More Than The Score: The GKick Network Review Philosophy

Reviews, in any medium, are a controversial subject. Like the fields of movies, television, music, art, and every other form of review out there, gaming is without an exception. It...

Reviews, in any medium, are a controversial subject. Like the fields of movies, television, music, art, and every other form of review out there, gaming is without an exception. It never fails that whenever a new game is released, review scores that dip even a single point below what is considered “expected” for certain AAA titles cause a wave of backlash that is without compare. This year’s “Year of Threes” is also without exception.

Take Gears of War 3 to start. The game was generally regarded as the finest of the trilogy and a very enjoyable experience. However, when a single major critic dared to score the landmark title an 8 out of 10 instead of a 9 or a 10, not only did the passionate Gears fanbase react furiously, but - shockingly - so did a few of the individuals responsible for making the game at Epic Games, including Cliffy B. They acted with shock, calling out the reviewer and the score are something so insane and so vile that it was an insult.

Just recently, Uncharted 3 came out. Once again, regarded generally as the best game of the series, Uncharted 3 wasn’t without it’s own issues. While NaughtyDog also responded with similar vitriol at their sub-9.0 marks, the biggest entertaining bit came from the gamers. As early pre-release reviews started to hit the internet, many players - mind you, NONE of whom have actually played the game - reacted as though their own child had been slapped in the face to a review that dare give Uncharted an 8 out of 10. Just recently, HonestGamers posted the most controversial review yet, giving the game a 4/10.

The fact is, reviews are not only controversial, they’re subjective. In some cases, extremely subjective. Every site will review games differently and any gamer who bases their purchasing decision off the review from one site alone is not only doing themselves a disservice but is acting, quite frankly, foolishly. I can’t explain what causes a media outlet to give an abnormally low or abnormally high review score, but I can explain how we here at feel about reviews.

A review at GKick is little more than a single gamer’s experience with a single game. It’s how one man or woman feels and the impressions they have when they dive into a title and explore it from all angles, ideally from start to finish. We then take our thoughts and narrow them down as best as we can, then assign a review score between 0.0 and 10, meaning 101 total points of review scale.

The philosophy at GKick is to review a game as honestly as you want and to convey the important information in the body of the review. While many gamers - too many, in fact - put a great deal of weight on the little score at the end, we feel the body of a review is what’s important. Once again, a gamer that uses the score of a review as their sole determining factor of a site’s opinion on a game is just as foolish as the one who only uses one review.

We put a lot of value to our scores, as well. A game that scores high - and by high, I mean 8-10 - deserves that score, and every area of the review, from graphics to audio to replay value to fun factor to gameplay , will show it. However, the idea that a game is a ‘failure’ when the score dips below a 7 is hogwash. There are games that we’ve given reviews of 5 or less on this site that I could still find positive elements about and could still recommend to some gamers. A game does not fail until it starts to dip below a 3 on our scale. Can a game below a 7 disappoint? Of course. I’ve reviewed many games that have turned out to be disappointing, at least compared to what COULD have been done.

I also feel that the people who review certain titles should be people who would normally play these games. There’s a reason you’ll never see my name next to a review of Gears of War or Modern Warfare or Battlefield or even Halo. I don’t like those games, I can’t enjoy them and I can’t do them justice. However, someone who does and CAN is who I want writing the review. They know the details that need to be conveyed, they know how previous titles factor in, they can accurately compare and contrast. A review written by someone who the game wasn’t made for is a disservice at best.

When it comes down to it, a review is much more than a score, and a collective opinion “by the critics” is much more than just what the major sites have to say. I subscribe to the philosophy that if a game is coming out that you aren’t sure of or aren’t already a fan of, using reviews to educate yourself is a smart business move, so we try to write what we can without spoiling the game or surprises of the game as best we can. I don’t write my reviews for people who will buy these games. Fans of Gears of War or Uncharted will have already pre-ordered their sequels long in advance and don’t need a review to tell them the game is good, they already feel it will be.

All in all, a review is not YOUR opinion. Gaming Site A’s opinion is also not the opinion of Gaming Site B. Be smart. Educate yourself. If you can rent or demo a game, always do that first, despite what any review has to say. Your opinion matters more than any gaming site, any user review, any one else out there, but if you need help making a buying decision, don’t stick by one site. Come here, go to IGN, go to GameSpot, go to SFX360, go to GamingAngels, go to as many sites as you can and look at MORE THAN THE SCORE. Do yourself a favor.

About Steve Perry

The owner of GKick Network, co-host of the GKick and Bottom Line Live podcasts, and hero to millions worldwide.