If you´re a gamer you want to buy good games. To do that, you watch reviews, maybe by other people or by professional reviewers. I used to only trust professional reviews since use reviews were often praisefests or ragefests. Neither gives me any impression on the actual game and the good user reviews were way too rare.
Notice the “I used to” because nowdays I can´t even trust professionals anymore. Seems like every sequel of a really good game or overhyped game is guaranteed a good score no matter what comes out.
Example: Dragon Age 2. The first one was a landmark in RPGs and the reaosn I became a Bioware fan. Then sequel comes out, I go to grab it on day-1. It´s far inferior to first game in many ways. I still considered it above average and played through it once.
But as I looked at all the reviews, it was getting the same scores and it´s predecessor. Why? It was inferior in many ways and that´s universally aknowledged by Bioware fanbase. It could be that I´m just not willing to accept them praising it, but then as I look deeper, I see very few reviews adress the negatoves of the game. At all.
Same happened with Mass Effect 3. Let´s forget the ending for now. The game itself took many steps backwards with the RPG-elements and had several issues very few “professional” reviewers adressed.
Now let´s talk the original ending: “professionals” were ALL saying we´re entitled kids and I even saw a review praising the ending. Needless to say it was the last issue of that magazine I ever bought.
(Warning, from here to a certain point it´s rant-ish and very much my own rage-induced opinion)
Want more? *FlameShield up* Call of Duty series. I think Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare still stands in my top 10 games of all time and got me into FPS-games for good. Then comes modern Warfare 2 met with the same praise. I could dig it, it had some upgrades from the original like the Spec Ops missions. I see where it comes from.
Then Modern Warfare 3. Here I was getting suspicious. Why was it getting all the same praise even though it brougth very little new to the series. And don´t give me “Well it was good so why change it?” It used to be for granted that sequels add things to the original. Modern Warfare stopped that one. Sure, it has survival mode, what else? New maps? Those could easily be DLC. New guns and perks? Did we need those? Maybe to fix balance, but that could easily be patched.
What I´m sayign is: Modern Warfare 3 might have been good, but it should have to stand on it´s own merits.
(Okay, I´m done with that)
So why is all this? Hard to say since I´m a reviewer. Are they paid? I don´t think it´s that simple. Are they being blackmailed by denying future review copies if scores are bad? Possibly, we remember the Duke Nukem Forever incident (look it up if you don´t). Are they just fanboys themselves unable to give a bad score for the new Modern Warfare? That´s too case-by-case, but possible in some cases.
But personally I think (and partially guess) it´s for the sites/magazines own good. None of the games I mentioned were downright bad, but they weren´t the greatest games of their time. But are you really interested in mediocre reviews? I don´t know about others, but I mostly look forward to reviews of realy good games to know what to get and really bad ones for laughs on the review. In between, yea I read them. Mostly.
So where to go when user reviews are far too one-sided and professional reviews are dishonest? the independent reviews. Sites liek Screwattack, Blistered Thumbs, Angry Joe Show. more than once I see them seeing both the good and the bad, often also seeing my opinions reflecting them.
Now I may be wrong about it all, I don´t work in gaming inudstry or gaming media. But one thing I won´t give up on: Reviews must take both good and bad, no matter how much it was advertised and hyped.
This was written at 4AM in a slight rage and impulse.