The State of Game Reviews – Part Two

We continue our explorations of the state of modern day gaming reviews in this five part series.

Read Part One Here

When you have mediocre games like Dark Sector scoring higher than masterpieces like Metal Gear Solid 4 at some publications, you just have to accept that something is wrong with the very standards in which we review games. By the time the Playstation 3 hit the scene, it already had a wave of hate waiting for it, thanks to the absurdly high $500/$600 price tag. The entire gaming industry, from the media, to developers, to the gamers, had turned on the Playstation brand with the ferocity of a hurricane. As a result, every single Playstation 3 exclusive was reviewed against the price of the console. Or the hype of the Playstation 3. Suddenly, every grandiose claim that Sony made when doing the usual PR song and dance for the PS3 had to become a reality on day one, minute one.

And when no game could reach such a high standard, they were hit with some of the harshest review scores I think I’ve ever seen handed out in the industry.

You had games like Heavenly Sword being dinged for “repetitive combat,” “arena like execution,” and “short game length,” never mind that Heavenly’s contemporaries, God of War, Ninja Gaiden, and Devil May Cry “suffer” from the same exact design ethic, and those games went on to score near perfect scores (and perfect scores at some publications). Even though the body of the review praised the beautiful visuals, engaging story and characters, and fun combat, it was driven to 6/10 reviews and worse by some publications. Many media outlets proclaimed games like Heavenly Sword, Lair, Haze, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank, etc, to be the “Saviors of the Playstation 3,” and reviewed them against that context. Instead of reviewing the game for what it was, they were reviewing the game against what it was supposed to be in their eyes. If the game didn’t revolutionize the genre, or push the Playstation 3 beyond any system ever conceived, it got low scores.

Where was that curve when handing out 9s and 10s to games like GRAW and King Kong?

Games like Ratchet and Clank were literally being criticized for having “too much variety,” or not winning over non-Ratchet and Clank fans (that’s just a gross generalization, actually; I wasn’t a R&C fan, but Tools of Destruction actually converted me), instead of being reviewed for the gaming experiences that they were.

There are also a large number of double standards and inconsistencies running rampant in todays reviews.

Here are a few:

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune on the PS3 was knocked for being a relatively short game (since when is 9 hours short for an action/adventure game…but i digress), and for not including multi-player (Heavenly Sword was knocked for this also).

Bioshock on the 360 is a short game (about 9 hours as well), and has no multi-player. It was praised and received high, near perfect scores.

Gears of War was criticized for having sluggish multi-player (even in matches with as few as 4 characters; I’ve witnessed this firsthand also), a mediocre story, cliché characters, sluggish controls, and narrow corridors. It was universally praised for it’s fantastic visuals, however.

Resistance 1 was universally panned for it’s graphics, but praised for it’s 40 player online, silky smooth framerate, genuinely interesting plot and story (although there is a distinct lack of character in Resistance 1; that’s another inconsistency issue; other highly lauded FPS titles like Half Life have silent protagonists that have no character, but suddenly Resistance 1 was the last straw?).

Gears 1 got near universal perfect scores, despite it’s gameplay flaws, while Resistance 1 got near universally low scores, because it’s visuals didn’t match Gears of War, or live up to the hype of the Playstation 3.

Why does this happen? Why do the flaws of some games get overlooked, but blown out of proportion in another game? Why do some games get lauded for having gameplay over graphics, and others are torn apart because of not having astounding visuals, although it may have quality gameplay (ie, Resistance: Fall of Man)?

Part One
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

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9 Responses to “The State of Game Reviews – Part Two”

  1. […] Read Part Two Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)A Call Against InnovationRecent Trend: Arcade modes and game consolesPS3 Game: Turning Point: Fall of LibertyActivision’s 09 lineup 40% larger: Call of Duty ’titles’ and Guitar Hero ’r… […]

  2. I think part of it might be game media and consumers themselves don’t know exactly what they want. I think it can be easily said that between the PS2 and Xbox, the gaming community was really shown what home gaming could be. In fact, we have been spoiled on how relatively easy it is to play game now a days with the standardization of discs, and free demos handed out. I think people ride this roller coaster of buying into graphical hype and getting disappointed, then hit this high of art direction/design. A fickle world we live in today.

  3. I guess im a rare bread of gamer. I pretty much enjoy almost any game i get my hands on. I find the good things about games and look past the negatives. I do the same thing with movies. Hopefully one of these days people will look at games they way i do.

  4. I agree with both of you guys wholeheartedly.

    I was just talking to my fiance tonight about that Boomerang PS3 controller from the PS3 announcement.

    Before, the media was like, “we’ve been using the same controller for 10 years now, do something different, Sony!”

    They show the Boomerang, then it’s like, “We miss the Dual Shock, Sony!”

    They bring the Dual Shock back, and it’s like, “We don’t want the same old Dual Shock we’ve been playing with for 10 years!”

    I can’t say I blame developers/publishers/manufacturers when they say, “screw you guys, we’re just going to make what we like, and if you like it, you’ll buy it, if not, you won’t.”

    you just can’t please everyone, and never has that been a more apt saying than in reference to the gaming industry.

  5. nice read keep it up!

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

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