bit-gamer.net

Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

Posted on 25th Apr 2009 at 12:35 by Joe Martin with 54 comments

This is a blog post I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, but I’ve chosen not to get around to it until now because it hasn’t really been very relevant.

There’s not been that many good PC games coming out lately that have required an in-depth look at graphics. Well, not from me anyway. A good thing about being part of Dennis Publishing is that delegation is nearly always an option.

The crux of this blog post rests on one question; how useful is the graphics coverage we give in PC game reviews at the moment?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then, well I guess that gives me an answer right there. You see, before I joined bit-tech the site had a policy of doing very in-depth graphic analysis for each and every PC game review that came along and console games were mainly ignored. Tim, Richard and co. would even graphically analyse new patches for games and game reviews would focus heavily on graphics.

Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

As far as I’m aware that started to change when my predecessor Ryan joined bit-tech. Console games started to get a bit more attention and the graphics coverage of specific games became less quantitative and more comparative – like in this Darkstar One review.

When I joined bit-tech two years ago I carried on this method, comparing the different graphical settings of a game to each other in a subjective way. I didn’t look at performance all that much and that was probably for the best – I’d be the first to admit that I’m the least technically minded member of the team and I think that stuff belongs in GPU reviews anyway.

I also started covering more console games. My basic belief is that if the game is good then it deserves to be covered regardless of platform in most cases. An awful lot of very bad PC games come across my desk – is it really worth covering stuff such as Conspiracy Island 2 when we could be looking at GTA IV? That’s one question I’d like feedback from the community on.

Should We Change Our Game Reviews?

Lately though, I’ve been thinking that how we cover graphics in game reviews isn’t really all that helpful anyway. A quick look at the presets is all well and good – but I’m certain that the average bit-tech reader knows what a scene will look like with AA off and proving that things are blurrier with texture quality lowered is an exercise in futility. Is that information actually useful to anyone? For Crysis yes, but not for most games I’d wager.

Part of this is...well, not laziness, but certainly a desire to free more time up on my behalf. Taking all those screenshots, resizing them, comparing them and then writing a good 600 words for each page about them takes up a lot of time and that time could be spent either playing the game or polishing the review. Which do you prefer – less spelling errors or more graphics analysis in the game reviews?

There’s no agenda here and I can’t promise that anything will or won’t change, but I am very curious to see if my opinions align with yours and if there’s one thing we pride ourselves on at bit-tech then it’s listening to our readers. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

54 Comments

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yodasarmpit 25th April 2009, 13:43 Quote
Concentrate on gameplay, graphics are all well and good but come second to gameplay in my opinion.
Aterius Gmork 25th April 2009, 13:57 Quote
It depends on the game really. Reviews of games like Crysis should include a section about graphics. But most games today are a (more or less crappy) port from a console, so hardware demands and graphics are more or less the same anyway. Plus most people do have the hardware to play on highest settings. So you could just say "similar to game xy" and be done with it. :D

It might be a different matter when the next generation of consoles come out and games start to be demanding again though...
smc8788 25th April 2009, 14:03 Quote
Graphics aren't, and shouldn't be, the be all and end all of game reviews. Sure they're important to a degree, but I think they have become less important to me in the last year or so. I'd like to hear about graphical glitches and anything that is wrong with the game in that respect, but if a game has good graphics, then just say they're good - they don't need much more saying about them than that. Much more important, in my opinion, is how you feel the game plays, how much fun it is, how hard it is, whether multiplayer modes are up to scratch, and just a general opinion of the gaming experience, that sort of thing. That's what will sway my decision on whether to buy a game, not a detailed description of how good the game will look on my screen.

As for console games, I don't mind seeing reviews of those, certainly not the bigger console exclusives, as I do own a PS3. But I'd still like to see more of a slant towards PC games, as I'd always buy the PC version of a game given the choice (even with all the warnings of the demise of PC gaming), they are generally graphically superior, after all.
WildThing 25th April 2009, 14:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by smc8788
Graphics aren't, and shouldn't be, the be all and end all of game reviews. Sure they're important to a degree, but I think they have become less important to me in the last year or so. I'd like to hear about graphical glitches and anything that is wrong with the game in that respect, but if a game has good graphics, then just say they're good - they don't need much more saying about them than that. Much more important, in my opinion, is how you feel the game plays, how much fun it is, how hard it is, whether multiplayer modes are up to scratch, and just a general opinion of the gaming experience, that sort of thing. That's what will sway my decision on whether to buy a game, not a detailed description of how good the game will look on my screen.

As for console games, I don't mind seeing reviews of those, certainly not the bigger console exclusives, as I do own a PS3. But I'd still like to see more of a slant towards PC games, as I'd always buy the PC version of a game given the choice (even with all the warnings of the demise of PC gaming), they are generally graphically superior, after all.

Yeah I think that pretty much sums up my opinion too. ;)
Krikkit 25th April 2009, 14:13 Quote
I think you should still have graphics settings reviewed, but rather than every single setting, have a go with the high, medium, low presets? Just a broad overview of the scope the settings can afford would be useful, it'd be good to know how it runs on the review machine (and the specs of that machine too, come to think of it).

Basically just a broad idea please. :)
Shadowed_fury 25th April 2009, 14:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit
I think you should still have graphics settings reviewed, but rather than every single setting, have a go with the high, medium, low presets? Just a broad overview of the scope the settings can afford would be useful, it'd be good to know how it runs on the review machine (and the specs of that machine too, come to think of it).

Basically just a broad idea please. :)

+1
cyrilthefish 25th April 2009, 14:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit
I think you should still have graphics settings reviewed, but rather than every single setting, have a go with the high, medium, low presets? Just a broad overview of the scope the settings can afford would be useful, it'd be good to know how it runs on the review machine (and the specs of that machine too, come to think of it).

Basically just a broad idea please. :)
Could also be worth noting which settings have a high performance hit for next-to-no perceptible difference, and vice-versa

But basically yes, keep graphics in the reviews, but not too much of it.

EDIT: and mention any obvious missing settings, such as the far too many games lately that have no AA at all, forcing you to mess round in the graphics driver control panel to try and force it on. >:(
sear 25th April 2009, 14:58 Quote
Broad overviews of graphics presets are crucial. Not everyone can run every game at highest settings, despite the fact that this is an enthusiast-oriented community. In the case where a graphically-demanding game comes out, I think you owe it to your PC-oriented readers to do some sort of analysis, for the purpose of showing people with lower-end or higher-end systems what they can expect the game to look like for them. Obviously every screenshot officially released has tons of AA and AF on, and the highest settings are ticked, and Photoshop has made it look a bit nicer than normal as well, but if you're just using a mid-range PC from a year or two ago and can't crank everything up, it's nice to know whether or not the game will still look okay.

For example, you recently reviewed Riddick on the PC. The texture and post effects comparison are very, very useful, because they show that users who just hit the game's minimum requirements will be stuck playing something very ugly, whereas if you simply have to turn off post effects, you may not be missing that much. Focusing on either presets or the most important settings for overall image quality (i.e. shaders in Crysis rather than shadow resolution) is where it needs to go.

I've always enjoyed bit-tech's reviews, compared to a lot of other sites, even if the gameplay discussion isn't always quite as in-depth. I think you've carved out a niche for yourselves as catering to a specific PC audience with your game reviews, and you should keep doing that, but just be mindful of the importance graphics play in a game and that you don't need to post comparisons of every little setting.
Dr. Strangelove 25th April 2009, 15:31 Quote
hmm
I quite like to get an idea of how good looking a game is, however personally I think it's a bit of a flaw to just use the "low", "medium" and "high" settings, as such this gives us no clue of how well it will play on our own systems, and at the end of the day I assume that is what we are interested in.. "how good will this look on my system".

I know this will add more work (as opposed to less) but would it make more sense if you gave us the settings at which you can play the game on the systems you suggest in your monthly buyer's guide? This way I think we would have a much better chance of figuring out how the game might look on our own systems.
Skiddywinks 25th April 2009, 15:39 Quote
As mentioned by someone else, when a game like Crysis (or any other PC only or PC centric game) comes along with a respectable amount of configuration possibilities, it is always worth writing about the settings. Obviously, not every possible set up should be discussed, as this would be silly and a waste of time.

Using Crysis as an example, Very High, Medium and Low settings should be applied across the board and then the differences discussed and shown in pictures. Maybe some AA if it really makes a difference (but I'm sure ost of us know what the differences will be like anyway).

Overall, what I am saying is that where it matters, it is definitely worth doing a section on the graphics. But with the console ports etc, there are usually so few settings to change that a simple "The graphics are excellent/good/average/mediocre etc" would be more than enough, along with a short list of what can be changed.

I always love reading the graphical analysis parts of reviews, as it gives me a greater appreciation of the work that not only you, bit-tech, put into reviews, but also the developers making the game. If a game scales very well along with graphical settings changes, then that is surely worthy of mentioning and goes a long way towards making a game great. Just look at the Source engine; it scales excellently, and that only improves my opinion of Valve and the games they make, since everyone and their nan can enjoy them.
Jordan Wise 25th April 2009, 15:47 Quote
I think the only time a deep look into the graphics is required when a new, significantly better engine comes out, Crysis needed that attention because that's what all the excitement was about, same applies for Bioshock, as that was the first game on the PC (i think) to really show off the power of the Unreal 3 Engine. I didn't think an in depth look was needed in the Episode Two review or L4D review as we all knew what to expect from Source, despite the upgrades
knuck 25th April 2009, 15:47 Quote
You should concentrate on the graphics engine only when there is actually any hype that this game is going to look good. If the game has been waited by gamers for its gameplay then concentrate on it, if its physics concentrate on physics and so on. Just follow the hype of games.

If there is no hype for a game, keep doing what you do, it's more than good enough already :)
Jenny_Y8S 25th April 2009, 17:08 Quote
I think you should talk about how well the game plays on different hardware, ie does the game still "feel" the same on low end rigs? I've got my decent setup now, but others haven't.
knuck 25th April 2009, 17:36 Quote
it's more than decent tbh ,,,
notatoad 25th April 2009, 17:53 Quote
a while back somebody wrote a great post on how presentation is more important than graphics. it basically sums up my opinion on reviewing graphics. the art and design of a game is more important than how sharp the edges are. don't knock the graphics unless it actually takes away from the gameplay.

i also agree with jenny. testing the game at 1024/low on a high end system to see what the low settings look like isn't much use, but testing the game on a dual-core and 8800gt to see if it's still playable would be quite useful.
Claave 25th April 2009, 18:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by from the blog
Which do you prefer – less spelling errors or more graphics analysis...

that should be *fewer* spelling errors. Tsk!

:D
Spiny 25th April 2009, 21:39 Quote
Graphics aren't everything, but it would be nice to hear how stuff runs on a medium spec machine from say 12 and 24 months ago. Not many people have the very latest hardware that often tends to be used in graphics comparisons making them of limited use. Giving a view on older machines would also give the bit-tech review something unique that other reviews don't capture.
raGe82 25th April 2009, 22:16 Quote
I like your games reviews as-is. Most of the games I play go trough the same way:
- install,
- change keyboard settings,
- verify that screen resolution is my screen's native,
- just check if game automatically set low/med/high settings,
- play,
- uninstall

Simply I don't have time to change one setting, check if it looks better (means - if I can see this :P) and if I still can play on this setting. Bit-tech's reviews show specific options, performance impact and how much changes on the screen. To say it short - you make me to fiddle with some options :)

As was said already - it would be great to know what hardware is required to play on specific set of settings.

Oh, and please don't forget to write about game playability. I didn't check all the games you've reviewed, but bit-tech usually says what every player says about a game (this includes me :)).

P.S. Joe, FarCry 1.3 patch review wasn't a patch review - it was a technology review ;) In my opinion such articles are really worth their time, if there's a real breaktrough or at least someone tries (as with 1.3 patch - it was about to bring real HDR, but it was... erm...) you should write about it.
perplekks45 25th April 2009, 22:32 Quote
Agree with most of the above:

Graphics are important but should only be described in length if there is anything wrong with it. I don't want to hear for every shooter how amazing the new detail for faces is ["YOU CAN SEE EACH HAIR IN THE NOSE!!!!!1111one"] but if there are many clipping problems or slow-downs in console games [WTF?!?!] then please feel free to tell me.

Other than that, as mentioned, focus on how a game feels. The "The Path" review was a great example of how to make a game review fun while still telling you all you need to know.

Again, ;) for that, Joe. :)
mezz 26th April 2009, 00:22 Quote
To be honest I don't really care about graphics, and I tend to skim through the graphics page of your reviews review. Like you said, if a game is a major graphical breakthrough then I'd like to see some details, but other than that I think just having screenshots dotted through the review does the job. If it has an interesting visual style then I'm very interested to hear about it, but as for the technical side I simply don't care. So for games like braid I'd be happy to read a page on what you think about the graphics, but for games like GTA4 or Fallout 3 then the screenshots tell me all I want to know. I've never read a game review over at another site and though "man, I wish this review was on bit-tech so I could read more about the graphics". But I have thought "man, I wish this review was on bit-tech so they'd give me a more interesting analysis of the game".
Of course if I had a lower spec PC I imagine that then I'd be interested in a quick run-through of what it looks like on different systems, but as it as, I just don't care.
CowBlazed 26th April 2009, 00:53 Quote
I'm suprised at alot of these comments actually, the in depth graphical analysis of games was the reason I bookmarked and frequented this site. No other site on the net could break down the important graphical settings on PC games and present the information in a fun to read manner like BT.

For a while now though that has changed. Gone are the majority of in depth graphical stuff, left over is a pitiful reminent of a few screenshots with different texture settings and thats it.

Take the Empire Total War review for example, the game is filled with a bunch of interesting graphical settings which can make a huge impact on the visuals and performance, yet BT's graphical analysis doesn't even mention a single one and goes on to display only obvious presets low/high. Even the writer mentions that everything shown is run of the mill and to be expected, wasted effort if you ask me.

This site once had a unique selling point for PC game reviews, but now they're the same as the console reviews and every other review site out there.

Anyways my suggestion would be, if your going to take the effort and try and give PC gamers what they want in a game review, at least spend that effort on something that might be of true interest such as a unique graphical option instead of just bland and predictable texture settings or presets.

As for taking it out completly, people can always skip a page or 2 if they "just don't care" or can't be bothered with their graphical settings because of their busy lives, but missing information that has come to be expected can ruin a review.
Vimesey 26th April 2009, 01:04 Quote
The one thing i think that should change is that the game score system should become like the hardware system with seperate scores that come together to make the main score. Fore example:

Graphics: 8
Gameplay: 6
Value: 7
Overall: 7

Or whatever it may be, this would also allow you to shrink the graphical analysis as you could give an impression on the graphics in the score section.
Red 5 26th April 2009, 02:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claave
that should be *fewer* spelling errors.
That should be capitalised.

Due to the nature of graphical adjustment on the PC there should certainly be some analysis, but perhaps limited to presets, painless performance/eye candy gains, and likewise any crippling problems. I guess it boils down to a few screen shots with fps numbers and reporting the others only if you find something to report. Unfortunately that'll still need a little work in the background testing resolutions and such. Then again, we don't normally expect you to report every bug you stumble across, so don't feel you need to knock yourselves out.
Claave 26th April 2009, 02:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Red 5
That should be capitalised.

lols
thehippoz 26th April 2009, 03:27 Quote
I like the personal opinions on it.. it's always good to hear an honest review by a gamer- not some guy who's just paid to play it and never got his balls fried at a lan! reading the reviews here and at firingsquad.. the heads up on the drm is nice- you provide enough pictures to get an idea of what the game is going to be like.. not much to change

maybe you could cater more to the enthusiast crowd and show some hd footage on youtube or something.. that would be different
Faulk_Wulf 26th April 2009, 09:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit
I think you should still have graphics settings reviewed, but rather than every single setting, have a go with the high, medium, low presets? Just a broad overview of the scope the settings can afford would be useful, it'd be good to know how it runs on the review machine (and the specs of that machine too, come to think of it).

Basically just a broad idea please. :)

^ This.
oasked 26th April 2009, 09:21 Quote
I agree with what's been said already really.

When the games demand it (i.e. Crysis) then graphics should be detailed but for most games it doesn't really matter too much and the way the game plays should be the main point of the review.

Keep up the good work btw, one of the best bits on Bit-Tech are your game reviews. :)
Xir 26th April 2009, 12:27 Quote
I'd prefer more PC-games, and less console-only games.
Also the review for a PC game which is released after the console version tends to fall short. (see your Fallout 3 reviews...the PC review generally says "look at the console review"...ah, but the PC-Version had bugs the console version hadn't...and a LOT of different settings...and a lot of limitations due to the interface beeing console-friendly))

You used to focus on PC and frankly CustomPC isn't called CustomConsole either :D
tejas 26th April 2009, 19:23 Quote
Tbh I really like the graphical analysis of games that you review on Bit Tech. I think it is still very relevant and important for the PC gaming community to do this. In fact I think you should go into even deeper detail like CPU core usage and GPU settings. Whether Dennis Publishing will let you do that is another matter eh ;)

Hard OCP typially do this with all major PC game releases and it really gives a good idea of how the current CPUs and GPUs will perform. Have you guys thought about video reviews/ updates via embedded Youtube or Viddler?
naokaji 26th April 2009, 19:58 Quote
Especially if a game is based on a engine that is used in a wide variety of games like for example the unreal 3 engine you can definitely cut down on the graphics section, however if there is something special going on in regards to graphics (example: crysis) it should get some coverage.
As for the console vs pc, while it's true that there is a lack of high profile titles for the pc, I'd like Bit-tech to continue the trend I've noticed for a while now, giving indie titles more room.
Blademrk 26th April 2009, 21:30 Quote
Have to agree with you Joe, differences between graphics settings are a bit of a wasted exercise, show what the graphics look like with a top end card by all means, but performance, gameplay and (dare I say it) story (not exactly in that order) will nearly always win out.
ComputerKing 26th April 2009, 21:42 Quote
Conclude game play pictures and videos if possible... Also maybe specs ;)
Onesimus 27th April 2009, 10:21 Quote
The discrepancy between hyped graphic oriënted reviews and actual PC-players experiences was a landmark:the gameplay was at the level of a low-IQ console couch-patatoe!
More then 1/2 a year later PC-players are still waiting for needed major patches for SP,and even more for MP!
But it seems money to be spent on patching has allready been spended by the marketing division of UBIsoft,that tricked reviewers to write fantasy-stories based on graphics show-offs,not gameplay experiences;
or maybe plain briberies...

Eversince I'm no longer interested in (hyping) reviews:
I prefer to wait 6 months after initial release,and pay only $5 for a $50 game to enjoy the graphics,
or even longer:untill decent game-patches have come,
and their quality has been affirmed by users!
Onesimus 27th April 2009, 10:23 Quote
I lost a line there:my comment is about Farcry 2!
Tris 27th April 2009, 10:27 Quote
Quote:
An awful lot of very bad PC games come across my desk – is it really worth covering stuff such as Conspiracy Island 2 when we could be looking at GTA IV? That’s one question I’d like feedback from the community on.

I tend to read games sites for the hidden gems that might come out of the reviews - if you restrict yourself to the big budget high publicity games, surely the great ones from small companies will just get lost in the abyss? (after all, you can rarely be absolutely sure that a game will be rubbish just from a glance)
I'd almost say that its the big releases that don't need so much focus - there are dozens of reviews for each of these, and alot of people make up their mind well in advance wether or not they are going to try the game.
Bauul 27th April 2009, 10:30 Quote
I think the most important parts of the graphical analysis are

a) how good the game looks
b) how it scales of lesser hardware
c) are there any problems

In many cases, you can answer these in the review without the need for lots of screenshots and graphical analysis. I think for the vast majority of readers, knowing whether the game looks nice, and whether their PC can play it is the most important thing. In an ideal world, three benchmarks for each of the Buyer's Guide PCs to give an idea of how well the game performs on lesser hardware would be ideal, but given time restraints it'd be easy enough to simply tell us. E.g. Left4Dead scales well on lesser hardware, Crysis doesn't. A mixture of quantatitive evidence of personal experience will probably suffice.

Naturally, as others have pointed out, for a game that uses r/evolutionary graphics, for example a new engine, it's important to do a much more indepth breakdown, but for something like the new Riddick game, simply telling us with three screenshots of the presets is probably enough.
Xtrafresh 27th April 2009, 10:48 Quote
I'd really like to see a section in each review about what makes the game special, different from all other games. It might be graphics, but it could very well be gameplay, immersion, music, story, whatever. Just write about what makes that game interesting.
Ofcourse all this is aside from the standard marks you give.

One thing that i would like is a full article from one of the more techy guys about graphic engines. Compare engines, explain what they are, how they are made, upcoming developments, etc etc.
CardJoe 27th April 2009, 11:08 Quote
Thanks for all the feedback - and please keep it coming.

Would it make more sense to you guys to have a quick look at the graphical presets then, but mainly replace the graphics page with a more in-depth look at multiplayer, or another facet of gameplay which you feel we neglect?

Obviously, for games that are all about the graphics (crysis, etc) we'd take a more full look at the graphics anyway - that will always be the case. If we have things to say about the graphics then we will always say them, but I'm more mindful of games that are graphically mediocre or where they aren't all that important.
Bauul 27th April 2009, 11:24 Quote
I think the review's emphasis on certain things should reflect the game's emphasis on certain things. Obviously a bare minimum on all things should be present in a review (gameplay, story, graphics, multiplayer etc.), but then add extra weight to whatever it is a game itself emphasises. Crysis deserves an indepth graphical analysis, Mirror's Edge more on gameplay, Bioshock presentation and story. On the flip side, no bit should be ignored. Just because Empire: Total War doesn't place much emphasis on Multiplayer doesn't mean it shouldn't be mentioned, but take a subjective stance and slant the review towards whatever is most important. I'd rather hear more about Riddick's gameplay and story than a page on graphics that aren't too important.
Xtrafresh 27th April 2009, 11:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Thanks for all the feedback - and please keep it coming.

Would it make more sense to you guys to have a quick look at the graphical presets then, but mainly replace the graphics page with a more in-depth look at multiplayer, or another facet of gameplay which you feel we neglect?

Obviously, for games that are all about the graphics (crysis, etc) we'd take a more full look at the graphics anyway - that will always be the case. If we have things to say about the graphics then we will always say them, but I'm more mindful of games that are graphically mediocre or where they aren't all that important.
I would like to see Bit keep its own unique approach to gaming, and a technical analysis has always been a good strong point, instead of only the more "mainstream" reviewpoints.
Jamie 27th April 2009, 11:29 Quote
You should write about the quality of the graphics in general but I wouldn't bother dissecting all the different quality settings.
Kúsař 27th April 2009, 12:02 Quote
I think it makes sense to write in-depth graphics analysis of *new* game engines - highlight which features are the biggest performance hits / visual improvements. It helped me tune graphical settings in many games(Crysis, Oblivion...).
But it's kinda pointless to write long graphics review if you can max out everything without seriously affecting FPS even on poor PCs.
Whalemeister 27th April 2009, 13:43 Quote
It's hard to create a blanket rule for everything as some games are all about the graphics (Crysis) where as a graphical review of say Braid would be totally pointless. I think you should try and keep the review in line with the game and how important the graphics are to it.

What I would really like to see is something that takes the FPS ratings into account on say a batch of 4 or 5 current cards at a few different resolutions so we can work out how well a game will run in our rigs.

I think something like a scaled down version of the bar charts used in the GFX card reviews would be a great benefit to the readers here.
perplekks45 27th April 2009, 15:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whalemeister

I think something like a scaled down version of the bar charts used in the GFX card reviews would be a great benefit to the readers here.
+1
DraigUK 27th April 2009, 17:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Thanks for all the feedback - and please keep it coming.

Would it make more sense to you guys to have a quick look at the graphical presets then, but mainly replace the graphics page with a more in-depth look at multiplayer, or another facet of gameplay which you feel we neglect?

Obviously, for games that are all about the graphics (crysis, etc) we'd take a more full look at the graphics anyway - that will always be the case. If we have things to say about the graphics then we will always say them, but I'm more mindful of games that are graphically mediocre or where they aren't all that important.

For me, for game reviews I want to know these things :-

1) Is the game good/fun/worth buying?
2) Is it mulitplayer/online - and if it is does it differ from normal playmode? How? Better? Worse?
3) What is different about it - if anything - or is it better than what is available?
4) Is it value for money?
5) What are the graphics like?
6) What are the sounds like?
7) What is the storyline/background and is it any good?

Pretty much in that order. I have a pretty standard medium rig based on an overclocked Q6600

As you can see I am not too fussed about the graphics being state of the art - so long as they don't totally suck, and do what they need to do, I'm not too bothered. If they are particularly great or different, that is a nice bonus, and something I would like some more detail on, but not why I buy the game.

In a review I would like to see how a game would run on my sort of rig on low/med/high standard type of settings that I will be picking and setting up QUICKLY (because I do not want to spend all day fiddling about with grafix options to get an extra layer of shadow, I want to play the damned game) and what the FPS or consequence of those settings are, so I can choose what is best for me. What they are best set at for online compared to solo play etc

Anything else, all the guff you often see about pixel counts and 16 types of shade with 16 screenshots to show them all, and I can't tell the difference between shot 1 to 16, have zero bearing to me personally. I understand why some people would want all of that, but if it is a choice between all that extra detail (which I skip over reading in reviews 99% of the time) or you having more time to play the game properly and giving better feedback on the multiplayer side of things, I will take those over graphics anyday.

As far as reviewing bad games - this is why I stopped buying PC Gamer a while back. The mag was full of crap reviews on crap games getting less than 40%. While amusing in the short term, when it happens mag after mag after mag- bleh - waste of money.

If a game is scoring less than 40% (for me less than 80% is dodgy ground) I don't need 900 words to tell me why. A simple list of crap games with the crap score next to them is enough for me to avoid them thanks a lot. If one of these minor releases gets a good score then it will get a full and proper review anyway yeah?

If it is a big release and crap, yeah a couple of pages explaining why is great.

Common sense?
delriogw 27th April 2009, 18:37 Quote
i like reviews to focus more on the gameplay aspects than the graphics.

however.... given some of the stupid graphics settings on games (looks at GTA IV), what i'd really like to see is how well a game performs graphically at the Recommended Specs.

it's all well and good seeing how good a game can look if you've got the best kit out there. but even on a forum such as this, full of people who know computers and are often upgrading, chances are a lot of us just aren't going to have amazing rigs - especially in the current financial climate.

it would also be interesting to see how things run at minimum required specs too of course.

i feel this is just far more relevant than - look what you can get with a kick arse computer.

i suppose the more relevant question is how would we want this information presented to us. as you say the graphics section of pc games reviews here is often very in depth. and i'll be honest, a lot of it means nothing to me. i get frame rate and stuff obviously, but some of the stuff you guys go on about is very 'tech speak' and i know this site is aimed more at people that know their stuff than some, but you also get a lot of people like me who like intellectual discussion about stuff, but don't really get why Hz matter etc.

maybe keep that stuff for those that really want it, but have it as an addendum to the review rather than the meat of it. i suspect most of us really just want to know if the game's fun to play, how much it challenges the player, if it's breaking any new ground, and to an extent how it looks.
Gunsmith 27th April 2009, 18:39 Quote
less console, more pc.

other then that i think your reviews are fine.
Anakha 28th April 2009, 01:37 Quote
Personally, I think the "High/Low" comparison is good, but something like a "Runs well on:" (Note, that's "Runs well", not "runs". We're talking stays above 30FPS minimum, average 60FPS+)

For instance: "Crysis on Low: NV GF8300+, ATi x800+; Crysis on Med: NV GF8800+, ATi 3xxx+; Crysis on High: NV GF9800GT+, ATi 48xx+" (Numbers pulled entirely out of my ass, but you get the idea).

But I think the text could concentrate on how much effect (Visually, and computationally) bumping each setting has.

So, for example, "Typically, bumping the decals and post-processing can be done 'for free', with only a 5-10% drop in performance for the considerable visual improvement. However, bumping shadows or reflections can seriously eat your GPU, each step leading to a 40% drop in FPS!"

So people can use the presets as a guide for their system, and then tweak values up (or down) to get the best balance of performance:display they can for their system.
Bauul 28th April 2009, 10:40 Quote
I think DraigUK is on to something there. Much like the On Our Desk articles, why not do a "Crap games I played this month" article? Just 100 words on why each one is awful. We get to read a brief review of the games, and get a laugh in the process, and you don't have to spend ages writing the things up.

And, just maybe, you discover a brilliant game along the way.
CardJoe 28th April 2009, 10:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
I think DraigUK is on to something there. Much like the On Our Desk articles, why not do a "Crap games I played this month" article? Just 100 words on why each one is awful. We get to read a brief review of the games, and get a laugh in the process, and you don't have to spend ages writing the things up.

And, just maybe, you discover a brilliant game along the way.

I've been intending to work something like that into my blog posts for a while now, but I honestly have so many blog ideas and am only allowed to do one a week, so getting round to it is taking some serious time. I honestly have four or five blog/feature ideas queueing up on my home PC now...
liratheal 28th April 2009, 17:22 Quote
..Whatever's wrong with the current system of "Here it is on low, medium and high"?
CardJoe 28th April 2009, 17:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
..Whatever's wrong with the current system of "Here it is on low, medium and high"?

As I said in the blog post, it can take quite a bit of time getting those shots and writing that page for what appears to be very little actual gain.
myhottrashcan 5th May 2009, 04:23 Quote
I was always partial to the "Best Playable Settings" that used to be featured in a game review. They really gave a good picture of relative performance between three or so more popular cards at the time. It was a great indication of what to expect when I fired the game up, even recommending a good resolution to use!

Also, +1 for more PC reviews like back when. I would like to see more game mod coverage again.
stoff3r 19th May 2009, 00:29 Quote
There are as many opinions as there are readers... here's mine:

-Take interesting screenshots.
-Highligt any new interesting features.
-Write down your own opinion, sum up your experience with the performance vs what you expected.
-stop using the same layout for every review, it looks like a chore, 600 words, seriously?
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