We all keep hearing about how the middle has fallen out of the video game industry and that the mid-budget, mid-tier video game no longer exists. While that is true for the most part, there are still a few sneaking on to the scene, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Despite some of my own reviews pointing to the contrary, sometimes, playing a game that is a bit, well, rubbish, can actually be loads of fun.
To make my point, let’s take a look at a few of Ubisoft’s recent triple-A behemoths. Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV are both very carefully crafted, well made, top quality products. If I had reviewed either, each would have received something in the 8/10 range. Saying that though, as deserving as these games would be of such a positively high score, I can honestly say that I enjoyed, Square-Enix’s, Murdered: Soul Suspect more than both; a game I gave a decidedly mediocre 6/10 to.
I know, it doesn’t make sense, but the fact is, both Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch Dogs are far better games. They look better, they play better, they sound better. For all intents and purposes, both games are far superior to the technically inferior, mechanically questionable, Soul Suspect. Despite being better games though, I still enjoyed my time with Soul Suspect more than I did with either of the Ubisoft offerings. In retrospect, I’d still give Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed an 8 and I’d still give Soul Suspect a 6, but despite its myriad of faults and design quirks, Soul Suspect remains the more memorable, and for me at least, the more enjoyable experience.
And that’s the important part – ‘for me’ – despite how enjoyable I found the game, I couldn’t in my right mind score it higher than either of Ubisoft’s recent efforts. The game has an array of issues that many will be absolutely unable to overlook, and the fact of the matter is; Soul Suspect really isn’t a very good game. What it is though, is a charming game, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a unique game.
Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed on the other hand, well, they’re more of the same aren’t they. They are safe bets is an ever growing sea of safe bets. That doesn’t make them bad games of course, and it would be unfair to mark them down because of it, but even Watch Dogs, which is a totally new IP, really does look and feel like a game that we’ve all played before.
Murdered: Soul Suspect however, well, that’s quite unlike anything else isn’t it. It’s kind of…….sort of like a Telltale Games release with more action and a little more ambition (at a push), but with its unique story and aesthetic, really does feel like a decidedly individual product in a market famed for its me too approach. It has plenty of issues and the development falls well short of matching the fantastic premise, but even with these faults, the simple pleasure of not knowing what to expect really can’t be overstated.
I don’t mean to pick on Ubisoft’s releases, but be it Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty or the latest big budget sports titles; as great as many of these games are, we all know exactly what we’re getting before we even get there. These decidedly more experimental mid-tier releases though? Well, you never really know do you. The level of overall quality is almost invariably lower than that if its triple-A brethren, but there is something to be said for those moments of brilliance hiding amidst the mediocrity.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for the big budget releases and look forward to my annual Call of Duty / Pro Evo fix, but there is something to be said for a little bit of the unexpected on the side. If that means a lower budget and a few rough edges, then so be it. The big yearly releases deliver dependable quality and content, so I’m more than happy to forgo both of those (to an extent) to experience something new.
The mid-tier might be on its way out, but while it’s still here, it’s something that should be cherished and experienced by as many gamers as possible. After all, it’s an endangered species.
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