No, Games Radar: Your predictable review is the problem

1 07 2011

Edit: after I wrote this, IGN posted a review score of 4. See Games Radar, it isn’t just you.

There’s perhaps no better time to talk about what’s wrong with reviews than the release of a new game in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. I’m about to do something rather unfair, I’m going to pick apart a Games Radar review by Andrew Hayward. It’s unfair because I can sit back and dissect it word for word at my leisure. But hey, it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to. I’ll also add emphasis if I want to, though that emphasis is mine, all mine.

More than just about any other action franchise out there, Dynasty Warriors games are predictable – and we’ve all justifiably grunted and groaned about how similar and repetitive they are over the years.

Let’s start right there. We can’t get out of the first sentence without a complete *headdesk* sort of moment. No, Andy, we haven’t all felt that way. You are a reviewer. I am a consumer. Don’t go telling me how I frickin’ feel! It’s bad enough you insist on telling me how you feel, because frankly, I don’t give a damn, but I’ll come back to that point.

After this spring’s impressively dull and unrefined Dynasty Warriors 7, we were ready to throw in the towel on the entire series with the force of a charged-up ancient warrior. But once we started digging into Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 – the third entry in the giant robot anime spinoff series – we struggled to find that sense of despair that past Warriors entries instilled in our hearts. In fact, we actually sort of liked it.

Could you make it any more obvious that you went into this game prepared to hate it? Could it be any more clear that you planned on scoring it a 4 before you even opened the package with the disc in it, as your site did with Dynasty Warriors 7? What the heck happened to impartiality? You struggled to find a sense of despair? Why on earth would you purposefully try to NOT have fun?

Which is strange, because Gundam 3 still embodies some of the worst qualities that the modern Dynasty Warriors games bring to the table. Each mission feels nearly identical to the last, as you’re always blasting through massive crowds of indistinguishable robots to control sections of the battlefield before knocking out a boss. The bland locales are still populated by feeble combatants who rarely bother to attack, let alone escape their little squadrons, plus the close-up manual camera cramps the action a bit. And the storyline remains largely relegated to text exchanges and quips, though in this case, the large cast of anime favorites injects a huge and generally unwelcome dose of melodrama into the mix.

In this case, I flat disagree with the reviewer. I was actually surprised at how aggressive the throngs of enemies are. They attack with far more regularity than in other games in the series from what I’ve seen. Now if you want to make the case that they should do more, fine, but to make it sound like their behavior is identical to previous titles is simply wrong. The same goes for the “bland locales”. I don’t have a problem with arguing the locales are bland, but they are dramatically better than the previous game in the series. Sensing a pattern here yet?

But even after clearing the few dozen very similar story missions, we came out on the other side feeling pretty OK about the experience. Maybe it’s the bite-sized stages, which can often be toppled in 5-10 minutes yet still yield hundreds of robot deaths from the tip of your laser sword. Or perhaps it’s the large cast of well-designed Gundam mobile suits, each of which can be upgraded and customized as you amass your collection through the campaign.

This all seems fine to me, I have no issues with it. Then we get to this:

Most of all, though, the game seems more palatable than other Warriors entries due to the simple fact that you’re commanding a giant, well-armed robot in fevered quests – and Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 makes the combat feel faster and slightly better than before, thanks to tweaks to the dash system, new partner assists, and satisfying chain explosions following electrifying special moves.

I’m even going to be generous and let the idiotic “more palatable” remark go, because I’d rather hone in on the fact that instead of going on ad nauseum about the fact that he thinks the series blows rancid monkey chunks, Mr. Hayward could have spent more than one sentence talking about the major new features added to the game that he glosses over here. Each of these features easily merited a paragraph. Using a Partner Strike to summon a giant mobile suit that can obliterate half of a field isn’t cool enough to write about I suppose.

He doesn’t even bother to mention the fact that many fields now have special properties, like catapults that can send your mobile suit far across the map, or missile attacks that can capture enemy fields, and even repair factories that regenerate your health as long as you hold the field. These add something the series has desperately needed, a little strategy.

You might actually have to stop and think for a moment about where to attack first. Do you recapture the Allied Comm Base to get more reinforcements, the Advance Base to fill your Partner Strike Gauge, or the Catapult to limit enemy movement and facilitate your own? Does one mission still tend to feel like the next? Mostly, but it does help a little.  Apparently, none of that was important enough to mention in between all the grunting and groaning about how similar the game is to all the others.

What about the fact that the A.I. is far more competent than before? Allies will actually capture fields without you. Enemies will routinely take fields from you too, which was a pretty unusual occurrence before. What about the fact that all of these features are big improvements over DW7?

Do you see the problem? Mr. Hayward, as a consumer, whether or not you like the game isn’t relevant to me. I don’t care. It doesn’t impact my purchasing decision at all. The purpose of a review isn’t to tell me whether or not you liked the game. It’s to inform me as to whether or not the person reading it is going to like it. You make no effort to do so, taking no time whatsoever to explain the new features.

For crying out loud, Gundam 3 is so much drastically better-looking than the previous 2 titles in this series (and any other DW game, in my humble opinion) that it’s hard to believe they are in the same series. The cel-shaded look is really impressive. Explosions look great and the special attacks are incredibly vibrant. At times, there is so much chaos on the screen that you won’t believe it. Visually, Gundam 3 is a MASSIVE upgrade. Where does it get mentioned? It’s a throwaway comment in the very last paragraph.

Gundam 3’s narrative is just window dressing for the combat – all the pilots from the various Gundam series are summoned into a dimensional void and nobody knows why – but if you’re looking for an endless grind, you’ve got it. In addition to the dozens of story missions, the game also includes relationship missions, friendship missions, challenge missions, memorial missions, and many more, all of which hold the key to finding further mobile suits and upgrades. It even includes 15 exclusively online four-player co-op missions, which seems like a great idea, but the network battlefields are strangely barren compared to the solo ops, which really drains a lot of the fun out of the equation.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 is still very much a Dynasty Warriors game, warts and all. Yet the light tweaks and enhancements – plus giant robots and an attractive new cel-shaded look – really make the repetition a lot more enjoyable than expected. Gundam 3 still stumbles in bafflingly silly ways, but for the first time in a while, the thrill of singlehandedly charging into battle against hundreds of enemies has a flickering spark again. Savor it while it lasts.

Games Radar, the warts here aren’t on this game. They’re on your review. The worst part is that this sort of review is hardly unique. It happens all the time at sites around the ‘net. This one just happened to land in my crosshairs at the wrong moment. I said this rant would be unfair, well so was the review. Next time, try telling me what I need to know so I can decide if I will like the game and whether I should drop 60 bucks on it. Whether you like it? I couldn’t care less.




One response

9 08 2011

Not a Dynasty Warriors fan, but right on!

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