Writing games reviews is tougher than many people think: not only do you need some skill with words, you need to develop an ability to accurately explain what you are trying to say. Too many people get caught up in the small details; a good review gives an overall impression, and avoids cliché, vagueness and colloquialisms.
So, where do you begin?
Firstly, the key thing with any article is structure: your piece (whatever it is) needs a clear beginning, middle, and end. Some people write an outline first; just a few lines, detailing the core points to be made over the whole article. Some launch straight into their piece, and re-write sections at a time.
Generally, with a review, your beginning sets the scene: what the game is, type of game, who made it, a little bit of history (such as previous titles, or similar games) and maybe a little bit of lead in.
The middle fleshes out your opinions: try to group ideas together. If you want to do subheaders (graphics, sound, gameplay, etc.) that’s fine, but try to be direct. “The graphics are good” is OK, but you need to put why. Aim to contain each bit of info in its own sentence, i.e.:
Firstly, I have to say that Call of Pripyat really doesn´t look all that great(my opinion on it). The first game was no stunner, and although there have been a few tweaks to the engine (including DX11 support), we are still dealing with 4 year old tech, and it really shows (why I think it doesn’t look great). Models are blocky, textures are sometimes low-res, and the effects to try to hide the rough edges don´t really succeed (clarification).
The end is a summing up: what are the most important things about the game? Imagine you are telling your friend why they should or shouldn´t buy it: what would you say? Also, it is always nice to “loop the article”; this means put a link back to the opening paragraph (did your questions get answered? did you end up feeling satisfied with the overall tale?).
Another two really important things: sentences should be relatively short, and grouped into paragraphs that work together. Each sentence should contain one pertinent bit of info, and never repeat a word (I normally use an online thesaurus: you type in the word, and a load of alternatives come up!). Also, try to economise: is each thing you write essential to the overall article?
Finally, (and most important of all!), get into the habit of writing a piece, spellchecking (editors hate bad spelling!) then putting it aside for a day or two. Then go back, re-read it, and see if you are 100% happy with it. If you are, great, send it. If not, you will find it easy to spot what is wrong, and change it. It´s a great habit to get into, as a lot of editors are quite unforgiving, and tend to drop or accept any piece based on the first two paragraphs.
There are loads more tips, tricks and ideas (please post your own below), but this article serves as a starting point. Always try to look at what you are writing from a readers point of view: are you boring them? Have you made all of the important points you wished to make? Could you sum up your entire article in two or three sentences?
And most of all: enjoy it. The best articles are written by someone who enjoys what they are doing, and it really does show in your work. Good luck!
Dave Snell is a freelance writer, who among other sites, has done work for YARS under then name of HippyDave.
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