Another odd dispute has arisen with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League right before the launch of Early Access. It’s now apparent that even with the distribution of review codes, the press and content creators will not be able to play until the servers go live on Tuesday, when those who have purchased the deluxe edition for $100 can begin playing.
On top of this, IGN revealed that they were informed that they would not receive review codes at all, seemingly due to a negative preview they published of the game after a two-hour event that did not go well.
However, what I’ve observed, perhaps somewhat predictably these days, is a flood of gamers and occasional YouTubers claiming that IGN did not “deserve” a code after a negative preview like that, and were “hate-baiting” after running that preview and sharing it on social media multiple times in a few days (from the IGN account with 50 tweets a day, mind you).
It’s a peculiar situation when the argument is “review sites are pointless, and players should make up their own minds!” While I understand the choice to believe or ignore advance reviews is up to anyone, the idea that there should not be advance coverage and outlets should be penalized for not being suitably enthusiastic for a game is baffling.
This is especially true when players are being asked not just for $70 for games like Suicide Squad, but now $100 for a few days of early access, as it seems like you would want some sense of how the game might be from dozens of sites or creators before committing that amount. In some cases, you can get refunds if you don’t like it, in others you can’t.
I also simply don’t accept this argument that no one cares about reviews anymore and they’re just pointless. Metacritic, for all the criticism it receives, is universally given weight by publishers and players alike. And generally speaking it’s…rarely all that off the mark. Games with extremely high Metascores often are GOTY contenders or winners (Baldur’s Gate 3, Elden Ring, Tears). Anything above an 85-90, which is considered a high bar, is usually excellent. Lower down the list, something like Starfield getting an 83 was disappointing in the industry context of being a mainline Bethesda game. Then as you go further down, games in the 50s-60s are often some of the worst mainline releases of the year and have even led to entire studio shutdowns. You will not hear many player defenses of those titles from Redfall to the Saints Row reboot. More than players realize, they and the critics they often berate are usually on the same page if you zoom out.
Both critics and players have the same objective, figuring out if a game is enjoyable. Early critic reviews may give you some insight into that, though whether you choose to agree or disagree is up to you. Having no information does not serve anyone. Publishers, meanwhile, only want the absolutely highest scores possible, for the reasons I just mentioned, as higher scores mean more attention and often higher sales. So yes, many of them will go down a list and select which outlets they believe will or won’t like the game, and plan review copies accordingly (we saw this happen to some extent with Starfield too, recently, and in general, it happens more than you think). In Suicide Squad’s case, it looks even worse because it’s not just the IGN thing, it’s that there will be no reviews ahead of early access $100 launch. Yes, the “server thing,” but with nine years of development and two years of marketing, it feels like some sort of interim solution could have been found here. And none of this was even communicated at all until the last few days before launch.
I don’t understand the hostility toward critics, as accustomed to it as I am by now. This claim that everyone is just “hate-baiting” instead of…giving their actual opinion is bizarre, as of course the other side of the coin is “shilling” for a game with the idea that good scores are given out for buying ads on the website or something. Everything’s a conspiracy when the reality is much simpler. Critics either like games or they don’t, and they don’t reshape their views based on something as simplistic as page views or early review codes.
I do think all players have the right to “make up their own minds,” but when the requirement to do that is paying $70-100 up front, perhaps you do want a bit more perspective than the official marketing from the publisher itself. Just saying.
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