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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Edge Of Controversy

I almost commented on this before, except I find it rather hard to give a damn.

Edge gave Killzone 2 a 7 out of 10. Which honestly, I have no idea if that's a valid score or not - I have not played the game nor have I tried the demo (and don't me started on gamers acting like they're an authority on a game based on a demo). The review resulted in a flame war of hilarious proportions, recommended reading if there ever was such a thing for the genre.

Whether the game is good or not, or justifies the score, can't really say. But the review itself sucked. Even if it is an honest opinion of the game, it just isn't very good writing.

Here is an example:

It shares that laudable desire to see you through a level without fuss,‭ ‬hindered only by the constant fear of a fatal mistake.‭ ‬A gun game in the truest sense,‭ ‬its bullets and ragdolls offer a literal take on the‭ ‘‬theatre‭’ ‬of war,‭ ‬a rare pleasure since GoldenEye.‭

Right. A rare treat except GoldenEye. If you haven't played the umpteen military based shooters created since Counter-Strike went commercial, the vast majority of them utilizing increasingly more sophisticated ragdoll tech. A paragraph like this makes me think the writer (although technically here it is writers - it apparently took the entire Edge staff to produce this gem) just wants the reader to know: I played GoldenEye.

Which especially sad if that is supposed to count as old school in some way.

Example 2:

The fraught team dynamic is gone,‭ ‬as is Killzone’s neat trick of having a Helghast operative fighting by your side.‭ ‬The dialogue is functional,‭ ‬the motives obvious.‭ ‬And too much time is given to Rico Velasquez,‭ ‬the ISA’s version of the Cole Train.‭ ‬He’s rotten company,‭ ‬so foul-mouthed that you’ll wonder when gaming will overcome its‭ ‬latest obsession.‭

The "neat trick" was really "just another character", of course. And, what is exactly is supposd to be "gaming's latest obsession"? Foul-mouthed main characters? Maybe it's a "games that like to be more like Gears Of War's latest obsession," or "there was a lot of swearing in GTA IV, so we can do it too" kind of thing - but it's not like Flower features a cursing petal or anything. As obsessions go, there's nothing in that quote that really makes sense to gaming in general.

And the problem here is that Edge seems to be going out of its way to prove Killzone 2 to be banal. I'm half-surprised they didn't complain about the use of guns in a game.

Leading us to my favorite part:

Sentry bots‭? ‬You must be joking.‭ ‬If you can’t think for yourself after so many millions of dollars have‭ ‬been spent,‭ ‬surely it’s common courtesy to make your clich├ęs interesting.‭ ‬Not here,‭ ‬it seems,‭ ‬where half the chapters feel like multiplayer maps full of bots and random waypoints.

Can someone tell me what exactly is wrong with sentry bots? Fallout 3 had a decent number of them, and other than their tendency to shoot large rockets in my direction - I never thought to myself, "wow, how unimaginative." I mean how about "another alien race based vaguely on insects" (Gears Of War), or "another alien race based vaguely on vampires/zombies/goth monsters" (Uh, also, Gears Of War), or how about a "men in the future will be roided out soldiers in large metal suits, using equipment with randomly placed LED lights" (You get the point).

And I'm not suggesting that Gears Of War was cliche or unimaginative, I'm just saying that the shooter genre has so many building blocks that get swapped around, it isn't very useful to point something like, "they used robots" as a part of a critique. Does Edge knock every game for using a cinematic that evokes a scene from a Valve game? No? Then shut the hell up.

Sentry bots. Edge goes on about sentry bots, but for the actual multiplayer portion of the game, we get:

In fact,‭ ‬few story-driven games have been so much more dramatic in multiplayer.‭ Freed of its narrative shackles,‭ ‬Killzone‭ ‬2‭’‬s deathmatches openly celebrate the tight controls‭ (‬jumping now included‭)‬,‭ ‬hand-made environments and technical beauty of a‭ ‬game that is,‭ ‬almost exclusively,‭ ‬about popping someone in the face or blowing them to kingdom come.‭

Separate development of the multiplayer modes has paid dividends,‭ ‬the badge and perks systems adding distinctive RPG flavour to a uniquely hardcore team-based experience.‭

And that's it. Which tells me nothing new that I didn't already know from the dozen Killzone 2 previews out there. I know someone who writes movie reviews not by watching movies, but by reading other reviews and paraphrasing them.

I'm not suggesting that Edge did that. But if they did, it would possibly would have been a better review.

I did like this portion:
Smart and nimble,‭ ‬the Helghast like nothing more than someone foolish enough to hide.‭ ‬This intimate,‭ ‬sizzling combat feels a lot like that of FEAR,‭ ‬but is actually more like another game of the time:‭ ‬Criterion’s Black.

Mostly because I've played FEAR and I've played Black, and so I understand what is being said. Oddly though, it's about the only part of the review well written and really, really made me want to play the game.

(Oh, and for anyone wanting to respond with some nitpicky response pointing out a grammar or spelling error, so how is it I get to be all high and mighty about writing - the answer is simple. I don't get paid for this. They do. And also, bite me.)

1 comment:

sterno said...

Glancing through that review it seems to me that their only real problem with it is that they don't like the story line. They rave about the multiplayer and make numerous offhand remarks about how good the controls are, the cutting edge AI, etc. But they seem to rate it a 7 because they don't think much of the story. Actually... not even so much the story, just some of the elements of it. *shrug*

Frankly, it's a rare FPS game that has much of a story. Since most of the replay value in these games comes from slaughtering your friends online, this makes perfect sense. Some games have strived to make for a strong single player experience but they are definitely the exception to the rule. Frankly most of the ones that are spoken highly of aren't really all that engaging, just better than the rest of what's out there.

I just played COD4 which has a much better than average single player story. I found the bit where I got to play a dying soldier to be particularly striking. But it was also ridiculously short.

Overall the review is very superficial irrespective of the score. Also that first paragraph you quote seems worthy of Andrew Sullivan's Poseur award. There score speaks to a statistical anomaly given the vast majority of rave reviews I've been hearing about the game. So, I'm glad they enjoyed their moment in the sun, but lord knows I'm not going back there for informed comment on games.