Reviewer Blues

A PR still of the game in question

Not too long ago, I wrote a review of the game Natural Selection 2 for popular gaming website GameSpot . That review was not particularly negative, but the score was, by games industry standards, low. A 6/10. The review did contain two factual inaccuracies: I mistakenly stated that the price of the game was $30 (it is actually $25) and I omitted to mention that the game has playable servers designated for new players while criticizing the game for being too tough on new players. These mistakes certainly had no place in the review and were rightly criticized by the game’s developers and the community of gamers and GameSpot readers. The review was thereafter pulled from the website, and replaced by another reviewer’s considerably more positive take.

A lot of the hue and cry regarding my Natural Selection 2 review and its fallout has made me out to have tried, unjustly, to take a whack at a game created by a small, hard-working team that deserved better. That, I can assure you, makes me feel awful. At the end of the day, I failed in my duty to write something free of errors, and Natural Selection 2, it goes without saying, deserves better than that. To the development team, especially in light of Metacritic’s refusal to alter the score, I can only ask for your forgiveness.

But I cannot accept the charges that I acted out of some malign intent. I continue to believe that I gave Natural Selection 2 a fair assessment. I did not have it out for an indie developer, nor did I have any ulterior motive whatsoever when I made the mistakes I made. I gave the game the same treatment I would give any game, regardless of who made it or how hard its team worked. That it is an independent team of seven people was and is utterly irrelevant to me. That they worked hard on the game is irrelevant. The only thing that matters — the only thing that ought to matter for any genuine critic — is how the game stands on its own terms. Absent the two factual inaccuracies, I stand by my review.

However, I recognize that damage has been done to this game’s reputation that, while outside my control, is terribly unfortunate. I would remedy the situation if I could. If my writing to Metacritic would get the score changed, I would do it, despite my belief in the fundamental accuracy of the review. But I have been assured it won’t. The process of savaging reviews is a commonplace occurrence in our industry, and I’ve certainly had my share of that — sometimes justifiably. This is, unfortunately, one of those times, and I apologize to everybody for dropping the ball.

- Eric

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67 thoughts on “Reviewer Blues

  1. unlike the review left by your replacement your tone throughout felt as though you didnt even give the game a chance. Nor did you take the time like others to actually play through multiple rounds to understand the game as it was designed. Your mis-fortunate inaccuracies regarding the price and some other details are truly what made people loose faith in your assessment. I appreciate you taking the time to review any game but reading your review just made me feel like compared to the other reviews I read you just missed the ball completely.

    • I completely understand, and I’m sorry it felt that way. I promise I never give a game short shrift for any reason, and I didn’t this time. Mistakes happen, and I was wrong here, but I do stand by the score, despite the fact that it may seem like I didn’t give the game enough of a chance.

      Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate you taking the time to read this blog entry.

  2. Your review didn’t actually talk about the game at it’s fullest though. The review inaccuracies are signs that you did not actually play the game. I played the game enough to say that your review didn’t include enough detail at all about the game, when played correctly. You can criticize that it is difficult to newcomers, but even if you hated the game, the review reads as if you didn’t even give it a thorough chance to actually play it on a level where you can criticize the finer points of the game.

    It’s like you judged the game by it’s cover. And don’t get me wrong, other reviewers have done the same.

    http://kotaku.com/5959925/natural-selection-2-the-kotaku-review

    Kotaku’s reviewer mentions that she only played 5 hours of the game, and even out of that, she wasn’t playing all of it and admits she was in spectator mode a lot too. But because she gave the game a good score, it seems she’s been given a pass.

    How games should be reviewed is a difficult issue though, as games are not created with the same budget. Should indy games be graded on the same scale as COD, or should they be given a free pass because their budgets are lower? Should we grade games by how much they cost, even if some games are more niche, and have a higher price point but a lower demand? NS2 has a cult following, and it’s not just some other indy game. You dun step into a landmine.

    • This is a fair assessment, and I’m sorry the review came off that way. It wasn’t my intention to give the game short shrift, it’s just that there’s only so much I can put into a given review without people losing interest, so I tried my best to hit the points I saw as most salient.

      As for how games ought to be reviewed, I feel that all games ought to be judged by the same standard, regardless of how they were made or what following they may have. The sad truth is that a lot of AAA titles have huge PR machines behind them that help secure positive reviews, whereas indie titles often do not, and that’s not fair. But from a reviewer’s perspective, I really think you have to leave that aside and judge a game based on its merits. That’s what I tried to do with Natural Selection 2, despite the mistakes I made.

      Thanks for your comment, and thanks so much for being very reasonable about this, as I know you’re probably a fan of the game. I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog entry.

  3. I think potentially a lot of the blowback you got wasn’t for writing a negative review, but for writing a review where a lot of the problems might conceivably be attributed to you – saying that Natural Selection 2 is really complex and hard to learn might sound like a fair criticism for a game reviewer who has to slog through these things for their job whether they feel like it or not, but the game isn’t really designed for impatient people who just want to get the gist of it and then, if need be, move on.

    Part of the reason so many people love NS (a love which of course also probably contributed to the blowback your review caused) is that it’s so intricate. Most games are dumbed down for the lowest common denominator. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad (I enjoy dumb games just as much as I enjoy complex games) but it definitely makes them, to some people, forgettable or lacking in depth. Natural Selection 2 is anything but forgettable or lacking in depth. We’re ten years after the release of the original game and people are just now swapping to the sequel that has come out. Not a lot of games have that kind of staying power, but the price for this kind of depth is that they are necessarily somewhat impenetrable at first.

    Basically, it seemed like you didn’t play the game long enough to hit what most people find wonderful about it, so a lot of people probably felt like what you saw as the game’s failings were really your failings: you didn’t put the time into the game that it takes to learn what’s going on. I know reviewers have deadlines and stuff, so maybe there’s no good solution, but I think there’s definitely something to be said for the idea that if you’re going to review a game like Natural Selection 2, giving it crap for being hard to get into is like giving a complicated book or film a less than enthusiastic review because you weren’t able to understand it immediately.

    • Great, great comment, and a really interesting insight into the situation. I think I agree with you, tycho. I can only assure folks that I did, indeed play the game for quite some time, and still came away feeling it lacked that certain, special something. Keep in mind that I did rate the game a 6.0/10, which IS better than average, despite the weird 7-9 rating system the game industry has fallen into, and if you read my review, I did have plenty of positive things to say about the game.

      Really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment here, and thanks for your insights. If you have Twitter, I’d love to follow you!

      • I have a twitter (TychoCelchuuu) but I almost never tweet. Another way of getting at the point: you said the game had a “grind” which definitely rubbed people the wrong way. Games like Battlefield 3, CoD, or Tribes: Ascend where you have to level up to access certain things have “grinds.” Games that rely on random loot drops for you to have access to gear, like TF2 or Diablo III, have “grinds.” (Of course, now these games have also realized that if they sell you these items through real-money transactions they can make lots of $$$ from people who don’t want to grind. I think Call of Duty might be the only game that doesn’t let you just straight up buy the items to skip the grind.)

        NS2 doesn’t have any grinding. Everything is available to every player from minute zero and it always will be, for free. What NS2 does have is a learning curve, but to describe that as “grinding” feels like you have to put in a lot of time in some suboptimal state in order to reach the point where you can play the game the right way. In one way, that’s right! You do have to put a lot of time into NS2 to get at the good stuff. But “grind” has negative connotations, and nobody would ever say you have to “grind” Ulysses for a while before you can figure out what Joyce is saying and nobody would ever say you have to “grind” In The Mood For Love a bit until you can figure out the nonlinear plot. (Nobody would say you need to grind Planescape until you figure out what your previous incarnations did or grind Thirty Flights of Loving until you understand the jumps in time or grind Starcraft II until you can smell a 6 pool coming or grind Halo until you’re a good enough shot with the sniper rifle.) “Grinding” suggests the game’s locking stuff away from you until you hit some arbitrary point and get access to it.

        NS2 is not a game you grind. NS2 is a game you learn. In fact it’s surprisingly open to people learning it – the community is far more friendly than the par for complex multiplayer games, which are often harsh to new players and expect them to know everything. NS2, meanwhile, does expect a lot from you, but many people enjoy that learning process, and they enjoy the state they reach when they become fluent in the game’s systems. Those systems are interesting enough and complex enough to reward the work you’ve put in to learn them, and they’re not so obtuse that you can never learn them. I mean let’s be honest, you don’t need to read Homer’s Odyssey or have an idea of the geography of Dublin to play NS2. It’s not even ultra-complex, as video games go (try playing Europa Universalis!). It’s a little overwhelming because you have to learn not at your own comforting pace but in a fast paced match where your team can win or lose, but like I said, the community is overly friendly and the learning process is part of what makes the game great.

      • It’s funny, I love Europa Universalis III, it’s one of my favorite games. But that game, first off, has comprehensive, step-by-step, interactive tutorials to walk you through it. Also, Paradox games in general, and EUIII in particular (along with, say Hearts of Iron) are specifically targeted toward a deep, grognard audience. I didn’t feel Natural Selection 2 shared that targeted, narrow user base, so I didn’t review it as I would have those games.

        That said, you make some great points above, and I have to admit, you’re changing my opinion of my own review somewhat. I really appreciate well thought out comments like this, man. Can’t thank you enough for taking the time to contribute here.

      • Another thing that was probably a big source of controversy, judging by the comments here and elsewhere, was the 6/10 score. You keep referring to it here as “above average” but I’m not really sure you understand how people read review scores.

        The way I see it (I might just be making this up!) there are two sorts of people who read reviews. The first kind of person actually reads the reviews. They don’t really need the score at the end, unless you’re a bad writer. Your review should pretty much tell them what they need to know. Rock Paper Shotgun is like this, for example – they’re good writers, so their reviews don’t even bother including numbers because nobody needs them.

        The second kind of person just looks at the score. Maybe they skim the review, or they read one or two reviews but just check scores for the rest. These kind of people really do need a number. But what kind of numbers are they looking for? Are they looking for numbers on a scale of 1 to 10? Well, no, not really. 7 out of 10 is about average for a game. A 6 out of 10 is not “above average,” as you refer to it ,at least not for games anyone would ever bother playing. A quick glance at Metacritic or GameRankings.com will tell you that any game that’s even halfway decent can count on hovering at about a 7 out of 10, or at worst a 6 out of 10. A 6 out of 10 screams “mediocre at best” to people who look at the numbers on review scores.

        Does this make any sense? Shouldn’t a 5 be average, because it’s halfway up the scale? Well, if you think review scores are set in stone or forged in steel and something and should mean the same thing throughout all of time, then yes, 5 should be average because that’s the most logical choice. But review scores aren’t like that! They’re an amalgamation of the processes that go into scoring games, and there’s no “right” way to do that such that a 5 is an average. The way people score games these days, a 7 is an average.

        In some sense this is score inflation, the way that colleges in the US are seeing grade inflation. I teach college courses and grade students, in fact, so I see this firsthand. In some majors, an average is a C. You get a B if you’re above average and an A if you’re way above average. This means that about half the class gets a C or lower. Lots of majors aren’t like this at all. If half the class were getting a C or below they’d be going nuts! Game scores are like this. Do you really think half of the games released these days score 50% or below on Metacritic/GameRankings.com? Of course not! Do you really think that most games released these days are above average? Of course not! It’s just that the new average for games is at about a 6 or 7.

        So although in your own logical world you gave NS2 above average, in the actual world where people read your review (or just looked at the score) you gave it AT BEST average or a little below average. Should you be writing reviews for the actual world, or for your own logical world where a 5 is average? I can’t answer that question, and although I’ve never been a professional games reviewer in any real sense I can tell you that I’ve been paid for a few game reviews over the years and when they had numbers attached I rated them based on how people generally understand grades, not based on what the numbers would mean if I were doing things logically, and when I give my students grades I don’t give 50% a C or below just because this would make logical sense.

      • You say two interesting things about EUIII and Paradox games in general. The first is that it has a great tutorial to walk you through the complicated things and the second is that it’s targeted at a grognard audience. How do these comments apply to NS2?

        Well, first, NS2 doesn’t have much of a tutorial. It has “Explore” mode, where you hop into a game alone and get to try out all the stuff, and given enough time you can figure stuff out, but this is like giving someone a lot of food and a bunch of kitchen tools and hoping they’ll figure out how to cook. It also has some tutorial videos linked in the menu – some of these are OK, some of them aren’t. In general multiplayer first person shooters aren’t really amenable to tutorials, and even if they were, making these sorts of things is a HUGE investment which the tiny, cash-and-time-strapped NS2 team couldn’t conceivably do. Fans are supplementing the effort a bit (I made a tutorial video for the alien commander, for instance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFGP_XA4a5g ) but it’s far from an ideal situation.

        Does this reflect badly on NS2? Well, it certainly makes it harder to learn, just like selling copies of Ulysses without any explanatory notes or selling DVDs of Primer without a timeline leaves the majority of people who pick these things up high and dry. Is that the sort of thing that should hurt the game’s score in a review or something like that? There are at least two ways to think about it. The first way, which is what you seem to have gone for, is to say “well this lack of tutorials really makes it tough to get into the game, and that’s not fun, so the game is not fun and I’ll mark it down for that.” The second way is to say “gee, this game is a pain to get into, but that’s a one-time pain, and once I get over it that won’t really change how fun the game is, so I shouldn’t mark it down, although I should warn people that they’re getting into a complex game that they’ll have to learn before they get everything out of it.” That’s the approach I favor, partially because I think the idea that “learning = hard = bad” is an awful idea and partially because I want to rate the game that people will be playing for years on end, not the game that they’ll have to play for a few days until they learn how to play the actual game. I COULD rate “the game they are learning” rather than “the game they will be playing” but I see no reason to rate that first game.

        A third option, and the one that is probably closest to how you think, is to rate an amalgamation of those two games. You take the game that you have to learn, plus the game that you get once you learn it, and, based on how hard it is to learn, give that first game more or less weight in your final score. The “first” game for EUIII, where you’re learning it, wouldn’t get a very low score because it has great tutorials, whereas the “first” game in NS2 gets rated down since it’s fairly obtuse. Again, not the approach I’d take, but I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong.

        The second thing you said about EUIII is that it’s targeted at grognards and thus maybe gets a pass for some of its complexity. I have to admit that this doesn’t strike me as a very good reason to give it a pass that NS2 doesn’t get. First of all, why is EUIII targeted at grognards and not at everyone? Probably because grognards enjoy the sort of game that EUIII is. In fact, “grognard” is really just a synonym for “people who enjoy games like EUIII” so to say EUIII is targeted at them is just to say that the people who make EUIII make it for people who like that sort of game. But that’s a little empty. Every game is made for people who like that sort of game. How would you even make a game that’s targeted to people who don’t like that sort of game?

        Maybe what you mean is that EUIII is MARKETED towards those kinds of people. I guess you could start factoring in marketing and stuff for your reviews and perhaps you do – I think this is a weird rabbit hole to go down and when I’m reviewing games I completely ignore what the sales department of the game’s publisher thinks. That seems irrelevant to me.

        So in what sense is NS2 not targeted towards grognards the way EUIII is? Well, it’s not marketed to grognards, that’s correct, but that’s because it’s not a complex strategy game. It’s a first person shooter. Who are the grognards of the FPS market? That’s not even a category! Nobody makes games like NS2 that are FPS games, really. There are a few similar games but most FPS games are much closer to Call of Duty or Battlefield 3 than they are to real strategic experiences. So it’s not like NS2 could market itself to the FPS grognards because that’s not really a category. If you marked down NS2 for not being marketed to FPS grognards then that seems to me a little problematic.

        Maybe you marked down NS2 not because of who it’s marketed towards but because of who it’s designed for? That is, EUIII is designed for grognards so it gets a pass for its complexity, but NS2 is designed for people who don’t want to learn complex things and thus it doesn’t get a pass? Well, as I’ve said earlier, I don’t understand how you design a game for anyone other than the kind of people who like the kind of game you design. And NS2 is clearly designed for people who want more than just “if I shoot enough people in the head I’ll get enough XP to get a new scope on my gun” in their FPS. NS2 is for people who want coordinate team play, asymmetrical sides, wildly divergent gameplay when playing as an alien, strategic decisions, and FPS/RTS integration. Surely you can’t mark it down for being too complex for people who want that, right?

        So to sum things up, I understand (but disagree with) the decision to mark a complex game down for failing to have great tutorials. I do not understand the decision to mark a complex game down because unlike EUIII it is not targeted towards grognards.

  4. I have not seen any comments trying to claim your review was the product of a malicious hatred of indie gaming. What I have seen, and what I personally believe, was that your review smacks of laziness and lack of respect. Lack of respect for the game yes, but more so lack of respect for you job. It seems to me that you thought you could just give an extremely perfunctory look at the game, mash screenshot a few times, fill up a page with words, and be done with it. It’s an indie title so no one will really care if I do my job. I mean, screenshots should be chosen to illustrate what the game is like. One of the shots you chose to do this with was a random pillar in the game lobby.

    • A very fair assumption in this case, given my mistakes. I can only assure you that I played a solid number of hours (about 8) of the game. Also, for what it’s worth, I didn’t take all those screenshots, those are often provided by the editorial team.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts.

  5. I think the main problem is that you really came off as a console player. NS2 is a hardcore PC game, designed for the hardcore PC community. From your review, it sounded like that’s not a community you particularly belong to. Your review wasn’t wrong or bad, but it just sounded like a Football Manager review written by an American.

    It sounds elitist and irrelevant, and maybe I’m COMPLETELY wrong on this, but that’s how it came off.

  6. I think it’s very big of you to make such a sincere apology. I can assure you that a statement like this goes a long way and fans will appreciate it. Thankyou and best of luck to you.

  7. Reviews can be a powerful and I find that this review can turn away potential customers and players to a game that truly doesn’t deserve this. That’s why I was angry at it. You seem to take away points because of its difficulty and learning curve, but those looking for a more hardcore, old school sort of shooter unlike the CoDs and Battlefields might see this as a breath of fresh air or even further, the game that they’ve been waiting for.

    Roger Ebert has said, “When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you’re not asking if it’s any good compared to Mystic River, you’re asking if it’s any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then The United States of Leland clocks in at about two.”

    He reviews films for what he believes is its prospective audience. In your review of Natural Selection 2, I believe you gave too much of your own taste of the game and genre in your review.

    I also believe your stance on its graphics and art style is wrong, but that’s just my opinion and taste. :) It’s worth to note that all maps do feature the same art set and go along some sort of story, akin to Team Fortress 2 map sets for instance. The new art set will look like this http://i.imgur.com/JyLSRh.jpg !

    • Thanks for this great comment. I’m aware of Roger Ebert’s stance, and I like his writing and criticism very much. I feel like I was reviewing the game for shooter fans, but shooter fans of all levels and skills. Natural Selection 2 is definitely a solid shooter — remember, I did score it higher than average — just one for a very highly skilled crowd, which I think takes away from its appeal. It’s also one that doesn’t make the right moves to make it more accessible. You might compare, for example, “Le Chien Andalou” to a Fellini film — both are European art house films from a long time ago, but the Fellini films are much more accessible to a wide audience and therefore, in my opinion, more worthy of people going to see them.

      Thanks so much for this comment, and thanks for taking the time to read this.

      • I believe that is its appeal. There are far too many shooters that try to be accessible to large crowds that it’s great to see one that isn’t afraid to be niche. To each his own, though.

        Thanks for reading my comment!

  8. Thanks for writing this. I respect that you stand by your review score, and that you actually use the full 10-point spectrum of scoring (unlike most game reviewers). At the end of the day, the 6.0 score still reflects your honest view of the game. I guess this just shows the fallacies of the numerical scoring system.

  9. I appreciate this article, but I just want to point out that, on a personal level, I feel like the main issue with your review is that you barely scratched the surface of a very in-depth and complex game. This isn’t a standard modern FPS, but it felt like you expected it to be another typical point-and-shoot FPS. I can’t blame you directly, and I am probably biased as a long-time NS1 veteran, but it irked me how, for lack of a better term, bland you seemed to feel the game was. Games like Call of Duty are easy to grasp in 8 hours – kill enemies, play an objective, rinse, repeat, upgrade.

    Maybe NS2 just takes too long to fully grasp for a standard review, or maybe you had some bad luck in teams, but this type of game needs to be reviewed with a perspective similar of MOBA or Strategy games – a la Starcraft 2 or Dota 2. It takes a relatively long time to understand all the aspects of this game, but it is incredibly rewarding when you do. It definitely doesn’t help that there’s no real tutorial in the game.

    I can’t really blame you for giving it ~8 hours before writing the review, but if you put the same amount of time into Dota 2 and then tried to review it, players would tear you apart for still essentially being completely new to the game. I think that’s essentially what happened here, but given the way the game is played, it’s not immediately evident how much depth there is. I don’t blame you for the (minor) factual mistakes you made, but I feel like you weren’t able to fully understand the game, and, as I’m sure you know, that is critical for writing an accurate review.

      • Thanks. I took a look at the reddit thread. It’s interesting to see how people feel about the original review — and me. Although I do stand by how I scored the game, I do feel the review score ought to be changed on MetaCritic as a result of GameSpot’s decision to pull the review, and that makes me feel really bad.

        Thanks for putting me onto that Reddit thread. Didn’t know there was a subreddit for Natural Selection 2!

    • I completely understand your point of view. Please keep in mind that I did score the game above average, and I did have much to say about it that was positive. It’s not that I didn’t understand the game, I hope, so much as it is that I felt it was attempting to hit a broader audience than it was really designed to go after. I just feel like a modern shooter, if it’s going to have broad appeal, needs to have more hand holding. I know a lot of hard core gamers don’t want to hear that — and I can appreciate why they don’t — but one of the things we come to expect from broad-based FPS titles, like it or not, is accessibility. I felt one of NS2′s big failings was its lack thereof.

      That said, I did like the game, and scored it positively. Thanks very much for taking the time to read this, and for your comments here.

  10. You had similar problems with other reviews… Uber’s MNC for example. Maybe you should pick a different profession, like writing the blurbs on the back of Porn DVD’s.

    That way you can jerk yourself off and get paid for it, which is what it seemed is your intent from the smug dismissive uninformed reviews you have written.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way about my reviews. That certainly makes me feel I’ve let you down as far as my writing goes.

      I have absolutely had controversy surrounding some of my other reviews, but I have never had a review posted that I didn’t feel deserve to be published. That’s all I can tell you.

      Thanks for your comment here.

  11. Pingback: Reviewer Apologizes For Factual Inaccuracies In Pulled GameSpot Review | Internet Blog About Technical Stuff

  12. Wow, I’ve been reading about this for days now! I may be a little disrespectful but: isn’t this being blown out of proportion? Like children going to therapy because of an afterschool fight.

    People make mistakes in reviews all the time. I’m not here to spread the flames of judgement(mainly because I haven’t had the chance to read the vilified text), but as deep as your resume of pulled out reviews go, in this case, being it an independent game and all that, your mistakes work both ways. I mean, even I noticed the game just because of this. Sure I’ve seen it on Steam and heard of it before(and maybe tried to install the first one years ago), but I’ve never really developed a sense of awareness about it, until now.

  13. IMO the fact that you made a few minor factual inaccuracies just made it easy for people to shun the whole review. I think 6 or 7 out of 10 is a fair score for NS2.

    I don’t understand why you say you would write to metacritic if you could to take the rating down, since you also say you stand by that rating. Either you stand by the review or you don’t?

    Isn’t that the whole point of metacritics policy to protect reviewers from being pressured into changing ratings. I think it’s funny how much of a shit storm as came about just because the game got a 6/10…the factual errors were very minor and a non-issue imo.

    • Thanks for your comment here. The MetaCritic thing is unfortunate, but I understand why they don’t change their score. Doing so would make any review susceptible to a firestorm of criticism and change on MetaCritic after the fact, and would only encourage witch hunting.

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and my review, and I appreciate you sharing your opinion.

    • Reviews of games shouldn’t be make so quickly that they have multiple errors, it’d probably go away with little drama if he only made one or two. I can’t really say I agree with the way he used terms such as “grinding” in terms of learning; you can’t say Starcraft 2 has a grind because it takes a while to learn how to react to certain strategies. It’s not really unjustified to say the review is off if what he knows about the game is incorrect.

  14. You know what? Sh*t happens…
    You ended up with a half assed review and that’s what you spit out.. It’s fine, I get it.

    You partially admit that , and that’s cool..

    I, personally, forgive you.. I do expect you make the promise to avoid half assing reviews in the future, as you hopefully see that giving something a real fair shake is really important to gamers.. I expect you can win some people back with some real solid reviews in the future. I’m not saying like every game that comes out, but rather be more detailed in what/why your feeling the way you are. Justify yourself to us so we can feel it too and agree or disagree. This is what I mean by not half assing your reviews.

    • I always try to justify my points in my reviews, and I felt I did that pretty well in the Natural Selection 2 review. The honest truth is that I felt the game was above average, but not great, and my review reflected that. I will definitely endeavor not to make factual mistakes going forward, however.

      Thanks for reading this and for commenting.

  15. “…I feel like I was reviewing the game for shooter fans, but shooter fans of all levels and skills. Natural Selection 2 is definitely a solid shooter…”

    This quote in your reply comment pretty much sums up the reason that people seem to dislike your review, the score you gave, and the fact that you are stating to stand by the review.
    As has been said before, 8 hours is not enough time to give the game a complete and fair review, which is why you continue to state that you only made two factual errors when I could find several more if we wanted to get nitpicky about things.

    While Natural Selection 2 does include shooting as a fundamental aspect of the game, it is first and foremost a strategy game at its roots.

    I also should state that I generally don’t bother with game reviews and choose games based on friends’ advice and gameplay videos. But kudos to you for working in a field that is sure to be very demanding yet hopefully fun while knowing that no matter what you publish you will always get bashed by a certain percentage of people.

    • I appreciate it, man, and you’re right, there are definite strategy aspects to the game, but only one player on a team at a given time is really going to be cast in a strategy role, so to me, it’s primarily got to be judged by its FPS aspects. I do touch on the strategy potion, however.

      I really appreciate your comments here, and your taking the time to communicate with me. Do you have a Twitter? I’ll follow you.

    • I’m actually strictly freelance, so I can’t technically be fired. I have a day job, which I do apart from writing about games, which doesn’t pay enough to make a living, sadly. I’m just a working stiff — but I am hoping not to get fired anytime soon!

  16. Someone wrote this on the ns2 forums and I thought it was a good point…

    “Considering the state of games today (cookie cutters of each other, yes I am looking at all you boring modern military shooters) I will give you that the game lacks a “newbie” tutorial and may not be the most newbie friendly game out there. Beyond that, few games are much of a challenge anymore; they are all more time sinks to get grind out good gear. Thank god for NS2. Having to learn about a game is not a Bad Thing™. And frankly, if someone is that scared to lose or get beat up in game that they won’t jump in and learn to play, I won’t miss them.

    His initial review seems to smack of just the type of person that loves COD: LXXI Now with MOAR GUNZ! and can’t be bothered to learn about the game. NS2 may not be for everyone, and that is fine. Sadly most games seem to be more interested in selling boxes than providing a lasting and deep game play environment.

    I am even more leery when a game reviewer comments on aliens “seeing through their mouths” and complains about players shouting “unintelligible Natural Selection cant”. It starts to sound like “I got owned therefore this game sucks”.

    All in all, the initial review appears ill-informed and poorly tested. The “retraction” seems forced and insincere. I do not believe the reviewer was being intentionally malicious; but negligent in his initial review.”

  17. I agreed completely with your review. There were a few inaccuracies but honestly they weren’t the large glaring problems everyone’s making them out to be… I mean, the game has been sold for $40, $30, and $25. The infestation IS creep. There isn’t a very useful tutorial. The loading times are terrible for certain people. There are only a handful of maps and some maps (ns_veil) don’t work at all on certain PC’s. There were disconnect errors and some pretty major balance issues that they’re still trying to fix. I paid $30 for the game fairly early on in development, and am VERY happy with my purchase. But the game really did deserve a 6/10 on release. It just wasn’t finished yet.

    They even admit to releasing the alpha before it was an alpha, and I believe that’s something that’s affected the game throughout it’s life. The following is a quote from an interview on Rock Paper Shotgun:

    They know because even their most rabidly dedicated followers have been put to the test. It all began with an alpha that – in all honesty – was “alpha” in name more than anything else.

    “We just… We felt like we had to call it ‘alpha’ because we needed the press,” Cleveland reflects. “We needed people to get excited about something and actually play it and maybe drive pre-orders. We probably could have called it a ‘development build,’ now that I look back on it. That might have worked. People were just expecting something more. They legitimately deserved to get more, but we didn’t have any more. We had to release something, because we needed the influx of money from new pre-orders.”

    While i’m sympathetic towards the developers, it doesn’t make me think any better of their game. I believe that the game still should have been in alpha when the beta was started, and I believe the game at release was and is still very much a beta.

      • Yeah, unfortunately this game has some pretty rabid fanboys. I see people who bring up valid issues the game has get berated and insulted and told to leave the community on a regular basis, even guys who have been playing Natural Selection games since the beginning. It’s pretty sad. I wish my glasses were rose tinted too.

  18. Eric, you are an irresponsible fool. The NS2 mistake aside, your other reviews are woefully pathetic and should not be published by any gaming outlet. I genuinely hope your career as a video game reviewer is over, for the sake of developers and consumers alike. Ever wonder why you have had similar incidents in the past? It’s not because you’re some e-savior, bringing in the ‘hard-hitting video game journalism;’ it’s because you need to find a new career.

    • Thanks for this comment. Actually, video games writing is not my career, I’m strictly freelance and I do it mostly on the side because video games is a major passion of mine, and I enjoy writing about them. I maintain a day job, and am a regular working stiff outside of my games writing.

  19. Pingback: Reviewer Apologises For Factual Inaccuracies In Pulled GameSpot Review | Kotaku Australia

  20. You did play 8 hours before writing the review? That’d be about 10 – 25 game rounds then.

    Sorry but that’s extremely hard to believe. You’d have noticed only the very first time you ever load up a map it’ll take those 5 minutes of loading time you assumed would be the case every time. That’s because the very first time you load up a map (- and after each game patch) the game pre-caches all the shaders and models onto your HDD. Then, if you shut down the game and restart your computer or whatever the next time you load a map it’ll only take about 30 – 90s to load up a map, depending on your system.

    And why the heck did you write “the game looks dated”? I mean compare it to the latest CoD, it certainly looks better than that?! The textures are actually extremely high-res compared to all those console ports, on high most of them are in fact 2048×2048.
    Also, pretty much no other engine has fully featured -dynamic- lightning! Every single light source is dynamic, no light comes pre-rendered. That means every light has an impact on the shadows (yes, multiple!) your model generates.. Ever seen a dark room with multiple marines in it with their flash lights on, being attacked by sneaky skulks? That looks so gorgeous. Even though you cannot fully see the beauty because the game is just so damn fast… But if you take a screenshot at the right time it’ll look absolutely fantastic.
    And even in commander mode the game is at least on par with Starcraft 2 in visuals.

    I honestly got the impression you did only play one single map, took a peek at both sides, got killed multiple times and then ragequit to write that review. After 8 hours of playing this game you’d have had a much better understanding of what’s going on, assuming you communicate with other players.

    NS2 does not deserve a 10/10 currently. It has issues.
    But there’s so much potential that -will- be used in the future (free updates!) that the current 8/10 (which I agree with) will turn into a 10/10 in about 6-12 months. I did write the devs about that, I hoped they would release it later and give it even more dev time because reviews will only review a game once. But they really wanted to get it out now. Probably because of finances…

    I’m sure UWE will spend a lot more time on NS2 until it’s close to the perfect game in this genre. The learning curve however will not change, the game has too much depths for that. And depths is what I love about NS2 and what made me spend countless hours on it.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m sorry you feel I gave the game short shrift, but I assure you that I spent quite a while at it before I wrote the review. I admit I failed for most of that time, to be any good at it, however!

      I see what you mean about the graphics, but I wasn’t referring to the engine’s capabilities so much as the plainness of the look of the game — it’s GUI, the map texture variety, etc.

      As for the loading times, all I can tell you is that I did experience extremely long loading times at every instance I loaded a level. At one point I literally went to play on my XBOX while I waited for the game to load, and it was still loading when I returned shortly thereafter.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and comment. I’m glad that many people feel so strongly about Natural Selection 2, and if you read my review, you’ll see that I have many positive things to say about the game — and I did give it a better-than-average score, keep in mind. Thanks again.

      • “I did give it a better-than-average score, keep in mind. Thanks again.”

        Neither Median mode nor mean. On metacritic 6/10 is a veritable death sentence, doomed to loiter below countless mediocre titles without merit or innovation.

      • “Neither Median mode nor mean. On metacritic 6/10 is a veritable death sentence, doomed to loiter below countless mediocre titles without merit or innovation.”

        Why? because gamers are FUCKING SHEEP and have been conditioned to think the rating system goes from 7-10 FUCK THEM and FUCK YOU for pushing it’s continuation. Pc gamers the master race LMFAO no

  21. I definitely disagree with your original assessment of the game. As someone new to the genre of FPS-Strategy hybrids, NS2 was a really refreshing game that was reasonably priced, had huge replayability, and a hugely supportive community of new and experienced players. I’ve played many competitive shooters on PC, and NS2 certainly has one of the more friendly communities out there – which is especially important given the significance of teamplay. For me, NS2 worked right out of the box (even with my old 256mb 8800GT, Q9650, 8GB ram and platter harddrive).

    With regard to load times – they are looonnggg. But these times are not long relative to the length of each match – we’re not talking about 5 minute CS rounds here. I’ve played rounds lasting up to 90 minutes, and my average round seems to last anywhere from 30-40 minutes.

    That said, I completely defend your right to criticise the game. I’m certain 99% of complaints about your review are due to this impression that you ‘were too harsh,’ or ‘didn’t play it enough.’ Clearly the factual inconsistencies should be corrected, but these are really marginal issues that probably didn’t drastically alter your opinion of the game.

    Although I’m not a journalist (but a law student :P) I suppose these concerns could have been alleviated through the manner in which you leveled your criticism. I haven’t read your review (since it was pulled), but as other people have stated they disagreed with the ‘tone’ of your piece which you may not have intended.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck in your next journalistic review.

  22. Pingback: Author of pulled Natural Selection 2 review on GameSpot UK apologizes, Metacritic score doesn’t change - PCGMedia

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