GR's Most Critical Reviews in 2013
Posted on Wednesday, January 1 @ 12:00:00 Eastern by Nicholas TanThe reviewing season for 2013 is over, but let's not forget what an impressive (and less-than-impressive) year it's been. As some of our fans understand, we have a tendency to screw over Metascores, and we will never stop doing so because the status quo can be boring and incorrect at times. There were plenty of highlights and plenty of disappointments, so let's look over just a small sample of them as we revisit our most critical reviews of 2013.
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One - Author: Anthony Severino
Some might interpret the "most critical" as merely being negative, as the notorious Sonic: Lost World review was, but it's more about being analytical. It's easy to lean toward one side of the fence when it comes to the ongoing war between Xbox and PlayStation, but Anthony knows hardware through and through, favoring the streamlined interface and hardware specs of the PlayStation 4 as well as the entertainment value and solid controller for the Xbox One. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stand by the merit of two products and stick by the resulting tie if that's the outcome, despite fans taking sides in bait wars. The fact that it is a tie, though, is quite telling: This generation is truly anyone's game.
Tomb Raider - Author: Daniel Bischoff
You're not going to find a lot of reviews where the author begins by deriding his own gender, but that's exactly the conversation that happens when we're talking about a reboot for a heroine whose status as a video game heroine has been the subject of gender studies for the last decade. Though Daniel criticized the game's lack of character development and the throwaway multiplayer, the revamped exploration and well-paced survival gameplay was enough for him to give the reboot an unexpectedly higher score than the average. It's only a disappointment that it didn't receive an equally high number of sales, since Tomb Raider certainly deserves a sequel.
Knack - Author: Nick Tan
I've reviewed hundreds of titles, both wondrous and disastrous, for the last half-decade, but Knack is one of the few games I've played that made me physically angry. All my roommates could feel the bloody aura emanating from the center of the living room (and I'm already a ninja cat, so you can imagine how that felt). I realized then that I'm allergic to bad game design: a boring story, punitive gameplay, repetitive enemies, padded sequences, terrible collectibles, and tedium up the asscrack. That it was a launch title for a next-gen system only made me angrier. I'm glad that my friend was willing to play co-op with me, or Knack would have received one fewer star than it received.
Gone Home - Author: Jessica Vazquez
One of the hallmarks for a great review is when a game speaks to the reviewer on a personal level, and that comes across clear and true with Jessica's review for Gone Home. I mean, there's a screenshot in the middle of the review with personal taglines. Many gamers may not even consider Gone Home a "game" since it's a simple adventure title that has very little in the way of puzzles, and the bulk of the story is told through objects in the scene rather than dialogue, but interactive experiences that actually move the player emotionally shouldn't be relegated to a corner because it lacks a win or lose objective. The story is quiet but meaningful, a special quality that few games ever express.
The Stanley Parable - Author: Paul Tamburro
When anyone submits a review with a perfect score attached to it, the sirens in my brain start blaring. It's the natural reaction that any editor should have. So when Paul Tamburro attached a 5/5 to an indie-developed, virtually unknown title, I was immediately suspicious. Usually, I try talking to the writer to talk about the review and confirm the score, but I thought, hey, why don't I just play the game since it's three hours long? So I sat down at the computer desk, purchased the game on Steam, and dare I say, The Stanley Parable is exactly as Paul says it is: concise, humorous, self-referential, existential, and daring as a commentary on the tropes of game design. I only hope that it's not a one-hit wonder.
Aliens: Colonial Marines - Author: Blake Peterson
Games that are absolutely average are the toughest to write and the toughest to sell as a review when a game like Aliens: Colonial Marines was so hyped by Gearbox Studios and thereby disappointed the vast majority of fans. Any game that meets with severe disappointment makes people want to give out 0s and 1s, despite the fact that if it didn't have any hype, it would probably received a middle-of-the-road reaction. As Blake states, Colonial Marines was "profoundly average," not "broken enough to warrant extreme attention" and the "bad publicity... overshadowed the game itself." Whenever someone says something is the worst thing ever, it may just be extremely mediocre.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - Author: Kevin Schaller
Sometimes the best part of being a reviewer is highlighting games that would otherwise be forgotten, which is why independent games are such critic's darlings. Like Thomas Was Alone (which Kevin also reviewed), Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a brilliant adventure that is actually "breathtaking" in every sense of the word and strikes an emotional chord that triple-A titles tend to miss. It's easy to dismiss games like these as short art projects, but it's just as important to recognize games on both ends of the production spectrum. It's good for all gamers.
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