When Cyberpunk 2077 launched, the game’s reputation had already been marred by the fact that so many reviewers had badmouthed various aspects of it. There’s nothing wrong with that, because the reviewers could only judge what they were able to play at the time. The trouble is, they could only play a pre-release version of the game. As the reviews launched, the developers chimed in to say that all the issues mentioned had been fixed. I watched these reviews come in and could help but wonder why we still do things this way. Why do we ask for review codes early in an age when games will totally change the day they release?
I’m not saying that all press outlets need to pay for their games, I think the industry needs to continue working pretty much exactly as it has been. The one key difference we need is that press reviews come out after a game has launched. That will ensure that they’re based on the real version of the game. The version that players will pick up and have in their hands on the day of release. If not, then I don’t see the point of reading the review.
Let’s put this another way. Books launch with reviews about them already available a few days or weeks before. That’s because a book isn’t going to change between the review and the release. You might get an early impressions view of the book, based on an early copy that’s subject to change, but you’d never count it as a review. Why then do we count reviews for games as gospel, when they’re outdated within a few days?
I always wait a few days with any game I get to play early. If there are bugs, they’re almost always gone by the time the game comes out. I think that games media needs to shift as a result of Cyberpunk 2077. Too many reviews are focused on issues that aren’t in the final game. They should be based on what everyone is playing, but instead, they’re based on a build equivalent to what you’d play at a show. Maybe this will be the game to ignite the change.