So Red Dead Redemption 2 has arrived and already dominated critical opinion. On both OpenCritic and MetaCritic sites it has an average score of 97%. That puts it amongst some of the highest scoring games ever on these aggregate sites. However the reviews are all based on an incomplete videogame, or at least only part of the overall package being purchased. Because until Red Dead Online (the multiplayer mode) releases all these reviews are only of the single-player portion of the game.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, in that Grand Theft Auto 5 launched without GTA Online, which arrived a few weeks after launch. However it feels like one of the few time such an important mode has been ignored within a videogame review. Imagine reviews of Halo 5 without mentioning the multiplayer, or a review of Call of Duty which only touch upon Zombies mode etc. Indeed imagine a review of a film or a book, where the reviewer has only seen or read some of the work. It feels broken to say the least.
Unfortunately this is just part of the reality of videogame reviews. Huge cachet or financial rewards are placed on reviews and the Metacritic aggregate. And this aggregate doesn’t update upon re-reviews. So videogame developers and publishers who love to control every aspect of a products launch know that it really doesn’t matter what happens afterwards. There are examples of broken reviews everywhere, for example Halo: The Master Chief Collection got a high 85 on MetaCritic, but barely any of the reviews even mention the broken state that the package released in. Where even basic features such as online matchmaking didn’t work properly (although Microsoft and 343 Industries have recently returned to repair and update the game). Arguably making videogame reviews even more complicated is the changing nature of Live Services and online games.
It is a reason why forums, Reddit or YouTube have become more important for some in evaluating a videogame. As I noted in my recent blog post reviews have arguably improved with user generated content and the rise of more independent videogame reviewers.
Red Dead Redemption 2 might be the game of the year and worthy of praise, but it’s still curious to see barely any mention of the incoming multiplayer mode. Almost as if it’s an afterthought. Although in reality it is anything but. If Rockstar treat RDR 2 the same as GTA V then it is the single-player mode which will be static, whilst only the online component receives new content. The single-player mode will be stuck in time. Much like the reviews of Red Dead Redemption 2.