Defending Video Game Reviewers that Don't Play Through Entire Games
By happenstance I crossed paths with an editorial by Dave Halverson regarding negative reviews for the new Golden Axe videogame. You can see his entire editorial here. Just to give you an idea of what Dave is touching on, read the below quote:
Regarding many of the "reviews" on Sega’s Golden Axe: Beast Rider: Be wary. The majority of these people (can’t call them critics) either didn’t complete a fraction of the game, don’t understand game design, or just plain suck at games. The words “Hack ‘n’ Slash” are an instant red flag. Beast Rider is anything but. Mindlessly flailing in frustration because you can’t get the game's simple controls/timing down is no way to play the game. Most gamers out there who would buy Beast Rider are far better players than the people rushing through a level or two to write these sad reviews; a sad but ever pervasive sign of the times.
Now I haven't played this Golden Axe game (nor do I have any interest in playing it since they so wrongly didn't include multi-player co-op, which was the best part of the first two Golden Axe games... for the record there was no good part for Golden Axe III). Nor have I read these reviews which enrage Dave so. Nor have I heard of this "Dave" before stumbling upon his editorial. But just generally reading his commentary, it strikes me as wrong.
A game has to engross you from the moment you begin. It has to draw you in either through storytelling or great game play. It doesn't matter how ultimately deep or rewarding a game is, the sad fact is that most players aren't going to give a game enough time to develop in those aspect if it doesn't hit the ground running.
Back in the glory days of the NES, there were a number of overly difficult games (Mega Man 2 and Ninja Gaiden in particular come to mind). These games would never fly today... they're both very enjoyable games, but incredibly difficult to the point of frustration. The average gamer these days isn't that skilled to get through a game like that nor will they take the time to master the game if it is immediately frustrating.
A game needs to be immediately good from the get-go. There are a lot of options for games these days (and a number of ways to play games without buying them)... If a game critic puts in 15 hours of game play and the game still isn't any good, I have no problem with them giving it a crappy review because your average gamer would probably have moved on to the next thing long before then. I know I would.
Now to play devil's advocate to myself... critics do need to spend at least a fair amount of time with a game. Someone that plays one hour of game play could certainly write a short piece on their experience with the game, but in no way should be presenting that as a review of the entire game.
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