Up For Debate - Are game review scores too predictable?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Aug 4, 2019 3:17 PM

For a little while now, I’ve been jotting down my predicted review scores for games. There are a ton of games which come and go and I certainly can’t play them all, nor can I have a review ready for most at launch. But I quite enjoy trying to predict what their scores are going to be. These are games I’ve never even played. It’s entirely based on trailers, the prevailing narrative that surrounds them, and generally just reading the room.

And, well, it’s led me to some sort of conclusion that the actual review scores themselves are massively predictable. I don’t make any claim to being some sort of Nostradamus, it’s just that AAA games appear to turn up and be entirely formulaic in how they’re reviewed. There could be a general bias towards certain franchises; nostalgia plays a big part, or it might just be that some games are simply too big to fail. The end result though is that we’re seldom surprised when a game arrives. They rarely overperform or underperform compared to everyone’s expectations.

I’ll just give you some examples. These are some of the bigger games from earlier this year and my predicted scores based on the attitudes around them. The big outlier here is Anthem, which at 61% managed to fall well below what I expected. I never thought it would achieve greatness, that’s for sure, but based on Mass Effect Andromeda’s scoring I thought a figure in the 70’s was a safe bet.

  My Prediction Actual Aggregated Score
Super Smash Bros Ultimate 94 92
Resident Evil 2 93 92
Kingdom Hearts III 86 85
Metro Exodus 85 83
Far Cry New Dawn 75 74
Crackdown 3 68 64
Anthem 76 61

Aside from this outlier though, my worst prediction was for Crackdown 3, and yet I was just 4% off its aggregated review score based off of watching a few E3 trailers and judging the hype. For the rest of them, I was just 1-3% off of nailing the exact scores. That doesn’t seem right, does it? Something odd’s going on there. Maybe it’s just down to being shown so much of games these days before they arrive that knowing a score is just second nature. It’s all very different to how it was 20-odd years ago when I was poring over blurry screenshots in magazines and trying to imagine what these games even were.

Nowadays, these things are obvious from a mile out. Doom Eternal? That’s an 86. Cyberpunk 2077? It’s a 93, of course. Ghost Recon Breakpoint? That’s going to fall a little short with 77. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? That’s got 84 written all over it. Come back and check, I bet they’re not far off.

It’s why there’s always such a big argument for dropping review scores entirely. They don’t accurately convey the strengths and weaknesses of a game. They’re the reduction of a complex answer into a single digit. It also feels as if certain scores are railroaded. Outliers are quite rare and, when they do happen, low scores are trolls and high scores have been given backhanders. We end up with the sort of conformity that I don’t often see in other media. Music and movie scores can all over the place, while it feels as if there’s a consensus on games before they’re even in our hands. They need to go well and truly above and beyond to break out of their predefined score, or be an absolute stinker to fall below.

When we can tell how well a game is going to score based almost entirely on trailers and our knowledge of the developer, something’s probably up. I’m not particularly wise to what it is, although it feels as if we’ve long set the precedents for what makes a game a 7 rather than an 8, or a 10 rather than a 9, and the end result is a fairly homogenous blob of scores. We’ve ended up with reviews of games being quantitative rather than qualitative. We're not dealing with facts here, this is potentially hundreds of people who should all have different emotional reactions.

Most great art divides opinion rather than unifies. It shouldn’t be trying to please everyone as a slice of art. Surely a few people played Breath of the Wild and hated it, for example. Where are the scores to reflect this? I'm a huge fan of Zelda, right, but Skyward Sword averaging 93% on Metacritic? That's mental. I think Breath of the Wild is hugely deserving of its success but Skyward Sword? That's the brand name automatically cashing in great reviews.

I don't know where these meandering thoughts are taking me, to be honest, but I would certainly love to hear thoughts on the current state of reviews. Do you think the scores are too predictable? Are big-budget games automatically over-rated? Let us know what you think below!

Source

Is the current review score system broken?

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11:16 Aug-05-2019

if you go through 10 15 user reviews on steam you tend to have a clear picture unless its a super niche game like sim racing either you got people loving it PC2 loved by many in reviews and i racing hated by many due to its monthly subscrip

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04:29 Aug-05-2019

With how bethesda has been slipping id give doom eternal 76-80 due to the fact that there May be monotization schemes in place i May be wrong i Just get that feeling is all

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23:05 Aug-04-2019

I tend to lean on reviewers less and less as i have taste of games of my own. It's mixed for me, some times i disagree with majority of reviewers of certain games and sometimes i disagree with majority of audience opinion. For instance, i hated shadow of mordor, i completed it just because i have bought it while in steam it has very positive feedback (91%) which is crazy imo. I would give it 4 or 5 out of 10. I enjoyed ac origins much more than odyssey, while reviewers gave

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23:09 Aug-04-2019

it around equal scores. Origins story was much better structured, has actual climax and explanation of raised questions during the game. So nowadays i lean more of people's opinion rather than reviewers though i watch both of them before buying a game.

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23:39 Aug-04-2019

Not too disagree with your opinion AC:Odd story sucked due to various reasons as well as the main story structure, but have you played AC II ? If you have than i can't believe you didn't realize AC:O main storyline is a copy paste classic revenge story of AC II with much more likeable main character ezio.

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17:51 Aug-05-2019

i completed all ac games. i beat ac2 long time ago but i enjoyed ezio trilogy the most.It's not all about original idea for story but it's also how you execute it.

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23:04 Aug-04-2019

None of the answers really reflects my thoughts, because it depends. Reviews always did and will tell only one side of the story, which is why it is not necessarily enough to just read reviews from big sites, but also dig bit deeper. Since they can get it wrong because they don't want backlash, they gave game to wrong person to review, sometimes reviewer isn't as much of a gamer, but journalist.

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23:08 Aug-04-2019

Also I sometimes feel like reviewers to often forget to cover for who the game is, like you can have game that is overall 7/10, but it still is amazing game for certain crowds and I do feel reviewers tend to forget about that.But overall,there never likely will be some totally objective way to review games anyway, which is why reviews will always have flaws and that is where researching comes in.

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05:07 Aug-19-2019

i agree with this completely, for example, i play dota religiously since more than decade ago but for a lot of people the game is bad and stupid, because they arent attached to it and mostly just jump in into the game completely new, as expected as the game that competitive the learning curve make it left a bad taste

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17:31 Aug-04-2019

Most AAA games should have much worse scores than they do but almost every video game reviewer is bought out. Looking at you ign and game spot

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21:32 Aug-04-2019

True, IGN and Gamespot aren't really good reviewers and you shouldn't take their word on most game and instead look at people who own the game and what they have to say (like steam reviews,or metacritic) .But I don't think ''MOST AAA" games should have much worse reviews, Metro is a great game, so is the Witcher, etc.

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22:00 Aug-04-2019

You seem to forget how many AAA games exist and yes most of them are below average imo.

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13:52 Aug-05-2019

I couldn't list all of them here since of the characters limit,trust me,I know. I simply don't think they should have MUCH WORSE scores since almost all the time the score from the reviewers and players are the same,but everyone has their own opinion and you certainly should't like something because someone else does.

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17:27 Aug-04-2019

Hype game is coming?Reviews are extremely high and praising without point out the bad things to please the fanbase and not get any backlash, or extremely low to gather attention. They should realize they can use other number other than 6-10

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17:08 Aug-04-2019

Believed for a while now that quantifying the level of quality in any entertainment media is sketchy.


Steam's system is a step in the right direction, where their reviews are based on telling someone else wether or not a game is worth their time, and then telling them why or why it's not worth their time.

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16:27 Aug-04-2019

That's why in every single thing that involves art, I never put my trust on reviews or ratings. I'd rather "feel" them myself. For games, I prefer demos than reviews.

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22:03 Aug-04-2019

Demos and timed trials are the only real way to judge how a game plays. The only exception I can think of is sequels to a game you’ve perviously played and are familiar with the mechanics.

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22:04 Aug-04-2019

Demos need a renaissance as it’s the only real way to judge a game without borrowing a physical copy of off someone.

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16:09 Aug-04-2019

you know what is very predictible ? IGN's score for every single call of crap every year , next COD modern warfare will have 9.2-9.5 i bet on that

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18:48 Aug-04-2019

IGN .... lol

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23:12 Aug-04-2019

My most favorite site is metacritic, while i understand that anyone can write a review of any game without actually owning it usually it's pretty accurate at least for my taste.

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23:16 Aug-04-2019

ign and other major review sites are bought out as many of them give good scores to every game, many of them treat 8/10 as good and let's say 7/10 as average while actually 5/10 should be average and 8/10 should be very good, 9/10 excellent, must try and 10/10 should be one of the greatest. Only few games imo should have that score.

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15:40 Aug-04-2019

Problem is most game reviewers don't dare give a bad score because they're dependent on clicks and are too afraid to alienate their audience.
If you praise a game too high no one gives a damn, but if you give Zelda a 7/10, oh boy, all hell breaks loose!
Also Doom Eternal will be a 91, mark my words!

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