With the recent bashing of DMC: Devil May Cry by fans on Metacritic, the question that comes to those who are on the fence about buying the game becomes this: who's opinion do we value the most? The critic's, or the user's? Do we take the professional opinion, or the fan's opinion?
It's a topic I'd like to discuss because I, myself have issues buying games when fan/critic reception is polarized as it is with DMC. On one hand, I really do trust critics; they will, more often than not, give a fair, honest, and balanced review of the game at hand. On the other hand, I like to look at what fans have to say about a game because it's nice to have that raw, uncensored opinion, especially with franchises that have lasted years and years.
However, in a situation where the opinion is so polarized, who do we look to for advice?
To me, the choice is and always has been critics. I know that's a bit of an unpopular opinion, so allow me to explain it:
When looking a review for anything...a book, movie, or video game, I always make sure to look at multiple sources. After all, different reviewers have different tastes and biases, so in order to get a full picture of what a game is, you need to look as many of these tastes and biases as possible. To ignore one reviewer's opinion on a JRPG because he doesn't like JRPGs is silly; his opinion is as valuable as everyone else's. In fact, I feel it's important that we frequent the reviews of such biased people.
For example, one such biased person is Yhatzee from Zero Punctuation. Yhatzee is famous for the way he berates most games that come to his screen, and therefore many people don't take his opinion seriously because, frankly, it seems that he doesn't like games. However, when Yhatzee does like a game, it means much more than it would if he praised every single game that crossed him. I am often on his page because when Yhatzee likes a game, it's doing something right (That, or he's just a banana and is getting old). After all, what does the industry learn if we praise everything thrown at us? With too much praise, nothing is left to improve, and games would become stale. That's why anti-JRPG or anti-shooter critics are important; they will nitpick at a game of a genre they dislike, and they will, at least, effectively point out a game's weaknesses even if they look over a strength. What's more, if they like a game from a genre they have an aversion to, it means so much more than if they liked a game from their favorite genre.
These reviews are seriously entertaining and informative.
That all being said, I do feel that professional reviewers, in general, give a fair and balanced opinion on games most of the time. It's their job to play games, after all, and after playing so many I do not see why I should not trust their opinion. They've played hundreds of more games than I have in my lifetime; surely their perspective is inherently more informed and balanced than my own.
This trust in an informed and balanced opinion is important to my argument; professional reviewers have played a large range of games, larger than most of us have. Their decisions on what to play are determined by their work, our decisions are determined by our wallet and our interests. Reviewers don't always get a choice on what to play; they just play what they're given and review it. We get to choose, and because of that our range of games played will be naturally smaller than those played by the reviewers.
For example, I'm an avid JRPG player. With this information, which game would I be more likely to buy: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch or Hitman: Absolution?
The answer is clear. I want this game. Now.
Now, let's say that, after a long period of time this year, I buy 4 JRPGs 3 Adventure games and 1 FPS game. Which genre would you trust my opinion on the most? The one I have the most experience playing, of course. If my only exposure to the FPS genre was, say, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, I might think it's a fantastic game. After all, with nothing else to compare it to, why wouldn't I? The game is extremely average, so I wouldn't find anything inherently wrong with it if I hadn't played games such as Half-Life 2 or Bioshock in the past.
This expectation of experience is where I find weakness in the reviews of fans: I will never know what games they've played before, hell I won't even know if they've even played the game they're reviewing. I could go give a review of Ni No Kuni right now, provided I do enough research, and bash the game without even having had played it before. Nobody would know I didn't play it, a fact that makes the entire review invalid. On the flip side, we have to expect that professional critics have played the game before because...well, it's their job. If you don't do your job, you get fired. Clearly a reviewer has done their job if a review is posted.
Of course, this is not to say that fans can't give as good of an opinion that a critic does. Sometimes fan reviews can even be better than professional ones; it's just hard to find those reviews and, honestly, there aren't that many. In a community where fanboyism and trolling run rampant, I take more comfort in a review by someone who I can expect to be above such things.