Thursday, July 23, 2009

Game informing

Selected closing sentences from several previews in the latest issue of Game Informer, presented without comment:

Splinter Cell: Conviction -- "Let's just hope Sam doesn't sneak past his fall release, because we've been waiting long enough to play what's looking like one of the best games of the year."

The Last Guardian -- "With the PS3 breaking down technical barriers, the possibilities with Team Ico's next masterpiece seem to be endless."

God of War III -- "With the massive titans waging war, more gods entering the fray, and Kratos determined to topple Olympus, God of War III will be packed with jaw-dropping moments worthy of passing into legend."

Assassin's Creed II -- "We'll know more about whether our high hopes are justified as we get hands on time with the game in the coming months."

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves -- "Our time with the game left us confident that Drake's second big journey may be just what Sony needs to draw in PS3 doubters."

ModNation Racers -- "If the gameplay shows even half the potential of its customization tools, ModNation Racers might be the game that finally drags the kart-racing genre into the 21st century."

New Super Mario Bros. Wii -- "There definitely were bigger, more graphically impressive games at E3, but we'll be surprised if many of them are as anticipated as New Super Mario Bros. Wii."

Dirt 2 -- "We're eager to see what other cities Codemasters has transformed into rally circuits."

Heavy Rain -- "We can't wait to meet the remaining protagonists in the upcoming months to see if they, too, can dodge a grisly end."

Alan Wake -- "While we still have nearly a year before this spooky narrative finally hits the Xbox 360, it looks like the title will be worth the long wait."

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- "But if the final game can live up to the excitement caused by the trailer... Lords of Shadow may finally give gamers a 3D action title worthy of the Castlevania name, even if some series staples are missing."

-- "With fast-paced action, strong co-op, and this much variety, we can't wait to gather some treasure hunters and start exploring this promising wasteland."

Homefront -- "Though it wasn't shown or talked about in detail... what little we've seen of Homefront looks good."

League of Legends: Clash of Fates -- "We've spent a lot of time with DotA and other games, and League of Legends is clearly the most exciting title in the sub-genre to date."


Wyatt said...

Huh, my Optimism Detector seems to be malfunctioning. The needle's stuck at the far right. How strange.

Garrett Martin said...

They've got a computer program that autogenerates these things. That's why they never credit anybody on them.

Tyler McDowell said...

I feel sorry for them. If I were that excited about that many games, I wouldn't have time for class anymore.

Kirk said...

An informal sampling, to be sure, but enough to ping my shenanigan detector.

Can't say I'm surprised, though - isn't Game Informer published by GameStop?

scott said...

Previews are such an interesting thing. I mean we're talking about little to no hands-on. Maybe a gameplay video. Maybe just a promo. So the author of these previews are put into an odd position: in their preview they can nitpick or they can remain optimistic. If they nitpick, they may not get copies of the game to review. If they remain optimistic, they get blamed for kowtowing to the game industry.

Forgive me if I come of as too defensive, but are we really so cynical that we find fault in statements like the final sentence in the Homefront review? Really? "...what little we've seen of Homefront looks good." Really, I hope none of you are reading that and thinking, "OMG moar Game Informer Hype lolz!!!1"

Mitch Krpata said...

I agree with that: when writing a preview, you tend to give a game the benefit of the doubt. It's not done; you hope that the final product rises to the level of the best parts you've seen. That makes sense. But in the case of the Homefront preview, you cut out the part that makes it funny.

Julian said...

Fuck Game Informer. They employ some of the most inept writers in gaming, and their "opinions" are so safe and formulaic they may as well not exist. The only redeeming factor is the thing is free and it gets me in a shitting mood when I'm on the throne.

As much as I dislike Kotaku's information overload on pointless minutae and negligent lack of fact-checking in "news" posts, their reviews and previews are actually really good, and reflect a very sensible approach. Every preview describes exactly how much they saw, what they liked, how far along it is, and what they want changed. It feels to me like their honest take on the preview build couched in enough context to let you judge how much or little benefit of the doubt is in order.

Anonymous said...

EGM sucks!

Game Informer has the highest moral standards and editorial humbuggishness of all time!

/sarcasm off

Wyatt said...

If I'm to be perfectly honest, I think this highlights very clearly a problem that has plagued game journalism for quite a while. Ah, but if I could remember where that article was from that talked about this...

The essence of it was that people are too focused on making a "balanced" review and take a one-size-fits-all sort of approach to their reporting, and advocated people looking at games more like film. When talking about film (which, admittedly, has nearly a century's head-start on us), there will be people that focus on the writing or the acting or the scoring or the construction of the set or the camera work; and they'll cover that exclusively and in great depth. There will be people that only focus on a particular genre or movies from a particular director. The landscape of film criticism is only a subset of the overall field of art criticism; anyone that's ever explored that knows how deep the rabbit hole goes there! And so let it be with games.

I'm not sure how close to that vision I'd like game journalism to actually get, but I'd certainly be interested in reviews with upwards of five names attached. I envision a bunch of people gathered to each cover a different specialty and present detailed analysis where necessary. A collaborative, non-numeric, non-absolutist review style that allows people to identify with the individual reviewers better and get a better feeling of how a game actually is.

Alex Denham said...

Previews are all essentially useless anyway...

matt said...

I bet money that if you take the end Metacritic scores for all those games, add them up and average them out, the end average MC score will be well over 80. maybe even 85.

The internet always sees "jaded" and "cynical" as positive traits.

Ben Abraham said...

Wyatt's comment about specialist reviews reminds me of the kind of thing we try and do at CritDist. Certainly the 'critical compilations' are often a giant essay linking to other people's specific posts in their area of experience or expertise.

Julian said...

Yes, Matt, they'll probably do well. Game Informer in particular has a history of review scores and enthusiasm levels that match marketing budgets eerily well. This is one area where the hive mind methodology fails them, because none of their enthusiasm rings true. When Abbott gets stoked over Little King's Story, or Krpata gets all hot and bothered for Prototype, hell even when Crecente and the gang start tubthumping for Portal, there's something about their human perspective that makes it feel genuine, when GI's "excitement" for Splinter Cell feels forced and rote. I'm sure GI's overall lack of writing chops contributes to this problem a great amount as well. But when there's so much GOOD writing about games floating around nowadays, why waste my time with high-school-level garbage?

Additionally, does the internet really prize cynicism as highly as you say (assuming we're comfortable personifying and uniting it like that)? See the series of user-submitted previews for some examples to the contrary. Blind enthusiasm and relentless cynicism are present around the internet in equal amounts. I think what "the internet" sees as positive are bold stances whether positive or negative, simply because they're entertaining and easy to grasp and consume, regardless of their validity or humanity. This is why the same people that applauded Gerstmann for panning Kane and Lynch are waxing hyperbolic about Ghostbusters (a much worse game, IMO).

Kirk said...

Julian: "When Abbott gets stoked over Little King's Story, or Krpata gets all hot and bothered for Prototype, hell even when Crecente and the gang start tubthumping for Portal, there's something about their human perspective that makes it feel genuine, when GI's "excitement" for Splinter Cell feels forced and rote."

Really well said - I agree completely.

Dominic said...

Eh. Reminds me why I never trust previews, and little more reviews. The major game reviewing institutions are all toe-dippers that never dare take a plunge and go with a controversial review of a game. At least now we got the internets and the ordinary gamer's review.