Reviews are at the heart of PC Gamer. We've been publishing PC game reviews since 1993 (when we had to walk uphill both ways to review a game) and we have a continuing responsibility to deliver honest and excellent criticism without compromise. We hold ourselves to high standards, and we want you to hold us to them too, which is why we're publishing our reviews policy here for your reference.
We take great care in ensuring the accuracy and quality of our reviews, but that doesn't mean we're infallible, and if we make a mistake, we'll hold our hands up and correct it as soon as possible.
We're also constantly thinking about how we can deliver the best buying advice and criticism, and your ideas are encouraged: talk to us in the comments here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming months, you'll see these policies shape our reviews, changes to our format, a renewed commitment to critiquing unfinished-but-for-sale games on Steam Early Access and elsewhere, and a new approach to reviewing episodic games.
We take reviews seriously, but we don't think that means they need to be dry or academic. Our reviewers write in the first person, conversationally, and are encouraged to share personal anecdotes to support their opinions.
We always aim to assign reviews to players who are familiar with the genre or franchise, and we expect them to become authorities on the game they're reviewing. A PC Gamer review should assess the whole experience as well as deconstruct and critique its components with specific examples—analysis of good controls, for instance, might cover keymapping, sensitivity, latency, animation, and physics. Clichéd generalities such as “the controls are solid” are our mortal enemies.
Ultimately, we strive to publish the most insightful and precise critical thought on games, to give trusted buying advice, and to treat the artistry of game development with the appreciation it deserves. And probably make a few atrocious puns along the way.
What we review
We review and assign scored verdicts to games and DLC available for sale or monetized through in-game purchases; released as complete or marketed without significant caveats (e.g. a major, monetized free-to-play open beta); as well as unreleased games for which we've been provided an early review copy that's representative of the final release.
After a review, we continue to cover notable free updates, but scores are final†. Updated re-releases (e.g. Resident Evil 4 HD), however, may be reviewed.
Early Access, alpha, and beta reviews:
It's our job to tell you whether a game is worth your money, and a game's state of completion shouldn't preclude us from praising or criticizing it. We also understand that Steam Early Access games and other alphas are subject to major changes as they develop, so we don't include final scores in alpha reviews.
We may follow up an alpha review with a scored review when the game is released, or at our discretion. Note that caveats like “beta” and promised updates do not necessarily disqualify a game from receiving a scored review. For instance, Hearthstone was monetized and marketed to a large audience in beta, and we felt it was complete enough to warrant a score.
When a game is released in installments which can be purchased individually, each installment may be reviewed separately.
Beginning later this year, games released as a series of episodes sold in one package (e.g. The Walking Dead, Kentucky Route Zero) will be reviewed differently. Individual episodes will be reviewed without numerical scores. When all episodes are released, the entire season will receive a scored review. Why give a game that's sold as a single package five different scores? We feel this method will be more useful to you: those reading reviews of individual episodes have likely already purchased the series, and those waiting for the season to conclude want to know if the whole package is worth playing.
Online games and review events
Games which require a constant internet connection (e.g. MMOs, SimCity) will not be scored until after public release. Likewise, major online modes (e.g. Call of Duty multiplayer) must be assessed in a live environment before assigning a score, not at publisher-run events. We may post a 'review-in-progress' while playing an online game, documenting our initial criticism before scoring it.
Though not preferable, PC Gamer reviewers may attend publisher-run review events as long as the they can play the game on PC without interference. The online portions of games will not be assessed exclusively at events. These are rare, and if we attend one, we'll note it in the review.
PC Gamer uses a 100-point scoring system, expressed as a percentage. The descriptions and examples here are meant to clarify what those scores most often mean to us. Scores are a convenient summation of the reviewer's opinion, but it's worth underlining that they're not the review itself.
Absolutely no value and/or actively offensive. Are you playing one of these games? Take 3d6 emotional damage. e.g. Big Brother
Yikes. Technically broken, or so fundamentally flawed that it's ultimately not worth any time or money. Bad. e.g. The War Z
Functional, but majorly flawed and disappointing. e.g. Aliens: Colonial Marines, Star Trek
Mediocre. If it has any interesting ideas, they don't work well. Might suffer from bugs or technical issues. e.g. Primordia, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation
An interesting idea that's been poorly expressed, or a derivative idea that's executed averagely. There's something here to like, but it can only be recommended with caveats. e.g. SimCity, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Good, but not a classic. A recommendation, but not a glowing one. e.g. Assassin's Creed 3, Shadowrun Returns
A great game with exceptional moments or features and touches of brilliance. e.g. Arma 3, Gone Home, Titanfall
A compelling recommendation for most PC gamers. Ahead of its time and important to PC gaming as a whole. Making out with greatness. e.g. Dota 2, Europa Universalis IV, Borderlands 2
Absolutely brilliant. This is far and away one of the best games we've ever played, and we recommend it to the world. e.g. Half-Life 2, Minecraft, Spelunky
Advances the human species. Life-changing. A masterpiece and more. Actively boosts the immune systems of nearby children and small animals.
The Editor's Choice Award
is awarded in addition to the score at the discretion of the PC Gamer staff and represents exceptional quality or innovation.
Changing a score after a review has been published is impractical and problematic. Scores are disseminated so widely online that the first score we grant is likely to be the one that sticks, and altering it will cause confusion. Given that many of our readers will learn about our verdict through aggregation services and other sites, we weigh on the side of consistency rather than selectively re-scoring the vast number of games that are updated.
We always value accuracy over timeliness when it comes to issuing a score—in some cases, we may wait longer to review games or post review-in-progress articles to make sure we get it right. That said, a review has to act as a snapshot of a game's worth at the point of release: it'd be impossible to maintain an accurate living document of the value of every game on the PC. Where problems arise after the launch of a game that warrant a second look, we'll let you know about them through subsequent articles. A score cannot be predictive, but we can react to new developments through post-release coverage.