Who Do You Trust?

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Who Do You Trust?

As game companies put more and more pressure on publications to only run positive reviews, Sean Sands suggests gamers should stop taking the review process so seriously.

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wow well said. i agree with the sentiments of the article but the evidence you bring is somewhat lacking. i agree that never in a million years should you trust exclusive reviews but non exclusicves are trust worthy because reviewers have a responsibility towards their readers also. if their readers buy a crappy game cause the reviewer said it was good, the audience will leave, and the reviewer wont make any money without an audience. id also like to add that reviews are not numbers. i rarely even read the numbers for a game, its all about what is actually written in the article. a 435 bananas out of 612 car tires really doesnt help me at all. knwo why? its arbitrary.

Not Atari.

pillocks

i guess this explains all the 10s for MGS4.

wish I had the disposable income & time to draw my own conclusions on whether I like every released game or not.

I think that it's a BS attitude to take, suggesting we should accept reviews as entertainment and not place any stock in them. As a person who lives month to month, has a home and a posse of animals to take care of, I rely on reviews to help me make an informed choice about what I'm blowing 60+ bucks on. Now, I never expect for them to choice for me, but I use the suggestions to help vet what I want, and when rave reviews abound, I actually find myself getting excited for something I may not have considered in the first place. Which is pretty much the same attitude I would take with a film review.

If this industry and its customers want to be taken seriously, for people to consider it in any way a form of art beyond commerce, we'd better not accept this situation rather than writing it off as glibly as you've done.

- CK

"As a person who lives month to month, has a home and a posse of animals to take care of, I rely on reviews to help me make an informed choice about what I'm blowing 60+ bucks on."

I sympathize, but I don't think that necessarily means that reviews are going to be of any more value. Relying on them as informed and reliable sources doesn't mean they are.

"If this industry and its customers want to be taken seriously, for people to consider it in any way a form of art beyond commerce, we'd better not accept this situation rather than writing it off as glibly as you've done."

I'm not sure I'm that interested anymore on how "seriously" the gaming industry is taken. I don't see who they are supposed to be trying to impress. They are an entertainment medium. How serious is that supposed to be?

Very nice read, thank you very much, Sean.

But I think that most of the people really need to be told what to like, and what to dislike about a game, because they're not capable of forming their own opinions. It's one of the perks of being a human. :) Can't form your own opinion? Never mind, the cashwhores at Gamespot will oblige you happily. Game reviewers are just businessmen in this case, and they're selling opinions for a hefty wad of cash, and it's just business as usual, or like George Carlin (may Joe Pesci rest his soul) used to say: Businessman will sell you bullshit, because people like their bullshit in front of them, where they can get a good whiff of it. So, the question is: are we talking about gamers or consumers here? Gamers have sites like this one, while consumers have Gamespot and IGN. I don't visit them, and I couldn't care less about their reviews, but their existence and business model are very much needed for the mentally challenged. You can hate me all you like for saying that, but that's just how the world works, and there's nothing that can be done about it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I read reviews and enjoy ZP. ZP is the only reason I found out about this site in the first place. But I like to form my own opinion based on a personal experience with the game and I think that I speak for many gamers when I say that ZP is the best game review approach since Pong. The guy is really sharp, and he knows how to speak his mind. That's something that the behemoth aka game industry needed for a long time.

Also, I'd like to add that no one in their right mind gives a dry fuck about Atari and their economic crusades against the freedom of speech and piracy. I'm a pirate, but I always buy games that I like. My pre-ordered copy of Mass Effect is sitting on my shelf, while the pirated version is sitting on my hard drive. It's just try before you buy (or in case of Mass Effect: wait for a non-raping version of the copy protection patch), and if anyone has a problem with that I don't care, it's not my problem. I don't like to be told that I can install my game only three times before dealing with EA customer support, Satan or an angry bear on steroids. That's why I believe that people should rather pirate before buying (but always buy! always!) then read some cocky bastard's review on how groundbreaking Alone in the dark is. Fuck Alone in the dark. After Atari's little escapade, I'm prone to believe that the Vikings are right and I'm not even going to leech it. Waste of bandwidth.

P.S. "Therefore the Lord Yahtzee sent him forth from the Garden of Games to till the consoles from whence he was taken. He drove out the gamer, and He placed an epic level cherubim at the east of the Garden and a vorpal +12 flaming sword of humanoid slaying which turned every way to keep the way of the Tree of Entertainment."

- The Reviewers Bible

Sean Sands:
I'm not sure I'm that interested anymore on how "seriously" the gaming industry is taken. I don't see who they are supposed to be trying to impress. They are an entertainment medium. How serious is that supposed to be?

It depends on how you view your entertainment, or if you yourself are an entertainer. Myself, I have no problem with the majority of entertainment being simple fun, though I believe games are making a serious push to have the majority evolve beyond simple fun. This has both good and bad things, and most people insist that the industry is in a state of mediocrity (seriously, if you played most of what was on Genesis and SNES, you'd see the industry was on an uphill scale...and PC's have a very fair share of trash as well. We have a very selective memory of the past).

I like to create ideas and such, and have studied things like game design, so I myself take the industry very seriously. Having looked into game design and tried tackling it, I also feel that my critique is going to differ from your average gamer's. As such, when I look at reviewers, I see a major problem. The people that review games shouldn't just be gamers that can write well, they should be gamers that have an understanding of what design is, as well as the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, just look at the "most over-hyped game" thread and you'll see most people don't even understand that a game that disappoints you isn't the same as a game advertised to be amazing and ends up being complete trash. You really can't top E.T. or Daikatana in this industry, but people are only focusing on what they felt wasn't the greatest game of all time. And yet that's the kind of jerk we have writing reviews, trying to tell you which games are great and which aren't. Those kinds of assholes saying Grand Theft Auto gets a 10/10 no matter how many bugs it has, while an ambitious title like Alone in the Dark, which tries a lot of new ideas, gets nitpicked for every small issue and games like Too Human often go on people's "eh, maybe" lists.

I take the games industry very seriously. However, you're right. Most people aren't going to take it seriously. To most people, they are just another way to cool off. There's no difference from playing Gears of War after work than checking out the latest episode of Heroes, Lost or Battlestar Galactica. These people need games that are just simple and fun as well, and I don't mean in the Mario Party sense. These guys also need someone to tell them what to think about the games they are buying, and honestly, the best reviewer for them may not be in a gaming magazine at all. They may be better off getting their game review from Maxim or Playboy, to be honest.

Sorry, I've totally rambled, and if I keep going I'll only ramble further.

Now, don't get me wrong, I read reviews and enjoy ZP. ZP is the only reason I found out about this site in the first place. But I like to form my own opinion based on a personal experience with the game and I think that I speak for many gamers when I say that ZP is the best game review approach since Pong. The guy is really sharp, and he knows how to speak his mind. That's something that the behemoth aka game industry needed for a long time.

I like Zero Punctuation, but it's mostly an entertainment source for me. Yahtzee knows his shit, but I clash with him on way too many points if I were to actually take a review of his seriously. My favorites are usually when he takes a game that genuinely sucks and tears it apart, as otherwise it really just sounds like whining and bitching about all the little things that keep a game from being perfect.

The only reviews I can truly enjoy are the ones on GameTrailers, though I find them to be flawed as well. I disagree with some of what was said for the Ninja Gaiden 2 review, and there are some games where the review is riddled with complaints and yet the score is high (GTA4), but usually you get to see the game in action and see what it is they are talking about. That helps me a lot, and it has helped me decide that yes, despite Atari's antics, I'm going to pick up Alone in the Dark (though I had first listened to the impressions of some friends, which were mostly positive).

Again, though, I find it interesting: yes, Atari is being assholes, but while the majority of this website bitches and complains about how poor the industry is doing, when a company tries to be innovative you find the dumbest excuse not to support them.

Maybe the industry is in trouble because consumers won't take risks for innovation, and just expect new and innovative games to play perfectly on the first attempt.

Arguably, it's hard to test innovation when you don't even know that it exists. Money is spend on the advertising of secure projects - easy milk - to gross even more money.
That's why I think the fault is mainly the publishers'.

Arbre:
Arguably, it's hard to test innovation when you don't even know that it exists. Money is spend on the advertising of secure projects - easy milk - to gross even more money.
That's why I think the fault is mainly the publishers'.

In a lot of ways this is true, actually. I still believe Contact on the Nintendo DS would have done better if it was advertised a lot better than it was. It was quirky and interesting enough that it could have done pretty well commercially, but Atlas' mentality towards their games is "Y'know, we're not gonna sell many anyway, so let's just release a limited amount and hope for the best". It's disappointing, since they seem to try the more interesting ideas when it comes to JRPG's, whereas Squenix makes bland games that sell like hot cakes and hype like crazy.

Other examples of good games with poor advertising: Beyond Good and Evil, Psychonauts, Metal Arms....and that's all that I can come up with off the top of my head, partly because they are repeated over and over.

The bottom line is that gaming publications and sites are suffering from a crisis of credibility. We've all been so wrapped up in getting this industry off the ground that now that the moment has arrived we find ourselves compromised - stuck with a dog we never trained. There is no better example of this than Play magazine who, by their own admission, only cover and review games they feel they will rate highly.

Make no mistake, people like this aren't writers, they're relics from a time when we all would've sold our souls to see gaming reach the heights of popularity and acceptance it has today. Unfortunately that's all an entire generation of videogame writers seems capable of, being diehard gamefans in the worst sense of the term. I will always play videogames, I love them, but I'm done letting them off the hook. The industry has matured, and so too have my expectations and criteria for evaluating it's products.

Many Game Developers are VERY finnicky about the criticisms in their games, believe me I know. I worked in the QA department, and I've been given shit for making good imaginative suggestions. There were always companies who were actually open to suggestions from the testers. Net Devil is one of those companies, although I am forbidden to talk of that any further.

Honestly I think some Game Devs need to pull their head out of their ass and realize that a bad Review is something you learn from, and not something you cheat your way out of. Many software developers in general are taking steps to promote piracy (indirectly of course). And removing the credibility from any review site is a sure fire way to do such a thing.

Sean> You could always try Giant Bomb for reviews. I think we have reason enough to trust Jeff Gerstmann not to sell out, no?

I trust renting, and making my own damn mind up.

MSG4 10/10? HA. Mediocre at best.

I can't say I completely agree with the conclusions of this article. Reviews are a vital part of all commerce. If we can't take any game reviews seriously in an attempt to figure out what games are worth our money, the industry might as well pack it in now. It will never be seen as equal to the movie or TV industry for entertainment, much less any other retail products. Reviews are a critical factor in choosing everything, from a new car to what movie to see this weekend. Obviously, you can't go trying every new car on the planet before buying one. So, user and industry reviews are the only way to narrow your choices down. Now, one obviously must be careful, and reviews need to be read critically. One should also not trust any single review completely, but rather should read a spread of reviews to see what the general thoughts are. If every review mentions a checkpoint save in a game, for instance, and you hate checkpoint saves, you won't like that aspect of the game. That's the kind of information you can get from reviews that you won't get anywhere else, short of buying every game and trying it yourself. Given that I play PC games (no rentals available) and that there seems to be a reluctance to release timely demos these days, I have no choice but to try to get an idea of game quality from the reviews.

That said, I'm far more inclined to trust the reviews and scores from readers rather than the paid reviewers. I look to the professional reviewer to discuss specifics of gameplay and details of what's in the game, I look to the user reviews to see whether the game is actually any good or not. If a game has 500 reviews, and 450 are saying the game sucks, then I can safely bet the game is not a good risk. That's the kind of thing I like to see before I lay down my $50.

If the damn things didn't cost so much game companies wouldn't have to corrupt the review industry so heavily. No one wants to pay 60 bucks for a mediocre game. Most people will pay 10 or 20 for one though (I do, anyways). The publishers & developers have their backs up against a wall spending 20 to 100 million making a product that has to be absolutely perfect or else people will wait until it hits the bargain bin.

I don't really know what the solution to that would be. Shorter games? Downloadable games? Something has to give in this climate because from a business perspective, I'm not sure having legit reviews is even really possible.

I trust my inner child. If a game appeals to him, then I'll enjoy it & have fun playing it.
After all, that's what games are supposed to be, fun. Graphics, narrative, technical quality & artistic quality, whilst important, are all secondary to fun, in my opinion.

For example, I really enjoy Koei games like Dynasty Warriors & Bladestorm (I've logged 120 hours & haven't finished the main story), but these games receive mediocre to average reviews. I also enjoy playing Kane & Lynch despite it's flaws.
Conversely, a "perfect" 10/10 game like MGS4 or a technically awesome game like Crysis doesn't appeal to me. Also the fun factor of GTAIV dried up very quickly for me, despite it's 10/10 reviews.

I've found game reviews to be generally untrustworthy. They've done a very poor job of warning me off of buying absolute crap (like Arx Fatalis, which got a 73.5% on Gamerankings despite being one of the greatest concentrations of bad game design ever to be placed on a DVD), and I've found that I can't really trust them about games that they're raving about.

My own instincts on what looks good/bad have been far more accurate, and if that's not enough there are demos.

Either use metacritic and look at the highest and lowest scores or rent. Thats what I do

I agree that the reviews don't always give you an accurate picture of whether or not a game is good, but since that is subjective I mean whether or not most people who like the genre would find the game enjoyable. If I could buy every game that interested me, I would walk out of the store with a backpack full of games on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I'm a college student, and that isn't really an option for me. Therefore, I have to balance what review sites tell me with my level of interest in the game. Sometimes I follow the reviews that say a game is great, pick it up for myself, and find I don't like it. Other times they say a game is bad, and I get it for myself and find that I love it. My opinion of review sites is that they exist to advise you. You can't let them make the decision for you, but I think reading a review to find out WHY they liked or didn't like something can help you make an informed decision about your purchase.

I remember PLAY Magazine getting lots of exclusives for Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 as well as a crack at one of the earliest reviews of the game (as I recall). They gave it a 9/10, a laughably high review score in comparison to the actual quality of the game.

See, I stopped listening to reviewers a long time ago. I just watch gameplay videos and read about what the game is about. If it looks appealing, I'll investigate it, and form my own opinion about it. Everyone has different tastes, and reviewers are human.

BloodSquirrel:
I've found game reviews to be generally untrustworthy. They've done a very poor job of warning me off of buying absolute crap (like Arx Fatalis, which got a 73.5% on Gamerankings despite being one of the greatest concentrations of bad game design ever to be placed on a DVD), and I've found that I can't really trust them about games that they're raving about.

My own instincts on what looks good/bad have been far more accurate, and if that's not enough there are demos.

Your own instincts on what looks good/bad are naturally going to be more accurate--for you. What many people don't care to accept is that just because they like (or hate) a game, that doesn't necessarily mean the game is good (or bad).

I, for example, really enjoyed Arx Fatalis, but that doesn't mean the game isn't flawed, or that it doesn't have aspects that might drive other people batty. We all have our own dealbreakers when it comes to games -- things that you consider bad game design might not bother me at all. You might not even be right in thinking that they're bad game design, they might just push your personal buttons. Then again, you might actually be spot on...it's all very, very subjective.

Reviews are guidelines, not gospel. A review cannot possibly be all things to all people, because people have so many different gaming personalities.

Game reviews are fine. You can use them as a tool to help you decide whether a game will be worth buying, but you'll have to read a collection of reviews and pay attention to the text, rather then the rating (really, no game is worth a 10/10, there are always flaws).

Take a few game reviews, get your own opinion through previews/demo's couple those with your own standards of liking and economic worth et voila, a healthy basis to decide whether a game is worth it's price. If it's not, but still looks like fun, buy it a month or 2 later, when price has dropped.

Blindly trusting anything (and from one source, in this case a review) is always a bad call.

Susan Arendt:
Your own instincts on what looks good/bad are naturally going to be more accurate--for you. What many people don't care to accept is that just because they like (or hate) a game, that doesn't necessarily mean the game is good (or bad).

If uninformed guesses are better than reviews, the reviews are somewhat pointless, no? Of course, that attitude is one of the endemic problems with reviewers. Instead of trying to give an in-depth evaluation of different aspects of the game so that a reader might gleam some flake of insight into whether they'd enjoy the game or not, the author just talks about what's important to him and fails to address major, glaring flaws. There are reviewers who wouldn't bother telling you that a game will set your house on fire because they like the menu system enough to recommend the game. When a game reviewer gives a blanket recommendation to a game like MGS4 that has a very pronounced selective appeal, then he has gone significantly below the level of "guideline".

And Arx Fatalis goes beyond being "flawed". It's unimaginative, uninspired, has terrible production values, has terrible dialog and voice acting, has a terrible habit of sending you back and forth across it's boring, featureless world constantly in lieu of actual gameplay, and hell, even managed to screw up the audio effect for the character's foot steps, making him sound like some kind of lurching gimp. That's not something most games could even dream of actually doing badly. Of course, you'd never know this from the reviews, because that would have involved some kind of actual professionalism. The gamespot review even contains the incredibly egregious lie that "Arx Fatalis isn't exactly a linear, straightforward game.", when the entire thing is characterized by having virtually nothing in the way of sidequests or sandbox content.

Jamash:
technically awesome game like Crysis

Crysis is very far from technicaly awesome. Other games with merely 5% less poly's on screen run atleast 25% better. EA skipped optimalisation completely and blamed the results on people's systems.

Asehujiko:

Jamash:
technically awesome game like Crysis

Crysis is very far from technicaly awesome. Other games with merely 5% less poly's on screen run atleast 25% better. EA skipped optimalisation completely and blamed the results on people's systems.

Graphics are far more complex than just how many polys you have on your screen; the Crysis engine has been used to create photorealistic images, which, even as a tech demo, is impressive.

Unfortunately, Game companies will like you more if you give their games good reviews. Just how it is. The reason people like Yatzhee can get away with it is that their reviews are at least partly for entertainment purposes (also, I would hope, that the Escapist has enough integrity not to bend to that kind of pressure)

Case in point: Clive Barker's Jericho - most critics hated it. Personally it was in the top 5 games I played last year - loved it.

The problem with PC gaming is that you cannot "try before you buy" so easily. Few stores rent PC games (well in Australia anyway), very console focussed. Also you cannot just trade in PC games (again, Aussie experience) and hence cut your losses if the game is baaad. Ebay is painful.

So for PC gamers we rely on reviews ALOT.

How much of this stems from the fact that when game makers know they have a bad game they elect not to send out review copies- therefore forcing bad reviews to be written long after the game has come out and has already sold a number of copies to unsuspecting consumers.

i have a revolutionary idea. Trust no one well go with our intutions the word on the street if your really that concernd on wether a game is good wate a few months buy it cheap with the rep standsup. And If you like it but it has a bad rep well than you like it. Everey single review a realy jsut and opinion and opionions are abstract and amount to nothing.

The reviewer's I trust are swiftly runing out, this site is on the list I'll add. Even if they review EVE, but that might be because I'll never buy it.

Funny thing about reviews and gaming news: people let things slip all the time. If a writer/reviewer puts down enough information a gamer can usually make an informative guess at how well the developers pulled off what they intended to do. Sometimes enough information is given away that problems that weren't mentioned in the review are made apparent.

In reviews instead of a number or letter score for graphics and sound I'd like to see a short blurb on what design choices were made and how well the choices were pulled off.

Example (Team Fortress 2)-
Graphics: The rest of the Orange Box was filled with gritty violence and paranoid overtones. This game stands out an easy going, but fast paced experience. Every kill feels more like a well delivered punch line. Some may dislike the "toon" visuals, but this style wears less on the mind than realistic visuals which allow players to go for hours at a time.

Sound: The voice of each character is a pleasure to listen to. Each persona fits their role on the battlefield well. The game is filled with brilliant characterizations with incredible displays of cockiness from the Scout and manic abandon from the Heavy. Sound effects are very simple and make excellent cues in the middle of frenetic battles.

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