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Halo 4, MoH, Diablo 3 and Why Reviews Suck



In reading reviews for Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Halo 4, I find myself perplexed and somewhat irritated. It seems that many times a game in itself matters very little. What matters more is where the game came from, who made it, why it was made and whether it's something new or not. I'm really not sure if I can trust a gaming review any more, to be honest.

New = good and yet too new is not good

Sequels are either criticised as being too similar to their original or too far away from the original, making reaching the goal an illusive task. There is often a sentiment that something has to be new or feature stuff we've never seen before for it to be good.

Or, maybe I do understand this thinking. As a musician I criticise artists who don't experiment. But the difference is that I see music as art, not entertainment, whereas most gamers see games as entertainment, not art.

I don't really want to get bogged down on the whole 'are games art?' debate. I've written about it before and you might recall Roger Ebert's article in 2010 around the topic. My point is that I think most gamers don't really care. No one really seemed interested in the A.MAZE festival earlier this year, which was a global festival being held in Johannesburg that explored the whole art and gaming thing. Like most movie fans or book readers or even music fans, I suspect that the majority of gamers don't care much for art they only care for entertainment.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter Medal of Honor: Warfighter

But the point is those same gamers level criticism at games for not being revolutionary enough, even though they couldn't care about art at all. Take GameArena.com as an example. Their review of Halo 4 says that, “The greatest praise and strongest criticism I can level at Halo 4 is that it sure is Halo.” This sums it up nicely – the fact that the game doesn't revolutionise enough is criticised. But if the game ventured too far away from being a Halo game, well that would be criticised too.

Or, look at this review from quartertothree.com of Halo 4. In it the reviewer says this:

“[Halo 4 is a] shiny old dog without any new tricks. I got more out of the Halo 1 remake, which at least had the appeal of nostalgia. Playing through an updated version of the original Halo was at times tired or tedious. But it was also a reminder of the raw genius that launched the series. There is none of that in Halo 4, which is a drawn-out retread without any fresh perspective or energy, and furthermore missing a lot of what I need to pull me through a Halo game. Halo 4 demonstrates that if there’s one thing worse than more of the same, it’s less of the same.”

The goal post seems to me to be an impossible one to reach. Make the game new and it's not like the old one, so FAIL. Make the game like the old one and it's not new enough, so FAIL. It's like saying you will only believe in miracles if they are validated by Science – but if a miracle was validated by the discipline of Science, it wouldn't exactly be a miracle any more, as Science requires a miracle to be repeated and tested in a controlled environment (that's not exactly what a miracle is, by definition). And what gamers really want is nothing short of a miracle.

I'm not a Halo fan boy. Read my scathing opinion on Halo: Reach and you'll see. Nevertheless, you might think I'm being unfair to us gamers here. Well, let's look at another angle.

Halo 4 (multiplayer) Halo 4 (multiplayer)

Diablo 3 and hype

I've been toying with the idea of writing an article called “I told you so about Diablo 3” for a while now. Here was a game that was to be the game of all games for the next hundred years. And a lot of its hype was for no other reason than the game came from Blizzard, who are meant to be amazing.

This Blizzard-blindness, I think, has more to do with nostalgia and Diablo 3's hype had a lot to do with that too. I'll save that for my other article. My point is that the game got praised to high heaven by gamers and industry critics alike. Look at it now on Metacritic – a user review of 3.8. Gamers have realised that, server botch-up aside, it really is nothing else but a click-fest. I don't know of many gamers who care for it right now. Even Blizzard admitted that the game's model isn't sustainable and our very own Rob Clegg is asking if Torchlight 2 is the Diablo 3 we wanted.

My point? Firstly, Blizzard's reputation is what got it those initial reviews, so reviewers didn't take the game for what it was. Secondly, let's put it this way – Medal of Honor: Warfighter is currently receiving a lot of hate. Although Clegg didn't rate the multiplayer too badly. The previous Medal of Honor got a lot of hate as well yet I don't know many gamers who actually gave it some time who didn't enjoy it. And Diablo 3 received a lot of praise on launch and turned out to be not so good. So, really, can we trust gaming reviews?

Diablo III Diablo III

Final point

Are reviews really telling us what a game is like? I think reviews are falling more prey to either hype or an illusive nostalgia element that sounds like, “If this sequel doesn't give me the same feeling as the last one, I'm not so sure about it.”

Maybe we should all just chill a bit, give a game some time, and then give our opinions on it. Let's not worry where the game comes from, let's just focus on the game and judge it by its own merits.

About Ryan Peter

Ryan Peter has been an avid gamer for over 25 years, seeing the industry evolve from King's Quest to what it is today. He is the editor of Do Gaming and a ghostwriter of fantasy and sci-fi. His fantasy book When Twins War is available at Amazon.com, in the iBookstore for the iPad or at Smashwords.com.




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