Should a game reviewer play through an entire game before writing a review for it? Some will say no. People that fall into this camp believe that a couple of hours of play time is enough to judge whether a game is good or not. I totally disagree with this notion. I’ll give you some examples of why an honest reviewer, who cares about informing people about a product that they are considering purchasing SHOULD play a game from beginning to end.
Dante’s inferno: If I were to only play the first 1/3 of it, I would think that it’s one of the greatest action/adventure games of all time and that it equals the God of war series. Playing the entire game reveals that after those first few hours the innovative ideas die out and the game becomes boring, repetitive and uninspired.
Dragon Age II: To be honest, about 75% of this game (on my first run through) felt like a collection of side quests and also felt like there was no story to tie everything together. During the final parts of the game however, all of the disparate narratives come together to form a pretty solid story and this in turn makes the game a very good one.
For both of these games, not playing them from start to finish would give you a different experience than you would’ve had if you finished them. Now if you’re reviewing these games and haven’t played them completely then you’re not giving the person reading the review (i.e the consumer) a good assessment of the game and this could end up with them making a purchase that they shouldn’t have or lead them to avoid a game they may have liked.
The only half way decent reason (i.e. excuse) for not being able to play an entire game is time. Some professional game reviewers not only have to write reviews but also attend press conferences, events and also write previews or post press releases. This of course will impact the amount of time that they would have towards playing an entire game. If the review needs to be posted on a specific date and the reviewer hasn’t even started the game yet, then I can see how desperation and necessity will make them write a review after only having spent a short time with it. While I can understand this, I still think it is no excuse. The reviwer should either decline from taking on so many tasks in order to devote all the time that’s needed to the game they are reviewing or if they can’t make the time, hand the review off to someone else.
At the end of the day, if a reviewer doesn’t review an entire game then they are doing a great disservice to the people reading the review. Yes there are exceptions to the rule. One doesn’t need to play more than an hour of Angry Birds to write a review for it and playing a few hours of any annual sports game is enough to do a review but at least for games with story (which most games are) a reviewer SHOULD play the whole thing. Would you trust a movie reviewer who only saw 30 minutes of a 2 hour movie? Of course not. The same should apply to most video games.