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How we test and review games and hardware

When reviews differ between publications, ensuring ours follow a rigorous testing process is important. Here’s how The Loadout tests hardware and games.

How we test: A Xbox Series X and a PlayStation 5 on a green background

When there are so many critics out there delivering their verdicts on the latest and greatest games, ensuring reviews are consistent and fair is key, and at The Loadout, that’s at the forefront of everything we do.

Since 2019, The Loadout’s team of experts have been putting video games under the microscope. We take the latest games – often ahead of release – and work out what makes them tick (and sometimes what doesn’t). We’ll put our thoughts together letting you know what we think about the game, how it plays on that chosen gaming platform, and ultimately whether you should buy it or not.

But how do we form those opinions? Here, we’ll describe how exactly we test games, gaming and streaming hardware, how we critically evaluate them, and why we do what we do.

What does The Loadout review?

Here at The Loadout, videogames are our bread and butter – especially when they’re on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and (occasionally) PC. However, there aren’t enough hours in the day to review everything that releases on these platforms. As such, we’re selective about which games we cover and when, and what accessories we recommend that you spend your money on.

We will always cover major triple-A releases on the console, especially if they’re exclusive to a particular platform. If a game releases on multiple platforms all at once, we usually pick one platform to review it on – you won’t see multiple reviews of the same game from us on different platforms.

At The Loadout we’re passionate gamers and streamers, so you’ll also see us reviewing gaming hardware and accessories as well. We’re proud of our buying advice, and want to help you to find the best products for you to do what you love – whether that’s going live on Twitch using the best streaming microphones or playing with friends using the best gaming headsets.

We’ve tested controllers, accessories and peripherals that we think it’ll improve the gaming space. We won’t be reviewing every little bit of tech that gets announced, but we’ll ensure that you’ll get our view on first-party goodies and essential gear, as we believe those to be the most important.

How we test games: A Cyberpunk 2077 character in a yellow jacket with a wide collar holds a gun over his shoulders

What our ratings mean

The Loadout reviews products based on a ten-point scale with one being the lowest and ten the highest. Anything graded as a four or lower fails more than it succeeds and cannot be recommended.

The ratings are as follows:

10: Industry leading or defining
9: Exceptional
8: Very good
7: Generally good
6: Above mediocre
5: Mediocre
4: Below mediocre
3: Bad
2: Terrible
1: Failure

How we test games

Like you, our talented team at The Loadout – and our experienced pool of freelancers – are gamers at heart. We know what sets a good game apart from a bad game and we know what sets a good game apart from an exceptional one.

When we test a game, we’re always looking at both the pros and the cons, and think of the bigger picture. If a game isn’t bringing anything new to the table but it delivers exactly what fans want, we’ll make sure to point that out. Similarly if a game isn’t living up to its original pitch or general expectations, we’ll say it.

It’s also important to say that we’ll spend tens of hours playing through a game before we even put our thoughts into words. For most single-player games, we aim to roll credits – unless it’s a 200-hour epic – and in multiplayer games, we try all of the main modes equally.

The timing of our reviews also depend on the window of opportunity given to us by developers. We will always have full reviews out on embargo for games in which we have been given ample time to test, but for games that have come too late into the review process – often a few days before – we’ll either deliver our review late or write it as a review-in-progress. In the latter case, we’ll always highlight that as such, but it’ll remain unscored until the reviewer has had a chance to get far enough into the game that they’re confident in scoring it.

The score of every game we review is considered against the scale above by the editorial team to ensure we remain consistent. Only the best of the best will earn themselves a place on our best games list.

How we test consoles: An Xbox Series S stacked on top of an Xbox Series X and their controllers

How we test consoles

It’s not often that we have the chance to review consoles, but when we do, we know it’s a big occasion. Often, new consoles herald the age of new technology, and deciding which one to get is a huge decision.

As such, we don’t take these reviews lightly. We’ll consider the specs, the variations, and the competitors, and ensure you have ample comparisons between what’s on the market so you can make an informed decision about the best gaming consoles available on the market.

We’ll test the consoles using a variety of different games – although it’s worth noting that often for new console releases, the games available to us are often limited and decided by the parent company. New technology will also be put through its paces and its impact – positive and negative – noted in the review.

Things like portability, price, setup, design, and performance will also be considered.

How we test gaming gear

Testing peripherals consistently depends on what we’re reviewing and why. Quite often peripheral reviews are based on a personal view of using that bit of a kit and are subject to our preferences. That being said, we’ll always think of the bigger picture for peripheral reviews and if we think it’ll genuinely change the game, trust us – we’ll tell you.

For headsets, we’ll play multiple different games – often spanning different genres – so we can get a feel for what sort of sounds the cans are trying to promote or subdue. This allows us to make recommendations to specific groups of players without isolating others. We’ll also make sure we check if they’re compatible with different console platforms and generations.

For microphones, we’ll test them on multiple platforms and in different settings. There’s no point buying a mic unless you know how it performs in both loud and quiet environments, so we’ll put that to the test for you.

Lastly, for controllers, we’ll do extensive testing. As a console-first site, we know that controllers are by far one of the most important accessories to own and with multiple first and third-party controllers offering unique features, it’s important to put those to the test. We’ll check things like battery life, connectivity and compatibility, customisation, and functionality.

How our testing will evolve

The videogames industry is always evolving and we have to be on our toes as a publication to stay on top of the latest trends. We’ll update our review guidelines and scales where necessary and look to always base our critiques on the needs of our readers.

What you can always guarantee from The Loadout, though, is that our reviews will always be informed by our own experience and be true to the points made here.