Look, I understand peoples need to know if something is worth their hard earned dollar. But at what point did people stop making decisions for themselves, and rely on some other persons arbitrary number or a straight up yes or no to buy something. The current state of the review process on all fronts does games and gamers alike a disservice.
First off, a lot of the blame falls on us as the gamer. We need to remember that said reviews are strictly the opinion of the reviewer. Reviewers are people (I think, though sometimes I’m not entirely sure), who have their own tastes, and preferences.
Many times I’ll find that things one game may get slammed for, will not even be mentioned in other better reviewed games with the same (or worse) problem. Take Mad Max and Metal Gear for example, both huge open world games. Mad Max on release got a lot of hate, people complained that the world was empty (I believe one review was titled “Wasted Land”, side missions were fetch questy, people hate looking for hidden scrap. On the other hand, Metal Gear was praised as the greatest stealth game ever made, near perfect scores across the board. I own both these games, I haven’t finished both yet but I am quite far into both, If I have to extract another “highly skilled” soldier I’m gonna friggin lose my mind. If a game gives me a list of side quests I have to do them, I may have a problem... But the quests in Metal Gear are basically fetch quests, but worse, because instead of going somewhere new, or allowing you to do the quest while you are on a story mission, they send you back to a camp you have already cleared out once to do it all over again. The world of Metal Gear, while amazing to look at, is empty. The world is completely populated with goats, and cookie cutter watchtower camps. Instead of looking for scrap, we are looking for resources, but at least in mad max they tell you how many are in an area.
I’m not saying I hate Metal Gear. The game is good, the controls are the best of any Metal Gear I’ve played, and it has a polish that is rare to see in games these days. But given the choice between playing Mad Max and Metal Gear I would probably take Max despite the sub par review scores, and the straight up NO (and crazy amount of hate) from the Kotaku reviewer.
Reviewers need to throw out their number systems, and re-evaluate how they do things. Break the game down to its components, and comment on those. How does the game control, how is the story, how is the polish, what are some things you may have found weird about the game, share some gameplay if you are able, compare its systems to other games people may have played (The combat system in Mad Max is very similar to Sleeping Dogs). While still based on the reviewers opinion, hopefully it allows the consumer to make their own informed decision. Ideally a review card would look something like this (be, kind I shopped this together in like five minutes with my children being crazy):
Instead of a score, it would give some information on the game, what’s good and whats bad, and allow the reader to decide for themselves if they are interested. Note that while I kind of hate the side missions for being repetitive, I do not say they are bad, I just say what they are because other people may like to revisit areas you’ve been to, maybe find new ways into the bases and develop new strategies. I compare it to previous Metal Gear games and inform the reader that it is different.
Well this will probably never happen, I do feel that it would be an immensely better way to do things, and would hopefully lead to people making a more informed choice on their gaming purchases.