You know what’s awesome? Metacritic. For consumers it’s a great way of getting a quick overview of a game and also a useful index of the reviews for a title. However for everyone on the other side of the fence, from journalists to developers, Metacritic kind of sucks. It’s increased the pressure on reviews and, specifically, review scores ten fold. Developers have a new, or at least ‘enhanced’ metric to live up to when building their game, and building a game towards a score is not always a good thing. It removes all the passion from the process, it’s like when every house gets built to the same plan because it scores high on energy ratings tests. Yes you have a solid place to live, but it’ll probably be boring and it would have been way more interesting if the architect had just been allowed to go wild.
So here’s the question; to you, as a consumer, does the score actually matter? Sure it’s a great guideline, but reading the score from ten different sites doesn’t really tell me all the much about the game. I got excited by Bayonetta’s scores because I knew a little about the game, was already feeling a bit excited and then its incredible scores from Famitsu and Edge really tipped it over the edge into full on excitement. That’s not to say I’ve actually played the game, as we all know I don’t actually do anything as trivial as playing titles, but I’m still excited for it. Would I be excited by a game I knew little about scoring well? Probably not. They certainly aren’t exciting when you expect them to be high, Uncharted 2 getting anything over an 8 isn’t exciting, it getting a 4 would be exciting.
Can a score really capture an reviewers opinion anyway? The only review I’ve ever done was for Halo 3: ODST and the 7 I gave it certainly didn’t reflect my overall opinion on the game, it was just the best number available to me. My opinion on the game was the rest of the review, the score was more of a formality for me, something that needed to be done. I largely went with my gut on how I felt about it. Of course some of you will say that I could just not have scored it, or that TSA as a whole shouldn’t use scores, but we have little choice in the matter, we’d haemorrhage support from publishers* and lose significant recognition within the industry if we did that.
So what do you think? Are scores useful? Do they provide any insight into a game? What about Metacritic, do you use it or do you look for scores from reviewers you trust? For example I’ll use Metacritic as a quick overview of how a title is regarded, but I’ll check out the TSA, Giant Bomb and EuroGamer reviews if I want some real opinion on a title. Do you have a similar system?
* – By publisher support I mean the ability to get review and preview code of games, as well as being invited to publisher events. Review opinion and scoring isn’t actually influenced or dictated by any publisher, it’s based on what we thought of the game we played. Anything else would just be silly.