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Is it me or the media? Game reviews and group-think.
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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 05:49:41
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We've discussed multiple times on the relevency of reviews today and how at least for most if not all here, we have no real need for them from media outlets and rely more on friends and your own impressions.  So I'd like to sidestep this, and address something completely separate.

A concern that cropped up a while back during the times that I was finishing and reviewing a lot more games was that I would consistently be an outlier to the typical reviews, particularly from mainstream outlets.  This is particularly the case with big games always getting big scores.

For demonstration purposes, I will use GameSpot, IGN, 1up, and Eurogamer review scores compared to my own (which I'll round) for several notable titles.  As well, I'll list the GameRankings average alongside the average of the review sites (sans myself).

Final Fantasy XII
GameSpot - 9.0/10
IGN - 9.5/10
1up - 9.5/10
Eurogamer - 10/10
AVERAGE - 95.00%
GameRankings - 90.34%
Yodariquo - 6.6/10

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
GameSpot - 9.0/10
IGN - 9.0/10
1up - 8.0/10
Eurogamer - 9.0/10
AVERAGE - 87.50%
GameRankings - 88.76%
Yodariquo - 5.7/10

God of War
GameSpot - 9.3/10
IGN - 9.8/10
1up - 10/10
Eurogamer - 9.0/10
AVERAGE - 95.25%
GameRankings - 93.39%
Yodariquo - 7.8/10

Forza Motorsport
GameSpot - 9.2/10
IGN - 9.5/10
1up - 10/10
Eurogamer - 9/10
AVERAGE - 94.25%
GameRankings - 92.77%
Yodariquo - 5.1/10

Pokemon Pearl
GameSpot - 8.5/10
IGN - 8.5/10
1up - 8.5/10
Eurogamer - 9.0/10
AVERAGE - 86.25%
GameRankings - 84.62%
Yodariquo - 6.0/10

It of course happens that I do sometimes agree, more often on the stuff in the 6.0-8.0 range where it clearly doesn't have the production values, but then again not always.  But that's the point.  These guys always agree.  It's such a rare occurance that there's a significant statistical anomoly that you're relatively safe choosing any one site and going by their word alone, because it's essentially the same thing across the board.  This says nothing of why this is, of course.

I'm obviously not (usually) looking to go out and hate a game.  Gaming is for enjoyment, and that's the goal.  It would be fantastic if I loved God of War instead of having issues with repetition and camera.  The Legend of Zelda is a beloved series of mine, by no means do I want to discover that Phantom Hourglass is such utter garbage.  I was completely hyped for Pokemon Pearl.  Where is the dissent?  I am really that eccentric in my gaming tastes, or do reviewers have no pallette?

What is this?  I don't believe that's it's conspiritorial or malicious at all, but I fail to believe that so consistently there is such a similar consensus.  So what is it?  As mere speculation, it feels as though it may be playing to expectations.  Reviewers have an idea of what the hype is for a game, and play expecting that out of it.  Even not fulfilling that, they'll balance it out by reviewing on a technical level, such as evaluating all the content in Forza as opposed to the consistency of the pacing; or conversely, review on a enjoyment level where they're having a lot of fun due to genre preference despite the faults and favouring that.

Then the last possibility that it is my eccentricities.  That there's something in my own taste that is far beyond what a normal person would enjoy.

I'm not really in a position to conclude what's happening, but it's a discussion I think is worth having.
Edited: Sun, 11 Oct 2009 05:50:23

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 08:34:02
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I am almost identical to the gamerankings average with the games I have played. I even gave PH an 8.8, yeah I really hated the direction they went with the game but there is no denying its still a very good DS game.

I usually agree with the averages, especially with the major games. As I play more and more games I think I learn to appreciate the well made games. Even if it doesn't do it for me per say I still can see the quality behind the game. Like PH I could just as easy say "it sucks" and give it a 5 but that would be me just giving into my rabid inner Zelda fanboy. In reality I did have a really good time playing the game and I still rather play that than the majority of DS games.

I think that is what is happening with the media, they play everything, so when these mega polished well made games come out its hard to fault them. Even if you dont personally like them, sometimes you can still see why others do. When I see a 5 or 6 I expect a certain type of game, one that is just average, doesn't do much of anything good. I would never say a game like FFXII or even Zelda: PH is in that category.

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 11:37:18
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I think that this generation there's been a bit of a shift in the reviewers' attitudes. They're all of a sudden trying to hold onto the image of hardcore, and the hardcore happens to have a very pulverised view point of gaming. So if you don't go along with the big, early reviews, then people are going to not be interested in you in the long term.

Conversely of course this encourages some places to do shock bad reviews, but that isn't going to get you much beyond an initial burst of publicity.

GTAIV:

Even on technical qualities I can't understand how GTAIV got 10/10s. Yes, technically it is great, but something 10/10 shouldn't have fundamental flaws like 10/10. 10/10 means perfect. High 9s I could understand given the wow factor which usually happens early on in generations, but not 10/10s.

But this sin't about GTAIV! Nyaa

Edited: Sun, 11 Oct 2009 11:39:22

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 15:47:48
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Foolz said:

I think that this generation there's been a bit of a shift in the reviewers' attitudes. They're all of a sudden trying to hold onto the image of hardcore, and the hardcore happens to have a very pulverised view point of gaming. So if you don't go along with the big, early reviews, then people are going to not be interested in you in the long term.

Conversely of course this encourages some places to do shock bad reviews, but that isn't going to get you much beyond an initial burst of publicity.

GTAIV:

Even on technical qualities I can't understand how GTAIV got 10/10s. Yes, technically it is great, but something 10/10 shouldn't have fundamental flaws like 10/10. 10/10 means perfect. High 9s I could understand given the wow factor which usually happens early on in generations, but not 10/10s.

But this sin't about GTAIV! Nyaa

I agree that its not a 10, I mean its not even a better game than the last GTA. That should have been an easy indication. But it is an excellent game as it still has that fun as hell GTA formula. It's super polished, it still has a huge 40+ hour game this time with multiplayer. GTA4 is by far the best open world action game of this generation.

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 18:40:34
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Dvader said:

When I see a 5 or 6 I expect a certain type of game, one that is just average, doesn't do much of anything good. I would never say a game like FFXII or even Zelda: PH is in that category. 

 I think that's exactly the point.  You can see when a game has money behind it, but that doesn't make the design of the game any better.  Honestly, I think it's the opposite of giving into your rabid inner Zelda fanboy.

Forget it's Zelda.  The game has very simplistic dungeons, basic gameplay, highly repetitive repeating the same dungeon over and over.  Limited number of items and weapons.  I genuinely disliked the game, and disregarding my own enjoyment, the technical aspects of the design are flawed.

Despite all this, the big reviews come all in a row.  I wouldn't say no reviews should come out in praise, but why never any dissent?  Just because it has great presentation shouldn't guarantee a 8.5 or higher.

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 22:46:57
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I think a lot of it has to do with hype and fear of backlash.

Halo 3: ODST is a good, recent example of this. For instance, the game gets the usual Halo standard of getting 9's all-round, but from actually speaking to people, I've heard nothing but medicore to bad impressions of the game. I mean, imagine the backlash if IGN gave Halo 3: ODST a 6, or even lower. Fans would be nothing short of livid, and Microsoft? Well, I don't know if they'd be happy with such a tentpole game receiving a poor score from a major outlet from IGN - might cause them to lose invites to any pre-release events or get copies of upcoming games. Of course, this is all speculation, but one good thing does lead to another...

GTA IV and Saints Row 2 are other great examples of this. GTA IV was treated with such praise and adulation, with enough hyperbole spewed that it became almost ridiculous. And it was - the game was NOT deserving of all that praise, for many different reasons. In fact, I've heard more praise for the downloadable episodes than the actual game itself! Yet at the same time, it's a GTA game - imagine the backlash if a major outlet gave it a poorer score than what it got?

Yet at the same time, Saints Row 2 had recieved a much lower overall score than GTA, but almost everyone actually admits it to being better than GTA IV. Yet why don't the scores reflect this? Perhaps because it's easier to just ignore a brand like Saints Row and not give a series like GTA preferential treatment?

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Sun, 11 Oct 2009 23:14:34
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darthhomer said:

Halo 3: ODST is a good, recent example of this. For instance, the game gets the usual Halo standard of getting 9's all-round, but from actually speaking to people, I've heard nothing but medicore to bad impressions of the game.

Deploys Archiebot:

Archangel3371 said:
I bought Halo 3: ODST and it's awesome. I love the way the game plays out using flashback scenarios as you play parts of the game from different ODST members perspectives. Tried a little bit of Firefight mode solo and I loved it. I'll certainly spend a lot more time playing that mode later on especially with three other people. It should be tremendous fun.

Saints Row 2 is a particularly good example, though, as I've heard the same response informally in person, or from podcasts.  Now in terms of connotation, the fact that GTA is the bigger series means fans of the series may be more prone to criticism when merely speaking of it due to higher expectations.  However, when comparisons are made, it does seem to consistently be the case that Saints Row 2 is the recommended title.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:00:53
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Yodariquo said:
darthhomer said:

Halo 3: ODST is a good, recent example of this. For instance, the game gets the usual Halo standard of getting 9's all-round, but from actually speaking to people, I've heard nothing but medicore to bad impressions of the game.

Deploys Archiebot:

Archangel3371 said:
I bought Halo 3: ODST and it's awesome. I love the way the game plays out using flashback scenarios as you play parts of the game from different ODST members perspectives. Tried a little bit of Firefight mode solo and I loved it. I'll certainly spend a lot more time playing that mode later on especially with three other people. It should be tremendous fun.

Saints Row 2 is a particularly good example, though, as I've heard the same response informally in person, or from podcasts.  Now in terms of connotation, the fact that GTA is the bigger series means fans of the series may be more prone to criticism when merely speaking of it due to higher expectations.  However, when comparisons are made, it does seem to consistently be the case that Saints Row 2 is the recommended title.

Fine. MOST people that I've spoken too.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:29:49
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Edgecrusher liked ODST too:

edgecrusher said:

Best Halo since Combat Evolved IMO.....much more tactical than 2 & 3, more eerie like Halo 1 & just a better, much less commercial feeling vibe to it.


I really want to rent this, but they just closed down the rental store I go to. Sad

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:44:11

Yodariquo said:

However, when comparisons are made, it does seem to consistently be the case that Saints Row 2 is the recommended title.

From crazy people. Saints Row 2 isnt in the same league as GTA4.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:50:03
That was just a joke mainly about Archangel loving everything about Halo Nyaa The point there is the one I mostly failed to properly make a couple podcasts ago.  I tend not to think there's a malicious intent or conspiracy behind it, though.  It's possible I'm being deceived or deceiving myself, but I listen to gaming podcasts and you get an idea of what they think, and it just doesn't seem like they'll typically be thinking to adjust a score based on kickbacks.

What I think may happen, again speculatory, is that there gets to be a general opinion of a game very early, and the big review sites get earlier access and previews and hands on and already have an opinion, and this permiates into the review.

For myself, the best example is to take a game that you like, then your reaction when a lot of people criticise it, whether you agree or not.  That consensus can affect how you feel about the game.  Similarly, if everyone loves it, there's an obligatory feeling to find the same enjoyment.

The social aspects seem the most likely culprit.
Edited: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:50:30

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:54:25
Saints Row 2 vs GTA IV

Saints Row 2
GameSpot - 8.0/10
IGN - 8.2/10
1up - B
GameRankings - 82.88% (X360)

Grand Theft Auto IV
GameSpot - 10/10
IGN - 10/10
1up - A+
Eurogamer - 10/10
GameRankings - 96.36% (X360)
Edited: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:56:47

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:54:40

Yodariquo said:
Dvader said:

When I see a 5 or 6 I expect a certain type of game, one that is just average, doesn't do much of anything good. I would never say a game like FFXII or even Zelda: PH is in that category.

I think that's exactly the point.  You can see when a game has money behind it, but that doesn't make the design of the game any better.  Honestly, I think it's the opposite of giving into your rabid inner Zelda fanboy.

Forget it's Zelda.  The game has very simplistic dungeons, basic gameplay, highly repetitive repeating the same dungeon over and over.  Limited number of items and weapons.  I genuinely disliked the game, and disregarding my own enjoyment, the technical aspects of the design are flawed.

Despite all this, the big reviews come all in a row.  I wouldn't say no reviews should come out in praise, but why never any dissent?  Just because it has great presentation shouldn't guarantee a 8.5 or higher.

I do think PH has some great gameplay, just now when compared to other Zelda games. How many DS games have an adventure that has that much content, provides that large a world. Has that many quality boss fights, hidden secrets to discover, good puzzles, a multiplayer mode which was pretty good. It's a really well made game, just not a well made Zelda game.

If you really didn't like it then fine, you must be honest in your review. I enjoyed my time with the game even if in the end I felt it was Zelda lite. The same will happen with Spirit Tracks I assume. I will buy it cause I want to play it, but I am sure I will find all the same complaints I did with PH. Everytime I think of the Zelda game I would wish it would be I will get angry. I just need to keep that in check. (Plus I got 3D dot game heroes filling that void)

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 00:55:08

Yodariquo said:
Saints Row 2
GameSpot - 8.0/10
IGN - 8.2/10
1up - B
GameRankings - 82.88%

Those reviews are generous.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:00:52

The multiplayer made this gen's GTA better than the previous ones in my opinion. That alone puts it in the 9-9.5 range for me. I've never played a Saint's Row game so I can't talk about it's quality.

I do that.  There's only one kind of sandbox franchise for me(GTA), just like there's only one kind of survival horror for me(RE).  It's not that I thumb my nose at the other series, but just never find time to ply them.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:04:53
Dvader said:

I do think PH has some great gameplay, just now when compared to other Zelda games. How many DS games have an adventure that has that much content, provides that large a world. Has that many quality boss fights, hidden secrets to discover, good puzzles, a multiplayer mode which was pretty good. It's a really well made game, just not a well made Zelda game.

If you really didn't like it then fine, you must be honest in your review. I enjoyed my time with the game even if in the end I felt it was Zelda lite. The same will happen with Spirit Tracks I assume. I will buy it cause I want to play it, but I am sure I will find all the same complaints I did with PH. Everytime I think of the Zelda game I would wish it would be I will get angry. I just need to keep that in check. (Plus I got 3D dot game heroes filling that void)

I wouldn't argue with your own enjoyment of it, or a positive review in general (though I would dispute anything 9/10 or higher entirely on the Ocean King's temple).

For review's sake I do make comparisons to previous Zelda games, as I did mention on a previous podcast that there aren't really any competitors to that style; the way I structured my review process, though, was to minimize subjectivity and personal preference.  And I think it's disingenuous for these review sites to come in lock-step 9/10 9/10 9/10.  The biggest drop was 8/10 from 1up?  Really?

To answer your question, though, Custom Robo Arena has that many quality boss fights (though this is one aspect of Phantom Hourglass I praise, as the bosses were damned cool), hidden secrets (moreso I'd wager), and that large a world (well, discounting the empty waterspace).  I hated the multiplayer in both games so it's a stalemate.

Edited: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:08:12

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:06:38
Dvader said:

Yodariquo said:
Saints Row 2
GameSpot - 8.0/10
IGN - 8.2/10
1up - B
GameRankings - 82.88%

Those reviews are generous.

I never played either, so I can't say.  I'm not really a fan of sandbox games anyway.

There's no intent here to say there's a correct score or opinion, but we are demonstrating that amongst small groups here on the select few games we look at, opinions are mixed.  But not in the games media.

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:19:25

Yodariquo said:
Dvader said:

Yodariquo said:
Saints Row 2
GameSpot - 8.0/10
IGN - 8.2/10
1up - B
GameRankings - 82.88%

Those reviews are generous.

I never played either, so I can't say.  I'm not really a fan of sandbox games anyway.

There's no intent here to say there's a correct score or opinion, but we are demonstrating that amongst small groups here on the select few games we look at, opinions are mixed.  But not in the games media.

That is true. I feel that professional reviewers need to give their opinion while keeping any bias they have in check (or at the least i feel the site or mag needs to choose a reviewer that fits with the game he is reviewing, for instance I would never review a strategy game cause I dont care for them). I think gamers don't have to, so you get a wider range of opinions.  

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 01:26:21
Dvader said:

That is true. I feel that professional reviewers need to give their opinion while keeping any bias they have in check (or at the least i feel the site or mag needs to choose a reviewer that fits with the game he is reviewing, for instance I would never review a strategy game cause I dont care for them). I think gamers don't have to, so you get a wider range of opinions.  

 And that brings us back to the original question, is it me or the media?  Obviously there are some people out there just not fit to review.  Silly whiny rants about Wind Waker graphics being gay 1/10 or the like.  Obviously subtler shades as well.

Myself, at least my intent is to write a review in a way that's most valuable and most accurate, and I think that would be the goal of most writers.  Then am I biased?  Am I overreacting the suckiness of Phantom Hourglass because I favour the series, or have a bias from Forza for never having played a racing sim before?  Or Final Fantasy XII with a familiarity with the genre but no particular tie to the franchise?

I also shouldn't focus this on myself for obvious reasons.  You said you tend to fall into the averages more or less.  Do others?

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Mon, 12 Oct 2009 02:19:41

Dvader said:

Foolz said:

I think that this generation there's been a bit of a shift in the reviewers' attitudes. They're all of a sudden trying to hold onto the image of hardcore, and the hardcore happens to have a very pulverised view point of gaming. So if you don't go along with the big, early reviews, then people are going to not be interested in you in the long term.

Conversely of course this encourages some places to do shock bad reviews, but that isn't going to get you much beyond an initial burst of publicity.

GTAIV:

Even on technical qualities I can't understand how GTAIV got 10/10s. Yes, technically it is great, but something 10/10 shouldn't have fundamental flaws like 10/10. 10/10 means perfect. High 9s I could understand given the wow factor which usually happens early on in generations, but not 10/10s.

But this sin't about GTAIV! Nyaa

I agree that its not a 10, I mean its not even a better game than the last GTA. That should have been an easy indication. But it is an excellent game as it still has that fun as hell GTA formula. It's super polished, it still has a huge 40+ hour game this time with multiplayer. GTA4 is by far the best open world action game of this generation.

 Definitely. I don't mean it was a bad game, but it was in 8 territory to me. Technically highly polished, and at the end of the day it was pretty enjoyable at times, but full of so many problems that it's no where near the quality of previous GTAs and as such doesn't even make it to low 9s.

Yodariquo said:
Dvader said:

That is true. I feel that professional reviewers need to give their opinion while keeping any bias they have in check (or at the least i feel the site or mag needs to choose a reviewer that fits with the game he is reviewing, for instance I would never review a strategy game cause I dont care for them). I think gamers don't have to, so you get a wider range of opinions.  

 I also shouldn't focus this on myself for obvious reasons.  You said you tend to fall into the averages more or less.  Do others?

 I don't think I always do. I mean I hated Half-Life 2. Even if I like every other well loved game I won't be able to live that down. Nyaa

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