Despite the swiftly diminishing relevance of game journalists to the video game industry, consumers still depend on the enthusiast press to inform them of their purchases. With the latest release of the Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection remaster, fans of the popular series needed to know whether it was worth the money, and Polygon was among the first to cover it.
To call it journalism would be misleading, as the now-popular video blatantly misrepresents what the product is to consumers.
In the days following the game’s launch, Polygon did a side-by-side comparison video of the original Assassin’s Creed 2 with the new version in the Ezio Collection to highlight how poor the remaster is.
Among the “problems” with the new version Polygon chose to display in its video was this appearance of one of the game’s non-player characters – who stood alongside the antagonist, in conversation with the game’s hero. The character, seen below, looks hideous (unlike the same guy in the original title). With bulging eyes and cartoonishly large lips, the character was ripe for mockery, and Polygon didn’t hesitate to zoom into his face in slow motion, capturing his ridiculous expression and painting the words “kill me.”
The video left viewers with a poor impression of the new game, and it didn’t take long before the game became the subject of memery and mockery on social media. Polygon video editor Nick Robinson wasted no time in showing off this specific portion of his attack video on Twitter.
— Nick Robinson (@Babylonian) November 17, 2016
Besides the ugly character, the video also drew attention to the game’s bad character movement and ‘animation glitches’. The original Assassin’s Creed 2 looked fluid and problem-free by comparison, albeit with slightly worse textures.
In all, the Polygon video has accrued well over 1.4 million views on YouTube, and the remaster has earned an undeserved reputation for being inferior to the original.
Fans of the series, however, realized that Polygon’s video completely misrepresented the new remaster. They discovered, having played both versions of the game, that the guy with the strange face was simply one of many possible characters randomly selected to show up – hardly a big deal.
The game’s developer Ubisoft has also come out to clarify that the NPC in question is randomly generated within the first mission and appears infrequently. “The graphics issue does not affect the core gameplay of Assassin’s Creed The Ezio Collection,” it said in a statement.
Furthermore, the glitchy movement highlighted in the Polygon video is an infrequently occurring, but reproducible bug that exists in every last-gen Assassin’s Creed game released prior to Unity. The Ezio Collection contains updated textures, models and lighting effects, but it runs on the same engine that powered the almost decade-old game. Thus, despite being able to run on new systems, many of its old quirks remain.
Polygon’s video isn’t simply inaccurate—it is a lie. It presents old problems as brand-new ones, and minor glitches as major. Though undoubtedly amusing, it was certainly designed to generate traffic at the cost of a studio’s professional reputation and sales. It does not serve the consumer. The quick burst of traffic may have been a short-term boon for the publication, but their effort only served to breed further distrust of the press—which comes at a time when game journalism is dying and trust in the media is at an all-time low.