The sad state of video game review reception

Last week saw the embargo expiration for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End reviews. The internet was in a frenzy to gobble up what it could of Nathan Drake’s supposed final adventure, with all current reviews giving the game praise. However one reviewin progress, no less – kicked the proverbial hornets’ nest and caused the internet’s ugly face to come out from under its bridge.

Nathan Drake isn't to blame for this one

Nathan Drake isn’t to blame for this one

IGN gave the game a tentative score of 8.8 (which is “Great” under their scoring rubric), not yet factoring how well multiplayer holds up due to the reviewer specifically admitting that she’s yet to spend what she believes is an appropriate amount of time playing online to formulate a definitive opinion.

In Lucy O’Brien’s review of the main campaign she repeatedly remarks that she had an enjoyable experience playing Uncharted 4, and that she was especially impressed with the technical achievements Naughty Dog achieved with how amazing the game looks. Her opening statement says pretty much everything she liked about the game:

In amongst its frantic combat, slick parkour, and outrageous action choreography, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End achieves something wonderful: maturity. This is less a breezy lad’s tale revelling in fortune and glory and more a story about the lads when they’re all grown up, bolstered by an equally developed graphics engine and career-high performances from its cast.

Next she specifically states what her main qualms with the game were:

What lets it down, however, is an uninspired and overly long third act which slows down its pace considerably with curiously repetitive gameplay. Uncharted 4 consequently falls short of the greatness achieved by some of developer Naughty Dog’s leaner, more inventive predecessors.

There we have it, her entire open statement regarding the reasoning for her upcoming 8.8 “bombshell.”

But that’s not enough for a lot of people. Of course, an 88% positive score – “Great” – is not good enough for a game that isn’t out yet; unplayed outside of mostly media professionals. Not by a longshot.

In true torches-and-pitchforks fashion, people who’ve yet to play the game start calling for O’Brien’s head. How dare she do her job and give an honest, subjective review – because that’s what all product reviews are – about a game that she played and 99.9% of the rest of the world hasn’t yet. The only logical thing to do in this instance is to further chastise her for giving 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider a 9.3, and comparing the two. Of course she gave the game starring a female protagonist a higher score, for being just that. Of course this means Rise of the Tomb Raider is a better game, despite Uncharted 4 having a multiplayer component that has yet to factor into the score. After all, every woman with an opinion is a feminazi, right?

But this isn’t even just one example of the problem. It’s merely one needle in a needle-stack of examples. Five years ago, when I started out reviewing games, I was tasked with reviewing Resident Evil 4 HD on Xbox 360. Medium-length story short: I didn’t like it. My editor at the time instantly paused on publishing the review, because it didn’t reflect the General Consensus of Resident Evil 4 love. It took a few back-and-forth emails between us, with me pretty much re-stating all of my points already made in the review, for him to begrudgingly concede. And guess what: the world kept spinning, other reviews came out giving the game praise and we all went about our lives.

While my own experience absolutely pales in comparison to one of a media behemoth like IGN, at the end of the day, the internet gives literally billions of people voices and a means for them to associated with like-minded people. In a perfect, grown-up world people would ignore the opinion of someone who disagreed with them and find comfort in someone’s who does. But in the real world, we instead have this:

8.8 is the new Unacceptable

8.8 is the new Unacceptable

This morning, satirical site Point and Clickbait published an article brilliantly calling the internet out on its butt-hurt antics. We all look and laugh at pieces like this but very few of us cock an eye-brow, purse our lips and slowly nod. I’m grateful that there are sites like Player Attack that don’t post review scores, that it’s up to the write-up itself to express how the review feels.

But then there are always two ways an argument goes when people’s toxic behaviour gets called into question:
1) It’s that reviewer’s job to deal with negative feedback
2) The Internet is full of assholes, this person just needs to accept that

The only truth to any of these “rebuttals” is the first part of statement 2. People will also argue that negative feedback = constructive feedback. That’s like saying the kid who made my burger last night should have known I wanted my pickles on top of the lettuce, especially after I flung a handful of my own shit her. Otherwise she just needs to find another industry to work in if she can’t find useful criticism out of that.

LOL, JK, she deserved it because she’s a feminist.

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