The State Of Game Reviews – Part One

Hi guys and gals! Over the next five days, I’m going to assess the state of game reviews in this modern gaming industry, voicing my concerns, and my hopes for changing the review system for the betterment of the industry at large.

Since the start of this generation of gaming, I’ve noticed what seems to be a rather damaging shift in the way games are reviewed. I’m not going to call out any sites on “bias,” or “fanboyism,” but there is a lack of objectivity and general inconsistency when reviewing games these days.

I want to preface things a bit by saying that my examples below will be heavily Xbox 360 centric. The reasoning is simply because the Xbox 360 came out first, and therefore, was the only next generation console on the market at the time that I began to notice this shift in standards.

When the Xbox 360 launched, the next generation of consoles was officially underway. Unfortunately, developers weren’t quite up to the task of really delivering the fabled “Next Gen Experience.” In truth, many year one Xbox 360 titles were only slightly HD versions of Xbox titles. Now, where the gaming media comes in is that they were desperately trying to justify the existence of this new toy. They needed to believe that the Xbox 360 was going to usher in a new era of gaming entertainment. And they wanted others to feel the same way. They felt so strongly about it that many a year one 360 title was blessed with, I’ll say, generous scores. In hindsight, looking back at those titles, you get the notion that they were maybe over-scored. Games like Perfect Dark, Flatout, GRAW, Rainbow Six Vegas, King Kong, Call of Duty 2, etc, all received extremely high marks from various publications (which, out of respect, I won’t name them here).

Don’t get me wrong. The games are good games. But scores in the 9/10, 10/10, and A/A+ ranges, etc, etc, to me, at least, is saying that this game is an “instant classic.” It is so good, that you will go back to it years from now, pop it in the tray, and be swept up with wistful Nostalgia with just how damn good the game was. In truth, many games don’t have that affect. Games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Halo, Knights of the Old Republic, The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past, etc are games that truly stand the test of time, and deserve those high marks and are worthy of the praise they receive.

How many gamers are still firing up King Kong? Or Perfect Dark? Or Lost Planet? Or The Darkness? Or Call of Duty 2? How many gamers are still talking about those titles? A year later, and games like Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Call of Duty 4 are still talked about and spoken of in high regard. Call of Duty 4 is still held as the de facto standard by which all other multi-player console First Person Shooters are judged. Now that’s a classic title. That’s a game that will still be remembered a generation or two from now. That’s a game that deserves scores in the 9/10s, A/A+ and above.

This may not seem like such a big deal, I mean, who doesn’t get excited about a new console release, and new games to play? Who doesn’t get swept up in the hype? Well, technically, the gaming media isn’t supposed to fall prey to such urges. It’s our jobs to report on the state of the industry in as professional and unbiased a manner as possible (note the “as possible”). It’s inevitable that some bias and excitement seeps in, but as the press, we have to contain it and responsibly report to the readers that rely on us to be truthful.

But again, why is this such a big deal? Well, let me ask you this: If “decent to good” games are getting near perfect scores, then what do you rate the genuinely exceptional titles? If your review structure is set up so that 5/5, or 10/10 is considered the best, then how do the readers know which 9/10, or 10/10 scoring games are genuinely worth picking up?

The answer: they don’t. So instead, highlighting what is exceptional about a truly great game becomes muddy. The review system is diluted. I’m going to sound terribly old, but back in my day, an 8/10 score was a great score. That firmly cemented it as a must buy. Anything higher than that 8/10 score lumped it into the “instant classic” “unforgettable” category.

Nowadays, a gamer will see an 8/10, or a 4/5 score, and call it a “flop,” or a “rental at best.”

Read Part Two
Read Part Three
Read Part Four
Read Part Five

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7 Responses to “The State Of Game Reviews – Part One”

  1. I think this brings up in interesting idea about “replay” value. At the end a review column of a major website I frequent, they break down different scores for different game play categories and the last is for a replay value. The way they talk about these games are in the near future, but never the distant. The game has online multi player, time trials, multiple endings, etc… these are things game developers add to make us want to play a game for longer, but they know in this generation of gaming, once a game finally comes out of a console, it rarely goes back in. I think this has been exacerbated by the rise of used game stores. I played Lost Planet and had a lot of fun with it, but after a new game comes in, it gets set aside, it gets forgotten about, and a lot of people trade those in those forgotten games. Who is to say down the road you wouldn’t want to play it again latter if you still owned it.

    In the industry today, I think publishers see it as more profitable to make a good enough game to build that fan base, but not great enough that people won’t buy their new game because they are still playing the last one. Publishers make their money when you first buy that disc, they don’t get any more if you are still playing that game years from now.

    The more I think about it, the more I appreciate developers like Bioware, and despise all the shovelware filling store shelves these days.

  2. man you guys are making some outstanding points 🙂 today’s video game market and publishers seems to have turned into what pro athletes have done. They just don’t care about the game anymore, its just a job. If they make a great game, they want more money. If they make a bad game, they might be done for. What happened to the good ‘ol days where games were so much fun, and nobody really cared about groundbreaking graphics. i miss those days.

  3. […] Read Part One Read Part Two […]

  4. […] Read Part One Read Part Two Read Part Three […]

  5. […] – Part 5 Concluding my analysis of what I believe to be the broken modern day review model. Read Part One Read Part Two Read Part Three Read Part Four I feel that video games should be judged on four key […]

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