Frankly I find posting about - and thus somewhat contributing to the sensationalism - this almost as unsavoury as the news story itself, but I suppose it's the sort of thing I guess we should all be aware of, if only to shake our heads, tut loudly and make doomy prophecies about the world going to hell in a handbasket.
There didn't appear to be anything in the way of pre-release reviews for Telltale's Jurassic Park game (I should note that they kindly set across code for RPS today, however), but somehow there were a couple of very, very positive user reviews on Metacritic. Stuff like "a mix between Heavy Rain and LA Noire", "lovingly-crafted" and "if Steven Spielberg decided to direct Heavy Rain" and other eyebrowing-raisingly effusive endorsements in this vein. Which rather suggests they played a different game entirely to the one I did. Doing a little digging, Gamespot identified that the posters of these gushy comments did, in fact, work for Telltale.
Telltale has since responded, essentially with the Adam Werrity defence - these guys were doing their own thing rather than under orders, but the adventure game dev felt there was no reason they shouldn't effuse about their game if they so wished.
"Telltale Games do not censor or muzzle its employees in what they post on the internet. However, it is being communicated internally that anyone who posts in an industry forum will acknowledge that they are a Telltale employee."
And here's the bit that makes me do the sharp intake of breath thing:
"In this instance, two people who were proud of the game they worked on, posted positively on Metacritic under recognizable online forum and XBLA account names."
Right. So it was all basically out in the open, and nothing at all like pretending to be genuine purchasers of the game? If you say so, I guess.
For me, it's all just a bit silly and tawdry rather than shocking, and speaks to the overinflated importance Metacritic has somehow achieved within the games industry. This kind of thing is, I am quite sure, hardly uncommon. I'm sure all the chaps who work there are lovely, but a review aggregation site having such enormous status to publishers and developers is sickness that's harming the way videogames are made and their developers rewarded.