Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Take On Eurogamer's 'Controversial' Uncharted 3 Review

Eurogamer's 'controversial' review* of Uncharted 3 reminds me of why I love that site's reviews.

I also loved their fair and insightful criticism of Calling All Cars back in the day; how they sussed out the specific reasons for the lack of depth in our game. God, how I wish I had been able to articulate and even realize that flaw during  CAC's development! We coulda made some simple changes that would have resulted in a much better title!**

As for U3, I've yet to play the campaign mode, but I played the beta over the summer and really liked it; I enjoyed it more than 99% of human based shooters on the market.  And I'm sure I'll love the U3 campaign when I pick it up next week (just as I've loved the earlier Uncharted games).


…Eurogamer's conclusion/criticism about games that are super heavy on the 'experience' at the expense of the 'play' (like they claim Uncharted 3 is and like- by my own admission- GOD OF WAR 1 is***) is wonderfully thought out and presented and the only reason it's been labeled 'controversial' has nothing to do with the review itself and everything to do with the sad state of game consumers who have been so effectively conditioned by a number of the gaming press/gaming PR machines  that these gamers leap to a title's defense-not that this gem of a game needs defending- without even being open to the reviewer's criticism (be it valid or not). That's tragic. What's even more tragic is I would argue the games medium itself has been damaged by this practice. Irrevocably? No. But it has taken its toll for sure. 

So there's that.


Besides having some great insight, what's great about the Eurogamer review is that it manages to be both positive and critical at the same time (Garsh! Wonder of Wonders! How'd they do that?!?!) 

It doesn't bash U3 at all (for to do so would just be trolling for hits since it's clear there ain't a thing in U3 that is bash worthy) and it clearly sings the game's many wonderful praises and achievements.  But it does call out what some people consider a fundamental flaw in many of today's console titles where making 'cinematic experiences'**** seems to have become a more important goal than making games. And it's nice to see that level of criticism and insight in games journalism, especially with a game as hyped and anticipated (and as amazingly great) as Uncharted 3. How refreshing that a great, hyped, and soon-to-be much loved game can be praised while at the same time intelligently and non mean-spiritedly criticized for what a reviewer thinks (agree or not) are genuine issues. Wow, that's just like big boy writing! And I love it! :) 


*Amazing this review is the one being called 'controversial'. To me, the 10/10 review that either mentions the flaws of the game and still gives a perfect score OR the review that doesn't mention the flaws at all (an even worse crime, assuming the reviewer thought there WERE flaws) is the true controversial review.  Gamers that don't see this as a problem need to wake up to the PR machine cause the Matrix has you. 

** A lot of people think I bash Calling All Cars at every turn. I don't. I am actually and super proud of the team that made the game, I'm proud of my contributions, and I love playing Calling All Cars in split screen to this day. I just hate that it didn't succeed more and I place that blame squarely on my shoulders (and I've written about that before). I love the game we made but I think it needed more stickiness and more depth (not always the same thing although many will tell you it is), not to mention a more commercial theme. And I kick myself that I didn't push (myself or others) to address these issues. 

***A lot of people ask me if I'd ever make another GOD OF WAR (assuming that opportunity was offered) and I always say the same thing: if it were GOD OF WAR meets something like ZELDA (formula wise), then yes (aka Darksiders, right?)…But if it were GOD OF WAR using the current formula, I would not. For me- and this is just me PERSONALLY (I get and respect not everyone shares this same thinking)- directing GOD OF WAR made me realize that as a game designer (and certainly as game director) I want our games to serve the gods of GAMEPLAY first and foremost. My and then team's desire to tell a story/make a movie may or may not get to be fulfilled (depending on the game) but if we do tell a story, it will never come at the expense of the gameplay (the thing that makes our medium matter and special). Games can have story (and many should, such as God of War) and most games- even pure play games- should have strong world and IP. But working on God of War made it clear that- for me- if we have to cut a set piece or bit of spectacle because of our desire to put play first, then so be it. Ideally, the BEST games are those that do both.  

But what is really interesting/telling, is that as much hype and fan love as the cinematic experiences get, it's the game-y games that sell and sell and sell. Look at Guitar Hero, MW3, Angry Birds, Farmville, Mario, Madden, Wii sports, and on and on and on.  Hell, even GTA sells to MOST folks because they just like to fuck around in the world (the game part). I think hardcore FANS of games love seeing our medium push (successfully or not- YMMV) into the medium of film and utilize techniques from that medium (sometimes surpassing film, as it seems U3 does via the cargo plane sequence alone- Michael Bay simply DREAMS of such a cool scenario!) And I think these fans dig this stuff because it shows off the tech we love (and paid a lot of cash for), it gives us the stunning art our eyeballs crave and the energy/adrenaline our guts respond to, and perhaps (not for all but certainly for some) because it presents what is- to me- a false hope/desire (and a very real display of desperation) that AT LAST our geeky habit is now COOL and RELEVANT and MAINSTREAM! End of the day tho, look at the top of the charts: the GAME STUFF sells buckets when it's themed right and executed well. The EXPERIENCE STUFF sells well too but not near as much as the GAMEY stuff and the EXPERIENCE STUFF costs a hell of a lot more to make in most cases.

****I use the word 'experience' in 'cinematic experience' as shorthand cause ya'll know what I mean. Ironic tho since the whole point the Eurogamer review makes is that the player's actual INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE is many times relegated to second class status in order to present the player with a more controlled VIEWING experience.