Over at IGN they have posted their second opinions on Reach. Will it contain reasoned criticism? A balanced, less gushing perspective on the title? Perhaps they will outline some improvements that could have been made or mention some of the missed opportunities. Maybe they’ll even ask the guy that only plays strategy games set during the French revolution to review it as an allegory of the peasants attitude towards…..Ahhhh Fuck it! No, they just give it a big, collective blow job.
Now there’s nothing wrong with a reviewer giving a game a glowing write-up. Theres no problem with people liking Halo Reach. Its even cool if two separate reviewers both like Halo Reach. What isn’t cool is posting a huge article on second opinions of Halo Reach which ARE NOT SECOND OPINIONS! They are the first opinion, written again by someone different. There seems to be a fundamental flaw with their concept of a second opinion. For it to be a second opinion, it must differ not just in who wrote it, but in its content. It does not need to be more negative, but it does need to say something new or the 500 written words might as well be: “agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed, agreed…”
This kind of article raises two important points about games journalism. First of all, games journalists write about what is popular and what is written about becomes popular. This fluff piece exists because Halo Reach is a game everyone is playing, and everyone is playing Halo Reach because they might as well or they can’t take part in the thing everyone is taking about. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that makes sure the biggest games have a degree of guaranteed success regardless of quality. Again, I don’t think Halo Reach is a bad game, but when everyone over-hypes a title it creates a backlash. This happened with Halo 3. The critical praise was out of sync with the largely positive but mixed reception the game got from gamers.
Secondly, games reviewers rarely all play the same games. If a reviewer plays a game then it means that the others in the same publication or website don’t need to play it too; its covered. When big titles like Halo Reach come along though, so much needs to be written about them that many members of a review team will have to play it to some extent. As a result, the buzz for the game is so much bigger as the reviewers are talking to each other about a game they have each played as well as telling us, the gamers, about it.
When a reviewer prefaces what they say with “no matter what we tell you, you’re going to buy it anyway” they are copping out. As I said in my previous Halo Reach posts, I’ve got nothing against the game. I reckon I would probably quite enjoy it if I picked it up. What I resent is the implication that I must play it, that it is a more important game than Dead Rising 2 or Vanquish or even Metroid Other M. It’s not. It’s a filler title in a franchise, a last hurrah for a developer with nothing new to add to a series they have lost their passion for. For those who want more Halo, good luck to you, but heres a note for Mr Reviewer Man: give us a break. If you have nothing new to say about Reach, stop saying the same old things. Theres plenty new games to get excited about, stop going round in rings with Halo.