Here at DualShockers, one of our best qualities is the unique writing style and attitude that many of our writers have, and that gets reflected in their reviews, which are some of the most viewed items on our site. With our reviews, it has always been our stance to give our readers – you – the most honest, truthful and personal opinion on a game, regardless of the consequences. We don’t cater to the publishers, developers, public relations firms or anyone else.
We do value the relationships we’ve built with these entities over the last two years, and they are of high importance to us. However, our first priority is to our readers, the gamers out there who read our reviews and who may rely on them to get an informed overview of how a game stacks up. We will heap high praise upon games that, in the opinion of the reviewer, deserve it. Conversely, we won’t be afraid to get a bit harsh when the situation warrants it. That is the core of our game review philosophy.
We attempt to ride the fence of being objective and being subjective. What that means is that it is impossible to write a review for a game, movie, book or product without, in some way, forming an opinion about it. This is just how things are. We have fans of various genres, franchises, platforms and developers on staff, and each of us will show some of that fanboy-ism from time to time in these reviews. That comes with the territory, folks. However, when you get right down to it, our scores are objective based on a number of factors that may or may not change depending on what game it is, what the gaming climate is at the time and how we feel about various mechanics, story tropes or design philosophies.
In addition to that, unlike some other outlets, we use the full 10 point scale (with 20 different points possible, using halves). We use it as it is meant to be used. At the low end, one (1) is a horrible game not worthy of the plastic it’s stamped on. In the middle five (5), which, might I remind everyone, is average. That means the game isn’t outstanding, but it isn’t horrible, either. It’s median, middle of the line, standard, typical, average. This does not mean it’s a bad game. Don’t make us repeat that more than once. Finally, on the high end of the scale is ten (10), which means a game is near flawless and truly outstanding in every aspect. This doesn’t mean a game is perfect, but it is about as close to perfect as they come.
We are very much against the idea in the industry today that a game has to get a 7/10 or higher to be considered a success. That isn’t how this scale is supposed to work, and it’s rather amazing how many review outlets, critics, members of the industry and consumers alike think this is the way it is. This isn’t high school, 70% (7/10) is not an average C.
With all that being said, review scores themselves are a means to an end, a necessary evil. Publishers like them, PR need to see them and they help consumers, at a glance, to get a general idea of what we thought of a title. However, you must be willing to actually put your mind to work and read our full review to see why we gave it the score we did, otherwise the score means nothing outside of your own mind. I repeat, you will not get the full understanding of why we reviewed a game the way we did without first reading the review and looking at the score in the light of what you read.
Breaking Down the Score
This is, generally speaking, how we break down our 10-point review score scale. Please note that every game may not conform exactly to what is written below, however this will, in general, give you an idea of how our review score relates to how we felt about the game. Again, I emphasize, we use the full scale, so even games that we may find fun and entertaining will fall in the 4.0-6.5 range, especially if they are just typical games of their genre.
Also, we do take genre and gaming climate into consideration. We aren’t going to compare a fighting game with an action title, or a Western RPG with a Japanese RPG – that is just not the way to do it. The review scores will reflect how the game sits within its own genre. As the gaming climate changes, scores may shift to adjust to that change, as well. Fifteen years ago, no reviewers would deduct points for random encounters in an RPG. Today it’s possible that they would. The gaming climate has changed since then, and still continues to evolve every year. Our scores will adapt to reflect that.
A title that receives this sought-after score is as perfect as a game can get. Everything about this title exudes polish and great game design within its own genre and the current gaming climate, with a healthy dose of awesomeness thrown in for good measure. Definitely a must-buy for any avid gamer!
9.0 – 9.5 [Superb]:
An excellent game. This title may not be without its flaws, but they are small and the good far outweighs the bad. There is much to like for anyone looking for a great gaming experience that shouldn’t be missed.
8.0 – 8.5 [Great]:
These are titles that have some flaws that could turn some people off, but overall are great experiences. We still highly recommend these titles, which are always good enough for a wide variety of gamers.
7.0 – 7.5 [Good]:
A generally good game overall, especially if you’re a fan of the genre or interested in the game’s subject matter or setting. There are more pros than cons here, but the faults could be pretty noticeable and may turn some off.
6.0 – 6.5 [Decent]:
There are good things about these games, but they are offset by the issues that are likely mildly significant. If you’re a fan of this particular genre, you may want to check it out, just be wary of the major faults.
5.0 – 5.5 [Mediocre]:
Average games which have some serious faults that threaten to overshadow the good. If you’re interested in a title that receives this score, you might want to read more about it before diving in. Genre fans will likely be happy, however.
4.0 – 4.5 [Poor]:
These games didn’t work out how they should have or tend to have major flaws that are obviously due to rushed or unfinished production. They just don’t come together well overall and, even if you’re a fan of the genre or theme, might want to carefully consider this purchase.
3.0 – 3.5 [Bad]:
A game with few positive qualities and those that are there are likely outweighed by the bad. Even fans of the genre will find this title disappointing and should probably steer clear until it hits the bargain bin.
2.0 – 2.5 [Horrible]:
There is absolutely no way we’d ever recommend this game to anyone aside from using it as a way to rack up achievements, even if you’re a fan of the genre, setting or characters. Just no.
1.0 – 1.5: [Die in a Fire]:
If you even so much as think about picking up this title, the gaming gods will forever forsake you and will revoke your right to ever turn on your game systems again.
Where do we get games to review?
The site’s reviews editor works with the other editors to plan, assign and acquire review copies. We have a list that contains games and their release dates. This list is updated frequently and writers are assigned reviews based on their wants, their genre preferences and their availability. When the time comes, we will contact the publishers or their PR firms to request review copies of the games.
As many of you know, publishers provide pre-retail, retail or digital download products to review outlets to help with coverage of their games. This is an established fact of the gaming industry. We get free stuff in exchange for coverage. The Federal Communications Commission requires us to disclose product we receive from the publishers or distributors in our review in some form, which we do at the bottom of each review. The vast majority of games and hardware we review come to us in this manner and we have established great relationships with most publishers – both big and small – within the gaming industry.
Unfortunately, we aren’t in a position to purchase the few titles that publishers may not send us, however we do make our best effort to have them reviewed if someone on the staff is already going to be purchasing them personally.
How are reviews handled?
As I mentioned, we have a master list of games for the foreseeable future. All writers on our site are given the option to review games, and they are given games based on many different factors. One of the most important philosophies we have when assigning games to a particular writer is to make sure they’re comfortable with the game’s genre.
We feel it’s bad form to randomly assign games to reviewers who don’t like the game’s genre, because that may, subconsciously, negatively affect the review. It’s more important for a writer to be excited about reviewing a title. This way they have more motivation to give it their all, which, in turn, improves the review, which is a service to the readers, publishers and developers.
Our reviewers have vastly different writing styles and ways they approach reviews. Instead of stifling their voice, we encourage uniqueness and adding that personal flavor to their writing. Regardless of our individual writing style, however, you can be sure that we will tell you, in all honesty, exactly what we think of a game. We owe that to our readers, most importantly, but also to developers and publishers. Anything else would be a disservice to them, because it all helps with future improvements.
We prioritize reviews, generally speaking, in the order we receive the review copy. This is to be fair to the publishers, and also gives us something to go back to the publishers with if they’re late getting us a game and hit us up wondering where the review is. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few situations where we may purchase our own games. These are never guaranteed to be put ahead of games that the publisher sends us, simply because we’re under no obligation to review them.
We do our best to get games that we receive ahead of time reviewed and published no later than the release day of the game, however quality of the review is given priority over getting it up quickly and by the date the game releases or the embargo lifts. We would prefer a more thorough, well-written review over quickly thrown together, shallow trash that some outlets resort to with the sole purpose of getting their review up by time the embargo lifts so they generate as much traffic as they can.
How much of a game is played before the review is published?
Generally speaking, we encourage our writers to complete a game’s story and, to the extent possible, try all available modes within a game. There are many possible exceptions to this rule, however. Some games have an obscene amount of things to do within the game (RPGs, for example), some games don’t technically have an end (sports titles) and some games are constantly changing and updated (MMORPGs).
Regardless of how much of a game is actually played, it will always be enough to have intimate knowledge of the game, game mechanics, presentation, audio and the many other things we typically touch on in our reviews.
Going back to our philosophy of taking the time needed to do a thorough review instead of rushing to get a review out, some games may take longer than others to review. A 15-hour action title like inFamous 2 may see a turn-around of only a few days, while a 50+ hour RPG like Disgaea 4 may take quite a bit longer.
I touched on MMORPGs a moment ago and I would like everyone to be aware that these are special cases. We may review an MMORPG more than once, and we may review various patches and expansions to MMORPGs. The ever-changing nature of this genre in particular makes them difficult to review. If you’re interested in reading more details as to why and how we review them, please check out our article on the subject.
“You’re missing a review for X game!”
We put forth an effort to acquire all major titles and as many indie titles as we can get our hands on, for all platforms and genres. However, it’s impossible to keep track of every single game released, let alone review them all. Some games we just don’t manage to get, either because we don’t know they exist (like a lot of indie titles), or just miss them as we’re going through release dates.
If you would like to see a review for a game we haven’t reviewed, keeping in mind that it may take us a while to get certain reviews out, please let us know through our contact form. [I’ll put a link to the form here, obviously.]
“Can you review my game?”
Yes! We typically receive a few requests through our tip line to review various indie titles, and we’d love to take a look at your game. Please e-mail reviews [at] dualshockers [dot] com with your request.
To developers and publishers:
We came into this whole gaming journalism thing because we felt we could make a real contribution to it. Much of this industry is getting swallowed up by corporations and/or sponsors. Things aren’t said that should be and vice versa. We make it our goal to not only provide your titles with adequate coverage but also be honest in how we review them for our readers. If your game has a score that you aren’t happy with, read the review to figure out why, and take the feedback as constructive criticism in producing future titles.
Regarding the way we score games, please do not feel that having an average score is a bad thing. Again, we use the entire review scale, so four to six (4-6) is average and aren’t necessarily bad games. The things we write in our review about why we scored a game the way we did can be taken into account in the future to help you succeed to a greater extent. Remember, the criticism you receive here may help you, even in a small way, make another game down the line that turns out to be Game of the Year material. Just be sure to send us a copy if that happens! :]
Questions about our reviews or review process? Contact us!
You can reach the editorial staff at editors [at] dualshockers [dot] com.