Reviewer slams Conduit 2, developer retaliates with negative Amazon book reviews

Conduit 2 was hardly beloved by reviewers, but T. Michael Murdock, who reviewed the Wii shooter for Joystiq, really hated it. His review's headline reads, "more like Con-don't-do-it 2," a line he suggests matches the creativity of the entire game, which he goes on to call "lackadaisical trash" and "appalling."

Words like that can hurt, and developer High Voltage was understandably offended by Murdock's ruthless criticism. However, rather than directing a snide remark at the reviewer, which might have been considered unprofessional, but not unethical, an ill-planned e-mail has brought the full force of the internet's stern head-shaking down on the company.

"Michael was kind enough to recently provide us with a Conduit 2 review," wrote Creative Director Matt Corso in an e-mail to at least one department at High Voltage. "And so in turn you should all feel at liberty to (of course read it first) and then return the favor by writing a reader review for Michael's book for him."

The book Corso referred to is Murdock's The Dragon Ruby, which, prior to Corso's e-mail, had received only a few reviews on Amazon, all positive. After his Conduit 2 review, however, Murdock's novel (which is promoted in the footer of his review) became "just plain embarrassing" and "below fan-fiction garbage."

The small number of bad Amazon reviews, which appeared just after Murdock's review was posted, may not have been a severe attack on the author's livelihood, and are only technically tied to the developer through (a great deal of) circumstantial evidence, but it would be hard to argue that they didn't originate from High Voltage, or that the employees who acted on Corso's e-mail honestly read the novel before retaliating. At least Murdock played their game.

How do we know this? Eric Nofsinger of High Voltage acknowledged the existence of Corso's e-mail in a response to The Escapist, and casually defended the aside as a "tongue-in-cheek jibe" and non-issue.

"Sure, it's a tad unprofessional but if you knew Matt personally as I do, you would know it was nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek jibe at most," said Nosfinger. "And for that, I apologize on behalf of High Voltage Software."

"When this 'news' flared up this morning, I informed Matt about what was going on. He apologized and went on to say, 'My mind really wasn't in that dark of a place when I wrote that. In fact I seriously considered buying the book myself. I wanted to know how good it really was that this guy felt so in the right to trash our game and give away the ending like he did. And then post a plug to his book at the end, implying that we suck and he is totally great. Then I forgot about it, and got busy with other stuff. But I can see why some people might try to read more into this. But I did mention that people should read the book before giving a review.'"

Murdock is not amused, and has responded to the developer, writing, "The issue is not that it's a cute back and forth between a major video game developer and a lowly reviewer, but moreso that a major company attacked the livelihood of the reviewer because they didn't like the review, and they're acting like that's ok. Even the email response they sent to The Escapist condones what they did, and admits it. Then they wryly continue saying that kind of behavior is respectable, warranted and, most of all, above reproach."

What do you think? Does a developer encouraging staff to rebuke the work of a reviewer constitute "news" in quotes, or is it news, and was it an attack on Murdock's livelihood? For us, the words "childish" and "irresponsible" come to mind, and not because we're playing Scrabble and drew too many letters. We can understand why a scorned developer would smirk at the thought of returning a reviewer the favor, but that employees apparently followed through with Corso's "tongue-in-cheek jibe" is awfully, awfully poor form.

[Source: The Escapist]

May 20, 2011


  • raymondtigner - May 23, 2011 4:58 p.m.

    i stated in on another board and I’ll post on this one....Michael Murdock isn’t innocent here. His sensationalist journalism approach, mixed w/ the lack of in-depth thought, for his C2 review is inexcusable. HVS didn't state to go out and give a negative review, but supplied the information necessary to apply whatever review they deemed applicable to Michaels novel/literature. BUT, we're not idiots, I’m sure the mood at the office was not good at HVS and the reviews were going to be harsh against Michaels book. A letter to the editor from HVS would have been more professional Michael started this ruckus.....his review was bunk, junk, trash...whatever you want to call it. His approach to non-partisan journalism is atrocious and he comes off as no more than a stereotypical "angry video game nerd." Michael....don't throw stones and cry when people throw them back. You're an imbecile and a little selfish to get upset because someone is affecting your "livelihood" w/ a harsh review on your personal products. Your so-call "review" affects other people too, especially the game companies for that said reviewed product. (sucks don't it!) Word of advice, be the adult here, state that possibly the review was terrible...then rewrite as a good little journalist would and not how you would post something on a blog. I'm not normally this harsh to other people, but where you aggravated me was the "wo-wis me," "pity me," or "those guys are meanies towards little innocent old me." take responsibility, step up and acknowledge the article was junk and just maybe I’ll give you a second glance. **PS, personally owning C2, the game is average, it’s not terrible, but it’s not great, but to review the game as you have is beyond forgivable.
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  • Fusionmix - May 22, 2011 8:54 p.m.

    Did anyone ever think High Voltage was anything more than a whiny second-rate studio with aspirations towards greatness and no skill to back up their boasting? Oh right, the internet did. Silly internet.
  • VictorZombie - May 22, 2011 1:48 p.m.

    Yeah thats a full on bullshit move. The review may have sucked and been harsh but for the developer to react that way. Douchebags!
  • IvansTreehouse - May 22, 2011 11:20 a.m.

    As I write this, there is an ad for Brink (next to the first screen shot of the article) that appears to have the promoted Brink character shooting at the conduit 2 baddies. Deadpool would approve.
  • Lonners77 - May 22, 2011 10:58 a.m.

    I've seen bad reviews which deserve criticism. Lazy journalism, which I've even seen on major sites, is a bad thing. Here, however, the reviewer has completed the game and has given his honest opinion. It's a good review. Hammering him for that is unprofessional and childish. Except, of course, he's probably got more publicity for his book now. I think I might buy it - I won't buy the Conduit 2 though.
  • IvansTreehouse - May 22, 2011 10:52 a.m.

    Resist the temptation and hope that fans of your game are clever enough to read and review the reviewers book. Let the fans fight for you. Btw, I think its a very classy opinion, Tyler and GR. It really made me stop and think for a minute.
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - May 22, 2011 10:22 a.m.

    I disapprove, High Voltage. Being unhappy with reviews is one thing, but then being petty and doing that? Kinda ridiculous. Imagine if all the game companies acted like that towards reviews. Mogworld would have a user feedback rating of negative 9000.
  • yesIusetheM14 - May 22, 2011 5:59 a.m.

    I think we can all conclude that both parties involved acted like tremendous A-holes, despite what their "intentions" may have been.
  • Whit - May 22, 2011 2:28 a.m.

    Anyone else get the hypocrisy? One guy didn't like the game so he had no problem attacking the livelihood of the developers. Yet, when the reviewer gets a stream of bad reviews he feel put out?
  • AuthorityFigure - May 22, 2011 12:40 a.m.

    @GamesRadarTylerWilde There may be a difference, but I'm arguing that it doesn't apply if the original review of the Conduit was inflammatory.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - May 21, 2011 11:11 p.m.

  • sirdilznik - May 21, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    That is a really petty and unprofessional way to handle a negative review. It's pretty sad to see grown men and paid professionals resorting to tactics of spitefulness reminiscent of immature elementary school children.
  • hanktherapper - May 21, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    I'm reminded when Jeff Minter attacked Dan Amrich after his review of "Space Giraffe".
  • kingsmikefan - May 21, 2011 8:54 p.m.

    The reviewer was just being honest. He thought the game sucked, and he said so. High Voltage should focus on making good games instead of trying to rip off other franchises
  • swedishfrog - May 21, 2011 8:38 p.m.

    And how many people are going to buy that book to see if it is really that bad that would never have heard of it or touched it with a ten foot pole without that mess? I think the reviewer is behaving like a wuss and should be happy about the free publicity this gives him. I certainly would never have heard of this otherwise. And also, giving away the end in a review, no matter how bad the game is, was unprofessional in the first place, and it puts the livelihood of the studio at risk, so he is not really one to talk there.
  • Patius - May 21, 2011 7:38 p.m.

    they're both unprofessional acts. One 'reviewed' a game in way that sounds like he's trying to say "Hey, look at me! I write edgy things! Buy my book!" The other trashed the book the guy plugged, which was also unprofessional. In a sense, it sounds like they both slammed something they didn't fully or at all actually experience for less than good motives. One was revenge, the other was to try and make more money. To be honest, Revenge sounds better to me.
  • LOZ4EVAH - May 21, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    Conduit 2 is not bad at all. It's perfectly playable and aside from a few FPS cliches is a fairly fun game. People just can't get off their high horse.
  • Fuzunga - May 21, 2011 6:35 p.m.

    I read that review when it went live. Considering it was one of the worst, most unprofessional reviews I've ever read in my life, I say he deserved it. I mean, the guy never even played the original game. Based on that, I'd say the guy sucks at his job anyway and shouldn't be reviewing games. I can't really generalize, but if all his writing is that bad, then his book probably sucks too. Good for High Voltage. I hope this guy's career bombs.
  • elpurplemonkey - May 21, 2011 6:23 p.m.

    Both sides were unprofessional, but High Voltage was much more so. If they had a problem with the review, they should have simply called him out on it.

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