Game reviews are a tricky thing and something that a reviewer must approach with extreme caution. I myself desire the position of a videogame critic, in hopes that one day I can contribute to the community in a professional manner. I spoke with Giantbomb's Jeff Gerstmann and asked him what should embody a review and he said the following...
"I'd say to remember your audience and make sure you're meeting their needs, not yours. It's easy to get attached to certain turns of phrase and specific wording that you feel might make you sound smart. But what really matters is getting your point across in a clear and consise manner. You're not curing cancer, you're reviewing products that are supposed to be fun. Most people don't want to spend a lot of time reading about games. They want to spend a lot of time playing games, and turn to reviews to make sure they get the most out of their limited playing time. So getting the key facts of a review out there as close to the top as possible is vital. At least, that's the philosophy that led to our most recent review changes.
Also, don't ever forget that games are still expensive. Getting them for free tends to make a lot of people lose that perspective over time, but the people you're writing for have $60 on the line every time they read a review. Make sure you do everything in your power to get them to spend it wisely."
I would like to point out Jeff misspelled concise (consise), just poking fun. I'm a terrible speller.
So the age old question is, what should a review be? I for one do not look at reviews in obtuse manners, or see them as potential great pieces of writing. To express my opinions in a clean, and easily understandable way I'll list them.
Don't write long Epic reviews & back up your scores
Like Jeff Gerstmann said, people want to spend less time reading about games, and more time playing. Ign is more guilty of this than anyone, as you can clearly see in Hilary Goldstein's seven page GTAIV review which not only did he give a 10 to but didn't back it up whatsoever. How does one write a seven page review and not back up a score? Well that's simple, Hilary failed to include opinions, and merely talked about all of the game's features. To me, it felt like an extended preview. While some will disagree with me I'm part of Ign's audience, and as a consumer they failed too convince me to buy it, I was convinced elsewhere. Now how could a woman so well versed fail to include opinion? (I know Hilarys a guy, old habits die hard) I don't mean to poke at Goldstein at all, in fact he's one of my favorite journalists to listen to in a podcast setting. However, his reviews are pretty damn long. I love listening to him on Three Red Lights, and I've spoken with him on the phone once and he seems like a really cool and down to Earth guy, but I hate his reviews. I always agree with the opinion (if its there) but not the structure. As a side note to conspiracy theorists, Hilary begged Rockstar for months for an exclusive review, he got it. Take that as you will.
But don't be to short
Unless its a mediocre game without much to write about, or your a writer for a magazine with limeted space. I want the review to explain all the important aspects of the game interlaced with opinions. Shawn Elliott 's an intelligent man, and perhaps this was a rushed review (which shouldn't happen in internet) but his Battlefield Bad Company review (read it) was short, and didn't tell me anything.
Don't say "scores are stupid"
Here's a ****c argument I've herd in podcasts and interviews alike
Scores detract the readers from the facts, and disencourages them from even reading the text. Reviews would be better with no scores
That's totally valid, but remember your audience. The community obviously likes scores, so its your job to continue providing. If you believe that people aren't reading your reviews, then the problem is probably the lack of entertainment in your writing. How many reviews start like this?
"Halo 3 is the third iteration in Bungie's ****c shooter franchise, and hopes to make a slam dunk and tie a bow in Master Chief's epic adventure. With a rabid fanbase and two ****cs under their belt Bungie's more dedicated than ever to deliver the final piece the the action packed trilogy which has been the poster child for the Xbox platform since day one. In short words, yes, Halo 3 delivers on all counts."
Sony moneyhats! THIS SHOULD OF GOTTEN A 10!
Sorry, I spoke civilized.
ZOMGZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CONNONT BELIVE GAESPOT GAVE THIS GAE SUCH A **** SCRZ! I DIDNT C NYTHIN BAD ON DA TRALERZ HALO CE IS AWESOME HALO3 WLL PWN PS3 KILLZONE SICKZ!
The 10 point scale opens nothing but trouble, this is why I beg sites to adopt the 5 point scale. Scores aren't stupid, bland reviews and fanboys are. If someone's focusing on a number, than it's their own ignorance to blame, and if you terminated scores then they would find something else to complain about. If a site's using a 10 point scale, it's easy to miscalculate, so if you truly are going crazy over a 8.0 when you think the game in question should have gotten a 10, read the negative arguments, play through the game, and find those arguments, and think about what your opinion of a 10 is and the reviewers.
I've probably lost your attention by now, what do you think?
-Don't be longer than two pages
-Don't be redundant
-No need for extreme detail, just give us your opinions on the facts
-Answer a yes or no question, should I play this game?
The only thing I'm trying to figure out is how harsh you should be while judging a game. Since games are expensive, I'd say pretty damn harsh. Listen to Gerstmann, stop reading about games on my blog, and pick up a damn controller.
Go See WALL-E, I give it a 10/10
...oh you wanted an explanation or opinion?