The Friday Debate – Good Reviews?

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In this age of blogs and citizen journalism, whatever you want to buy, be it a collapsible pogo stick or a potholing holiday in Venezuela, chances are you can read a review online before making your mind up. It used to be that only magazine and newspaper staff writers could publish reviews but, now, all you need are some first hand experience and an Internet connection.
Speaking specifically about games (we haven’t suddenly transformed into pogopotholers.com) how important are reviews to you when decided which games to spend your precious money and time on?


As always, speak your brains in the comments and feel free to help your fellow man with recommendations of magazines and sites that you think provide the most reliable reviews (protip: bit.ly will make your links look much tidier).

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85 Comments

  • I don’t hold a lot of worth to reviews, normally. If a review swings my decision, it is usually in the way that it makes me look into a game more and see if it is for me. Only very rarely does a bad review, or several bad reviews, turn me away from a game.

  • I disregard most sites reviews as they give a game a good score but totally fail to back up reasons why they gave it.
    Poor games rarely get poor marks as sites fear not getting sent review copies and having to buy them, so they give games a higher mark to keep publishers on side.

  • i take reveiws into account, but i dont let them define my choice unless they are universally bad. eg: 100 reveiws with an average of 3/10.
    i usually decide on the demo of the game.
    also is my psn plus symbol on yet?

  • I don’t think a review has changed my mind on a game I’m set on buying (Heavy Rain is a perfect example, it got good reviews but also very bad reviews and neither review made me not buy the LE day 1… Similarly Gran Turismo 5, so hyped I couldn’t care less if every journalist gave it 1/10).
    Reviews DO help in finding new games though. I probably wouldn’t have bought the unique games like Loco Roco for PSP because… let’s face it it looked like a very childish game but I’m so glad I did.

    • Yes, it’s good to follow your instincts and form your own opinion. I sometimes find that reviews of games I’m really hyped for can tell me too much and spoil the voyage of discovery.

  • Reviews do influence me for some games, mostly older games I originally didn’t bother with but if they keep getting mentioned I would give the game another look. Blur is a good recent example of that.

  • I regard reviews as I would another person’s opinion on how I look, whilst they are entitled to their opinion, mine is worth more xD
    Seriously though I have played and liked games that have taken an absolute hammering by the critics. One example is the Kane and Lynch Series. I actually liked the game in both of the titles and sure, there were niggles but it was enjoyable. (I’m sure Mr Kebby will back me up here to when I say Alpha Protocol fits here too ;) )
    *now to shake up the hornets nest*
    I have also played COD:MW2 and whilst it was enjoyable I couldn’t see where the “amazing, groundbreaking graphics” comments were coming from. (Bear in mind I had a 40″ Full HD TV at the time) Now graphics aren’t everything, and the games I mentioned above pretty much say that, but what is good is that their content is much more innovative which leads to more compelling reasons for me to like them. ( NB. Although reviewers do mark games down for poor graphics.) So just because the industry rated that title as a brilliant game, my opinion was “fun but ultimately rather bland and unimaginative”.
    So reviews are taken in to consideration when I buy a game but so are the other things which sometimes carry more weight

    • I used to write reviews back in former jobs and it always struck me as weird that people might make decisions based on what is essentially just my opinion. That being said, I think a good review should give as much objective detail as possible without going too much into personal gripes. I’m also not sold on arbitrary numerical scores, but that’s just me.

    • I certainly will back you up here RadioactiveMouse, reviews certainly serve a purpose but I’d never use them as a guide…Alpha Protocol received poor reviews, yet I thought was a rough gem! It’s all opinion, reviews are supposed to be purely objective, but how objective can somebody’s opinion ultimately really be?
      I’m also a bigger fan of reviews that do not attribute a score to a game, and there’s very few people that actually do that. In fact for games off the top of my head I can’t think of one site/publication that does not rely on a score based system. Whereas for film, I used to love reading Sight & Sound’s reviews as they do not use scores at all, just well written reasoning.

  • I think a review can be important… If its well written, that is. When they are, you can get a feel for whether you’ll like it, regardless of the score. But then, I write reviews (for Square-Go) so I’m biased :)

  • Since the decline of print based media over the last decade I don’t really listen to reviews any more.
    I normally know by watching five or ten minutes of game play footage if I’m buying something or not.Vary rarely do I get it wrong for myself,and when I have gone against that first feeling I end up with tat like Farcry 2.

  • I forgot to add this point: do any of you guys write reviews? If so, what’s your approach?

  • I agree with Vonhammer. You can learn a lot more from a couple videos on youtube, or 5 minutes with the game in a store even, than you can from a review. And a lot of these so-called reviewers seem to think it’s their mission to see things as either the best game ever or something that doesn’t even bear thinking about, with no middle ground. This annoys me and is one of the main reasons why I stopped reading gaming magazines for their reviews years ago.

  • As a reviewer myself, I try to make my reviews as helpful as possible by providing an insight into what a game is like rather than what I think of it.
    When reviewing a game, I will split it into five categories: Storyline, Gameplay, Graphics, Audio and Longevity. Whilst playing it, I’ll split an A4 page up into these five sections and list all the good and bad points about them. It helps the review to be a lot more organised and also tells gamers what to expect.
    As for whether reviews change my mind or not, they won’t affect me if I’m set on getting a game, but as said above, if I’m looking at a new IP, I’ll check the reviews out to see what to expect.

    • That’s a nice approach and I totally agree that a structure is a great help, whatever you’re writing. When I used to write reviews around a new IP I always used to worry that I wouldn’t ‘get it’ and that other reviewers would, or vice versa, and that I’d be the one with the unusually high or low score. I think you just have to be as honest and sincere as you can and disconnect yourself from any pre-existing expectation.

  • I read reviews from video games just not IGNorance’s. Saying this some of the video games I love and play none stop I just got them on offer at the local stores such as Oblivion and Fallout

  • A Review is a opinion. Most of the time a one man Opinion.
    So no i read a review but it dousn’t make me consider it to get the game or not. If i think i like the game i’m getting it.
    You can like a game and give it a 8 and i can say that i hate the game and give it a 5.

  • Have you seen the reviews for games on LoveFilm.com?
    Its all fanboy ranting and people not giving anything a chance.
    Ill only listen to a review if its in a good quality magazine, Or if its video reviews from mags like OPM/PSM3 ect..
    I think ones you can actually listen to give me a better impression of a game, And are more likley to sway my view.

  • One thing i know is – You can’t trust what you read on the internet :D
    If i like the look of a game i will buy it;)

  • I don’t buy games based off reviews, i bought Sacred 2 last year which got bad reviews but the game is well better than the reviews say.
    GTA IV got a lot of 10/10’s, i like GTA IV but it’s no way a 10/10.
    MW2 got very high scores, that game isn’t that good and a lot of reviewers are biased anyways.

  • There’s that anarchic attitude you often get in comment sections for reviews: people saying “Don’t listen to this review, how can you know if you like the game until you actually play it for youself?!”
    The thing is, not all games have demos, and not all demos represent the quality of the overall game (I remember playing the Arkham Asylum demo and being bitterly dissapointed, only to find out later that the full game was absolutely fantastic). So, do you REALLY want to spend money on buying/renting a game, and THEN decide if it’s good or not?
    You’d be a fool to disregard reviews. They are an essential part of the decision making process, though they are not the be and end all of course. Ignoring a title simply because it got anything less than an 8 or 9 would be foolish in the extreme. Personal taste is more important than anything, remember that :)

  • I’m into gaming,not reading.

  • I too agree with vonhammer; most reviewers are morons and my own feeling is right 99% of the time. Just recently I went against that feeling and bought Borderlands since so many reviewers and the gaming public think it’s so good. It came today and I’ve got to say; what a load of boring, wierd, pointless rubbish this game is!

  • I only skim over reviews to find out if the game has any major problems. I rarely read a complete review or pay any attention to the score. I’ve been playing games long enough to know if a games shortcomings outway the fun that I might have with the game itself.

  • If I’m looking forward to a game, and it ends up getting a Metascore like 90, I’ll end up buying it. However, if it gets a Metascore around the 30 mark, I’ll completely avoid it.

  • I do read reviews but normally I’d rather experience the game myself then decide, unless someone gives it less than 40%, then I might reconsider. Only I know what I really like and if something catches my eye, chances are I’ll buy it regardless of reviews because it’s the only way to be 100% sure.

  • I’ve been gaming for about 30 years now, longer than some if not most of the journalists that are doing the reviews.
    There’s so much footage and info on games these days, you can really make up your own mind and trust your own instincts and gut feeling. You also learn to read between the pr lines and remain more sceptical than journalists seem to be in some cases.
    It’s different from the situation 20 years ago, when you just had your magazines and they pretty much were the only source of info you had. Back then, reviews were much more important.
    ——————————————-
    On an unrelated note: On the German PSN store there’s a problem with some items for the past week – you can’t buy i.e. Joe Danger, Shank or Alien Swarm at the moment because the icons just won’t load on the right side of the store. Please have that fixed.

    • I remember those days too and, as a young man with no internet and even less cash, those few reviewers had a lot of influence over me. That being said, I would still take a gamble over an attractive box in my local game shop. That’s how I bough Pandemonium and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since.
      I’ve heard this about the German Store and I’ve told Mike, the Store manager, to look into it.

    • As of Friday evening, Alien Breed and Shank were fixed, sorry for the inconvenience.

  • Reviewers all have a little Bias too and it’s just all opinions. If theres a demo i’ll just my purchase on that not what Mr IGN, or Gamespot say and if i followed Edge i’d probably never buy a game lol.
    I’ll make my mind up on footage, screens and what type of games i like. I’ll watch reviews for extra footage and definate numbers on levels included but nah not important :)

  • i used to pay attention to reviews but not anymore. when mafia2 gets 9/10 in gameinformer all hope is lost. that is the worst game ive ever played, it was joke. i think eurogamer(4/10) was too nice to them. that game was a solid 2/10. so point is, u shouldnt care about reviews cos in this industry theyre bought and paid for.
    maybe idk.
    i just need to rant to get out all aggression after mafia 2

  • reviews are handy for getting information on a game, but the only opinion i trust 100% is my own, i’ll never know if i’m gonna like a title until i’ve played it myself.
    that’s not to say i distrust reviewers, just that their opinion and mine will sometimes differ.
    i quite liked bladestorm, it got generally bad reviews, but i played the demo and i liked it.

    • I’m the same – I don’t think that my tastes are in line with most reviewers, who by their nature are a certain kind of hardcore gamer, relentlessly exposed to the industry. There’s nothing better, for me, than a sleeper hit that nobody else loves but me. (Pandemonium 2)

  • I read reviews, but I’ve usually made up my mind long before the reviews are up.

  • “If a game I’m looking forward to scores very badly, I’ll probably reconsider” for me this is true most of the time , case in point HAZE ,I was well looking forward to this but after gamespot gave it a 6 quoting “Haze may have horrendous AI and a lame story, but Kevin VanOrd still mustered up enough nectar to bring you this video review. I defo gave HAZE the cold sholder.

  • I’d pay more to attention to someone who bought a game and reviewed it in their own time, paid for with their own money, rather than some bias journalist bored with games who play them all day and get them for free..

  • I usually go between 2 reviews before making my decision.
    1st gametrailers, it will pick up on everything like a game that’s low on content ect.
    And a show I watch called playr (no typo), which focuses on how “fun” a game is but won’t pick up on little problems that might effect me.
    I use them both before buying, but I usually go with playr, it focuses on the stuff I’m interested in.

  • I do read reviews and if a game I want gets really bad reviews I might reconcider and wait to the consumers gets their vote.
    Some journalists unfortunatly have a prefered console and that might in some cases colour their reviews, it’s hard for an Xbot to give GT5 a fair review.
    If in doubt I either listen to the buyers or rent the game for a short while and then buy if it’s good.
    //WhiteWolf

    • That’s a pity – in my experience, the people who care least about these ‘console wars’ are us people who actually work for the companies.

  • I like to read good reviews but I find it hard to find consistency between my own opinion and the opinions of reviewers, so I rarely trust one reviewer, magazine or website. Eg. I thought Eurogamer was pretty good, now I’ve just read a review ( 5/10 Shank) where the guy has marked it down just cos he couldn’t get past a certain part (the train/jeep/granades part). A part of the game I found dead easy and overall I loved the game. So how can I trust Eurogamer now?
    I think I’ll mainly stick to Metacritic just to get an overall sense of whether a selection of players enjoyed the game or not. I don’t care if they are professional reviewer or not. I’m only interested if the general consensus was positive or not, that’ll do me. I can make up the rest of my mind myself.

  • I check out reviews but it doesn’t stop me from buying a game I’d rather play like a demo or see the gameplay footage which gives me an idea what the game is like. I know Kane & Lynch 2 got bad reviews but I didn’t think it was that bad it was short but you get more out of it while playing it on Extreme. It depends on what you like some games that I have played rated as 10 or 9 I didn’t like it all.
    It’s the same as movies some reviewers have rated them bad while I have enjoyed them it’s just a matter of opinion.

  • the whole fanboyism has mostly ruined reviews

  • PART 1
    When I write reviews, I try and keep writing my thoughts in a notebook as I’m playing. Generally, your feelings on certain parts of gameplay change as you become more accustomed to them and as your skillset upgrades. Despite this, I think giving mention to those initial feelings as you begin, how the game demonstrates its gameplay to you, is very important to keep in mind (like in relationships, a first impression paints your opinion of the whole picture) and can often be forgotten if you don’t remind yourself of it.
    I generally start to write things in a structure since, as anyone who writes reviews probably feels, starting it is the hardest part. I’ll have a relevant introduction, followed by a plot overview if applicable, and then describe the gameplay. After that, structure breaks down and I’ll make references to what the game accomplishes well and also what it fails to do – all depending on the game itself – until I wrap it up into a conclusion that often adorns Metacritic listings.

  • PART 2
    “Freebies” aren’t often as wonderful as you’d think, either. The nature of reviewing, having to churn hours into a game to complete it fast in order to meet embargoes or hit release dates, means that, despite getting the game for free, you’ll probably not want to play it again afterwards. Ever. Even if it was a fine game. One of the few exceptions of this for me was Uncharted 2, which I recently Platinum’d. That was after completing the game in one sitting for review. Never has a Saturday flown so fast. ;)
    As for reviews changing my own judgement, I generally take a sampling of them from the sites I frequent the most and judge from that. Sometimes, review scores can be dodgy from any outlet, so having a wide pool to fish from can guarantee that the gems rise to the top. That said, I often pre-order things well in advance, after viewing trailers or playing demos. I find it surprising how often well-made trailers = well-made games. :)

    • I didn’t mean any harm with the freebies thing, just a bit of fun as I’m as up for them as anyone. It’s nice to see that you put so much thought and pride into your reviews. It’s hard to explain to someone how stressful playing a game when you have a deadline approaching can be… especially when you hit a tough boss at 3am. Like I’ve said elsewhere here, whatever you write, it’s the planning that sets the good writers apart from the amateurs.

  • I give more interest to demo or gameplay, and sometimes when the game is already out and a friend has it, I borrow it and play it and if I think that it’s a game that I will play a lot I’ll buy it.
    Otherwise, I probably see some reviews to guide me.

  • While I do read reviews of the games I’m going to buy, they’re never affecting my decision too much. My taste is kinda varied, and more than once I have ended up buying a game that got medicore or extremely low scores from different reviews, and I’ve really enjoyed them.
    But then again, if the game looks really interesting to begin with, AND it gets high scores all over the internet as well, it naturally will highten my spirits up and help me on my decision. :)
    It’s important to take your own feelings into account. If the game looks really fun in your eyes, then it most likely will be when you buy it. Reviewers are ordinary humans too, with their own tastes and preferences in gaming. Just because they didn’t like what they saw, doesn’t mean that you definitely wouldn’t, either.
    Youtube is also very handy tool for stuff like this. Gamers keep recording their own gameplay videos and then uploading them there, sometimes those videos give you even more insight than a quicky-summarized review will ever give. :)

  • I disagree that you should disconnect yourself from any preconceptions of a game as sometimes a game should get a lower score if it’s hyped and then fails. Otherwise people will buy the game anyway and people’s perception of the original assassins creed was generally negative as it disappointed. Surely a game’s level of hype affects the overall score i mean joe danger gained plaudits for not having this PR behind it.

  • Reviews are completely useless imo. All I need to know about a game is videos of gameplay and a go of it myself. Reviewers also have a superiority complex and get waaay to big headed when they get popular.
    Besides, the reviewing industry of games is all bought and payed for. Companies pay reviewers and websites to maintain a standard of score. I appreciate a one-sentence review by user feedback more than any kind of review.

  • Reviews are taken into account when I’m getting a game, but if I am looking forward to it I will buy it anyway. Haze is in my opionion a great shooter even though most critics gave it reviews with a bad score. Modern Warfare 2 isn’t a great game even though the critics say so.

  • No. 41 has a point about things being relative to hype. But that’s true of playing them as a gamer as well as how they score – I often find that games that are really hyped (like GT5 or, for me, R&C Crack in Time) tend to come off the worse for it. I enjoyed Crack in Time but I didn’t think the final product was worth the wait. I suspect it will be the same with GT5. Ultimately it’s just a driving sim, even with all its bells and whistles.
    I was most disappointed with Bioshock 2 as a result of hype and my own general expectation. I found that the sequel was only a shadow of the first because of the linear way the game world worked. It felt like a step back after the relatively open feel of the original. As a result I try and stay away from hype and just judge it myself.

    • I loved BioShock 2 and I think that it fixed some of the frustrations of the first, like weapon swapping and a less tedious hacking system. But hey, isn’t difference of opinion awesome? Like the French say: ‘one should never discuss taste’ (except in this blog post)

    • The two Bioshock games are right up there as my some of my favourites ever, but both are not perfect (in fact what game is?) :)
      The first had a much better story, but the second had much improved (and more fun) combat, and the hacking was a lot better too. Also, just when you think you couldn’t get a more iconic game character than the Big Daddy Bouncer…along comes the wicked looking Big Sister.
      As James says, difference of opinion is awesome, so I’m very happy for you to all disagree with me :P

  • I usually take look at review scores from multiple websites. Just to prepare myself for the game.
    If im super hyped, it’s nice for my expectations to get lowered before I get the game. So i know what im in for.
    Rather than being hyped, then getting dissapointed while playing it.
    Also If i know im gonna get a game. I’m gonna get it. as long as it’s 6+ than it’s all good.

  • Having played games for a rather long time, and following them before the review stage, I can have a pretty accurate idea of what a title’s like without actually playing it. This is especially true now that the web houses a lot of raw gameplay footage rather than just carefully cut trailers.
    I might read a review to learn some more meta information — such as how checkpoints are handled, what the difficulty curve is like, etc — but at most it’s going to help me decide whether I want to pick a game up at launch or wait until a price drop. Even then forum discussion by those who’ve played the game or chatter on gaming podcasts will likely have got there first.

  • (cont.)
    Basically I don’t put much stock in reviews. I appreciate they might be useful for the more casual consumer, i.e. the person who only picks up 2-4 games a year based on what’s hot in the office/playground, but I’m not really convinced those people would turn to gaming magazines and websites anyway. As such they act more as something for internet comment trolls to rally around, cajoling the reviewer for not matching the poster’s preconceptions; there will be claims of “bias”, people will decry ‘low’ scores like 7 or 8, and inevitably Godwin’s law will be invoked.

    • That’s such a cryptic way of being reported for moderation, I’ll let it go! But yes, comment responses have become more influential than the content, in a way, and I think there are several billion cases of missing the point, slightly.

  • I usually read reviews but i prefer to try a game for myself as at the end of the day a review is just one persons opinion. Fortunately i work in a game shop so i just borrow games from work to see if i like them, unless it’s a huge game i’ve been waiting for then i just buy it straight away. With staff discount. :)

  • i would say the ratings on ps store content have affected my purchases recently, provided there’s enough votes of course… shame we can’t leave our own reviews in small comments on the store (like LBP community levels)
    that’d be brave for publishers but great for us buyers.. maybe members could get reputation points for giving trusted reviews (plus members only maybe )

  • Just something to add here, as it seems some people posting on here are reviewers. Please, When you write your reviews, try to review the game but without giving away pretty much the entire plot of that game.
    I was unsure of whether to get mafia 2 pre-ordered or wait a couple of months and pick it up second hand. So I looked around a couple of places for their reviews which is the first time i’ve ever really looked at reviews before buying a game, I might look at a reviewers score but that’s about it. And I don’t put too much stock in those either, and most of them pretty much told you most, if not all, of the key plot twists etc within the first 60 seconds/3 paragraphs of their respective reviews.
    Surely there’s a way to review a game and tell people if you liked it or not without discussing plot specifics??

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