Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Video games exceeding expectations

GameCentral readers discuss the games that turned out even better than expected, from Uncharted 2 to God Of War.

The question for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Comp, who asks what highly anticipated game has come closest to meeting or exceeding your expectations?

Hype can easily get out of control nowadays, but many were still able to be pleasantly surprised, even when they’ve read reviews or watched footage beforehand.

Threading the needle
To my great surprise I would say the recent Final Fantasy 7 Remake fits the bill here. To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect as there seemed so many ways it could go wrong and almost impossible that they could actual thread the needle between fan service and a good game without some problems. But they pretty much pulled it off and I was very impressed.

The graphics were great, the characterisation was great (most of these characters didn’t really have a proper personality before but I liked almost all of them except Wedge), and I loved the combat. I know there was a lot of worry about the action-y style before it came out but this really surprised me with how fun it was, while still having some depth.

The only bit I’m not 100% sold on is when it starts to deviate from the original story, where it all starts to get a bit too meta for my liking. But it’s certainly earned my benefit of the doubt now and I’ll be getting the second part no question.

Fortunate sequel
After really enjoying Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune I was really looking forward to Uncharted 2. It certainly didn’t disappoint! Combat and climbing were blended far better together compared with the first game, it had thrilling set pieces (the train level is still a stand out over 10 years later), and despite Chloe Frazer being introduced the chemistry between Nate and Elena that I so loved from the first game was better than ever!

While the first game was basically just a treasure hunt i’s sequel made you feel that there was far more at stake thanks to the sinister bad guy Zoran Lazarevic.

Generally, I find most games just don’t live up to the hype but I think that’s mostly my fault as I’m pretty picky!

Changing opinions
The God Of War reboot would be my pick for this. I went through so many different thoughts about the game before finally realising it was one of the best I’ve ever played. When it was first announced I didn’t care because I didn’t like the originals and hated Kratos as a character. Then the reviews came in and they were much, much better than I expected. But when I played it myself it still managed to outshine my expectations!

I had read a fair amount on the game before I played it, because I wasn’t convinced I wanted to get it, but I didn’t know any major spoilers going in. But I guess I assumed it would be closer to the original games in terms of story and action, but it really isn’t at all. It’s almost a critique of them and the original Kratos, and I love that.

People complain about sequels and reboots and so on but to me it doesn’t make any difference. If a game’s good, it’s good and this would never have got the budget it did if it hadn’t been part of a famous franchise. So even though I had zero interest at first I was very happily surprised by the final product.
Terry Gold

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The future of video games
I would say GTA: Vice City, old as it is. GTA 3 would probably count too but I wasn’t really aware of it before release and only bought it once everyone started talking about it. I was ready for the next one though and it did not disappoint at all.

The 80s soundtrack, the movie references, the very different kind of city to GTA 3… I found the whole thing amazing and it felt like we were living in the future of video games all of a sudden. That seems funny now when you look at how janky it seems now but the memories at the time were amazing.

I remember often wondering how they could cram so much stuff and detail into the game, although we now know it’s because Rockstar were treating their staff like slaves, so that leads a bit of a nasty taste. Still, hopefully they’ve cleared up their act now.

Timeless release
The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask really sticks out to me as a game that met my expectations.

I suppose there wasn’t as much hype for it as with some games that will be mentioned this weekend, on the basis that it was clear from the off that it was going to be quite similar to Ocarina Of Time, so we had a good idea of what we were getting and there wasn’t so much room for expectations/speculation to snowball. That was fine by me though.

It feels a bit stupid to say, but I had loved Ocarina Of Time so much I really just wanted more of the same. It was comforting to me that the core gameplay mechanics and aesthetic were essentially identical to its predecessor, and as much as that was in a way probably quite restrictive for the developers it did at least mean they could focus on creating a load of imaginative new environments and gameplay situations.

It felt like the most generous expansion pack ever, for my favourite game ever, which was exactly what I wanted at the time.

I didn’t really take in how dark the game was in parts, but this added a really interesting layer to the experience when I went back and replayed the game as an adult, which I feel helps it stand up on its own as a classic. So not only did Majora’s Mask meet my expectations when it came out all those years ago, it’s also really stood the rest of time as well.

Hollow praise
Probably not the first game to come to most people’s mind but I would say Hollow Knight. I’m neither here nor there when it comes to Metroidvanias but I do enjoy them and while there was an awful lot of hype and praise for the game I wasn’t convinced by any of the footage.

And then I played it and I was just blown away! An incredibly well made game that’s better than 90% of bigger budget games and definitely far more generous with its price and length. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

First sequels are always the best
One of the few games to reach the pinnacle of my lofty standards was and remains, Mass Effect 2. The first set the expectation of this expansive trilogy of games with memorable encounters, and complex and moving relationships with your crew. And then that ending alluding to the approach of the Reapers! I was hyped to continue this narrative and then the information started to come out on the sequel: a new cast of characters, returning friends and allies, expansive additional content, it was a lot to take in though so I opted to take a more sparing approach in what I viewed.

And then they released that trailer, President Bartlet himself introduced as this elusive looking figure of authority, the use of Heart of Courage by Two Steps From Hell a great choice of music to build up the hype. The suggestion of Shephard’s death in the opening seconds, the threat to everyone’s favourite Quarian outcast Tali and the introduction of Miranda in an outfit that would make the Star Trek cast blush. Needless to say, the hype was very real and tangible and thankfully, the game surpassed all expectations.

I was a little unsure at first with the near absence of the original crew but nearly everyone introduced left a memorable impression and set an unreachable standard for the third and final game with how to resolve this issue. The narrative was tight, the final suicide mission remains one of the best closing acts in a game ever, that felt earned with how it built to that moment.

I loved the connectivity between the franchises, with the ability to bring over a Dragon Age inspired suit of space armour to wear that was taken at face value by those around you. And then nine months later continuing the experience with the release of Lair Of The Shadow Broker and the returning Liara allowing your fledgling romance to continue if you hadn’t opted to pursue Miranda.

Of course, it meant expectations for the final game were beyond measure, I enjoyed it for the most part but certainly the legacy of Mass Effect 3 is tainted both with the ending and fan backlash towards the developers. If you can separate the overall legacy of the trilogy from your memories, the hype, expectations ,and experience of Mass Effect 2 must surely rank as one of the defining games of that generation.
comfortablyadv (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Twitch)

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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