I’ve heard one too many complaints about the subjectivity of reviews. Specifically, Michael Rougeau sounded off on Twitter after a commenter confused his opinion, which differed from the commenter’s own, for a blatant lie. And Brad Gallaway expressed distaste for a similar situation when a commenter perplexingly asked for reviews “without the reviewer’s opinion.” These instances are more common than they should be.
I hope that spelling this out for everyone isn’t necessary, but reviews are, by their nature, subjective value judgements. Reviews are explained and elaborated opinions—period.
To illustrate just how useless and impractical an “objective review” is, I have a review of mine below, followed by what that review would look like if all of my opinions were stripped. The original is nearly 600 words, so skim it if you’d like. Needless to say, it uses a lot of “I,” “me,” and anecdotal context. The latter does not.
(Subjective) SSX Review
Published March 7, 2012, on GamerNode.
Carving down the mountainside, my vision is obstructed by a large, ominous jump maybe 50 feet away. I continue downward, weaving between trees and other members of the SSX team.
Where am I headed? What’s on the other side of that jump?
Dubstep can be heard in the background. It’s a catchy beat playing in strong, short pulses. I near the jump, now with electronic music building up to an inevitable blast of thumping, techno-like bass.
Uhh, is the music changing along with what I do, or is this a coincidence?
The descent would be suicidal outside the virtual world of SSX, but I hit the jump anyway, mouth open, eyes wide, and awestruck, and I am launched hundreds of feet from the powder below. The song’s bass explodes as I finally hit the ground and continue downhill. I’m beaming, a huge smile across my face.
SSX, the triumphant reboot of the last console generation’s beloved snowboarding franchise, provides many experiences akin to the one I just described. It’s an exhilarating, over-the-top, and challenging ride, and I’m confident that even those who normally dislike sports games will find this less traditional action-sport venture to be downright fun.
The SSX snowboarding dream team is on a mission to conquer the world’s Nine Deadly Descents – near-suicidal, obstacle-ridden mountainsides – beginning in the Rockies and quickly traveling to foreign snowboarding wonderlands like the Alps, Africa’s rugged Mount Killimanjaro, and the towering Mount Everest. Each of these mountain ranges adds a unique environmental hazard to adapt to. Everest, for example, requires an oxygen tank to breath in its high altitude. Icy terrain encourages the use of ice axes, tools that sharpen turns that would otherwise be fatal. The tools are completely region-specific, so they never become tiresome or lose their appeal. Seriously, a flight-enabling wingsuit for getting across wide gaps? Yes, please.
SSX‘s eclectic, exhilarating soundtrack, featuring relevant electronic, rock, and rap artists, matches the action on the slopes literally beat for beat. For example, in the earlier account of my experience with the game, the bass dropped as I hit the ground. This wasn’t a coincidence. Music slows to build tension in mid-air, rewinds when time is rewound in-game, and slams each song’s heaviest parts into the snowboarder’s ears after landing a huge trick or big jump. The game does the same to imported music as well. This interactive music compliments the action exceptionally, and is one of the best uses of an in-game soundtrack I’ve ever experienced.
SSX doesn’t feature traditional player-versus-player online functionality, but its Explore and Global Events modes sent me on an undying chase for high scores. Explore mode opens up all 153 slopes for those who would rather set high scores than follow a story, and awards in-game currency and new gear for their characters. Global Network offers similar incentive, but performances are compared to thousands of other players’ for prizes in an online gambling ring of sorts. These online features are a nice touch to a game that some might otherwise consider shallow, but vying for high scores among friends is what will keep players invested.
Perhaps the most apparent of SSX’s strengths is its ability to provide consistent thrills and — for those who played previous iterations — a wickedly nostalgic atmosphere. Not since the PlayStation 2 era have I enjoyed a sports game so thoroughly, or landed jumps with the same huge smile on my face.
Now here’s the objective “review,” but I think “checklist” would be a more apt term. Notice how the opening context, most modifiers, and the entire closing paragraph were cut. Seriously, I hope no one honestly longs for this type of content in videogame mags and websites.
(Objective) SSX Review
Published nowhere, because standards.
SSX, the reboot of a last-gen snowboarding franchise, provides experiences. Some will like it and some will not.
The SSX snowboarding team wants to conquer the world’s Nine Deadly Descents, which takes them to the Rockies and then to the Alps, Africa’s Mount Killimanjaro, and Mount Everest. Each of these mountain ranges adds an environmental hazard to adapt to.
SSX‘s soundtrack features electronic, rock, and rap artists. The music slows in mid-air, rewinds when time is rewound in-game, and starts again after landing a trick or jump. The game also alters imported music.
SSX doesn’t feature a player-versus-player online mode. Explore mode opens all 153 slopes, and awards in-game currency and new gear for player characters. Global Network offers incentive, but performances are compared to thousands of other players for prizes.
All in all, SSX has sounds that can be heard, visuals that can be seen, and both often work together. It costs money, comes in a case, and is a videogame.
That boring checklist some would dare to call a review was just over 225 words, over 350 words less than the original. That’s 350 words of opinion and raw subjectivity that, in my opinion, brighten an otherwise insipid wall of text. Disagree if you will, but you’ll be wrong—and that’s a fact.