Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another Great Read: Regarding all those GTAIV 10's

This is another nice article about game reviews and Grand Theft Auto IV:

"Opinion: 'PR’s Dirty Little Game With 11th Hour Reviews'

[In a sharply worded opinion piece, British games journalist and producer Simon Parkin discusses how limited access to Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV may have affected its initial reception by the press, suggesting that withholding pre-release versions may be affecting reviews of many big game titles.]

Judgments cast before they'd been adequately weighed; words sold before they’d been properly valued; shallow opinions that should have been presented as the first word in a conversation but were dropped with the clacking gavel pound of a conclusion. Yeah, every writer has regrets.

Four weeks ago in this publication I referred to Grand Theft Auto IV’s depiction of immigrants as being more nuanced and sympathetic than that demonstrated by the exquisite Baltimore-set television drama, The Wire.

The exact words were: “[Niko Bellic’s] portrayal should do more to warm viewers to illegal immigrants than any of the (nevertheless awesome) characters in, say, the culturally-acclaimed TV series, The Wire.”

While it seems like a harmless enough statement it was an idiotic comparison considering the heavyweight dramatic nature of the television series and the shits-and-giggles, tongue-in-cheek parody of the video game.

But what’s really nagged and irritated me over the following weeks is that, with a little distance and perspective, the bold proclamation was so obviously made, like so many from within our industry, with the aim of elevating video games to the respectability of more established media via bald association.

The opinion piece was written following a short weekend's playing of the game just prior to its release and, as I’ve played on through the rest of the story, the fault lines in that specific claim have become ever more apparent. While I adore the slow pacing of the first few hours, the way Nico starts off on the straight and narrow and is dragged into the shadows of the American Dream by forces of poverty and necessity, the game soon enough swings into full adolescent-posing-as-adult narrative fizz.

There’s nothing particularly unusual or wrong with that, especially when sat alongside Hollywood’s output, but claiming it has anything particularly meaningful to say about the immigration issue is stretching the game beyond its purpose.

More interesting than this whiny narcissism are the forces that brought about my (and ten thousand other professional) snap judgments of the game. "

We haven't picked up GTA4 at all (due to budget considerations...we had to buy an Xbox 360 Arcade to play Rock Band, remember?). It did surprise me that the game got so many 10's across the board. Every time I watched videos of the game online, the game never struck me as a 'must-have!' title. The setting never seemed that interesting, the lead character is the typical angry guy that most Western games have....I dunno. I couldn't see what was so special about the game.

I will get around to trying this game eventually; but right now it just seems so uninteresting to me. I'm more interested in the upcoming games GRID, Ninja Gaiden 2, and Soul Calibur 4.

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