**Update** - I have updated this post to include my thoughts on the Aggregated-Review Websites such as Metacritic.
Since there are still a few people who don't know this, I figured this would be a good time to have a topic discussion about Game Review companies for those who still don't know.
There are so many Game Review websites out there: GameSpot, IGN, etc. and they all review games in their own respective ways, or so they would like you to believe. The Truth about most big-name Game Review sites is that the reviews they do often have very little to do with the actual games' content.
Video Game Review websites most of the time (but not all the time) base their review scores on the amount of money they receive from Publishers. Take Jeff Gerstmann for example. Jeff wrote a review for the game "Kane & Lynch: Dead Men" and gave it a 6.0 out of 10 score. Subsequent to this, he was fired.
Prior to that incident, a man named Aaron Thomas reviewed the game "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction" and scored the game a 7.5 out of 10. Because of this score, SONY threatened GameSpot and told them they'd be removing their advertisements from the website because of the "low" score. This prompted the Marketing Department at GameSpot to freak out, keeping a tighter leash on their reviewers to avoid an incident like that in the future.
With Jeff's case, Eidos Interactive threatened to pull their advertisements, which was at a time when GameSpot's website was full of ads for the game. Because of this (and I know this because I am good friends with two of the reviewers at GameSpot and my cousin works in IGN's Marketing Department) reviews are now tightly watched. Games that are hot-button games where the publisher is paying a lot of money to advertise on the Game Review websites, those games will be receiving higher-than-necessary scores to satisfy the publishers.
Now all that information is public knowledge and can be found by simply googling, but what most people don't know is how it works in reverse. Some Game Review sites (notably IGN) will not only give a game a better review to either A) Satisfy the publishers to receive ad money, or B) If the Publisher pays for the review, they will also give a game a Negative review if the Publisher refuses to pay enough money or if they don't purchase enough ad space.
Games that this has happened to include: "DiRT: Showdown [X360] (6.0)" - "Game of Thrones [X360] (4.0)" - "I Am Alive [XBLA] (4.5)" and many more.
As far as I know GameSpot does not give negative reviews if they don't receive enough money, they just seem to respond to threats and give better reviews for more money, though I will continue receiving information from the reviewers and let you all know if this happens.
I suggest watching Gameplay videos on YouTube and reading about them on Wikipedia to get a true idea of whether the game is good or bad rather than reading a review from GameSpot or IGN.
I'm going to give my thoughts on the Aggregated-Review Websites like Metacritic.
When looking at Game Review websites such as Metacritic, you need to be very precise in your browsing to weed out the Fake Reviews. It can be very hard to decipher the difference between a real review and a "padded" one. There are, though, a few things you can watch for:
1) Reviews that are incredibly low scores or have incredible amounts of criticism for each and every aspect of the game are typically done so for the attention. If there are hundreds of positive reviews for a game and then comes along a super low score, it's a good chance that person has done that review simply to get you to look at it. There are also those who the internet community refers to as "trolls" who simply revel in the idea of giving low scores and disliking things just to do it.
2) On the other end of the spectrum, reviews that give very high scores that don't typically contain much information other than "This game r0x!! everyone should buy it!1!" can be deduced as simply there to pad the review numbers. It can be very difficult to spot padded reviews when the reviewer actually took time to point out specific parts that they liked, which is also something a legit reviewer will do. If the review is written using exceptionally great writing skills it can be a red-flag that the review is padded.
While I'm at it, I'm going to point out one of the rumors that was going around the dev's right around the time the game Fallout: New Vegas came out. The rumor was that Bethesda actually paid some people to give the game a bad review so that they didn't have to pay out the bonus they promised them if the game scored at least an 85/100 on Metacritic. Now, like I said, this was just a rumor that was going around and most people (myself included) didn't and don't believe it.
Making the game have a lower score could potentially hurt their own sales, and I don't think it made business sense to do that, but nonetheless that was the rumor. I can see how it might be beneficial in a particular circumstance for the publisher to do that, if the bonus promised was very high or if they wanted to have an excuse to close the developer after the game, as that would net even more profits by no longer having to pay for the development team if they were on the payroll still.
Again, just a rumor and my thoughts so take it with a grain of salt and continue on your day.