Ratings and scores mean so much to us, as gamers are willing to spend a lot of money on our entertainment. They help guide us to games which are more fun, that might last longer, or give us an inimitable experience, and therefore saving us from a bad purchase. Though, there are times when this formula is bucked. When beyond our collectivised judgement, we’ll purchase a game that looks curious to us, but also one that looks fun (though we’d never risk letting anyone know).
And to our surprise, to our guilt-ridden pleasure, we play these sometimes generic, often mediocre creations, and we like them. Something esoteric can sometimes be found in the hearts of so many bad games, and when they’re found, they gift to you unbridled ecstasy of a rebellious sort. “Up yours, Metacritic. This is sitting at 63/100 but I don’t care. I like it.”
Below you’ll find a neat collection of some of the notable examples of this counter-logical phenomenon, all tentatively plucked from the stout-but-aging tree that is the 7th generation of gaming.
1) ALIENS VS. PREDATOR
Years before the hideous stink that was Aliens: Colonial Marines was Aliens vs. Predator. Being a remake of a game by the same name published in 1999, it had a sort of legacy to live up to. See, the original Aliens versus Predator was received with nothing short of cult-hit status, a memory that’s still begged to be recreated today (Constantly to no avail, unfortunately). And so, this name carried a lot of fan expectation. And while it did an admirable job at improvising new features and modes and retaining the purpose of the original simultaneously, it fell a little flat.
Its single-player campaigns were interesting, if repetetive, skulks through the Weyland-Yutani universe, giving us an atmospheric and cold experience not unlike the films the game is hefted from. Its multiplayer was asymmetrical three-way arena battles between humans, aliens, and a predator. Imbalanced, that was. But fun.
2) ARMY OF TWO: THE 40TH DAY
A teamwork-oriented third-person shooter that took jabs at tactical gameplay, Army of Two: The 40th Day was a game with graphics that looked dated before it was a day old, a poorly-scripted campaign with little other than walk-here shoot-them stages to continue what little there was of narrative, and an abysmal lack of cohesion with what it got right. And what it did get right promised for some honestly entertaining gaming. Among its successes are a creatively silly customisation system, having underdog charm, and fun and easy co-operative gameplay.
There are times where you have a friend over, and the two of you would like to play games together. After some fishing through what I only imagine is a veritable bucket of games and having muttered “meh” at most boxes that you’ve propped before your scrutinising eyes, you conclude that there is “nothing to play”. By that, everyone just means that the games worth playing require too much effort and their brains are lazy. But lo! The miracle of Army of Two rises from the bottom of the pile, and shines with its golden, hackneyed smile that says “Bro, you could totally pause me every two minutes. I wouldn’t mind.”
3) EARTH DEFENSE FORCE: 2017
This entry really does stand as a representative for any entry in the infamous Earth Defense Force series, now known for hilariously overwrought action involving massive alien invasions, mutant ant-giants, and… yes. It is also as cheesy and shallow as that makes it sound, which, as you’d imagine, doesn’t do it any favours with its Metacritic rating. But the unique flair of EDF has earned it a following, and quite deservedly so. EDF fulfils so many childhood dreams like saving the world, shooting big guns at things, being acrobatic enough to be considered a superhero, and fighting aliens and other assorted big baddies.
4) KUNG FU RIDER
Developed by Sony Japan, Kung Fu Rider never exactly looked like it would be a critical success – and with a 37/100 on Metacritic, it unanimously wasn’t. The plot (because it somehow bothers to give us one) is this: you and your friend are escaping from the Triads (this is unexplained), and happen upon a chair at the start of your plight. And so plot morphs to gameplay as the character mounts the chair, and gives it a few good pushes, sending you speeding down hills where you’ll have to use the Playstaion Move to avoid cars, jump over obstacles, duck under others, find secret passageways, kick Triads, and so on.
The simple premise sounds clunky enough as it is without considering having to use the Move to navigate – but that’s ironically where the fun comes in. The controls are so contrived to be a motion game that it loses any sense of real controllability – with which, the game would be a boring slalom run with some kicking. The fun is definitely in the humour here, which is made perfectly clear in this video.
Way back from early into the generation’s life, there came a monstrous thing spewing its own hype and born of mountains of commission, and Lair was intended to be the PlayStation 3′s early showcase of the SIXAXIS controller technology. It, much like the use of SIXAXIS anything, died pitifully. The game was universally panned, by even PlayStation stalwarts for having terrible controls – boding ill for Sony’s controller design too soon for their good.
Lair put you in control of a dragon, which is a sincerely appealing concept. The problem with it was the controls and lagging motion on-screen combined to be a maelstrom of potential motion-sickness. Months after the game’s release, after people had bought it, laughed at it, made memes, spat on it, and moved on, the developers released a patch allowing it to be played without the motion controls. What people would have seen if that were only an option from the start, was that the game was pretty cool. It’s like Dynasty Warriors meets a dragon, who had some standard game-design ideas that proved fun in spite of their lack of creativity. Imagine being a dragon flying over a roiling battlefield, swooping down to crush soldiers before dousing the ranks in flames. Yeah. That’s what Lair was meant to be.
6) DEADLY PREMONITION
A game self-acknowleging of its bad-ness, Deadly Premonition proudly invests in itself the tropes of bad entertainment, and makes it something truly amazing. Said to be a bit of an acquired taste by many, the game actually received some very mixed ratings, with scores at every point of the scale. The true beauty of Deadly Premonition is that it’s at times bizarre and silly, and at other times genuinely emotional and well-written. It’s a game of many parts, incongruously put together, in a package that knows what it is and flaunts it: the little crime-thriller that did whatever it wanted.
With a near Sim-like approach to crime-solving, DP simulates days in real-time, and will require the player to fulfil the protagonist’s need to smoke, to sleep, to drink, etc, all while still driving around the impressively open-world and finding clues. The story’s progression is non-linear, and emerges depending on where in the world the player chooses to go and who they choose to speak to. Dotted throughout the experience are paranormal oddities, strange background music choices, and emotional moments that catch you by surprise. A game made on a budget well below the norm, Deadly Premonition is an unorthodox experience, but a rewardingly unique one, too.