The scoring system that I've been using for video game reviews on this blog is a holdover from the reviews that I wrote for Game Observer (now defunct as of 5/13/2014). I'm not a big fan of using scoring systems for reviews, since reviews are inherently subjective, and it's very hard to quantify the quality of a creative work with any degree of precision. I can rate a game on technical levels, but that still doesn't tell whether a game is "good" or not. A game can be technically perfect, but not very "good"; alternatively, a game could be technically inferior, but is just more fun to play, and is thus "better". In fact, sometimes, my scores don't really match up with how I actually feel about the game because I include categories for technical executions of the game that may not have any real relevance with respect to whether I like a game.
Unfortunately, however, attention spans being what they are, a simple score does serve a function for some readers who are either unable to read the full text of my reviews, or who are unwilling to read the full text of my reviews.
If you read my DmC (Devil May Cry) review, then you may have noticed that my scoring system changed slightly. I'm still going to reuse the basic scoring system in which I grade a game based on a set of five criteria and then average those criteria scores into a single overall score. However, I've changed the criteria slightly, and would like to spend a moment to define what these categories represent.
My reviews will now start using 4 pre-set criteria, and an additional "wildcard" criteria.
The four pre-set criteria are:
The above four criteria will be used in all games going forward (until I decide to change the scoring system again). Now, I will briefly outline what these criteria represent.
Gameplay is an evaluation of how the enjoyable it is to actually play the game. This is a combination of the quality and comfort of the controls; the ease of use of the game's camera; how well-developed the gameplay mechanics are; and even whether the game is too hard or too easy.
Visuals is an evaluation of how the game looks. This is usually a technical evaluation of the quality of the game's graphics, but may also be influenced by aesthetic and artistic design. A game may have photo-realistic graphics, but if the art direction of dull and boring, then it still might rank pretty low. Alternatively, a game might have very simple, technically unsophisticated graphics, but might have an excellent art style that makes the game beautiful to watch.
Audio is an evaluation of how the game sounds. Like graphics, this is usually a technical evaluation of the quality of the game's sound effects, music, and voice acting (if applicable). I generally try to avoid judging a game's music based on personal preference, but if I just don't think that the music fits, then I'll point that out.
Value is a bit more abstract than the other criteria. It is an evaluation of how worthwhile the game is to buy or rent. The amount of content and the overall production quality of the game are the primary contributor to score, but there is also an element of subjective taste as well. A game could be 1,000 hours long (which is a lot of content), but if the content is not very well designed and isn't fun to play, then the score might still be low.
Value can be affected by how well a game presents information, it's user interface, the variety of options that it provides the player, the replay value, the quality of the game's various features. At a very general level, it is an evaluation of how well the game was made, and whether it is worth your hard-earned money.
The "Wildcard" criteria
The fifth criteria for the game score moving forward will be a "wildcard" criteria. This will change from game to game and gives me a way to custom-tailor my final score based on some quality of the game that doesn't fit nicely into any of the four standard criteria, or if there is one specific element of the game that is a priority focus. The game's genre will have a strong influence on what wildcard criteria I chose to evaluate.
Some possible wildcard criteria may include (in no particular order):
- Story / Narrative : a rating of the story or narrative for narrative-based games such as RPG and certain action and adventure games.
- Career / Campaign Mode : a rating for the primary careero or campaign mode that is the focus for many sports games, racing games, and strategy games. This includes the depth, level of detail, and the level of fun present in such a mode. Examples may include Madden NFL's "Franchise Mode" or the "Campaign" mode of a strategy game such as Total War or Starcraft.
- Multiplayer / Online : for games that have a particular focus on multiplayer and online components, such as first-person shooters, fighters, some sports games, and even games like Demon's Souls or Dark Souls. This rating may include both the quality of the multiplayer modes and gameplay, as well as an evaluation of technical execution such as server stability, lag. I'll try to avoid reviewing a game's online functionality based on the frequency of griefers.
- Port Quality : for games that are ports of existing games - either remakes of older games, or adaptations of an existing game on a new platform, this category is a rating of how well the game transitioned to the new platform. The Silent Hill HD Collection is an example of a game that was horribly ported!
- Immersion : for games that focus on pulling the player into the game world, such as certain adventure games, RPGs, and maybe even music-rhythm games. The easier it is to get lost in a game world, the higher the rating.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully, it gives you an idea of what I'm trying to accomplish.
Again, this is an experimental new scoring system for me, so if I find that it's not working, I may decide to change it in the future.