Video game review-aggregation site Metacritic has updated its system to prevent users from posting reviews the same day a new title launches.
Metacritic made the change following the release of developer Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated “The Last of Us Part II” for the PS4 in June.
Within hours of the game’s release, users posted thousands of negative reviews to Metacritic, despite the game having a storyline that takes 20 to 30 hours to complete.
On July 17th, Metacritic implemented a prohibition on user reviews for video games within the first 36 hours of their release.
“This new waiting period for user reviews has been rolled out across Metacritic’s Games section and was based on data-driven research and with the input of critics and industry experts,” a Metacritic spokesperson told Gamespot.
The website claimed this new policy has nothing to do with any particular title, although some doubt this is the case.
Metacritic does not post statistics comparing the number of user reviews games receive. However, “The Last of Us Part II” has over 10 times as many reviews as best-selling games such as “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” or “Uncharted 4”.
The first iteration of the franchise, which was released seven years ago, has approximately 11,000 reviews to date. Critics on the site gave 2013’s “The Last of Us” universal acclaim, with a 94/100 score based on 117 reviews.
As of July 23, “The Last of Us Part II” had nearly 60,000 negative reviews.
While there is no definitive reason for the unprecedented flood of bad reviews, theories include high expectations, out of context plot elements which were leaked ahead of release, and the game’s inclusion of LGBT characters in the main cast.
Although recent review bombs may have driven the update in policy, the problem is not a new issue for the site.
Valorant, a multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Riot Games, was another suspected victim of a review bomb in early June. In February, independent developer TurtleBlaze detailed how just one bomber created 200 Metacritic accounts to take its game Kunai from an 8.1 to a 1.7.
Despite the update, Metacritic’s new policy might not do much to stop this sort of review bombing. According to Playstation LifeStyle,
“Metacritic neither requires proof of purchase nor displays a verified purchase stamp when accepting user scores. All one has to do is create a temporary email address, rate a game (comments not required), log out, and repeat the process…Metacritic does not flag IP addresses or fake domains, and doesn’t have a system to check account history and patterns.”
However, Metacritic said moderators regularly monitor the website to remove reviews that do not follow its guidelines and let users flag suspicious behavior.
Companies have tried various methods to cut down on review bombing.
In 2016, popular gaming platform Steam added a feature that filtered reviews to only include those who purchased it through the Steam Store. Amazon flags reviews as verified if the user bought the product at around retail price.