You may have noticed that our Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review went up this morning. You may also have noticed that, at the bottom of the review, there's this note:
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was reviewed on Xbox 360 debug units primarily at an event held by Activision and Treyarch in Carlsbad, Calif. between October 22nd and October 24th.
Given that I wrote the review and attended the event, I thought you guys might be interested in how these sorts of things play out.
The event was held at La Costa Resort in southern California. It's a gorgeous resort, home to a PGA-level golf course, god knows how many swimming pools and some nice amenities. As part of Polygon's ethics policy, we don't accept travel or accommodations from game publishers, so the flight out and the cost of the stay was footed by us.
Despite the upscale setting, I spent three straight days indoors, playing Call of Duty. Activision set up Xbox 360 debug consoles in everyone's room, so that we could play through the single-player at our leisure. For multiplayer (adversarial and zombies), two large conference rooms were set up like LAN rooms, with around 30 stations, each running the game and all networked together. Essentially, if I wasn't eating, I was either in my room or in one of those conference rooms.
(Speaking of eating, Activision provided a buffet for all major meals. I took part in it when I felt like discussing the game with other reviewers, but I also paid for a chunk of my meals on my own.)
There have been more notorious review events, certainly. A few years ago, Activision took a bunch of Call of Duty reviewers on a helicopter ride before an event. While there wasn't anything quite on that level this year, there was an awkward, unfortunate moment at the start of the event when we were greeted by hired models in Call of Duty-themed getups upon arrival to the hotel and presented with Black Ops 2-themed bags containing a $280 headset (both of which will be donated to readers). Once that was out of the way, though, it was pretty much just about playing the game enough so that I could write the review.
More questions about the event? Feel free to reply to this and I'll try to answer them.