Too Human – An analysis of the video game reviewing industry
Ah, video game reviews. I’m kinda familiar with that, obviously. Tell people about a game, and tell them if you liked it and why. Simple really. But seemingly not, as the standards of the reviewing world are pretty much screwed up.
I’ve got quite a few things to rant about here, so read on!
So recently I rented Too Human, knowing how it was completely bashed by just about every reviewer out there. After playing for a couple hours, I actually don’t understand what all the fuss was about. I understand that it was a long time in development and that with how long it took to make it should’ve been better, and that there’s flaws all over(damn deat animation >_>), but it’s not a bad game. The gameplay is interesting, the leveling up and equiping works well, the graphics are average, the controls are kinda bad but after some getting used to they work pretty good.
So I tried to find why the game was collectively bashed by reviewers as one of the worst games of the year, if not the worse when there was a lot worse games that came out, and even some of those that were rated incredibly highly (see GTAIV). I realized that there was something screwed up with the reviewing industry as a whole, and decided to check what was wrong with it.
That’s one of the big problems with the reviewing industry, and gamers as a whole. People set completely stupid expectations for no reason. “Too Human has been in development for a bunch of years, it HAS to be one of the best things ever!” and then when the game comes out and isn’t the best game ever, people overreact about ever single little flaw, and, despite the game not exactly being bad, the community as a whole completely shun’s it. It happens with a lot of games. It happened with Brawl, it happened with Twilight Princess and it happens with just about every big release. Whether it be critically acclaimed or not, most games will have a bunch of people saying it wasn’t as good as they thought it would be, and just ignore it completely, no matter if it’s good or not.
This can be easily corrected. People just need to stop hyping the hell out of every game coming out and then their expectations will be more likely to be met. For example, with Brawl, I had high expectations, but I KNEW that it wouldn’t be incredibly different from Melee, and the reason for my high expectations was because both games would be similar. But people were expecting something that would completely shatter the foundation of the gaming world. Of course, it didn’t do that, and the people who expected too much were disappointed. Just tone down your expectations, and don’t base your reviews on your unreasonable expectations.
Scores (and the way people write their reviews)
OH scores. Now I like those. The one thing in gaming that not only has changed in all those years, but has just become completely stupid. Scoring games has become a confusing and weird thing. And most of the time it has to do with how much they were paid to give a good score. In forums I mostly see people ranting about how awesome the game they like is better than others because it has a score that is 0.1/10 higher than the other big game.
So what is 9.3/10? What makes it so different from 9.2/10? And what do all those scores mean. Before, 6/10 (or 3/5) was an average score. Not a bad game, but could’ve been much better. 7 to 8/10 was a good game with a few flaws that make it hard to play, or less fun than it could be. Over 8/10 is a great game, with few flaws taht keep it from being incredible, and over 9 is a must-have, with 10 being a pretty much unnatainable score unless it really broke the boundaries of the genre and did something simply amazing (Ocarina of Time comes to mind). Anything under 6/10 is no good unless you really like the series or genre, and the lower it goes, the worse it is. But now, ALL OF THIS CHANGED. Now, anything under 8 is considered bad unless you like the genre, and between 8 and 9 is considered average. And over 9? Well it depends on the hype and the fanbase. Seemingly 9.3 and 9.4 are completely different scores from what I read, and a game that gets 9.4 is gonna be VASTLY better than a game that gets 9.3 (using the gaming community as a whole to illustrate this, you should see all the fuss about huge scores given to KZ2 yet it not passing other games in their average score, even if by just 0.1 points). This is completely ridiculous.
The way reviewers score needs to change. Or needs to stop completely. “But a review without a score isn’t a review!”. Well of course it is. Read the review. See what the game is about and if that interests you. See what that person thought about it, and then if that didn’t satisfy you, read more reviews (without looking at the score, preferably) and watch video reviews which really show what the game will be like. Reviewers, if they want to stay with a /10 scale like they’re using now for the most part, need to actually use that scale properly like I described earlier.
Don’t look at scores, look at gameplay videos and such, and read what the flaws and good things about the game are. That way, instead of stupidly just buying anything that get 9 or above, you’ll find gems, games that score lower but that are still great.
Repetitiveness (AKA The “this game is no different than others in the series so i’ll give it a low score, but Halo is no different than any other FPS on the market so we’ll give it 10/10″ syndrome)
Now that is one of the funnier aspects of video game reviewing. By now, First-Person Shooters is the big genre, and for the most part they go with the “let’s be like Halo”style. And, other than a few”bad” ones out there (such as Haze), even if they look and play just like the Halo series, they constantly get praised for their awesomeness. But let’s, once again, use Brawl as an example. As most non-stupid people expected, the basic gameplay is quite similar to Melee in just about every way, other than the new air-dodge system (which makes wave-dashing impossible) and a few other new elements. But the basics are the same. Reviewers though, thought it was reasonable to review the game lower because it played similarily to Melee. “It’s more of the same” or “It’s not as much of a change from Melee as I thought it would be”. But does that REALLY warant giving a lower score? Not really. Brawl is still a really good game.
But now, let’s look at what’s wrong with this picture: A bunch of FPS games(that are pretty much flooding the market by now) that play pretty much the same are all awesome and not repetitive at all, but Brawl, which was the first game in the series, is not liked as much as it should because it plays like the one before (despite having a bunch of new gameplay elements, a more fleshed-out story mode, a bunch of secrets and just being genuinely super fun to play). Why is it fine for FPS to all be exactly the same (thank you Mirror’s Edge and Portal for showing me that there’s still some innovation that can be done with the genre) while it’s not okay for Brawl to be like Melee? What kind of idiotic double-standards are that? Not saying that all the FPS coming out n the recent years are bad, there’s a bunch of really good ones (Halo, KZ2, CoD4 and WaW), but if certain games and series can be looked down upon because of that, why are FPS (or other Gears of War-like games for that matter) somehow free from this? I really don’t understand that.
Reviewers getting paid
Well, this HAD to come up, didn’t it? It’s no secret that big video game sites often get paid to give high reviews for games. There’s no denying it. It went to the extreme of that when Gamespot released the Kane and Lynch review. They were getting paid a LOT ot advertise the game, and obviously to give the game a great review. But the reviewer (Jeff Gerstmann), gave it a relatively negative review. Pointing out all the flaws, saying what was done wrong. Basically, he was DOING EXACTLY WHAT A REVIEWER SHOULD BE DOING. But because gamespot was funded for the game, he was fired on the spot. Yeah, crazy isn’t it?
That’s right. Reviewers aren’t encouraged to do their job properly. They’re asked to give the scores they were paid for and ignore anything bad about the game. That makes reviews a bit… hard to believe. That’s why user reviews are a lot easier to believe, or blogs such as this that have no link to video game companies (yet… trying to find out how to get review copies…).
What is important in a game?
That’s one thing that really needs to change. Gameplay is obviously the most important part of a game, and that should be reflected in the score more than it is now. Good graphics is great, but if the game just requires you to press a button from time to time and nothing else, the super badass graphics will not make it better. A story is important but if the parts in-between story segments aren’t fun, the ZOMGAWESOME story won’t help make the game better. I love good music in a game as much as the next guy, but that’s just as important as graphics when you compare its importance to gameplay.
In the end, a reviewer should tell you if a game is FUN TO PLAY. The graphics, sounds, story, those are all secondary elements to a game. Sure, if they’re all superb they should affect a game’s score in a review, but if they’re not exactly up to par doesn’t mean it should be hated. Case in point: If a game isn’t fun to play, any of the secondary elements won’t help. That’s the message reviewers should be trying to give when reviewing games, and elements like graphics, sound and story shouldn’t affect a person’s enjoyment of a game as much as gameplay does. If a game has horrible controls, bad physics(yay for cars rocketting hundreds of feet in the air after hitting a wall*coughGTAIVcough*) and is just no fun to play, none of the other elements will make it good.
So what am I trying to say? Well, the video game reviewing world is filled with corruption, bad practices and people who don’t know how to write reviews. That can easily change. Change the way review scores are done, change the way review writing as a whole is done, actually look at the important parts of a game instead of being superficial about it, stop being hypocritical, keep your expectations low so you’ll almost never be disappointed, don’t just give high scores because you were given money and last but not least: GAMES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. You have to realize that you’re playing with a toy. A technologically advanced and expensive toy, but a toy nonetheless, and you shouldn’t threat games any differently that you do toys or movies o other forms of entertainement. You’re there to have fun, and nothing else, and reviewers should reflect that idea.
Jobocan, over and out!
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