Why Do "Hands On" Previews Usually Seem So Hands Off?

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Larry Talbot, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. Larry Talbot

    Larry Talbot Second Unit

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    It never fails. I'll see a hands on preview for a game I'm interested in - in this case, Voodoo Vince, for the Xbox - and after reading the preview I don't have ANY better sense of what the game actually looks like or plays like than I did BEFORE I read the preview.

    What is the point of writing about a hands on experience if you don't convey ANYTHING that couldn't be conveyed in a generic HANDS OFF PR piece about a rolling demo for the game?

    If I wrote one of these previews, I would make an effort to describe the actual experience of playing the game, rather than just mumbling the requisite preview buzzwords.

    Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

    "Graphically, Voodoo Vince looked quite good. The frame rate was consistently smooth throughout the handful of levels we saw, and the lighting, bump mapping, and particle effects on display were consistent with the graphical quality we've come to expect from original Xbox titles."

    "lighting, bump mapping, particle effects, bla bla bla." What does this tell me about how the game looks? Nothing. It is a generic description that could fit MANY Xbox games. The only actual information provided is the fact that the frame rate seems steady (but at what rate? 60fps? 30fps? Who knows?)

    Almost half of the preview is just a regurgitation of the game's "story" (often the least interesting part of the game - particularly with a platformer - and a part that is repeated endlessly in hands off previews.)

    If there is anything about what it feels like to actually experience the game in this piece, how it controls, etc, I missed it entirely.

    http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/action/...w_6072018.html
     
  2. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    Unless I completely overlooked something, it didn't answer the biggest question I had about the game -- if Vince inflicts damage on his enemies by inflicting damage on himself, how does he die? I mean, if he's basically invincible from start to finish, it's not going to be hard to tear through the game in a weekend.
     
  3. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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    Hey, give'em a break. I'm sure they spent a hot afternoon cutting and pasting from the marketing materials.

    =)

    -Dave
     
  4. Allen_Appel

    Allen_Appel Second Unit

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    If the previewer isn't just regurgitating from a press release marketing pack, he might be seeing the game on a special invitation from the developer/publisher, who paid for his fare, food and entertainment. I seem to recall where the Counter-Strike X team invited game "journalists" to preview the game and fight in a paintball recreation of one of the levels. It gets pretty bad with OXM and OPM, where every preview touts upcoming games as "the next Halo/GTA" (see Brute Force or The Getaway) and the final games turn out far inferior.
     
  5. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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  6. Graeme Clark

    Graeme Clark Cinematographer

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    I know what you mean, but this doesn't sound like it was very "Hands On".

     
  7. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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    A lot of "hands on" aren't "freeform" as such - they're heavily directed, and heavily under the control of the company giving the demo... Hell, there's a lot of reviews that are like that - scheduled to suit the company behind it, with trips arranged etc for the reviewer to come see the game "under the control" of the company rather than the reviewer sitting at home with a beta disk to play as much/as little/as how they want.
     
  8. Larry Talbot

    Larry Talbot Second Unit

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    "The last statement may imply that this was not a hands on preview at all."

    Graeme makes a good point. And I bet BrianB knows more than anyone else here how things work within the industry. But even under highly controlled conditions, couldn't the writer provide a LITTLE bit of specific detail based on his experience (controlled or not?) Look at that quote about the visuals again: "...consistent with the graphical quality we've come to expect from original Xbox titles." What the hell kind of a description is that?!? Is that phoned in or what? Even if the PR people are hovering over your shoulder the whole time, couldn't you still provide at least some first hand impressions of what the SPECIFIC game actually looks like?
     
  9. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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  10. JayV

    JayV Supporting Actor

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    I closely associate the gaming genre with a lack of responsibility in "journalists". The junket piece is worse than the reprinting of a press release, because I can spot a press release a mile away.

    In contrast, I don't necessarily know that the review gushing over _____ was heavily influenced by a junket or an editorial policy to give someone or something a kid gloves approach.

    Like Other Jay says, they need to stop making these previews look like ads.

    Remember how C|net would carefully say "Intel is a part-owner of C|net" in every news piece about Intel? That's being responsible.

    -j
     
  11. Graeme Clark

    Graeme Clark Cinematographer

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    Part of the reason that people concentrate so much on the scores given for games in the reviews is because the reviews are so drab and poorly written.

    And while I was trying to give GS a little slack in this case, don't take it to mean that I think they are doing fine, because they're aren't! Half the time even the true Hands on freeform (We just got the FINAL Japanese version in the office) articles are just a useless and vague.
     
  12. JayV

    JayV Supporting Actor

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