For one reason or another, there are many games out there that have been unjustly dissed by critics. Sometimes, the bad reviews arose from poor marketing that manipulated critics’ expectations. In other cases, critics’ complaints were legitimate but the numerical scores awarded were illegitimate.
A critic’s job is to provide consumers with a general impression of the latest game. Usually, reviewers get things more or less right. Occasionally, however, even the most dependable game critics slander a masterpiece. Who knows why this happens? Maybe they’ve got a conflict of interest.
Perhaps, for whatever professional or personal reason, they didn’t give the game their full attention. Further still, they could be just plain bad at video games. It’s hard to appreciate a difficult but great game fully if you can’t get past the first mini-boss. The causes can be numerous, yet the result is always the same: a great game gets a bad reputation.
The problem is complicated and not easily solved. You might boot up the same game a week later and find an annoying bug has been patched out (or introduced) while you were away. Modern games evolve post-release, yet review aggregators still treat them like stagnant products, making a game’s review score at release more important than whether the game improves with updates.
The score-based game review system has yet to create meaningful incentives for companies to provide continuing support. Unless a game update is shipped and sold as a separate product, review aggregators like Metacritic will treat version 1.0 and 1.9 of the same title as a single thing.
Here are the 19 Modern Games That Are WAY Better Than Critics Say.
19. Dark Souls II (2014)
Is 2014’s Dark Souls II the best entry in FromSoftware’s celebrated series? Probably not, but it’s a thrilling ARPG nonetheless.
Its combat is more varied than its predecessor’s and its story more accessible. Although Majula and its surroundings do not transform in the way that the world of Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition does, the world of Dark Souls II is fully realized, atmospheric, and fun to explore.
Yet, some critics would have you believe this fine, albeit imperfect game is an abominable trash fire, a plague upon the gaming community at-large. For instance, Michael Thomsen of Forbes asked in his review whether Dark Souls II was the worst game ever made.
Even for the buggiest build of Dark Souls II, the question is insulting and inappropriate. To the magazine’s credit, in 2015, Forbes contributor Erik Kain wrote a more even-handed review of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, the redesigned, re-balanced, expanded, and more player-friendly version.
18. Lawbreakers (2017)
First-Person Shooters rarely require instructions. Boss Key Productions’ Lawbreakers is an exception to this rule, however.
It has a pretty major learning curve on account of its breakneck speed and antigravity acrobatics that the game immediately delves into. In a review subtitled “Fresh ideas overshadowed by terrible aesthetics,” Jeff Ramos of Polygon stated his frustrations.
Giving the game a meager 6.5 out of 10, Ramos criticized the “embarrassing dubstep soundtrack, gunmetal-on-everything design [which affects readability]… confusing hero design, poor tutorial system and unbalanced maps.”
However, fans of Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War, Bulletstorm) and his flair for off-beat one-liners and gun-toting tongue-in-cheek bravado will find a lot to like in Lawbreakers, even if the critics made a point of despising it.
17. Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016)
At launch, Tom Clancy’s The Division had some serious issues in terms of balance and performance. The third-person gun combat mechanics and sense of scale were first-rate. Critics complained that the story was disjointed and that the premise was strange.
The titular Division is a paramilitary death squad allegedly saving people from criminals trapped in a hellish snow-covered dystopian city, yet they shoot pretty anyone on sight who isn’t part of their vigilante gun club. (So, this begs the question: who exactly are you supposed to be saving?)
In the months following the debacle, continuing support from the developers improved and expanded The Division. Ubisoft revealed a Techland-like commitment to its game, with free content updates and bug fixes.
16. Mad Max (2015)
Reviews unfairly chided Mad Max for repeating the combat of Batman: Arkham and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The comparison is understandable, considering that the three games share a publisher.
However, Mad Max‘s huge map, gorgeous and varied post-apocalyptic scenery, wanton destruction, vehicular combat, and, in Arkham Knight‘s case, flawless frame rate help it to stand out. Sure, the control scheme’s a little weird, but you get used to it.
Most open-world games catch flak for not having enough to do — not Mad Max, though. Upon its release, Mad Max was criticized for having too many side activities. Mad Max is positive proof that, with some critics, you just can’t win.
Neither Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa nor any other character from Mad Max: Fury Road makes an appearance in the game. Max Rockatansky is the only connection to the celebrated movie, but he isn’t voiced by Tom Hardy.
Are the story and world-building as strong as those of the Academy Award-winning film? Not really, but you won’t find Chumbucket, Mad Max’s madder “blackthumb” auto mechanic, in the movies. Chumbucket imbues the barren world with heart, soul, humor, and pathos, and his presence alone would be reason enough to keep playing.
15. Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)
According to the reviews, Mass Effect: Andromeda is simply a good game in a series wherein greatness is par for the course. Erik Kain of Forbes wrote a helpful rundown of the critics’ gripes with Andromeda.
The biggest complaints were minor performance issues. Alan Wake-like animations for characters’ facial expressions and generic MMO-style filler quests notwithstanding, Andromeda‘s failings are easily forgiven, thanks to its revamped gameplay and enormous worlds — as well as patches that were available soon after the game’s release.
Among the many changes this time around, you play not as series mainstay Shepard but as a new character named Ryder. Ryder’s jump jets make combat more fun, if less tactical, than it was in Mass Effect 2, still the best game in the original trilogy.
14. Duck Game (2014)
Two neo-retro indie masterpieces Towerfall and Samurai Gunn inspired a deluge of free-for-all pixel-art arena fighters. Many of them simply replicated mechanics from those games. Published by Adult Swim Games, Duck Game rides that wave to quacktastic glory.
Duck Game is different. At its zaniest, it is a digital form of psychonautical exploration. Up to four player-controlled ducks use a cartoonish assortment of weapons to obliterate each other.
A point is awarded to the last duck standing at the end of each round. First duck to ten points wins. You can quack, you can play dead, and if you catch on fire, you turn into a roast duck dinner. It’s a manic, pitch-perfect party game, and it’s very addictive.
So why didn’t it garner better scores? Critics’ most common complaint was the quick-moving automatic camera. The zooming in and out can be jarring, for sure, but that’s part of the fun. It becomes yet another aspect of this delightfully disorienting party game.
13. Yooka-Laylee (2017)
As a Kickstarter-funded labor of love from former Rare employees, Yooka-Laylee set out to accomplish a specific task — to reimagine the quirky 3D platforming of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Katooie with modern tech, and it did just that.
Yooka-Laylee delivers the retro thrills of N64’s classic Banjo-Kazooie series. Unlike other Kickstarter projects, Yooka-Laylee did what it set out to do. The single-player campaign includes a ton of collectables to keep fans busy, the multiplayer is appropriately silly, and the “expandable worlds” gimmick is a nice touch.
Reviews decried the game’s world as being “empty.” Most of the negative reviews overlook — or misconstrue — the game’s purpose as a neo-retro title. It’s portrayed as a failure for not incorporating modern world-building. Bad reviews of Yooka-Laylee read like criticisms of the very concept of nostalgia.
12. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare (2015)
As another brilliant game made possible by Kickstarter, Torn Banner Studios’ Chivalry: Medieval Warfare endures despite a mixed critical reception. The game traces its lineage to a crude yet thoroughly addictive free-to-play Half-Life 2 mod called Age of Chivalry.
Released in 2012, the PC version of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare caught criticism for being occasionally glitchy, owing to its indie origins. However, PS4 and Xbox One ports in 2015 fared far worse.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare‘s First-Person combat is intense and difficult. There are several game modes, including Capture the Flag, Free-for-All, Last Man Standing, Team Deathmatch, and some really fun siege-like Team Objective and King of the Hill modes. In the era of For Honor, Ubisoft’s big budget melee arena fighter, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is an awesome indie throwback.
11. Deadpool (2015)
Shortly after Deadpool‘s unceremonious launch in 2013, a rights dispute affected its availability. As a fourth wall-breaking postmodern action game, it was the Deadpool game that fans had hoped for.
Then it was gone. For six months, no digital marketplace could carry it. A 2015 remaster of Deadpool received mediocre scores from various publications for being a good single-player action-beat-em-up game.
That would all be fine if it were as mundane as some critics said it was, but it’s actually a great game with a solid combat system, some clever writing, and hilarious voice acting. Nolan North’s performance as the Merc with the Mouth proves he can voice anybody.
10. Earth Defense Force 4.1 (2015)
If you understand that it’s meant to be a tacky playable B-monster movie, then Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair does just about everything right.
Ostensibly an overhauled remaster of Earth Defense Force 2025 (also known as Earth Defense Force 4), this game pits your team of futuristic super-soldiers against waves of giant insects, monsters, aliens, and enemy spacecrafts in a fully destructible urban setting. With machine guns, assault rifles, bazookas, energy weapons, grenade launchers, and more in your arsenal, you’re well-equipped for the daunting task.
This game is enormous in scale. Your giant robot toys make kaiju-vanquishing more fun than ever before, elevating an already good action series to true greatness. However, you can’t tell the critics that. Critics took issue with the art style and the repetitive nature of the gameplay.
Technically, the game performs far better than its predecessors. Although the visuals fall short of current gen standards, the color scheme is vibrant and the art style consistent with previous entries in the series. Earth Defense Force 4.1 represents the finest hour of an underappreciated series.
9. Far Cry Primal (2016)
Far Cry: Primal is the Stone Age prequel nobody saw coming. In the first moments of gameplay, you participate in a tense wooly mammoth hunt that’s interrupted by an even more intense fight with a sabertooth tiger.
It’s unexpected and awesome, and yet, according to Metacritic, the critics preferred Far Cry 4‘s “more of the same, now with snow and yetis and stuff” to Primal‘s unique prehistoric thrills.
Hunting and gathering play big roles in your adventures. Bringing down a wild beast can be surprisingly tough, since they all fight back — big cats show no mercy, mammoths like to stomp on you, and, as for the unassuming moose that you’re about to spear, chances are it will mess you up.
8. Gears of War Ultimate Edition (2015)
Another criminally underrated gem from Cliff Bleszinski and company, Gears of War Ultimate Edition is a remaster of a genre-defining game. You can’t overstate Gears of War‘s role in shaping modern third-person cover-based shooters. The game holds up marvelously, and the addition of supported, enhanced online play is worth the price of admission.
Try telling that to critics like Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb, though. The veteran reviewer and others were not fans of this polished, multiplayer-focused remaster of the exploits of Marcus Fenix and his Delta Squad of Locust-killers.
The criticism seems a bit harsh, especially if you’ve never played this amazing game before. While Gerstmann is correct that a revamped Horde Mode would’ve been an awesome addition, the fully retooled multiplayer more than makes up for its absence.
7. Warhammer End Times: Vermintide (2015)
By the reviews, you’d think that Warhammer: Vermintide is a glorified Left 4 Dead mod and nothing else. By the critics’ lights, Vermintide merely replaces the zombies with rats, the guns with medieval weapons, and the B-horror movie style with Warhammer‘s rich lore, as if those changes wouldn’t already be worth the price of admission.
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide applies the team-based Left 4 Dead formula to the Warhammer property while maintaining some smart RPG-elements to increase replayability and keep gamers interested.
A lot of critics’ complaints were addressed in subsequent patches that came out after the game was already on shelves, which, of course, were never mentioned in the reviews. Now, if only there were a way to patch outdated reviews…
6. Just Cause 3 (2015)
Just Cause 3 comes through on the promise of its predecessors. Although the story isn’t quite as silly as Just Cause 2‘s, the action is bigger, madder, and smokier. The world is enormous, the explosions are incredibly realistic, and the enemies are appropriately mindless.
The game received criticism for its repetitive combat and lack of variety in mission types and things to do (as if wanton destruction weren’t enough), but its worst offense was the gargantuan price tag in order to get the full experience.
You see, as thrilling as gliding is, there’s nothing like flying around this Mediterranean paradise on a jetpack, an item only available via some pricey DLC packs and an XL-Edition that once went for upwards of 90 bucks.
At that price, perhaps the game deserved its mediocre scores. Nowadays, though, you can grab the full experience for a much cheaper price. Who knows what scores it might have received if the price had been reasonable to begin with?
5. Zombie Army Trilogy (2015)
When it comes to game villains, there are two representatives of pure evil: zombies and Nazis. So, what could be more thrilling than mowing down brainless, festering, undead representatives of said putrid ideology? Sniping them two at a time from the other side of the map and watching the bone-cracking bullet’s path in slow motion via inexplicable X-ray vision.
More than a third-person indie version of Call of Duty: Zombies, Rebellion’s Zombie Army Trilogy is a collection of three exceptional co-op shooters. It’s Sniper Elite V2 with Nazi zombies, Satanic imagery, and lots of rain, thunder, and lightning, remastered for modern systems.
The bosses’ health bars seem endless. The intense difficulty would qualify as an act of malice on the developer’s part if it weren’t so much fun. Nothing outside of the Souls series comes close to the degree of meanness in this game, and that crushing difficulty might be why some critics hold it at arms’ length.
4. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (2015)
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is perfect for purists who wanted The New Order to be more like Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
Matt Bertz of Game Informer argued that a “lack of narrative gravitas ultimately robs The Old Blood of the qualities that made its predecessor memorable.” Good — it’s supposed to be gritty, bloody, and tense. The romance with Anya was affecting because nobody expected it. It was a smart decision to avoid trying to replicate that magic in the prequel.
Now Wolfenstein: The Old Blood complicates the timeline of The New Order — there’s no denying that. At the same time, though, it makes up for The New Order‘s hit-or-miss changes in scenery.
In The Old Blood, everyone’s favorite Polish-American killer of Nazis, B.J. Blazkowicz, stays in and around the Castle Wolfenstein. (No going to the moon this time.) By sticking our hero in the Castle, MachineGames made a more traditional Wolfenstein game and they should be praised for it, not criticized.
3. Styx: Master of Shadows (2014)
Focus Home Interactive’s Styx: Master of Shadows is a throwback. It plays like a classic Splinter Cell game, with goblin powers and magical amber in place of gadgets and guns.
It’s all about memorizing AI routes, exploring the map, and biding your time. If you know that much going in and you can forgive some of the to-be-expected indie hiccups (dumb AI, clipping issues), you will find a magnificent stealth infiltration game.
As the game’s vulgar hero, Styx the goblin is a charming devil with a knack for creative cruelty. Amber-based special moves and interactive objects give gamers a bevy of tactical options. Even so, the entire game can be beaten using nothing but your knife and the shadows. The more than competent 2017 sequel, Shards of Darkness, met a similar fate among the critics.
2. NOT A HERO (2015)
As an ultra-violent parody of political campaigns, NOT A HERO is a misunderstood, underappreciated, pixel-art cover shooter by Roll7, developer of the Olliolli skateboarding series. Bunny Lord, a magnificently murderous mayoral candidate and also your boss, belongs in the pantheon of great characters.
NOT A HERO received minor criticism for its far-away perspective (an asset in later levels), peculiar humor, repetitive one-liners, and simplistic retro art-style, but the critics’ big complaint is always the difficulty. NOT A HERO shows the dilemma that hardcore games with ruthless difficulty levels pose for critics. What if the reviewer’s skillset is inadequate for giving the game a fair shake?
Unsurprisingly, the game’s crippling difficulty formed the crux of critics’ complaints. Each level’s secondary objectives make 100 percent completion very difficult to achieve. The different gunners encourage new playstyles. As with some of the other titles on this list, you’ve got to be good to experience the game’s full depth.
1. Dying Light (2015)
Techland’s Dying Light crossed mechanics from Mirror’s Edge and the Far Cry series with the zombie apocalypse of Techland’s other zombie game, Dead Island.
Dying Light made zombies cool again. To gamers’ pleasant surprise, it set a new standard for parkour gameplay. Later, the DLC pack The Following added vehicles, new weapons, and other cool stuff.
So how on Earth does this masterpiece have a 75 percent rating on Metacritic? The first builds had some unpleasant bugs (especially when playing online), weird textures, and other flaws. Dying Light was thoroughly redesigned, updated, and tweaked, culminating in a formal re-release as Dying Light – Enhanced Edition.
The good news: it’s virtually impossible to play the original version of the game anymore. If you buy Dying Light, you’ll more than likely receive Dying Light – Enhanced Edition, with the attending corrections and additions. The bad news: googling “Dying Light review” still brings up the original build’s middling metascores, which isn’t right.
What do you think? Can you think of any other games that you enjoy but were burdened with horrible reviews? Let us know in the comments!
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