The short answer: no. If you wish to cut and clip this to laugh at others on social media, go ahead I suppose.
The real answer really is subjective. Personally I’m on the side that it kind of is but you can argue that exploits are in a way cheats and I do enjoy a good exploit in an RTS or Grand Strategy and sometimes the odd RPG like Morrowind… I think I’m getting a bit side tracked here. I feel exploits though are slightly different to cheating myself and the reason for that is these are mechanics that are in the game and tend to require time or effort where as a cheat you tend to get something with zero set up or risk and that opens a very different discussion which I won’t get into.
We’ve all heard by now that a game reviewer used a slow down mod to beat a boss in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and this is what spawned this debate. I do find it a little upsetting to be honest that someone who is supposed to give an unbiased opinion on something to help me decide if it is worth my time and money to spend on a product isn’t experiencing the product in the way I most likely will. After all, how are you going to fairly judge an action game by slowing down the action? Overall I feel this is what upset people. You have someone being paid for, what is to many, a hobby and telling people if the product of said hobby is good or not but yet they aren’t actually experiencing the hobby.
What is important to an action game? I would argue the animations and the ability to cancel them. Animation cancelling is a pretty big thing amongst people who play either fighting games or action games, you will often here them saying that one move is better than another because you use a button input for another move before the one you currently used is fully played out by just 2 or 3 frames. It’s a pretty difficult thing to do and requires a lot of practice, I love action games honestly like the Devil May Cry series or the Souls series as well as “Souls like” games such as Nioh but honestly I’m terrible at animation cancelling but I can still finish these games with perseverance and without using either cheats or 3rd party applications such as a slow down modification. I don’t think I could properly give an opinion or recommend the games if I didn’t play them in their original state. If I said to a friend “oh yeah DMC 3 is amazing, there’s a really cool fight with your brother and all these cool moves happen! You should get it!” Would be fair on them really.
Let’s say in this example that like me they aren’t particularly good at action games but do enjoy them but are more used to slow paced action like Dark Souls and haven’t played anything fast paced and they just jumped into it because I gave them a half assed opinion clouded by me using god mode. They would probably quit at Cerberus and not trust my opinion as much in the future. This is the situation a reviewer or critic is in. This is why I think people were upset. Especially since the person who put that article out saying that it was okay for them to cheat in that game also put out an article giving tips on playing the game. How are we supposed to trust their advice when they can’t play the game? I wouldn’t trust someone who knows nothing about electrical installation telling me how to replace my lights in my house and DIY is considered to some a hobby as well.
It’s upsetting really because when it comes to leisure people seem to think that those who want to know about the leisure product are seen to take it as “too serious” when really I think they want to know if it’s worth them spending their time and money on. A lot of people don’t have a lot of free time to spend playing games or watching TV or movies or reading etc etc so when they say to someone “what is the game like?” they don’t want to hear “it’s great with cheats or playing it in a way the game wasn’t intended.” they want to be told what it is like. “Yes the game is entertaining there is a variety or race tracks to unlock and cars with plenty of customisation and eras to choose form and it plays more arcade akin to Need for Speed Underground (I wish) compared to something more simulation like Gran Turismo.” That’s the sort of thing people want to hear in short. Not “You should do X Y and Z to make game easy” only to find out that those things are actually hard to accomplish and are late game things to do and you only managed to do them at the time you did because you was using a 3rd party application to make the rest of the game easier.
At the end of the day if you are just a consumer then no it does not matter if what you do to a game on your own device or home. However if you are being paid to tell people how something functions or to give advice on something it needs to be known if you are experiencing the product in the base version. I wouldn’t want someone who drives a suped up Ford Fiesta and hasn’t driven a base model to tell me how the base model drives, or someone who has exposed cables telling me that there’s nothing with my mains socket that sparks when I put my phone charger in.