Reviewing games - which difficulty level?


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kentmonkey
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After getting into a debate with one particularly moronic poster on the EG forum (one of many these days unfortunately it seems), I just thought I'd offer a question up to others on here.

When reviewing a game which would you prefer the reviewer to do?

1) Review the game on easy to get the review out as quickly as possible but tailor their comments on the difficulty level and AI as it would be fair to expect that on higher difficulty levels they would represent more of a challenge.

2) Review a game on Medium thinking that is what most of the gaming public play the game on, on their first run through the game. If the difficulty level or the AI doesn't present much of a challenge throughout the whole game, replay the first couple of levels on Hard to see if things improve after completion before writing the review.

3) Play the game through on hard so you experience the game at it's full potential, but risk alienating all of those players that wouldn't play it on hard on their first go.

Which to you would appear to be the better option (I've tried to word it in a way that doesn't show which one I do to try and keep this as fair as possible, hopefully I've succeeded).
#1 at 12:03:15 - 27/08/2007
boabg
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I think they should always review it on the "normal" level, that's what the devs balanced the game for. They should probably have at least had a good bash at the game on "hard" as that's where a lot of the new AI techs really shine.
#2 at 12:06:38 - 27/08/2007
Mr J
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yeah what boabg said is pretty much what i do, play it through on normal. Then try and give it a good bash on hard to see what the step up is like.

Unless it's one of those games where the entire experience changes (additional levels, areas, storyline etc) then really you need to play through the whole thing to give a fully balanced review.
#3 at 12:13:47 - 27/08/2007
peej
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Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.

I normally push for normal now but if a game's unforgivingly harsh I will switch to easy if I'm getting bored with it or it looks like it's going to take too long.

Peej
#4 at 12:23:08 - 27/08/2007
boabg
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peej said:Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.

I normally push for normal now but if a game's unforgivingly harsh I will switch to easy if I'm getting bored with it or it looks like it's going to take too long.

Peej


Turning it to easy to get past a broken/frustrating point is fair enough but just leaving it on easy to finish it a bit quicker is out. If I thought a reviewer did that I's probably lose a whole lot of trust in his/her reviews.

The difference between difficulty settings sometimes can be like playing two different games.
#5 at 12:33:35 - 27/08/2007
Mr J
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peej said:As long as you finish the game.
Peej


......

/sees wide open door
/doesn't go there
#6 at 12:52:41 - 27/08/2007
TwistidChimp
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They should review them on the difficulty in which most players will experience the game, ie Normal. However, they should ateast put a bit of time in to the hard difficulty mode. I've had experiences where the game only really started being good at the highest difficulty level. One example, Jade Empire. The first time I played it, I got about 5 hours in. Nothing really represented that much of a challenge, I just did the same moves over and over again, the combat was just boring quite frankly. I lost interest and left it on the shelf for a good long while, convinced that the combat was rather cack. However. I picked it up again, and set it to the highest difficulty level, and it made a huge difference. The higher level forced you to fight strategically, you had to time moves better, block more, you HAD to understand and use Harmonic combo's which i'd managed to completely ignore on my first playthrough. It just made combat infinitley more enjoyable.

Also sometimes AI is hobbled on the lower levels. FEAR for example was all about the excellent AI and fire fights. But if you stuck it on the lower levels you really wouldn't have experienced the best the game had to offer, and would probably have just ended up scoring it down, (as many did)
#7 at 12:59:40 - 27/08/2007
Micro_Explosion
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The default difficulty setting but at least a few minutes on the other difficulties to see if there is any immediately noticeable difference between them.

If a review says the game is too easy/too hard but they haven't even looked at the other difficulties then that wouldn't be great, but as there's no real way of knowing (unless the review states it) then I wouldn't be bothered at all as long as it ends up giving an accurate representation of the game.
#8 at 13:07:59 - 27/08/2007
ilmaestro
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Yeah, I'd say the default difficulty should be gone with where at all possible. If the reviewer gets stuck completely and has to knock it down to hard to finish the game then fine, but I'd want that taken into account in the review. ie. make a point of saying that the game is pretty tough and also note any fundamental changes (say, the CPU not using 'sprint' in a footie game on lower difficulties) that affect the game on the lower difficulty in comparison.

If the reviewer gets the chance to experience on hard too, great, but it wouldn't bother me. If the game needs you to alter settings to play it at its best (I don't mean ideal challenge, but in terms of experiencing the 'full' game), then the dev fucked up.

The obvious exception would be things like Perfect Dark where genuine effort has been put in to the higher difficulties. If this is well known prior to release, I'd expect the reviewer to have looked at it.
#9 at 13:59:12 - 27/08/2007
kentmonkey
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Excellent thanks guys. As I assumed then, ruggedtoast is just an absolute fucking moron who can't read.

Everything I review I review on Medium as I read some research a while back (I think it might have been on GI.Biz but I can't remember) stating that over 75% of gamers play games on the default setting on the first play through.

I always try games on hard though to see what difference there is (if it's a sports game I usually play 4-5 matches and if it's level based I normally play the first two levels over again) and only ever go to Easy after finishing it on Medium and if I thought that might have been a bit too frustrating for most (for instance DMC3 is ROCK HARD on Medium. Try it on easy after finishing it and you can instantly tell that it would be a lot more enjoyable for non-regular gamers on that setting.
#10 at 14:03:49 - 27/08/2007
ilmaestro
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Pish, non-gamers don't deserve to experience something as awesome as DMC3.
#11 at 14:05:52 - 27/08/2007
kentmonkey
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:o)

While I agree (and I know you're half-joking) that playing it on Easy loses a lot of the appeal, you do have to take that into consideration when reviewing something like that.

Expecting people that only play games on a casual basis to have any chance of completing something like DMC3 on Medium would be too much to expect. Stick it on Easy and it's still a fairly decent challenge as well.

I did think some of the boss battles on DMC3 on Medium were more than a little unfair though I must admit, you had to spend more time in the air than on the ground against those two knights which kind of ruined that level to me.
#12 at 14:12:01 - 27/08/2007
boabg
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DMC3 good then?
#13 at 14:22:21 - 27/08/2007
kentmonkey
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Very good, well worth a look.

I've actually got it up for swap or sale as I've finished it.

The story is pretty good for that type of game as well, plus (other than the Knights boss battle) the boss battles are absolutely fantastic. Even the standard enemies take quite a kicking to dispatch of as well. Really good game.
#14 at 14:32:59 - 27/08/2007
TwistidChimp
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I found DMC3 to be ludicrously tough. The first boss utterly battered me until in a complete slap in the face (Which the Penny Arcade folks also experienced ;) It unlocked the easy mode and suggested I use it :)

The Only other game that has ever handed me my ass so completely is Ikaruga. Even Ninja Gaiden was relativley do-able in comparison.
#15 at 14:53:15 - 27/08/2007
Khanivor
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I'd just like to add to the medium column. Only exception is if the game is intolerably shit in which case drop into easy to quickly get the experience over with. Or get enough of an experience to tear the POS to shreds without having to endure so much as to put you off gaming for a month.
#16 at 20:03:51 - 27/08/2007
Manuel Garcia
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It has to be default settings for me. I wouldn't feel comfortable assessing something on a difficulty that probably upwards of 70-80% of players wouldn't ever experience.

A big part of the enjoyment of any game comes from the level of challenge presented, and as far as I'm concerned a large part of the developers job is fine-tuning the default experience. After all, that's what they have to consider to be the best expression of the game and technology.

I'll try other difficulties to see what they do as part of a general description of the game difficulty though, but as a rule I'd stick to whatever the dev team considers to be the best balance.
#17 at 01:22:27 - 28/08/2007
JohnnyM60
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Yeah, number 2. I'll normally always play on normal first play. Might try again on hard if I'm good enough and have the time.
#18 at 01:49:21 - 28/08/2007
peej
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Journalistic integrity bollocks aside, if you finished Bioshock on Easy, Medium or Hard you get the same ending (well one of two without going into it too much). Same for The Darkness.

I think unless a game really does branch between difficulty levels, then the only kudos for finishing a game on hard before reviewing it is a bit of willy measuring and the achievement points (in a 360 game).

Once again we're back to the same argument we had elsewhere. It's very well and good to say that a game shouldn't be reviewed before it's completed on the hard level, but given that most people who write for this site do so in their spare time, and fit their writing around other commitments, it's a bit of a waste of time waiting till someone finishes the game on hard, then reviews it quite some substantial time after other sites have been there, written it up, bought the t shirt and moved on.

At AATG we review the games we buy (or obviously sometimes rent) so we don't get the luxury of lead time from preview copy, nor do we get the luxury of just having a hodload of releases chucked at us that we can review at our leisure.

Once again, this site is here for people's enjoyment and contributions are taken voluntarily. At the moment there's a lot of passion for gaming behind this site, let's not start that argument up all over again about how things should and shouldn't be written for this place, just contribute - it's as simple as that.

Peej
#19 at 11:24:50 - 28/08/2007
boabg
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I don't think anyone is having a pop at the site Peej. I don't care when the reviews come out here, I still enjoy reading them.

I'll qualify what I said though, if I knew a professional reviewer shot through a game on Easy I'd lose respect for him. Same to an extent with anyone who reviews a game. Why bother if you're gonna shoot for the least challenge it can give just so you can get a review out of it?
#20 at 13:06:50 - 28/08/2007
Micro_Explosion
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I'm actually not too bothered what difficulty it's played (I would prefer medium but if it isn't then fine). I would prefer that the review gave some idea of the difference between difficulties - 1/2 the time I play games on easy because I can't be arsed dying then having to redo bits of the game: my attention span isn't that good.

As long as a game isn't criticised for being too easy/having poor AI etc. when it was played on easy without trying the rest then I don't see a problem what setting it's on really.

When it's a story driven game, the difficulty level becomes less relevant anyway.

BTW, based on the original post, I know kentmonkey isn't refering to this site and I don't think anyone else is.
#21 at 13:28:31 - 28/08/2007
Carlo
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peej said:Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.
Not sure I agree with you on that nessesarily.

Example: GoW played on easy is 'just' a pretty button-masher, harder difficulty makes the game an exceptionally good purchase.
#22 at 13:36:35 - 28/08/2007
Micro_Explosion
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Carlo said:
peej said:Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.
Not sure I agree with you on that nessesarily.

Example: GoW played on easy is 'just' a pretty button-masher, harder difficulty makes the game an exceptionally good purchase.


I started out on medium but got so frustrated at one point and wanted to see the story that I switched down when it offered. In a review I may mention difficulty spikes but I think the final opinion would still be valid.

I loved it more for the story than the actual mechanics so I think a resultant view would still be valid as long as it's not heavily criticised for being something it's not at higher difficulties.
#23 at 13:42:44 - 28/08/2007
Khanivor
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Difficulty level is about more then how long it takes to complete a game. Would anyone say the experience of GP4 with all the driving aids on is the same as with them all turned off?

Piling through on easy may be the quickest way to get to the end, (and that depends on your view as to whether it is always neccessary to complete a game before reviewing it)but the experience you have in that game may not be the same kind that most people would be having if/when they played that title.

COD as run'n'gun or as tactical shooter with massive use of cover to progress?
#24 at 17:52:16 - 28/08/2007
kalel
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I really donít think any game should be reviewed on Easy personally. Something like Halo for example is actually quite a bad game on Easy, and 90% of the fun comes from the enemy AI and the battles that ensue as a result of it. Itís just not very fun on Easy and therefore would not be properly reviewed on that difficulty level.

Itís not an exception either, these days AI is so important in games and you really donít get a true sense of it most of the time on the easier settings.
#25 at 18:05:26 - 28/08/2007
ilmaestro
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Micro_Explosion said:
Carlo said:
peej said:Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.
Not sure I agree with you on that nessesarily.

Example: GoW played on easy is 'just' a pretty button-masher, harder difficulty makes the game an exceptionally good purchase.


I started out on medium but got so frustrated at one point and wanted to see the story that I switched down when it offered.

I was still wondering why the shit you thought that GoW's story was better than actually playing the game experiencing the combat properly, then I realized you were talking about God of War.
#26 at 18:46:43 - 28/08/2007
JohnnyM60
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ilmaestro said:
Micro_Explosion said:
Carlo said:
peej said:Not wishing to drag this up again, I don't think it matters tbh. As long as you finish the game.
Not sure I agree with you on that nessesarily.

Example: GoW played on easy is 'just' a pretty button-masher, harder difficulty makes the game an exceptionally good purchase.


I started out on medium but got so frustrated at one point and wanted to see the story that I switched down when it offered.

I was still wondering why the shit you thought that GoW's story was better than actually playing the game experiencing the combat properly, then I realized you were talking about God of War.
There are some tedious bits in GoW. I unfortunately had to lower the difficulty as Madusa boss was driving me insane. Annoying as it is more enjoyable on higher difficulties.

edit:Was GoW2
#27 at 18:52:06 - 28/08/2007
Micro_Explosion
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Definitely God of War. Gears of War's story was pretty terrible - I think I finished that just to finish it (and to do the co-op).
#28 at 19:49:36 - 28/08/2007
kentmonkey
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Er yeah, Peej, I think you might have gotten the wrong end of a very long stick.

I was talking about a particular conversation with some jackass called ruggedtoast on the EG forum that suggested that, even though I'd reviewed and completed (for Boomtown) G1 Jockey on 'Medium' and also tried it on 'Hard' for 4 races that I was completely in the wrong to comment on the games lacklustre AI and difficulty.

Clearly the guy is a complete fucking moron who refuses to listen to another point of view and just keeps saying the same things despite there being no argument.

I just wanted to start a thread on here about what people thought about that as a) the Eurogamer forum is not the best place to have a balanced and reasonable conversation these days without some troll coming in and fucking it up and B) I knew people on here could provide that balanced opinion.

At no point was this meant to reflect on AATG's review policy, as as far as I am aware, it doesn't have one, it's purely down to the discretion of the reviewer how they decide to review the game.

I would hope as well in the future that contributors can post stuff on the forum without it being taken that anything they are discussing is in direct relation to AATG.

I've just re-read that and it sounds pissy and it isn't meant to at all, but I'm literally just popping out and don't have time to write it without the pissy bits, so apologies for that. I just wanted to put my thoughts down in response, as I think you think that I've made a thread about AATG's review policy when I was actually making a thread about my own review policy and genuinely interested in other people's points of view on the matter.
#29 at 19:55:18 - 28/08/2007
Khanivor
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/wipes up sprayed piss for km

:)
#30 at 20:13:40 - 28/08/2007

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