Two big Triple-A games had their review embargoes lift on Tuesday. One of those was Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game that game out a week from this Tuesday, which already has the overwhelmingly positive reviews that you’d expect from BioWare of old. The other game was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that came out on Tuesday with some early and midnight launches but had a Noon EST review embargo.
In the latest of a series of avoidable gaffes, Ubisoft has again insulted the consumer. This time, they embargoed their top franchise’s annual offering’s review until after the game was released in an abuse of the system.
In case you aren’t up to date on the insider aspect of video game reviews, to get a review copy of a game, a reviewer or publication has to go through a publisher’s PR people. If they get a copy, it’s generally given out before a game’s launch under the condition that the review of that game is not allowed to be published until a certain point in time.
As there’s no formal contract, there’s no legal repercussions to violating an embargo. However, the best case scenario is that publisher stops doing business with your publication for a while. I seem to recall an urban legend that one person violated an embargo so badly or so frequently that he was blackballed by most PR people in the industry.
And that brings us to the latest example of bad review embargoes. While release day review embargoes are less common than they were 18 months ago, they still exist. And while triple-As are getting better about late embargoes, that doesn’t mean that they still don’t exist. That’s why I used the comparison to Dragon Age: Inquisition which had reviews coming out one week before release.
The problem with the late embargo on AC Unity is that it’s too late to cancel a pre-order because the store you bought it at has had the game available for upwards of 12 hours. Once the story opens, good luck getting out of a pre-order.
That issue is exacerbated by the fact that reviews for Unity are mixed at best. It’s Metacritic score as of writing is well below that of Dragon Age: Inquisition and actually below that of last-gen exclusive Assassin’s Creed: Rogue.
Generally, reviewers liked the upgraded graphics on the next-generation consoles but that was the end of the consensus praise. For the most part, reviewers noted a lackluster story, a weak main character and largely samesy gameplay mechanics that you already know from every other AC game. Or to put it a put more simply, it’s Assassin’s Creed with a fresh coat of paint and some bugs, especially on PC. No wonder why the embargo ran past the last-minute.
Some good may come out of this embargo issue. Kotaku and TotalBiscuit have announced that they won’t be reviewing games with embargoes that are after the game’s launch. I may not agree with many game journalists but I think I can get on-board with this.