Friday, January 5, 2007

Game Review Format

Being a gamer is an expensive (and often time consuming) hobby. Because of this, wasting your resources on a bad game often tends to feel more painful than the typical bad purchase. Gamers are well aware of this—it’s why there’s so many review magazines and websites, and the reason behind the flood of posts on gaming forums asking “should I get this game??”

Unfortunately, a video game is also more time-consuming than reviewing any other type of media I’m reviewing on my blog. It’s not as easy as going to the theater to see a movie, or picking up a book at a library. Even short video games take a good 10 to 20 hours to complete, and RPGs—my favorite genre—can take 50 hours, or even longer. Since I’m a full-time college student, I don’t have the time to dedicate to gaming reviews as much as I would like to. So, I have a (reluctant) solution: often, I will not have a game 100% completed when I write my review. However, I will always do my best to play as much of a game as I can, and will take good care to play through all the modes. Plus, I will always preface all of my gaming reviews with a note of how far I’ve progressed through the game, so you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from with my review. Of course, if you’ve progressed farther in a game than me, you’re free (and invited!) to offer your own opinions in the comments of my blog!

Now that I’ve waxed philosophical about the hazards of being a gamer, let’s skip the wordy paragraphs and get straight to the explanation of the review format, shall we? This is how you can expect the typical game review in this blog to look. I might be changing my format at times, to make sure I really nail down a good style for my reviews.

Ratings: For video game reviews, I’m going to be doing a numerical rating system, borrowing from Gamespot’s formula. Why Gamespot? Well, I have an account on that site and plan to be posting my reviews there as well—so it’s just easier if my reviews match their rating format. For more indepth details on how Gamespot rates game, click here.

For a brief overview: Ratings are from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. The games will be rated on individual components, and then given an overall score.

The components:

Graphics: Both the technical quality of the graphics, as well as the artistic quality. How smoothly the game’s graphics run factor into this score, as well.

Sound: Covers sound effects, voice acting, and music.

Gameplay: In essence, how fun the game actually is to play. This covers things like the controls, difficulty level, design of levels, etc. For games that come from genres that rely heavily on their story (particularly RPGs), I may adjust this score slightly to reflect how well the story is executed, as well. (Of course, this isn’t always going to be the case—a music game is NOT going to get a low score in this category just because there’s no story to speak of!) Obviously, this is the most important component.

Value: Covers things like replay value, the length of time it takes to go through the game, the price the game is going for in retail stores, etc. For example, if a game has a solid multiplayer mode, lots of unlockables, and several modes to play through in single player as well, expect to see a high rating here. Also, if the game is solid, and comes out with a lower-than-normal retail price, it will also earn a high score in this category.

Overall: My overall impression of the game. Note that this will NOT be an average! Gamespot uses a weighted average to figure the final score for their reviews—but, to be honest, I’m not sure exactly how the components are weighted. Rather than take a blind guess and mess it up, it’ll be much easier for me to simply take a look at my scores and then give an overall rating based on that. (This means my reviews may sometimes be scored slightly differently on my blog, compared to my review on Gamespot’s website. There shouldn’t be too much of a difference, however.)

Also, since my Overall score will not be an average, I will not be including a ‘tilt’ rating.

Oh, and before I forget: since I’m just one gamer (as opposed to a team of gamers), it’s hard to be entirely objective. I’m probably going to rate RPG games higher than, say, a shooter—that’s just my personal taste. So you know where I’m coming from, here’s my…

Personal Biases: My favorite games tend to be RPGs and quirky Japanese games. This doesn’t mean I’ll always rate games made in America lower, I just enjoy the style these games bring to the table. I also have fond memories of Nintendo games from when I was a kid, so I have a tendency to get nostalgic about games like Mario and Zelda.

Favorite Games: Tales of Symphonia, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Riviera: The Promised Land, Super Smash Brothers Melee, Soul Calibur III, Animal Crossing

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