I'm just finishing up washing down my lead lined walls, helps keep the NSA satellites from looking in. Figured I would spend some time doing that as I wait for my tinfoil hat and aluminum-lined flameproof jockstrap to finish drying... they've been put under a lot of heavy use over the past two weeks.
I've said all that to say that the conspiracy theories, the paranoid bunch, the leaf blowers and the sky-is-falling callers were right. The embargos Microsoft set in place for Ryse: Son of Rome had nothing whatsoever to do with the game being oh-so-great-fantastic, and everything to do with the fact that it sucks.
While the Metacritic score has middled out at 61 (and it's even lower than my estimate of a 68) thanks to exceptionally low scores from legit sites like Metro's GameCentral (the site responsible for breaking the news about NDAs keeping devs from revealing that the PS4 kills the Xbox One in performance), the non-Metacritic scores are the ones that really speak volumes.
Outside of all the 60s and the one Doritocratically responsible 86 on Metacritic, Ryse was flatout destroyed by Adam Sessler at Revision3, who best sums up this 2 out of 5 game with a single line...
“It's not very good."
While Xboners would summarize one review from Sessler as a throwaway of verbal negativity aimed at the Xbox One's definitive launch title, you need not look any further than Destructoid's title.. “Don't Bother Getting Up” with a 5 out of 10 rounding out the score at the bottom. If you brace yourself to trudge through the textual slaughter any further, you'll come across gems that prove that all the naysayers and conspiracy theorists were right; such as the revelation that Ryse: Quicktimes In Rome would have been a better suited title...
“...While Crytek is quick to disguise them from being presenting as QTEs (and cleverly ditched a button icon in favor of painting enemies blue or yellow), they're still very much quick-time events. For every enemy you execute, you'll press a combination of buttons that results in an instant kill, while everyone else in the fight stands there and watches.”
Again, taking a u-turn back to Sessler, I think he sums up the QTE mechanics in about as precise a way as we've all been thinking about them whenever those trailers with color-coded QTEs pop up on screen, saying...
“...it adds an entirely new level of tedium to what's already a very tiresome affair.”
Oh, wasn't that one of the very same criticisms that both IGN and GameInformer rolled out in their previews? Tedium is the real star of Ryse it seems.
Oh yeah, and didn't Crytek explicitly state that Ryse wasn't just a quick-time game? Careful clicking on that link, you might step in something... and it's not gum.
CVG and Shacknews also rolled out painfully low scores for the game, both sites doling out 5 out of 10s as if they reviewed this "daft" game in tandem misery.
Even those not part of the Doritocracy – the casual, mainstream outlets that cater to the simplest of gamers – have noticed Ryse's limp shortcomings in the gameplay department. Sites like USA Today drooled over the visuals but lamented the boring and uninspired gameplay.
All the negativity many of the conspiracy theorists felt would rear its head during reviews, did just that. Microsoft's mandated embargo on Ryse to the day before the Xbox One's release was obviously a power-play to stave off pre-order cancels for as long as possible. I can imagine only those who are neck-deep in self-torture and digitally interactive sado-masochistic behavior would succumb to paying for Ryse on day-one, after reading all the reviews.
On the upside, Ryse: Son of Boredom did score high-marks with every single reviewer in the visuals and animation department. Everyone notes that the game shines like a glorified, playable tech-demo... something for which Crytek seems to have become infamously renown. I imagine Cevat Yerli, Crytek's CEO, cried a single tear and said "At least they like our graphics... our graphics are like our children. We love our graphics".
A lot of the high-points on the graphics aren't all on Crytek, though. They received a lot of help from Cubic Motion to get the faces and face animations reacting, responding and looking like the AAA Doritocractically appeasing game that it is. Cubic Motion's middleware – as detailed in an in-depth article on Electronic Theatre – is what helped Crytek achieve that “cinematic” look with which so many reviewers have become enamored.
Nevertheless, pretty graphics, awesome face animations and high polycounts aren't enough to avert the poor review scores flowing in for one of the most anticipated, and now disappointing, launch titles of any console launch. It's also funny that Ryse got destroyed by reviewers with its gameplay and was praised only for its graphics... what was that you were saying about gameplay over graphics Phil Spencer?