The DRIV3R Scandal -

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The DRIV3R Scandal

Inflated scores for early builds?

By James Stevenson     July 02, 2004

© Atari

There has been some recent controversy in the game industry regarding the game DRIV3R, and scores ranging from as high as a 9.5, to as low as a 5. Generally there is some variance in game review scores, but from a 9.5 to a 5 (in major publications) is generally unheard of.

It all got started when a rumor began that publications would only receive early code if a score of 9 or higher was promised. Also, considering a publication or two had a cover story on DRIV3R they couldn't well bash the game without looking dumb for putting so much hype on the game.

I've never had an offer like this from a PR person in the biz, and I can't say anyone would be likely to try it. It's one of those instant things that would make me, as a journalist, recoil and refuse. I'm not putting my credibility on the line before I have the chance to play a game.

What is very possible is that the game was sent out early and with that game was a sheet of "bug fixes". This happens relatively frequently with the three-month lead times magazines run on. The game won't be done for another month or maybe two, but essentially the functionality is there, and the glitches are all minor issues. There's generally a list of things that will be fixed, and so in the idea of getting a review done in a timely fashion, a bit of the corner is cut and a beta version is reviewed (the game companies will mark these as reviewable).

Most of the time this

A screenshot from DRIV3R.

isn't an issue, and most of those glitches are resolved. Heck, most of the time you don't even notice the glitches in the game because they're rare things like "don't save after level 9, wait till you beat level 10". Random stuff like that. Generally this does get fixed.

The best guess I have is that Atari didn't get the bugs fixed on time, and shipped the software anyway to get it out before MADDEN and before the holiday buying season. In the end, the publications that reviewed the non-final code and had reviews written months ago got caught with their pants down.

What should be done about this? I'm not really sure. Perhaps you don't trust Atari anymore when it comes to reviewing beta code, or maybe you don't review any beta code. It'll be interesting to see what official line, if any, comes out on this.

As always, you can e-mail your thoughts to


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On Shelves

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