Monday, 25 February 2013

Reviews are essentially broken

We here at Quest Hard don't review games. We may occasionally spout off about how much we might love, or indeed hate, a game, however we don't rate or recommend games. I have been wondering of late about if game reviews have any real value any more. A couple of games have kicked off this thinking. The first being Hitman Absolution, which is a fairly linear stealth game that is, at best, OK  However it had a strange mix of reviews, some really high, that loved the stealth and more action approach, along with great visuals and sound design. And those that bemoaned the lack of freedom and options that the game has, compared to previous titles. I clearly fall on the disappointed side, with the linearity boring, with only a couple of levels opening up to the point where they are interesting. Unfortunately in this case, both review types are essentially correct.

The other game that got me wondering is Halo 4, a game that was pretty universally praised. I have played a fair amount of the single player and find myself conflicted. The visuals are very impressive for an Xbox game and sounds lovely. All the weapons are cool to use, even the new alien ones, which are very much just reskinned pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and sniper rifle. And most importantly they have nailed the game-play, it is quick and meaty in a way that only Halo games are. At it's core it is fun and satisfying to play. But the story is rubbish (so far at least), the level design hasn't got the spark that the earlier Halo games did and aside from the shooting the game is essentially go from point A to point B and press X. Hell on more than one occasion it asked me to do the clich├ęd "three of something", in this case destroy shield and power generators.

This is why reviews are flawed, because Halo 4 the game is excellent, smooth, exciting and fun. Halo 4 the overall experience is a bit rubbish, the plot is hokum, the level design pedestrian and it is linear to a fault. And a review is an opinion as to whether you should buy a game or not. It strikes me as a bit of a scary prospect being a game reviewer, as I would have given Halo 4 a 7, maybe 7.5 out of 10. "Great game-play barely hides the cracks in the story and world." Wow that would get me flamed.

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