Video game reviews are often looked to as a valuable source of information for gamers on the fence of purchasing a title. Many of us rely on the word of others to help us decide on whether or not a certain game is worth spending our money on. Some may argue that the overall system of reviews is broken for various reasons. While this does tend to be a severe issue in recent years, I’d like to focus on one single aspect commonly seen in video game reviews that I feel leaves many titles at an unfair disadvantage. It seems as though whenever a sequel to a successful title is released – or maybe even a reboot of sorts – it’s almost a reviewer’s instinct to immediately jump to a side-by-side comparison with the series’ previous installments. Is this really a fair practice?
I personally believe that a good game should be able to stand on its own. If the story is intriguing, the environments detailed and the controls and mechanics fluid and satisfying, then a title showcasing these attributes should be praised on its own merits. Now, what if these aspects are a notch or two down from the title’s predecessors? Should the final verdict be altered simply for this comparison? Common critiques in recent reviews often fall along the lines of: “…just doesn’t have the charm of the last game” or “…does not live up to it’s predecessor”. To some, it may seem like a logical standpoint, and I’ll admit that it’s difficult at times to filter these thoughts from my own mind when delving into a sequel. Regardless, the fact is that a sequel may not reach the heights of the series former installments, or a reboot may completely rehash almost all familiar elements, but if the game itself is an enjoyable and satisfactory experience, then it should be regarded a such without having to live up to anyone’s expectations stemming form what we’ve seen in the past.
Examples of titles that have suffered under these pretenses could list a mile long. Take some of last year’s and releases and some of the early ones of this year as evidence. Silent Hill: Downpour, DmC: Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. These games and more have taken criticism, while still being good to excellent games, due to reviewers’ and the community’s comparisons to each series’ previous installments. None of these games are bad. I may not have enjoyed all of them, but there comes a time when one has to give credit where credit is due. Titles such as these are rarely ever major downers of game; therefore reviewers have the responsibility to disregard titles in a series’ past and look at a game from a fresh and unbiased perspective. If not, there’s always that chance of deception. Gamers will be lead to believe that a title is unworthy of their purchase because of a single complaint in a review which unrightfully ends up dominating the entire perception.
In all fairness, this is not the most major complaint with video game reviews to be had among the community. Still, it’s one that subjects games to an unfair judgment. All games, when reviewed, should be taken in from a fresh perspective. Reviewers should learn to disregard their own preconceptions and judge a title based on its own exemplary gameplay experience or lack thereof.