Xbox Vice President Mike Ybarra took to Twitter today to complain about the way reviewers have criticized Anthem ahead of the game's full launch on February 22. Anthem has been the subject of many different critiques, and anticipation for the game has dulled some as a result.
The reason Ybarra even has reviews to complain about is because of Anthem's release schedule, which is needlessly complex. While the game doesn't fully release until this Friday, it has been available for Origin subscribers since February 15. Origin is the online client and digital distribution service of EA, the company that published Anthem. Because people were going to get their hands on the new game early anyways, EA and developer BioWare distributed review codes early as well, resulting in a large amount of critical backlash over the past five days.
After PC Gamer published a piece praising the fact that BioWare was fixing one of the worst elements of Anthem's main story quests, Ybarra took to Twitter to blast reviewers for being unfair. He stated that he was "amazed at the whining" that he was hearing from people playing the game, and then insinuated that at least one reviewer had critiqued the game without knowing some of its more basic combat mechanics.
This was actually very easy to do. Amazed at the whining. One reviewer, not the below, reviewed the game yet in the review cited that he didn’t even know how to do a combo. Embarrassing to review with such a lack of knowledge. https://t.co/OcwbApb4Nb— Mike Ybarra (@XboxQwik) February 20, 2019
The problem? That reviewer had a point, even if it's the critic's responsibility to dig deep to find the answers to their questions while assessing a game. Anthem's combo mechanics are never cited in the game's tutorial, nor are they explained at any point during the narrative. The game indicates that they exist, and players will certainly come across them during their adventures, but it's on the player to find out what they are. That requires going through the game's menus to find a much more obscure tutorial section:
What's specifically infuriating about this tweet is the chief criticism—not knowing how to do a combo in Anthem—isn't explained by Anthem itself, unless you dive into a hidden tutorial menu. I learned about combos after wondering WTF an "aura combo" was in an item description.— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) February 20, 2019
Other members of the industry have issues with the post as well:
Oh, come on, really?— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) February 20, 2019
If something critical in a game is unclear to a person that plays as many games as a reviewer, remember that onboarding & tutorialization are OUR job.
This is a bad take & a bad look, seriously.
While Ybarra stopping there already would have been enough, he decided to double down on people responding to his take with some justified criticism. When a fan suggested the game was "mediocre" and that Xbox was concerned that it had purchased the marketing rights to a game that wasn't living up to expectation, Ybarra bizarrely stated that the game wasn't even out yet.
While that may be true for PS4, Xbox One, and non-Origin PC players, Anthem has received a release already, and there are thousands of people already experiencing it. Those people had to pay extra money to access the game early, too, so suggesting that it is okay for a game to be unfinished, or that it needs a massive day one patch to make it playable, is simply unfair to consumers.
It's yet another strange chapter in the saga of Anthem's release period, which feels like it has gone on for much longer than the week it is supposed to. For a game that's been met with middling reception, however, it certainly isn't a stranger to generating news. Even with the fixes coming on Friday, it would be surprising if Ybarra's comments on Anthem as it currently stands don't end up appearing at least a little suspect when we look back on them in a few weeks.