What is a 'venom' filled review anyway? Do they not understand that if you release a game thats been in development for 12 years and had a lot of peoples hopes pinned on it, if it fails its going to fail HARD.
Duke is probably not any worse than an average FPS, but the fact that its average is part of the problem. (Mechanically speaking)
average games dont take 12 years to make, nor do they contain 'classic' gaming characters that flop.
In the context of a review, venomous typically means that the review appears to contain issues outside the immediate context of the product being reviewed. Imagine a hardcore anti-DRM person being assigned to review an upcoming Ubisoft title, and you'll probably be thinking along the right lines.
You've pretty much hit one of the primary reasons why the reviews are so harsh in this post: The game was hyped for a long time, and people inflated its importance. Some critics (not necessarily the Escapist) are essentially lying to balance out the lies produced by PR. Other critics are channeling their disappointment in a game which they placed too much faith in.
While the negatives you point out in your post are part of human nature, they are things that one would expect a professional reviewer to look beyond. Consider what they do to reviews:
Do we penalize games simply for not being game of the year material? If so, our rating system becomes nothing but glowing and crushing reviews, with no middle ground.
Do we penalize games for taking too long to develop? Will we dock points from HL2: Episode 3 because Valve has taken years to deliver an episodic title, which is unlikely to be revolutionary compared to the other three related titles? How then do we rate a game if we don't know how long it took to develop? What does it do to our ratings if we discover after the fact that a game took more or less time to develop than we originally imagined?
Do we penalize games simply for being average? Is a rating system in which a good game gets five stars, a bad game gets three stars, and an average game gets one star really in anyone's best interest?
If assuming that someone who has a different opinion from yours is dishonest is what you need to do to sleep at night, so be it.
Honestly, I think Metacritic says something here about the honesty of reviews from any source. 1 negative 'reviewer' review versus 182 negative user reviews on the PS3, 414 on the xbox, and over eight hundred on the PC, almost double the positive user reviews on all of them and double for the PC and then some. Combined with my own incredibly negative experience of DA2, I would be hard pressed to find it believable someone could say anything other then 'mediocre game' when trying to be flattering.
In fact, the DA2 review was full of PR-talk. and your dismissal of his arguments by attacking the first sentence and that alone makes it incredibly obvious that this is the case.
Ok, which part would you like me to address? The idea that we have to "make nice with the sponsors"? You need look no further than the site buyout of Duke Nukem to know that we don't change our reviews to suit advertisers. It's also not a unique situation. I believe the same thing happened with The Conduit. Roleplaying "however you want" was not limited to "mean, nice, or snarky" in the case of DA2, in my personal opinion, but arguing that point with someone who believes otherwise seems fairly pointless. I believe the game to be good, you think it's bad - that's really all there is to it. No conspiracy, no ulterior motive, no drama. Some people simply believe that everyone who reviews games is on the take, and use whatever evidence they can to prove their point.
I'm not the person who reviewed the game, but my own experience with DA2 was quite positive. I loved the art style and the writing, really enjoyed the character of Hawke and the companions - far more than DA:O, in which I disliked a lot of my party. (Except Shale. Nothing but love for Shale.) In particular I loved the Qunari, whose culture I found to be fascinating. The repeating environments completely sucked and made it tough to be enthusiastic about having to leave the city for a quest, and the difficulty level overall was not as hard as it probably should've been. Does that sound like "PR speak" to you, or like I actually enjoyed the game? RPGs, perhaps more than any other genre, instill very specific expectations and demands in their audience. DA2 was a large departure from DA:O, so I understand why it left a lot of people cold, especially those who enjoyed playing in tactical view. Is it really so hard for you to believe that someone might not have the same preferences as you that you default to believing they're lying instead?
Either you believe we like DA2 that much, or you don't. That's really all there is to it. And if you believe we're lying about that game, you believe we're lying about every game we review.
Edit: Just saw a post of yours where you said your issue with the review is that it comes off fanboysish. You know, if you'd said that from the start, I'd have been less offended. I don't agree with that statement, but that's certainly a far different accusation than "You took money to write this review." We don't make shit up just to make an advertiser happy, ever. EVER. I don't pretend to speak for Greg on this matter, but as someone who's been reviewing games for about 10 years, I do know that there have been times where my personal preferences have influenced a review more than was probably appropriate. I'm not suggesting that happened in this case, but I'm not so daft as to say it never happens.
I apologize, real life has been stressing me out, and as such I've been snapping both online and off. It does not excuse my actions nor my posts, but please accept my humble apology for my improper behavior.
I disagree with your responce, if a company does not want to provide you a free copy of their product to review then they shouldn't have to. There is nothing stopping you from using your advertising revenue to go down to the store and buy a copy.
Let's use an example from another industry, cars. Dodge wouldn't give Top Gear a Challenger to test drive when they visited America because Top Gear had given them bad reviews. Was there a fuss? No. What did Top Gear do? They bought a Challenger to test drive.
I think as an industry video game journalists have become to full of their own self importance. You are reviewing a product nothing else. If a publisher or developer doesn't want to give you a copy that is their right. Just as you have the right to say no to advertising on your site if you don't like it.
You know, as much as I agree that a world where publishers and PR companies only give out copies to reviewers who they know will give them a favorable reivew/score, all I can say about this whole thing is: Stop! Just stop...
What Jim Redner said (or tweeted) was dumb. Just plain dumb. It was a mistake, made because he was angry. But you know what? He retracted his statement. He apologized! He's human, just like you and me.
The fact that 2K games dumped his company is enough of a defeat for the guy as it is, so get off your high horse.
The people at the Redner Group dont sound like humans. Yes I agree every game gets a fair review. And yes even I disagree with reviews. I would hope if I had made a game as bad a Duke Nukem Forever, I would get my balls chopped off with a chain saw and feed to sharks, then ofcourse having me bleed to death listening to Rebecca Black's I'ts Friday. I wrote a review for Duke Nukem Forever on Gamespot. Does this mean I should review it could because I am told to. Over my dead body. I gave the game a 1, why because I know some people spent $70.00 on this, and I felt this game was even worth the $6 I paid to rent it let alone the price I could buy Child of Eden which was realised the same day. Im sorry. People have no right to critize a review or have to write a apology because "a review was 2 harsh". And then have the nerve not to use proper grammer.
Russ Pitts, you do your job well. And keep doing it.
I quite liked DNF, and think most of the appalling reviews were *dishonest* bandwagoning or arty, politically correct elitism.
If it had been a brand new title with no history, it would have got a 7/10 average except by those sensitive to the crudeness and misogynism - which I felt were in fun, but I wouldn't mind if someone else felt offended.
That said, marketing attempting to strong-arm review sites with threats deserves all the hate and sarcasm that can be mounted.