Earlier today I posted my review of The Last of Us. Similar to that of bigger outfits I gave the game a perfect score. This made me think – as critics, gamers, fans, whatever you may consider yourself – are we obligated to be lenient on blockbuster titles? With a game receiving so much talk and hype, do we find ourselves trying to look past its mistakes and call it perfect?
I am not saying I was wrong to give The Last of Us a perfect 10 out of 10. I honestly believe the game defined my interpretation of flawed perfection. Eventually there is going to be a title, whether in the near future or long term, that will outrank The Last of Us. No game can be perfect forever. It can last from as short as one day to as long as ten years.
It is over time where we begin to notice those imperfections. It’s just like any form of media, whether it be movies, television shows, or even music. When we first get that new hot thing, we look past any of issues and only see greatness. As time goes on and our fandom lessens, we then notice that this hot new title wasn’t so great.
Here’s a recent example for me. I am quite the fan of Airbourne, a rock group from Australia that bleeds the AC/DC sound I love. I was a big supporter of their upcoming album Black Dog Barking. Heck, I drove thirteen hours nonstop from Boston, MA to Columbus, OH to see the band play a headline gig at an underground club. I didn’t want to see them as an opener. They put on a great show. After a couple more weeks the new album launched and my iTunes pre-order came in. Upon my first listen I was telling myself this is great. It’s Airbourne the way I knew them from their previous two albums.
Time went on. It’s been over a month since the new album launched but it is now I am realizing it’s not all that great. While certainly not a terrible album, it feels like its lacking the sound I grew to love from Runnin’ Wild and No Guts. No Glory.. The album is no longer perfect – it’s just a solid release.
Will I have the same feeling for The Last of Us a month from now? Will I go back through the campaign to realize that while it’s still fun to play, it may not be as great as I thought it was?
As critics, are we obligated to be lenient on these games?
When the first wave of The Last of Us reviews made their rounds on the internet, we saw many perfect scores. Then you saw Polygon’s review, giving it a 7.5 out of 10. Fans were all abuzz about this. How can you give this perfect game a non-perfect score? Polygon isn’t one to shy away from controversy. They do have a unique review system, one that I find interesting. They will adjust reviews if the game improves itself.
A recent example of this was the relaunch of SimCity, a game that defined controversy this year. Polygon initially gave the game a stellar rating of 9.5. Since that initial review, they have changed the score three times. It went from 9.5 to an 8.0, then to a 4.0, and now currently standing at a 6.5. The main reason for the review changes has been from EA’s DRM policy and the server issues that have persisted since launch. This caused EA to take features out of the game to create a more stable environment.
Many were not fans of this. How can you change a review score over time?
For me, I am intrigued by this idea. These days games can ship half ass, either with promised content missing, glitches that should’ve been taken out during QA testing, or just unpolished. Is Polygon merely trying to stir up controversy or are they trying to inform the publishers that they have an obligation to spend more time in development?
When we see a perfect score these days, some readers believe that it was bought. Are publishers paying these critics to score the game high? There’s no denying that tactic does exist. In fact some writers lose their jobs over giving a promoted game a low score. Just look at Jeff Gerstmann. GameSpot had an advertising deal with then Eidos Interactive to promote Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Gerstmann gave the game a mediocre review, which eventually led to his dismassal. It is the past, so we should let history be history but it doesn’t deny the fact that if Gerstmann would’ve given the game a higher score to please Eidos, would Giant Bomb even exist?
Let’s look at the Halo franchise. Halo 2 was easily the most anticipated game of 2004. It launched to record breaking numbers and critical acclaim. Need we overlook the cliffhanger ending (see above)? One that angered many fans and critics alike? In fact, Halo 2 had many broken promises. It promised us a fight for Earth, yet very little of the game took place on our planet. The campaign was cut short, likely due to time restrictions from publisher Microsoft, and left us all waiting for the next game to finish the current story arc. This negative didn’t seem to affect review scores, the game averages a 95 rating on Metacritic. Understandably the multiplayer is what most talked about and praised the game about, but is Halo 2 honestly that good?
I actually rate Halo 4 better than Halo 2. I rate ODST better than Halo 2. It’s not by any means a bad game, but I consider it the weakest in the franchise, with the original Halo still number one.
There are certainly a fair share of blockbuster games that end up getting disappointing reviews across the board. The original Killzone scored just above average. I personally loved the game. Games like Dead Island were highly talked about but ended up being a game that felt like it mislead the gamer. The original CG trailer for it was nothing short of astounding, yet the game was nothing like what the trailer perceived it to be.
With games like The Last of Us, we have to realize each critic should approach the game differently as we are all different gamers. Polygon and GameSpot both gave non-perfect scores but in no way are they saying the game is terrible, it’s just not their definition of perfection. Yet those same websites gave Halo 4 high scores. I would consider The Last of Us better than Halo 4 even though they are two separate games. It’s all based on the gamer, and a score shouldn’t be influenced by hype, obligations, or even public pressure.
I don’t see the big deal of Borderlands, I’ve tried playing it on more than one occasion I don’t get the big deal, yet it is one of the more well known success stories to come out of this current generation. If I were to review the game today I would give it a high 6, low 7 (out of 10). I would be considered an idiot by most. Here I give a game like The Last of Us a 10, yet a game with more content, more replay value, and an expanded multiplayer feature is given a lesser score? It’s just my preference.
Do we have an obligation to be lenient on blockbuster games? No. Do we show that? Not always.