Now, let me just clarify; I don’t believe that bad reviews can in anyway be good for a game itself – bad reviews rarely equate to impressive sales figures and certainly don’t bode well for potential sequels and the such. Bad reviews however, can be good for the gamer……stick with me here.
Take Aliens: Colonial Marines for instance. Not a great game by any stretch, but thanks to the vitriolic response to its release and the consistently scathing reviews, my expectations were at rock bottom…..and you know what; it wasn’t all that bad. It’s hardly award winning stuff, but given the online response, I was expecting something akin to Bomberman: Act Zero or Vampire Rain. The reality was much less dramatic: a mediocre FPS with a few (ok, that’s being very lenient) technical issues that was made infinitely more enjoyable by some smart use of the license and the simple fact that, on the surface at least, it looked like a sequel to James Cameron’s seminal, Aliens.
Obviously, this works both ways, with once again, Aliens: Colonial Marines proving the perfect example. While I approached on the basis of it being an utter turd, early adopters were still (and rightly so), expecting a Triple-A title befitting of the lofty promises made and the ultimately inaccurate early demo footage shown. For all those expecting a level of polish in line with Gearbox’s Borderlands series, the disappointment must have been palpable. Of course though, going in later, I was prepared for the worst, while still quietly, and somewhat naively, hoping that everyone else might be wrong. Again, while I’m not suggesting that the early negative response wasn’t justified, there is little doubt that by approaching it from a different mind-set, I was able to enjoy the game to a much greater extent thanks largely to the litany of extremely negative reviews.
Perhaps that’s why I play so many middling games. Sure, your Mass Effect’s, Uncharted’s and Halo’s of this world are great fun to play – they are after all fantastic franchises, but there is something to be said for playing those middle of the road games, the kind that you honestly don’t know what you’re going to get when you pick up the controller. Halo and its ilk are all fantastic, but equally, they are extremely predictable. Ok, so criticising a game or franchise for being consistently great is a bit mental, but while I do love having those dependably brilliant games to fall back on, there is something to be said for rolling the dice once in a while and taking chance on a videogame that could quite easily go either way.
Sure, bad reviews are generally there for a reason, but sometimes, a combination of personal taste and lowered expectations can lead to its fair share of surprises, often raising the mediocre or even the plain bad into realm of genuinely enjoyable. Bionic Commando, Dark Void, Viking: Battle for Asgard, Damnation (a truly horrible videogame that I somehow ended up enjoying); these are just a few of the games this generation that, despite poor to middling reviews, I have enjoyed to one extent or another, and in their own ways, have provided me with some of my favourite gaming memories of the past few years.
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