland, more of the same, more of what I have come to expect from my PSP. I don’t think of it so much as a gaming platform as much as I think of it as a technology stepping stone: Sony’s way of entering the handheld market. I think they focus too much on making it a handheld PS2 than they do a practical gaming machine for ‘on the go’ type use. Most of the game on the system I would rather play in front of my TV rather than between classes or driving somewhere. But I suppose thats beside the point. Onto the game.

From the moment it was booted up it was nonstop action. It was very similar to the PS2 counterparts in almost every conceivable way, and I say this as a compliment. I was surprised how well they were able to get this game to look on the little hand held with only minimal slowdown (which I only noticed when the game was loading something from the memory stick). It looks and played just like it did on the console except now you can take it with you. The PSP has been crying out for a game that plays smoothly: something that doesn’t require dual analog sticks or a better frame rate. The game was also filled with the cinematic action that has come to be expected from the God of War franchise. Sequences where you are fighting a giant monster and right before you finish it does it get eaten by a bigger monster that you now have to defeat. One thing I am not too fond of, however are the mash this button sequences where when you are finishing a boss it will show the circle on the screen and you need to hit it before it disappears, followed by another random cross or triangle. To me this has never really added to the game as much as it does the frustration. But this is a mild complaint. Overall I simply can’t wait for this game to come out and it will be one of the best games to have come out in the past few months, but were there really any good releases lately? Check out this trailer for the game to tickle your fancy.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IVFwqpLdb8

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