Opinion// Game Reviews, Uh? What are they Good For?

Posted 14 Sep 2010 14:22 by
So, I write this as Halo: Reach gets utterly and shamelessly dry humped by most professional games reviewers. I?ve been seeing it receive 10/10 and 100% scores almost across the board. Having not had time to play it yet, I can?t objectively say whether this obscene level of reviewergush is unwarranted. I can, however, cast my memory back to the carefree days of 2007, when Halo 3 had just been released.

?10/10?? ?A?? ?100%???Game of the decade?? ?The peak of all human achievement?? ?Halo 3 should be allowed to run the country?? ?If it were possible, I would marry and permanently roger Halo 3.? I made some of those up, but The Sun really did call it the ?game of the decade?. Which was quite presumptuous, considering that there were still three years before the decade was over and all that. After reading the reviews, I was terribly excited about Halo 3. And then I played it.

Pretentious, Unfocused & Glitchy
Don?t get me wrong, it was pretty good. But did it deserve to be given the highest possible score? No. It was far from perfect. It was fun, glossy and epic in scale. But it was also pretentious, unfocused and glitchy. Firstly, I resent being told by a game that I can?t listen to my own music as I play it, because the developers made such an amazing soundtrack that you just have to listen to.

The whole final section with The Flood was far longer than it needed to be and screamed ?filler?. And surely no reviewer in their right mind could have played the lengthy Warthog section, complete with idiotic AI driving buddies, and thought ?Yeah, this is as close to perfection as gaming will ever get. Ten out of ten.? And these are just my single player gripes.

Reviews are flawed. They can never objectively gauge a game?s quality, no matter how hard the reviewer tries. Reviewers are fallible, and opinions differ. It could be that many reviewers were sucked in by the Halo 3 hype juggernaut and overlooked its flaws. Or it could well be that they genuinely believed that Halo 3 was a masterpiece... much to the irritation of Communism, everyone is different.

Review Scores are Bloody Weird
When you think about it, review scores are bloody weird notions as well. It?s very contrived to expect someone to assign a number to what they?ve experienced.

When giving scores for how a game looks, what are you meant to look for? You can?t just give a game a 10 for its graphics if it has more polygons than any game prior to it. What do you give to games with higher polygon counts after that? A Spinal Tap-esque 11 out of 10?

When a game looks incredible, how does a reviewer decide that it is ?10/10 incredible? as opposed to ?9/10 incredible?? It would be more helpful if the quality of games elicited specific physiological responses.

For example, if ?10/10 incredible? graphics made your eyes weep blood, or if ?1/10 bollocks? graphics made your visual cortex shut down in self-defence. Sadly, they don?t. Reviewers have to rely on their own instincts and opinions, and ascribe scores accordingly.

Meta Critics
Although scores are a flawed concept, they are useful. As the Internet slips ever nearer to complete and utter ADD, we expect information to be instant. Sometimes I can?t be arsed hearing what a reviewer has to say about the grass textures in an FPS; I want the scores and I want them yesterday. So, I?ll spam press the ?Page Down? key until I get to the sweet stuff. Just like reviews allow us to form an opinion without playing the game, review scores allow us to form an opinion without reading the review.

Not only that, but review scores allow us to have meta-analyses. I?m not the first person to come out and say that you can?t put an opinion into numbers and expect objectivity.

Sites like Metacritic work on the principle that although one reviewer?s opinion is wholly subjective, a collective tally of opinions could be much more reliable. By taking numerous scores and calculating the mean, we get a much broader picture of what people think about a game. It?s no coincidence that Half-Life 2 is one of Metacritic?s most highly rated games.

Readers! Take Responsibility
You readers aren?t getting off the hook, either. It is possible to take too much from a review. When someone publishes a review, they become an authority - taking their personal prejudices with them. How many of you look at the name of the individual reviewer and say ?Ben Jones gave this game 75%?? I know I don?t. I say: ?SPOnG gave this game 75%?; ?IGN gave this game 7.5 out of ten.? The reviewer and the publication become one and the same, and we see the reviewer?s opinion as being representative of the publication?s whole staff. We give the pieces more authority than they probably deserve, simply because it requires less thought on our part.

Kane and Lynching
Of course, it can also work the other way. The reviewer?s authority can be overruled by the publication. Look at the Kane and Lynch debacle over at Gamespot from a few years back. There, an editor was reportedly fired, simply for giving Kane and Lynch a verbal beatdown. The problem? Eidos were pumping a lot of advertising revenue into Gamespot for - surprise surprise - Kane and Lynch. The scathing review was removed, as, allegedly, was - the reviewer. Here?s one example where a reviewer?s authority was undermined by the publication?s need to remain profitable.
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Comments

miacid 14 Sep 2010 16:18
1/10
How many of you look at the name of the individual reviewer and say ?Ben Jones gave this game 75%?? I know I don?t. I say: ?SPOnG gave this game 75%?


Maybe I'm in the minority here but I quite often look at who reviewed a game and I think it would be a nice feature to be able to quickly see which other games they've reviewed along with the scores.

That way there is chance you might have played some of these games and you'd be able to compare the reviewers score/review with your own experiences. Giving you a better understanding of the current review.
config 14 Sep 2010 17:02
2/10
Thanks for the feedback.I'll stick it toward to top of the pile, because it's far less complicated then some of the other stuff people want adding ;)
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Svend Joscelyne 14 Sep 2010 17:05
3/10
miacid wrote:
How many of you look at the name of the individual reviewer and say ?Ben Jones gave this game 75%?? I know I don?t. I say: ?SPOnG gave this game 75%?


Maybe I'm in the minority here but I quite often look at who reviewed a game and I think it would be a nice feature to be able to quickly see which other games they've reviewed along with the scores.

That way there is chance you might have played some of these games and you'd be able to compare the reviewers score/review with your own experiences. Giving you a better understanding of the current review.


That's a pretty nifty idea, that. I like it.
Liam Butler 14 Sep 2010 17:47
4/10
@miacid Definitely a good idea.

This is also the type of constructive commentary that I was on about in my piece. You've made an old and sentimental man very happy.
speedduelist 14 Sep 2010 22:58
5/10
most of the critics have the same opinions for some reasons. mostly because their are Elements in Each game that has high chances of being considered flaws or goodies.

you can see IGN and several other Web Sites rating mario galaxy 2 10/10 and most of the critics gives halo reach Between 9/10 and 10/10.

Metro id other m had 8.5/10 8/10 reviews.
its just about the majority of people's opinions, a player could either play the game or listen to what the majority thinks. personally if the review states why he/she didn't like the specific games and unbiased then I can take it into consideration.
oliread 15 Sep 2010 08:34
6/10
Good points Butler, I think the various podcasts have helped this a lot. Listening to someone explain why they like it and defending their point makes a big difference to over hyped games. I'd really like to see more of Capone Adam style Good Review: Bad Review 1) its really good to see someone both talk up a game and put it down and 2) Its a great way to engage with people (like me) sick of one sided reviews

Also love the idea of comparing similar rated games!
PaulRayment 15 Sep 2010 16:29
7/10
I give this feature 9/10. 8/10 for graphics.
config 16 Sep 2010 14:00
8/10
@PaulRayment that's so totally meta
gingineer 17 Sep 2010 22:17
9/10
@miacid i agree. whilst not with games so much i always listen to one reviewer (mark Kermode) for film reviews not because i agree with him but i can gauge how i will like a film based on his review. it is tricky with computer games as they take longer to review and the spread of reviews will be over multiple formats and genres. reviewers just have to work hard to concisely convey the reasons for liking or disliking a game and avoid the Yahzee effect of just slagging it off for the sake of it
Weefz 21 Sep 2010 12:16
10/10
@config Yup, I'd use it too! Would be great to easily see if the reviewers opinion on games I know meshes with mine. Should I find out that s/he rated, say, Fallout 3 as a lowly 6, then I'd know to dismiss him/her as an imbecile ;)
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