I don’t want to play Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. Never. I have absolutely zero interest in playing a game that’s geared toward becoming a Kinect game for a hardcore audience, because I’ve used Kinect, and it’s pretty rubbish. (You’ll notice that most of Microsoft’s new Kinect functionality has little to do with the sensor and everything to do with talking to its microphone.) Of course, a big new site like Polygon, the culmination of a billion other major gaming outlets, has an obligation to give it a whirl and let the masses about it. They don’t like it either, and yet they felt that the entire last half should be a report on other people who felt like they do, as if they need to justify their lowly 1 out of 10 score. Why?
By all accounts, Steel Battalion is a piece of shit. Every single review I’ve read of it (since I’m obviously not interested in playing it) describes some elaborate set dressing and lighting arrangement in order for the Kinect to understand the game’s inputs. You’re in a giant mech with a crew of three others and you use the Kinect to reach out to the front porthole, grab instrument panels, and stand up to get an unobstructed view topside. You use this in collaboration with the controller, which is largely unused, to move and control this mech. Kinect’s simply not up for the task and so those who managed to create perfect environments for Kinect usage, they only managed to get halfway through the campaign.
In his review for Polygon, Justin McElroy described his terrible task in actually getting the game to play, but then sought out the opinions of half a dozen other web sites to back him up.
And then reviews editor (previews editor at our once-benefactor TeamXbox) Arthur Gies steps on the stage and describes that Polygon’s reviews aren’t actually decided by the reviewers, like Justin McElroy and Steel Battalion here, but rather by him and an other editor who then talk with Justin about his score, based on the several hundred word review he wrote. Now this is nothing new in the industry by any means as no one wants to read a 6 review for a game that gets a 10 score. Giant Bomb admits that in their copy editing process, they have the staff read a review for copy editing and then not to determine a review score, but determine the potential discrepancy between the text and the score. But Polygon employs three people to determine each of their scores.
Not long afterward, Gies went to The Verge’s forum to open a broader discussion on the matter:
So in the interest of the aforementioned ass-covering, I made a call to seek approval from the editors from other outlets that we spoke to about Steel Battalion to put them on the record about their experiences with it. I wanted to drive home that we had done our due diligence with regards to making sure that the technical issues we encountered were not limited to Justin’s home and setup. And I was surprised to find that many of those editors were willing to go on the record with us, ostensibly a competitor.
Why does Polygon need to cover their ass? I remember when PC Gamer gave Island Peril their worst score ever in 1996, a whopping 11%, and the mauling was badass. When eXtreme Paintbrawl set the lowest score bar, receiving a 6% years later, reviewer Colin Williamson didn’t need to compare the shooter to its contemporaries in justifying his score, instead scribing one of the magazine’s most memorable reviews in which he ripped the title to shreds.
Polygon is too big to fail at the moment, but little dodgy things like this, especially in regard to something as important as a review, a mainstay of any gaming site, is just confusing and completely unnecessary.
Just rate the games what they deserve.