The following is the comments I placed on the 4/10 review that Tom McShae made in retrospect about Bioshock Infinite and considered these to have a mirror on my blog since I feel very strongly about this change in GS review policy:
I understand the point of view and argument that Tom is making regarding Infinite not using its setting and story to its full extend, I also loved the original Bioshock and felt that everything about it from mechanics to story made a cohesive whole and somehow that did not translate properly into Infinite. That the presence of "Vigors" (Plasmids) don't make sense neither the behavior of Booker. But even taking all of that into account, that does not take away from the fact that Infinite is well crafted when it comes to being a game.
Under no circumstance Infinite should be cataloged as a 4, a score that I would reserve to games that have lacking production values, problematic mechanics or broken programming. By no means a game whose main fault, according to Tom, is its underdeveloped story and world have its gameplay aspects negated in such a way. A 6 or a 7 score would have gotten the point across, giving it a 4 simply misrepresents the quality of the craftsmanship that was put into the game and states that it is a game no one should be bothered with, I cannot agree with such an statement specially when compared to games that have been scored a 4 precisely because of shallow or broken gameplay.
And in what position does that leave Kevin VanOrth review? Basically if the same site is posting such polar opposite opinions about a game, the message that is being transmitted is that ultimately GS reviews are pointless and useless because these are just opinions with no valid backing as a technical assessment on the quality of a consumer product. Video games are as much of a consumer product as these are art but, at the end of the day, if Gamespot's reviews only serve to send mixed messages about what a game is then this tells me that opinions with no semblance of objectivity are the only thing that matters to the editorial staff. If that is the case the inevitable conclusion is that professional game reviews are meaningless, inconsequential and worthless.
Mr. Shae, you have shown me a new way to see game reviews, as in not worth my consideration nor as a means to make a judgement about any game. I should just base my game purchase decisions on my own likes and preferences because chances are any game that you have underscore is a game that I might have enjoyed playing regardless of your opinion.
Both Tom McShae and Kevin VanOrth are part of Gamespot as employees that receive a monthly wage for their work and contribution to the site, their opinions cannot be divorced from the entity of GS as a whole because their reviews had to go through editorial, be approved and therefore act as the sanctioned stance of the website. Otherwise this review should not be called so, instead it should have been an "Opinion piece" prefaced with a disclaimer indicating that Tom McShae's opinion does not reflect that of GameSpot or its editorial team and should have not included a score.
My whole take on reviews is that these have a part of opinion and a part of technical product assessment.
The opinion part should work on the subjective elements of the game and the reviewer should have free reign to express said opinion about the characters, story, thematic, lore or whatever issues he or she may find to his pleasing or distaste because this is the part of the game that is a work of art and a means of artistic expression and none of it should affect the final score. Then there is the technical assessment part where the game needs to be evaluated on the objective elements of its mechanics, control, sound design and overall visual technical performance because it must always be kept present that a game is also an engineered piece of software. Here is where a numerical value should reflect those specific elements of the game because a number is the briefest, most condensed expression of a technical assessment.
My understanding of what differentiates a professional game reviewer form a amateur one does not stop with simple game insight and proper writing skills, it is the capacity to understand and differentiate where his/her own biases are and how to keep these in check so as to it not to be in the way, understanding that objectivity while not fully attainable, it must be strove for, that consumers come to such review sites to be informed and guided into making a intelligent purchase decision by receiving as much as of an unbiased review as possible.
When a website has an original review that stated a remarkable opinion about Infinite, indicating than that is the official stance of the website's editorial team, only for months later post a secondary review with a deficient score negating the original review then that, not only speaks poorly of the original reviewer and review, it defeats the whole purpose of having reviews as a whole. Now every review that GS publishes from now on is going to be second guessed by the audience who visits this site to be informed if the game they want to buy will be a good investment or not.
I've been a GS user for many years but this is the first time I've realized that I will no longer pay attention to their reviews as a whole seeing as to how volatile, unreliable and fickle these can become is this is the trend we all can expect from the site in the future.