Blog Posts

  • Let's talk about paid demos

    Blog Post

    Mega man Legends 3 PrototypeMega Man hasn't appeared in a game since March 2010's Mega Man 10. He's not scheduled to show his face again any time soon. That's so weird. The franchise has been the face of slapdash sequel profitability for two decades, so it's strange that we've gone a year and a half without any original Mega Man releases and may not see another any time soon.

    As recently as three months ago, two Mega Man games were in development. Both were announced last year. Both were canned this summer. While one of those two aborted games was on course for Xbox Live Arcade obscurity, the other was anything but ordinary. Niche series revivals, long-removed sequels, fan involvement, executive politics...the Mega Man Legends 3 Project opened plenty of worm cans in the nine months before its abortion.

    One can, in particular, piqued my curiosity: the paid demo. And I think it might have the most regrettable casualty in the game's cancellation. Before you groan, hear me out.

  • Infamous and The Beast

    Blog Post

    Infamous 2 Cover(WARNING: This post discusses significant plot points of Infamous and Infamous 2 in detail. You are now at the gates of Spoiler City. Turn back if you intend to play the game with a blank slate someday.)

    One of the cornerstones of horror is mystery. People fear the unknown, enough so that they will fill in the blanks with their own personal hellspawn when presented with a few creepy clues. Things that go bump in the night don't need to bare glistening fangs or a bloody hook to terrify us: they just have to bump.

    This connection is easily exploited to make a good scare even better. It sounds crazy that so many left theaters spooked after the Blair Witch Project, considering the titular monster was never shown, yet that's exactly why the movie was a hit. Cloverfield saw that success and adapted it to trailers and TV spots, depicting a Godzilla-level monster attack from the view of those unable to see the monster directly. Video games are catching on as well, with many praising Amnesia: The Dark Descent for providing scares when nothing's there.

    Infamous 2 isn't a horror game, but it makes excellent use of this deprivation technique to ramp up the suspense. The story's core is Cole MacGrath's quest to prepare for the destined arrival of The Beast, a being of such power and wrath that only at his fullest potential could the hero hope to stop it. Throughout the game, chilling reminders of this impending cataclysm are ever present, casting a shadow of despair that even overcasts Cole's considerable predicaments in the here and now. And when the Beast finally arrives, revealing itself at last to the wearied but hardened superman, the suspense is replaced with a dread so thick that it suffocates the player in a way no game ever has before.

  • Uncharted 3 Beta Impressions and Video

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    Uncharted 3 BetalogoI held out on the HD console era for almost four years. Through late 2009, I was happy owning only a Wii, with its quirky library and dependable first-party franchises. Sure, modern online features and the robust third-party support made the HD twins appealing, but I abstained admirably. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was the game that finally forced my hand.

    I don't know why, but I had to have it. Whether it was the tone, the hype, or merely the timing, something about Uncharted 2 commanded me to buy a PS3. Weeks before the game launched, Naughty Dog held a public multiplayer beta; I bought the newly slimmed PS3 and jumped in. I had a great time in the trial, bought the full game, loved the singleplayer, and the rest is history.

    Two years is the standard wait for a sequel anymore, and in 2011, we have Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception to look forward to. Once again, the developer has opened a multiplayer beta to the public, this time nearly six months before launch. Naughty Dog has said their goal is to make Uncharted 3 THE multiplayer game for PS3. Based on my time with the beta thus far, its candidacy can't be denied.

    As I did for the Killzone 3 beta, I will outline the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta's game mechanics and feature set. I've also included clips from a few matches I played on the beta's second day (day one was a mess of empty matches and game crashes, later fixed through a title update).

  • The Gaming Generation - Part 2

    Blog Post

    Game Over ButtonMy name is Paul Eastwood and I used to write for this site. Not only did I write, I hosted and produced the one and only official First Hour Podcast (accept no substitutes!) Where have I been for the past however-many-months? Well, I’ll explain a little of that in this post, the follow-up to my last post, in which I discussed adults who grew up with video games.

    To put it simply, I don’t play games any more. In fact the date of the last podcast closely coincides with the last time I played a video game. Now I know what you’re thinking: “What in the zarking fardwarks?” I suppose it is hard to imagine. Me, who spent so much effort to carve out time to play video games. Me, whose childhood and high-school years are largely dominated by what games I was playing at the time. Me, whose normal conversation incorporates similes involving obscure video game characters.

  • E3, Backloggery, and my new era of mobile gaming

    Blog Post

    e3 LogoE3 2011 is upon us, and while we aren't doing our full blown E3 prediction articles along with daily updates, we are still mighty excited about it. Nintendo's new console will be revealed and we'll hopefully see some new and exciting games for existing consoles including the 3DS, Kinect, and Move. I'm personally looking forward to taking in all the Mass Effect 3 details I can, and will probably be refreshing my Twitter feed (chock full of game developers) every few minutes.

    I'll just take a quick moment to lay out some of my simple predictions that I haven't thought very hard about. Someone at Game Informer suggested that Zelda: Skyward Sword would be delayed/moved to the new Wii console, this seems to make sense, but I'm betting on a dual-system release like we saw with Twilight Princess. Yeah, you could buy Skyward Sword on that old Wii and play in 480p, but over here we have high definition Zelda running in 1080p with the touchscreen controller.

  • Diablo II - History and Gameplay

    Blog Post

    Diablo 2 CoverOn November 30th, 1996 the world was rocked by the release of what is quite possibly the start of the isometric hack’n’slash genre: Diablo. It was renowned for its remarkably dark atmosphere, creative character customization, easy control scheme and extremely in-depth storytelling.

    Not only did it have all of this, it also had online multiplayer via a free service called Battle.net that is also host to virtually all of Blizzard's games.

    After a few years of garnering international success, it was announced that a sequel was in the works. Diablo II was released on June 29th, 2000. For me, educationally, it was all downhill from there.

    This is part one of a multi-part review and historical remembrance of Diablo II. We also played the first hour of Diablo II a few years ago.

  • I Didn't Beat This Game: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

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    Dragon Quest 9 CoverI knew full well going into Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies that it was going to be a long game. Its pedigree was more than enough, I had friends who had played the previous entries for hundreds of hours, and the series is known for essentially being the Japanese RPG.

    But Dragon Quest IX had quickly gained the reputation of being the Nintendo DS RPG, so I wasn’t going to miss out on this event. I plugged away at the game for hours, over 30 in total, but then I stopped. I turned it off one day last August and that was it. I tried getting back into the game a few times, but each time I died quickly or was completely lost on where to go next.

    It’s almost a little disappointing to me that I don’t really have a good immediate reason on why I quit, but maybe I can tease something out of myself with a little mind dumping.

  • Red Steel 2 - Video

    Blog Post

    red Steel 2 CoverA few days ago, it dawned on me that I've been contributing to The First Hour for a year now. A whole year, no fake! Just remembering last week can be a trying experience for me, so thinking back twelve months is like trying to visualize the guts of a black hole.

    To assist my trip down memory lane, I decided to play a bit of Red Steel 2, the first game I reviewed. I gave it a pretty glowing writeup at the time, and it ended up as the runner-up for my Game of the Year 2010 across all systems. The game isn't without its foibles, but it delivered the hardcore shooty-swordy experience that the target render for the original game fooled many into believing possible at the Wii's launch in 2006. That was enough for me to excuse most of its shortcomings.

    To commemorate this one-year anniversary, I decided to capture a bit of video from Red Steel 2 to share. Originally, I planned on making a montage of the dozens of cool abilities, finishing moves, and cinematics that made the experience so fun for me, but then I stumbled across one six-minute mission around the game's midpoint that makes for a good standalone exhibition. It also cut way down on the video editing workload for me, which was admittedly the primary factor for the change of plans. Still, I think it turned out just fine.

  • Nintendo 3DS: One month later

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    3ds Cosmo BlackMy first encounter with a 3DS was less than perfect. I had the privilege of playing Pilotwings Resort for about fifteen minutes in the midst of a particularly loud and busy Best Buy. The stereoscopic 3D was hardly noticeable, though it may have been because the system was locked into the cabinet a few feet below my face. And Pilotwings was...well, Pilotwings. A fine game, but hardly the one I'd choose to impress somebody.

    What was impressive, however, was the strength and duration of the resulting headache. The drive home was almost unbearable, with temples flaring to the beat of my heart and some eye strain to boot. I went to bed and nursed a hangover-level headache for about three hours.

    Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I decided to buy a 3DS anyway. It's hard to believe that the system's already been on the market for a month, but here we are. I've found plenty to love with Nintendo's DS successor but have some concerns as well.

  • Nintendo 3DS first impressions

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    3ds Cosmo BlackWhen I first take home a new system, I like to get a feel for it before I play my first game. I check out the menus, play with the options, and poke around for Easter eggs. I imagine most people brought home their Gamecubes with the intention of checking out the newest Death Star visuals ASAP, but I had just as much fun wandering around the system's cube-shaped GUI for the first time. The 3DS is no different. Before I popped in one of the launch titles, I took some time to feel out every nook and cranny on Nintendo's newest portable system.

    This is a special case for two reasons. The obvious quirk is the system's ability to display 3D visuals without the need for special eyewear. Am I going to get headaches? My personal history with 3D movies says I'll have some cranial pounding and eye discomfort for a few minutes, then an unhindered experience following the adjustment period. On the other hand, when I checked out a 3DS kiosk at Best Buy for about 15 minutes, I had a headache for the next two hours. I'm willing to bet the experience won't be as bad in the comfort my own home. I'm gambling $250 on it, to be exact.

    The second consideration is the apparent multitude of unorthodox, playful features that are bundled in with the system. Early reports have noted that there are a number of built-in features and games involving the system's cameras, data transfer tools, and other special features; there are even augmented reality cards that you'll be able to fool around with right out of the box.

    I've poked around the 3DS menus for about an hour before checking out my first game. Here's what I found.

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