South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth Features for Xbox 360

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6Out of 10
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South Park: The Stick of Truth screenshot
South Park: The Stick of Truth screenshot

We all enjoy moaning and arguing about review scores. It's a way to try and justify our own opinion on something we love or hate, and is - probably - responsible for more rows than the JFK conspiracy. Ensuring different views are spread out far and wide across the industry, however, is beyond important. If everyone just whacked the same number on to the end of a review, there'd be no point in having numerous sites with different individuals giving their take on a specific game. We'd just need one stopping point to pop across to once a week.

The 'they've got it wrong' attitude will never go away, but there are occasions where a game can divide people more than others. In terms of this week, that honour goes to South Park: The Stick of Truth.

As an avid fan of the series I can tell from the short amount I've played, along with the countless 'You'll love this, Miller!' comments, it's something that will probably go into my GOTY bucket. The general opinion in the office, too, has been a positive one: a title that can simultaneously win over casual and hardcore followers of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's creation.

The question for some, then, is why VideoGamer.com gave the game a 6/10. No bad score by any means - the perception of what these numbers actually mean has long been skewed and misinterpreted - but one that is always likely to raise a few eyebrows. A high-profile release with plenty of momentum, backed up by other outlets giving it anywhere from a strong 8 to a powerful 9.

The answer is very simple. For too long the 'wrong' brigade have found a way to shout ridiculous things from up high, somehow gaining some weight that a person's own thought process could be incorrect. I'm not saying these things shouldn't be debated - far from it - but assuming any sort of publication has missed the mark is ludicrous (individual error or unprofessionalism aside).

In our South Park review, our man was won over by The Stick Of Truth in terms of its representation to the license and how it mimicked the show near-perfectly. For many, that's all they need. The experience alone instantly results in a game that works for them. It will have familiar South Park references, fan-service up the hooha, and be loaded with the humour they've come to appreciate for well over a decade.

South Park: The Stick of Truth screenshot

But what about the mechanics underneath? Again, depending on your approach, the RPG-systems in place may work wonderfully in complimenting everything else Obsidian has offered up. On the other side of such a point, mind, is the idea that this is a RPG which never really dives to the depths others do. Has Ubisoft sold it in such a way? No, but that’s not to say someone couldn't feel a little disappointed there's not more to it gameplay-wise - you'd be hard pushed not to accept such a point.

Ultimately, the 'game' part wasn't executed to the same standard as the bells and whistles that made up the rest of the concept, or at least not in the eyes of Dan.

In many ways, given that most people will seek out multiple reviews to justify or influence any decision they may make, this should be deemed as an exceptionally positive tool. If there's even the slightest doubt in your mind that South Park alone isn't enough to pull you in for 12+ hours, then you've found a piece of writing which helps you consider that just a little bit more. Similarly, if the brand has significant meaning to you, knowing it's been treated with the care and respect only its creators could give it is reason enough to part with your hard earned cash.

To pull back the curtain just a tad, there were those in the VideoGamer.com office that didn't necessarily agree with the score. From some who had finished it to others who were knee-deep in the story, opinion was mixed and varied. But that didn't mean that Dan's opinion was invalidated or wrong; just different.

There-in lies the point, though. It's ridiculous to think there's going to be nothing but love for any game. Even the juggernauts of the medium have their naysayers, and as much as you may disagree with them, if the points are valid and well-argued, they, if nothing else, deserve to be discussed.

In this instance, we decided to do just that. To question someone's own assessment because of a different take is healthy for the industry, but not to the point either side is ever drowned out entirely.

WIth that said, VideoGamer.com will always represent and respect such a notion.

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User Comments

excowboy's Avatar

excowboy

This is a good piece, but as others have said, a shame it has to be written at all. I got into trouble for commenting on the South Park review but I felt it was pretty ridiculous how much immature nonsense was in the comments.

Anyway, what really gets me, despite being a big advocate of your podcast, the generally balanced editorial vibe and willingness to call out BS and poke fun at the industry which pervades all Videogamer content, is how all your main contributors will happily spout 'Oh, that's a solid 7/10; that's a 3/10, etc etc' pretty much every week in the podcast.

I've heard Simon, Dave, Steve, Chris (and Matt (RIP!)) do this, and to begin with I was genuinely shocked that such insightful journalists use 'out of 10' scores with seemingly no sense of self-awareness or irony. You should ditch numbers all together!
Posted 11:18 on 06 March 2014
Syme's Avatar

Syme

Dan Douglas was someone I already happened to follow on twitter, so I respect his opinion and don't have a problem with his score of a game I haven't played. There's a tendency for people to see scores as the editorial point of view of a website rather than one person.

I suppose it's particular problem here because a lot of people probably come to videogamer because of the videos and the podcast so they're a lot more interested in the opinions of the people behind that. I'd imagine readers of Gamespot probably aren't as interested in who the individual writers are.
Posted 10:22 on 06 March 2014
pblive's Avatar

pblive

I don't subscribe to this 'cool' idea that scores are pointless. Scores are there to highlight a percentage of how good or bad the reviewer thought the game was in general. If you're not a numbers person and want that as a sentence, then it's the equivalent of reading the last paragraph, the summary, of any given review.

The issue with scores is the way they are used and perceived by the reader, not the writer and even then only a subset of readers. Not everyone is dumb enough just to take a score as the be-all-and-end-all of the review but many people rightly use the score as a rough indication of the fun or quality the reviewer found in the product.

In this case the reviewer thought the game was just above average (6/10) and gave reasoning in the text for this. I won't go into what I think about length of reviews because VG don't like it (and probably misinterpreted my point, to be honest, because a lot of us were saying the same thing on a few reviews and they didn't want the review comments to be full of negativity. I do see their point of view here), but text is certainly important and as long as every aspect of a game is covered (or at least those that are important to the enjoyment of a game) then you have a good balance between a score and a description of why that score is justified.

So the rest is down to personal opinion and I'd hate to see the day where that doesn't come in to a review, but I'd like to see 'second opinion' pieces where possible, like in the old days of paper based games journalism.
Posted 09:21 on 06 March 2014
TheSquatch's Avatar

TheSquatch

Listening to your podcast it comes across to me as if Dan's opinion on the game is in the minority when compared to the rest of the staff all of which could have also reviewed the game. Surely this should have been taken into consideration and at least mentioned in the review itself. It is easy to forget that one of the sole purposes of a review is to provide your readers who are spending up to £50 on these games enough detail so they can make an informed decision on where their hard earned money goes. If Dan's review appears to not be part of the general consensus which I believe is true then surely it makes sense to at least make this point somewhere in the article. Yes, yes we all know people shouldn't base all their decisions on another persons opinion but to ignore the fact that a lot of people do is ridiculous. This is the only reason I disagreed with Simon's review of Rambo, it was a fun piece sure but to completely ignore the fact that people are looking to these people who get to play these games for free for an honest informed opinion of a game and not getting it because the writer believes himself to be above the game is a real shame. That's all.
Posted 09:14 on 06 March 2014
BombaLuigi's Avatar

BombaLuigi

The funny Thing really is when People complaining about a Review its 95% of the Time about that Score at the End and not about anything written in the Review.

I do think it would be better when we stop putting Numbers in the Reviews and kill that whole Metacritic stuff. Videogamer is already doing it really good by making a short Review and a longer more in-depth Piece after that, I think that is a really good way of doing it.
The score isn't really needed anymore in that system - in my Opinion at least. But of course, as easy as it sounds to just don't do numbers anymore that is in reality probably not really all that easy to do.
Posted 09:10 on 06 March 2014
Grammartron's Avatar

Grammartron

You hear that meaty thwacking sound? That's the sound of the truth being flopped out onto the table, for all to have a good gawk at. Great piece Simon.

That said it does seem a bit of shame that one of the more 'regular' reviewers didn't get to do this one, but I'd never have expected Simon to have done it himself - boss men don't have the time on theuir hands that you need to invest in a full game review, especially an RPG.
Posted 09:08 on 06 March 2014
MariosLoveChild's Avatar

MariosLoveChild

I don't agree scores mean nothing really. That's where "it's just an opinion" argument falls down. If you're a professional games reviewer and can't score a game from a genre you're not fond of fairly, well you're not a good one. There has to be a balance between objectivity and subjectivity, otherwise reviews really would be pointless.

And if if there's huge disparity in scores, something is not right either. 6 to 8 and 9s is fine imo, as that allows for personal opinions and objective analysis. And the fault is usually sites being far too generous, for reasons that are all too obvious(ign cough).
Posted 09:04 on 06 March 2014
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius@ thom_hill

I'm with you. The article is exactly sums up how I feel about reviews. However I still expect a huge release to be reviewed by a regular.

Scores mean nothing really it's when you engage with someone. For example when Tom reviewed a game and liked/disliked it I knew that I would pretty much like/dislike it in accordance with his opinion. There would be the odd occasion that our opinion may differ but I could pretty much determine those differences from the review.

I also had a long discussion about previewers going on to review games with a former team member who said in an ideal world that would always happen. But there could be mitigating circumstances that could prevent this. As it happens off the back of that conversation he went on to release a small article about the said game.

When scheduling work loads I just think that a previewer should always follow up with a review else the review is it's own entity and the preview is worthless.

Eg. Looks to be a good game but they need to do A,B and C to make it perfect. The review comes out and A,B and C are not mentioned and a different take is given on the game entirely.

It's like writing an introduction to nothing.
Posted 08:42 on 06 March 2014
addman's Avatar

addman

Great read Simon! I remember buying Mafia 2 on a Steam sale like 4 years ago, I had read a lot of mixed reviews about it so I didn't buy it on release. Which was a shame because it turned out to be one of the best games I've ever played, sure the city wasn't as huge as a GTA city and there weren't a gazillion things to do there but the athmosphere of the era and in the game itself was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Slap on a good story and that FOR ME was a great game. I now own both the Steam version and the collectors edition for Xbox 360.

That was when I realized how subjective game reviewing really is and how you should listen more to yourself and what YOU like in a game and not read reviews and scores blindly. Also, try to find a reviewer that likes what you like and who dislikes what you dislike in a game and you'll be set.
Posted 08:26 on 06 March 2014
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

^I remember that in the old-old-old PSM issues (i still have a few issues in the loft)

Good times.
Posted 20:13 on 05 March 2014
pblive's Avatar

pblive

In the 90s and up to fairly recently some games magazines used to have reviews with 'second opinion' boxes for another member of staff to have their say. That sort of thing works pretty well on games where there is a big difference of opinion, assuming there is another member of staff who has played enough of the game.
Posted 20:01 on 05 March 2014
thom_hill's Avatar

thom_hill

I agree with everything you said simon my only problem with this review is it was done by a freelancer that we the community know nothing about. His opinion is not wrong but I would much rather get one of the various opinions of the main staff because at the end of the day thats why we all come to videogamer. I understand that reviews can be freelanced out because of time constraints but I would rather you just don't review that game.
Posted 19:29 on 05 March 2014
Brazmanoqk's Avatar

Brazmanoqk

A very well written article with a sensible and articulate point. It's just a shame you had to make it.
Posted 19:19 on 05 March 2014
Dayol's Avatar

Dayol

I think you should show the variety of the opinions each of you at videogamer had by each person (who has played the game) giving their individual score (along with reasons why you chose that number) just to show that that one score doesn't reflect videogamer as a collective's view
Posted 18:07 on 05 March 2014
yellowsapphire's Avatar

yellowsapphire

Lovely article. Who's to say what the 'right' score is, and what state would we be in if everyone 'had' to give a game the same, 'right' score... more than they are under pressure to do so now?

(I'm not sure review scores are even fit for purpose, but that's another argument entirely.)

Nice to see you stick by your review, though. Reviews need to be honest. :)
Posted 17:58 on 05 March 2014

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Release Date: 07/03/2014
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 668
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