18 July 2011

AAA Titles and Below

So there seems to be a problem with the game grading system. Everybody knows it, yet it still hasn't been fixed. Watch this for a great video that touches on the topic: http://bit.ly/lDVNnW. It seems that, although payoffs are getting less frequent, fear is still inside of the industry. AAA titles get away with murder of the genre without even a glance from any critics or reviewers. But what about games that are published by lesser known companies, or possibly have a lower budget? I'm a big fan of Official XBOX Magazine, being mostly an XBOX gamer. But their reviews are no better than any other online company.

Let's look at two titles, shall we? Halo Reach: http://bit.ly/pW94Il. Brink: http://bit.ly/n0t7Wr. Now looking at these games, we can see major differences. Sure, Halo is probably undisputedly the better game, but there are similar problems. Let's start with single player. Single player in both games is painstakingly annoying. In both, the enemies are a lot smarter than friends. Many times in Halo: Reach, the marines, ODST, or SPARTANS would just stand around and complain about being shot, as if I was supposed to be, dare I say his name, Master Chief. I'm not a one man team. I am noble SIX out of SIX, and evidently specialize in being everybody's bitch.

Now let's look at Brink. Where should I start? Brink was a great concept, and I'll still defend that. Sure I sold it back to Gamestop for ten dollars, but that doesn't mean it didn't have its moments. The story wasn't very creative, but it was substantial enough for a game based around multiplayer. The real problem occurs when the multiplayer does nothing different. Halo may take its maps from campaign, but they don't copy and paste. But what did OXM complain about with Brink? "Atrocious A.I." What's different about this A.I. and the A.I. in Halo? Oh, right. Everyone has the same amount of health. At least Brink tries to be fair by offering enemies who can't resist damage like they're wearing twenty meter thick, bulletproof armor. Sure your teammates forget that there's an overall objective, and run by enemies sometimes, but at the end of the day, you CAN do most of this alone. Along with having multiple classes with specialized abilities? Sign me up.

Another complaint about Brink was its "pointless story". Reach had a good story, sure -- especially for a Halo game. There was character development, beautifully rendered cutscenes, and substance. Brink had a story that, despite being ridiculous and slightly overused, offered two separate play throughs. But to call Brink's story pointless would also be to call most stories pointless. Brinks story was more overshadowed due to the story being incorporated into multiplayer, but it was not at all pointless. Reach's story really touched some, while it left others slightly offset. A story that portrays a character as being bad ass should have a bad ass character. The ending sequence, showing the death of Noble Six doesn't really do much because he could do things that even I couldn't do. While the ending level was a great concept - giving an impossible objective that would lead to the ending sequence, playing on legendary just wasn't the same as watching the story. Cutscenes that show my character punching an Elite once for a kill, while in-game it took about four hits just ultimately shows a detachment from game to story. So to call a story that is integrated into the gameplay pointless and not call a story that separates gameplay and storyline is just a tad bit ridiculous.

The final negative I can compare between the two in the reviews is "objectives offer little variety". This I can agree with. Perhaps if there were slayer matches, or if the development team went the extra mile to really add something new to the multiplayer it would have been fine. As it happens, the multiplayer element fell short -- way short. Brink fails to deliver anything memorable from multiplayer because multiplayer and campaign are the same thing. In that respect, OXM is right. Although Halo uses portions from its campaign maps, they expand upon those portions, catering them to multiplayer. Halo's one saving grace is that the multiplayer is separate from the matchmaking, and it has support from the team to update the maps, add new maps, add new game types, and so forth. Overall though, it's an addictive multiplayer experience, but it can feel a bit repetitive at times.

Now, I'm not saying Halo: Reach is horrible. I play it almost every night. I'm not saying Brink deserves a better score. A 4.5 is what it received, and that seems pretty fair given all of the bugs. There is certainly a large amount of other problems that contributed to the bad rating. But let's rethink Halo: Reach's score. Did it really deserve a 9.5? No. It isn't an insanely flawed game, but it certainly isn't near flawless. If we're ever to fix the rating system, we mustn't be afraid to tell the developers what they need to hear. You dun goofed. Maybe if developers learn what they did wrong, instead of being praised only for what they've done right, we'd all be better off for it. I'm a fan of a 100% rating system, and am not afraid to say that Halo: Reach can get no better than an 87% from me. As for Brink, if you still own it, enjoy your shiny mini frisbee before it breaks -- or sell it for ten dollars and buy a real one.


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