Tom Chick: The Man Who Hated Deus Ex

By Kieron Gillen on June 29th, 2010 at 11:00 am.

When Deus Ex debuted back in 2000 it was showered with universal critical kudos. Well… almost universal critical kudos. The exception was Tom Chick, now one of the most respected American games journalists currently writing about the medium, who gave it a sub-50% mark. And no-one’s ever forgot it, though it’s long since been lost even to archive.org… though the lovely Crumbsucker has unearthed it. I felt I couldn’t finish our looking-backwards at Deus Ex without talking to Tom about his infamous running-joke provoking review…

RPS: Care to tell about the back story, as far as you remember? As in, how did you come to be reviewing this game?

Tom Chick: I was a freelancer for cnet’s Gamecenter. It was just another assignment. They would say, “Hey, can you review this game?” and as long as it wasn’t something about sports, I’d say “Sure”.

RPS: What were your expectations before going in? What was that initial impression?

Tom Chick: Ah, that was when the internet was young and inchoate and jealous of print publications and full of wide open space that would eventually get clogged up with previews, message boards, and comments sections. I don’t recall having much by way of expectations for Deus Ex. I knew it was associated with Ion Storm’s shenanigans in Texas. I knew Warren Spector had a history at Origin and Looking Glass. Beyond that, I recall going in naked.

RPS: So, you wrote the review. Were you aware at the time it was going to be controversial? I can’t remember when it came it the review cycle, so did you know you were going against the flow?

Tom Chick: I had no idea. I never do. I’m a bit oblivious that way. I simply write about my experience. Sometimes some cosmic dice roll and my experience is out of sorts with everyone else’s experiences. I had played through a review build before Deus Ex was released, so my first inkling that my experience was a snake eyes or box cars was when my editor emailed me after I’d submitted the review. He said everyone at Gamecenter liked Deus Ex so they weren’t going to run the review. He reassigned it to someone else. They never offered me another assignment after that.

By the way, before submitting the review, I doublechecked with my editor about review scores. Gamecenter was using the 1-10 scale. Not the 7-9 scale, they insisted! Even back then, I resisted the idea of the 1-10 scale being a 7-9 scale (that particular battle has long since been lost, of course). So while writing the Deus Ex review, I verified with my editor that a 5 would be an average game and not necessarily a negative score. He confirmed. So I sent in the Deus Ex review with a 3. I figured it was a couple notches below average. Man, can you imagine a 3 these days? No one’s going to use a 3 on any game that doesn’t cost $19.99 or less.

So Gamecenter killed the review and I sold it to Games Domain. One of the cool things about the internet back then was that there were about a zillion places where a freelancer could sell an article. Games Domain stuck a bunch of Beatle’s lyrics into the review as subheads, which was a bit mystifying to me. But otherwise, they graciously published almost exactly what I’d submitted.

I guess it wasn’t until after it was published that I realized how the cosmic dice had rolled on a larger scale. I remember several long and often acrimonious conversations on Usenet about the review. And, of course, the emails. For a while, I had a whole folder for Deus Ex email. Some emails were supportive, but most were just people who wanted to vent. One angry fellow – he was a kid really – sent me a picture of himself, pointing a gun at the camera. He wrote something like “go ahead, make my day” in the email. I suppose that could be considered a death threat, but I would have preferred something more dramatic like “I will totally kill you because you didn’t like Deus Ex!” I tried for a while to respond to everyone as graciously as I could, but I eventually petered out. So if you wrote me an angry email ten years ago, I apologize for not getting back to you.

RPS: Have you re-read it recently? What do you think with it? Oddly, it’s a review which has tended to stick in my head. The “This is how the world ends” bit nailing the quotations was a fine flourish. And I also specifically remember that your reservations weren’t actually easy to dismiss – a world where every corner contains 10mm ammo and all that. For all the bile, no-one’s really found a problem in the review.

Tom Chick: I don’t know about you, but I hate going back and reading my old stuff. However, I wrote an updated look at Deus Ex for Gametap recently. So I actually re-read the review and then replayed parts of Deus Ex. I still didn’t care for it, but it was nice to see the engine running smoothly. That was one of my major criticisms. When Deus Ex was released, the Unreal engine struggled mightily with the level design. That was before console systems came along and saved us all from poorly optimized engines.

Deus Ex does deserve credit for trying open-world-ish games before they were really ready. A year before Grand Theft Auto III came along, Ion Storm was trying to drop you into Paris and Hong Kong. That was pretty ballsy, even if there was a curfew or plague or whatever to limit the number of characters onscreen at once. But Ion Storm was biting off way more than they could chew with that graphics engine and particularly with that AI [sic]. Those things just killed the experience for me. Contrast this to Alpha Protocol, which focuses first and foremost on gameplay, confined to smaller more manageable boxes representing warehouses or enemy bases. For all its faults, Alpha Protocol knows how far it can and can’t reach.

RPS: How do you feel about its graduation into a running joke?

Tom Chick: It’s sort of cute. We all have strong opinions about different things, and I’m lucky enough that some of those make an impression on people, for better or worse. But I do wish the reaction was to wonder *why* I didn’t like Deus Ex. Instead, it’s often just shorthand to dismiss something else I’ve written. “Oh, he didn’t like Mass Effect 2? Well, he didn’t like Deus Ex either!” That’s just lazy and it ultimately hurts the level of discourse when we talk about videogames.

For instance, if I hear that someone doesn’t like Casablanca or Jaws or Moon, I want to know *why* he didn’t like it. Those are interesting conversations and at their best, we each learn something, even if it’s just about each other. But unfortunately, those are conversations missing in the internet videogame culture. People tend to judge opinions based not on their insight, but on whether they agree with that opinion. A good review isn’t a good review. It’s a review you agree with.

RPS: Part of me wonders what it’d be like to drop a review like that nowadays. As in, that was an earlier time of the Internet. It was quieter. Seeing the death threats that a peer of mine got for 8/10ing MGS4, I’d be fearing for my life. Thoughts?

Some games have built-in fans who like to vent. And that’s cool. I’ve run into that a fair bit when I’ve been critical of Playstation exclusives like Killzone 2 and Uncharted 2. Nintendo has its defenders, but they don’t have that siege mentality. I wrote a negative review of Metal Gear Solid 4, but began with the premise that the game was mostly fan service, which might have deflected the death threats to your buddy who gave it an 8.

However, I think it’s important to look at that sort of anger as a sort of immaturity, a fundamental insecurity about your own opinion, about being unable to express it without simply being emphatic. It’s a defensive measure more than anything else. If reviewers want to address this – and I feel we should since it permeates the way people talk about videogames – the best we can do is explain ourselves in such a way as to work around that defensiveness. It’s important that we’re articulate, that we give context, that we talk specifics as much as we can, that we avoid lazy comments and clichés and hyperbole, that we’re willing to have conversations.

By the way, ratings systems are an obstacle to all of that, but that’s a whole other conversation.

RPS: Actually, it strikes me that Deus Ex was actually quite an important review for you, in terms of cementing your name and approach. You’re one of the few American reviewer who I’ve felt most likely to go against the critical grain if he feels like it, whether positively or negatively. As in, if you’re willing to come out against Deus Ex, you’ll be willing to damn or praise pretty much anything, in a direct way. Or is that just me?

Tom Chick: You just slammed America, didn’t you? I can’t believe you guys are still smarting about that War of Independence thing. However, my approach hasn’t changed one whit since my very first review. It was of a submarine sim way back in, gosh, 1990 or something. Critical grain should have no bearing on a review, mainly because there are so many more meaningful things to take into account.

By the way, I met Harvey Smith at a Midway press event several years ago. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a smart, thoughtful, articulate guy. I got to talk to him a bit and he said the guys at Ion Storm were mystified that I could be so critical about Deus Ex, but then I’d write something enthusiastic about some monster truck racing game. Which is a fair point, but I countered that different games have different objectives. Ion Storm was ambitious with Deus Ex in a way that a monster truck game isn’t. We should consider Deus Ex with very different criteria than a monster truck game.

Also, I have no idea what monster truck racing game he’s talking about. Did I really write a positive review of a monster truck game? Oh dear.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Tom runs Syfy’s games blog, Fidgit. He regularly links to his other work on his Quarter To Three forum.

__________________

« | »

, , , , .

267 Comments »

  1. Omroth says:

    Oh dear. I was kind of sympathetic until he compared Alpha Protocol favorably with DX…

    • Heliocentric says:

      I’m not sure that was favourable, i read it as “alpha protocol is running through a very good mouse warren but deus ex fails at showing whole cities”.

    • lhzr says:

      @omroth: funny, i wasn’t very sympathetic until he compared Alpha Protocol favorably with DX…

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      i didn’t realise until now that a professional games journalist could know so little about game design, alpha protocol fails to understand it’s limits in exactly the same way as deus ex did, except deus ex had harder targets and better execution.

    • subedii says:

      Whilst Alpha Protocol had its fair share of problems, and I’d probably rate it lower than Deus Ex, I feel it was critically underrated by the games press. Most of the complaints I saw about it could’ve been more legitimately been applied to games like Fallout 3, which ended up scoring in the 90′s everywhere.

      I just feel like most reviewers say it was 3rd person and was expecting it to play out like Mass Effect, when it actually does take a lot of its gameplay mechanics ideas from Deus Ex. In a bizarre twist that I still can’t wholly believe, even Yahtzee picked up on this. And whilst he still slammed the game, I felt he was one of the few people to actually do it for the things that the game was legitimately doing wrong, as opposed to the things it wasn’t actually attempting to do or be.

    • subedii says:

      I miss the edit button.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      I Agree most reviews of alpha protocol were ‘this is not what i wanted!’ rather than, what in my opinion a review should be, which is to educate about the mechanics and advise about a purchase for as wide a set of demographics as possible.

    • bill says:

      SO you’re writing off his opinion on everything because you don’t agree with his review of Alpha Protocol?

    • Chris says:

      A fairer criticism of his review technique is that if game A reaches but fails and game B doesn’t reach, meaning they should be reviewed under different circumstances, should they not be on different scoring systems? You would have to have a league table system. One for your run-of-the-mill-same-old game ideas and another for your adventurous-barrier-pushing games. Maybe Alpha Protocol is a 8/10 Normal game and Deus Ex with its tech limitations fell as a 4/10 Experimental game. That could be fair to say but the difference between the two has to be stated.

      After all don’t most of us here play games for next new experience rather than pining for the next fifa or CoD game?
      (On that note I am excited for Diablo 3 :$)

    • Jeremy says:

      Well, the ridiculous thing is that anyone making this comment is essentially saying that their taste defines the standard by how games should be rated or enjoyed.

      You liked a game I didn’t? Then your opinion is no longer valid… not just to me, but to everyone. It’s an absurd outlook really.

    • Wulf says:

      I actually feel sorry for him. At least he has an opinion, good for him.

      I can relate though. It’s like my dislike of a few things that’s made the RPS community go hilariously angry man, leading to geeks and nerds throwing their toys out of the pram in rage.

      A few of my favourite examples that I can think of are:

      - Blizzard’s art is shit. I’ve got nothing against cartoony art, but there’s a difference between proper, decent animation from someone like Disney, and fucking NickToons which aren’t Avatar: The Last Airbender. They look horribly amateur to me, across the board. I think the problem might be the generation gap here, though. I didn’t grow up with NickToons, so I’m not immune to really terrible looking cartoons that are like sandpaper to my eyeballs.

      - Dragon Age is boring. It has really wooden characters that barely evolve, and I felt like the character I played was a cardboard cut-out, and no matter what choice I made I was always forced into a certain role, I didn’t really feel like it was me in the game, but more a one-dimensional automaton I was forced to play as. The characters in Dragon Age were a far cry from those in Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol, or even bloody Fallout 3. All I wanted from Dragon Age was strong characters and an interesting narrative, and for me it had neither.

      Of course, these are just personal opinions, but hey, people are going to blow a gasket and get in my face about it, with knee-jerkingly defensive responses, because people can’t stand it when someone else has a different opinion.

      That’s why I really feel for the bloke.

    • Ahnteis says:

      >> Oh dear. I was kind of sympathetic until he compared Alpha Protocol favorably with DX…

      Yes he did. But remember, he gave Deus Ex a 5/10.

    • Omroth says:

      No no not at all – everyone’s opinions are valid, of course. It’s just that at the point that he said the thing about AP it became clear that his opinion diverged so strongly from mine that I stopped thinking I would be able to empathise with his point of view.

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      I didn’t read that as a particularly favorable comparison to Deus Ex, but I do think he meant it that way. It seems Mr. Chick’s opinion is that it is preferable for games to not “shoot for the stars”, but rather to be as complete and polished as possible – even if that means they aren’t particularly innovative.

      I personally would much rather play games that attempt to push the medium forward by trying new/different things with varying degrees of success than play generic_game_001, even if it is highly polished. Even if Alpha Protocol’s shooting and cover mechanics weren’t as polished as, say, Mass Effect 2, it did a better job than any mainstream game I’ve played of building a story that really reacts to everything the player does. If Alpha Protocol’s levels were larger and provided more than one way to approach an objective (per Deus Ex) it would be a fine spiritual successor.

    • whalleywhat says:

      I’d say Deus Ex’s levels are similarly confined to boxes or arenas as Alpha Protocol’s, they’re just much, much less linear. It’s misguiding to think that you’re actually in Paris or wherever, it’s just a strange little unworldly area with clearly defined boundaries that shares no similarities to Paris other than a name. I can see how judging it by that criteria would lead to seeing it as woefully deficient.
      Otherwise, Deus Ex is the perfect example of a game where there are many glaring flaws, but the overall experience is more than the sum of its parts. I respect Mr. Chick’s opinion, and enjoy his writing, but this strikes me as more of a case of the “consumer reports” review listing pros and cons and missing the forest for the trees. Of course, I probably just have to accept that the game didn’t resonate with him the same way it did with me.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I think Alpha Protocol’s missions tend to be more linear in a “go from point A to point B to point C” sense, but in terms of execution they’re anything but. Most missions have multiple ways of completing them, and while it wasn’t as big of a factor as I expected, your interactions with different characters as well as the order you complete the missions change the nature of several of the missions. I played through Alpha Protocol 5 times before browsing its wikia page, and I was stunned by some of the fairly major plot and mission aspects I hadn’t experienced, despite trying to take a different approach each time.

  2. AndrewC says:

    Oooooo. The answer to the 8/10 MGS4 review and the death threats: this stuff needs to get said lots’n'lots’n'lots.

    Shame I can’t read that Deus Ex review though now.

    • Griddle Octopus says:

      Yes; there’s a weird mix out there of the dictatorial nature of MY opinion as something unchallengeable balanced against YOUR opinion being utterly wrong and not even worthy of consideration.

      For what it’s worth, I wasn’t that big a fan of Deus Ex either – loved the first level, but was hugely disappointed at the way it faked so many mechanics (stunning was the same as killing, stealth was rubbish, choices didn’t really lead to different paths but just a forced action further down the line, etc.) Much preferred Ultima Underworld II and System Shock, even as much older games.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Hear hear!

      Fanboy rage has never, in my experience, included articulate or interesting discussion. RPS Xcom and Deus Ex comments excluded, of course…

    • Huggster says:

      Underworld oozed atmosphere – I feel less memorable atmo from Deux Ex looking back.

  3. Brumisator says:

    Did he just praise consoles? *gasp* He must be an evil person whose opinions are wrong.

    I must say I never even heard about this review debacle. But in the end, yes it is a terrible thing that the 1-10 scale has been forgotten.

    • Clovis says:

      I took that line as, “We don’t have to worry about developer’s really taxing our computers anymore since they’ve got to get the games to work on consoles.”

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      yeah, he doesn’t know much about optimisation either as the poorly optimised engine was born in the era of cross compatibility, what he’s actually saying is it doesn’t matter that games are so much more poorly optimised these days as they’re ambition has been thoroughly raped by the onset of console ubiquity.

      Also Deus Ex ran fine on my PC and i didn’t even have a 3D Accelerator that worked properly (Diamond Monster Voodoo 1)

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah I really didn’t understand that point. I played it when it was released on a piece of crap computer and it worked smoothly. He makes several points I don’t understand. I didn’t realise the 1-10 system HAD been abandoned.

  4. Kast says:

    I present these extracts without further comment.

  5. Sobric says:

    Does Chick’s review really not exist anywhere? I’d quite like to read it.

    Someone must have it pinned to a wall in their Temple of Hate right?

  6. Omroth says:

    Also, I’m *sure* that one of the big US games magazines (possibly even PCG US, but maybe GI or something) had a luke-warm DX review. Anyone else remember that?

    • John says:

      From memory Gamespot gave Deus Ex 8/10, marking it down for poor graphics and because the reviewer felt the world was too contrived. Similar to one of Tom Chick’s criticisms there. I always felt that was an odd criticism because Deus Ex’s world is obviously more detailed than most. But I suppose when you try to do something difficult and people feel like you haven’t quite succeeded, they judge you harder than the games with floating health packs, which don’t try to be ‘realistic’.

      I almost didn’t buy the game based on that Gamespot review (8/10 being quite low for them). Fortunately I read a magazine review shortly after that gave it 98%.

  7. WTF says:

    Quote: “That was before console systems came along and saved us all from poorly optimized engines.”

    Say what now? Posting comments like that does not do him any favours when people accuse him of being a bit clueless…

    • Phoshi says:

      I think that was at least half joking. Performance issues can be pretty bad, though they’re certainly much better than they used to be.

    • D says:

      Certainly sounded like sarcasm to me.

    • Crush says:

      Half joking I think, PC exclusives had a tendency to run very badly even some recent titles kept up the trend (Stalker, Crysis) as the attitude was let the consumer throw more processing power at the problem rather than optimize it on our end.

      Game consoles force optimization and even Valve admitted it to improving some of their work when they did a GDC presentation on the Orange Box.

      Of course there is a flip side where a game is too optimized for a game console with little work done for the PC version and it runs like a dog e.g GTA4.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Quote: “That was before console systems came along and saved us all from poorly optimized engines.”
      He’d better be half-joking: Deus Ex was released for PS2, so it’s not even a correct statement.

      But given he almost certainly reads RPS I’m pretty certain he’s joking. He knows what the reaction will be here :)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Crysis, a PC-exclusive, runs like shit even on high-end hardware that was manufactured a year after the game’s release. By contrast, something like Dead Space looks as good if not better than Crysis on anything lower than ultra and runs way, way better than Crysis.

      So yes, we have the console generation to thank for pretty engines that run well on dated hardware. Don’t confuse engine optimisation with port quality. It’s entirely possible to have an optimised engine that goes through a shitty port and ends up running really badly on PC.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Crysis runs fine on my PC, and it’d ooold.

    • Bhazor says:

      Alexander Norris believes what he reads on the Internet.
      Alexander Norris believes a lot of things.

    • WTF says:

      Quote:”Crysis runs fine on my PC, and it’d ooold.”

      More importantly Crysis ran fine on my computer on launch day and it was no behemoth.
      The “PC engines are un-optimised – just look at Crysis!!” crowd are just bloody ignorant and that is why I flagged up Tom’s statement about consoles in the first place. PC engines are far better than their console counterparts in almost every respect – the issue is that the average PC owner is just clueless and prone to blaming the game’s manufacturer rather then realising that their PC is badly configured / isn’t updated / is full of cruft and spyware / is a crumbling and aged piece of crap.

    • Muzman says:

      Yes, don’t believe the hype (or is that believe the hype?). Crysis is a lovely scalable engine that runs great on a middle of the road machine. Needing a god box to turn it all the way up to 11 doesn’t matter at all.

    • Navagon says:

      @ Alexander Norris
      Dead Space featured very small cramped environments and very, very little in the way of detailed textures. It also wasn’t so smooth running, which was pretty evident whenever you tried to aim at something.

      Crysis I’ve never had a problem running. Apart from the fact that the intro movies in the pre-release demo ran at 1 frame a second on my oooold rig. But the game itself ran smooth as silk on lower settings even then. The bitching about Crysis purely concerns people who expected to be able to max it out on release and people expecting to be able to run it on their graphics card-less laptop/budget prebuilt system. Simply just running the game on a moderate system has never been a problem.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I see lots of people complain that Crysis doesn’t work on their pc. Well I bought my system before it came out and it ran it fine. What I think they are saying is, I want to be able to turn the settings to maximum and I can’t.

      Honestly, my flatmate played Crysis through on a single-core processor with an old Radeon x800. It didn’t look too pretty but it ran at 60 frames per second.

    • NateN says:

      @Navagon – There WERE a few odd bugs if you overstepped your graphics capabilities however, which could have resulted in some of the venting. The game ran fine on my computer with an occasional hiccup at fairly high settings, but I had to crank the settings way down to get around the “can’t lock on” bug in the finale. (There were other bugs I’m sure, but THAT bug in particular was very memorable to me!)

    • Nick says:

      “they’re certainly much better than they used to be”

      The incorrect words of someone who wasn’t there?

    • Nick says:

      “Crysis, a PC-exclusive, runs like shit even on high-end hardware that was manufactured a year after the game’s release”

      And this is just flat out wrong, it was/is and always has been very scaleable, it ran on medium settings on my PC on release and my PC was a good few years old.

    • Tei says:

      “Crysis, a PC-exclusive”

      A exclusive is wen the owner of a platform pay the creator of a game to limit the game to his platform. Who is the owner of the PC platform? the creator… IBM? Has IBM paid the devs of Crysis so Crysis will only run on PC and will never be a XBox version?
      This is new to me.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      @tei: No, it has come to mean that in the parlance of gamers, but that is not its basic original meaning. Exclusive used in a literal sense just means it exists only on one platform, which is as true of Crysis as it is of Gratuitous Space Battles.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Crysis does not run well on my significantly-more-modern-than-Crysis computer.

      Obviously, just as you assume that because it runs well on yours it must run well on everyone’s, it has to run like shit on everyone’s computer because it doesn’t run well on mine, right? Except that if a game engine fails to run well on hardware that is significantly more modern than it (a bit more than a year is aeons in computer hardware age), it’s unoptimised. Doesn’t matter how few or how many hardware combinations it doesn’t run properly on; if it’s unoptimised on a hardware configuration, it is unoptimised – and I’m far from the only person with a gaming-quality desktop built with hardware that came out either around the same time as Crysis or quite a few months later and which can’t run Crysis at a playable level on anything above Medium at DX9 when games that came out after Crysis and look about as good run fine.

      I can run Resident Evil 5 (which runs on MT Framework, an engine built with console hardware in mind, and a game released some time after Crysis) with everything turned up to the maximum and it’s silky smooth. Ditto with UE3 games (again, they run on an engine that was designed with console hardware in mind), or something like GRID/DIRT 2, or Burnout Paradise – all of them were released either concurrently with or after Crysis, all of them were made with console hardware in mind, and all of them run much better and look much nicer than Crysis at any playable setting you could run on any given hardware.

      So yes, the rise of consoles and console-to-PC ports has resulted in new engines being optimised to make the best use of console hardware and consequently running well and looking pretty on PCs with hardware that is outdated by the time the games are released.

  8. Sagan says:

    I totally understand him. Sometimes I really don’t like a very popular game. Or sometimes I just think that a game is merely OK. Like World of Warcraft. Or Half Life 2. If I were a reviewer and if I were to review one of those games on a 1-10 scale, I would have gotten death threats, too.

    After all, you can’t like all games. I mean look at the HL2: Episode 2 stats. A fifth of the people who bought it played it for less than an hour. So a lot of people really don’t like HL2: Episode 2, except it was considered one of Valve’s finest title. If one of those 20% of players had been a reviewer and had reviewed it on a 1-10 scale, that would have been a disaster.

    • Mman says:

      Without further information that’s a major leap to make with that data. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of those people weren’t interested in playing through anyway (not the same as disliking it). Not to mention stuff like people with extremely limited time.

    • WTF says:

      Yeah, while I do not agree with him, I adored Deus Ex, I do sympathise as I constantly cause controversy with my peers for hating supposedly amazing games (Half LIfe 2, Bioshock, WoW, EVE, Modern Warfare and on and on) and loving things that others hate. Problem is I don’t recall anyone else (who played it at or near release) who though that Deus Ex was anything less than great. I found it hard to understand what he could have seen that we didn’t that led him to dislike it – I find it more likely that he missed the point with Deus and that it was his fault he did not like it.

    • DrGonzo says:

      My girlfriend is one of those people who bought Episode 2 and hasn’t finished it. It’s not because she doesn’t like it, quite the opposite in fact. She just isn’t a gamer and it takes her a VERY long while to get round to playing things, let alone finishing them.

    • warsarge says:

      The average session time is not the total play time. Just the time played each time a user sat down. The average total playtime was over 6 hours. As per the stats page:

      Average session time (0h 41m)

      The average length of time that a player played before quitting. This is calculated by dividing the total number of sessions played by the total recorded play time.

    • jsdn says:

      No, look at the total play time graph. 100% of people played at least 0 hours. 81% of people played at least a half hour. Therefore roughly 20% of people didn’t play longer than a half hour, and therefore “A fifth of the people who bought it played it for less than an hour,” is true.

    • James T says:

      So a lot of people really don’t like HL2: Episode 2, except it was considered one of Valve’s finest title.

      Isn’t it largely considered their least impressive title? (I’d put Left 4 Dead below it, but that’s just me.) It didn’t help that it was packaged with two runaway super-hits, but I recall it getting the least enthusiastic reviews and feedback for a Valve game I’ve seen (I certainly thought it was much too padded-out, and I didn’t enjoy the fight arenas much).

  9. Alexander Norris says:

    Man? Man?!

    Tom Chick is no man. He can’t be. He doesn’t like Deus Ex.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I should probably qualify that this is humorous, and I don’t think negatively reviewing Deus Ex impacts negatively on Tom Chick’s quality as a human being (or for that matter, strips him of the right to be a games journo). Since it seems the next 15,000 replies are going to be “omg tom chick suxx0rz”…

    • Zaphid says:

      He’s no man, he’s a Chick (really bad pun)

    • Davian says:

      Nah, that pun was at least 7.5/10.

  10. Wildeheart says:

    If you can’t spot what an amazing game Deus Ex is then your opinion as a games reviewer should be called into question. If someone’s an art critic and tells you they don’t think Da Vinci was much of a painter would you really value their opinion on other works of art?

    Personally I think Tom seems a little bit too happy to ride the controversy of his review in the mistaken belief that he’s “keeping it real”. In actual fact it just damages his career by making it seem like he can’t tell a good game from a bad one – kind of an essential skill if you want to be a games journalist.

    • Phoshi says:

      So if somebody’s opinion doesn’t conform it should be ignored? For all the parts of Deus Ex that are bloody fantastic, it’s not flawless, and different people have different tastes, whether it’s about art, movies, books, or video games. Some people like Romance novels, but I don’t discount their opinions about books in decent genres because of it.

    • Skurmedel says:

      Yes you would. Reviews are opinions. Opinions are subjective. As long as he has played the game in a fair manner (e.g not reviewed Crysis on a 486 and with a open mind) and presented his opinions in a sensible manner, you can’t really complain.

      Also, I’m sure you can find people which agree with his review, much like you can find people who are not very fond of Da Vinci.

    • Pinky Floyd says:

      I’ve been playing games for ooohhhh 30 years. I tried DX first time around, didn’t click with me at all.

      Tried it again a few years ago, clicked even less.

      Not all games are for everyone, and that includes reviewers. An individual opinion is just that, individual. Assimilation into the majority view is bad because then we never see the other side of the story, no matter how few people share that point of view. All views are important to helping create an informed opinion.

      Amazingly, it’s actually ok to not like DX.

    • Mike Russo says:

      Funnily enough, my friends who know from art inform me that Da Vinci actually wasn’t that good of a painter, and the whole Mona Lisa exaltation provokes mixed amusement and annoyance.

    • skyydragonn says:

      Truthfully At the time I didn’t think about it much, but looking back on things I recall the game having issues with random framerate drops, and lots of minor things that annoyed me throughout the game. The only reason I played the game through to completion was that the avialable options (nano tech etc) kept my interest.
      Mind you he PC i played it on was owned by a buddy of mine who was taking his 4yr Comp Sci degree at the time and knew his stuff when it came to PCs. So poor optimization on the users end wasn’t an issue. and anyone that played other games that ran on that version of the unreal engine can not similar issues on other titles as well.

      I really do have to agree with his opinion on the 1-10 scale should be 1-10 not 7-9, which a lot of sites seem counter to. (rare to see a big name publishers title rated below a 7)

    • bob_d says:

      Everyone keeps talking about the reviewer’s “opinions” as if that was the basis for a *professional* review. A professional review *should* be based on a lot more than just personal taste, because if that’s all it is, then the only way a review can be useful is if your taste and the reviewer’s taste are exactly the same (and you’d only find that out through trial and error, looking at large quantities of reviews). This means that, in theory, a reviewer should be able to recognize the worth of a game and grant it a high score *even though they didn’t personally care for it.* They should be able to describe and analyze a game such that if your taste and theirs differ, you could determine whether or not *you’d* like the game.

      I’ve not read any of Tom Chick’s reviews, so I can’t say if he does this, but one can’t justify a reviewer’s score simply by saying that it’s “his opinion.” I do, however, take issue with the idea that a game should be penalized for failing to live up to its own, lofty, ambitions. That’s essentially the same as saying that you should reward a game if it “succeeds” in being terrible, assuming that’s where the game’s ambition’s lay. All that attitude does is reward mediocrity and punish games that are groundbreaking, as they’re more likely to fail to live up to their ambitions. Granted, there are highly ambitious games that fail to even be mediocre, but most ambitious failures are still more interesting than games that only tried to be middling.

    • malkav11 says:

      I agree that a critic should be able to describe and analyze their subject in a way that allows you to draw some conclusions based on your own taste. I think Tom Chick is more than capable of doing so. But that’s where their responsibility to the reader ends. There is certainly no call to assign some rating to the subject that does not reflect their personal experience of it. One might as well call for a reviewer to review a work based on how they think the general public, or perhaps their captive audience, would enjoy it. (As, indeed, some have.)

  11. 7 Seas says:

    Man, I may disagree with him about Deus Ex. I mean sure it was a buggy mess, but I value amibition and novelty in the pursuit of the badass above refinement in games.

    However, his articles on AP and ME2 are nails on the head.

    11 Ways Alpha Protocol is Better than Mass Effect 2
    http://fidgit.com/archives/2010/06/11_ways_alpha_protocol_is_bett.php

    Ten things gone terribly wrong in Mass Effect 2
    http://fidgit.com/archives/2010/01/ten_things_gone_terribly_wrong.php

    I’d never really followed him before this, but now I will definitely. Thanks RPS!

    Your 75 part retrospective on a buggy as shit ambitious game, while simultaneously dismissing a modern much less problematic ambitious game has at least lead to that.

    • The Dark One says:

      Regarding the ME2 bit- he came off as condescending, uninterested and somehow ignorant, despite all the nitpicky details brought, of what was going on in the game.

    • Shagittarius says:

      I’m going to agree with Tom on ME and ME2 and disagree with him on DX. I never saw what people like so much about ME. It put me off gaming for 2 weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to play something else while I was playing it, so instead I never played any games. Eventually I managed to shelve ME and forget all about it and continue gaming.

      ME is one of those games like DX that has a rabbid fan base and you will get crucified for disagreeing on a public forum.

      DX surely had issues but for what it provided at that point in time I remember it being quite immersive. I think I also remember that it played best on Voodoo hardware, most of the complaints about framerates were from ATI board owners.

      Certainly he’s entitled to his opinions as we all are, lets try not to get upset that he has a bigger soap box than the rest of us.

    • James T says:

      Your 75 part retrospective on a buggy as shit ambitious game

      What game are you talking about? I don’t know where they’re finding the space to write a squillion-part retrospective on some “buggy-as-shit ambitious game” when they’re already dedicating so much space to the laudably non-buggy Deus Ex.

  12. Chad Warden says:

    Oh boy, here we go

  13. Colthor says:

    “If only you could shoot at the monsters!”

  14. Jim Rossignol says:

    Fucking greasels.

  15. jeremypeel says:

    I’m not sure it’s fair to claim Chick can’t tell a good game from a bad one. This interview is really interesting, as he’s clearly not some old hack who dismissed a great game out of ignorance, but a man of serious intellect who cares deeply about the progression of games.

    Very wrong he may have been, but as he’s pretty much articulated in the interview, he was wrong in a measured, thoughtful way and deserves to be treated in kind rather than subjected to AIM assaults.

    • Fraser says:

      My opinion of Tom’s opinion has risen steadily up since I started listening to Three Moves Ahead, the strategy gaming podcast he does with a couple of other guys. He does seem to enjoy taking up unpopular positions, but he’s rarely short on reasonable evidence for his arguments, and he never pushes his opinion as the One True Fact. And he doesn’t take it too seriously. That attitude comes across a lot more clearly in conversation than in text.

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      If you like Tom Chick’s writing, check out these very entertaining (if a bit dated, now) “Shoot Club” stories:

      http://www.quartertothree.com/columns/shoot_club/shoot_club_archives.shtml

    • Boldoran says:

      I may not agree with his review style but his writting is good and those “shoot club” stories were the funniest thing I read all week.

  16. godwin says:

    Wow are you guys all missing the point.

    • godwin says:

      “For instance, if I hear that someone doesn’t like Casablanca or Jaws or Moon, I want to know *why* he didn’t like it. Those are interesting conversations and at their best, we each learn something, even if it’s just about each other. But unfortunately, those are conversations missing in the internet videogame culture. People tend to judge opinions based not on their insight, but on whether they agree with that opinion. A good review isn’t a good review. It’s a review you agree with.”

      There.

    • Dominic White says:

      That needs to be repeated again and again and again. It’s something horrifically wrong with the nature of discussion on the internet – you’re either right or wrong (depending on whether the mob are in your favour or not). There is no personal opinion involved.

      People don’t say ‘I don’t like this game’. They say ‘This game is objectively terrible and if you think you enjoyed it you’re deluding yourself’. There’s no chance for dialogue, because people automatically assume the most adversarial possible stance before any dialogue can happen.

      See this piece from The Onion:
      http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-who-enjoys-thing-informed-he-is-wrong,7057/

    • Clovis says:

      This reminds me of the standard “Vanilla Oblivion is UNPLAYABLE” that always gets stated when Elder Scrolls comes up. I played Oblivion with no mods and really enjoyed it. I don’t know why someone has to approach it from a, “This is not my opinion, it is fact,” angle.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      The point is he fails to convey his opinion the only thing he mentions is that He feels Alpha Protocol was a better game because it’s ambition was more limited (which betrays his lack of knowledge).

    • Jeremy says:

      Clovis, you fool. Why would you say “Elder Scrolls” on these hallowed grounds, we can only hope the trolls don’t see those words…

    • Stephen says:

      @Clovis

      Oh, I think I know that one. No one really cares about other people’s opinions except their friends and family and the problem with discussing things on the internet is that practically no one is your friend or your family. Strangers just don’t care what you think so it’s important, for your own self esteem, to present your opinion as something more objective and solid than just your gut feeling. It’s the same reason that people call what they personally think “common sense” even though what your common sense says might differ diametrically from mine.

      The best (only?) response to a stranger who is frothing mouthed angrily disagreeing with your opinion about something is “OK”, You know – Them: “I don’t like nationalised health care,” You: “OK”. Neither of you is right because that’s not how opinions work but there’s nothing you can say in return either (apart from “well, I do like it”).

      Even then, ironically, even this is just my opinion.

  17. Tei says:

    I can imagine a fictional reviewer that would score Peggle as 10/10, and all other games (*all*) as 1/10.
    I can imagine the reviews of the next version of Halo on “XBox360 Official Magazine” to be 10/10, even if the game has flaws and is not much fun.

    What I am not going, is to agree with these people and his motives.

    So I HERD U LIEK MONSTER TURK GAEMZ?

    I rest my case here :-)

    note: Interesting interview, this dude seems to have a interesting mind, like a knife.

  18. Sardaukar says:

    What a shame.

  19. Cerebrium says:

    Because that reaction is clearly not exactly what he was decrying in the entire interview. People have different tastes. There’s no such thing as objective brilliance, it’s a personal thing.

  20. Anthony says:

    Having read Tom’s words on Mass Effect 2, I can’t say I disagree with the man.

    Though I think I get where his critical style comes from, and it doesn’t really work for me. When I’m playing a game, “Am I enjoying myself?” is the question I ask. If the answer is yes, then being genre-defying, ambitious-but-rubbish, hyper-streamlined or whatever doesn’t matter quite as much.

    Taking ME2, I get that it’s not really a classical RPG but more a Role Playing Cover Shooter with Conversations. I get that it’s stripped to the bone and rebuilt as something almost entirely different from the first one. But did I fucking ever enjoy the ride, which means for me it rates high.

    Same sort of thing with GTAIV. It was GTA but not as we know it, and a lot of people hated it simply because the mental had almost completely vanished. But I loved it because Niko was such an awesome protagonist and the characters were generally excellent.

    Deus Ex did so many outright crazy things for the time and got most of them workably right. Did I enjoy it despite the relentless parade of conspiracy tropes, bad shooting mechanics and fairly underwhelming AI? Absolutely. I’m not going to sit there and say “but it should be so much more!” when what I’ve got is something entirely unique that I’m enjoying as it is.

    • Geoff says:

      I agree Anthony, a gaming experience is not always about polish. Deus Ex captured my imagination whilst playing it and I really felt involved in a global conspiracy, and if that is the objective, they hit the nail on the head even if certain things could be better technically.

  21. Carra says:

    Ah yes, review scores. Where 90% of all games get a 60-95% rating. And where getting a 15% is pretty much the same as getting a 55%.

  22. Heliocentric says:

    I need to state that i don’t agree with chick’s opinion on things fairly often but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t make valid observations nearly all the time.

    What can i say, i’ve graduated beyond the platform wars mentality to a world with more than 2 opinions (mine and wrong). Still, deus ex is still exciting to me for what it signposts for the future, just like vampire the masqurade bloodlines did. And then i spend most of time i’m playing bioshock or halflife 2 (not 1) practically in autopilot because all “hard” mode does is make the enemies bullet sponges.

    So yes, i’ll take deus ex’s janky combat and terrible stealth because it actually has a world where not everyone is your friend or enemy to the death and you can explore a world while shaping it, but stalker wins this one for me less shaping but more exploring mind.

  23. Dominic White says:

    He’s not talking about factual errors, though. If someone does say something that is clearly, objectively incorrect, they can be called out fairly on it. It’s misinformation and a breach of trust if it’s a printed review.

    But a lot of anyones thoughts on a game are going to be entirely subjective. I personally thought Deus Ex was a lot of fun, but by no means the best game ever made. It has huge, gaping flaws that are visible for all to see. It looked pretty ropey even when it first came out. The voicework is terrible. Some aspects of the narrative are clumsy (having the big ‘here is out evil plan laid out in full’ intro there was a mistake, I think), and the gunplay was really weak until you levelled up a bunch.

    It was far more than the sum of its parts, which is good, as some of those parts were crap.

  24. Sobric says:

    “It’s also important to always consider the possibility that your opinion is plain wrong

    *Head explodes*

  25. Ginger Yellow says:

    Having missed the boat on Deus Ex when it came out – I tried the demo and it didn’t do all that much for me – I’m kind of surprised this is the apostasy Tom Chick’s famous for. I mean, intelligent, informed contrarianism is a large part of his appeal and it’s hard to think of a major game in the last couple of years where he hasn’t gone against the grain.

    Also, monster truck racing games rule. Come on, surely you guys remember Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart’s Super Off Road? Monster Trucks Nitro is pretty cool too.

    • Sobric says:

      Added to this, Yahtzee is hugely popular precisely because he does funny, intelligent, informed contrarianism.

    • Kazang says:

      Also hilarious and deliberately ignorant statements ;)

      Yahtzee is great but I don’t consider his reviews to be serious in the way that you would base a purchase off it.

    • Sobric says:

      Very true! It’s also a lot less funny than it was, but that’s a whole new kettle of pirhanas.

    • Shagittarius says:

      I would base a purchase on Yahtzee’s reviews. Most of the time he has the same feelings about a game that I do. If I had written off a game and Yahtzee gave a glowing review about it I would certainly reconsider.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yahtzee is great but I don’t consider his reviews to be serious in the way that you would base a purchase off it.

      Hell, I do, and have—Zack & Wiki was entirely worth it and I’d never have touched something so Wii and Japanese otherwise.

      This is the thing with Yahtzee—his style might be of the brash variety, but he doesn’t fall into the trap of “I am a grr critical reviewer so I must BEND REALITY SO THAT I MUST HATE EVERYTHING!”. If a game has a good aspect, he’ll pick up on it. Or even an aspect that he thinks will align with what he thinks a certain genre of players like even if he’s not in that set himself.

      Yahtzee is a very good reviewer hiding behind a comedy programme.

    • malkav11 says:

      I dunno. I haven’t kept up with Zero Punctuation in a while, but my impression from early days has been that while Yahtzee will certainly grudgingly acknowledge games he himself actually enjoyed or the occasional good point about others, the set of games that he actually enjoys is very small.

    • Psychopomp says:

      The blatant missing the point, (When you do nothing but missions that are there solely *to grind in the off chance you need resources,* of course the game is going to be all grinding) misinformation, and flat out being wrong in the Monster Hunter Tri review left a bad taste in my mouth; but, Yahtzee isn’t contrarian, he’s honest. He just accentuates the negative.

  26. Winged Nazgul says:

    I must be in the minority that’s more angered by publishers pulling pieces of opinion when they go against the grain of the majority. I’m always interested in an opinion, right, wrong, or indifferent. But I always reserve the right to a final evaluation based on personal play. Because nobody knows more about what I enjoy or don’t enjoy more than myself.

  27. Kazang says:

    The games review industry does need more people who will speak their mind about a games negative points and focus on why they are negatives.
    He also supports scoreless reviews which is cool. Hype and going with the flow is becoming even more a problem which is odd, seeing as the nature of the internet should encourage a wealth of a opinions not just one. Print media has got more homogenized as well, PCZONE once the stalwart honest bloke of UK gaming media where a score of 50 did mean average, has gone downhill a lot over the past few years. PCGamer is not much better either.

    *shrug*

    • Wulf says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      In all the UK PC rags I read, be it Gamer, Zone, or a lesser known that I happen to pick up, there’s far too much of that mentality. “Hey, this game has a huge amount of money sunk into its advertising, so it will therefore be popular because advertising companies are experts at tapdancing on the edge of the collective will of the moronic. So, since I know the Populism Wave will rip me apart if I don’t, I’m going to score this game based upon its advertising, rather than any particular merits.”

      I mean, I’ve read reviews where the reviewer has made it quite clear that the game is not fantastic, and by the end of the review, due to how unimpressed the reviewer is, I expect to see something in the range of 50-60%, but instead my eyes lay upon a score of 85-100%, and I’m genuinely shocked. I think reviewers are terrified these days of scoring things low because of the possible backlash. And look at what happened to Quinns review of that Age of Conan expansion pack as just one example.

      Interestingly, games which have much smaller fan-bases and no real advertising budget are scored down compared to mainstream titles, this happens with indie titles as well. They frequently try to buffer this with ‘I was expecting the usual indie pap’ or similar, but then they go on to give a more glowing review than any other game in the magazine, and the score will end up somewhere between 65-80%, whilst it’s clear that the number does not mesh with the review.

      And that’s the thing, the number never does.

      That’s one of the reasons why reviews are going downhill these days, they should remove the score all together and stop playing into the hands of what’s popular and what has a large advertising budget. It’s getting to the point where I completely ignore reviews and I just trawl over message boards to find a sample of opinions to see what a game is like instead.

      Sadly, it’s not just print ‘zines that do this, either, since Eurogamer is just as bad, and they’ll pull reviews which are too harsh.

      So the best way to find out what a game is like, these days, is just to ignore the reviews and listen to whatever words of wisdom people who aren’t journalists have to share.

  28. ChaosSmurf says:

    That was incredibly interesting and excellent.

    But if he gives StarCraft II a bad review I’ll fucking kill him.

  29. Wildeheart says:

    Seems like no matter how well you mark it people just love to grab the wrong end of the stick. The point that I was making is that Deus Ex being worth far more than 3 out of 10 isn’t an opinion, it’s fact.

    Saying he didn’t personally like it is one thing. Saying that a game that even he had to recognise introduced so many features and techniques, it nigh on created its own genre for Christ’s sake!

    To go back to the Da Vinci metaphor, if you tell me you don’t like the Mona Lisa then fine, that’s your opinion. If you tell me Da Vinci can’t paint then you’re quite clearly talking absolute guff. Tom Chick seems to be firmly in the latter category and if I can’t trust him to even speak the truth about facts then how can I trust his opinions either?

    • The Hammer says:

      Um, no. Any measure of worth of any kind is based firmly in opinion – NOT fact.

    • Wildeheart says:

      @Hammer Actually that isn’t true at all. If I review a car and say it costs £25,000 when in actual fact it costs £50,000 then it’s not opinion purely because it’s in a review, it’s an incorrect fact. If I also say I didn’t like the car then that’s an opinion. Simply wrapping any old rubbish in the guise of a review doesn’t mean you can just go forth and say whatever you like whether it’s true or not and then fall back later on “but it’s just an opinion!”.

      Example:

      The Planet Earth – A Review

      Earth is a small planet, less than a metre across, its atmosphere is mostly argon and it is an upopulated planet devoid of any lifeforms.

      Now is all the above okay for me to say simply because it’s a “review” or does that actually not change one bit the fact it was complete bull?

    • AndrewC says:

      I’m confused. In this review, did Tom Chick suggest Deus Ex was a racing game? Or a pomegranate?

    • Sobric says:

      @ Wildeheart

      Hammer’s point is that a review score is subjective, unlike the size of the earth or the price of a car.

    • Helm says:

      “The point that I was making is that Deus Ex being worth far more than 3 out of 10 isn’t an opinion, it’s fact.”

      The only fact of life pertinent here is that opinion is never fact even if its based on agreed-upon presuppositions. Human perception is an unreliable organon through which to observe a thing and then call those observations definitive. So much internet miscommunication and anger could have been avoided if a lot of the ‘objective hard-facts’ proponents had studied a primer in epistemology.

    • Wildeheart says:

      I give up. Enjoy Tom Chick’s reviews and your subsequent ill-informed game purchases. I’ll go listen to some critics who at least try to give me the impression they know what they’re talking about.

      If you want to listen to Tom Chick’s views and miss out the next Deus Ex while your busy with your pre-release copy of Monster Truck Extreme Nitro Idiot Edition then go for it, I’m sure you’ll be very happy with your “opinions” and your choice of game.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Dunno how people are struggling with this. ‘Opinion’ covers the value judgements used in a review, like “the voice acting is pants.” Chick is saying “Deus Ex is pants,” not “Deus Ex is a small country in eastern Asia.” This is because while being a small country in eastern Asia is verifiable with sense experience, being pants (except in the literal sense, natch) is not. You’ve no objective standard of ‘goodness’ to hold it up to that isn’t tainted by the same problem.

      I think English schools teach the distinction between opinion and fact at age 10.

    • Clovis says:

      You keep acting like we all love Tom Chick. I don’t see that in these comments at all. Many of us just disagree with you.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I’d say Deus Ex isn’t really very good, technically speaking. It looked dated at the time, ran very poorly, the shooting was bad until levelled correctly, the dialogue and VO were worse… To use your analogy, some very poor brushwork in spots.

      You really do have to look past a lot to love Deus Ex – which isn’t to say it’s not worth loving.

    • Helm says:

      “with me or against me” is going to be a vantage in life that’ll cause you problems. I know life advice from strangers on the internet is near-worthless but if you’re willing to suspend disbelief for a second and entertain the notion that I do not say this to ‘burn’ you online but just out of good will, it might be a positive thing.

      I don’t often agree with Tom Chick and I rarely agree with any reviewer either. I make my purchases after reading all sorts of reviews by all sorts of people, play a demo or watch a gameplay video online. But all that is besides the point. The point is, your opinion is not the right opinion because this or that fact supports it. Your opinion is a value judgment and as such always subjective and open to discussion. Discussion is good because people get to know one another as individuals through it. They realize they’re not as different as they thought even if they have different opinions.

      At least, that’s what happens until someone flips out and draws a line in the sand and says whomever disagrees, go over there. That’s pretty dehumanizing.

    • The Hammer says:

      @Wildeheart: You are a silly person and while I won’t go all self-indulgent about what I like and don’t like, I will tell you that your assumptions are entirely untrue.

    • karthik says:

      “In actual fact it just damages his career by making it seem like he can’t tell a good game from a bad one”

      Games are not objectively good or bad. That’s kind of the point.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I think I’ve spotted the problem here! (Gosh, I’m presumptuous)

      Quality, especially in entertainment / art is incredibly subjective. That is, without any other qualifiers saying “X game is objectively good/bad” is rather silly. That’s what most people disagreeing with Wildeheart seem to be saying, and that’s true.

      However, another true thing is that just because game quality in its most abstract form is entirely subjective doesn’t mean that you can’t hold games up to an objective criteria. I believe Old Man Murrey had an objective scale by which they rated their games which was something like “how long does it take to see a crate,” the longer it took, the higher the game was rated.

      Obviously, this is a fairly unhelpful metric (though amusing) but it’s not impossible to create a more useful one. You could make part of the score be derived from how many bugs were in the game, their severity, etc. Now, the more “useful” you try to make your objective criteria, the more subjectivity is going to sneak in there. But the more base you make the judgement, the less controversial the judgements are. Doesn’t mean they aren’t still subjective, but by creating a very large consensus they at least look more objective. E.g. It would be harder to find a disagreement on the statement “Deus Ex had poor voice acting” than one that commented on the overall quality of the game.

      To get to my point then, Wildeheart seems to be saying, as far I can tell, that reviews should try to adhere to a more objective and transparent rubric than the one Tom Chick appeared to be using which was “did I like this game or not.” A lot of the rest of you seem to be saying that that’s the only criteria that can or should be used in a game review. Clearly that’s not true though. John Walker I believe wrote a review of The Void, which was a game he was very clear in saying he did not enjoy playing, where he was able to praise parts of it, and it ultimately got a 7/10, which isn’t great, but it’s not terrible, and if the criteria was solely “did I enjoy playing this game” would have been a lot lower.

      So, just a disagreement on how reviews should work, not on whether art / games are objectively good or not.

      At least I hope so.

    • Stephen says:

      From where I’m sitting he’s literally saying that it is actually a fact that Deus Ex is better than three out of ten. (Three out of ten what’s? Exactly). It’s not a fact, it’s your opinion.

      It’s nothing about it being a review making it an opinion (which I think is a silly thing to say), it’s that whenever you make a value judgement about the quality of something it’s your opinion. You can’t measure “good”.

      If you say an factually inaccurate thing in a review it’s factually inaccurate but if you come to the bottom and you ask yourself “how many stars do I think this game is worth” you’re just picking a number (and more and more recently they’ve been picking it out of somewhere dark).

  30. diebroken says:

    Good thing he was only acting when he reviewed Deus Ex. Waiiiiiiit a minute…

  31. Wrong says:

    “now one of the most respected American games journalists currently writing about the medium”

    Based on who’s metrics?

    Have you read Fidgit recently? It there’s a game that’s getting widespread positive press, Chick will hate it. If there’s a game everyone hates, Chick will love it.

    Why?

    Controversy = page views. Chick sold out to the God of Analytics years ago, and he’s really not worth reading any more.

    • Wildeheart says:

      Could not agree with this more. I’ve been trying to make this point in more than one comment on this page but apparently everyone wants to believe that Tom Chick is some hero of the common gamer, sticking it to the man and telling it like it is. His reviews aren’t worth the time it takes to read them and anyone who thinks he’s really got something valid to say and isn’t just using controversy to increase his page views (and his salary) probably thinks the Spice Girls were musical genii and the moon’s really made of cheese.

    • Sobric says:

      @ Wildeheart

      Here’s the thing. I disagree with Tom Chick. I think his nitpicking style is overly critical, and that he goes into games with too many preconceptions. Also, I thought the one-up-manship of the “11 Things…” article on AP vs ME2 was pretty low-brow journalism and point scoring.

      However.

      These are just his opinions. I do not think he’s sticking it to “the man”. I do not think he’s a hero of the common gamer. In my mind I disagree with him, reject his opinion and move on. I still own ME2 and Deus Ex, and they are still enjoyable games. I am more aware of the game’s fault’s than before, but that has not (in my opinion) reduced my capacity to enjoy the game anymore.

  32. Sobric says:

    Fine, that’s your opinion. You’re opinion is flawed because it’s based on fallacy (or is it? dun dun duur), but it’s still your opinion and opinions cannot be wrong or right, they’re just opinions.

  33. Jose says:

    so… he was saved by the consoles… OK

    (…)

    Why am I reading this?

  34. AndrewC says:

    @Kobzon: The objective/subjective distinction is lots of fun, and open to all sorts of abuse. For example (and the example made by Tom Chick), many use ‘objective truth’ to mean ‘that which I agree with’. If you find yourself saying ‘anyone who disagrees with this is an idiot’ and can’t detect any irony in your words, you are probably being the idiot. You will certainly be the reason why the thread you are in is turning into a shouting match.

    Better to start from a position of assuming all judgements are subjective and, as a result, make sure you concentrate on justifying and explaining your own, not because of the ultimate metaphysically subjective nature of the world, but for the purely pragmatic reasons that threads will stay friendly and everyone will learn a lot more.

  35. Sobric says:

    I’m only shouting to be heard over the giant lizards outside my window.

  36. The Sombrero Kid says:

    a monster truck sim should be considered differently from an immersive sim, but to consider yourself a professional critic of both is like trying to build a career on criticising classic literature and children’s’ serials and when you prefer teenage mutant ninja turtles to war and peace because the turtles met their ridiculously low bar more elegantly, you appear boorish.

    • Helm says:

      I agree what irritates a lot of people about Tom Chick’s handling of Deus Ex stems from that the game was visionary and he didn’t credit the vision because the implementation was broken, and then goes on to say that a game with little vision and good implementation is a better game on a scale (while hating scales at the same time). That’s a pretty common problem, really .Some people can take the rough edges (and oh by, did Deus Ex have rough edges) to get to the vision. However the game hasn’t aged very well because its vision is commonplace enough nowadays. The whole situation could have been made much simpler if there wasn’t a review score attached to Deus Ex and whatever monster truck game in the same metric, really. I, as someone that values vision highly would score Deus Ex as a 4 our of 10 (4 being implementation and 10 being the bar set by its vision) whereas I’d score a generic monster truck game as a 3/4 or 4/4, whatever. That sort of metric entertains me, although I would probably get death threats for it all the same.

    • Mman says:

      “However the game hasn’t aged very well because its vision is commonplace enough nowadays.”

      I’m wondering where all these games with anything like DX’s vision are.

    • jsdn says:

      Dystopian future. Cybernetics. Corrupt global police force run by corporations. A rebellion trying to expose a conspiracy.

      That “vision” is still fresh for you? Really? You’re so lucky.

    • James T says:

      Dystopian future. Cybernetics. Corrupt global police force run by corporations. A rebellion trying to expose a conspiracy.

      That “vision” is still fresh for you? Really? You’re so lucky.

      Classifying games by their subject matter is valid! I love Call of Duty-style games like Commandos 2!

    • Mman says:

      That’s its backstory, not its vision.

  37. Daniel Rivas says:

    Can someone explain to me what’s wrong with games about really big trucks?

  38. beatoangelico says:

    Tom Chick rules. Fidgit is great. Quarter to Three is good. I wouldn’t hate the “gaming journalists” category if there were more people like Chick around, seriously.

    • edosan says:

      I agree. Tom is a great writer. I don’t always agree with him, but I like to hear what he has to say much more than the current crop of “this is a triple-A title so we’ll give it a what, 93%?” reviewers.

      P.S. To everyone: an opinion cannot, by definition, be “wrong.” It’s an OPINION!

  39. Iain says:

    “A good review isn’t a good review. It’s a review you agree with.”

    This is why I don’t review games anymore. I just disagree with too many people.

    Well, that and the fact I disappeared from the internets for nine months and everyone’s forgotten they can give me work…

  40. Gary W says:

    Deus Ex: not as good as Alpha Protocol (!)

    Chick & QT3: not as good as Campbell & Caltrops.

  41. Firndeloth says:

    We’ve entered this disconcerting cycle of reviewing where developers and readers alike expect a certain minimum score for their games in the former case because they’ve sunk money into the game and in the later often because they are fans of the company, game, or franchise. Reviewers, I suppose, either cater to this out of collective habit or in order to maintain their relationship with the developers and continue to gain exclusives and such. I’m not sure there’s really a way out of that feedback loop at this point, even if the gaming community weren’t so young and thus immature. That’s the comforting side of any issue I come across related to gaming culture or industry habits: we are such a young community and industry compared to film, radio, and other major entertainment and art mediums and industries, that we have a lot of time left before we miss any of our coming-of-age benchmarks. I forget where I read it, but someone (possibly an RPS writer, I’m not sure ….) was referring to gaming as passing through a customarily awkward adolescence on it’s way to maturity. We’ve got room to grow, but also time to in which to do so.

    • AndrewC says:

      (possibly an RPS writer, I’m not sure ….)

      Ha ha ha! I’m sure he called the article ‘Teenage Kicks Against The (editorial) Picks’ or something.

  42. Ergates says:

    If reviewers want to address this – and I feel we should since it permeates the way people talk about videogames – the best we can do is explain ourselves in such a way as to work around that defensiveness. It’s important that we’re articulate, that we give context, that we talk specifics as much as we can, that we avoid lazy comments and clichés and hyperbole, that we’re willing to have conversations.

    Sounds good on paper, but is crippled by a fundamental flaw: it assumes that rabid internet fanboys are susceptible to reason. If you give some games (e.g. MGS4) anything less than 10/10, it doesn’t matter how well you explain your reasoning some people are going to fly into an appoplectic rage and threaten to kill you.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      As Firndeloth above you points out rabid fans and publishers want a certain review for personal reasons, to cater to rabid fanboys or publishers isn’t just a failing on reviewer’s part, its pointless. A review at its’ heart is a guide for people who want to know whether to purchase it. Yes all views are subjective and one certainly shouldn’t limit the scope of reviews to YES BUY or NO BUY but they at their core must retain this advisory nature.

      If people aren’t seeking to be advised or read what someone whose job it is to think about games thinks then they are not the audience and however loud they scream and shout so they’re not the reviewer’s concern.

    • Ergates says:

      Yes – that’s largely my point. Chick says “If reviewers want to address this”, but the problem is, you can’t address it. The only solution is to accept it, expect it and move on.

  43. Theon Alvinson says:

    I haven’t read his Deus Ex review but if it is anything like his review of Master of Orion III, I can well believe and understand everyone’s sheer disbelief of how he could come to his verdict. If Mr. Chick were a food critic reviewing a steak dinner, he would spend 3/4ths of the review complaining about the color of the salt shaker. He probably refuses to this day to use any TV remote control that does not have separate ON and OFF buttons. “Fidget” is well named because that’s what readers do whenever they come across yet another one of his “out of the mainstream” reviews. I certainly do not believe he should get any death threats, but he is like this pariah rogue state that everyone wants for it to go away and yet we are angrily fascinated and attentive to what his next brinksmanship review would read like. Tom Chick is the North Korea of game reviewers.

    • LintMan says:

      “I haven’t read his Deus Ex review but if it is anything like his review of Master of Orion III, I can well believe and understand everyone’s sheer disbelief of how he could come to his verdict.”

      Huh? Have you actually *played* MOO3? Chick’s review is accurrate and very much in line with what other reviewers said at the time. His review is far kinder that what I would have written about it myself. MOO3 was a travesty and a descecration of the MOO franchise. Soon after release, it was discovered that you could win the game simply by pressing “End Turn” until you won; the game was that broken!

      Even Bruce Geryk’s “rebuttal” of Chick’s review admits the game was a failure:

      “Now that the fiasco that is Master of Orion 3 is out, a lot of people seem to be asking how it could possibly have ended up as such a mess.”

      “It’s entirely possible that, as designed, the IFP mechanism simply didn’t work. It’s not hard to think of reasons for this happening: an inability to design competent and believably recalcitrant AI is just one of them. But it seems insane that a game designed around a single concept can take that concept out, but leave everything else that was based on that concept untouched. The bad AI, broken diplomacy, and ludicrously clumsy interface are all problems, and to some extent inexplicable. But in the context of Imperial Focus Points much of the rest of the design makes sense. It may have been incredibly ambitious and perhaps not feasible. It would certainly have been different. It could have been spectacular if it had worked. We’ll never know.”

      Geryk’s point being that MOO3 had a lofty and ambitious idea with the IFP mechanism that might have been great if it had worked as intended.

  44. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’d want to scrap the optimus thumb system (because it’s close to a score!?!!?!?) if it wasn’t so awesome.

  45. Frank says:

    Yeah, forget about ambition; I’m sure I’d prefer to play a game with “smaller more manageable boxes representing warehouses or enemy bases”.

    It sounds like this guy reviews games by judging whether or not the developers “succeeded” in the areas he thinks most important (“hey, that’s not Paris!”), and can’t even get to the question of whether the game is fun. @#$%@$%@#$%

  46. drewski says:

    kobzon – have you considered the ruling the world problem from the PoV of a giant, evil, lizard?

  47. Geoff says:

    Evil lizards are good.

  48. Barnz says:

    OMM’s Deus Ex review was the best.

  49. Hélder Pinto says:

    BURN THE WITCH!

  50. bill says:

    You know, I think I read that review. I remember reading a long, detailed, well written review about all the flaws in Deus Ex. It must have been convincing because it convinced me not to buy it. Convinced me that the rest of the gaming press were hyping it up too much.

    Then I ended up getting it very cheap a few years later, and loving it to bits. So it just goes to show that a well written review doesn’t always mean it’s right, any more than a terribly written review means it’s bad.

    I agree about the agreeing/disagreeing thing. And I respect Tom Chick for a lot of his reviews that i’ve read after he became more well known. But he was clearly wrong on this one. (whether or not his individual points were right).

    • Fraser says:

      So it just goes to show that a well written review doesn’t always mean it’s right (…) he was clearly wrong on this one.

      The whole interview could be boiled down to: “Review scores can’t be right or wrong, because they’re subjective.” This seems to be a really difficult concept for a lot of people.

    • bill says:

      @Frazer:
      The score isn’t really an issue. I don’t remember even what the score was. I vaguely remember the review going into a lot of detail about all the flaws.. and he was probably right about all those. But sometimes a game rises far above it’s flaws, and a detailed, well written review can be totally accurate in the details, and still miss the big picture.