Why the Prey IGN Review Wasn’t ‘Wrong’

IGN’s Prey review hit the web yesterday, with reviewer Dan Stapleton reviewing the PC version of Bethesda’s latest. To the shock of many, the review had a score of 4.0 out of 10 (Bad) right at the bottom in the typical IGN review format, with the rating displayed prominently.

But wait, this is a game from Bethesda, a major AAA publisher, whose games come with a certain pedigree. There’s no way it can be a 4/10.

That was the general gist of the outcry seen in the comments, with many IGN readers saying that Stapleton’s score was “ridiculous” (many putting it in more colorful language than we will here).

More and more negative comments came pouring in, and while some have come to Dan’s defense, the vast majority are attacking his score and the reasoning behind it. There are two valuable points worth making in defense of Dan’s Prey review.

A Reviewer’s Score is Based on Their Personal Experience

dan stapleton ign review
(screenshot via OpenCritic)

First and foremost, a reviewer’s score should never be criticized because, at the end of the day, it’s just an opinion of the game and its quality. Obviously, the reviewer, in this case, detailed his experiences with the game — both good and bad — and decided that the poor quality was too relevant to ignore. In this case, the bug he discusses actually stopped him from even finishing the game.

Let’s remember that review scores are only as reliable as the reviewer scoring what they’re reviewing; reviews have never truly represented an entire site’s opinion of a game, only the actual reviewer. Have you read (and possibly even relied on) Dan’s reviews in the past? He seems to be pretty fair and on point:

Mass Effect Andromeda: 7.7/10
Side Meier’s Civilization VI: 9.4/10
Watch Dogs 2: 8.5/10
No Man’s Sky: 6.0/10

Do those scores paint a picture of Dan’s track record in the past well enough for you? He’s mostly in-line with what other reviewers score their games, and personally, I find his reviews to be more helpful than many, pointing out specifically a game’s bugs where many will just make vague statements like “the game’s buggy”. This is, of course, exactly what Dan did in his controversial Prey review, explicitly and coherently detailing his time with the game and the game-breaking — let me repeat that — game-breaking bug he encountered.

Despite Dan summarizing it all up nicely in his ‘The Verdict’ section, in which he explained his reasoning for giving the game such a low review score, readers are still pouring in the hate. He had a bad experience with the game — shouldn’t he rate it with that in mind?

What Score Would YOU Give a Broken Game?

Don’t we read video game reviews because we want to know the ins and outs of a game we’re interested in? Isn’t that the point? Are we supposed to ignore certain flaws and bugs when coming up with a score in hopes that, one day, they’ll be patched out? Where are we, as reviewers, supposed to draw the line with what bugs to include/ignore?

There’s no denying that post-launch bug squashing patches have become the standard in the games industry nowadays, and sadly, it’s rare that a game actually releases without any of these major flaws. That is, of course, a problem to get into deeper on another day, but it is a point worth mentioning when talking about a bad review based on a bug.

If you take out the game-breaking bug, Dan even says right in the review that it likely would’ve been scored “good or even great” — what most people were expecting from the review. So if you’re playing through a game, and then that game breaks entirely (losing all of your progress and stopping you from being able to continue playing), wouldn’t you rate it poorly as well? Would you still score the game a solid 8 out of 10, entirely ignoring the fact that it broke?

No, as an industry-leading game reviews website (like IGN is), it’s your responsibility as a reviewer to report your findings with a game — despite the developer, publisher, or any other factors. Your review is solely your review and whether or not YOU, as a professional reviewer, would recommend this game to those who might be interested in purchasing the game you are reviewing. Dan didn’t review the PS4 or the Xbox One version; he reviewed the PC version. If the PC version has a game-breaking bug — which it did — I firmly believe Dan was in the right in detailing that bug. His score is representative of the PC version of the game.

What We Would’ve Done Differently, Though

DNF

The IGN reviewer was right in not ignoring the bug and just slapping an 8.0 out of 10 on the review; that would’ve been wrong.

We don’t disagree with Dan’s low score of the game because, hey — that was his experience and we can respect that as adults. But if we were in the same situation, we probably would’ve gone with a “DNF” instead of a numerical score. It’s the initial shock of such a low score for such a highly anticipated game that creates the issue some are having with the review.

The reason to present the game as a DNF is because we all know that not everyone reads a review entirely, with many just popping in for that sweet, sweet final score to know whether or not they should go to the store and buy it (again, a problem worth discussing more thoroughly on another day). If the game had a DNF at the bottom, with the same bullet points and same text, it’s more likely that link clickers would actually read the text to see why it’s a DNF. It’s a way to entice readers to actually read the review.

At the end of the day, it’s most important to remember that a reviewer’s opinion is just that (their opinion). Attacking someone for their personal review score is a ridiculous practice that, unfortunately, plagues our industry.

You can read our Prey review here, and check out our breakdown of what our review scores mean.

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