Is it worth your time?
At IGN, we're all about having fun, but when it comes to reviews we take things seriously. Reviewing is the most important thing we do, because this is when we help you make a decision about how to spend your money. Our goal is twofold: Offer a critical view of how a piece of media succeeds or fails at what it’s trying to do, and to give you all the info needed to determine if something is worth your time and hard-earned cash.
Of course, not everyone wants to read through a full written review, and some prefer a summary. For that reason, we provide a brief, one-paragraph Verdict section that summarizes all the major praise and criticisms and provide an overall score. While the Verdict and score won't provide you with as much detail, it offers a snapshot of our impressions. It is not a replacement for the review or meant to represent a weighted stats sheet a reviewer uses to add or subtract points from the score
The IGN Review Scale
For more than a decade, IGN reviewed games on a 100-point scale. While we switched to a 20-point scale briefly, we believe scores should be as expressive as possible. Elevating the dialogue about a game via focusing on the content of the written and video reviews doesn’t have to come at the expense of an expressive score. Hence, we’ve resumed using the 100-point scale in hopes of providing as much precision as possible to you. This does two things: Allows us to score within the score, and to more easily rank games.
Scoring within the score is simple: we apply a whole integer score (a 3, a 5, a 7, a 9), then we indicate what kind of 7 or 9 that is. Is it barely a 7? It’s likely in 7.1-7.3 territory. Is it a strong 7? It’s likely 7.5-7.7. Is it among the strongest 7’s, or among the best GOOD games out there (as defined by our written descriptions below)? Is it just short of being a great game? It’s a 7.8 or 7.9. It’s a SCORECEPTION!
The second reason is ranking. We all love to rank things, and the 20-point scale felt limited, and ultimately diluted our ability to rank games against each other. Obviously not all games are reviewed and scored against each other (i.e. you can’t directly compare Madden to Call of Duty or Mass Effect). But we know that when it comes to both purchasing decisions and your overall consideration and conversation about the best games of a franchise, on a platform, or of a generation, sometimes you want to contextualize games and know how games generally stack up against each other.
Scores are just a baseline for our opinion, though. All reviews go through a stringent editing process for fairness, transparency and accuracy by the time they finally appear on IGN and stand as the IGN Review. That being said, there’s also a by-line on every text you see, and we encourage you to follow our writers on Twitter, get to know them on their IGN pages, and try to get an understanding of where they’re coming from based on their pros and cons and recommended games. Basically, we don't want review scores to end the discussion, but encourage more of them, and we want you to interact with our reviewers throughout the entirety of the process in a smart, professional, and passionate way.
10.0 - Masterpiece
Simply put: this is our highest recommendation. There’s no such thing as a truly perfect game, but those that earn a Masterpiece label from IGN come as close as we could reasonably hope for. These are classics in the making that we hope and expect will influence game design for years to come, as other developers learn from their shining examples.
9.0-9.9 - Amazing
We enthusiastically recommend that you add these games to your to-play list. If we call a game Amazing, that means something about it seriously impressed us, whether it’s an inspired new idea or an exceptional take on an old one. We expect to look back at it as one of the highlights of its time and genre.
8.0-8.9 - Great
These games leave us with something outstanding to remember them by, usually novel gameplay ideas for single-player or multiplayer, clever characters and writing, noteworthy graphics and sound, or some combination thereof. If we have major complaints, there are more than enough excellent qualities to cancel them out.
7.0-7.9 - Good
Playing a Good game is time well spent. Could it be better? Absolutely. Maybe it lacks ambition, is too repetitive, has a few technical bumps in the road, or is too repetitive, but we came away from it happy nonetheless. We think you will, too.
6.0-6.9 - Okay
These recommendations come with a boatload of “ifs.” There’s a good game in here somewhere, but in order to find it you’ll have to know where to look, and perhaps turn a blind eye to some significant drawbacks.
5.0-5.9 - Mediocre
This is the kind of bland, unremarkable game we’ve mostly forgotten about a day after we finish playing. A mediocre game isn’t something you should spend your time or money on if you consider either to be precious, but they’ll pass the time if you have nothing better to do.
4.0-4.9 - Bad
For one reason or another, these games made us wish we’d never played them. Even if there’s a good idea or two in there somewhere, they’re buried under so many bad ones and poor execution we simply can’t recommend you waste your time on it.
3.0-3.9 - Awful
You’re welcome. We just saved you from making a terrible mistake by buying this collection of poorly executed, bad, or unoriginal ideas – or even playing it for free. While even a Bad game generally has some bright spots, an Awful one is consistently unenjoyable.
1.0-1.9 - Unbearable
The silver lining of these dark clouds is that they’re often so poorly made that they crap out after a certain point (if they ever worked at all), so we were spared from any permanent effects that playing a game this terrible might have on our brains. We don't always take the time to write up reviews of games that are this obviously bad, but they're out there.
0-0.9 - Disaster
One of the worst games ever made. Games that score this low are rare, because it’s reserved for those that simply don’t work or are outright frauds – they’ve really got to work for it. This is also probably where we’d put a game about how awesome Nazis are.
Review Scale Questions & Answers
How do you determine scores?
As stated above, our goal is twofold: Offer a critical view of how a game succeeds or fails at what it’s trying to do, and to give you all the info needed to determine if a game is worth your time and hard-earned cash. In that we offer playing and/or buying recommendations, and strive to rank its quality based on how well it succeeds at what it's trying to do. We look for games that are fun to play, but we're also keen to find games that push the boundaries and explore new territory.
Unfortunately, there's no science behind a score, no algorithm that can be run to "get it right." It evolves as a process from an editor playing through a game, talking with the senior staff about the experience, going through several edits and revisions to make sure the argument is air-tight and looking at how it stacks up against other games in the franchise, in similar genres, on the platform and more. In short, we do our best to get it “right”, if there is such a thing. A score is a numeric expression of how he reviewer felt about the experience. A review assessment doesn't start at 0 or 10 and adds or subtracts points until the final score is reached.
How do you decide who gets to review what games?
We strive to pair up games with the person who knows the brand, the genre, and the style of game, so as to offer the most expert opinions. We also aim to find writers who care. Everyone has certain types of games that interest them. Some folks love shooters and others like a good role-playing game. There are those who want to get lost exploring an open world for a hundred hours and others who want a shorter, more directed experience. Editors at IGN speak up about the games they want to play so we make sure people are playing games that interest them, and more specifically, games that editors know and understand. Getting the right person assigned to the job is always of the utmost importance to us, and we try to make sure our entire staff is well-rounded, but also that the title ends up in the hands of an editor who can speak to the genre and platform in an educated way that serves our audience.
And yes, sometimes people are eager to play games that turn out to be really bad. No one wants to review just the AAA titles. It gets boring after a while to write high praise for everything.
Sometimes one person gives a game a great review, but another editor says they didn't like the game -- who's right?
The IGN review is the official statement on a game's quality. It is the opinion of the reviewer, but we entrust each editor to speak for the site as a whole. No review happens in a vacuum though. Thus each review goes through a rigorous back-and-forth editing process that pulls in multiple team members to make sure we’re stating things clearly and as accurately as possible. That said, we would never want to silence the voice and opinion of our other editors. Though there is occasionally a consensus in the IGN office over the quality of a game, there are almost always going to be dissenting voices. We think one of the things that makes IGN special is that we have an office packed with people who absolutely love playing and discussing games. We want editors to continue that discussion, even if the opinion isn't always in line with our official review.
In short, they’re both “right”, because each person is allowed to have their own opinion. But the IGN review is the site’s official statement on the game.
I see ads on IGN's site for games you review. Do advertisers affect your review scores? Absolutely not. IGN has a very strict separation between sales and editorial. Editors are unaware of upcoming ads and promotions. It's as much a surprise to us when we see an ad on our site as it is to the readers.
Do you ever change your review scores if a game is improved after its release?
Yes, but only very rarely. To get a second review, a game must have both changed substantially enough that the original review is no longer accurate, and it must still be popular enough that many gamers are actively searching for reviews of that game. These conditions are seldom met, so do not expect to see IGN revisit a score often.