Ninety Percent Certain

This morning, I logged onto IGN, and took a look at the review for Street Fighter IV. I know Martin Robinson personally, and he’s been trying to drag me into the IGN towers for months to take a look at it; unfortunately, I never got a chance to jump in on it, but that and our phone conversation yesterday tells me one thing. He digs this game. He digs it hardcore. He also gave it a 9.5, and in my opinion, he’s got the biggest balls of anyone in his industry this morning.

The thing with scores within a few points of a nine either way, is that they seem to generate mass amounts of fanboyesque hysteria, and general chaos on the boards of whichever site the review is posted on, not to mention others across the web. Take the recent CVG review of Killzone 2, not to mention GamerNode’s infamously low scoring for GTA IV. Whatever the score is, people moan. So what do scores mean, nowadays?

With new games journalism popping up more and more on the internet, and more and more websites dropping "out of ten/a hundred" scores in favour of simple opinionated reviews, it begs the question of "why?" Are they dropping their scoring system for fear of controversy over low scores, or are they simply heading into 2009 with a fresh perspective on what constitutes videogame journalism?

Personally, I think it’s the former. Even I can read a review and focus more on the score than what’s actually said in it, sometimes, if the score looks extremely high or low. The reviews on IGN for GTA IV drew a lot of attention for using the infamous number ten, as did GamerNode with a score several digits below that. But what I sometimes find confusing is when I read a review that really, really doesn’t match the score. Is the journalist being pressured into changing his score by his boss? Or is he scared of backlash?

Take this review for example. Everyone knows Sonic. Everyone gets Sonic. In fact, most games with his face or name on the cover will sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies simply because of this. The SEGA lot knew their fans wanted old school Sonic. Yet, instead of making Sonic Unleashed 2D-only and leaving it as is, as they should have done, we’re offer another compliation. Greg Miller gave this a nine. I like Greg Miller, he’s a great journalist, and I always put faith in the IGN US Xbox team for not being too biased.

But what was being marked here? The game itself, or Greg’s nostalgia? The graphics were given a seven out of a possible ten. I’ve seen games with stunning graphics that only get a five. Let’s be realistic. Gameplay scores have scaled with time, so much so that the story of Mario is laughable now, so much so it’d be taunted for its unoriginality. But Sonic, a game with no story bar an identifiable protagonist and (in my opinion) insecure antihero, gets a seven. What’s going on?

It seems that videogame journalists are at a loss with the scoring system nowadays. If you bounce over to the scoring system here on GamerNode, you’ll get a point-by-point breakdown of each scoring rank, and why it’s given. But note, the site never scores anything other than a round number or a point-five. This is beause fickle numbers like 8.7 tend to cause people to whine that it’s not a nine, or question why it’s not an eight point five. There’s never any given explanation from sites that award .1 increments. Surely, if a game has five categories, each getting a five out of ten, the game scores fifty percent? Not the case, it would seem.

If you look back at the Sonic review, It gets three nines and two sevens. Simple maths indicates this only adds up to and 8.2, and yet it gets a nine. What’s the point in scoring different categories if the overall score isn’t actually an overall score at all, completely unrepresentative of its component parts?

It’s an funny old world, games journalism. I’d give it a 7.1. Yeah. I went there.


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Author: Christos Reid View all posts by

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