Sorry, I Can't Review Hypothetical Content
Posted on Saturday, August 2 @ 00:11:28 Eastern by Heath_HindmanHe might not be interesting at all... but then again, he MIGHT be, so he's allowed to declare:
One thing I've been seeing too often in game review comments lately is people wanting reviewers to cut a game slack because of something that may or may not ever happen. They're asking for leniency based on a game's ability to be patched, even when such a patch hasn't been announced or discussed by a developer or publisher.
I just posted an import review of Freedom Wars, for example. Multiple comments are asking me to go easy on it because of things that they hope will be patched in time for domestic release. In so many words: please understand.
But such a practice would be chancy at best, socially irresponsible at worst. I can't give a game bonus points or, in the reverse, refrain from docking it simply because a future update might change something. I know this sounds too stupid to even discuss, but apparently this must be said, because I see the requests popping up so often.
Just look within the comments my most recent review. Here's one:
Borderlands — a different game by a different company — seems to have had frame rate issues fixed with a patch. Well, that's nice, but this isn't a review of Borderlands. It doesn't even matter if there's an announced patch to help the frame rate (which there isn't), the fact of the matter is that I can't consider facets of a game with which no one has any experience. Are you going to tell me you've never heard of a game company not delivering on announced content? Are you going to claim that all patches and updates do what their makers say they will do? Really? No. That's unfortunately not how things really unfold. I can't reward good intentions, I can only reward good results.
While I'm quoting that comment, here's another somewhat unrelated facepalm:
No, I do not accept the notion that popular problems are not problems. A flaw's popularity doesn't make it immune to criticism. Severe frame rate drops should be mentioned in reviews whether they occur in 3% or 97% of all video games; the same goes for anything that hinders the experience. It could be long load times, it could be crashes, it could be graphical pop-in, disconnections, bad voice acting... it could be anything. I don't care what they are or how common they are, flaws are flaws, and if they annoy the reviewer, they should be mentioned somewhere in the review.
But let's get back to not reviewing unreleased content. Here's another telling snippet from the same review's comment section:
People turn suspicions into knowledge, as demonstrated in both of the above comments. Do we actually "know" that Freedom Wars will be released internationally with "all the good fixes" included? We actually don't, and we won't until it's in the gamers' hands. I also love the automatic assumption that all of the fixes are good. There's a bug in this game that lets players somewhat circumvent the horrible, tedious, broken crafting system, which is said to be erased in a recent update and will definitely not be seen as "good" to many players.
It's true that some Japanese games are changed before their stateside launches, but just as many receive no such treatment. It's also true that lots of games are patched and patched again until all of their biggest problems vanish, but once again, reality has a dark side: this healing process doesn't happen to every game.
When I review a game, my job is to play the game that's put in front of me, finish it, and evaluate it as best I can. I should fully disclose which patches I do and don't have access to, which features I use, and so on, and I always do. I can't, however, sit on my hands and wait for the perfect version of the game to arrive. When it comes time to write that review, I can't withhold criticism of the current product simply because it might get better some day. Even if I believe it will improve, no one knows for certain until that supposed update arrives, after which point a writer will sometimes update a review.
But until then, the only thing I can review is the thing that actually exists.
Stay existent, my friends.
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