Review aggregation site Metacritic promises to improve its moderation system after the recent release of DLC for Horizon Forbidden West prompted a rash of negative review bombing. This story contains spoilers for Burning Shores, so stop reading now if you don't want to know some story events from the game.
The DLC in question, Burning Shores, features an option for a same-gender kiss as part of a storyline involving protagonist Aloy and a warrior queen named Sekya. This is a completely optional event, but it seemed to have prompted an onslaught of keyboard warriors with a Google alert set for the word “woke.”
The dedicated Burning Shores page was slammed with negative user reviews, which is an all-too common practice nowadays. Metacritic’s parent company Fandom has called out many of these reviews for being “abusive and disrespectful.” Keep in mind, this instance involves a small voluntary event that only appears as an option for certain players if they pursue prior flirtatious dialogue choices.
Fandom says that Metacritic “is a place of belonging for all fans” and that it takes “online trust and safety very seriously.” To that end, company reps say they are “currently evolving our processes and tools” surrounding reviews and content moderation. It has not announced any specific changes. In the meantime, Metacritic points to what the current system is doing right.
“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,” Metacritic wrote in a statement to Eurogamer.
Of course, this is not the first incidence of review bombing to plague the platform and not the first time Metacritic has implemented changes to stem the tide. The Last of Us Part II received a glut of hateful reviews for all-too-similar reasons, which forced the aggregator to mandate a 36-hour waiting period after a game’s release to open up reviews to the general public. Steam did something similar, as user reviews are accompanied by the amount of time the person actually spent playing the game. The changes Metacritic made in 2020 clearly didn't make a difference in this case, so we'll see if the company has more concrete plans to protect its platform.