MCV ignites more controversy by ignoring negative Hitman reviews, re-tweets abuse to critics
Industry publication MCV once again finds itself embroiled in controversy after running two stories praising Square Enix title Hitman: Absolution for its upcoming European launch and review scores. The first story was written two days ago, and pointed out a number of reviews that gave the game either a 10 or 9 out of 10 rating. The second story went live early Monday morning, with the headline “Critics delighted with Agent 47's return in Hitman: Absolution,” and an extensive list of the game’s positive reviews. Commenters seemed to have an issue with the fact both stories initially ignored almost every negative or middling review of the game.
Only looking at the good reviews
“66% rating from PC Gamer,” a comment noted in the first story. “Didn't mention that review did you?” The comments were even more biting in the second story about the game’s seemingly high review scores. In fact, the only negative review listed in the second story came from Eurogamer, which MCV described as “grumpy” and “the odd one out.” MCV and Eurogamer have a bit of history: MCV writer Lauren Wainwright reportedly threatened Eurogamer with legal action over an editorial about the perception of journalistic ethics. The story went on to become something of a controversy when Wainwright’s prior business relationship with Tomb Raider and Hitman publisher Square Enix became public knowledge. She quickly took her Twitter account private and scrubbed references to the publisher from her online profiles, but the damage had already been done. The reality is that Hitman: Absolution has received mixed reviews since launch, and the negative PC Gamer review had already been blogged about and passed around the industry extensively. In fact, so many people were talking about the game’s negative buzz on the PC I felt compelled to share my first-hand experience with the game in order to combat what I felt were inaccuracies in the reporting on the review. The embargo for Hitman reviews expired on Sunday, and many reviews went live with many different thoughts on the game. While MCV only linked to, and quoted, positive reviews while claiming critics were “delighted” by the game, the comments in the MCV story listed review after review that gave the game either a low or middling score. Once the comments began to accuse the outlet of impropriety, the story began to be updated. “The Internet masses seem to be up in arms that we dared to neglect to mention the reviews from the likes of Videogamer, GameSpot and PC Gamer which were more in line with Eurogamer,” the first update stated. “The truth is we hadn’t seen them. So feel free to hunt those down for a broader perspective.” At this point MCV still failed to link to any negative reviews, instead telling readers they would have to find dissenting opinions on their own. Ben Parfitt, the story’s author, took to Twitter to claim that he hadn’t seen any of the negative reviews, including the PC Gamer review pointed out to him in the comments for his first story praising the game’s reviews. The backlash continued, and a second update was added to the story. “OK. After lots of comments and people engaging with us on Twitter, it’s probably right to point out that other outlets have indeed scored the game along the same lines as Eurogamer or lower,” Parfitt wrote. “These include PC Gamer (66%), Edge (7/10), Gamespy (7/10), Gamespot UK (7.5/10) and Gametrailers (6.9/10).” Rock Paper Shotgun’s John Walker posted a comment calling the story, and its updates, “disgraceful.” “How can you possibly write a story declaring that critics are ‘delighted’ without even checking what critics were saying?” Walker wrote in the comments. Once it became clear that Parfitt had failed to research the story, the title of the piece was changed to read “Reviews go live for Hitman: Absolution,” although Eurogamer continued to be described as “the odd one out.” “I am getting pretty fucking tired of Twitter seeing conspiracy in everything where there really isn't one,” Parfitt tweeted. At this point MCV had only linked to the positive review, although a fourth and possibly final update to the story added direct links to the reviews critical of the game. Parfitt also re-tweeted a video of a dog rolling his eyes as a reaction to the “controversy.” I contacted Michael French, the Editor in Chief of MCV, to discuss what went wrong, and Parfitt's reaction to criticism. “The writer wrote the first piece based solely from Metacritic. The flippancy of tone was probably a bit naïve, yes. We have since amended the story,” he told the Penny Arcade Report. When I asked how Parfitt had failed to see any of the negative Metacritic reviews or to include the review pointed out to him days ago, French replied that “it was a mistake that has (quite publicly) since been corrected.” French offered to speak on the phone about Lauren Wainwright’s Hitman story in the magazine and their lack of disclosure of her business relationship with Square Enix, but due to Intent Media’s past of pressuring outlets who are critical of MCV and the reports of their writers threatening litigation I responded that I would rather keep our communication in a format that gave me a written record. He then told me his previous comments weren’t meant for publication. (The words he used were “This isn’t a comment, but I’ll run you through it.” Without being told explicitly that remarks aren’t for publication or are off the record, I consider them safe for publication.) It's possible MCV didn't think it necessary to look up reviews before writing about the scores, or that the site ran two stories hyping review scores for a game that happened to be published by the same company that led to their last controversy. It's possible Michael French would have had a good explanation for all this, and there's a good reason he wasn't comfortable discussing it on the record. It's possible this is just one big, badly timed honest mistake, but when the best case scenario is incompetence and the worst case is willful misdirection about review scores, something went terribly wrong somewhere. John Walker also challenged MCV to deny that they let Lauren Wainright go. “It is true that Lauren Wainwright no longer works for us. She did not pass her probation. We wish her well,” the official twitter account stated. MCV has since posted an apology on Twitter, and reposted the article with the updated headline. The wording singling out Eurogamer as the lone dissenting voice, as of this writing, remains in the article. Whoever is running the official MCV Online Twitter account seems to be on the attack, as they retweeted a message that people complaining about the inaccurate original story need to “suck a choad.” Don't worry, MCV is merely passing along that message. They want to make sure we know those aren't their words.