Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Media

Magazines Faking Game Reviews? 247

Posted by timothy
from the but-it-would-have-been-really-nice dept.
lunchlady doris writes: "With videogames becoming a huge business and magazines having large lead times, something has got to give if they want to compete with web sites. Planet GameCube has a story where it seems that some magazines have decided that eschewing actual journalism is the way to go, with both Extreme Gamer and Request Magazine having reviews for Nintendo's Eternal Darkness, a game that is currently incomplete and is only expected to arrive in stores at the end of June."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Magazines Faking Game Reviews?

Comments Filter:
  • by StaticEngine (135635) on Friday February 15, 2002 @05:54AM (#3012802) Homepage
    Why not? Publishers have been faking good games for years now...
    • by Blaede (266638) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:05AM (#3012829)
      My particular addiction is NASCAR simulations. I used to love reading reviews raving about certain tracks and features being in the game, when in reality they weren't. When they touted great coding features that in reality were the opposite and serious gameplay bugs, that really cracked me up. Any player of those games would immediately have know the reviewer hadn't even bothered installing to game. As of now, I couldn't care less about magazine reviews. The critical (and sometimes overtly negative) observations made by posted in those game's forums help me out better in making my purchases. Fake journalism? Nothing new, kinda reminds me of the fake citations I had to make up for a college paper (although in this case I truly made my own observations and analysis throughout the paper, but yet the instuctor insisted on me citing people, so I "did").
    • by Blaede (266638) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:10AM (#3012841)
      I forgot to add this in as an example of other types of fakery. NASCAR Racing 2002 Season came out this Wednesday. But if you checked EB's top selling charts last week, you would have seen this game listed at #4 among the top sellers. Huh?
      • Not to defend EB, but a sales number like that could be because of pre-orders. It's been a long time since I was in the computer retail biz (over 10 years), but that was pretty common back then, and I know a lot of "blockbuster" titles still get pre-sold today.
      • by bzcpcfj (308756) <luckystarr@u f i e . org> on Friday February 15, 2002 @09:53AM (#3013229) Homepage
        I can think of a couple of reasons for this. Assuming EB uses the same methods for computing "top selling" games as Billboard Magazine did for computing the top recordings back when I followed that mag, they could well rate something very high that's not released or just released.

        First, they may be counting pre-orders. N2002 has been available for pre-order for at least a month. Second, they may factor in opinion data from retailers. A retailer gets a lot of people coming in asking if they have N2002, so he gives it a high rating even though he hasn't sold copy one.

        I can remember records being listed as million-sellers the day they were released, all based on retailer pre-orders.

        Of course, the fact that I remember "records" as an example proves that (a) there's nothing new under the sun, and (b) I've been around since just after the sun was formed...
      • Both of these charts gather thier info from "Number of items shipped form the publisher".

        What this means is that if B&N order 10 million copies of the new Stephen King book then that book gets the NY Times Best Seller #1 spot for that week even though those books my sit unbought on the shelf for months and even returned to the distributer. The NYT BS list is just that BS. This statistical method is also the reason why the same authors on on it again and again. Large retailer will buy bulk (with gratutious discount) the 1st week or three of release if an author's last book sold well.

        Same deal for the music albums. "Debuted at #1" means that the publisher convinced large reatiler to buy in bulk up front.

        Money says that that EB video games "chart" is based on the same style statistics.

        When it comes to music there is "AudioScan" which tries to figure out how many copies were actually sold. A tough number to figure out quickly because most smaller reatilers do not have the necessary inventory control eqip install.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Oh that's nothing, business software reviews are at least as bad, especially if you consider that users jobs are at stake. I was the chief architect for a small (tiny is more like it) software company. We had a rather large and complex corporate message management package that we sent to a reviewer at a large mainstream PC magazine. One of the "features" of the package was the need for a license key specific to the customer that we would have to generate. Well we never heard from the reviewer, but a couple of months later our product showed up as in a comparison review of corporate message management software. We got top scores for a lot of features including "ease of use" and "ease of installation". The ease of installation was particularly funny since they had never been sent a software key and had obviously made the whole thing up. They even had a screenshot from a previous beta version that was part of a press release from a year before. I suspect the whole review was made up. This didn't stop the insane president of the company from ordering up a bunch of reprints of the review, and he kept asking why the new version of the software wasn't as easy to use as the version that we sent to the reviewer.

      I'm feeling a bit cowardly and will post this anonymously to protect the guilty.

    • by TheGeneration (228855) on Friday February 15, 2002 @02:42PM (#3014469) Journal
      I worked for a major game company that makes lots and lots of sports titles. Anyway... we kept on getting e-mails from our PR people saying, "LOOK AT THIS GREAT REVIEW OF THE GAME YOU'RE WORKING ON!" [yes, in caps just like that] I'd click the provided link, and indeed there were GLOWING reviews for the game. I would then turn on my PS2 dev station, and look at the games athletes who were not even finished being drawn yet by the artist, hadn't been given emotions, major physics problems still existed, the scoring system wasn't in place, no music. I realized... They rated this game completely off of a couple of screen shots.

      Faking Game Reviews Is Standard Practice In These Magazines. I have never trusted a magazine game review since.

      TGEN
  • Not very unusual (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bjelkeman (107902) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:00AM (#3012817) Homepage Journal
    I know someone who used to work for a film review magazine in London who said that the last year she worked there they hardly went to see any films at all. They were so understaffed that they didn't have time to see the films and wrote reviews of them without seeing them.

    She got fed up and left. I think you will find this practise is not as unusual as one would hope.
    • That explains all those sparkling reviews of Shrek; I actually went to see it and found nothing but crude fart jokes.
    • So, let me get this straight? There's a company that PAYS PEOPLE TO WATCH MOVIES, and it's UNDERSTAFFED.

      I've got a film degree, and am UNEMPLOYED. Would you happen to have the adress of said film review rag in London?
      • Um, no. Obviously, they are paying people to write reviews, and they need so many reviews to be written and can afford so little staff that there's no time to actually watch the movies.
    • Whenever you have media that covers a certain market, mainly provides information on upcoming products and hence gets most of its advertising from the same industry this could happen.

      In addition to video games you can see it in other entertainment. Also in car magazines or electronics.

      You should always make a judgement of the credibility of any information you receive.

      Bb

      -- where to go for University of Waterloo news [uwstudent.org]

    • by dario_moreno (263767) on Friday February 15, 2002 @08:36AM (#3013065) Homepage Journal
      The quite famous (at the time) french writer
      JP Manchette got away with this for three years or
      more ! He wrote film critics for "Charlie Hebdo"
      from a remote mountain commune, based on what
      his 12 years old son would say to him on the phone, and critics from daily newspapers. So he was the only french intellectual to (rightly) praise "Indiana Jones I" or "1941" !
      The critics were actually so good that they were
      recently released as a book.

      I think he did it as a mixture of situationnism and despise for the readers, whom he may have considered of the same mental age as his son.

      He ended the game when the journal went bankrupt
      by announcing a sneak preview of a Georgian stalinist movie of the late 40's, without
      subtitles, in a remote suburb of Paris, staged at 11:30 PM (so everyone would miss the last subway). Pitch : love story between a sovkhoze farm worker anda tractor repairer. Indeed, he just
      wanted to make fun of snob, left-wing
      pseudo-intellectuals. He then revealed that
      he had cheated on all of his movie reviews.

      Maybe this stuff with videogames is related : journalist just exploting the sheepy attitude
      of teenagers (or not grown ups 20-30 yo),
      only wanting to impress their friends with
      their knowledge of the newest games.
    • The NME is renowned for this kind of thing - reviewing gigs that were cancelled, or talking about the atmosphere when there were only 10 people there.
      Its the NMEs annaversary year this year - 50th I think - so theres a book out about it. I heard about it on the radio - but cant find it on amazon.
      Mainly its reprints of reviews of gigs that never happenned as far as I can tell
  • In France... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mirko (198274) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:00AM (#3012818) Journal
    Some years ago we had some similar situation when a journalist, Francis Rozange, got some acrimonious game reviews stolen, then corrected to please the announcers who would not spend a single cent for advertising in a magazine that would just let such disadvantageous reviews...
    Actually, the French law allow a typical magazine to be classified as information-press if its percentage of ads remains lower than 66%.
    Where that's becoming quite outrageous is that most "honourable" magazine maximize this percentage to 65% so that they get the bucks along with the status.
    Now, the problem with the press is that the newspapers mostly belong to some big media lobbies ...
    So, I wonder why one should be surprised of such headline...
  • by evil_roy (241455) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:00AM (#3012819)
    In further news ....

    It is believed a politician has lied

    The bank doesn't really care about you

    There is some rude stuff on the internet

    Cigarettes are not good for you

    Don't chew glass
  • by monkeywez (444761) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:00AM (#3012820)
    Most games mags get "special" versions of the game at least a month before the game goes gold, along with a list of things that will be fixed before it hits the shops (frame rate improvements, bugs fixed, etc.).

    The only time mags get final versions are if:

    (a) The game is finished long before its release (i.e. they are delaying the game for the Xmas rush).
    (b) The mag in question can't be trusted to ignore the faults in their review copy (mainstream "lifestyle" mags for example)

    If you look carefully at the screenshots they use you will occasionally see how they are subtly different to the finished product.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nintendo will not release reviewable copies of the game (or any game) until it is completed.
    • Well, this may be the case for most game mags. But then again, I don't read any of them. The only game mag I read and love is Electronic Gaming Monthly. Over the 10+ years I've been subscribed, I've noticed that not only do they have the highest qualities of journalism, but they also have a strong ethic on game reviews: they will only review final versions of a game. This is the reason I actually _trust_ their judgement.

      More mags should try delaying reviews until a final version is available. The timetable generally works out so that by the time you get the magazine in the mail, the game has been out for a week or two. Perfectly reasonable, and creates more accurate and trustworthy scores.
    • I doubt this will catch anyone who was conversant with the Amiga gaming magazine scene circa May 1995.

      For those who don't know, in this period, Amiga Action not only reviewed a (blatantly) PC version of an unreleased (at that point) Amiga game to gain an exclusive over other magazines (Subwar 2050), but reviewed a game that was never actually released for the Amiga, because it was unfinished (Pizza Tycoon). Needless to say that they reviewed many other unfinished games, along with many other mags.

      Amiga Power was, AFAIK, about the only magazine that didn't review unfinished software (mostly...) or blatantly plagarise other magazines (AUI). Once they did review an unfinished game - namely, SWOS '95 - and were so severly bitchslapped by the readership the didn't do it again.

      As far as I'm concerned, the moral of the story is that anything you read in a print computer games magazine is not to believed due to the competition with online mags (i.e PC Gamer (IIRC) and Ghost Recon)

    • by SuperRob (31516) on Friday February 15, 2002 @04:07PM (#3014866) Homepage
      You have no idea what you're talking about. Let me clue you in.

      Magazines don't get "special" copies. They get "Gold" code versions, they just aren't retail pressed copies. Most publishers have strict rules about magazines publishing "reviews" of anything other than a specifically reviewable version of the game.

      Second, in this case, the clownboat is claiming to have been allowed to play the game by Nintendo. I know for a FACT that NO ONE outside of Nintendo has seen a build more recent than the E3/Cube Club version.

      Third, Silicon Knights mocked up a lot of areas and removed anything pertaining to the actual plot in an effort to keep it secret. What he "reviewed" was nothing more than a technical demo.

      Lastly, it's more the magazine's insistence that this reviewer wouldn't lie about having played the final game, so he much have reviewed it fairly. That's ignorant. Reviewers fake shit all the fucking time. To claim that YOUR reviewer wouldn't lie is ridiculous.

      I suppose the only solace we can take is that "Replay Magazine" is more of a newsletter than a REAL magazine.
  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:06AM (#3012831)
    It's obvious that Eternal Darkness skated much better than Half Life2 and that tripple Lutz was obviously a mess. I blame the judges they made their mind up way before the competition. Blame the French.
  • by CptLogic (207776) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:09AM (#3012839) Homepage
    To be honest, all Game Reviews are suspect anyway, as Games magazines get review copies from the developers. If the Magazine writes bad things about a game the developer has been pinning big bucks on, the developer gets pissed off and stops supplying review copies (as well as other perks like invites to seminars, launches and other Things To Write About) to that Mag.

    Essentially, the safe option is to spout whatever Press Release blurb the developers give you right back, translated through a Journalist with maybe 2 hours experience of that game. Just enough to put a personal spin on the Party Line.

    If you're an online review site not out to recover printing costs, it's not quite so crucial to your bottom line to pander to the games developers, but for a print mag whose very existence depends on them, the guy who gets the first exclusive sneak peek because the developer likes his mag, shifts more copies of his publication.

    So, if the developer says "Hey, want an exclusive sneak peek in return for saying what we want you to say about something you can't really test properly anyway?" most Editors are going to jump up and down singing "Free Content! Gimme Gimme Gimme".

    And then theres the guy who writes a review because he's a writer, based on what his mate said about the game, but he's a different story.

    Chris.

    • Silly me forgot the obvious and forgot to mention Advertising revenue as a "perk" (in fact the main source of revenue, I believe).

      I shall now go beat myself with bamboo in penance for being a moron.

      Chris.
  • This is nothing new, although this is a topical subject at the moment - corporate influence on everyday life.

    There are numerous examples of bias within the games reviewing industry. It is common knowledge that some magazine publishers have a higher standing with certain games publishers *cough* M$ *cough* - it's the way the system works.

    By giving favourable reviews, the magazines get more inside scoops, get the review bundles earlier and make more on circulation numbers.

    I guess many of you are questioning why the magazines aren't just favourable to all publishers, but the answer would be that they need to maintain a modicum of journalistic integrity to 'sell' reviews in the first place.

    It's all part of the machine!

  • No surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by Little Dave (196090) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:11AM (#3012846) Homepage
    To be honest, I just take this kind of thing as read. Here in the UK it seems to be par for the course that certain unscrupulous magazines will review unfinished code (favourably in most cases) and in some instances, you get the impression that the reviewer hasn't even seen the game. The cynic within suspects that deals for advertising may have been done...

    One incident that sticks in my mind is the CUAmiga review of Elite: Frontier, which scored very highly, yet there was no mention whatsoever of the showstopping bugs that ruined the game. Having said that, CUAmiga was usually one of the more trustworthy magazines.
  • p-review (Score:3, Funny)

    by Xerion (265191) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:12AM (#3012851)
    Dont be so hard on these magazines, guys.
    Maybe the editor's keyboard got messed up, and the key "p" stopped functioning.
  • could this be a by product of the fact that a lot of games have the same gameplay whether you are 5 mins or 5 hours into playing it?

    if you are playing one of those boring, linear, 'shoot 5 million identical creatures from their pre-determined postions' with their scripted, unchanging responses, vacant AI, and no more than one way of doing anything, max payne style games, which this game seems to be, then who cares if the review is early?

    if the game is a dead duck before its even released, just spare a 1/4 page review of the demo, give it 60%, and forget about it. save the time, effort and review space for developers that take the time to make a decent game ...
    • i would like to rebutt my own posting ... if i may ...

      linear, 'shoot 5 million identical creatures from their pre-determined postions' with their scripted, unchanging responses, vacant AI, and no more than one way of doing anything

      that describes DOOM perfectly, and i wasted years of my life playing that game ... hehehe whoops :)
  • by Scorchio (177053) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:20AM (#3012863)
    It seems difficult to get true unbiased reviews of games these days. After all, it's in the interest of the magazine publisher to keep a good relationship with the game developer, because a) they want to sell advertising space to these people and b) they want to be invited back to see the next games. I've been in games development for several years now and I've seen reviews vary from 20% to 90%, depending on whether the journalist was taken to lunch or not. Also, in the rush to be first to cover a new game, they can create a preview with the skimpiest of factual information on the game design. That's always fun when the end result has varied considerably from the initial design.

    The fault is probably equally shared between games developers and the magazines that (p)review their games. I just try to remember to these facts while reading reviews, and bear in mind that those lovely screenshots have probably been carefully selected and touched up by artists on the project. Who knows, you might really enjoy a game marked as mediocre by the reviewer because it's something that he or she personally doesn't like all that much. Best to wait and read the comments from people who have bought and played the game, on the forums and newsgroups out there.
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:20AM (#3012864)
    "Oh god. Oh god. Daikatana is great. The game is incredible. Please keep it coming. Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, keep on fragging. Boring medival Japanese plotline, oh god. More, more, more!!!

    Good Salad."

    See, it's quite easy to fake a good game review.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:22AM (#3012872)
    A couple of guys with the word, 'journalist,' printed on their business cards are presenting half-informed opinions as media content?

    Jeez! I can flip to CNN for that!

    The only difference between these guys and every second person on the web is that they're getting paid to do it.

    Except, weirdly enough, in this case, I can't actually blame them.

    --Game titles offer few surprises these days. Plus, the description and declared subject matter offered by the publishers to the reviewers sounds both sick and lame.

    The only thing these reviewers did wrong is to not say up front that they were only looking at demos and press kit material. The fact of the matter is that they've told me all I want to know:

    "Newsflash: Another cookie cutter over-violent FPS released by some company run either by (a)Sick juvenile twit programmers, or (b)Unimaginative corporate executives trying to make a buck by designing what their market analysts tell them is 'hip with the kids'."

    Yep. Now that's reporting!


    -Fantastic Lad

  • Same with.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:23AM (#3012876)
    PC Gamer in Europe, especially the British version. I remember when they gave Game of The Month to some game a couple of years ago (must have been a FPS, it's the *only* thing they like - probably Messiah) which was then delayed months because of severe bugs. They have also referred in reviews to features which have been dropped in the final version of the game.

    The game publishers allow it becuase it helps build hype around their games before they are published. The game magazines do it because the one to publish the review first of the currently #1 hyped game sells lots of extra issues. The gamers do it because appearently the majority are idiots who don't notice or don't care that they are reading a review of an alpha version mixed with rehashed press releases and official screenshots!

    One of the few magazines which have tried to change the trend is Computer Games [computergamesonline.com], they have a policy (at least they used to) of reviewing only released games, as they are out of the box without patches.

    /Lars Westergren
    • PC Gamer can be undependable, true, but they're also prepared to slate games. When Sin came out, they roundly condemmned it due to the slow loading times, even though that was later patched.

      More recently, the current issue gives a truly awful review to "Command and Conquer: Renegade" - and the review is followed by 5, full page adverts for that game. Clearly in this case purchasing large quantities of ads didn't help the review.

      Well, unless it was even worse than they said... *shudder*
  • by MWoody (222806) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:26AM (#3012881)

    I ran into a problem with folks not reviewing games when the GBA (Game Boy Advance for the un-anointed) first came out. My brother and I were trying to decide which games we should both get vs. which we should just share. Bomberman Tournament was the title we'd anticipated most, so if there was any possibility of increasing the gameplay value by buying two, we were gonna do it.

    And, after a quick perusal of two of the largest gaming sites around - Gamespot.com and IGN.com - we decided two cartridges were the way to go. After all, in Gamespot's review [gamespot.com], Frank Provo writes:

    The game supports both multi- and single-cartridge multiplayer options, although the load times for single-cartridge hosting are somewhat excessive.

    Sounds good, especially when paired with David Zdyrko's comments in IGN's review [ign.com]:

    The only downside to the one-cart, four-GBA setup is that you'll have to deal with a tremendous amount of load time at the start of each contest, before the victory screen and before the start of the next battle.

    This is only a minor annoyance, though, and can be remedied a lot if you happen to have a friend or more that also has a copy of the game.

    So, we went and bought two copies, whipped those babies out, and set up a game. And, lo and behold - no multi-cartridge support. Yes, indeed, the single gamepak mode had lots of slow load times. But having more than one doesn't do you any good unless you lose a game in the couch cushions.

    There was some moaning about this issue on the Gamespot forums, and as it turns out, the multi-cartridge support had not been brought over to the US version. Some of the reviewers had been given bad data by the company.

    To which I first though, "OK, no big whoop. Shit happens." But the more I considered it, the more it bugged me. These two reviewers made claims based on information they got from the company that made the game - NOT their own experiences. They didn't test these features; they just threw them into the review.

    I understand the most probable reasons: lack of time, only one cartridge to test with. But all I'm asking is for a simply "We didn't have two copies, so we can say for ourselves, but apparently..." Yes, it sounds a little wussy, but it makes the difference between journalism and an ad. At the very least, they could have corrected the error when they were notified; I'm aware of several people who have contacted both sites, including myself, and one Gamespot official even bothered to reply about it in the forums, but both still stand unchanged.

    OK, this is a minor thing, I know. But it did cost me about 30 bucks, and it makes me wonder: how much else in these "reviews" is straight out of a press release?

    • I understand the most probable reasons: lack of time

      You meant to say 'lack of integrity', didn't you?

      Confusing 'time' with 'integrity' is something that happens quite often to over generous slashdot posters, as well as corrupt hacks which can be bought by as little as saving an hour by using a press release as their review.

      I wonder if that would work for my MSc thesis? .... "of course professor, I didn't really have time to do all of the work myself, but I found a press release telling me it was true....."

      • No, I meant lack of time. I am, as I said in my post, disappointed in the reviewers' chioces not to mention they had access to only one pak. But there are only so many hours in a day, and a FREE online game magazine can't spend an insane amount of time checking every possible aspect of a game. Especially when they only have one copy.

        Truth be told, without the benefit of hindsight, I would have made the same reports you see quoted above. You gotta take some things at face value, or you'll be fired for taking too long to review a game, and one would think a fact sheet direct from the publisher would refrain from outright lies.

        The differences between a thesis and a game review: a) The review is done by a paid employee, but the result is free; b) A thesis is under relatively loose time constraints, especially compared to a periodical; c) A thesis is an academic venture, and therefore operates in a whole different realm of what is considered acceptable. And besides, if part of your project had been completed by a similar, trustworthy team at another university recently, and you read about it in a press release, I would consider it perfectly reasonble to build upon that information in your own work (making sure to check their experimental method and cite your sources, of course). Gotta make some assumptions.

        Ultimately, while I don't want to defend this kind of reporting, I also don't want it implied that I'm attacking the moral integrity of the reviewers. It was a minor and unintentional mistake, offered only as a warning to prevent such in the future.

  • by philipx (521085) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:35AM (#3012891) Homepage
    I have a friend who while working for a Games magazine was assigned to review an upcoming game. The game was planned to be released no sooner than two months.
    So she got a copy of the "close circuit game preview" CD and thought to give it a fair ride.
    It took 3 days to install the game - it was so poorly written it only worked on a single test machine and it was UGLY and slow like hell.
    So acting in consequence, my friend wrote the review and give it a 3 out of 10 :).
    Suprise, surprise ! The editor was pissed and started to yell something along the lines of "yo' tryin' to ruin us or what ?!".
    It turned out it was (guess still is) common practice to write good reviews in order to get early previews. You see, the magazine sells because it features early reviews, hence it has to get early game releases and has to write GOOD reviews in order for early stuff to keep coming and readers keep buying.
    OTOH, the game companies obviously need to have good publicity so they use (among other stuff like PR and paid trips to nice resorts in order for editors to get a "preview" of the new stuff) this mechanism of early reviews.
    Needless to say the game ended up as a complete failure, but all things considered who remembers the article that gave the game 8.8 out of 10 ? :)
    Who said politics is the only whore ?
  • by briggers (32641) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:39AM (#3012903) Homepage
    'Exclusive' reviews of incomplete (or in some cases entirely non-existent) games have been around almost as long as computer games magazines themselves. I remember back in the glory days of the classic UK games mags of the 80s and early 90s - the likes of ZZap, Crash, Your Sinclair, Commodore Format, Amiga Format etc - the surprise was when a review of a real, *finished* game was published (it was not unusual to see rave, 95% reviews of games which were never even written :-)

    UK and Australian readers will probably know what I am talking about: I'm sure I'm not the only one who misses the zany yet sophisticated humour, and complete and utter lack of moral fibre, of the great UK games mags. The copious pop-culture references, the disturbing running gags and in-jokes, the barf-inducing layouts.... all seem to be missing from today's sanitised publications.

    There was a terrific site set up by the staff of the short-lived (but truly surreal while it lasted) Amiga Power magazine, telling the inside story of the fake reviews, blatant plagiarism etc of the UK games mag scene of the period. Unfortunately it seems to have vanished.... hopefully someone might turn up with a URL.

    • Anybody remember the ad for, what was it, Nighthawk ? The Spectrum computer game based on some TV series about a fancy motorbike (Airwolf style). The ad ran for years, if memory serves me correctly. The game never came out, as far as I know.

      So it's not just the reviewers...

    • hopefully someone might turn up with a URL.

      I don't know if this is what you were talking about, but try the Wayback Machine entry here. [archive.org]
      Even some of the links are working...
    • by Fluffy the Cat (29157) on Friday February 15, 2002 @07:52AM (#3013025) Homepage
      http://ds.dial.pipex.com/ap2/ [pipex.com] is probably what you're looking for. This page [pipex.com] is especially topical, but the rest of the site gives a great deal of insight into what the games magazine industry is really like.

  • Great Idea! (Score:3, Funny)

    by 1/137 (179946) on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:45AM (#3012916)

    I should use this approach on my thesis...to think of the time I've wasted waiting for data!

  • by rcs1000 (462363) <rcs1000@gmaiYEATSl.com minus poet> on Friday February 15, 2002 @06:46AM (#3012918)
    In the UK, the magazine Edge (http://www.edge-online.com) has a column called Red Eye by a veteran video game journalist.

    About six months ago the column was about a journalist who boasted of writing a review of a game without even playing it. According to Red Eye, the practise is remarkably common - as magazines and web sites fight to make sure they aren't caught out by scoops from others.

    Red Eye also criticises video game journalists from acting like a pack. He cites Driver 2 as an example where the universally positive reviews ignored significant flaws in the game.

    Anyway, just my thoughts,

    *r
  • Its not just games that get reviewed incorrectly, its software too.

    Many computer magazines will have glowing reviews of software products that aren't available, aren't complete, or are broken in major ways.

    A good current example of this the reviews that many magazines have run recently of Windows XP, these reviews started coming out at the release of the first betas - with little mention of the fact that the final release would be different.

    • Its not just games that get reviewed incorrectly, its software too.

      I wrote a review of a Linux distribution which was published by an English computer mag which we shall not name. I did this as a favour for someone who worked at the same company (although not for the same magazine). None of that magazine's staff had the knowledge to install Linux and properly review it, so if I hadn't stepped in, they were going to chase up a few reviews off the net, and cobble together something based on the points these reviews made.

      Needless to say, I did it properly. Paid quite well, too - 150ukp for an evening's work, and I got to keep the distro (SuSE 7.2 professional, would have cost about 50ukp I think to buy).

  • ...gets early builds of games and hardware before it's out. Geforce 4 and P4 2.2 are perfect examples of this. They reviewed hardware right on time based on early silicone. Meaning they had it in their hands almost 2 full months before it was released to the public.

    Most recent "scoop!" was SOF2 described as a "playable late-beta build". Anarchy Online was reviewed during it's beta testing and given a 72%. It went on to win their best massively multiplayer game of the year over dark ages of camelot, rated at 90%.
  • I always read GamesDomain [gamesdomain.com] for online PC game reviews. They always seemed much more uppity about things. Although lag was sometimes a bit painful for certain key reviews, it contributed to my impression that the reviewers actually played the games in question. I have to know, though, were they just taking their time, or was the lag some by-product of its (British?) origin? Or did they skate by like other reviewers, using the free time to pursue less noble goals?

    Go ahead. Burst my bubble. I stopped reading the site compulsively after the last round of layout changes and site reorganization (more ads, less intelligent design). I just want to know the truth.

    I can handle it. Honest.

  • by discogravy (455376) on Friday February 15, 2002 @07:16AM (#3012966) Homepage
    Could be worse, I guess. They could post duplicates of the same articles and reviews over and over without even checking for copies....
  • I used to spend money on mags like pc gamer and pc zone , but I got pissed off at both the tone and content of there review's and found that on the whole better and more up to date reviews with in depth commentary from gamers and a wider scope of opinions could be found online .I now do not see the point of spending money on pc gaming magazines who constantly have to do a balancing act bettween advertisers and there reader base which often leads to comprimise's in the quality of a review .

  • by Anonymous Coward
    duke nukem forever got 10 from 10 points.

    ..
    ..
    ..

    2 years ago.
  • independant reviews (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nukey56 (455639) on Friday February 15, 2002 @07:36AM (#3013002)
    As long as I can remember, I have always hated the journalistic hogwash that gets thrown into places like PC Magazine, Windows Magazine, etc. Half their articles are just buzzwords and their own interpretation of them. I'm sure there are "review lobbyists" of some sort from software publishers that push for softer reviews of their products. As an effect of this, I would guess that more products are rated highly than those graded harshly, even though a large amount of software out there is utter crap (especially closed-source commercial stuff).

    Personally, I enjoy reviews from actual gamers, like the horde at shacknews. Seeing multiple opinions of a game helps put it into perspective, taking the subjecticism out. However, these types of reviews usually don't come out until after the game is released, so the first wave of gamers are usually influenced by the larger, lobbied reviewers.

    I guess what im trying to say here is that waiting a little while for a game to be released and tested by the masses might be worth popping $50 for something that isn't what you expected it to be *Cough*daikatana*cough.
  • Why the '?' mark? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday February 15, 2002 @08:09AM (#3013040) Homepage

    You'd have to be pretty bad with a calendar (and know nothing about games development) to believe that a review written at least six weeks before a game goes gold could be of anything even remotely resembling the finished version. I know for a fact that "Braveheart" was given 95% by one (ahem) reputable UK games rag based on a 10fps demo that crashed every 2 minutes and a promise that the development team was working 20 hour days to get a patch done in time for the boxes hitting the shelves (which was true, but signifies nothing).

    Look, picture for a second how this works. A sales weasel turns up from the publisher bearing a package. In the package is a shitty beta version of the game, a promise that it will be fixed (so the magazine won't look like chumps), the advertising material, and a blank cheque. The cheque is ostensibly to pay for the advertising, but the number that goes on it depends on a lot of things. How many eyeballs the magazine is attracting; how understanding the reviewer is going to be about the bugs; how much the reviewer is prepared to just flat out lie; who is buying lunch for who.

    The problem is really that the readers put up with it. Specifically, that we reward magazines for running rave review in every issue purely to tempt you to pick them up. Imagine a games mag with the cover page: "All the games reviewed this month suck." Would you buy it? Probably not, but that's exactly the kind of issue you should buy.

    You want to know what a game is like? Play a downloadable or cover disk demo, or a friend's copy (local laws allowing, hey ho). Wait until it reaches budget, and see if people are still talking about it. I bought Diablo II + the expansion + Diablo + a strategy guide on Monday, for less than the original cost of Diablo II. Strangely enough, it's still the same game that it was when it first shipped - only without many of the bugs.

    Games magazines are an irrelevance now, other than as a means of distributing advertising and cover disks. Online mags are a little better, partly because they don't have print deadlines to hit, but mostly because you can generally read player comments and get a feel for what the title is actually like.

    • Re:Why the '?' mark? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JohnBE (411964)
      I do have to wonder what percentage of games are not reviewed but based on superficial reasoning. I've worked places that basically re-work the press-releases they are sent and then add to that any further lobbying. Generally when a company is onto a winner (and they know it) they'll lobby extra hard, lots of 'big lunches' and visits from PR folk with free T-Shirts etc.

      I like your term 'sales weasel' although this is a bit sexist for female weasels who should be called a bitch, doe or jill. So sales weasel should become:

      Sales weasel/jill
      Sales weasel/bitch
      Sales weasel/doe

      I like 'sales bitch' best. ;-). Or is that offensive to weasels?
    • The problem is really that the readers put up with it. Specifically, that we reward magazines for running rave review in every issue purely to tempt you to pick them up. Imagine a games mag with the cover page: "All the games reviewed this month suck." Would you buy it? Probably not, but that's exactly the kind of issue you should buy.

      Hmmm, does anyone know of an actual honest game mag? I should think that if someone created a magazine with the express purpose of honesty and not pandering to game companies, that people would come to trust it. Truth breeds confidence and would probably propell such a mag into a top rated position so that game companies would be begging to get their ads in there if they felt they had a good game. Such a magazine could make up the difference of the companies that would not run ads with charging more for the companies that do.

      I.e. "We got a good review from Gametruth Magazine!" "Awsome, we'll sell millions. Call them up and run an ad."

    • While I agree game demos are the best way to actually to go, several factors seem to be sending the demo the way of the dinosaurs, including:
      • HUGE demo sizes. MOH:AA MP was around 130megs, the solo about the same. Part the problem here is that everyone insists on including DirX as part of the demo distribution, but that's not the only reason. Yes, it's understandable to get the models, skins, maps, engine and sounds in, you'll need that much space, and as broadband becomes easier to get, size isn't as much of a problem, but it's better to be able to cut the size of demo down by as much as 50% by using less detailed models, low quality sound, etc. and make sure the user knows that the final version will have all that.
      • In addition to size, online distribution is becoming a problem. It used to be that there were tons of mirrors for demos and mods and similar features, but as demos grew, the cost on these mirrors increases, such that many have dropped out of the picture. Of what's left, you have cases like FilePlanet, which require ID'ing *and* they still keep you in a huge queue unless you pay them money, GameSpot, which only lets you have large downloads if you pay them money, or sites like 3D Gamers, which still have free, FTP-type downloads, but are so battered by hits that they are always full. Part of that can probably be blamed on the dot.com bubble. In addition, there are cases now of magazines getting exclusive rights to put the demo on the cover disk before online distribution can commence. I believe MOHAA SP demo was done this way by PC Gamer; the MP demo was available to all at the same time, but the SP demo general availablity lagged a few months until the specific issue of PC Gamer was on the racks.
      • Timing - an ideal timeframe to release a demo is between 1 and 2 months prior to the game being on shelves. This gives the player enough time to evaluate the game, and to keep it fresh in the player's mind when the game is ready. However, several games of late have been quite different here. For example, SimGolf, which came out 3 weeks ago, had it's demo out in October. On the other hand, I've seen games released to the shelves, and then the demo is released a few weeks later (Half-Life's Uplink demo was the notable one here).
      • Non-demo demos - Too many games, IMO, have demos in the form of movies with no user interaction. It might show you want the game looks and sounds like, and some of the gameplay, but I know that for numerous games the subtlies of the interface makes or breaks the game, and not being able to test those for yourself is a downside.
      IMO, if no demo is available, is to simply follow USENET discussions. Not only reviews but the questions and bug reports and the like. I know that I was interested in B&W but didn't have the urge to buy it until I started reading all of the tricks and details the game had in one newsgroup, and with very few negative comments.

    • You want to know what a game is like? Play a downloadable or cover disk demo, or a friend's copy (local laws allowing, hey ho). Wait until it reaches budget

      By "reaches budget" I assume that you refer to a reduction in the price of a genuine copy of a game as demand falls off. How are you sure that a particular game will reach budget within the next few years? It won't if it's recalled and destroyed, sending the price upwards of $200 per genuine copy. This happened with a popular game called Tetyais, an independent Tetris clone for NES by Tengen that supported side-by-side simultaneous play. To learn more about the incident, start at Google [google.com]. (The letter says 'ya' in Russian [ucla.edu].) It also happened with several Super NES role-playing games by Squaresoft, but not because of any lawsuits.

    • Imagine a games mag with the cover page: "All the games reviewed this month suck." Would you buy it? Probably not, but that's exactly the kind of issue you should buy.

      Are you kidding? I would buy that mag in a fucking second.
  • Pah! In my day... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spoing (152917) on Friday February 15, 2002 @08:44AM (#3013075) Homepage
    ...we'd be lucky to understand the writers, let alone believe them. This was way back in the Atari 2600 era.

    Seriously. The people writing the game articles looked like they were -- like me -- also in thier teens. Unlike me, they had access to press releases, and did a fine job of mangling them.

    As an adult, I've been interviewed by reporters and had projects I've worked on reviewed. Nothing makes me wince more then having to read something that is simply wrong -- even if it's a "positive" error. I don't lie, so why should I expect someone else, supposedly objective, to hype or lie for me?

    That the articles are still being faked isn't a surprise at all. Ethics and objectivity in popular tech journalism (ZD) is rare, and sometimes missing even at the bottom of the totem pole (Mozillaquest).

  • by SirSlud (67381) on Friday February 15, 2002 @09:32AM (#3013184) Homepage
    Because ign.com does tons of other stuff other than video games, they don't [ign.com] have this problem.

    I own a GC, and am certainly experienced enough not to count on reviews of games before the game has shipped. IGN is good about this stuff. They play the games, and they dont go easy on them in reivews (I've found the X-Box [ign.com] team at IGN is more prone to 'gloss' for bad games), I'd say that they arn't afraid of biting the hand that feeds them.

    I think the key is relying on sources that are:

    a) knowledgable
    b) cover a broader base of interests than those you seek, such that their business doesn't rely soley on the area of interests you are seeking objective info from

    is the best way to go.

    But people should already be aware of this. I mean, everyone has to dance with the one that brought them to the party, so just make sure you're not listning to those who wouldn't gave gotten to the party otherwise.
    • Oh _please_.

      IGN is the biggest bunch of cube fanboys on the planet. _Nintendo_ couldn't write pro-nintendo spin that good..

      Every f'king article IGN does on xbox is for "insiders" only..

      I've been done with ign for a long time...

      The reality of the situation is that most games cost $50, and if you play a game for 10 hours thats $5/hour, and its a sliding scale of how much you're willing to pay for 1 hour of entertainment, and how many hours you think you can get out of a game. For instance, i'd much rather buy a moderately amusing video game than see a movie - i or any number of other players can enjoy a game for _at least_ 10 hours. A movie out here runs like $8 for 90 minutes..

      Many of the largeish RPGs take 30-50 hours to beat. Those are probably worthwhile.

      The best thing to do is sit down with the game a bit and play it. When thats not possible, you get to wade through the hype and decide what you want to beleive..

      • > IGN is the biggest bunch of cube fanboys on the planet

        There's is a big difference between being a fanboy, and having your opinions bought. Sure they're fanboys, but look at the GC reviews. Non-objective fanboys (and 'advertising' publications) usually keep all the reviews above, say, 70% or something.

        The fact that I have to pay them to read the reviews only confirms that they dont rely soley on the income of game promotion to publish, which goes a long way in allowing them to remain objective. How much they love hammers and refuse to use any other tool is outside the scope of the information I'm looking for.

        In short, there's nothing wrong with being a fanboy, as long as you arn't so blinded that you think *anything* in your franchise of choice is god's gift to the market.

        Would you expect Scientific American not to love science too much? If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I just want to have relationships with entities who are not being paid by a hammer maker, is all.
  • "So, was it good for you?"

    "Oh... yeah... fantastic. I'd give it an 8.7."

    *Rolls over and quietly sobs into pillow*
  • by blueskyred (104505) on Friday February 15, 2002 @11:22AM (#3013519) Homepage
    I was the founder of the Internet's First Online Game Magazine, "Game Master Journal." It later was renamed Intelligent Gamer Online. We were on Prodigy, Compuserve, AOL (back when it was just AOL) and even the then-new World Wide Web in 1994.

    We had THE scoop on the Nintendo 64 (then called "Project Reality" or "Ultra 64") -- we were the first site on the entire planet that had mockups and the Editor-In-Chief, Jer Horowitz, created an image that turned out to be EXACTLY what the N64 controller looked like.

    Imagine how thrilled I was to see that image ripped off in a pair of print magazines 8 weeks later. Video Games and Computer Entertainment (now defunct) and Electronic Gaming Monthly both lifted the image and claimed it as their own. I was irate, and made some phone calls.

    The publisher of EGM, Sendai Media Group (aka Sendai New Media) purchased us 6 weeks later. It was, without a doubt, the worst business decision of my life. =) Not only were we vastly underpaid (they bought Gamespot 3 months later for $10 million -- we were not paid in the millions -- or even in the hundred-thousands) but our entire culture was ripped apart.

    We took advertising. Yep, people were paying for online advertising in 1994. And not $0.000003 CPM! We never let that advertising money affect our journalistic integrity. We were rock-solid. Anything that was a review was labeled as a review and we told people what state the game was in when we reviewed it.

    We had news and rumors too. Guess what? All rumors had a bright green label saying "RUMOR." Hey, we got some of those wrong too -- but at least you knew that could happen going in.

    Sendai was bought by Ziff-Davis. They killed the magazine in 9 months. We had 250,000 paid subscribers but everyone started hating the magazine when we became a "me too" clone. In order to be first in print we were forced to play fast and loose -- and never write anything bad about anyone spending money with us.

    HARRY POTTER FIRST LOOK INSIDE!!!!!

    How many magazines had that just to get a bigger buy rate? More than a few. How many of them really reviewed that dog of a game? Not too many.

    Sigh. The reality of the situation is that money drives the magazine business. Very few magazines -- and none in the US -- actually cover the video game/PC software business as real journalists. They are ALL hoars to the software publishers. All of them.

  • I used to work for games magazine and it was quite usual for full review to be done based on different platform (e.g. N64 review based on playing PC version of the game), reviewing from pirated (Warez) CDs, reviewers being told in advance how many stars they should give to the game and reviewers going abroad to visit the developers, playing the unfinished game there for 2-3 hours, then coming back and writing their "full review" based on that. As far as I remember, this didn't seem weird to anyone involved...
    • --- Frantisek Fuka (Yes, that's my real name and you have no idea how it's pronounced)

      I would guess your name is Czech, so my best guess at the pronunciation would be:

      FRAHN-teh-shehk FYU-ka

      I'm almost positive as to the first one, but the last thing could be FU-ka, FYU-ka, or maybe even something I didn't anticipate. Tell me how close I got.

      Terry
  • Happens everywhere (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JimPooley (150814) on Friday February 15, 2002 @01:05PM (#3014005) Homepage
    In the case of computer magazines, they're trying to get the FIRST REVIEW!!! (a bit like First Post!) which will sell more copies of the magazine.

    But sloppy work happens everywhere. David (Hutch) Soul recently successfully sued [guardian.co.uk] the one time showbusiness columnist of the "Daily Mirror" (crappy UK tabloid) over a review of a play Soul starred in.
    The review said at the Monday performance, only 45 people turned up and the audience laughed derisively at Soul. They didn't do Monday performances...!
  • ...magazines have been publishing "reviews" of games they've never really seen, and development teams have been faking up screenshots for games that aren't quite soup yet. I know I've fabricated up quite a few screenshots for articles for early reviews of our games in the big three mags.
  • Semi-related (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Flynnhustler (312289)
    Some believe that a game shouldn't be reviewed until the writer completes the game.

    The sad fact is that many game reviewers don't have the time [robotstreetgang.com] to play every game to it's conclusion before drafting their review.

    Perhaps now, gamers will be satisfied with journalists that care enough to actually play the game.
    -g
  • Have you ever looked at the way most magazines review games? They don't ever rate something very low, usually no lower than a 70% or so. This is because if they do, the company won't send them more games, and won't advertise in them. Which is why whenever I see a game review in a magazine, I subtract 70 and divide by 30 to find the real precentage.
  • by securitas (411694) on Friday February 15, 2002 @04:54PM (#3015122) Homepage Journal


    This problem of fictional reviews is the main reason we started Geartest.com [geartest.com]. The problem doesn't only exist with video games but with most consumer technology products. Most tech 'reviews' out there are nothing more than regurgitated press releases with 'reviewer' doing nothing more than spending a few hours of playing around with one product or another.

    That's in stark contrast to our review philosophy: Real gear. Real world. Real reviews. We don't write reviews about products based on press releases or in a pre-release stage. We use the products for an extended period in real conditions. And we tell the people what we found, with updates as warranted. That means if it's good we'll say so, and if it sucks we'll say that too... but usually the truth is somewhere in between.

    We have had difficulty in getting manufacturers to send products to us for review. That is despite having grown to the point where we consistently have 5-figure impression levels, projecting breaking the 100,000 impression level soon. All of that is without us doing any advertising. Pure word-of-mouth. It's no Slashdot but we think it's decent traffic.

    We suspect that the biggest problem (from the point of view of manufacturers) is that they simply don't want to risk getting a negative review. We believe it's in a manufacturer's interest to receive unbiased, journalistically sound reviews of its products. Ultimately that can enhance their credibility and add value to a brand in the eyes of the product-buying public.

    We have had some people suggest to us that we 'play ball' if we want their cooperation. Frankly, it's not going to happen. We may miss out on getting 'insider' opportunities to cover and review items -- and we may not get to review some items that our users have asked us to -- but the feedback and response we have received from our readership (a good mix of techies and laypeople) tells us that we are on the right track.

    The way we see it is this: if you have confidence in your product, then you should have no problem putting it to an unbiased test. It's surprising how many product managers recoil and refuse when you put it to them so plainly.

    We're in the process of designing our 3rd-iteration site to enhance user-friendliness and add some more features and functionality. The one thing that will stay constant is that we won't trade our integrity for 'A-list' access to products. If that means we don't get access, we'll just deal with the people and companies who see the value in what we're doing.

    Check out Geartest.com [geartest.com] and let us know what you think.

  • FYI, There's an article posted on this very topic over at http://www.gamedev.net [gamedev.net] right now, that was posted today.

  • Outpost, anybody? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frobozz3.141 (449529)
    Anybody remember Outpost, Sierra Online's foray into the non-adventure game market a couple of years back? It was the most bug-ridden game since, oh, maybe Daggerfall (which turned out to be a GREAT game, go figure), and probably held that title until last year's Pool of Radiance shipped. Anyway, bug-infested, features listed in the manual but not in the actual game (and vice versa), a clumsy interface, the list goes on and on.

    PC Gamer gave it a 93% review in their
    September 1994 issue. [pcgameworld.com] PC Gamer then proceeded to spend the next half decade apologizing for the rating, even in their review of Outpost 2 [pcgameworld.com].

    The moral of the story? People can get away with pretty much saying whatever they please, as long as it serves SOMEBODY.

    -Frobozz

System checkpoint complete.

Working...