Certainly game critics aren't perfect. In fact, some might say that gaming journalism is a horrifically twisted and broken abberation where a 70% is considered awful and anything lower is done out of emotion or for comedic effect. The infamous pulled review (was it on 1Up?) of Neverwinter Nights 2 comes to mind, where the reviewer found fault with the very concept of the game rather than its execution.
Mitch Gitelman recently gave a very passionate interview with Major Nelson, in which he berated game criticism as a whole for the luke-warm reception Shadowrun's been getting. He claims, and not without merit, that it is unfair that Shadowrun loses points because of its price, relative to its limitations as a multiplayer-only game, and a somewhat small one at that. He says his team deserves better.
There is no doubt in my mind that he and his team did the best they could, and should be commended for their work, but should that sentiment skew a review score, even if it doesn't show through in the craftsmanship of the game itself? Is it fair to let price come into it? Monster Madness was panned for its high price, yet Valve started selling Counterstrike, previously a free download, the game's reviews remained sky-high despite the outrage and disgust. And perhaps Counterstrike is the most apt example, one that Mitch refers to himself. It is another multiplayer only first person shooter, and while Shadowrun does seek to improve upon formula, it is clear to see the heritage of Counterstrike shining through. Yet even though Counterstrike is milked for all its worth with new versions in new boxes and with prettier graphics and spin-offs, the core game is still regarded very highly and does not suffer for its price.
Ultimately, it's the job of the game makers to make games and the game reviewers to review. Artistically, an artist defending their work to a critic is a sign that the work is not complete, as it cannot stand on its own.
So is it fair to say that Shadowrun should be reviewed with ignorance to the price? Is it even fair to say that the price is really what has caused Shadowrun to receive less than glowing reviews? Does the fact that "true" FASA fans feel as burned by Shadowrun as Battletech fans felt about MechAssault play into it?