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Joystiq F*cks One Up

Feature; Jul. 31, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Editorial
Joystiq publishes StarCraft II: WoL review 1 1/2 days after it came out with perfect score

As everybody knows by now, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was released to the masses on July 27 at midnight. Since then, there has been a feeding frenzy of players loading up the single player campaign, challenges, tutorials and of course, the incredible multiplayer feature.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
After waiting 12 years since the original, Joystiq could only wait 1 1/2 more days to review...

The SC2 multiplayer beta has been out for months. Blizzard has been fine-tuning this aspect of the game for a long time to create a very balanced multiplayer system where no single strategy cannot be beaten. From what I've been playing and have seen and heard, this is likely the case.

Naturally, video game websites such as OMGN want to write up reviews of the game. To many sites, but not so much OMGN, being first to market on a review of SC2 is very important. Much like the Gizmodo reveal of the iPhone 4, video game websites want to get an SC2 review up quickly to get more reads and to be considered an authority on games. A lot of this has to do with marketing.

So the crux of this little story is this: in just a day and a half after the game's release, Joystiq posted its review of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. Said review had a perfect score. Now a lot of people are expecting SC2 to score high marks across the board, and likely when we publish our own review of the game, OMGN will be among them.

The problem is that advance copies of SC2 were not given out to review websites, as is custom with most games. In general, higher volume video game review sites get advance copies to make sure a review is online the day the game comes out. In this instance, Blizzard wanted all of the review sites to get the game the same day as the common consumer, thus allowing the reviewers to interact with the global community of SC2 players in the same manner as said players. It wanted the reviewers' experiences to be the same as those of us who don't get advance copies on a regular basis (OMGN does not).

Really? In just 1 1/2 days?!

Some intrepid, sleepless gamer at Joystiq might have been playing the game nonstop to defeat the campaign mode and played through some iterations of multiplayer matches, thus coming to this perfect game conclusion. In fact, Allen Cook is the one at Joystiq who reviewed the game. Perhaps Cook just hammered through the game without breaks, outside of using the restroom and eating quick meals and perhaps taking a couple quick naps.

Nope, sorry. I don't think so. I have SC2, and as a disclaimer, I love the game. However, I've sunk a decent amount of time into the game, and I'm woefully under-prepared to write a fully featured review. The whole concept of a review is to give the reader the most fair and accurate assessment of the game experience. It is my opinion that with a campaign the volume that SC2's has, as well as the variety of multiplayer matches that can be played and the countless strategies that can be employed, there is no way that a proper review could have been written in such a short time frame.

In fact, I voiced this incredulity on Twitter after I saw Joystiq's review:

Joystiq has a review of #StarCraft2 already. Really? REALLY?! It's not even a real review, really, more like random thoughts.

The review doesn't even read like a review. It reads like a list of comparisons to the original StarCraft, which came out a whopping 12 years ago, so of course SC2 will be far and above better than the first. And the review seems to be constructed of random blocks of thought without much cohesion. I'm sorry, Cook, but in this instance, you're not really reviewing the game. You're mostly just posting impressions of the game. In fact, you are mostly just previewing your eventual review of the game.

See, I'm doing that a little bit here in this editorial... Previewing what my review would look like, when I say things like " have SC2, and as a disclaimer, I love the game." But at this stage in the game, even though I have a good feel for where the single player campaign is leading to and where the multiplayer game sits, I can't offer a proper review. I just haven't played the game enough to formulate a solid review.

I had a whole slew of people jump in and say things to me regarding Joystiq's very early publication of their review, including Sam Jordan and Justin Massongill of Nukezilla. Alex Willis did as well. I did get a response from Ben Gilbert, a news writer at Joystiq, who asked if I'd even read the review when I criticized the expedient publication. He then followed up and said that he implicitly trusted his reviews editors at Joystiq, Justin McElroy. Ben, I would hope you'd trust those in editorial positions above you at Joystiq.

This is one case where I think Joystiq really screwed the pooch. In terms of other coverage of this event, Game Journalists Are Incompetent F*ckwits (censorship added) has been hammering Joystiq's handling of this. Read Game Journos to catch up with some other coverage that doesn't belong here.

Even if Cook was in the beta period, he still cannot produce a proper review of the game that quickly after its release. Really, he should be basing his review off of just what he's experienced in the retail release of the game, not anything he's done with the game in beta, because the common consumer didn't even play the beta. Really, Cook shouldn't have even been allowed to review the game simply because he'd been in the beta in the first place.

Obviously there wasn't enough time for Cook to properly play the game and put it through its paces to form a well-reasoned review, especially since he was involved in the beta period before release. Joystiq should have assigned it to someone else and instructed that person to play enough of the game and to really step back and review it professionally and objectively. Honestly, this is why OMGN's review of Final Fantasy XIII (disclaimer: I wrote that review) came so late after the game came out -- I don't have 24 hours a day to devote to gaming. I have a day job, a wife and graduate courses to attend. I sunk 65 total hours into FF13 before writing that review, simply because I wanted to have the full view of the game and to know how it ended before I could properly write it.

Clean up your act, Joystiq. You've lost a lot of credibility with gamers and other game journalists over this, so ask for forgiveness and prove to us you are still worth a damn.



rfludwick - Aug. 1, 2010 at 8:56:04am

Well, the multiplayer experience of the game is very different from the single player campaign. So putting in a handful of Zerg and Protoss missions to train you for multiplayer wouldn't really work. All it would be useful for is to get you acclimated to the races. The strategies for multiplayer are very different.

Personally, I don't see an issue with no LAN support. Blizzard wants to tie everything together with and there's no way to do that within the confines of LAN. The mere fact that it's required to be online to play the game at all means you'll have an Internet connection when you play the game, so you can achieve all you want in a LAN environment by routing through anyway. The lack of a LAN option kinda sucks, but I personally have no issue with it.

As far as the lack of campaigns for the other 2 races, I can tell you right now I see the reason. The Terran campaign is pretty indepth and involved, as far as I've gotten. If all three races had campaigns included in the same game, then campaign would be longer than FF13! Besides, as long as Blizzard makes getting the campaigns for Zerg and Protoss affordable to those that have already purchased a prior game, then there's no issue there, especially if the multiplayer doesn't change in future iterations.


JCXanirus - Jul. 31, 2010 at 3:16:48pm

Since I haven't played the game myself yet, I can't really see the impact of his review that much, but I do notice one thing. The three highly acclaimed game websites (IMO) Gamespy, Gamespot and IGN, none of them actually have a full written review yet, so I've got nothing to compare it to.

I do find it however, rather short, and yeah, just random comments. He doesn't even mention the fact (according to Gamespy at least) that a lot of players are complaning that there is no LAN support, in-game chat, or the fact that theres only a Terran campaign.

LAN should of been a given for it the game's type of genre, in-game chat should be as standard like tires coming with a car, and, even with my limited expereince in RTS games, to me campaigns are the best instruction manual to learn how to use all the game's units. (So to knock off a Zerg or Protoss campaigns would seem odd to learn how to use them effectively in mulitplayer.)

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