Reviews always have a discussion looming around them. Whether it be the quality of the review, the actual score given to the review, or the reviewer themselves, there’s always something that comes up in their discussion. But this time around, the Washington Post’s review of Uncharted 4 was put in the spotlight and a pretty bright one at that. Because not only did famous voice actor Troy Baker support a petition to remove the score from Metacritic, it now has over 5,000 supporters, and has sparked a debate within the games industry.
The petition itself describes the review as “a utter disgrace”, and talks about the fact that developers deserve more than what the Washington Post gave in that particular writing piece. “Even the editor of the Washington Post is confused with this piece of biased journalism” say the petition, which goes on to say “Something needs to happen. Just look at the track record of this guy, Dark Souls 2, worst game ever?” While petitions like these may not get a lot of direction out of them, they do cause the topic they surround to be discussed a bit more, as the petition is passed person to person.
Reviews range in how much subjective versus subjective they have and also how much in the critique versus buyer’s guide they have. Thomsen’s review is more on the critique and focuses primarily on the subjective story elements to comment on more so than other elements like gameplay. Just because a review disagrees with what another person had or scores under a certain amount doesn’t make it invalid or disrespect the developers. It’s the content and the accuracy of the experience within the review, along with if the review was truly representative of the person’s experience.
The controversial review was written by Michael Thomsen, who hasn’t exactly been easy on well-received games in the past, such as Dark Souls. His score was a 40/100, which is 40 points lower than the second lowest review on Metacritic. This outlier was enough to drop the metascore from a 94 to a 93 with its existence alone, although that’s not a big score drop in the big picture. It sould be noted specifically that Metacritic did not assign the score in question, but the reviewer himself provides the score when submitting to Metacritic. As noted in a Forbes piece, Mr. Thomsen indicated he gave the game that score, and that the decision was out of his hands on why it’s not shown on the page. He makes points regarding the game “overflowing with useless detail”, as the visuals overwhelm the player, not allowing them to focus on the task at hand. Even other critics such as Jason Schreier call the review into question, indicating that the review “fails to make a convincing case that Nathan Drake’s story is an inconclusive wreck”. However, because reviews are based on the reviewer experience, many have called the petition backwards, saying that just because the game was given that score, doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of being listed.
Even adding more confusion is that there’s another review via the Washington Post that reviews the game, giving the game 4 out of 4 stars. Now note, that review is done by the Associated Press, so it’s not directly done by a Washington Post writer. This is most likely why Thomsen’s review, and not that review, is listed on Metacritic.
Others disagree, and Troy Baker (the voice behind Sam Drake) was one of those people, at least for a time. He tweeted out the petition and support for it yesterday as listed here:
— Troy Baker (@TroyBakerVA) May 15, 2016
However, he has clarified his position and indicated that the tweet he made was brash. He cited being involved in the project and putting a lot of love into it, and that it left him with a feeling of wanting to protect his project. Troy goes on to say that he wants to facilitate conversation and that his initial reaction did a disservice to both him and others.
One of the biggest issues at the heart of this seems to be the inclusion of the score itself. The review does not have a score listed on the Washington Post page, and yet, a score does appear on Metacritic. Now, this is not new for the Washington Post, as I have written about this very situation before in an editorial. But since that piece, Metacritic has introduced a Progress and Unscored Reviews sections. That would seemingly be the section that this review and those others would fall into. Now they don’t get the front page billing like the other reviews, but it would still be listed by Metacritic themselves. You’d have to go into the listing of all reviews however, as the front page listes the top 6 and bottom few of the review scores in general.
Look, I think the review is poorly written and doesn’t do a good job of making its argument at all. It has a right to exist, even though I think the reviewer did not give the game a fair chance into the review. HOWEVER, it should be listed under the Unscored portion of the page. I made that clear in my original editorial: if Metacritic is going around saying that scores are a basis for that metarating, and the original review did not have that score listed, this leads to confusion. A completely different reaction could be gotten if one person gets the review via the main Washington Post website, as opposed to going through Metacritic. That doesn’t do the reader any good.