Earlier this year, Kotaku began running its reviews under a unified template that was designed with a trio of key components in mind.
First, there would be no alphabetical or numerical review scores. Second, reviews would be focused on delivering the most critical information in the most efficient way possible. Third, they should be fun to read and hopefully foster conversation about a game's positives and negatives.
We decided to exclude a final score to ensure that Kotaku reviews would not contribute to the average rating at sites that collate and aggregate numerical scores, scores that do not follow a universal grading scale. Our hope was that we could avoid discussions that fruitlessly debate whether a "10" was, indeed, perfect and if one exclusive was better than another exclusive simply based on a number. Boiling down pages of analysis to a single grade or score or number of pumpkins doesn't help readers, it hurts them, reducing the process of critiquing what is often a living document into black and white terms, when there is often a world of gray left untouched.
Our hope is that by laying out the analytical process, by exposing what we feel was good and bad about that game without weighting either, we give you the resources to form your own educated opinion.
We hope this explains how and why we designed this system. We encourage you to add your comments, questions and suggestions in the comments after reading through the more detailed explanation on the key aspects of our reviews on the jump.
Our Reviews Are Designed To Be Concise And Easy To Read
We're not fans of long-winded reviews, ones that read more like the author is getting paid by the word and span seven pages. We've tailored our reviews to be as to the point as possible while giving the reader the relevant information about our experience with a title.
Reviews are divided into four parts: An introduction to get the reader up to speed on the game or series, a list of things we liked under "Loved," a list of things we didn't like under "Hated," then two paragraphs summing up whether we think the good outweighs the bad or vice versa. We then wrap up with some basic facts and figures about the game. Aspects of a game that we "Loved" or "Hated" are not weighed equally and a score should not be inferred because of the number of each. Pointing out what we loved and hated about a game we hope will highlight potential deal breakers, because what matters to one gamer may not matter to another.
Reviews will address both technical and artistic aspects of a game, as games can be more (or less) than the sum of their parts. We feel that due to the nature of the medium, it's important to discuss a game's artistic style as well as its technical capabilities.
Our Reviews Don't Use Numerical Scores
We like arguing about to-the-decimal-point scoring discrepancies for games we haven't played then complaining about them on internet message boards as much as the next guy, but concluding that "Basically, Game X is better than Game Y" because of an arbitrary scoring scheme doesn't benefit the reader. We'd prefer you read our review instead of just skipping to the score and forming an opinion based on a number, a number that doesn't represent a reviewer's assessment. There are plenty of resources for one to judge a game worthy of purchase and play by numbers, stars and letter grades, we're just choosing not to be one of them.
We're Transparent About What We Played
When reviewing a game, our goal is to at least complete a game's single-player mode, whether that's a story-driven campaign or a season in Madden or a series of license tests in Gran Turismo. However, in some cases beating a game is simply not possible, as is the case with open ended, massively multiplayer online RPGs. If we don't "finish" the game or access a particular multiplayer mode, we'll tell you. We'll also divulge how much of the game's multiplayer and bonus modes we played, if applicable and we'll tell you which system(s) we played it on. If there are questions about the experience, we urge you to ask your question in the comments or e-mail us directly.
Our Reviews Will Be Timely And Accurate
We do our best to get reviews up by the day the game ships to stores in North America. Occasionally, when a title is released in another region before its North American street date, we'll review the PAL or Japanese version. Our goal is have a review up no later than a week after its release, but we're not always given the courtesy of early review copies and often take extra time to play online portions post-release to get a better handle on how something will play in the real world. We'll take extra time with games that feature a significant online component to get a more accurate perspective of the experience.
Brian Crecente contributed to this article.