I have been at Operation Sports for nearly five years now, and not once have we given a game a perfect 10 on our review scale. There have been some 9.5s, but never once has a game crept up over that magic 9.5 barrier. It's gotten to the point that I get e-mails and PMs about it, wondering if our scale is actually a 2.5 to 9.5 scale.
First, remember our review scale was tweaked a couple of years ago to allow for a full 10 point scale to be utilized. Most sites just utilize the 5-10 part of their scale, we decided to do a full to point scale where 5.0 games are the average ones and 7.0s are actually good. Basically we don't grade games like college papers, we grade them on a full scale.
Thus, a 10.0 isn't an A+, it's literally the top of the mountain for a game in which no real flaws can be found. As an example of how a game can get a 10.0, I'd like to share a few things that we look for to take a game from a 9.5 to 10.
Does everything work as expected? This can include online modes, servers, stats, simulations, etc. If something isn't working right, and enough of somethings isn't working right, then there's no way a game goes from 9.5 to 10.
Is the game both easily accessible and deep? Simply put, can your grandma pick up the game and can a hardcore fan of the sport pick up and strategize with it? Some games do not cater to this type of audience such as OOTP, in that case we have a different criteria: Is there something missing from this experience?
Are the controls easy to use? One of the biggest reasons (minus online servers) that some games haven't and won't ever get over the 9.5 mark is that the controls of many sports games are way too complicated as-is to recommend the game universally to everyone -- which is what a 10.0 rating really signifies. Think about our 'easy to pick up and play, difficult to master' theory. That's what I'm talking about here as well.
Is the gameplay perfectly balanced? We put a lot of emphasis on gameplay, and this is the hardest section to really gauge. Gameplay balance in sports games means you get realistic results. In football some games are defensive slugfests some are high octane score-fests. In basketball, some nights teams don't shoot as well. For a game to be universally recommended, we want it to be balanced in every way. We allow some creative license for sliders and such here too -- which means another big question we ask of games is, at it's core, is the gameplay experience customizable?
Another thing we have to ask, does the game have staying power? There are several ways this can happen. Brilliant dynasty modes, awesome online modes like Ultimate Team, fun mini-games. You name it. We want to see games which are universally recommended be able to basically stay on someone's shelf for a long time and never quite get stale.
Finally, we have to ask, is the game moving the sports gaming genre forward in such a manner that it's unquestionably better than it's predecessors? With most of the games being in a series here at Operation Sports, we have past efforts to judge current games off of. It's impossible to review sports games in a vacuum because they simply don't exist in one. So if a game fixes little issues from a prior effort the previous year but fails to move the genre forward in any meaningful way, it's final review score will suffer as a result.
In theory, a 10.0 game is one that gets everything right and innovates all at the same time.
So...is a 10.0 possible?
I can say without hesitation that it is possible. Some things have to change for the franchises which are on the cusp of greatness to really get a shot at it. NBA 2K needs to iron out online and control issues, NHL has to work out it's quirks but has the accessibility and deep part of the measure down, FIFA is in the same trap as NHL with an added flair of more gameplay variety needed. MLB: The Show is close in many respects, but it's not as accessible as it needs to be and it needs to innovate a bit more to get over that hump.
So while a 10.0 remains possible, I believe it will prove elusive for at least another year. This is the next to the last big year of this console generation, so my gut tells me 2014 might be the year a 10.0 is possible -- but the jury is still out on that one.
Sound off:Are our standards too high or are they just right for a 10.0? Let us know by commenting on this post!