Given what I do every Friday, you might have raised an eyebrow at that. But hear me out.
Since the advent of online gaming, video game releases have changed dramatically. Back in the early days of consoles like the PS2 and the GameCube and everything before them, what you bought was the finished product. If it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, that wasn’t going to change.
Nowadays, things are remarkably different. Games are frequently updated after release, to the point where it’s become expected from the industry. If it’s broken and unfinished, don’t worry; it’ll be done and fixed within a year or two. The number of examples of this has grown beyond counting, from Street Fighter V to No Man’s Sky to so many others. Games change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes just to bring it into the state it should have been in at launch.
Which is where we get back to the question in the title. In a world where games change so dramatically after release, have video game reviews fallen out of use?
Reviewing an older game is easy. That game is done and complete and it is never going to change. If you were in the 80s and you read a review of some NES game, you knew that the game being talked about wouldn’t change. Mario 64 doesn’t change, so reviews focused on it are still worth something.
But now day one reviews are completely unreliable for any period of time beyond a few months, at the most. A review at launch might complain about a lack of content or polish. Then, a few months down the line, the game has been patched to where that issue no longer exists. Can you still put trust into that review, or do you just have to buy the game and see it for yourself?
Even the core gameplay can change over time. Just have a look at fighting games. Take Dragon Ball Fighterz. It has changed so dramatically over the years, with balance patches and new characters and extra mechanics, that it’s pretty much become an entirely different game. Or look at a more dramatic example in No Man’s Sky; it went from the most hollow and broken game on the market to a game stuffed to bursting with content. Reading an old review of No Man’s Sky is pointless, as that version of the game is long since dead and buried.
So, are game reviews obsolete? They may have value in the short-term; a reliable review can warn you of an unfinished broken game, or just of a game that may not be for you. But in the long-term? Perhaps not.
That said, I’m still gonna keep on writing them. If for no other reason than they are fun to write.