The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Screenshot

Over the last few days, there's been a lot of heat directed at Bobby Hunter, the reviewer who covered Witcher 2 for Gamer Limit.

Full disclosure, I've only played about six hours of Witcher 2. Personally, it wasn't ringing my bell and I didn't feel compelled to play more. I read Bobby's piece since it was the lowest-scored at MetaCritic (I do this for most games I play) and although I didn't finish the game, I found myself agreeing with many of the points he raises.

(I also largely agreed with my fellow critic @RichardNaik in his review of the PC version.)

In any event, the reason I bring this up is not because I agree with the criticisms, but to express a little surprise at how many people in the review sphere seemed eager to take Mr. Hunter to task for any number of reasons; everything ranging from his low score bringing down the Metacritic average and potentially causing a loss of income to the developer, to people who felt that the score was too low despite the site not posting a rubric on their scoring policy. I'm not even going to bring up what was said in the comments posted directly to the review itself.

Even more strangely than those issues, I saw several people complaining that this review had harshly graded The Witcher for not being a hack-and-slash—in fact, Mr. Hunter never states such, only that he says:

"Those coming into the game looking for a simple hack n' slash action RPG will be sorely disappointed."

I don't quite understand how this one sentence could be misinterpreted and extrapolated into the idea that the reviewer docked points for the game not being in a certain genre, but the people who were lighting torches over it should douse them and re-read what he actually said.

I don't know Mr. Hunter, I've never spoken to him, and I have no stake in supporting or defending either his work or Witcher 2, but after seeing the fallout from this review, it seems like we've still got a long way to go…

First of all, the score is just an arbitrary number. Really, that's all it is. There's no standard scale that anyone adheres to unless you want to look towards the "eight is average" overinflation that currently plagues many reviews. So he gave it a 4.5… And what? What "should" it be, and why do we care?

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition Screenshot

Also, the idea that reviewers should be somehow responsible for the compensation towards developers is absolutely ludicrous. The only responsibility reviewers have is to be honest and to explain their impressions. Any reviewer who takes on the burden of inflating scores so that developers will earn bonuses in accordance with cockamamie publisher metrics needs to stop writing reviews immediately.

Finally, I'd like to applaud Mr. Hunter for being brave enough to go against the current wave of love that Witcher 2 is receiving. To be clear, I'm not saying that the game doesn't deserve it. I haven't seen enough of the game to know, and I don't really have an opinion other than the fact that the first six hours didn't grab me. No, what I'm applauding is that someone decided to express their opinion and give criticism of the current favorite son of critics and players alike. It's a hard thing to take an unpopular stand, but if you ask me, I think that review sphere could use more of it.

As someone who's been playing games for thirty years and writing about them for twelve, I see the same cycle over and over again: a new, hot game comes out. Initial scores are through the roof and critics fall all over themselves to lavish praise. Months (or even weeks) later, lower scores start to trickle in and many of the initial supporters start saying things like "it was good, BUT…" or "Eh, it really wasn't all that…"

I think that if more writers resisted the urge to get caught up in New Game Hype  and evaluated titles without fear of repercussions, without fear of lowering the MetaScore, or without fear of being the odd man/woman out, we'd see a much wider range of ratings and viewpoints that more accurately represents the array of opinions that I'm sure are out there. I can only see that as a very healthy thing.

Don't get me wrong , I'm not trying to paint all games writers with one broad brush here. There are certainly people out there fighting the good fight, and there are some writers who I greatly respect for taking the work quite seriously. Without a doubt.

That said, the response from many to this review was still a little surprising, and it just reinforced to me that gamers (and especially reviewers!) have to be okay with the dissenters just as we are with the cheerleaders. There's a world of difference between a review that you disagree with because it's factually wrong or does not support the ideas it presents, and one that you disagree with because you like the game more or less than the author did.  If we can't accept that there might be some people out there who have a different, equally-valid opinion, then what hope do reviews have of ever being worth a damn?


Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.

Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway
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16 Comments on "Burning The Witcher"

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Spokker
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Spokker
4 years 3 months ago
Review authors should not be a hivemind who all love the genre that the game they are reviewing belongs to. Some of the most interesting games appeal to those who are not historically fans of the genre the game belongs to. If you dislike JRPGs, you might become interested if a bunch of people who dislike JRPGs are suddenly looking at a certain game and saying, “This isn’t that bad.” I generally dislike racing games, but there’s sometimes a spark that piques my interest in a particular racing game. I can read a review written by someone who historically does… Read more »
Li-Ion
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Li-Ion
4 years 3 months ago
[quote=Spokker]The Witcher 2 review is informative because here’s a guy who clearly likes hack and slash games, and The Witcher 2 did not grab him in the way that a hack and slash game does. People who are like him, and prefer hack and slash games, will gain some valuable knowledge from the review. [/quote] So if I’d write a review to say Demon’s Souls and give it a 2/10 because it’s nothing like Dragon Age: Origins, this would be still an informative review for you? Seriously: that guy claims the Witcher 2 would have a “nearly impenetrable plot”, which… Read more »
Spokker
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Spokker
4 years 3 months ago
“the biggest problem i see in videogame criticism is the rampant tendency for reviewers to pick apart games for what they AREN’T rather than what they ARE. so the syndicate reboot isn’t a strategy game? so what?” It matters in Syndicate’s case because there are many gamers out there who played the original and it’s informative to read a review from a guy who knew, played and understood the original. Why must we give a damn about the aggregate score on Metacritic when it is more worthwhile to seek out a variety of reviews from a variety of sources? The… Read more »
Pedro
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Pedro
4 years 3 months ago

The point I was making is that if a reviewer questions another person’s review on the basis that ‘it takes down the Metacritic average,’ then that person has no credibility as a reviewer.

This is *one* review in which someone expresses a contrarian view – why do the Witcher (or any other game) advocates care so much, when they have 95% of other reviewers there to agree with them and back up their opinion? They need 100% validation? It is beyond belief.

upselo
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upselo
4 years 3 months ago

I would be curious Brad to hear how you account for what you call New Game Hype ?
Is it “not taking the job seriously”, having no critical thinking, or something else ?
Do you think they didn’t enjoy the games as much as they say they did ? Or they just didn’t see the problems at the time ?
How do you explain people lavishing such praise everytime ?

Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 years 3 months ago
the biggest problem i see in videogame criticism is the rampant tendency for reviewers to pick apart games for what they AREN’T rather than what they ARE. so the syndicate reboot isn’t a strategy game? so what? reviewers knocked it for what it wasn’t rather than assessing it as an FPS. same thing here with that witcher 2 review. i didn’t particularly like the game either, but it’s clearly well crafted and probably an incredible game for those who enjoy that type of experience. my depth level maxes out at skyrim – anything more involved then that i feel like… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 years 3 months ago
[quote=Anonymous]I guess what I object to is the score itself, I read the review, thought some points were ok, agreed with few, disagreed with most, thought some bad points were exaggerated but as I finished I thought, well ok sounds like he is going to give it a 6 or a 7 …and then i saw the 4.5, as per gamer limits scoring system that is half a point above Duke Nukem(4) and Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days(4) and half the score that reviewer gave to Kingdoms of Amalur(8.5). The story is far from “completely impenetrable” I dont want… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 years 3 months ago

[quote=Pedro]If I understand this correctly, Brad is saying that other REVIEWERS have joined the usual rabble in the comments threads (helloo!) in condemning this poor fellow for his review?

Well that’s just great. Do you think we’ll ever get a controversy where everyone’s default position isn’t that of a spoiled fifteen-year-old?

Another nail in the credibility coffin. [/quote]
Was this website ever known for its credibility to begin with?

Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 years 3 months ago
I guess what I object to is the score itself, I read the review, thought some points were ok, agreed with few, disagreed with most, thought some bad points were exaggerated but as I finished I thought, well ok sounds like he is going to give it a 6 or a 7 …and then i saw the 4.5, as per gamer limits scoring system that is half a point above Duke Nukem(4) and Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days(4) and half the score that reviewer gave to Kingdoms of Amalur(8.5). The story is far from “completely impenetrable” I dont want… Read more »
Pedro
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Pedro
4 years 3 months ago

If I understand this correctly, Brad is saying that other REVIEWERS have joined the usual rabble in the comments threads (helloo!) in condemning this poor fellow for his review?

Well that’s just great. Do you think we’ll ever get a controversy where everyone’s default position isn’t that of a spoiled fifteen-year-old?

Another nail in the credibility coffin.

Justin
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Justin
4 years 3 months ago

I find it very hard to believe that you find this surprising. After all the shit you & and other reviewers have gotten on this site. Is your memory that bad, or are you surprised to see it happen to other reviewers? User comments are the worst. Why do they exist?

Spokker
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Spokker
4 years 3 months ago
It should be noted that the Dragon Age II review on Gamer Limit was not written by the same author who reviewed The Witcher 2, which further demonstrates the silliness of directly comparing raw review scores. There is one more thing I noticed. Though they have been accused of writing a bad review score to get hits and revenue, I cannot find any evidence of adverts on the current page or past pages (using the Internet Archive) despite displaying an email address for ad inquiries. It is more probable that being critical and honest would have an adverse effect on… Read more »
Spokker
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Spokker
4 years 3 months ago
You are absolutely correct. Linking an individual review score to a mean score across all reviews and to the game’s potential revenue destroys the meaningfulness of individual reviews. Group averages are useful, such as when disaggregated data is not available, but they do not always tell the whole story. We have disaggregated data, the individual reviews and the context they were written in. Over-relying on Metacritic is like throwing away useful information. I do use Game Rankings but do not put a huge emphasis on the average score. I primarily use it to simply find reviews. I’ll fire off a… Read more »
Spokker
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Spokker
4 years 3 months ago

The review cited is in the great tradition of Game Critics. Give ’em hell, Mr. Hunter.

Vince
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Vince
4 years 3 months ago

In the grand scheme of things, a reviewers score doesn’t necessarily reflect the game, but rather the relationship of one game against other games reviewed by that author. A sort of road map that gives context to how that reviewer views games. And really should give the author pause to his/her methodology if they find that scores aren’t really lining up to their feelings. The tragedy is publishers using metacritic as a bonus prerequisite, at least using a number as high as 8.5.

Li-Ion
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Li-Ion
4 years 3 months ago

A number attached to a game is meaningless without context. To get context I was looking for the number Gamer Limit attached to Dragon Age 2. It is a 7, which signifies that DA2 is apparently “much better” than Witcher 2 with it’s 4,5. I find that hard to believe. Having played and completed both, I value Witcher 2 much higher, even though I almost stopped playing altogether after the second bossfight. DA2 might have been better than it’s reputation amongst gamers, but it’s also much worse than the metacritic average would indicate.

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