This may be the most self-indulgent thing I've written in a long time, but I really care about first person shooters, and I can't stand it when they aren't taken seriously whether it's by developers, critics, or fans. First person shooters do not have to be exercises in meatheadedness. Valve and Irrational Games have proven that first person shooters are perfectly valid vehicles for solid narrative.
The military-FPS sub-genre takes a beating by critics for playing host to stupid stories, and that grates on me as well. Developers have tried to plan for more serious mil-FPS tales and had their projects altered or shut down (look up Six Days in Fallujah). Attempts at serious consideration of the nature of war in mil-FPS games don't seem viable in the marketplace for the time being. Mil-FPS games are therefore limited either to historical reference, or Tom Clancy-esque plotlines.
The Call of Duty franchise has done the latter quite well since the fourth game in the series, and considering all the talk I hear from video game journalists and pundits about wanting more criticism in their game reviews, I’m plenty disappointed that no one called out Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s campaign for the banal exercise in stupidity that it was.
I was originally going to review School 26 for Joystick Division, but a good review, in my mind, depends heavily on perspective. Editors wisely try to assign writers to reviews who are familiar with the relevant genre. Or who have played previous games in the series if the title is a sequel.
How, then, was I meant to review a game meant for pre-teen girls? The idea's kind of ridiculous. All I kept thinking about were the questions I wound up asking Kirsten Forbes from Silicon Sisters, the studio that developed the game. You can read the piece here.
I imagine a day when I am doing video game journalism full time, and can actually afford to start enjoying a wider array of games. I hope it comes within the next two years or so, because blowing through games just to have played them, or to write a review, isn't a hell of a lot of fun. It's just another demonstration of the maxim that a games journalist needs to have more passion for writing than for gaming, because doing the former seems to truncate the ability to do the latter.
To wit, Medal of Honor. I got through the campaign in a week, and the multiplayer has already lost my attention because I only have so many hours in any day to "free game" nowadays, the rest of my gaming usually being work related somehow. I have been putting off downloading a copy of Everquest II provided by Sony Online Entertainment for a review piece for Game Kudos for a few days now, and also have a code for City of Heroes: Going Rogue that needs using. Technically, all of my gaming time should be going into these two MMO's rather than Fallout: New Vegas, which may be a continuation of Fallout 3 for all intents and purpose but Fallout 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, so that's perfectly satisfactory to me.
Medal of Honor, therefore, having written my review for the game on Gamer Limit, is just about ready to be turned in to GameStop, I'm afraid. There are more Achievements to be had, but the trade in value of the game is only going to get worse, and GoldenEye 007 comes out for Wii next week, and Call of Duty: Black Ops the week after that. I'm going to have plenty of FPS goodness to keep me busy such that I really don't need Medal of Honor any longer than I needed Halo: Reach, which was turned in last week for credit towards Black Ops.
It's ironic that wannabe games journalists think that the job is about being paid to play video games all day long, like it's a dream come true. Yes, you get to play games, but not always the ones you want, and even the ones you otherwise might have enjoyed get rushed through in order to make sure you have time to play them before the next assignment rolls in. I'll make the sacrifice if it means being able to do this full time in the near future, but I wonder what would happen if video game journalists holding panels about getting jobs in the industry at events like PAX and PAX East actually told the crowd the truth about what happens to your gaming life as a result of trying to break in while working full time.
It's nice when I can discuss review scores in the context of a particular game, and the language used to describe it when it's being reviewed. Medal of Honor was a fun game, but not a great game. My hope began to dwindle when EA dropped the word "Taliban" from the multiplayer component and thus exposed themselves as using Afghanistan as nothing more than a marketing tool. I stopped myself from reading the copy of any reviews because I hadn't written mine yet, but I did see a new story on IndustryGamers which got my goat because it referred to a Metascore of 76 as "paltry," when Metacritic translates such a score as "generally favorable." There's such dissonance between the numerical scores we use and the text we translate those scores into...and so, yet another Bitmob piece on review scores was born.
I feel a little dirty after penning this review, but only about the scores, to be honest. Gamer Limit has a published review score policy that I have to adhere to when I write for them, and "Purchase for some, rental for others" is precisely how I feel about Reach, so I gave it an overall score smack dab in the middle of the appropriate range because I really think a gamer could go either way on owning this title or not.
My issue isn't with Gamer Limit, for the record, but rather at feeling as though I might not have stuck to my guns. When I write reviews, I try not to be entirely subjective, if such a thing is possible. I blame my film background on this. Fellini films are boring to me, but I learned about why he's considered a genius and I can't argue with those perspectives from a technical standpoint, and so I would never mark down one of his films simply because *I* didn't like it.
Reach is not a bad game, I just don't really care about it anymore. That, to me, is a measure of a game: do I want to play it again once the campaign is finished? I can't see myself getting into the multiplayer because Medal of Honor comes out next month, and that is likely the online shooter that will hold my attention. Right now, I'd rather get my Neutral character in Fallout 3 up to Level 30 and then run Mothership Zeta to get all the Achievements and truly put the game to rest before New Vegas comes out.
But just like Fellini, Bungie does certain things exceptionally well from a technical point of view, and I feel I have to acknowledge that in a review.