The State of Game Reviews – Part Four

Continuing the analysis of what I believe to be the broken modern gaming reviews model.

Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Three

It’s not all hopeless, and there are steps that can be taken that I think can repair the review system so that genuinely good games aren’t neglected by an apathetic gamer who sees an 8/10 score and thinks “I’ll pass on this one,” because the grading curve is too high these days (ie, an 8/10 is considered a rental these days, when just a console generation ago, an 8/10 was still considered a “must buy”).

Step 1: Drop Review Scores

If only for a little bit, I think we need to retire review scores. Most gamers don’t read the body of the review these days, instead looking at that final score and making a judgment call. There may be a genuine reason why XXX game got a 6/10. But what if that reason was because the reviewer didn’t like that genre of game (this happened with a Heavenly Sword review; the reviewer didn’t like combo based action games, but he was saddled with reviewing HS. The game didn’t score so well)? Or because he/she didn’t like a particular aspect of the game design that you personally enjoy? You wouldn’t know that by just taking a cursory glance at the score.

Even if it’s just for a few months, eliminating review scores, and encouraging the reader to actually read the review, could be beneficial to all involved: the developer that worked so hard to bring you a good game, and the reader who is going to spend their hard earned money on that game.

Step 2: BE CONSISTENT

I can’t express this enough. There needs to be some level of standards and consistency in how games are reviewed. If one game is being criticized for lack of multi-player, then all other games without multi-player should be criticized too, and vice versa. If one game is being scored lower because the servers are causing issues (ie, SOCOM: Confrontation had notorious server issues for the first few weeks of launch. Many publications rightly rated the game down at the time of their reviews), then other games that have the same issues should be rated down (Gears of War 2 had some notorious matchmaking issues, and even 15 minute waits to finally join an MP match, but still received near perfect scores/perfect scores).

If a game is doing things that are standard for it’s genre (ie, God of War, Ninja Gaiden, and Devil May Cry are combo based action games that feature “arena like” level design), don’t knock it for some games, and not others. If a game is being dinged for being too short then ding all games for being too short. Call of Duty 4 has a very short campaign (5 hours or so), but got quite free passes all around, and near perfect to perfect scores. Other short titles like Resistance, Uncharted, and Heavenly Sword were knocked for short gameplay times (with Heavenly Sword’s shortest time being pegged at 5 hours; as an aside, it took me 9 hours the first time through, but then again, I wasn’t rushing through the game to meet a review deadline).

Games like Killzone 2 and Resistance 2 have been pegged for having “repetitive enemies,” but other games have gotten free passes (like Halo, Gears of War, COD4, etc). BE CONSISTENT.

Step 3: Stop being arbitrarily nit-picky

I’ve seen games like Resistance 2, Ratchet and Clank, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, and many more being nitpicked to low scores because of some perceived, yet apparently very serious and huge flaw. Games are being dinged for being too short, but if the gameplay is fun, you will go back to that game. I’ve replayed games like Heavenly Sword, Uncharted, Resistance 2, Ratchet and Clank Future, Fable 2, etc numerous times because the games were fun! Sure, I may have beat them in a good 8 hours or so (although I sunk over 30 hours into Ratchet and Clank Future), but if they are fun games, I go back and play them again. That’s what being a good game is. They are so good, you can’t get enough of them, even if the story is over.

Games are being dinged for being repetitive, as if the very nature of a game itself isn’t repetitive. As long as the mechanics work, I don’t see how you can complain about repetition. Football, Basketball, board games, video games, etc, are all repetitive. You are, in a sense, doing the same thing over and over and over again, but when you are having fun, you don’t actually realize it. I’ve read many a review say, “well, the combat/gameplay was fun,” but it was repetitive.”

Here’s a question for you then? If the gameplay is so repetitive, then why are you complaining about the game length? You’d think they’d be glad the experience was so short. But wait, if the game length is the issue, then you were obviously having fun with the game, because you want it to be longer (ie, Heavenly Sword and it’s “fun but short and repetitive” gameplay).

Stop looking for shit to hate on a game for because you still have a bone to pick with some company (ie, Sony’s arrogance during the PS3 PR campaign, and the high price of the PS3 initially).

Tune in tomorrow for our final conclusions, and more thoughts on what elements of game design are important to the review process.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Five

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3 Responses to “The State of Game Reviews – Part Four”

  1. […] One Part Two Part Four Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The State of Game Reviews – Part TwoGaming […]

  2. I agree, I also usually skip through the written review to the conclusion, but I think most people are like that. While what you are proposing is a good idea, you could never just do away with a scoring system. I think something that reviews could employ more is the use of video reviews. They are much quicker, and you really hit on the important parts, there isn’t enough time to complain about smaller quibbles.

  3. […] Part Two Read Part Three Read Part Four Read Part Five Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The State of Game Reviews – Part […]

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