'Kane & Lynch'I thought it would be a fitting coda to my series on game reviews last week to share some thoughts from some top reviewers about second-guessing.

Could you imagine reviewing hundreds of games, filing each review just hours or maybe one day after finishing the game you were scoring? Don't you think you'd second-guess yourself?

Well, the death threats used to give current Giant Bomb reviewer Jeff Gerstmann pause. And former GameSpot reviewer Alex Navarro, who said he has written about 700 reviews, could give me the number of reviews he regrets.

But, no, they don't really second-guess.


MTV Multiplayer's reviews week is drawing to a close. And I thought it would be good to end with one of the fundamental topics of any conversation about reviews: are game review scores really necessary?

Several stories in this week's series demonstrated the role game review scores play in the business (Note that no one ever said they guarantee higher sales!). I asked two of the game development studio leads who have been quoted throughout my series what they think about the need for the number and letter scores.

Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights: All reviews need is a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down.' If I was writing a review I would write a detailed review about where I thought [a game] was strong or weak. I would write is as if I was talking to a friend who I liked or appreciated -- which should be the customer, for a reviewer. ... You see all these 10 out of 10 reviews for 'GTA.' A 10 out of 10 doesn't make it perfect. Just have people score it with thumbs up or down. To say this is 'highly recommended by most people,' I think, is more accurate. To me this makes much more sense."

Ted Price, Insomniac Games: As a consumer I like seeing the numerical scores. It lets me know if I should go spend my money. If something is under a certain score I probably won't give it much consideration. I think as a developer I think we all appreciate the numerical scores because it justifies the work we put in the game. .. I understand the problem with numbers because there is no consistent system that people use. But generally when you see a good game, it's getting scores within a certain range and when you see a bad game it's getting scores in a certain range.

And that is a debate I suspect will never cease. Stay tuned for one more post in this series, fittingly enough, about second-guessing.

For much more about game reviews, check back all week to follow my reviews series here at MTV Multiplayer. Got a comment you can’t bring yourself to share below this post? Drop me an e-mail.

'Metal Gear Solid 4'While reporting MTV Multiplayer's week-long series about game reviews I've heard from members of the gaming press about restrictions publishers place on game reviews. I'm familiar with some of these. It's common for a publisher to specify plot details that they don't want revealed in reviews.

What I heard about print reviews for "Metal Gear Solid 4" was different.

I've been told by two gaming media sources who asked to remain anonymous that Konami representatives had been asking print reviewers to keep some technical details out of their reviews, namely the length of the game's cut-scenes and the size of the game's installation on the PlayStation 3.

Such details wouldn't have been plot spoilers, but perhaps the publisher was concerned that they would be viewed as negatives?

Konami representatives declined to comment to me about any of this, as did editors of a few major video game magazines.


'Too Human'Over at MTV News, I filed another story for our Reviews Week spectacular, breaking down some of the basics about what developers think of reviews.

An excerpt:

Reviews may deliver designer notes, but they also deliver dollars. Denis Dyack, the long-tenured president of Silicon Knights, developer of upcoming Xbox 360 game "Too Human," said that a development studio's review scores, or Metacritic average, are one of the key things a publisher will look at before deciding whether to fund the creation of a game and green-light a particular studio's idea and involvement. "That's extremely important in getting a deal with a publisher," he said. "In the development world, you're only as good as your last game. ... There's two ways of determining if you were good: One is through sales, which is the most important one, and the other is through quality of title, which is generally, believe it or not, perceived as Metacritic."

For the rest of this piece, including how developers deal with the pyschological blow of a negative review, check out the full story at MTVNews.com.

For much more about game reviews, check back all week to follow my reviews series here at MTV Multiplayer. Got a comment you can’t bring yourself to share below this post? Drop me an e-mail.

moneyLow-scoring game reviews sometimes cost game makers money. Directly.

This happens because of a common -- but not widespread -- industry practice I heard about several times while reporting on the topic of game reviews for the past month.

Here's the way it works: a game publisher agrees to finance the work of a development studio and includes a stipulation that certain bonuses or royalties won't be delivered unless the game achieves a certain Metacritic score. If you're that developer and you agree to that deal, you better hope reviewers give you a fair shake, no?

One developer, who asked not to be named told me about an instance in which their company didn't receive royalties for a game that sold more than a million copies. The reason was because -- as had been stipulated in a contract with the publisher -- the Metacritic score for the game was too low.

Does a developer with a million-seller deserve royalties? I asked some other game creators and reviewers about this practice.

Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


'Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting'Once in a while I hear about the release of a new downloadable game -- a new XBLA or PSN title -- and I look for some reviews of it. Often, I don't find much.

Downloadable games for major consoles are, across the board, reviewed fewer times than disc-based games. This is an issue people in the games industry and the media are aware of, and for some, it's a frustration.

"You can look in the games media and you can see the difference in coverage between traditional retail products versus digitally distributed titles," Capcom spokesman Chris Kramer said to me. "The overall perception is that if you can't go into EB and buy it over the counter, then it's not important."

Do game reviewers unfairly neglect downloadable games? Read on for both sides of the story.


'Pegg;e'You've either played "Peggle" or someone you know has. I'm sure of this. The game was a monstrous hit last year, a 2007 PC puzzle-game release that was downloaded more than 10 million times. It's a so-called casual game, popular with moms, but with that many downloads it's surely relevant to all gamers.

If you wanted to know if "Peggle" was any good, you could download it. But maybe you'd like to read a review. There isn't one on GameSpot. There isn't one on IGN's PC site. I didn't recall seeing one in Game Informer or … anywhere.

And when I checked Metacritic, that review aggregation service showed me why: almost no major gaming site has reviewed the heavily-downloaded "Peggle." (Until the iPod release a year later, that is.)

I asked some major reviewers and one of the people behind "Peggle" what they thought of this turn of events. Was this an indictment of the reviews system? Or the system serving its audience appropriately?


Nintendo WiiThe subject of how game companies communicate with game reviewers came up a few times while I interviewed former GameSpot reviewer Alex Navarro. And wouldn't you know that, without missing a beat, he was able to produce a memorable note he received a couple of years ago.

This, he said, demonstrated the way the communication sometimes works. "I have a note in my hand that came from a PR person surrounding a certain Wii launch game," Navarro told me. 

This is the note he was sent by a publicist whom he declined to name:

If the review is 9.0 or higher you can post immediately. Lower than 9.0, could you please hold until launch day, November 19th? Thanks.

"And that's not the first time I got something like that," he told me. Navarro said GameSpot ran their review for this game based on a copy bought in a store. And they panned it.

For much more about game reviews, check back all week to follow my reviews series here at MTV Multiplayer. Got a comment you can't bring yourself to share below this post? Drop me an e-mail.

The Bill of RightsGame reviewers aren't satisfied with the opportunities they get to review games. In interviews, they tell me that things could be better. And they've explained how some standard practices affect the reviews they write.

What if it could all be perfect? I asked a few top game reviewers to tell me their desires for the perfect review experience. I put their requests in a list. The result is the first draft of:

The Game Reviewer's Bill Of Rights
(rough draft!)

Item 1: A final, boxed copy of a game will be provided to a reviewer prior to the writing of a review

Item 2: The review copy of a game will be made available to the reviewer at least a week prior to a game's release

Item 3: Developers and publishers will not be present while a game is reviewed

Item 4: Reviewers will be given access to a game's online mode during the review process

Item 5: To be determined -- this is a rough draft

Now does any of that sound implausible? Maybe it should. Read on to see what game reviewers and game creators have to say about these issues. And let us know what amendments should be made to this list.


In the process of interviewing people in the games industry and media about game reviews, I heard all sorts of things. For example:

How a top reviewer thinks...

"'How can I save people money today?' is basically the kind of mentality that I tackle this stuff with."

--Giant Bomb founder and former Gamespot editorial director Jeff Gerstmann


What a Metacritic score of 85 gets a game developer... Read More...

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