Posted by: pswi60 | October 31, 2007

Game Reviews: 6 things that need changed NOW.

Disclaimer: In this article, I reference Ratchet and Clank: Future several times for example purposes only. While I do own the game and enjoy it, I do not imply the game should get any certain score, only that it’s a good game worthy of purchase. I own the ps360 combo, so please don’t call me a fanboy, cause I will own you in Halo 3 fool.

Reviews…the benchmark of games that are supposed to give you a clue as to which titles to get and which ones to stay away from. When game reviews first appeared, it was a godsend to gamers the world over…now, we could read about the pros and cons of a game before buying, and we could know what to expect when we spend our hard earned cash on a game.

5 STARSLately, game reviews have become, well, out of hand. You would think with the exact same game being reviewed by only 25 or so different sites, the game would fall into a certain range of scores that would all be relatively close. But this is not the case. Games like Jericho have a low score of 30 and a high score of 90. Now how is a gamer supposed to make an informed decision when the reviews have a delta of 60%? It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other: “Buy this game!!”…”No..don’t buy it!”.

I have read a couple articles stating to do away with number reviews, because a number in itself is useless to describe a games’ worth. Numbers also fail because 2 different games could have the exact same numeric score, but be a totally different experience to each gamer. See, games are not like baseball cards, which all have a set value based on what card you have (it would be difficult to buy every game that appears on a given console….you hypothetically could buy the whole “set” of games, but then how could you find time enjoy each and every one?). Games are more like a fine wine…you buy it, savor it (hopefully), and when the bottle is empty, you put it on the shelf to collect dust.

You could then use the argument to ignore the score, and just read the review, howeverpic sometimes this is as clear as mud. You get references to things like “Captain Qwark and Mr. Incredible in a battle of the poly counts” in this Gamespy review on Ratchet and Clank: Future, which also compares the game to Dynasty Warriors Gundam, but not really. What? Not only do I not get the poly reference, I’ve played DWG and it sucks, so I don’t get that either.

Here I propose 6 things that need changed with game reviews:

1) Stop comparing sequels to the original: I’m tired of reading reviews about “getting back to the games roots” and “largely the same gameplay as the last one”. Here’s a news flash – not everyone plays every game in a series. I have never played God of War. So when I bought God of War 2, I didn’t care what the first one was about. I bought GOW2 because I got the demo at EB and thought it was great; I never owned a ps2 until I bought a ps3 with backwards compatibility. The same goes for Ratchet and Clank: Future, I don’t care what the previous ones were like because I never played them. Stop assuming every gamer has played every single game out there. Review each game in the series as a stand-alone game, unless the game is exactly like the original with absolutely no reasons to buy the new one.

2) Stop removing points for no multiplayer: I’m also tired of game reviewers taking points off a games score because it doesn’t have multiplayer. Guess what? It says on the back of the game box if it has multiplayer. If I want a game with multiplayer, I will go out and buy a game with multiplayer. But don’t knock down a games score just because it doesn’t have it. There was a time when console games didn’t have multiplayer at all, remember? Only add or remove points based on that games multiplayer fun/quality/replay value, don’t base it on if it has the feature or not.

3) Review games that you are good at reviewing: Following the R@C – gamespot review fiasco, this one is a no-brainer. Game sites have no business having the sports game guy review a platformer, or the fps guy reviewing an rpg, or the puzzle/arcade guy doing an action/adventure game. Would I ask my real-estate agent to tell me which breakfast cereal I should buy? Hell no…so why is the sports guy reviewing a platformer? It makes us review readers think there is a hidden agenda or alterior motive, and that makes you, the reviewer/review site look bad. The words bias and fanboy are being thrown around like hello and goodbye, and it doesn’t take much to piss of the readership, so be more responsible with who is reviewing which game, please. If the fps guy is reviewing an fps game, it makes us feel better that the review is coming from a credible, reliable source.

4) Be more than just a number: Many people are calling for the death of the review number. While I think the number is here to stay, there needs to be more conveyed to the reader than just a number. Pros and Cons are good, but it still does not give the finality to what the reader should do if they are eyeing up the game you just reviewed. Should they buy it? Or should they rent it? Or should they just try the demo (if available) or move on? Is the market flooded with fps games, making this game a hard sell when there are so many other titles to get first? Give the gamer an idea of what to do when they are done reading your review. Should they jump off a bridge? Should they stop reading and never come back? Give us a clue, please.

5) Be honest, unbiased; don’t be a comedian: With any job, it can be awesome at first, especially landing a job as a game tester or game reviewer. The initial reaction to these types of jobs are usually filled with thoughts of an easy, fulfilling career that you will never tire of and will always be fun. But the real truth is that doing anything over and over again gets old, even with video games. It is for that reason that reviewers, especially of late, come off as arrogant, critical, biased, harsh, and just plain pissy. They have lost the fun of playing games, and now it is considered work. “I have to review another game today? Ughhh.” If all game reviewers could just take 5 minutes to clear their mind of their predispositions before reviewing a game, and remember that it was fun that brought them here, they will better convey that in their review. Much like a game, a review is a work of art too, and it needs to have conviction in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. Also, a little humor is appreciated, but if you are using every angle of your review to promote your comedy act, then maybe it’s time to switch careers. Its not funny if you are trying to be funny, get it?

asdf

6) Don’t give games a bad review just to get recognized: Any press is good press, right? I’ve never heard of GamesTM, mostly because they are a UK based magazine, and I live in the U.S. But now, the name GamesTM is all over the net because of their rogue 6/10 review for Ratchet and Clank. Are we really to believe that this wasn’t just a stunt to get their name circulating, since the previous owner had to sell because the magazine was balls deep in debt and missed an issue? Now the mag has restructured so why not throw out a scathing review of a good game to get some attention? If they would just follow reasons 1 and 2 of this article, they wouldn’t have failed and be made the example for #6, taking the place of Gamespot.

As always, comments are welcome and appreciated….are these 6 things too much to ask?

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Responses

  1. What a wonderful blog! My friends and I are always talking about this issue. I pretty much agree with you on every point except number one—I think it’s fair to compare a sequel to its predecessor(s), but only up to a certain point. I think it’s good to mention it for those who have played the earlier games. Sometimes, though, it seems reviewers get out of hand and give out ridiculously low scores because a sequel isn’t “new” enough. Um…it’s a sequel, so chances are it isn’t going to reinvent the wheel.

    It’s interesting that Gamespot gave out a comparatively low score to Ratchet and Clank, though I’ll admit that I’m not surprised. Gamespot is notoriously pissy, and I never visit their site or read their reviews on principle, because the majority of their reviews are whiny and bitchy. Just because you’re a critic doesn’t mean you have to be overly critical. It’s OKAY to enjoy games, you know?

    Anyway, I totally agree with you here:
    “reviewers, especially of late, come off as arrogant, critical, biased, harsh, and just plain pissy. They have lost the fun of playing games, and now it is considered work.”

    Boy, if there’s one place I think I can apply that, it’s to Electronic Gaming Monthly, now known simply as “EGM”. Before, I used to trust their reviews more than any other publication, print or otherwise, but now I can’t take their word for anything. They hand out obscenely low scores to certain titles while overly praising others, and their “articles” are a joke. They don’t even have a proper previews section anymore! I can take a seemingly off-kilter score every once in a while, but it seems like every time I crack open a new issue, I just keep seeing games in the 5.0-6.5 range all the time! I just don’t believe that the industry is churning out that many mediocre games—rather, like you said, I think these reviewers are too jaded and almost resentful towards their jobs. They don’t relish the inherent joy found in most games.

    It’s interesting that you pointed out Jericho, because I noticed that myself. Jericho got pretty crappy scores in the latest EGM (like in the 5.0 range), which made me do a double-take. I played the demo—several times, in fact, because I enjoyed it so much—and I just couldn’t see how a game of that quality could net such mediocre reviews. I mean, unless the demo happens to be the best part of the game and everything else sucks, then maybe, but I just don’t see that happening.

    Anyway, before I make this too long, I’d like to mention that I like the number system for reviews because it’s a pretty decent way to tell the relative quality of a game. People have their qualms, as do I, but when it comes down to it, it’s a lot easier for me to remember that a game got 7s or 9s than trying to keep in mind every little pro and con I read from fifteen different sources.

    I also agree that most reviewers need to quit with the “humor” and tell me about the game. Once in a while, I’ll come across a review that’s genuinely funny (EGM used to have hilarious reviews back when they used to be a respectable magazine), but for the most part, I want to know more about the mechanics and the pros and cons than the color of the character’s underwear, or some other lame joke.

    For reviews, I tend to really like IGN, because they spend a lot of time detailing the various aspects of a game without trying to be clever or impress the reader with witty tidbits. Play magazine is also a favorite of mine. On the whole, play tends to overscore most games, but that’s because they really love games. I mean, you can tell in every review that they just love what they’re doing. And I think more game reviewers need to take that step back and really fall in love with the industry once again.

    I mean, games are supposed to be fun, after all! 🙂

  2. thanks Halol, your comments are always positive and welcome. ANytime you want to write for my blog just let me know, ill give you contributor and you can post whatever you want.

    thanks again.

  3. Thanks for the offer! I guess if you’d like, you can add me, and then when the inspiration hits I can whip something up. 🙂

  4. Lol

    you suck ass

  5. Wow, y’know, I can’t help but think back to this post time and time again. Pswi60, let me tell you—I stumbled upon an article today that wasn’t even a review, and yet it was so disparaging of a game (Mass Effect) that it was unbelievable. Where is journalism going these days? Once, there was a time where I would have liked to be a game journalist myself, but I no longer wish to taint myself with their subhuman presence. Some of these folks don’t seem to have a pulse anymore—they’re just like the undead in Jericho spewing bile every which way. You can hand them the best game ever made and they’ll find some way to bring it down. Simply unbelievable.

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  8. […] Game Reviews: Five Things that Need Changed NOW […]


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