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.
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.