Mind the Bump

With the release of the much-anticipated Halo 3: ODST coming up in a matter of days, the reviews have started to pour in.  Bungie is swelling with their expected "newborn", and the oohing and ahhing has already begun.  Now, I've always found the Halo franchise to be "good, but not great".  A serious analysis of the games' merits would have a hard time seeing why they have such a fan base.   But, after all, games are about having fun, right?  And if something is wildly popular, it must be good?  Not quite.

Back to the subject of reviews, it seems to me that ODST might have the benefit of the franchise's "review armor".  By this I mean something similar to "plot armor", which "prevent[s] important characters from dying or being seriously injured at dramatically inconvenient moments."   To have ODST "flop" instead of "drop" would be just such an inconvenient broken leg for a hugely popular developer.  This might cause the more observant members of the masses to look back and wonder if Bungie's earlier games were really any more deserving of praise than the latter.

Good reviews being met with skepticism is nothing new, and I'm not talking just about Fanboys.  Rumors of reviewers soliciting good rating for an earlier review have been a hot topic of late.  In the case of a franchise with said "review armor", an honest review of a not-so-stunning game would backfire on the publication.  We are so willing to believe that the next game will be good that we often reject an honest opinion to the contrary.  To pan Bungie's latest offering would be like telling someone that their baby is ugly.  No matter how true your statement is, you'll still be the bad guy.

From Ars Technica:
"If this game actually succeeds at retail it'll be because it's carried by the Halo name; were it simply called FPS X it would be cast aside nearly immediately as a mediocre release."
[Review at Ars Techica]


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