I hate seeing a game get undeservedly panned or tragically ignored by reviewers and consumers alike. But it happens all the time. Here are the worst examples.
I've picked out the ten PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 games I feel have been the most unfairly treated this console generation. By that I mean the consensus was that these games fell short of the mark in some or many ways. Yet for me, such criticisms were themselves wide of the mark.
Yep, believe it or not, the critics do get it wrong some of the time!
Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
What Did The Reviews Say? I haven't read every single City Folk review, but I feel confident in saying that every single one of them contained the phrase "More of the same." It's identical to the Gamecube version, except for some minor changes; also, it's identical to the DS version, except for some minor changes there, too. Nintendo, it seems, had failed its fans by refusing to evolve and innovate one of its key franchises.
What Should They Have Said? City Folk is easily the best Animal Crossing game to date. It builds on pre-existing foundations, yes, but they're ones that are proven to be one of videogaming's most charmingly addictive time-sinks. But City Folk isn't just a port; it stuffs in more villagers, more interaction, more fish, insects and fossils, vastly improved graphics and animation, extra activities, extra holidays and events, new shops, new tasks, new ways to upgrade your village, wittier dialogue, better trading and online features, even Wii Speak support. It's a superb package, all up.
What Did The Reviews Say? Project Gotham developer Bizarre Creations took the mechanics of its racing games and applied them to a third-person shooter. In dispensing with the genre's predilection towards bombastic narratives (see: Halo, Killzone, Call of Duty, Gears of War), The Club distilled the shooter to its arcade roots of chaining together combos and competing for high scores. It was dismissed as shallow and repetitive.
What Should They Have Said? The whole point of The Club is replaying levels over and over again. You don't just play through the singleplayer campaign, beat it, find out what happens in the story and move on. You return again and again to hone your technique, master the flow of the map and perfect your marksmanship. It's a brilliantly tuned shooting gallery in which you're not merely clearing targets, you're testing yourself to do so as efficiently as possible.
Earth Defence Force 2017 (360)
What Did The Reviews Say? Any game that pits you against wave after wave of giant bugs is inevitably risking the unimaginative critic's wrath. Yes, we get it, Earth Defense Force 2017 is full of bugs. Of course, it didn't help that, technically speaking, it lacked a certain level of polish one might expect from an Xbox 360 release. Yeah, OK, it was as rough as they come, barely resembling a PS2 game. EDF copped it for delivering a third-person shooter that eschewed AI, story, high production values, online multiplayer and pretty much everything we expect from a shooter today.
What Should They Have Said? That all that isn't a weakness but a strength. EDF isn't so bad it's good; EDF is so good it's awesome. When you were playing Space Invaders and imagining what the future of games would be like, EDF was beyond your wildest fantasies. But now it all makes sense. This is the natural evolution of the shoot 'em up, a white-knuckled ride through sci-fi insanity where the only spectacle bigger than an army of skyscraper-sized robots marching towards you is the explosion they make when you blast them with lasers.
What Did The Reviews Say? That there wasn't enough game here. You could unlock everything in a day and that there were too few tracks. Worse, no online multiplayer!
What Should They Have Said? That the fun of a game cannot be measured in mere statistics. That just because you've raced at one track and won it, doesn't mean you no longer have any interest in racing there again. Not when there are S-ranks to achieve. Not when you're determined to beat that previous best time. Not when the simple act of racing around these adventure parks is such a joyous experience.
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)
What Did The Reviews Say? An atmospheric adventure, sure. But all that endless wandering and tedious questing ruined the mood.
What Should They Have Said? That it's the very same somnambulant pace and mundanity that evokes much of melancholic loneliness that makes Fragile Dreams so moving. Its world is barren and desolate: it wouldn't be anywhere near as effective if the world was full of characters and quests and stuff to do.
Infinite Undiscovery (360)
What Did The Reviews Say? An absolute mess. In trying to revitalise the staid formula of Japanese role-playing games, tri-Ace mashed together too many disparate elements, many of which inevitably remain half-baked. The first two hours are surely some of the worst gaming ever committed to screen.
What Should They Have Said? A whipping tornado of fresh air sweeping through a stagnant genre, Infinite Undiscovery is the boldest JRPG in years. With a boisterous ensemble cast, genuinely thrilling party-based real-time combat, and a host of quirky character traits and secrets to discover, if you're looking for a JRPG that succeeds in being different then here it is. (The reviews were right about the first two hours though.)
Lost Planet 2 (360, PS3)
What Did The Reviews Say? Critics were baffled by the sparsely checkpointed save mechanic, the unusual Battle Gauge and T-Energy resource management, the weighty movement and stagger system, the meagre yet incomprehensible plot and the fact it wasn't Gears of War.
What Should They Have Said? That it's just about the most rewarding co-op shooter you can play, crammed full of encounters and boss battles that demand your squad works together as a team. The flow of unlockables, powered by a random slot machine, is as compulsive as any loot-focused RPG. Like The Club, Lost Planet 2 ought to be praised for striking out on its own path.
What Did The Reviews Say? Of the ten games featured here, Mistwalker's RPG boasts the highest Metacritic rating with 78. A good score, no doubt, but one that doesn't even put Lost Odyssey in the top 200 Xbox 360 games. Which, to my mind, is insane. Critics said it was little more than a rehash of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's past glories, a JPRG rooted in the past that offered nothing we hadn't seen before.
What Should They Have Said? There was, I think, an assumption amongst critics when assessing the JRPGs of this generation that Final Fantasy XIII would turn up and blow them all away. Thus, caution was taken, praise was withheld, and reviews tempered with reservation. With hindsight, such timidity was misplaced: Lost Odyssey shines ever brighter in the wake of FFXIII's colossal disappointment. It remains the best JRPG of this generation, weaving a powerful, heartbreaking tale whose quality of writing will fail to move only the coldest souls. Traditional its combat mechanics combat and character progression may be, but they innovate in subtle ways while strengthening the core RPG value of player choice.
The Saboteur (360, PS3)
What Did The Reviews Say? Pandemic's last hurrah was derided as a glitchy, run-of-the-mill GTA clone notable mainly for flogging DLC that unlocked in-game nudity, allowing protagonist Sean to visit cabaret clubs and cop an eyeful of stripper boobies.
What Should They Have Said? But gosh it was fun. It clips along at a cracking pace, befitting the knockabout Oirish charm of race-driver-cum-resistance-hero Sean, hurling you into street races, getaways, shoot-outs with Nazis, and even a decent stealth system along the way. Best of all, the use of colour, where occupied areas of town are suffocated in grim black and white while the resistance-held districts are bursting with lurid tones, is extraordinary, lending The Saboteur an aesthetic and mood of all its own.
Siren: Blood Curse (PS3)
What Did The Reviews Say? This cliched survival horror outing stumbles into many of the more common pitfalls of the genre: clumsy movement, terrible combat, bad writing and an incoherent plot. Plus, to add insult to injury, it took hours to install the downloadable episodes (though Siren was later released on disc).
What Should They Have Said? Blood Curse is superior survival horror in every facet. With multiple perspectives afforded by a diverse range of playable characters, each with their own motivations, you're presented with a tale that takes a while to warm up but one where the pay-off is worth it. Sight-jacking remains a stroke of genius and the controls, while tighter that the original, feel as if they've been designed to make you feel vulnerable rather than simply not working properly. Blood Curse is chilling, intense and perhaps the best survival horror game this generation.
Well, that's my list. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? What are your picks for the most underrated games of this generation?