There are a lot of games out there that aren’t quite as good as they’re made out to be. This isn’t to say that these games are bad by any means, but rather that stellar review scores and impressive sales numbers don’t always equate to a perfect game.
Stepping back from the hazy afterglow of the gaming’s most popular titles and taking a second glance at some of them proves that sometimes, even the games we consider the best can be sort of overrated.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular games that get a little bit more praise than they are due.
’LIFE IS STRANGE’
Life is Strange is an episodic video game developed by Dontnod Entertainment about a young photographer who learns that she has the ability to rewind the past. It deserves praise for tackling subjects and characters that most blockbuster games avoid. Its developers are striving for something more interesting.
But Life is Strange is also a game plagued by a script that reads like a rejected draft of Juno, written by adults who must have skipped their formative teenage years entirely. Words like “hella” and “amazeballs” punctuate conversations. Throw in stilted animations, a meandering plot, and a high school so cartoonish that it makes Bully seem realistic, and Life is Strange has a long way to go before proving itself deserving of critical praise.
’DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION’
Last year’s near-unanimous Game of the Year recipient, Dragon Age: Inquisition, has been heralded as BioWare’s magnum opus. Much like every other open-world role-playing game, Inquisition offers players countless diversions, interesting locations to explore and the illusion of powerful choices.
The problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition is that once you get past the shimmering beauty of the Hinterlands and start to get a sense of the game as a whole, it becomes clear that it doesn’t do any of the above that well. Inquisition cobbles together the core elements of what makes a good RPG, adds in an arbitrary spice of shallowly crafted characters designed to only seem unique, and wraps it all together with a mediocre mix of sloppy combat and crafting.
The end result is something that does a lot right, but can also feel like a never-ending chore of uninspired fetch quests.
’INFAMOUS: SECOND SON’
Set to be one of the games that showed off the PlayStation 4’s power early in the console’s life, Infamous: Second Son invited gamers to a beautifully recreated version of Seattle. Featuring a Native American rebel named Delsin Rowe, Second Son could have been a superhero epic that not only served as a console-justifying title, but also an instantly memorable action game.
But instead it felt like a paint-by-numbers video game experience. The Seattle of Second Son is impressive, but devoid of any meaningful interactions, quickly making players feel like the most powerful man in a metropolis of cardboard characters. To make matters worse, Delsin is about as standard as a “bad boy” character can be without any redeeming qualities. All of that might have been forgivable—because you have super powers to play with, after all—if Second Son hadn’t been just plain boring to begin with. Its mission structure requires players to build up either good or bad karma in order to progress the main story arc, which feels like the video game equivalent of teachers assigning hours of busy work while they get an afternoon of online shopping out of the way.
Bethesda’s Fallout 3 wowed the entire gaming world. By resurrecting the classic Fallout franchise and effectively modernizing it, Fallout 3 become an overnight success. But for as fun as Fallout 3 made exploring the post-apocalyptic landscape of Washington D.C., it also did everything in its power to test the player’s patience.
It was buggy to the point of frustration and lackluster in the actual gameplay department, the whole freeze-time combat system seemingly designed mainly to draw attention away from the game’s astoundingly poor gunplay. And its world was little more than a drab expanse of gray buildings and ugly rock textures.
Granted, there are few things better than lining up a shot at Super Mutant’s head, firing, and seeing it explode in a maelstrom of giblets. Headshots will always be amazing.
BioShock Infinite is perhaps the most overrated video game of all time, and for good reason too. At first glance, it’s an action-filled journey through the awe-inspiring floating city of Columbia, built on the BioShock pedigree and with the guise of a mind-bending story, clearly one of the best games ever. Except that it isn’t.
Infinite is bogged down by one of the worst—and most repetitive—gameplay systems in recent memory. The game’s linear structure boils down to moving from point A to point B, with intermittent shootouts that are more dull than protagonist Booker’s personality. Compound Infinite’s gameplay flaws with Booker’s sidekick, Elizabeth, essentially only serving as an invulnerable, walking metal detector to find you spare change, and you’re left with something that can easily trick gamers into thinking that it’s more original than it really is.
The shame of the matter is that Infinite’s desperate attempts to be a medium-defining video game ultimately transformed it into a monotonous shooter that offers more fluff than substance. BioShock Infinite thinks it is smarter than you, dangling a gaudy world and a quickly unravelling story at players, just so long as you don’t stop and look too closely.
And what good is a video game if you can’t look at it closely?
Raymond Porreca is a freelance writer from Philadelphia, PA. Follow @rayporreca on Twitter for more video game-related ramblings.
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