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    How to Buy Video Games
    by BlackSun

    I was talking to shiva the other day, and I brought up the fact that he wasn’t going to get many PlayStation game reviews from me where I would say the game sucked. I told him the main reason was because all the games I review are titles that I have owned at one point or another, and that I rarely rented them. I mentioned to him that I almost never buy any games that are real bombs, and that the few times I have bought crappy games was because I made my purchases impulsively and without my usual regiment of research before hand.

    Considering my recent contributions to shiva's “The State of the Game” section, he said to me. “Why don’t you write an article about how you select games?” Well I thought it was a great idea. I do after all find that I have about a 95+% success rate for choosing good games. And unfortunately unlike many people I know out there, I don’t have a CD burner, and a mod chip in my PlayStation, and don’t have the option of copying everything for about $3 no matter how bad it is. This just means that since I’m having to fork out a good $60-$80 Canuck bucks every time I buy a game, I have to make sure I know what I’m getting. After all, most places won’t let you return a game because it sucks. So here it is, my guide to successful game selection.

    First off, I would have to say when thinking about buying a new game “Believe the hype.” I can’t think of one time that I have seen a game hyped to the extreme and it turned out to suck. If everyone is talking about it, and it’s plastered on the cover of every major video game magazine it’s pretty safe to assume it’s gonna be great. After all, in the case of video games, hype is often based on the game manufacturers past game successes, and in some cases the games have had demos released to the magazines. The magazines often report on how great the game is shaping, how it’s looks and plays so far. Also remember these demos are usually incomplete, meaning a lot of issues like graphics and control are still going to be improved on before its final release date. Case in point Metal Gear Solid, Mario 64, Zelda 64, Silent Hill, and the Resident Evil games were all hyped out big time, and they are to this day still some of the best and most innovative games on their respective game systems.

    Now there is something very important to remember about game hype. This is “It doesn’t always apply to the sequel.” Any game that has been a huge success the first time around is always bound to have a sequel. Just because it was good then, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be good again. Cases in point: Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal, Extreme Games, and Cool Boarders. All of these games have been very successful with their first release, but unfortunately didn’t do as well the next time out. Now bare in mind, this observation of mine is my opinion. Tomb Raider was a fantastically huge success. I mean who hasn’t heard of, or seen Lara Croft before? I just felt that the next 2 TR games were nothing but carbon copies of it predecessor. Die-hard TR lovers probably loved the next 2, but in the world of game success they offered very little that was new, and improved to the series. Also remember that this doesn’t always mean the sequel is gonna be bad. Games are not always predictable. For example I felt Twisted Metal 2 was a 100% improvement over the original, but Twisted Metal 3 was complete garbage (except for maybe the soundtrack, containing Rob Zombie.) I know this might sound almost confusing, but my point is simple, and it is this. Just because the original game was great, don’t buy the sequel expecting it to be just as good if not better. Best thing to do is read what some reviewers have to say before you make that expensive purchase. Don’t go in for another dip expecting the water to be just as warm the 2nd time around.

    Now about reading reviews I have to say this. “Reviewers are your friends.” Reviewers exist in the gaming industry for one, and only one reason. That is to steer you and me, the consumers in the right direction, and to help us make smart game buying decisions. They might write previews, walkthroughs, and code sections, but essentially reviews are what they are really all about. It would be safe for you to assume that if a reviewer raves about a game and gives it a 5/5 or a 10/10, whatever their rating system might be, that’s it’s an awesome game. Any game receiving such high praise more than likely has all the ingredients necessary in a game to make it a true classic. Now there is also a flip side as well. You see, game reviewers are a lot like movie critics. Movie critics don’t like a film unless, it’s truly unique, has some Shakespearean feeling and in some way comes with a mind reeling message that in some way might make you think. What the movie reviewer doesn’t realize is sometimes you just want to see a car chase, people getting shot and a lot of shit getting blown up. Basically what this means is that if a reviewer gives a game a very poor rating it’s probably not as bad as they make it sound.

    Consider this. Every racing game that has been released since last summer has in some way been compared to Gran Turismo, a game that is arguably the best racing game ever in the history of video games. Now it’s pretty hard to look good if you are compared to a gem like that. Reviewers seem to have this awful tendency to overlook that not every game is trying to be the next GT. Games need to be reviewed without bias, and without comparison. Each game has it’s own special qualities and needed to be reviewed for what it is, not for what it isn’t. By the way for any of you out there who might be interested I have a few sites here that I visit regularly when I’m planning on buying a new game. www.videogames.com and www.ign.com are great for reviews on console games, like PlayStation, N64 and the upcoming DreamCast. www.gamespot.com for reviews on PC games. Also for anyone interested in cheat codes and walkthroughs I recommend visiting www.gamesages.com.

    If you really want an unbiased, and honest opinion about a game, “Talk to your peers.” Your friends and peers have nothing to gain from lying to you about a game. They will give you the best descriptions you can get and a cool thing is you will be able to ask them questions as well. I personally find that aside from talking to my friends that I have gotten a lot of useful information talking to people on some of the video game chat sites. Be aware that if you don’t know the person you are talking to in the chat room, that you can get unreliable information and a lot of bad attitude. Get to know some of these people well, and they won’t steer you wrong. After all, they are gamers just like you, and you will have things in common with them. Another good place for to visit to get game info from the players is again www.videogames.com. On this site they also post reviews from the players. Only bad thing about this is it sometimes makes the decision more confusing. I have seen games get rating on 3/10 from one player, and 10/10 from another. This just goes to show that these people didn’t know what kind of games they liked.

    This might seem like a rather obvious point to make when buying a game but as I just mentioned above “Know what you like.” You know your own personal taste. Whether you like sports, action, adventure, driving, or role playing games. There is this guy I know who bought a driving game because reviewers gave it an awesome rating in every magazine it appeared in. Thing is he hates driving games. It doesn’t matter how good a game is supposed to be, if you don’t like the genre, you not gonna like it. It might seem stupid to bring this up, but if this guy would buy a game he’s probably not to like, I’m sure he’s not alone. I don’t care if EA NHL Hockey 2000 get the best rating ever in sports. I hate sports games, so it’s gonna suck to me no matter what they say. This being said you will never see any reviews on this site about sports games from me. Unless it’s boxing or racing.

    Well I think I have pretty much given you all the information I can about how to buy a good game more successfully. There is one final thing you can use to guide you towards the good games. But unfortunately this is something you get from experience. That is “Trust your instincts.” After over 15 years as a very serious gamer, and having owned virtually every major game system ever created, coupled with almost a year working in a rather large and successful arcade and 3 years working in a video game store, instinct is something I also have. For some reason or another my gut has guided me to the best games more often than I can remember. Though I don’t rely on instinct alone, I use all the other techniques I have mentioned above.

    One other helpful hint I will give you before I close up here is something you have probably heard many times before, “don’t judge a book buy it’s cover.” It’s might have some flashy artwork on the packaging, and the pictures on the back might show some incredible graphics, but this doesn’t mean a good game. Remember the job of a packaging designer is to make you want to buy that game, and unfortunately they do their jobs well. If you’re to worried about getting a crappy game and being out some big money, remember, renting is always an option. But for people who would consider themselves hard-core gamers like I do. I prefer to own them, and nothing beats having that hot game to play whenever you want to adventure again.

    All questions or comments can be directed to BlackSun


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