Editorial: Videogame reviewers are bad at actually playing games

25 May

 

Videogame reviewers are bad at actually playing games. Case in point is Shadowrun. On Metacritic it has a 66 overall rating and of course some of the big boys in game reviews are at the bottom penalizing the game for being a $60 MP only game. Did they go over the weapon/magic/tech balance that FASA poured their heart and soul into? No, they simply said:

“Sadly, match types come in just two flavors: artifact raids or kill sprees, which makes $60 seems extortionate.” – (EGM, 8/2007)

So we rate game play based on price now? I’m sorry but for all of you “gaming experts” who gave a terrible game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 perfect scores (GameSpy, Game Informer, GameSpot) you people have no idea what makes a game good or better yet challenging!

It’s a shame that people actually pay attention to these “professional reviews” and relies on them for information about a new and upcoming game. A game like Shadowrun struck the perfect balance of game play that most games can never hope to achieve but because these reviewers lack basic aiming skill they will never understand that. Of course the population is not blind. We see the videos of the media playing games like Halo: Reach and we couldn’t get a clear view of how the DMR worked because either A) The Media try-hard was too busy in the respawn screen. B) They bum rushed like the randoms they are. Or C) They couldn’t aim so they steered away from the DMR. These are the people who are reviewing our games and determining if they are good or not.

This takes me to Blur a game which in my opinion is one of the most well balanced racers to ever be released. Its game play is top notch and noobs need not apply, at least it seems that way.

“If you love a more hardcore racing experience, and the idea of truly chaotic combat sounds appealing, than Blur might be for you. If you’re looking for a fun, pick-up-and-play combat racer, then I think you need to go back to Mario Kart or, better yet, pick up the excellent Split/Second.” – (IGN 05/2010 rating 7.0)

Let’s dissect that statement shall we: “If you love a more hardcore racing experience, and the idea of truly chaotic combat sounds appealing, than Blur might be for you.”

The reviewer already declares that this game intimidated him, thus by saying he is not a hardcore racing fan. Blur is not a game for the weak but it isn’t impossible to get into. Forza/GT, those are hardcore games. Blur is an arcade racer, simple as that. As far as the chaos goes it’s an intense game but if you know how to properly defend yourself you will  make it to the finish line.

“If you’re looking for a fun, pick-up-and-play combat racer, then I think you need to go back to Mario Kart or, better yet, pick up the excellent Split/Second.”

Isn’t obvious bias a funny thing? He is telling readers to pick up a game he likes because it is better then Blur, but why?

Split/Second has the most impressive destruction and explosions yet seen in a racing game.” – (IGN S/S Review 05/2010 rated 8.5)

Of course one of the first lines that the reviewer opens up with is in regard to visuals, because we all know you need amazing visuals to make a great game, right guys? These reviewers will always rate a games graphics before the game play because if they can’t pick up the game and be instantly amazing at it then there is no point in learning the game! These are supposed “old-school” gamers that played Quake, Doom, UT, Zelda, Metroid, etc and they can’t take the time to appreciate complex game mechanics? GTA4 was not innovative  but it took the tried and true GTA formula (which is amazing of course) and managed to score perfect scores from “respected” publications but all sensible gamers know that GTA is not a perfect game by any means but the hype of these amazing visuals swayed the scores for the better.

“There’s so much going on during races that it’s often difficult to navigate the game’s courses, though the designers usually do a pretty good job of marking turns and plastering visual cues around the track.” – (IGN S/S Review 05/2010 rated 8.5)

This line is a perfect example of what is wrong with these people. They need visual cues to aid them in their constant struggle of learning how to play a game, because it’s not like the gigantic arrows point left/right since the dawn of racing games are present right? The reviewer also talks about rubber-banding being an issue in Split/Second yet its better then Blur? If you mess up in Blur you will pay the penalty, there are no second chances and no death streaks (thanks MW2 for rewarding terrible).  Also lets analyze how it’s ok for Split/Second to be chaotic but Blur shouldn’t be chaotic by any means. I thought this was a combat racer?

In the end we have learned that if a game tried to be innovative with its game play nine times out of ten it will be fed to the dogs because it’s too hard. This is why there is no innovation in the industry because people are afraid of thinking outside of the box for fear of not making money. That’s why we will see a new Call of Duty every year like its Madden. Good for the suits bad for the real gamers. The gaming media controls a lot of the casual audience, and they will continue to do so but can we please get some people who actually know how to play a game, review them please?

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28 Responses to “Editorial: Videogame reviewers are bad at actually playing games”

  1. Weez May 25, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Great read man. I agree 100%. That’s why I go to my friends in the competitive community to get the story on games if I’m considering buying them. I hate the casuals who pay too much attention to graphics or their review relies too heavily upon single player or story mode gameplay to give a true review of a game.

    • Chris Solis May 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

      yeah, competitive elements should definitely be considered in the review of a game especially if it’s main focus is Multiplayer over single player.

  2. Chris Solis May 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    They there. I have a lot to say about your blog. I’m not trying to troll you or anything. Here are some suggestions and friendly arguments if you would like to engage in a conversation.

    I’ll agree on your point that reviewers don’t take the competitive stand point when reviewing games. It’s saddening that Shadow Run got a lower score because it’s competitive elements weren’t taken into consideration. It’s also sad that Modern Warfare 2 got a boosted score when it has weak competitive elements. It should have definitely affected it’s score considerably. those reviewers you quoted are definitely in need of some job training. I agree with your points.

    —————————————————————-
    About this quote
    —————————————————————-
    Quote
    “In the end we have learned that if a game tried to be innovative with its game play nine times out of ten it will be fed to the dogs because it’s too hard. This is why there is no innovation in the industry because people are afraid of thinking outside of the box for fear of not making money. That’s why we will see a new Call of Duty every year like its Madden. Good for the suits bad for the real gamers. ”
    End Quote

    It’s true that the industry can be to safe. It really limits som innovation we can see in games today. Though it’s usually an “innovation ( at the time or gimmick) that leads to a game suffering in the eyes of competitive gamers. Back to MW2, Kill Streaks and Death Streaks are an interesting gamble from the norm but ultimately that’s that hurt it the most in the eyes of the competitive gamer. If MW2 was more like MW1 ergo less “innovation/gimmick” we would consider it a better game. I’m sure you know competitive game types usually strip a lot of what a game offers out of box to set up a fair competitive environment. So wouldn’t we argue competitive gamers want a more polished version of the game? Usually innovation appeals to the casual crowds.

    —————————————————————–
    Some Advice:
    —————————————————————–
    Alas, I feel that your putting to much focus on the competitive elements yourself; the opposite of what reviewers usually do to the casual elements. A game needs to be reviewed in many lights. Here’s an example. you talk about Modern Warfare like it’s a terrible game. To the competitive gamer it is. There are other elements of the game that keep it high regard though. Strong Single Player experience, amazing sound track, polished look, etc. So instead of straight up calling non-competitive games like MW2 terrible because they don’t fit your demographic, simply call them non-competitive titles or the likes. It keeps some competitive bias out of your writing, increasing your credibility.

    ————————-Definition of a gamer———————-
    I don’t believe it’s fair to call someone not a gamer simply because they are casual or not good at video games competitively. They very wel could be playing just as much as you and I. I would suggest redefining gamer more loosely and redefining yourself and out community as competitive gamers. That’s the real distinguishing factor.

    • Alex Mendez May 27, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

      I understand where you are coming from, I don’t think I said Casual gamers aren’t gamers but the reviewer who should know a thing or two (at least I would hope so) about games showed he had no grasp of gameplay. I would have hated to see this guy review Demon Souls! Thanks for reading.

  3. Nero May 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    “So we rate game play based on price now?”

    Yes, we do. Would you pay $60 for a Nintendo DS game? I’d hope not. You would generally expect a price in the range from $30-$40.

    The average gamer will not always value a game for its competitive values. He/she will look at it for “cool” single-player mode, multiplayer gametype variations, etc. As such, the developers (FASA) should have better realize that $60 was, indeed, a tad too much.

    • Alex Mendez May 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

      It’s called a “Video Game Review” not a Price Review. Allow the consumer to make the choice if whether or not it’s worth the money to purchase it, Just give them teh facts and details about the game. I’m sure we all can agree on that.

  4. Peter May 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    I’m wondering if you were planning on giving any details about why things are good or bad in games. The reviewer for Split/Second was saying that there’s so much going on outside of the race it can be distracting. Not that they can’t tell which way to turn or where they are supposed to go or whatever you were saying (I can’t even really tell what your point was there, other than to call the reviewer stupid).

    See, you say, “I’m sorry but for all of you “gaming experts” who gave a terrible game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 perfect scores (GameSpy, Game Informer, GameSpot) you people have no idea what makes a game good or better yet challenging!” But you never say what does make a game good. You never say why “Blur is one of the most balanced racers to ever be released” and that “[the] gameplay is top notch and noobs need not apply.” No reason why, just that you think so. And I’m sorry that in your elitism you fail to realize that most people are “noobs” and that perhaps they would also like to play games without having to spend all of their free time lost in a fake world.

    So, why is Blur good? And why are the other games bad? Is it just your opinion or do you have any actual reasons, not just criticism?

  5. Ain't It Strange May 26, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Reviews are subjective, just one person’s opinion. I like to ask my friends. Whoa same theme as my blog.

    • Alex Mendez May 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

      Thanks for reading and what can I say, I like the theme =)

  6. dame May 26, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    very nice blog!! a lot of usefull infos thanks keep up the good work!!

  7. Captiosus May 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    @Ain’t It Strange: Yes, reviews are glorified opinions, but they should also contain an unbiased look at the bare facts of a game beyond what we can read on the back of the box. In the case of the recent IGN Blur review, there’s very little detail about the game itself and a lot of complaining about how the reviewer felt it was “too hard”, along with the sly attempt to compare it to (or against) Split/Second.

    If he found it difficult, it’s fine to say as much, but the entire article is lacking in any tangible information to be a good review. While reviewers are welcome to their opinions, the opinions must be framed around the facts of the game.

    If you know nothing about Blur and read only the IGN review, all you’re going to walk away with is: It has cars, it has weapons and it’s supposedly hard. No statements of facts, no information for a reader to base their own thoughts from, just opinion. That’s not a good review at all.

  8. DDNunavut May 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Mr. Mendez, put your damned money where your mouth is.

    Post a review of a recent game and I’ll gut it from Adam’s apple to ankles pointing out how wrong you are about your closely held opinions. And even rant about the score you give it. Prove to all of us that you know how to play games.

    Also, what planet do you live on that 7 is a low score? That seems to be the issue that spurred you to write this blog post.

    Lastly, this statement:

    In the end we have learned that if a game tried to be innovative with its game play nine times out of ten it will be fed to the dogs because it’s too hard. This is why there is no innovation in the industry because people are afraid of thinking outside of the box for fear of not making money. That’s why we will see a new Call of Duty every year like its Madden. Good for the suits bad for the real gamers. The gaming media controls a lot of the casual audience, and they will continue to do so but can we please get some people who actually know how to play a game, review them please?

    Are you really giving reviewers that much power? This take is uneducated at best, asinine at worst.

    • Alex Mendez May 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

      Thank you for reading my article and I agree with you that I should put up a review on a game and by all means please dissect everything that I say because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      “Also, what planet do you live on that 7 is a low score? That seems to be the issue that spurred you to write this blog post.”

      My gripe was not with the score but rather with the context of the review that led him to that score. He scored the game a 7 because it was too hard. Now you tell me, is that appropriate? He didn’t sit down to play the game and started the interview off with one of the worst openings in stating that he is really good at games. I don’t care I just want to know if this game is worth the purchase, not that you suck at it.

      In regards to giving reviewers “that much power” I am not actually, they already have that position of power with the casual audience as the “experts” in the field. So when these so called experts give a score that is not deserving of the product and a written review that not only insults the developer’ hard work, but at the same time states that difficult games are not worth the money, I have a big problem with it.

      So next time you want to try and attack me with words like “uneducated” and “asinine” understand where I am coming from. This guy was a shining example of what is wrong with the gaming media.

      So when I post my first review please feel free to dissect it all you want. I can even email it to you if you like. Good day sir.

      • DDNunavut May 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

        It’s “ma’am” actually.

        I’ll wager what spurred you to read the article was the score. “Hey, why’d this no-neck give it such a low score when Metacritic has it at 83.5%. I was looking forward to this game!”

        I won’t pretend I knew what Gallegos was thinking with the 7.0 (or even if he does that, not having access to the editorial process at IGN), but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because it was “hard” in his opinion. (Based on his review, it sounds like he had more of a problem with the complete randomness of it — see Penny Arcade’s latest “Everything You Need to Know About Blur.”)

        The point that you’ve missed (and flipping through the comments on the review, you’re definitely not alone) is that reviews are a subjective exercise. SUBJECTIVE: “Particular to a given person; personal” The only reviews that are objective are those found in the pages of Consumer Reports. Movies, film, television, sexual positions, beer, etc. are completely subjective and can’t be treated any other way.

        Here’s what I liked; here’s what I didn’t like. Arbitrary score. The End.

        If there was any part of that review to be cut it would be the last half of the “Closing Comments.” It changes the tone of what you’ll remember about the entire review, which included such words as “fantastic”, “could have been an addiction for me”, and “I actually enjoyed the Destruction levels.”

        And “asinine” and “uneducated” were in direct reference to your incomplete knowledge of the games industry. Who knows? You may be a rocket scientist or a botanist or a mechanic!

        I think you are attributing too much power to the enthusiast press. If review scores and game sales went hand-in-hand Psychonauts would have sold four or five metric tonnes; everyone, hardcore and casual alike, would have a copy. There are many more factors involved in how a game sells than a review on a website.

      • Alex Mendez May 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

        The article was passed along to me via Game Nation. I in fact don’t really read reviews for a game often because, like you said, they are subjective and thus I will wager if a game is worth my time or not. The casual audience (i.e. the person who goes to a common website like IGN and JUST looks at scores) will always look to videogame reviewers for advice on what game to purchase because they are viewed as the “professionals”. I can tell someone Call of Duty is the worst game ever made but they will look at the scores and say “no it isn’t, IGN gave it 9.5”. So because they have so much power in (and I am referring to IGN specifically) they do control what sells and what doesn’t sell.

        You come off as a person of some intelligence and it’s shocking that you don’t seem to realize this. No matter what the form is the media will dominate the uneducated mind (and by uneducated I mean as far as games go), so if something is deemed bad the results will show. The man who reviewed Blur had no grasp of how to use the proper power-ups or at least it seemed that way, considering he deemed the game “hard”. Blur is not a hard game by any means in fact it is quite enjoyable for someone who is dabbling in the game. Regardless of what you would say to defend him take this quote as a prime example of why I wrote this article:

        “Generally I’m one of the best gamers I know. I don’t say that to brag”

        The game hurt his fragile ego and thus he began to bash the game for that. If someone opens up a review like that I immediately lose all respect for them, no matter what you say after the reply to defend this guy it won’t matter because the proof is right there, his ego was damaged.

        “To me, a game like Blur is at is best when I’m playing with a few friends, which is why the inclusion of four-player split-screen is fantastic.”

        That is where he stated fantastic when talking about the one thing in Blur that didn’t matter as much as the actual gameplay itself. He had no concept of how to play the game, simple as that.

        In any case we can go back and forth with this for as long as you want but I will continue to defend my position and will continue to point out the obvious flaws in the mainstream gaming media, and I’m sure you will counter me every step of the way and I welcome that. So I prefer to agree to disagree, sounds good to you ma’am?

  9. DDNunavut May 28, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    “So because they have so much power in (and I am referring to IGN specifically) they do control what sells and what doesn’t sell.”

    So those multi-million dollar marketing campaigns? Those mean nothing? The casual segment of the audience sees a clip of Split/Second or WiiFit; maybe reads a brief column or looks at an ad in a parenting magazine for Pokemon; that’s where publisher’s drop huge bucks. The first stop of the casual segment is not IGN (or any other gaming site). If the casual player is interested in an ad they saw, maybe they’ll check out Rottentomatoes or MetaCrtic for snippets of what critics have to say. No way in hell does that casual player write-off a game if they see IGN gave Blur a 7.

    “What? IGN gave this a 7? Do not want!”

    That’s a complete fallacy. It’s quite possible that some of those reviews have some kind of impact, but the 1:1 ratio does not exist.

    Don’t mistake this as a defense of Mr. Gallegos. If he and his editors want to defend the review, they’ll do that.

    I know that if I’m frustrated with a game, I’ll be saying as much to my friends. Sure, I’ll mention the graphics, sound, how the game works, but if it’s a source of frustration, why would I pretend that frustration doesn’t exist? “Yeah, it looks great, plays great, but by level three I was so pissed off I put it down and haven’t been back to it.” That reasoning is perfectly valid, pro game reviewer or not.

    By your reasoning, every reviewer should master the game on the highest difficulty setting, discover its nuances, and see the seams… That’s just not realistic. How many games are released each year? We’ll just say it’s 1000. The logistics of becoming a master of all of them or even a handful of them borders on ridiculous.

    • Alex Mendez May 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

      Regardless of what I say beyond this point you are going to attempt to counter it because you feel you’re correct and I feel I’m correct. But I will entertain you for a little bit, by picking apart your most recent response like you did my own.

      “So those multi-million dollar marketing campaigns? Those mean nothing?”

      You are 100% correct in stating that reviewers do not affect the sales of the game, in fact I don’t think I stated that wither but mainstream media has a very large impact on the consumer. When a customer walks into a video game store very rarely will they make a $60 impulse buy (that goes double for the area I live in). Having worked for one of, if not the largest video game store chains in North America I KNOW that IGN in specific (along with Game Informer) has the potential to have direct communication with the consumer.

      When you turn on your Xbox IGN has Insider Tips and other little segments promoting IGN, so to think that IGN does not have a large impact on the consumer is foolish at best.

      Going on to the Multi-Million Dollar ad campaigns I do agree with you that they have some impact on sales but in the instance of a $60 purchase it’s mainly to create awareness of the product, especially if it’s a top selling sequel like Call of Duty. They want people to know that the game is coming out but it’s no surprise that a lot of publishers potentially pay off publications (Kane and Lynch along with GameSpot is the most recent accusation if I remember correctly) for “exclusive” reviews and often times those scores are through the roof and praise is rained down on often times a mediocre game.

      The context of those reviews alter depending on the writer but often times it is obvious.

      Now I know you’re going to pick apart that statement because you need to prove you’re correct so I am going to stop there. Just know that these are things that happen and to be oblivious to it would be a terrible mistake.

      “Don’t mistake this as a defense of Mr. Gallegos. If he and his editors want to defend the review, they’ll do that.”

      Anyone that is reading our back and forth will notice that you are defending the actions of mainstream media, so if they want to defend themselves I will gladly ask them to and we can record it as well and make a big scene of it. I’m sure the N4G community will dig that.

      “By your reasoning, every reviewer should master the game on the highest difficulty setting, discover its nuances, and see the seams… That’s just not realistic. How many games are released each year? We’ll just say it’s 1000. The logistics of becoming a master of all of them or even a handful of them borders on ridiculous.”

      I quoted the entire thing because I don’t want you to say that I am “picking parts” of this statement.

      I have played hundreds upon hundreds of games. In fact I have played games that were even before my time but I did so to further my education on the products that shaped the industry today. Am I good at ALL of them? Hell no, to say I am would be a bold lie but I can tell you that I do my best to UNDERSTAND the mechanics of the game. More then just the visuals but about the game itself. I understand not all people do this but perhaps those people should not have jobs in the industry and make room for those who do understand gaming and the difference between gimmicks and innovations, so on and so forth.

      If by your calculations that a 1000 games are released EVERY YEAR (think about that for a second) I don’t expect someone to master them all that’s why they hire other writers to analyze the other games because, after all, one can only do so much.

      Now this is the part I want you to read with a careful eye. You want to fight me on this topic, and I honestly don’t feel like it anymore. I believe my article proved my point and I am proud of what I wrote. No matter what you say will not sway my opinion of what was said. This is not blind fanboy rage this is something that has been brewing for quite sometime and honestly I just needed to get it out there for people to see. Thank you for reading and I do hope you check out my other articles, I love the debates but we are going to go round and round if we continue to fight this. Thanks again for reading.

      • Dan Kretz May 30, 2010 at 12:00 am #

        My largest issue with what you have to say (DDNunavut) is that you’re implying that it’s perfectly acceptable for a reviewer to say that they are the “best gamer they know” and then say a game is too hard in the same article.

        Blur is no harder than any Need For Speed game or any harder than any iteration of Mario Kart. A game like Shadowrun I can understand a reviewer writing off as “hard”, but then at the same time these “professionals” should take time on the games they review and at least try to play them to their fullest.

  10. DDNunavut May 31, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Okay, Alex. You win. I’ve completely changed my beliefs. I forsake and redact everything I wrote. I’m waving the white flag because I’ve completely failed at making you take a longer look at how the industry works, rather than a 1:1 correlation between high review scores and sales (or lack thereof for low scoring games).

    Also, Dan Kretz, it is perfectly acceptable for a reviewer to make a bold “I’m the best gamer I know” statement because the game review system (as it stands with the enthusiast press) is entirely subjective.

    • Alex Mendez May 31, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

      I see where you are coming from and yes I learned a lot from our heated debate. I see how the industry works and that high or low review scores are not a direct result of sales for a game but this whole time you failed to realize that I was pointed out IGN. Because IGN is THE mainstream media. It’s out there more then GameSpot, GamePro, and maybe even Game Informer. It’s the most popular gaming publication on the web. What they say and the scores they put, do in fact have the capability to have a negative impact on a games sales.

      I look at things from all different angles but I feel like you have this one track mind and your words are the only truth. It’s a good debate, and I’m glad it took place on my blog. Thank you.

  11. DDNunavut May 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Okay, I can’t help myself.

    “What they say and the scores they put, do in fact have the capability to have a negative impact on a games sales.”

    Then you also have to admit that scores can have a positive impact on game sales. Explain Shenmue II. Ico. Psychonauts. Games that had very, very positive review scores and things said about them; games that the hardcore bring up time and time again, which sold like shit.

    • Alex Mendez May 31, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

      I had a response all written up then I realized it’s so pointless. You won’t see what I’m saying now and you never will. Now dissect that response.

  12. DDNunavut June 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    No dissection required.

    I win!

    • Alex Mendez June 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

      Haha, what I figured you would say. Also the giantbomb guys are a laughable bunch. Regardless though you perceive you’re correct and sadly you’re not. It makes no difference to me your “I win” response was all I needed to prove that I wasted my time discussing this topic.

      If people think Blur is a difficult game then that’s sad when my wife who only plays Halo and crashes in Burnout on a consistent basis found Blur to be easy. Oh well noobs will be noobs in the end.

      • DDNunavut June 4, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

        Giantbomb as a laughable bunch?

        You cannot be serious.

  13. DDNunavut June 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Also, the Giantbomb guys were going on about how hard Blur is, too, so I don’t think Gallegos is completely alone in thinking it’s a difficult game best played on easy.

  14. Ain't It Strange June 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    The Giant Bomb crew is great.

  15. Alex Mendez June 4, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    My mistake on Giantbomb I mixed them up with GamesRadar who I think is a joke. Giantbomb is a decent site.

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