When a big release comes along, Future decides which of its mags will get the exclusive. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of the biggest releases this year, so they gave it to their best selling PC games mag, PC Gamer. But after allocating EIGHT pages for the review, reviewer Tom Francis has managed to fuck it up. Considering he had EIGHT pages to fill, you can’t blame the guy for having trouble finding stuff to waffle on about, but resorting to padding it with NGJ is inexcusable.
The shit starts on the second page of writing where the review suddenly stops, and Francis starts blathering on like he’s a character in the game:
“I dismount a good distance from the entrance and creep the rest of the way. Stealth, my friends. The cave floor’s wet inside, but a master like me is still near-silent when – aaaarrghh!”
We were wondering whether that last bit was where the sub-editor had committed suicide, but it goes on. And on. And on, taking up three-quarters of the page. Then another “story” begins on the next page taking up half the page, until by the end you’ve been subjected to four of them.
What’s worse than taking up a third of the review with that shit is the justification he gives for it:
“It would be more informative – and more importantly, fun for me – to recount some of my adventures…”
There you go folks – it’s there in black and white. It’s much more important for a review to be fun for the reviewer to indulge himself with writing tedious bollocks than it is to be informative.
To give Francis credit, the proper OGJ review parts aren’t bad, but why give the reviewer EIGHT pages when he can’t fill them without resorting to padding? Perhaps he struggled to meet his word count because he had to drag himself to Take 2’s offices to play through their code (which went gold after the magazine had gone to print) whilst a PR husk was perched on his shoulder. He says in the review that he spent at least 30 hours playing it, but that would have meant going down there every day, 9am-5pm, for a whole week. [EDIT: OK, we've got reliable information from Gillen that he did, but our criticisms stand]
Reviewing pre-gold code in the publisher’s office isn’t good practice, but it’s not uncommon. PC Gamer’s bitch PC Zone did the same for Oblivion, and all Future’s mags do the same for big releases. Reviewers had to fly overseas to review Half-Life 2, but the reviewer-to-magazine ratio meant some of them had to write the review more than once so different versions (by the same reviewer) could appear in different mags.
We’re going to get rounded on now by PC Gamer’s brigade for daring to criticise them, but we’ve got no problem with the rest of the mag. They just fucked up their review of one of the biggest releases of the year because Future would rather send reviewers to PR offices to play pre-gold code than wait for finalised code for the reviewer to play through properly. You can judge for yourself when the mag’s in the shops on Thursday, and tell us what you think.