Wii launch day: The day mainstream media review scores became irrelevant

That “read more” button is coming any day now, I’m sure of fit!

There’s been enough time between now and the Wii launch to safely say the reviews are in. They’ve been, in a word, mixed. And by mixed I mean “wildly all over the place.” As an ardent supporter and fan of the console, having logged countless hours (actually, my system knows exactly how many now doesn’t it?), I can take the “mixed” rating in a positive light. It means the Wii is disrupting the playing field.

Normally a lukewarm response to anything in the media is akin to failure in today’s one shot or you’re finished environment, but not with the Wii. I get the feeling that with this console the reviews are by and large irrelevant. I understand I’ve cited scores here on Infendo in the past, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that they just don’t matter anymore, at least for the Wii, because they’re so wildly misplaced when applied to it. I’m going to catch heat for this, but I’m going to say it again: When Gears of War gets a perfect 10, you can no longer look at the mainstream press as an accurate indicator of what’s good for the gaming industry (especially with that ending credits music – are you frickin’ serious Epic, really?!).

So, Jack, how do we turn this conversation back to Nintendo, and to the Wii where it belongs on a Nintendo site? To start, does this mean I think Wii should be getting perfect reviews left and right? Not at all, and not even close. This generation isn’t about better or worse, it’s about being different.

Read through some of the reviews for the launch games. Those reviews that cite fun and innovation as key components (for the good ones, as there is a fair share of poopsky on the Wii, as there are with any launch), give the console high marks. “Serious reviewers” give the Wii poor marks because the games feel – to them — like tech demos with sub par graphics. The latter reviewers miss the point, given that the system was never advertised in its development as a graphics machine, and I believe they will be largely left behind in the coming years as the mammoth amounts of latent potential in this system are tapped and distributed to the masses. Having played this machine with dozens of people of all ages and personality types, I can safely say that anyone still labeling the Wii as “kiddie” has never played the system. Even party games like Rayman have wildly differing review scores. On Infendo, I believe the pro and con camps are evenly split. For a game like this, I attribute a mixed score to the fact that this is a great game idea that lacks refinement. It’s a great indicator of what’s coming next, not only from Ubisoft, but from developers in general who are starved for a new challenge.

It’s all inevitable really, if you’ve seen first hand anyone playing this system for the first time. Sure, it may start with frustration as the Wii bowler throws a ball in the wrong direction, but eventually, given a few moments of someone’s time, the system clicks. And it clicks in a way that fills this void, both with hardcore and non-gamer alike, where gaming has become a predictable formula that caters more to a publisher’s bottom line than to gamers having fun. There are hiccups to be overcome, that’s for sure – there’s no real online presence for this “community minded” Wii yet, is there? But for the most part, there exists a library at present that will entertain groups and individuals for months to come.

For those that don’t experience that click, I’m truly sorry. You’re missing out. Let go of the stereotypes and let yourself have FUN. If not, as the Wii takes off as it inevitably will, you will be left behind with your ports and shooters and dying proprietary media formats, none of which enhance actual fun. You will be the miser clinging to LP’s cassettes as those strange CD’s take hold. Sure, the quality isn’t as good, but life’s more fun with tracks and no rewinding.

In this light, I propose a new review system, to be adopted by no one in particular other than the everyday gamer out there swinging his or her arms in a series of furious forehands cross court. I propose when “rating” a game one asks themselves: did I have fun? Forget realism; go see a movie. Forget physics; go roll a rock down a hill and take notes. Forget blood spatter; watch CSI. Gaming has and always will be an escape from normalcy, not a means to remain trapped within it.

Can you imagine Wii Sports with the same exact game play, but with your face staring back with dead eyes as you play your other, dead-eyed looking friends? Sure, it’d be more real and better looking than a Mii, but would it be as fun?

[Inspired by a post at 4cr]

11 Responses to Wii launch day: The day mainstream media review scores became irrelevant

  1. gambit says:

    Great article. You know, I was thinking the same thing myself. Even games that are bombing (relatively speaking) in reviews are ones I strangely find myself dying to try, something that’s never occurred on an old-style console. I really wanna play excite truck and red steel, even though critics are giving them less-than-stellar review scores. I first considered this when looking at reviews for many of Nintendo’s Touch Generation games for the DS… many of them received low scores, yet they still sounded like tons of fun (cooking mama!). Interesting, and good read once again Infendo.

  2. Clu says:

    I have to agree with you on most point here. One thing though. LP’s have tracks and you don’t have to rewind them. i think the only benefit of CD’s is they are smaller and more scratch resistant. And have anti skip nowadays, but i suppose thats really not what we are here to talk about, is it?

  3. Jack says:

    clu, good point. I think in my haste i mashed up a comment about LP’s, cassettes and CDs. I’ll throw in “talkies” as well just to sound silly. You’re right on however. Good catch.

  4. Blake says:

    I think the mixed review scores can mostly be attributed to subjectivity and maybe even how broken of a “technicality” review system that is still being used. Some traditional game reviewers are obviously still coming to terms or don’t want to play games with motion.

    Take Wii Sports. It has imperfections, lacks on-screen advancments like graphics (though I like the game’s presentation), but I can’t stop playing this game. Reviewing games, at least for Wii, just got a lot harder to score. And what now should you review a game on?

    I think reviews should go beyond just “fun,” as I also turn to games for drama. But the methodology for game reviews has been turned on its head, me thinks.

  5. Clu says:

    oh gawd am i glad i don’t have you use cassettes any more. Anyone remember the good old Tandy and C64 days when games came on those things?

  6. cronotrigger913 says:

    Yeah, it’s starting to get pretty hard to judge these reviews for Wii games. I was all upset about Red Steel getting some bad grades on the controls, but when I played it, none of those problems occurred for me. And if they did, I just played the game enough to correct the problems through experience. One has to wonder if a review that is formulated from playing a game for 5 straight hours can really determine how good a Wii game is now, like Wii Sports. That game just gets better and better. And I agree that the machine should never be judged on the graphics, as it was never planned to change much. You can’t take points away from an inherent change of paths and ideals within the medium. Like Michael Jackson always says, “That’s ignorant.”

  7. InvisibleMan says:

    I’ll give you this: Reviews for Wii games are all over the place! And it is getting harder to trust them when you can’t even see what the player is doing with that remote while reviewing the game. Something as simple as adjusting your moves, or imagining that you are holding a real club or racket make all the difference.

    On that subject, have any of you seen the latest issue of GameInformer? Those arrogant fools refused to give any Wii games a review! Not even a preview! They claim Nintendo didn’t let them, but I have my doubts… I think they just didn’t know how to judge them.

    This is the end of “professional” game reviews for me!

  8. Nick says:

    Great read. I’ve been trying to brainstorm a great model combining the “fun factor” rating with traditional merit based reviews. I’ve had some good ideas, but nothing I feel would be a great model for the vg media, unfortunately.

  9. bryan_3089 says:

    Great, great, great article and some fantastic points to go with it.

    Sort of going off what many others said, I personally think it’s important to first identify the game developer’s GOAL. I personally was REALLY ticked off when I saw that Wii Sports got a 7.5/10 on IGN.com. I understand their points, but, I find it highly unfair to deduct ANY points off of a game’s score simply because the graphics aren’t of the same style as, for instance, Gears of War.

    As the article points out at the end, COULD Nintendo have infiltrated realistic faces of each Mii character in WiiSports? If a GameCube is capable of producing the realism that is Resident Evil 4, then I’d be damned of the Wii weren’t capable of producing something even better.

    Nintendo’s goal with WiiSports was to welcome EVERYONE to an enjoyable, entertaining video game. In my honest opinion, they passed with flying colors – that game is WAY more fun than any of us were expecting. The crisp, creative, colorful graphical style and surprisingly thorough training sessions only ADD to the game. And to think.. I haven’t even played multiplayer yet!

    If my review – a multi-platform gamer since the NES days – counts for anything… I think WiiSports deserves a solid 9 or 9.5/10, in terms of Nintendo’s driving purpose of the game.

    Bravo!

  10. manofgames4555 says:

    I agree with just about everything you posted! Especailly how bad the reviews are! Gamespot.com gave redsteel a 5.5/10! I have redsteel for the Wii and that score is so far off it’s sickening. I personally think it’s one of the funnest games out for the Wii. People can’t judge Wii games with a elementary old school rating system they just can’t!

  11. duckhuntdude says:

    I’m not sure what you want to express with your article.

    What you definitely get wrong is that “perfect 10” doesn’t mean it’s perfect, it’s just the highest score on a 1 to 10 scale – meaning the game (in it’s context, genre, etc…) is excellent.

    So you can have a 10 for GoW and a 10 for TP and you can’t compare the scores in the least.

    Yet I agree that reviews get less important – mainly because fanbois/girls are not interested in reviews (read: opinions) that don’t reflect their own state of mind.

    Basically our society has a trend to not accepting different opinions as much as 10 years ago.

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