OK, my take on this situation! (spoilers for....Ocarina of Time?)
So Ross spoiled a pretty big part of Justice for All in the first paragraph of his review, his only warnings being "previous entries" and "in its final case". If you could stop reading there, congratulations. If you read 7 more words for trust that Ross wouldn't actually say the specific twist...you were screwed. There's no arguing for one side or the other's ability to stop reading. It was a matter of how fast you read and how cautious you are with every sentence, which don't go hand in hand.
What is arguable is the expectation of readers going into reviews. What Ross was trying to do was express the importance of the main theme in the game by illustrating its buildup in prior entries. He uses, admittedly, good examples of the theme's increasing focus throughout the series. Unfortunately, one of those examples was a major spoiler for a 6 year old game, which pissed off those who never played that title. I think the opening of Ross's review is well-written and (being a series veteran) illustrates his point concisely. The problem with doing this is FORM OVER FUNCTION. The review begins like a neat essay keeping its form and pacing, but sacrifices its function as consumer recommendation.
Now I've seen plenty of pieces that call themselves reviews but are full of spoilers in order to get things across. Matthewmatosis
is the best analytical reviewer on youtube because he dissects games beginning to end with 40 minute videos, but he gets no flack because he has a spoiler warning for the first few seconds. Even for his brief recommendation video for Ghost Trick, he admits to only showing footage from the beginning of the game. I think spoiler warnings can be disruptive in the middle of an essay like "blah blah blah [spoilers!] blah blah blah" but setting one as a preface is an acceptable compromise if authors want to keep their writing look seamless. I chose to preface my Zero Escape series review
with a warning of possible spoilers for series newbies in the Virtue's Last Reward portion of the piece, because I believe knowing the sequel's basic concept can ruin a big part of 999. The 1st half of the review was completely safe for everyone though.
Ross's review of a sequel to a continuous saga comes hot off the heels of Sterling's review of The Stanley Parable HD, which reveals nearly nothing and then says "How do you discuss it, analyze it, and recommend it? That's quite simple. You don't."
Jim is correct; We can't truly discuss something and recommend it to someone at the same time. I played the original mod, so I can see where Jim is coming from, but there's always an off-chance that some clueless person will click the review and go "WTF Jim that's lazy!" But I'm betting if he keeps inquiring about the title and gets teasing recommendations from friends or cryptic Facebook statuses on how it "blew my mind zomgbbq!" then perhaps the reader will be even more curious than ever!
Reviewing is a balancing act in this regard, so it's the author's job to communicate what his/her target audience is. Going too in-depth will send newbies on the fence into a frenzy. Keep it too shallow (How the game works, what you do, end) and there's no point in series veterans reading it (the discussion of themes in the game and setting after AA4 was interesting for me personally). If I had to, I'd probably lean toward the latter as there's no bigger bitch than a spoiler for the newbies.
The biggest challenge is figuring out the threshold for each individual subject. Where do we draw the line? The fact that young Link becomes an adult in Ocarina of Time is at once a major selling point in promotions and reviews, and a massive unexpected twist for those who played the game "raw". Smash Bros Melee literally spoils Shiek's secret for those who never played OoT in the 3 years it had been out before the Gamecube. If you watched the recent Emmy's, you logically know who survives at least past Season 4 of Breaking Bad. Here, let me start writing a consumer review for Majora's Mask....
'Majora's Mask begins with young Link riding through the Lost Woods searching for a lost friend after he had saved the land of Hyrule from Ganon-------'
That right there is already a spoiler for the guys still playing catch-up with the first N64 Zelda. If the reader came into the review for a direct sequel to a game he hasn't completed, the simple sentence I wrote will imply that Link does not keep his adult form at the end of OoT, which may ruin an aspect of OoT's wonderful ending.
So barring the unavoidable situations in popular culture, or implied through a sequel's promotional material/premise that we cannot shut down, I think we should do our best to avoid FURTHER spoiling stories for our friends offline and online. Writers and "series vets", please be mindful of the magnitude of what you reveal about a game whether on a review, daily hotness, etc. There's no objective threshold for what ruins an adventure, but a CLIMAX of a game (new or old) is probably not the best scene to discuss without a spoiler warning. Readers and consumers, please be cautious when you venture into continuity sequels or ancient franchise territory....read intentionally slowly and be prepared to turn away at a moment's notice if the subject heads down a path you don't want to be unveiled.