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If you spend a lot of time reading game reviews, you might have started to notice that they all read, well... kind of same-y. From the rambling screeds of the most pretentious critics to the half-literate scrawlings of preteen forum posters, the common threads - once you know enough to spot them - make almost every piece of coverage read like it was written by the same guy.
This is because, like most writers, game journalists tend to fall back on easy clichés to help them make their points. Sometimes it's lazy, but more often than not, they don't even realize they're doing it. And it doesn't help matters that there's a whole unwritten vocabulary of clichés that's spread across the entire industry, including the press and the companies themselves. Hell, we're as guilty of it as anyone - that's part of what made it so easy to identify so many of the lame utterances that have become ingrained in our industry over the years. Here, in no particular order, are a few you may have noticed yourself.
1. All in all - A code phrase signifying the start of the final paragraph of a review, wherein the writer will sum up the meat of his opinion in a few brief sentences. If you see this at the end of a review, it's a clear sign that the last paragraph is the only one you actually needed to read.
2. Snap-the-controller-in-half frustration - You won't actually feel this level of frustration, unless you're either A) an adult with the mind of a child who never learned to take care of expensive videogame peripherals, or B) a game reviewer prone to fits of hyperbole.
Above: This rarely happens
3. An evolution, not a revolution - A mildly irritating way of saying that the game in question brings a few new features, but doesn't do anything to reinvent its genre - you know, just like 99 percent of all other games.
4. White-knuckle - Frequently used when referring to racing games, with the idea that you'll grip the steering wheel/controller hard enough to turn your knuckles white. Never that great a phrase to begin with, "white-knuckle" became old and stupid the moment Nintendo appropriated it for this misbegotten compilation CD:
Above: Wait, is that a Wii falling off that ottoman in this image from 1991? We must be imagining things...
5. Killer app - This phrase was never as cool as it sounded, born as it was in the gray-flannel world of practical grown-up computing, but it lost any coolness it once had when it was used as the subtitle for a TRON game. It doesn't matter if that game was good - once a catchphrase hits the mainstream like that, it no longer deserves to be trotted out every time a half-decent exclusive shows up on a console.
6. That might not be so bad, except… - "Hey, remember that awful, game-breaking flaw we just talked about? Yeah, there's an even worse one that's so bad, the first one would have been tolerable without it. Why the hell are you still interested enough in this game to continue reading this review?"
7. Seven out of 10 - A clear indicator that either a game has nothing to make it particularly interesting, or that a reviewer has no balls (metaphorically speaking).
8. High-octane - Technically this refers to a high grade of fuel, but in the context of the game industry, it's categorically applied to any racing game that enables you to drive at speeds faster than 35 miles per hour.
9. Shaken, not stirred - A line that Unimaginative Game Critic Law dictates must be inserted at least once into any and every article about a James Bond game.
10. Turn the lights down and the sound up - Ooh, this game is spooky. Better damage your eyes and annoy the neighbors if you want to fully appreciate it.
11. The downside of all this is... - "Oh, heavens no! There is a problem with this game! I know this will come as a shock to you, dear reader, but please, take a deep breath and we'll get through it together."
12. This will appeal to the casual audience - Code for "This game is mildly fun for exactly five minutes, so maybe someone with no taste whatsoever will enjoy spending money on it."
13. "Cheeky" nicknames - Nintendo is not "Ninty." Shigeru Miyamoto is not "Shigsy." Resident Evil is not "Resi," Reggie Fils-Aime is not "The Regginator" and you are not a small child, so stop writing like one.
14. Worth a rental - No. No, it isn't. This is incredibly lazy reviewer shorthand for "Well, parts of it were fun, but I wouldn't ever pay actual money for it. You, however, don't have the option of playing it for free, so I guess renting it is the next best thing."
15. Awful final paragraph analogies - Unable to bring themselves to simply sum up the game and say whether it's good or bad, many reviewers fall back on nonsensical but smart-sounding comparisons. Ex.: Even though the pieces don't quite fit, it's an entertaining puzzle.