A Question for the Readers #2: Don’t Believe the Hype

With the last question I asked, we discussed the often unavoidable phenomenon that surrounds nearly all the media we consume commonly known as hype. I wanted to get this new series off to a positive start by asking you all to name works that lived up to the hype. This week, we will turn the question on its head.

Fewer things are more disappointing than those times when a work fails to live up to expectations. You bought into the hype and you’re treated to something you feel isn’t worthy of being praised left and right. It’s entirely possible to go one’s entire life without experiencing this dissonance, but chances are great you’ll find that one work for which everyone is going crazy that just doesn’t resonate with you. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just how life is. If an objective standard for good existed, we wouldn’t need critics at all.

One of the few mediums in which I myself have not experienced such a thing would be music. I’ve had instances where I felt an album got a little more praise than it deserved or I just didn’t see what the big deal about it was, but they still tended to be good listens. Even if they typically require two (or more) decades to catch up, music critics generally have a decent batting average when it comes to recommending the best of the best. Their problem has generally has less to do with overhyping things and more to do with overlooking talented, yet obscure acts.

I have to admit that I don’t really watch a lot of television, but when The Strain was announced, critics made it sound great. It was an adaptation of a novel trilogy of the same name directed by the very people who wrote it: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It ended up being a major letdown with a plot that only spirals out of control due to the sheer incompetence of the cast. At one point, when an interesting plotline presented itself, the next few episodes completely abandoned it. It’s a shame because I know, having seen The Shape of Water a few months ago, that Guillermo del Toro can do better than that. In a lot of ways, that makes things worse; if it was a new director’s first effort, it would’ve been more forgivable, but the people involved should’ve known better.

The 2000s was a decidedly subpar decade for science fiction in general, taking on an annoyingly heavy-handed tone that would continue into the 2010s. You know things are bad when something like District 9 can be considered one of the year’s highlights. However, as bad as that movie was (and still is), it doesn’t really answer this proposed question because it took me awhile to reach my conclusion. In terms of more immediate disappointments, I would have to go with Ex Machina. Much like how video game critics tended to praise anything independently produced regardless of quality for the longest time, Ex Machina came across as critics praising something just because it was subversive. I can get behind something thought-provoking and avant-garde, but the pacing of Ex Machina was absolutely glacial for an incredibly underwhelming payoff. It’s not even as though I have a problem with slower pacing; this is coming from someone who watched The Shape of Water immediately after The Last Jedi in a double feature with no problems whatsoever. A lot of people love it for not going for the Hollywood ending, but in practice, it just felt anticlimactic, which rendered what little goodwill the film actually built up hollow.

Also, friendly tip to any independent film company: When your viral marketing tactics would give most AAA gaming publishers the moral high ground, you might want to consider firing the entire division and starting over from scratch.

When it comes to video games, longtime readers would probably expect me to answer something such as The Stanley Parable or The Last of Us. Though those games are dire, they have nothing on the sheer disappointment that was Metroid: Other M. It’s true that unlike those two games, which I played in the same calendar year of their release, I didn’t actually get around to playing Metroid: Other M until 2016 for the sole purpose of bashing it in a review, but at the end of the day, those two games have redeeming qualities. If nothing else, The Stanley Parable played to the general zeitgeist of independent gaming culture at the time, so I can at least see why it became such a hit. Meanwhile, The Last of Us is exactly the kind of serious game I should’ve expected out of Naughty Dog in perfect 20/20 hindsight. Metroid: Other M has nothing practical going for it, and there’s no excuse for why it turned out so poorly; not one but two legitimately talented teams were behind its creation. I remember how much it was hyped; it seemed to top everyone’s “Most Anticipated Games of 2010” list. When it was released, it quickly became a joke for its blatantly misogynistic writing and gameplay that failed to take the canon in a meaningful, new direction. As Shigeru Miyamoto would say “A bad game is bad forever.” Indeed, considering its reputation nowadays, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time in which its name wasn’t a joke. Thankfully, Yoshio Sakamoto and the series were able to bounce back seven years later with Metroid: Samus Returns, so this story didn’t have a complete downer ending unlike, say, Ultima IX: Ascension or Daikatana.

With my piece out of the way, it’s your turn now.

Which works do you think utterly failed to live up to the hype?

22 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #2: Don’t Believe the Hype

  1. The one game that immediately comes to mind as failing to reach the hype is probably Mega Man Anniversary Collection (XB/PS2/GCN) Now, the games themselves aren’t terrible. They’re Mega Man! However, this specific collection was hyped to the moon when it was coming out. “Finally, the whole classic series (up to that point) on one game! Buy it early, and get this awesome Mega Man 2 T-shirt featuring all of the bosses!”. Mega Man is one of my favorite franchises. The classic series in particular. I’d had all of the games except for 7 for the Super NES at the time. So imagine my disappointment when I found the developers at Atomic Planet, not only botched the end credits music of the NES games when adding copyright dates. Not only did they reverse the jump, and shoot buttons on the Gamecube version. But they also completely eschewed the mode 7 effects from Mega Man 7 resulting in some edits. All because they didn’t know how to emulate them properly. On the plus side, the collection included the two Mega Man arcade games. Definitely not a horrible game by any means, but it is a disappointing collection for long time fans. The Legacy collections are much better compilations. Of course some other folks would say Mighty No. 9 in this spot, for a myriad of other great reasons. I’d probably throw Evolve on the list, if I’d actually been suckered onto that hype train. But I wasn’t. I just felt something was amiss when they hyped the DLC more than they hyped the actual game, and before the game even came out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funnily enough, that was my introduction to the Mega Man franchise. I can agree that it was pretty bad; even just the fact that (on the GameCube version at least), the “A” and “B” buttons were reversed showed that very little care went into it. I too heard the Legacy collections were much better.

      What I’ve heard of Evolve seems to suggest that it’s a good idea marred by awful execution. I feel if you’re hyping the DLC more than the game itself, you’ve already failed at this by most standards. If nothing else, it really doesn’t bode well.

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  2. GTA 4 leaps out for me. I’m not a fan of the series anyway, but it received a number of very high ratings and was praised by gamers too so I gave it a go. Played it to its conclusion and then wondered why I bothered. Everything felt so uninteresting and drab. Sure, there were some grand scenes, but thinking back to it it was actually kind of dull.

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    • You know, I kind of wonder if GTA held onto the sandbox crown for so long less because the series really is that good and more because its early installments had little direct competition. Then again, I haven’t actually played a GTA game, so I can’t tell just yet. That said, when I compared Breath of the Wild with Far Cry 3, the difference was like night and day – the former was a much more polished effort. The creators knew exactly what makes a good open-world game and even managed to improve on the formula.

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  3. Life is Strange. Found the extremely petty and angsty teen drama to be nearly intolerable during my short time with the game. Gave up completely when the game forced me to accept that trying to report a student that was threatening someone with a gun was the WRONG thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmm Final Fantasy XV… I still don’t really know how it was nominated to get RPG of the year. Yeah the graphics are extremelly good, the gampeplay is also good (although too repetitive) but where is the part that always gave magic to the final fantasy games… Story and character development? I entered the hyper, I was so happy when started playing and well, the game is good, but not even 10% of what I was expecting.

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    • Presumably because how it was released worldwide allowed critics to conveniently ignore the release of Persona 5 despite the fact that the two games technically came out in the same year? Either way, if it’s one thing that I find irksome about Square, it’s that the quality of their games seem to be inversely proportional to the processing power of the machines they’re given to work with. As it turns out, sometimes absolute artistic freedom isn’t always a good thing, and while companies such as Nintendo have been able to use their own superior hardware to a great effect, Square strikes me as a company that needs boundaries to have success – otherwise, they end up spending a lot of effort on aesthetics to the detriment of everything else (i.e. comprehensive storytelling, combat, characters, etc.).

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  5. I remember reading the Edge review of Skyward Sword and then seeing the universal acclaim the game received at release and being disappointed in the game as a whole. There have also been a lot of games I don’t necessarily agree with the overly flowery analysis on games like Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us, that’s not to say that I don’t find them to be good (I think both are just kind of OK) but I don’t agree with the hyperbolic reviews they got.

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    • Yeah, speaking as someone who has been playing Zelda games for practically an entire lifetime, by no stretch of the imagination did Skyward Sword deserve those near-perfect accolades. I think the problem is that critics went into that thinking “Well, Nintendo made it. Therefore, it’s a masterpiece!” Unlike the case with Naughty Dog, they tend to be right more often than not by assuming that, but this was a case where their lack of critical thought cost them. To make things clear, I still think Skyward Sword is a good game and it had many flashes of brilliance, but it did not deserve such universal praise, as there were a lot of things wrong with it.

      Naughty Dog’s is a resigned design philosophy that treats Hollywood as a cultural paragon that video games must strive for in order to be recognized as a legitimate cultural cornerstone, and the universal praise of their games shows what a lack of self-confidence the medium has.

      Funnily enough, I can say my own review of The Last of Us is the longest review I’ve written so far, but… I’ll just say I didn’t draw the same conclusion most critics did.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Killer 7. For much the same reasons as Ex Machina. It was reputed among the professional reviews as being a unique, subversive, and incredibly creative game that explored madness and storytelling, with a RE4 modeled gameplay that was really strong. When I played it, I found it to be a half finished series of random events with no real meaning to them that relied way too much on shock value with a stripped down and half-thought gameplay engine. That was one of the first real moments wherein I discovered that what seems to work in the magazines doesn’t so much work in practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I might want to try out Killer7 in the future so I can pitch my two cents. There have been independent critics such as Yahtzee and Bob Chipman that have sung praises of it and the rest of Suda51’s canon, but I’ve been led astray by them before.

      In the meantime, I’m really glad there’s someone else out there who wasn’t pleased with Ex Machina; I thought I was the only one. It’s a critical darling to the point where its fans were actually praising the utterly shameful viral marketing campaign (?!), but it really didn’t have anything interesting to offer in the grand scheme of things.

      At the end of the day, I would rather have a simple work executed perfectly than a mishmash of out-there ideas melded together in the hopes that something cohesive results (or calling it art if nothing does).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bladder Runner 2049 – love the Ridley Scott original, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s average novel, but the rave reviews for that pretentious thing… no. Well, it’s all subjective anyway, of course.

    In terms of games, Super Mario Odyssey disappointed me enormously. I think it’s a damn good game, but one that ends abruptly and then turns into a collect-athon. Again, it’s personal. I just wanted more than 14 full stages.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly really liked the new Blade Runner film, though I can see why someone wouldn’t like it; it’s really difficult to make a sequel to a film 35 years after the fact.

      I can actually agree with that; when it comes to the Power Moons, it feels like they went for quantity over quality. It felt like you had to earn every star in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy whereas in Odyssey, you could get moons fulfilling random tasks that took barely any time at all. Breath of the Wild employed a similar approach with its mini-dungeons, but I felt that was far more effective. All in all, Odyssey is a great game, but it wouldn’t be my pick for “Game of the Year”.

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  8. I accidentally answered this last time, I think, but even though I think Chrono Trigger fails to live up to the massive amounts of hype and praise that surrounds it, I don’t think it *utterly* fails. That spot is still sadly reserved for poor Spec Oops. *So* much hype, and *so* much hope, only to *so* not live up to its promises…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but if it’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years, it’s that it always seems like it’s the scummiest artists who are quick to condemn the audience (or humanity in general). Take Spec Ops for instance. It has a huge amount of contempt for gaming enthusiasts. The creators hid behind the “maturity” banner, but reading any of their interview quotes for any length of time reveals they have no business calling anyone out on being immature – let alone an entire group. It’s like some sort of bizzaro Dunning-Kruger Effect wherein the artists who are the most judgmental of humanity tend not to be paragons of virtue themselves; it makes their message difficult to take seriously.

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  11. A lot of game that garner a lot hype tend to deflate very fast which is why nowadays I tend to avoid much coverage of something prior to experiencing myself unless I feel I don’t have enough information to make a purchase.

    But as for a game that failed to live up to the hype (set by myself) that would be, in slight contrast to the person who responded Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess. I believe Twilight Princess is a solid game, but after playing now 3 times I have to say that in no way is this game superior to Ocarina of Time, its dungeon design is less varied mostly consisting of following paths ubtil you find the boss (Mark Brown illustrates it well in his Boss Keys video), the story has some serious pacing issues at the start and I find strange that many characters turned to be so irrelevant to the plot like Zelda, Zant and Illia, and for as dark as it tries to be it lacks any real impact, nothing in TP comes close to the shock I felt when I saw Hyrule 7 years in the future in Ocarina of Time for the first time.

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    • I think the problem with a lot of modern AAA titles is that they try to be good in the short-term rather than the long-term. That’s one of the many problems I had with The Last of Us – it deflated the minute I applied any critical thought to its story.

      I actually honestly have to say Twilight Princess is a game I would’ve used to answer my previous question. I felt it had some of the most creative dungeons in the entire series. Sure, it does have some issues with pacing, there isn’t as much of an emphasis on characters, and many of the items were useless outside of the dungeons in which you find them, but I don’t think any of that detracts from the game in the long run. Naturally, I’ll be sure to go into more detail when I eventually get around to reviewing it.

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