View Full Version : Guide to writing a game review

11-10-2011, 01:43 PM
Hi all,

I've started doing a little writing for a friend's website. Having read magazines and RPS for many years I'm happy writing short 'my opinion' articles, but realise I have no specific routines for coming up with a level-headed review. The idea of reviewing something big like Skyrim or Battlefield 3 is quite the scary prospect.

So does anyone here have a noob guide to measuring things like a games polish, graphics/sound quality etc..?

I'm asking here as I really like the RPS style and humour. I'd like to post a link to a quick Portal 2 DLC and Crysis Mod review I did for -your- review, but am not sure if this is allowed. Jim, is this sort of thing ok or very naughty?


11-10-2011, 02:31 PM
Don't try to make it objective, every single review is subjective. Bear that in mind and you won't have to worry about silly things.
Don't force a writing style. If you aren't very good with humour, trying to write a humorous review will turn up to be a disaster.
Another thing. NEVER make any kind of list. I've received reviews that listed the weapons that were found in the game and I almost killed the person who sent it. There is nothing more boring and useless than lists. In a review you want to tell people why you think they should or shouldn't play a game. Who do you think would like it and who won't. Talk about what you found interesting, well made or the opposite, what was boring or badly made. If something doesn't stand up either way it's not worth mentioning (for example saying that the sound is just ok is useless).
If I remember something else I'll post it.

11-10-2011, 03:07 PM
Thanks for the advice. Its good to hear I don't have to get too technical. I think I'm better at the humour than measuring overall polish.

I'll make a note of cutting out lists (have you been spying on me?! :) , and not mention things that are of little impact.

The JG Man
11-10-2011, 03:12 PM
Keep it simple. The main point of a game is to have fun with whatever you determine as being fun, varying of course on the genre. At the end of the day, it's only you playing it, so don't try and review for anyone else. Namely, review for you. What did you like? What did you think made the game shine or, perhaps, make it fall flat on its face?

Oh, also, don't do a rating system. They don't mean anything most of the time.

11-10-2011, 03:23 PM
Don't use the word 'gameplay'.

11-10-2011, 03:25 PM
Play the game, describe how different aspects of the game affect you and try to put it into a coherent structure so you're not all over the place.

You read Kieron's "manifesto" (http://gillen.cream.org/wordpress_html/?page_id=3)?.

11-10-2011, 05:13 PM
Thanks everyone. Allot of what has been said is the kind of common sense you can only put into words once you've heard someone else say it.

Its reassuring to hear I can write more as myself and for myself. I enjoy being a complete wit, and love the style of everyone who writes here, especially writers like John and Tim.

As far as ratings go; I like the idea of having quick references such as "You'll enjoy this even if the genre is not your favourite as its amazing", "Worth playing if you like this type of game", and finally "Avoid". But I do understand how this is very subjective, and only take note of it when reading a reviewer I've come to know over many articles.

11-10-2011, 05:20 PM
The decision to include rating is up to the people you're writing for. If it's up to you I think it's better to include a small recommendation at the end of the review as you say rather than some arbitrary number.

And keep in mind, your first review will probably be awful (everyone's is), just keep writing, in fact, write a lot and you'll start writing great material before you know it.

11-10-2011, 06:08 PM
Thanks Tikey. I've seen allot of other links so I guess its ok. I'll offer a sacrificial beer to the great three in the hope I do not ire the wrath.

What do you think of my Portal 2 – Free DLC Peer Review, review - http://tiredbutwired.com/2011/10/04/portal-2-free-dlc-peer-review-um-review/
I also did a Crysis Mod - http://tiredbutwired.com/2011/10/09/modded-crysis/

I think these small reviews are not to hard, even though they took me a ridiculous amount of time to write. How do they look for a first timer, any thoughts (not too rude please)?

Wooly Wugga Wugga
11-10-2011, 06:18 PM
The best advice I can give is to find your own style and write the review you'd like to read.

Cunzy1 1
11-10-2011, 08:05 PM
It depends. Are you writing for the Official Nintendo Magazine? In which case here is their style guide:

PARAGRAPH 1(possibly through to 4). Something about Zelda.

PARAGRAPH 2(5). Mention how the controls really work.

Notes- 1)Try writing the review pretending that any other games not released on a Nintendo format never existed.
2) Caption any picture with fire in it with something about last night's curry?

11-10-2011, 10:43 PM
this is good stuff guys, thank you

12-10-2011, 12:52 PM
I've been writing for a good while but have only started doing games reviews recently, so take these with a pinch of salt:

1) Find a way in. If you can come up with some overall 'thesis' (for want of a better word) to hang the review off then structuring it gets a lot easier. It doesn't have to be something amazing, just something a simple as the one thing the game does really well would work. For example, recently I based one review on the fact that the game changed and got significantly better in the final third, and another on how the game did all the outer bits and pieces really well but had a really bad core mechanic.

Basically, know what the main thing you want to say is. If someone asked you to state and justify your opinion on the game in a sentence, what would you say? Or if they asked you what the most interesting thing about the game was, again in a sentence. Work everything else around those. They'll often make strong intros or final paras too.

2) Hit the basics. If the game has mechanics that are somewhat different to the usual, then you do need to explain them. That can often be very difficult to do without boring the reader to death, so try not to dwell on it and remember you don't have to include every detail, but unless it's self explanatory (you don't have to explain what an FPS is if you're reviewing CoD) then you need to cover it.

3) Tick-off the checklist. It's a horrible approach but there are things that need to be mentioned in a review: graphics, sound, plot/story. If they're unremarkable (not particularly good or bad) then they probably don't need more than an off-hand mention, but it's information that a buyer might need. Obviously spend longer on the story for story-driven games, make more of the voice acting for games with lots of it... and remember graphics means art style as well as fidelity.

4) Find your own way. Write in a way that you would find interesting to read, and hopefully other people should too. Don't try and copy anyone else, just remember that you're attempting to write something with a dual purpose: to inform and to entertain. As long as you don't hugely prioritise one over the other you'll be fine no matter what you do.

12-10-2011, 03:05 PM
Thanks guys.

deano2099, that is some great advice. I'm glad you took the time to explain point 1 as I was a little unsure as to how to do this. So coming up with a general 'theme' to wrap the review around, such as amazing game-play with a rushed ending, would add coherency to the whole thing.

Cunzy11, That really made me laugh. Perhaps being given bad examples (of what to avoid) is just as useful as being given good ones.

12-10-2011, 03:49 PM
What deano said is important. A review should have a flow to it. It should read itself. If you took a paragraph or a sentence out of it there should be a feeling of something missing. Think of it as a story.
In your peer review review you used mostly short sentences talking about bits and pieces of the game, mostly disconnected from each other. You should tie these ideas into something more tight (to be honest I hope you can understand what I'm trying to say as I'm having trouble finding the correct expressions).
Also, if you say something, say it with intent. Taking toy review as an example again, the bit where you say what your favourite levels are feels out of place. What is the value of that, That I know what your favourite levels are? You just have to connect that information with the thing you're review. As in, you say you like levels with the white goo, well, are many of those in the dlc? are they well made? If you bring that up, bring it to say something about what you're reviewing.

Also the first paragraph in a review is the most important part. You have to make me interested in reading your review, your first paragraph should captivate me and make me want to keep reading. Make it exiting or interesting.

13-10-2011, 11:33 AM
Thanks for taking the time to read through my writing and give positive criticism, its really appreciated.

Looking back over it, I think you're right about the disconnected feel of each section. I also like your point about adding facts to my favourite type of level bit, such as how much this occurs in the dlc.

14-10-2011, 03:01 PM
Bear in mind that the most important thing is that you have fun writing, it will show in the text. Try different things. After a while, when you are more comfortable writing try to avoid using the same structure.
Have fun, be fun. I don't think I can tell you anything else.

Oh, and let us know when you publish something new :)

14-10-2011, 08:43 PM
Thanks Tikey.

I've posted a good few small articles now. http://tiredbutwired.com/author/majormaniac/

I'm starting to get more confident, thanks in part to the feedback here. I won't bore you with every post I make, but if/when I do a big review in the future I'll post it here for your review.

I know I've said it allot in this post, but thank you very much everyone. I was half expecting a torrent of insults, but am happy to see the forum is even classier than the comments in the main website. :)