It has been a busy few months for the games industry with some absolutely stonking games landing at our feet. Since my last blog post I have reviewed quite a few titles but the stand-outs for me are Nier: Automata, Rain World and the just released Prey. If you are looking for a new game to sink your time into I can recommend all three of these games for different reasons: check the reviews section for more details.
Prey has actually arrived amidst some fairly controversial goings-on. The most notable of these was IGN giving the game a score of 4/10 (since changed to 8/10) due to a progression halting bug they encountered. As always with the internet, opinions will vary, but my own take on this 'review' is that it was not a review at all but a journalistic tantrum by a guy who should know better. I have never used game scores in my critiques and never will. I believe they devalue the review, become impossible to balance (due to endless comparisons) and, to be frank, are not worth the trouble. Obviously, other sites can do as they wish because that is their prerogative. However, when you are the biggest games media site on the planet you would be foolish not to at least understand that an unfair score will have far-reaching consequences for that games developer. People could (and will likely) lose their jobs, that particular series could be discontinued but the most annoying for me: a person could be put off playing a game they would have loved. All these things should not influence a critic's verdict but these potential consequences do mean that every critic has a duty to review each game fully and fairly. Six days after release and the bug has been completely fixed, yet that crushing score will now remain on the internet across various sites forever. I personally think this is a tragedy for a game that is this good, has taken some risks and has clearly been a labour of love for the team at Arkane.
If I'm being fair, I also have to lay some blame for this situation at the feet of Bethesda due to their ridiculous policy regarding review copies. When the big B announced they would no longer be furnishing media sites with advanced copies for the purpose of review journalists were collectively flabbergasted. The problem now is that all sites get a game on launch day and must then scramble to get a review out before it loses its relevance. This means that gamers who want to play on release day must go into a purchase blind, not only in terms of game quality but also regarding bugs and performance issues (this is especially critical for PC Gamers). Now to be frank, I don't care about being first out as my reviews are a work of passion and I'm not in this for the clicks. In contrast, most big media sites live and die by the Internet traffic they generate. I believe it is this pressure that has already led to many reviews by mainstream sites being rushed out of the door. In the case of Prey, rather than wait for a fix (which we knew was coming) IGN slapped a big 'do not buy' on Prey and moved on. This is a very shitty thing to do considering how much weight IGN have in the world of gaming. The bottom line for me is this: if you haven't played the game you can't publish a review. Interestingly, Dan Stapleton (who reviewed Prey for IGN) suggested on Twitter that my very existence makes him angry and I make 'the rest of us' (I assume proper reviewers) look bad. I must admit I am surprised that IGN are happy for their editors to throw abuse around on social media unchecked: maybe Dan should watch Kingsmen for a lesson in manners.
Moving on, the future of two game series have sailed into murky water this week. With the mixed reception of Mass Effect Andromeda, it seems EA have been doing a bit of soul-searching. They have now confirmed the Mass Effect journey will be going on a 'hiatus'. I personally enjoyed elements of Andromeda but also recognise it was loaded with problems and repetitive gameplay loops. Let us hope they wipe the board clean (again) and this time focus on innovation, as well as what made the series great in the first place. Some Q&A would also be champion. Also this week Square Enix have announced a split with Hitman's creators IO Interactive. This decision comes in the wake of some massive financial losses for the publisher. All is not lost, however, as there seems to be plenty of interest from third parties in picking up the Danish developer. There are good indications that the game's second season is actually well into development, so hopefully Agent 47 will be back with us soon. Regardless, we wish the people over at IO Interactive the very best of luck during this uncertain period.
So what's next for gaming in 2017? Well, dare I say it, there are a quiet few weeks coming up as we start the final approach to E3. Obviously, there will be leaks and rumours galore, as always I'll be scanning the airwaves for all PC related game news. I am going to be spending the next few weeks working on the website and getting my recording studio finished off. I might also have a jaunt through all them early access games I keep buying and see what the current state of play is.
Lastly, I am thrilled to announce that I have been granted a press pass for Gamescom 2017, which means I'll be covering the event from Cologne this year. Rigged for Epic started out as a small project but now seems to be growing bigger than I'd ever hoped and these last few months I've hit some important milestones. I think the question of whether to start producing video content is now a matter of when and not if. Thank you to everyone who reads my work and especially my friends in the Exterminatus Gaming community: if you are looking for a solid group to game with you could do a lot worse.