A reader is disturbed by the controversies around the launch of Starfield and what it means for the reliability of game reviews in general.
I imagine it must be a tense time for video game publishers and developers, on the day of an embargo, waiting for reviews to be released. You spend all that time working on a game, only for some smartass to come along and tell you it’s awful… or amazing.
Of course, reviewers tend to be a lot more polite about it than ordinary gamers, and their user reviews, but despite decades of evidence suggesting that reviews have little or no effect on game sales (or movies or anything else) they’re still treated as something vitally important.
I think they’re important. I enjoy reading a good review, as both a buying guide and breakdown of a game by someone that, hopefully, knows what they’re talking about. I’m genuinely excited to see what the scores will be and while my level of investment is nothing compared to the people who made the game, I’m still excited or deflated when I see the final score.
So imagine my confusion, and increasing anger, when I realised what was going on with Starfield. For those of you that missed the controversy, Bethesda refused to send out review copies to a select few websites in the UK and, as far as I know, nowhere else. Some Bethesda fans immediately tried to pretend this was some kind of ‘mistake’ even though it was clearly targeted at the website Bethesda knew it had the least chance of influencing.
I’m not sure the full extent of those that were blacklisted but it included Metro, Eurogamer, Edge, and The Guardian. Hilariously, some tried to pretend these were less reliable or untrustworthy sites when in reality one can see that they’re actually the opposite, and frankly anyone included in this list, such as GC, should be proud to be in such company.
Not being sent the review copy until launch day meant that their reviews were over a week late but Metro and Eurogamer ended up giving the game a 6/10, with some very well written and argued comments (Edge is a magazine so its will take even longer). Bethesda hadn’t left these sites out because they thought they wouldn’t tell the truth but because they knew they would.
I will say now that I have not played Starfield, because I was waiting for reviews from Metro, Eurogamer, and Rock Paper Shotgun and they were all negative. But it’s not really Starfield I’m interested in, it’s the reviews themselves and the way Bethesda tried to manipulate them.
It’s very obvious that the reason they withheld the copies is to try to get the Metacritic review as high as possible before launch, and in fact the Xbox Series X/S score was somewhere around 87 at that point and is now down to 83 with the Eurogamer review and presumably set to go lower once Edge’s is out – and anyone else that was left out.
How you could possibly have any respect for a publisher that acts this way I don’t know but what worries me more is all the sites, and there were a lot, that gave the game a perfect 5/5 or 10/10 score.
Differences of opinion are to be encouraged, but fans often jump on any site that gives a game lower than they think it deserves – so what about all these sites that said that Starfield was virtually flawless?
I’ve spoken to a lot of a people that have played and enjoyed the game and that is the one thing they would not have said about it. And if you read even the positive reviews you get admissions of all the faults, just as much as in the negative reviews.
But because these sites went ahead and gave the game top marks anyway the overall Metacritic is still relatively high. It’s an embarrassing situation, frankly, and a damning indictment of the state of video game criticism – or rather the lack of it. When even IGN (and no insult to them) is giving the game 7/10 I think you need to have a word with yourself when you’re scoring it 10/10.
If this whole debacle has been good for one thing it’s exposing who can and cannot be trusted, and that includes both websites and publishers.
By reader Gonch
The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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