We talk a lot on the Internet about an ideal for game reviewing. There's no shortage of helpful suggestions out there on blog posts and in forums, which often contain many correctly spelled words. One of the articles of faith among a certain anti-establishment type is that reviewers should complete games before reviewing. I agree with this, generally.
What about when a game just seems bad? How much time and effort are you supposed to put into something that seems disastrous from the start, hoping maybe it'll get better? I'm not talking about games that are slow to get started. It took me a good 4-5 hours to surrender fully to Far Cry 2, which turned out to be one of my favorite games of 2008. Near the beginning of Fallout, I was scratching my head about some of the quest objectives, but 40 hours later that seems irrelevant. Both of these games, though, showed enough of what was good about them to keep me interested until I was fully engaged.
No, I'm talking about games that start off bad and show no signs of changing tactics. Games that seem to be systemically flawed, whether you're talking about bewildering design decisions or rudimentary errors of execution. The kind of game that, if you'd rented it from GameFly, would have been back in the mail the next day. These games are easy to identify right from the start. I've played a lot of games that seemed good off the bat before descending into mediocrity, but rarely have I played the game that seems terrible and winds up being genuinely good.
It's times like this that I have to remind myself that this is work and not play. That's easy to forget during the good times, when I can't believe some sucker is paying me to play Left 4 Dead. I probably am not going to complete this game (what game is he talking about, anyway?), but I am going to continue playing it even though my sanity would have had me stop long ago. Sometimes I envy film reviewers, because a bad movie is rarely going to be longer than two hours. Two hours in a video game might not even be long enough to finish the tutorial.
I am curious to know what you guys think: How long do you need to play a game to know it's bad? The tautology I've used in the past is "long enough to know it's bad," but I'm looking for an estimate of real hours. One hour? Two? Six? Ten?