Is anticipation killing reviews?

10There was a time when game reviews were based solely on one aspect: entertainment value. Those were the days when game review scores were evenly distributed; some games were great (Super Mario 64, Half-Life, Sky Roads) and others were deemed horrible without a thought (ET, Superman 64, Rise of the Robots).

Enter the 21st century. Previews of upcoming games are being pumped to the masses at a constant pace. Every developer states, quite strongly, that their game is the one that will give you a jovial feeling when you merely look at the DVD case in your hands, and the masses, so it would seem, believe them without question.

Gaming magazines and websites campaign every single game they see, stating every time that "this will be the ‘one’." Sequels carry with them the honor and greatness of their forefathers and their fans await the next game eagerly. But with all of this anticipation, is it enough to alter an actual review?

A big example of anticipation altering actual reviews is the Halo franchise. The first game was generally well achieved, by both fans and reviewers. They said the game was fresh and new. Some said it was the game of the year. It was therefore a given that when Bungie announced Halo 2, the gaming community, magazines, and websites went into an uproar. There were contests and sweepstakes. Claims were made that, since the original Halo was so good, this would be better.

Bungie made everything look pretty for E3, further fanning the flames of anticipation. Hardly an issue of Original Xbox Magazine went by without a huge article on Halo 2 appearing in some shape or form. November 9 finally came around, and in the midst of a huge party, the first copy was sold. Magazines and websites gave the game plenty of accolades, giving perfect scores away like they were free.

But gamers had a different opinion. They stated that the game was sloppy, misleading in terms of story, and did not bring anything new to the table. They said it was a good game, but it was over hyped and certainly did not deserve the amount of praise it received. When Halo 3 was announced, the same process of anticipation occurred, resulting in a collective excitement amounting to a greater value than that of Halo 2. Once again, when Halo 3 was released, the game received massive amounts of praise from websites and magazines.

And, once again, gamers felt the game left much to be desired.

Indeed, it seems that the number of highly reviewed games we see seems to out number the amount of badly reviewed games. Is this because developers have grown in talent over the years? Unlikely. Looking back at a great old game, such as Goldeneye, one can say that it was a great game, regardless of the poor graphics and simplistic gameplay. Developers were already making great games back in the day.

So what’s going on here? There is a fair chance that magazines and websites, not counting the ones that give a game a great score because they are sponsored by the developer, are simply being manipulated by the hype over games; they feel a certain obligation to fulfill the hype and take part in a "I told you so!" sort of feeling. They might fear that, if they refuse to give in to the hype, they may lose subscriptions.

So they overlook some flaws and underline the positive traits. They formulate incomplete truths, and truthful lies. All in the spirit of assuring that a game does indeed deserve the anticipation put forth in the time before its release.

What does this mean to gamers? Mainly, don’t always trust a review to the letter, especially if gamers state something that is far removed from the reviewer. Best to rent the game yourself, and see if you’ll like it. It isn’t worth it to pass up a great game because it hasn’t gotten the most press, and it certainly does not pay to buy a game you hate because a reviewer felt obligated to say it was fantastic.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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