When I was younger, reading a video game review in a new magazine or on a Web site was one of the most exciting experiences I could have as a gamer. To finally find out if the game I had been waiting for was worth playing was a moment of fear, excitement and trepidation. However, most of the joy has left this ritual in the last generation. Why is that? Because I already know that the score is going to be about 7.5 or above. It’s set in stone.
You see, these days, our perception on good video game reviews has changed. While the scale is supposed to theoretically range anywhere from 0 to 10, most often, the scale seems to start at about 7.5-8. As a result, what used to be a good score for a video game has changed, and expectations are through the roof for every AAA title. The real question is this: when did an 8.5 become a “meh” score in gamers’ minds?
If you want to know what I’m talking about, just visit any gaming Web site, and check out their video game reviews. So many games live in the 8-10 zone that it’s ridiculous. In my mind, anything living in that region is a good video game by definition. And anything in the 9-10 zone is genre and/or console defining.
Considering how many shooters have come out in recent years that hang out in that region, it’s just more than a little bit absurd. How can that many FPS games all be genre busters? To put it simply: they can’t. The system is broken.
According to Metacritic, there have been over 1900 games that were rated at 80 percent or above since 2005. Out of those, approximately 330 were rated at 90 percent or above. Does that seem like an awful lot to anybody else? That in less than 4 years, major review sites have deemed that there are 330 games out there that could be considered genre or generation defining? Let me put it this way: out of the active systems (PS2, Wii, XBox 360, PS3, PSP, PC, Nintendo DS), that’s an average of almost 12 games per system per year that are rated at 90 or above.
It’s so numerous that it’s become expected. While looking through a review of Halo Wars recently, which had received an 8.4 on the site in question, I saw several disappointed comments. One person even said he wouldn’t waste his money on such a lackluster game.
Really? Last I checked, a 7.0 or above would be average, and 8.0 or above would be good. And don’t even get me started on the stupidity of the numbering system. I’ve seen all kinds of fanboys arguing over Gears of War 2 being better than Killzone 2 because Gears of War 2 scored .1 or .2 better.
And what constitutes taking a .1 or .2 off of a game anyway? A particular bug? A bad texture? What?
I really hope that in the next few years, we see a lot of these review sites adopting newer and better formats for how they rate their games. In addition, I hope they start giving real scores to games, instead of just landing so many comfortably in the same region, over and over again. In my mind, anything that is a 7.5 or above is probably worth the time to at least check out and play. But unfortunately, game sites have showed us that we have to interpret that differently. I just want more honest reviews, and I think this particular issue is one important step in that direction.
What do you guys think about this issue? Are game reviews fine the way they are? Or are games being scored too highly these days?