Posted by: Chris | April 30, 2010

Playing the Whole Thing

I, through a round-about series of links, came across this repository of very lengthy reviews, all of which aspire towards something deeper than your average industry reviews.   From a quick skimming, I can’t say I recommend them too highly.  Even on games where we were both deeply in agreement on the general quality of the final product, I found myself quite unconvinced by their argumentation.

However, their review of Bioshock really irked me (I guess that has been happening a lot lately).  It becomes incredibly clear, from the anecdotes given, the way characters are referred to, and his general assumptions about the game’s intent, that the reviewer did not finish the game.  He tries to hide this by padding the review with absurd nitpicks about realism and user-friendliness, but I doubt he got much further than the sub incident he mentions in the review.  Thus missed out on the pivotal climatic scene 2/3 of the way through the game (in addition to the best level design and characters).*  In your average industry review, this might not be a problem (and is probably common practice), as they deal with simple questions of mechanics or graphics and one can geshtalt these within a couple hours.   But if you are going pontificate about the games’ point or lecture the developers on how they should restructure things for a better payoff or write an article whose fucking lede is “[X] is not art,” then you better have seen things to their conclusion to make sure your assumptions rang true. 

Most reviews can defend the practice by arguing that they simply do not have the time to play everything ever made start to finish, but these guys chose titles judiciously and take their sweet time reviewing (and, based on word counts, still have plenty of free time).  Moreover, they have pretensions toward more intelligently appraising the medium, which requires consideration of not just the disparate parts of a game but their sum.  Thus, we have the amusing spectacle of a reviewer scoffing at the rubes who would appreciate such dreck, oblivious to the fact that he isn’t wearing any pants.

*The thought occurs to me that the big reason I noticed things were awry is because Bioshock changes so dramatically midway through.  I wonder how often he attempts this.

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