You may have seen reports circulating over the last few days that review copies of No Man's Sky have been very late in arriving. It's true - we have just received our PS4 copies today, and the game is released in the US tomorrow and in Europe on Wednesday. (The PC release date is Friday, and advance copies of the PC version are unavailable at present.)
The embargo for reviews and all other coverage generated from these review copies, which were supplied by Sony, is tomorrow at 4am UK time. Unfortunately there's no way that we can produce a review of No Man's Sky that meets our standards of thoroughness, or is fair to the game itself, in that time. I'm working on this review myself; if I can, I'll update you with some impressions tomorrow, but my focus will be on producing a full review later in the week, very likely after UK launch.
With review copies originally due on Friday but then delayed until Monday, some sites, as reported by Kotaku, have obtained copies of the game via retailers who were willing to break street date, so they could start work early and bring you their verdicts sooner. This is fair game, in my opinion, and not that unusual in circumstances when publishers withhold review copies. On rare occasions, we've done it ourselves. But we haven't this time. How come?
Although I was disappointed to learn about the delay to review code, I was also surprised. While some publishers make a habit of keeping review copies back until just before (or sometimes even after) launch, Sony is not one of them. Even though disc copies were out in the wild, I thought the delay must be for good reasons, and so it proved. Over the weekend, Hello Games announced that the No Man's Sky servers would be reset and that a major update would be issued today that made important changes and additions to the game's structure, its balancing, and even the algorithm that generates its universe and governs the variety of planets and life you'll find.
This is clearly the version of No Man's Sky that developer Hello Games wishes us to review from, and that it considers the final release version. Since the patch will be applied during the game installation process, it is also the version that will be played by all of you. It would be both unfair and inaccurate to review from an earlier version of the game - and on a personal note, as a reviewer, I'm glad my opinions haven't been coloured by playing that version, even if it could have helped me get the review to you a little earlier. Our review policy states that "we will make every effort to ensure that our experience of a game matches that of the majority of players". Although No Man's Sky only has limited online connectivity, this situation has created similar conditions to those for most online games, where the game simply doesn't exist in a reviewable state before launch.
How come we're in this situation, though? How come there's such a gulf between the game as intended, and the game as it is on the disc? Well, I can't speak for the developers at Hello Games or their partners at Sony. I can, however, join Rami Ismail of Vlambeer in his speculation that the certification process that ensures the quality of console games, while having many benefits, is ill-suited to the way that a small indie team like Hello Games creates software - especially when the manufacture of disc copies is involved. (Rami's thoughts are well worth reading.)
Whatever the case, it's clear from our review policy and from the patch notes that it would have been wrong of us to start the review process for No Man's Sky before today. That means we'll be late with our review. Sorry about that! I hope you'll still find it useful, entertaining, or ideally, both - and good luck exploring the universe.