I've been meaning to write about my feelings on reviews and specifically, a lot of the hoopla about Assassin's Creed and more recently, Mass Effect, but with the Game$pot scandal and now the D-toid Mass Effect review, it's a bit more timely now. So since you demanded it! (or didn't)......my own manifesto on reviews and hype in general.
Reviews, or, Slap a Score On That Bitch
I have no problem with reviews, although the idea of scoring a game is a bit troublesome. For one thing, there IS no universal scale. Look at all the crap D-toid has gotten because its editors attempt to "explore the entire scale" as it were, and thusly, the scores always look low to readers. Right or wrong, the 1-10 scale is broken, and having a site or two (no matter how awesome that site is) try to fix it just isn't going to help. A 7.0 to me is not a 7.0 to you or anyone else, and it never will be. Why try to trick people into buying into an objective rating for something that indicates a subjective opinion?
Reviews are also broken because of how they are conducted by most (not necessarily all) major gaming sites and publications. Reviewers are supposed to play and review several titles a month, and many of these games are LOOOOONG. Many people have mentioned that a game like Assassin's Creed is better played in shorter sessions, rather than longer ones. Does a reviewer with a deadline have this option? Also, can reviewers even relate to the average gamer anymore? The average gamer isn't a guy like me or most of you who plays games several hours a day at times, or visits gaming blogs or sites like Destructoid. The vast majority of gamers do not play nearly as many games as reviewers do. Of course reviewers will be a bit more cynical or bored of the same old stuff. A game like Mass Effect will almost surely impress a casual gamer much more than one who has played every good game of the last couple years.
People point out all the flaws in Mass Effect. "How can a game get a 9 when you listed all those flaws?" To ask that is overlooking a basic point; that it's not the quantity of flaws, it's the quantity, if you will. Things like pop-in, jaggies, load times, etc. don't hurt most games near as much as broken and/or irresponsive controls, bad level design, or other major flaws. If you're playing Burnout and there's bad pop-in when you're supposedly driving 150 mph, that's going to be a problem. The pop-in in Mass Effect is purely cosmetic and has no real effect on the gameplay unless you let it. Hence, it should really negatively effect a score, in my opinion.
Hype, or, Don't Tell Me What To Like You Fascist Bastards
Gaming is counter-culture. Yes, it is. Not picking up and playing a game in general, but being gamers as most of us in the D-toid community are. Sure, many people play games, but most are not on here debating the merits of Mass Effect or checking for news. Despite the fact that gaming is becoming more mainstream, I really think that a lot of gamers are holding onto some aspects of counter-culture beliefs, especially "popular = lame". There's always going to be folks who are going to hate something, if for no other reason, than because too many people seem to like it. Then there are the completely irrational system fanboys, but we won't get into that. Now, what in the world motivates someone to shit on something purely because it got too much media publicity or there are too many commercials on TV? I didn't like Halo 3, but I really don't mind the fact that I'm basically bombarded with the franchise everywhere I look, and that half my friends list is always playing it.
Yeah. I really have nothing else to say. I was all pumped up to write about this crap earlier, then I blew my virtual wad in the Mass Effect review thread and now this whole thing's pointless. But hey! Thanks for reading. This entry's letter is "F", for "Fail". However, this entry has now become as arbitrary and needless as many review elements are.