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Time To Review Game Reviews
by Benjamin Quintero on 03/18/13 12:28:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[original post...]

Dear Members of the Press,

In the advent of EA's most recent PR debacle entitled Sim City, it seems that many review sites have made some changes.  Sites have shifted their tactics to withholding their reviews until after the public launch of a game, especially for games in a series that have been known to contain a notable multi-player component or have in the past been exclusively single-player (ala Sim City).  Though I completely understand their thought process, I think their approach is completely wrong.

Today's games are massive.  Gone (for the most part) are the days where your "big budget" boxed console game is so short that you don't even need a save file or passcode.  They aren't the kinds of games you just sit down for an hour and find yourself defeating the final boss.  On top of that, just about every AAA game today; for better or worse, has a multi-player component.  Some games, like Lara Croft for example, arguably never needed a multi-player component.  The part of the game that everyone is expected to play in a traditionally single-player series is likely the most important part of the review.  Unfortunately it becomes up to the discretion of each reviewer on how hard the overall review/score should be anchored down based on a feature that many people will probably never use.

Reviews need to change and the solution is simple.  Games need to have a single-player review and a multi-player review.  With single-player and multi-player experiences being so completely different in nearly all cases, and sometimes developed by separate teams or companies, it makes sense to treat them as such.  Reviewers should stop sticking to the old tropes that say just because a feature was shipped on the same disk that it must be part of the same experience.  This was probably true before idSoftware invented death-match in 1993 but times have changed and it's time for reviews to change.

This simple tweak allows the reviewers to, at their discretion, withhold the multi-player review until public servers are available without damaging the credibility of what might be an amazing single-player experience because of wildly different weights of multi-players' influence on the overall score of a game.  Of course games like Sim City, being always on and lacking a single-player experience, would simply have to wait until after launch entirely.

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Benjamin Quintero
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Something I did not mention in this post but in hindsight feel it's important to note is that a game should be worth it's price tag on single or multi-player alone. The opposite feature should be considered an add-value for those who may be interested in both aspects of a game but the overall score should not be buffed under the assumption that the player cares to experience both styles of play.

Jay Anne
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I love the idea. In fact, have different reviewers for each section sometimes. Though I don't like what it'll do to Metacritic scores

Kevin Reese
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I don't like the idea so much. If a game is 90% SP and 10% MP, I don't see how that can be rated fairly across two different scores (like the XCOM remake) for example. And as no one does this, it would be pretty hard to get everyone to shift.

Not to mention, it's hard to classify many games. Like again Simcity, if a player is strictly interested in only the SP aspects of the game, yet the game has been shoehorned into being a MP game now for 'better' DRM, how would that be reflected in a pair of review scores?

Many reviews do seem out of touch though - -Simcity notably -- but reviewing is going to be an imperfect system no matter what.

I prefer qualitative reviews over quantitative reviews myself. (i.e letter grades, or no numerical scores at all). But like it or not it seems like Metacritic, having achieved such dominance over what it does, can now effectively can dictate how game reviews are going to be. Which means we will be stuck with a single 1 - 100 scoring system for better or worse.

John Flush
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I would love a return to when features themselves were ranked - then the roll-up score is put on the page for people that can't read the details. When I read a review I expect them to talk about Controls, Graphics (technical aspects as well as theme), Story/dialog, Voice acting, online features, multiplayer, single player, etc. If the game doesn't do one of those features, mark it N/A or something.

At that point people that go into games looking for certain features will know how well they are pulled off - regardless of the sum score.

I would also like certain genres to point out how feature staples were done. Example, an RPG, I want to know, in a bullet point, if it is Turn Based, or Real Time. Can I pause the action to plan, does the combat morph over time, etc.

I think the real problem with reviews are they are too generic and very rarely high feature lists in any cohesive way. It is just another journalist writing their opinion about the game as a whole and slapping a score on it in hopes of generating hits and ad dollars to the site.

Axel Cholewa
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Love the idea!

But of course, one can carry this further: Why not publish two different games, one SP and one MP version?

Actually, this was meant as a joke, but seriously: I don't want the MP Tomb Raider, so why can't I just buy the SP version and pay less? Might even make me buy that game ;)

Mike Higbee
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It'd be nice to have a site that reviews the reviewers, sites and publications. Weed out those ones with suspect reviews and obvious conflict of interest with excessive fluff pieces, tons of ads, leading up to a glowing review with less than stellar crowd reception.
The single player and multiplayer review should be an aspect already in reviews to be fair, you have reviews for games like CoD or BF3 with poor single player showing still getting glowing reviews.
Somewhere along the lines the vast majority of reviewers/critics have seemed to stop caring about the consumer and more about the publisher and devs.
There's a reason people choose to get gaming news and opinions from sites like Forbes now vs traditional media, the lack of a conflict of interest.
That and I seem to remember reading magazines like EGM back in the day and they had a preface on each reviewer stating their favorite type of games and their current favorites. It served as a good gauge as to who should be reviewing certain games due to the critiques they could make as a comparison to other genre titles. You wouldn't exactly trust a review of the latest FPS game by the resident sports game guy right?