A YouTube reviewer pointed out that possibly the only way to review a game without bias is to NOT pay for it. To receive it for free, to "steal" it or to otherwise acquire it without having some sort of need to justify that.
I find that very interesting, because, while paying for a game does influence my opinion, it tends to actually make me even stricter. It has the reverse effect on me.
This is why I've been so tolerant of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare trilogy. I see everything its critics point out, and they're very mediocre games, but I'm willing to tolerate them. But the sheer notion of spending $80-120 on them (Australia), then being encouraged to dribble all my money down the sinkhole of their shitty micro-transaction driven DLC, makes me sick with fury.
I don't, as I get into later in another journal*, get into the whole "insult the fanbase by insisting they're all kids" thing, because I know several great fans of Modern Warfare 3, and all of them play online. They're quite good at it. The youngest two happen to be fantastic young guys who are quite willing to blow over a hundred bucks on the special editions, because they work their asses off and want a brainless, fun shooter to entertain them. They are very accomplished young human beings, just not gamers with high standards.
However, the last game I paid full price for on release day, made me so infuriated that I tried to take it back. If you take back a game within a certain time, you're supposed to get a substantial refund - this deters people from effectively getting the game for free, finishing it and bringing it back, but doesn't cheat you out of a decent refund.
That would be... Final Fantasy XIII. I bought it for $120, should have returned it for $80, but so many people had realized it was god awful, that within weeks of its release, the return price/discount/trade-in value was dropped to $30. It's atrocious. Stop defending it. The writing alone is reason to give the game a failing grade.
It sucked so much, it cheated me out of $50.
So, how does paying for a game affect your judgment? Are you like me, and more likely to utterly crush it if it fails to meet your expectations? Or are you more like a poor kid whose mother could only manage to buy a single console, so you defend it to the death? Hey, don't feel bad, we all were like that, especially in the 90s.
On that note, I'm going to give an honest opinion of CoD:MW. The entire trilogy. Bearing in mind I haven't paid for a single one of them (no, I didn't steal them), I'm going to try to be a little more realistically harsh this time.
Let's see how many MW fans are reading this...
The MW franchise has done nothing but skate downhill in a pink tutu since the first game, which was arguably on of the best arcade-style FPS games I've played in the last couple of years. Its initial strength was, and remained, its intense arcade gameplay and the writing, which at first was very sober, restrained and realistic. That didn't stay true until the end, however the single player was still somewhat fun - and hilarious at times.
As a result of basically being a rail-shooter, with interesting set-pieces, the multiplayer has never been astoundingly interesting to me. It's repetitive, limited and lacks the fine-tuned skill focus of Counter-Strike and America's Army, both superior games for multiplayer, both more realistic shooters, and both more interesting. MW tries to cancel out the fact that the multiplayer games are balanced around basically who sees whom first by adding kill-streak bonuses. This doesn't address the problem, it makes it worse. The first MW (CoD4) had some very fun multiplayer, being reminiscent of CS, but several features were removed and game balance (as well as map quality) took a nosedive immediately in the sequel. CoD4 stands supreme over the rest of the trilogy.
Returning to the writing: MW2 and MW3 have some of the most absurd stories and the most ridiculous scenarios in any game I've ever played, and the attempts to regain the excellence of the first game are just embarrassing. There are many things to complain about here, but I'll first absolutely admit that some of the voice-acting work is very good, and I did my best to get into it: watching Makarov hang for his crimes was one hell of a satisfying moment for me.
The "shocking" moments in MW got progressively stupider and lamer. From the crowning moment of excellent in CoD4, the infamous scene where your character suffers and dies in a nuclear explosion, just moments after striving to save a downed Cobra pilot, his life a meaningless sacrifice to mankind's ultimate foolishness, things just got worse. The airport massacre in the second game was unpleasant, but not in any way profound or interesting. The third game was flat out offensive.
The developers sickeningly tried to tug our heartstrings by showing a little American (really? REALLY?!) girl in London die instantaneously in an explosion... that releases a gas cloud that would have killed thousands of other, unfortunately British-not-American, children in a painful and horrible fashion. This failed on so many levels, as I said, it becomes offensive.
Beyond that, the plot itself gets absurd, as Russia invades the USA (a significantly more powerful military force as of 2012); no amount of surprise attacks or stolen satellites makes this work. Worse, this is not merely Russia as it exists today - this is a wounded and recovering Russia after a turbulent civil war (CoD4, remember?) where an organization of ultra-nationalists managed to usurp control of the government.
After being thoroughly mauled by the American defenders, and losing a huge portion of their forces, thanks to actions of Captain Price - which caused the Russians to lose their air superiority over American soil, sealing their fate - Russia pauses to recover its strength and... LOL KIDDING. They invade Europe. All of it. At once. With a furious, vengeful United States of America preparing for the counterattack.
This utter impossibility - France alone would crush them in this state, let alone what would happen if they faced the combined might of the excellent militaries of Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom and, say, the Czech Republic - allows the developers to follow on with their shitty sight seeing tour where they get to indulge in blowing up monuments and tourist locations throughout Europe, and imply that Russia here is somehow like the Axis powers of World War 2. The ultimate stupidity is that, despite the heinous warcrimes the Russians commit (ie, invading the US and killing civilians, which they do, pay attention) the world is content to let a peace conference bring an end to the war. Just like that.
What started as a restrained, realistic military game that explored the uselessness and folly of war and vengeance expanded into a corporate, money-grubbing joke with an impossible plot, short single player, uninteresting multiplayer, some laughable and offensive attempts to be "controversial" or profound, aaaand some pretty nice graphics. It does look nice, and the voice actors are cool. Yeah. Looks good.
If I did pay for them personally? I'd probably say, MW2 and MW3 aren't awful games. They're fun, they entertained me for a few days each, and I'm sure if I deluded myself into thinking multiplayer MW3 is time better spent than multiplayer CS:GO or something, they'd entertain me a little longer. The cost of these games should have been half of their RRP when they came out.
That would have been perfectly well enough for the devs to make money, and the games deserve no more than that. They're too short, and even the multiplayer is comparatively insubstantial - and they put almost all of their effort into that. Aww, did it cost you too much to make those sexy graphics? Your problem; don't focus on graphics, rip-off DLC for shit that should be free, and lame marketing gimmicks next time.
If you can find MW3 for, say, $40, sure nab it. Don't think it's really possible to get the same sort of gameplay fun and time out of MW3 as you would from, say, L4D2, but everyone has their tastes. Not to fuel the cliche, but yes, children will find the plot, cheesiness and sheer daftness more palatable. In fact, those elements are probably why MW3 is more popular with younger games than Battlefield 3, which also took a nosedive into Suck City, trying to compete with Modern Warfare. What makes me roll my jaded eyes, they think is cool and exciting. I see elements of that now and then too; why do you think I briefly enjoyed these games despite everything I say here?
Overall though, MW2 and MW3 are mediocre, though visually pretty games. If I had paid new-release money for MW3, I would not be pleased with my purchase. The price was simply insane when it came out, and I don't think you get your money's worth. This is more a criticism of the price than the game, really. Not atrocious, useless, horrible games by my opinion, just overpriced.
There we go.
* -- I have, uh, 4 other journals waiting to be posted.