Does a perfect score mean a perfect game?

Ross Atherton | Editor | PC Gamer (UK)

GR: Does a perfect score equal a perfect game?

Ross: That's a difficult one, because obviously we give percentage scores. The highest score we've ever given anything is 96% and there's a reason we don't do 10s. I think were we a magazine that gave scores out of 10, then no - a 10 out of 10 doesn't equal a perfect game. I think people get hung up on review scores generally and a score is just a signifier to tell you how good a game is compared to other things out there and what kind of experience you're going to get from it. Everyone's experience of a game differs slightly. And no, a 10 doesn't equal a perfect game.

GR: So what's the difference between 96% and 100%?

Ross: That's a good question given that we've never seen a 100% game. Every game has something wrong with it, even great games like BioShock, Half-Life 2 or Team Fortress 2 - all games we've given really high scores to. If a game were to ever come along without those minor niggles, those little flaws, then that would be a 99% or 100% game.

GR: 100% then, in your opinion, would indicate an absolutely flawless game?

Ross: Yeah. In theory it could exist, but nothing's come close in the history of games that I know of. That's not to say there aren't utterly fantastic games which in many ways you could deem to be perfect, but I think it's our job as reviewers to find those little flaws and just to tell people that while the majority of the game is excellent, you might find this bit a little annoying.

Above: Half-Life 2 (pictured), BioShock and Deus Ex have all scored highly in PC Gamer. Nothing has ever received 100%, though

GR: Do you think it's harder to give 100% than a 10?

Ross: I can't conceive of ever doing it. In the industry, as we've come to know it over the last 20 years, it's hard enough to make a really good game. Every game has a flaw or design choice that we disagree with. I'd love to be proved wrong. I'd love to give a game 100%, but it's really hard to see it happening.

GR: Do you think 10s are dished out a bit too readily?

Ross: No I don't. If your system is out of 10, anything that is 95% plus, yeah, that's worth a 10. I think as long as you're not doing that every month...

GR: Can you give us an example of a game that has come close to 100% perfection by PC Gamer's standards?

Ross: Half-Life 2 is a really good example of a game that is almost perfect. The last couple of levels in the Citadel are a little bit grey, a little bit mechanical. Not a great ending to the game, so I think it's important that we're able to distinguish between a game that is perfect and a game that is approaching perfection. And Half-Life 2 is 96% as far as we're concerned. It came close to 97%, by the way. So did the original Half-Life, but not quite there. And I like that we're allowed to make those distinctions given our scoring system. But that's not to say anything against the 10 out of 10 system - that works for some mags and that's fine.