What do Reviews Mean to You?

What do Reviews Mean to You?

The recent release of Thief 4 has expectedly resulted in a horde of reviews, with some truly mixed scores being among them. From the heights of 8.5/10 to the lows of 2.5/10, is it any wonder that people have lost faith in the reviewing process?

There’s a wall of confusion surrounding reviews, and an even bigger wall of paranoia surrounding some of the bigger sites. If a popular game fails to hit the high marks, it’s deemed a failure by many–even without them playing it. But on the flip side, there’s always a group of people who assume that a high score is a result of the reviewer being paid off with money or goodies. It’s a vicious cycle that endlessly repeats.

This brings me to the following questions: What does a review mean to you? What does a review stand for? What is the role of a review in the modern market? Do reviews even matter any more? People will have a different answer for each question; some will straight up condemn reviews and question their point.

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From a personal perspective, reviews are a simple summary of what the game has to offer, how well it’s made, and if it’s worth playing. These points are, of course, all subjective given that reviews are basically just the opinion of the person writing them, with some knowledge of the difference between a working and broken game thrown in. Reviews are an easy way to point out to someone if a game is worth looking at, even more so if the person in question is not overly familiar with the inner mechanics of videogames.

Experience with videogames is, of course, a factor in how a review turns out. People who only play a certain type of game (let’s say, for example, sport titles such as Fifa) will be able to pinpoint the changes made in each yearly installment, thus their review tends to be be more informed than that of someone who exclusively plays first-person shooters, for instance–people who perhaps won’t as easily recognise the more minute changes implemented.

Personal experience with videogames, specifically pertaining to certain genres, is one factor that tends to be forgotten when people see a review score in all its glory/shame. This, inevitably, leads into calls of “this game sucks” or “the reviewer was paid off.” This is one major problem with review scores: they entice those looking to make a bold claim, even more so if the game being reviewed is an exclusive or entry into a popular franchise. It seems that a lot of people only take notice of a review when they see the score, and not the content of said review. Does this mean that reviews are merely a number? Is content ignored just to peer at the resulting score?

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It’s an odd culture that has grown with pace since the early days of the PS3 and 360. This culture is one that only looks at the numbers and only sees high scores as a mark of a good game, rather than a brilliant game. The truth is (and we’ll use a scale of 1-10 here for reference) that 7s and 8s are good games, just not brilliant ones. High scores are chucked around far too much these days, feeding the culture that anything without a top score must mean the game is bad. Sites like N4G are a perfect example for seeing both of these poisonous elements at work.

My recent review for The Last of Us: Left Behind attracted attention on N4G, mainly because the resulting score was not a 9/10. The review stated the content of the game was not bad, and that it was well written, but also that it lacked gameplay or much input on the player’s behalf. As stated, at no point did the review state that Left Behind was bad; it was just…good. However, to reiterate the previous point, the score drew in people who ostensibly only looked at the number and deemed the review as a negative look on the DLC, which was far from the truth.

Reviews are exactly what you make of them; anyone can sit down and type out their thoughts on a videogame. Not every game is going to be a work of art, a masterpiece. There are more good games than there are brilliant. Reviews have a purpose, it’s just unfortunate that a growing number of people see reviews as simply a number that MUST reflect their view on said game, regardless of how well the points are forwarded.

 

Sean Halliday


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