Under the Knife: Broken Games and Reviews
By now I'm sure most of you (particularly the PC crowd) have seen the fissure that has split the Total War gaming community in two. For those of you not in the know, Total War: Rome II has just been released and it has been stirring a lot of controversy. Not only was this game released in deplorable condition, but big name publications are praising it as a fantastic real-time strategy game that everyone should go out and buy. Judging from what many consumers and very few reviewers are saying about how incomplete it is, it takes me back to one of my previous blogs about the capability of reviewers. To be honest, the caliber of reviewers seems to be waning incredibly.
Why else are there multiple reports from the average gamer about how broken and unpolished this game is? Why else are these publications who are giving the game high scores getting criticized from these same gamers? Why else are the forums flooded with negative reception? When looking at this situation as is, ladies and gentlemen, I can say that it upsets me.
Now, I haven't played Total War: Rome II nor have I played any game in the series; however, when I see how negative the reception of a game can be due to one or more issues then I start researching. I ask myself about what could possibly be so bad about the game. The main two complaints that I have found are graphical discrepancies and gameplay issues. These have apparently plagued many experiences with Total War: Rome II. Many people are filing reports, showing videos, and sending messages that can be summed up with one question: what happened?
Many reviewers are giving this game glowing reviews. They are praising it as a fantastic real-time strategy game that everyone must buy. The bare minimum of what can be deemed "bad" in the game is rounded out to mild technical issues and minor graphical flaws. Compared to the many negative descriptions gamers have, I'm inclined to declare that the opinion gap is wide here. I'm also inclined to declare that Total War: Rome II is the most controversially reviewed game of 2013.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but as an avid consumer of video games I want my product to work day one. I want to be able to take my product home and use it. I want to enjoy it for what it is. If you have seen some of my reviews this year, you would see that I am damn lucky to have rented those games instead of pay with my hard earned money. The bottom line is that if I'm paying fifty to sixty or so dollars for something that I know I cannot return once it's opened, this game better damn well work day one.
As is the case with Total War: Rome II or Aliens: Colonial Marines or The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, I want to see some effort put into these games. I don't want to experience bugs and glitches that ruin or even break the game. I don't want to see unfinished textures and NPCs phasing through walls for no apparent reason. I don't want to spend my hard earned money on something that is blatantly not finished. I am seeing plenty of evidence that this game should not have been released. Why are reviewers giving this game above average to perfect scores? Why are some gamers defending this game from the vast majority despite the mounting evidence?
Has the video game community reached the point where we are forgiving developers and publishers for releasing clearly unfinished games? Have we reached the point where reviewers can purposely mislead and flat out lie to our faces and we accept it? Are we so far-gone that we have developed the mindset that if an unfinished or broken game is released that just because it will or might be patched is okay? No! Such things are unacceptable. You are spending a good chunk of your check on something you expect to work day one.
The reason why I am asking these questions is to give everyone a moment of self-reflection. We are consumers, are we not? We have a right to purchase products that we expect to be ready. Companies work for us as much as we do in our own places of employment to other consumers. That is what business is. It is not too much from us to ask that when we spend our hard earned money (money that we know we cannot get back from opened disc-based products) we spend it on something that actually works and if it doesn't then we get a replacement.
It is simply astounding how many gamers, reviewers, and article writers out there defend practices like this. It is those same people that think, "DLC isn't a problem. I don't mind if they take the ending or characters out. I'm content with spending more money". It is those same people that think, "I like all of the original policies of the Xbox One. Sharing physical copies is so overrated and the Kinect truly is a gem with this system. I want Microsoft to tell me what the future of console gaming is". It is those same people that think, "I'm a true fan. I don't care if the game has problems. I'm willing to wait for a patch and enjoy what I have".
To those people, I say that you are hurting the industry. That mindset is not helping to solve problems. It is only creating new problems. You have no idea how screwed we get every time a broken, unpolished, incomplete game gets released and is then praised by dishonest reviewers and blind gamers. Brand loyalty and being a fan is not enough to forgive and forget the blatant slap in the face when you spend sixty dollars and you know you can't get it back.
Yes, Total War: Rome II is getting patched and I'm hearing about some improvement. I'm glad that it is getting addressed, but what is unsettling is that Creative Assembly, Sega, and any reviewer who gave this game a high score honestly believe that this was ready to go. They believed that this game was set to be launched.
Then the loyalists of Total War who defend this game turn around to everyone else who are criticizing those people and call us crazy. Why? Because you supposedly didn't experience the same bugs and glitches everyone else has? Because you're supposedly a "true fan" who accepts the game in any condition it's in? If you managed to squeeze some fun out of it, good, but you can't dismiss the damning evidence that most have against the game.
What's even more pathetic (and I can't believe I'm writing this) is that I recommend going to the Metacritic page for this game. You can smell the dishonesty from some of the "user" reviews from a mile away. Most of the positive comments for the game from "users" are "users" that only have commented on Total War: Rome II and no other game.
It is instances like these that you can tell that there are people out there that are doing damage control for the sake of saving face for a clearly unfinished product. What's next? AMC makes you pay an extra five dollars to continue watching movies that stop at the forty minute mark? I bet people would raise a stink about that faster than Microsoft can do a 180.
To put it bluntly, this situation is a complete stain on the video game community. We have reviewers that are lying to the people and gamers who are ignorant enough to look at Total War: Rome II and think it's okay it was released the way it was. If people can gather together and fight SOPA, PIPA, among other scrupulous tactics and people, then why are we divided over a game that isn't finished and continues to still have problems to this day? Consider my words and whether or not you are willing to fight for your rights.