‘Over-appreciated’ Games of Our Time
Following on from our ‘Underappreciated Games‘ features earlier in the week, I thought I’d even the balance of power by highlighting a few games that have been ‘Over-appreciated’.
Unsurprisingly, we like games here at IncGamers so this list has been narrowed down to seven of the over-rating machine’s worst culprits.
As ever, this list is entirely subjective, so your comments are very welcome. May the discussion (and probable argument) commence!
The Beatles: Rock Band (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
The Beatles Rock Band represents everything that’s wrong about the state music games have gotten themselves into. Do I want to play songs by The Beatles? Yes. Do I want to buy a new disc for the privilege of playing a selection of their songs that someone else has chosen for me? No.
What I want is to have access to The Beatles’ library via the Rock Band games that I already have on my shelf. This focus on churning out new disc-based products every year (rather than properly utilising the games themselves as a platform from which to sell new music) is what has lead to Activision’s suspension of the Guitar Hero franchise and Harmonix having to buy themselves out when MTV Games decided to sell them.
Resistance 2 (PlayStation 3)
There’s not much wrong with Resistance 2, it’s just that there’s not anything all that great about it either. Generic enemy design, generic level design, a generic storyline, it’s all a bit… generic.
Where Resistance 2 tries to excel is in its sense of scale; but, by attempting to simply do what has already gone before but do it bigger, you soon lose interest and become jaded as one big event ploughs straight through into another. Perhaps if the game had concentrated on delivering some sort of personality, rather than ramping things up to eleven, it would be remembered for something other than its failure to stand out from the densely packed FPS crowd.
Still, to its credit, the multiplayer was a bit of all right. Not enough of all right to make it worth picking the game up at full price but good enough to highlight how uninspired the single player is.
The Kingdom Hearts series (Numerous)
Some companies know how to do crossover products, some don’t. Square Enix are one of the ones that don’t. While the original Kingdom Hearts had some charm to it, the titles that followed were generally messy, predictable and lacking in any real substance.
Trying to successfully marry the convoluted world of Sqaure Enix RPGs with the simple fairytales and fables of the Disney ‘universe’ was always going to be difficult to get right – especially over the course of so many titles. The gameplay is incredbily stale and almost immediately falls down when hit with any serious critique. Were it not for the presence of the Disney characters and locations, Kingdom Hearts would have fallen to the wayside long ago.
Given the strength of the two brands involved sales numbers are always going to be respectable but, as Iron Man, Sonic and The Simpsons have proved, a strong brand doesn’t automatically equate to a strong game.
Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
In comparison to the first game, Bioshock 2 is a simple, run-of-the-mill first-person shooter. Where Bioshock had narrative intrigue, Bioshock 2 has combat. Where Bioshock forced you to make intelligent use of the tools at your disposal, Bioshock 2 has combat. Where Bioshock made you care about the history of Rapture, its creator and its inhabitants, Bioshock 2 has combat.
By concentrating on implementing new combat-focused elements, the sequel managed to almost entirely rid itself of what made the first game so ground-breaking, unique and interesting. Bioshock wasn’t so much a first-person shooter as it was an adventure game that happened to utilise a first-person perspective. By altering the focus of the sequel and turning it into something much closer to a typical FPS, 2K Marin killed much of the magic and seemingly completely misunderstood the elements that made the original such a joy to play and experience.
Combine that with the shoddy multiplayer and iBioshock 2 serves only to tarnish the good name of the exceptional first game.
Angry Birds (iOS, Android, Symbian, PlayStation Portable, PC, Mac)
Angry Birds is a modern gaming phenomenon; a game played by millions, a game talked about by millions and a game that has made its developer, Rovio, one of the most recognisable names in all of gaming.
However, compared to other similarly priced products, it’s garbage. The physics are ridiculously inconsistent, the audio is infuriating and the art style lacks any kind of charmisma or originality. In the past I’ve been one of the many people addicted to Angry Birds, set on beating those damn pigs into submission. However, I stopped playing it when I realised that achieving the elusive three star level rating was more about getting lucky with the wacky physics than it was about implementing any real skill.
Games are fun when they provide you with tools, give you a chance to master them and then reward you for using them well and/or efficiently. Games are not fun when they randomly decide when you should win and when you should fail. They’re even worse when they use that random element as a way of enticing you to continue playing. Angry Birds is a bit like those rigged fruit machines you get at dodgy arcades or pubs; you only win when the machine decides you should.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii)
Like Angry Birds, Black Ops’ sales figures may be mind-boggling but its content is most certainly not. At least, not in a positive sense…
The single player is hideously uninspired and fails to innovate (or even iterate) on what was present all the way back in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the plot is told in a sloppy, incomprehensible manner and if I have to put up with another round of poorly (and stereotypically) voiced Russians I vow never to play the series again.
Things are similarly predictable in multiplayer. The few changes Black Ops made to the unlocking and assigning of perks, armaments and kill streaks barely qualify as new ‘features’ and within a few weeks of launch the online arena was plagued by players exploiting the poorly balanced maps, game modes and spawn points.
Of course, while it remains so popular there’s little incentive for the powers that be to change the formula. Thankfully, there are so many shooters on the market these days that it’s easy enough to avoid Black Ops entirely and still get your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly shot of first-person shooter action.
The Sims series (Numerous)
What is The Sims? It’s a game played by millions. One of the most successful franchises of all time. A demonstration of how to get the supposedly elusive female audience playing something other than MMOs, Brain Training or fitness ‘games’.
But, what is it really? It’s an overrated, shallow and ultimately pointless experience that does nothing but demonstrate how effective marketing has the power to persuade us to buy anything.
The most entertaining thing about the The Sims is designing your house. After that the repetitious nature of going to work, making friends, cooking dinner, keeping friends happy, getting married etc. etc. quickly becomes dull, tiring and patronising.
Add to that the way it’s been chopped up and sold through microtransactions and a constant stream of expansion packs (in what can only be logically thought of as an ongoing battle to cheapen what little experience there was to be had in the first place) and you’ve got yourself one of the finest examples of exploitative game design on the market today.