Video game critics, eh? We’re suspicious of their decisions when it comes to review scores. It's hard to trust whether they are genuinely held beliefs or bought by the game publishers. However, we can’t stop going to the review sites to read up on the latest releases.
Video game critics are essentially ordinary gamers who got lucky and landed a job writing about video games. I should know – I am one of those people. But just like the rest of us, they’re prone to making mistakes or lapses of judgment, or fall victim to confirmation bias. Whatever it is, they don’t always get it right.
Sometimes, whether it be a big title made by a major developer or an independent game made by a team of four people, pre-release hype starts to build itself sky high. That can be a problem if confirmation bias starts to kick-in, and critics have already made up their minds before they get their hands on the game. Then, en-masse, a game that should receive luke-warm reception is lavished with an unjustifiable amount of praise. My point is, they get a bit carried away.
So, we’ve trawled through some of the best-reviewed games of the modern era and decided which games are worse than the critics say. Maybe after reading this list, you’ll sit back and reassess your perspective on some of these games, on whether they are worth the 8, 9 and 10 scores they have received.
15 BioShock Infinite
I loved the first two games in the BioShock series. I’m into Objectivism as a philosophical theory and found Andrew Ryan to be one of the greatest villains in video games. Then, we got BioShock Infinite.
Now, I don’t consider myself an extreme intellectual by any stretch, but I’m also not a Luddite. The first two BioShock games were narratively ambitious and obtuse at times, but they never tried to confound you. BioShock Infinite seems to forgo this and instead, seems to treat convoluted and confusing narrative beats as a good thing. Its ending was a bit of a head-scratcher, which left me going straight to online message boards just to figure out what had happened.
It is serviceable with its gunplay, but the Vigor powers felt shoehorned in to appease fans of plasmids. Some of the Vigor powers were cool, but the game introduced few scenarios where they could all be used effectively. In the end, I just stuck to running and gunning.
14 Grand Theft Auto IV
Okay, we're sort of cheating here. GTA IV is a last-gen title. However, it is backwards compatible with Xbox One, so this entry makes sense, kinda.
I said it before in my article where I ranked every GTA game from worst to best, that GTA IV is the black sheep of the GTA family. I didn’t say that to incite a reaction from people who were into the game. I said it because I meant it.
It is a thematic change of pace to other games in the series. When compared to the PS2 GTA games, it is stoic and serious, and it is no coincidence that Rockstar Games returned to a more humorous tone with GTA V.
It’s admirable that they tried to do something new, but it hurt the game in the end. While narratively ambitious, they chased a sense of realism that we just didn’t want.
On that note, the driving in that game was atrocious. I appreciate that they wanted to represent how cars move, but it just didn’t have that smooth, sleek control that GTA V went on to master.
As much as I love Niko, he deserved better.
13 Assassin’s Creed
I got into Assassin’s Creed late into the franchise but wanted to play them in chronological order. So, I popped the disc for the first game into my Xbox 360 to see what it was all about.
Wait? I’m a barman called Desmond Miles? I thought I was an assassin. Oh, you explore their memories? Okay, fine, I’ll get behind that.
The thing is, it was all going fine for the first three memories. I explored the cities of Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus and stalked my targets. Mechanically, it is a bit rigid, but I understood the appeal.
Then on fourth memory, you go back to Jerusalem. Been there, killed the Templar, got the t-shirt. I just didn’t have it in me to essentially replay the same three memories three times over, with a different target each time. I gave up and ejected the disc.
12 Fallout 4
My heart frowned when I played Fallout 4. I was one of those people –a loser, to be blunt– who pre-ordered the limited Pip-Boy edition and booked the release day off work so I could jump into the post-apocalyptic Boston that Bethesda had designed.
The first few hours were great but it started to sink in that Fallout 4 was, compared it its predecessors, an incredibly shallow game. Fallout: New Vegas was, in my opinion, the best of the franchise when it came to pure, RPG, fun. I don’t think the intent behind Fallout 4, was to have me pining for Fallout: New Vegas, no matter how (marginally) more impressive the graphics were.
Not only was its skill tree system dumbed down and simplistic, and dialog options were painfully stripped back. There was also the sense that nothing you did really mattered like it did in the previous games. It was as though you could make any decisions you wanted, but the end game was the same. Fallout 4 wasn’t an RPG with FPS mechanics. Sadly, it was the other way around.
11 Dying Light
I really wanted to like Dead Island when it came out in 2011, but there was something about it that was holding it back. It had an interesting premise but not much to glue it all together. Then, Dying Light came along, and while it offered more than Dead Island, it still felt an underwhelming experience.
The focus of Dying Light was the free running system, which was meant to revitalise the way you traverse the zombie-plagued city, but it felt too clunky to be comfortable. Or maybe I’m just bad at it, who knows for sure?
Sadly, the problems didn’t end there. The plain and stale mission structure from Dead Island persisted and eventually, I just got bored of it. Who are these people I’m trying to work with and save? Why don’t I just go it alone? These were the questions I was asking while leap-frogging cars and jumping between overturned buses.
10 Xenoblade Chronicles X
Maybe I just don’t get JRPGs, but Xenoblade Chronicles X was an incredibly underwhelming game. Much like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the side-mission content was tepid, and after amassing a quest-log of twenty activities, I couldn’t think of a single thing to interest me.
When it comes to open-world games, I think it is vital for the world you inhabit to have a sense of place that is tangible. Bigger does not mean better and while Xenoblade Chronicles X offers a large landmass to explore, none of it is that interesting or worthwhile.
Plus, I’m not sure if anyone else minded, but one of your NPC allies looks like a talking potato ... you know the one. Moreover, the game's generic (out of place) hip-hop music plays nonstop until your ears bled.
The 2016 reboot of DOOM is a lot better than what id Software were working on previously, with what was going to be titled, ‘DOOM 4.’ It was essentially to be an over-scripted, cut-scene laden, Call of Duty clone. Scrapping this idea, id Software decided to go back to their roots by creating a one-track, repetitive slug-fest.
I’m in the camp that believes that ‘going back to your roots’ isn’t the foundation or guarantee of success. Let’s not suggest that DOOM is a bad game. It’s a pretty good game – if it came out in 2003.
DOOM is an extremely competent shooter, but by no means does this justify the review scores it had received. There are many more and just as decent FPS games which didn’t receive the same glistening reviews. If this was a shooter by any other name, it is unlikely that the review sites would be dropping their panties in unison.
8 Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor
When I first picked up a PS4 in 2014, this was the first game I picked up for my new games machine. I was excited too, having heard all the review sites gushing about how great the game's combat and open-world version of Mordor was. And then I had to question, "Am I playing the same game as everyone else?"
Apart from the nemesis system, this game was pretty much Batman: Arkham Knight in Lord of the Rings clothing. The combat was incessantly dull, and the open-world rendition of Mordor was unexciting. It was more an arena for the boring combat.
Yet people loved it – and they’re entitled to do so. I just hope that the sequel releasing in 2017 will be more exciting. I’m also hoping for a six-pack by the end of the year, so let's not hold our breath for either.
7 Gone Home
Can you believe that this game won a BAFTA for storytelling? Are you for real? Of all the ‘walking simulators,’ or ‘first-person interactive experiences,’ this isn’t even in the top five. So, what is it that makes Gone Home so special?
Some would attribute the fact that one of the major characters is gay, which is fair enough, and we need more stories about LGBTQ people in video games and other mediums. But if this was a book, film or television show, it wouldn’t be BAFTA-worthy. It wouldn’t even be Golden Globe worthy.
The only thing interesting in this game was wondering round the empty rooms of your childhood room, and ransacking the fridge in the kitchen, throwing all those 1990s looking foodstuffs around the place.
6 Heavy Rain
“Jasoooonnnnnnnn. Jaasssssooooooooon. Jason?”
Anyone who has sat through this ‘cinematic gameplay’ experience will be familiar with the above quote. David Cage, the founder of Quantic Dream, has been putting out similar efforts for the last decade, some more successful than others. Essentially, exercises in how to make video games as cinematic as possible before. None of his releases were particularly successful — and critics pick up on this. But why is Heavy Rain so successfully in terms of review scores? It does nothing that differently to any other title put out by Quantic Dream, but it seems to have gone over well.
Was it the twist ending which, initially, caught us all by surprise, but if you examine if for even the tiniest moment, makes little sense? Probably – I can’t think of any other reason Heavy Rain would be heralded in the manner it was. The protagonist, Ethan, is a bit of a drip too. No wonder your son ran away from you, mate.
5 Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight kick-started the trend of recreating 8-bit, retro titles for the modern era. Again, like most titles on this list, it is not that Shovel Knight is a bad game, it just doesn’t do anything spectacular. It is a game that takes inspiration from games like Metroid, Castlevania, and Mega Man, but where those games mastered one type of gameplay mechanic, Shovel Knight tries to bring everything to the table at once. Jack of all trades, master of none, as the saying goes.
Everyone went for Shovel Knight like it was the second coming. It was okay and controlled decently enough, but outside of that, it didn’t take me back to the 8-bit, NES days of yore. It took me to the Steam store, looking for a more innovative and enjoyable title.
Oh boy. Oh. Boy. I know a lot of people really love Destiny. I know it is still played today and Destiny 2 is on the horizon. But it is still not a great game.
It is a game that is light on narrative, gameplay, and ideas. Which is bizarre, given that Bungie Studios had managed to create a game full of factions and locales but also managed to create a campaign that averaged about ten hours playtime.
After a while, it just became a meandering succession of loot drops and terrible boss fights. Somehow, they even created expansion packs for this one. There seems to be a trend with developers improving their FPS games on the sequel, addressing the concerns and criticisms levied at the original. Let’s hope Bungie Studios have listened.
Let’s get this out of the way first: We’re not going to hark on about how Splatoon is Call of Duty for children of anything like that. The main disappointment with Splatoon is how little it does to excite or entertain. Three minute matches may sound good – to drop in and out of play sessions at a whim, but it lacks the big match feel of other online shooter games.
Matchmaking is also unbalanced, as it pit players with level six or seven against a team of players at level thirty and upwards. It is like Nintendo are just throwing people to the wolves, and progressing your character is entirely dependent on if you are lucky enough to be placed against people at the same level as you.
Splatoon deserves credit for daring to be different, but being different for the sake of it does not mean it is a good game.
We all had that moment in Journey where you meet another player in the world. That, ‘oh, ah,’ moment where you form some sort of strange synergy together. It’s moving, you think, as you slide down the sand dunes in unison. Then, you either part ways, or they drop out of the game. Suddenly, it’s over, and you’re alone, and the game instantly seems to be a bit bland afterward.
Beautiful aesthetics aside, Journey is a bit shallow. The game presents little challenge or variety. Any puzzles are simplistic and felt like they were shoehorned in to punctuate the long stretches of moving through the world, rather than to test the player’s ability.
Despite being a short experience, I gave up half-way through. They say it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Well, I reckon I’ll sit this one out.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game – a really great game. I like it – a lot. That said, is it really worthy of the slew of 9/10 and 10/10 scores it has been receiving? Having spent around 60 hours playing the game and completed the main quest, I just don’t think it’s that good.
This is such a huge game in terms of scope that it is bordering on ridiculous. There are over 100 shrines to visit - which are mostly great - and people to meet who offer you side quests. But are these side-quests any good? For the most part, they are simple fetch quests with little reward. The traditional, sprawling dungeons of previous games in the Zelda franchise have been replaced by the four Divine Beasts, which while intricately designed, lack the grandeur and expansiveness of dungeons in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Wind Waker.
Also, what is the deal with weapon durability? Seriously, mate, no one has time for that nonsense.
On Jim Sterling’s Jimquisition, he gave The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a 7/10. I would have to agree with this score, on balance. Then again, Jim Sterling also got DDoS’d for giving the game that score, so pls don’t hack me.