Reviewing the game reviewers by J.A. Laraque
With games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Borderlands and Left 4 Dead it is understandable to see a lot of 9.0 and above scores on review sites. In my opinion many of the mainstream game reviewers are mailing it in when it comes to digging into the heart of a game to provide a in-depth review that can not only help the consumer find the right game, but hold software companies accountable for what they release.
Some may argue that it is not a reviewer’s job to call out software developers. However, it has been a long standing practice in the past that if a company cut corners or releases an unfinished product that it would be called out in the review. Game makers use to wait with bated breath for a review to be released. They knew a bad review could sink them and a good review could make their game a hit. Today, it is not quite the case.
Much like movie reviews you can easily find someone to give your game a good enough review so it can be quoted on a website and listed on packaging. Unfortunately, these are not obscure little places where positive reviews are found, but industry giants handing out A plus ratings and 5.0 scores like they were cable ace awards.
For those up and coming review sites many have faced unreasonable restrictions and strong arm tactics when reviewing upcoming titles. Like a partisan town meeting there have been reports of questions being submitted by the developers themselves to be asked. One incident I was part of was where an up and coming site was reviewing a new wrestling game. A Q&A session was offered where only very select questions were answered. Later we discovered most of the questions were submitted by the company and they only selected questions from the internet that had been already answered in other articles and reviews.
This may not seem so unusual today, but at the time it was quite a shock. Many were angry their questions were not answered especially considering that they were not questions that were against their own policy. There were guidelines on what type of questions we could ask and even though most followed the rules their questions went unanswered. When people complained the website got tough and in the next installment pressed the development team on the lack of changes and improvements to the game and boldly asked why anyone should spend their hard earned money on a game with almost no changes or improvements. Their response, they discontinued talks with the website pulling all Q&A sessions and review materials.
Tactics such as these are not done anymore basically because most companies only give review materials to outlets that will give them a pass. Now while it is true that many of these games that receive high scores do deserve them it is a troubling trend that these reviewers seem to go out of their way to not bring up flaws within a game. Too often the questions are softball-like and if there is a critique it is a very minor one that in the same sentence they will dismiss as such.
My question is why are the best reviews done by those who are doing it more for entertainment than anything else? Some of the best reviews today come from Yatzhee, just as some of the best news comes from John Stewart. I love them both, but they started more for entertainment and yet you get the most honest takes and real world commentary from these two.
There are a ton of up and coming websites and blogs that offer reviews, but one must always be careful. Just like in politics there are definite divides between people. Everyone has an opinion as far as taste in genre, console versus PC and even brand loyalty or distain.
While it is great to have so many places to go for information we still should hold the large media outlets accountable. Many will look at a positive review by an industry leader as reason enough to purchase a game. We also know many people will purchase a game solely on the fact that it was released by a developer they know. In this case a reviewer should point out that even if a game is good that more could have been done or if parts were rushed due to time or money and if features and options were left out only to offer them as paid downloadable content later.
With many software companies becoming superpowers in the gaming world now is the time that the people of the media should speak out and take them to task. It is what we expect and what we deserve as consumers. Nobody should get a free ride even if they have developed great games in the past. It is not what you did, but what you are doing now. If there are faults they should be brought to light for all to see and leave it up to the customer to make the final choice. The result is we all become better informed buyers and in the end that is better for all of us.