Explaining Our Video Game Review Scoring

We’re on the review request list for a few upcoming games during the run to the Christmas gift buying season. Since we’re going to be doing more video game reviews over the next couple of months, I think it’s time to explain the video game rating system that we’ll be using. Video game reviews are generally all over the map in terms of what the final score actually means. Hopefully by detailing our system, we’ll help you make more informed decisions when dropping $60 for a game.

In reviewing video games, we break down a game by four key components (graphics, sound, story and gameplay) before assigning an overall score. Let’s start with how we score the four core components of a game.

Graphics

Graphics is a score of the game’s visuals. It compares the game being reviewed to other games in the genre and in this console generation (as consoles tend to drive the visual design of games). This can be a subjective score as not all games have the same art style. Crysis 3 strives for very realistic graphics while Borderlands 2 (another first-person shooter) uses comic-book style cell shade graphics. Comparing the two straight-up just wouldn’t make sense.

A score of 10 would be the best graphics on the market right now. A score of 5.0 or less indicates that the game’s graphics are poorly done or are years behind in terms of visual quality.

Sound

Sound incorporates all the audio in a game including music, voice acting and sound effects. A high score indicates excellent voice acting, a good score/soundtrack and good sound effects. Poor voice acting or repetitive/ill-fitting sound effects would result in a lower score.

Story

A score for story is only applicable to games where story is important. If a game is driven by following the story to completion (like the Mass Effect and Final Fantasy series), the story will be scored. While scoring the story might seem subjective, it’s no more subjective than evaluating the plot of a book, movie or TV show. If it’s interesting and unique, it will get a high score. If the story is dull and nonsensical, the score will be low.

Gameplay

This is the meat and potatoes of a game. If actually playing the game is fun and interesting, the gameplay will have a high score. If gameplay is frustrating (through glitches or poor programming) or repetitive, the game will have a low score.

While that seems like an overly simplistic way of looking at how a game plays, the biggest factor in whether a game is good or not should be how fun and enjoyable it is to play. If you want to keep playing it for hours on end or pick it up the second you get home from work/school/etc., the gameplay is probably pretty good. If you put off playing the game or want to throw your controller at the TV as a result of playing, gameplay probably isn’t so good.

Overall

The overall score isn’t an average of the other scores that are listed in the review. While the game’s core components do influence the final score, it’s not a straight average. The overall score is an indicator of how enjoyable a game is overall and if it’s worth buying.

Overall Score Meanings

10 – This game is absolutely worth the money. You should probably drop everything and buy it now. It will be on the shortlist for game of the year, if not the GOTY winner.

9.0-9.9 – This score indicates an excellent game. It does everything almost perfectly. This game will be a benchmark for any games that follow it in the genre and will have a cult following for years to come.
Example: Mass Effect 2

8.0-8.9 – This is a very good game. I’d recommend playing it unless you don’t like or play games in this genre or only have money/time for only the best of the best games. There are some minor issues but it’s still a very good gaming experience.

7.0-7.9 – This is a good game. There are issues with the four core game components above that keep it from being a great game. A little more time and effort could have made it great. As it stands, it’s not bad and is worth a play.
Example: Young Thor

6.0-6.9 – This is an average or okay game. I wouldn’t recommend buying it at full price unless you’re a huge fan of the series/genre. Even then, I wouldn’t rush to Gamestop. There are issues with the gameplay and other core aspects of the game that keep it from being a completely enjoyable experience.
Example: WRC 2

5.0-5.9 – This is a just passable game. It’s far from good but it’s not so bad that you would boycott every game this developer makes in the future. A couple of patches and this game might even slide up to the 6.0 range. If you’re a huge fan of the series/genre, you’ll probably still find some enjoyment in the game. Still, I’d wait for the price to drop.

3.0-4.9 – This game is so bad it doesn’t even get a passing grade. It could be a result of badly glitched or poorly designed gameplay or is somehow so bad that there is no enjoyment to be had by someone over the age of 8. I wouldn’t recommend paying money for it but there are worse games.

0.0-2.9 – This game is so bad that I wouldn’t even take it for free. You shouldn’t even acknowledge this game’s existence. In fact, if I ever try giving this game away, the unlucky soul who should get free rein to beat me over the head with the case.

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