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Resident Evil (GameCube) artwork

Resident Evil (GameCube) review


"In 1999, System Shock 2 showed the world that it's possible to craft an unspeakably brilliant and always-chilling tale, complete with horrifying characters and a relentlessly anxious and unfriendly atmosphere. It also proved that survival horror in its truest sense - a focus on the conservation of resources in a harrowing, otherworldly situation - doesn't have to be restricted by godawful movement and an errant camera, and certainly that tension doesn't have to be ramped up by not being able to see where you're going. Why, when we have a wonderful benchmark like that, are we still lapping up rubbish like this?"



The problem with creating a Resident Evil remake is that you're remaking Resident Evil.

Let's remove those pink specs and be absolutely honest here: it hasn't aged well. One of the survival horror genre's grandfathers it may be, but its moronic dialogue, obtuse controls and stupid, stupid camera don't exactly hold their own by modern standards. Taking the original game's premise and pouring it into a new mould, reconstructing it into something exciting and relevant, could well have proved mightily successful. Piecing it back together, practically scene-by-scene, in a new engine? That's not quite what I had in mind.

Developers are moving away from traditional survival horror for a reason: it's rubbish. It was supposed to be a tentative genre, a transitional period: game design experiments in bringing a cinematic horror atmosphere to a fast-growing interactive medium. It was exciting because it was novel. Now, it isn't, and it doesn't work.

Why? Well, the entire group of games was based around the transparently inaccurate notion that cinema and videogame creation function in a comparable manner. They don't. In film, you can pull the camera in awkward directions, unnerving the viewer in a moment of visual confusion. It's an old trick, but it's an industry standard because it achieves its aims. Film is passive, and exclusively audiovisual. But games add another hugely important element: control. If you can't control your avatar in any worthwhile manner, a vast portion of the game has failed. It doesn't matter if it's because the camera's doing something a bit scary. It doesn't matter if it's because the analogue stick decides to randomly invert, in that truly hateful survival-horror fashion. It still doesn't work. It's tantamount to expecting the star of your film to perform blindfolded, while the producer shouts arbitrary directions at her.

The other problem with trying to mimic cinema is that videogames invariably have inferior writing teams. There are noteworthy exceptions, and I'll love them until the very end of time, but to make a sweeping generalisation: mainstream videogame scripts are awful. And Resident Evil's is among the worst of the horrible bunch.

It's basically unchanged from the original. Whether it's lost something in its translation from Japanese, I donít know, but it sounds like it's been written by infants, with little to no understanding of how conversation actually functions. What normal human being, for example, finds it necessary to kneel down, wipe his finger in a crimson puddle, then sniff it, before feeling it safe to declare that "it's blood"? Or, in the heat of panic, stuck in an underground laboratory complex and surrounded by horrifying former-humans, has the composure to calmly say "I'll stay here and guard our escape route, in case something bad happens"? It's nonsense. Complete nonsense that wouldn't pass in any other narrative medium, and it won't do. Not one bit.

Hats off to Capcom for re-recording the inexcusably bad voice work. Hats very firmly back on for their recurrent inability to make it sound in any way convincing. In fact, if anything, the vocals of this 'improved' Resident Evil manage to detract from the experience. At least the acting in the original was so hilariously inept that it provided for some decent laugh-out-loud moments of ridiculousness. Here, it's just crap. It sounds suspiciously like a group of bored artists reading directly from their scripts on their lunch breaks, probably in different rooms or even different cities to their fellow actors. The Inexplicable Failure Award goes inexorably to Resident Evil for managing to make the line "a second later, and you'd have been a Jill sandwich" sound even worse than before, delivered as it is with the sort of mock-sincerity that makes me want to spend the next ten minutes vomiting blood.

Sigh. Calm. Evaluate.

It looks nice. It bloody should do, as well, because it's still pre-rendered, with 3D figures dancing eerily over the top of a static background. And if you can muster up the ability to forget about the unapproachably awful gameplay mechanics, and let yourself become absorbed by the somewhat revamped story, there's a bit of narrative indulgence to be found there. It's still B-movie silliness, but I suppose that's what the franchise has always been going for. Nay, the genre.

Which is stupid in itself, when you think about it. In 1999, System Shock 2 showed the world that it's possible to craft an unspeakably brilliant and always-chilling tale, complete with horrifying characters and a relentlessly anxious and unfriendly atmosphere. It also proved that survival horror in its truest sense - a focus on the conservation of resources in a harrowing, otherworldly situation - doesn't have to be restricted by godawful movement and an errant camera, and certainly that tension doesn't have to be ramped up by not being able to see where you're going. Why, when we have a wonderful benchmark like that, are we still lapping up rubbish like this?

Resident Evil is proof of a dying genre. Put it out of its misery, and bury it beneath the cold, wet soil.

Or die trying because you can't look in the right direction.

Rating: 4/10

Lewis's avatar
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (January 21, 2009)

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bloomer posted January 22, 2009:

Disagree aggressively with everything - except the dialogue point. Which I don't care about. I'd elaborate but RSI arm rationing prevents me from typing the necessary essay here. Maybe in the future.
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Lewis posted January 22, 2009:

Very obviously a contentious one. I vehemently despise this game (and, frankly, the whole series), and decided to throw objectivity out of the window. It's 'Honest' Gamers, after all.

I'd like to hear your thoughts. I can imagine what some of them might be, and they're reasonable and valid ones. I'm surprised you passionately disagree with some of the things I said, though: surely you find the camera and control mechanics of these dated, ugly games completely contemptuous? If not, you've got a lot more patience than me.
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Lewis posted January 22, 2009:

"except the dialogue point. Which I don't care about."

I think that's an important point, actually. I think if I had a higher tolerance for woeful videogame storytelling, I'd have enjoyed this a lot more. As it stands, that's kind of my pet area, and an invigorating, well-told interactive narrative is pretty much the reason I play single-player games. I actually didn't mention the puzzles in this review, which I regret a bit - they're quite nifty, and if you play purely for the element of challenge, it wins marks back. I don't. I play to become involved in a well-realised world. Resident Evil's is horrible.
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honestgamer posted January 22, 2009:

Resident Evil on the GameCube is the best title in the series pre-RE4. The graphics are well done and maintain the spirit of the original games while upgrading things for the era in which the remake was released, the control scheme that had been such an issue for the series up to that point is less irritating than normal (though still awkward, yes) and the campiness in the narrative--an intentional element that adds a lot to the games--is at its finest.

Remember that while we're trying to provide honest reviews on HG, a big part of that is a certain degree of objectivity. It's why you won't ever see me reviewing any WWE games. If I come into a game with baggage that's going to make me predisposed to dislike it--baggage that its target audience won't have--then I'm not really writing a useful review as much as I am polishing up a forum post and trying to make it sound more official.

Please keep in mind that I haven't read your review in-depth, Lewis, just your comments in this thread.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 22, 2009:

Well, I read the reiew (naturally, as it's his tourney entry, though I likely would have regardless), and I thought he backed up his points quite well. So even if he's the only one on this site (theoretically) who doesn't like the game, he shouldn't be knocked for it just because he seems too "subjective", at least not when he does a good job backing up his claims.
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Lewis posted January 22, 2009:

The thing with trying to write completely objectively is that no-one will have the same experience as you describe. We (I mean games players, not critics) don't go into the medium thinking objectively about the good and bad points of the game. We go into it thinking about whether we're enjoying it or not.

For me, the most successful critics will discuss a subjective reaction to the game, and analyse it with reference to actual content and undeniable facts about how the game works. In this review, I discuss how my instinctive reaction was to think "I'm not engrossed or invested in this story-driven single-player game at all." My analysis is to put this down to the awkwardness of the controls and camera, and the poor quality of the characters' dialogue, which both served to destroy the immersion it tries so hard to create. I go on to credit the game for the things it does well - which, funnily enough, are pretty much the exact things you picked up on, JV - but I'm not going to pretend I had more fun with the game than I did, just because I can see its qualities. Funnily enough, I think this is one of the most analytically and critically detailed reviews I've written in a long time.

As for going into a game with baggage, I absolutely agree with you. I'd also point out that, if there's a very specialist area of videogames I consider myself knowledgeable and well-researched about, it's the narrative-driven single-player game, with a particular leaning towards the exploration and execution of interactive horror. Some of my favourite games in the world come under the loose banner of 'survival horror', but I really don't like the pre-4 Resi games. They're overly traditionalist, without considering why other developers were experimenting with alternate ways of telling a horror story through the medium.

(I'd also suggest that "Resident Evil on the GameCube is the best title in the series pre-RE4" is a far more subjective statement than almost anything I wrote in that review. And yeah, I know you haven't really read it yet, so that's not a dig. Hope you don't take it, or any of this, as such.)

In short: I can appreciate, I suppose, why people like Resident Evil. I'd just urge them to consider how fundamentally flawed it is, and how unacceptable these schoolboy errors really are. And I'm not going to pretend I can overlook them, because I can't.
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WilltheGreat posted January 22, 2009:

Honestly I don't see what the problem is here. Lewis doesn't like this game. He wrote a review about it to explain why. Should we not write reviews about games we didn't like.
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Felix_Arabia posted January 22, 2009:

I thought Code Veronica was the best pre-RE4 game in the series???
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JANUS2 posted January 22, 2009:

You could invert the "objectivity" argument and say that my blind love of Ninja Gaiden and refusal to acknowledge its camera as an issue makes a strictly objective review of it impossible. Does that mean I shouldn't bother reviewing it?

The only way the WWE example is relevant is if Lewis hated zombies before playing Resident Evil and used that as a basis to criticise the game.
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zigfried posted January 22, 2009:

I agree with the first couple paragraphs of Lewis's essay on subjectivity.

However, I would contend that the way to establish a global "objectivity" is for everyone to review games regardless of their predisposition. Take WWE games for example -- most reviews are rather forgiving of the stilted, clunky gameplay because the reviewers enjoy seeing their poorly-rendered heroes parading around onscreen. If some people who *didn't* care for pro wrestling picked the games up and reviewed them as fighting games, then the overall internet review catalogue of WWE games might better represent the populace as a whole.

In other words, 99% of wrestling games would be labeled as flops, and wrestling fans like myself wouldn't keep wasting money on supposed "innovations".

Despite popular belief, it does convey meaning for someone to say "I played this game thinking I would hate it, and... I actually do hate it!".

//Zig
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zippdementia posted January 22, 2009:

I think what you're missing here Lewis is that everything you've said you disliked about the game (and you defended your points well, a tip of the hat to you, sir), is exactly what everyone LOVES about REmake. Including the voice acting.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 22, 2009:

And that shouldn't be a problem. Lewis shouldn't be railed against just because "Waaaah - he bashed my favowit game!" If he should be taking any criticism, it should be for his argument and his argument alone (which I don't see a problem with), not predispositions about a game.

I like Resident Evil as a franchise. I haven't played much of it, but I still like it. And I still looked at the review with an open mind without wetting myself because "OMG - he hates it!"

It seems like what's going on here is a bit of fanboyism, which, is about as subjective as it gets, ironically.

Now, that's not to say your points of objectivity aren't valid, but those arguments of objectivity really hold no water when the argument is strong (which I believe it is here). I also honestly believe that reviews of all types should be taken into consideration. I mean, really, isn't it kind of fishy if EVERYONE thinks a certain game is great? When I read game reviews, I like to read both the good and the bad because it gives me a better sense of the game as a whole. If we outlaw one thing or another because "it's subjective" - even if the arguments are valid - then aren't we eliminating a critical aspect to acquiring all the necessary and relevant information to make a decided and well thought-out purchase?

There are other, much more valid criticisms you can make about this review, but subjectivity isn't really one of them, I don't think, at least not when he actually has something to say in a rational, well-defended manner.
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zippdementia posted January 23, 2009:

I think you missed my point. I wasn't getting into the whole subjective thing. I was just saying, like Jason, that it seems that Lewis simply doesn't like this genre of game, the niche that the original RE's fit. Crappy controls, dismal voice acting, no plot... it's all part of that niche and people go to RE looking for that.

When you end up reviewing a genre you don't like, sometimes your opinion can be totally justified, but also completely hold no water, because you're criticizing the things that people go to that genre to get. I thought Lewis' review was well-stated, well-defended, and well-written. I also think it doesn't matter, because people will ignore his opinion within the first few paragraphs when they realize the things he doesn't like are the things they love.

It's a thin line, but I do think there's a difference between not liking a game because it's bad and not liking a game because it doesn't appeal to your aesthetic.

It's like how it's really hard for me to review puzzle games, because I generally find them boring and a waste of my time (especially if they're on console system). When I wrote my Lumites review, I wrote three reviews that I scrapped because I realized I was complaining more about the genre and not really giving puzzle fans (people who would actually play the game) what they would want to know. It's actually one of the reasons I wanted to write that review, so I could learn to get over that particular bump.

Note: NOT WHAT THEY WOULD WANT TO HEAR. Rather, the things they would need to know when establishing whether this game was worth their time.

Lewis' review is an interesting and well written read (all his reviews are well written), but ultimately it doesn't help RE or the particular brand of Survival Horror fans that go for RE.
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Suskie posted January 23, 2009:

Enough is enough. I've been trying as hard as I can to restrain myself in an effort to keep my promise and never post anything on HG again, but the ridiculousness of this thread has forced me to intervene.

Jason's argument is one that he has used before, and it's one that I generally agree with. Of course, objectivity can't be the dominant theme of any review -- it is based on your opinion of the game, after all, and not your expectations of what someone else will think of it -- but the argument doesn't apply in this case. I, for example, do not like Madden games, but it's not a question of quality. I acknowledge that if a pro American football simulator is what you're looking for, Madden is your best bet. They're well-made games. They just don't appeal to me. It goes beyond quality; it's more a matter of genre.

Jason and Zipp seem to think that the same applies to Lewis's analysis of the RE series, that his gripes are rooted in the fundamental characteristics of the genre itself, but that's not true at all. I think what his review is saying (and this is a thesis I agree with) is that game developers have found smarter, more effective ways to instill fear into players without handicapping the game itself. His assertion that the tendencies of old-school survival horror games are "rubbish" is more a statement of where his interests lie. As he said, Lewis appreciates an involving narrative. This doesn't rule out the survival horror genre from his interests. Quite the contrary: He's illustrating his ideal survival horror game.

Zipp's argument is that all of the "flaws" attributed to the RE games can be excused as niches of the genre, yet I've played plenty of scarier games that didn't need to rely on imprecise controls and awkward camera angles to make their horror elements work. Just an example: Eternal Darkness. I don't know if Lewis has played that, but I imagine he'd love it. It's unquestionably a survival horror title, yet it breaks the conventions introduced by the RE series and uses unique tactics to inspire equally frightening results. I guess there's an audience for the old-fashioned mechanics of the RE games (excluding RE4), but dismissing anyone for not taking to such mechanics on the grounds that "they're not the target audience" feels more like an escape route for RE fans who don't want to admit that they're attracted to flaws... and then complain when Capcom fixes said flaws and actually produces a quality game for once (RE4).

It's true that all of the issues Lewis brings up in his review can be attributed to the series as a whole, and he even admitted that he dislikes the entire series. That might be a problem if he were to continue writing RE reviews (for the same reason I no longer take Cairo seriously when he reviews a MGS game), but I don't think he will. This review seems to be a retrospect on the series as a whole, his one chance to lash out on a franchise that he's always had some serious issues with.

I've said many times before that the opinions of the HG community differ greatly from those of the general majority, and it's true. Lewis, more often than not, takes the side of that majority, and he's had to put up with a lot of shit from us over the past because of it. (BioShock is the best example.) Now he's finally turned the tables and penned a bash review for a game he's always considered overrated. For him to receive so much flak for that -- being given the bullshit "objectivity" argument in such an out-of-place context (even RE's most ardent fans seem to admit that the series is hilariously flawed, intentionally or otherwise) -- is both unfair and poetically ironic.

And Lewis, if you're still listening... Welcome to the other side.
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zippdementia posted January 23, 2009:

Well, what can I say? I've been outgunned at 3:00 in the morning. Not much left to do but lie down and wait for the collection of wallets.

At least until reinforcements arrive.

I don't except the Eternal Darkness bit, though. Eternal Darkness is an extremely flawed game.
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Suskie posted January 23, 2009:

I brought up Eternal Darkness because it's extremely narrative-driven, which Lewis likes, and because it's a survival horror game that doesn't house the flaws that supposedly make up the foundations for the genre ("cinematic" camera angles, tank-like controls, etc.). You're free to dislike it for other reasons, Zipp, but then you're missing my point.
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Lewis posted January 23, 2009:

You know, it's funny. After I posted that thread about reviews and scores the other day, I toyed with the idea of creating a series of 'Games-journalism-journalism' threads, but then decided no one would be remotely ineterested. Then, by penning a mere 'review', I've inadvertently started one of the main discussions I wanted to raise. Brilliant.

I'm going to try to go through a lot of points here, fairly comprehensively. Apologies if I miss anything out, or, conversely, if I bore you to tears.

Jason sent me an email last night, outlining why he was disappointed with this particular review. I'm sure he won't mind my discussing it here, as it wasn't overtly personal, and was both a relevant and elegantly put argument that, as games critics (as opposed to the editor of a games site) may not necessarily pick up on as easily.

The crux of it was thus: if you're going to raise a contentious and controversial point about a whole genre of community-adored games, you have to be extremely careful how you present it, otherwise you're going to risk alienating the entire target audience of the review.

In the case of this review, Jason felt that I didn't go into enough analytical depth to justify this sort of reaction in a staff review. I'm paraphrasing here, but his words were something like "this is exactly the sort of critical analysis of a game I'd love to see more of in the User Reviews section, or on the forum, but perhaps not as the site's 'official word'."

He also made the undoubtedly true case that the review's target audience - essentially, survival horror fans and lovers of the Resident Evil series - obviously aren't too bothered about the flaws and inconsistencies I pointed out, or - essentially - they wouldn't be fans in the first place. And since I only dwell on the general, common faults of the genre, the review isn't saying anything worthwhile about the game to these people.

I touched upon this in the other Games Journalism Journalism thread, but it's particularly relevant here: I'm probably guilty of forgetting that the bulk of the site's readers aren't games critics. The fact that most of the active community contributors are clouds that vision a little, and I usually end up writing the sort of stuff that I, as a games writer, love to read. But then I'm the sort of person who reads entire reviews without so much as glancing at the score, and I'm well aware that this isn't the case for most gamers. Without meaning to alienate further anyone who may be reading this thread from outside the critical community, it's likely that gamers - as opposed to critics - aren't as likely to want to engage in this level of meta-criticism of a genre. They want to know if the new game in the series they love is as good as the previous ones. In this respect, the review has failed.

And that's undeniable. In retrospect, it's the sort of thing I'd love to read at - I don't know - Rock Paper Shotgun, or The Escapist, or somewhere like that, where the emphasis is on careful, critical consideration about wider issues relating to games. But I would be very surprised (though secretly delighted) to see it printed in a mainstream games mag. It's treading a dangerous tightrope between "review" (ie. buyers' guide, essentially) and "criticism" (ie. intellectual discussion about an art form). It's important, given the current readership of sites like this, to be able to separate the two. Personally, I'm geared towards the latter. But I should be aware that most are not.

(It's worth noting that I'd actually forgotten to even score the thing before WQ pointed it out to me, just before I submitted it. A '4' was completely arbitrary. The case didn't lend itself to a mark whatsoever - which is probably indicative of something that didn't quite work as a straightforward 'review'.)

Right. That's covered.

The criticisms about me not liking survival horror games holds far less weight. Particularly because A) I referenced a really good one in the review itself, and explained exactly why that game is, to the very core, a 'survival horror' game, pointing out that the only differentiation between that and Resident Evil is the abhorrent control mechanisms of the latter; and B) because I've said on at least a couple of occasions now that I do like the genre. This argument, however, was probably not best presented in the review, and I made a bit of a sweeping statement. But I'd equally make that statement about adventure games. I love adventure games when they're done well; most of them, in my humble opinion, simply aren't.

Zipp's point about the fine line between analysing a game's quality and analysing its aesthetic is a very interesting one. I know people like the oddball controls of traditional survival horror, but I genuinely struggle to understand why. The things that appeal to me about Resident Evil seem vastly more successful approached in different ways. I don't understand why people have grown comfortable with this reliance on cheap aesthetic tactics to add scare points. It's a bit like the film The Strangers. A load of my friends thought it was amazing "because it made me jump more than anything else I've ever seen." I thought this was a crippling negative. I didn't enjoy the film, because it cheated at scaring me. The narrative wasn't compelling, and I didn't care for the characters. Instead, I was just on-edge, for no real reason, which wasn't in any way fun. I can jump out from behind a tree and scream at you, and it'll get your heart racing. It doesn't mean I'm a genius of horror.

Maybe what I was trying to do is to get people to re-evaluate why they play these games, and consider for themselves whether or not it's just because they've found a comfort zone. I really, strongly believe that, if anyone was being honest, they'd have to admit this is partially the case.

Eternal Darkness is a fabulous example. Genuinely creepy and well-written, with innovative techniques, and still shamelessly 'survival horror'. With its heavy focus on resource conservation and puzzle-solving, from a third-person perspective, it simply couldn't be described as anything but survival horror in its purest form. The only thing that separates it from Resident Evil is the camera. And it's so much easier to get into as a result.

This would have been a far better example to cite in my review than a survival horror title that's poured into an eff-pee-ess-arr-pee-gee mould. But then Mike's a better human than me.

Conclusions, then:

I'd absolutely stand by everything I said in my article, while conceding it perhaps wasn't the most appropriate argument to make under the guise of Honest Gamers' "official word" on the game.

But I have no regrets, because it's stimulated the sort of brilliant games-journalism discussion I absolutely adore.

NB. I've actually been asked by Jason to make a few revisions to the review, in order to make it less alienating to its target audience, and to solidify a few points. So this piece will end up being altered, but I might post this version to the User Reviews section so it still exists in its original form. And I'll probably still use this one for the competition. God forbid I enter a 'normal' review, after my ethereal and awkward Half-Life 2 concept review and my vehement destruction of the obviously brilliant Oblivion.

EDIT: Amusingly, this forum post is as lengthy as most long-form reviews, and nearly twice as long as the article itself.
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JANUS2 posted January 23, 2009:

Does HG have an "official word"?

If by "official word" you mean reviews that are designed to be inoffensive to fanboys then I think I'll stop reading staff reviews. I'd rather people expressed their honest, unbiased opinion rather than sugarcoat it for the sort of readers who send death threats to gamespot when they give Zelda a 8.9.
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Lewis posted January 23, 2009:

"No opinions expressed in any review, guide, cheat, fanfic, or editorial necessarily represent the opinion of the staff or any site sponsors."

Maybe this should just be bigger.
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Masters posted January 23, 2009:

Wow, you know a topic is a big deal when it stirs the sleeping Suskie.
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goldenvortex posted January 23, 2009:

This topic is silly.

Lewis seemed to convey his opinions pretty well, and while I don't agree with them, I wouldn't go out of my way to criticise him just because of that.
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Lewis posted January 23, 2009:

Amusingly, I've just been sent a survival horror collection to review.

So far, this one's genuinely interesting and creepy, if a little rough around the edges. And, like Eternal Darkness, it stick pretty rigidly to the thematic and content conventions of the genre, without a reliance on shoddy mechanics.

Guess the game(s).
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Lewis posted January 23, 2009:

"This topic is silly."

No it's not. It's a really, thoroughly interesting and highly relevant discussion. I don't mind being criticised at all if it leads to brain-engagement like this. I like a challenge.
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overdrive posted January 23, 2009:

This has been an interesting discussion. I can see where the objective/subjective stuff comes in, as you did mention early in your review stuff about how traditional survival horror is rubbish, but you did back up your points well, I thought. But a line like that isn't going to help your case, as I'd guess that many people who don't feel like that about traditional survival horror games for whatever reasons would use it to detract from your points. Like, for example, I'm not a fan of fighting games. If I reviewed one, I could make the greatest case of all time as to why said game isn't good. But if I had a line saying that I don't like this kind of game or something to that effect, that will do nothing but kill my credibility within my target audience. You know, the, "He said he doesn't like this kind of game.....and what do you know, he doesn't like this particular game.....*close window*," syndrome.

Now, when it goes beyond simple genres, that's when I take issue with the whole "objectivity/subjecivity" thing. There are genres I don't like to play for whatever reasons. Ergo, I don't play them and don't review games in them. But the concept that I shouldn't necessarily review a game/series I dislike (regardless of whether it be a poor game in a huge series like Final Fantasy or oft-ridiculed drek like Hydlide) in a greater genre I do like is something I'd strongly disagree with. Obviously, regardless of how popular or unpopular the game is, the onus would be on me to present a good case as to how it's bad and/or didn't meet my expectations. Overall, I thought you did a solid job of that, although as I said before, the traditional survivor horror is rubbish line definitely hurts in trying to convince a person that your stance is "right", as it can be read as simply that you're biased against this sort of game.....and when a reader initially gets that impression, no amount of great arguing of points is likely to change their mind on that.

As for the "official word" of the site, that's part of the beauty of having multiple staff members....there can be multiple "official words". It doesn't take much effort to find games on this site where different staff people have dramatically different opinions on games. Look at Super Castlevania IV, where Masters gave it a 10 and Zig gave it a 5. And I could bring up Chrono Cross's diverse array of staff scores, but that might divert this discussion in a new direction.... So, my challenge to a staff member who feels Lewis' review isn't a good representation of the game for an "official voice" would be to pen your own review with the score you see fit to give us two diverse "official voices".
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pickhut posted January 23, 2009:

Hey, guys, can I post in this topic too?
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zippdementia posted January 23, 2009:

Indeed, Lewis. HG needs MORE of this kind of discussion.

Except that it goes away after a few months :(
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Masters posted January 23, 2009:

I forgot about that, Rob. Man, Zig has bad taste. :\
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Halon posted January 23, 2009:

Haha Suskie's last paragraph of his first post is spot on. Lewis often clashes with people for praising every single game and he finally writes a bash review and this happens. Poor guy can't win here.
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dagoss posted January 23, 2009:

I love this 'review'.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm on Lewis's team in the Challange. I have never understood the persistence on this site in the belief that a review's primary functions are to inform and entertain in a capitalistic sense (e.g. should I buy this? Is it fun?). Such an attitude really makes no sense, especially given that the primary audience for this site is its own users (i.e. people that aren't reading it to be swayed into a purchase) and the fact that many of the reviews posted here are on dead systems. Here Lewis engages the "is it good" question on an intellectual level as though games should be held to the same artistic standards as films or books, and when he does so, exposes the game for the cheap, illconceived thing that it is. I applaud this review; I wish I had written it.
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EmP posted January 23, 2009:

Does HG have an "official word"?

Not so long as I draw breath!

I'm not going to go the way of the mega-paragrapgh. I'm only going to say that, while I disagree with some of what Lew said, it's a stellar review and some of the claims being leveled at it are laughable.

I'm also in full agreement with Suskie. Look the the skies for the riders of doom!
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wolfqueen001 posted January 23, 2009:

Well, I'm tired of talking and my points don't seem to be contributing much anyway, so I'm just going to say a few more things:

I also completely agree with Suskie, and OD, to some extent, especially his point about the site's "official word".

I also somewhat agree with dagoss, but I think we need to combine the two elements. HG, from what I know, is ideally supposed to appeal to a wider audience, but because we're so small, we mostly attract others like ourselves (at least those who are active). However, I strongly dislike the idea of writing something I disagree with just because Zelda_Fan_123 can't bear a single negative word against Wind Waker.

I truly don't believe we should not write about something just because someone else will disagree with it. If you think about it, somebody somewhere is going to disagree with anything at one point or another, so there's no point in trying to make everyone happy. And attempting so would just result in boring material because, well, to create an unbiased piece of literature requires extremely boring, dry, super-analytical and unemotional writing. Nothing wrong with the analytical, but combined with everything else, could just read like an encyclopedia article. But that doesn't mean we should all just say things willy-nilly without any defense or reasonable argument. A review isn't "lol dis gaem sux - dun bai it!" A review is something that tells us why it sucks with as much relevant detail as possible.

In that regard, it's how we present our distaste that counts, and I agree that if you make sweeping generalizations based on your own self-bias, then that could cause a problem (i.e. credibility issues). However, as mentioned before, (by OD and Suskie, I believe, if not myself) I do not see that as much of a problem in Lewis' review.

Anyway, that went far longer than expected. Now let's all discuss in dagoss' vein what a review on this site should be because that's significantly less provocative, I think.

Yay for big, gay happy families!
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hmd posted January 23, 2009:

PROTIP: There's a difference between, "hmm I kind of don't like this game" versus the dozens of "this game is for gay queer nintendo fans who enjoy the taste of transexual penis p.s: fag" that are probably still hanging around this sites' archives.

As long as Lewis doesn't start posting shit like that, I think we'll be alright!
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bloomer posted January 23, 2009:

I didn't imagine the whole site would be here to talk about this review. With my left hand typing, my biggest criticisim is this. I feel this is the kind of dismissive review in which 80% of it is spent describing a game system the reviewer doesn't like, not= the particular game itself. You even get a timekeeping alert to the fact in this review at the 'Sigh. Calm. Evaluate.' line, which falls at the 80% mark. Was this much of a review of RE rebirth? I don't think so. Was it a good personal discourse about your hatred of older mode of survival horror? Yes. As such, is this really the appropriate venue for it? I'm not sure. It feels more like blog fodder.

To just my plain old disagreements. Re: the cameras. On a personal note, that's what I miss the most, that nobody may make games like this again. I don't want everything like this, but it's a very artful mode I like a lot, which reached its peak in RE rebirth and RE0. The camera angles display great artifice and design and beauty, and also a tolerance for stillness. And they make some extremely 'horror film genre' choices, of a kind that utilitarian 3d cameras very rarely bother with because they're mostly just, functional and (would-be) transparent slaves. They're hardly about artifice at all. I like when someone fights the transparency of the delivery system occasionally. The RE games mess with it a lot and were made by people deeply interested in horror. Glances at screenshots from RE games will not be confused with generic angled looking screenshots from newer all 3d games.

RE rebirth is of course a remake as well, so RE Zero is really the first (and last, for now) game where nobody actually 'had' to use static camera angles, but they chose to. It's the major aesthetic and design choice for the game.

The controls - the angles demand different controls. Some people and me find them transparent (deep nerd analysis has suggested the 'hold button to move forward' model you can get in the cube RE games is actually the height of sophistication with this camera style - I haven't tried it a ton, too used to the other ways by this time). Others hate it. I don't blame anyone who hates it, except when they go for the 'the controls were deliberately crippling to make it scarier.' angle as I don't buy it. Also, people who say this were rarely scared?!

Away from the review, I resist the move in most fields of technical advancement saying we should do the thing the new way just because we can. EG - no more 4 track chiptunes because we can record unlimited audio tracks. No more holding shots in action films because in Bourne someone used really fast edits. And no more static camera angle videogames just because we can move the camera around now. If you're me, the worst gaming one has been 'no more text adventure games because we made point and click', but hordes of point and clickers will disagree.

Finally, a criticism:

'Hats off to Capcom for re-recording the inexcusably bad voice work'

The implied alternative being you thought they might just re-use the recordings from before? :)
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bloomer posted January 23, 2009:

for those as stimulated by the discussion as was said, have a look here:

http://dreamdawn.com/sh/

Nearly all the articles on the front page should interest you, and talk about s/h controls, the change in the genre post RE4, the camera, etc. etc

Chris has a veeeery still hand in his writing delivery, but he is very good.
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wolfqueen001 posted January 24, 2009:

I feel this is the kind of dismissive review in which 80% of it is spent describing a game system the reviewer doesn't like, not= the particular game itself.

That's the thing, though... by critiizing the game system (camera, controls, whatever), he's basically implying it belongs to this game as well.

That's probably not a very strong argument, but I'm tired of arguing anyway.
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Suskie posted January 24, 2009:

I'm sure Lewis wrote this review knowing that plenty of people would disagree with him, and that's perfectly fine. Where I start getting ticked is when those same people start questioning the validity of his review and Lewis's authority in penning it.

If my enormous post didn't make my point clear, here it is bluntly: The objectivity argument can work to a certain degree, but push it too hard, and suddenly any game can be excused of any flaw on the grounds that the reviewer didn't fit into the target audience.
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zippdementia posted January 24, 2009:

Much more interesting a topic than whether or not Lewis' review is good or not is the discussion about objectivity in a review. Let's have more of that.
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bloomer posted January 24, 2009:

This big topic didn't develop for nothing. Many people felt the review was somehow unreasonable or we wouldn't all be here.

I don't question Lewis' authority to review anything (though I don't know if you're referring to what i wrote, zipp.). I question choices he made here in this review, and yeah, I have thus questioned this review's validity.

We all draw what we probably don't realise are tons of complicated lines in the sand about our own reviewing behaviours - I would do this, I wouldn't do that - and we stretch them around to suit our taste and circumstance. And when others cross them, we come out and say so, especially if we're interested in the game in question.

I could summarise this review unkindly into, 'Resident Evil sucks because I hate this genre, for these reasons.' It's a kind of misdirective approach I don't like in what we call reviewing, where any genre is concerned. I hate point and clickers but I still address particularly what is in front of me if I try one, and don't rely on my criticisms of an entire mode as being a review of that game. This review could probably get to that way with rewriting, but that's where it'd go if we subscribed to my lines in the sand.

Re: objectivity in general. if you find yourself thinking about what you're doing, you're probably trying to write with a degree of objectivity. Even what that objectivity is changes with everyone, but it has some tangible quality for an individial that, if they're any good as a critic, they are conscious of and somehow aspire to deal with. I think if you don't aspire to deal with it or don't think about it, you're not a critic. I concentrate on the broad notion of a sense of it because each person will define its edges differenetly if asked, giving the illusion of no agreement. But actually there's a big fat overlap that everyone here with some reviewing chops is aware of and probably trying to serve.

Comparing it to the other forum topic, I think a sense of objectivity is like a sense of how to score a game. Very hard to articulate if you're pressed on it, yet you see everyone's actually thinking about it a lot in practice, which is good. And if you lapse on that big overlap area, people tend to notice.
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Lewis posted January 24, 2009:

"I could summarise this review unkindly into, 'Resident Evil sucks because I hate this genre, for these reasons.' It's a kind of misdirective approach I don't like in what we call reviewing, where any genre is concerned. I hate point and clickers but I still address particularly what is in front of me if I try one, and don't rely on my criticisms of an entire mode as being a review of that game. This review could probably get to that way with rewriting, but that's where it'd go if we subscribed to my lines in the sand."

How many times? I don't. I hate its former reliance on outdated mechanics that contribute little to the genre other than to render it practically unplayable for anyone who isn't so into the games that they begin to overlook it. My accusation of the 'traditional survival horror genre' as being "rubbish" should have been pointed specifically to its mechanics, not to the genre as a whole. That was an oversight, granted.

Conversely to you, I love the point-and-click adventure genre, but actually loath the majority of its output. It's a more specific occurence of the same thing I think about survival horror - ie. done well, it's fabulous, but it mainly isn't. Point-and-clicks for far too long relied on obtuse, arbitrary puzzles with little to no guidance. Fans of Myst - and, inexplicably, there were tonnes - probably liked this approach, and as such won't mind it in its various sequels. But critically, across the board, it's a series that's pretty much detested.

Does this mean the entirety of the enthusiast press wrote inappropriate reviews, because they weren't pandering exclusively to the views of the series' fans?

My thought on 'objective reviewing' is that it serves absolutely no purpose to anyone. By trying to account for any experience a gamer may have with a product, you're A) failing to engage with it on any meaningful level, and B) likely to provide a report on an experience that, in fact, no-one will have.

Read this review of the Rhodan game. UK journo Richard Cobbet picked up on this as an example of "a reviewer who's clearly not enjoying the game at all, but is absolutely terrified it might just be them." Observe the lack of any detail whatsoever, speaking in sweeping generalisations, and a truckload of hedging. It also focuses more on a description of the game's content than an analysis of its quality. In fact, the tone is vaguely positive, but suggests absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever on the part of the reviewer, so I end up simply not believing him when he says it's a good game.

(And, y'know, because I've suffered through the game as well.)

This is what happens when you try to be totally objective in a review. Ultimately, you're going to end up praising it and criticising it in equal measures, and you aren't going to talk about whether you actually enjoyed the thing, which is inherently the most important bit.

The best critics will engage with a piece of work at a personal level, analysing how it ticks and how that affected them. But videogames journalism is still in its relative infancy. It's why reviews of films and music tend to vary wildly across publications, while videogame reviews tend to nestle quite sweetly in ambivalent agreement.
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Lewis posted January 24, 2009:

Oh, and by the way.

I mentioned the games journos' Symposium email group on another thread, but it's definitely worth having a read through when it comes to this sort of discussion. It's primarily about scores, but there's a lot of 'subjective vs objective' talk as well. Thoroughly interesting to see what the pros have to say on the matter.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/12/18/symposium-part-one-review-scores/


Oh - the site's down at the moment. Hopefully will be operational soon.
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bloomer posted January 24, 2009:

'My thought on 'objective reviewing' is that it serves absolutely no purpose to anyone.'

Then you have gone too narrow in your definition of objectivity. This review you cite is just a lame-o consumer guide, not a poster boy for objectivity, except in some super calcified extreme manifestation. The guy did not bring his own subjectivity and was clearly wimping around for reasons that somewhere are related to money and company relationships, maybe even his fear of unemployment, not because he personally subscribed to a theory of pure objectivity. This does not mean you don't bring objectivity to your own reviews every time.

You already exercised a ton of objectivity as soon as you compared all those games, genres, etc in your own review. It's why we give creedence to your opinion as a reviewer, for playing a ton of games and demonstrating you know where things have stood in the past and where they do stand, where they could in your opinion. If you either never played any other games, or acted in each new review as if you never did, as if they just stuck this in front of you now and 'here's my opinion on this thing in isolation', then we wouldn't give you any cred.

When you raised the spectre of a pile of survival horror games, you were demonstrating objectivity. It's not like there are these two poles 1000 miles apart from each other. We bring our subjectivity, modulated by objectivity, to each review. Everyone has the former, but it's some engagement with the latter that makes a critic, and actually, in demonstrating your sense of the latter is how you can get away in turn with being aggressively subjective and having people go with you. They mentally grant you the authority to do it.

You build objectivity first by playing games, remembering your experiences and bringing them to bear on your later actions, and showing people you're doing this when you communicate with them. They can be made to feel 'Oh this guy clearly guy knows his stuff (and is aware of standards.)' and then they heed what you say. And standards are a manifestation of objectivity.

If this all sounds too obvious, it's probably why people find it hard to articulate. Most frequent reviewers on this site have developed a high level skillset in most of the above already, which is almost second nature to them.
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threetimes posted January 24, 2009:

Quote: I have no methodology for choosing a review score. I certainly donít think about it much. Your gut feeling (after either beating the game or the game beating you) is more accurate than whatever you might come up with after careful consideration."

I realise I tend to go either high or very low, and mostly only review games I enjoyed. I don't aim to be objective at all. It's a subjective experience. But then, I haven't reviewed many games.

What clicked for me was reading something Honestgamer wrote somewhere. Judge a game by what it intends to accomplish, or words to that effect. So if it intends to be scary, it should scare me. If it intends to be comical and light hearted, then it should make me chuckle. That kind of thing. If RE doesn't accomplish what it sets out to do, then that's fair enough.
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Suskie posted January 24, 2009:

If we're supposed to judge games by what they mean to accomplish, then I'm wondering why Killer7 didn't get perfect scores across the board. Just because developers have achieved what they set out to do doesn't mean that everyone will agree with said goals. And who's to say what any game means to accomplish, anyway? From what I've heard, the guys who made Too Human think their game is pretty awesome.

I judge games by how much I enjoy them. That seems reasonable enough to me.
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zippdementia posted January 24, 2009:

I'm glad you're posting again, Suskie. As usual, your posts are right on target.
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Halon posted January 25, 2009:

This reminds me of that article on Segabastard a while back about the Twisted Metal/God of War creator (can't remember his name ATM) crying over his car mini-game scoring in the 6-range on Gamespot because he didn't set out to make a 10/10 game so it shouldn't be judged that way. He set out to make a mediocre game and since it is a mediocre game it should receive a 10!

It's a lame argument.

EDIT: Who keeps on changing my avatar? Even Heavy is way better than this.
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honestgamer posted January 25, 2009:

I don't remember the article, but you're probably thinking of the very vocal David Jaffe. If he made a mini-game collection that was worth 10/10 (such an occurrence is not impossible) and then a bunch of action and FPS fans in the media rated it down because there wasn't enough shooting or sword slashing, then he has a point.

If Road & Track started rating down sports cars that don't have enough towing power, people would cry 'fowl' and they would be right to do so. It's the same sort of thing here. Rate a game down because it's a bad game, not because it's a good game within its respective genre and you just don't like that genre.

With that said, I rather doubt that Mr. Jaffe produced a 10/10 mini-game compilation. That's not the sort of thing a developer like him tends to stumble upon the first time out the gate. Someone critiquing his game needs to go deeper than "This game sucks because it's not God of War," though. If Jaffe makes a mini-game collection, it's not beyond reproach just because it's in a different genre, but it should be criticized according to the criteria that genre needs to meet. Critics have a responsibility to bring the right tools to the table.
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WilltheGreat posted January 25, 2009:

Posting in a thread with Suskie.

(<3)
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bluberry posted January 25, 2009:

have you been lurking for months?

good god.
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Lewis posted January 25, 2009:

Anyone got a link to that Gamespot review?
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JANUS2 posted January 25, 2009:

This topic is going round in circles.

I could make similar complaints about Jason Venter's Winning Eleven 2007 review (complaining that you can't slide tackle everyone is clear evidence of a lack of understanding of the genre, in my view). But then we all have personal issues with games or genres that others see as ideal. People disagree. It happens. I really don't understand why this review is so contentious. It's only one person's opinion. If someone mistakes that as the site's official word, then that's down to their ignorance.
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honestgamer posted January 25, 2009:

I could make similar complaints about Jason Venter's Winning Eleven 2007 review (complaining that you can't slide tackle everyone is clear evidence of a lack of understanding of the genre, in my view).

A fair point. :-)
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Halon posted January 25, 2009:

Yeah, it was David Jaffe. Just forgot his name ATM.

If Road & Track started rating down sports cars that don't have enough towing power, people would cry 'fowl' and they would be right to do so. It's the same sort of thing here. Rate a game down because it's a bad game, not because it's a good game within its respective genre and you just don't like that genre.

It's a Twisted Metal spinoff that's supposedly 20 minutes long and has no replay value. He said (in a temper tantrum) since he was only trying to create a 20-minute downloadable game it should be rated highly for succeeding in what he wanted it to do. The article on SB that no longer exists argued that with that logic the burger king games should be awarded 10/10 since they're only $5 and 20 minutes long.

Lewis: here it is
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Genj posted January 25, 2009:

Posting in legendary topic.
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Lewis posted January 26, 2009:

"If Road & Track started rating down sports cars that don't have enough towing power, people would cry 'fowl' and they would be right to do so. It's the same sort of thing here. Rate a game down because it's a bad game, not because it's a good game within its respective genre and you just don't like that genre."

Is that aimed at me? If so, I really can't be bothered to address this argument yet again. Have a read back through the thread, and notice that I've contended it at least three times already.

If not, then I'll get off my high horse. :)

Anyway, that Calling All Cars review is pretty woeful to be honest. If Jaffe had a problem with it, it probably should have been that there's absolutely no critical appraisal of the game beyond "yeah, what's here is quite good" in a short paragraph towards the end. The rest looks like it's been ripped straight from a press release. If I were Greg Mueller's editor, I'd have rejected that copy immediately. It's completely vacuous, and entirely comparable to that Rhodan review I linked to earlier.

But, from what people are saying, it sounds as if his complaints were more about the score than the review. And that's just pathetic. You'd have thought people who were actually working within the industry would have enough sense to know that scores are completely arbitrary in terms of how you engage with a game, and instead have to function pretty much entirely as a buyer's guide. And, to be honest, if I were presented with a really good game that was still completely awful value for money, then I'd have probably settled for a similar rating.
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Halon posted January 26, 2009:

He was pissed because he felt the game shouldn't be judged in the same way as every other game on the planet and should be treated lighter because it was not intended to be a great game. In other words, it should be rated based on what it was supposed to be (which in this case is a mediocre arcade game), which is absurd I don't have the blog post and don't feel like searching for it but in the process he threw a hissy fit and started crying like a baby.
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Lewis posted January 27, 2009:

I can't find the original post, but I've just read a response to the uproar about it by Jaffe, in which he says he doesn't have a problem with the review score or tone - he mentiones a few reviews that criticised it even more heavily that he even agrees with in parts. Instead, he says, he has a problem with how much the Gamespot writer managed to miss the mark in terms of actually analysing how the game works. Which, y'know, is kind of what I said. It's like a big press release, followed by "and it's really good, but far too short."

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