Epic's acquisition of Rocket League studio Psyonix earlier this week resulted in a predictable reaction: A review bombing campaign that hit the game with more than 2,700 negative reviews on Steam since May 1. Yet in spite of that effort, the user review rating, including recent reviews, remains "very positive."
That's because of the system Valve implemented in March that excludes "off-topic review activity" from review score calculations—effectively an anti-review-bomb shield. An asterisk on the Rocket League review chart leads to a message stating that "this time range has been marked as containing an abnormal set of reviews that we believe are largely unrelated to the likelihood that you would enjoy the product."
The reviews themselves remain visible in that section of the Steam listing, so you can still see entries like, for instance, the one from the player with nearly 1,900 hours of playtime who spends multiple paragraphs describing how great the game is before giving it a negative review because, "You sold your honor."
The backlash comes despite the fact that neither Psyonix nor Epic have said that Rocket League will be removed from Steam, and in fact have pledged to continue supporting the Steam edition for existing owners, even after the game goes on sale on the Epic Store. For now, nothing has changed except the studio ownership, and even that may not be a dramatic shift given the longstanding relationship between Epic and Psyonix: Rocket League is obviously the studio's best-known game, but the Psyonix website says it has also worked on Epic games including Gears of War, Bulletstorm, Unreal Tournament 3, and UT2004.
Review bombs are nothing new, but it's interesting to see Valve's anti-bombing mechanism in action, and I think it might actually prove to be a reasonable compromise solution to user review abuse: Committed players get their say, but casual "need something new" browsers won't be forced to dig down to figure out why the recent reviews of a phenomenally popular game have suddenly tanked. As the great philosopher once said, a good compromise leaves everybody mad.