On May the 16th 2008, I was talking to my friends about a game coming out the next week. I told them all about it, they loved the idea; they wanted it, they were hyped for it. There was a deal where you could get £5 off each copy of the game if you bought 4 copies and I easily got people interested. But on May the 20th when the first reviews were revealed for Haze, we were deflated. It wasn’t a ‘Halo’ killer. It wasn’t even that good, apparently. But was this really down to the game, or the media and public hype of the game?
Free Radical were the developers of the hugely successful ‘Timesplitters’ series, and I for one was looking forward to what they would do next. When I found out about Haze, it sounded ‘ok’. But then the media grabbed it with two hands, labelling it with superlatives such as ‘the best game we have played this year’ and the ‘most exciting prospect of 2008′. It definitely wasn’t going to be an under the cover game that slipped through its release without any notice.
The game wasn’t that great, I would be the first to admit. But it wasn’t awful. I’m not going to go into that area too much, as that isn’t what this article is for. The media had a huge part in this. In some ways it may have got better reviews if it wasn’t in the media that way, and more people may have bought it for what it is, rather than based on high expectations.
Would it have earned a better review score or better public image and sales if it wasn’t hyped to oblivion like it was? Call of Duty is the hottest game as soon as it is revealed, and seems to become the highest selling game year on year. The game is developed for hype. They know what the media like, what the call of duty customer likes. And they get what they like a year ago, two years ago and even three years ago every year. But they don’t complain, as it is a ‘brand new Call of Duty’… which it isn’t really. This is the opposite of Haze somehow: it gets better scores down to the hype, whereas Haze got less.
What I am asking of the media is for a more factual and impartial previews of games, with less of ‘this game will be better than x game’ or ‘the best game this year’. You cannot say that until the end of the year, anyway really. But what you should be doing instead is getting all games on a level playing field, letting Call of Duty battle with the Homefronts, with the Resistances and Hazes (Ok, well maybe not Haze). That way gamers won’t hate the game for being ‘bad’, they won’t even be able to blame the hype, but just accept the game for what it is.