In Depth: Backlash Begins on Unleashed Reviews

In Depth: Backlash Begins on Unleashed Reviews

by November 28, 2008

Accusations of Bias, Unnecessary Harshness Fly

Hell hath no fury like a Sonic fan scorned.

When it became evident that the mainstream gaming media–the places where millions go to get a more concrete verdict on anything from Halo to Mario, wasn’t going to take too kindly to Sonic Unleashed, serious division began to split certain factions of the Sonic community.  It wasn’t over the game itself, however; it was over whether they would truly believe what they were hearing.

The game’s scores are all over the place, with numbers ranging on a 10 range anywhere from a 4 to a 9, and the Wii/PS2 edition faring much better thus far than the visually prettier XBOX360/PS3 variant.  With such wild inconsistency, many who love the hedgehog are now swearing off those reviewers, saying they are out of touch.

It’s not happening so much in direct response to the reviews.  What few responses there have been on some of the reviews appear mostly in agreement with them.  When GameDaily gave the Wii edition a 7 out of 10, one such comment read in response:

Oh Sonic..when will u be good again?

And more recently, when Eurogamer put their two cents in on the XBOX360 edition, giving the title a lowly four out of 10, most commenting on that review were in agreement that Sonic just isn’t what it used to be.  User skankmustard wrote in response:

The blue hedgehog has a special place in my heart, Sonic 1 & 2 were the games that took me away from my Atari ST and got me into console gaming. But since the Dreamcast every game for home consoles has got worse and worse, to the point where I don’t count the new Sonic games as actual Sonic games, they are more like straight to DVD spin offs from much loved movie franchises. I hope this game fails so the good memory of proper Sonic games can be untarnished.

And SpyroViper continued:

Why can’t they just listen to what fans are left of Sonic and MAKE A SONIC GAME THAT GOES BACK TO IT’S ROOTS! Seriously, someone at Sega needs to replay Sonic 1 and 2 and think ok, these were succesful what are we doing wrong.. I’ll tell you what you are doing wrong Sega.. MAKING STUPID WEREHOG LEVELS!! Forget Stupid ‘other’ characters. Jsut make a simple 2.5D Sonic and Tails game that has speed, fun factor and simple bosses.

If Capcom can Bring Mega Man back to it’s roots, so can you.

While there are a few dissenting comments, contrary to what you’ve just read, on the major sites thus far they are in the minority.  It’s only when you get to more Sonic-centric communities where you’ll find a lot of distrust and even anger for not giving this game a fair shake.

“I personally could care less about reviews right now,” said Roffles, a member of the Sonic Stadium community.  His comments are buried within a now sixty plus page thread on the forum meant to exclusively discuss the reviews Sonic Unleashed is getting.

But since much of the mainstream has gone negative on the game, plenty of the discussion this week has degenerated into arguments and anger over whether the major players in gaming journalism just don’t get Sonic anymore–or whether they finished the game at all.  Many feel those in the media have had enough with the 2006 edition of Sonic the Hedgehog, and have since resorted to nitpicking every Sonic title which follows it, docking major points off a game for what could be otherwise considered minor flaws or inconsistencies.

Take a look at what another SSMB forumer, Cody, said about the review process:

…It’s just that for this game the only people we are seeing do the reviews are people who really won’t give the game a chance. I mean, sure, they say that they just dislike Werehog and overuse of him, but really, it’s most likely because they didn’t try playing far enough into it to give Werehog a chance. Sure, at the start Werehog is annoying to play as, but within the future (more upgrades later), we get to the point that the Werehog is overall really fun to play. And his overuse is only at the start, where you end up having to be force-fed everything you play (this even includes that hideous Tornado game). However, if they didn’t just pick up the game for about the 1st 20 minutes, nagging at the force-feeding and that it was another step in the wrong direction, they could’ve just played through the whole game (ain’t THAT hard to beat, besides Eggmanland) and given it a fair rating. And that is also why I considered Hardcore Gamer’s score was fair, because it seems that they actually went through the game completely. I mean, in all seriousness, I don’t believe that Unleashed deserves a rating LOWER than Nextgens’. mad.gif That’s why I don’t like Gameinformer. They never look on the bright side of any series that isn’t Mario or a 1st person shooter.

Another SSMBer, famicommander, said:

By not finishing a game they are doing a disservice to their readers, the publisher, and the developer of the game. It shouldn’t matter how many hours there are in a week. If they can’t handle their own workload, they either need to hire more journalists or take on a smaller work load. That’s all there is to it. Getting a complete review a day later is a hell of a lot better than getting an incomplete review a day earlier.

It wouldn’t be acceptable for someone to do a movie review after watching 45 minutes of the film, it wouldn’t be acceptable to review an album after listening to three tracks, and it wouldn’t be acceptable for someone to do a book review after reading five chapters. If video games are truly art, they need to be held to the same standards as other art mediums.

Game journalists have no right at all to claim objectivity and then review a game with only a subjective sense of what they think is a reasonable enough portion to tell us about the game. And I’m well aware that most journalists finish the vast majority of the games they play, but how are we to know if they don’t make it clear which games they didn’t finish?

A great example would be the recent Tomb Raider game for Wii. Apparently, there is a game-ending glitch that occurs in many copies of the game, yet no reviewers caught it. They spent their hard-earned money on the game, and Eidos responded to the problem by telling the gamers to “load their last save and try again”. If the game reviewers had been thorough, many people would have saved 50 dollars. That is supposed to be the point of a review source; to give us a sense of what to expect from a game before we have to spend any money on it.

Conversely, there may be some sort of side boss fight in a game that is absolutely amazing. But the readers may not get to learn about it if the reviewer decides that the main run through of the game is all that we need to hear.

Game review sources have no right to punish the consumer because they bit off more than they could chew. The obvious exceptions would be games that truly don’t end, such as Animal Crossing. But they need to experience all that is humanly possible to experience in the game before they try to inform us about the quality.

In short and to the point games like Sonic Unleashed or God of War especially, there is no excuse for not completing it.

SSMBer PorcupineTree continues:

I am a paralegal and I don’t have a degree in the field, yet I am still considered a professional and as such I have to maintain a level of professionalism, which is alot higher than that of any game reveiwers.

It doesn’t matter if you have a degree or not, in the business world a certain level of professionalism is expected. When I go to a store to purchase something and need some help I expect the clerks to at the very least have some knowledge on the topic and if a major issue arise that the manager has to get involved in, I expect that the behaves in a professional manner. Which means he should try to solve the problem without insulting me or berating his employees in front of me.

What does that mean to game reviewers? It means I want to know what the game does right and what it does wrong, without the fanboyism, if I’m not a Sonic fan what the hell does it matter if the werehog is un-Sonic like? And if I want my taste in music and videogames insulted then I would get on a forum, there enough people roaming around the internet that will do it for free.

Their job is to provide consumers with unbiased knowlege so that they can make their own decision and won’t have to rely on the ads from manufacturers and the mouths of fanboys who are clearly biased, at least that was the point.

On the same board, Big Brother, whose opinion appears more in line with the mediocrity most professional reviewers are relaying, has a different perspective:

Sonic Team shouldn’t mindlessly ignore reviews just because the fans don’t give a damn about them. That sort of arrogance only encourages ST to attempt even stupider gimmicks (not to say the Werehog was one, mind you) which would do nothing but disappoint more fans and send the franchise crashing down again. Believe me, I’ve seen on this very forum how us fans by a VAST MAJORITY prefer the day levels to the night ones by various degrees. People are not satisified that Wii Unleashed has more Werehog segments than Sonic ones. In comparision, the reviewers’ opinions don’t seem all that alien to those of fans; the only difference is how the reviewers amplify their positive and negative opinions.

That said, ST can’t afford to brush aside the reviewers just because they felt the fans were pleased enough. Instead they must strive to create BETTER games, and that can only be accomplished if all criticism is taken into account.

Disdain for reviews continued over at Sonic Retro, when pages of criticism, in some ways, began writing themselves, over a live review of the game by Screwattack–one which resulted in a poor verdict.  Sonic Retro members accused the site of blatantly spreading misinformation, particularly involving the Hedgehog Engine, as well as alienating their readers into hating Sonic Unleashed.

Machenstein wrote of the experience:

How uninformed can these people be? “Scrap the Hedgehog Engine”? Did they even know what they were talking about at all? Really, that was pointless, and now ScrewAttack’s blind “retro” viewers are convinced the game actually sucks. Honestly, do they even remember how badly Sonic 2006 controlled? If they did, they would have lost all their lives on that first stage alone.

I used to love ScrewAttack, but they have completely fallen off the deep end.

And Retro forumer corneliab wrote a more blanket statement in response to the review:

…this is completely bogus.

The gaming “media” has absolutely zero credibility, if so many complete idiots can affiliate themselves with it, and as “professionals” nonetheless.

Another forumer, PC2, chimed in:

Oh please. If you slapped Mario’s name on this game people would think it’s the most awesome thing since mashed potatoes. The only reason this is getting so much unnecessary hate is because it’s a Sonic game. What I don’t get is why people try so hard to find ways to dislike games, just so that they can say the game sucks. I’d really like to know what the critics’ idea of a “good” Sonic game would be… and then again, maybe I really wouldn’t.

Did they ever even stop to think that just maybe the controls are supposed to be that way?

Many in the Sonic community are instead relying on their own instincts to judge Sonic Unleashed, and a few are even pushing to show Sega and the Sonic Team that, at the very least, this title was a step in the right direction.  Going in this direction, there are far fewer individuals within the community who find the game intolerable, compared to outsiders.  But that’s only fueling the fire for those outsiders, who are using these types of reactions to mock the Sonic community at large for defending Unleashed.

We welcome your opinion on this matter.  Have you sworn off the opinion of those in the major gaming media who review games in light of the response Unleashed has been getting?  Will you ever trust them again?  Have you ever trusted them in the first place?  Let us know in the comment box below.  We also have a new poll related to this topic as well, which we invite you to participate in.