Metacritic changes review process after Horizon DLC scandal
It's hard to believe we're still having this conversation in 2023, but as the gaming industry continues to drag its knuckles, issues of homophobia, racism, and misogyny are rife. It happened with The Last of Us Part II, it happened with Forspoken, and now, we're seeing it happen (again) with Horizon.
We know some can't deal with having a strong female character that doesn't fit the triangle-boobed aesthetic of Lara Croft's '90s heyday, but heavens forbid if we made her canonically a lesbian. Enter the Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores DLC.
Metacritic forced to change over Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shore controversy
When Horizon Forbidden West was released in 2022, sentiments toward Aloy hadn't changed from her 2017 debut. With accusations she was too "fat" and had a "hairy face," there was a particular subset of gamers bombing the game for the same reasons. As confirmed in the Burning Shores DLC, however, Guerilla Games has confirmed our heroine is a lesbian.
In Burning Shores, Aloy strikes a relationship with Seyka from the Quen tribe. Although there were hints of Aloy's sexuality in the first two games, Burning Shores made her an out-and-out lesbian, with the pair sharing a kiss. The Metacritic user scores were a dumpster fire, and now, the review site has been forced to change.
Releasing a statement to Eurogamer, Metacritic/Fandom has promised to address the review bombing of Burning Shores and the potential of other titles being impacted negatively: "Fandom is a place of belonging for all fans and we take online trust and safety very seriously across all our sites including Metacritic.
"Our team reviews each and every report of abuse (including but not limited to racist, sexist, homophobic, insults to other users, etc) and if violations occur, the reviews are removed. We are currently evolving our processes and tools to introduce stricter moderation in the coming months."
There's no word on what this stricter moderation will be, however, it sounds like the team will have its work cut out to keep on top of the slew of negativity thrown at games like Horizon.
Review bombing is a problem in video games
It's a sad state of affairs, but simply, butch white men like Chris Redfield or Captain Price still pull big numbers in the charts. We doubt 2023's Resident Evil 4 remake would've done so well if Sheva Alomar was the protagonist - just look what happened to Ada Wong's voice actor.
All too often, we write about a AAA game being review bombed, with Forspoken heading into murky territory for the hate being levelled at Freya as a black woman. Others are more bizarre, with Dying Light 2's Metacritic score tumbling because it didn't have Italian VO options.
To be honest, we're surprised it took this long for Metacritic to do something. Several reviews have apparently been pulled already, but for each that vanishes, two pop up in their place.