Things have been striding gaily this way for a while, but games journalism's sudden lurch away from the traditional review score appears to have been sped up by the number of Triple-A titles released last year in some sort of buggy state. How can anyone realistically review a broken game, which might be great once it gets patched?
Good question. But a better question might be this: is there any point to reviews in the first place?
Of course there's a point to reviews. Don't be so stupid. But heed this fact: reviews are dangerous. They're a cocktail, and the primary ingredient is absinthe (opinion). Not keeping that in mind is only gonna prod your rage buttons.
It's something I've wrestled with since Digitiser 2000 launched. Something has clearly shifted in zeitgeist, and reviewing things the way we used to, in Digi's Teletext days, does feel a bit strange now. It's part of the reason I try to make our review scores obviously ridiculous, with the decimal points. I know it's essentially plucking a figure out of the air. I know it's kind of meaningless, but I'm not sure that Eurogamer's approach is any more accurate either.
There's no such thing as that, see. There is no accuracy in reviewing, whether there's a score at the end or not; it's all down to the individual as to whether they like the game or don't It's all subjective. All reviewers are their own hot mess of likes and dislikes, and however much a reviewer might try to lift those out of the equation, he or she is never going to be able to completely detach themself from who they are.
Take our Elite: Dangerous review, for instance. I just couldn't get on with that game, even though I knew it had its fans. I felt bad saying I didn't like it, but... I didn't. What to do in that situation? Put that dislike to one side? Is that what restaurant reviewers do, if they don't like the flavour of the pudding? How can anyone do that?
We never reviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I hated it. I mean, really, really hated it. Like, hated it so much I wanted to march on Bioware and demand they give me back the hours of my life that I'd wasted, while wafting tepid bum-wind throughout their premises.
Admittedly, I'm not a fan of Bioware games at the best of times - and there's a big, long list of reasons why - but in Inquisition I felt assaulted by... stuff. I didn't like the way it told its story - despite everyone else seemingly thinking it was a narrative masterpiece, and convincing me to play it. I thought it was cliched, long-winded, nowhere near as playable as everyone thought, and even the graphics seemed a bit dated to me. Everyone else appeared to love it. Was I wrong? I did ask myself that question, more than once. But the reality is probably simpler still: I just didn't like it.
Well, actually, I hated it, but y'know.
In just the same ways as I've never liked the Final Fantasy games, or got what the big deal was about Super Smash Bros, or Bayonetta... I don't think there's something I'm not getting in those games. I just think they don't appeal to me.
For now at least, Digitiser 2000 will be keeping its review scores. We like the fact that a number at the end suggests something more than a preview or news piece.
We like that we're all in on the nonsense that it's just an arbitrary value that has, in some respects, been pulled out of a tramp's pants in a bid to summarise all the wordiness that has gone before.
Unless, that is, we get struck with a brainwave and come up with a better alternative. A series of embedded audio parps, indicating our opinion through the relative abrasiveness of their sound? Actually, that might work. PAARP! But let's not pretend any method is going to be more "accurate", or change the basic truth about all reviews: they're just one person's opinion, not a bold statement of fact... even if the body of text may contain facts.
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