I try to write reasoned, well-thought out posts. I’m warning you that this is not one of those posts. It’s pure, white-hot rage at something that I feel is a blight on gaming culture. Be advised.
Some Uncharted fans, and one of its voice actors, who is a high-profile figure in the business, are upset because a critic dared to—GASP!—not give the series’ most recent entry an absolutely glowing review. So they’ve started a petition to have the review removed from Uncharted 4's Meteoritic score.
“A review is not about what you think a game is , its about what a game is,” the petition reads.
If you want to know what the game IS, then read the promotional material sent out by the publisher and/or developer. The entire point of a review is for a critic to give their opinion on a game’s overall quality.
“Objective measures are applied,” it goes on to say.
Right, it’s time everybody got past this objectivity nonsense. A review is by its very nature subjective. It’s impossible to give a review of anything without injecting your own values, experiences, and even prejudices. Yes, ideally a critic can look past their personal biases and acknowledge a game’s strengths, as well as be able to identify structural and technical flaws, but the reviewer has every right in the world to interpret the material through their own personal scope.
If I’m a minority, and thus more likely to be a target of racism, then I’m going to be more aware of racist humor and offensive stereotypes. Even if I’m not a minority, I could still have a trained eye and ear for this material. If I see it in a game (or movie, or book, or take your pick), that’s going to influence my overall opinion of it, and since a review is an opportunity for me to state my overall opinion, guess what? Those thoughts are going to make it into my review. Ideally, I can acknowledge what the game gets right, but if the content completely turns me off from playing it, that’s probably what I’m going to say.
If I’m relatively new to a genre, such as first-person shooters, and I’m assigned one to review by my editor, I may find the game play particularly difficult. My review will probably reflect on that. I may even use words like “unbalanced” and “artificial difficulty.” Yes, it’s best I point out that I’m new to FPS games, but just because I’m new to the genre doesn’t make my opinion invalid. After all, other people new to the genre are going to be reading my review. Also, if I’m an old pro and find the game to be a cakewalk, am I beholden to disclose that as well?
If you want hard data (such as frame rate, whether or not the game has glitches, if it crashes under certain conditions, how many levels it has, etc.), there are places to get this information. It’s not the duty of every reviewer to give you a rundown of the game’s nuts and bolts: they only need to relay their reflections on their experiences with the game. That’s all any reviewer owes anyone. Some do it better than others, but that is the entirety of their job description.
And while I’m on my soapbox, the first two Uncharted games were mediocre at best, downright horrible at worst. Sure, they looked good, and they told an entertaining summer movie adventure story, but there’s only so many bullet-sponge enemies, paint-by-numbers puzzles, and boring no-stakes platforming I can take. I played the first one to see what the big deal was, and stuck through to the end just because the story was genuinely entertaining—even if I was slightly bothered by the fact that I was playing a white man killing people of color by the dozens for the first 3/4 of the game. Seriously, where there NO white dudes at the Unemployed Henchman Office?
The second one made some improvements (you weren’t operating as a de facto ethnic cleanser for one thing) and the segment that had you fighting your way through a caravan is one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in a game. But as a whole, it just wasn’t that good. The combat was just as repetitive as before, and it felt rigidly scripted much like Call of Duty. The visual design and popcorn cinematic tale kept me intrigued enough to keep playing, but I wasn’t having fun so much as I was just killing time until I finally saw why this game was such a big deal. Come to find out, it seems like the fact that you’re playing as an Indiana Jones stand-in by way of Nathan Fillion is the big deal, because that’s all I got out of the game.
This critic didn’t like Uncharted 4, and that’s why people are angry—not because his review was poorly written or unfounded. I mean, when you have lines like “It harms the Flawless reputation of the game for absolutely no reason,” that’s nothing but pure fanboyism right there. What’s worse, I bet everyone that signs this petition would get their torches and pitchforks ready if a developer changed the way a female and/or minority character was portrayed in a game due to public pressure, crying “censorship” and “PC pandering,” yet here they are trying to control the critical narrative around a major release just because somebody dared to hurt that’s game pitiful little feelings.
If only they could be a little more objective about the whole thing.