Critically Panned Games We Love

Critically Panned Games We Love

While its easy to hate a game that many love, it is much more difficult to love a game that everyone else hates. Over the next two weeks we will explore the games that should have been left at the bottom of the pile, yet for some reason we here at Darkstation actually hold dear to our hearts. Advent Rising(Jonathan)

Advent Rising is like the little game that almost could but couldn’t. Back in 2005, AR was released with a ton of hype. Majesco banked a lot on the unproven studio Glyphx coming out with a summer blockbuster.  The game had trailers in theaters (a then unheard of thing), a contest to win $1 million and famed novelist Orson Scott Card attached to it (who, despite popular belief, only co-wrote the dialogue). It couldn’t fail, right?

Wrong. Advent Rising came was released to bad reviews scores and even worse sales. Because despite all of the marketing, the game was (and still is) kind of broken. The transitions between cut scenes and gameplay are rough, the frame rate is bad and sometimes game-progressing events would simply don’t happen.  But (and this is a BIG but here), the game is fun. Despite having some pretty bad frame rate issues, it utilizes a lock-on targeting system that allows you to keep on shooting even in the few moments when the game drops to sub-10 frames per second.  So even when the game struggles to keep up with its own action, that action never stops.

And that action is good. You could describe Advent Rising’s gameplay as a cross between Halo, Max Payne, and Star Wars. And as ambitious as that sounds, it almost pulls it off. You have unlimited bullet-time, superpowers and can duel-wield anything, including rocket launchers. All of this adds up to a game that is fun enough that even when the game breaks down, I don’t care. I just keep playing. And playing and playing and playing. I played through Advent four times the first week that I had. Four times! I’ve never done that before and will probably never do that again, but my enjoyment of the game actually escalated the more I played it. No one can accuse the game of having a great story, but it has a great universe. One that becomes more apparent and more vivid the more you play the game. The more I played, the more I realize that the game has something, something that so many games seem to be missing. Soul.

Sure, the characters are kind of goofy and childlike, the art style is exaggerated and not to too many people’s liking, but the game just exudes this aura that lets you know that the people who made it loved it. They cared about it deeply. And as a result, so do I.

Also, it has my favorite game soundtrack of all time. You should buy it. Now.

Deadly Premonition(Allen)

In the way back when of 2007, Access Games released a trailer for their upcoming game, Rainy Woods and in my mind, it immediately drew comparisons to David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” television show from the early 1990s. Turns out I wasn’t the only who noticed the similarities and Rainy Woods was pushed back to 2010 while the game’s artistic direction went through an overhaul and new voice overs had to be recorded. As a fan of Twin Peaks, I was dismayed by the announcement of changes but still intrigued enough to play what had become Deadly Premonition.

I put the game in the machine and was immediately blown away: This game was terrible! Like, hideous! Those who were suckered into reviewing the game were immediately taken aback, skewering the game for its poor controls and Playstation 2 era graphics. The dialog made little sense at times, the quality of the voice acting was highly questionable and the script was completely off the rails. But you know what? The game had heart, which is more than what could be said about AAA games released at the same time. Many of the characters had more personality than those in other games and their personal quirks and oddities breathed life into the Pacific Northwestern town of Greenvale. Deadly Premonition never took itself too seriously and proved that when it wanted to, it had a fantastic sense of humor. Where else can you play a game that features the main character talking to his invisible partner at great length about John Hughes movies? The conversations on movie history between Francis York Morgan and Zach were thoroughly engaging and genuinely interesting.

In my mind, Deadly Premonition is the most beautiful and exquisite train wreck ever witnessed. If you look past the poor graphics and questionable gameplay - you’d almost need the patience of a saint to do so - the game features a surprisingly deep story with a colorful cast of characters who were given their own routines and go about the town to do their business. For a budget priced game, you might be surprised to know that Deadly Premonition offered nearly forty hours of gameplay. Forty hours! This game is longer than many AAA titles! While it is difficult to know just how much of Twin Peaks was removed from the original game, thankfully there are still many similarities to be found, from the Pacific Northwest location to the eclectic residents (the Pot Lady for example).

At first blush, Deadly Premonition is a horrible game that earned a great number of low scores from various publications. However, the game has since developed a strong cult following and a darling for several game sites, such as Destructoid and Giant Bomb. I love the game, despite all of its problems because it offered a whole lot more than I expected and despite all its faults, I was determined to see it through and see the story unfold. A true diamond in the rough, but you’re going to have to dig very deeply to get it.

Enter The Matrix (Hiram)

Enter the Matrix is broken. Period. Everywhere you look in the game, SOMETHING is going wrong. The driving is horrible; the animations are janky; textures are popping in and out all over the place; the AI is less competent than the Soviet space program; the scripting goes bad and levels have to be completely restarted. It's rushed, it looks bad, and it was one of the final nails in the coffin of Shiny Entertainment, a company that I really liked.

But isn't that brokenness also somehow charming? Doesn't it strangely add to the fiction of the world in some way? Of course the textures are weird- it's a glitch in the Matrix. The scripting didn't break- agents changed it so you couldn't continue, in an effort to stop you on your barely-defined quest (and the deja vu comes when you go back through the level again). It's not weird that I can run up to this dude and punch him to death even though I have a shotgun. My mind's been freed, and that lets me be so much more awesome than he'll ever be.

Parts of the game even seem to be INVITING you to break it. There's a hacking minigame that lets you put in all the cheats you want, including weird ones where enemies don't even hear or see you. But the great part is even the cheats are busted- enemies will still see you AND hear you and make sure that they shoot you a lot of times to teach you a lesson about poorly implemented cheats.

When you add this all together, you get a magnificent trainwreck of a game that I truly love to pieces, completely unironically. I think the shooting feels great, and running up to dudes and meleeing them to death while flipping off walls and diving backwards, shooting other dudes in the face while you go, is sublime when it works well- and it works well surprisingly often. Even though the story is tied into the movies, it still somehow manages to be more insane, too, such as the area where you enter an arena fight with vampires, and you have to kick chairs apart for wood to stake them with. Does it make sense? No. Is it fun to fly backwards and shoot a crossbow at a vampire in bullet time? You bet it is- and it's in moments like that where you fall in love with the game, despite its obvious, glaring flaws.

Next week we'll be guiding you through more of these terrible atrocities that we love here at Darkstation, which just so happen to lay waste to our beloved medium. As always leave your comments below.