Review Policy

Review process reviews tell you whether or not we liked something and why. Our reviews aim to equip you with enough information, analysis and context to decide whether you will find a game interesting.

We select games for review on the basis of what we feel will interest you - whether that's in terms of the game's quality, content or profile.

We select reviewers based on their experience with a series, game, genre or platform, but always aim to balance specialist knowledge against a wider understanding games and game design.

The review is discussed with an editor or editors before publication, but remains the professional judgement of the reviewer. Recommendations (see below) are set by the reviewer; editors may propose changes to them but these are only ever made with the reviewer's agreement.

We expect our writers to spend enough time with a game to understand it intimately, but this is not an exact science and the requirements of different games vary greatly. We trust and expect our reviewers to make informed judgements about what is appropriate. This situation is also influenced by the availability of review materials; we may delay a review if we are not satisfied with the time available.

What we review, and when

We only review games from retail copies, or versions that are identical to a retail copy of the game. We do not review from pre-release "debug code", or alpha or beta versions.

Because we only review retail copies, games will rarely if ever be reviewed from publishers' review events. We may still attend these events for the purposes of other coverage.

We will make every effort to ensure that our experience of a game matches that of the majority of players - for example, by applying 'day one' updates where relevant.

To further ensure that our experience matches players', we only review games that require an internet connection after they have launched and have fully representative player populations.

If a game does not require an internet connection but we judge the online features to be of crucial importance to the majority of players, we will also review it after launch with a fully representative player population.

In the above cases, review timing will be at our discretion, but should be as early as possible while seeking to be thorough and representative. When delaying a review until after launch we will often publish initial impressions before launch, or as close to launch as is practical, if there is no prior access.

We only review public, commercial release versions of games. We do not publish full reviews of games in alpha or beta testing (though we may write articles that subject these games to appropriate levels of scrutiny). We may review 'Early Access' versions of games that are commercially available if we think it appropriate. When games are released as episodic series, we will only publish a full review of the complete series - though we may publish impressions of individual episodes, especially the first.

We always seek to publish authoritative reviews which we don't need to update. If a game's circumstances change in a specific but important detail, we may update a review or change our recommendation, but these cases will be exceptional. If a game's circumstances change in more general and highly significant ways, we may publish a full re-review.

We sometimes review gaming-related products and media: for example, books, board games and films. These reviews do not use our recommendation system.

Review recommendations

Until 10th February 2015, scored games out of 10. Since this date, we no longer use reviews scores. Instead we offer a single sentence summary, plus an additional recommendation badge, if appropriate:

Recommended games are just that. They're the games that we find most interesting, most exciting and most fun; the games that we want to bring to your attention.

Essential games are the best of the best. They're games that thrill us to the core, that get to the heart of what video gaming can and should be. We only expect to see a handful of Essential games every year.

Avoid is not so much for games that aren't to our taste as games that have serious flaws in design, technology or concept - flaws that make them impossible to recommend spending your money or time on. Again, we expect to use this badge only rarely.

Many games will not be tagged with any of these badges. This does not mean we think they're bad games. They will cover a pretty broad spectrum of quality, but typically they'll be games with some qualities to recommend them but about which we have reservations. Those reservations will be significant, but perhaps not significant enough to dissuade players with a particular interest in the game.

For the purposes of maintaining a high-profile presence within Google search results, we pass through a star rating which may be displayed when searching for our reviews: games tagged as Essential will display five stars, games tagged as Recommended will display four stars, and games tagged as Avoid will display one star. All other games will display three stars. We do not feel this misrepresents the intentions of our recommendation system, but for the avoidance of doubt, this is not the 'real' score.

As a courtesy to game creators and publishers, we will notify of them of any recommendation badges their games have received - but only after the review process is complete and up to 24 hours before publication. We do not disclose the text of a review before publication.