I was typing a response to someone in the comments field about Ryan McCaffrey’s review of Alien Isolation and it turned out to be a pretty long response. Decided to repost it here.
I think everyone wants an unbiased review, except there really isn’t such a thing. Reviews, in their nature, are exactly that: a written and/or verbal account or the assessment of a product as it was perceived by the reviewer. So by definition it IS a biased account of a piece art or media. We THINK we want a series of bullet points detailing features and a mathematical equation that spits out a number based on pros and cons but, in truth that doesn’t tell us if we’ll really enjoy it or not. (go check out the website Objective Game Reviews for a laugh, you’ll see what I mean).
I’m sure the reviews editor puts thought into assigning games to reviewers who are qualified to review a game. If a person who obsess over and knows the Alien films inside out review an Alien game, would you really get an accurate and unbiased review from him? Inversely, would a person with no clue what Alien is have appreciation for the detail taken from the films or subtle nods to the series and give a fair review? No, we want a balance between the two and I’m quite sure that in most cases this is considered.
Repetition isn’t necessarily a negative point in a game’s design, but that really depends on the kind of game it is. Some games’ central mechanic is based on exactly that: repeating a series of tasks over and over with the point of challenging yourself and improving on your score, time or technique (like racing games, arcade games, even fighting games). However, in a game where story is central to the experience and the game’s hook lie in its atmosphere to create tension but instead the tension is reduced to boredom and frustration due to the unnecessary length and difficulty of the game (which in this game seems to be the case) it can severely hurt the overall experience.
It seems as if Alien debuted at no. 2 on the UK sales charts, so at least over there the IGN review didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the sales. 🙂