That’s the question I keep asking myself as I play GTA4. Don’t get me wrong. I like it. I love it at points and hate it at others, but overall, I like it a lot. Were to pursue the oderous task of reviewing the game (I tried reviewing games once…while it seemed fun from the outside, it wasn’t. Reviewing games is pure work and ruins the game experience for me), I’d probably give it something like a 7.5/10 on a real 1-10 scale (not the normal 7-10 scales many places use).
I’m not the only one to feel that way. Look around the internet…along with all of the "OMG, THIS GAME IS PURE AWESOME!" you’ll see things like, "wtf, why do controls work that way" or "the missions are completely scripted and pretty much exercised from the rest of the game."
What does metacritic say about it? 98 out of 100. How far down do you have to scroll to see a review that doesn’t give it a 100 out of 100 (or the equivalent score)? How far down to do you have to look to find a review that doesn’t give a perfect score? 40+ reviews. The ones below that aren’t dropping off much. That makes GTA4 the highest rated game since metacritic started back in 2006 (I think). The highest rated game on any system of this generation.
This is what leads me wonder how this happens. How does a game that is even more scripted than previous iterations, sometimes corrupts save games (or refuses to load, etc), has controls that are anything but uniform through out the game and the awesome sandbox world doesn’t feel connected to the scripted missions at all get closer to a perfect score than any other game in the last 3 years? I didn’t even go back and look at other game review sites for a longer view on it, but I’m sure it’s not pretty.
(The following thoughts aren’t against any particular game reviewer or against game reviewers in general. I’m not hating the playa, but the system)
Here’s my guess. Game reviewers don’t review games like we play them. They are in a hurry (they have to meet deadlines, they have to get to the next game, etc). They are looking to beat the game, calculate the total hours played and see how frustrating it was for them. Oh, and how much fun. Then they use some archaic formulation to determine the rating of the game (hint: it involves drinking and random guessing). Once rated, they go on to the next game. Did they see how long the tutorial (i.e. – the first island) took to beat? Nope, because they were past that in the first night, didn’t seem like that long at all. Did they notice that missions were so scripted that often times they felt like chores and less engaging than most of the sandbox stuff you can do in the city? No, because they were trying to blow through the mission. The missions, which have handy guidelines how to beat them, and as long as you follow the rules and do every step in order, you’ll do just fine and mindlessly complete them. You don’t have time to think outside the box and see what happens if you try blow a guy up at the start of the mission instead of following the scripting. You don’t see that guys are impervious to damage until the exact point the game wants you to kill him.
Basically, you don’t see all of the stuff us gamers that aren’t in a hurry to complete it see. Is that game reviewers fault? Yes and no. I say yes because they should be trying to keep perspective, but really it’s no. No because they don’t have the luxury of that kind of time. Just like most of the rest of us, they have a job and they want to keep it. So they keep with the formula, they play the game as fast as they can, make a score and go on to the next one. That’s the nature of the industry.
The point of this article is to say, I don’t like the system. We aren’t even talking about peer pressure ("Gamespot gave it a 100, how can we give it an 80?") That’s a whole other issue. The question is though, what to do about it.
I have no idea. How can you fix a system where people want to know as soon as the game is released the website/magazine/etc opinion of it? Would it do any good to have a process that reviewed the game and released the review two months after the game was released? Would anyone pay to have a reviewer play a game for two or three months to get a real for it? That’s a big nay to all of those questions.
I don’t like pointing out problems and offering no potential solutions, but I’m just not seeing them here. On a personal level, I won’t be listening to the reviews so much. I didn’t get burned this time, but I have in the past (Black and White). I’m just going to have to show some constraint and not buy day one on games that are questionable. Let the internet get their meaty paws on it and see what the man on the street man says no matter what the reviewers say.
Any have any other suggestions? Maybe a way to fix the system overall?
What Would Matt Do: I think I’ll jack a car, drive over some citizens and then maybe play some GTA4. And if I do play some GTA4, I will not try to kill the bad guys in advance. Why? Because the game doesn’t allow me to.