Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Score: A Breakdown of my Review Scoring System

For two years now, I have been reviewing video games, movies, and eventually television shows.  When the time comes for my next review I write down various notes that act as a guide for what the review will look like.  At the end of the notes, I write a number, a number which reflects my opinion on the title.  As someone who follows various reviewers and sites that cover different branches of media and entertainment, I've noticed that each of the sites and critics use their own scoring systems when rating titles or products.  Many gaming journalistic sites such as IGN, Gamespot, and Game Informer, among others, use a ten point rating scale when providing their final verdicts.  The late Roger Ebert used a four star rating system when he reviewed movies.  As a reviewer myself, one question that can pop up in a conversation with someone is why I use a ten point scale when reviewing different titles.

With a ten point rating scale, it allows for a simple, but effective means of providing a final verdict on the title I'm reviewing.  If you are a seasoned veteran of reviewing or someone who is just starting out, it's important to remember that the rating you give a title or product should not be the driving force of your review, it's your opinion that is the most significant part.  When you give the title a score, whether it be a number or letter, the score should be a reflection of the opinion you wrote, and not the other way around.  In the following piece, I will break down my scoring system and provide an explanation for each rating.

1- Awful, Not worth your time now or later
In my time as a writer, I have no given a title this rating and I do not plan to do so any time soon.  This score is only given to titles so bad that any possible redeeming qualities are scant and not too many.  An example of such a low rating would be a game I mentioned once before, Kawasaki Snowmobiles.  The game is pure junk, featuring poor controls which won't ensure success in a race but instead constant failure; subpar graphics that don't belong on the system it was released on, and AI opponents that are somehow perfect racing specimens compared to you, this is a game that taught my young self that yes, bad games do exist.  This is why I choose to primarily focus on titles that are good rather than those that are bad because it's much better to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

2- Terrible, Nearly Irredeemable
Any title that were to receive this rating would have to be bad in all areas, but if you look in the right spots, there are brief glimmers of promise amidst the sea of failure.  The best example of a title that would deserve the score is Burn-Up Scramble; this is a bad anime, yes, and one that gave the writer a raging headache once it was over due to the terribleness of it.  This is a title suffering from subpar writing, characters, and story, among other issues; yet, in rare cases there were moments in the show that weren't too bad and in those moments I thought the show could get better, but that wasn't the case.  Either way, a title that receives this score is not worth your time whatsoever.

3- Bad, Unrefined and Unfinished
Any title that receives this score is not worth your time; in fact, a title that receives a four or below is one I would not recommend picking up.  The only difference between this rating and the other two below it is that it is possible to finish the game or movie, albeit knowing that it could have been much worse, and at the very least there were moments that stood out, either because they were interesting or because they were so bad that they went around and came back out as good.

4- Subpar but Functioning
A title that receives this score means that the experience is riddled with various problems, but at the same time, however, it was still watchable or playable.  Aliens: Colonial Marines is a prime example; although the game is riddled with various flaws in its story, gameplay, and visual polish, it was still a game I managed to make it through because it functioned and there were some aspects of the game that weren't too bad.  Does this mean you should still play this game?  Not really, but you can take comfort in the fact that the game isn't an entirely terrible experience.

5- Average, Mediocre
Although some reviewers consider a seven to be average, I think five is the more acceptable number.  While the overall title is somewhat competent in its design, it is still filled with various issues.  Games such as Epic Mickey 2 and The Conduit received this score because they did function properly, most of the time, and there were moments where you could tell that the game could have been truly good.  Unfortunately, this was not the case due to various issues that plagued these titles, resulting in the final rating they received.  A game or movie that receives this score is one you should only try is you can find it a very cheap price or possibly rent.

6- Decent and Somewhat Enjoyable
This score is interesting; what it means is that the title has flaws, yes, but there is still fun and moments of entertainment to be found in it.  While it is the weakest entry in the series due to a number of issues, Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed had some entertainment value and other redeeming factors that made it a game you could still enjoy.  Could the movie or game that receives this score been better?  Certainly, but you can take solace knowing that there is entertainment to be found from the title and you're not going to feel any buyer's remorse about picking up the title.

7- Good
When a title receives this score, it means the experience is enjoyable and for the most part, solid; there are issues, maybe even major ones, but you still realize that this is something you would recommend to others.  Red Faction Guerrilla and Dead Island are interesting cases, as these are games that have problems, but I was able to overlook the flaws during my time with these games and enjoy them.  In short, a title that receives this score is good, fun, and a relatively enjoyable experience.

8- Very Good and Well Made
This is where it gets good; any title that receives this score is one that is certainly worth picking up.  It's a very enjoyable experience and one that is worth recommendation.  There are some problems with the title, but such issues are outweighed by the positives.  Call of Duty: Black Ops, while largely familiar territory in its gameplay design, is still a compelling game due to its intriguing story and characters of the story mode, fun set-piece moments during the campaign, and the highly replayable zombies' mode.

9- Great, Thoroughly Entertaining
A title that receives this score is fantastic experience from beginning to end; nearly every aspect, whether it be story, gameplay, visuals, or effects if it's a movie, is well polished, resulting in a compelling experience.  Some flaws do hold this game back from receiving a ten, but that does not stop me from encouraging readers to definitely pick this title up when they have the chance.

10- Excellent, A Top Notch Title
This number is the last one on the rating scale and the only number that is rarely seen.  This score is only given to titles that deliver a great experience from beginning to end; any possible flaws the title may have are minor ones that can be easily overlooked.  So far, only three titles have received this score, two of which were already reviewed, while the third one, Batman: Arkham City, was reviewed back in February of last year, but the review has not been published due to reasons I don't know why.  It's not that the review was poorly written, but the reason the game received this score was because it raised the bar set by its predecessor, Batman: Arkham Asylum, by not only having an open world for Batman to explore, but for also having great combat and stealth mechanics, a compelling story, and visuals that made you feel like you were in a rundown city.  In 2016, you'll have to wait and see if any more games or movies will be receiving this score.

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