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Should There Be A Standardized Format For Game Reviews?

The question of video game review scores may involve the progression of the industry.

Perhaps it's time to toss out the old-fashioned 10-point scale (some sources already have, and others have altered it), but beyond that, maybe it's time to consider a set format that all legitimate sources will adopt and utilize for the sake of better serving the consumer.

With so many different sources and so many different ways of reviewing games, many gamers claim places like Metacritic and GameRankings aren't quite as accurate with their review averages for games, simply because of the often radically different scoring systems and scoring criteria various sites have. A 9 from one place may mean exactly the same thing as an 8 from elsewhere, due to differences in how the games are analyzed. Why not just have all professional sources embrace a standardized system that uses the same point scale, and focuses on basically the same criteria?

Granted, there should be some variation between the sources, just because that lends a sense of personality to each review. Gamers like to read reviews from particular critics because their viewpoints are similar. We don't want to get too robotic, after all. But the way we review games now is just all over the place; it often leaves consumers questioning score averages and even flat-out ignoring certain sources for personal reasons. Movies are typically scored on a four-star system, as are most forms of entertainment these days; maybe we should do that. Or maybe we could create something unique to our industry, provided the big sites all use it.

This is all in the interest of the consumer. The critic isn't here to prove how much he knows about games, or to get on a soapbox. He's here to inform the gaming community; there is both opinion and objective, qualitative analysis, and the end result must involve either a recommendation or a non-recommendation (yeah, I know that isn't a real term). It's just very difficult to sift through so many drastically different types of reviews and come up with a cohesive, accurate picture. In the end, we're trying to answer every gamer's question: "Is this worth my money?"

And with that at heart, we should probably consider stabilizing the review system. It's about you, not us.

Tags: game reviews, video game reviews, game critics, game reviewers

4/19/2012 12:05:10 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (30 posts)

Hoagie324
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 12:32:39 PM
Reply

I definitely think that a standardized system would be great. When I go to different sites and read reviews, and so many of them are analyzed so differently that I become a little confused. When I read a review, I don't want to know useless crap- I want to know how the game plays, how the story is, and how compelled the reviewer was to continue playing the game. That's why I read the reviews here- it isn't so much about the extra 'filler' as it is about analyzing the game and giving an honest review of how consumers will most likely react.

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SonyPuppy
Sunday, April 22, 2012 @ 10:24:18 PM

That's why I generally don't bother with online reviews. I take most of my game scores from the good ol' Good Game ?/10 Rubber Chickens from the two hosts and the reviews are much more often to the point than many online sources. I don't think the whole industry should have to conform to a set review type, but maybe a standardised final score would be a good thing. That way you can compare scores while still getting the unique view of the reviewer.

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Rogueagent01
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 12:42:21 PM
Reply

Honestly I don't know if a standardized system would work, it also couldn't really hurt. I am happy with the system the way it is as I don't read reviews very often. I know that a lot of other people do and really take what the critics have to say to heart, however I don't. I only read a couple reviews a year as is and usually not for the reasons others read them.

I myself like the 10 point system with the ratings running from .1 up to 10.0. It for me allows critics to give a better review score, as there can be flaws and in a lot of cases it shouldn't drop the score by say a whole number or a full star. I have always prefered this over "stars" or the "? out of 5" rating system as those leave to much to the imagination of the reader. Xplay for instance gives a huge majority of games a 3 out of 5 and it doesn't work for me as it doesn't break it down into the details that make sense(again for me).

If there was to be a standard I would hope it would be the scale of .1 to 10.0 since it makes it easier to be critical of a game and not seem like your running it over the coals. But being that I myself don't really need reviews and also rarely read them, I guess my opinion really isn't important.

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 12:46:17 PM
Reply

Game review is certainly its own beast. One of the things that I would like to see as a standard element is some indicator of how long the reviewer played the game... and if it's a finite game, if they finished it.

No other medium has that issue. It's a assumed that a movie critic watched the whole film, or that a book critic got to the end. Yet some games are such drawn-out affairs that a game reviewer, due to pressures of deadline, can't be expected to finish it before they write the review. Especially if "finish" means to get all the endings, do all the sidequests, etc.

So some way of indicating how long the reviewer was able to spend with the game and how far they progressed, to me, would be a helpful addition to a standardized review system.

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Rogueagent01
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:09:00 PM

@Cosmic

I like that idea, and to me it should be at the beginning of the review. I mean if the first sentence says I played Skyrim, Demon's Souls, or Kingdoms of Amalur for 3 hours and here is my review, I would then know not to listen to that review. At the same time if that same sentence was for a game like Limbo or Journey, I could read on as those games are relatively short and they probably had more then enough time to give a solid review.

One other standard I have always wanted from critics is a thorough in depth review of themselves. I want to know how they think, what is most important "to them", why they are critical of certain subjects, and even the types of games that they enjoy. Simply because all of those questions help me determine whether or not your a reviewer for me. Not whether or not you should be reviewing games just whether or not I will learn and come away with a better understanding of the game I was interested in. I have read more of Bens reviews then probably any other critic simply because I feel we have a similar outlook/taste in games.

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xenris
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 4:45:24 PM

I agree with this. I also really wish sometimes the reviewer would not put a 5 out of 10 on a game that they said was good but not their favourite genre. People who are interested in the Genre should be reviewing it, as that is the demographic of people who will be interested in it and probably check out the review if they are on the fence.

THAT is my biggest problem. Also inconsistencies. IGN is the worst for this, mainly when you look at their Call of Duty reviews and what they let slide for that game, but hammer down a new IP for.

I think this is another reason why people are scared to try new things and be innovative. They get panned for what they attempted, and sometimes its warranted but a lot of the time its not. Then if a game other than call of duty makes a generic shooter they get burned for not doing anything different. Damned if they do damned if they don't I suppose.

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slugga_status
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:14:30 PM
Reply

A standardized system would help but I still think we'd still see different scores from various sites. Which is why I kind of like how it is now. For me, I never put too much into how a game is scored. I'd rather see what the reviewer has to say about the experience they had. That is what usually makes my decision easier when I'm on the fence about a game.

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Lemon_Saint
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:14:32 PM
Reply

What a great idea! While we are at it, let's ensure everyone dresses the same and speaks one "world" language, (don't want anyone to be confused now)!

Perhaps some of those pesky "freedoms" built in to our constitution can be done away with to ensure everyone's "safety" too! .... wait ...

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 2:00:06 PM

Whoah.

As a wise philosopher named Hobbes once said, you should always save hyperbole until you really need it.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 3:21:15 PM

...what the hell?

Completely and entirely irrelevant. Reread, please.

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Oyashiro
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:15:44 PM
Reply

The problem with game reviews isn't so much that scores and such aren't standardized. Its that anyone how makes a website can call themselves a professional game reviewer.

Well everyone has the right to their own opinion. Not all opinions are created equal, and thus should be kept to themselves.

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Underdog15
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:42:31 PM

in your opinion.

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Underdog15
Monday, April 23, 2012 @ 10:55:43 AM

lol did no one see what I did there?

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Ludicrous_Liam
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:50:40 PM
Reply

Completley off-topic, but here's a story which you may want to comment on Ben:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17766404

The bit about him using a video game to practice the killings is a bit chilling...

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 3:26:42 PM

Great. Just what the industry needs.

The guy had been thinking about violence and killing long before WoW, but of course, the anti-game activists will say the games "made him do it."

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 4:17:47 PM

Chilling? Not really.

If the guy had sketched out his lunatic plans freehand, I wouldn't exactly be chilled the next time I sat down with pen and paper.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 5:07:51 PM

I meant it in the sense that, we could've been playing online with this lunatic! :O

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 5:20:13 PM

Oh. Sorry about that. Misunderstood you completely.

Yeah, any kind of brush with someone that freaking dangerous and messed-up is kind of creepy.

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BikerSaint
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:56:48 PM
Reply

I'm on the fence about standardizing reviews, but one thing I'd always want to see is the 10 point rating system stays & becomes the standard.

But at the end of the day, I still only take in reviews with a grain of salt, because there's been times that a game was actually low-balled & I still wound up liking it. And other times, a game got high marks, but after playing it, I thought it was just mediocre.

As for a 5 stars vs a 10 point rating system....

To me, the difference between 3 stars & 4 stars just doesn't do it for me as much as a 9.2 vs a 9.9 type of rating does.

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thj_1980
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 2:19:45 PM
Reply

I would like to see websites try this out, but if it gets out of hand then they should stick with that they have now.

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Dragoon
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 2:43:44 PM
Reply

Congrats Ben, you just officially created the standardized format for professional game reviewing. If I ever write a review (which I'm sure I won't) or read one, I'll be sure to keep everything you said in mind.

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Underdog15
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 2:53:01 PM

Did you read it thoroughly? It was more of a question than a lecture on what rating scale is appropriate. The only things Ben stated objectively was that the point of reviews was to help buyers determine if a title is worth their coin and that people tend to find reviewers they most closely identify with.

Usually you see this type of article from Ben to get the cogs turning in the community before it becomes a poll. In my opinion, it sounds like he's looking more for discussion and thoughts from the community than he is trying to set a universal standard.

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karneli lll
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 3:30:47 PM
Reply

Hate to admit it but IGN has a good formula,pity its hardly used. Reviewing a game on categories of story,gameplay,visual and audio give gamers a bigger picture. I wish we could add length in there but we all know finishing a game before reviewing is something no one should suffer through

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Excelsior1
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 3:39:46 PM
Reply

One thing I would like to see is make damn sure that reviews are based off the the actual game disc for that particular version of the game. For example, what happened with the PS3 version of SKYRIM where we saw reviewers basing a PS3 game review off the superior 360 version of the game(Bethesda REFUSED to send out the broken PS3 version for review) should NEVER happen. I was pretty turned off by that because one painful lesson I have learned this gen is Bethesda games are not exactly the most stable of games on the PS3 platform. Reviewers knew this as well, but they happily accepted the 360 version and based their PS3 reviews off that disc. That is wrong. One can NEVER assume both versions are indentical.

It was annoying on a couple of fronts. I don't like how Bethesda attempted to sweep the PS3 version under the rug and I don't like that any reviewer would base a PS3 review off a 360 disc. That was a deliberate attempt by Bethesda to shape the review scores in their favor by only sending out the better 360 version for review. You would think Bethesda refusing to send out the PS3 version for review would have raisied more of a red flag. I'm a cynic at heart and once I saw on Game Rankings reviews of the 360 version of Skyrim out numbered the PS3 version 50:1 I knew something was up. Sure enough, the PS3 version shipped with a nasty longplay save file issue that took months to patch. Basically, the PS3 version was broken...you play it long enough and your save file gets big enough the damn game just starts locking up on you...no way to avoid it. I bet you between Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Skyrim I have hard reset my PS3 100 times, Granted that was over many, many hours of gameplay. I will never buy the PS3 version of a Bethesda game day1 again. They either do not know how to code properly for the PS3 or they do not put enough effort into the PS3 version. Just fire up Fallout 3 on a 360. The game runs like a champ with hardly any framerate issues or freezes. I was actually able to complete Broken Steel which is damn near unplayable on the PS3. In fact, to this very day all the DLC on the PS3 version of Fallout3 runs like crap which is a damn shame because it is some the best DLC available...great stuff in terms of game design but poorly executed on the PS3.

Okay, sorry about by rant against Bethesda, I just do not like how they treat PS3 owners...almost like second class citizens. Back to reviews. It would also be nice if reviewers completed the game before scoring it. This subject came up in Mass Effect 3. Great game with that went off the rails in the last 10-15 minutes with a horrible, head scratching ending that makes little sense. Most Mass Effect 3 fans think Bioware blew the ending. I agree with that. No matter how good the game is I think some points have to be taken off for that crappy ending. It felt incomplte and shallow which came as a surprise to me because I thought Mass Effect 2's was excellent. In fact I remember the hairs on the back of raising in excitement when I experienced ME2's ending...I was so hyped for ME3. Hard to believe the same company made both endings.

ME3 is a great game, I play the MP daily with some of my good friends from PSXE like ZettaiSiggi and SoulController. We all love the game but were really disapointed in the ending. We have discussed this at length and I think the consensus out there is the ending is bad and the game should be docked for screwing up the ending so badly. That can not happen if reviewers do not even bother to complete the game. If you set ME3 to story mode one can easily complete the game in a few days. Reviewers can't bother to do that? They can, and some do. Gamespot has a policy that all games must be completed before they score the game. Now I do have sympathy for a small website like PSXE that is run by one person but I still think every effort should be made to complete the game.

So to sum it up reviews should always be based off the that particular version of the game. PS3 reviews should NEVER be based off a 360 disc. Reviewers should make every effort to complete the game before scoring as well


Last edited by Excelsior1 on 4/19/2012 3:47:43 PM

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MyWorstNightmar
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 4:13:14 PM
Reply

On a website that I frequent, they have an interesting scoring system.

They don't use points, but rather after their review, they summarize by either stating the game is outstanding, very good, fair, poor, awful. But then they attach a recommended buy price. So if the game is very good, they take it a step further and say Recommended Buy Price: $40.00.

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mousekiks
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 5:04:20 PM
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What about something like rotten tomatoes?

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Temjin001
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 7:34:20 PM
Reply

I don't know if there can be a standardized form. I think generally the higher ranked games are the games gamers should be recognizing because those games are doing something worthy of your attention. I think the most I could realistically expect would be to expect a critic who is highly experienced in playing games.

People who say a critics opinion is only their opinion, hence their say is no better or worse than joe the plumber's, needs to realize that an experienced game player has an experience level and knowledge base probably exceeding joe's. So the critics take will usually have considered the options in the case Joe hasn't. If Joe was a semi-engaged game player and he was holding GoW3 or NG3 in his hand it would do him well to know that GoW3 is the higher quality produced and executed title. After Joe has developed an acute feel and knowledge of what he likes out of a particular product, he may seek out the specialized qualities he wants more of by spreading out to other pastures.

Which brings me to a connected point, as gamers grow particularly accustomed to gaming and the many different offerings to be had, their expectations and values can deviat by a large margin from the more tangible qualities touched upon by the critics. I know I've developed acute interests in certain game genres where I disengage the popular values of the generalized game player and instead join a more pocketed, more hardcore, niche communiity who has an acute set of values. Values that are weighted with more emphasis by that game community over the generalized community.




Last edited by Temjin001 on 4/19/2012 7:34:55 PM

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PSTan
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 8:48:12 PM
Reply

If there is a standard system, the one thing it shouldn't have are decimal points. It pains and irritates me to no end seeing people argue with each other in discussions on why a game that was rated 9.0 is somehow inferior to another that got a 9.1.

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___________
Friday, April 20, 2012 @ 4:47:59 AM
Reply

not at all, what we really need is reviewers actually finishing the dam game!
its impossible to review something if you have not experienced all the product has to offer!
either that or reviewers should say i only finished up to x point so the game after that could be totally different and thus get a totally different score, instead of playing 4 hours and assuming the next 4 would be exactly the same!
ITS NOT!
it never is!

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DeathOfChaos
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 @ 7:52:25 AM
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It'd be nice. One rule should be that for a review to be truthful and accurate, the game should be played all the way through (not necessarily 100% unlocked and all, though this shouldn't be problem since games don't have many out of the way unlockables anymore *sigh*). Also, please don't claim year old news to be newer than it is. Annoying...

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