It begins with a short sharp sentence.
Now the obligatory sentence written in first person to describe some fantastical event that would never happen to people like us – like battling dragons, destroying spaceships, or sleeping with girls. Here, a mention about the developer’s history; perhaps the game’s first appearance at E3 from thirty years ago; or maybe how we’re about to have our mind’s blown (but probably not because we’ve seen the screenshots already). Perhaps the first paragraph ends with a question mark to make you read on?
The introduction of the game is described. The menu is unimportant, since it’s just a bunch of words – ARG! Words? In a game! If I wanted words, I’d read a book-thing. The writer will use words like “immediately presented” or “build-up” to introduce the game, the characters and the scenario. A little joke goes here. We chuckle and move on. We are still not told if it’s any good, because the more vague and amorphous the review is, the less criticism you can shout off in the comment section.
The game reviewer will amalgamate talking about graphics and game-play. This happens even if he’s working with headers, since a reviewer sticking to structure is like the Jersey Shore cast sticking to hygiene: if it happens, it’s only by accident. A comparison will be made either to real-life or to the “last decade” of graphics. A notable comparison will be made to the greatest game in its category, since reviewers must, as much as possible, mention their love for great games to show they’re not snobs but exactly like you.
Weapons or techniques are described here. If it’s a sequel, this is where improvement will be mentioned and also what’s not corrected. Here words about “feelings” are used, as if the writer knows what a gun, football or a normal human conversation is actually like. Voice-acting is mentioned in passing, despite the enormous amount of time that goes into it. Perhaps a vague mention is made that it’s Nolan North and it probably will be.
If it’s a sports game, you as a reader wonder why you’re reading a review about Kick/Hit/ the Ball/Face/in this Direction/Way 2012 when it looks exactly the same as last year’s. It’s the same bloody sport – what were you hoping for? Lasers? Unlocking Yoda or Kratos? Of course, soon even sports games will have a Zombie Mode so perhaps you’re happy to see that finally implemented.
Something about story or background is mentioned here (again). Despite having read extensively about playing it, you only now realise you (sort of) care why the characters are involved. If it’s a fantasy game, the reviewer will either bungle up the explanation, spoil the plot, or confuse you with someone who cares. If it’s an action game, something will be mentioned about a gritty, gruff-voiced veteran, something about saving the world from a nuclear bomb/terrorists/nuclear terrorists or just from anyone who hasn’t got an American accent. There’s no difference if it’s aliens, except that the aliens only require one voice actor (as opposed to the recommended two for plain action games: namely Mr Male Foreigner and Ms Female Foreigner).
And of course the reviewer will tell us that “we’re thrown right into the middle of it” – “it” being the story or plot or supposed conflict that you’ll stop caring about as soon as you buy the game.
Sound will vaguely be mentioned, if it matters. But no one really cares until the sound is as bad as someone spitting into your ear. Atmosphere – as if its made only of sound – will be talked about. The sounds of the crowd, or city, or world, or trees will be talked about as if the reviewer has never heard these things before. Hint: In real-life, tree sounds don’t loop nor is their background choral music (unless you own the game soundtrack and an iPod).
By this point you’re not even really reading now. Your eyes are falling over the words like a drunk on a rocky beach. You can see the end, but think you’ve read this far, you might as well see what other nonsense this person has to say. It might end with the obligatory remark about Call of Duty, which is the gaming equivalent of dipping two fingers into holy water.
Multiplayer. Because your screams mean nothing to bots, you need to tell others your opinion on races, women and government. The reviewer tells you that the lobbies are still in development, there was trouble getting connected and there was some lag, as if we don’t live in South Africa where it’s faster to send a homing pigeon than an email. Balls were kicked, guns were shot, there was explosions. Different types of gaming modes are mentioned – Capture the Flag, Survival, and Spot the Bigot are usually quite popular. If it’s a sports game, there’s something about balls and nets. If it’s a racing game, the 90’s called and they want their idea of fun back, please.
If the reviewer is particularly passionate – or just a bastard, though there’s little difference between the two in gaming – something you would never have noticed is treated like it gives small children inoperable spine-tumours. Several hundred words will be used against this as if this will make the problem go away. After all the passion and fighting, the problem will still be there, smirking with folded arms because you still paid for the damned game.
A quick summary of the game is put here. A quip. A restatement of a sentence that was used earlier but you won’t notice because you’ve basically forgotten everything by now, haven’t you? Phrases like “While it’s not perfect…” are also used, as if there’s ever been a perfect game after Tetris. A rundown of fairly notable things are made. This is the very long sentence where the problem the reviewer hates is mentioned again because speaking about it is a way of making you hate that problem too, so maybe somebody else will also care. There’s probably another question? Then it ends, slowly, but not before a stupid break down that is essentially meaningless.
FINAL USELESS LIST
A vague amorphous term, which no one really understands. Something about how much “fun” it was. Well, some people like immersive games, others like kicking balls and some want to drive cars. Depending on the game, the reviewer might try guess which is more important and rate that in some vague manner here. But how you isolate gameplay away from all the other elements doesn’t make sense, since it’s the entire package which makes or breaks the entire experience.
Was it pretty? Easy. Look at the screenshots. Were the textures consistent. Yes/no. The end. Unfortunately, graphics makes or breaks games, so if this is low, there’s little chance of success. However, the reviewer again has to give a fairly arbitrary score to this. Which is funny, since there will come a time when what we rate as a 90% will be considered 70% in a few years. Half-Life 2 anyone?
Like graphics, it should be part of gameplay. Music, voice-acting and so on are spoken of here. Again, we must mention how good Nolan North was. More than likely, the game had mediocre acting from a cast of three people, one of whom was just some drunk guy who didn’t know he was being recorded (I believe football games call this “commentary”).
Blah, blah, something-something end of the world, magic, dragons, guns, people with foreign accents are evil. Aliens, zombies. Not BioWare – and if it is BioWare it’s not Baldur’s Gate.
Just read the last sentence from the main review. It’s simply being restated here. If by now you don’t know how the reviewer views the game, you’ve not been paying attention. Or perhaps the gods of MetaCritic are searching for an open vessel, whose soul they can steal for their evil website, and will look here. A quick round up and a quip and something about really wanting to return (to) the game.