If you’re one of those gamers who frequently visit the many online forums for video games, then surely you’ve spent quite a bit of time reading reviews of video games before you went out and spend your hard earned cash. And depending on how long you’ve been doing this, you’ve probably begun to notice a worrying trend with reviews becoming less and less trustworthy. Nowadays reviews seem to either be trying to persuade you that a particular game is near perfect or is perfect, or that it’s totally broken.
But the reality is that the majority of the games we’ve played this generation are nowhere near perfect, and far from broken and unplayable like some reviews would have you believe. Especially for this generation of consoles, where the focus of games have shifted more towards beautiful graphics and (extravagant) eye-catching set pieces with less emphasis on story and character development. The truth of the matter is that most of the games we play nowadays are merely carbon copies of each other with slight variations. Games that were traditionally slower in pace have willingly given up their core mechanics (and their fanbase) in favor of what is now lighting up the sales charts. Now, we do know that all companies are looking to turn in profits; afterall, that is what pays their bills and keep food on their family’s tables, but there is also something else at play here.
It is common knowledge that as of late, the influx of 9/10 and perfect scores for games have been at an all time high. Never before have so many different games, all mostly from the same genre, scored so well critically. Now this could be due to several factors as we’ve read in an interview with Kotaku, an anonymous publisher admitted the following:
” Reviews only have an impact if they’re 90+, and then the impact is huge.
We don’t take steps to get good reviews, we take steps to make good games. Then we invite reviewers to fancy promotional events to warm them up on the game before they play it on their own.
I think of our launch parties as warm-up comedians for the main act. Warm-up comedians are there to get you laughing and excited, so when the star performer walks onstage, you’re primed and ready to enjoy the set. Our promo events are the same way. We bring out media to a fancy location, wine and dine them, show them the best parts of our game, and generally build anticipation for release. The theory is that, once they get the game and play it privately, they already have a positive association with the game, which may influence their final score.”
Now clearly this is cause for concern as it demonstrates foul play and forces us to question the legitimacy of reviews and their purpose in this industry. Are reviews just another means of marketing games? In which case they only serve publishers and developers.
Or are reviews a public service? If so, the primary focus should be an accurate description of a product, free of spoilers and bias, which in turn serves the readers, and helps them make informed decisions.
Basically if after reading a review I do purchase that game, then the only surprises should really be the story and some gameplay elements directly tied to it. Besides that, everything else should be as stated in the review. Anything that has been Exaggerated or undermined and that review is already on thin ice because that’s where double standards creep in.
As stated by the anonymous Publisher interviewed by Kotaku, we know that 90% plus review scores have a huge impact on games and how successful they are financially. So from knowing this, we can safely come to the conclusion that an overwhelmingly negative review will have an equally negative impact on a game, and that brings me to my next point.
When any reviewer decides to award a game a score of 5/10 or less, they’ve actually taken it upon themselves to prove, with facts, to their audience exactly why such a game should be avoided at all cost. Because let’s be honest, no one walks into a store to pick up a game that is essentially broken and unplayable, and that is exactly what such a review score implies. For example, Game Arena awarded Halo 4 a 5.5 out of 10 and concluded the following:
“Yet where I praise the game – for doing things Halo has always done – don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m praising it for being like Halo. Those things I praise – the gorgeous Pelican mission, for example – are ‘Halo elements’ because the first game delivered missions of that grandeur, and they are now universally recognised as excellent elements to have in a game. The praise isn’t for being like Halo – it’s for featuring parts of a good game. Similarly, when I criticise the multiplayer for moving away from the Halo model it’s not for the movement, but more that it copies the steps of other games (which do it better, and are now abandoning that dance for something greater.)
The greatest praise and strongest criticism I can level at Halo 4 is that it sure is Halo”
Now here’s what the same writer from Game Arena had to say about Call of Duty: Black Ops which he awarded a 9/10.
“The polish is probably lacking because of all the other stuff Treyarch packed into the game. Zombies. Dead Ops. Zork. All readily available (once you know how) additions to the Black Ops experience. Keyboards are enabled so you can tool around in the console of the game (and actually play Zork).”
“Call of Duty: Black Ops isn’t just a superbly crafted multiplayer game, or a well-written story with a good deal more subtlety than any post Modern Warfare COD combined. It’s a fun and well made coop SmashTV clone. It’s a wave based coop zombie shooter with stacks of B grade charm. It’s brand new way to experience multiplayer by putting your hard earned credits on the line. Oh and it’s got region based matchmaking on consoles and dedicated servers on PC. Get Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s more than worth it.
Disclosure: Activision flew GameArena to LA to play Call of Duty: Black Ops at a Review Event.”
If it seems like I am putting this guy on the spot then rest assured and know that this is far from my intentions. I don’t know the reviewer, the only reason his review is being talked about is because I think it represents a bigger problem that is all too common in games journalism. Now you’re free to arrive to your own conclusions about why one game is getting praised for a new take on multiplayer while the other game is being criticized for the exact same reason. But to me it does seem a bit unfair and makes me question both reviews and their legitimacy.
Is Halo 4 a non-polished, bug-infested mess that is almost unplayable and a 5.5 out of 10 game? Of course not, and it is also not the perfect 10 out 10 game that other reviews would have you believe either. So why are reviews so all over the map? Why is it that there seems to be only 3 categories to rate a game? Either a game is horrible, or it’s Meh, or THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER, OMG!
Surely Halo 4 is a big enough title that such a score will mean very little if anything at all to most fans new and old. But what it does do instead is discredit any real and substantiated criticism that the review might have been trying to address since the overall score and tone of the review failed to accurately represent the game.
But the biggest questions still remains unanswered as no one seems to really know how to fix this mess and will it ever be fixed?