Game reviews are broken?

While I agree with his complaints about the numbers system [sometimes it is just worthless, except for companies who can plaster a 10/10 on the box] I do think there are alot of good game reviews, as long as people stay away from the bigger sites. I don’t even bother reading sites like Gamespy and PCGamer anymroe, mostly because I know the reviews they post are wrong. After I play a game sometimes I have gone back and read the reviews and wondered, “what were they thinking.” Not that they were right or wrong, but what game did they play?

And sometimes I can tell it’s just the online companies trying to stay safe by posting a bandwagon review. Hey, if everyone else posted a 10/10 for Halo 3 then we should too. Because it’s safe to do so, don’t want to rock the boat…

And how do games that have so many pros AND cons get 10/10, or 9.5/10? That makes no sense. Hardware reviewers are starting to do this also.

Theres one guy, “3D game man”, he makes these unbelievably general comments and uninformative reviews of products. He did one recently when I was looking to do a case swap. Talking about a case, he was like “yes the quality seems strong, and it’s priced good,”
but he didnt even install a mobo or PSU into it. Just filmed himself opening the case and almost stating what it already said on the box. He also gives %90 of the products he looks over a “kick ass review”! How does every product get a kick ass review? That makes no sense…

I prefer to watch gameplay videos, download demos and read everything the developers say. That’s the only way you get to read and see an honest review, YOUR OWN!!

Sometimes I think video game blogs all have a draft of exactly this article lying around, to be used in the event their hits start to drop.

There’s no such thing as bandwagon reviews, but there is groupthink and mediocre observational skills.

Kotaku: tip top condition?

Then how do you explain the Halo 3 hype? First reviews came pouring over, 9.9, 10/10, 9.5, 5 stars… And yet almost all of these reviewers had multiple things to say about the games flaws. One guy I remember saying the story was boring, but multiplayer was fun. So how does he give th game a perfect review? Other then the hype wagons, most of the games released with flaws get mixed reviews, some bogus, some honest, but they don’t get top of the line scors across the board [ALL ON THE SAME DAY].

That’s some bandwagon bullshit.

I was wondering how long till we did this again. It’s been at least a month.

Honestly, though, who is actually using reviews to make a decision? No one I know of, at least by itself. With the internet there is plenty of info about most games, and then there is the “forum effect.”

A review may be “the final nail” in a decision, but it’s rarely anything more than that.

Thats why I pretty much stick to the movies, screens and reviews from the “small guys.”

If I read it correctly, he makes two points:

  1. Numeric review scores are misleading and reflect an impossible level of precisicion.

  2. Games are being reviewed as consumer products instead of works of art.

Number 1 does bother me a little, especially for out of a hundred point systems. Out of ten systems I could care less about. A number isn’t meant to be the end all, just a quick reference where the meat is in the text.

However, what does bother me, and the article didn’t mention, is how BIASED reviews these days are. And I mean biased in a very specific way. Here is a thread I made a while back asking if Gamespot understood how to review adventure games. Along this general theme, most games are getting reviewed by people with particular gaming tastes. This results in FPS and action/adventure in general being reviewed fairly well, but not so much other genres. For example, the embarrassing NWN2 review which seemed to attack the game for being number heavy. This is also why Oblivion was hailed as a masterpiece while longtime Morrowind fans wonder where all the gameplay went to.

Everyone has tastes. That’s why reviews differ not just between outlets but between games. Just by choosing someone to review a game, you’ve already loaded the dice.

Consider a Dragon Ball Z game. Do you get a fan to review it, since fans of the series are the most likely to be interested in the game? Do you get a non-fan to review, since that person is more likely to judge the game on its merits and not the amount of pointless fan service? What if a reviewer actively dislikes the series, or loves the series but dislikes the genre?

What if the developer was trying to use the game to make a socioeconomic critique of Finnish foreign policy, and it wound up not being as fun or tied in to DBZ as it could have been? Do you review the game based on the developer’s (often assumed) intent, or on how fans of the series would react to it, or on how fans of the genre will like it? Do you give bonus points because they tried to push the envelope and do something novel, even if it isn’t as polished as the 34th installment of that popular racing franchise you like? Do you dock it points because it didn’t try anything new, even if it’s the 34th installment of a popular racing franchise and is essentially bound to a gameplay formula that the existing fanbase enjoys?

Any review system that addresses the quality of a game along a single spectrum will suffer the same shortcomings, and draw the same criticisms as any other. People gripe about 1-100 scales, but a thumbs up/thumbs down system is just as problematic. If people discussed Ebert’s reviews on forums, you’d wind up with crap like “So basically Superbad is as good as Hotel Rwanda?” after every thumbs up.

I don’t necessarily think the current system is broken, but I think people hang on to scored systems the way they hang on to security blankets. I believe there are alternative systems that could definitely work, but nobody seems in a hurry to try them at the moment, especially entrenched pubs that are already doling out scores of any kind.

Dude those reviews are so fucking wrong… It was like one time i was walking with this guy, and he liked pizza, and I was all like dude, no way, pizza sucks your personal opinion is so fucking wrong, so then I punched him the face.

You give it the score that seems right, dammit. Giving a game to a reviewer who wants to review it seems the best method, and failing that, someone who has a history with games of that ilk and who therefore knows what he’s talking about. The score is very much an estimate of overall quality, and nothing more, nothing less. It’s nothing that can substitute for the review text, and frankly it shouldn’t be taken as an extremely scientific number, devised carefully against every other game in the genre - it’s there to give a rough idea. People who follow scores religiously and don’t bother with the text are idiots. No matter how carefully the reviewer had to decide between 85% and 86%, it’s still not the point.

As for DBZ - get someone who follows/followed the series to review it, preferably. Someone who has no clue as to who the characters are and what’s going on in any given plot scenario isn’t the target audience. Preferably a fan rather than a fanboy, though (if you get my drift) - there are some fan scores for anime games which are ridiculously out of whack with the actual quality of the damn thing. If it’s a glorious game that would be easily played by someone who doesn’t follow the series, the reviewer should pick up on it. If it’s likely to be confusing, weird, and dull for such a person, then the reviewer should pick up on that, too. Likewise for what any randomer who actually watches it would think. It’s not usually that difficult to figure it out, is it?

Such is my humble opinion, at least. Next post, I defend the Halo 3 scores!

And has it really been a month since the last time this was discussed? I was thinking a week, tops…

Sorry in advance if this post is rambly or repetitive. Just woke up, and my brain must catch up so I can start working. Although I’m not sure I need too much brain for Conan…

I’m not fond of the numbers system, honestly, but it’s a necessity because lazy readers want it, or more importantly, publishers want it.

A lot of big publishers don’t actually read the review, they just check the score. They like to see high numbers, and sometimes things they can put on the box cover. I’m not fond of scores, but that’s why I use them.

Perfect scores, at least on a 5 star system, don’t mean perfect game, at least for most reviewers. it just means a very good game to extremely good, with a thorough level of polish. Good polish can make a game more fun than it should be. Medal of Honor and Call of Duty are good games, but incredibly well polished, and that really bumps the fun up. Bioshock had a few flaws, but was an excellent game and on top of that, incredibly well polished. Portal, in its 3 hours, was magnificent and had all the little extra bits it didn’t need but put the game over the top(though that is, really, standard for Valve).

Oh. I gave Halo 3 a 4/5. I did complain about the SP, but the MP is really god damn good, worthy of 5 stars, and at worst the SP is average, a 3/5 game. So, there it is. I would say the 9s and 10 though, are way, way the fuck off, because the SP game was so unexceptional.

Fuzzy, I agree with you on the DBZ comments. Good reviewers know their strengths and weaknesses(don’t even bother giving me a sim racer, I’ll hate it, but I love crazy arcade racers), and what they can review fairly or unfairly. Sometimes being familiar with source material is very needed, and enjoyment of DBZ games, for example, does often require some level of enthusiasm for the material. For DBZ fans, even if the combat is lacking or the game is lackluster, a good DBZ presentation can make it fun.

I’m going to be doing Smackdown Vs. Raw 2008 soon, and I know that’s a game that requires some enjoyment of wrestling, be it the technical aspects, presentation, or just silly over the top stories. While the game’s mechanics are fun(or so I’m judging by SvR 2007), if you don’t have any interest in wrestling, you’re not going to get much from it. Sports games in general, or anything from a TV show or movie, I dare say, works this way.

Exactly. But giving people a number on a scale invariably leads to scores being taken as concrete and directly comparable evaluations. The goal of any scoring system should be to attract people to the review and encourage them to actually read it.

The text of a review is the nutritious part, but the score is the tasty frosting full of empty calories. We need a system that essentially encourages people to eat their vegetables. (And I need to get dinner–too much food on the mind.)

I agree, in part, and I do find scores occasionally useful so I’d rather not get rid of them. As you said, though, it’s frosting. It’s almost a generalised summary of the review, and it’s interesting to see how they compare to everything else online, but that’s about it.

“There are reviews that go to the hundredth decimal place, scoring games like 9.45.”

There are? I get that same aggregate sites use them, and it sort of makes sense there, but I don’t know of any major publications that review games on such a scale.

When it comes to numeric scores, you sort of have to use your brain and figure that, okay, this game isn’t two percent away from being the most perfect game in existence, it’s a great game and the good overshadows the flaws.

And the problem is, the better a game, the more the flaws stand out.

Saying that an entire site’s or magazines reviews are wrong is retarded. StarCraft got great reviews, I’m not a big RTS fan, I didn’t get into it. I didn’t complain that the reviews were off. I realized that it just wasn’t something I enjoyed.

Hahaha. ACE magazine used to review out of 1000 :)

tromik, I know where you’re coming from, but I’m not quite sure how many people do. There are a fair few games that just aren’t my thing, or that I simply cannot get into, but I can fully understand why people do and why they love them so much. You can tell… I dunno. I was going to say “the amount of love put into the game”, but I think we’ll stick to “the sheer quality of the game” regardless of things that might prevent you getting into it. It varies, though.

Use their brain? True, not many do, but they deserve whatever shit they end up with.

All reviews everywhere should be replaced with single sentence fragments of BobJustBob posts. At least BJBism is an ethos.

“I hated this game. You’re gonna love it.”