Where to get good PC game reviews?

Since Computer Gaming World (I refuse to call it Games for Windows) ceased publication this past spring, I have been completely without a source for news and reviews of PC games. What magazines or websites do you gamers use?

I haven’t read PC Gamer in a while, but when I read it, it was a pretty good source of reviews.

I go to GameFaqs.com, which is sort of a hub – it will point you to various reviews. There are also boards, screenshots, saved game files, cheat codes … the gamit.

I’ve been using metacritic.com lately. They compile reviews from multiple sources and give an aggregate rating scaled out of 100. Then if you scroll down the page, you can read the reviews from the various sources themselves.

This. I think aggregate reviews are the best measure of a game. Gamespy and Blue’s News are the only gaming sites on my Firefox Speed Dial, but when I’m looking at overall impressions of a game, I always use Metacritic.

If you want it in magazine form, definitely PC Gamer. I have never played a game and found that I disagreed with their review of it. Also, they’re funny-- I have actually gone back and read old bad reviews of games I’ve never intended to play, just because they’re so scathingly witty and hilarious.

This Metacritic thing sounds awesome, though. I’ll definitely give that a try next time I’m looking into buying a game. (I tend to do my own version of this anyway; I never buy anything based on a single review.)

I read the OP and was going to come in to say PC Gamer - nevermore beat me to it. They are funny, usually spot-on, aren’t beholden to anyone in particular (what was that “Games for Windows” crap that CGW pulled the last couple years?), and have decent hardware reviews too.

For online reviews, I go to IGN and game-revolution.com. Altho I’ll try Metacritic.

To be original, I’ll recommend PC Gamer UK. :slight_smile: They’re hilarious, sarcastic and usually dead-on in their assessments. Otherwise, GameSpot works for me - particularly features like the HotSpot.

I find yahtzee’s reviews from escapistmagazine to be pretty spot on, and hillarious most of the time. What he lacks in quantity he makes up in quality:

You can’t. Reviews are just as worthless for games as they are for movies - don’t even consider any of them (except Edge Magazine) more seriously than you might the excepts flashing across the latest Tomb Raider preview.

Metacritic is the only one that comes even close - even then you’re better served rummaging through forums, watching gameplay videos and deciding for yourself.

Unless you count how from the first issue of PC Gamer there were major conflicts of interest (having the author of a game’s strategy guide write a review for that game) and have been at the center of multiple “paid reviews” scandals. They’re beholden to the people who pay for their advertising and cover stories.

And that’s the problem with “professional game reviews” in general; they’ve long since stopped being independent reviewers and become an extension of the game company’s marketing department. Their revenues depend on attracting people to their site or magazine and typically they do this with glossy “stories” about some popular up and coming title and day or release (or earlier) reviews of those same games. So the magazines are dependent on the game companies for everything and the game companies know they have them over the barrel.

Compounding the problem is the hyperbole of the gaming industry that sucks in so many people including reviewers. “It’s popular therefore it must be good, even though no one outside of the developer has really played it yet,” is the subconscious sentiment that dominates gaming culture. Look at the Gamefaqs board for any unreleased game that is being heavily advertised; the judgment is in before the game is released and people swept up in that are going to try to justify their opinion once the game is out. If it’s a game reviewer that’s swept up in that then their review is going to reflect it.

A certain amount of professionalism among reviewers would improve things. Unfortunately the people who are drawn to reviewing games are those seeking the reflected glory; those who want to get the early copy of the hot upcoming game or to hob nob with those they perceive as celebrities. You’ll have to look awfully hard for those who actually understand the fundamentals of game design the way a film critic might understand the fundamentals of film making. That’s fine if I’m asking an opinion of just some guy on the internet; it’s another to be presented as a professional reviewer. Consequently when they’re presented with something outside their usual perceptions they tend to do poorly; they do not have the skills to evaluate distinctive game mechanics, interface choices, and the like.

None of this is a new problem. As noted above it was evident in the first issue of PC Gamer back in the mid-nineties. Older magazines like EGM and Gamepro set the model for this behavior in the 1980’s (CGW was actually fairly literate until they were purchased by Ziff-Davis after which they quickly turned into yet another one of these publicity houses in the guise of magazines).

Composite sources don’t help because when the vast majority of the input is useless you won’t get any useful output. It’s especially bad since sites like Metacritic emphasize the score which even in reviews that are well balanced is often inflated to placate the game company.

The only solution to this is patience and time, two things that people are unwilling to allow. A bit of time gives perspective; the shine comes off and the flaws show through or if a few months down the road people are still talking about it (rather than just quietly letting it fade away). Some aspect of a game that was very clever at first brush might have its novelty wear off quickly while something unexpected might suck a player in over time. Listening to what the general public is saying six months down the line and building a composite picture will be much more effective than listening to a reviewer on the day of release.

Black and White???

I can’t even remember if they reviewed that positively or negatively, and I can’t find it online…

I realize this is The Game Room and not Great Debates, but this claim is really out there and deserves at least some balance. Yes, William Trotter wrote a review in PC Gamer and a strategy guide for Ascendency back in 1996, which might as well be the Paleolithic Era in pc games and review. Certainly things ran a little looser in the game review industry back then. He was rightfully called out on it, and from what I can tell, nothing like that ever happened again in PC Gamer magazine.

If you want to claim they have been subject to multiple “paid review” scandals, well I would really like to see your evidence. As counter evidence, I can offer multiple instances of PC Gamer where I have seen bad reviews of games that also had full page ads of the same product.

I’m pretty sure Black & White got on their ‘50 best games of all time’ list back in 2001.

I don’t know 'bout ‘paid reviews’, but I’ve certainly noticed that PCG editors will play the game under any condition the developers stipulate, so long as they get an exclusive. And come on, did you really think DOOM 3 was “a masterpiece of the art form”?

Shall we start with Command and Conquer: Red Alert which had a positive review that was written before the game was remotely finalized?

PC Gamer’s editors have pointed to the “full page ads” with bad reviews in the past when they’ve been caught in their shenanigans. That’s not what you shouldn’t be looking at. How many games that have gotten cover stories have gotten bad reviews? How many games that have received heavy coverage (multiple previews and interviews before release) have gotten bad reviews? How often have their reviews of high profile titles stepped out of line from the masses to be more negative?

So that’s your evidence?

Strangely enough, Metacritic indicates the PC Gamer review arrived in the Dec 96 edition, while the game release date was Oct 96, so I think your memory of an event 12 years ago is slightly flawed. Perhaps you are thinking of some other magazine? Regardless, the PC Gamer score of 91 seems right in line with the Metacritic score of 90, so I fail to see how any of this justifies a charge of “multiple paid review scandals”.

I don’t want to waste too much time with this, so I’ll just note that if I grab the Sep 2008 issue since it happens to be on my desk, I can see a review for Age of Conan with a score 77%, and it certainly had a lot of hype in the magazine beforehand, including a major cover spread. And I definitely have been burned in the past by purchasing a game based on a great preview from PC Gamer without waiting for the review, only to hate the game and find a low score in PC Gamer later on.

This isn’t Great Debates, so perhaps we should take any further debate elsewhere. But I will end by stating that I almost always have agreed with their reviews, so I would give them a thumbs up to the OP if you are looking for honest reviews of pc games.

IGN has good written reviews as well as video reviews.

First, excuse me for not supporting an obviously corrupt editorial board for twelve years. Obviously I need to keep giving them my money, paying them for their advertisements, otherwise I’m not fit to judge.

Second, I just pointed out in this thread that the corruption is pervasive through all of “gaming journalism” and specifically cited that as the reason why Metacritic scores are completely tainted. So pointing to them and saying “Aha! They’re just like everyone else therefore it’s okay!”

Third, the results of one specific review aren’t the problem: the process is. I was making no judgment on the quality of the game, just the fact that they gave a glowing review to a game that wasn’t remotely finished.

Fourth, since you’re obviously unaware of how magazine publishing works I need to point out that the “December” date does not mean it was published in December. That issue of PC Gamer came out a week before the game did and given the fact that the magazine had a two month lead time then there’s obvious problems with the process.

What it comes down to is their review was an advertisement for the game in a style that has become more common as publishers have gotten cozier relationships with “journalists”. Every six months or so the mask drops off the face of gaming reviews to show how rotten the business is and everyone tsks tsks the one that got caught and ensure themselves that their preferred magazine or review site would never do something like that even when they had been caught before.

I think one of the finest websites for PC games (and only PC games, bless its heart!) is Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Witty, intelligent game discussion and reviews from four respected UK writers: Jim Rossignol, John Walker, Alec Meer, and Kieron Gillen (who’ve written for Eurogamer, Edge, PC Gamer UK and The Escapist, among others). There are also some above-average commenters as well, but the quality varies, natch.