Video game reviews have a difficult existence. Some people use them to decide whether or not to buy games, others use them as ammunition in the Console Wars. Usually, very strong emotions are attached to these reviews. But one thing we seem to be missing that we should get mad about is the lazy and irritating cliches that constantly pop up in reviews, even from such esteemed sources as EGM.
Ever play a game that has a beautiful look to it? A lovely rendered forest area or a tranquil meadow that your character walks through with peaceful music playing? Then expect the word “lush” to show up in the review. Seriously, I had a hard time writing about the forest a second ago without typing “lush”. I googled RPG ( the genre this word pops up in most during reviews) and lush and this is what I got:
- “It’s all in 3D and lacks the artificial polish of some RPGs lush 2D backdrops,”
- “Oblivion is a gorgeous RPG. Lush forests brimming with beautifully detailed flora and terrific lighting reflecting off ruined architecture …”
- “New screenshots from Piranha Bytes’ Risen show lush environments and a lot of smithery”
- “Crimson Gem Saga by Atlus for the PSP is all about the fundamentals of RPG fun: lush hand-drawn visuals”
- “Cell Chamber is an amalgamation of a dark and morbid story, told through a lush and traditional RPG setting. “
See what I mean? I first saw the word used to describe Secret of Mana back in 1993 or so. Apparently, a ton of other people read that same article. If your game has green in it, it’s “lush”. Deal with it. Obviously, using the internet to find a synonym would take way too long.
Likewise, the word “drab” comes up a lot when discussing games that have an overabundance of brown in the color palette. First person shooters get “drab” a lot in their reviews. Hell, “dull” could even be used instead, but it seems most reviews are just tracing some ancient, original stone tablet review of Zork or something. Let’s google drab and game review and see what we get:
- For Soldiers of Fortune on the SNES, a reader review titled “A Drab But Moody Run ‘n’ Gun Affair”
- “unspectacular and even drab in points”.
- “Pretty drab art style, really”
- “Flower for the PlayStation 3 breathes life into stale … Then you return to the drab window sill,”
- “Overall, if my review of this game seems drab and uninspired, that’s because the game itself is also drab and uninspired.”
And just for fun, let’s try it with Killzone 2 or Gears of War:
- “I’m also a bit bummed by the overall drab (albeit beautifully rendered) look of Killzone 2;”
- “The drab colors bore me to death and that’s one reason I’m so iffy about Killzone 2 “
- “Gears of War looked very drab indeed.”
- “Gears of war deserves most of the credit it’s receiving (although it isn’t the best game ever). The graphics are everything BUT boring, dull or drab”
See? Even the positive review of Gears of War uses the word “drab”. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Google these yourself, it’s fun! Like a belated Easter Egg hunt, but instead of looking for dyed eggs with lush colors, you are searching for brown eggs with a drab feel to them.
You know what else really grinds my gears (of War)? When I read a review for a DS game and the game does not use any touch-screen functions at all and the reviewer complains about it. Now, the developer obviously chose not to tack on any gimmicky crap and instead they stayed true to their vision. Which I think is the right thing to do. I don’t want to use the stylus in every game, same as I don’t want to wave around the Wii-mote in every game. But the reviewer always mentions it: “At least use the double screen!”
But when a game does throw in some crappy feature like that, all hell breaks loose! Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow had such a feature and it was annoying. And the reviewers rightfully complained about it. But if they had not put in any touch-screen features at all, they would have found that to be just as annoying. Make up your freaking minds.
Sometimes a reviewer decides that he knows what is best for a franchise so he will dock points from his review if the review lacks something like multiplayer. Metroid Prime had none and people complained. So they added a very basic mode in Metroid Prime 2, sort of as a bonus.
What was the reaction? The reviewers hated it, compared it to Halo 2 (wtf?) and EGM, in an interview with the developer, even asked them why it was not as robust (hey, robust is another word that gets used too much in reviews!) as Halo 2! Does anyone really think they ever intended for it to be?
Hell, Bioshock got crap for only being single-player! The developers focused all their energy on making one of the greatest games I have ever played and got lambested because 12 year olds can’t beat each other with wrenches!
There are a few more tiny things I want to mention, such as when a reviewer, which is usually some dork like me and you, tries to sound like he knows about progamming and AI and things like that. I have read where they mention how “It can’t be that hard to make the AI do this or that”. Actually, it just might. So shut up.
Also, reviewers should finish the game or at least get to the last level. Don’t play 3 levels and start writing. I don’t care if you have a deadline, play the game. My money depends on your review, so quit looking at pictures of lolcats online and finish Resident Evil 5.
And please, please: don’t make the story the focus of your review. Make the gameplay the focus. If I want a great story, I will read any number of the giant books on my shelf. I don’t need to play Dark Sector in order to be immersed in subpar writing. My girlfriend makes me watch One Tree Hill, I get enough of that without turning on a game console.
So there you have it, another rant in the books. What cliches drive you bonkers when reading reviews?