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Controversial Reviews in PCG UK History

Controversial Reviews in PCG UK History

PC Gamer UK is *the* magazine for me – it recently hit issue 200 and I own about 192 of those.  I was thinking about journalistic integrity in the games industry last night and it bought me, via a fairly circuitous route, to thinking about those titles PCGUK rated very differently from the “accepted norm”, and those reviews which were controversial for other reasons.  I thought I’d chronicle the ones I remember here, and throw the floor open to anyone who has any more.  Apologies for being vague on the details – it’s sunday morning and this is only a casual list.

Force Commander

This is at the top because I believe it’s the most legendary internally of the mis-reviews.

Force Commander received something in the order of 92% and a cover story.  When people actually bought the game a couple of weeks later it was extremely unpopular.  Arcade Magazine (RIP – my favorite all-format journal of all time) also gave Force Commander 5 stars (out of 5), but it shared a lot of writers with PCG and it could well have been the same journalist.

Homeworld

Homeworld got a pretty scathing 78% review despite getting 90s everywhere else.  I’m a massive Homeworld fan and I think it’s a game deserving of 90, and it also ticked all the boxes that would have got it a 90 in that era of PCG, so I have no idea what happened.  I mused at the time that maybe they were just pissed because PC Zone got the exclusive, but in hind-sight that sounds pretty unlikely.

Worms 1

Worms 1 got… somewhere around 40% in its smallish PCG review.  I think Worms 1 is one of the greatest games of all time (and the series has gone way downhill since), but I do understand how someone could hate it.

Diablo

Diablo is another under-review, getting something like 78%.  PC Zone gave it a much more friendly 88.  It’s important to remember that Diablo 1 really did not get exceptional reviews on release in general though.

Black and White

Only kidding.

Duke Nukem 3D and Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 2

Here we have two games where the score wasn’t the problem.  Both of these games were reviewed in PCG at least six months before they were available to buy, due to the developers having a change of heart after sending the almost-finished review code to Gamer.  Intriguingly, both these games got stellar reviews the first time around, probably showing the benefit of a perfectionist team.  Not many games get recalled for more work after terrible reviews

Tiberian Sun

I was writing for a big US C&C fan site for a few months before TibSun was released, and I was probably privy to controversy you weren’t.  In America it’s the norm to actually review finished games (PC Format used to have the same policy over here), and therefor reviews would always come out a month after the game was released.  That would have been shocking to us in the UK – the only time we have to wait until release to read a review of a game is when it’s so bad the publisher doesn’t send it to Future.

PCGUK gave TibSun “just” 90%, which enraged the legions of US C&C fans who were expecting, at least, Jesus in RTS form.  They blamed PCGUK for reviewing unfinished code.

That’s all I have right now – comment anything you remember.

2 Responses to “Controversial Reviews in PCG UK History”

  1. Alex:

    WOW @ worms review. Absolutely massive mistake. Worms 1 was such a favourite in my youth…I can’t begin to count the hours whittled away. Really fabulous for its time. I’d still no doubt enjoy a game now.

  2. Ben Sizer:

    Hard to think that anybody would rate Tiberian Sun above 80%; the difficulty level was completely off, and I completed it in 1 and a half days.

    Another interesting fact about Diablo is that at the time, they were pitching it as a rival to Ultima 8. Ultima 8 has about 10x the plot and depth but about half the addictiveness and raw playability sadly. And I think that was the turning point for what kind of RPGs are popular on the PC.