Now while developing my craft as a video game reviewer I decided to take what I’ve learned and share with anyone else who have/will want to review video games. One of the first things I like to do when prepping myself for a video game review is to take the time out to get as much experience with the game as possible. This basically means, play the game. Not only the main campaign but any of the other content. Also, while playing the game, I like to take down notes. Focus on the things that worked and didn’t work, things I liked and things I didn’t like. This does help to create the highest quality review. Honestly, brutal honesty is the only way I give my reviews and I highly recommend that others do the same. It definitely makes reviews a lot more personal while keeping it interesting. Note: this is a guide and does state sections of video games that probably should be considered when reviewing it.
During the introduction I like to write down some of the basic information of the game. This isn’t a must but I do like establishing facts about a game before building the foundation. Be sure to give a brief description of the game.
- Game Title (Halo, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Dragon Age)
- Game Developer (Bethesda, Raven Software, Activision, Capcom)
- Game Publisher (Ubisoft, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Square Enix)
- Release Date
- Console (GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows)
- Type of Game (First-Person Shooter, Real-Time Strategy)
Give a brief plot summary without giving away any key details about the game. What is the story about? Gamers want to know enough about what happens in a game to know whether they’ll find it interesting. Does the plot make sense? Is the story line logical? Is it original? How complex is it? Is the story predictable or full of surprises? Is the story exciting or is it dull? What themes or motifs stand out? Is there a sub-plot and how is it related to the main plot? Is the plot primary or secondary to some of the other essential elements of the story? Other questions to be considered are:
- Does the story unravel gradually or is it quickly revealing?
- Is the story exciting or is it dull?
- How good is the pacing?
- How are the various elements of plot handled?
- Did the story grip you and keep you playing?
- What other devices of plot complication and resolution are employed?
The campaign can consist of different types. There is the story driven campaign which focuses on telling a story. Examples of this are the Gears of War, Halo, and Call of Duty series. Then there are games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Soul Calibur that focus on arcade campains where players fight in multiple battles until achieving overall victory. Then there is the nonlinear world campaign that allow players to explore the open world or pursue side missions at will, choosing to ignore the main quest. Examples of these are Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Grand Theft Auto, and Saints Row series.
- What is the length of the campaign?
- How challenging is the campaign?
- Is the campaign immersive?
- Is the campaign linear? How flexible is it?
Characters are just as important as story. Who are the main characters and are they credible? Could you relate/empathize to any of the characters in the story? Does the writer make you believe in them as people? Why or why not? As you learn about the characters, use examples of things they’ve said or done to give a sense of their personalities. Also, include the character development arcs as well as any stereotypes. Other questions to be considered are:
- Are the characters flat or three dimensional?
- What did the main characters do in the game?
- How well do the characters develop?
- Who are your favorite character(s)? Why?
- Is character delineation direct or indirect?
The visuals focus on the game’s graphics. This will consist of in-game and cinematic, characters and environment, lighting and shade detail. Some games will require more heavily detailed graphics than others. The Battlefield series focuses on the realism of modern-day warfare while games like DragonBall Z Budokai and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series focus on cell-shading to transform the animation-style into 3D.
- What type of animation style? Realistic? Cell-Shaded?
- How does the animation style hold up?
- What style does it resemble?
- Are the colors vibrant? Dull?
- How does the cinematography support the visuals?
The score can make or break a game. It consists of several factors. First, there is the voice performances and how well the voice actors did their job. There is the soundtrack which focuses on the music, both in-game and cinematics. And lastly there is sound effects which focuses on the noises such as footsteps, animal noises, rainfall, etc.
- Does the game have its own score?
- Does it feature songs from popular artists?
- Do the songs have meaning?
- Is the music effectively employed?
- Is the music over/under-used?
- Is the music amusing? Irritating? Emotional?
- Are the voice performances on point?
- Are they lively? Dull?
Gameplay will determine what the rules of the game are and how it is played. Every game has a list of rules for the players to abide by as well as the non-playable characters. Every game also has its own unique features that make it unique. Examples of this are showing the players/characters’ perspective, how health and ammo can be replenished, and how the game keeps score.
- How well is the gameplay?
- Does it flow smoothly?
- Is the gameplay glitchy? Does it freeze?
- Are there long loading times?
- What are the controls? Too simple or overly complicated?
- Are the AI competent? Challenging?
- Does the game follow the same formula like its predecessors?
This area focuses on the game’s writing style (usually the story). This is a great way of establishing another relationship with the game developers. Writing is artistic; both through the developer’s presentation and through the gamer’s interpretation. Were certain types of scenes written particularly well (action scenes, emotional scenes, scary scenes, etc.)?
- How effective is dialogue?
- How well is the overall script written?
- Is the writing simplistic or complex?
- Does it contain humor, wit, satire?
- Does the writing have rhythm?
- Does the writing style utilize symbolism?
What is the game’s replay value? This focuses on whether there are certain settings and modes that make continuous gameplay possible. Content for each game varies greatly. Content can include, but are not limited to; campaign, versus modes, online, downloadable content, unlockables, theatre mode, etc. Content can be quite a deal breaker depending on how well the other aspects of the game go. This is definitely an important subject. Usually unlockables and dlc help to keep the replayability high. The game is riddled with unlockable content which players can access by achieving certain goals, side missions, exploration, stealth missions, and even the change in difficulty.
- Does it have multiplayer? Is it online or local?
- Branching paths?
- Is there any way of changing the difficulty (easy, normal, hard, very hard)?
- Is there any downloadable content?
Likes/Dislikes and Commentary
What was your favorite part of the game? Why? What was your least favorite part of the game? Why? If you could change something, what would it be? What do you like or dislike about the game’s writing style?
Your conclusion should summarize, perhaps include a final assessment. What type of person would like this game? Would you recommend this game to another person? Would you play more by this developer? Why or why not?