day seven

Mafia II

First Hour Review

Mafia 2 CoverWhen someone talks about the mob, the first thing that pops into our head is probably a great gangster movie. Be it The Godfather Part II, Scarface, or Goodfellas, there are a lot of excellent mob films to land on. 2K Games would like to change that though with Mafia II, the sequel to the 2002 hit, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

Can you even name a decent mob game? Sure, there have been Godfather games, a bargain bin full of Yakuza titles, or even the Grand Theft Auto series, but there has not been a standout mob game since the original Mafia. A game that flew way off my radar, but must have landed on someone’s as it received a lot of critical acclaim.

So here we are eight years later with Mafia II. Yes, the game has essentially been in development that entire time as it was originally slated to release on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 (remember those?). Fans of the original are going to be expecting a lot of improvement over nearly a decade of development, and those who are unfamiliar with the series are going to be asking what sets Mafia II apart from the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Mafia II was released on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows. The First Hour’s Xbox 360 copy was provided by 2K Games.

Split/Second

First Hour Review

Split Second CoverI’ve been a fan of the Burnout series for years, ever since I rented Burnout 3: Takedown for the PS2, it has been my favorite racing series. Friends know that I am not a fan of realistic racers such as Gran Turismo or Forza, but would much prefer a round of destructive racing. As the Burnout series evolved with traffic checking in Burnout Revenge and an open world system in Burnout Paradise, I began to miss the classic vehicular elimination.

Enter Split/Second, an arcade racer from Black Rock Studios released earlier this year by Disney for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. This was just the game I was looking for: lots of destruction in fast cars on skinny streets. Split/Second has an additional twist though, and that is the primary way to take out your opponents is to trigger some kind of set piece explosion.

It’s not easy to explain, but just imagine you’re on a Disney World ride that’s on rails and you can tell the animatronic pirates ahead of you to cut the head off your rival. Now replace the Disney World ride with an abandoned airstrip and Johnny Depp with... well, an airport terminal blowing up in a million pieces.

This is Split/Second, and this is its first hour. Also check out Ian's full review of the game.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

First Hour Review

Scott Pilgrim vs World Cover"No More Heroes: The Movie." That's how I've been introduced to a film that opened last Friday, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, each and every time a friend first mentions it to me. I suppose it's a valid parallel: it stars a maladjusted young adult living on the fringe of suburban society fighting over-the-top duels through an organization in order to win official rights to a girl he already has some sway with, utilizing a presentation style that pays tribute to classic video game quirks. Whatever you liken it to, it's a unique movie worth seeing for any self-diagnosed gaming nostalgist, or anyone who wants to see a quirky romantic comedy that doesn't take itself seriously and manages to make Michael Cera actually seem kind of badass.

Prior to seeing the movie, I played a bit of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, which was released on PlayStation Network last Tuesday and will be available on Xbox Live Arcade one week from today. In an interesting blend of media paying homage to each other, Scott Pilgrim: The Game borrows its name from its film counterpart, its artistic style from the comic series that was adapted into the movie, and its gameplay from the classic video games that infuse the culture of the comics and movie. Specifically, this is a River City Ransom clone if ever there was one, sharing that cult classic's brawler mechanics, RPG elements, and humorous tone.

Considering I wasn't too impressed with River City Ransom when I downloaded it off the Virtual Console, I had mixed feelings going into Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. I'm all for modern throwbacks to the era of chiptunes and sprites, but I've never been a big supporter of the RCR-style focus on stats. How did the trade-off fare in my first hour with the game?

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

First Hour Review

sin and Punishment Star Successor CoverBack when I was a kid, I loved telling people about things that I enjoyed. I would explain, in excessive detail, how amazing whatever I had just witnessed was. I distinctly remember recounting the entirety of a particularly amazing Simpsons episode to a friend in grade school, to the point where he rolled his eyes and walked away in disbelief of my obsession. I understood that he couldn't appreciate the episode without watching it and that my overexcited babbling would do Leonard Nimoy's brilliant guest appearance no justice, but I couldn't stop myself. I find myself thinking back on old times like this one because, as I sit down to write first hour reviews for this site, I look at the massive walls of text that result from my sixty minutes with some very entertaining games and think about just how powerless those words are compared to the experience in my mind.

On that note, I've had to do some significant editing to this first hour review of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. I knew I would enjoy the game after playing through its prequel a few weeks ago for the first time, but my enthusiastic ramblings from that first hour were anything but concise. I threw out a lot of what I had originally written, and it's still far longer than the average first hour review here. If you want the long and short of it up front, just imagine playing Star Fox 64 with one hand and House of the Dead with the other and you've got the jist of Star Successor. Only this version of Star Fox 64 is much more difficult, and this version of House of the Dead has dozens of things to shoot on the screen almost all the time.

I'll just go ahead and say it up front: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is a serious contender for my game of the year. I do hope the text gives you an idea of how the game works and whether or not you should go out and buy it right this very minute, but one glance at the sheer length of this review should let you know just how much I enjoyed it.

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