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Kane & Lynch and What’s Wrong with Gaming Journalism. |

This was long overdue. The developers behind Kane & Lynch finally speak up regarding the neagative critical reception to their game:

“…unfortunately the GameSpot review had its own wicked little life and Eidos, GameSpot and of course the game got entangled in what I guess is best described as a conspiracy theory. And if there’s anything the ‘net loves, it’s a good conspiracy.

It was surreal to sit in Copenhagen and watch the game get shredded in forums for reasons and feelings that didn’t all seem entirely based on the game itself.”

Not “entirely based on the game”? That’s an understatement. Almost all of the attention from the press and the enthusiast community was based on the GameSpot conspiracy and had nothing to do with the actual game behind it.

Games and review scores are subjective. While plenty, including myself, loved Kane & Lynch, I know plenty of people who gave the game a chance and legitimately disliked it for valid reasons. But overall, this isn’t just a difference in opinion. The media and hardcore hive mind was focused on the conspiracy rather than the game and the overall reaction was colored accordingly.


Kane & Lynch isn’t the only game that was drowned out by political drama. Two other good examples are Bully and Manhunt. The media provided months of extensive blow-by-blow coverage of these idiotic court room trials and completely forgot about the actual games behind them.

In the defense of the media, this is how media works. They are encouraged to produce trashy attention grabbing click bait rather than deep, meaningful writing. The political media is notorious for this kind of thing. Bill Clinton’s blow job scandal or George Bush’s vomit incident or gay rights issues get extensive media attention, while more important issues surrounding the economy and foreign policy get ignored.


Part of this is just the way the world works: the media and hive mind will be superficial and will get distracted by nonsense like this. But on the other hand, there’s a void for higher quality journalism that cuts through this nonsense. In political media, there is tons of superficial tripe, but if you know where to look, there is plenty of deep thoughtful writing to appeal to almost every perspective. Obviously games are far less important then the issues of governance and society, but the void in quality gaming journalism is real and ripe to be filled.

  • Nando Redrum

    I have to agree with the reviews that blasted this game. It was terrible. The gameplay ultimately sucked. I played it for 1 day and traded it in the next.

  • Mike

    It works both ways. How could anyone have believed a positive review if they found out it was based on how many advertising dollars Eidos was spending on a particular media outlet?

    I/O has nobody to blame but Eidos. One dumb move killed the credibility that was built up with gamers through the Hitman series. And I have to agree with Nando Redrum – barring any type of controversy, I don’t see how the reviews would have been much better. Not that there isn’t a reason that some people could enjoy it, but compared to some of the truly great games that came out last fall, it got the scores it deserved.

    It seems like they’ll use the GameSpot situation as a scapegoat rather than owning up to the fact that the game wasn’t even really up to their own previous standards.

  • Darrin

    We all have eyes. We can do a quick search on the Internet and quickly see that all the online media and community attention was centered around the GameSpot conspiracy rather than the game. And the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Eidos and GameSpot management was painted as evil and manipulative and Gerstman, the fired editor, was largely painted as the honest good guy whistle-blower. There were emotional, overwhelmingly negative, curse-laden reactions towards Eidos, GameSpot, and this particular game everywhere. I don’t think any of you would disagree on this.

    Now, do you honestly believe, that everyone was being completely fair, honest, objective, clear-headed, and unbiased when reviewing or commenting on this game? Of course not. People are completely biased and emotional, especially on the Internet with a younger crowd where most people are anonymous.

    And yes, even without the conspiracy, plenty of people wouldn’t have liked the game. But the overall, big picture ratio of likes to dislikes is going to be influenced by a widespread emotion-triggering scandal. This isn’t even a small stretch, guys.

  • Mike

    There was, and still is, plenty of controversy over Ubisoft’s treatment of EGM for someone giving Assassin’s Creed a low review score (and let’s face it, the game was no BioShock, there were plenty of mediocre scores given to it). But that didn’t really effect the sales. Ubisoft put together some slick marketing and the game ended up being a big hit, well beyond what the quality of the product warranted.

    The point is, this marketing appealed to people who didn’t know any better, people who have never heard of Crispin Boyer and who do not consult the internet when trying to decide what they are going to purchase. For whatever EGM’s circulation is, or how many active posters there are on NeoGAF, those magazines and forums are a complete drop in the bucket compared to the audience a game needs to be successful.

    This is why the Denis Dyack situation was such a laugh riot – he was engaged in a long pissing match with people who didn’t matter as much in the long run to the financial success of the product. Joe Xbox that buys a new game every month or so and whether or not he gets Too Human instead of Madden or Mercenaries 2 will go a lot further in determining if Dyack if gets a chance to correct what went wrong in a sequel.

    Eidos failed I/O. Game publishers have shown they can take a Prius and market it like its a Porshe. Whatever the hell they had going on with GameSpot turned the people who were paying attention (forum readers, people who keep an eye on the gaming press) against the game, and then didn’t really do much to market the game to people who didn’t care about any of that nonsense.

    The “no bad publicity” mantra may still hold – there were plenty of mediocre games that came and went in the past 12 months that nobody is talking about because there was no controversy surrounding their release. Game like Too Human and Kane & Lynch have probably gotten more attention than they deserved, good or bad.

  • Of course there’s gonna be bias because of media attention like this. But there’s always bias. Heck, many game reviewers get games to review of a genre they don’t even like. Every reviewer has baggage because every reviewer is human. So you have to take every review with a grain of salt. Or ignore all reviews by person X of type Y games. Etc. I never ever pay attention to movie reviews, because I find that they rarely reflect my taste in movies.

    That said, I would argue that the sheer number of bad things being said about this game is greater than the bias that created it. It’s not like reviews were vague about what wasn’t liked about this game. They got quite specific and there were many problems.

    Bias may have made this game look like a big turd, but it at least started off as a small turd.

  • James

    “gay rights issues get extensive media attention, while more important issues surrounding the economy and foreign policy get ignored”

    I can see why the media focusing on stories about presidential vomit or oral sex would seem like a waste of time, but I am disappointed to see this site not only put gay rights into the same category as those items, but also treat them as an “unimportant” issue. Maybe if the author of this article were gay, then they would be more concerned about how their freedom compares to a straight person’s than worrying about America’s foreign policies.

  • Darrin

    Mike, you use Assassin’s Creed as evidence that the media and online hive mind don’t impact mass market sales and I disagree. That game sold well based on the *huge* amounts of buzz and pre-release build up and excitement. Also, while some media like EGM gave it a terrible score (and it deserved it, IMO!), other sites such as the site linked for this article, GamesRadar, game that game a perfect 10.0!

    James, come on, you can see the point I’m illustrating. Gays have my full respect and support, and it is important to grant such lifestyles official legitimacy and official rights to marriage and all that, but that issue gets far more media attention than it warrants, because it’s simple, easy to understand, and news snippet friendly.

    And Henning, this game is bad? You’re not even a big single player gamer.

    IMO, compared to other shooters like Rainbow Six, Call of Duty 4, GRAW, Army of Two, Turok, and Dark Sector, the single-player portion of Kane & Lynch had a lot more personality and style and was a lot more fun to play. Almost all of those games got higher reviews (although most of those are primarily played for their multiplayer modes). It was like a 80’s action move. It had a mix of stylized hipster violence along with excessive juvenile machismo and warped morality; those last two are negatives for me, but overall, I enjoyed it.

  • Mike

    Well Assassin’s Creed was fortunate to have been pre-ordained as a AAA title even though it never was. A lot of Buzz was generated based off of what people thought it could be, and based on promises that issues present in earlier builds would be corrected. By the time reviewers got around to assessing the final product, Ubisoft already got what they wanted out of the media. That’s a case of the publisher using the media to help their product. Eidos effectively hurt their own product, a game that really was not going to get great reviews even without the controversy. Once something like the GameSpot situation erupted, they lost the benefit of the doubt, which the game would need given the number of great games it was competing against for sales and attention.

    I’m just saying I/O really needs to blame their publisher for what happened. Same goes for developers who wonder why their in-boxes are getting flooded with complaints about game crippling DRM. For better or worse, what happened with Too Human was entirely due to how the leader of the development team conducted himself. At least in that case it came from the guy being maybe a bit too in over his head in trying to deal with the media, a lawsuit over the UE3 engine, and the numerous release delays. This whole thing just sounds like sour grapes over a publisher rightfully getting called out for shady tactics.

    “Maybe if the author of this article were gay, then they would be more concerned about how their freedom compares to a straight person’s than worrying about America’s foreign policies.”

    The problem is you can spin this in any direction. If the author were Iranian, he would be more concerned about America’s foreign policies than gay marriage debates. And if I’m not mistaken, Henning is canadian, so yeah, he’s probably more concerned about America’s foreign policy than domestic issues that do not effect him.

  • Hmm…

    the developers are the ones who suffered. Eidos f*cked up big time with the “Gerstmanngate”. Problem is, where there’s money, there’s interest in selling stuff. And how do you sell stuff? By getting good reviews… It’s a vicious circle. If there was an independent source for reviews (at least monetairy independent, like say blogs etc… problem there are fanboys and the like), it would be a big step forward.

    In Germany, there’s the “Stiftung Warentest”. A government sponsored testing association. They test all sorts of appliances, shampoos and whatnot without any bias.

    As of now, getting “unbiased” reviews is only possible by crossreading several reviews. Same as for political education. For good political education you need to watch not only CNN or Fox or MSNBC… but all of those (or whatever left and right ones you prefer).

  • Maffy

    I have to side with James here, as ‘a gay’ it’s quite sad to see rights issues lumped with political scandal. However this is besides the point, but I thought I’d comment (which I rarely do). Anyway I’m from the UK and people have pretty much got over same-sex attraction as anything scandalous.

    As for the game in question… I remember playing the demo and it got deleted after one playthrough. This ‘scandal’ seems to have been a lot of wasted bandwidth, and this sort of dissection is as the author put it ‘long overdue’ and probably something a lot of people had forgotten about.

  • Do I need to be a single player game fan to see how universally panned this game is by both the press AND REGULAR PLAYERS like the readers of this blog? Most gamers, in the press or otherwise, say this game is bad. The negative press this game got at the beginning is not nearly enough to account for this.

  • mpz

    Hah, knew the ‘gay’ comment would make people noisy.

    I think a lot of people blew this issue out of proportion. It was no watergate. It was just a commercial deal amongst commercial entities – and you’d have to be pretty naive to believe this kind of thing doesn’t go on all the time. Game reviewers are not journalists, and even though i’m sure many take their job seriously, with some reviews you really have to question whether they’re doing their job (well I did, I no longer consider reviews from the main ‘game press’).

    What annoyed me the most were the ‘independent’ press who got all hot and bothered and kept going on about ‘integrity’ and ‘honesty’ and so forth. And they in turn got ‘gamers’ all riled up about how horrible it was to be lied to, blah blah blah – as if anyone who reads this stuff (or anything else for that matter) should be taking it on face value in the first place. The hypocrisy and ignorant mob mentality was sickening.