: Can You Trust Reviews From Bigger Websites?

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Can You Trust Reviews From Bigger Websites?

Now that the whole Gerstmann/GameSpot ordeal is back in the news, I thought I'd take a moment to address an important issue.

I can do this because a higher power isn't dictating what I write, and I can do it because in its 12-year history, PSX Extreme has never accepted advertising money in exchange for a promised good review. But more importantly, I think it's critical to note that, to my knowledge, we've never been asked.

The issue is one of business, of course. All the gaming websites you visit every day are free. You don't pay a subscription fee as you would with print magazines and yet, people must work every day to keep that site relevant; to keep it updated on a daily basis. If they didn't, you wouldn't visit very often, now would you? And yes, that all requires money and because the sites don't charge you, they have to rely almost entirely on advertising revenue. It's just the way of the Internet world.

Now, when that includes revenue from game publishers, things can get a little dicey. The publisher will give you money to advertise their game and ideally, that's where the business relationship should end. But because history has proven that review scores often dictate a title's potential success, that publisher is - unsurprisingly - looking for a good review. In a perfect world, that publisher would respect your professionalism and integrity if you post a mediocre reception. But the world isn't perfect.

Things can happen. I know it can. It obviously did with GameSpot and that means gamers are asking the million-dollar question- Is it still going on and if it is, how can I trust any of these huge sites with all this ad revenue from game makers? In truth, you can't. But I have to say, for the most part, I really don't believe publishers paying off editorial staffs is a common practice right now. Just as a for instance - and maybe we're not big enough to matter; you be the judge - we ran a full-page ad for Aliens vs. Predator back in 2010. It ran for a full month, during which we posted our review

As you can see, we weren't all that impressed. But Sega didn't send us a nasty letter; in fact, they didn't respond at all. They didn't say they'd never throw any ads our way again. It just came and went. I can absolutely guarantee that this is the case most of the time at even major websites. You just have to keep your eyes open. Be logical. If you see a big site like GameSpot or IGN or Kotaku pushing a game for a while, and then you find that their review is - in comparison to other critics - a statistical outlier, you have reason to be suspicious. So if other sites are giving the game a 6, and the site that advertised that particular title gave it an 8.5...

The good news here is that there are many sources. There are many places to go to read video game reviews. Some are better than others but you can always get a bird's-eye view thanks to the glory of search engines and places like Metacritic and GamesRankings. Who only reads one review, anyway? Most avid gamers will do compare-and-contrasts before making their purchase; it only makes sense. And besides, I have to reiterate-

The idea that there's some massive conspiracy in which major gaming websites accept money on a routine basis in return for high review scores is, for the time being and based on my current knowledge, a fallacy. You always have to be careful and in all honesty, I believe this could become a bigger problem in the future. So long as websites remain free and they rely so heavily on ad revenue. But for the time being, let's not turn this into a big ol' plague, with every reviewer at a significant website always under the microscope. It just isn't fair to the vast majority of critics.

Thank you for your attention.

3/16/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (47 posts)

Pyramid
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 9:54:33 PM
Reply

The only reviews i trust are from here.Of course i read those others but here is where i decide what to do.The reviews here are extensive and touch all important part of the games(graphics,sounds etc) and not like those bigger websites or magazines where some times is more like an editorial.

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Doppel
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 1:45:53 AM

For me, reviews are just a basic and very thin guideline. I still decide for myself what games I think I will enjoy. And most of the time, I do get a really interesting game that I really enjoy.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but in extreme cases where the game is incredibly utterly broken. And when I mean "Broken" I do not mean "PS3 Rimlag" kind of broken but more like "Big Rigs Over The Road Racing" kind of broken.

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Jed
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 2:32:06 AM

I totally agree with you Pyramid. I believe plenty of reviewers out there are honest and write helpful reviews, but the reviews here go do much deeper. I love how there is a solid reason behind each and every judgement made for or against any game being reviewed. They don't just say "oh ya, this game is so badass and fun, the game is good and the music is good" etc. etc.

When Ben finds something good about a game, he explains exactly why he feels that way. If he finds something he dosen't like, he tells you exactly why he dosen't like it. He also explains wether it's a game breaker, or something that some people might not even see as bad.

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Mr_Sterg
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 10:05:22 PM
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I'm a little skeptical now after what I heard about Gamespot (a source I actually use to use). I still go to big sites but now I take their content with a grain of salt. This also was the reason I decided to follow psxextreme.com instead. I also like to use gameranking.com so as to get a general idea of how good a game is because some reviews are very biased.

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drew
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 10:20:31 PM
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aren't smaller websites more easily bought off? who can we trust?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:02:43 PM

The sites I write for are smaller (based on revenue)than this and there's been no such offers. Because we get less traffic it's less important to pay us off.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 3/16/2012 11:03:10 PM

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Excelsior1
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 10:32:26 PM
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Never did like what Ubisoft pulled on Kayne and Lynch. Whah!!!You scored it too low so no advertising dollars for you. Bethesda flat out refusing to ship out the PS3 reversion of SKrim for review, Both tactics are bad because they are attempts from publishers to shaoe review scores.

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Temjin001
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:40:47 PM

Back from the future Zanarkand, I see =p

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CheddarClyde
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 1:26:16 AM

Review copies of the PS3 version of Battlefield 3 also showed up late for most of the major review sites (many just used the retail copies instead). Considering that EA used mostly PC footage of the game leading up to its release, I'm not too surprised.

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BikerSaint
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 10:37:54 PM
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<<<<<Who only reads one review, anyway?>>>>>

THIS GUY!!!!!!

And I always read it here.

And the only time I go elsewhere to read a review on on that rare occasion that a game didn't get reviewed at all, for some reason or another.

Last edited by BikerSaint on 3/16/2012 10:41:36 PM

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firesoul453
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 10:45:54 PM
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There really isn't a solution...
Metascore is create in theory but is horribly inacuarate.

Usually I like the reviews of ign but they have been completly wrong before

Classic game room always has good reviews


IrkdI check several sites but usually end up buying it if I can get it if it looked good enough to check reviews

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:06:33 PM
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I think you have to read the site to get a feel for what kind of people run it, are they regular gamers like you and me? Are they unreasonable? Are they fanboys? Then stick to reviews where you know people's tastes aren't off-kilter and their objectivity doesn't waver.

BTW Journey was probably the easiest review of all time, 5 out of 5, it's nothing but pure art. All gamers must play that game, and all non-gamers.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 3/16/2012 11:06:47 PM

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slugga_status
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 10:53:21 AM

Interested in that review for Journey World..where can I read it? Really on the fence about it as I didn't follow it much..

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Nickjcal
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 11:47:10 AM

@Slugga_status

You can read it at our site, velocity gamer (dot com

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slugga_status
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 12:57:32 PM

Thanks...great review..definitely going to grab it and check it out

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Nickjcal
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 12:59:14 PM

Slugga, you won't be disappointed. For the 2-3 hours you get out of it, or more. Definitely worth the $15.00

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 2:28:18 PM

You won't be disappointed.

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Temjin001
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:30:45 PM
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THat;s why Im glad for the aggregate sites. They help to absorb the wacky buttfaces and give us a more generalized consensus. Rarely have I played a game where the aggregate felt too low or too high to what I experienced after having played that given title.
Except for GT5. That was just wrong.

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Geobaldi
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:33:00 PM
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Now that it's the age of Youtube, I don't read reviews much anymore. I just watch people play and base my decision then on what I see.

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Beamboom
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 3:47:13 AM

Really? With spoilers and all?

I much prefer to receive an impression refined through a reviewers eye. Plus, there's a lot of really good writers out there too, and undeniable bonus. Heck, I even read reviews for games I can't play at times, at certain sites I just know they will be a good read regardless.

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Geobaldi
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 4:12:59 AM

I don't mind suffering through some spoilers at the beginning of a playthrough. I watch long enough to see how the game actually looks in motion and if the controls and such are responsive and so on. If I like what I see then I'll most likely pick it up, if not then I'll get it later or not at all.

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H0TSHELLZ
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 7:01:42 AM

lol I do the same thing...I look for Gameplay footage on all the games im interested in and BUY a game based on that alone.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 11:45:43 PM
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It's a horrible, dirty tactic to try to pay someone off, but blackmail and the like is just a part of life. That being said, you really do have to look around, and there are plenty of sites out there. It's true that the bigger ones are more likely to be targets of unsavoury tactics, but you can't even determine that based on a left-field score. Reviews are, beyond all else, a personal indictment on the quality of the product. Some may love a game while others will be appalled by it. That's the nature of the beast and the brilliance of the internet. It's easy to see what other people think of a game. And if there is a distinct connection between reader and writer, so much the better.

That being said, I'll generally take the quality of the writing as an indication of whether I'm willing to attach myself to a site. I'll begin to look into their opinions more later because there are so many sites that are just... dreadful.

I think I lost the thread of what I was saying, so I'll stop there.

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CheddarClyde
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 1:46:12 AM
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Depends on the game for me. I know right now that I'm buying GTAV and The Last of Us Day 1 without even reading a review because I trust Rockstar and Naughty Dog and, so far, I really like what I'm seeing from both of these games. Granted I will still read the reviews as a per-caution, but unless the game gets a justifiably bad review from several sources I'm still buying it. Games from EA and Activision and any new IP's from companies with questionable track records, I'm definitely looking at reviews before buying.

Speaking of reviews, I have to question the usage of "review embargos" for some games. I understand the business reasons involved, but I have to question the timing. If review sites aren't allowed to post reviews on games until 8am on release day and the publisher is fully aware the game is broken or flat-out bad, is this them blatantly screwing over their customers by withholding the truth until it is too late (especially since so many of us buy highly-anticipated games on release day) or is it to give them time to have the Day 1 patch ready to fix said broken game thus ensuring a better score?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 9:43:11 AM

Pretty much all embargo dates are the same day as launch day, so I know it has nothing to do with the game's perceived quality.

I never understood the process myself. If it's a legal thing, why does it not apply to some games...? Well, whatever, they get pissed if you break the embargo date (unless your name is IGN).

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Rogueagent01
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 4:37:31 AM
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I really don't read many reviews, maybe a couple a year. I have been playing games far to long too need them. I can tell well before the games are released whether or not I'll like them, plus what many reviewers consider faults within a game, I call the distinguishing factors. The only 3 sites I boycott are IGN, Kotaku, and X-Play(the show and that part of G4s site). I won't use those sites anymore because I have seen how biased they are towards certain systems and games.

Most of the other big name sites I don't go, too but I am not boycotting them per se. I have this site and if I really need to read a review I usually go here, otherwise I would rather go to forums and listen to players as I trust them a hell of a lot more then 95% of the reviewers.

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Beamboom
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 7:38:43 AM

So let me see if I get this straight:

You seriously put more trust in anonymous ramblings by random people on the web and open, anonymous voting/rating processes on meta sites and shopping sites done by people who could be ANYONE: The developers themselves, young teenagers who has learnt nothing in their lives, newbies played three games in total, fans who hasn't even installed the game yet, people who want to defend their own investment, die-hard fanboys who act as as the most objective analytical minds on the planet and others, sitting there in the comfort of their own anonymity?

You trust THEM more than publicly named individuals, screened and interviewed by the management on their writing and background, and *hired* by a professional organization to be *paid* to review games for them.

And you don't see any illogic in doing that? Dude, it's... Madness!


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/17/2012 8:50:25 AM

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bigrailer19
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 12:43:17 PM

Beam-

I don't want to speak for rogue but the way I perceive it and can agree with is, I've been here long enough to know who likes the same types of games I do, and I will listen to what they say if it's good or bad. So for instance I will come here and forums to see what people think of a particular title to help make my decision. it's not so much "anonymous" ramblings I'm listening too, but maybe Rogue is, I don't know.

Take Borderlands as a good example, the review here wasn't one I would use as a source for my decision to buy it, but the comments from readers I'd say were. Look how that turned out, one of my favorite games this gen.

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Rogueagent01
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 1:40:28 PM

All I can say Beam is WOW! You read way more into that then I intended. For one I said "forums" and the one I use the most is Neoseeker, I have been a member there for I think more than 10 years. So I know the community and yes I trust many of them more then someone who is paid to review. I didn't say, use, nor intend anything that you wrote in your first paragraph, other then the "I put more trust in". From that point on I feel as if you read another post, lol.

That is one of the biggest reasons why I will read some of the reviews here, is because Bens reviews really come off to me as someone I would listen to in real life, I value his opinion on a lot of the reviews that I have read. The most recent one was the PS Vita review for Shinobido(I can't remember what it was called, sorry) but his review made me want to buy the game the moment I buy a Vita. He never claimed it was a great game, but he pointed out that if you were a fan of the Tenchu series then you might like the game, and that is what sold it for me.

@bigrailer

You basically hit the nail on the head. I know who is worth listening to(well reading in this case). And I always take anything I hear or read with a grain of salt, as I said in the beginning of my post I have been playing games long enough to know what I will be interested in. And really one of the big reasons why I will read anything on a game is just to see what like minded individuals think of it themselves. It is extremely rare for people on the internet to be the cause of me purchasing a game.

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Beamboom
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 4:58:16 AM

Ah I see, you are essentially just saying that you trust your long last *friends* then, people you know for many years. That's different, of course. I thought you referred to Amazon reviews and metaranking user ratings and so on. Cause there are those who claim that those are a more reliable source than metascore too. That's what I think is so lunatic.

That said, I have to admit that I even trust metascores more than I trust friends. Friends often have a second agenda, in that they want you to get the game too so you can play together, they are basing their recommendations on the first impressions (most any game look most impressive at first, before things turn too repetitive), they simply want to defend their investment (it's tough to admit that you failed).

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/18/2012 5:00:58 AM

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Rogueagent01
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 12:11:23 PM

Exactly, I have never used say Amazon or anything of that sort for figuring out if I want or will like a game. I don't think I have used any meta type sites either, at least not that I can recall though I can see the positives in using those.

Even here there are approximately 20(probably a little higher) or so members that get my attention immediately if they post something about a game. I would say half of them are because we think alike(in my mind) and the other half are because we think nothing alike(again in my mind). And you and Big are among that list :D, but I won't say which side use are on ;D. The people I truely take to heart are the ones that can point out the good and the bad in a game, because I have yet to come across a perfect game. That is also why some sites could never interest me because they give out perfect scores, where in my mind no game yet has deserved one, though others might think different about that subject.

It just boils down to how well I think I know someone and whether or not I value said persons opinion. And even then it doesn't influence my purchase of a game, I have bought a couple games over the years that have been disappointments but suprisingly I am happy with 90+ percent of the games I have bought.

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Fox hounder
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 5:31:28 AM
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The situation with Gerstmann and GameSpot is very unfortunate, but not surprising.

As for trusting big gaming websites, i would say for me, not really. Although they are good for big name interviews, but thats it.

Last edited by Fox hounder on 3/17/2012 5:32:05 AM

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JackC8
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 8:30:01 AM
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I quit paying attention to reviews when I realized I could predict the scores before the game even entered development. AAA franchise title with established fanbase? Probably a 90% chance it's getting an 8.5 - 9.5 from almost all reviewers.

It's all a matter of taste anyway. There may be one reviewer at one site that I agree with sometimes, but I'll disagree with him other times. And to think that there may be 10 reviewers at a site and some people say they agree with all of them...oh jeez. How is that even possible?

I've played more than enough 9.0+ games and found them mediocre, and had a great time with games ranging from 5.0 - 8.5 as far as scores. My tastes are different than that of the masses, and I'm proud of that.

And speaking of statistical outliers, didn't this site give GT5 a 9.9? I think that's an 84 Metacritic average there.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 9:45:51 AM

Did you see any ads for GT5 at this site?

No. No, you didn't.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 3/17/2012 9:46:04 AM

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Beamboom
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 10:20:47 AM

... But HOW do you think that AAA franchise earned an established fanbase, Jack? There is a connection here! Can't you see? When you can predict that a hugely popular title with a massive fancrowd receives a good score, that must only mean one thing: That the reviewers usually are spot on RIGHT!

To have a different taste and preference than the majority is of course fair enough. Also, there are those whose taste is to NOT like anything that's poplar. That's a kind of taste too, I guess.

But it's not ALL a matter of taste. There are plenty games that suits my taste perfectly - they are just BAD. The controls suck. That's not taste. The graphics are glitchy. That's not taste. The storyline has giant holes. That's not taste. The characters move a feet above the ground. That's not taste. The voice actors sound like they've never read the script before. That's not taste.

I love open world games. I freedom of movement, I love the illusion of choice. That is simply put my "taste". But oh my god how many games that has that, who still suck SO hard. And wouldn't you know: Most of them has way, way lower metascores than the GOOD games that also match my taste.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/17/2012 10:23:50 AM

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daus26
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 2:49:03 PM

You're all gonna hate me for this, but as much as I LOVE GT5, I didn't think it was a 9.9 game at launch. Not close actually. As a fan, I have to be give honest criticism on a favorite game. And you know what, there's a reason why it has received loads of updates, because Kaz himself didn't think it was as solid as a near perfect game either. PD, and as well as other Japanese developers have little resources so they're probably constantly receiving pressure from Sony and the fans on getting their game done, which lead to what GT5 was at launch.

Also, for whatever reason, every review I read on the game, they all mentioned "lengthy" career mode as a strength, which is the complete opposite. My guess is no one critic has played it long enough to realize its shortcomings. On the other hand, many other sites, except this had "damage" as a huge factor as their weakness, as well as the "standards." Those are two things that I thought was rather minor.

So yeah, 9.9 as potential maybe, but definitely not what it was at launch. Just my opinion guys.

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PC_Max
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 9:06:02 AM
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I think it comes down to, similar to researching for a new TV or car, multiple sources for your research. I hit a number of internet sites for game reviews, hit YouTube to see what fans say, and see or play a demo of the game.

That said, I think a reviewer possibly has a hard time being not being bias to a genre of game they love and like. Essentially they have to be open minded to all the games to do it justice. It can be tough. So keeping that in mind, it is a matter of opinion really the review.

You don't trust one review alone, unless its your own, you look through many.

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Russell Burrows
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 9:57:04 AM
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I.e a large game centric website can do a coverup once!! and then its credibility is gone for good.

I.e IGN used to be trusted until they were found out pushing a game that was terrible.

Now I refer to that website as IGNorant.

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Beamboom
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 10:28:44 AM

Well that is ignorant of you, if I may say so. IGN has several really good writers, and an enthusiastic staff on ALL platforms.
I really think the slandering of IGN is utterly unfair. They just don't hold back in their reviews when they feel something is wrong. And what's the alternative, really.

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thj_1980
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 1:03:12 PM
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IGN and Gamespot are my biggest two.

I mainly go to them and this site.

Sometimes I get a good laugh from IGN's ratings and Gamespot.

AHAHAHH still some of their reviews are good.

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daus26
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 2:53:15 PM
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I just go to sites I know such as this and IGN. Then I actually read every word on it if it's on a game I'm looking forward to. What reviews I read greatly differs from game to game, so you can't justify whether or not you trust the site as a whole.

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Axe99
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 4:17:17 PM
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I think a much bigger issue for reviews and reviewers these days is _how_ to review a game. I'd say for any game I check out a few reviews for, you'll get at least two that get facts incorrect or leave out key components (Edge, for example, never mentioned RUSE had an online component in its review). Then you'll get reviewers reviewing games based on how they measure up to their own favourite example of the genre, rather than on its own merits (GT5 and SOCOM suffered here). And then you'll get reviews suffering under the weight of expectation in both directions (the original Uncharted was reviewed a little harshly I reckon - whereas Skyrim was given a bit of a light touch, at launch, given its issues).

A huge issue can be whether the game is being reviewed on its own merits, or is implicitly being expected to measure up to the gameplay standards of other titles (for example, expected to match CoD), when the game was never intending to do anything of the sort.

While I'll always check reviews here and at PS3A (my other fave PS3 news site), when I'm reading reviews from other places I've got to 'read between the lines' pretty heavily to work out the basic competency of the reviewer, and their angle on the review - because unfortunately many game reviewers, including those at large, professional sites like IGN, Gamespot and Joystiq, are quite inconsistent in how they go about approaching a game to review.

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TheCanadianGuy
Saturday, March 17, 2012 @ 8:00:07 PM
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i've never really been one for review. i always read them here and i subscribe to PTOM magazine but thats pretty much it. sure i might look at some scores at game rankings or something. but i pretty much always know what games i'll like so i don't see much point in reading a bunch of reviews.

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Kevin5
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 2:19:20 AM
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"Can you Trust Reviews From Bigger Websites?

No.

I will read reviews but i will never base a purchase off a review. I will always play the game myself first, then maybe a read a review or two after just to see what they think. I don't take reader reviews too seriously either especially when you read three paragraph dribble of hate or worship just to lower or higher a games overall score.

Play the game yourself, you're the judge.

That's my take on it.

Last edited by Kevin5 on 3/18/2012 2:26:45 AM

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Beamboom
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 5:10:21 AM

But what's your experience from this? Have you found that your personal opinion of games consistently differ hugely from the meta score?

Cause my experience is that by far most common is that the meta score pretty much perfectly match my opinion about the game. A 90+ game is so obviously so. A 80+ is so obviously playworthy. A 70ish game has apparent problems, and anything less than 70 is usually not worth your time unless you got a very strong particular interest in that title. 60 or lower, is simply put, junk.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/18/2012 5:10:45 AM

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Kevin5
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 7:16:06 AM

My experience with the meta score is abit fifty/fifty. Alot of the games i own do differ quite marginally from the meta score. Some of my all time fave games have shite overall meta scores which i disagree with wholeheartedly: such as Forbidden Siren 2 (72 meta score) Haunting Ground (67 meta score) etc etc. Where as with alot of games i've bought they have averaged between 80 to 90+ marks. So it's abit all over the place with me.

I'm not saying it's not a helpful solution to determine what games to buy & what games to avoid, it is because it rounds up all the overall review scores together, but i personally just feel the best way to determine whether you like a game or not is to play it yourself.

That's just me, i've always been like that when it comes to buying games. Doesn't mean i don't enjoy a good review, i read alot of them on various websites but ultimately at the end of the day i won't let a reviewer regardless of how well paid or experienced he/she is in gaming journalism be the reason i get a game without me playing it first & experiencing it myself first hand.

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Robochic
Sunday, March 18, 2012 @ 8:08:30 AM
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I use to many many moons ago go to IGN and Gamestop then I found this website and found a great unbiased communinity. I only read reviews from here but I also still also get friends feedback as well i don't just go on reviews i really do research especially if i'm spending 60 bucks on a game i learned my lesson on a few games that were getting awesome reviews and they sucked.

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