Games Inbox: Do publishers try to change video game reviews?
The Monday Inbox thinks that Ratchet & Clank is an underrated franchise, as one reader enjoys Deathloop’s swearing.
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I’m loathe to discuss this topic, because it tends to bring out the crazies and has ties to very unsavoury elements of the internet, but the GC review score for Deathloop has brought up the usual discussion about the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of several of the big games sites. The old ‘you can’t trust this site’, etc. The implication often being that their review scores are bought and paid for. But has there ever been an instance where this has been proven for any credible website?
I know it’s not as simple as ‘here’s x amount, give us a 10/10’. Publishers may invest heavily in advertising, and a poor review may result in a drop-off in that advertising for future games, or lack of access. I have definitely heard stories of publishers throwing the toys out of the pram over a bad review, a bad preview, etc. Yet I’ve never heard of the higher-ups at any of these large sites pandering to games companies by refusing to publish average or poor reviews.
Now that may have happened, but if it was common practice then I guarantee that there would be loads of stories from journalists about how they were called into the manager’s office and asked to change reviews, up the score, re-evaluate ‘nudge nudge, wink wink’. Yet I can’t think of a single story like this. If anything, I’ve heard the opposite – retired journos on YouTube laughing off the idea that games reviews are corrupt (although I understand that just because they are no longer professional reviewers doesn’t necessarily mean they are unbiased).
For what it’s worth I do trust GC, but that’s not because I think other sites are corrupt. It’s because, over the years I’ve been reading the site every day, I tend to largely agree with your reviews.
I know GC are ‘on the inside’, and can’t go around accusing sites of this that or the other, but do you have any thoughts on this? Am I naïve to think it is massively overblown by children and immature adults on the internet, like most things?
GC: If anything did happen it would be after the fact, when it’s already too late to change the review, which is what happened with the most high profile case, on GameSpot in 2007. After a low-scoring review it’s common to get ‘the call’ from a publisher, complaining about it – but what exactly they expect to happen as a result of that we’ve never really understood, and we’ve had more than a few. Subsequently, a publisher will often send review copies out late for a while or not invite you to previews, so their mindset is always fixed on punishment rather than inducement.
I did think as soon as I hit the send button on that email about Deathloop’s 10/10 scores that this could be Hot Topic territory. Also, I went back and read your review of Outer Wilds and decided to take the plunge but trying to get hold of a physical copy is expensive. Although it’s currently on offer digitally for PS Plus subscribers on the PS store for £11.39… so I thought why not?
I’ll give it a go, thanks guys, seems like a bargain price.
notoriouschucky (PSN ID) add me!
GC: There’s some DLC coming up soon as well, which will be a chance for us to reassess the original.
Skipping a year
Having tried the Call Of Duty beta I’ve decided to give Vanguard a miss. This will be the first Call Of Duty I have not bought since the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on the Xbox 360.
I’ve loved all the games in the past but Vanguard’s beta was a real disappointment. The gameplay experience was far inferior to Cold War, which I’ll stick with.
Manic miner 100 (gamertag)
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So sad to hear about the true genius that was Sir Clive Sinclair. He introduced me, and countless others, to mass market home computing.
The excitement of unboxing the Speccy, hooking it all up, loading Jetpac and Manic Miner, hearing those alien beeps and screeches from the tape.
But more than that, I started coding. Drawing shapes on the screen, for example. Myself and some friends at school used to write our own text adventures and swap them.
The C5 might have been a bit dodgy but the idea certainly wasn’t. It was years ahead of its time.
A pioneer and a genius. Thank you and RIP Sir Clive and my deepest condolences to his family.
Sad to read about Sir Clive Sinclair dying. I was a Commodore 64 kid but Sir Clive was a legend.
I didn’t know that he was responsible for inventing the pocket calculator.
I was just driving home from work thinking about the C5 and I have a feeling that Sir Clive could well have the last laugh. The C5 was ahead of its time, electric vehicles are the future and who knows if the C5 or something like it will have its day yet?
Sir Clive Sinclair’s place in history is assured whatever.
I remember being at school and they did their first computer course, but they did not have a computer! I ended up winning a Sinclair ZX80 and then got the ZX81, It always confused me, why Sir Clive Sinclair’s version of using popular words on keyboards to save time was not picked up on.
He used it for programming terms like print, go to, and then, and they were above letters on keyboard which you accessed by pressing shift then the letter. For example, press ‘P’ with shift and the word print appeared on screen. When writing a program this saves hours of typing. Even his failed idea of an electric bike was nearly 40 years ahead of its time.
I’m only about two hours into Deathloop, so I may lose enthusiasm at hour 15 or 20. but I’ve got to say I’m here for its unabashed sweary nature. Used properly a swear is just what situational dialogue needs and so far Colt has had me laughing with some top notch blue language.
Even better that it’s coincided with the 3D audio update…
GC: There is no hour 20, unless you’re doing very badly.
Given it is now a Saturday evening and a couple of hours until part two of the weekend’s Hot Topic is due for release, this submission is probably much too late for inclusion. My apologies, evening shifts at work. It is also long but no worries, I enjoyed writing it in any case! Hope you have (had) a good weekend.
It is tough to judge the consistency of a franchise. Perhaps it should be based on how enthusiastic you would be with the end result were you to do a lucky dip on any of the series’ releases. Nintendo IPs are probably the safest bet here and I shall be surprised if they do not feature heavily among the most popular choices. Of course, the ‘correct’ answer for a consistent franchise would be any one of the multitude of games reskinned each year for an annual re-release ahead of the holiday season (see the sports clones repackaged, with diminishing returns on how glistening the sweat can be). I can’t knock it too much; FIFA remains a go-to.
My personal choice, however, has recently debuted on PlayStation 5: Ratchet & Clank. It is young compared to others, still shy of 20 years, but it has had more than enough releases to qualify and if you want consistency, the main games do not disappoint, rarely setting a foot wrong. As with all these series, its spin-offs have garnered a more mixed reception but in Ratchet & Clank’s case, that was usually due to unexpected genre shifts, rather than the quality of gameplay plummeting significantly.
It is odd, while one of my favourite franchises, and acclaimed as one of the best action platformers of the sixth and seventh generation of consoles, I feel it is often unappreciated in gaming circles. PlayStation icons, yes, but coming at a time when such mascot-driven games were hurtling out of fashion, it never seems to have graced the upper echelons of gaming history. There was a time when it could have, after Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, one of the greatest PlayStation 3 games in my opinion. But a decade of hits (and perhaps unnecessary spin-offs) was followed by a more barren decade: one PlayStation 4 reimagining, one PlayStation 5 game, and a feature film.
I replayed most of those games a few years ago on PlayStation Now (during a brief subscription; a story for another time) and then the 2016 remake recently (as I have yet to get a hold of a PlayStation 5 to play Rift Apart). It has to be said that it has remained inventive throughout, the constant jumble of weapons regularly reinvigorating the game’s shooter DNA, and the array of gadgets scratching the puzzler itch anew with each edition. But for all its inventiveness, I wonder how innovative it has been for gaming. It seems in order to stay fresh, it has cherry-picked from other games. But again, I can’t knock it, it keeps me a loyal customer, to Ratchet & Clank and possibly PlayStation as well.
Although I rarely buy games new – waiting for the price drop – it is one of the few games I would buy blind or even if reviews were warning otherwise (as they did with the film and I have the DVD!). In fact, the most I have spent on a single video game for myself is £30 or so for Marvel’s Spider-Man, and that was partially out of good-will to Insomniac for Ratchet & Clank.
My worry is that going forward, Insomniac will relegate the priority of Ratchet & Clank due to all the other properties it has to juggle, or even worse, keep it as its token family friendly franchise. Nothing wrong with being family friendly, it is what got me into the series in the first place: the flippant humour and the comfortable level of difficulty.
But the issue is when you start going by the marketing man’s definition of family friendly. The soul of the game is lost. The numbers at the top of Rift Apart reviews do not indicate it has happened just yet. But if anything, Insomniac’s consistency – an adherence to a formula which works – may just be the one thing that could cause their downfall.
GC: Probably too late? But seriously, we’ve had trouble keeping to two Hot Topics a weekend recently and can only do so if we get enough submissions. We realise it’s easy to forget, or put it off until it’s too late, but the Hot Topic, and the Games Inbox in general, is entirely reliant on reader submissions.
Just a heads up to anyone who might live in the Leeds/Bradford area. There’s a new game store located in a Sports Direct in Birstall. And since it’s a new store you can get an extra 50% on trade in until Friday 24th September. The games I went to trade in would have been £90 in value but because of the deal I got £135.
No, but really… why aren’t we getting a Mini Classic N64? I know it’s Nintendo but if they think it’s worth going to the trouble of setting up a new tier of Nintendo Switch Online why not have a physical version too, like the NES and SNES?
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader notoriouschucky, who asks what video game do you consider to be worth a full 10/10 score?
Accepting that 10/10 does not mean something is literally perfect, what game would you give that mark to and why? How well did it review on release and do you feel it got the recognition it deserved – and if not, why not?
What makes that particular game better than any sequels or similar games and how well do you expect it to age over time? If it’s already an old game how has its reputation changed over time and how much life does it still have in it?
E-mail your comments to: [email protected]
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 and content.
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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