We knew that scoring Halo: Reach an 8 out of 10 would create controversy. No matter how clear we made our love for the majority of the game, and no matter how often we explained that the Number Which Must Not Be Named is actually (going by both our review scale and by any child's basic understanding of mathematics) a "great" score, some of you were bound to get upset. You've been conditioned by school and by other websites (and okay, this website, too) that less than perfection is close to failure.
What we didn't expect was that the 8 out of 10 would transform into a meme so enduring that poor Charlie Barratt still receives flak about the decision, and that all our subsequent reviews would receive at least one comment along the lines of "Then you're saying that this is better than / as good as Halo: Reach?!?"
DmC: Devil May Cry trailer
Assuming you wanted a new Devil May Cry to be a little more than Bayonetta with fewer boobs, you should be thanking every god you know that Dante’s reimagining is being handled by Ninja Theory, a developer known for the most remarkable characterizations in our medium. Throwing fits about a teaser trailer just makes you look like a moron.
It takes a lot to ruin the enjoyment of titties and gore, but somehow, Shank manages. Everything about Shank feels like a bunch of uptight middle-aged parents all sat down in a room together and tried to make a game based on their worst fears about what the "kids today" are into. Of course, that means sex and violence, at the same time, all the time. It's not an inherently bad formula for a game, but Shank utterly fails to pull it off – the writing is embarrassingly tone-deaf.
If you're going to make a rape joke, it better be a goddamn riot – you can't half-ass it. When one of the bad guys holds a girl down to try to rape her and says "Daddy likes it when you fight back," (har har!!) it just feels dumb, like it's trying too hard to be edgy. (By the way, anyone who thinks it's cool to use the word "daddy" in a sexual context is just stupid.) It doesn't even work in a characterization capacity, because the whole story is steeped in the misogyny-as-humor vibe, so it does nothing to differentiate the bad guy from the rest of the equally distasteful cast. Shank's beat-em-up gameplay is actually quite decent too, so it's a shame that it comes in such a pathetically crass package.
Splatterhouse features an immature, trash-talking sentient mask. It has topless pictures of the main character’s girlfriend as collectibles. But most importantly, it features the bloodiest kills possibly ever put into a game, including one where you repeatedly punch your entire arm up a monster’s anus and then forcibly remove the creature’s colon. Crass barely scratches the blood-flecked surface.
WINNER: Dark Void
Fans of the underrated OG Xbox classic Crimson Skies were practically drowning in celebratory champagne after Capcom announced that dev team was reassembling to bring us another game set in altered timeline of giant zeppelins, Nazis, and fast talking dames. Only this time… you’d have a jet pack! Hell, Rocketeer fans were practically in tears, and almost two years’ worth of public demos of Dark Void’s high-flying acrobatics hinted at a profound level of next-gen promise on the horizon.
What Capcom and Airtight Games neglected to tell us was that the much touted, gravity defying rocket-packery would take a back seat to what Dark Void truly was: a Gears of War clone. Those glimpses of open-skied action comprised only a pithy fraction of a brief and boring corridor shooter of the blandest caliber. So, while you could argue that shooting up to three kinds of robots and Dark Void’s decent cover system may’ve pleased fans of repetitive quicktime events and the color brown, the rest of the gaming populace had every right to feel nothing short of lied to.
Instead of a colossal car-crime MMO, APB ended up an object lesson in how not to make an online shooter. The missions were poorly designed, the shooting was outdated and the cars handled like sluggish afterthoughts. APB ignored nearly every advance to hit sandbox games since GTA III, and adding more players didn’t really make that any more fun.
WINNER: PlayStation Move
While this should arguably go to Move and Kinect – two motion-control peripherals released a whopping four years after the Wii tore the market a new asshole – Kinect at least did something sort of new, instead of giving the impression that it was an overt imitation of the Wii. Move, by contrast, not only featured an all-too-familiar remote-and-Nunchuk (sorry, “navigation controller”) combo, but at its press conferences, Sony had the audacity to act like Move was a revolutionary device we’d never seen before, even though the thing practically had “me too!” written all over it.
True, Move is probably the most accurate and responsive of the three motion-control options, and it has a few cool features that the Wii doesn’t. In practice, though, the experience isn’t terribly different, especially not when playing shooters (by pointing the wand at the TV to aim, in case you were curious). Add the questionable new accessories for it (plastic guns, clip-on bows and racquets, etc.), and our sense of déjà vu deepens. Move may have the potential to be more than a souped-up imitation of the Wii, but so far, we haven’t seen it try to be anything but.
Like we said in the review: three years ago, its licensed soundtrack and creative guitar and drum controllers might have made it a player. But its timing is awful and it’s here now, far too late to become legendary. Throw in busted peripherals and no online play at all and you’ve got a tour destined for failure.
WINNER: The ApocalyPS3
March 1, 2010, is a day that will live in infamy – for owners of older-model “fat” PS3 systems, at least. At 12:00 GMT (or 4 p.m. PST on Sunday, Feb. 28), PS3s around the world began to fail, all displaying the same, now-infamous message: “An error occurred during the start operation. (8001050F).”
Long story short, an internal-clock bug caused affected PS3s to think 2010 was a leap year, and the resulting error shut down most of their functionality. For the next 24 hours, no fat-PS3 owner was able to go online or play any game that included Trophies. Worse, many players (including a few at GR) found their most recent Trophies – and, in some cases, saved games – had been corrupted and obliterated, wiping out hours of hard-won progress. It was horrifying. We can laugh about it now, but for those of us who just wanted to play our damn games, those 24 hours were some of the most aggravating we experienced all year.
Kinect’s crimes against Zumanity
In June 2010 hundreds of writers and games journalists lined up for the first full reveal of Project Natal, which would be named Kinect later that night. Microsoft never told us we’d be unpaid (and unwilling) participants in their opulent celebratory act starring Cirque de Soleil, which stretched the event well into the three hour mark.
Above: Then they had the balls to edit a 30 minute version together for Xbox Live
WINNER: The cast of Halo: Reach
Master Chief? Cool. Master Chief multiplied by six? Confusing, and nowhere near as cool as you'd expect. See, the masked mystery trick only works when a) the mask is iconic, and b) the mystery is compelling. Give what is more or less the exact same helmet to a whole team of Spartans, who have more or less the exact same personality, and you can't possibly expect us to care. Or to remember which is which.
Here's the extent of the character development in Halo: Reach… Jorge is big. Jun is Asian. Emile has a skull painted on his visor. Carter is blue and he is the leader. Kat is also blue and she is the woman. You're the "new guy," who like every other "new guy" in videogame history, somehow outlives all of the presumably experienced members of the team. We'd shed a tear over each of these noble self-sacrifices, but when the only thing distinguishing one of these generic metal objects from the other is a color, a number and possibly a vague accent, that'd be like crying over lost paperclips.
Runner Up: The cast of Call of Duty: Black Ops
Unlike Halo: Reach, we can easily tell these characters apart. There's the black dude. And the bearded dude. And the Ed Harris dude. And the dude with the eye patch. And the evil dudes, who are usually Russian, but other times Vietnamese and sometimes even Cuban! And there's the main dude, who has a buzzcut. Yup, unlike Halo: Reach, the cast of Call of Duty: Black Ops is truly memorable.
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