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The first reviews for Respawn Entertainment's multiplayer shooter Titanfall have begun to hit the web. So far critics have been giving the Xbox One and PC versions of the game a lot of love.
Here's a sampling of the scores given out so far by websites. There are a whole lot of 9's flying around:
Gaming Blend - 4/5
Gamespot - 9/10
TotalXbox - 9/10
NowGamer - 9/10
GameReactor - 9/10
EGM - 10/10
VentureBeat - 82/100
Rev3 - 5/5
Joystiq - 4.5/5
GamesRadar - 4/5
The review scores are great news for EA and Respawn. Gamers are going to be skeptical of any new IP so strong reviews will help Titanfall's sales tremendously. Analyst Michael Pachter believes that a 90+ Metacritic score could bump sales by 4 million.
I'm sure that Microsoft is pleased, too. Titanfall is arguably the most high-profile release on Xbox One so far that isn't also coming to PS4. The game, then, gives Microsoft ammunition as they try to convince gamers to buy their new console instead of Sony's. We'll see if this game results in a spike of Xbox One purchases or whether gamers opt for the PC or Xbox 360 versions instead.
The real story here, though, is that several websites decided not to give out scores. GiantBomb, Edge and Eurogamer all published reviews but have held off on a number until the servers are live:
"Starting with Titanfall, we have decided to delay the full review of online-only games until we have been able to play them extensively on fully populated public servers, where the experience may be different to the controlled conditions available before a game is released." - Eurogamer
"With Titanfall's extreme reliance on functional online servers, we've decided to post the following article without a score at this time. Once the game is widely available, we will look at how it performs and, at that time, we'll add a score and turn this into a proper review. Text changes may occur, but this is likely to only impact the paragraphs that discuss the online performance of the game and any issues specific to the PC version, which we have not received as of this writing. Better safe than sorry, right? Either way, we're probably looking at a 4-star game unless the online is completely jacked." - GB
"Although we were able to play the final version in its entirety, our full review is being withheld until we are able to test the game in real-world circumstances. Please note, then, that the following reflects a view of the game based on play in optimal conditions. How well Xbox Live and Origin will perform on launch is currently unknown, and will have a crucial impact on Titanfall’s viability as a multiplayer-only game."
I'm really happy that these websites have decided to learn something from the disastrous launches of online-centric games Battlefield 4, SimCity and Diablo 3. A review written before the game has officially gone live can't evaluate the performance of the servers, a key factor in how enjoyable the game ends up being. It's a huge blindspot that required a rethinking of the usual review routine.
Polygon has its own solution: giving out a review score and then reserving the right to change it if there are any problems post-launch. The advantage to this strategy is that they can then bump the score back up if the launch issues are solved. The issue with this approach is that Metacritic doesn't change scores of the reviews that it aggregates. They still list the initial 9.5 score that Polygon gave out to SimCity before launch even though they later changed the score to an 8, 4, and then 6.5. A gamer who just browses Metacritic, then, would be led to believe that Polygon's absolutely adored the game. Their high score is also calculated in the Metacritic average for the game.
Holding off on a review score or changing it doesn't necessarily fix the situation. There are still plenty of websites content to hand out scores to online-only games before launch. However, I'm glad there are reviewers out there thinking of ways to address the issue of rendering final judgment on an evolving product.