Friday, November 11, 2011

Random Shots: Agreement By Degrees

  • I don't mean to pick on Jayedub (who is a really great guy), but his recent tweet perfectly illustrates a common attitude in a certain sector of the gaming community.
    How is it that everyone but this guy likes Uncharted 3? And people wonder why game reviews shouldnt be taken seriously.

  • The review he linked to is the 4/10 review on Honest Gamers by noted contrarian Tom Chick. But here is a little exercise for you. Try to pick out which of the following quotes comes from that review. (Links provided, but don't cheat.)
  • The fact that failure means you're simply sent back to the latest checkpoint turns what should be an exciting and visually compelling sequence into a game of trial and error. It's hard to get a sense of flow during the chase sequences when you're only playing the game in ten-second chunks between failures. I'd love to see the chases uninterrupted to get a feel for the rhythm and nuance of the scene, something that's impossible when you're playing them. (Link)
    Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world, but only until you deviate from the script. Even in this chase the conflict between the developer's theatrical choreography and player-controlled interactions is clear. In order to ensure each set-piece is set off correctly, the game commits the cardinal sin of insinuating you have full control of your character, but in fact tugging you towards trigger points - making sure you're in the right spot to tumble over the bonnet of that braking car, for example. (Link)
    But as the spectacles get grander, the player’s interaction with them lessens. For example, there’s a visually astounding scene where you’re trapped on a sinking cruise ship. Rooms around you become flooded almost as soon as you enter them. But as long as you press forward and jump occasionally, you’ll make it through without a scratch. (Link)
    You have to participate by holding the analog stick up to move Drake forward. You are almost literally pushing him, as surely as you push a truck in one of Uncharted 3's many non-puzzling puzzles. Push him through stretches of exposition, through flashbacks, through hallucinations, through wilderness, through crevices, up walls, along railings. In the climbing sequences, which have zero sense of exploration or uncertainty, you push Drake up a wall much as you might push a child up a jungle gym to help him feel a sense of accomplishment. (Link)
    Some of the game's more tightly scripted action sequences, particularly the ones where you're running somewhere at breakneck speed, can fall apart if you don't do exactly what the designer wanted you to do exactly when they wanted you to do it. When you're running toward the camera from a giant wall of water and can't really see where you're going, one split second's hesitation or missed jump means you're going to repeat everything you just did, which is a detriment to the frenetic way these games move. (Link)

  • Did you figure it out? What is funny about all of these reviews, and several others that I looked at was that they all agreed about what they liked and did not like about Uncharted 3. What they differed on was the degree to which that swayed their opinion of the game. There are several 100 point scores on Metacritic, several in the 80s, and then there is Tom Chick with his 40. A 40 has the same problems with the game as everyone else, but could not overlook those problems like nearly everyone else.

  • If there is a reason to not take games seriously, it is because so many reviewers give inflated scores to big budget games before the deeper flaws become apparent, not because some people have different opinions. I have not played any of the Uncharted games, so I have no idea who I might agree with. But what I do believe that I would rather have a range of opinions than a line of yes men ready to stamp their seal of approval on every high profile game that comes down the line.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. Agreed with your last paragraph.

    That said, I guess it also depends on the game. High profile games like Uncharted 3 or Skyrim, I'm not surprised to see really high scores like 8-10s, but I wouldn't bat an eye even if I saw a 6 or 7. However, I would probably raise my eyebrow at an unusually low score, like anything below a 5. Even if the game isn't to the reviewer's taste, I would imagine he/she would still take in account all the other work involved in the game (graphics, story, sound, overall presentation, etc.) and judge it fairly.

  2. @ MMOGC - I get that. But, gameplay is the primary thing that I want to know in a review and I appreciate when reviewers lean on that more heavily.

    But review scores are such blunt tools to tell you anything about a game. That's why appreciate having bylines on reviews so that I know what biases are behind them. If I know that a certain reviewer has opposing taste in games, I know to discount their opinions.

    I want to lazyweb a site that profiles your game tastes and points out reviewers who share similar interests.

  3. I guess I should clarify my tweet a wee bit. The article itself is not the problem even if I disagree with some of the arguments presented. However, giving the game a 4/10 is my problem. It completely contradicts what most reviewers are saying or giving Uncharted 3.

    If the piece had no score attached and was trying to ask the question as to why are these games so popular and here are the problems I have with that, then it would have been a nice thought provoking article. Instead it comes off as a troll review meant to generate hits to their crappy website.

  4. Reviews in general (for movies and books as well as games) aren't something I care much about, at least from professional critics. I rarely find myself agreeing with any of them. I generally just stick to getting opinions from friends who have similar tastes.

  5. I generally trust aggregate review scores much more than individual reviews. For example, if rottentomatoes has something at 90%, you can be pretty damn sure that it's at least worth sitting through even if it's not your kind of movie.

    Individual reviewers are largely useless. No-one is going to have tastes close enough to mine to be reliable. In fact, I trust the blogs I follow much more to inform my opinions than professional sites in that regard. I know which bloggers I generally agree with and which ones I tend to disagree with. I don't have any where near that close of a relationship with random reviewers at 1up or IGN.