Experienced Points: Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

By Shamus
on Apr 22, 2014
Filed under:
Column

So my column this week was actually prompted by the fact that Resident Evil 4 recently got an HD re-release, and SuperBunnyHop did a retrospective on it.

But more importantly it’s prompted by the endless needling I get from Various Parties when I fail to like things. Or if I don’t like them enough. Or for the right reasons.

“It’s your own fault you’re bad at the game.”

Which doesn’t change that fact that some people really want to know how demanding a game is, and how punishing it is.

“It’s your own fault for not knowing the lore.”

Actually, it’s the storytellers job to make the story interesting for the audience. In any case, “This story is bad for newcomers” is valuable information for newcomers.

“You shouldn’t have played the game if you don’t like QTEs / morality systems / romance subplots / grinding.”

So what parts of the game is the critic allowed to critique? Using this logic, a game can only be reviewed by people who are already fans of it, and are only consumed by people who already know what they’re getting. Which means the fanboy is using reviews as as way of reinforcing their opinions, and basically declaring artistic reviews and consumer advice as invalid. Moreover, if I was supposed to know better than to play a game with [feature], how am I supposed to find out about [feature]? You’ve already said it’s wrong for critics to bring it up!

This is all a waste of time, of course. Fans will be fans. In fact, I predict reflexive defense of RE4 in response to my article about how reflexively defending things is terrible. There’s no cure.

Still, I can always hope to make a few converts.

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20202020There are now 80 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. Jokerman says:

    How fucking dare you….

    • Mistwraithe says:

      What?! You shouldn’t have read Shamus’s article if you don’t like criticism of Resident Evil 4. It’s your own fault!

      • Jokerman says:

        Actually Shamus started out saying how much he hated it, but on the second page he reveals that he sees why its a classic and lists a lot of his good points.

        I understand the things he hates too (Even as a long time dualshock user… i still failed that dumb knife fight a bunch of times and generally hated the QTE’s)

        My comment was more me deliberately acting like an annoying fanboy.

  2. McNutcase says:

    I wish more people could wrap their heads around “It’s good, but I don’t like it.” Or even just the concept of “I don’t like it” as an acceptable opinion.

    • Ciennas says:

      ‘I don’t like it’ is perfectly fine by me, but I always ask if there’s a why behind it.

      Because I’m interested in the actual opinion that led to that judgement, and want to know if it’s well thought out or just never been something that person ever wanted.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tons of people get that. They’re the ones not posting, either out of indifference or just knowing better than to go into comments sections.

  3. Matt K says:

    I got maybe halfway through the game before I stopped playing. It was partially due to the difficulty and partially jut got busy. While I did enjoy what I played, I can easily see why someone would not.

    Also this was my first RE game but I wasn’t lost. I don’t remember the intro of Wesker or Aida so maybe I didn’t get that far or I just assumed it would be covered later.

    • Tizzy says:

      Never played it. Watching the video, I was wondering how well I would be able to handle the massive shift in tone. Especially since the creepy, tense, zombie hunting of the beginning looked so appealing.

      It’s also funny to realize how, not so long ago, devs felt still so obligated to ship games with such a wide variety of challenges. Or is it the genre thatvdemands it? Would we say that the Tomb Raider reboot, for instance, was equally diverse in tone and setpieces?

  4. Muspel says:

    Typo alert: the title is “Experinced Points”. It should be “Experienced Points”.

  5. stupiddice says:

    I must be some kind of a weirdo, because I have the opposite problem. Probably because I hang out on the part of the internet that hates everything (and don’t read many game reviews), but I think I see people getting crap for liking stuff more often then I see them getting crap for hating stuff. I just feel like I see this kind of conversation too often

    “I really liked x”

    “ALLOW ME ENUMERATE ALL OF X’S FLAWS”

    I think part of my problem is that it is way easier to find objective flaws in a game, since the goal of most is to have “fun” which is way too abstract to quantify in any way, and even then most defenses can seemingly be invalidated by saying “no it wasn’t.”

    Granted, this does not excuse people who attack another person just because they don’t like a game that they like, and I know most of the comments on this site (at least in recent years) asking Shamus why he doesn’t like x have been relatively polite, I can imagine that a hundred of those would get really tiresome.

    • Felblood says:

      Shamus has generally kept us on a tough but fair leash here, but since he started working for the escapist, he get’s feedback from their readers as well.

      When Shamus complains that he was unable to enjoy a work, we typically have the decency to couch our rebuttal as advice on how he might attain the joy that we have already extracted from said work.

      The Escapist has their own moderation policies. I’m not going to say they don’t have their reasons (idiots and jerks generate ad revenue too, and a positive community is a much less vital part of what they do.) but their system exposes creators to a lot more of the adolescent, knee-jerk posturing that characterizes much of discourse on the internet.

      From my experience in the culture wars over in Dwarf Fortress Suggestions, I offer this wisdom:

      It can be furiously frustrating to feel like you are having this same juvenile conversation every 5 minutes, but it’s important to remember that most people will realize what “flaming n00bs” they’ve been and grow up a bit, if you gently explain why this is foolish. The trouble is, another newbie joins the conversation every 5 minutes, and you have to teach them, just as gently as you taught the last one.

    • Shirdal says:

      I will argue that objective flaws are really hard to find in a game or in any creative work, since the way we experience these things is incredibly subjective by design.

      If the flaws you find in a game are so easily refuted as you describe, then are they really objective flaws? I do think objective flaws can be found within any work in any creative medium, but to find them requires expertise and knowledge. It is not a matter of preference and emotional reaction, but these things are still very useful in a review or discussion.

      We can like bad things and we can dislike good things. That does not make them any less bad or good nor does it make our opinions any less valid. The problem as I see it begins when we confuse a statement of opinion for a statement of fact and treat it as such.

      • stupiddice says:

        “If the flaws you find in a game are so easily refuted as you describe, then are they really objective flaws?”

        When did I say that? In fact, I’m pretty sure I said subjective opinions can be easily refuted.

        And when I say flaws are objective, I am saying they are more concrete than positive qualities (because I am lazy and just felt like using one word). For example, camera controls that are not intuitive and slow or plot points that make no sense or come out of nowhere given prior events, as opposed “shooting people is fun because it is.” I mean, just look at Spoiler Warning as proof that it is easier to talk about flaws than virtues.

        Of course, all of this is just my opinion, which is subjective, as is yours, so – OW MY BRAIN!! NOTHING IS REAL!!!

        • Shirdal says:

          “I think part of my problem is that it is way easier to find objective flaws in a game…”

          I think I may have misunderstood what you meant by this as it relates to the rest of the paragraph. Apologies.

          Either way, I agree that flaws like bad camera controls are relatively easy to detect compared to more abstract ideas, and that flaws in general are easier to find than positive aspects. If I had to guess, I would say this is because anything that is perceived as a flaw is something that pulls you out of the experience and becomes noticed for it.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Actually,objective flaws are the easiest ones to find in video games.Does the game crash a lot?Theres an objective flaw.Are the loading times too long(say over 10 seconds)?Theres an objective flaw.Is the game poorly optimized(it stutters on a beast of a machine)?Etc,etc.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Personally, I quite like the 4chan mode of complaining at length about everything that could possibly be considered objectionable for the reasons Shamus gives in the article: I want to know what might put me off. I can get the lowdown on what’s cool about the game from trailers, so voices from the hugbox are only useful to me if it’s a game series or developer I’m familiar with and want to know what’s changed. If I can see all of a game’s flaws laid out and be reasonably sure I won’t mind any of them, I’ll probably have a fun time with it.

    • Vermander says:

      I think the difficulty in identifying objective flaws is part of the reason I get little value out of most game reviews.

      Most reviewers tend to focus on technical flaws, things like graphics, camera angles, clunky menus and interfaces, etc. I understand that these things are easy to objectively criticize, but none of them matter much to me. I’ll gladly play an ugly game with great writing. I usually like or hate a game based on things like the storyline, the characters, the world building, and sense of immersion it gives me.

  6. StashAugustine says:

    See this is exactly what I thought of System Shock 2 :v

    • Shamus says:

      Wait, you thought it was too campy and reliant on QTEs?

      There’s a lot that can make SS2 hard to like. The various builds aren’t remotely balanced, which means the early game might be a cakewalk or a complete kick in the face. The Big Reveal leans pretty heavy on you knowing and caring who Shodan was. The weapons degrade at comical speeds, creating a lot of needless busywork. The concept of The Many was interesting, but the graphics engine was REALLY ill-suited to depicting organic spaces, which made a couple of the cutscenes distractingly awkward, even by the standards of the day. And the final section of the game was flawed in many ways, from bad balance to jumping puzzles to the general level design. And the ending was a gutless set-up for a sequel that would never happen.

      • Felblood says:

        Also, unless you have an immense tolerance for DIAS gameplay, that actually makes subsequent runs harder, the single player mode has some truly ragequit-worthy moments. I’m looking at you booby trapped elevator.

        Likewise, the multiplayer mode crashes *CONSTANTLY* so you’d better be the type who remembers to quicksave and doesn’t mind loading screens for that.

        Still one of my all time favorites, but I totally get how some people might not be wired to look past these flaws so generously.

      • stupiddice says:

        As someone who played this for the first time over the summer as a psionic (or whatever) and loved it, I still wonder to this day how the designers planned for you to get past that last section where you go into the radioactive water to destroy a node, after not really seeing radiation since the second level, and possibly tossing any anti-radiation meds as wasted space. The only reason I got through was because I spammed the healing power like there was no tomorrow.

        I do wish they refined the mechanics in this game over the decade instead of abandoning them

        • Felblood says:

          There are literally two places in that same loading zone where you can find more anti-rad hypos.

          I played through this game 3 times, and I overcame that challenge a different way each time.

          1) Found the hypos in this area.
          2) Brought a Hazard Suit.
          3) Insane grenade launcher trick-shots (by my little brother).

          It’s a totally beatable puzzle, but it very deliberately demands an investment of creativity and determination, that not everyone can be able to make. There’s a reason that games these days are less demanding.

      • StashAugustine says:

        Don’t you remember the bit where you have to repeatedly punch Shodan in the chest as she yells about football? :p

        (e: what you said is basically how I felt about the game. Unfortunately, the major plot twist was not only spoiled for me, but it was retroactively retreading the similar twist in Bioshock, creating a bizzare self-inflicted “Seinfeld isn’t funny” and the interface and design were pretty firmly old-school without, IMHO, the charms of Deus Ex. Also, sorry if this comes across as a troll (although it kinda is))

      • kdansky says:

        I hadn’t played SS1, and I only knew a tiny little bit about Shodan, and most of the game still worked for me to the point where I consider SS2 one of the best games I have ever played in my teens. Figuring out that one AI is actually another AI wasn’t the big twist, but rather that the friendly human chatting to you was actually an AI all along.

        • ET says:

          I myself only played about the first five minutes of SS1 after having finished SS2, and I too, enjoyed the game without completely knowing who Shodan is. Also, isn’t Shodan pretty well summarized by the intro cutscene or whatever?* I mean, it’s done in Shodan’s voice, giving a “last time on [TV SHOW]” speech, but it worked pretty well for me. Shodan = evil computer. Got it. Time to start killing stuff. :P

          * Maybe your (Shamus’) version of the game missed the cutscene, or they added it into the version I got/played? Or you skipped it** out of habit?

          ** Totally acceptable, I think. Cutscenes in games have historically been crud, except for some really cool stuff, like the first Red Alert. I mean, that game opens with Stalin making out with the head of his secret service or whatever, and the rest of the game’s scenes play like a high quality B-movie. :P

    • The Other Matt K says:

      Yeah, this. I picked it up a year or two ago thinking that with all the good things I had heard about the game, it would still be well worth playing despite being an older game. But while there may have been a good story waiting at the end of it, I found the gameplay and leveling system so unpleasant that I just couldn’t make myself keep going. I’m pretty sure the radiation zone (mentioned by stupiddice) was specifically where I ragequit.

      It (and the Witcher) were my two very real lessons about how easily tastes can differ, even among like-minded people, even coming from people I respect. I stayed away from the Witcher for years after seeing Shamus’s condemnation of it. When I finally tried it out on a friend’s insistence, it turned out to be one of my favorite games in years.

      But, again, tastes are different. And, more than that, experiences are different. I almost always agree with the points that Shamus brings up when reviewing games, and tend to value the same game elements that he does. But for him, the levelling system in System Shock 2 is a strength – for me it was a weakness. For him, the story and characters in the Witcher were one of its biggest problems – for me, they are what raised it above most other games in that genre.

      What causes those differences? Some of it comes down to what expectations one enters the game with. Perhaps some of it is what other games one is used to. But even just playing the game itself, a host of tiny differences can make a huge impact.

      One player starts by going left and encounters a dumb side-plot to start, which leaves them critical of everything that follows. One player turns right and starts with an awesome side-plot, which leaves them more forgiving of later plot holes. One player encounters a bug, and the irritation from that stays with them through the game. The other player stumbles into a cool combo build that is especially effective at defeating enemies early in the game, and makes them feel like a very capable player.

      That’s why I realized that even the most well-written reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt. It goes beyond even the ‘review score system’ itself – it is simply the fact that experiences and opinions are not, and can never be, universal. A good review will help provide information and context that can let one judge whether the game is right for then – but even then, even with the best-written review out there, the review will be biased by that person’s experiences and background.

      The only one who can write a truly accurate review for you… is, well, you.

      • Andrew says:

        I’m totally with this. I rage-quite Deus-Ex shortly after, I think it would have been the second mission. I approached the area cautiously and had a look around. Then the friendly NPCs outside the door charged in and murdered everyone in the area. After completing the mission, suddenly everyone was blaming me for excessive violence, when in fact I never fired a shot (or did anything at all). Had I not hit this bug, I’d probably have kept playing.

  7. Jay says:

    I don’t usually like shooters, but I liked RE4. The challenge ramped up in a way that kept it interesting but didn’t frustrate me. Every time I would start to get bored the game threw a new wrinkle at me.

    You have every right to dislike RE4. Still, it was the best reviewed game of the PS2 generation, so it worked for a lot of people.

    P.S. Gamerankings gives it #1, Metacritic gives it #3. Take your pick, either is pretty damn impressive.

  8. Daniel says:

    I wonder how much “fanboyism” is driven by just personally identifying with a game/book/movie simply because you like it. I fell into something similar the other day:

    I found myself getting offended when someone criticized a restaurant I really like. “Everything I’ve gotten there tasted like bland ingredients and cheap cheese.” And when I responded defensively, they said “Hey, why are you taking this personally—you don’t even know the owners. And isn’t it a chain, anyway?” So, maybe I’m a fanboy at heart, but I can understand the (crazy) urge to identify with a property and take personally any criticisms of that property. Once people start taking it personally, then it’s not about reviews—it’s personal. It’s like a conversation that went from a debate to a fight: it’s no longer about being open to ideas and learning from another perspective, it’s about scoring points. And then all hope is lost.

    • BeardedDork says:

      I used to get that kind of thing from the “fans” of a Chinese restaurant I hated, they put too much ginger in everything. Restaurant fanboys are weird.

  9. Type_V says:

    I had this experience with FF7. Didn’t understand why anyone liked it. 3d was awful, story boring, and they called it a rpg but I’m not making any role-playing decisions? Time has passed and I’ve learned what the jrpg is all about, but I still never want to touch that game.

    • Matt K says:

      You and me both. The story was nonsensical and it didn’t help that at the time (when it came out) I could only play for a hour or so at a time so keeping up with each twist became tougher and tougher. There were a few other issues like the magic system, the party system and I’m sure more that I can’t recall anymore.

      The issue was that I had played a ton of Lunar on the Sega CD with it’s great plot, Voice Acting, battles that allowed you to have up to 5 characters in battle (all of them) and some minor tactics. After that game the only good point of FF7 was the scenery (which Lunar also had in spades).

      • aldowyn says:

        I’ve always seen FF7 as the turning point from what Final Fantasy used to be to what it is now, for better or worse.

        • RCN says:

          And that, of course, is two-minute-long imaginative, destructive, over-produced and basically-more-interesting-than-any-other-attack-or-spell-in-the-game summons.

          Heck, in FFXII and XIII the summons are basically the ONLY decision you ever take in battle.

  10. Grampy_bone says:

    I really like to hear “outside” opinions from non-franchise fans. I think it gives you a good perspective on games you don’t normally hear in the Great Internet Echo Chamber. It seems whenever you criticize a game people won’t address your arguments but instead will look for some reason why your criticism is “invalid,” because you don’t normally play that genre, or you didn’t play it all the way through, or whatever. I think it was Gabe of Penny Arcade who said if someone plays a game for 30 minutes and couldn’t stand it, that’s a valid opinion and he wanted to hear about it.

    • AJax says:

      I’m not an RE fan but I loved RE4 precisely because it was so schlocky and stupid but still manages to induce a legitimately freighting and uncomfortable atmosphere. It struck a fine balance between horror and humorous camp.

      Add to that the excellent pacing and encounter design. After finishing it like 5 times on the PS2, I’m still more than willing to buy the PC port and give it another go. That’s just a testament at how absolutely solid the core mechanics and level design are.

  11. Will Riker says:

    It’s interesting to see how your priorities in games differ from mine. I loved RE4, because the gameplay was really fun and solid, and as someone who didn’t like the RE series up to that point, it changed things up in a way I found really enjoyable. The story pretty much went over my head (at this point I can’t remember a single thing about it besides the “save the president’s daughter” premise) but I was having too much fun to care.

    Another thing that’s interesting–like you, RE4 was one of the first games I played that relied heavily on QTEs*, but for me that means that I hadn’t had a chance to get sick of them yet. They pretty much just rolled off my back once I got back to the fun shooty-parts.

    *You talk in the article about missing the NES/SNES/N64 era, but I never saw a game with QTEs before the PS2/GCN.

    • Ravens Cry says:

      Well, the idea basically goes back as far as Dragon’s Lair, and has the same problem. An impressive video gets tiresome after several viewings, and certainly loses a lot of dramatic impact.

  12. This highlights a really difficult thing with game reviews, and that’s the multifaceted nature of their consumption. A game can be amazeballs fun to play mechanically, but the story can still suck. The shooty parts could be awesome, but it’s got cutscenes you can’t skip. The setting can be the one you’ve always dreamed of, but the plot is a complete mess.

    Look at Fallout 3. The setting and atmosphere are something I’d say most people love. It’s got dungeons, stuff is nuked, the cold war propaganda vibe is there, etc. The main plot, however, goes off the rails. The combat system isn’t for everyone. The story subverts the mechanics in several places, etc. How you overall received this game probably depended on what was more important to you. I’ve been very tempted to fire it up again recently, just to have some dungeon-crawl ghoul-shootin’, but the thought of even having to hear the Outcasts’ distress call for Operation Anchorage keeps my mouse away from the “install” button.

    For a tabletop RPG example of where half the game worked and the other half didn’t, go dig up a copy of “Brave New World.” It’s got a really compelling superhero dystopian setting that I could read lore about for weeks and not get bored. The actual game, however, has some problems, in that (1) you don’t get to play awesome-powered superheroes, just minor ones, and (2) if you spend your points without specializing, there’s not much to differentiate your “super” persona from someone who’s just really good a few things.

    • aldowyn says:

      couldn’t you disable operation anchorage pretty easily, or is that harder to do in pre-skyrim/non TES bethesda games?

      • That was more of a snark at the worst of the DLC. There’s also the main questline, which (after it was patched) opens up some content I wanted to try out. So I’d have to go through Little Lamplight and all that stuff.

        The real temptation, however, is to install probably the first dozen or so most popular mods from the Nexus, especially an unofficial bugfix patch that does things like trigger appropriate 3 Dog dialog about what you have and haven’t done. Considering how many hours I sunk into the vanilla game, I’m better off leaving it alone. :)

    • MadHiro says:

      And some of us thought the setting and atmosphere were so bad as to be a self-parody. Which further highlights that not only can a game be multifaceted in quality, but of course no one will precisely agree with anyone else on just what those qualities are.

  13. TSi says:

    In my case, I never played a Resident Evil game for more than a few hours before, so, when I started RE4, I was a bit sceptical about ever finishing it. But as a fan of B movies and what we call in France “nanars”, I found it to be quite amusing as well as fun to play. Needless to say, the next instalments completely lost me and I think the video linked by Super Bunnyhop just points out what went wrong in the series.

    Anyway, I don’t see where the problem is in not liking a game for personal reasons but here, it seems Shamus doesn’t like it mostly because he had other expectations when he first booted up the game. I think I would have been disgusted as well but I can’t help but wonder what he would have though about it if he knew what to expect from the beginning, if someone told him it was more action driven and less guts twirling instead of “you like horror games ? here, this one is horror too”.

  14. Dragomok says:

    I know this is completely unrelated, but I’ve been trying to get on Jarenth’s site for about a week, and every attempt results in “the connection to the server was reset” message.

    Does anyone knows what might be causing that?

  15. GiantRaven says:

    I also got a serious distaste for RE4 when I first played it because I made the huge mistake of buying it for the PC. QTEs are significantly harder when the button prompts are numbered circles, rather than the actual keys you’re supposed to be pressing.

    I don’t think I actually made it past that first boulder section.

  16. RandomInternetMan says:

    ” “You shouldn’t have played the game if you don’t like QTEs / morality systems / romance subplots / grinding.”

    So what parts of the game is the critic allowed to critique? ”

    From my perspective, there’s a logical leap in there.

    If being forbidden to critique those elements is what you get from the above quote, this sounds as if you consider those elements automatically negative because you don’t like them inherently.

    Someone who isn’t against the idea of these game mechanics might have a more detailed look on any particular implementation’s pros and cons, and that kind of review will be ultimately more helpful to both people who are fans of such mechanics (so they know exactly what they get) and people who reject those mechanics entirely (as soon as they see it mentioned, they don’t need to read further).

    In comparison, a critic who dismisses specific features outright is only useful to people who already share his point of view. People who can enjoy such features have no idea whether the implementation is broken, worse than average, or actually pretty good.

    It’s not as if liking a game mechanic means being a fan no matter what. Execution is key, and this is why we need reviews.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but a critic criticizing stuff outside of his area of expertise may not be too relevant. You wouldn’t expect insightful commentary from a NBA commenter covering a high-level chess match even though both basketball and chess are sports, and there’s arguably more variation within video games than there is within sports.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      “Someone who isn’t against the idea of these game mechanics might have a more detailed look on any particular implementation’s pros and cons, and that kind of review will be ultimately more helpful to both people who are fans of such mechanics (so they know exactly what they get) and people who reject those mechanics entirely (as soon as they see it mentioned, they don’t need to read further).”

      So we’re right back to “You have to be a fan of these features in order to review the game”. Which is completely useless.

      • Greg says:

        No, you don’t have to be a fan of something to critique it, but you also can’t reject it out of hand. Telling me “Man, I hate FPS games. This game sucked” as a review tells me about the *reviewer*, not about the thing being reviewed. It doesn’t tell me if the reviewer hated the game because it’s a BAD example of the genre, or if they hated it because it’s a GOOD example of the genre. All I’ve learned is that the reviewer hates that kind of game, which is useless (except to let me know to avoid that reviewer in the future, at least for that genre).

    • Thanatos Crows says:

      This is why I don’t like Yahtzee and find Errant Signal incredibly interesting. Even when a game has elements I dislike, I’d like to hear about their execution. As much as I hate QTEs, I’ve come across some pretty well executed ones that, well, weren’t irritating. When RE4 came out I didn’t like shooters, but I like Bioshock and Borderlands and those are very definitely shooters, so when ever I hear a reviewer go “oh it’s just another JRPG” or “it’s one of those shooters again” I feel like I’m wasting my time with the person. Having stylized characters or a turn based battle system isn’t crimes in and of itself, it’s the execution. Some people might not care for those in the first place, but as you stated these people know enough from just hearing about their inclusion.
      Wow, that turned into a rant. A rant that’s essentially of a long recap of the comment I’m replying. Yeeaah..Seems like I needed to get that out of the system.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yahtzee often expounds his opinions though.The only time he resorts to “Oh,another of XYZ” is when he went on a long rant about why this thing was poorly implemented before.The problem with this,though,is that you have to follow him for some time before you learn why he thinks plenty of these are bad.Also,when a game does implement a feature well,he comments on that too.

        “Having stylized characters or a turn based battle system isn’t crimes in and of itself, it’s the execution.”

        Well,yes,but when a game pretty much copies every other popular game of the genre in the past decade without adding anything new or interesting,its just another XYZ is a perfectly valid complaint.You wouldnt say “Oh,its just another first person shooter” to describe doom,but you sure would say that for the torrent of clones that came after its success.

    • syal says:

      Someone who isn’t against the idea of these game mechanics might have a more detailed look on any particular implementation’s pros and cons.

      Nope. They would be able to tell you why someone who liked the mechanic wouldn’t like a specific implementation, but they can’t tell you if this specific implementation is so well implemented that someone who usually doesn’t like the mechanic would be okay with it. They’re blind in the opposite direction.

  17. Trevor says:

    I think the real issue is that a lot of readers treat internet articles (and magazine articles and books and television news stories and and and) as though they were a one-on-one conversation, and anything the author has written which disagrees strongly with the reader’s own personal preferences is seen not as a difference of opinion, but as a personal attack on their ability to discern quality, as if such things had been said directly to their face immediately after they’d expressed a strong opposite opinion.

    I’m not sure how anyone can fix this, since it’s fundamentally a problem of a reader interacting with a one-way communications medium as if it was a two-way dialogue — there’s no real way for an author to engage each reader in a separate conversation while explaining his point of view, so he can present his opinion differently based on the audience, as you do in face-to-face conversations.

    One obvious first step to protect oneself from having people react this way to the things that you write (general ‘you’, not you in particular, Shamus) is to begin every ‘review’ with an explanation about who you are and where you’re coming from, and being careful to avoid accidentally phrasing things as objective truth (it’s very easy to slip up on that), exactly the same way you do when you need to talk face-to-face with someone who has strong contrary opinions to yours.

    Alternately, I’ve played around with a few systems for generating completely objective game reviews which everyone can therefore agree on; some of them have worked surprisingly well. Maybe that’s the future of online games journalism (although I doubt it). I should really get back to doing that. Was quite fun, if not notably profitable.

    • Daniel says:

      Wait, I’m a going crazy or did you have a great example about soap in that comment when I looked at it earlier?

      • Trevor says:

        I did, then edited it out for brevity, a few minutes later. Maybe that was a mistake, but after posting it, it just made the thing look like a giant wall of text. :/

    • MichaelGC says:

      I don’t think the onus should be on the writer. Writers shouldn’t have to bend over backwards attempting to preëmpathise with those who think the appropriate response upon encountering a considered opinion, which may appear to differ in some degree from their own, is to fling out rage & bile.

      That said, you at least proposed a solution, and I certainly don’t have one. If bilious & ill-considered words had no power to wound, there wouldn’t be a problem – but they do. So if a writer did decide to heavily caveat their work for the sake of an easier or more pleasant life then I’d certainly not criticise that as a strategy, though it’d make me sad.

      :0(

      Oh, and below is a link to RPS’ “objective review” of the Stanley Parable. (Interesting that they turned comments off! That might just be because the article is old, but I’d guess it’s because they knew “objectivity” would also garner plenty of the rage & the bile…)

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/stanley-parable-the-objective-review/

      • MichaelGC says:

        Just realised it looks a bit like I’m having a pop at RPS, there (which I wasn’t! – I thought the review was amusing): those aren’t scarequotes, they’re just, ya know, quotequotes.

    • syal says:

      I think part of the solution is giving readers the feeling that they are just one of many people reading the article. It’s really hard to overcome in writing, but maybe a long list of “FAQ” links at the end of an article could mimic the feeling of sitting in an auditorium listening to someone tell you things.

  18. kdansky says:

    Wait, RE4 is supposed to be stupid? I never got that memo. To me, it was a serious story that was utterly ridiculous in its stupidity, with too many QTEs and horrible controls.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I would sometimes get pulled into the seriousness, what with a whole village being wiped out, but the Leon would throw out a one-liner and and I would remember the campiness.

  19. Cybron says:

    I would just like to note the facebook comments box at the bottom is littered with reflexive defense of RE4 AND condescending dismissal of Shamus’s opinions for having had a different gaming ‘life experience’ than your average console gamer.

    They really don’t waste any time.

  20. Peter H. Coffin says:

    The issue I’ve got is that from a “we want to sell games, and sell more of them than last time” standpoint, making the enjoyment of the game essentially dependant/justified on/by the previous games and their lore, you’re setting all the new players up for a disappointing experience and that’s just plain bad design. FooWrecker 1 & 2 (an “engaging and fast-paced serial with a broad cast and unique (if unforgiving) mechanics”) each selling a million copies and FooWrecker 3 selling 1.5 million means a half-million players finding FooWrecker 3 annoying, confusing, frustrating with obscure mechanic and a random undeveloped story with an unsatisfying cliffhanger ending. And very few of those half-million players are going to be inclined to buy and play FooWrecker 4….

    Proper design, on the other hand, would reintroduce characters in such a way as to bring out who they are and what side they’re on beforehand.

    Charlie: “OMG! It’s Martok!”

    makes a lot more sense if it’s led by 5-10 minutes with

    Alice: “At least we won’t have to face Martok again. He’d never forgive us for leaving him behind on that last mission.”
    Bob: “It’s strange that the beachhead team never found his body, though…”

    which establishes “previous teammember” = “probably at least as powerful as other teammembers, but with similar resources and skills”, “probably has a grudge” = “unknown adversarial status” = “talking may not be an option”, etc.

  21. straymute says:

    I think the main reason I really enjoyed RE4 at the time was because it deviated from games like Silent Hill or the earlier RE titles. I really liked the atmosphere and story of the Silent Hill games, but the gameplay kinda broke down on a few levels. The first was that with the way the areas were set up you only had to run to the nearest door to get away from enemies. The enemies also had the same tank style movement and attacks so it was pretty unlikely they would catch you if you got the hang of the controls. The other thing that bugged me was that explorations was more a matter of checking every single thing that can be checked in an area before the game gives up whatever item it is that lets you leave.

    This wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the sheer number of permanently shut doors and other pointless stuff in the Silent Hill games kinda wore on me. In RE4 though the areas were pretty open and the enemies were much more capable of forcing you to deal with them. Because I had to deal with the enemies I found myself scrounging for much needed supplies and coming across other things naturally instead of searching everywhere for some arbitrary item.

  22. Disc says:

    I’ve had a similar experience with Spec Ops: The Line. Gametype I’ve never really played much, only reason for playing it was all the talk about it. Most people I’ve talked about it have been reasonable though, but I think that’s pretty much only due to sticking to the few parts of the net where reasonable people are the perceivable majority. Having had a period of life where I consumed a lot of the grittier variety of war movies and books combined with not having played enough bro-shooters to get the joke, I was going flipping mad towards the end with the combination of annoying game mechanics and a horrible story which felt like just the writers trying to troll me with retarded bullshit and awful binary choices.

    What annoyed me the most afterwards, was the fact that the game could have potentially delivered so much more impactful messages if they weren’t so busy trying to force the player feel awful and bad all the time. There’s stuff there that could make for a decent war story, but it’s all wasted chasing whole another agenda, which from my point of view felt, and still feels, very banal and embarassing.

    • Felblood says:

      So basically, you personally should just read the original book: Heart of Darkness.

      It’s the same story and message, but not wrapped in a videogame, whose actual message is something more along the lines of “Heart of Darkness is a great work of literature that would not work right as a current gen FPS, and the fault does not lie in the story.”

      It’s not so much a game about a story, as game about games about stories, which is a super awesome thing to exist, but maybe not a super awesome thing for you to actually play.

      • Disc says:

        “So basically, you personally should just read the original book: Heart of Darkness.”

        Or I could watch Apocalypse Now, which is also inspired by Heart of Darkness. Which does a better job at exploring the darker sides of war and humanity a lot better than this game ever did. It doesn’t really resonate when the main character is an annoying asshole and you’re forced to ride the goddamn boat the one direction it wants to go and the only way out of it is to literally stop playing. Like I said, there was some potential here, but it’s wrapped in so much stupid and annoying it loses all momentum and becomes a tiring charade. If the game were any longer, I’d have just stopped playing, as simple as that.

        ‘whose actual message is something more along the lines of “Heart of Darkness is a great work of literature that would not work right as a current gen FPS, and the fault does not lie in the story.’

        Unless you’re feeling like actually proving and elaborating your point, I’m going to take that with a grain of salt. The game is a mixed bag at best and I’ve seen people give a handful of different theories about the supposed message of the game. I just went with the one I’ve heard most often for the sake of brevity.

        “It’s not so much a game about a story, as game about games about stories, which is a super awesome thing to exist”

        Just because something exists doesn’t make it good. Using shock tactics and attempting emotional manipulation is cheap and not something that deserves praise. They obviously wanted to raise discussion, so job well done there, but they really took the easy way out, which doesn’t really do much for the credibility of the art. Shocking people is easy and manipulation isn’t too hard either when you can make them believe you’ve only got the choices represented to you. Which in video games is fairly easy since most of us are used to it. Just having the option for the main character to go “Nah, fuck it, I’m outta here” and leave the city/drop the pursuit would have been a tremendous improvement. When trying to forcefeed all their crap on people, they missed a key opportunity to really make people freaking think about their choices and what they really mean. As it is, the game’s pretty freaking shallow and predictable.

        As a comparison, Stanley Parable reached a lot more depth with fraction of the gameplay and was actually enjoyable.

        • Felblood says:

          More verbose and unhelpful, but easier to defend interpretation of the game’s thesis might be:

          “Here are a large number of examples the reasons that the current methodology of making FPS games renders them unsuitable for adapting works of literature, especially works like Heart of Darkness which are characterized by protagonists whose actions may not be in sync with the desires of the audience. Alongside are presented some though provoking systems whereby the industry’s methodology might be altered to better serve the development of games that can blend story and game-play effectively.”

          However belaboring this point reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the comment I was putting forward.

          This isn’t a game about Heart of Darkness, this is a game about Heart of Darkness being (badly) made into an uncomfortable video game. If you came for Heart of Darkness, you’re going to be disappointed, as it becomes collateral damage in service of the developers’ thesis.

  23. Dreadjaws says:

    Resident Evil 4 was the first game I played that had QTEs, and I had no problem understanding them. I hated them, and I still do, but I think the screen prompts were pretty self-explanatory.

    Anyway, of course, the franchise couldn’t be really called Survival Horror at that point, so I perfectly understand being dissapointed coming from SH2. Curiously, the RE games got me into “B” movies instead of the other way around. Different strokes and all that.

    I agree with the reviews thing. It’s always unnerving. Every time I read a review, it’s littered with people who have taken a stand to insult the reviewer or to confirm their already formed beliefs, and most of them haven’t even played the darn thing yet.

    It’s not just for games, of course. The other day some guy gave The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a less than stellar (note: not even mediocre) score and people were calling him dumb and saying how he should stop making reviews. Other people said that they knew it was going to be terrible (again, a score of “good”, not great but not bad either). Cue others who said they should form their own opinions instead of listening to reviews and others who said they’d wait for audience’s opinions, because critics are dumb.

    In short, an enormous group of people, none of which had watched the film, were dissing each other’s opinions based exclusively on the fact that no one wanted information, they all wanted confirmation. They already had made up their minds (which is understandable only after you’ve watched the darn film) and they would attack anyone who said otherwise. Heck, a lot of people probably didn’t even read the review and just glanced at the score. Happens everywhere, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.

  24. nerdpride says:

    Can I just say that George is a genius? Not to disparage Shamus, but I got way more out of George’s video than the Escapist article. Also I get the impression that George puts in way more effort, so kudos to you sir.

    First, this thing had never been presented to me in an appealing way before (reviews sound so fanboyish all the time) and suddenly I’m thinking of spending 20$ on it. Second, I get the feeling that I have a good idea of what the thing actually is and that I might enjoy some parts of it. Third, it makes me consider that I might actually like this thing even though Shamus said he didn’t like it, and so far I haven’t really liked any of the things Shamus is on the record for not liking (although also I don’t like a good number of the things Shamus likes–I’m super picky).

    But I don’t have much spare time to play it even if I bought it. Would be cheaper, faster, and most likely funner to watch someone play a bit on youtube.

  25. Steve C says:

    The only part of your review I disagree with is that RE4 was “goofy on purpose.” RE4 did what they did on purpose. And it was definitely goofy. I don’t agree they purposely made it goofy. Not in the sense of (say) Thief4 which was unintentionally goofy. The goofy parts in RE4 are pretty standard shtick from anime and JRPGs. It wasn’t goofy in Capcom’s own eyes. It wasn’t aiming for the absurd laughs even though absurd laughing was achieved.

  26. Mechaninja says:

    So I just got around to reading the post over at Escapist, and then I decided to go peruse the comments.

    I think my favorite Vince Cunningham, saying thing like you “undemphasized the main point that opinions are subjective”, or “most people make interesting points and encourage deeper discussion and analysis than the review alone ever could?” or “Or is your point that a review is essentially no use in conveying how good a game is for you personally?”

    It’s like he didn’t actually read your post.

  27. EmperorErvinmar says:

    As to reviewing games for new players:
    Like most people, I leveled my gaming skills on 2D platformers like Sonic, then 3D like Crash Bandicoot, then branched into driving, shooting, and RPG in high school when I had infinite time and nowhere better to be. Now that I’m an adult with coherent opinions and money and stuff do you think I could understand what it was like to try to play RE4 as a first game? Or God of War? Or even whatever platformer the kids are playing now? My point is, I can’t help but feel like by the time you’re capable of competently reviewing video games with all the esoteric knowledge that requires you’re no longer able to much understand how it’s experienced by someone new.

    Also Shamus is wrong about RE4 and should be ashamed of himself.

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