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Drake’s Reception: “Uncharted 3” and video game criticism

Drake’s Reception: “Uncharted 3” and video game criticism (photo)

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Here’s a riddle for you puzzle fans out there: How do 372 little words generate over 1200 responses in 24 hours?

Answer: By being 372 largely negative words about “Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception,” one of the most anticipated PlayStation games of the year. Yesterday, The A.V. Club‘s Scott Jones gave “Uncharted 3” a grade of C while criticizing the “woefully faulty” single player gameplay and “superfluous” multiplayer mode. Jones’ review lit up the A.V. Club comments section like a pinball machine on free play. Here is a brief but fairly representative sampler of the outrage. Some of the language is, shall we say, colorful:

Witch

“Is this really an oficial site? i mean, are you serious? O_O

i was so curious about this review when i saw that 50/100 on metacritic so, here i am and still, i can’t believe it….. If u are gonna be that obvious, u could actually grade this game with a 0/100 or F or whatever to inflict more “damage” =/”

ace002

“This was supposed to be a review? This sounds more like a fucking rant from a frustrated ‘gamer’. You’re just saying how bad the controls are FOR YOU and how predictable the game is FOR YOU, and worst of all…you actually put the names of Halo and Call of Duty on the same sentence as Uncharted? They’re not even the same genre, for God’s sake. You are the only person that actually said that the Multiplayer is “superfluous”. All the other reviews that i read so far said that the Multiplayer actually has improved a lot compared to its predecessor’s Multiplayer Mode. Maybe the game is bad for you because you’re a mentally retarded asshole who can’t play a game that has more than two dimensions. When i go to Metacritic and look at this C on the bottom of the page, followed by 8s,9s and 10s, i realize how fucking misleading your review is…did i already mention that you are an asshole?”

Bramaster

“The reviewer at IGN.com said it may be his new favorite game of all time, it’s a 93 on Metacritic, and this reviewer is just like “eh”?… it’s cool that he’s honest, but I don’t feel any one that really has a passion for video games could find so much fault with the Uncharted series.  This series has the best voice overs and cut scenes of any game to date, the graphics are beautiful, and the multiplayer is rock solid.  It’s time to get a new reviewer and get serious about this medium, or just don’t do it at all.  :)”

These reactions are representative of a strange and pervasive hypocrisy in gaming culture. Gamers want video games taken serious as a mature art form but they express that desire only in immature terms. Mister, uh, Bramaster believes Jones is giving his honest opinion (others in the thread accuse him of being a shill for PS3 competitor Microsoft) but still feels that in order to “get serious” about video game criticism, The A.V. Club aught to find someone who loves “Uncharted” to write their review. So thoughtful, insightful, but completely and utterly positive? That’s a pretty warped definition of “serious criticism.”

Jones’ review isn’t the only writer to draw the ire of gamers. Simon Parkin of Eurogamer received hundreds of contentious comments on his review of the game (e.g. “eurogamer thinks its cool to give 8 to the best game the industry produces. arrogant and self indulgent pseudojournalism,” –ulov3) even though his was far more positive than Jones’. Keep in mind these reactions were left before the game’s release, hence these folks were anointing “Uncharted 3” the best game ever before they’d actually played it.

I have played “Uncharted 3” and I do think it’s one of the best games the industry’s produced recently. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect or beyond reproach. Is it art? God, who the hell knows. Would you call the word “OOF” painted on a blue canvas art? The Museum of Modern Art would; they’ve got a piece just like that by Edward Rusha in their collection. Would you call an intricately designed interactive world that required hundreds or thousands of man hours from dozens of artists and technicians art? Some would say no, because a video game is something you play rather than experience. Art will always be in the eye of the beholder.

In the eye of this beholder, “Uncharted 3” isn’t perfect, but it is awesome. On an emotional level, it represents a real achievement for video games. After three “Uncharted”s, the characters of Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan have evolved into an unforgettable buddy combo. Actors Nolan North and Richard McGonagle deliver creative director Amy Hennig’s witty dialogue with brilliant timing and charm. It is a little weird to care about the fates of two characters who are not only fictional but immortal — since you have unlimited lives in the “Uncharted” games, there’s no way to lose — but I genuinely do. “Uncharted 3” pays particular attention to Drake and Sully’s relationship, how it began and developed, and it pays off in an ending that is about as poignant as any in any game I’ve ever played (or, for that matter, any movie I’ve seen in the last couple months).

“Uncharted 3” also gives players the same palpable buzz as a good action movie. Freed from the restrictions of physics and logistics, “Uncharted 3” can send players through wild, over-the-top chases and escapes that would never be possible in live-action. The game features several set pieces, including an escape from a fiery French chateau and a fight aboard a cargo plane, that made my palms sweat. Drake’s endless supply of do-overs dulls the rush a little — you kind of have to trick yourself into thinking the stakes are high — but at its best “Uncharted 3” literally had me applauding (author’s note: applauding when you should be holding a controller is not the best recipe for video game success).

The stuff that didn’t have me applauding was the intellectual side of the game. “Uncharted 3” is clever, but it’s not exactly smart. Gameplay varies between gunfights and environmental puzzle solving, neither of which are overly challenging or stimulating, especially after three largely similar entries in the series. All the “Uncharted”s are best enjoyed with your brain in the off position. Otherwise you’d have to wonder how enormous desert cities remain hidden in the age of geosynchronous satellites or fathom the moral implications of a hero who literally kills hundreds upon hundreds of men in each of his adventures.

So “Uncharted 3” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a super fun ride. Why isn’t that enough? Why do gamers get so worked up about any break in the consensus or low Metacritic score? I think it has to do with the nature of games. Gaming is about achievement and competition. You play “Uncharted 3″‘s campaign to win; you play its — sorry Scott Jones — insanely addictive multiplayer mode to level up your player, to buy more weapons and boosters for your character, to be the best and look the coolest while you’re doing it. That’s the same impulse that drives these overly sensitive reactions. It’s not enough to get good reviews, you have to get the best reviews. And then it’s not enough to get the best reviews; you have to get perfect reviews. So when Scott Jones gave “Uncharted 3” a C, he didn’t just give it a harsh critique; he screwed up gamers’ quest for ever-elusive 100% complete.

Until gamers recognize that mindset has its place in the games themselves but not in the discussion around them, comment section freakouts will continue to be the norm. “Uncharted 3” shows how far video games — and the people who play them — have come, and how far they still have to go.

What do you think of “Uncharted 3?” What do you think of its reception? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.