Here’s a question for you — do you prefer a reviewer who speaks about a game in a mass market sense, or someone who can get down to it and talk something up (or down) as a fan?
This is a question that’s cropped up from time to time in the industry, and one that our Editor-in-Chief recently penned a somewhat controversial editorial on the subject (which you can find here). Now the debate is sort of taking on a life of its own thanks to Resident Evil 6. Capcom’s newest has been seriously shaking the foundations (if I can borrow from Danny Bonaduce) of gaming criticism.
In short, some people are liking the game for what it is, while others are hating it for what it isn’t. There was even enough rancour around this latest dust-up for this long time Resident Evil fanboy to lose his enthusiasm and skip over part 6 (at least for now).
Sometimes a reviewer knowing the game and series in question can be a very good thing as they can talk right to you as a fan, but it can be a major hindrance if you’re a reader with no brand history. What if you don’t particularly care if game ‘X’ is more action oriented now, whereas it used to be slower paced and more atmospheric?
So pour yourself some java, grab a comfy seat, and dig in, because here’s the question of the week: What do you prefer, a review that plays to the masses or one that speaks directly to you as a fan of whatever’s being reviewed?
I think it depends on what the person reading the review is looking for. If they have just come into the series, or even the genre, they're going to want to compare it to something else that may provide a better experience.
Where as longtime fans of the series, will look to the review to see if it's what they love and still improving on it.
For me, if I was to care about Resident Evil 6 (I don't), I'd want to know what's changed and if it makes the game the better for it.
I've been reviewing for sometime now and have had a readership larger than anything that I've ever dreamed about. For me, it's always depended on where the review is going to be published, to how I write them. It's always seemed to work, so that's a great thing indeed! Haha
As a niche gamers — a gamer who likes things that are outside of the mainstream of things — I like to review the games that most nobody else wants too. Many times these games are flawed to many areas, but they're so brilliant in others. These are the ones that are difficult to write. Do you rate it highly, but speak of its flaws? Do you cater to the mainstream with an average score and all-round review?
It's a win/lose situation every time, but from here on out at Digitally Downloaded, if it's a niche game and it's published under my name, I'll be writing these reviews for exactly who they're aimed at. Our industry has spread too far and wide to try and write to the "masses" any more and personally, I'm sick of seeing games that deserve better not getting it because it won't appeal to another demographic.
There's already a fantastic example of this right here from me:
Reviewers should be half fanboy and half for the masses. You don't want someone that is completely obsessed with a game franchise or company to review a new game. Of course they are going to like it and say it's the greatest game ever when it's most likely crap. But you don't want to put a reviewer that just doesn't care about the game or the company on a game. Ever game should be given equal opportunities in the gaming industry. A reviewer should have an open mind when reviewing a game. Take Papo & Yo for example. It is the Miracle Whip of gaming right now. Some gamers love it some gamers hate it. If you don't pay attention to the story line it's not a good game. If you do, it's an amazing game. This is where reviewers have to be careful and be open minded to the game. Rate it for the whole experiences not just for the graphics, or the gameplay, or the storyline but the whole game, together. Some gamers are just gonna like bad games. Duke Nukem was a great game to me. It was funny and worth the time I put into it. Most people didn't care for it tho. Biased reviews really make me not wanna read review off of a site. One or two is ok, but when every review is ether a crap review for a psn game that is actually really good, or a multi-million dollar game that gets 10s that's is in no way worth a 10. Don't worry guys, it's not this site, might rhyme with 'hush stairs' tho. I think that the guys on this site are great reviewers. Except that Chris I. dude. He needs some more work. 😀 Well anyway that's what I think so, there ya go.
Who hired that guys, I have not idea!
He really sucks
"So pour yourself some java…"
YES SIR! Just finished my nightly cups of it, more in a few short hours.
I would say I want a review with both perspectives. I think a good review perhaps should be able to cover both the masses and fans well enough, so that fans and the masses know what they are getting.
I think fans want details, specifics, what modes are there, what's new? The masses may just care about, "It's a good game, if you like FPS games, buy this." and that's all they need.
I want to know things like how many hours I can expect, replay value, was the story interesting, number of weapons, etc. Perhaps not even spoiling specifics (# of weapons), but if it's a sequel, perhaps, "More weapons than the last." or, "Fewer weapons than the last."
Everything that you've stated that you want in a review are the bare-bones basics of a standard review and should always be included. While I'm not counting the number of guns in a game, letting the reader know about a few of them and if there's "not enough," or "so many that you could support a small army" is a must for a new title in the shooter genre these days.
Of course, if there's anything we ever don't get in a review and you want to know, that's what we have the comments section(s) for. For me, I try to only give what's necessary in my reviews and make them entertaining to read. Too much length and you lose your readers' attention, so there's always a chance that something didn't make the cut that someone really wanted to know. Simply put, you'll never find a "List-styled Review" published under my name. I find them boring and not worth the time to write. 😉
"Everything that you've stated that you want in a review are the bare-bones basics of a standard review and should always be included."
The play-time is almost never included in the majority of reviews. The amount of time spent to finish a single-player campaign, versus the amount of time they spent with the multiplayer before writing the review is rarely told.
"Of course, if there's anything we ever don't get in a review and you want to know, that's what we have the comments section(s) for."
While true, if you leave comments on many larger sites, they either ignore the legitimate issues that are brought up (see IGN's Madden 13 review), or in the case of one game (another site) where I mentioned how the reviewer had incorrect information on it…while they changed the information, they didn't change the review score. At that point to me, it didn't even really matter, because they were not able to discuss the game in depth and really justify their score.
"While I'm not counting the number of guns in a game…" FOR SHAME!
I always try to give a playtime in my reviews, unless it's a game that I don't feel it's necessary (e.g. Rock Band Blitz, Sports Games, etc.), but now that I know it's something you'd like to see, I'll definitely be putting it into my reviews.
It's really a case-by-case scenario with reviews though. Anybody can write 1000+ words and explain any and everything included in the game, but not many people are going to actually read it all. So it's more of a "what do I think the readers need to know here" and then put it all into a compressed format that's light and fun to read.
The thing I hear the most from people that read reviews is: "I don't have time to read a book about the game, I just want to know if this is something I want to buy." That's how I approach every review I write.
I'm a bit late for this one – but I have some mixed thoughts on it. Generally when I try to review a game, I talk about the mechanics, the bells and whistles, but try to explain that sometimes I may not like so-and-such genre quite as much, or explain what it is about a game that I really like – typical reviewer stuff. In the end, I score it based primarily on my experience with it though. I don't try to guess what audience is going to read the review, or how they may like it. I just explain why I did or didn't and detail why.