Retrospective Look At Games I Was Too Lenient On, And Too Harsh On
I have to be honest and say that it’s not often I feel I was a little off in my verdict of a game. Most of the reviews I’ve done in the last four or five years, in other words my entire gaming journalism or writing career, I still stand with completely today. However, as always in life, you’re always going to second guess something you did or said in the past at one point or another, or because hindsight is perfect sight, you’ll realise you would do something differently if you had the chance today. After feeling nostalgic one afternoon, I took a look at the games I’ve reviewed, and while sort of having the idea for this feature, I realised there are a handful of games that I would go back and slap past Azhar for either being too lenient, or too harsh. Care to venture a guess as to which games are in this list?
Note that with the exception of the games in this feature, I pretty much still stand by every other review I’ve written to the letter, and even these games I don’t feel I was wrong in my assessment, but rather I feel differently now that I’m older and wiser and more experienced. Or perhaps not wiser, just more evil.
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Considering how people either enjoy or make a joke out of my rages, let’s first take a look at the games that I feel I was too lenient on in my reviews. Four years of history here folks.
Games I Was Too Lenient On
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
I must have been having an overly good day when I reviewed this game, or my soft spot for Star Wars was kicking in, because back when we had a rating system, I gave it Passable. That’s dead average, but a few ways down the road I felt that I should have given it one or two tiers below that rating. It brought almost nothing to the table after the first game, and was so short, around five hours, that it basically amounted to one hundred bucks per hour of gaming, which is a complete rip off as the gaming you were getting was by no means high quality. The story was poor, the production values significantly dropped from the first game, the gameplay near identical to the first, far worse boss fights and zero high points. Sure, the game had some redeeming qualities, and wasn’t terrible, but it deserved worse.
Crysis 2 is the game that I liked less and less as time went by, and as I played more of the original Crysis, one of my favourite games of all time. I was far too forgiving on this game, perhaps still clutching at my love for the first game. The expansive open world freedom from the first game was reduced to congested, boring and linear city streets, the suit was far less powerful, there were some questionable design choices, the physics had been taken out (except for cutscenes), the AI was terrible, the story was quite bad, and the game very limited. This felt much more like a tech demo than an actual game. The original Crysis was a surprise hit with a lot more fantastic gameplay on top of showing off how damn pretty it was, whereas Crysis 2 opted only for the latter. And even that didn’t quite work out for me, because while the game was technically impressive, art direction plays a massive part in a game’s visual appeal and memorability, and Crysis 2 was as drab and forgettable as they came. Again, it wasn’t all bad, as it had its moments, the multiplayer was pretty fun, and it had high production values, but I think I was a bit too soft in calling it decent rather than mediocre or average.
I adored Killzone 2, as it was an absolutely outstanding game that impressed in many ways, and had an addictive and awesome multiplayer component to boot. Killzone 3 was then naturally a game I was highly excited for. And honestly, it was a great game, just not as good as Killzone 2 and I feel that perhaps I rated it more highly than I should have. The simple reason is because the multiplayer component, a huge part of what Killzone is about, didn’t quite live up to being better than Killzone 2’s mode, and the single player had a few shortcomings. I still believe it was definitely a great game, but perhaps not an outstanding one. I don’t particularly believe that anyone who loved Killzone 2 wouldn’t find Killzone 3 fantastic as well, but I do admit I may have praised it a bit too much.
Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII is perhaps one of the most bizarre games I’ve ever played, and resulted in one of the strangest reviews I’ve ever written. A review where I started by admitting I simply could not finish this game, proceeding to be absolutely honest about why, and then saying that the game felt like an acquired taste and I just wasn’t the one for it. Now, I still stand by everything I said in my review, but on reflection I felt that I was wrong to put the blame mostly on myself for not being able to enjoy the game. Final Fantasy XIII was neither a JRPG, nor an RPG, nor an action game. I still struggle to figure out what it was beyond a tech demo, and try to wrap my head around the fact that it required twenty hours to start, or open up. Not even Assassin’s Creed III was that terribly paced. Bloated, unnecessarily and excruciatingly slow and boring, and no manner of combat or tactical depth until well over twenty hours into the game, Final Fantasy XIII had neither direction nor purpose. I could go on, but for the sake of sticking to the point, I felt that I was much too lenient on this game. Maybe I’ve just become more evil.
Dragon Age II
What would a topic like this for me be without the famous Dragon Age II? Our review of it contained verdicts from both myself and Caveshen, who wrote the full review while I proposed a secondary opinion. Despite how recent history has shown my, well some what call it dire hatred of this title, back then I actually just settled for calling it mediocre. The problem with Dragon Age II was that it released at a barren time for RPGs, and it was only much later in the year that Deus Ex: Human Revolution, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dark Souls released. Had it been among those fish, I fear it would have been far more harshly evaluated. Or rather, I still maintain the strong belief that if Dragon Age II was just a random game called The Adventures of Hawke or something, and had not been a sequel to the fantastic Dragon Age: Origins and had BioWare’s pedigree, critics would have had zero tolerance for it. By now everyone who has read a comment or article where I’ve bashed Dragon Age II knows every reason I hate it, so I won’t go back there, but my disliking for this game grew substantially over time, and still today it’s one of the worst RPGs I’ve played in recent years.
Games I Was Too Harsh On
It’s time that I ate some humble pie for this one, because I really do believe that I was too harsh on Vigil Games’ Darksiders in my review of it. I do not believe that it was a great game or even a good one, but I certainly don’t believe it was as bad as I said it was. I would call it alright. I still feel the pacing was too slow, the gameplay was far too shallow, it was too long-winded and ran out of steam before its end, and it didn’t do enough to make an identity for itself, but I do regret the fact that I didn’t give it enough credit for making a wide variety of awesome elements from other games actually work together. At absolute best I would rate the two Darksiders games as being decent and not much more, but I feel I was too harsh on this one, especially given that it was the studio’s first game and effort was made.
SOCOM 4: Special Forces
I stand by nearly everything I said in my review of this game, but the one area I feel I was much too harsh was on the multiplayer component of this game. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I made it out to be, and while I do feel it didn’t have longevity, it did provide a good sense of entertainment and was varied enough to be enticing. That’s really all I can say about this game, as its biggest failing was alienating its core audience. For a game that had always been for a hardcore crowd, it was typical business practice to try and expand to a causal audience and thus try to imitate other popular shooters while doing so, undermining the elements that made the series great in the first place. It wasn’t a good game, but it wasn’t an overly terrible one either. To that end, I do feel my verdict could have been better delivered.
In the moment you can be rash and too hasty. Or rather, in hindsight things are crystal clear, after you’ve had time to reflect. While I am pleased that it’s only a handful of games in all my years of reviewing that I would give a different verdict for today, and even happier that my opinion wouldn’t drastically differ, I do admit that it’s not a nice feeling to think you could have done a much better job at something that is your passion, where you set really high standards for yourself. If anything, it’s a lesson in maintaining objectivity as much as possible, and taking a look from the outside in, avoiding getting too close. You need a clear head really.
However, I feel the most important thing is just remaining absolutely honest, and not letting your verdict be swayed by mercy, love or loyalty to any publisher, developer or game series, or other peoples’ opinions. I probably have one of, if not the only harsh review of Max Payne 3 for example, but I’ll stand by every word of it. That doesn’t mean ignore everything else or believe that you are the only one who is right, but I do believe in having a spine and the ability to say where you believe you are right and wrong. As long as you can justify yourself in a reasonable way.
Opinions can change, so it’s also important to, once in a while, evaluate what you believe and reflect on what you used to believe, so that you can grow as a person.