Whenever a series gains notoriety, you will inevitably hear about it talked about quite a lot whether it’s on the internet or amongst your peers. However, sometimes you just don’t want to get into it. It’s not necessarily because the series is bad; perhaps you’re just too busy with other stuff to check it out. When you finally end up taking the plunge, it may even be after the series has concluded. You’ve effectively done in the span of a month or so what fans had to wait years to see unfold. I myself have done this a few times, and the results have been interesting.
Consuming media should be a simple process, right? You hear about the video game/film/music album/television show/ what have you, do what you can to experience it and that’s the end of that. However, things aren’t always that straightforward. Maybe the video game is on a dead platform. Perhaps the film isn’t readily available through legal channels. It could be that the lauded album fell into obscurity and is now out of print. There’s even the possibility that the distribution company never bothered selling box sets of that show you want to watch. Even without considering those factors, sometimes the method of discovering the existence of these works in the first place can get downright bizarre when you begin summing it up on paper. It goes to show how seemingly unrelated actions taken by random people influence other people in ways they couldn’t possibly know.
If it’s one thing I’ve observed over the years, it’s that every critic or outlet seems to have a different attitude concerning the highest grade on their scale. Some hand them out like penny candy while others outright refuse to ever assign a 10/10 on the basis that there is no perfect work. Personally, I feel the former approach devalues the grading scale to the point of inanity. After all, if you hand out too many top grades, it doesn’t leave much in the way of middle ground; you either award a perfect score or you don’t. Though I can see where the people bearing the opposite mentality come from, I feel refusing to assign the highest grade on your scale denotes a lack of respect for the medium, and perfection is such nebulous concept to begin with. Naturally, my own approach is between the two extremes. I can and will award a 10/10, but I don’t award it to just any game. Indeed, one of my rules is that I can only award the grade once per franchise – this includes spinoffs. Therefore, I tend to think very carefully whenever I’m confronted with a masterful game whether or not it deserves such an accolade. Going the extra mile isn’t enough; I have to be convinced that these are once-in-a-lifetime achievements that will hold up in the coming years. So without further ado, let’s bring the list to a close with five games I feel managed to truly earn that top honor.
It is the dawn of new year, and our countdown is nearing its conclusion.
One of the worst trends of gaming criticism in the 2010s was the lack of middle ground regarding their rating systems. A lot of this was brought on by their tendency to overhype everything released by major companies to the extent that good grades seemed to be awarded to releases with the most press coverage rather than on the merits of actually being a good game. When reading their reviews, it gave off the impression that anything below a 90% or 9.0 wasn’t worth checking out. This is one of the trends I sought to defy when conceiving my own rating scale. I wanted to make it so that in order for any team to achieve a 9/10 from me, they would need to go the extra mile to earn it. For the following games, the pros outweigh the cons to the extent where you likely won’t be thinking of it for most of the experience. You can be sure that no matter how I decide to rank any of these games, every single one of them is a keeper.
I have to admit that between the three colors I use, the green tiers are the ones for which my process of assigning grades is the least scientific. When I was developing my rating system, I wanted to make it clear to readers that a game really has to go the extra mile to earn an 8/10 or higher so as not to devalue the highest grades. Admittedly, it does come down to gut feelings to a greater extent than when I’m entertaining the idea of assigning a red or yellow score. For games I’ve awarded an 8/10, there might be a few minor issues present, but they’re easy to overlook in favor of appreciating what they do well. These are games you should give high priority should they end up on your backlog.
We are now finished with the red and yellow tiers; the only ones left are the green tiers. In this post, I’ll be looking back over the games I’ve awarded a 7/10. The key difference between this tier and the one directly preceding it concerns my stance when asked whether or not I’d recommend a game. A 6/10 is a game I would have some reservations about recommending even if I think it’s technically good overall. There are no such reservations from this point onward; these are all games that were able to earn my seal of approval.
We are now in the second half of my 100th review special! A 6/10 isn’t a terrible grade on my scale. It means that I have reservations recommending the game in question, but it ultimately does more right than wrong. Furthermore, as per my rules, a 6/10 is the highest grade a game with a weak ending can receive. A few of the following entries are indeed titles that would otherwise deserve to be on higher tiers. I feel not enough creators realize how important it is to stick the landing. After all, the ending is the last impression you have a work; if it’s bad, it almost doesn’t matter if the material leading up to it was good. Rest assured, from this point onward, we’ll be discussing games that are worth a try.
Funnily enough, the conclusion of this particular post will take us to the exact halfway point of my list. It’s fitting because a 5/10 signifies that I could go either way when asked if I recommend a game. In the end, I feel that whether or not the reader should check any of the following games is a decision they themselves must make. They have a lot of qualities worth praising, yet you have to wade through a lot of annoyance before their true value begins to shine.
When I consider assigning a 2/10, my thought process involves asking myself if the terrible game I just played can be enjoyed ironically. If so, this is the grade I award the game in question, and if not, it gets a 1/10 instead. To be clear, it’s more of a general guideline than a cast-iron rule, and the point I try to get across when awarding this grade is that it does have a redeeming quality or two (or barring that, it doesn’t quite go the extra mile in terms of sheer badness). Regardless, I still couldn’t recommend the following games in any capacity.
Peace Walker breathed new life into Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series of stealth-action titles. In an ironic twist, it ended up with a greater level of adoration than its direct predecessor, Metal Gear Solid 4, despite having significantly less hype surrounding its release and a downgrade in visuals owing to the PlayStation Portable’s inferior hardware. The game reached an even larger audience once it became a cross-platform title packaged with Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3 on the HD Collection. Feeling rejuvenated from the ill will he bore towards the development process of Metal Gear Solid 4, Mr. Kojima expressed interest in releasing the next installment, titled Ground Zeroes, as an immediate follow-up to Peace Walker on either the PlayStation Portable or the PlayStation 3. However, due to a combination of numerous delays surround Metal Gear Rising, a spinoff sequel to Metal Gear Solid 4, and AAA gaming being a few years away from starting a new console generation, it was decided that Ground Zeroes would bridge the gap.
In March of 2012, Mr. Kojima spoke at a Q&A to mark the inclusion of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2 in the Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” exhibit. He stated that he and his staff were working on a project he believed would become the shining moment for both his career and the Metal Gear series. This new game was to deal with taboo issues while still being fun to play. In August of the same year, a new Metal Gear installment dubbed Ground Zeroes made an appearance at an event that celebrated the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Mr. Kojima referred to Ground Zeroes as a prologue to a bigger title, and that it would involve open-world gameplay. In December, a new trailer for a game titled The Phantom Pain surfaced at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards. This game was apparently being developed by a Swedish company named Moby Dick Studio, but astute fans took notes of various hints and deduced that Kojima Productions made the trailer. Although Mr. Kojima equivocated when asked about this, he eventually confirmed the theory in March of 2013 when he revealed the full name of the project: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This led to a fair bit of confusion, as many people thought that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain had been combined into a single game before Mr. Kojima stated that they were still intended to be separate experiences. The reason behind this was to gain feedback about the quality of the game’s engine.
After a lengthy development cycle, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released in 2014 to a mixed reception. Although many critics praised the gameplay, fans weren’t thrilled about the prospect of paying forty dollars for what was essentially a tech demo whose main campaign could be completed in less than two hours. Mr. Kojima assured the public that The Phantom Pain would be two-hundred times larger than Ground Zeroes, and that the best was yet to come. One year after the release of Ground Zeroes, Konami announced that they were undergoing a corporate restructuring. As a majority of their income came from their line of pachinko machines, their game development divisions became less lucrative for them as the 2010s progressed. This infamously resulted in Silent Hills, the ninth installment of their famous survival horror franchise, being abruptly canceled and them parting ways with Mr. Kojima and his personal studio. Despite all of this turmoil, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain saw the light of day in September of 2015. Just like its two predecessors, it managed to amass universal critical acclaim from countless gaming publications such as Famitsu, GameSpot, and IGN. Was it truly able to escape Konami’s tumultuous atmosphere unscathed and shine as one of the decade’s highlights?