007: Quantum of Solace / Meer: Shedload of Griping

Preview wot I wrote about the upcoming Bond game is up over on Eurogamer. It’s not, suffice to say, one of those ‘lalalalalala everything is shiny wooo’ previews:

It might end up feeling like Bond skins taped over a hasty Any-FPS skeleton. While we’ve only seen two levels so far, the bizarre presence in those of exploding fuel tanks (“mousetraps”, according to Treyarch) inside a posh hotel lobby suggests this an action game that very much plays by the rules.

While I’m actually fairly gentle to it, I’ll add the qualifier I did over there – there’s still a few months of work left to go on the game, so it could yet be more Goldfinger than Die Another Day. Oh – beware of the Angry Internet Man in the piece’s comments thread, loudly crying foul at the partially pessimistic tone. Whadda ya think – are not entirely positive previews of upcoming games welcome journo-honesty, or miserabilist, unprofessional presumption?


  1. Mike says:

    I’ve only ever written one preview, and the difficulty I found was that although the game was obviously very bad, you had absolutely no idea what was going to be turned around in the last few months, particularly as that is often when a lot of playtesting is done.

    The problem is, optimistic previews always sound like they’re hedging their bets by bigging a game up safe in the knowledge it can still be slaughtered at review time. Lose-lose situation, to be honest. Someone will be cynical whatever tone you take.

  2. RLacey says:

    The depressing thing is that I’ll almost certainly end up getting this so long as it manages to be better than Nightfire (though the end quality will almost certainly determine when).

    One day, someone will come along and make another good Bond game. As it is, there are more good Star Trek than 007 titles, and that’s a rather embarassing state of affairs…

    As for negative previews, they tend to suggest that the writer has done marginally more than read the press release for the game, so they’re fine by me. So long as one doesn’t utterly destroy the game, of course – after all, it’s the review wot matters.

  3. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    It’s generally very strange to hear a very negative preview in a print magazine, or a website aspiring to be compared to one. Gamers have generally taken for granted the idea that these sources of gaming news are basically giant ads for games they might like–until they don’t.

    Someone speaking frankly is going to surprise a lot of people, and possibly really annoy one particular person.

    I’m of course speaking to the comments thread, because I suspect Alec already knows all this. It wouldn’t be RPS if he didn’t get to run around, being curmudgeon-y with impunity. It’s awfully refreshing to read, though I’d hate to be the devs on the poop side of the preview stick.

    I’d click on an ad right now, as a show of malt liquor loyalty, but for some reason no ads are showing up.

  4. RichPowers says:

    If you don’t get hands-on time with the game, you may as well post the publisher’s official talking points. Videogame previews, in general, are notorious for making upcoming games sound like The Best Things Ever.

    I feel for the writers, though. Write a negative preview and the publisher might reward a “friendlier” competitor with the next exclusive preview.

  5. RLacey says:

    I don’t know… you can probably tell a fair amount about a game even if you’ve just had it demonstrated to you.

    What I really don’t like are previews where even that hasn’t happened. Where the writer clearly hasn’t been given any more info than a press release and a load of screenshots. Because then said preview is pointless, since anyone has access to those.

  6. Mike says:

    RichPowers – I think most previews are hands-on, especially somewhere like EuroGamer. Or at the very least, they’re first-hand.

  7. LlamaFarmer says:

    The preview was well written and seemed honest: I would be negative when describing an average shooter, as average is nowhere near good enough these days. The problem with negative previews is they can come across as if you’re not giving the game a chance and can be a bit of a depressing read. At least negative reviews can be made funny, you can’t do that in previews too much because things could change before the game comes out, so it’s not fair to mock it.

    I enjoy reading previews that talk about what the writer was impressed by/looking forward to the most, while also mentioning any reservations they had. The most important thing is honesty though, and it seems like this game has very little going for it. I dislike some of the console previews on Eurogamer, which go on about what buttons they’re pressing to do stuff, as long as the game is easy/intuitive to control, I don’t care!

    As far as the comments are concerned, it was really just that one guy making a fuss, so no worries there. He seems to forget that different people will have different opinions and ways of expressing them, so of course some articles might seem more “negative”. He suggests that all previews should be positive, no matter the writer and no matter the quality of the game, which is just silly really.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    Previews are interesting. Sometimes they contain useful, interesting information that give you an insight into the development process. But they’re not a review, and anyone who reads them as one deserves to get stung come release day. Overall, I’m not sure where they stand and it’s easy to end up with a fluff piece about a game because there’s no solid info.

    I guess professional opinion is critical here – you can criticise a game, but hold hope for it. Also, maybe pissing off devs won’t get you so many exclusives in the future, but then equally it pays not to seem in thrall to developers.

    The QoS preview seemed pretty fair from what I could see. It was pessimistic, but then it didn’t go out of its way to shit on the developers either. It’s a shame, because obviously a lot of work has gone into making some of what we can see, but without that extra spark it will end up being a poor-to-average game.

  9. Okami says:

    Nice preview, Alec. The really funny thing is: This game would have gone totally under my radar, if your write up of it’s genericness wouldn’t have been so fun and witty. So now that you wrote a rather negative preview about the game, my interest is actually piqued. Will Treyarch manage to fix all the issues in 4 month?

    Stay tuned…

    As for the comments section: I was briefly amused by the guy’s ranting but after a few of his posts, I started feeling depressed for having wasted precious minutes of my life to him and his ultimately boring and pointless slander.

    EDIT: Guy get’s extra points for accusing you of giving out low review scores. Classic. Everybody knows, that game review scores rank from 7 to 10.

  10. Andrew Wills says:

    I think it was a very well written, fair and honest article. I didn’t find it overtly negative in the slightest. It seemed to me like you went there without an opinion, played it, found it to be generic, recieved a LOT of excuses from the developers… Then left and wrote a preview of exactly what you experienced. Isn’t that called Games Journalism?

    I do find it frustrating when developers make excuses… I understand that not *everything* someone wants is going to make it into the final game, but no vehicle sections… It’s Bond!? Seems like a dev team running out of time to me… But from the sounds of it, this feels like a Call of Duty 4 mod, with a licence to sell.

    (ooooh bad pun!)

  11. Alec Meer says:

    I should note that I didn’t get hands-on with QOS (EG title their previews either ‘preview’ or ‘hands-on’ as the case may be, but guess that’s not clear if you don’t already know the system), but rather I sat through an extensive live demo of a dev playing it, followed by an interview with a chap from Treyarch. Hands-on would have been preferable, but I’m confident in the impression I received of the game from it – in the same way that I’m confident in the more positive impression I might receive from other games in similar situations. (COD5 for instance, which I actually saw at the same event as QoS, and of course comes from the same developer).

  12. Wedge says:

    Whenever you have to qualify reservations by saying “oh it’s still a few months away”, that means something is broken and it likely won’t be fixed. Strike one. When it’s a licensed title, that’s strike two. When Treyarch is involved… well… anyway.

    Of course there is nothing wrong with negative previews. Nobody makes anything better given benefit of the doubt, only (potentially) when challenged. Not that it matters in the case of a licensed title though.

  13. Masked Dave says:

    I’ve kind of given up reading previews, unless its a game I’m particularly interested in. This wasn’t a concious decision or anything, it’s just kind of happened.

    However I feel the point of the preview is for the journalist to give their opinion of what they’ve seen. If that’s negative, then it should be negative. Otherwise the preview would just be a lie and then really would be worthless.

  14. Andrew Wills says:

    “rather I sat through an extensive live demo of a dev playing it”

    To me, that’s even worse. A dev demoing the game is going to show it in the best possible light… If that gives a mixed to bad impression, then it’s got to be bad news.

    Hopefully a preview like this will encourage the developers to work harder on what they have and really improve and tighten things up in the coming months.

    I was really rooting for another Goldeneye, let’s hope they still have the time and chance to deliver.

  15. Thomas Lawrence says:

    Negativity in previews: I respect it if it is well considered and gives due accounting of exactly what the journo saw to provoke the negativity, and the possibility of it being resolved in the remaining development time. Slagging off something unfinished for being shit is not something to do in an unqualified way – it annoys developers to no good purpose, and if the issues really do get resolved you’ll look damn silly.

    What I’d really like to see in previews is not negativity per se, but simply more honesty and straightforwardness about exactly what was seen and/or played by the journo. If your review is based largely on things like rolling demos, and the “screenshots” are actually pre-renders and so forth, it would be nice if the preview reflected that (and, more to the point, that if there is so little actual GAME to go on, the preview ought to merit less space).

  16. Thomas Lawrence says:

    Andrew Wills: I somehow doubt that a developer a few months from release is going to be reading the preview press at all, let alone reading it and actually using it as advice on how to reshape the game. That’s what QA is for (and I would suspect that QA, assuming they haven’t given up entirely by this point, will have already told the devs everything the previewer picked up on and more until they went blue in the face).

  17. Erlam says:

    QTE’s? No thanks.

    And: “somehow doubt that a developer a few months from release is going to be reading the preview press at all, let alone reading it and actually using it as advice on how to reshape the game.”

    At this point, it’s probably already Gold Master.

  18. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Oh, well.

    It’ll sell on the Bond name, that’s for certain.

  19. Andrew Wills says:

    Thomas Lawrence: Sadly, I totally agree with you… But in “wouldn’t it be nice” world… I would hope they might say, “Ok, we’re delaying for six months to make this really good.

  20. Radiant says:

    It’s up to the developer/publisher to make you want to speak positively about the game.
    If the game has no special merit other then it is competently made then say it as so.
    And ignore people who reply in anger in comments threads; they are almost always serving another agenda.
    If it’s an irrational response then ignore it.
    Although the same rule could also be applied to the comment’s originating articles. [Though I’m not talking about this particular, refreshingly honest, article]

  21. devlocke says:

    On a completely unrelated note, I think the title of the new Bond movie is absolutely ridiculous. Almost painfully so. I can’t wait to hear worked into a painfully bad song. “Quantum of Solace” sounds like they just used a random phrase generator, or they played MadLibs with a sheet that said [science word] [preposition] [gothy word] and went with the first one they got.

  22. Albides says:

    Previews as a sample intended to give an impression of a game, negativity is entirely appropriate if it’s warranted. In review or preview, the only thing one can really do is give their impressions and then justify them. If someone disagrees with the reviewers emotional response, then they’ve got the “evidence” to make their own decisions. This seems to me obvious. Divorcing personal response from a preview leaves you with a report, which seems to me to deny the entire purpose of a game, that being to engage a viewer/gamer on some emotional or intellectual level.

    But that review was fine, Alec. You did a good job of explaining your reservations.

  23. New Guy says:

    Quantum of Solace: The Video Game is due out in Q4 on PS3 and 360, with separate PC, Wii and DS versions also in development.
    What the…?! Are you telling PC gamers will get another watered down last gen port?

  24. SwiftRanger says:

    “Whadda ya think – are not entirely positive previews of upcoming games welcome journo-honesty, or miserabilist, unprofessional presumption?”

    When you are talking about negative Fallout 3 previews you even face the wrath of fellow journalists so it’s dangerous yes. Bond-fans seems touchy as well, sounds promising when the actual review arrives. :) Anyway, I don’t think Alec’s preview did much wrong, just write what you see but try placing it into context is the hardest part.

    Read a recent preview of Clear Sky on the Edge site for example and the way they ended that one by claiming Far Cry 2 seems to already have an ‘edge’ over it because of a lesser obvious HUD is appalling. That’s just such a trivial complaint.

  25. Jon says:

    I do sometimes marvel at just how angry people can get over the internet. And about a game which is months away. It’d be like me getting angry about the phases of the moon…

    Edit: Just thought I’d say that the all the pages load a bit strange on the computer I’m using [at work…], the side column forces the main article down leaving a blank space above it.

  26. Okami says:

    I somehow doubt that a developer a few months from release is going to be reading the preview press at all, let alone reading it and actually using it as advice on how to reshape the game.

    Developers do read previews. Especially if they’re from major magazines or websites. And really good developers use the preview feedback to reshape their games. The problem with any QA is: They know your game. Sure, they’re good for finding bugs, glitches and crashes. But the longer you test a game, the more you get used to it and the less likely you are to make objective statements about it.

    If you’ve got enough money, you can bring in fresh testers in regular intervalls, to get new opinions and a new outlook on the game. But not every studio is in such a position.

    So yes, press previews can have a certain impact on a game’s development.

    But you’re not completely wrong of course. I’ve worked for companies that seemed to have a blind spot for negative feedback in previews, concentrating solely on the good stuff. There was even one instance, where a media outlet whose preview wasn’t as positive as the rest was “punished” for their critical preview, by not recieving any more preview copies and not beeing invinted to preview events..

  27. Bassem B. says:

    Skin taped over skeleton? what about the flesh? what about THE FLESH??

  28. Radiant says:

    Wait what?!
    Edge cursed Clear Sky???

  29. Gap Gen says:

    On the new trailer of QoS (the film): How often does Bond have to go rogue? Presumably by now their attitude would be “oh, you know what, you always do this and it works out OK, so here’s a gun and a fast car with a load of gadgets in it, go do what you want, maybe kill some guys, and we won’t ask questions.”

  30. mooey poo says:

    Even Craig’s plasticky face looks better than that thing that was meant to be Robert Downey Jr in the Rocketeer game.

  31. THX-1138 says:

    I remember the Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude preview was rather negative, and the review of it confirmed that it was indeed shit. But then, it was kinda obvious.

    I just wish that someone made an empassioned plea for it’s potential greatness in the comments thread of that preview.

  32. aldo says:

    What theā€¦?! Are you telling PC gamers will get another watered down last gen port?

    Given that it’s using the COD4 engine, it’d be an utterly bizarre decision. Perhaps the PC version simply has different level layouts, given the more accurate controls for shooty, lack of quick-timey buttons, etc.

  33. Sam says:

    @devlocke: Except, of course “Quantum of Solace” is the last remaining title of a Bond story (other than “007 in New York”, which, frankly, is a worse title for a Bond Film) written by Ian Fleming. And, [science term] is actually mostly just Latin, although Fleming was using it in the correct sense (which has been replaced in pop culture by the utterly wrong sense) of “the smallest amount of something”.

  34. JonFitt says:

    I think a preview is perfectly justified in saying “if X doesn’t change it’ll be criticised”, or “if they don’t do this then that’ll be a missed opportunity”. You have to avoid judgement of the game as a whole though, because you never know what’ll be chaged, or what will work within the context of the finished game as a whole.

    If you phrase it all within the realm of, it’s not a review of the finished game, but a commentary on what you saw then that’s fine.

    If we’re lucky then preview comments might save the developers from making a bad mistake.

    Gushing previews of obviously flawed games do no good to anybody.

  35. Nick Halme says:

    I stopped reading the comments thread after I saw this gem:

    “It uses the COD4 engine, which was out a few months ago, so this should look better and play better than COD4”