The most overrated video games of this generation

Hype: to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims

  • Last week, we paid tribute to the most [[artnid:355295|underrated games of this generation]] (i.e. stuff you should have bought, but didn't). Now it's time for the evil twin version!

    If you missed out on some of the overlooked gems from our previous article, it was probably because of these games. While none of them are explicitly bad, they were all relentlessly over-hyped by games journalists and fanboys alike (seriously, even real life isn't worth 100%, so why award it to a game?).

    In addition to sticking the boot into each game, we've also included its Metacritic score, and what it should have averaged.

  • Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

    Despite what Rockstar’s legion of fans might tell you, GTA IV is one of the most overrated games of the decade. Having single-handedly amassed over $710 million in publishing revenues and taking out the 2008’s top spot on, its placement on this list was assured from the very beginning. Relentlessly smug comments from Rockstar Games didn’t help matters either. (For example, “GTA IV sets a new benchmark for interactive entertainment".) After lofty proclamations like this, how could it not be overrated?

    While unquestionably a very good game, GTA IV is not the revolutionary slice of perfection that many critics claimed. It certainly isn’t the best video game of all time, or even the best game of 2008. In fact, we’d argue that THQ’s Saint's Row 2 provided the best virtual sandbox of that year, despite being thematically shallower.

    For every moment of sheer, unadulterated brilliance, GTA IV throws up something boring or boneheaded to counter it — from the baffling omission of ambulance/pizza missions to the terminally dull man-dates. (No Steve, I DON’T want to go bowling!) Old gripes like the car handling remain largely unchecked, while some of the all-new features (like watching TV) are a complete waste of time. Brilliant characterisation aside, the game is far from perfect — something which the majority of the gaming press conspicuously failed to notice.

    (You can read a more detailed account of our love-hate relationship with GTA IV here.)
  • Grand Theft Auto IV (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 97%

    What it actually deserves: 89%
  • The Sims 3 (PC)

    As the first game in the series without original creator Will Wright on board, The Sims 3 had a lot riding on its suburbanite shoulders. For our money, it kind of failed to deliver.

    The problem is that it all felt too familar -- and they say familiarity breeds contempt. While The Sims 3 may have looked fresh and sprightly, no amount of cosmetic surgery can hide the creaky bones beneath. Despite a handful of new modes and challenges, it's essentially the same game we were playing at the turn of the century.

    It's been nearly 10 years since The Sims took up residence on our PCs, and in that time the gaming landscape has changed dramatically. While other franchises continually reinvent themselves, the Sims are still living in the same old neighbourhood, speaking the same old gobbledegook and putting out the same old kitchen fires. It's time somebody put the fire out for good.

  • The Sims 3 (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 87%

    What it actually deserves: 75%
  • Super Smash Bros Brawl Wii (Wii)

    [[xref:|What he said]].
  • Super Smash Bros Brawl Wii (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 93%

    What it actually deserves: 75%
  • Call of Duty: World at War(Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii)

    Like Will Wright's Spore, Call of Duty: World at War was a victim of hype-by-association. Its phenomenally successful predecessor helped to redefine the benchmark for first-person shooters. With its memorable set pieces, superb level-design and innovative multiplayer mode, Modern Warfare became an instant genre classic that arguably no game has managed to surpass. In other words, 2008’s pseudo-sequel had some pretty big shoes to fill.

    That it failed to deliver on almost every level is perhaps unsurprising. After all, the original developers were conspicuously AWOL, leaving game-creation duties to the underwhelming Treyarch. Then there was the much-maligned return to a WWII setting (including yet another Normandy-style beach landing. Hnngh.) Basically, everything that made Call of Duty: Modern Warfare so refreshingly original was removed in favour of run-and-gun Nazi cliches. Despite the gravelly voiced presence of Jack Bauer from 24, the game’s single-player campaign failed to engage on an emotional level. Your NPC squad mates felt like lifeless cardboard cutouts (by contrast, the guy with the muttonchops from Modern Warfare was so awesome that we wanted to kiss him.)

    We also think it's a bit insensitive to use archival footage of genuine war atrocities — particularly when they’re jazzed up to look like MTV music videos. And the less said about the impromptu bursts of rawk guitar, the better. Despite the inclusion of Nazi Zombies (who amusingly make their first appearance after a written dedication to WWII veterans), it was a bit of a stinker all round.

    And yet, the game managed to score favourably across all formats and was one of the biggest hits of the year (in fact, it went on to outsell Modern Warfare by a ratio of 2 to 1).
  • Call of Duty: World at War (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 87%

    What it actually deserves: 70%
  • Braid (Xbox 360)

    Some of you might think we’re being needlessly harsh by including Braid on this list. After all, it’s just a cheap little download by a tiny independent developer — surely it deserves a (love) bone or two?

    While we appreciate the Herculean effort it took to get Braid made (developer Jonathan Blow reportedly sunk his lifesavings into the project), we feel that some critics went a little overboard in their gushing praise for the game. We think the universal acclaim Braid received says more about games journalists than the actual game itself: namely, that they mostly comprise of pompous Gen-X nerds who never got over 16-bit consoles. With the exception of Mario, 2D platformers are dead guys. Let it go.
  • Braid (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 92%

    What it actually deserves: 75%
  • Little Big Planet (PS3)

    Alongside the risible interactive advert known as PlayStation Home, Little Big Planet was Sony’s Big White Hope for 2008. Combining the cutesy-pie adorability of Nintendo’s Miis with the compulsive customisation of The Sims, it was supposed to be the next big thing in gaming. (Indeed, it was developed under the working title The Next Big Thing. Arrogant, much?)

    While deserving of praise for its quirky originality, the game certainly isn’t without its flaws. For starters, the single player campaign (if it can be called that) feels like something of an afterthought, with a handful of levels tied together by a trite storyline. A fun diversion maybe, but in the face of something like Super Mario Galaxy it’s just plain embarrassing. The controls need some work too.

    Then you have the Create mode, which allows you to custom-build your own levels from the ground up. Unfortunately, the user-interface is incredibly fiddly and time consuming, with even the game’s most avid devotees conceding it’s a pain to use. This leaves the Share section, which allows you to download other people’s user-created content — provided it gets past Sony’s draconian IP policy, that is. While we understand the legal necessity to ban copyright infringements, did Sony really have to be so brutal about it? On a daily basis, user-designed levels were cruelly culled from existence due to their slight resemblance to a film or video game. Hours of painstaking work were irretrievably flushed down the toilet, with zero warning.

    Despite all these problems, the game was universally praised by critics as the best thing since sliced bread. Some even suggested it was the ‘future of video games’ (a phrase we thought went out of fashion with the 3DO). Some even cited its existence as reason enough to buy a PS3. Um, yeah. Okay.
  • Little Big Planet (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 95%

    What it actually deserves: 85%
  • Brutal Legend (PS3, Xbox 360)

    Has Tim Schafer ever made a game that wasn't overrated? From The Secret of Monkey Island (which he merely co-wrote) to the deeply uneven Psychonauts, his games seem to garner a lot more praise than they actually deserve. Brutal Legend is no different. Despite openly acknowledging that the gameplay is quite weak, most games journalists awarded the game a score of 80 per cent or more — presumably because Tim Schafer's name was on it. We refuse to believe that they're all heavy metal/Jack Black fans, which is the only way anyone could love this game. It's not bad, but it ain't great either.
  • Brutal Legend (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 82%

    What it actually deserves: 65%
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)

    The Metal Gear Solid series has always had a contentious relationship with gamers: you either love its silly chat-laden formula or you loathe its very existence. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was no exception. It seems that for every diehard MGS4 groupie in the world there’s an equally passionate dissenter, with fiery, protracted flamewars raging in every corner of the Web (this lead to some very interesting threads over at No it didn't.).

    As one particularly disgruntled gaming veteran put it: “There are things worse than death, and that includes wading through nine hours of wannabe-Z-movie cutscenes of dribbling nonsense written by an overindulged Japanese scifi nerd for the occasional brief snippet of video game.”

    Clearly, a game that divides its audience so fiercely should have received some equally mixed reviews, but this was not the case. The lowest score the game received was a wholly commendable 8.7/10, with most publications plumbing for a score of 100 per cent. We thought a critic’s job was to speak to every member of its audience? Like so many other ‘Triple A’ titles, MGS4 seems to have enjoyed a free pass due to its prestige status.

    No doubt said critics would defend their stance by arguing 'it’s exactly what the fans want’, but this doesn’t hold water in our opinion — you don’t see film critics giving rubbish like Meet the Spartans five stars based on the whims of its idiot fanbase, do you? Now, we’re not saying that Metal Gear Solid 4 is as bad as Meet the Spartans [Yes you are — Ed.], but it certainly didn’t deserve the praise it so slavishly received. Games journalist, it’s time to face facts: you are Kojima’s biatch.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 94%

    What it actually deserves: Depending on which camp you belong to, that’s either 8% too low or 92% too high!
  • Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360)

    We confess to having a bit of a soft spot for Halo 3: ODST. But there's not getting past the fact that the game is too short. Way too short. It should have been released as a mid-priced expansion, as per Bungie's original intention. At full price, we expect a bit more meat on our Spartan bones. The lack of matchmaking in the online Firefight mode is also a major letdown (especially if you're a Nigel No-Friends). [He speaks from bitter experience. — Ed.]

    In an attempt to boost the perceived value of the game, Microsoft opted to split the single-player campaign and multiplayer maps across two discs. The only thing this achieved was to annoy lazy gamers who had to peel themselves from their couch whenever they wanted to swap game modes. [See above. — Ed.]
  • Halo 3: ODST (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 86%

    What it actually deserves: 78%

    [Note: You may have noticed that Halo 3 ODST appeared on our [[xref:|Most Underrated list]] too. That's because office opinion was fiercely divided. Rather than leave the game off our list altogether, we chose to present both viewpoints.]
  • Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

    Resident Evil 4, [[artnid:326185|with added racism|ZOMG, that's racist!]].
  • Resident Evil 5 (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 82%

    What it actually deserves: 75%
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a tour de force in video game storytelling. Few other games (if any) can match Uncharted 2 when it comes to top-notch acting and exciting setpieces. In fact, it's sometimes more fun to watch than play — which is a bit of a problem for a video game.

    When it's not throwing cool scripted sequences at you, the action in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves can be quite linear and one-note. The lack of environmental damage in the game is also disappointing. Sure the game looks better than Gears of War et al., but at least they let you shoot up the scenery. We also think Nathan could have handled a little better — too often we fell off a ledge to our death due to the finicky controls.

    To make matters worse, there's usually no room for experimentation or error during the scripted events in the game — if you don't do exactly what the game wants, instant death awaits. At times, it almost feels like you're playing a grittier sequel to Dragon's Lair, but with a more annoying protagonist.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 96%

    What it actually deserves: 89%
  • Left 4 Dead 2 (PC, Xbox 360)

    And people complained that Halo 3: ODST was little more than an expansion pack? Pfft.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 (Cont.)

    [Note: our adjusted/retconned score is for the neutered Australian version which took out almost all of the gore.]

    Game Rankings score: 89%

    What it actually deserves: 55%
  • Dragon Age: Origins (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)

    Dragon Age: Origins is arguably the most hackneyed RPG in the history of the genre. The plot is a creatively-bankrupt mishmash of a hundred cheap fantasy novels, all churned into a flavourless paste. Every character you meet in the game speaks reams of Ye Olde Fantasy pap that seems to go on forever and ever. (Even your dog gets its own cut scenes!)

    The combat mechanics in Dragon Age: Origins are pretty much identical to Baldur's Gate from 12 years ago. You select some spells, click on some enemies, and then watch the computer have all the fun while you sit back and twiddle your thumbs. Correct us if we're wrong, but hasn't the RPG genre sort of moved on since then? Just look at the action in Mass Effect and Fallout 3 — despite being RPG games, they still managed to give your pulse rate a workout. In Dragon Age: Origins, the only thing getting a workout is your mouse finger.

    Despite the 'Origins' subtitle, there's almost nothing new to be found in Dragon Age. It's like every D&D game you've ever played.
  • Dragon Age: Origins (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 90%

    What it actually deserves: 70%
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

    For all its unadulterated brilliance, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a long way from perfect. There are flaws in this game that threaten to derail the player’s enjoyment — and we're not just talking about the javelin glitch.

    Firstly there’s the single-player campaign: not only is it short; it’s messier than a post-nuke Sergeant Jackson. Roach and Ramirez’s globe-trotting missions feel like soulless roller-coaster rides that hurl the player from one incomprehensible set piece to another. The character beats are all-too brief, and the plot — with its rapid-fire cross cutting and frequent betrayals — is often difficult to follow. There are several big plot twists in the game that are poorly foreshadowed; you simply don’t get the emotional payoff that you should.

    The decision to unleash hell on American soil also cheapens the game tonally. This is B-grade science-fiction dressed up in military fatigues. Sure, the attack on the White House might be thrilling, but it’s also completely implausible. By dialling the spectacle up to 11, Infinity Ward has robbed the franchise of its gritty authenticity — it feels more like Starship Troopers than Black Hawk Down and the game suffers as a result.

    And then there's the online multiplayer. No dedicated server support for PC gamers? No matchmaking for novice players? No local search options? Compulsory Steam account shenanigans? Rampant online cheating? Clearly, Infinity Ward fumbled the ball here. Don’t get us wrong, Modern Warfare 2 provided some fine entertainment in 2009 — but did it really deserve a free pass for all of those flaws?
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Cont.)

    Game Rankings score: 94%

    What it actually deserves: 80%
Show Comments

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?