Are the days of reviewing games numbered?

October 19, 2014 2:30 PM

It’s finally here.  The game you’ve been eagerly anticipating is out in the next few days and the major sites are just about to publish the review.  You’ve paid for your pre-order, booked the day off work and are hovering over the review thread on NeoGaf.

Then the scores trickle in.  5.5, 6, 5, 7, 4.  But wait, ABC Gamer gave it an 8.5, your purchase is justified!

But how was the game reviewed?  Did the reviewers marathon the game just to make sure they made the embargo date?  Was the game played in lengthy sessions or short hour long bursts?  What about the reviewer themselves,  were they in a positive mood or had something happened to them? If it did then that could of course affect their overall mood when playing the game.

game review

The current review system of playing a game for X number of hours and slapping a number on the end of a few hundred words is starting to show it’s age.  The internet certainly isn’t short of opinions, so what makes these guys and gals behind the keyboards at the larger gaming sites have a better quality of opinion than you?  To be brutally honest, they don’t.

The nature of a review is that it’s an opinion based piece and not everyone will be happy with the outcome.  Some use reviews to justify a purchase while others turn the words back on their origin, questioning every facet of the written word which appears before their very eyes.

Reviews are subjective, that’s the beauty of them but nowadays we can quickly gauge numerous opinions from a wide variety of places from a diverse amount of people within a few minutes.

But like so many things before it, reviews have to evolve and adapt to the ever changing landscape of gaming.  The volume of mobile games has seen many sites drop reviews for them entirely. At the start of the App craze that hit mobiles IGN used to frivolously try and review as many as possible, before realizing that games were being made quicker than the first draft of the review was complete.

Moving forward a number of years and Polygon’s decision to update reviews was initially seen as a strange way to make a formed opinion on a title.  And while changing a number up and down depending on if the game works or not might not be a full proof way of giving a critical judgement, at least they’re trying to adapt.

The recent releases of Destiny and DriveClub are also a testament to how review’s need to change around the game and not the other way round.  Destiny received a lot of 6’s and 7’s across the board but was it the right score?  In my own review I complained about it’s lack of content and almost two months later this still rings true – but the minute my fingers touch the controls I just can’t stop playing it.  Should I have scored it higher than the 6 I gave it?  Possibly.  But it depends on the individual playing it.

For someone with a full-time job and a family Destiny could last them a lot longer than most people.  Spending three to six hours a week with Destiny would enable you to slowly complete campaign missions, level up gradually and explore the planets at your leisure, meaning that new content is drip fed at a decent pace, possibly making the game more enjoyable compared to if you rushed and got to level 20 within a weekend.

DriveClub is another recent release that is on a slightly different path than Destiny.  DriveClub is badly struggling with connecting players together and creating the social experience that Evolution so desperately wanted to create.  Dynamic weather and photo mode still aren’t implemented either, yet people are still enjoying DriveClub and actively defending it’s short comings.  I haven’t played DriveClub but on the passion of the community it’s gathered so far I’m looking forward to jumping in very soon despite it’s middling to average review scores.

The world is becoming smaller everyday thanks to the numerous devices and social media that we attach ourselves to all the time.  When I was at school and money was a luxury I was enamored with the playground chats about the latest games we all had and its those discussions that influenced my decision when it came to telling my parents what I wanted for Christmas.  And in many ways the communities that have developed over the past few years, such as Gaf, have harmed the importance of the numbered review.

There is still a need for review critics in order to help guide consumers into spending their money on games wisely. But it’s a archaic element of old video game magazine ‘journalism’ that is becoming more and more out dated thanks to the instant response people can give on social media.  Perhaps dropping the X out of 10 element may be the start of a more fairer review process, allowing reviews to become more about discussion and debate rather than 6’s and 7’s.

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