This week, the gaming world was treated to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a game that, according to a LOT of people, is quite excellent. It’s received a tremendous amount of positive critical reception, scoring loads of 9s and 10s from reviewers, and is adored by fans on videogame websites across the internet. People everywhere love it, from the casual crowd who stick to their annual Madden and Call of Duty games, right through to the hardcore crowd. It’s a big deal.
So why, then, is its user score on entertainment reviews aggregator Metacritic so frighteningly low? The professional side of things shows an 81, 88, and 89 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions respectively. The consensus is looking pretty positive across the board, which makes it all that more jarring to see the average user score across all three platforms so incredibly low. The PC version, in particular, is stuck with a 1.6 for its user score, a score typically reserved for buggy, brainless filth like Ninjabread Man or Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust.
Something is wrong here. But who is to blame? Have reviewers lost their touch? Are vicious fanboys assaulting the internet? Or are people just sick and tired of the same old stuff? Let’s take a look.
It’s easy to knock this one off the list pretty quickly. In this day and age, game reviewers are often looked at as evil, despicable people. “They gave this game a 9.5 when it is clearly a 9.2! How dare they!” “I don’t like this game, but they do, therefore they are a horrible reviewer and should be fired.” “This guy is a fan of the series, he’ll be biased and give it a high score automatically!”
It’s insane to take a look at online message boards and communities to see what people say about games reviewers, like they’re some sort of vile scum. Do you know what a game reviewer is? It is a person who says what they liked and didn’t like about a videogame, and then gives it a numerical score based on what their opinion is. Game reviews are a tool for people to use to determine whether or not a game is for them. For example, say a reviewer dislikes a game because it is too difficult. Someone who dislikes difficult games would stray away because of this review, whereas someone who likes more of a challenge would be more likely to pick the game up based on the review. Simple, right?
Apparently not. People get really, really angry at game reviewers for having a different opinion than them, and they let their voices be heard. If they appear to be unreasonable, which is often the case, the crazier accusations start coming. “Activision paid you to give this game a 9!” “Oh, your sites run ads for this game, you don’t have a choice but to score it high.” “You only gave this game a low score because you wanted attention!”
Come on now! Game reviewers typically know what they’re doing, and there are no wild conspiracies in the games press that determine what a game scores for a review. Even the reviewers don’t see it as big a deal as many readers do. And take the WORST CASE SCENARIO, where a reviewer is some evil, nasty person taking bribes and saying controversial things for attention – ignore the review, and move on!
With Modern Warfare 3 receiving mostly high praise, it makes sense for it to have a high Metacritic rating. Lots of reviewers liked it, so the average score is going to be high. With a general consensus from reviewers being that the game is anywhere from good to excellent, and with games reviewers still being regular people who play videogames, the problem here is not on their side.
When Fanboys Attack
Here’s a more likely scenario: fanboys. A fanboy (or fangirl), to those lucky enough to not be in the know, is a person who is an extreme, militant fan of something. A Twix fanboy is not just someone who prefers Twix candy bars over other candy bars, no. A Twix fanboy is someone who eats all the different types of Twix bars, collecting them and obsessing over them, never once admitting there might be a fault with them. A Twix fanboy will endlessly berate someone for eating another candy bar, or for not liking Twix, because that person thinks differently and that is impossible.
While Modern Warfare 3 was released this week, EA’s Battlefield 3 was released just a few weeks back. Billed by EA themselves as somewhat of a Modern Warfare killer, the latest installment in the successful Battlefield series was met with equal praise from critics, and is viewed as a viable alternative to those tired of the same old song and dance with the Modern Warfare series. Anyone with a proper working brain can see that – for fans of military shooters – there are two excellent games on the market, and it is within the rights of everyone to be able to play either game or (GASP) both games! Two entire games that one single person can enjoy! Now we’re cooking!
Except fanboys don’t like that. Battlefield fanboys are all in a rage, furious that Modern Warfare 3 is getting rave reviews while not completely revolutionising their formula, yet Battlefield was getting similarly great reviews for what they felt was a radical evolution. Comparisons between two similar games are only natural, but to viciously attack one game’s critical standing just because you like the other one better? That’s a bit ridiculous.
Unfortunately, however, it’s all too true. Take a look at some of these screengrabs from Metacritic’s user score section:
People are simply determined to have those looking for an opinion on Modern Warfare 3 to “change teams,” in some sort of sad and pathetic attempt to “win” in a battle between two discs. It’s a weird, bizarre mentality that needs intense psychoanalysis. Or a swift kick in the face. If you need to feel loyal to a videogame, your priorities basically make no sense. Play what you enjoy, let others play what they enjoy. No need to attack them, or bomb a game’s page for it existing in the same world as your precious gem. Really, really weird.
I believe we’ve found our answer. In searching through the many poorly written, grammatically hilarious, and downright dumb user reviews on Metacritic, the most prevailing point of all was that it’s the “same old thing.” Anywhere from people complaining about the lack of new features in multiplayer to the HILARIOUS and ORIGINAL joke that this game should be called Modern Warfare 2.5, a massive percentage of user reviews point out that this game is just too similar to previous entries in the series.
This poses a massive question in its own right – is more of the same okay? Sometimes it is, other times it is absolutely not and borders on sin. The first two Modern Warfare titles were excellent in the eyes of many, and both games were quite similar to one another. Both games featured campaign modes that, while short, provided an endless amount of thrills and set-piece moments, in addition to emotionally gripping and morally questionable storytelling decisions that kept the narrative fresh. Both games featured multiplayer modes with a large amount of game types and maps, as well as an addictive, carrot-dangling experience-based level system to keep people playing.
No one seemed to take issue when Modern Warfare 2 took what its predecessor did and expanded upon it. And yet now people have a problem with Modern Warfare 3 doing that as well? Are three similar entries in a series one too many? Someone should tell that to the Madden series, or the Gears of War series, or even the Legend of Zelda series. Successful franchises will always take what made them successful and expand upon that. Where is the line drawn that says one game is too similar to another, but this one isn’t?
What we’re left with is an unbelievable level of user reviews slamming the game for being too much like the other Modern Warfare titles. The Xbox 360 version’s Metacritic page features over 2,000 user reviews, with well over half of them falling into the negative category. Compare that 2,000 to 329 user reviews for another triple A title this year, Uncharted 3. Clearly people have had enough, and decided to occupy the entirety of Metacritic to let their dissatisfaction be known. But what will it do? It’s pretty clear Modern Warfare 3 will be one of the top-selling games of the year, maybe even this generation. Will Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward listen to the huge group of people with the same complaint and little evidence to back why their complaint is a bad thing? Or will they listen to the sales figures and feedback from people who are heavily into the game?
Just a quick glimpse at the many, many pages of reviews say that the biggest issue taken with this game is its familiarity. And yet how many people are probably going to play the game anyway? If they loved the first two, and the third one is just like it, they’re probably going to like that game, too. If it was good twice, it’ll be good again. If the game is still enjoyable, then there really isn’t a valid complaint to be had.
What have we learned?
In the end, this isn’t going to hurt the Call of Duty series. It won’t even hurt the developers’ feelings. It’s a bunch of people being upset and trying to make a difference through complaining. It’s probably not going to do any good, as once the sales figures start rolling in, Infinity Ward won’t look once to a majority of the complaints.
No game is perfect, and there’s no denying that some of the more well-spoken complaints against Modern Warfare 3 are legitimate. But when problems arise, assaulting the press, other games, or opinions of people just looking to enjoy a good military shooter is not going to work. Developers listen, and people who present themselves well and voice their complaints respectfully are the ones who will be listened to. Mass-bombing a game’s Metacritic page is not going to get people the change they believe they are entitled to.
It’ll be fun seeing all the backlash against the inevitable Modern Warfare 4.