Videogame review ratings are, as with review ratings of all forms of media, pretty subjective. There have been games that have gotten mediocre reviews which I thoroughly enjoyed, and there have been games with fairly high critic reviews that I only thought were so-so. It’s the same grab bag you shove your digital hands into when visiting Rotten Tomatoes to check out a flick.
There are, however, certain titles (again, as there are in other forms of media) that completely polarize audiences with folks ending up completely on one side or the other of a “loved it/hated it” dichotomy. The Guitar Hero and Rockband games are a perfect example. I don’t know anyone who casually played them just for occasional kicks when they came out. Folks were either rocking out with their finest rock flourish, or throwing things at those dancing the dance of digital rock, asking them how they could destroy music this way.
After all the built up anticipation, we all knew that 2K Games and Gearbox’s Duke Nukem Forever was going to follow this same kind of line. I mean, the game was over a decade in the making. There was an army of loyal fans, with their yellowed, crinkled preorder receipts from way back when chomping at the bit to finally get their hands on a copy of DNF, while another faction wasn’t really buying into the excitement. As the release day got closer, reviews started rolling in, and unfortunately for 2K Games they weren’t good. After receiving a combined Metacritic score of 49 (for the Xbox 360 version), it was 2K Games’ outside public relations company, The Redner Group, that went on the offensive, sending out a few tweets that sparked a lot of controversy, with the following one seeming to be the harshest:
“too many went too far with their reviews…we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom."
It looked like TRG was threatening gaming media outlets that gave 2K games low review scores. The tweet was deleted shortly after, and replaced with an apology from Jim Redner and a tweet indicating that it was only The Redner Group, and not 2K Games, that was behind the message. Despite the tweet being deleted, gaming sites around the web immediately began reporting on media outlets being threatened with blacklisting for bad reviews. But not everyone was talking about threats from TRG. In a tweet yesterday, Eurogamer.net’s Tom Bramwell said “I feel sorry for @TheRednerGroup today. We are blacklisted by @2KGames and it seems to be standard practice.” He went on to mention that they had to buy Duke Nukem Forever to review it.