Are Game Reviews Affected by the Hype?
We’ve all been there–anxiously awaiting a game which has been massively publicised and tipped off to be the game of the year. Many of us have probably been to a midnight launch, just so we could play the game as early as possible. But how many of us have put the disc into our consoles to find that it was nothing like we expected? Some may even say the game was a letdown. I’m sure we can all name a few off the top of our heads. In this article, I will explore how hype has affected people’s opinions on games.
So, what is hype? Hype is the “extreme promotion of a person, idea, or product”. Another definition, which really stood out to me, was hype “gives something more attention than it deserves or to try to make it seem more important than it really is.” As a consumer, do we get sucked into the whole hype, even if we don’t mean to?
There are two games I believe have been “over-hyped” recently. In my eyes, there was only one game I could start with which was Halo 3. Ever since Peter Moore and Bill Gates closed Microsoft’s Pre-E3 press conference – back at the start of May 2006 – with a simple trailer, the Internet was flocking with gamers trying to absorb every last drop of knowledge. From new weapons to new vehicles and from single player campaign details to online multiplayer game modes, almost everyone wanted to know more. Personally, I think Bungie added a lot to the hype. No offence to them, they’re one of the most community-friendly developers I know, but their weekly updates with more details and screenshots of the game was always going to create a buzz. So Halo 3 had hype. It was tapped to be game of the year many times but my question is: did it live up to the hype it deserved? Was Halo 3 the game that would keep our disc trays closed for months on end? Lots of people will have mixed opinions on this, but I played the campaign and a bit of the online multiplayer and thought, is that it? Almost two years of hype and I feel I’m ready to return to some of my older titles after a few weeks!
The average Halo 3 review was 94%*. Many sites and magazines gave the game high marks, some even full marks a few weeks after the game’s release – when everything was all hyped up, everyone was uploading videos to the Internet containing their “skillz” and nothing seemed to be going wrong. How many of those reviewers do you think would give the same view a few months on? I would predict very few and gladly so. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came from almost nowhere just before Christmas to top Halo 3 in many awards. Why? Because despite not being backed by tremendous hype like Halo 3, it was a great game to play and was enjoyed by many. Infinity Ward didn’t need all the hype to sell games; they had quality and kudos to them for doing so. What I find interesting is how Call of Duty 4 also has an average review of 94%*. If Halo 3 didn’t have as much hype, would it still match the review scores of Call of Duty 4? Have some reviewers been sucked into this hype and felt they needed to give it such a high score?
Secondly, I’m going to talk about Grand Theft Auto IV. Before GTA IV’s slated release date (October 2007) and even more-so before its release in April, the hype was tremendous. When Niko Bellic was revealed as the main character in the game in the first trailer, many rumours spread about who he was, what he was doing in Liberty City and there was even a few rumour about storylines within the game. Similarly to Bungie, I felt Rockstar added to the hype. Announcing release dates for their trailers so thousand upon thousand would be constantly refreshing the same webpage in order to see a two minute trailer. So Grand Theft Auto IV had hype. Like Halo 3, it had already been tapped to be game of the year, despite the release of Metal Gear Solid 4 and future titles such as Gears of War 2 (XBOX 360), Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii) and LittleBigPlanet (PS3) still to come.
What’s different to Halo 3 is that I’ve been playing GTA IV on and off for almost two months as of writing this, but I still feel that it’s not living up to the hype. The average Grand Theft Auto IV review score is 98%* but once again, you have to ask the question, would reviewers of the game change their score a few weeks after release? OK, for XBOX 360 owners there haven’t been many AAA titles since then and PlayStation owners were graced with Metal Gear Solid 4, but surely more and more people are playing other games. Is the multiplayer that good in GTA IV to keep players playing after 100% completion? In the end, it all comes down to opinion. Whilst I think GTA IV only deserves a low or mid 90 score, others may stick to higher scores.
There are a few other games I could have mentioned such as Metal Gear Solid 4 (PlayStation 3) which has had a variety of final scores ranging from 80% to 100%; Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas (XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3) which I felt never lived up to its 89%* average review score and Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii). Yes, it’s a very good game but idoes it really deserve an average review score of 97%*?
But has hype always lead to high review scores? Of course not. The most recent examples of this are: Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed and Free Radical Design’s Haze. Announced mid-2006, Assassin’s Creed (XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3) looked set to be the most realistic and best-looking game of all time. Everyone was saying how good the “parkour” (free-running) element looked, how you had to escape the city after assassinating a target and how you could ride horses. The most rememberable moment of the Assassin Creed hype was the lovely Jade Raymond (Producer, Ubisoft) demo, shown at X06. The game looked incredible and played brilliantly but when people got their hands on the game, there was disappointment. Whilst it had an average story, players seemed to be repeating the same old tasks over and over again. Climbing to top of watch towers, eavesdropping on innocent people, riding from one town to the next, helping civilians and the list continues. Every game has the slight hint of repetitiveness but Assassin’s Creed was far too repetitive for people and ended up with scores as low as 50%* but surprisingly some as high as 100%*. Were these higher scoring reviews influenced by the hype?
Onto Haze (PlayStation 3) and when it was first announced at E3 2006, Haze showed off some amazing graphics and effects because of the specially developed graphics engine. It was also announced that Haze would be appearing on PlayStation 3, XBOX 360 and PC though it was announced at the following E3 that it would become a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Haze was so hyped up because Free Radical Design also develop the Timesplitters series which has yet to have a next-generation outing. Early screenshots and trailers definitely showed the good side of Haze’s engine but when PlayStation 3 owners got their hands on the game earlier this year; it seemed the excitement turned to despair. With an average review scored of 55%*, Haze received reviews as high as 79%* but as low as 25%*. Reviews stated Haze has a short storyline, “cheesy music” and poor visuals. Yes, poor visuals! Were some of the higher reviews influenced by the hype?
Quite simply, yes. Some reviewers might feel pressure into giving high scores. They don’t want to be on the receiving end of “fanboys” sending them hate mail and threatening to “kill” them. Then you have the “fanboy” reviewers who will give their favourite games a higher score than it thoroughly deserves. Yes, it is their opinion but does it truly reflect the game’s score? Will they mention all the bad points? Chances are, they won’t. I don’t have anything against them but when a reviewer starts taking sides, I wouldn’t deem them trustworthy. Other reviewers, who don’t feel pressured, give their true opinion on the game. They take a neutral perspective, play the game to bits and give an honest opinion. I recently had to review Monster Jam – a game I described as a “terrible PlayStation 2 port” and gave a score which, I felt, truly reflected the game; even if it did mean giving it the lowest ever review score on Console Monster. Personally, I don’t feel I can give a game above 95%. Why? Because no game is perfect or for that matter, near-perfect. I would even go as far as saying; no game will ever be perfect because there will always be something wrong with a game, however small. They may be near perfection, but certainly not perfect.
Despite all this, there are two games which I think deserve the hype they got. One thoroughly deserves the hype whilst the other is worthy of a lot of the hype it got. The first, and the one that thoroughly deserves the hype, is Bioshock (XBOX 360 and soon to be PlayStation 3) which has a fantastic storyline, outstanding settings and some of the most memorable characters you will ever meet. Regardless of the fact I was hiding behind the sofa everytime a Big Daddy came charging out at me, I enjoyed everything about it. Secondly, I feel Mass Effect (XBOX 360) deserves a lot of the hype it received. There was a very good range of characters, a great storyline and it provided players with a lot of depth, something a lot of games have failed to provide gamers in recent years.
Finally, I’d like to end on one of my favourite quotes which really sums up hype, taken from Bioshock: “A man chooses. A slave obeys.”
Fellow Console Monster writer Reece Warrender (Wo33er) contributed to this editorial, and as promised he shall be entitled to the credit, for I would not deny a man the sweat of his brow.
*All review scores are taken from Metacritic.