- In his Halo Infinite review for Giantbomb, journalist Jeff Gertsmann looked at the future of game journalism;
- The author believes that reviews as they currently stand are "dead" due to the growing popularity of live-service games and subscriptions, which require a different approach than the classic review text.
The release of Halo Infinite is just around the corner, which means you can already find quite a few reviews online describing Master Chief's latest endeavor. The vast majority of these reviews are favorable (86% average on Metacritic), with critics praising the game's good single-player mode and solid storyline. Reviewer Jeff Gertsmann from Giantbomb in his text pointed out, however, that judging Halo Infinite is not easy if you want to stick to the canon of video game reviews. The same applies to many modern productions.
What does Gertsmann see as the problem? There are at least a few aspects to this issue, but it all boils down to the fact that it's the reviewer's authority to tell gamers whether they should spend money on a given title. And that's becoming increasingly difficult in the age of live-service games and subscriptions like Game Pass. Because if Infinite (not counting the free multiplayer) is included in a subscription from day one, why buy the "proper" version? The same goes for free-to-play games. And for long-lived games, it's hard to expect a review at launch to be as accurate a year after release, when the game may already look completely different.
"Video game reviews have meant a lot of things to a lot of people over the years. To me, traditionally, the scored video game review is meant to serve as some sort of helpful advice for players who are on the fence about a particular product. When there was money on the line, I wanted to be there to help. At this point, I've written well over a thousand of these things. Timely reviews of new games couldn't be beat for the first decade or so of my career. They'd sit in the top slot, the traffic would roll in, everyone was... well, maybe not happy, but at least they clicked on a thing and perhaps glanced at the last paragraph of what I had to say about a game. This was the way of the world. The games cost money, I hate to see people waste money on bad games, and me and the people I worked with on the reviews team were the people who held the line in an attempt to keep you from blowing money on bad games. Simple, right?
When the game is free and the subscription service is already something I'd recommend with or without the existence of this particular game, what purpose does that type of review serve? I could sit here and crank out the typical 1,500 words about The Next Halo. Playing the games takes way longer than writing about them does; it always did."
And despite the fact that Gertsmann gives Halo Infinite a positive note, he admits: "just don't ask me if I think this game is worth $60".
"Did that review serve its main purpose? I'm going to go ahead and say that you already knew if you were going to play Halo Infinite or not before you even clicked on this page. [...] People go out and wait for Metacritic averages and then, instead of using them to help determine if a game is for them or not, they instead try to assign some kind of big meaning to the number. [...]
When the games are free, we're not reviewing to help save you money. We're curating to help save you time. And this sort of information is often best conveyed in other forms. [...] As games get bigger and bigger, as the medium spreads further and further, the game-specific publication is only for the diehards, [...]
All you really want to know is... does it live up to the hype? Again, you don't need a score or a review to actually answer that question."
Are the words of Giantbomb's journalist a prophecy of the imminent end of video game reviews we know them? It's hard to say, but it's hard not to agree with many of his arguments.