This is how games ought to be reviewed–with the author simply stating his biases and giving his honest opinion. And not a ratings star in sight. Kudos, Bill!
I particularly liked the couple of glimpses into Trotter’s personal life and history. Since they were relevant to the review and not simply vainglorious, they helped me get the measure of the man whose opinion I was receiving, which in turn aided me immensely in vicariously experiencing the game the way he experienced it. I think I’ll be reading The Wargamer much more from now on, if Trotter’s column is any indication of the quality of the rest of the site.
50 pages to say he doesn’t like the game, while being forced to read about his son’s birthday and other trivia in his pathetic life? No fucking thanks. I would trade a review like that for no words, 3 screen shots and a 1-5 star rating any day. That was just nothing but boring masturbation.
Different strokes, I guess. The last thing I want to read is an entire page of rambling details on an installation problem in a game review - a simple statement of the problem and the workaround is sufficient for me. And I’m not a fan of massive personal tangents in a game review. After three pages of reading all I knew about the game was that he hated it, he had a problem installing it, and the game doesn’t attempt to be historically accurate - I gave up at that point, since at one point per page I assume it would take about 30 pages to learn what I wanted about the game.
I used to read Trotter a lot in PCG, so that review surprised me.
It’s part of the eternal review syndrom that is on some websites. With space almost infinite, there is no reason to narrow your review down to a few major points. This is a major issue with Wargamer, which is really a shame, because they have some damn fine writers. The guys know their stuff, and maybe their target audience really likes scroll buttons. But give me 1000 words or less - 1500 at the most.
I don’t have a short attention span by any means, but I have no desire to read a 6000 word review of a movie I love, let alone a game I have little interest in playing. If it was more general game criticism than a review, sure, no problem. But spending five sentences on why the “blow up the tanker” mission is historically inaccurate(!) is a sure sign of bloat. And you don’t need to spend a whole page setting up that you hated the game.
The pain of it is that a lot of the points are interesting. (I liked the one about how a special forces unit is supposed to keep going when people die, not abort the mission).
Well, some of us want to know WHY the reviewer doesn’t like the game, and find it further helpful to know WHERE the reviewer is coming from so we can judge whether his WHY’s have any basis that we care about or not. There are plenty of sites out there with reviews by kids who simply “didn’t like the game.” That ain’t enough.
I agree that the review was long, but I enjoyed reading it. I was not “forced to read” a goddamned thing. I was free to quit at any time. By the same token, I am not forced to read the pablum that passes for most mainstream game reviews, either. And that’s why I don’t.
As for the three shots and a star rating thing, I take it you’re the proud owner of the collector’s edition of Black & White then? It got like, what, a 94% or something from PCG? You musta run right out and snatched that baby up! (Ok, I admit it. I did. Which is why I wish someone had devoted as much time and care to reviewing it as Trotter did to reviewing his game.)
Yes, us simpletons who review games for mainstream sure are stupid! We can’t manage to review anything correctly! I must remember to write all of my reviews to include what I had for lunch and if I’m grumpy.
First a disclaimer: I’m the content director at The Wargamer (which means I run the site day-to-day).
There are two major points for which our review format is most often criticized: voluminous length and a lack of a numerical score. The latter is a little easier to defend, but the length our reviews is not (and is the point brought up here). Frankly, our method is a reflection of the wargaming genre, as well as the mentality of the wargaming populace: details = a good thing. It seems to suit our audience well enough, and frankly, that’s our aim. We have no interest in competing with GameSpot, GameSpy/IGN, etc., nor do we have any notions that we somehow outclass those sites because our reviews are longer than theirs.
Ironically enough, we spent quite some time discussing the length of Trotter’s review of K:FC (heh), in part because he went on one of his infamous tangents explaining some particular personal history that is a touch of out of place in a normal game review, but we concluded the piece was better with it.
As for tightening up the piece, I’ll point this out to our editors for further discussion.
Since we don’t offer a score for our reviews and your conclusion is the result of interpretations from a mix of reviews, that’s a perfectly reasonable response. (And here’s more on why we don’t offer scores: http://www.wargamer.com/articles/fifth_column_5/ )
I will, however, offer two potential explanations:
We don’t have the resources to review all the PC games we’d like to, let alone all the games that are released. That means our limited review staff focuses their energy on above-average titles, and generally let the crappy titles sit in our pile of unreviewed games.
Although we don’t offer scores in our reviews, we do encourage our writers to include recommendations for whom the particular game might be most interesting. An excellent example of this is Victoria (review is here: http://www.wargamer.com/reviews/victoria/ ), which the reviewer recommended, but only to the most hardcore of hardcore Paradox (the developers of Victoria and EU) fans. From the conclusion:
Paradox should be congratulated on toning down their system so small powers can’t conquer the world. They should also be congratulated for making prestige points the goal of a game so that players can feel good about improving smaller countries that never had the chance of gaining “Great Power” status. Yet, without further patches, Victoria can only be recommended to serious students of the period or gamers already familiar with Europa Universalis I/II and Hearts of Iron. Until Paradox carries through with their usual good patches and somehow clarifies some points in the manual, the average gamer will be as befogged as the Heights of Chulm during the battle of Sadowa.
Is that positive? I honestly think it’s possible to see it both ways.
Are you talking about our forums? Because, yes, it has been pretty nasty there lately. There are quite a few radicals there who like to show off their opinions.
We’d rather the forums not become completely assnine, but well, some people are just idiots.
That’s the perfect thing for a sidebar; it’s a little tougher to do it online than in print, literally, because you’re working with a narrower column, but some of the tangential stuff could be split off into different articles or something.
I think some writers do forget that the readers really just want to know if the game is good or bad and why, and be told in a succinct manner. Five thousand words can be succinct (I guess) if there’s enough detail to get into, but the writer’s carving out a difficult task.
I didn’t read the review in question, btw. I started to but it looked too long. So I’m not knocking it, other than to say the length is unattractive to a reader like me.
Dunno, I’m tired of bullet point reviews. It was a refreshing change of pace. Could use editing, though.
That dark-skinned dude with the sunglasses and the anachronistic Rastafarian hair-do? He’s a Native American sniper, Night Hawk. “His place and date of birth is (sic) unknown”; what, the Army couldn’t dig up that information? “His appearance is unforgettable with sharp eyes and rough, dark skin”. Passing quickly over this risible syntax (don’t get too close to those “sharp” eyes!), we also learn that “many of his comrades avoid his company, maybe because of his habits.” Huh? Absent further information, I tried to keep a close eye on Night Hawk, so I could discover what those unsavory proclivities might be, but alas, was never able to spot him nibbling his boogers or sniffing the armpits of dead Koreans.