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Game reviewing lost the plot

2 min read

One of my regular readers, Andre Odendaal (Mailowl), emailed me this article that he wrote which I completely agree with. Take a look and let Andre know what you think.

I believe game reviewers and critics are not being objective (and even subjective) enough in reviewing today’s games and they are just giving every new game that comes along their highest score possible.

Just looking at Metacritic:
Halo 3 = 94
The Orange Box = 96
Guitar Hero 2 = 92;

are we doomed to have every review being “The most amazing game ever!”?

Reviewers really only seems to have “OMG! I’ve died and gone to heaven” and “This is a turd sandwich” as responses.

The truth is that every new game coming out is going to have amazing graphics, sound, storyline and gameplay and reviewers cannot compare today’s games to those of yesteryear.  These days publishers have oodles of money to throw at a game to get the best physics and 3d engines out and you have companies dedicated to creating engines (Epic and Havok just to name 2).  You can also hire writers and composers because the market is taking game dev seriously as a paying job.

Maybe if games were compared to others released in the same time period we’d get a better scoring system; “So both Halo 3 and The Orange Box a great games, but Halo is better because …” and we?d get a “Best of Breed” which would change and match the technologies as they come out.  Halo 2 is pretty poor compared to Halo 3 and Halo 3 will definitely pale in comparison to what will come out next.

I think it’s a general perception that game critics are seen as narcissistic and aloof but it’s just to counter the fanboys who sacrifice their grannies on the altar of some game; but now they must use their experience of games past and *combine* it with the fact that games are supposed to be better each year.

So game reviewers must raise the bar of quality and bring the scores back into the mid-range otherwise we?ll be lost the miasma of self-righteous consumerism.

Last Updated: October 25, 2007


  1. doobiwan

    October 25, 2007 at 14:01

    I agree that we can’t continue they way we are and at the same time I believe we need to stop trying to do numerical comparisons of very subjective things. Halo is a good point of reference. To a single player only gamer it may just be good, but to someone with a preference for online gaming it may be the best thing since sliced bread.

    I think games need to be rated against the only thing you can measure and that’s price – Is the game worth your time and money: yes/no.

    Make the most important part of a Review the closing comments, not the number at the end.


  2. Mailowl

    October 25, 2007 at 14:02

    ARGH! What happened to all the punctuation?


  3. PillsburyDeeBoy

    October 25, 2007 at 14:11

    I disagree to an extent, Mailowl.

    1) I think the current trend of games scoring 90+ is reflective of the nature of this business – the extremely good games come out around this time of year – however, this, in itself, is a problem, in my opinion. See, the year has 12 months and, though economically it is sound to squeeze all the solid title into Q4, spread them out to give them room may be wiser.

    2) Game reviewers aren’t being subjective? Now, really, everybody scored Half-Life Orange Box mid 90s but everybody ALSO scored Bullet Witch mid 30s, right? Game for game, merit for merit.

    3) So what is the solution, Mailowl? Score everything in the 80s? Drop everything by a numerical value? What is recommendable?

    I for one think that video game reviewing is probably the most cohesive media review industry in the world. You don’t see the type of disparages you see with film and music where one agent scores 300 as a 100/100 and another a measly 15/100 or Fiona Apple’s legendary title a 95/100 from Rolling Stone and a silly 50/100 from All Music. Im satisfied with the profiency of industry reviewers…what we need to get rid of is this crop of user reviewers emerging. Uninformed bunch, those, in my opinion 🙂 …


  4. LazySAGamer

    October 25, 2007 at 14:14

    Please hold while I go slap the system….. The correct punctuation must be stuck in the pipes


  5. Mailowl

    October 25, 2007 at 14:23

    Well… all the games are all more or less the same price (about R550 for the latest and greatest title) and the reason for the review is to learn what the game is about, where are the highlights and the let downs.

    I don’t thinking scoring a game is all that bad when comparing games of similar generes (which is better Forza 2 or PGR 4?) but there needs to be some context and not every title can have a top rating. Otherwise the score only serve the marketing hype and loses any value to readers.


  6. LazySAGamer

    October 25, 2007 at 14:25

    I think we still need the numbers but we also need to be able to seperate Guitar Hero III getting 95 and Bioshock getting 95… they are very different genres. Now add in every Wii title and things go pear shaped.

    Also nothing should ever get 100/100 or 10/10 or 5/5… It is impossible. Absolute gaming bliss has never been invented so nothing deserves that type of score


  7. Andrew

    October 25, 2007 at 15:25

    The problem with human nature is it does not matter what we’re looking at and what it is. We must always find a way to reduce it to a number. Does not matter how we get there but we must do it despite how unrepresentative that number is. In the case of games, a number gives an impression but the number aint enough to sum a game up.
    I’m guilty of it, if I read a review and like the sound of it, but the score is below 80% I won’t even bother buying it.
    Unfortunately, I don’t know what else to suggest. If you look at Gamespot they rated a submarine game at 90%. I bought it, it was shite. All because I thought “Hey its got a high score, don’t care if its about submarines, I’m gonna buy it!”.


  8. sanctuary

    October 25, 2007 at 17:02

    I look at game reviews with a pinch of salt. I agree that the number has lost its meaning somewhat, but a game that gets a sub 50% average, you know there is something to be concerned about.

    But as with everything its about choice – If you are a RPG gamer and see Halo 3 get 93% do you really care? I don’t. Game reviews should be read, and if the reviewer is objective she (or he) will present the good and the bad. The problem I think with most of the reviews are that they are fan boy reviews and border more on emotional expression than objective criticism.

    As with any media/hyping/news/content… read with your brain switched on!


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