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Daily Reaction: Unfinished Business – The Beyond: Two Souls Review Story

October 8, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Damn Right I Do

We promised that you haven’t heard the last from us, so the Daily Reaction crew of Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravasaari are back, and what better way to make a comeback than by calling out another ‘journalist?’

Dan: Well if you haven’t been paying attention to what has been going down on Twitter, let me start off by filling you in from the beginning.

Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls hit the market today and that means that games journalists around the world are finally able to publish their reviews, with no one really being able to come to a consensus about whether it’s any good. The game has obvious flaws, but is able to tell a captivating story to some, while falling flat on its face in front of others.

Reviews by games journalists are generally considered to be a professional opinion that is based off of experience, and the ability to properly break down a product by how accessible and entertaining it is. But, what if the person has only played the game for less than 5 hours? What if, instead of spending another 5 hours to get a full understanding of the complete experience, they decided to do little more than tear down something they obviously judged right out of the gate? Should we consider that a professional opinion?

This is where the Beyond: Two Souls review by Penny-Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera comes in. His review of the game reads like someone who completely misses the point of dialog and character development, as he states, “Aiden has made Jodie’s life a living hell. She always feels different, alienated from other people. Her parents fear her…” and then follows it up by saying “…the situations are so comically overdone that it becomes hard to take anything seriously.” This callous response to an obviously difficult situation shows that there really was a disconnect between the experience and Kuchera from the very beginning.

Reading through the rest of the review, the reasoning behind the ill natured and despondent response to Beyond becomes readily apparent, as he says “I’m about halfway through the game, and I only got that far because of the fact I’m getting paid to play.”

Being that Beyond is only about 10 hours long, and he is only ‘about halfway’ means that he could have only put in around 5 hours into the game. With that, I raised the question on Twitter about whether or not it is ethical to review a product if you had only put in a few hours with it. Shortly after that, Kuchera joined in on the conversation and decided to respond with some depressingly jaded and short sighted comments of his own.

That’s my point, I don’t eat crap. I’ll get up and go to another restaurant. Life is too short.

People tell me I passed judgment on Beyond without seeing the story. I think if there’s no story halfway in… that’s kind of a big problem.

Now, this isn’t to say that Kuchera should not be able to post reviews for a game if he doesn’t like it, even if he didn’t completely finish the title, as he doesn’t post to Metacritic and so won’t hurt a game’s average. But, as a highly regarded member of the press, what he should have published was a valid opinion that is based off of a fully formed experience. Unfortunately, his experience with Beyond seems far too fragmented and biased to be spreading an opinion off of his incredibly limited experience, and that is simply unethical in our profession.

Seb: It’s a shame, I have so much more to add to this discussion, but as we’ve reached the halfway point, I know dear Ben won’t read any further. I guess this part is all for the readers.

Like Dan said, the review doesn’t go to Metacritic, and that’s the defense Kuchera uses:

Here are my thoughts on it: We don’t give scores, and we’re not on Metacritic. I don’t think it’s a good use of my time, or yours, to suffer through a game that’s so terrible it has little to no redeeming features just to say the same thing. If I were to give a game a score that could impact its business? Yes, I would play through the WHOLE GRISLY THING.

But at PAR? If someone gives me a turd, and I don’t think I need to clean my plate before telling you not to take a bite.

Agh. Not being on Metacritic does not give your carte blanche to be a bad reviewer. It’s downright disingenuous to suggest that not having a score or being on Metacritic means it won’t impact the game’s business. It’s a lie.

If you go to the front of the PAR site, what you see is:

REVIEW – Beyond: Two Souls is a mixture of a game that’s not fun and a story that’s not interesting

Nowhere in that title does it suggest that it’s not a complete review. In fact, this is not a review, this is simply a preview. A preview masquerading as a review, telling people a game is bad. So of course that’ll impact sales. Equally, if people do read the ‘review’, it will cause some of them to not buy the game, as evident by the comments from people saying that they won’t buy the game. Those very comments are ones that Kuchera replies to and moderates, so he is well aware that this half-baked review does have an impact on sales.

But aside from the whole ‘respected journalist blatantly lying thing’, this is also clearly just a badly written review. That’s not because he doesn’t like the game, that’s his opinion and for many he may be right, but because he isn’t giving a full review.

Beyond is an incredibly story-driven game, with Tara Long from Rev3Games saying in her review: “most of the big choices in the game seem to come near the end of it”. Kuchera doesn’t know that, he doesn’t know how it ends, he doesn’t know how long term choices are in a choice based game.

It’s a reviewer’s duty to let their readers know how good a game is, and that includes the ending of a story-based game. Even if it’s just to say “the ending doesn’t live up to its potential”, that’s still important. That’s basically the job of a reviewer.

Now here at Daily Reaction, we’ve been very lucky to get our hands on some unpublished Kuchera reviews of several movies, readable below:

The Sixth Sense – I don’t understand why everyone is so rude to Bruce Willis, they just ignore him even though he’s really nice to look after a crazy child. It failed to shock me or get my heart racing, so I turned it off.

The Usual Suspects – Kevin Spacey is a really nice character, and I find myself bonding with him as the film progresses. Still hasn’t told me who Keyser Söze is, got bored, turned it off.

Fight Club – I don’t think it’s believable that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton would be friends, and sometimes Brad turns up when he shouldn’t have known to turn up. Totally unrealistic, turned it off.

Memento – What? Turned it off.

This is why reviewers need to finish the things they are reviewing, it’s just bad if you stop mid

What are your thoughts on proper conduct for reviewers? Should we have to finish a game to review it? Is only a few hours of hands-on experience enough to give an honest opinion? Let us know in the comments below, email us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or tweet us your incomplete arguments at Seb and Dan.