Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Loser Score.

Right, I'm meant to be doing college work right now so I'm going to make this damn quick.

Modern Warfare 3 came out the other day. I've yet to play it but I've watched and read some reviews and it's looking like a fine game. Infinity Ward (or whatever is left of it) and Sledgehammer didn't do much with the formula, rather sticking with the what's worked for them this far. I have no doubt that it's a decent game. No it doesn't innovate, no it doesn't change the rules, but it's still a decent game.

When Modern Warfare 2 released, expectations were high. Call of Duty 4 had made a big splash when it released in 2007, snuffing the trend of WWII shooters and instead setting the action in modern day (that's right, there was a time when that was new). Everyone adored CoD4. It was fun and original, it took risks and made no apologies. When Modern Warfare 2 came out . . . I don't know what people actually expected, but it apparently disappointed. I myself purchased the game on the morning of release and had a very good time with it. I even got the Platinum trophy. But wherever I looked online, people were bashing it, even people who were well known for playing it on YouTube. Perhaps it had something to do with dedicated servers, maybe it was the new multiplayer features. Either way, much of the gaming public felt somewhat wronged. Not in a way that a game developer had messed up on them, but instead as if Bobby Kotick walked into their house, poured sour milk on their bed and then punched their new kitten in the nose. So they bitched and moaned, they made little groups called "I'm never going to buy another Call of Duty game" and "Boycott Activision" and blah blah blah blah. But that wasn't all they did . . .

For those who don't know, Metacritic is a site that aggregates review scores for things such as games and films. If a new game comes out and IGN gives it a ten and Gamespot gives it a five (more possible than you think), Metacritic will give it an average score of seventy five. Simple. On the page there is a separate score for user ratings. People are welcome to sign on to the site and write their own review of the product with their own score out of ten. The user scores are then also aggregated into an easy-to-read score for people who don't fully trust the opinions of professional reviewers.

You may see where I'm about to go with this. When Modern Warfare 2 was unleashed onto the world, reviews were very positive. Sites and magazines applauded Infinity Ward for making yet another solid shooter with an exciting story and colourful characters. I really enjoyed the game, it had me riveted from start to finish. Was it perfect? Hell to the no. The story seemed to be dictated by the missions rather than the other way 'round and it didn't have a bunch of depth. It was an eight out of ten game and I've never regretted the purchase. When I went to take a look at how it was doing on Metacritic, I was both disappointed and irritated. Many, many supposed gamers had taken to the site to voice their opinions on the game. Some left long, almost reasonable posts about how the game doesn't do anything that impressed them while others were just being honest, saying "I'm just rating it low to drop the average". In the end the User Average sat at around three out of ten while the Review Average was in the nine area. I played that game, it wasn't a three. It may not have been a nine but it certainly wasn't a three. Now the same has happened with Modern Warfare 3. At the minute I think the User Score is in the two ballpark. I haven't played the game yet but I know it's better than that, which means someone is essentially trolling the ratings. It's gotten to the point at which developers are asking people on Twitter to go and give their honest opinions of the game. These of course being the people that worked incredibly hard to make this game, giving up time to see their family and friends, working seven days per week. We've all heard stories about how Activision operates, those studios work damn hard.

So, I think this is ridiculous. A grim illustration of just how childish gamers can be these days. When you give a dodgy score for anything it corrupts the whole average. It's a sad way to spend your time. If you want to be annoyed then vote with your wallets, or write directly to Activision or whatever, just do something a little more mature than throwing your toys out of your pram on the internet. Posting a deliberately inaccurate score on a very reputable website says way more about you than it ever will about a game. It's days like this that make me cringe when I tell people that I play video games.

Oh, and all those people who boycotted Modern Warfare 2 . . .

Thursday, 3 November 2011

So About That Grand Theft Auto V Trailer.

Right, for those who haven't been online in the last week or two, Rockstar have announced GTAV (shocker, right?) and dropped a trailer on us. You can find it here. Essentially the trailer tells us that it's going to be set in San Andreas and in modern day. That's the two big questions answered. After watching the trailer a couple of times I have a few more speculations:
  • There'll be multiple playable characters.
  • Animals will feature (that one is pretty much fact).
  • The city will have sparse, open areas akin to Red Dead Redemption.
  • Planes are flyable.
  • There'll be a property market system.
  • Players will be able to exercise (like in GTA: San Andreas).
  • There'll be multiple playable characters.
  • Golf will be a minigame.
  • Players can ride jet skies (again, fact).
  • Convertible cars have been added.
  • Silenced weapons are now usable.  
So it's around here that I'll say that I really liked GTA IV. I thought that it had struck the perfect balance between levity and a serious story about loyalty, revenge and redemption. Graphically it had my jaw on the floor and I felt the new gameplay mechanics were an excellent evolution from the PS2 series. I believe that using an immigrant from Eastern Europe was a brave and rewarding touch to a story that really held onto me until the final act. One of my favourite things about the game was that it had taken a little step back from the, arguably, somewhat bloated San Andreas. Gone were the routine trips to the gym, underwater collectables and burglary mini games. What does any of this have to do with the trailer you've just watched? Well, I worry that that seems to be the place that the series is heading to again. Property markets, sporty minigames, bodybuilding, haven't we been here before? Shall I look forward to tattoos, customisable cars and driving tests in the next one?

Don't get me wrong, I'm damn glad we're still in modern times here. I know everyone loved Vice City, it was great, reminded them of when they were kids. But it's nearly ten years since those days and players are very much living in the here and now. Nostalgia will sell a lot of games but it sadly it doesn't last forever. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of this new city. Red Dead Redemption gave me a taste for the countryside so I can't wait to nab a truck and make my way up the mountains. San Andreas on the PS2 was massive and I've little doubt they'll be aiming for something similar this time 'round. The multiple playable characters possibility is also very intriguing, opening up a bunch of story possibilities which, let's face it, the series could do with. If Rockstar can skip the whole "I was a bad guy, I wanted to stop being a bad guy, but then I kept being a bad guy" gig for just one game I'll be delighted. Graphically the game looks like it's taken a serious leap forward, and as I mentioned before GTA IV was no slouch. From what I can see they're still working off the same engine but there appears to be way more by way of props and lighting techniques. I think they'd do well to really make an engaging story this time that isn't all that predictable. It's not too much to ask really, in this day and age. I know this game will be good, they've got to grips with the PS3/360 tech now so they've room to experiment, so surprise us! I just hope that, instead of adding on cumbersome bells and whistles, they instead make a solid game with an engaging story, a world with more life than what we've become used to and some new and unpredictable features.

Oh and one more thing, Rockstar announced this game on a regular weekday and then released a trailer just over a week later. They didn't tease it for months, drop hints in magazines or even wait for a big stage show. No, one day there was no GTAV and then the next day there was. I fully applaud Rockstar and Take Two for this. I look forward to E3 as much as any partially closeted nerd but it's really refreshing to see a big publisher just fire out something to get people excited on what seems to be a fairly unspectacular day. Uncharted 3 did a much similar thing last year and it was excellent. Now if Rockstar wanna follow suit and have GTAV out within the next twelve months there'll be no complaints from this guy.