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2:13 AM on 10.25.2010 // Brian Szabelski
Should games that have major updates get updated reviews?


Every once in a while, I find a post I started writing and never finished. Tonight's one of those nights. So I present, to you, the Dtoid C-Blog readers of the world, one such post, written a while ago but perhaps important because it's now a subject that affects me what to do with games that get major patches/updates. Not DLC, mind you, but fixes for problems that were present in the game in the first place. And this is relevant to me now because I reviewed one such game — F1 2010 — which I may have scored higher if the bugs Codemasters are fixing now were never present.

The original post was inspired by Backbreaker's massive update a few months ago, essentially fixing problems and complaints that dragged the game's score down in a number of reviews I read. But it's still timely, and will be in the future as more post-game patching is done on the likes of New Vegas and others (though New Vegas sscored so highly, it may not affect it much).

So here it all is, open for debate. Please feel free to discuss any part of this post in the comments. I might just reply if you
Every once in a while, I find a post I started writing and never finished. Tonight's one of those nights. So I present, to you, the Dtoid C-Blog readers of the world, one such post, written a while ago but perhaps important because it's now a subject that affects me personally: what to do with games that get major patches/updates. Not DLC, mind you, but fixes for problems that were present in the game in the first place. And this is relevant to me now because I reviewed one such game — F1 2010 — which I may have scored higher if the bugs Codemasters are fixing now were never present.

The original post was inspired by Backbreaker's massive update a few months ago, essentially fixing problems and complaints that dragged the game's score down in a number of reviews I read. But it's still timely, and will be in the future as more post-game patching is done on the likes of Fallout: New Vegas and others (though New Vegas sscored so highly, it may not affect it much).

So here it all is, open for debate. Please feel free to discuss any part of this post in the comments. I might just reply if you're nice enough :p

The Case For The Occasional Re-review

Simply put, the old idea of simply reviewing a game as it comes out and never worrying about anything changing with it is outdated. In the old days, because games were cart-based and because you didn’t worry about the Internet, what you saw was literally what you got. Forever. Or at least until they’d release a series compilation title that might address the issues.

But today, games are patched on an almost daily basis. The development cycle doesn’t end upon the release of a title, and can at times, last for years without much slowing down. Or at the very least, at least between releases in a series.

Sometimes, those patches are small, fixing one error here or there that might inconvenience a player. Other times, they significantly update the game engine or mechanics. Such is the case with the game that sparked this whole idea: Backbreaker’s “Greathouse” patch has a list off issues fixed that’s quite long, and the game was pretty savagely beat up by sites for things this patch hopes to adjust or fix. And if it does so, the argument would go, wouldn’t that affect the game’s score for the better? Is it fair for a game that might be rescored at a higher score to be saddled with a lower one just because of issues they’ve since fixed?

The Slippery-Slope Argument

The slippery-slope argument for this is basically if you do it for one game, you’ll have to do it for every game every time it’s updated or patched. That, of course, is unreasonable, both in actually doing and perhaps in thought. Most patches are small ones to fix a known issue or three and don’t actually add much to the game. They also probably wouldn’t significantly affect a game’s score.

The “Bring What You’ve Got” Argument

The other argument is that reviews should only be about what’s been brought when the game initially releases, because with today’s world of patching, any game can be made better post-release, so of course scores would increase as issues would be fixed. That’s a more solid argument than the previous one, but again, it doesn’t do justice to games that have received continuous support since their release, like most MMOs often do, or games that may have significant holes plugged. It also doesn’t do justice to customers to say a product that’s fixed and now works fine is still bad because the initial batch was crap.

But then again, if you don’t have an Internet connection, that’s what you’re going to be playing, right? That’s an issue we have to take into account and it’s a legit one to think about. I mean, there’s no reason to say “Game X is great … if you can update it."

And on top of it, there are always questions of integrity. Some people will argue an updated review hurts your publication's intregrity by changing scores that have been assigned. And frankly, given how the Internet likes to latch onto anything like that and blow it well out of proportion, the risk may be too high to even consider it.

So can it be done?

Yes, but with clear boundaries set on when such a review could be done. For each site, it would probably be different, but universally, I’d assume it would be something where if a game received several updates or one massive update that changed the game fundamentally, such a review might be warranted. Team Fortress 2’s updates – adding in three new game modes and new weapons which change game play styles for some classes – is probably the game most fitting this description. As for the game that originally inspired this, Backbreaker, I’m not certain. The “Greathouse” patch fixes a number of issues with the game that could alter it’s score and maybe move it from a 4 or a 5 to a 6 or higher, but I’m still uncertain whether the massive update is enough to justify a second look.

Heck, you might not even need to assign a score: just a simple reflection on whether the game is better or not might be sufficient.

Would people care?

That perhaps is the biggest question, and I don’t know if they would or not. Maybe this is where I should ask all of you to sound off in the comments. Would you like to see video game sites do reviews of updated titles when the updates were sufficient enough to warrant them, or would you rather leave the original reviews be?
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