Ah, the hype machine.
"Awesome! Lifelike Graphics! YES!"
We've all seen the commercials, right? The YouTube vids, those huge, screen-filling ads that bug the crap out of you when you're just trying to find a movie time or game review. Quick cuts and metal/rock/dubstep dominate those TV commercials that play endlessly. Let's Play's, with a slightly muffled voice extolling the virtues of Game X.
You go into GameStop, and you're assaulted with huge posters and cardboard standees, all pushing Game X on you. The sales staff pushes Game X on you. "Would you like to reserve something? Say...Game X?" (Side note: generally, the staff at my local GameStop doesn't push reserves down my throat, because they're great people. Your mileage may vary). In addition, they have video loops of Game X playing around the clock, maybe with interviews with one of the designers. As you go to make a purchase, there's a stack of Game Informer magazines, and guess what? Game X is on the cover, with a headline that goes something like "Game X: Changing Gaming's Landscape Forever," or "(insert genre here) Redefined."
Then there's word-of-mouth. That buddy who tells you Game X is amazing, that it opened his eyes to a whole new world of gaming. He or she tells you "It's not as bad as all the reviews say. You shouldn't read reviews." (Side note: when a game costs 60 bucks, you better believe I'm reading reviews, bub). Oh, there's also "It's just like the movie/TV show!" A favorite one of mine is "It's like Game A meets Game B, and it's better than both of them."
Then a demo comes out, generally giving you a vertical slice of the best moments of Game X. Like a movie trailer, you've probably seen the best the game has to offer. The demo ends, and my GOD you want more.
And you start to think "OMG I NEED THIS GAME!"
And yet, regardless of the actual quality of the game, the hype machine will do anything in its power to make sure you know Game X is the best game ever made.
The hype machine is a combination of all these factors, and probably some I missed. It's not the publisher's fault. They have to sell their product. Really, it's nobody's fault. It's simply what happens. Hype often spirals wildly out of control.
So here's a few games from the soon-to-be last gen that I think were overhyped, relative to the quality of the final product. Games that fell victim to the Hype Machine. Games that fell just short of the hype, and games that didn't come even close to living up to the hype.
Duke Nukem Forever
Might as well start with the big one, right? In development in one form or another for an incredible fifteen years, Gearbox finally brought the Duke back to life, releasing in 2011. Gearbox promised a return to old-school gameplay, and the kind of chaos and mayhem that only Duke could provide. The trailers had us going. Gearbox was so convincing, and they gave us Borderlands, so what could possibly go wrong?
The answer, sadly, was everything. DNF, which, coincidentally (or maybe not) stands also for Did Not Finish, comes off as a half-baked game; a collection of ideas that simply will not blend. When you're attempting to go for old-school shooter gameplay, and you limit Duke to carrying just two guns, you've already lost. And yet the game was hyped like crazy. "Duke's BACK!!!" He was, but he'd changed, and because of the massive hype combined with an insane development schedule, he's probably not coming back.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Another Gearbox game. Another protracted development schedule. A: CM was announced way back in 2001, before being delayed, restarted, and delayed again. A demo came out, showing us a pretty awesome looking game.
Too bad that demo didn't really represent the final product. And, in a rare case, the demo was better off than the game.
Commercials abound. "Aliens! Multiplayer! Michael Biehn!" Admittedly, yes, it looked great at first. But once again, hype doesn't mean anything on release day.
Assassin's Creed 3
Now, don't get me wrong. I liked AC3. But...
Firstly, trailers and gameplay footage showed us a massive world filled with animals to hunt and people to assassinate. They promised jaw dropping graphics and improved mechanics. They delivered on a lot of these promises.
What the trailers don't mention, however, is the fact that more than half the game is a tutorial that just. Won't. End. Seriously, it's a free roaming game that encourages exploration and experimentation. Always had been. But this time, UbiSoft, in a baffling decision, chose to hold out hand through a great deal of it. Where we had the charismatic, entertaining Ezio in past games, we were now stuck with pouty dullard Connor. Some missions are just awful in terms of design. Controls were worse than ever. The game's last chase sequence, in particular, was described by Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton as a giant middle finger. I couldn't agree more.
As an overall package, though, you put up with it, because it's Assassin's Creed, and it's still cool. But the game is a mess. Which the trailers, magazines, and your "hardcore" gamer friend never tell you. Overhyped, I'd say.
Okay, not really games, but Kinect in particular was Microsoft writing checks they couldn't cash. Promising a revolution (Wii-pun intended) in game control, including the ability to read finger positions.
Unfortunately, Kinect showed up at our door woefully under-featured, with a small selection of party games at launch. Not to mention massive control lag/reading issues abound. There's only a small set of Kinect games available even today, and there aren't really a lot of good ones, save for Child of Eden and The Gunstringer. The rest of the lineup consists of party/dance games, exactly the kind of thing the Wii was criticized for.
Didn't mention the PS Move much, but does anyone even remember that thing exists? Even less games were released for the Move.
These are just some examples. There are many others out there. There's just something about last gen. Commercials and trailers are so highly produced, and there's so much money spent on advertising, that every game looks like The Best Game Ever.
And, judging by the trailers I've seen for next gen games, it's not getting any better. So do yourselves a favor.
Read reviews, play demos, pour over videos. Talk to other gamers. Make an informed decision, and maybe the Hype Machine won't get you.
Hit the comments!