Sorry, that doesn't wash. Many games get very good reviews from customers. Users can review the reviews, and the ones that receive a lot of recommendations get promoted to the top. Uncritical 5 star and one line 1 star reviews don't get this treatment. Oddly enough, the customers are only wrong when they don't like a high profile release, or when their opinion differs from those of the gaming publications. If you actually read the Diablo 3 reviews, for instance, you'd see that people critiqued the game play as well as the model. More to the point, if you choose a design feature that makes a game difficult to use, why shouldn't that be a factor in the game ratings? Civ 5 has poor AI (and, yes, the AI is objectively worse than prior versions because of the catastrophic combat model.) This should be an absolute disqualifying factor in a review of a single-player game, and it didn't prevent glowing scores. The reason why I place a lot of weight on user reviews comes from your second point. The best ones are from people who have played previous versions, are familiar with the genre, and who understand the impact of changes in game systems. Professional reviewers who have never played previous versions and spend few hours simply don't have the relevant background. It sounds as if you're a professional reviewer. If that's the case, you should think hard about the criticisms that your peers are getting. You have game designers admitting problems with their designs (e.g. Dragon Age 2) that the "professionals" ignored in their 95% reviews. You have people in forums like this one who can find serious flaws in new games within a day of release - not even commented on in the reviews. And you even have thoughtful people with a lot of background who can spot *design* flaws that you'd expect to be the true province of professionals with a generalist background - again, not captured in the uniformly loving scores for the AAA titles. Edit: and, of course, we've been through the Civ 4 vs. Civ 5 user reviews before on this forum. Civ 4 got criticized because of stability issues and bugs, which is a completely reasonable basis for a reduced score. Civ 5 got criticized for bad design. There is a difference between these two things.