The Disconnect: When Gamers Disagree With Critics

Let's agree to disagree

ImageMany users didn't embrace the new Portal sequel

No one was surprised when Valve's Portal 2 (360, PS3, PC) -- one of the most anticipated releases of 2011 and the sequel to a highly original gem of a game -- received glowing reviews from game critics upon its release last month. What was shocking was the fan reaction.

As reported throughout the gaming press, all three versions of Portal 2 were excoriated in user comments on Metacritic, with gamers objecting to, among other things, being prompted to purchase DLC on day one (though that content was not necessary for gameplay). Whether or not it was an organized campaign against the game or just fan backlash against being promised an early release if they would only buy additional titles, the result was -- temporarily -- extremely low user scores at the same time Portal 2 was among the year's highest-scoring games among critics.

Justified or not, this is certainly not the first time Metacritic users have disagreed with professional critics, nor is it the first case of the public punishing a title loved by reviewers. Sometimes, the user reaction stems from a backlash against excessive hype, while other times business decisions like crippling DRM or an over-reliance on DLC are to blame. Users may also notice problems with online play that aren't present pre-release, or they may simply rebel against a never-ending stream of sequels that add little new to a franchise. On the other side, users will sometimes enjoy a game much more than critics did, perhaps a result of being able to spend additional gameplay time to uncover merits that aren't apparent at first blush.

The user scores for Portal 2 have actually rebounded significantly since the game's release, but there are plenty of other titles that still have a wide gulf between critic and user scores. We have analyzed all games in Metacritic's database (for current-generation platforms) that have at least 30 critic reviews and 50 user reviews. The games with the biggest score differentials between critics and users are listed below, along with representative user comments for each game.

Games that critics liked but users didn't

Game Platform/Year Metascore User Score Difference*
1 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PC, 2009 86 3.7 49

"The PC community was completely abandoned when dedicated servers were taken out, [it's] not that the game is garbage really, its mostly that the loyal gamers were completely ignored."

-- mathieuG.

2 Dragon Age II PS3, 2011 82 3.9 43

"I'm a big fan of the original DA and really got into the lore. Unfortunately that dosen't help me trying to like this sorry mess for sequel. The combat is extremely simplified (and meaningless), the story is told in a most unexciting way and the game just feel like a downgrade compared to the predecessor."

-- KhaaL

3 Grand Theft Auto IV PC, 2008 90 5.0 40

"Absolutely not worth it. The download took a very long time, and unless your PC is running well above the minimum specs (which are already pretty high, and easily knocks out any non-gaming built PCs), then this game will lag terribly with severe glitching and control issues (and yes, I am talking about rock-bottom bare-minimum visual and audio effects)."

-- Zeph

4 Madden NFL 09 PS3, 2008 85 4.6 39

"As a game considered in complete isolation, Madden 2009 is a pretty darn good football game. But when you start comparing it to existing Madden products (2008 and 2007 in particular), you start to realize that the game just hasn't evolved much over the last few years."

-- TouchyEd

5 Dragon Age II PC, 2011 82 4.3 39

"So far it's been terrible. Clunky controls, terrible graphics. The characters are shallow and have exceptionally little dialogue. 27 pieces of DLC. Not much else has to be said. They've sold out and now cater to the lowest common denominator instead of providing high quality RPGs like they used to. Terrible."

-- Corbenine

6 Spore PC, 2008 84 4.6 38

"This game had the potential to be good and revolutionary. Instead its a over hyped watered down version that quickly lost my interest. After a few hours of playing the game, I began to get a sick feeling in my stomach. I said to myself, 'Dont worry, it's going to get better.' Problem was it didn't get better. Upon reaching the space age I was utterly disgusted with the game. Throw in the DRM that punishes the law abiding gamer and [you are] left with one awful product."

-- JohnM

7 World of Warcraft: Cataclysm PC, 2010 90 5.3 37

"First impressions are 10 out of 10. That is the reason so many critics rated this game so high. But after your first month of play, you will realize that nothing changed. The end game is identical to wrath of the lich king."

-- sams

8 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PS3, 2009 94 5.7 37

"The most ridiculously hyped, over rated FPS to date. There is nothing here that has changed from COD4, save for the insanely hard spec ops. Otherwise, same five hour story which is incredibly confusing and very hard, especially without a cover system, the multiplayer is unbalanced, the killstreaks ruin everything, campers and cheaters run rampant, the unfair advantage over everything and the fact that it takes reaction instead of actual skill in order to kill someone."

-- JulianG

9 Dragon Age II 360, 2011 79 4.4 35

"A horrible, wretched nightmare without end. ... DA:O was a lovingly-crafted tour-de-force masterpiece in the history of video gaming. [Its] sequel feels like a rush job to cash in on its success. The graphics look bland, the characters are boring, the quests are paltry, and the combat is dumbed down for consoles."

-- Sparafucil

10 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 360, 2009 94 6.0 34

"[It is] Modern Warfare 1 with new perks and guns. Nothing new to offer the gaming world except a copy of its predecessor, with an old graphics engine, unblanced and small multiplayer, and a 3 hour single player. Save your money, not worth it. "

-- SadMan

11 Guitar Hero 5 PS3, 2009 86 5.4 32

"It's time to just let Guitar Hero die. Stop milking a franchise that was once good and creative. Today, it's obviously only about selling as many copies of the game as possible. The music is horrible, there is no story for single player mode, and the instruments are cheaply made."

-- R.B.

12 The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom PC, 2010 79 4.7 32

"As a long time Settlers fan I bought this game with high hopes. While nicely polished and offering a fair amount of customisability, it lacks the depth and lasting appeal of earlier games in the series. And thanks to the ridiculous DRM scheme, I have been unable to play it on the weekends on several occasions."

-- SheffieldSteel

13 LittleBigPlanet PS3, 2008 95 6.5 30

"The problem with the game is not its style, its replay value or its graphic[s]. The gameplay sucks. Even if you give me a gazillion levels to play, I would still be unsatisfied because I feel no enjoyment playing it at all."

-- MYannakis

14 Call of Duty: Black Ops PS3, 2010 88 5.8 30

"Modern Warfare 2 is more fluid and vibrant and more fun to play. Black Ops feels clunky and unresponsive, with dated saturated graphics and glitchy textures."

-- Dell_Boi

15 Far Cry 2 PC, 2008 85 5.5 30

"This truly is a broken game. All its faults are reasonably easily fixable. However, they remain, and between the terrible design decisions (instantly respawning checkpoints), totally thick AI (not as bad as Crysis, but still pretty bad) and the arduous, shameless lengthening of the game, in the form of spending 70% of your play time driving, the crimes this game commits are unforgivable. It is a dog."

-- LadsyM

16 Resistance 2 PS3, 2008 87 5.8 29

"Before I played this game, I had read several reviews that touched on its lackluster artificial intelligence, but none of them stated what a game breaking it problem it actually is. Resistance 2's AI is utterly repugnant, and easily among the worst I've experienced in any FPS, even going back to shooters from the previous console generation."

-- JustinD.

17 Neverwinter Nights 2 PC, 2006 82 5.4 28

"I had more fun trying to get a refund for this game than I did playing it. It has next to nothing in common with NwN1. The interface, the toolset, the ai, the inventory, and the overall game play is all so far from the original, I can only assume the game was made to cash in on the community."

-- WulfJ.

18 Madden NFL 11 360, 2010 84 5.6 28

"This game took a step back from last year. Why take out the sprint and that gang tackling? But more importantly, why the hell does EA refuse to allow the Xbox servers to host games? EA's servers are crap. They are laggy and it took me 10min to find a game that actually connected, then all i had to deal with was the noticeable delay between when i pressed the button and when something actually happened, which in a timing based game is a pretty big deal."

-- StGravity

19 Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil PC, 2005 78 5.1 27

"Do you like power cells? I hope you like power cells. You see, for the first five levels of the game, you're going to be rummaging through areas looking for power cells. Man, is that fun or what? I think it takes a lot of arrogance to release an expansion pack which ignores almost all of the flaws of the original."

-- GoatBoy

20 Call of Duty: Black Ops 360, 2010 87 6.0 27

"Call of Duty will be remembered in years to come as the the point in which videogames gave up all hope of ever being considered worthy of artistic intent, of being taken seriously or of being innovative. With each new release the series gets more and more mundane, the faults get more frequent, the graphics slip further past the curve of 'current gen' and the gameplay becomes more and more linear."

-- ebeneezergoode

* Note that the difference is calculated as if the user score were on the same 100-point scale as the critic score (Metascore). (In other words, we multiplied the user score by 10). All scores are from May 3, 2011.

Games that users liked but critics didn't

Game Platform/Year Metascore User Score Difference
1 The Fight: Lights Out PS3, 2010 48 7.7 29

"If you don't like sweating and being physical [t]hen this game is not for you. ... But this game offers something that no other on the market has: a workout. An intense and fun one at that."

-- FightFan

2 Cross Edge PS3, 2009 52 8.0 28

"This game manages to be just weird and quirky enough to put it one small step above the more polished, more conventional but mediocre RPGs available today."

-- (Anonymous)

3 Counter-Strike: Condition Zero PC, 2004 65 8.9 24

"I'm a Counter Strike junkie and this game was absolutely perfect for me. ... I love the fact that the hostages are smart (sort of) enough to run away, animations have been improved and [there is] a slight improvement in graphics."

-- MaxxS.

4 Monster Hunter Freedom 2 PSP, 2007 72 9.6 24

"It's not for everyone, that's for sure. It took me a few days to get the hang of the controls and how to hunt, but now I'm hooked in a big way. The visuals are stunning and the gameplay is very deep."

-- (Anonymous)

5 Infernal PC, 2007 61 8.4 23

"A good game with great graphics and gameplay. A must have for everyone who likes 3rd person shooters."

-- KeeganB.

6 Sonic Unleashed 360, 2008 60 8.3 23

"I daresay the daytime stages of this game are Sonic at his absolute best, and even the werehog stages are decently fun. It's by no means perfect, but given Sonic's recent fiascos, this is definitely a return to his roots and a huge step in the right direction."

-- Cole

7 Hydrophobia 360, 2010 59 8.1 22

"The dynamic water physics implemented in Hydrophobia is unlike anything I have seen in any other game involving interaction with water. ... Hydrophobia is a fresh new entry where games so often seem to blur into one another."

-- StratRat1956

8 Monster Hunter Freedom PSP, 2006 71 9.1 20

"A fun game for anyone looking for a challenge or a game that will take you a while to complete."

-- ScottK.

9 Blacklight: Tango Down 360, 2010 61 7.9 18
10 Killing Floor PC, 2009 72 8.9 17

"This is indeed a very underrated game. Sure the graphics are outdated and the objective can get a bit repetitive but that aside Killing Floor has a superb and addictive gameplay, especially in multiplayer."

-- boomshanka

11 Viking: Battle for Asgard 360, 2008 68 8.5 17

"The open world is beautiful and the big battles have to be seen to be believed. It balances perfectly between sandbox and cinematic spectacle. The combat could be deeper and the script is pretty awful but I couldn't care less when it is so much fun."

-- GeorgeW.

12 Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter PC, 2009 68 8.4 16

"In a world filled with games reaching new heights of complication, plot, depth and originality, Serious Sam is a humorous return to the roots of gaming back in the day where I'd try to sneak in and watch my dad play Duke Nukem for awhile."

-- Carl

13 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game 360, 2009 61 7.7 16

"The reviewers got it wrong.... this is a fun game with extremely pretty graphics. I found exploring Pandora to be thoroughly engrossing. It's not supposed to be a Modern Warfare 2 beater and it HAS piqued my interest in seeing the movie now"

-- CraigH

14 Dark Messiah of Might and Magic PC, 2006 72 8.8 16

"This game is witty, innovative and full of action and I had a lot of fun playing it and always will. The 72 metascore doesn't do the game justice, although the producers could have taken more time and gotten rid of a few bugs."

-- AnonymousMC

15 Deadly Premonition 360, 2010 68 8.4 16

"Don't let the poor critical reviews fool you, this game is truly something special. If you love the TV show Twin Peaks, quirky characters and writing, nice music and voice work, decent Resident Evil-style combat and aren't a graphics snob, this game is completely worth the $20-25 asking price."

-- RyanK

Games that critics merely liked but users loved

Game Platform/Year Metascore User Score Difference
1 Multiwinia: Survival of the Flattest PC, 2008 76 9.3 17

"Quick, visceral, strategy which is hugely satisfying in short bursts. Not a game for epic gaming sessions, but rather one you can come back to regularly for months to come."

-- TomM.

2 Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance PC, 2007 81 9.6 15

"A great upgrade to an already awesome game. Forged Alliance adds a new dimension to the game and streamlines Supreme Commander in many ways the fans have been waiting for."

-- RyanM.

3 The Dark Eye: Drakensang PC, 2009 75 8.9 15

"Perhaps critics have become so jaded they will happily ding any game without a large marketing budget, and knock it hard for things like sub-par voice acting and actually having to read text. By and large though, RPG fans only care about gameplay and atmosphere, and this game has it in spades. This is the funnest Baldur's-Gate style game since.... well, Baldur's Gate really."

-- [Anonymous]

4 Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators PC, 2006 84 9.8 14

"A fantastic game from outside of the mainstream of software development. Only people that were more concerned with making a satisfying game than making money would have produced this sprawling, free-form masterpiece."

-- WillF.

5 The House of the Dead: Overkill Wii, 2009 78 9.2 14

"I can't believe that this game doesn't rate higher! It's fabulous, and easily among the best and most entertaining FPS on the Wii. Yes, it's profane, but it's funny, isn't it?"

-- DJH

6 Naruto: Rise of a Ninja 360, 2007 78 9.1 13

"Ubisoft have really made a great game that Naruto fans can be proud of, even somebody who doesnt watch naruto would love this game. The graphics are excellent, the fighting is fun and the mini-games are good too."

-- EmoD

7 Dreamfall: The Longest Journey PC, 2006 75 8.7 13

"A bit like an interactive movie and quite linear (which I don't necessarily consider a con), the magnificent story kept me glued to the screen for over 24h. If you can cope with plot linearity, try this one out."

-- M.Alex

8 The Witcher PC, 2007 81 93 12

"This is simply the most enjoyable RPG experience I've had since the golden era of Ultima. It makes some other RPGs released in the last few years almost seem shallow in comparison."

-- PHE

9 Wii Sports Wii, 2006 76 8.7 11

"One of the best games I've ever played that came with a console. What is really amazing about this game is the range of people that can enjoy it."

-- ChrisD.

10 Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn Wii, 2007 78 8.9 11

"Anyone who complains that this game doesn't use motion controls doesn't quite get the Wii. It's not all about the motion controls, it's also about playing fun games on a system that is still reasonably priced."

-- DLippert

What do you think?

What are some of your biggest disagreements with the critical consensus ... or, for that matter, the general user response to a game? Let us know in the discussion section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (100)

  • Carl Longshanks  

    Comment by John: "User scores are mostly meaningless, and totally useless in aggregate. Most of them are plants by companies or fanboys who only put in extremes. The way MetaCritic highlights user scores for games is an annoying waste of space. Give me more options for Critics’ reviews and a longer recent list."

    If you believe this, then you will make game producers very happy. You are a perfect candidate for mass marketing agencies. I have read plenty of critic reviews that simply do not address glaring issues in games. I would sooner take a poorly written smattering of user reviews over well written so called critic 'professional' reviews. It's their job to write well written glowing reviews, especially when they receive payment from said game producer. Yet, these well written glowing reviews only reveal half truths or blatantly lie. It's your call what you want to read and/or believe but many of these so called professional reviews are a bunch of amateur charlatans. Oh and by the way, what incentive do you have to defend these charlatans? Remember, these folks are not being paid, nor obligated to tell you the entire truth. It's simply not in their best interests. They are the furthest thing from impartial / objective as you could imagine.

    Demos are the best way, or should be to judge whether or not you'll enjoy a game. If that isn't available then seek whichever reading material you prefer. Truth versus fallacies, your call.

  • MediaUnderWatch  

    "Lost Odyssey wasn't better than Final Fantasy"


    BULLSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHI.......According to some fool in his basement!?!? According to over 6000 people, personal friends colleagues and others....Lost odyssey was WAAAAY better than Final Fantasy 13.....Yet Final Fantasy 13 received the higher score!!! Give me a freaking break!!!! According to many people it was a BETTER game to them than Final Fantasy 10.....Yet those other games got a higher score for "being" Final Fantasy!!!! Same thing for Advent Rising and many other game types, because they were NOT Assassins Creed.....They got a LOWER score.!!!!! We're ONTO this game of fraud.....These "REVIEWS" are a FRAUD......Many of them are based on sheer bias, and take under the table payments, so yes, critic/professional reviews are a total joke and have no credibility......score wise..

  • Tom  

    The problem with user reviews is you have approximately 30% voting either 10 or zero regardless of how good/bad the game is. And the problem with critic reviews is their salary comes from ads sold for developers selling their games, plus some reviewers have their own personal agenda and will either love or thrash a game needlessly. I also think they routinely give higher scores to the sexy, big-name developer and big-budget games. DA2 as example. So as a rule of thumb, I always lop off the top and lower 10% of review scores and go with what's in the middle to get a realistic assessment.

    I'm surprised Crysis 2 for the PC didn't make one of the lists. The user reviews were absolutely brutal for Crysis 2 when the critics were absolutely gushing over it.

  • John  

    User scores are mostly meaningless, and totally useless in aggregate. Most of them are plants by companies or fanboys who only put in extremes. The way MetaCritic highlights user scores for games is an annoying waste of space. Give me more options for Critics' reviews and a longer recent list.

  • Russell Gorall  

    Doug, are you on the Internet typing you worked for Stuff magazine? Awesome.

  • Russell Gorall  

    That's not really surprising, at all. It's not a matter of consumers rebelling against something popular, it's that consumers aren't getting payola and editors breathing down their neck because of banner ads and a low game review. Funniest thing I saw was recently the mediocre Arcade title Outland getting a 9 from IGN (payola central) and sitting on a webpage with an Outland ad background.

    GT4 got low user scores because the average person didn't really like it, Rockstar is king of payola... they have been putting out the same game for ten years and reviewers reward them for it. Dragon Age 2 just wasn't that good. I'll just say this, a major release game has to be terrible and then some to get average Metacritic scores (70-80). You can't trust reviews for anything, it also sucks there are a major ongoing lack of demos. Come on, Gears of War, grow a pair and let people play your average product before buying it.

    PS no fat chicks.

  • Ala ala bamba  

    Merely liked by the critics ranges from 75 to 80? What the Hell those should be great score, 60-65 should be ''Merely liked''.

  • Trucidation  

    While critics are generally more thoughtful in their reviews (being paid to do so), they're still people - they make the same kinds of mistakes we do.

    Of course, user reviews are generally worse, since there's no bar to creating one. You don't have to be legally employable or even sane to write a review. Any f*cktard can write one. Which is why user reviews are to be taken with a truckload of salt.

    That said, people tend to write about what stood out for them. The things they enjoyed most or disliked most about a game. Read plenty of decent reviews and you can form a somewhat reliable picture of the game.

    When it comes to reviews, quantity = quality. I'm not going to trust ONE guy's opinion, no matter how pro or well paid. You want the whole story, you're going to have to wade through a whole bunch of reviews.

    And don't forget we live in the age of YouTube. It's not hard to look up an actual gameplay video. Unless you're one of those idiots who still preorders games, in which case you deserve what you get.

  • Monarc  

    It's ridiculous to think reviewers are not biased on most games, they have a professional stake in it. Like the gamespot reviewer who got sacked for writing a bad review. Im a gamestore sales clerk and what I try to do is give my review of a game based on the preference of the people that buy the game, that says nothing about the game in itself really. If you look at it objectively, there are not many games that are necessary "bad", just substandard to other games. Well, let me give you an example: Epic Mickey for instance was a huge letdown for me personally. I would never play the game, because it's not as entertaining as it could be. Still, there are plenty people who really like the game. Are they biased? Sure. Is the game bad? Maybe yes. Is the game bad for that person? Hell no, he's having a blast. Same is said for games I really enjoy playing, like Star Ocean 3. I think it's one of, if not THE, best RPG's ever released. Average score? 7.5 on most sites. In my opinion? 9.5 at least. The only site I can really recommend reading reviews of is Gamespot, simply for the fact that almost all of their reviews are an honest opinion about what the game has to offer. Just dont look at the ratings they give to the games and you'll find they'll tell exactly how it is. As a closing statement I would like to say that all games are based on your opinion of the genre the particular game falls in. I personally find CoD games very boring. Doesn''t say anything about how good the games are, they do offer something entertaining enough for people to play it so massively. I'm just not a fan of semi-realistic shooters like Counter-Strike and CoD.

  • SDY  

    Dragon Age 2 is the only one of these that I've played, and honestly, I'd almost question if the reviewers were actually playing the same game. The things they praised in some cases are the very things I loathed.

    The dissonance between the reception by critics and the reception by fans really puts a bit of doubt in the competence of the reviewers. Once in a while you'll get a game like Planescape: Torment that tries and succeeds with a narrow audience, and there I can understand why the reviewers would come to a different conclusion than your average player who isn't part of that group.

    Most of the "Critics like, fans hate" games are sequels, however, and those should not be hard to predict. Maybe it's that expectations game that's making the reviewers fail to provide useful information to their readers?

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