Game info sites epically fail

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 in Gaming Life

Just like any other gamer out there, I frequent the gaming info sites; IGN and Gamespot mostly. I guess there are others out there but for the most part those are the mainstream guys. They have people that only review or cover certain genres or titles, have departments with different staff for each of the game consoles, and then branches in each country for coverage of different regions.

Everyday I hit up my iGoogle home page’s RSS widgets and check out any of that day’s reviews. Even if it’s a game I’ve never heard of, I’ll check out the article. I even share these articles with coworkers and colleagues. A lot of times there will be games that come out of nowhere for me and I end up really admiring the way they look, only to be get quickly turned off by the critic’s opinion, making that game have little to no chance of ever being within five feet of me unless it’s next to a game I want on a store shelf.

There are many problems revolving the fact that these sites are so heavily relied upon for decisions on buying or even renting games. Working at a technology company myself, I understand how difficult it is to have products that are looked down on by the major influences of my work industry. So since major sites like these go out of their way to make the development studios seem like the lowest of the low, many games go overlooked and (like I said in the Speed Racer review) end up in the “twofor” bin at your local GameStop. And since there really isn’t a cheap way to rent games anymore, I personally don’t even play many games that I would actually like to. Back in my day, games were only three bucks to rent down at the corner store for a week, and you could swap the game out for any other if it wasn’t satisfactory. Now you can’t even look at games at Blockbuster without swallowing the bill and having the risk that you’ll get the game home and it will suck total ass. (I learned this the hard way a couple years ago and eventually had to quit wasting my money when I took Jet Li: Rise to Honor back after an hour of ungodly gameplay and controls and they wouldn’t let me switch it out.)

So, again, bad reviews come from two things: uneducated writers with no sympathy for poor studios, or really just a horrible experience. There will always be both, but it seems like the game info sites are given too much credit. Most of them are horrible journalists and have no idea how to write, and the others get stuck reviewing games they’d probably never play if it wasn’t for a deadline. If you go to any of the bad reviews out there most of them don’t cover more than a screen’s worth of space, and the explanation of exactly what is so horrible about the game is usually lacking proof or reason. Take this blurb from the Operation Darkness review by IGN for example:

1.0 Graphics
The game technically does have graphics.

What the fuck kind of description is that for such a low rating? IGN ratings can get no lower than a 1, and with no elaboration in the textual review for why the game received such a low rating in what seems like a given department for any studio on next gen platforms, I’d have to say the guy is being a bit unreasonable. I’ve had no knowledge of this game until it showed up in the widget today, by the way.

My issue with reviews like this is that they give entry level games made with low budgets the absolute worst ratings imaginable for what seems like no apparent reason, especially if the publisher isn’t paying their bills for the month. This is exactly what I think happened with Assassin’s Creed. AC was definitely no low budget game, and it definitely wasn’t 6.0-range worthy. The whole thing makes me believe that game studios, or people with great game ideas for that matter, will never make it in the industry unless they have unlimited funding or have already sold themselves out to the big publishers.

The reason I thought to write this in the first place was after reading the Alone in the Dark review. Ryan talks about how he was looking forward to the game because he is into the genre (so…we let people review games because their “into genres”…awesome). He talks about the stiff and unforgiving controls, especially when driving (well for a game that’s not focused at all around driving, I wouldn’t expect the few levels that have it to bust out into it’s on franchise…). Ryan then goes on to say that instead of being creeped out, he’s annoyed by the amnesiac main character’s rants and raves while dropping the F-bomb left and right. Apparently this didn’t matter in GTA: San Andreas

Alone in the Dark stills
Alone in the Dark: apparently 3.5 (out of 10) glorious points of suck.

This game has been in development for over 3 years. What I imagine happened is after the release of the horrible movie by the worst director alive, Atari went into crunch mode to make up for their loss with an understaffed development studio that had the game looking great but not playing great yet. GTA: Vice City felt like that, but no one seemed to mind because the franchise hasn’t been full of flops since its first release.

Sigh…Godspeed to any of the studios out there, big or small, betting on their game to be the next big franchise. Just make sure you wine-n-dine your friends at the local game review site. Good night, and good luck.