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Authors’ Choice: Overrated Games

Authors’ Choice: Overrated Games

Authors’ Choice is a series of articles in which the staff of Gaming Symmetry voice their personal opinions on a variety of topics. Each writer will choose one game for each topic and will discuss it shortly, therefore the articles are entertaining and easy to read.

We begin by a little negativity- the most overrated games according to our staff. So which games receive more popularity and critical acclaim than they deserve? Read on and see!

David “DDJ” Jerebko: The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time

By many accounts and polls, Ocarina of Time is not just one of the best games ever: it’s the best game ever. In some ways, that makes it an easy target for the ‘overrated’ label: how could something that is so deified by gaming fans not be somewhat overrated? No game, by my estimation, is worthy of the type of praise that Ocarina of Time receives. No game is perfect and Ocarina of Time is no exception; yet, in conversation, it is often referenced with a reverence and honor that suggests an almost ordained and God-given assessment of the game’s perfection. Insulting it in any way is typically a quick way to be accused of trolling. No game deserves to be so highly-rated, and thus, by definition and by nature, Ocarina of Time becomes overrated.

However, I personally believe Ocarina of Time is overrated for a second reason. Ocarina of Time is the quintessential example, in my opinion, of a historically-relevant game. The greatness of Ocarina of Time is entirely driven by the time in which it was released. It was incredibly historically significant, translating one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises into the new 3D era, but historical significance does not breed inherent greatness. Greatness, in my opinion, demands a timeless quality. A great game would be regarded as great regardless of when it was released. Ocarina of Time, on the other hand, simply was the first example of a necessary industry step; it did not do anything that another game would not have done eventually. It represents a logical step in the evolution of gaming; to borrow from industry terminology, it was an evolutionary game rather than a revolutionary game. Revolutionary games are timless, and Ocarina of Time is not.

David “BGH” Kempe: Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Rare’s final outing on the N64 was heralded as a truly groundbreaking title, garnering critical praise, a dedicated cult following, and several awards for its graphics, sound, humor, and maturity. Now, I don’t necessarily consider BFD a bad game, but I do see BFD as a game that was all flash and little substance; featuring relatively weak gameplay and level design masked behind some undeniably great graphics for its time, some great sound work (it won a BAFTA after all), and of course, piles and piles of s***.

Really, I can appreciate the concept of crude humor appearing on a Nintendo console as much as anyone, but BFD seems to hinge on it almost to distract from the fact that the actions you’re completing aren’t particularly entertaining. Nobody should enjoy walking great distances at quarter speed, or repeating mediocre tasks three times in a row to make the most out of whatever context sensitive action is available, but they are accepted due to their corresponding vulgarity, profanity, and gore that’s only funny if you’ve been starved for that sort of thing (And you shouldn’t be – South Park was well in gear at the time of this game’s release). The game also creates the illusion of non-linearity when in fact it employs a very guided logic (there are at least a few context sensitive buttons that you can come across that simply won’t do anything until the time is right), has a camera that rivals the Mighty Poo for “biggest turd in the game,” and despite its variety in modes of play, each offers little ingenuity or refinement, and often become repetitious before their time is up. Sure, the game looks great and provides some interesting commentary, but is it the best of what the N64 has to offer? Hardly.

Alice Kojiro: Shadow of the Colossus

Oh, there are so many valid games from which to choose for the dishonor of being my most overrated game.  So many titles have I played and loved in my days as an impressionable youth about which I have grown terminally ill of hearing.  The likes of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64, and many more have garnered so much attention that I sometimes actively seek reviews that bash them just to counter the unstoppable flow gushing from the lips and keyboards of fanboys and girls.  I had considered each of these and more, but there was a small obstacle in my path: these games are actually good, no matter how much their mentions provoke anything from a minor irritation to a spewing of vitriolic sludge enough to fill a hot tub amongst those strange synapses that bring you weekly to a new beautiful world from another video game.  I’d also considered Super Mario Galaxy, which I didn’t like much at all, but it has its redeeming qualities.  No, my loquacious rant craved something beloved, yet for reasons completely beyond my comprehension.

As many of you will instantaneously strip the integrity, both from an artistic standpoint and my pedigree as a gamer, from my tiny frame the moments I reveal its name, I simply cannot hand this wooden donkey’s posterior of a trophy to any game but Shadow of the Colossus.  Shadow of the Colossus had a unique and wonderful concept: you explore a vast, yet empty world in the hopes that you may encounter one of the sixteen titular monstrosities.  Each battle with one of these titans has you climbing around on its body, attacking its weak points in order to bring it down.  It sounds like a fantastic game from an action standpoint, as well as an aesthetic standpoint.  This game is critically acclaimed for its beautiful scenery and deep sense of isolation.  Its massive world is certain to contain several pointless, but strange little scenes that make one stop and wonder aimlessly at their existence; the sort of things that comprise the more special moments in Oases of Beauty.

Excitedly, I began my journey, but something was horribly wrong before I took a single step.  The beginning is a fairly long cutscene of the protagonist riding a horse through a wasteland so brown that it makes the gigantic cave spiders in my basement look like a rainbow, in which he babbles in a made-up nonsense language to a disembodied voice with subtitles along the bottom.  What exactly is the point of making up a gibberish language, hiring voice actors to speak it, and putting subtitles at the bottom?  Why not just have them speak English?  Is this Animal Crossing?  As I’ve already hinted, the world is ugly and colorless; I don’t know who thinks these kinds of visuals are realistic, but I see more color in my back yard on a cloudy day.  Worse only are the controls; it’s supposed to be realistic, like if you were to actually try to climb these walking mountains in real life, and I understand that; that doesn’t mean that each and every climb has to be an exercise in frustration.  A game can be challenging without being so frustrating and slowly-moving; anyone who doubts that can just download Mega Man 10 and try out any of the Special Stages.  The feeling of isolation; stranded in a vast, empty world?  Super Metroid did that, too, and rather well, I might add, not to mention with some beautiful, colorful, and exotic scenery.  Should I even mention the game’s dearth of music?  There’ve been tons of games with unique concepts that fell flat due to poor execution, but this one is continuously regarded as a masterpiece, much to my consternation, and thus, I deem its praise’s omnipresence more vexing than that of zombies or armor bikinis – or even the idea of zombies in armor bikinis.

Ali Nazifpour: Resident Evil series

No one can deny that Resident Evil series has been extremely influential. They have named the Survival Horror genre and they have set its conventions not first but twice. And then again there is no doubt that they are massively popular. But neither popularity nor influence necessarily translated to quality, and I believe this is where the series sorely lack. You might argue otherwise but I think there has never been a good Resident Evil game with solely one exception, and that exception is Resident Evil 4, and that one would be good if you consider it an action game. I know that my own most favorite series of all times- Silent Hill– is massively based on this series but their merit comes from what they have added- great and deep storytelling, intricate and scary atmosphere, etc.

There are many things which make the games sorely lack value. They are not scary. They use jump-scares throughout which is the cheapest way to scare someone and even that fails to scare you after some time since you will soon learn to anticipate it before it comes (clue: an empty corridor, and empty yard, an innocent looking car, normally, any time that zombies are not approaching you). The games overplay their hand at jump-scare and they lose their effectiveness easily. The stories are abysmal and cliche, the characters are too flat and hot and powerful. There is nothing wrong with sexualized and muscular characters, but they have their place and time. In a scary game you must feel that your characters are vulnerable and fear for their safety, not that they are unstoppable heroes.

In short, I believe that Resident Evil games are mediocre trash entertainment and their place in history is simply chronological chance.

Ethan Sheaffer: Halo: Combat Evolved

Oh look. Halo makes an appearance on a list of overrated games. What a surprise. But trust me when I say that this won’t just be a bunch of empty whinging simply because Halo is what all the dudebro frat boys play (if that were the case, I’d be writing about every Call of Duty game since World at War). Let me preface this by saying that this certainly isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, and I respect many of the innovations it introduced to the shooter genre (though let’s be honest: the only “strategy” that the two-gun rule added was determining which other gun to carry around with your GodPistol). However, as Kill.Switch has proven, innovation does not necessarily a great game make.

The graphics (which I’ll admit have aged fairly well) and the vehicle combat aside, pretty much everything that this game was lauded for falls flat for me. Many people praised the story, but the plot is only fascinating if you’ve never played the likes of Silent Hill, BioShock, pretty much every Bioware game, or a great majority of RPGs. Plus it’s kind of hard to identify with a faceless main character who has maybe ten lines of dialog in the entirety of the trilogy. “But it’s interesting because there are three sides to the conflict!” Yeah, that would be cool if the same thing hadn’t been done before (and better) by Half-Life, StarCraft, and countless other games. The gameplay isn’t anything special either: it bills itself as “Combat Evolved”, but it’s really a devolution compared to tactical first-person shooters like Rainbow Six or FPS games with complex objectives like Perfect Dark and Deus Ex. Even if you’re just looking for a mindless run-and-gun FPS, you’re still better off playing Painkiller instead. But the worst part of Halo is the abhorrent level design, which stands as a textbook example of laziness. I absolutely despise the indoor section of Assault on the Control Room, which consists of the same four rooms copy-pasted together ad nauseam (octagon room, hallway, different hallway, and skybridge), all of which are so bland and colorless that they needed to put arrows on the floor to keep players from getting lost in the monotony. Even among fans of the series, The Library has become a punchline in any discussion about repetitious and tedious level design. Plus, instant-death fall barriers are just lame; if you don’t want people taking shortcuts, don’t design the level in a way that lets the player jump down to a point further ahead.

Thankfully, the sequels addressed many of these problems, and I do think that Halo 2 and 3 are legitimately great games. However, Combat Evolved does not deserve it’s current place among the elite titles of video game history.

Mike Siciliano: Minecraft

Markus “Notch” Persson made a fortune off of a simple concept: creation. The idea that anyone, no matter young or old, male or female, could create whatever he or she wanted was what birthed the existence of Minecraft. This little independent project became so popular that people were willingly paying to get into the alpha version of the game. The problem? Minecraft‘s concept can only exist as far as the player allows it to. Without purpose or motivation, the fruits of your efforts seem for naught. Minecraft lacks a goal. It has no ending. Survival elements were carelessly tacked on, and over time the game slowly started to resemble something of a fully-structured world rather than just a sandbox of pixels, but at its core Minecraft still remains simply a game about nothing. The same could be argued for something like Skyrim, or in many cases MMOs, but these are games that have defined story arcs and tangible rewards for the work you put in. Minecraft, on the other hand, only gives you a tepid sense of personal accomplishment. Congratulations, you just built the Starship Enterprise. Now what?

Now you return to the little cave you’ve built into a wall that you call home, and you sit there and wait out the night because – surprise! – there are zombies. But I’d feel more inclined to actually care if there was some sense of satisfaction about surviving, like I’d truly struggled against all manner of horrors to live through the night. Instead you could just as easily dig a hole straight down and cover up the top with a single block of material and wait till sunrise. On all accounts, Minecraft is nothing more than a one-trick pony. Unfortunately, that trick was never all that great to begin with, it just snowballed into a riotous success thanks to an unprecedented internet rally behind it. It’s an internet meme that will one day be completely forgotten, just like all the rest. The more praise I continue to hear about this game, and the more critical and commercial recognition it receives, the more I begin to wonder about the integrity of those doing the praising. Am I becoming more jaded as the generations come and go, or is everyone else just becoming more complacent?

3 Comments

  1. Strange how DDJ considers Ocarina of Time the most overrated game he has ever come across, while giving it a 10/10 score on GameFAQs.

    • Well, that wasn’t actually a review. It was an article on how Oceanaria of Time had some appeal beyond nostalgia. Since GameFAQ’s doesn’t allow you to post an article as a review without a score though, he gave it a 10/10 to avoid harming the overall score of the game.

  2. lol @ what Naz picked :p

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