Should sequels be scored based on how different they are from their predecessors?

Modern Warfare 3? I’ve played this before!

2011 was a year full of sequels. We got a new Elder Scrolls, a new Zelda, a new Saint’s Row, a new Call of Duty, and a new a lot of other stuff. Some games reinvented the franchise it belongs with (Batman: Arkham City introduced an open-world setting that Arkham Asylum didn’t have) while others were practically the same game with small changes here and there (Madden, anyone?). But it was because of these sequels that caused many to stop and think for a while. Does a sequel have to be significantly different from its predecessor?

Some of you may remember IGN’s infamous Olympic Hockey Nagano ’98 review that was posted in 1998. In case you haven’t, the game was being criticized for being the exact same game as Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey ’98 but reskinned. What score did the game get? A 0.0, or as IGN put it, a “WTF?”. But this begs a serious question. Should it have gotten a 0.0? Or should it have gotten the same score as it’s identical, Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey ’98, a 5.8? What? You say that Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey ’98 is practically the same game as the original Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, which scored an 7.1? So does that mean all of these games should have gotten an 7.1? After all, they’re all practically the same game. Now what?

This is the exact dilemma that reviewers today have to face. Look at last year’s release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The game was universally praised by critics everywhere, receiving an average score of 88/100 on Metacritic. But it should be noted that many reviewers saw little change in the series with this new entry. Why did the game receive such high scores, then? Because the series “did not need to change”. In other words, many reviewers felt that this repetitiveness was fine. But as the 2.9/10 reader ratings indicate, not everyone feels the same way.

So, what’s the difference between Wayne Gretzky repetitiveness and Call of Duty repetitiveness? Perhaps that isn’t the best comparison; Call of Duty is a shooter, after all, and Wayne Gretzky plays hockey. And Call of Duty games aren’t really reskins either; there ARE new maps and new elements that make the game feel somewhat fresh. How about we compare Wayne Gretzky to, um… John Madden!

Like the Call of Duty series, EA’s Madden NFL series has always been under fire for its repetitiveness. Sure, it has new stats and new roster, but does it have an entirely new engine? No. Does it need an entirely new engine? Ehhh…. that’s up for debate. But what’s not up for debate is it’s user score on Metacritic: a 5.8/10. Obviously, people want a change in the franchise. But what can you change about a sports game? Not much, really.

So, this is my personal, I repeat PERSONAL… P-E-R-S-O-N-A-L… personal opinion, games should be reviewed for what they’re worth, not for how similar/different they are to their predecessor(s). So yes, if Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey scored a 7.1, I believe that Olympic Hockey Nagano ’98 should have gotten a 7.1 as well. I know it might not be the most popular opinion, but I would prefer if reviews for sequels were written that way. Why? Because I want to know which is the better game. Don’t get me wrong; if a game’s formula has not aged well, or if there are far more better games out there, then by all means give the sequel a lower score. I’m not at all against giving sequels lower scores. But please, no more of this “0.0 because I’ve played this before.” I don’t care if you’ve played it before. 90% of the people reading your review have probably never “played this before.” I understand that if a game is bad and you give it a low score, and likewise if the game is good, you give it a very high score, but if a game is great and you give it a low score because it’s too similar to its predecessor, then the score is ultimately meaningless.

Well, review scores are meaningless anyways. But that’s for another conversation…

What do you guys think? Should sequels be reviewed based on how different they are from their predecessors?


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