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How to Review a Video Game

Updated on May 01, 2016

Record Your Entire Playthrough

You don't necessarily know what moments of a game will be profound or not. Good games always surprise you. As such, you want to record your playthrough in its entirety, it will give you a wealth of gaming footage to use to illustrate your points in your review.

If you run a YouTube channel where audio is prevalent (such as ReviewTechUSA, LeafyIsHere), unused gameplay footage will not go to waste. You can re-purpose this footage to have something on screen while you narrate.

What Are Your Overall Impressions of the Game?

What stood out to you? What is most important someone buying this game should know? You might not be able to cover everything in a review, especially if you want to keep it quick and snappy for a video, so you should establish a hierarchy of what's important about the game, with the most important thing being first, and the least important thing being last (in journalism, we call this the inverted pyramid).

Whether your review be in video or text format, you have to understand that not everyone will read your entire review, so it is important that your strongest points be presented in the beginning of the review.

What is the one thing you want people to know about this game? Make it front and center.

Example of a Long-Form Game Review

Don't Over Summarize

If your audience wanted a summary, they would just go to the game's wiki. As a reviewer, your job is to weigh the pros and cons of the game, communicate your overall impressions, and present any interpretations of the content that might make your audience see the game in a new light. People go to you because your analysis is good, and you have a point of view that is useful to them.

It is necessary to include background information on the product that you are reviewing, but it is important to make the product front-and-center. A review of "Starfox Zero" is not a brief history of the "Starfox" franchise, it's a quick and dirty analysis of the pros and the cons of "Starfox Zero" as a game.

Find Your Sweet Spot

You will have to find the balance between being too wordy, and not saying enough. If you do review in bulk (daily, weekly, etc.) it might be wise to do quicker reviews in the 3-10 minute range, but feel free to experiment with longer form videos. Angry Joe gets away with 30 minute reviews, and he is able to cover every nook and cranny of a game he wants to cover, but doesn't review a great deal of video games.

If you do text reviews, the shorter the better, unless you can find a way to incorporate all aspects of the game you ant to talk about in a meaningful way into your review.

YouTuber Jim Sterling publishes text reviews on his website, thejimquisition.com, while he makes video editorials, let's plays, and reaction videos on his YouTube page.
YouTuber Jim Sterling publishes text reviews on his website, thejimquisition.com, while he makes video editorials, let's plays, and reaction videos on his YouTube page.

Don't Just List Features, Talk About Them!

One common criticism of games journalism is that in some cases, there is very little journalism involved. As a reviewer, your job is not to just list features, but analyze and comment on them. Sure, you might risk stepping on the toes of a developer, but you're not an extension of their PR department. Your duty is to the public. If you have an insight into a particular game nobody has ever thought of, you could go viral, and get your name out there, even if a developer doesn't necessarily like what you said about them.

Judge A Game By Its Own Context

Don't judge an FPS by the standards of an RPG. Some games rely heavily on story elements, and some don't. Most games have a mix. The best way to review a game is to glean what the developer was trying to accomplish, and see if they were able to achieve that through their creative choices. A second threshold could be: "Was the game enjoyable?" If not, explain why or why not. If you liked it, tell your audience why.

If the game has any redeeming value, now is also the time to say so. Some games can also be unintentionally enjoyable, which is still worth mentioning (though it creates confusion as to who to praise).

It is important to not only tell how a game is good or bad overall, but how its individual features stack up. A bad game can have redeeming qualities, and a good game can have a few negative aspects to it.
It is important to not only tell how a game is good or bad overall, but how its individual features stack up. A bad game can have redeeming qualities, and a good game can have a few negative aspects to it.

Lastly, Take Criticism on the Head!

You won't be a pro reviewer when you just start out. Be sure to listen to criticism of how you relay your criticism in your reviews! There could be editing/writing techniques that you could take advantage of to make your commentary stronger. Even if you're a hardened veteran, switching over to a new format can cause some malfunctions, and your audience is a great source of constructive criticism.


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