Do Not Trust This Magazine's Review Scores

The biggest Japanese game magazine, Famitsu, has awarded its highest score to stealth game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. In the process, the publication has shown why, as a source of objective game reviews, it cannot be trusted. Here's why:

Some would say that Famitsu has sold its soul long, long ago. The publication always has exclusives and game announces before anyone else, raising the suspicions of some. Then again, it can be argued that since Famitsu is the most influential game publication in Japan, it would naturally have these exclusives as publishers would be keen to get their games to the largest audience possible!

There are even rumours that all the game announcements are written by game publishers themselves and not by Famitsu. These, however, are rumours and unconfirmed. Famitsu's handling of MGS: Peace Walker bluntly and brazenly destroys any illusion of impartial reviews. Forever.

Famitsu has awarded Peace Walker a 40 out of 40, its highest score. In publication since 1986, Famitsu has only given perfect review scores to these titles: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998), Soulcalibur (1999), Vagrant Story (2000), The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003), Nintendogs (2005), Final Fantasy XII (2006), Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008), Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008), 428 (2008), Dragon Quest IX (2009), Monster Hunter Tri (2009), Bayonetta (2009), New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009) and now Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010).

Regardless what you think of Famitsu or even numbered reviews, getting a perfect Famitsu score is a big deal. It can potentially transfer in to bigger sales. But what does it mean when the publication who is reviewing game is involved in the game itself?

Earlier, Kotaku pointed out that Famitsu appears in Peace Walker — along with Doritos, Mountain Dew, Axe body spray and rival Japanese game mag Dengeki. But it goes deeper than that.

Hirokazu Hamamura, the former Famitsu editor-in-chief, is the current president of Enterbrain, the company that publishes Famitsu. He also appears in a ad campaign for Peace Walker from the game's publisher, Konami. A two-page spread. And he's even on a Konami Peace Walker website. Both adds use a pun on his last name: ハマムラ、ハマる。("Hamamura, hamaru.") The Denshi Jisho online Japanese dictionary defines "Hamaru" (ハマる) as: "to get into; to go into; to fit; to be fit for; to suit; to fall into; to plunge into; to be deceived; to be taken in; to fall into a trap; to be addicted to; to be deep into". The connotations are fitting, and the irony is thick and heavy.

Sure, Hamamura is a recognisable face for the industry in Japan, but his publication is reviewing this game — and giving the title its highest score! And if Famitsu is going to do stuff like this, surely it should offer a full disclosure. However, the game's review makes no mention of the in-game ties and no mention of Hamamura's prominence in the title's ad campaign. Instead, there is a glowing review for Peace Walker, which is also the magazine's pick-of-the-week. (Granted, there could very well be a disclosure of the still-unreleased-magazine, which goes on sale later this week; however, there is no mention in the review itself.)

From what Kotaku has played of the game, Peace Walker does look like an exceptional PSP title. The game's designer, Hideo Kojima, has continually stressed how much effort and energy has gone into developing the title. All that effort and energy seems wasted on raised eyebrows over poor promotional and collaborative choices. Even if the game does appear to be fantastic, the review appears bought. It needlessly dirties up what could very well be a great game — a game that should stand alone on its own merit.

Peace Walker is better than this. Hideo Kojima is better than this. Famitsu, it seems, is not.

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Comments

    I am disgusted by reviewers who sell their soul to make a bit of cash.

    On a side note, if the Dante's Inferno advertising company used this in an interesting way, rather than the haphazard method(s) they took, it could have made them garner a lot of interest.

      Damn straight. Jeff Gerstmann may have lost his job at Gamespot, but he never sold out his principles.

    You could of assumed not to believe anything they review when they gave Final Fantasy XIII 39/40. They're sell outs!

      Agreed! it should have been 40/40!!

    Lol Nintendogs 40/40.

      Lol yeah, was about to say, this isn't a big deal, but nintendogs getting it sure is, lol.

    Who trusts ANY magazine or popular advertising-heavy review website anymore?

    I'm guessing it has to do with the ex-editor's conflict of interest more than the individual reviewers.
    But it's always a shame when a quaity magazine sells it's soul like this, being built on honest reviews and trust.

    Well all know its deserves a 40/40 regardless of if you've played it or not or if the score was paid. I mean when was the last time MGS let us down?

    hahaha. Typical Japanese business; it's not what you do, it's who you know. What else can you expect of a country run by third-generation politicans, and where retired chiefs of police get jobs running the local gambling establishments?

      Waffle its the same here at my current workplace theres one boss who actually worked his way to his position and every other person that works there is related to the old headhoncho of the warehouse or were friends who have been promoted to there position

      i work at a pick packing factory for linfox and these people definetly have no connection to him

      If you work on the floor its basically impossible to get promoted yet there is one guy who after spending 2 months on the floor got promoted to deputy shift manager :( and the guy still doesnt know what hes doing a year on

    Wait, reviews are subject? WELL I NEVER.

    Cash in hand aside, whats the difference between giving a game a slightly higher score because you a chummy with the creators and giving a game a higher score because you are a fan of the series.

    If you want true objectivism (which you wont get, ever.) You cant have someone whos play a metal gear reviewing a metal gear game, he might only like it because it contains a character he likes, or in the same way, you cant let a guy review a mario game, because he grew up on it and its a defining point of his childhood, thats going to tilt the score and let him overlook obvious points.

    This is why I get my game news off the internet.

      Exact same problem. While it may not be as overt if say, a guy who works at IGN is given a neat sweetshirt, talks with the developers, tracks the progress of the game and remains one of only a dozen people who've played it pre-release, do you think none of that goes into his review?

      While cash in hand bribes are horrible, i dont think people acknowledge the sneaky stuff that goes on. Theres more behind the scenes that affect how you grade a game then just the game itself and it goes way beyond bribing.

    Its all controlled by the Ai's any way

    The suposed 'outer haven' of the internet is arguably worse.. at least this magazine has early acess to the game and places a reviewscore based on its hype..

    on the internet review sites just try hard to fit in to the pack and 'seam real' when in reality they might not have even played much of the game or any!
    Fact is if you have a psp in 2010.. you should get this game and play it.. thats what the magazine thinks.. sounds like a fair enough point

    i would rather alot of 100% than lots of 9.7 and 9.6 etc like we have seen over the last 3 years which just are dumb!

    Famitsu has been giving more and more of these precious perfect 40s. If you look at the list, more than half of them have been given in the past two years, despite the first one being from 1998. I know we're getting much better at games now, but still, the prestige of the 40 is wearing out.

    Not that Famitsu's scores have ever affected what I buy... I tend to buy games because of companies advertising themselves, or recommendations from mates.

    This is a shameless plug, but I highly recommend the noobtoob podcast if you want a reliable game review source.

    I don't think that there is anything too surprising or shocking in this. All it seems to be is the acknowledgement of a more obvious prejudice, even if this prejudice would seem to be motivated by money.

    Objectivity is often at the mercy of the strength of our own subjectivity.

    Did you even consider the chance that the game is worth the score?

    You have no proof at all of the accusations you make. It might all be true, but you should not be telling everyone it is true when you don't have a clue what really went on.

    Report the conflict of interest. Don't report unsupported accusations.

    "From what Kotaku has played of the game..."

    Finish the game, and then pass your judgement. Maybe the game IS that good.

    "In the process, the publication has shown why, as a source of objective game reviews, it cannot be trusted."

    A little melodramatic don't you think? Leave the hyperbole in the trash, it's gross and slimy.

    Welcome to the world of the future, where you can buy whatever you want wherever you want from whomever you want. As long as you have the money, that is.......... And not a lot of people have that anymore. I can't even afford to buy a game nowadays until it's been out for a year, in a preowned bin. I hate what the world has become and wish I could leave it behind for the greedy masses

    The only reviews I really pay a lot of attention to are EDGE ones.

    I have trusted EDGE for decades now and they have been almost always spot on. BUT I think it's prolly because I am about the same age, and have similar tastes to their Editor (and staff?).

    Oh, and the Good Game guys used to be able to get me interested in certain titles, and the DRUNKEN GAMERS from DGR too!

    But that's it. No other mag or person's opinions are ever taken into account for me.

    Who do you guys turn to for opinions on games? There's just too many too even attempt trying them all.

    The idea that any game review (or film review for that matter) can be objective in the truest sense of the word is absolute rubbish. And I find all this feigned outrage over video game reviewers being bought and paid for just plain ridiculous. What, did you really expect video game journalists to somehow be different from their mainstream brethren? They're human, just like all the other journos out there (although they may as well be automatons). Although they have one key difference from mainstream news journalists - they're probably far more spineless than their contemporary counterparts, which is mind boggling to say the least.

    I think it all went downhill after around Nintendogs.

    Famitsu has 0 journalistic integrity left. In the West, for the sake of professional criticim, if an editor is involved in ANY way with the production of a piece, they avoid it and just give it to their understudy.

    There are obvious exceptions to this, eg Ben Lyons a film critic who frequently 'befriended' celebrities, took freebies, appeared as an extra etc and infamously gave I Am Legend the "Greatest Movie Ever Made" quote which was used heavily in the marketing campaign.

    People are just unscrupulous and will accept corporate favours to bend the rules, but this is just ridiculous. And to think that Famitsu still holds the revered position it does in Japanese gaming.. STILL is horrible. Perhaps the Japanese are just more open or honest, or just passive and unwilling to dole bad reviews. Whatever it is, to most, Famitsu's reviews have been tarnished.

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