Game Reviews Are Evolving for the Better

Game Reviews Are Evolving for the Better

Game reviews have changed a lot since the inception of gaming. Before we had the internet, game reviews were kept to magazines that came out once a month. That meant that you likely weren’t going to hear a professional opinion on a game you want to buy until far after it had hit the market. We didn’t particularly care, though. People who had faith in the game by title and brand alone still pre-ordered the game, and everyone else waited to see what everyone else thought. People who needed their info at release would instead rely on previews to show them what the game would be like. This also meant that reviewers had more time to review whatever game they were playing, as long as their article was ready in time for the magazine to go to print.

Now, in our age of instant information access and the 24 hour news cycle, times have changed. All reviews have to be ready by the time the game hits store shelves. People need to know opinions instantly and if they don’t, journalism outlets get a flood of “where is your review” emails. This means any effective review either needs a review copy sent prior to the game’s release by the game’s publisher, which gives the publisher control over who gets to review the game, or needs to be rushed out the door with minimal playing time, and neither is a particularly good scenario. Meanwhile, preview articles have become hype articles for games that are good and warning articles for games that are bad, rather than articles that inform a customers about what they might be purchasing.

This is what the review landscape has been like for quite some time. But as games change, the review landscape might change as well. According to Bungie COO Pete Parsons, games like Destiny, online focused and multiplayer focused games, might change the game review process.

“It is true there are a lot of those people who were skeptical that are still playing it now,” he told GamesIndustry International . “I think it’s very difficult to, as we see games like Destiny coming out, it’s very difficult to sit down for nine hours, 11 hours, and write up a review of a game like Destiny, right?”

“If I were a reviewer it seems like a nearly impossible challenge to do because there’s just no way you can experience… you barely experience sort of the campaign side of it and just PvP and no way you can get into all of the end-game activities.” he continued.

Of course, this isn’t exactly new. MMOs have had this problem for quite a while. Many reviewers would only get to play the first few levels, barely able to experience any of the in-game content. Another genre that has had this problem is the fighting game. Most of the actual gameplay of a fighting game occurs at high levels, where the nuances of the mechanics come out. However, many fighting game reviews barely talk about the most basic mechanics, like canceling and combo restrictions. Reviewers just don’t have the time to learn the game beyond a novice level, and they certainly don’t have the time to complete 40+ hour story modes like Blazblue and Persona 4 Arena throw their way.

In fact, practically every genre that isn’t solely single-player has this issue. While you might be able to blow through shooter’s single-player mode in 13 hours, you probably didn’t do all of the side-content, and even if you did, you probably didn’t get a chance to play multiplayer at a high level.

Of course this begs the question “how accurate do our reviews need to be?” Do we need to tailor our reviews to pro players, or just casuals? Do we need to consider completionists? How much do we have to play a game to give a truly accurate review?

The obvious answer here is, “all of it.” We should be playing all of a game to give an accurate review. But even in the days of Nintendo Power, when reviewers had a full month to play their games, they still probably didn’t see all of the content games at the time had to offer.

Game Reviews Are Evolving for the Better

So how do we fix this? How do we make our reviews appeal to everyone and still be accurate and fast? Here’s the solution I propose: multiple reviews.

The review that comes out on Day 1 can be branded as a “first look” review. These reviews are written to explicitly be a limited look at a full version of a game, and are branded as such. Readers will know we only had limited time with the game, whether we got a review copy or not, and that it is likely that multiplayer features, like online servers, were not even up and running at time of review. Heck, reviewers would not even need to finish the game for these types of reviews.

Then, after some time had passed and reviewers got a chance to experience the game in its entirety, a second look review could be posted. A “re-review” so to speak. This review would delve into the things that the first review did not. It would talk about specifics, like extra content, online communities, advanced game mechanics, and more. Essentially, it would cover anything the first look review did not cover, and correct anything that changed since the first look review was posted.

This way we could both have as much info as possible on day one, and MORE info as time goes on. Players would be able to choose whether or not they want to trust Day 1 impressions, knowing that they are limited, or they could wait a week or two and get a very solid ongoing impression.

What’s great about this format is we can partition reviews as much as we want. Want a review for a casual audience? Call it a casual review. Want a review from a professional gamer’s perspective? Call it a pro review. Want a review that just focused on multiplayer? Call it a multiplayer review. You could write as many reviews for the same game as you like, each focusing on a different aspect that a different sort of gamer might enjoy. Each of these reviews can be linked on a central review page for the game, for people who are worried about layout purposes. Metacritic can just add every review a game gets to their average score. Heck, you could even assign different reviewers for different reviews, and they could even play off each other, discussing finer points of the game in say a video or a podcast.

Let’s face it, the 24 hour news cycle has caused us to expect constant and updated news immediately. We can’t just go back to a world were reviews aren’t posted the day of a game’s release. However, we can create a world where information about a game continues being propagated post release. We can create a world where we don’t stop critiquing a game on day 1. Maybe then we will have fewer instances of gamers saying that they were betrayed by overly positive or overly negative day 1 reviews.

… or maybe we are just going the way of Buzzfeed and every review headline will eventually read like “Kratos just met this Gorgon on Mt. Olympus. What happens next will literally blow your mind!!!”

What do you think? Will games like Destiny change our review process? Would you be interested in reading a second look review? Let us know in the comments.

To top