If you’re a writer for a major game magazine and your deadline to review a 40-hour-game is a day away, how do you deal? The answer: Sometimes, you cheat.
Here at The Escapist, we have our own philosophy and method behind game reviews, and it’s something we’re very proud of. But this process demands flexibility, something that other sites – and especially print magazines – don’t have. So if reviewers have a 40-hour game in their hands to evaluate and only 10 hours in which to do it, how the hell can they experience the highlights? As John Szczepaniak writes in Issue 243 of The Escapist, sometimes they have to cheat.
So when the editor of a single-format magazine in the cubicle next to mine asked if I wanted some freelance work, I wasn’t going to say no. He had Rainbow Six: Vegas on the Xbox 360 available, but it had to be four pages and the deadline was in less than 48 hours. I estimated that if I could survive on five hours sleep a night and take meals while playing Rainbow Six, I’d have 12 hours across two days to play the game in my free time, take screenshots and write the review. But I had one ace in the hole: Along with the game and the debug console, the editor also handed me a torn scrap of paper with a code to unlock debug menus allowing full customization of weapons, level select options and more.
This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Pre-release copies sent in by publishers will occasionally contain debug options to make navigating the game easier. Need invincibility and infinite ammo? No problem! Just make sure the coverage is positive and the screenshots look good, the publishers always asked. Publishers encourage this type of cheating, because they don’t want reviews of their multi-million-dollar blockbuster to describe only the laborious areas and feature bland, uninteresting screenshots. For Rainbow Six: Vegas, Ubisoft flew journalists to Vegas for an all-expenses-paid holiday just to guarantee massive, positive previews. With so much already invested, Ubisoft certainly didn’t want the follow-up reviews to look poor.
Cheating may help you see more of a game than playing it normally, but have you actually experienced it? To read more about one of game reviewing’s secrets, check out “Cheating the System” in Issue 243 of The Escapist.