Booing Before the Star Arrives On Stage.

I thought this might come off as a cheap shot, but then I remembered how bad Sonic 4 Episode 2 was...

In stark contrast to my last soapbox piece, I also feel the need to be the one to warn people of proclaiming somethings worth before you’ve even tried it. Resident Evil 6 is being touted as this years “Worst Game”, and yet – from the demo I tried – I can name a dozen worse games I’ve actually played through this year…

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Not all criticisms are valid.

It’s a case of Animal Farm in reverse really, some are not equal – and some are less equal than others. When passions run high and there is a larger fanbase, the changes and attempts to keep something running in an era where its original gameplay wasn’t enough can prove divisive at best. People should feel impassioned over their favourite series and titles. That’s a good thing. We should all want and demand better than we’re getting – this year especially, where we’ve certainly been put through the wringer.

And yet, sometimes I fear we go overboard with this passion. The sentiment goes sour, and constructive criticism makes way for destructive insults. Rather than be objective and sensible, we become a mass of rabid fury over the most inane and harmless of things.

This puts the games industry at something of a disadvantage – there’s no way to please everyone, and sometimes no way to please even half of your potential sales base. But to get better, criticism and feedback needs to focus more on what is factually wrong, and less of what can be simply down to opinion and hearsay.

Resident Evil 6, as I mentioned in my intro, is one of those games that everyone touts as potentially being “2012’s Worst Game of the Year”. That’s a big statement and it’s yet to be seen if it manages to live up to those extraordinarily low expectations. However, I played the demo – as did a lot of you. And if I’m going to be fair – it was okay. Yes, there were some graphical glitches, the UI is terrible and there’s a pervading sense of predictability to it now that is hard to shake off. But compared to some games I have played this year, it was actually not bad. Not great, mind you, but a lot more accomplished in that demo than the single player campaign of Resident Evil 5 felt in its entirety.

Yes, I’d have expected the Resident Evil 6 demo to be better. It SHOULD be better. But it’s not “shit”, as many claim. I’ve played some truly dire games this year. The Resident Evil 6 demo was some way from those dark depths. This year has been a truly stark wake-up call when it comes to quality, as there have been some terrible, unforgivable gaming experiences.

For example, Bloodforge was an example of trying to be something it could never realistically attain. There is validity in trying to be God of War – Lords of Shadow at least got more than half of its attempts to jack that franchise off with some polish – but there’s a point where you just miss everything else. Shallow, vague, fiddly and with a camera that made combat unwieldy and cumbersome, it was a very bad game. Pretty, but pretty sadly isn’t enough in this day and age to save something of this quality – and it was only pretty when the camera deigned to actually show you the prettiness of it all. An action brawler of this type needs to be about control and awareness – and these two fundamentals were noticeably absent from Bloodforge. This is how a bad game happens – by focusing on what you want to be, without actually learning anything about the genre itself and missing the mark by a considerable difference. On the surface, it looks fine. The reality is so very different.

And what of Silent Hill: Downpour – a game that was long awaited and felt like the same tired old mess of issues we’ve been complaining about for years? There’s a genuine point to be made here about learning from the criticisms of the past, and Downpour does at least try in some capacity to fix the control issues – not very well, I grant you, but it tries. And then it falls into more or less the same pattern as has been endlessly repeated the past few years – a weak plot, pointless combat, enemies that are so cartoon-like and badly designed that it is almost comical rather than horrific. Couple this with the side-quests system, which was padding for a game that was clearly a bit too short, and necessary to do if you wanted a good ending (conversely, a good ending also requires not killing enemies. I know, the very things trying to gnaw your face off need to be spared to get a good ending! It’s hilariously nonsensical!) and you have a game that just feels half-baked. It wasn’t scary, tense or interesting in the slightest. I applaud it for not being a buggy mess, but that’s about the only applause it will get from me – it just isn’t good enough, not by any stretch of the imagination.

And then you come to the likes of Ridge Racer Vita and Ninja Gaiden 3. Both were stripped down versions of very complex, richly nuanced past titles. But it is the very fact the past titles were complex, richly nuanced and required some time to learn to get to grips with that gave them such passionate, loyal, vocal fans. Strip away the veil of complex mechanics, difficulty and nuanced storytelling and progression and what you end up with are two games which essentially only play to the most base cliches of their respective genres. I sometimes say the foundations are important, but foundations are nothing without something to visualise on top. When you have seen the fantastic building of the past, and then you come back for a third or fourth pass to find someone has knocked it all down so more people can see the view around and behind it – it doesn’t make sense. The building WAS THE SHOW. People wanted to see it. It was the star. Without that brick and mortar structure around it, all you have is an empty space and an expensive clean-up job ahead of you. Without substance, all Ridge Racer Vita and Ninja Gaiden 3 had to show for themselves were some pretty predictable and tired cliches that just could never attain any kind of greatness. You destroy a gaming behemoth for the sake of “accessibility”, why not install tutorials as disabled access? Or easy modes? Why destroy everything that was good about a game in the vain hope others will like it more? It is, quite frankly, ludicrously dumb.

I could go on. So I shall.

* Game of Thrones was rushed, buggy, ugly and not very good as an RPG. Badly designed and badly coded considering the problems it came with, it was just a wasted opportunity by far.
* Orion: Dino Beatdown was just way out of its depth. I’d slam it, but I can’t. I pity it. I feel so sorry for it. I feel bad that it couldn’t be a good game.
* Battleship, oh dear. They tried to throw in some of the actual battleship game – but inside a generic, boring, cliche, predictable and sad looking action game.
* Kinect Star Wars is… well… come on. Do we REALLY need to explain this?
* Diablo 3 – no, it’s not a bad game. But the fact Blizzard can’t keep their bloody hands off it still makes it unpredictable and renders a lot of playtime and effort utterly fruitless.
* Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, and how the fuck you cock up a platform adventure this bad is a travesty! No wait…
* Sonic 4 Episode 2 – this is how you cock up a platformer. Mind you, to expect any less from Sonic Team these days…
* Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat – well, it’s got some pedigree, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible…
* Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare, you may not have heard of it. Just trust me on this and now forget you ever heard of it.
* Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor is exactly the same. Trust me, forget it, don’t go near it please oh my dear giddy aunt no don’t put yourself through this!

My point here is 2012 comes replete with plenty of shocking, bad games. And good games where truly bad decisions are made after its release (I forgot to mention The Old Republic going free to play, but part of me feels that was an obvious inevitability and the other part of me thinks – meh, it was actually released last year so it doesn’t count). There is plenty there to complain about, to lambast and get worked up over, to genuinely revile and be taken aback by how revolting they are.

Resident Evil 6 may still prove to be a terrible game. I will be the first to say if it is – remember, my judge stick is still set at Resident Evil 4 for the series, an impossibly high yardstick that truly will be hard to overcome. I don’t expect Resident Evil 6 to even get near it either. But if it really, genuinely ends up the worst game of the year – the demo was misleading, and Capcom should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. There’s such a strong field of awful this year that to win out against it will take a game of truly apocalyptic proportions.

And yes, I will concede with others Resident Evil 6 – and the demo – should be better than I think we’re all expecting it to be. Not that it will be, but it should be better. Because Capcom have proven with Dragon’s Dogma that they CAN do some great games still, and that there is some magic still there that can deliver quality and quantity. Resident Evil 6 has been a long time coming as well – I agree there’s no excuse for it to not be great.

But that doesn’t mean because we don’t like what we’ve seen or heard so far, that we can proclaim it as “shit”. That’s not fair, at least not yet. With so much plentiful horse manure out there to be burning from the face of the planet, I genuinely can’t see what it is about Resident Evil 6 that has people so convinced it will be so utterly terrible. Go out and play some of the other games I’ve mentioned, and then tell me Resident Evil 6 is “shit”. I assure you, you will change your mind. Although I take no responsibility for you wasting your money on these games.

Sure, Resident Evil 6 may not change the world. But it’s unlikely to be truly as dire as Gettysburg or Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. With this said, not being as good as it could be does not make a game in any way, shape or form terrible, or dire, or shit.

It just means it is what it is.

I love that as gamers we’re passionate and vocal, but in this I think we’ve also become a hindrance to the industry as well as a strength. We, as individuals, are afraid of change. Afraid of progress. And we’re stubborn as mules when it comes to changing our opinions – some even arguing when it has been proven they are wrong in every single regard. Not all change is good – heck, I’ve mentioned some already in this rant – but they did, I guess, at least try. Missing the point, yes, but trying to change. Not every evolution can be successful. Not every mutation can serve a purpose. That’s just how the world is, and how the world will always be.

We need to relax, and just let something have the space it needs to develop. There’s a lot of expectation on Resident Evil 6. A lot of hopes and dreams riding on it. But there’s still plenty of time for it to calm down and compose itself to be more clear on the stage.

We’re booing before the attraction even gets onto the stage.

And that’s just rude.

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