Some thoughts on game reviews

Last week I commented on game reviews after reading this post on RedAssedBaboon. I railed against the content of the review but didn’t say much about review scores. But I can promise that’s exactly what people look at before they read a review. This made me thing a bit about a way of giving a game a score that encapsulated more than just graphics and sound or story and gameplay. There are outside influences that should also be considered, like when a game is released (relative to the release of the console) and sequels. Read on to my new way of reviewing a game.

This is still a rough draft, but I have been thinking about this for a while and think I may be on to something. It is a new take on the “1-10 scale” but takes more than the graphics/sound/gameplay/control aspects in to consideration. It’s hard to reduce the rating of a game to a single number but in the end that’s what I’m using. There are a few things that I’m assuming. One, I don’t think there has been a perfect game yet, hence no perfect 10s. Two, I’m not sure how this will work across platforms so I may have to keep the scores within the platform. That doesn’t mean a game that is scored 9.2 on the Gamecube is any better than a 9.2 game on the Xbox. But for now they’ll have to remain isolated.

My rating system is akin to the Pauli Exclusion Principle but instead of electrons we’re talking games: No two games can have the same score. Using an example, here’s how it works (using Gamecube games). The games I’m using a three fantastic games: Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda:Wind Waker, and Viewtiful Joe. On a gameplay level, all three are different but all three deliver with aplomb. Audio and visuals are superb and all three are replayable. Given that I don’t think a game can reach a perfect 10 or anything close to that, I’m giving my favorite game, Wind Waker, a 9.7. Then we have Viewtiful Joe. Again, another classic, one of the best on the Gamecube. But it’s not quite a 9.7 but it’s definitely a 9.6. So we’ll go with that. Now we have to consider Metroid Prime. Definitely one of my favorites, right up there with Wind Waker. I would say they are almost equals. But since we have the exclusion rule, I can’t give Metroid a 9.7 but it is better then VJ. So we’ve narrowed it down between those to. I’d say it’s closer to 9.7 than 9.6, so I’m giving it a 9.68. Now Wind Waker is a 9.70, Metroid Prime a 9.68 and Viewtiful Joe is 9.60. These values aren’t set in stone and they are subject to revision (as are my rating rules) but this gives the basic framework.

Sequels are especially tricky. It’s always assumed that a sequel is going to have the advantage of an experienced programming team that can improve things like graphics and controls. But I don’t think a sequel that looks better but doesn’t improve on a certain level doesn’t deserve to be rated higher than its predecessor. Same thing for games that are released later in a console’s life – it should be looked at more critically.

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