Hitman Absolution EP6: The Savior of Chinatown

By Shamus
on Mar 20, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

143 comments


Link (YouTube)

So we’ve now done a total of five assassinations in this game, four of which took place here in Chinatown. I like Chinatown and all, but that’s still pretty disappointing. Would have been nice to do some Hitman-ing on the train platform or any of the other locations we strolled through. The majority of our running time thus far has been spent just moving 47 from A to B.

Does Birdie send you to kill the three goons to delay you on purpose, or did Blake find Birdie on his own while his men were searching in the wrong place? The answer is: Who cares? It’s all crap.

I can’t be mad at this game anymore. So let’s be mad at reviewers. From the Wikipedia entry on Absolution:

Hitman: Absolution received generally favourable reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation 3 version 84.83% and 83/100,[26][29] the Xbox 360 version 79.29% and 79/100[27][30] and the PC version 76.13% and 79/100,[28][31] respectively. Positive reviews came from GamesRadar, calling it “one of the strongest entries in the series to date,”[36] and Game Informer, who wrote that “devising a strategy, using the environment and disguises to your advantage, and leaving before anyone knows you’re there are the hallmarks of a perfect hit, and Absolution proves Agent 47 is still gaming’s premier hitman.”[35] The Daily Mail gave the game a 4/5, with particular praise being given to the game’s varied environments, of which they remarked that “whether it’s walking along the sun-kissed balcony of a beach-side villa, or exploring the dank, underground sewers below a nightclub, Absolution brings each world to life with remarkable aplomb.”[48]

Edge gave it 7/10, saying “the game has taken a unique formula and diluted it.”[33] VentureBeat gave it 7.5/10 saying “Absolution aims high but misses the mark.”[50] Eurogamer gave it 7/10 saying “Agent 47 doesn’t begin Hitman: Absolution with amnesia, but the six years that have passed since we last took control of him in Blood Money do seem to have dulled his creators’ recollections of what made him so popular in the first place.”[34] GameSpot gave it 7.5/10 saying “Hitman: Absolution’s vivid world and enjoyable stealth-action gameplay overshadow its few notable inconsistencies.”[37] IGN gave it 9/10 saying “It’s nice to have a game that doesn’t just encourage improvisation; it requires it.”[40] Forbes and Kotaku both gave Absolution positive reviews.[51][52] Giant Bomb gave it 4/5,[39] as did Joystiq.[41] Destructoid gave it 8.5/10.[32] GameArena gave the game a 3/10 saying “IO Interactive needs to restart from the Blood Money checkpoint and try again — they screwed up this run spectacularly.”[45]

Look at all those 7/10 scores. I realize it’s really childish and tedious to complain about “wrong” review scores. I apologize. I know scores are meaningless and dumb anyway, so it’s pointless to argue with them. But note how some reviews are positive and some are negative but they all give the same score.

More importantly, all that glowing praise really rubs me the wrong way. The themes are all wrong, the story is idiotic and tedious, the levels are dumb boxes, the disguise system is more wonky than usual, and the core gameplay has been shoved aside to make room for a plot that nobody asked for.

I suppose this is why we keep getting games with shallow gameplay sandwiched between slices of horrible movie. Developers won’t stop doing this until it starts costing them in reviews. And the small handful of us who care about exotic things like, “The cutscenes ought not brazenly run against basic common sense” are the sort who don’t give review scores.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. It’s been a while since I got to be this indignant over a game, and I was starting to worry I’d gone soft.

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Footnotes:


A Hundred!20203We've got 143 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.

From the Archives:

  1. How does 47 get everywhere? Walking?

    Apparently Chris hasn’t heard of the famous Chicago L.

    It’s a little thing called ‘mass transit,’ Lana.

  2. Isaac says:

    I wish all mainstream game websites would stop using numbered scores in their reviews. Very rarely can a number (whether it be whole or decimal) completely and accurately summarize someone’s opinion and it would do both the reviewer and the readers good to just worry about the actual content of the review instead of fretting over the score.

    Tl;dr: The review should be all that matters not the score.

    • Cybron says:

      This will happen as soon as you convince people that reading the review is more important than arguing over the score. My money is on never.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        A lot of the problem is just in the way media is consumed in the modern era. Most people have this notion that they can’t take the time to read an entire article because either the idea bores them or they have “more important things to do.” Heck, I even find myself doing that on occasion.

        As a result, when the opportunity to skip all of that reading by scrolling down to the score at the end, most people will take it.

        • Otters34 says:

          That and general internet reading weirdness. See in the comments of the last post where one commentor added a TL;DR to augment a one-paragraph comment.

          Or that time TotalBiscuit wrote something the size of a decent newspaper column and then made an audio version for people who just can’t read all these words. It’s mind-boggling.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            That second isnt really mind boggling.While listening to a podcast or an audiobook you can also do something else,like cook,or travel to work,or work,or play a muted game,or a plethora of other things.You cant do those while you read something or watch a video.

            • Purple Library Guy says:

              Well, for certain values of “while listening”, I suppose.
              Any of those that wouldn’t seriously impede my listening, I can read while doing ’em too–eg I can read while I walk or ride transit.

    • Matt K says:

      I do find the score to be useful to determine if the reviewer liked the game and what degree but that said I’d much prefer a tldr summery to these stars since, as pointed above, they can mean vastly different things.

    • Valthek says:

      But a review score can be a very helpful guideline for determining if a review is worth reading and/or to compare differing review, but only if the scores are clearly outlined and aren’t skewed in the way most of them are.

      if a reviewer I like and whose opinions on different genres i know gives a game of a genre I know he likes a 2, I know there’s something about that game that at least deserves looking into. Same for an 8. Both scores tell me this game’s an outlier and that I should look into why the reviewer gave it that score.

      I usually don’t bother reading reviews for the 6-7 range, because to me that’s a “just good” score which, in combination with my knowledge of the reviewers taste tells me everything I need to know.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        So why cant the reviewer just give it a thumbs up or down,and then you can read the rest based on that?Or just have a single sentence summary(“enjoyable,but buggy”,”boring,but short”,etc).Much more helpful,understandable and easier to compose than a random number.

        • Valthek says:

          Well, generally, the reviewers I watch have a very well defined scale that i can look up. Nice and easy to figure out.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Doesnt matter if you have to spend only a minute to look up and figure it out,it still means a minute more than words you already know the meaning of.Plus,you dont have to learn different meanings for different reviewers.

  3. Was this game sponsored by Hewlitt-Packard at one point? Agent 47’s phone looks a lot like the old iPaq devices, mostly due to that huge directional button in the bottom center.

  4. Red says:

    Ugh, the Chinese New Year mission. I know that it’s supposed to be everyone’s favourite, but there’s just SO much wrong with it, Hitman-level-wise. For starters, the map feels large, but also oddly flat; there are few layers, and it all so two-dimensional. Then there’s the scripting; the targets don’t begin doing anything until you come by and trigger them. Then, there’s the bizarre choice to have every target squirrelled away in some corner, completely divorced from the rest of the (still quite-large) level. THEN, there are the smaller things: the lack of disguises, the fact that there are few kills available other than what’s been made by the devs, the strange scoring system that means you have to hide each body (even if that makes no sense), the general sense of adventure-gameyness over sandbox… I could probably go on, but it just goes to show that, even at its best, Absolution still feels leagues behind Blood Money (or even some of the other games).

    • guy says:

      You know, that might actually be a limitation of the crowd engine. As people have pointed out, they don’t seem to actually be filling the levels with fully-featured NPCs, probably because that would be entirely too difficult. Whatever tricks they’re using, they might break down when there’s been an assassination, and especially one that you’re supposed to be able to get away with in front of witnesses. Then again, in the first Chinatown mission there are chances to do it more or less in public.

      Maybe it’s one of those things that takes a lot of effort to set up properly. Like, maybe they have a system to let them handle it, but it’ll cause slowdown if too many NPCs, especially if there are multiple types*, have line-of-sight, and it’s difficult to set it up so only a manageable number are nearby while still being in public. Or the reactions of everyone might be pseudo-scripted; they run an AI algorithm but with values and heuristics configured to strongly favor a specific set of moves for each, and that needs to be set up carefully to look natural and prune as much as possible.

      I still have to complement the crowds as a terrific technical achievement. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another game with crowds quite so dense that have even a semblance of variation.

      *going on the theory that multiple NPCs have a shared model and put it in multiple places rather than actually animating it separately, they could spin off a shared reaction model, with performance based on how many separate models are needed.

      • Red says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point about the limitations of the AI. It’s a damn shame that the (admittedly really, really lovely-looking and technically impressive) crowds can get in the way so much of the classic Hitman level design. This sort of thing was done better in a Mardi Gras-set level in Blood Money; in that, though you wound up having to kill the targets out of view of the gigantic crowd, much of the level seemed to be built around a Rube Goldberg-machine of incidental timers. Limitations of the time meant the crowd looked a bit clunky, but it’s saddening to see how much they can’t seem to learn the lessons from there, and apply them here (although I concede that that was far more basic tech). I hope it’s the kind of problem to which they find a happy medium in the next Hitman game.

  5. Thomas says:

    7/10 isn’t really a glowing review. It’s game review score for “well-polished piece of rubbish” or “interesting game that crashes on the menu screen”. Most of the comments accompanying the 7/10 reviews are burns too. “the six years that have passed …do seem to have dulled his creators’ recollections of what made him so popular in the first place” and “the game has taken a unique formula and diluted it.” are fairly on the money.

    I guess it’s mostly that games reviewing kind of thing where even if you hate the game, you’re always kind of conscious that it was an impressive technical achievement to even get it to boot up.

    If it was hard enough to even hold a camera and point it at something that major studios routinely failed to achieve it, then I imagine film reviews might have gone through a 7-10 phase.

    (Although reviewers using all numbers on a 1-5 scale would probably improve the state of game discussion in some ways, so I hope we reach that point oneday)

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Yeah. I honestly think that 7/10 is a pretty accurate score for Hitman: Absolution.

      The gameplay isn’t bad. It just isn’t at all what people want from a Hitman game. Instead of these cool, interesting environments in which one can experiment to find ways to kill a target, we have linear stealth levels. They’re decent stealth levels, but not Hitman levels.

      And the story is garbage, but no one cares about it aside from IO Interactive. When it comes to why Hitman is so popular, the plot is rarely something fans would cite as one of their primary reasons for being as such.

    • Alex says:

      5 – Worth playing even if you don’t usually play the genre.
      4 – Worth playing if you like the genre.
      3 – Worth playing if you’re already invested and want closure/believe the developers can do no wrong.
      2- Inoffensively bad.
      1 – You’ll wish you hadn’t.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus is standing next to an open manhole,murmuring something.Chris spots him,and comes closer,only to hear Shamus saying:
    – Sixteen…Sixteen…Sixteen…
    Chris asks:
    – Sixteen what?
    Shamus grabs him,and pushes him into the pit,and goes:
    – Seventeen…Seventeen…Seventeen…

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @16:30 – Wow,Josh found a way to bunnyhop in a game that doesnt have jumping.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Someone needs to make a mod where Rutskarn narrates stuff while 47 is hiding.That bit was hilarious.

  9. Bitterpark says:

    I don’t actually think the dumb story is the reason Absolution got linear gameplay, I suspect it’s the other way around.

    Because the kind of freeform, intricate sandbox levels that define Hitman don’t fit into the modern AAA design paradigm, the devs were forced to turn it into a semi-linear stealth action game (see also: Deus Ex: Human Revolution). They just coulnd’t afford to make five different kill setpieces for each level, or thought they couldnt, while the players would only ever get to see one or two of those.

    And, because it became a linear game, a linear narrative was needed to tie it all together. But they couldn’t do a good linear narrative, it’s just not their style.

    Blake Dexter, Don Osmond and all these other dudes would have made fine Hitman targets on their own, no worse than Skip Muldoon or the porn tycoon guy. But when they had to connect the bad guys to eachother as part of some overarching story, that’s when the problems started to appear.

    • Thomas says:

      I’m guessing it’s this way round too. I’d put some money on them deciding to make a semi-linear game (for whatever reason), designing and constructing most of the levels and _then_ trying to find a story that would fit together.

      It’s got the Uncharted 3 feel where sometimes you’re character just kind of ends up in places for no reason and that’s because they (felt) they had a fun set-piece and the writers couldn’t think of how to fit it in.

      It also meshes with how a lot of the cutscenes with the villain aren’t really ‘in’ any of the play areas. You could take that chicken-wing restaurant cutscene and use it to fit together any two levels you choose.

      The mistake story wise was ignoring the limitations of this design process instead of working around them. Also the mistake where they were all horrible writers.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        I think a lot of people say the linear story is responsible because they was one the biggest things they were touting at the time.

        “Come experience Agent 47’s daring story of escape and redemption from his past deeds.”

  10. lucky7 says:

    Come on, Rutskarn, can’t you just get BEYOND Thunderdome?

  11. Fungo says:

    That videogamey crouch-walk makes much more sense in dense smoke.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Those reviews are utter shit.They dont tell you anything of use about the game,and the scores they give are counterintuitive to what they are actually saying.I give them the lowest possible score of 9.7/10.

    • Thomas says:

      Could you point to a quote that doesn’t fit the score other than

      “GameSpot gave it 7.5/10 saying “Hitman: Absolution’s vivid world and enjoyable stealth-action gameplay overshadow its few notable inconsistencies.””

      Plus no-ones ever saying you should treat review scores as more than a shorthand. It’s like someones giving directions and points in the general area whilst speaking and suddenly you’ve got a bunch of critics saying “Well I feel that general pointing completely trivialises the complex issues of walking from one place to another”

      Or “Look how these five people are all pointing in roughly the same direction even though their verbal directions varied. General pointing is completely broken”

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Umm,thats the only quote that fits the 7/10 score actually.The rest(it misses its mark 7/10,it diluted the formula 7/10,etc)are negative quotes,yet they give it above average rating.

        • Syal says:

          I think a 5 out of 10 is actually “entertainment equal to not playing any videogame”, as opposed to “the average videogame”. So all those 7 out of 10’s aren’t “above average”, they’re “better than nothing”.

          • ehlijen says:

            That’s a weird premise. What are 1, 2, 3 and 4 for then?

            If you have a score that says ‘out of X’ then the natural assumption is that X/2 out of X is the average.

            “Entertainment equal to not playing a video game” should be 0/10 because you are grading a video game for how good it is at being a video game, ie if it’s as though you’re not playing one, it shouldn’t be scoring any points. 0 literally means nothing, so even 1/10 would qualify as ‘better than nothing’.

            If you take a drivers licence test and score as though there was no one at the wheel, you’d get 0 marks, I’m pretty sure. There is no ‘at least you didn’t crash’ bonus (and there shouldn’t be for video games, either :p ).

            • Chargone says:

              Then what would you do with a game so bad that it’s Worse than doing nothing? Those exist.

            • Syal says:

              Under 5 is ‘worse than nothing’, and is thus reserved for stuff like Superman 64.

              • ehlijen says:

                Why? What use is that?

                If you sit a math test, you’d get the same grade whether you wrote nothing or just insulted the teacher instead of answering: an F.
                You might get additional consequences, but the grade is and should only be interested in how correct your answers were, and both were equally incorrect.

                A game review score metre doesn’t need a range below ‘has no merits as a game’. If it’s truly that bad, you can mock in the review text, you don’t need to rank games that fail to be games, especially not with a misleading score.

                (Since I am not aware of any reviewers ever explaining that 7/10 is the ‘average’, that is misleading since that is not a natural assumption to many people.)

                • Syal says:

                  Well, maybe you’re right about the school thing then; the minimum for passing is often 70%.

                  • ehlijen says:

                    But that 70% still means that 70% of the required knowledge was displayed.

                    What you’re suggesting is that 70% really means 20% of the answers were correct and that half the scale is for teachers to grade exactly how disappointing a test with no correct answers was.

                    • Syal says:

                      The difference is that teachers get their answers for free. If you had to pay $5 to look at a student’s test, and all that was on it was dickbutt, you might want to make mention that you just paid money to feel worse.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Um,reviewer copies are free as well.Heck,some reviewers even get paid to play a game,especially the mobile games reviewers.

                    • Syal says:

                      But there’s still an obvious price tag on it.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      But the prices change based on when and where the game is sold. Do you up the score if the game’s on a steam sale? Do you knock it down a peg when addressing an Australian audience? Will the score slowly go up in time as the game is more and more discounted as it ages, or is that countered by graphical obsoletion? What about games that never relied on high end graphics? Are freeware games automatic 6+/10s? Are games better if bought second hand?

                      But even leaving all that aside, what’s wrong with simply declaring 0/10 ‘not worth the money’ ? Why do ‘absolutely not worth the money’, ‘not really worth the money’ and ‘probably not worth the money’ need to be different values?

                      Do people really need 5 degrees of ‘don’t buy this’ while being happy with basically three degrees of ‘worth it’?

        • Thomas says:

          Oh you were just being obtuse :p You and I and everyone knows what a 7/10 videogame review means. 1-6 rankings are reserved for things in some form of literally unplayable.

          And its not some weird videogame thing, when humans rank things from 1-10, they almost always drift over to something which isn’t actually a 1-10 scale.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            No.Just look that wikipedia quote,it says “mostly positive”,meaning it takes 7 to be above average,as it should be.The reviewers trying to skew the scale so that 7 is the average has and always will be stupid.

          • Matt Downie says:

            “Average” is pretty bad.

            There are many average and below average games out there. Most of them, you’ve never heard of because no-one talks about them.

            7/10 means “there’s fun to be had playing this game, but there are plenty of 8/10 and 9/10 games out there, so why wouldn’t you play one of those instead?”

          • Purple Library Guy says:

            I’ve seen this reading manga. Places I go there’s typically a 1-5 score. The aggregate rating given by people is generally in the 4.* range. And that’s despite the occasional dork who comes around to rate things as 1 if they’re from a genre he doesn’t like. 3.* is generally only for stuff that’s pretty dashed mediocre, at best.

            At the individual level, people seem to rate 5 for really pretty good, 4 for decent, and 3 for “I would spit on this manga if that wouldn’t pollute my precious saliva”.

  13. General Karthos says:

    The continuing trend of praising environments when the story sucks is annoying, but pervasive. I love beautiful environments as much as the next guy, but it’s all scenery. I’m looking for story. The beautiful scenery (when it’s there) is a bonus, but it’s not required. (Love the scenery in Skyrim, but the main plot is a bit of a travesty. Still, it’s open world enough that standing on top of a mountain and gazing out at the world and saying “I can go there”, is nice. And pretty. And some of the side quests are fun.)

    But praising a game with a bad story is like praising a book by Alan Dean Foster because it has great cover art. As soon as you open it up you discover that Alan Dean Foster’s popularity is an insult to amateur writers everywhere. His stories suck, his writing sucks. The book sucks. But “BookReviewerDotSomewhere” gave it 8.5/10 because the cover was beautiful with no mention of the fact that ADF can’t write.

    As a fan of RPGs, the focus on “better graphics” over “deeper story” is disturbing. Plus most of the great RPG companies are going over to shooters and/or button mash combat games because that’s where all the money is. What’s worse is that not only are better graphics more important than deeper story, better graphics seem to be more important than story at all. Again, scenery over story, scenery over substances. These people would take the complete works of Charles Dickens, cut most of the story out, put beautiful pictures inside and sold it as “The Deluxe Charles Dickens”.

    I’m with Shamus on the whole “numerical scores are a bad thing.” A game is good, middling, or bad, and in large part it depends on your preferences. (Plenty of games have parts that are great, and parts that are bad.) A game that gets an 8 is inherently worse than a game that gets an 8.5? For that matter, if you’re going to give numerical scores, you should give exactly as many 1s and 2s as you give 10s and 9s. But it seems like even the worst games these days get 5s or 6s…. Rare indeed are the 4s or lower. So your numerical scoring system is misleading and inherently flawed.

    • Tizzy says:

      I understand your frustration, but in a video game, unlike a book, there are a lot of teams working together to give the finished product. The fruit of their efforts interact a lot more, and your experience is a lot more impacted by everyone’s work, than your reading experience is impacted by the book’s cover.

      This is why it’s important that the people who did their job well get the credit they deserve, and, as far as environments are concerned, I am simply floored by the quality, beauty, attention to details, and variety within each (as well as overall variety).

      The game looks like it could have been so much more, and that makes me sad, but watching it makes me want to play it simply to be able to walk around and interact with those spaces.

    • Artur CalDazar says:

      Tizzy has a point, games are the products of teams. The people who did the art shouldn’t have their work ignored because the writing and design team were all over the place.

      Also games are usually visual experiences, if they get that aspect right it is something worthy of praise as much as getting the story parts wrong is worthy of criticism. It might be out of place to give a book a glowing review due to a pretty cover art, but not so to (for example) a movie with a terrible story but fantastic fight scenes.

      • General Karthos says:

        I appreciate that there are multiple teams working on the game, but the overall designers, the ones who run the teams, need to realize that a coherent story is what ties the game together and lets us appreciate the scenery. There’s some spectacular scenery in Mass Effect 1 (and yes, far too many not-so-spectacular grey hallways), and part of what lets us appreciate the good and move past the bad it is that there’s a coherent story that keeps us wanting to move through the environments.

        I can appreciate that the environments and graphics are pretty, but the problem is that when the story is this poorly-constructed, all I can think is that the priorities of the lead developers were just plain wrong.

        I’d rather have a 50-hour sprite-based RPG with a great story than a 10-hour amazingly rendered graphical masterpiece with a story I hate. Which one am I going to keep coming back to? Graphical wonders can only sustain my interest for so long.

        • Bubble181 says:

          Fair enough, but personal opinion. A book and its cover are a bad comparison – a book is literally *all about* the story and writing.

          Compare to a comic book, instead: a good story but with horrible drawings will still draw some crowds, but push away some others, while the opposite will also push away some people but have other readers as fans. Ideally, you want a great story and great drawing style, but given the choice between “average art, good story” and “average story, good art”, I’d wager comic book fans are split almost half-way. Add to that that, both in regards to art and to writing, there’s plenty of stylistic choices some like and some don’t. I’m not a huge fan of photorealism in my games, and prefer games with distinctive colors and clear lines. A lot of people fel “fisher price” colors and buttons are horrible and childish and prefer more earthen tones and flatter colors. A prefesr writing that’s witty and descriptive, B prefers writing that’s prosaic and long-winded but paints a beautiful picture. There’s not necessarily one “right” way to score multimedia – even single-media art – and it’s a bit self-absorbed to think your view of what is and isn’t important is by definition “better” than someone else’s (though some people really do just have horrible taste, and there *is* such a thing as good or bad writing or good and bad drawing, mind you).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Which can be achieved better without giving it an arbitrary aggregate score,but instead describing all the pieces with words.Heck,even a single sentence that doesnt go into details can be way more informative than a number:”Nonsense story coupled with a good gameplay and a reworked disguise system that works most of the time makes for an enjoyable game,but not a worthy sequel”.There,hitman absolution summarized with a single sentence that tells you everything good and bad about it,and informs you if you would buy the game on a glance or not.And no one can misinterpret that like with something as nonsensical as 7/10.

    • Thomas says:

      The scoring is only misleading if you don’t know how it works. If you do know how it works it’s fine.

      If you didn’t know how it works: A game which is never worth your time is a 6. A game which could be enjoyed but you can almost always play something better is a 7. A very decent game is an 8. And brilliant games are 9-10.

      Congratulations! You can now gain valuable information from game review scores. For example, say you wanted to know what the different opinions on Hitman: Absolution were, you can now go to Metacritic, find the reviews which are 6-7 and read those to get the bad opinions. And then you can read the 9-10 reviews to hear some good opinions.

      If you think Hitman: Absolution is an awful game, but happen to see that someone gave it a 9-10, you know that review must contain a different perspective, so the review score signposts the idea that the review is worth checking out. Or if you dislike the game, but don’t know why, you can seek at 6-7 reviews which will probably explain it to you.

      Review scores are a brief shorthand to give you some idea of what to expect from the review. You can use them to find reviews with differing opinions or reviews which are controversial. They’re only a problem if you suddenly assume that they’re meant to be some divine number on high perfectly describing the quality of a game (but actually no reviewer is thinking this when they give a game a score)

      • General Karthos says:

        That would apply if review scores weren’t for sale in the industry. Look at scores for AAA games, and you’ll almost always see AT LEAST an 8 from any review team. Does anyone here think that Mass Effect 3 or Dragon Age 2 actually merited an average of 8/10? The ONLY reason I muddled through that game was because I assumed that BioWare would redeem it at some point, only to realize as the end credits rolled that they had failed.

        I don’t look at major publication reviews any more because they’re pretty much useless. (I sometimes read them for fun AFTER I own the game, because I’m like that.) I look at Steam opinions and look for the well-articulated opinions of the fans. (9/10 reviews are useless, “Buy this game,” vs. “This game sucks because I’m really bad at it, and I don’t have the patience to learn!” but I always look at the most articulated positive and negative reviews.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Except it doesnt even work like that.While one site will score it with 7 being the average,the other will treat it as above average,and a third one will use a scale from 1-5 instead.The consensus you are talking about doesnt exist,which can be easily seen in that quote from wikipedia,where some sites treat it as meh,while others treat it as enjoyable.Those short quotes are way more informative,and less confusing,so the nonsensical score that follows them is just unnecessary baggage.

    • Purple Library Guy says:

      Alan Dean Foster can be OK when he’s not phoning it in and doesn’t overreach. Some of the early Flinx books, for instance, were quite a bit of fun. And Midworld; I liked Midworld, it was one of the most enjoyably extravagant of the tiny “Big Dumb Object is the miles-high lushly lethal forest ecosystem” subgenre.
      Your general point is taken, though.

  14. Dev Null says:

    Look at all those 7/10 scores. I realize it’s really childish and tedious to complain about “wrong” review scores. I apologize. I know scores are meaningless and dumb anyway, so it’s pointless to argue with them. But note how some reviews are positive and some are negative but they all give the same score.

    Ok, so telling Shamus that numerical review scores are meaningless isn’t so much preaching to the choir as “preaching to the missionaries who trekked halfway around the world at great risk to life and livelihood in order to spread the news”, but…

    Numerical scores are meaningless.

    Specifically, getting a 7/10 or a 70/100 is the most meaningless score in a meaningless system of applying arbitrary numbers to things. From curiosity, I went and grabbed all of the scores for PC games from Metacritic. (They’re over here if you want a play…)

    There are 3683 of them.
    The average score is 70.
    The standard deviation is 13.
    The quartiles are 8, 62, 72, 79, 96.

    So fully half of the scores of all games ever fall between 62 and 79 – a 17 point spread. And if you chop off the 100 most extreme outliers on either end, it gets worse: the distribution stays about the same, but the lowest score becomes a 38, and the highest a 90. Basically, giving a game a 70 may sound fairly decent, but it’s really giving it 3 stars out of 5, when over half of all games get 3 stars. It’s a resounding “meh; whatever.”

    • newdarkcloud says:

      In general, this is how I interpret review scores.

      Less than 70: Game is gutter trash
      70-89: Game is good, and it may/may not have some big flaws
      90 or more: It’s an amazing game.

      • Dev Null says:

        As much as I let them sway me at all, that’d be about how I have always treated them too. But I think this little exercise may make me even pickier. After all, you have to get an 80 just to be better than 3 out of every 4 games. I’m still not going to trust the scores, but at that rate you almost have to get the 80 just to make it worth my looking up a real review…

      • Cybron says:

        There are plenty of bad games that average over 70 on reviews. And, while rare, there are some games which have been given scores less than 70 which are not bad. The infamous IGN God Hand review comes to mind.

        • Tizzy says:

          That’s my biggest issue with reviews: the various aspects of a game simply don’t average out. If your game has a particularly interesting mechanic, or an unusual setting that I happen to like, or even a particular aesthetic sense that appeals to me, I will be willing to put up with a lot of crap that I wouldn’t forgive in another game. I will even play the crap out of that game.

          Give me a competently executed game that does everything well but looks like every other one: I am unlikely to touch it, and if I do, I’ll probably forget it instantly.

        • Dev Null says:

          Good Point. I would never NOT play a game that otherwise sounded interesting, just because it got a low score. A recommend from a friend; an interesting writeup; an intriguing mechanic discussed by Shamus; a thrashing by Yahtzee that nonetheless made it sound fun; all of these trump any and all scores. But the one minor use I have for scores is for very occasionally going fishing for things that I might have missed hearing about at all. “Huh; this got a 90 on Metacritic? Maybe I should go check a real review.” That kind of thing. Now as you rightly point out, I still might not find all of the good games. And all of the games that I find might not pan out – the second-highest rated game on Metacritic is some baseball thing that I have no interest in. But I might find _some_ good games that I’d otherwise miss.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      And therein lies the problem:That wikipedia article interprets 70 as above average,while those that gave that score,as youve shown,treat it as an average game.

      • Yeah that annoys the hell out of me.

        A 5.0 (out of max 10) would be a average score ideally.

        So I always shake my head when a game get 6.0 and people get furious (Why? Did they make the game?)
        While I think…”Hey, above average, that ain’t bad!”

        It seems everyone is chasing the blockbuster rankings.

        I also rarely see scores given in the 1.0 to 5.0 range.
        If they chopped of the lower 5.0 range then 7.5 would be the new statistical average wouldn’t it?

        • Dev Null says:

          Well yes. But then you wouldn’t be able to give “Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing” an 8 out of 100. On Metacritic. So its average score across multiple reviewers was an 8. *snerk*.

        • IFS says:

          That would be the case if we were say rolling dice and had an equal distribution of games with low and high scores. That’s not the case though, and there really aren’t many games that get very low scores so 7-ish becomes the average as a result. The only problem is when people interpret that as being above average instead of being the average like in the wikipedia article (as Damien said).

          I’m not saying the system isn’t flawed or that reviewers themselves aren’t giving weird scores but complaining about where the average falls is really weird to me because the average is not something you control, its something that results from the data. In the case of game reviews its rather similar to the American school system’s grades where 80-100 is A to B range (considered pretty good), 70-79 is a C which is average, 60-69 is a D which is passing, and below that is failing. Again I’m not saying there aren’t flaws with the system, but where the average falls isn’t one.

          • Normalized scores would “solve” the average issue.
            Problem is that all previous scores would have to be re-adjusted as well (which can be automated).

            Heck I got some code here that takes into account score degradation over the years (as a game get older the score automatically drops a certain amount).

            Take Half-Life 2 from 16 Nov 2004 (using today’s date that is ~10.34 years ago) with a Metacritic score of 96, using my Gamescore Year Degradation routine that becomes a score of 75.66 instead.

            That may seem like a dramatic change but it’s also a decade ago too, and comparing HL2 with todays games it has aged over the years.
            Take Hitman Absolution for example, it’s levels look much better than HL2s the textures are better there is junk all over the place.

            Which is expected as Absolution is “only” 2.33 years old. Absolution’s metacritic score is 79 so using my routine that makes it have a score of 74.87 today.

            Since HL2 has a higher score it will decline less over time than Absolution.
            But technically speaking they are about par right now (do note that story and plot is not a factor just the release date and todays date and the metacritic score).
            I’m sure there are high ranked games on metacritic can can barely be run on todays computers and that is not reflected in the routine either obviously.

            Unlike wine and certain foods, games do not get better with age sadly.
            On my new site I’ll be putting up a few online tools and this Gamescore Year Degradation tool will be among them.

            BTW! Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing with it’s metacritic score of 8 and now being years old gets a degraded score of 6.16

            As some of you skill folks may have noticed, my routine is logarithmic in such a way that over time a games score will decline less and less, and games with very high scores declines more initially.

            You can say that this causes the peaks to flatten some. (after all, after x years folks initial enthusiasm dies out as well).
            It’s a shame that metacritic does not provide it’s game list in a format that can be downloaded and processed further, I’d love to to run metacritics PC scores through my routine and look at the resulting numbers, but I don’t feel like mining their website to get those numbers.
            We’ll see what I end up doing, lots of things I haven’t decided yet regarding my new site.

      • Here’s a fun excessive, take a modern score, and if in the 1.0-10.0 range then divide by 1.5 and if in the 1-100 range then divide by 15 and if the range is 1-5 then multiply by 2 and divide by 1.5
        This will move the “average” to 5.0 but…

        The whole score system is messed up, regardless.
        On a future site of mine I’ll be using a 3 value system. -1, 0, +1
        Where -1 means I did not like it or the area I score was either technically (objectively) or subjectively flawed,
        and +1 means I liked it or thought it was above average,
        and 0 means I have no opinion or am indifferent.

        Now one could probably extrapolate a 0 to 100 score by adding areas that are given a technical and subjective score and thus derive a to a game score, in essence any games I play I look at as only having one of three scores.

        Either I liked the game, I disliked the game, or I neither liked nor disliked it.
        Once you go beyond 3 states you are just asking for trouble as it gets very difficult to score things.

        Ask anyone this:
        “Did you like the game?”
        Yes? Then it’s a +1

        “Did you like the game?”
        No? Then ask “Did you dislike the game?”
        Yes? Then it’s a -1

        No? Then it’s a 0.

        Myself I would give Hitman: Absolution a score 0 as I neither like nor dislike it.
        KOTOR I’d give a +1 for example.

        That being said a score like that says nothing about story/plot and so on, which is why areas of the game also need to be scored the same way; some parts would get a+1 some would get a -1 and others would get a 0.

        • Syal says:

          There should be a 2, which would be “worth buying-upgrading your system to play it.”

          Maybe also a -2, “worth the loss of friends in order to not play it.”

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            This is basically how steam reviews work.The game can receive either mostly positive,positive,mixed,negative or mostly negative reviews.Its a solid system.

    • Bitterpark says:

      It’s all so damn subjective anyway.

      Pop quiz: is Street Fighter 4 better than Starcraft 2? If you must score the new Tomb Raider or DMC: Devil May Cry, do you score it for the long-standing fans of the series (many of whom hated it)? Potential newcomers (many of whom liked it)? Average between the two? Which game will you score higher: a fun but buggy experience (like a TES game) or a well-polished mediocre one (any typical AAA game not made by Ubisoft)?

      I think there are too many asterisks and subjective qualifiers, you can’t unify all that into one system without it being a total joke.

      I say give the game a rating based on objective technical criteria (it works, no bugs or performance issues) and cover the rest in a review.

    • silver Harloe says:

      Duke: Why the hell do you have to be so critical?
      Jay: I’m a critic.
      Duke: No, your job is to rate movies on a scale from good to excellent.
      Jay: What if I don’t like them?
      Duke: That’s what good is for.

  15. Jacob Albano says:

    The unimpressive display with the bomb + fireworks is a great example of how Absolution pretends to be a simulation while failing miserably. Another one; throwing objects at cars doesn’t set off their alarms, though shooting them or punching them will.

    This game.

  16. Cybron says:

    Rutskarn absolutely killing it the season. Between his agent-47-hides-in-yet-another-dumpster-speeches, Cotton Eye Joe, and the “Yes, I am a chef” bits, I’m finding this the most fun I’ve had with a full spoiler warning season yet. Even if the game is absolutely terrible.

  17. Henson says:

    Someone mentioned the overwhelmingly positive user reviews on Steam on a previous episode, and it got me thinking: it’s very easy for me to snort and say ‘the general populace are suckers’, but perhaps the reason there is a great deal of positive reaction is that the game is truly doing a good number of things well, and I just don’t like those things, or am ambivalent about them. A lot of user reviews praised the stealth system; but for me, it’s wrapped within a disguise system that I hate. Shamus hates this story, but a lot – a lot – of other people have praised that as well.

    I guess what I’m wondering is this: does the gameplay and story bring good things to the table that most of us here just don’t see? Are the things we hate blinding us to the things that are actually done well? And those things we hate, are some of them actually done well, too?

    Or are a lot of people simply suckers?

  18. Ledel says:

    Absolution seems to be the Casino Royale of the Hitman games. The earliest adaptation(s) were finding their feet in the world they created, then they settled on something that was maybe a little campy and goofy. It wasn’t afraid to make fun of itself (see Hitmas 3 “Why are you wearing a chicken suit?” “It’s Marty Graw. Don’t worry about it.”). Then Absolution comes around, takes away some of the campiness and goof, and tries to give more character to the protagonist. On it’s own it’s not that bad, but long-time fans feel alienated by the drastic change in tone.

  19. Kathryn says:

    It’s clear from all those scores being 70% and yet having both positive and negative summaries attached to them that the average score must be 70%. (I see someone above did the math to verify that.) Which is silly.

    This weird and yet widespread idea that average scores should always be 70% is one reason why I don’t judge at Odyssey of the Mind tournaments – the top of the organization has handed down the direction that the average score for any given element should be 70% across all teams in that division. That sounds nice and all until you start thinking about the implications. Specifically, the major implication is that the greatest degree of precision should be used to measure performance that is below average. In other words, it is twice as important to the organization to measure exactly how much a below-average team sucks as it is to measure how much an above-average team excels. This priority is particularly odd when you know that the question of which team gets to advance can sometimes be determined by a mere third of a point. (I work in the scoreroom. Not at World, just in the local tourneys.)

    It seems self-evident to me that average score on any subjective scale should be 50%. That way, you can distinguish between the best performers as well as you can distinguish between the worst performers. And if your scale is skewed, it should be skewed the other direction, so that you can better distinguish between the best performers.

    (Although it occurs to me as I type this that perhaps Shamus does prefer to spend his energy distinguishing between the worst performers…)

    • Patrick-who-is-Hector says:

      A great many people have stated this and I think this comes from the grading system used in schools, or at least American ones. Since in the classroom, a 70% plus-ish is basically the “passing but not good” 80% plus-ish is “good” and so forth. So I’ve long assumed that reviewers were basically borrowing the grading scale they’re familiar with, which makes it a lot more workable.

      That doesn’t explain the most fundamental problems with the way games get reviewed, of course. Witness Chris’s look back at GTA4 for that one. One of these days I’m hoping for a similar look at Red Dead Redemption, given it’s arguably both the best and worst GTA game ever made.

      Grand Theft Equine? Grand Theft Carriage?

    • Dev Null says:

      Well sort of?

      I mean, yes, you’d like room to distinguish between different levels of good and bad on both ends. But if every game put out next year is System Shock 2 with better graphics and a cool new innovative story and setting, and , do they all deserve a 50% score, just becuase the competition is so good? Or do they all get a 97% because they’re all brilliant? And likewise, if everything is Eurovision Song Contest bad, I reserve the right to give them all 0%, and screw the average.

    • IFS says:

      As I’ve said above the average is determined by the data, unless you’re rolling a die or something like that having it right in the middle of the scale isn’t too likely. For the average to be around 50% in the case of game reviews we’d need a lot of games being rated lower than 50% as well as above 50%. Demanding that the average be set at the middle is just silly, as the average isn’t set by anyone but comes from the data. Getting on reviewers cases about it won’t really help much either as the average has been a 70 for long enough now that its what people are used to, and are likely going to continue to operate around that. So long as people are aware of that it works as well as its going to.

      As for measures of precision you can get more than just ‘above and below average’ using the average. The person who did the math above even gave us the standard deviations and quartiles, which can easily be used to tell how far above or below the average something falls.

      The problems with this system come from the fact that games are a subjective medium and not everyone likes the same stuff, combined with people not understanding where the average falls (such as in the wikipedia article), a lot of which is solved if people just read the reviews but they don’t often do that. There are other problems as well, but where the average happens to fall is not one of them in my opinion.

      • dp says:

        Plus the average will evolve over time – in 2018 when your reviewing Shootman 3: The Explosioning do you review it relative to the average of other games released that year (in which case the reader needs charts to compare scores from different years), the all time average (in which case all old scores have to be continuously readjusted to keep the average at 50%*) or the average in a particular year in which case the yearly average might creep up overtime (assuming games get better on average).

        And that’s not taking into account the bias in the distribution – developers are presumably delaying or cancelling some games they think would have low scores.

        The simplest solution is to not care about scores.

        * I guess a meta review website could do all of these adjustments on the fly.

  20. Patrick-who-is-Hector says:

    I want Chris to know I quoted out loud the dated 90’s reference to Tiny Toons seconds before he made that joke.

    You are not alone, my friend.

  21. Artur CalDazar says:

    I don’t really place much stock in a score, what people actually say is far more important. I mean if they bring up all the story troubles and how it diverges from the kind of game it is ostensibly trying to be but still enjoy it I couldn’t really fault a largely positive score. Also I don’t think it costing them in reviews is what would make them stop, it costing them in profits is more likely to make an impact. A well reviewed game that tanks is less likely to get a sequel than a poorly reviewed one that was a smash hit.

    “A stealth game with a disguise mechanic” That is a very good way of explaining how most of this game plays out. It is rare to get a disguise that lets you operate freely, instead all they offer is a few moments walking around before you are back to cover based stealth.

    The glee Shamus has when talking about dumping bodies in the hole is fantastic.

    Yeah checkpoints punish you for using them, respawning guards and removing any items you have placed. Its a level reset bar the targets you have killed.

    Oh hey Hitman got back his Hitman suit, but still doesn’t fix his collar. Hitman being known for not properly maintaining the basics of his gear such as clothing.

    If they wanted to have Birdy betray you they should have had the goons be a distraction while Wade was going to the orphanage. If Birdy did turncoat only at the end when Wade caught him then not only does the goons searching not make sense but his fear when Wade is coming but utter lack of it when a gun is pointed at him is weird and inconsistent. Its like if the man who spends all day getting shat on by birds had a priest outfit as his only clean suit for some reason, its would just be odd right?

  22. WILL says:

    If there was ever a season you guys didn’t have to finish, it would be this one. Get through the initial dumb shit that’s worth talking about and then switch to another game, maybe the first hitman, maybe blood money. I feel like that would be a good format.

  23. Neko says:

    Imagine a game of Tetris, where the only time you ever get the long piece is during a cinematic cutscene.

  24. Fawkes says:

    So no one has talked about Charlie yet.

    This level was actually pretty fun. It had flaws which people have pointed out. But you actually got to kill people and had multiple options. (Including a challenge to stealthily kill everyone with a Katana.) But the Disguise system here is mostly useless. If you are in your suit, not only Cops/Targets but all the Chefs will *also* start to recognize you. Yes, every single sales clerk/chef on this level, at least on hard, knows you are a suspect and will tattle.

    Now that’s silly, from the point of view of a Hitman game, it takes away all your freedom to walk around and survey the situation without spinning around in circles to break line of sight to your face. (The game works based on them recognizing your face, not your bald bandaged head.) But it’s not too terribly difficult to deal with actually.

    Map/Challenge Spoilers

    But the there’s Charlie. On this map is a disguise. It’s a funny if random disguise that is obviously a joke/easter egg. It’s a full body mascot outfit. It is

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=409297601

    that disguise. I was so happy when I found it, the possibility of just walking around like a giant chipmunk with no one noticing was hilarious.

    When you wear it however, it is treated, (on Hard+ at least, wiki says normal too), like your suit. This means, the moment you step out into the crowd, everyone, both cops and Clerks/Chefs know it’s you. Now again, it’s not that hard, you just have to break line of sight to your chipmunk face and walk around. (Also ‘Hide’ spots no longer work. Turns out a Chipmunk reading a menu is suspicious.)

    I just don’t get why they would do that though, it’s a full body costume! They tried, with varying degrees of success and failure, to make the disguise system more ‘realistic’ but this is just outright silly. It doesn’t even warn you! Once you know how it’s treated however, it’s easy to use it same as the suit, there’s even a reward for doing so (If you care about those challenges) But it’s just baffling!

    And that’s the story of Charlie the Chipmunk.

  25. Phil says:

    So, is it common to leave large slabs of meat hanging in an unrefrigerated room with rain pouring in through an open skylight? If so, remind me never to eat again.

    Also, since Chris didn’t do it: Elelator go down the ‘oooooole

  26. KreNich says:

    I just leave this here:

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This episode really makes me wish you guys do psychonauts for the next season.

  28. Spammy says:

    So uh, I’m guessing that the big controversial scene is coming up next, so a compliment probably isn’t what you want to hear, but…

    Just from watching the cutscene, 47 calmly carrying Veronica through the building while you hear distant gunfire seems pretty cool, at least in something other than a Hitman game.

  29. Andy_Panthro says:

    Hitman Absolution has a 79/83/79 score on metacritic, but Alpha Protocol has 72/64/63? (out of 100, PC/PS3/X360)

    This is why I can’t trust review scores, but prefer to actually read reviews from people I trust.

    • Having played both games for the first time this year, those scores track fairly well with my own experience. Scores, absurdly reductive as they are, tend to weigh gameplay/mechanical sins more heavily, and in my experience Alpha Protocol was a more tedious and broken game to play.

      As terrible as Absolution is—I rage-quit because it was a travesty of the franchise, and only completed it last week because of Spoiler Warning—it is pretty solid technically. I abandoned my playthrough of Alpha Protocol with great reluctance, but will almost certainly never go back to it despite the real potential that game obviously has. (The last straw was when I found myself resorting to a real-life memory debugger to hack the game, because I hated the implementation of the in-game memory debugger minigame that much.)

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I didn’t mind the mini-games (and usually I hate them), but I found using an Xbox360 gamepad was the most convenient. I also enjoyed the different ways you can approach the game, although the mechanics can be a bit too game-y at times (like the stealth upgrade that lets you basically walk right past people).

        Even though I played it at launch, I was pretty lucky and got no proper bugs, which seemed to be a complaint from a few reviews.

    • Isaac says:

      I think that Absolution is a better game than AP.

  30. Isaac says:

    The Hope level is probably the most “Hitman” part of the game.

  31. Phantos says:

    Here’s my impression of every video game review:

    “This is the worst video game ever made!

    9/10”.

    BONUS POINTS: don’t forget to throw in the word “clunky” in there, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

    • Maybe it’s just me, but the only time I see anyone defending a numerical score, it’s someone who likes a game and uses the X out of 10 as a final argument for the level of criticism they think is unfair.

      I mean, hasn’t “10 out of 10, game of the year” become shorthand for “this game is far from perfect,” at least as slang?

      • Phantos says:

        Yeah, but the outrage that comes when a game receives a 9.999999997248248/10 I think offsets that, and in turn feeds the demand for the number scoring system, far more than our “10/10 GOTY 360 NO SCOPE” teasing can put up a fight to.

        Of note is that the moment Joystiq.com decided to stop using score reviews, that website closed down forever. It had other, bigger problems I’m sure, but I bet that’ll make other websites too scared to drop the score system just out of superstition.

        • I think the bigger problems would be being run by AOL.

          But if that’s the case, I’d just make a sub-system of scoring or recommendation that reads as shorthand. Whenever I’m making personal recommendations, I usually qualify it with things like “if you enjoyed X, you’ll probably like Y, though X did some things better.”

          Perhaps numeric scores would be slightly more meaningful if there were at least some icons associated with the score that gave you a quick-glance idea of what the game is about. A game can legitimately score a 10 out of 10 and be the most perfectly executed bit of code ever, but if it’s a game that simulates sports, I’m likely not to be interested in the least.

          • Phantos says:

            That reminds me: I remember when Famitsu used to be very stingy with its’ scores, so that a game getting a perfect score was a big deal. There was a magazine where it’s review scores actually meant something, because they didn’t just hand them out like candy to any AAA release. Getting a near-perfect score would have been an honour enough in that system because there were standards in place.

            Cut to today, where they’re giving that honour to some of the worst games Nintendo has ever crapped out, and whatever western game made a lot of money this week.

            That’s like if the Academy Awards used to be a meritocracy, and then one year decided “Okay guys, the winners will be whoever sends us the most heroin!”

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