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The Official Destructoid Review Guide ver. 2.0 photo

Reviews are a touchy subject both on and off Destructoid, generating all sorts of discussion, controversy and outrage. In a somewhat fruitless effort to try and curb the endless bitching that surrounds reviews, my predecessor Aaron Linde published Destructoid's first review guide.

As handy as it is, Nick Chester and I got together and discussed updating the manual to reflect the needs of the modern woman. I hope to make this a little more concise and address a few recurring issues that I've noticed when it comes to our reviews. Most importantly of all, we are introducing a brand new scoring scale, offering greater differentiation between numbers and hopefully making scoring a little easier for the review team. 

Without further ado, let us be off on our journey then. Please enjoy the brand new Destructoid Review Guide.

The Mission:

The mission is simple -- to use the full ten point scale and be as honest and critical as possible. It's really that easy. We have no hidden agenda, we have no plans to "get" anybody. Do we use personal bias? Of course we do -- a review written without personal bias is a review written by an android or a Vulcan, and we have neither on our staff ... yet. We all have preferences, we all have dislikes. As one of the most personality-led blogs in games media, we don't try and hide our partiality in our writing. This actually helps the reader understand where the writer is coming from. 

We try and review games based on what we like or know about most so if, for example, Colette rates Chocobo Cloud Smiles 2: Chocobonkers a 2 out of 10, you know it's got to be bad. You can also look at what each reviewer likes and see how your own personal tastes match up to theirs. If you love indie and art games, then your tastes are probably in line with Reverend Anthony Burch's. You now know to trust his reviews above all else on staff. 

That's our aim. Brutally honest reviews from people you know and trust. We're none of us Roger Ebert (thank Christ) -- we're simply gamers who are lucky enough to have a soap box to scream on. If you're on Destructoid, chances are you've gotten to know each of us well, so you know who on staff to trust and who on staff to ignore. 

The Scale and how we score:

Introducing the new score legend. This is one of the most useful tools for the review crew, because it makes scoring so much easier. We don't just arbitrarily assign points here on Destructoid. Our scale clearly defines what type of game gets what number. The way we generally score is that we write our review, then simply look down the score sheet to find the definition that best summarizes what our review detailed. We merely then pick whatever number is attached. 

Here's the new list:

10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a genre or on a platform. Pure, untarnished videogame ecstasy.)

9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)

8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

7 -- Good
(7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

6 -- Alright
(6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)

4 -- Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)

3 -- Poor
(3s went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice the game has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.)

2 -- Bad
(2s are a disaster. Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by glitches, poor design choices or a plethora of other issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.)

1 -- Epic Fail
(1s are the lowest of the low. There is no potential, no skill, no depth and no talent. These games have nothing to offer the world, and will die lonely and forgotten.)

As you can see, the bracketed explanation now talks about all games that fall under that score, rather than speak as if it's a single game. This is because that, while including the score summary in our reviews has helped curbed bitching a little, it had the unpleasant side-effect of confusing Metacritic and industry folk who thought they were summaries of each individual review. Not good, so we decided to change that. 

Why we use scores in the first place:

This one always comes up, and I want to address it as clearly as possible. There are a number of reasons why we use a score. The main one, of course, is that it's the system Metacritic uses and if we want our reviews to have any kind of influence on the games industry, staying in Metacritic is a good idea. We review for fun on Destructoid, but it would be also nice to think that maybe one day our critique will reach the steel, cold heart of an Ubisoft executive and that person will think "You know what? They're right, Princess Shitty's Big Shitty Wii Exploiting Adventure of Shit wasn't really a very good game at all!"

That will probably never happen, but it's a nice dream. 

It's also a fact that scores are what people pay attention to. While you or I may believe that reading a review is the important part, scores do matter in the long run. If they are as unimportant to some of you as you claim, then by all means place a piece of duct tape in a thin strip along the screen so that it covers up the score when you scroll down. Simply ignore it and move on. 

If you have any other queries about our scoring system, please go here.

The review crew and how we do bidbiz:

The core review staff consists of Nick Chester, Anthony Burch, Colette Bennett, Dale North, Brad Rice, Jonathan Holmes and Samit Sarkar, as well as myself. Each one is on the crew because they each have different tastes and can cover the vast majority of releases out there. While Dale North is very PS3 and PSP-oriented, for example, Jonathan Holmes is a total Nintendo fanboy who can review most Wii games. It's a staff that compliments each other well.

We have a document which I set up each month detailing the next few weeks of reviews. My core team has access to the document and are able to claim reviews for themselves and arrange our ever-popular multi-author reviews. Once the core team is assigned, we also get the rest of the staff on board. So far it's a system that's worked and should ensure that our coverage becomes more extensive and timely in the future.

Why are reviews late and why do you bother?

Reviews are often "late," and that can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I'm reviewing a game and, while currently in England, have to deal with a later release date. We don't always get review copies either, so our reviewers sometimes pay out of pocket on the day of release. 

While we're always working to improve that, it can have its benefits -- getting free releases is nice, but it's not something we've found we need. Our reviews have remained popular in spite of swiftness, and that means we don't need review copies. Since they are not a total necessity, we are under no obligation to appease publishers. We don't sign clandestine contracts to ensure we have the "first" review. I know of one publisher who was unsatisfied with a Dtoid review and decided to take its ball and go home -- that's fine. We got on just fine without that company's support beforehand, and we can continue to succeed without it now.

Another benefit is that we don't rush our reviews. When asked, I only have one answer to the question "when do you want this review done?" The answer simply is "when it's done." While I don't feel total completion of a videogame is either necessary or always practical, I do feel that the reviewer must be completely comfortable in their knowledge of a game before committing digital pen to digital paper. If that means a review has to be out by a week, two weeks or even a month, that's fine. 

Quickfire FAQ:

Why did you bother writing this review? It's weeks late!

A very simple answer to this: We did it because we wanted to. We love talking about games, we love being critical about games, and we love people discussing our thoughts about games. What more reason could you really need? Besides which, I have often found reviews of old games helpful in getting an idea of what a title I may have missed is about. Hopefully, when we get a reviews database up and running, we can be just as helpful to latecomers. 

You gave Too Human a 2 and Pirates vs. Ninjas a 3. Why?!?!?!?

Games can be very difficult to compare to each other, and I don't think it's wise to do so. My predecessor stated that our reviews are not meant to be directly compared to each other. I think that in terms of games of a similar genre, our reviews can be comparable. However, if you're trying to compare the score of a big-budget retail game to a small-time downloadable title, I think your sense of perspective is off. 

I disagree with your reviews. Why are you so bad at writing reviews?

Thank you. Please refer to this picture of a California sea lion for all further issues you have regarding our reviews:

I hope that helps!

BioShock got a high score during a BioShock ad campaign, and Castle Crashers got a high score with Dtoid staff names in the credits. Are you dirty sellouts?

Mr. Destructoid was in Eternity's Child and its creator, Luc Bernard, is a friend of mine. We all saw what happened there. 

No, we're not dirty sellouts. I have never agreed to anything with a publisher concerning the content of my reviews, and if anybody on the review crew had done so, they wouldn't be writing reviews again. To reiterate an earlier point -- Destructoid became as big as it did without help from industry folk. We're not terrified of losing support if we piss somebody off. They'll just have to suck it up, won't they?

Do you deliberately assign low scores for controversy's sake?

Secret tip: We don't like talking shit about videogames, really. Okay, maybe sometimes if a game is absolutely awful, it can be cathartic and satisfying to critically maul it, but honestly, we'd rather be able to talk about how a game is awesomebiscuits and strawberry kisses instead. As already stated, we have a scoring system in place that makes the body of the review the deciding factor in the number we use -- it's not arbitrary. 

We don't need controversy. It can be fun when it happens, but it's not something we require, and accusing us of courting it on purpose with low scores is a very immature charge. We really don't find it all that rewarding to read a hundred poorly-written run-on sentences describing about how we "suck at reviews" and "can't write for shit" because we dared to give a game you like a low score, so no. No we don't do it on purpose. We have better things to do than upset five people at N4G.

Do you like me? Yes/No.


And that should be everything. We may periodically update this page, and shall be linking to it in all reviews as usual. If you have any further questions or suggestions, by all means share them with the class. I hope this is helpful, or at least entertaining, to those who have an interest in our reviews. 

Now, I'm off to deliberately give a game a 1/10 for pageviews LOLZORZ!

Continue: More Reviews stories

next 50 comments

57 comments | showing # 1 to 50

Dr Dtoid's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:09
Dr Dtoid
i didn't mind the reviews you guys did, I actually liked them unlike others that are like OMGBBQ why you hate this game.Thats why you call it brutal video game reviews right?
Tamz's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:10
'Now, I'm off to deliberately give a game a 1/10 for pageviews LOLZORZ! '

Y0j1mb0's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:23
Will this lessen the idiots that lose their minds over your reviews all the time?

Not one bit. But hey, you updated your review guide, Cool.
wardrox's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:25
Fucking Bias. Why do you hate Aaron Linde? Is he too innovative?
sleepingagain's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:32
@wardrox lol
SuperD1984's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:38
ill give this post a 4/10
Peteru's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:44
I'm definately reading Dtoid reviews now that you rated Spore as it deserved. I've seen many 4,5/5 or 9+/10 and I can't believe anyone really liked it that much. At least after playing it for 30+ hours (I guess one has to really get to know it before giving almost top score? well ... does he?). It's not like it was game for 12yo and less, it was "sim everything"!
IMO most reviewers lack brutality. When they were hyping a title for half a year and it goes out bad they still can't bear to trash it. And quite possibly many of them may lack guts to do the right thing when game is published by EA and developed by Maxis.

For maximum damage choose big title ;).
Totally Tubular Thomas's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:44
Totally Tubular Thomas
You suck at writing review guides.
Ali D's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:49
Ali D
Y0j1mbo, we can live in hope. I think it's good having a manifesto published so it gives people a clear guide as to what reviewers think. I also think Destructoid is onto a winner as there's multiple people reviewing a game.
Jim Sterling's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:52
Jim Sterling
Y0j1mbo is a cranky old cynic and he acts that way to get controversy on Metacritic.
dgschrei's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 07:54
Very nice guide Jim. But you better make sure that the next game you review is "good" enough to at least score a 2 or that last sentence will come back to haunt you. ^^
Fusiontr's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 08:06
Why do you bother writing this guide?
It's seconds late!

Great guide Jim
I really do like the reviews here and don't care about waiting because they are always good quality

Patience is a virtue and all that
Eschatos's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 08:11
You should link to this guide on the front page or people will forget about it in a few days.
DynamicSheep's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 08:18
As always Jim, you are a pillar of integrity. Also, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Ya know, we have a saying in my country, and I think it's very fitting here: "The coyote of the desert likes to eat the heart of the young and the blood drips down to his children for breakfast, lunch and dinner and only the ribs will be broken." I'm not quite sure what that means, exactly, but it just feels right.

I love the review guide, and think that if every review source used all ten points, the world of video game journalism would be a better place.
greeneggsnsam's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 08:27
A very well written guide, Jim. I'm proud of you.
UMF Skibum's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 08:58
UMF Skibum
10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a Jim Sterling post. Pure, untarnished reading ecstasy.)
Remo's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:00
the Sea lion was very insightful.
Murumasa123's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:07
Always trusted Dtoids reviews but as they are usually a week late iv bought, played and beaten the game before I can add them to the judging of whether to get it.
Still its nice to get a brutally honest opinion as a sort of epilogue to the game itself.
eternalplayer2345's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:09
Very nice guidelines, which is why I come here. Also can we set it up so when people click on a review this pops up in a separate tab or something.
Alexradl's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:31
Dale North iz a Sony fanboy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
relik's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:36
Quality guide! I was intrigued about you guys on metacritic ever since the 6.5 Rez HD got. Review scores don't mean much to me these days as I like to make my own mind up by playing a title.... but I do adore Rez HD and shed a tear when I read that review! ;)
eternalplayer2345's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:43

Reviews are not designed to be compared in the first place, there supposed to be an a judge of the games merit and feelnigs that arise from that game or that type. A factor of this how much pay, a 10 dollar 3 is a much more justifiable than 60 dollar 2 because you're monetary loss is related directly to your emotional gain.
Cowzilla3's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:45
Perfect. I'm giving you a slow clap.
Gameboi's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:46
Great guide. Also keep in mind guys and gals that Jim and the crew are busy supplying the front page with content -- as well as playing through games for fun and reviews -- which can lead to the spacing between reviews. Throw in an RPG, and you have a load of game to work through.
Kinsella's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 09:49
"Now, I'm off to deliberately give a game a 1/10 for pageviews LOLZORZ! "

This is probably more true than anything Sterling has ever said.
Gibbo's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 10:05
It's certainly good that the numbers are clearly defined instead of the reader being expected to think 7 is the minimum for a good game.
Justice's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 10:31
The one problem with your reviews (Destructoid) is that your method of scoring is mostly different to the other websites that metacritic takes into accont. Thus the games average score is incorrect. Sure one out of place score may not change the average that much, but it's the principal that counts.
Jim Sterling's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 10:50
Jim Sterling
"The one problem with your reviews (Destructoid) is that your method of scoring is mostly different to the other websites that metacritic takes into accont. Thus the games average score is incorrect. Sure one out of place score may not change the average that much, but it's the principal that counts."

You call this a problem with our reviews. I disagree. I would rather not our reviews be brought into line with everyone else's, and instead have all others reviews brought into line with us. I think we rate games more realistically here, and I want to see that adopted across the board.

I know I'm asking for too much, but you're right -- it's the principal of the thing, and I'm standing by mine.
Nick Chester's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 11:09
Nick Chester

I would say that this updated review scale -- and how Jim explains each score -- is more in line with the industry as a whole.
falinter's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 11:13
just because they are mostly different than the reviews of other metacritic sites doesn't mean that Destructoids are worse than those.
I find Dtoids reviews much more useful than every game getting a 7.
calpis's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 11:36

When you rate a person from 1-10 with a 5, that person is pretty average. 1-4 gives you 4 levels of ugly and 6-10 gives you 5 levels of erect pointy things. Using a 7 as the average uses 6 and 3 levels respectively. Is it really fair to ugly people to rate them with 6 distinct levels of ugly where the pretty ones only get 3?

In a perfect world 5.5 should be the ultimate average. Sadly, it won't be because decimals are scary to 70% of people.
JamnOnTheOne's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 11:58
When you review PC games you should include the stats of the reviewer's machine that it was "playtested" on. It's impossible to know how to interpret "this game ran well at 1440x900" when we don't know what type of machine was used.

When you review console games, please indicate what type of setup it was reviewed on for both audio and visual components.
protomark's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 12:04
i think the specific score explanations are a step back: it's more than a little tacky to be rating games 'epic fail' or 'flawless victory,' or making metal gear solid references as an explanation of a game's quality. i sound like i'm nitpicking, but the truth is they were almost perfect as they were before, so what's the point?

Otherwise, good article. great, even.

I still feel the 10 point scale is a rather arcane method of saying "good game is good, bad game is bad."
Sam Spectre's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 12:17
Sam Spectre

Destructoid, you amaze me and will always be my favorite gaming blog.
relik's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 12:49
Destructoid reviews are the new black.
braulio09's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 12:55
i loled at "do you like me"

also, i already know how you work everything for reviews and i still read it all. i think i have an unhealthy obsession with you, mr. sterling.
Druid 01's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 13:03
Druid 01
hey, i read most of it :)

to address some of the "how MOST reviewers rate games comments" games on the whole do tend to follow a rating system more similar to academic grading, 70% is "passing" and above is better below is worse. i think that both that, and my beloved Destructoid rating system are both valid its just unfortunate that we don't have an industry standard to follow.
mix's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 13:08
So awesome man!

That last parting sentence mad me lol!
king3vbo's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 14:09
Noah's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 14:28
Is this the place I can offer suggestions without appearing to be 'the enemy'?? :)

If I was Emperor of Destructoid, I'd maybe try and include each bad (or even average score, since that seems to upset some people for some reason) review with at least two reviewers perspectives?

For example, tones of people whined to Jim about the 2 he gave Too Human, and even a bunch of people are complaining about the 6 that Brad gave the new Tales. If there was one more review, from any of the reviewers then people couldn't say it was biased or that the reviewer had it out for the game.

Thanks for all of your hard work Dtoid Reviews Staff!
Noah's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 14:30
....or they COULD still say it's biased....but you'll never be able to please everyone.
Necros's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 14:33
Wonderful job, but I doubt this is going to reduce any flamewars that result over a 2, a 5, a 7, or a 10 (for different reasons). At least they can't blame you for not stating your guidelines, though. Now to wean reviewers off it's annoying habit of using decimal increments of .1 points...
scottoid's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 15:25
Kinji's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 15:33
If you go to metacritic and look at the reviews for say movies, they're all over the place. Movie critics have been able to use the 1-10 scale for a long time now, and it's about time the games industry followed. I've enjoyed movies that have gotten less than 50 at metacritic. It's not like it's wrong to enjoy a bad movie or game every once in a while.

I do think you guys are a little harsh on games sometimes, but whatever it's your opinion. I do like when you have more than one person on a review though, it's nice to get multiple Destructoid opinions on a game. Plus, it's harder to argue against multiple reviewers than just the one.
Tubatic's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 16:29
Right on.

I think its good that you participate in Metacritic. Especially considering the ideas of branding and having a community that goes for brutal honesty (aka the wasps nest), then I think its good to represent the spirit of the community on this 1 to 10 landscape that the industry semi-recognizes.

Not that you guys are our electoral college or anything. But in so much that you bring that joyful yet ornery flavor that we all love the taste of (at least outside the reviews), I think you guys are very much on point.
Mxyzptlk's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 19:08
Aww, you like me! Great work on the 2.0 revision.
Kyousuke Nanbu's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 19:19
Kyousuke Nanbu
Why do people even give a shit about reviews so much? You have gamefly and any local area in which you rent it.

Oh right, D-toid, where 90% of the community has no mind of their own.
MechaMonkey's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 20:26
The sea lion answered my question. Thanks.
Puppy Licks's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 20:50
Puppy Licks
The Sea Lion shall be my point of reference from now on, thanks!
TheDreadHawk's Avatar - Comment posted on 09/14/2008 21:10
Kyousuke Nanbu...

I really hate this guy.
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