Returnal begs the question: Should critics finish a game before reviewing it?

A discussion has been brewing in the gaming world on whether or not reviewers should finish a game before reviewing it. The discourse kicked off after multiple Returnal reviewers admitted they had not finished the game before reviewing it. Given its difficulty, it can maybe be excused that reviewers might not be able to complete it before a deadline. Nevertheless, the revelation opened up a can of worms on the question in general whether a reviewer should finish a game before reviewing it.

A question like this is inevitably going to split opinions as critics will often argue that they have deadlines etc. And often aren’t able to complete a game before an embargo lifting. Gamers, on the other hand, might argue that a critic cannot give a complete review if they haven’t seen the final act. It can be said it’s not even black and white, either, and can be determined on a game-by-game basis depending of difficulty, length, genre etc.

What’s unfolded on gaming social media is some have resorted to calling out critics who admitted they haven’t completed the game. It must me made perfectly clear: no one deserves to be personally attacked over this topic. It’s a discussion worth having but it must be done with mutual respect and trying to understand the arguments from both sides.

One of the strongest arguments made by gamers is that an ending can drastically impact how one feels about a game. Any gamer reading this now will probably concur. Whilst it can be argued that it’s about the journey not the destination, a poor ending would no doubt sully one’s opinion of a game, even just by a little. This, in turn, would likely affect the score that a game is awarded from a critic. Thus, if they haven’t seen the ending, it can be argued that the review isn’t based on the complete package, which is what consumers are buying.

On the other hand, critics often must meet deadlines like any other job. Whilst some might glorify a job in games media, it’s still a job. Critics have deadlines and embargo’s to meet. Truthfully, it can come down to a range of factors. How early did the critic receive a review code before launch? How long was the embargo? These questions are crucial to understanding why a critic might not finish a game before reviewing it.

There is a solution to this discourse – transparency. It’s probably a safe bet that much of the anger surrounding this debate would dissipate with more transparency. That is, however, the responsibility of the critic/editors. If a critic hasn’t been able to finish a game, either due to difficulty or not having enough time, simply state that in the review. Inform readers that the score awarded is based on what the critic did indeed play but make it transparent that it doesn’t reflect the ending, for better or worse.

What’s your take on this debate? Let us know by dropping a comment below.