Metacritic is one of a handful of big review aggregation sites. Its motto of, “Keeping score of entertainment” sums up what it does perfectly. Rather than focus on just one aspect of entertainment such as movies or games, Metacritic tracks them all, with separate sections for ‘Movies‘, ‘Games‘, ‘TV‘, and ‘Music‘.
However, Metacritic can be a force for both good and bad. It really depends how effectively you use the site and the information and resources contained therein. This article is designed to help you navigate through the choppy waters and reach the sanctity of sensible judgments, showing you how to get the most out of Metacritic.
As can be seen in the screenshots for each section below upon arrival you’re immediately presented with the most-recent releases and their current Metascore. Even without reading any reviews you can use this Metascore as a general guide to how critics view the release. This applies to all individual movies, video games, television shows, and albums.
The color coding makes it even simpler than that for the lazier among us. Green stands for “Generally favorable reviews,” Yellow stands for, “Mixed or average reviews,‘ and Red stands for “Generally unfavorable.”
If you click on a title you’re interested in, you can explore it in greater detail. This means being able to read a summary of each critical review, clicking through to the actual site where the full review was originally posted, or switching to user reviews. User reviews are scores by ordinary people rather than professional reviewers, and there is often a vast difference between what the man and woman on the street thinks to those who do this for a living.
All sections have ‘High Scores‘ and ‘Browse A-Z’ options. These do exactly what you would expect them to. By default ‘High Scores‘ relates to the Metascore from content released during the last 90 days. But you can also view ‘All Time‘ or ‘By Year‘, and also switch from Metascore to ‘User Score‘. Games can also be broken down by platform.
There are also features specific to each section…
Each movie has information related to the actors starring in it, the runtime, the genre, rating, etc. IMDb provides the data for this section, but those with a committed attitude to finding out who worked behind the scenes may need to visit IMDb itself instead.
There may also be a trailer for the film in question and/or other video clips. The ‘Coming Soon‘ section sorts upcoming releases out by date, meaning you can plan ahead as to when you’re going to need to take a trip to the movie theater.
Each game has information related to the platform and genre, and any specific peripheral (such as Kinect) needed to get the most out of the title. There is also a link to cheats on GameFAQs, and a trailer and other related videos.
The number of platforms makes the ‘Games‘ section on Metacritic a wealth of information beyond just the review scores. A special mention must go out to the ‘Legacy‘ section which provides a list of the top games ever released on old-skool consoles. This is invaluable for those who pick up a Dreamcast or N64 on the cheap and want to know which games to play on their retro system of choice.
The ‘TV’ section of Metacritic offers couch potatoes a chance to keep track of what shows they should be watching if they want something to talk about at work. Information collated includes the network responsible for each show, the airtime, and the episode length. I would recommend TV.com for a more-detailed look at each show.
If you’re a fan of a particular network you can click on the name of said network to see which of their shows are highly-rated. Which can help sort the wheat from the chaff.
The ‘Music‘ section is dedicated wholly to albums, with singles mercifully omitted. As Metacritic has only been around since 2000, only albums released (or re-released) since then have a score. This means there are some striking omissions from the site, such as anything by The Beatles.
New artists and new releases are therefore the order of the day. The ‘Coming Soon‘ section is particularly useful (as it is with ‘Movies‘), detailing all upcoming albums in an easy-to-digest chronological order.
Reviews = Opinion
It’s important to remember that a review is only someone’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. Even if the individual concerned has a wealth of experience and is able to extract sensible judgments, they will always have preferences – for genre or style – that will influence their opinion of what it is they’re reviewing.
Review aggregation sites such as Metacritic help by pulling together multiple reviews to give an overall sense of how good or bad something is, but you should still make your own mind up when all is said and done. Hopefully this little guide will help you navigate around Metacritic and extract the most use out of the site while ignoring all the extraneous chatter.
Do you use Metacritic? If so, how do you ensure you’re getting the most worth out of the content on the site? Do you find yourself still only taking notice of reviews from the external sites you know and trust? Alternatively, is there another review aggregation site on the Web you prefer? If so, why? please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Elliott Brown