When Reviews Go Bad, con't.


What makes a good review? Good reviews make us happy.

If we’re going to talk about bad reviews, we need to agree on what makes a good review. A good computer game review needs to describe a game in a way that allows the reader to decide whether he or she would enjoy it. If the writer doesn’t like the game, he/she should tell the reader why in a manner that allows the reader to decide if the issues that bother the writer would be game-killers for the reader. The best reviews are both accurate and entertaining.

Also, a review needs to capture the "heart" of a program. This is something we’re all guilty of more than we’d like: a review reads "here’s the feature list – describe graphics – describe sound – describe AI – point out bugs – cute close – 3 stars." What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that all a review should be? Absolutely not. Some of the best games in the history of gaming have feature sets that aren’t very impressive if merely listed on paper, yet are almost magical in the experience they provide the gamer. Describe the feature set of Civilization 1 and 2. Does that capture the gameplay experience of what may be the best overall game design in gaming history? How many games have almost identical descriptions yet don’t come close to the enduring greatness of these titles? How about X-COM 1? Why is it so much better than every pretender since its publication? You can list games in every genre with feature sets that sound identical, yet those feature sets don’t begin to explain why the classics are indeed classics. The best game reviews capture this heart and soul of a game, both the classics and the classic stinkers. And that is much more difficult than simply writing a cookie cutter article. It requires writing skill, and it requires the perspective of someone who has played enough games to understand that Quake didn’t invent the First Person Shooter genre.

Now let’s have some fun: let’s look at those horrible reviews that should shock you but don’t because you’ve become so accustomed to them.

Read about incoherent reviews