Have been online for a few months and logged several reviews, I thought it was time to update the review philosophy to make it a bit more detailed and give a more permanent spot on the site. After all, we can throw numbers at you all day but they don’t mean anything if we don’t tell you what they mean.
Why do we score games?
While I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of advocating against scoring reviews (which I do because it can reduce a two-thousand word review down to one number) and continuing to score games on a numeric scale. However, supporting a score with a detailed explanation in a review gives the readers reasons to buy or not buy a game based on more than just one number.
My personal objections aside, the fact is that a review score is an expectation of the gaming public. People expect their to be a score accompanying a review. The gaming economy is built around review scores with Metacritic used by some publishers to set sales targets and determine bonuses paid to developers. As such, scores are a necessary evil that the industry has evolved into seeing as a necessity.
How do we score games?
While we don’t always score games on their core components individually, we do evaluate all games based on their story/plot, gameplay, graphics, audio and value. The most important and the most intangible criterion for evaluating a game is how fun it is. A game could have great graphics and a well-written story but if it’s frustrating to play, its score will suffer because nobody wants to play a game that isn’t fun. At the end of the day, gameplay should be king in gaming but could be set aside if the story is integral to enjoying the game.
Our scores will always be half or whole numbers. I’ve never been a fan of using the whole spectrum between 0 and 100% when a difference of a couple of percentage points can come off as very arbitrary. After all, what is really the difference between a game with a rating of 8.8 and one scored 8.9 out of 10? Though those decimals matter when AAA releases are scored from 8 to 10 but we have a scale from 0 to 10 and use the whole spectrum for every game.
While I like whole number scores more than the percentages, they seem occasionally a little imprecise when a game that’s rated a 7 could almost be an 8 but is lumped in with company that it’s better than. And a buy, rent or don’t buy rating system could sink a whole game if one person just doesn’t like it enough to buy it even if it’s a good enough game to score in the 70s on GameRankings.
What do the scores mean?
10 – Hall of Famer
A game that scores a perfect ten might not be absolutely perfect but it is as close to perfection as you can expect. This game is one that will sweep the year-end awards and be talked about as one of the all-time great games for years to come. We’re talking about console and genre standard setting games that will be used as a benchmark for other games in this genre for years to come.
9.0 & 9.5 – Excellent
An excellent game may not be perfect but it’s, again, damn close. While there are some flaws, they’re so few and so small that they won’t significantly affect your experience. These games will be on the short list of game of the year award lists and is very likely pick up awards for best game of the year in its genre and for its console. It will also set a benchmark for similar games in the future. A purchase isn’t so much highly recommended as mandatory.
8.0 & 8.5 – Great
Great games are games that may not necessarily do everything better than the rest of the market but enough parts of the game are done very well. One of the core components might be lacking but the remainder make up for it enough to make for a great game. While games in the 9 to 10 range are likely to get universal praise, these games won’t be quite so unanimously praised. Unless you hate games in this genre, a purchase is highly recommended.
7.0 & 7.5 – Good
It’s a game that could have been better with a little more time and effort but isn’t bad as it stands. There are issues with the core game components above that keep it from being a great game such as lacking value or some noticeable bugs. If you’re a fan of the genre or series, you’ll want to pick it up. It’s still worth a play but we could understand if you pass.
6.0 & 6.5 – Above Average
It’s better than most games but not by much. You can have some enjoyment but there isn’t enough to the game to give it a strong recommendation. There are issues with those core components that prevent the game from being a completely enjoyable experience but some people will really like it.
5.0 – Average
There’s nothing good enough about this game to recommend it nor is there enough pervasively bad about it to recommend against buying it. That being said, it’s our opinion that these games are not worth a full price purchase. If you can get them on sale or used, you’ll get enough value out of it that it might almost be worth it, especially if you are a fan of these games.
Note that there is no 5.5 score here because that would be above average. If it’s good enough to get a 5.5, it’s probably good enough to get a 6.0. On a 10-point scale from 0 to 10, 5.0 is perfectly in the middle and perfect for the average score.
4.0 & 4.5 – Below Average
There are just too many issues with this game to let it escape with a passing grade. The glitches can be fixed with a patch but these things really should have been taken care of before shipping or with a day one patch. Otherwise, there aren’t enough redeeming qualities to this game to recommend a purchase.
3.0 & 3.5 – Bad
When we get to scores below four, we’re starting to look at some serious issues that are much worse than those issues that a quick patch can fix. These issues often include design flaws and glitches, among other things. These games can be fun at times but tend to be dull or frustrating more often than not.
2.0 & 2.5 – Awful
When we get down this low, the game should neither be purchased for yourself or as a gift. If you receive it as a gift, I would highly recommend re-gifting to someone you don’t like. There is no enjoyment to be had out of playing this game unless you are under the age of eight or are insane.
1.0 & 1.5 – Garbage
As in the game belongs in the garbage rather than in your console or on your hard drive. There are countless flaws throughout the game in just about every possible core area of the game. You would be better off watching paint dry than attempting to play this game. At least then you have the fumes to keep you occupied.
0.0 – Epic Fail
I’m not sure what’s worse, that somebody said that this game could be released to market or that someone actually might pay money for it. If a game scores a perfectly imperfect 0, it has to be effectively unplayable. I don’t mean “it’s too hard unplayable” but buggier than the floor beneath the bed in a sleazy motel. If it is playable, it has to be so bad that having both of your hands cut off would be preferable to playing this game.