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A Perfect Score: Is Any Game Worthy?

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April 22, 2008 2:06:02 PM

Article by Travis Meacham

With Grand Theft Auto IV looming on the horizon Senior Editor Travis Meacham addresses the inevitable flood of perfect scores it will get and our reluctance to award even great games with a 10.

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2008/04/22/column_perfect_score/
April 22, 2008 5:55:18 PM

Grr access denied to the tomsgames articles (from work). Perfect scores generally are reserved for "legendary" games such as mario and what not. I was really looking forward to GTA IV but I only have a PC, no console :( 
April 22, 2008 6:44:49 PM

10 represents perfection. So far I haven't seen any perfect game.
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April 22, 2008 7:21:17 PM

Horhe said:
10 represents perfection. So far I haven't seen any perfect game.


This is a hard one. I know this sounds strange, but for me, perfect or flawless doesn't always mean the best. For example, I consider "Apollo 13" to be a perfect movie: great acting, great story, great direction, great effects. I wouldn't change a single thing about that movie. It's perfect. However...I don't consider it one of the greatest movies ever made. Don't get me wrong, I like the movie a lot and will pretty much watch it through whenever it's on. But I don't LOVE it.

Similarly, "2001" is a flawed movie. The acting is wooden -- perhaps by design, but it's still George Lucas-wooden. Yet it hardly matters to me. The movie is such a powerful, engrossing experience. It's easily one of the 10 greatest pictures ever committed to film, even if it isn't perfect.

So if I take that logic to games, then I'd have to say that 10 for me means it's not perfect but it's still one of the greatest games ever made. In that respect, Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition gets the nod. Sure, some aspects of the control scheme aren't perfect. And yes, the dialogue can be wretched at times. But in terms of survival horror, I think it's tops. I consider it to be one of the greatest console games I'ver ever played, and one of the best games period.

So that's my philosophy. A game can have flaws and still be a 10 if the total experience moves you in a way that's unforgettable. And RE4 does. Hence, it's a 10.
April 22, 2008 7:40:11 PM

Only game I ever played that I'd consider perfect would probably be Ocarina of Time. Sometimes scores get translated into perfect 10s just because they're being converted to a different system. Many reviews use a scale of 5 and I think it's acceptable to give an excellent game a 5 even if it's not perfect. But on a scale of 1-10 and especially 1-100, I think perfect scores should be extremely rare. There are lots of games I love but I know they're not without flaws.

As for why reviewers don't give out more 1s, I think it's because it's equally rare for a mainstream game to be so awful that it would deserve a 1. Many review sites just review the high profile games and ignore the bad ones. Most gamers have a good sense of games that will be extremely bad. Even bad games from the major developers aren't so awful that they'd be anything below mediocre. Horrible games, especially games that score 1s are the types of games parents buy because they don't know any better and the game is probably cheap. A kid will ask for a racing game and they'll get Big Rigs. So many bad games just fly under the radar and avoid any publicity whatsoever so that they can sneak onto store shelves during the holiday season.
April 22, 2008 8:03:28 PM

Yeah, that's a super-tough call. I like Rob's analysis though - it seems like you should be able to give em out sometimes. In that case, I'd have given Deus Ex a 10 and probably Alpha Centauri too. Both games are outstanding examples of the genre, even if they were soft in the graphics department.

Oh, and Rob, some of the "wooden" acting in 2001 was deliberate - it was supposed to contrast the ironically robotic behavior of the humans with the painfully all-too-human HAL9000. It is one of the most powerful aspects of the film to me - these cool-as-cucumber astronauts in a duel to the death with a computer having a profound emotional freakout.

Still GTA4 would have to be a full quantum-leap over my current favorite incarnation, Vice City, to garner a 10. SA was a 6-7 game, IMHO.
April 22, 2008 11:03:50 PM

Deus Ex should be a 10, Fallout should be a 10, maybe MAYBE KOTOR. But most of the games that I consider to be the best of the best are at most a 9.8.

MOO2 - 9.8
Jagged Alliance 2 - 9.7
Dawn of War - 9.6
Alpha Centaurii - 9.5
Sins of a Solar Empire - 9.5
Freelancer - 9.5
Diablo 2 - 9.6
Tribes - 9.6
Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries - 9.5

These are some of my all time favorite games. Very VERY few qualify for the coveted 10.0. Anything that I could consider to be a notable flaw that subtracted from enjoyment to any degree would drop it a nudge.
April 23, 2008 3:36:20 AM

@infornography42

So, Sins of a Solar Empire = Alpha Centauri in your book? I'll have to give it a go - I was looking for a new good space sim.

I'm glad that we see eye-to-eye on Deus Ex. I truly feel for PC gamers that never played that title. Ironically, I did not pick it up until a few months after its release - I was very down on Ion Storm in general and had strong doubts that they could produce a decent game - Man I was so super-wrong.
April 23, 2008 4:13:30 AM

I think you have to define what a "10" means before you can decide if any game is worthy. If it means "perfect" then no game should ever be awarded a 10. There's always something that could be improved, or a bug, or some bit of text that carries a misspelling... If you define a 10 as "perfect" that means without flaws, no matter how minor.

I prefer to think of a 10 in terms of being better than anything I have previously experienced in it's genre. One thing I really like about Rob's take, is it basically dismisses the entire concept of a score breakdown. I've never liked that method of "grading" a game's merits, doing so always struck me as arbitrary.

Let's say you break down a game into 4 areas of excellence for the purposes of review. How do you grade a game that scores a 10/10 for graphics, audio, and innovation, but has a control scheme so hideously bad that it completely ruins the experience and renders the game almost completely unplayable? I mean, would you average the score for graphics: 10/10, audio: 10/10, innovation 10/10, game play: 1/10 and grant this game a score of 7.8, meaning it's a recommended title for fans of the genre?

To me, that game is a 1/10. It's unplayable, so the rest doesn't matter. In my mind the other things are footnotes. They are interesting, but can serve only to support and enhance something that is or is not at it's core an excellent game. A "10" to me, is something that blows my mind it's so good. I sit there staring at the credits rolling by, hoping there is some little extra Easter egg waiting for me at the end so I can grab just a few more moments in the game.

This happens very seldom. Beating the first Grand Tourismo was one of these moments for me. That game had flaws to be sure, but considering the platform it was on, and what was done with the resources available, it was mind numbingly good. As I consider the titles I have purchased over the years across multiple platforms, there are fewer than a dozen I would have awarded a 10. I've played some excellent games, great games even that did not give me that "afterglow" completing a true masterpiece will.

Can any game deserve a 10? I think so, yes. I also think in many ways we would be better off without a numerical grade system on reviews. 10's in general, have become so commonplace, they are largely meaningless.
April 23, 2008 4:47:19 AM

I prefer a 4 star system.
0 means completely bypass it. The game is so flawed as to be terrible and more an exercise in frustration
1 star is a bad game.
2 means it favors a niche, but nothing spectacular, innovative or memorable. A game that some may enjoy.
3 is a very good game and would recommend someone buy it.
4 is absolutely must have.

The problem is reviewers do not put what their scores mean. Most reviewers seem to use scores of a system that goes from 5-10 or an A-F and the grades are reflective of that. A 9+ is an A, and a 6 is D- with anything lower being a failing grade.
April 23, 2008 7:35:55 AM

Quote:
My system is
0/5 It didn't even run/ no (chandler singing)
1/5 That was called a game? buggy,crashes hard to play (more like torture)/ painfully awful song (Weird AL)
2/5 Alright but abit shallow storyline, mediorce characters/ bad-ish song w/awful lyrics (think of Phoebe or me)
3/5 Nothing memorable, shallow characters/ alright but I won't buy it (rembrants)
4/5 Whoa nice storyline but abit predictable/(dido)
5/5 Storyline was way too believable with twists and turns at every corner/ (kate walsh style song with lots of passion)


I love the way half of this relates to Friends, cracked me up.
I think I would've had Dido at 1/5 though and Rembrandts definitely above!
April 23, 2008 9:22:14 AM

Homeworld, Max Payne 2, Uplink, Half-Life - nothing since has ever touched these 4 in terms of sheer absorbing, sweaty-palm, "I refuse to go to bed until this finished and to hell with school/college/job" addiction.

Sure, things have come close - Half-Life 2 (+ episodes), Homeworld: Cataclysm and Homeworld 2 also grip you with their massive narratives but are either too similar to the original (HL2 is just a linear shooter after all) or make too many sweeping changes to the mechanics (HW2 just doesn't play like the same game) to be considered "better".

Just don't hack a bank in Uplink - the money you get if you're successful will pay outright for the maximum rig, you jump too many reputation levels and end up making it too easy and missing out on many fun assignments types.
April 23, 2008 10:41:27 AM

Horhe said:
10 represents perfection. So far I haven't seen any perfect game.


This. At most a game should get 99% if at all.

Otherwise it just proves how meaningless these scores are...


April 23, 2008 12:46:37 PM

The perfect game does not and will never exist, so nothing should be awarded a perfect score. If a game was truly perfect, you would never need (or want) to play another as it would cater to everyones tastes, be completely enthrawling, a continuous enjoyment that stands the test of time with endless replayability and variety. No game comes anywhere near this. Halo 3 was awarded many 10's, but even some of the blatant fanboys of this bland series agreed that it was flawed, not to mention the huge percentage of people that completely detest it. How is that even remotely perfect if it does not satisfy everyone (or even everyone of the target audience)? Reviewers will still give a game a 10, even if they do manage to pick up on a few points that they think it screwed up on, either because they do not wish to get on the bad side of the creators/publishers/audience, or simply because they feel bad about giving what they consider to be a good game, a score less than the max. It's misleading to readers and shows how scores between 0 and 10 really do not cut it anymore. A percentage system, which is still flawed, would be far more accurate. Awarding a game several scores on certain merits (gameplay, story, replayability, sound, etc) would be even better, as some people are drawn to certain aspects of games and not others. I mean, I did like Crysis, the engine would get a high rating from me, but the story was crap for the most part and certain parts of the game were boring/awful.

Anyway, even the best games I have ever played, which I consider to be masterpieces of their genre, are not flawless by any means. As much as I love these games, I can see ways in which they could be improved or ways in which they fail. Alot of people who love a game will be blind to it's failings, which is fine (when they don't act like mindless asses when they defend or compare that game to others), but if you're someone who reviews games in order to inform the masses, you really can't have this mindset. Tell me what's good about a game, sure, but tell me what's wrong with it too so I can make an educated decision about buying it! I don't want to go out and buy a game that was given 10/10 and be dissapointed because it didn't live up to my expectations *cough*Halo*cough*Quake*cough*.
April 23, 2008 7:47:41 PM

Chazwuzzer said:
@infornography42

So, Sins of a Solar Empire = Alpha Centauri in your book? I'll have to give it a go - I was looking for a new good space sim.

I'm glad that we see eye-to-eye on Deus Ex. I truly feel for PC gamers that never played that title. Ironically, I did not pick it up until a few months after its release - I was very down on Ion Storm in general and had strong doubts that they could produce a decent game - Man I was so super-wrong.


They are probably equally good but I see them as distinct enough that I can't really compare them directly.

Pretty much any game that I would give higher than a 9.0 is an awesome game that I am very glad I played. The gradients within that bracket are pretty much exclusively having to do with nitpicks. Little things about the game that annoyed me or shook me out of the moment so to speak.

Deus Ex was as perfect a game as I have ever played. There really weren't any moments that were broken by short sighted gameplay or poor interface design. It could have stood to have better graphics but they were good enough that I could easily tell what was going on and to me, that is all that really matters in the graphics department.

Alpha Centauri was dinged for a few things. One being the horrible imbalance between the factions and the fact that early game you were just about guaranteed to be at war with the spartans and/or the believers, and late game you were just about guaranteed to be at war with the hive. Somewhere in the early middlish part of the game the morganites would be quitely eradicated. This was consistent enough that it bothered me. Also it was dinged for it's eye searing colors. Bland, ugly map and it did occasionally get in the way of clearly discerning things. Lastly it got dinged for my inability to build a cruise missile with a colony pod as the payload ;-).

Sins got dinged for the lack of a single player campaign. It really needed one. Also the ships for the different sides are a bit too similar overall. I'd like a bit more differences between the factions.
April 27, 2008 12:01:16 AM

You don't compare the special Olympics to the normal Olympics.

And back in the Electric Gaming Monthly (EGM) a group of people decide and gave them there own rating, some would be crap scores and some would be awesome scores cause the judges had different taste in game types.


A game that id give perfects to is Secret of Mana, Crono Trigger, Final fantasy 7.

however there isn't a lot of computer games I'd give perfects to. but i mostly play MMOs on computer. yes there are GREAT games for the computer but nothing id score perfects to, Diablo, C&C generals but not perfect.. and this list could go on.

People do enjoy the special Olympics, and prefer it over the regular Olympics, there are some "special" games out there that you can't put down tho metal gear solid sons of liberty was one of those games, I didn't wanna be that blond hair douche bag, i wanted to play as solid snake etc, but i still beat that garbage. Why, the story line was very addictive to me i also beat it in 3 days or so.

Now I wouldn't touch that stupid game with a 10 foot pull!
April 29, 2008 6:38:32 PM

Well, the GTA IV reviews are coming in and, surprise, surprise, they're a bunch of 10s.

The language of the reviews is pretty embarrassing - orgasmically proclaiming GTA IV the greatest game of all time. Didn't the same thing happen when San Andreas came out (9.6 on metacritic)?

Is it hype-madness? I remember the insanity surrounding Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with some very prominent film critics pronouncing it the greatest film of all time. The thing was, none of those critics had ever deigned to watch the (often superior) high-flying kung-fu epics from which that film was spawned.

I'm sure that it is a good game and the mountains of game content sound very interesting, but could the reviewers please put the crack pipe down and step away?
April 29, 2008 7:45:51 PM

yeah besides KOTOR already was the greatest game of all time. ;-)
April 30, 2008 9:38:06 AM

I liked KOTOR2. I thought it was better than KOTOR1 in just about every way except the ending sucked and didn't really resolve anything. That was the year of infamous cliffhanger endings. Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and KOTOR2 all had cliffhanger endings that begged for a sequel. The problem is KOTOR2 still hasn't gotten that sequel.

As for GTA4, I've been playing it, and I don't think it's going to knock down my current pick for greatest game of all time: Ocarina of Time, which is still probably the only game I'd call perfect. GTA4 is good and seems like a big improvement over the previous games, but it's definitely not perfect. There is a lot to do and it's an excellent game but a few problems are already bugging me. There are a few freezing bugs that seem to be plaguing both 360 and PS3. I had my game freeze while watching a cutscene, suddenly the scene froze and cut out and I was on the street and couldn't move. The controls aren't as good as they could've been. Pressing a button to run instead of being able to use the analog stick for running and walking is a big annoyance. Reminds me of Shenmue. I don't see a reason for it in this day and age. I don't think running fatigues you like in previous games, but tapping the run button still makes you sprint for a short time. Still, I'd rather just be able to push the analog stick to run/walk. Targeting still isn't the greatest, but it's mostly a problem while beating someone up, especially if they're running away. The soundtrack doesn't seem as strong as previous games either, but that's just personal taste. Those are my complaints so far, and while minor they're enough to mar any sort of perfect status.

Still, there are lots of subtle details that really make the game shine. Some of my favorite moments are when I slammed my car into a guy on a motorcycle parked at a light and his body went FLYING but still seemed very realistic based on the speed I was going. Another moment that impressed me was when I had to kill some drug dealers and I decided to just run them down in my car, which ended up getting shot to hell. Little details like bullets holes piercing your car really showcase the graphics. My character was even shot through the windshield which left it stained with blood. And while speeding down a road not really paying attention I slammed into a car and my guy flew through the windshield.

I think GTA4 is an excellent game so far. I'd say it's in the 9.5-9.8 range. There's so much to see and do, and I've barely scratched the surface. It's hard to not think highly of a game that offers more than most other games combined. The gameplay, graphics, story, voice acting, and presentation are top notch, but not quite perfect.
November 13, 2008 5:24:53 AM

no
November 13, 2008 9:49:25 PM

For the record (directed at a poster a couple of posts above me), KOTOR2 was a broken game in every respect. It was rushed out by Obsidian to make the holiday season. The fact that it still rates in many people's top ten lists is a testament to the perfection that this game could have had if it had only been finished.

Anyway, more on topic I completely agree with Rob. I rate a perfect game in it's ability to move me in some way. It has to have something that I can take away and look back at. KOTOR and the Half Life series stand out in this regard completely. Homeworld comes close, but just misses it. There are so many scenes in both KOTOR and Half Life 1 and 2 that I remember eerily vividy.

However, using this definition of perfect means that it is impossible to review a game objectively. Everyone will have different definitions of perfect games. Which is why I think the "scoring" system needs to be removed so that the reviewer can focus on communicating what kind of impression the game made on him/her.
November 14, 2008 9:02:47 PM

Deuz Ex is a shining example of how a game can be a 10.
Look at Far Cry2 and it's a pitiful excuse of a game...how is it that approx 10 years ago Ion Storm can create a perfect game and 10 yeas later Ubi balls it up with Far Cry 2.
Other examples of 10 ratings would be Half Life/HL2/Far Cry and I'm probably going to get slaughtered for this but Halo...yes I know the thingmagiggys in the corridor annoyed the crap out of ppl..me too ,,but the overall game was fantastic...I loved the blend of flying/driving tanks and fps all in the same game.
Battlefield2 is another game I would rank as a 10..sure it was buggy...but it was and still is a fantastic game online.
November 15, 2008 12:29:08 AM

airblazer said:
Deuz Ex is a shining example of how a game can be a 10.
Look at Far Cry2 and it's a pitiful excuse of a game...how is it that approx 10 years ago Ion Storm can create a perfect game and 10 yeas later Ubi balls it up with Far Cry 2.
Other examples of 10 ratings would be Half Life/HL2/Far Cry and I'm probably going to get slaughtered for this but Halo...yes I know the thingmagiggys in the corridor annoyed the crap out of ppl..me too ,,but the overall game was fantastic...I loved the blend of flying/driving tanks and fps all in the same game.
Battlefield2 is another game I would rank as a 10..sure it was buggy...but it was and still is a fantastic game online.
PC gamers are often unable to grasp why it is that Halo is so popular. It's not because their campaigns, but how well the game handles multiple players per console while offering a variety of play modes. If I was only going to compare campaign, or online play, of course there are games that have done it better on the PC, but on the consoles Halo offers a lot that no PC games offer.
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