Nintendo's recent ploy, in the UK at least, is to require reviewers to visit the 'Nintendo Flat' in London, a place where one can book slots to review titles for a period of time (depending on what slots are left over from the prioritised lifestyle mags and newspapers) from the comfort of one of the company's armchairs.Of course it's not just Nintendo -- the commentary in question is really about Rockstar and GTA4 -- but this really does bring the point home. I've come to rely more and more on blogs and NeoGAF poster comments before buying a game.
There was a time when I loaded up sites like GameSpot and IGN to check the latest reviews. I can't recall the last time I did that. Instead, I rely on word of mouth. Sometimes a demo suffices (Uncharted) or reputation (my MGS4 preorder).
I hit the forums myself: for a while, it's been gamefaqs, even though you get the trolls and fanboys.
That's the problem: you don't know who's posting the opinion. Is this a kid? Is it someone who has played many games of this type?
For example, I couldn't decide about Baroque for the Wii. The 'professional' reviews were sinking the game. And I saw a number of posters on gamefaqs who echoed those reviews. And I saw lots of comments like "If you like rogue-likes, you'll like this game." But I read a couple of key posts that came from knowledgeable gamers who played the game for at least 6 hours and who convinced me that this was a decent, if not good, rogue-like game.
The problem is that reading player reactions to a game isn't as easy as looking at gamerankings or metacritic. I think even going by the majority of reactions is misleading.
But yeah, I don't think the 'professional' reviewers carry the weight that they once did.