Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Maybe it's time for some new clichés

Metacritic is an invaluable resource. Even if we agree that game scores are generally inflated, aggregate scores provide an accurate way to compare different games. A ten-point difference in a Metacritic score is definitive and often correct -- consider a score of 89 for Ratchet and Clank Future, and 79 for Heavenly Sword. Will anyone argue that those should be reversed?

There's just one problem. I don't know how painstakingly the Metacritic experts choose their excerpts for each game, but they tend to reflect horribly on game criticism in general. Here's the excerpt from Gametap's review of Ratchet and Clank Future:
It's rare that a game critic feels the way I do about this game, but in all honesty, I find it really difficult to find something that's not to like. The controls feel great. The graphics look great. The score sounds great. The weapon selection alone make me want to play the game over and over again, just to test out all the cool offered.

You've got the useless appeal to authority (Really? A game critic feels this way? Wow!), repetition of a fairly meaningless accolade, and, to top it all off, the grammatical abortion in the last clause. "Cool" is not now and has never been a noun. This stuff wouldn't pass muster in a high-school essay class. Maybe the full review is better; I didn't click through to see.

We're all guilty of employing clichés now and then. It can be unavoidable when you're on deadline. But it's rare that you see two reviewers employ the same cliché to make opposite points about the same game. It happened in the reviews for Uncharted. IGN's review, good for a Metacritic score of 91, declares that "The final sum is far greater than the individual parts." But EGM, doling out a pitiful 85, ruefully admits that "Everything's fun and exhilarating, but it never builds to more than the sum of its parts."

Hilarious, yes, but it speaks to the utility of the site that even such disagreements still contribute to the conclusion that Uncharted is a pretty good game. That's what I like about Metacritic: it's the sum of its parts.

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