Opinion: MW2′s genius shouldn’t blind us to controversies

Price hiking, airport massacres, Activision’s miserly attitude to review code – Modern Warfare 2 has a fair few blotches on its mark sheet. FPS Gamer takes stock.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, November 9, 2009

The Daily Telegraph’s Nick Cowen has offered an interesting defence of this scene, presenting it as a study of “fish-eyed pragmatism” among real-life combatants. Cowen also observes, however, that the story is “merely an excuse to hang action set pieces on”, which suggests that Infinity Ward is interested less in assembling a critique of wartime sociopathy than in jolting the player skywards by breaking a few taboos. The recently unveiled, recently pulled “F.A.G.S.” trailer – surely the most flaccid, puerile piece of marketing this year – doesn’t exactly help the developer’s cause in this regard.

The airport sequence begins.

The airport sequence begins.

Last but not least, there’s a bit of a stink over the issue of review code. We obtained ours from a retail source (which is why we’re publishing our score in advance of the general embargo tomorrow morning) after much fruitless huffing and puffing in Activision’s direction last month. The publisher’s attitude to pre-release copies for the specialist online press has been remarkably, even aggressively stringent: lifestyle and print publications were apparently invited to play the game in the comfort of London’s Sanderson Hotel a week or more ago, but everybody else – including the largest UK-oriented review sites – has been kept hanging till a few days before release.

In fact, with no sign of code from Activision at the time of writing, the earliest “official” review support we can expect is after midnight tonight: the publisher is giving away copies to guests at the much-trumpeted London launch event. As Modern Warfare 2 hits retail tomorrow, this essentially means those writers who have not obtained the game through other channels have no lead time whatsoever.

The launch is kicking off right here. Avoid if you're averse to camo carpets.

The launch is kicking off right here. Avoid if you're averse to camo carpets.

This is worth quibbling over because imposing a tight deadline is one of the easiest and most insidious ways a publisher can influence a score. With as little as 24 hours or less to exhaust a game, formulate an opinion and set it down on the page, most reviewers will be tempted to play it safe, to toe the line drawn and re-drawn by PR campaigns, rather than point up failings which may only become completely evident after a week or so’s interrogation. There’s the option to delay a review, of course, but games editorial is a business like any other and it trades on punctuality. People rarely read reviews that arrive late, and sadly advertisers do not pay editors for their principles.

That’s enough muck-throwing for one day. Stay tuned for Kristan’s verdict very, very shortly.

One Response to “Opinion: MW2′s genius shouldn’t blind us to controversies”

  1. Stas says:

    I’m sure it;s gonna be a good game but they shouldn’t take the piss!!


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