Finish any games you’re reviewing unless extreme circumstances (such as bugs) prevent you from doing so. For sandbox games, MMORPGs, and other never-ending games, do as much as you can in the time allotted. Unlock as many features as possible, play through all available scenarios/modes, achieve the highest character level you are able to, etc. It is your responsibility to play an assigned game as thoroughly as possible, including any multiplayer modes (make sure to play the game’s multiplayer component, if one exists). Uninformed reviews hurt the credibility of both the publication and the reviewer—something we obviously never want to happen.
The Infendo.com Network’s overall tone can be summed up as “witty, conversational, and authoritative.” This may sound a bit sappy, but write as if you’re explaining the game in question to a friend—discuss what’s really great (making sure to get all the basics in there), don’t pull any punches when it comes to the game’s not-so-good points, and don’t go into detail about stuff like graphics and sound unless they really make some sort of impact (either good or bad).
In general, reviews should be accessible and entertaining. Otherwise, the format is largely open to interpretation and creative license, provided it covers the basics: what kind of game it is, whether the reader should buy the game, and what it’s like to play the game.
Make sure to critique the game you’re reviewing. This may sound obvious, but it’s not uncommon to see “professional” reviews that consist almost entirely of descriptive language, with very little in the way of critical analysis. Yes, you want to communicate what the game is—but you also want to communicate what it’s like.
Some barebones writing basics that we hope are already common knowledge to anyone who writes for us: Don’t assume a high level of reader familiarity or interest in any game you review. Get the reader hooked right away, and keep things entertaining. Don’t use any boilerplate language or clichés in your leads or your closing statements. Make sure you pace your text well, mix up your sentence length (too many long sentences can make things seem too wordy, and tons of short sentences look like unprofessional message board-ish yammering), and take care to craft solid transitions. Don’t template yourself into a lazy “Opening-Story-Gameplay-Graphics-Sound-Closing” routine.
Make sure to get to the point of the review quickly, and use your word count efficiently. A majority of the review should be informative (but also fun to read); decide exactly what you want people to come away with from your review, then make sure it happens. And again, don’t be afraid to get creative…just pass any wild ideas by your editor for feedback first.
We look at game reviews as very subjective experiences, and we’ve published reviews from many of the industry’s most recognized and respected critics over the past 25-plus years. As such, we encourage the use of first-person voice where it makes sense, as this can be a great way of forming a connection between reader and reviewer (just don’t go overboard with it—in the wrong writer’s hands, first-person voice easily becomes a lazy writer’s crutch).
For console reviews, comparisons should be made to games on the same platform or same generation, keeping in mind that not all gamers are multi-system owners.
Special note for four-man Infendo reviews: Interplay between writers is encouraged (especially when they disagree). Along those lines, feel free to ask for the other reviewers’ text (after you’ve decided on your score) so you can play off of them. In the case where you are the second or third reviewer on a game, keep in mind that the “big” (first) reviewer will have covered the basics of what the game is. You shouldn’t repeat this information—instead, just jump right into your review.
Never begin a sentence with “there is,” “there are,” or any permutation thereof. Unless you’re quoting someone, this should never appear anywhere in anything you write—ever. No exceptions.
Limit your use of “is” and “are” as descriptive words. These get repetitive very quickly, and it’s better to find more active ways to describe things. You don’t want to put your readers to sleep.
Avoid clichés. Ready-made language weakens writing significantly. A few banned words/terms: gaming goodness; any type of visuals/graphics (“slick visuals,” “great graphics,” etc.); crisp audio; mixed bag; daily dose; gameplay; water effects; bump mapping; normal mapping; “if you’ve been living under a rock”; any variation of “Object 1, object 2, and object 3, oh my!”; boasts (inanimate objects do not and should not boast); oozing (“[game title] oozes fun”); however (do not start or end sentences with this, please); “[genre] fans, rejoice!”; anything resembling a recipe (“Add a pinch of Zelda, a sprinkle of StarCraft, and stir in some GTA…”).
Stay away from excessive or unnecessary hyperbole. You are not a PR mouthpiece. It’s OK to praise a good game, but give some specific examples about why it’s good. If your writing sounds like it came from a press release or a fact sheet, it’s probably a good sign that you need to rewrite it. Anything that talks about generic 3D interfaces, water effects, particle effects, or whatever buzzwords that the PR dorks made up (like Stranglehold’s “Tequila Time”) generally falls into this category.
Don’t swear excessively—especially with words that are or will need to be bleeped out. If you’re doing it to be ‘edgy,’ find a more creative and less juvenile way to accomplish it.
Clearly identify anyone that you quote or refer to in your text—don’t assume your audience knows anything about the people you’re talking about. Just because you and I know Shigeru Miyamoto created Mario and Donkey Kong or that Tatsumi Kimishima is the president of Nintendo doesn’t mean that our readers do.
You should supply your own screenshots for reviews; make sure to take screens in the highest resolution possible. As a general rule of thumb, you should supply at least three good screenshots per review.
Be wary of using industry lingo (if you must use it at all). For example, never assume anyone who’s reading the site knows what E3 or GDC is. Make sure to explain insider terms like this in your text if you must refer to them at all. Remember, not everyone who reads our reviews is a gung-ho hardcore gamer.
Always fact-check everything you write. If you make a statement, make sure it’s absolutely true and absolutely correct. Don’t write anything that you’re not 100 percent sure about.