Game reviews are always inadequate, in that while they can describe how it feels to control your guy, or how the level design is frustrating, you can only kind of get it. Video reviews help, but you can never be sure you and the reviewer are on the same page — more so than with books and movies, I’d say. OnLive and GameSpot are hoping to change that up a bit by adding instant game demos to reviews, so if you’re curious how a game plays, you can just… play it.
You can see it at work on their review of Red Faction: Armageddon here. Unfortunately you need to download a plugin, free of course, but even that low barrier might be too much for people just skimming the review.
They’re not the only ones doing this: in February we saw a very impressive showing from Gaikai, which pushes games to your browser with no plugin at all. I’ve got Crysis 2 running in the next tab over right now.
That said, who does it first isn’t really the point. Both companies have impressive streaming technology and the winner will be the one with its fingers in the most pies come 2012 or 2013, when streaming gaming really goes mainstream. I love the idea of clicking to fire up a demo, not just because it makes the review more effective (the reviewer can even say “try this in the demo below”) but also because demos these days are gigantic. It’s almost as much trouble to download and install the demo as it is to actually buy the game.
This partnership should be fruitful, and it brings up the whole question of exclusivity for demos — instant play on reviews could be one of those “premium” features reserved for registered or paying members. People tend to find away around those barriers, though.