Hype. It is hard not to get caught up in it, especially as a gamer. But perhaps we need to pause and reflect more before we hand over our hard earned cash.
Late 2013 saw the release of Microsoft and Sony’s latest gaming consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Since the release of these “Next Gen” consoles, there has been the release of too many over-hyped games that have failed to deliver on the gaming and realisation of the “Next Gen” gaming experience that we have come to expect from AAA titles.
Two games that come to mind not delivering on the hype is Watch Dogs and Destiny.
When Watch Dogs was first announced at E3 a few years ago, gamers were blown away by the impressive visual design and the new game mechanics that were promised by the developers. After much hype and a brilliant marketing strategy, the game was released for both Next Gen consoles in May of this year. The end result was something that was disappointing and did not nearly match the hype surrounding it. We ended up with a protagonist who we couldn’t relate to, graphics that were way under par (particularly for the XB1 version) and game mechanics that didn’t even feel as good as Ubisoft’s Assassin Creed series. I personally bought it digitally on the XB1 (I like games loading instantly with no fuss) but this was the only one of two games that I do regret buying without the ability to trade. I was so underwhelmed by the gameplay, it has made me a little more hesitant to purchase any other game that is over-hyped.
At least that is what I thought. A month ago, I found myself pre-ordering a digital copy of Destiny. This is another game that was heavily marketed and over-hyped. I initially played the beta and I thought that this had given me a good taste of what was to come in game, but in the end, the full game only gave us our solar system and no real story driven campaign to speak of. To be fair, Destiny is a competent shooter and I have had some fun with it but it did not live up to the hype and certainly doesn’t have any gaming longevity for me, although the DLC may extend this slightly.
On the other side of the spectrum, are the games that don’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget associated with them. The quiet, unassuming games that are kept under wraps as much as possible until a week or so before release. One such game is Wolfenstein – The New Order. This is a game that came out around the same time as Watch Dogs. This had so little marketing, yet turned out to be a great first person shooter with a very moving story and great characterisation. Sure it had no multiplayer to speak of, but when good single player games are put together this well, it is encouraging. It is surprises like this make gaming feel fresh and fun again.
A more recent example where I avoided the hype completely was for Alien Isolation and have been pleasantly surprised to see that this game is indeed worthy of being part of the Alien franchise. Remember the very average game Alien Colonial Marines? Well Alien Isolation trumps this easily and is the most faithful Alien game ever to grace our gaming rigs. I am only halfway through it, so expect to see a review on The Late Night Session soon.
I think one way to approach these games is to minimise pre-ordering just based on hype alone. If it is a sequel to an established franchise then it would make sense to pre-order as generally sequels improve on the original game (Forza Horizon 2 is a great example of this). For new franchises, particularly designed for the Next Gen consoles, it may be better to hold off and get some opinions from valued critics and friends before taking the plunge. I think a bit of healthy competition is always good and as consumers we shouldn’t just hand over our hard earned cash just because the hype machine tells us to.