Friday, January 8, 2010

The Boon and the Bane of Metacritic

I think Metacritic is a fantastic tool (well, Metacritic for games at least, I don't use it for books, movies, music or TV, as I'm less interested in critical opinion of those things, I prefer personal recommendation). Previously, I used to skim over four or five games sites in an attempt to get a broader view of the reception of a game, as different reviewers' tastes can vary. Now, thanks to Metacritic, I pretty much just read Eurogamer, and for an overview of any particular game's score I can have a look on Metacritic, and possibly read a few more reviews if I feel the need.

The problem with Metacritic is that some people take it way too seriously. I'm not sure if the system wars (I hesitate to use the term console wars, because they probably go all the way back to Spectrum vs Amstrad) were always this belligerent, and it's just so much more noticeable due to the internet granting every deranged lunatic a pulpit from which to declare how fiercely invested he is in his gaming platform of choice, but it seems that for many, the enjoyment of gaming is entirely secondary to the quest to prove that any other system, and all the games for it, are rubbish. PS3 owners are required to belittle Gears of War, Xbox owners to dismiss Killzone 2, and PC diehards have to deride anything that is console exclusive.

Metacritic, by reducing the critical reception of every game to a percentile value, allows for the explicit comparison of these games. It's not perfect as it can struggle to equate different sites' reviewing methods (a 6/10 from Eurogamer is probably a better score than a 7.8 from IGN), and it does allow completely different games to be compared on the same scale (For example, are you aware that the Xbox version of Peggle is a much better game than Assassin's Creed?), but the system is about as objective as it could be, and it has become the de facto standard for measuring games.

This causes an issue, especially in the context of the console war, because a bad (or even not stellar) review can damage a games' metascore, especially those with metascores in the 90s, where every less than perfect score drags the metascore lower. I recall the huge uproar when Eurogamer gave Gears of War 8/10, and I recall the comments thread had more than 1200 posts when they dared to give Metal Gear Solid 4 a similarly "low" score. I have seen some ridiculous comments on review threads, such as people saying "well, the game has a metascore of 78 at the moment, so your score of 6/10 is clearly wrong", as if they believe that the metascore should determine reviews, rather than the reviews determining the metascore.

I suppose that vocal idiots are a problem endemic to the internet (warning, link contains bad language), and we shouldn't let this detract from the highly useful information that Metacritic aggregates.

Some useless facts: Grand Theft Auto IV has the highest metascore of any current generation game at 98. At 97, Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii has the highest metascore of a game exclusive to a single console, followed by Uncharted 2 on the PS3 with 96. The highest rated Xbox 360 exclusive is Gears of War with 94.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I am disappointed. I shall explain:

    1. You do not cite as a reference for games reviews (shameless plug #1)

    2. I have just received Rogue Warrior for review, and your last screenshot clearly reflects Metacritic's rating for it (which is bad because now I am subconsciously tainted), and moreso, I now know the game I am about to review is RUBBISH :(