The first step to fixing any problem is admitting you have a problem, so here is my confession: I am addicted to bad video games.
Let’s start with an anecdote to set the mood. If we harken back to May, 2016, most of you were excited about the impending release of Uncharted 4, DOOM or Overwatch. But not this guy. You know what game I was hyped for? Homefront: The Revolution. So much so that I declared that it had the potential to be one of the sleeper hits of the year. Yep, I wish I had that one back.
As soon as reviews dropped (you know, when it got slaughtered) I was bombarded with tags, links and sledges. Making matters worse is that despite the game being a buggy mess I still enjoyed it, and after waiting a few months for the game to be patched I awarded it a 6/10 in my review. Furthermore, since the game has come out I’ve convinced a number of people to buy it. So yeah, I’m that guy.
Homefront: The Revolution – the game that started the curse
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of this problem. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for an underdog and tend to go against the grain; my EPL team is Burnley (who I started supporting purely because of FIFA 06), I listen to Nickelback, I drink Foster’s, one of my favourite films is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and despite being right-handed I use my knife with my left hand. Perhaps I am some sort of digital masochist who gets enjoyment from playing bad games. Or who knows, maybe I just have shit taste and no standards. I’m still undecided.
I guess we should clarify what exactly a bad game is in the context of this article. A bad game is defined as a game that was not well-received by the gaming community and/or the critical masses. Now these aren’t all necessarily games that got 2-5s from critics, but titles that are looked upon by the community with either severe disappointment or even utter disdain.
One of the earliest memories of this problem was on the PS2, when I used to play (and enjoy) X-Squad, a game that has a rating of 64% on Metacritic. Now, most people who remember this game (most of you won’t) will tell you that it’s bang average (which is probably right), but despite its flaws thirteen-year-old me loved playing it.
It really started to become a thing during the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, and what better title to accentuate this than The Last of Us. I acquired Naughty Dog’s masterpiece the day it dropped, and you would think that after the all the 10/10 reviews I’d be gagging to play it as soon as I bought it.
But that’s not how I roll. So before playing what was arguably ‘the greatest game of the PS3 generation’, I played four of the most mediocre games from that same generation: Inversion, NeverDead, Bodycount and I Am Alive. In fact, I played all the above games and a handful more before I played my pick of the generation, Bethesda’s Dishonored. Did I enjoy them all? Not at all. In fact, NeverDead and Bodycount would have to be two of the worst games I have ever played. And oh yeah, I enjoyed Haze and loved Remember Me.
Does anyone remember me?
However, the current generation is where I started to accept my online reputation for having a penchant for bad and bang-average games. I’ve become known as the curse – if there’s a game that I am keen for, then chances are it’s going to end up average or worse.
I purchased my Xbox One on day one just so I could play Ryse: Son of Rome, which wasn’t necessarily a flop, but thanks to its gorgeous visuals (Crytek do make pretty games) and short runtime it was accused of being nothing more than a tech demo. Quantum Break is another title that polarised opinions, and it’s probably no surprise to you that I loved it. In fact I loved it so much that I awarded it 9.5/10 and it was my GOTY for 2016. Don’t @ me. Murdered: Soul Suspect is another title that I was super keen for, and although I enjoyed it to a degree, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed (still got the Platinum though).
Perhaps the most noteworthy title of all though is The Order: 1886. I pre-ordered every edition of the game available as well as the leatherbound artbook and official guidebook, all which totalled about $650-700 AUD. Thankfully I enjoyed the game (I gave it an 8/10 in my first ever review) and my money wasn’t completely wasted. The same cannot be said for a lot of people though, with many people criticising the game’s length and generic third-person shooting. But for me it was all about the concept, I mean Arthurian lore is one of my favourite subjects, and when you throw in a Victorian-era setting and werewolves as adversaries, then you’re pretty much ticking all my boxes.
Have you ever seen a more glorious looking artbook?
Let’s harken back to 2017 and my backlog is growing out of control. Games like DOOM, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and even Dishonored 2 sit unplayed on my shelf. It’s the beginning of the year and I’m about to embark on a six-week European trip on the eve of the release of Resident Evil VII: biohazard, my favourite series of all time. I was so excited to play the RE7 with its new first-person focus, and I swore that upon my return it would be my top priority to play both RE7 and Dishonored 2.
But that didn’t happen. Instead I bought and played Alekhine’s Gun – a true work of rubbish from Maximum Games that had been lambasted by critics. I was intrigued to see just how terrible it was, so naturally I had to get in on the action, and I can confirm that the game is truly awful. It’s worth mentioning that right after I arrived home Horizon Zero Dawn launched to critical acclaim. It slid nicely into my backlog.
Over the rest of the year I largely ignored every big release for less desirable titles. I played Troll and I over Nier: Automata – in my defence I played it for review – a game that was plagued by repeat crashes, save losses and was just generally hot garbage. Fool me once Maximum Games, shame on you; fool me twice, well then shame on me.
After that you’d expect that I’d want to cleanse my soul by playing something of high quality from my backlog (such as Resident Evil VII). Instead, I played one of my most anticipated titles of 2017, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, which dropped in April 2017 and was met largely with mixed to negative reviews – but I was all over it, agreeing with the majority of the consensus in the process.
That face you make when you’ve spent hours playing Troll and I
Alas, it doesn’t end there as I played AFL Evolution (I’m Victorian how could I not?), Syberia 3, Get Even (my runner-up GOTY for 2017), Dead Alliance and Road Rage – a game that I was quietly excited for despite coming from Maximum Games. I mean, as a kid I was a massive fan of Road Rash, and suffice to say I have longed for a modern take on the series for what feels like eons. So when I discovered that Maximum Games had a spiritual successor of sorts in the works I was willing to wipe the slate clean and give them another chance. But they managed to fuck that one up too. But I did eventually get around to crossing off RE7 from my backlog.
2018 has not really been much different either. While everyone was losing their collective minds over God of War I was playing Extinction, and instead of playing it now (even my girlfriend has finished it) I am playing Vampyr – not that it’s a bad game, but you know God of War is arguably one of the best games of the generation, and well Vampyr is Vampyr.
So here are we, on the precipice of peak AAA season and most people are either feverishly excited for Red Dead Redemption 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, or are currently having the time of their lives in Ancient Greece in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. But not this guy, I’ve been waiting all year to get my hands on Call of Cthulhu, another AA banger from Focus Home Interactive which releases on October 30. New year, same old me.
Of course, I have left out all the amazing games I have played over the journey, and there have been truly amazing games, such as Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 4, Onimusha: Warlords (I am a Capcom fanboy at heart) and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. But for every RE2 there’s a Homefront: The Revolution.
It’s an easy choice isn’t it?
The first question that most people ask is why, why do I play such average games when there are stellar games to be played? Others don’t even ask that, they just state that I’m an idiot for playing all these dumpster fires before actual good games. The truth is I don’t really have an answer, I’m simply drawn to them like a moth to the flame.
It’s not like I deliberately choose to play bad games (at least not all the time). It just happens that the games that suck me in turn out to be average or trash. I mean, a majority of the time I don’t even enjoy the game. So why? Like I mentioned above I get fixated on concepts and premises. America being invaded by Korea, a doctor that is secretly a vampire, or playing as a ghost detective where you have to solve your own murder are all very intriguing premises to me.
I also love developers that try new things (especially stories) and don’t just push sequels out all the time. Too many AAA publishers are reluctant to really go all in on a new IP in case it flops (a la The Order and Ryse), which is why I love publishers like Focus Home Interactive who are continuously pushing new IPs such as Vampyr, The Surge and my current GOTY leader The Council. I guess in some roundabout way it’s why I keep going back to the Maximum Games well – as bad as their games are they are trying new things, and for that I respect them.
The moral of this story is that we’re all different. We all have different tastes, and what I enjoy about video games will be different to the next person. Consumers these days have an abundance of choice and there’s no shortage of high quality (and super low quality) video games, and what you choose to spend your money on and play has no bearing on anyone else. So if you are like me and do enjoy the lesser titles, then just know you’re not alone.