What would we ever do without video game reviewers. Seriously, have you ever thought about what we would do if there were no reviewers? While normal people would say "We would never know which games were good and which were bad", we the real "internet people" know what would really happen, console wars would be a lot less bloody on the forums.
Lets face it, one of the main reasons we hunt down reviews of new games is so that we can compare it against games we love or hate. While these reviewers work hard to find a way to put ten hours of a video game experience into just a couple of paragraphs, we just look at the score and quickly post the link on the forums and claim victory. I have turned into such a terrible person that I don't even bother to read the reviews, I simply check if they have a video review or not, if they don't, then I just look at the score and tuck it away into my mind, waiting for an unsuspecting forum troll.
Some of the most eloquent members of our community always accuse reviewers of being biased, whether towards a particular franchise or a console. Whether they give a good or a bad review, reviewers just cant seem to win these days. The funny thing is, a single video game review does not make or break a game. There is not yet a video game website or magazine, that has so much influence in the world, that their reviews can sell a million copies. That power, still rests with the almighty advertising industry. Therefore, it is asinine to think that a video game publisher is paying off someone to write a good review.
What you call "bias", I call "point of view". While many judge games very harshly, others may be more forgiving. When I look at a game and try to say whether it was good or bad, I look at what it was trying to achieve. I try to look at how the creators wanted me the experience this game. Nowadays games have become to complex that it is impossible to classify them in just one genre, because many try to add elements of a different genre into the game.
Try to look at how the developers wanted you to experience the game. Did they want to tell you a more grounded and deep story? or did they try to give you different tools so you can have fun on your own? Did they want to make you feel like a indestructible bionic man? or did they want you to make you feel like a helpless man who must survive against the odds? These different experiences has made it hard to even compare games withing the same genre. Games like Thief, Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid may be similar in theory, but practically they are very different. Of course we must not forget that the game must be fun, and be without game-breaking glitches or bugs.
Reviews tend to be subjective, it does not mean that the reviewer has been paid off or is bad at what he does. Lets take GTA 4 as an example, while many people have loved the game, others were not fond of the serious tone of this iteration. Even the reviewers themselves were divided, and many have said that if it were up to them, GTA 4 would not have gotten a near-perfect score. So we can see that while one reviewer was impressed by the story and the relationship with the different characters, others felt alienated by the fact that you didn't have more wacky things to do in the sandbox. While both points are valid, its up to you to decide which one you will heed.
Whether through a podcast or an older review, you can get to know the reviewers, you can tell whether he is highly critical or tries to look at the bright side of games, whether he is content with the game if it has cute characters, or bitches about level design if two levels have the same shade of brown. No one can or should tell you what you must enjoy, if you enjoyed Killzone, Haze or Too Human, then I am happy for you, just don't expect me to like them as well. I have seen many people enjoy games which I hated, games which are filled with bugs and a bland storyline, but I have also seen many ignore and hate good games, just because it didn't give them the same experience they are used to from a game.
I can appreciate the long cut-scenes in Metal Gear Solid 4, while also have fun with the cliched characters and over-the-top violence of Gears of War, but I wont stand for buggy or stupid AI. At the end of the day, if you enjoy your game, then you shouldn't have to justify it to anyone, whether he is a 12 year old in the forums, or a 10 year video game industry veteran.
Video game makers and their customers have always had a special relationship. The kind of relationship that makes you go all fuzzy inside after having a hot chocolate beside a fireplace in a cold winter night. Let me start this again, the first game I ever played was Aladdin for the Sega console, the interesting part is that I played it on my computer. For as long as I can remember, I have bought games for the PC with as little as $1 a disk. I lived in a third world country and was 10 years old, and therefore quite naive.
For a long time I excused my behavior by telling myself that the game developers had plenty of money, they would survive in their pools of cash. Just six months ago, I had over 100 PC games and 52 PS2 games. Not one of them original, and the total cost was less than $200.
Only recently have I learned about how piracy is hurting the market. Making developers like Crytek think about branching out to develop for console because their games are illegally downloaded more than a million times on torrents.
I understand that developers go through a lot of trouble to create an IP, they should be entitled to earn money off of it, and so they put in ridiculous amounts of DRM software to restrict people from pirating it. Problem is, the DRM only affects the people who legally paid money to buy the game, it doesn't do anything to stop piracy.
I remember when Half Life 2 was released, my friends were so excited to play the game, I wasn't so hyped because I wasn't familiar with the Half Life games. While the paid customers had to jump through some hoops, all they had to do was copy a crack file and play it without the CD. However, the crack itself wasn't properly done, after 24 hours of installation, all the AI characters would freeze. That was it, they would simply freeze, no moving, no shooting, no talking. Fortunately for my friends, all they had to do was change the date on their PCs to the day the game was installed, they had to do this every single time they wanted to play the game.
The second time I noticed a hitch in the crack files, was when I tried to play Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on the PC. Prior to this game, we had to copy the entire image and a tiny software from the CD. The software "hid" the emulation software and let us play the game, this worked with games like Path of Neo and Advent Rising, two game I still remember being fun.
After Chaos Theory was released, all hell broke lose in our tiny little world. Starforce was a software which no emulation can "hide" from, our disks wouldn't run and we were pretty angry and sad that we couldn't play this game that we were waiting for. A couple of weeks later, the new Prince of Persia (The Two Thrones) was released, same copy protection, same problems. It took us only days to find out how to finally play the damn things.
We had to keep only one emulated disk drive on our PC, we had to keep the CD image on our hard disk, and in order to run the game, we would have to disconnect the cable which connected the CD ROM with the Motherboard. It was pretty risky to regularly connect and disconnect that cable, but I still did it, the games were worth it. We were willing to go to desperate lengths or wait months, to play this game.Now its simply a copy and paste of the crack file, we no longer need to connect and disconnect the CD ROM in order to play a game with Starforce.
If these experiences have taught me anything, it is that no matter how hard publishers and developers try, it is very hard to make any game "Uncrackable". Sooner or later, someone is going to find a way to get around your DRM software and release it in the torrents, its a shame but currently there is no solid way to combat that. Even the current generation of consoles aren't safe. Games like GTA 4 and Gears of War 2 were released on the torrents weeks before they were released on the store shelves.
I am not a software pirate, I don't know how to code and if I did, I would probably make "Puzzle! Puzzle! Puzzle!" instead of trying to screw over developers. I am just a consumer, and as much as I want developers to get the money that is due to them, I cant help but think how many people are forced to jump through some unnecessary hoops just to play the game that they paid for.
I am at a point in my life that I can pay full price for a game, whether its on the console or on the PC. Even though I could download Spore in less than a couple of hours, I would be glad to pay for a retail copy (if my damn computer could run it). Sure DRM isn't a big factor for me, worst comes to worst I could just buy the game and then download a cracked one, but many people are frustrated with DRM. Frustrated to the point where they would illegally download the game just to stick it to the publisher, and I somewhat sympathize with them. When I buy a game, I should be able to install it as many times as I want, not five times, not seven times, but as much as I want, I should be able to play the game without being logged on to the internet, its as simple as that.
THE RESULTS OF PIRACY
Publishers need to understand, that releasing a game with heavy DRM generates more outcry from the consumers than releasing a game with no DRM. Your rock solid mammoth DRM software may be able to keep pirates at bay for a couple of days, but with time, people will find a way to get around it, and all that negative goodwill, all the time spent on trying to justify your DRM would have been for nothing. Which is why I salute all those publishers and developers who release games with no DRM software, they have faith that the quality of their game would encourage people to buy the original, and I know that if I could, I would buy original copies of all the games I had enjoyed before. I know the good one are worth every penny I spend on them.
Still there are some "heroes" among the gaming community, who have been able to piss off the software pirates with their weird solution for DRM. Assassins Creed was on sale for the PC in my country before it was legally released, problem was at a crucial point in the game, the game would just simple freeze and return to the desktop. It pissed off several of my friends who thought the problem was their PCs instead of the buggy version of the game. It was wonderful to laugh at all of them, because I knew Ubisoft was laughing as well. I could get behind these weird solutions to battle piracy, just don't punish your customer for following all the rules.
**The author has been piracy free since July 2008, he currently lives in one of the Best Cities in the world and has a healthy collection of PS3 games. He bought Warhammer Online legitimately and was proud of his purchase. The rest he gets from Gamefly.
Killzone 2 is coming out in a couple of weeks, and I am very excited for it. Lets get the obvious out of the way. I remember the E3 2005 cut scenes, I remember watching those cut scenes and saying to myself "There's no way this is real". I was proved right and was forced to be banished to the corner, waiting till the day when we see the real "in game" footage of Killzone 2.
So far, it looks great. Whether its on the various podcasts or "The 1up Show", I keep hearing about the great graphics of Killzone 2 and I gotta say, I am hyped to the max for this game. I would probably go to the 12 o'clock midnight launch if I could but, I am trying to stay grounded. Guerrilla Games doesn't exactly have the best legacy. I believe "cautiously optimistic" is the word I am looking for.
I don't expect Killzone 2 to reinvent the FPS genre. I don't expect it to have a broad and engaging story or revolutionize online multiplayer experience. I expect it to be fun, I expect to put it on and have a blast whether I'm playing the Single Player campaign, or "PWNING N00BS" online. If Killzone 2 can keep me happy in those areas, my $60 would not have been spent in vain.
People expect it to be a "Halo Killer", giving it a label and try to make it something its not. Perhaps it wont sell as much as Halo 3 did, would that make it a bad game? It probably wont sell millions of Playstation consoles, would that make it a bad console? I boggles me how people judge a quality of a game, or of a future game, by the number of units they sell. But thats going off topic, I dont expect Killzone 2 to be the "killer app" and I dont expect it to sell 2-3 million units in the first month. That is a feat best achieved by Wii Fit and Halo 3 and Gears of War.
So, lets stay a little grounded, and if this is a good game, I hope people buy a Playstation 3 to enjoy it. A good game deserves to be shared with as much people as possible. If it is a bad game though, I would be one of the first guy to write angry letter to Guerrilla and start an internet petition. We all know how effective those are.
I feel so happy for those children who, along with their parents sat down to watch the Spike Video Game Awards together. What a wonderful way for families to bond together, watching Jack Black perform sexual acts on the Xbox 360 AND the Playstation 3, he isn't into JUST ONE console, because he is no fanboy, just really really weird. Not to be outdone, the man came back dressed in an underwear, because what says "TEH AWESOMEZ" better than a man in an underwear.
As the night went on, I was aware of how all of this spectacle in no way properly honored the games and the video game makers that have worked so hard to make our little community more mainstream. Throughout the show, I was laughing, mainly AT them and crying on the inside. I wondered what people like Kim Kardashian and super models and other "celebrities" had anything to do with video games. Where was Michael Hollick? or Jason Zumwalt, I wanted to see some more Niko and Roman Bellic. But alas, all I would get is Kevin James skit. I also wanted to see Miyamoto play Wii Music onstage and being boo-ed off, but that's just a silly dream. If you can have a "Best Shooter" and a "Best RPG" catagory and nominate Wii Music for best Music game, why is there no "Best Survival Horror Game" or "Best New Retro Game"?
I couldn't help but think how these guys
have more talent than most of the "artists" onstage, and how they could have been more relevant. But I don't plan TV shows, no one wants to watch an award show where people just get up on stage and thank "the fans" and "the people back home" who made their dreams possible. That wouldn't have gotten as many viewers as it did, but it probably wouldn't have given me nightmares about Jack Black fornicating with my beloved consoles. Thank you writers for creating a small piece of video game history, now whenever someone talks about video games in the mainstream media, the "Jack Black Console Orgy" clip is just a click away.
I watched the "Awards" primarily for the Exclusive trailers, I wanted to see what Kratos and Nathan Drake were up to. Those trailers, Will Wright and Tim "Freakin" Schafer were probably the high point of the show. Perhaps we may never get a decent video game awards show, certainly not in Spike, where the best programs are "Manswers" and "Cheaters". But if ordinary people can create funny shows like "Mega 64" and "Hey Ash Watcha Playin" then why cant professional people create a decent award show? It was a slap in the face of Gametrailers TV, which actually is a pretty good TV show on video games.
Perhaps we can never have a decent Video Game Awards Show on TV, maybe we are forever banished on the internet, going from site to site, to look at their Video Game awards. But I do take away one good thing from this show, one positive experience. At least it wasn't as bad as the Emmys.