Monday, July 24, 2017

The 5 Most Overrated Video Games

What do you consider to be an "overrated" video game? For the context of this article, the definition I'm using for "overrated" is: something that is regarded with a high opinion or high value then what we believe it deserved. In our landscape, a lot of games could easily fit that description. Even the ones that so many people praise, some of us may look at them and think otherwise.

Maybe it has to do with the storytelling and the character development. Or maybe the graphics are just so bad that they overpower the features that people enjoy. Whatever the reasons may be, some games appear to have received excess praise when the content doesn't entice us. We sit back and wonder "why that game?" "Why did this one get more play time then that one?"

So far we've had a big year for video games. With it comes the ups and downs of press. Some games got more face time with the world while others were pushed aside for flashier names. It felt like a good time to cover some of the most overrated games and list them out. You may find some of your most cherished games on this and other titles that you agree with as being overrated. And that's part of the point. Sometimes that most infamous of games are the most overrated. We can agree that they have flaws, but we still played the hell out of them. All-the-while other stories with better gameplay faded into obscurity. Here's a look at 5 of the Most Overrated Video Games:

5 - Watch Dogs. I'll admit, I don't know why this game is still being praised even after the backlash from gamers. It boast some high numbers from critics, and mixed reaction from players. It took over 2 months after the game's release for it to be playable on PC (please note the last line in the linked article from TechSpot - the humor and irony is priceless). Performance issues and multiplayer server errors plagued the game. Even 3 years later, some are unable to play the game at it's full potential...which isn't much to begin with.

When Watch Dogs was first announced at E3, it came with a lot of big promises including 1080P graphics. That didn't happen. Most gamers were lucky to get 720P. Comboed with a lot of head scratching when they saw what was on the screen. The uniqueness of the concept did not save the downfalls of the game. A number of gamers complained about dropped frames and glitches ranging from going through walls, being stuck in vehicles, to the game crashing with lost data. The fact that we're in 2017 and some of these issues still plague the game says a lot about the lack of quality control on the title.

As for the story, it's meh. The focus of the game is not on the plot or the characters, but the concept. You play as Aiden Pearce, a hacker. From your phone you have control over everything digital in Chicago, while you fight against an organization that's out to kill you. With your power, you can listen in on phone calls around the city, change traffic lights, break into vehicles, etc. It's high-tech GTA without the polish. That's the main problem with the story. Everything that you can do in Watch Dogs, you can do it in GTA; which is a far superior, better produced game. We can hack into phones and go all Big Brother on the populous! And that's the only cool thing you can do. The rest is so bland. Dull city life. Boring NPC's. This is Chicago! It's a wonderful area to explore and Ubisoft failed to capitalize on it, by making this game another line in the open-world GTA-wannabes.

It's so easy to lose focus on your character and instead run around and cause chaos. Aiden is uninteresting and bland. There's nothing unique about the character other then he's a hacker. Okay. Great! What does that mean? For gamers? Nada. Who cares with Pearce's motivations are. You forget about the game's intentions within mere minutes. The character is a lifeless shell that lacks interest.When so much of the game borrows from GTA, it feels like a poor clone and not a unique experience. This is a game that will be labeled as "overrated" for years to come.

4 - Final Fantasy VII. When you compare the lineage of Final Fantasy titles, FF7 is just okay. It's not a bad game, but it's not one people were willing to jump into multiple times for 99 hours of gaming. Not on the level of FF4, 6, or 10. And yet FF7 has been lifted to the pedestal of being the "holy grail" of JRPG's when better games exist. Why?

A lot of FF7's success has to do timing and technology. After making the shift from Nintendo to Sony, Square (now SquareEnix) was able to give the franchise the visual boost that it needed. FF7 was the first time the game moved from sprites to a 3-D-like landscape, while incorporating full motion videos (cutscenes). Characters ran around and interacted on a dimensional plane without looking flat on the screen. It's also one of the few games that actively used digitally painted backgrounds instead of rendering full landscapes. All of this backed by a massive marketing campaign from both Square and Sony landed the game as one of the top sellers for the PlayStation. This was a game that moved new console sales and began the long-running rivalry between Sony and Nintendo.

For a number of gamers, FF7 was their first entry into the series - even their first RPG game. Which is part of the reason why FF7 is overrated. Longtime fans have fond memories of running around Midgar, trying to dress up Cloud as a woman. The problem is, many can't see past those memories and are not willing to embrace other JRPG's. That's the problem with nostalgia. We become so consumed with our past and that games "use to be good," that we lose focus on what's wrong with FF7.

I enjoy the game, but even I can admit it's not perfect. The character dialogues constantly shift personalities. Barret can come off as either kind and practical, to overbearing and aggressive. Cid is a manipulative egomaniac, but that's okay! He is trying to do what's right for his wife, even if he hates her. Speaking of characters, FF7 was the start of the "loner/emo" hero trend. Cloud Strife is not a standout lead. He started the series as a kid that got mixed up in all the madness. Most of the time you spend with him in the game, he's kind of depressing to be around. He has no hopes, no longing for a better future. He just wants to get paid for a mercenary job. With Cecil (FF4) you could feel his struggle between fighting for his country and fighting for his soul. Bartz (FF5) was whimsical and endearing. He was a natural leader and made time invested in the game worthwhile. Cloud is just there; brooding. And it gets worse in subsequent games and the movie! This is not a hero, even by 'Odyssey' standards. A fallen hero story, or a person rising from obscurity to take up the mantle is fine. Cloud is a poor example of a hero.

The graphics are okay. Are they an improvement from sprites? Sure. But compared to other PlayStation games at the time, the blocky character models are goofy. For all the effort that went into the artistic landscapes, the characters are lacking.

And that story: Convoluted. Lacking in emotion in some areas. Too emotional in others. Contradicting itself at the climax. We don't need a tidy clean-up at the end, but we do need a story that provides clarity. For a game that is held so dearly by many, it lacks in the necessary components to be a compelling title.

3 - The Sims 3. Sims 3 is a graphically improved version of Sims 2.

There. I said it.

I am a long-time Sims fan. The first game was developed as an architecture simulator where you build the homes within your Sim City. From there it morphed into looking at the lives of the people that live in your city, and The Sims was born. The first 2 games in the line-up were quite a step-up from the 'God Game' genre. Your limitations on what to do with your Sim's lives was only limited by your creativity (and sometimes game mechanics).

With The Sims 3, the game is so lackluster it's utterly confusing on why it receives high praise. For a number of people, when the base game released it was riddled with bugs and processing issues. I gave this game several years of attempts and it still sends my processor into overdrive mode. For those who were able to play the game, many were treated to almost no updates from game 2 other then a visual facelift. Actually, it was worse. You couldn't have children in the initial Sims 3 release - something that was standard at that point in The Sims landscape. You couldn't follow your Sim to work, or go shopping with them, or create businesses, or level up traits to improve your social/physical skills; there were a myriad of options not involved in Sims 3 that were promised at the games release. Eventually some of these were added in, but it took years to reach that point. By then the focus was on The Sims 4. For as much as people complain about #4, it at least provided some improvement to the franchise (tweaking gameplay, updating Sim traits, etc).

2 - God of War III. This game is part of the lesson plan for "Overrated 101." It was easily sold on the hype of "this will be the last God of War game" before people took that as a joke (see Halo). And people bought into it. We wanted to play the last game of an inspiring trilogy - a revenge story making it's final stand. It was going to be epic on the level of 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'The Iliad.' A clash of Greek Gods! Who doesn't want to experience that?

Unfortunately God of War III gave us the same old stuff, no inspiring content, and a Kratos that lost motivation for giving a damn. The weight of your actions in the first two games fell off in the third one. Where as before you are trying to avenge the death of your loved ones, the third game focuses more on Kratos being a dick. He's killing Zeus because he can. Who he was in the first game has become a shell of a demi-God. He's an ass by game 3, and it's clear in the dialogue. The cutscenes are awkwardly paced and show little insight into what Kratos' goal is. Is his motivation the same? I dunno. He seems more interested in ripping off the heads of Medsua's minions then anything elese.

The battles feel less epic then the previous titles. This is suppose to be the big show-down against Zeus and some of his loyal followers such as Poseidon, Hercules, and Hermes. Even Cronos, Zeus' father, is a boss. Instead of drawing out the battles into their Godly presence, the fights are rushed and full of button mashing escapades. There's no strategy to be dealt here. Just mash those buttons and you'll win.

The graphics are just okay. They don't represent the system well, looking more like a PlayStation 2 port then a PS3 exclusive. 2010 was the year of Red Dead Redemption and Heavy Rain. God of War III could have done better. All in all, it felt like a lackluster title for the trilogy. The ending did not live up to the expectations, and yet everyone was so hyped up that this would be the "last" game that it overshadowed it's flaws. I guess that's one way to sell a timid product *coughseverythingHaloafter3*.

1 - Mass Effect. If you have read through my Let's Play session of the first game, you'll quickly understand why I find this game to be highly overrated for the content that was given. This game gave me a headache. For the boasting of character development, choices, and dynamic gameplay, it had it's problems. The story pacing was slow. Fetch quests and exploration were ungodly annoying. My least favorite aspect of the game was having to go to planets and do quests that required driving around the Mako and visiting copy/paste bunkers with endless space between. It was mind-numbingly boring! How could people enjoy doing this? It was a slog to get 100% completion. Never again.

The graphics were just okay for an XBox 360 game, but not the 'wow' factor people made it out to be. It looks more like it belongs on the XBox and not the 360. When it released the same year as Halo 3, BioShock, and Super Mario Galaxy, there's no reason for Mass Effect to have lagged behind on the visual quality. The character actions were repetitive, the NPC's were more of the copy/paste mantra, and the environment was only mildly engaging. Assassin's Creed, also released in 2007, had more interaction with the world then Mass Effect. And AssCreed is a sneaking game!

I also felt restricted on character development for my Shepard. The morality wheel of choices still felt pretty standard, even for a BioWare game. Your dialogue went from one extreme of "PUNCH" to "FRIEND" with little leeway in between. It was difficult to find a middle-of-the-road Shepard when your choices went to such emotional ranges that are polar opposites. The customization of job abilities and weapons was subpar compared to what was toted at E3 a year prior. I don't think Mass Effect is a bad game, but it did get more praise then it probably deserved. Game of the Year this is not. Not when you have Portal and Half-Life 2 to contend with. 2007 was an amazing year for games.

Before you fanboys attack me, Mass Effect has some redeeming qualities. I enjoyed the epicness of the story, even the clich├ęd parts (the council never listens). The game always felt like you were doing something more then what you really were. You choices held weight, initially. Your crew was a cast of delightful beings that were worth the time to interact with. I appreciated the fact that Shepard's story was unique with each playthrough. I loved the design of the Reapers. They were menacing and ridiculously, cartoony evil with their plot to destroy the galaxy. And the game clearly had enough impact to convince me to play Mass Effect 2, which is FAR SUPERIOR in every way. I fully admit to my fangirl-ness with the franchise. But even I have to admit that Mass Effect was overrated for what it brought to the table.

What do you think? What are some of the most overrated video games of all time?


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