Yet another nice piece from the Guardian; Keith Stuart takes up the issue of innovation and whether or not reviewers really get it. Using Mirror's Edge as a launching point, he notes that there seems to be too much focus on some of the little details and not enough emphasis on deconstructing the experience:
Many reviewers have criticised the combat, the repetition, a smattering of trial-and-error moments. There has been a general compulsion to counter the sequences of innovative genius with niggling doubts about core mechanics.
This is frustrating and I think it highlights one of the key issues of contemporary gaming - what exactly is a videogame and what are the fundamental elements every game must provide? Because, if it were a movie, Mirror's Edge would be critically lauded by the specialist film press - it would be considered a forward-thinking masterpiece. Sure, it's dangerous to compare two such different media, but there are key similarities - one is the way in which critics should be able to deconstruct the experience on offer and draw from it undeniable values that outweigh concerns about basic construction.
I don't entirely agree with this line of thinking (many people reading reviews want to know if the game is worth playing, and those niggling details probably matter quite a lot), but I always enjoy reading 'reviews' that are more along the lines that Stuart is discussing — deconstructing the game and looking at it from a broader perspective. There's room (and need) for both, I think, and I'm not sure it's reviewers not 'understanding' innovation so much as reviewers producing what audiences want to read.