Breaking Down the Modern Warfare Metacritic Nightmare

Written by: Michael Spada

This week, the gaming world was treated to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a game that, according to a LOT of people, is quite excellent. It’s received a tremendous amount of positive critical reception, scoring loads of 9s and 10s from reviewers, and is adored by fans on videogame websites across the internet. People everywhere love it, from the casual crowd who stick to their annual Madden and Call of Duty games, right through to the hardcore crowd. It’s a big deal.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Metacritic Nightmare

So why, then, is its user score on entertainment reviews aggregator Metacritic so frighteningly low? The professional side of things shows an 81, 88, and 89 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 versions respectively. The consensus is looking pretty positive across the board, which makes it all that more jarring to see the average user score across all three platforms so incredibly low. The PC version, in particular, is stuck with a 1.6 for its user score, a score typically reserved for buggy, brainless filth like Ninjabread Man or Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust.

Something is wrong here. But who is to blame? Have reviewers lost their touch? Are vicious fanboys assaulting the internet? Or are people just sick and tired of the same old stuff? Let’s take a look.

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The Reviewers

It’s easy to knock this one off the list pretty quickly. In this day and age, game reviewers are often looked at as evil, despicable people. “They gave this game a 9.5 when it is clearly a 9.2! How dare they!” “I don’t like this game, but they do, therefore they are a horrible reviewer and should be fired.” “This guy is a fan of the series, he’ll be biased and give it a high score automatically!”

It’s insane to take a look at online message boards and communities to see what people say about games reviewers, like they’re some sort of vile scum. Do you know what a game reviewer is? It is a person who says what they liked and didn’t like about a videogame, and then gives it a numerical score based on what their opinion is. Game reviews are a tool for people to use to determine whether or not a game is for them. For example, say a reviewer dislikes a game because it is too difficult. Someone who dislikes difficult games would stray away because of this review, whereas someone who likes more of a challenge would be more likely to pick the game up based on the review. Simple, right?

Apparently not. People get really, really angry at game reviewers for having a different opinion than them, and they let their voices be heard. If they appear to be unreasonable, which is often the case, the crazier accusations start coming. “Activision paid you to give this game a 9!” “Oh, your sites run ads for this game, you don’t have a choice but to score it high.” “You only gave this game a low score because you wanted attention!”

Come on now! Game reviewers typically know what they’re doing, and there are no wild conspiracies in the games press that determine what a game scores for a review. Even the reviewers don’t see it as big a deal as many readers do. And take the WORST CASE SCENARIO, where a reviewer is some evil, nasty person taking bribes and saying controversial things for attention – ignore the review, and move on!

With Modern Warfare 3 receiving mostly high praise, it makes sense for it to have a high Metacritic rating. Lots of reviewers liked it, so the average score is going to be high. With a general consensus from reviewers being that the game is anywhere from good to excellent, and with games reviewers still being regular people who play videogames, the problem here is not on their side.

When Fanboys Attack

Here’s a more likely scenario: fanboys. A fanboy (or fangirl), to those lucky enough to not be in the know, is a person who is an extreme, militant fan of something. A Twix fanboy is not just someone who prefers Twix candy bars over other candy bars, no. A Twix fanboy is someone who eats all the different types of Twix bars, collecting them and obsessing over them, never once admitting there might be a fault with them. A Twix fanboy will endlessly berate someone for eating another candy bar, or for not liking Twix, because that person thinks differently and that is impossible.

While Modern Warfare 3 was released this week, EA’s Battlefield 3 was released just a few weeks back. Billed by EA themselves as somewhat of a Modern Warfare killer, the latest installment in the successful Battlefield series was met with equal praise from critics, and is viewed as a viable alternative to those tired of the same old song and dance with the Modern Warfare series. Anyone with a proper working brain can see that – for fans of military shooters – there are two excellent games on the market, and it is within the rights of everyone to be able to play either game or (GASP) both games! Two entire games that one single person can enjoy! Now we’re cooking!

Except fanboys don’t like that. Battlefield fanboys are all in a rage, furious that Modern Warfare 3 is getting rave reviews while not completely revolutionising their formula, yet Battlefield was getting similarly great reviews for what they felt was a radical evolution. Comparisons between two similar games are only natural, but to viciously attack one game’s critical standing just because you like the other one better? That’s a bit ridiculous.

Unfortunately, however, it’s all too true. Take a look at some of these screengrabs from Metacritic’s user score section:

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People are simply determined to have those looking for an opinion on Modern Warfare 3 to “change teams,” in some sort of sad and pathetic attempt to “win” in a battle between two discs. It’s a weird, bizarre mentality that needs intense psychoanalysis. Or a swift kick in the face. If you need to feel loyal to a videogame, your priorities basically make no sense. Play what you enjoy, let others play what they enjoy. No need to attack them, or bomb a game’s page for it existing in the same world as your precious gem. Really, really weird.

Occupy Metacritic

I believe we’ve found our answer. In searching through the many poorly written, grammatically hilarious, and downright dumb user reviews on Metacritic, the most prevailing point of all was that it’s the “same old thing.” Anywhere from people complaining about the lack of new features in multiplayer to the HILARIOUS and ORIGINAL joke that this game should be called Modern Warfare 2.5, a massive percentage of user reviews point out that this game is just too similar to previous entries in the series.

This poses a massive question in its own right – is more of the same okay? Sometimes it is, other times it is absolutely not and borders on sin. The first two Modern Warfare titles were excellent in the eyes of many, and both games were quite similar to one another. Both games featured campaign modes that, while short, provided an endless amount of thrills and set-piece moments, in addition to emotionally gripping and morally questionable storytelling decisions that kept the narrative fresh. Both games featured multiplayer modes with a large amount of game types and maps, as well as an addictive, carrot-dangling experience-based level system to keep people playing.

No one seemed to take issue when Modern Warfare 2 took what its predecessor did and expanded upon it. And yet now people have a problem with Modern Warfare 3 doing that as well? Are three similar entries in a series one too many? Someone should tell that to the Madden series, or the Gears of War series, or even the Legend of Zelda series. Successful franchises will always take what made them successful and expand upon that. Where is the line drawn that says one game is too similar to another, but this one isn’t?

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What we’re left with is an unbelievable level of user reviews slamming the game for being too much like the other Modern Warfare titles. The Xbox 360 version’s Metacritic page features over 2,000 user reviews, with well over half of them falling into the negative category. Compare that 2,000 to 329 user reviews for another triple A title this year, Uncharted 3. Clearly people have had enough, and decided to occupy the entirety of Metacritic to let their dissatisfaction be known. But what will it do? It’s pretty clear Modern Warfare 3 will be one of the top-selling games of the year, maybe even this generation. Will Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward listen to the huge group of people with the same complaint and little evidence to back why their complaint is a bad thing? Or will they listen to the sales figures and feedback from people who are heavily into the game?

Just a quick glimpse at the many, many pages of reviews say that the biggest issue taken with this game is its familiarity. And yet how many people are probably going to play the game anyway? If they loved the first two, and the third one is just like it, they’re probably going to like that game, too. If it was good twice, it’ll be good again. If the game is still enjoyable, then there really isn’t a valid complaint to be had.

What have we learned?

In the end, this isn’t going to hurt the Call of Duty series. It won’t even hurt the developers’ feelings. It’s a bunch of people being upset and trying to make a difference through complaining. It’s probably not going to do any good, as once the sales figures start rolling in, Infinity Ward won’t look once to a majority of the complaints.

No game is perfect, and there’s no denying that some of the more well-spoken complaints against Modern Warfare 3 are legitimate. But when problems arise, assaulting the press, other games, or opinions of people just looking to enjoy a good military shooter is not going to work. Developers listen, and people who present themselves well and voice their complaints respectfully are the ones who will be listened to. Mass-bombing a game’s Metacritic page is not going to get people the change they believe they are entitled to.

It’ll be fun seeing all the backlash against the inevitable Modern Warfare 4.

Author: Michael Spada

Michael Spada is a gentleman who plays videogames and then writes about them on the internet. Solid Snake is his hero, but he'd just as quickly settle down with CM Punk. You can follow him on Twitter if you'd like.

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Responses to Breaking Down the Modern Warfare Metacritic Nightmare

  1. I think the intentions of some of the reviews are good. I’ll give an example.
    When COD4 launched, they did a lot to that engine and it was truly a sight to behold. It exploded on the PC and got people everywhere to upgrade their systems, LAN parties focused on it, tournaments and competitions were everywhere, the game did something people loved, was different than older versions and it was the biggest and most involved game many people had ever seen. It got so much attention that people wanted to see what would happen next, and MW2 sold tons of games (as we all know).

    Many gamers were very unhappy with the game they purchased. It was not revolutionary like the first Modern Warfare, but just more of the same. It was fun to play with new perks on new maps, but the graphics were almost identical, and it didn’t have any LAN abilities, and it really pissed off the PC gaming community.

    Black Ops was more of the same stuff again…tension grew, but these titles were SO big on consoles that everyone just kept buying them because they knew their friends would have them and they would be able to play with others. I would wager a guess that the margins of console vs PC titles sold for MW3 have grown even more than previously. I think people are looking for that next big change in the genre that COD4 represented for them and they keep getting COD4 again and are upset.

    What I can’t figure out, is that if they are so upset, why do they keep buying the games? They should speak with their wallets, not just Metacritic user review scores. I think people are even more enraged when they see that this game they are mad at is getting praise by reviewers the world over. Yes, COD4 was a fantastic game, one of the best FPS games of all time, but it was the best because it was new and different and exciting. People want that again and when they didn’t get it from MW3, they went to the internet and found the most looked-at review site in the gaming industry.

    Then, you have to add to all these feelings people have that Battlefield 3 just launched, and though it’s not perfect, it’s an amazing new game that has new features and a new engine with unbelievable graphics and it has reviews that are mildly disappointing in comparison. This causes people to jump on the “they got paid for COD’s review” bandwagon. Why did the more revolutionary and exciting game get worse “professional” reviews than MW3, a game that capitalizes on spoon feeding the masses the same thing they’ve been feeding them since COD4? Could they literally sell the identical COD4 today and get the same reviews…again?

    It actually reminds me of a Buick commercial that launched recently with the main point “If you’re going to buy a new car, shouldn’t there be something NEW about it?”

  2. what a bias article this was.

    why is it bias? because it absurdly tries to justify MW3’s re-hash by comparing it to the likes of uncharted 3.

    Gaming trilogys, even series, are nothing new – from the days of super mario to that of Lara Croft.

    But these are role playing games and the user knows what they are getting, the enxt section of the story, and usually expect an improvement in gameplay, features & graphics.

    Now lets raise the point you made that no-one complained when MW2 was virtually the same as COD4:MW1.

    Thats because the sequel MW2 was significantlly different. It was quicker, smoother and more fluid. The design compeltely changed, there was the introduction of emblems. Kill streaks, an armory of new weapons, gadgets & perks.

    With all these new toys and features to play with, along with new maps, it was an acceptable release. Although my personal opinion is that COD4 was a better game & MW2 more ‘arcade’ for most it was an acceptable progression.

    MW3 on the other hand is a complete disaster. And like the point you mentioned, it does indeed feature another story that runs on from the previous 2, but the issue is, the story modes of these games now are firmly in the back seat to multi-player. Most poeple i know dont even bother with the story and dive right into online play. Therefore the game is mostly judged by users on the online game modes.

    Is MW3 and acceptable progression from MW2? No. Not in the slightest. Hence the backlash.

    And just because someone reccomends another game does not make them some creep or “fanboy” as you call it.

    I’ve not played anything other than a COD title since owning my console back in 2007. I was lucky enough to beable to return MW2 for a full refund and decided to give Battlefield 3 a go. It’s not as smooth or as fluid as the COD engine, but the feel of the weapons, the sounds graphics and maps are very good, it almost feels more like COD4 than MW2 or 3 does. It still doesn’t match up to COD4 which remains the king of FPS – but when my friends ask me which game to buy, i will tell them 100% BF3. The thought of the fat cats at activision rolling around in the billion dollars this rehashed, lazy game will take makes me sick.

  3. You’re not being very objective here Mr.Spada. I gave COD MW3 a 0 on Metacritic, and I haven’t played a Battlefield game in my entire life. I’m… was a total COD fanboy until I had the terrible idea of buying this garbage. Like a lot of people, I’m tired of the same shit over and over. I think a lot of professional reviewers, if not paid, are very limited in the point of qualifying a COD game. I read a lot of reviews for a lot of games, in a lot of websites, and I can tell you that a game like COD MW3, with another title, wouldn’t had achieved such good notes. One example: in the spanish website called Meristation, COD MW3 got a “9”, which is “almost perfect”. In the analysis, the reviewer says all the time that this game has nothing really new or original but gives it a “9” anyway! if you read the rules they use in the website for scores, you can see that they give a “9” when the game analyzed is “original and innovative…”, and if the reviews of a lot of games, they are very strict with this. However, COD MW3 appears, they have to say the truth in the analysis: “it’s not original or innovative…” but still they give it a “9”. This happens in A LOT OF REVIEWS.

    It’s true that a lot of people giving “0” in Metacritic are just dumb haters, but I can tell you that the most is not. Being objective, I would give COD MW3 a “7”, but being an old Call of Duty fan, I feel compelled to give it a “0”.

  4. nice fan boy article

  5. Brett McCabeNo Gravatar

    Well said.

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