Here at Zero1Gaming we thoroughly enjoy playing video games and proceeding to write about their merits and downfalls for 1000 words, give or take. At the end of these reviews there is usually a summary, gathering our thoughts upon what we have just played and occasionally an accompanying video. Go to most other websites and you’ll see something we like to avoid. A number. Sitting there at the bottom of the page like an overbearing shadow that invalidates the hours toiled on the piece of writing that has just been read by you, sitting there on the computer at home. Sometimes it’s worse. A few websites don’t even have the common courtesy to print the number which rescinds the masterpiece sculpted by the writer at the top.
This disgusts me, as I feel when I read a review I get an entirely different story than I do from the score on most occasions yet people still judge a game by its cover, or rather its metacritic. I’m going to tackle the issue of review scores head on, discussing the good and bad, what could possibly be done to improve the way they work or if we should just get rid of them altogether.
To prove that I shall be unbiased whilst writing this I’ll provide proof as to why they have a positive impact on review sites and the industry in general. Firstly, the website you visit to see the review still gets the revenue from ads regardless if you only read the score or scroll through the whole review, so they don’t lost money from it. Secondly, you get information quickly. Suppose you have to go out in 3 minutes and you’re not sure which game to buy. Review scores help more than the reviews themselves and the convenience speaks for itself. Believe it or not everybody wants to read 1000+ words upon why Resident Evil 6 deserves its own little spot in hell and an article that is actually just a device for flirting with Ken Levine (we’re looking at you Polygon) and I respect that. Each to their own, as they say, and I respect that.
On the other hand, review scores can hurt games. Some games aren’t that polished or deep, but have a charm about them which is referenced often in the written review but forgotten when it comes to the score. This prevents indie games from achieving greatness in the eyes of consumers who now most likely won’t give them a chance.
The inclusion of a review score can cost more than just a sale though; Bethesda’s bonuses are decided upon the metacritic score of the game, and in the case of the developers of Fallout: New Vegas cost them a whole lot. $1,000,000 in bonuses to be precise. If they game recieved a metacritic of over 85 then they would get that bonus. The game fell just short, achieving a taunting 84 on PC meaning that the devs who toiled for years upon attempting to create the best game possible got simply their straight up fee, no royalties.
Metacritic isn’t a great way to see review scores either, as some sites use the whole of the score spectrum, from 1 all the way to 10 yet some only appear to use the upper 5 numbers to judge a game as even the buggiest, most hated wrecks of a game achieve something which can be conceived by others as an average score (for instance Aliens Colonial Marines on PC for IGN). The only real way to tell what the reviewer in question thought of the game his opinion on the entirety is to read the review. If you’re only interested in the singleplayer in Call of Duty then the score is probably an unfair judgment for you, as the result for such a game is usually more based upon multiplayer than anything else, so it could still get an 8 despite the singleplayer being appalling, which would mean that the review score misguided you and your expectations and caused you to waste £40/$50/however much a game costs in your currency on a title you don’t enjoy.
The next problem with review scores? 9’s and 9.5’s are given out too lightly. If you read IGN’s Bioshock Infinite review then you get the impression that it is maybe a 9, possibly an 8.5 but alas when you look at the score you see a whopping 9.5. Review scores are easily bought and payed for, unlike the reviewers opinions and although I’m not suggesting that Irrational did such a thing but that game, albeit an exquisite game did not deserve a 9.5 from anybody.
In the case of Fallout: New Vegas it suffered unnecessarily, as the bugs that were holding it back on the day of release were fixed within a few months, making the reviews criticizing it almost entirely invalid, yet they still put people off purchasing what is an otherwise brilliant game.
So in the end I say begone with review scores, begone with the stipulations to adhere to what makes a 9/10 and begone to the days of people just scrolling to the bottom, because opinions matter a whole lot.