In today’s hyper-speed world where movies, albums, songs, video games, and television shows are being pumped out with more frequency than ever before, it can be hard to keep up. Plus, for every new media release, regardless of the medium, there are hundreds of reviews that immediately pour out from every which way alongside them. No matter what kind of entertainment you prefer, it can be overwhelming to try and stay in the loop and get a sense of what’s worth watching, listening to, or playing and what is not.
With so many options for ways to spend our leisure time, reviews are arguably more important than they have ever been. But the internet, with its vast expanse of opinions and media review outlets, does not make it easy to weed out the credible reviews from the less than reliable ones.
Besides, when it comes to artistic mediums such as music and film, so much of people’s reactions are extremely subjective. How, then, are you ever supposed to figure out which reviewers (or even which websites, for that matter) are most likely to have similar enough taste to you to warrant trust in their opinions?
If only there was some quick and convenient way to get an aggregate overview of the general criticism of a given TV show, movie, album, or video game. A site that you could visit and, within a matter of just a couple of seconds, see just how well (or poorly) a project has been critically received. Well – fortunately for us film buffs, music lovers, TV bingers, and serious gamers – there is such a site. And that site is called Meta Critic.
Maybe you have heard of Meta Critic before. Perhaps you have even relied on one of their ratings in order to decide on what movie to watch. Meta Critic is, after all, one of the most dependable authorities on media criticism because Meta Critic does not provide ratings from one reviewer.
Instead, when a new movie, TV series/season, album, or video game is released, this site collects all reputable reviews of that release to be found on the internet and conveniently averages them into a score out of 100%. Never before has it been easier to get a quick and trusted overview of the critical success of something.
Meta Critic was the passion project of a brother-sister duo alongside a University of Southern California law school student. Marc Doyle, Julie Doyle Roberts, and Jason Dietz created Meta Critic in 1999 … or at least that’s when the three began to conceive and work on the site. It did not officially launch until January of 2001.
At first, feedback on the nature of the site was varied. Many people believed that it was too close to a site that already existed, Rotten Tomatoes. However, Doyle, Roberts, and Dietz believed that their site could differentiate itself enough from Rotten Tomatoes in order to make it a worthy pursuit.
These three visionaries essentially picked up where Rotten Tomatoes left off. Sure, the site has the same basic premise – aggregate and average reviews of movies and TV shows – but Meta Critic takes it a couple of steps further by also offering averages for video games, music, and books. The site has since phased out its book reviews, though.
Meta Critic was purchased by CNET in 2005. And the site was later acquired by the CBS Corporation in 2011. Today, the site exists as one of the major authorities on media reviews and is frequently cited by entertainment journalists and fans on a daily basis.
This is my first and major gripe with Meta Critic … the design is in woefully bad need of a revamp. Again, this could just be a matter of personal taste, but I don’t find the site at all easy to navigate or intuitive to scan. There is too much going on, in my opinion, and, thus, the eye has trouble figuring out where to go.
The content is somewhat organized into boxes, which should make it easier to browse. But it doesn’t. The way that these boxes of text are organized is clunky, confusing, and a bit overwhelming. There is not much in the way of a streamlined web experience. The culprit? If you ask me, it is the fact that Meta Critic relies too heavily on text and not enough on user experience. Going through this site is not entirely unlike flipping through the pages of a textbook.
As I mentioned previously, Meta Critic offers averaged scores for music, movies, TV shows, and video games. So, that is the bulk of the content that can be found here. New releases are, therefore, ranked by their Meta Critic score out of 100%, and these charts can be found right on the home page, separated by the medium. In addition to merely providing the averaged scores, however, Meta Critic also hooks you up with all of the necessary means to follow up and dig further on a given project. Clicking on, say, a movie title will bring you to that film’s page.
Here, you will be able to provide your own rating of the movie (which means that you can find both a Meta Score and a User Score for each release), click into links of all referenced professional reviews that went into creating the aggregate score, and read up on all of the movie’s details and credits. Meta Critic is truly one of the most useful sources for reading up on films, shows, albums, and games.
In addition to all of that, Meta Critic also compiles lists of the best content, curated and editorialized by their own staff of media pundits and journalists. Plus, stay in the loop of all upcoming releases, read entertainment news, and watch trailers the very minute that they are released. Meta Critic truly is like a portal into all things related to the entertainment world. It could even make for a useful home page if you are, like me, obsessed with music, movies, and television.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
As I’ve already touched upon, the overall experience of Meta Critic is slightly hindered by its less than ideally clunky and text-heavy site design. This, of course, is the case for both its desktop version of the site and its mobile version. Another complaint that I have when it comes to user experience is the fact that Meta Critic still does not have an app available. Perhaps releasing one, should it be executed effectively, could be Meta Critic’s answer for those of us who prefer a more minimalist approach to web design.
Another factor: ads. There are a fair number of ads on this site, and they also degrade the experience of the site. However, given the fact that Meta Critic is a completely free service, perhaps you can look the other way here.
Pricing and Plans
As I said, Meta Critic is 100% free to use. It is not a freemium service, there are no enticing “pro” or “premium” upgrades to lure you into pulling out your wallet. This is a site that sincerely wants to provide users with an accurate overview of media. Use this site as often as you like without ever confronting a paywall.
Suggestions that I Have for Meta Critic
My biggest suggestion for Meta Critic is, obviously, to consider a full-blown site design overhaul. If the site were to become less clunky and unnatural to navigate, I think that I would probably visit it once a day. I would even consider making it my home page, as it is such a convenient resource. It’s a shame that all this great information needs to be marred by subpar user experience.
Secondly, I do hope to see Meta Critic release an app in the next year or so. I’m honestly surprised that they don’t have one already – it is 2020 after all … doesn’t everyone have an app?
All in all, Meta Critic is great at providing accurate and credible scores of movies, TV shows, albums, and video games. By using an effective averaging of scores based on the best of the best in media critiques, you can rest assured that the meta scores provided on this site are trustworthy. Plus, Meta Critic does a great job of linking users to all subsequent information, credits, and reviews available on a given release. If you are looking for one of the best sites out there and can stomach subpar site design, look no further. Meta Critic will keep you in the loop on all of the best (and worst) releases.