I wish so hard that what Tycho says could be true:
The age of the psychic reviewer shaman is over. You should never allow a meaningless, arbitrary integer promulgated by an arbitrary voice who came to power arbitrarily make decisions for you.
And maybe for them and a select group of extremely individual gamers that is true. But when the correlation between Metacritic and sales is there (sorry, can’t provide a link) and the people who pull the strings make the causal leap that A actually causes B, the unfortunate reality sets in. Metacritic projections lead to sales projections lead to budgets that are set before the game is even alpha. How reviewers will react to a particular feature is a conscious calculus that we have to make. The reviewers hold tremendous disorganized power. Even people here in my studio, who should know better, read Metacritic to make their decisions on what to play.
Reviewers serve a good purpose in that they can clue us in to absolute pap before we plunk down $60. If that actually happened in real life, that is. Too often, an entirely mediocre game will get the star treatment by the early reviewers duping innocents to boredom. If you get burned by this, you learn to distrust reviewers. Most don’t experience this because they don’t know better. If a review reads like a buyer’s guide, I instantly distrust it. If it is a description of a personal experience, I read with less skepticism. This is why I read bloggers far more than IGN/Gamespot. I actually don’t know the last time I read an IGN/Gamespot review that wasn’t of something from my studio because I have no reason to care what they say otherwise. It means as much to me when they say Assassin’s Creed is a 7.0 as it would if they said Assassin’s Creed is rutabaga.
I’ve met reviewers. They’ve all been good people. Their craft is just completely broken by design, even when you take away the arbitrary numeration.