If there is one thing I’ll remember last year for it will be games that did not live up to their hype. From the severe disappointments like Lair to the semi-successful like Bioshock (yea, I said semi), games are costing more and thus requiring more and more hype from the PR
people. Many times this results in more and more disappointments from the gamer. With their hopes built up over months of teasers, previews, and interviews with attractive game developers only to find that he or she has in their hands a disc comprised mostly of suck. What is a poor gamer to do?
Well this year I’m not going to take it! Actually, yes, yes I am going to take it. But, like any good journalist, I’m not going to take it without commenting on it. Therefore I bring you “The Hype Machine,” a monthly feature that will discuss the top three most hyped games (as I perceive them). Every month I will discuss these games and the hype behind them. In the next month’s feature, we’ll see if the games lived up to the hype via the general opinion of the Internet along with the next top five games. I’ll also try to discuss a game or two I feel isn’t getting the hype it needs. Sounds like fun…or a lot of work.
So let’s start with January. Beginning with the games of January and seeing if they lived up to their hype then in part two, which will be posted later this week, we’ll take a look at what’s coming in February and the hype around those games. Normally you’d have a link to last months post so you can refresh yourself on all the juicy hype but we’ll have to skip that here. Hit the jump for the truth behind all the double speak.
Despite the game being released, this is still not a fair race.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (DS)
Barebones Hype:It’s Mario and Sonic together at last with fun mini-games, creative control and Shigeru Miyamato involved.
The Actuality: Looks like this iteration of the game fared a bit better then it’s Wii counterpart and stood up to the hype of being a fun to play, easy to access, multiplayer centered game. It just doesn’t really stand up to being the first game to feature Mario and Sonic going head to head.
With a Metacritic score of 70, no one can come right out and say the game sucks like I’m sure many of us were thinking, but as Nintendo Power’s review put it, “It doesn’t quite live up to the historic pairing of gaming’s two biggest icons, but then again, not much could.” I’m not sure any game could have lived up to the hype of Mario and Sonic finally competing, especially one based completely around minigames. The worst reviews for the game point to uninteresting controls and a lack of real fun. That is, unless you’re playing multiplayer. Both these facts lead me to believe that all the talk of Miyamato looking over Sega’s shoulder meant that he read a report that they were doing the game and said it was OK. When it comes down to it, Mario & Sonic doesn’t quite meet the hype.
What We Learned: Games that look like quick cash-ins on established characters can be fun but rarely break free from mediocrity. It’s sad that two of gaming’s finest are stuck in a game that is only middle of the road.
More like suck of doom! Oh shnap!
Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
Barebones Hype:Thousands of swarming monsters attack you in an action RPG that has impressive depth, a massive variety of items, character designs that allow for truly involved battles, and new gameplay mechanics which allow for easier access into the game (more so than the previous KUF game).
The Actuality: Seems like all that talk about being more than a button mashing, hack and slasher was actually just crap. With a 54 on Metacritic and the word boring and repetitive cropping up even in the good reviews it doesn’t seem like all that talk about being able to upgrade weapons and approach battles with different tactics really elevated the game to anything more than Dynasty Warriors in a RTS universe. Cheat code central seems to sum it up well when they say, “if you’ve never understood the satisfaction of slogging through demon-filled dungeons or, more importantly, never stayed up until the sun creeps through the cracks of your drawn blinds in hopes of seeing ‘Level Up’ pop-up on the screen just one more time, then this may not be your cup of mead”. It’s hard to believe that even a button mashing RPG fan could love a game that caused XBox 360 Magazine to wish that the Circle of Doom referred to in the game’s title was the RRoD.
What We Learned: If it looks like a button masher and it plays like a button masher, it’s going to be a button masher, no matter how much the game designers shout that it won’t be.
Blurry visions is so fasssst!
Barebones Hype: This game will not only revolutionize the Burnout series but it will also revolution how we interact with functions and menu options.
The Actuality: Any Burnout game is awesome, and thus playing Burnout: Paradise is awesome. The game stands up to the task of continuing the proud heritage of the Burnout series and worked it into an entirely new system which works…for the most part. The revolutionary new city/menu designs that the designers were touting is actually the only place for complaint with the game. Otherwise, the game would probably have scored even better than an 88 on Metacritic. The majority of reviewers found the over-world slightly annoying because you couldn’t just line up and race when you wanted to. “By taking you down to an open city Burnout Paradise has just hidden its sublime greatness behind what really could be regarded as an interactive menu built into a city. If there were an option to just line up races we wouldn’t bemoan this padding at all, but there isn’t and so we have,” noted 360 Gamer Magazine UK. Everyone agrees that this is no way a deal breaker, and that Burnout: Paradise “includes all the fast-driving, hard-wrecking action you’d expect from a Burnout game,” as GameSpot put it.
What We Learned: Over-worlds don’t always make games better, but they do make games different. The new interface wasn’t quite the revolution it was supposed to be but it doesn’t make Burnout a bad game.
Can I really make a good joke when the picture already has a guy miming masturbation in it?
No More Heroes
Barebones Hype:The art and style of Suda 51 meets sandbox, lightsaber-wielding gameplay has plenty of oddities abound, all the while giving the Wii some adult content.
The Actuality: Well if you won’t take my word about how much fun this game is, or my confirmation that there is indeed more blood in this game then in Manhunt 2 (as Suda 51 promised while on the hype train) then hopefully the 83 over at Metacritic will influence you to check out the game. As far as complaints go, that over-world isn’t quite as pretty or fun to drive around as the hype made it seem like it was going to be, I’m not sure if that was ever actually the point. 1up.com, although a little harsh, put if very well when they wrote that the, ”open-world game fails so completely in every regard that, despite all appearances, it’s easier to question the developer’s intent than it is to accept that it’s what they were going for.” I’m in inclined to agree with the last part of that statement, though a bit contradictory with what came before. Other than that, the lightsaber wielding, adult content fit perfectly with the Wii allowing for some crazy Suda 51 action as we all expected. Cheat Code Central lays it out in one sentence for us: “No More Heroes delivers two things the Wii is desperately lacking: top-tier mature gaming and pitch-perfect swordplay for a peripheral practically tailor-made for the purpose.” Other complaints for the game stemmed from the graphics not being up to snuff, but tthat was never really part of the hype behind this game, I won’t comment.
What We Learned:The Wii can handle adult content and good sword fighting, thankfully No More Heroes delivers it. Sadly, at some times artistic vision can get in the way of fun gameplay as the game’s over-world demonstrates on occasion.
Well that’s it! As I said, tune in later in the week as we take a look at the most hyped games for February. It should be fun.