Beloved games we hate

Yes, I like an eclectic game. Sure, I appreciate a beautiful atmosphere as much as the next guy. And no, I wouldn’t like my head tested. I just don’t like the holier-than-thou Ico on PS2.

Of course, part of the reason I don’t love Ico is fans insisting that I’m wrong, or don’t get it. Quiet down, children, I do get it. I just don’t like it and don’t want to join your cult. I’m not going to pretend I’ve played it for more than a few hours, either. I haven’t. I have, however, seen enough to know that it’s a lot like dragging a surly child through a particulalrly treacherous shopping centre.

Although I can appreciate the unique experience Ico provides, my idea of immersion happens to stretch further than solving puzzles and beating smoke with a stick. And while, at times, I can be an emotional robot, I definitely have enough RAM to compute a lovely storyline when I see one. Dragon Quest VIII’s plot, for example, almost made me cry like a baby. The horned-boy and his ghostly companion’s plight, meanwhile, is lost on me.

Want more fuel for your hatred toward me? I don’t think Shadow of the Colossus is all that either. There - I said it.

Boring. Full-of-itself. Distilled snobbery. Tedious, frustrating and filled with laughably emo prose.

That’s how I feel about Braid, a game I excitedly bought and downloaded the very first day of release. I have made three separate attempts over the last seven months to give the game a fair shake, but its pretention and obliquely maddening puzzles turned me off every time. I realized I was forcing myself to like something just because everyone else loved it.

That’s the biggest problem with Braid: you're not allowed to hate it. I think many gamers and journalists honestly love this game, but I also believe that many jumped on a "games as art" bandwagon. Add to that all the press Braid’s creator, Jonathan Blow, got as the poor little auteur making it all by himself and, suddenly, you look like a cruel monster for criticizing it.

Above: So much meaning...

Braid may have fooled the world into liking it, but the avalanche of praise stops here. Not because I'm not getting the dense meanings of it - oh, the guy lost a girl, but in reality he is chasing this girl in reverse, accidentally making himself the hero and the villain of his own game! And oh, isn’t the stage layout just so chic with the Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. references!

Blargh. I may be glad that this game exists more than, say, a new Army Men title, but it needs to get over itself big time.

GTA: San Andreas hit gamers like a rush of crack to the brainstem. It was universally loved for being the biggest, most open-endedest game world ever created. Its narcotic potency somehow managed to veil millions of delirious fans from the fact that the game looked like crap, had awful controls, and was so full of pointless side-missions that it was choking on its own grandeur. One thing is clear: there is no end to Wonder Bread suburbanites who want to experience urban America at a safely mediated distance.

People loved San Andreas because it introduced scads of new gameplay ideas, like forcing you to take your character to the gym to buff up. Herein lies a major irritant: why waste time improving the "strength" of some clunky virtual being, when you could be at the gym learning to kick two-by-fours in half? Games should transport the player to another place, not serve as a nagging reminder of the neglected real world. It creates a cycle of self-loathing and recrimination in people who are interested in life beyond the couch. Better go work off those jumbo dogs, Dogg. Now that's realism.

Above: San Andreas can be summed up in one word: "excess"

So let's all take a moment to thank GTA: San Andreas for putting the Mature in immature, giving every maladjusted teen shooter a ready-made excuse for their actions and for reinforcing (or reinventing) negative stereotypes in the mainstream press. We'll fight to the end to defend your right to fantasize about running over hookers in purloined vehicles; we just wonder why anyone thinks that's fun.

Why is Gran Turismo praised for being the most boring racing game on the planet? This mega-delayed, stuffy PS2 driving sim is so concerned with realism, it forgets to be enjoyable.

Having a zillion cars is nice, but who needs the low-end jalopies? We play games to get away from reality, not to be reminded of it. Sure, it's technologically impressive that the piece o' crap Corolla you're stuck with in the game handles just like the piece o' crap Corolla in your driveway, but it's not pleasurable.

Above: So realistic, you can almost see the reflection of each driver yawning in nearby cars' indestructible side panels... 

Apparently, the much-touted incredible depth of simulation does not extend to actually touching anything. Your car may drive like it would in the real world, but your personal force field breaks the racing entirely, enabling you to consistently ricochet off other cars on tight corners instead of slowing down. The game finally makes a concession to gameplay over simulation, and it undermines the entire rest of the game. Whoops.

And for what reason? That whole "you can't damage licensed cars" excuse is bullcrap, as games such as GT-killer Forza Motorsport have proven. Sure, many other racing games don't show damage, but they're arcade racers, not simulations. Which apparently means they have a better sense of speed, more gameplay options and online modes, while GT4 has... photo mode? That's a fair trade.

Now, let’s talk about the PSP version, Gran Turismo 4 Mobile … aaaaand … we’re done.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, you can slag on the old games, but you’re living in the past! This is the PS3 era! Gran Turismo 5 is going to fix everything!” And judging from the demo, you may be right – but that’s assuming the full game ever actually comes out. While franchises like Burnout, Midnight Club, Dirt, Race Pro, Pure - I could go on, but you get the point - are busy cramming ever-fresher and exciting forms of fun into the on-track racing, the Gran Turismo 5 dev team is busy delaying the release date (we’re hearing 2010 now), and adding in-game MySpace pages and the ability to watch TV.

Above: Gran Turismo 5: coming in 2007 2008 2009 Screw it, we don’t know - hey, wanna watch Top Gear? 

Meanwhile, we have yet to see the destructible vehicles we were promised, so you can still bounce off other cars. How is that realism? Yes, the cars in Gran Turismo 5 are pretty (the backgrounds? Not so much). But at this point, it’s so far overdue they should just cancel the PS3 verison and start retooling the game as a launch title for PlayStation 5.

Mar 25, 2009

The Top 7... games you either love or hate
If you're in the middle, you're in the crossfire


Revealed: the games your girlfriend HATES
Eight frustrated partners vent about the games slowly driving them insane

The greatest game on every platform
We crown the kings of 40 consoles, from Atari, NES and Genesis all the way through to 360, PS3 and Wii


  • poderx - April 11, 2013 7:45 p.m.

    Everyone was giving very good arguments...until SSBB... Clearly this way doesn´t udnerstand the point... oh well,,, at least he got paid to say that
  • meeeeep - March 22, 2013 6:32 a.m.

    About the whole Sims thing, I actually kinda like Sims 3, but there IS a major problem: the $400 worth of DLC. And, on top of all that, there are a bunch of furniture items and maps that require some "pay real money to get special in game cash" to UNLOCK. Not buy, UNLOCK. Seriously, EA, WTF?!?!?!
  • PS3WolfUK - April 30, 2011 8:27 p.m.

    About time WOW is slated big time on a site!! Its sad, pathetic and a waste of space! Can't beleive people still pay to play it! I knew a work colleague who spent News Year Eve going to over 6 "WOW" Parites! Hmm one word! "SAD!!!!!!!"
  • Makaveli666 - April 30, 2011 11:34 a.m.

    Great article though I'm surprised one of the Uncharted games didn't make it on the list. I have found those games to be the most bland, boring games I have ever played. I thought the characters were very poor and annoying. I cannot understand why it is so beloved. It's a poor man's Tomb Raider.
  • Lycanthrokeith - June 30, 2010 7:14 a.m.

    Rock Band/Guitar Hero: Wow, how badly did the point get missed there. I'm guessing you don't like karaoke either. RB and GH are just another way to live out a fantasy. They are to being a rock star what Ace Combat is to flying a real fighter jet, or Madden is to playing pro football, or countless games are to being the hero and saving the day and having cool powers to do it with. I have tried learning guitar. I don't have the patience for it. I also don't have the money to spend on equipment and such. RB and GH are simple, fun ways for me to do what a video game's ultimate purpose is: Let you live out the fantasy life you don't have otherwise. And granted, Rock Band 3 has instruments that are bridging the gap; fine for those of us who want that. I'm happy with just eating my cake; I don't care to learn how to bake the damn thing. World Of Warcraft: You forgot the biggest point of contention: There is absolutely no reason WHAT SO EVER to be forced to pay to play a game you've already bought. Especially coming as it did from a developer like Blizzard, who ran incredibly good servers for years absolutely free. I want to blame Activision for this (oh, how we've forgotten our roots), but Blizzard did this years prior to the merger. You want to have charges? Either make the game free, and then charge a fee for the play, or charge for the game and give the play for free, while funding the server costs through optional bonus items and such. Doing both is inexcusable, and anyone who enables them to keep going by funding their social stupidity experiment deserves the ridicule they get. All they're doing is making things worse for the rest of us, both in mainstream perception of the community and in passed-down costs to the players. The Sims: As a horror/fantasy fan, I did get some enjoyment out of two Sims expansion packs: Nightlife and Pets, since I could make communities of vampires and werewolves. Amazingly, even that became boring. It's worth noting that a large part of the Sims' success has been from the mainstream, people who usually don't play games anyway. So, like pretty much all things mainstream, it's inherently wrong, and their opinion on this is really irrelevant. GTA San Andreas: And yet, the biggest problem with this game was overlooked: Hot Coffee. A stupid, juvenile, waste of disk space minigame that set the public and legal perception of the industry and of gamers back to near-criminal standards. I shudder to think of how close the games industry came to government regulation as a result; the ESRB, the games industry's self-policing body, is the only thing standing in it's way, people, and Rockstar/Take Two made them look like corrupt inept idiots who willingly let pseudo-pornography through. Coupled with most non-gamers perception that all video games are still like Pac-Man, and therefore all games are clean and pure and kid-friendly, it was a recipe for atomic-level disaster. I work for a major game retailer. The fine for selling ONE M-rated game to someone under 17 (or even someone who looks young but doesn't have ID) is $5000 to the EMPLOYEE, instant termination, and a ban from ever working for any retailer who sells M-rated games, R-rated movies, or Parental Advisory CD's. In New York State, they add a charge of Contributing To the Delinquency Of a Minor, which is a mandatory 6-month prison sentence. FOR ONE OFFENSE. Literally, it is the most hated part of my job; it frightens the hell out of me. (Point of comparison: The fine for the same offense at most liquor stores and tobacco shops is $1000 to as little as $250. I wonder what selling an actual firearm and ammo to a kid would get you fined? Just goes to show how ludicrous people think media is as a violence catalyst. Of course, these are mainstream, out-of-industry and community beliefs; the folks who impose these rules don't play video games or listen to rap, but they do drink, smoke, and have NRA memberships.) Personally, I didn't buy or even play a Rockstar game for years after that whole debacle, considering that when they were caught, they BLAMED GAMERS for making it (specifically, PC gamers who allegedly cracked it and retro-fitted it in somehow). As much love as I have for Red Dead Redemption, I wanted Rockstar and Take Two to go right the hell out of business for that cowardly stunt. If you're a gamer and you weren't outraged that they threw you under the bus like that, then you have no business playing games.
  • Hendetta - June 6, 2010 7:32 p.m.

    I disagree about Smash Bros. The series was created for fans of Nintendo, hence all of the references. The game wasn't made to be revolutionary and change fighting games as we know it; it was made to honor Nintendo's huge, awesome history and appease the fans with tons of characters and stages from their favorite games. Also it is hard to argue that the gameplay isn't addicting and pretty solid.
  • spencerisgod1990 - May 15, 2010 6:47 p.m.

    i agree with most of what was said, but i think sports games have to be up there. all EA games are reskins of the previous entry, followed by a deteriating gameplay that gets more dull the following game (and day). today i played 2010 FWC and thought "wtf, there is nothing changed apart from players look partly better than Fifa 10". i also played NBA live 2010 yesterday, what aload of crap, just exacly the same as NBA live 2001 (last one i played since" also p.s i noticed that with san andreas the moment i put it
  • yonderTheGreat - March 23, 2010 9:16 a.m.

    Best review of Halo 3 that has ever existed.
  • Zeb364 - March 23, 2010 12:19 a.m.

    Final Fantasy, San Andreas and The Sims Sucked Ass. GTA IV gets pretty tedious after awhile and the constant cell phone calls/relationship upkeep is just fucking annoying. And COD4 lost all concept of fun in the later campaign levels and online due to frustratingly easy it is to die and how ridiculously broken the matchmaking system was. And I agree what was said about Halo 3, it is a dumbed down, kiddie "my first FPS" style game where the most intense strategy is when to throw a grenade but it serves a wonderful purpose of being a more relaxing, less intense online shooter experience then say, Gears of War 2 or Modern Warfare 2.
  • BertTheTurtle - March 22, 2010 10:30 p.m.

    I agree with the Halo thing (but custom games are still fun) but Silent Hill II is awesome. I have also discovered that I can start arguements by uttering the statement, "Bad Company beats MW2." This amuses me.
  • Green_Shade - March 22, 2010 8:09 p.m.

    The Sims : Vietnam FTW
  • RanTheAwesome - February 19, 2010 1:48 p.m.

    A lot of the hate for these games are pretty weak, such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Seriously, that's like telling someone not to play Call of Duty and become a soldier IRL, same thing with other simulation games. And Paul Ryan, once again you do something utterly stupid. Though I can agree that some of GTA IV's realism took away from most of the fun in previous games, but I still loved it and thought it was fun, however, you forgot one thing; You spelled Niko's name wrong. God forbid an Eastern European or Serbian came across this article, they would tear you a new one for being ignorant as Hell. Next time, research, get your facts straight, and actually PLAY the game, otherwise you'll sound like the IRateGamer, except much worse.
  • NINJA90 - November 30, 2009 2:30 a.m.

    And brawl... again its sheer scale is what makes it enormous... It obviously DOES get VERY repetitive tho.
  • NINJA90 - November 30, 2009 2:26 a.m.

    What I say about Halo... CAMPAIGN SUCKS ALL ASS EVER! However, the sher customizability of the custom games is what I like. I don't know anyone who EVER plays the campaign, when we play, we play inspired game types like cops and robbers, tuskan raiders... That is why Halo 3, and none of the other halo games, are good. (Firefight was pretty good tho).
  • legendofzeldarocker - November 26, 2009 4:43 a.m.

    Matt Cundy and Shane Patterson deserve a punch to the balls, but they will probably die from a coma because they jacked off to way to much CP.
  • sveini22 - November 23, 2009 2:23 p.m.

    halo 3, cod 4 and brawl are good games
  • RoxasXXion - November 20, 2009 7:42 p.m.

    I actually liked Ico but i can understand why some peeps would hate it. Agree with pretty much all of the rest but ive never actually played halo before
  • jackthemenace - November 19, 2009 8:44 p.m.

    I lvoed the fact that i'm NOT the only one that's thinks halo 3 is too run-and-gui and is completely crap, but matt cundy can never be forgiven for disowning SSBB!! and @danomeon- please take back that part about GoW, because, y far, it beats hao, both in story and in gampeplay
  • SilverWerewolf - October 31, 2009 8:21 p.m.

    I loved this article. Braid, Halo, WOW, Final Fantasy, Super Mario World, and GTA IV are among the games I can't stand, although GTA IV did grow on me a tad when I TRIED to move past the realism aspect. Plus, I agree with Tyler that WOW is barely more than a level grinder, as is Everquest II and other MMOs that I have tried. (In my opinion, Guild Wars escapes this classification since you can freely respec your skills and hire henchmen to help you.)
  • Hawkeye719 - May 21, 2009 6:35 p.m.

    dave houghton? i wonder whos idea it was to hire you? u cant say halos crap n blabber on, when it obviously isnt, ur head is so far up ur own backside the lump in ur throat is ur nose. if halo is a crap game why oh why did it sell so many copies and why is it enjoyed by every gamer ive ever come into contact with? ill tell you, people love the game, so what that the main part of it is gunning things down, thats the main goal in COD4 too, n how can u compare gears of war to halo? GOW is a tactical based shooter, halo is a fps, there two completely different types of games with one thing in common, oh yes its true they both revolve around gunning things down, every time i play online on halo 3 its always a laugh, the map editor has allowed alot of skilled gamers show what they can do and some of the editations are amazing, ur argument is like water running through a siv, full of holes

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