day six

Gears of War 2

First Hour Review

Gears of war 2 CoverI was pretty impressed by the original Gears of War, it was totally cliche in every way but the gameplay was fun and it was decently challenging on the higher difficulties, plus it had online cooperative play. When Gears of War 2 first came out in late 2008, I played the first few levels of it with my brother-in-law, I would have first houred it right then and there if I had been playing alone, but it’s no fun for the other guy to take notes while playing (see Zombies Ate My Neighbors for a real life example of that).

But the opportunity has come again for me to formally play it, I don’t remember much so hopefully it will be a fresh experience all over again. For those unfamiliar, the Gears of War series is a third person, cover based shooter starring a bunch of football linebackers with giant guns and chainsaws. It’s bloody and nasty, but can be downright fun and a little frightening at times.

So here we go, the first hour of Gears of War 2, let’s see if it stacks up to the first hour of the original.

Alpha Protocol

First Hour Review

Alpha Protocol CoverAlpha Protocol is Obsidian Entertainment’s first original title after a history of picking up series where BioWare left off, including Knights of the Old Republic.  Released about two months ago and published by Sega, Alpha Protocol is subtitled “The Espionage RPG.”  Definitely an enticing combination of words for fans of Western RPGs.

Critics rewarded the game a very wide range of scores, from 20% to over 80%, so it sounds like we have a love/hate game on our hands.  There’s obviously something in Alpha Protocol that appeals to some gamers, so I’ve decided to give it a try myself.  I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and from a distance, Alpha Protocol appears to be an attempt to replicate its success.

Word has already come out that the cold reception the game received has scrubbed any chance for a sequel, but Obsidian shouldn't complain too much since they're currently responsible for developing Fallout: New Vegas and Dungeon Siege 3.

So let’s not waste any more time and get into the first hour of Alpha Protocol for the Xbox 360.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

First Hour Review

Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess CoverIt's hard for me to go an entire year without playing some Legend of Zelda game, heck, just the first half of this year included Spirit Tracks and The Minish Cap, so why not feature the first hour of another? The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was released in 2006 on the Nintendo Wii and GameCube. It was originally going to be for just the GameCube, but Nintendo thought it would make for a great launch title on the Wii (which it did, got me to buy the system), so then the GameCube release was delayed a month to let sales of the Wii version have free reign.

Twilight Princess went on to win game of the year awards and was generally praised around the industry for its gameplay and presentation. For the sake of full disclosure, I beat Twilight Princess within a few weeks of its release on the Wii and have mixed feelings about the game. It's been almost four years though since I've played it so here is its second chance with me in the form of the first hour review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii.

Heavenly Sword

First Hour Review

Heavenly Sword CoverThe Playstation 3 was a tough sell for Sony back in 2006. Nevermind the console's infamous $599.99 US price tag; it simply didn't have any must-have games in its launch window. Much like the PS2, the system's first year was mostly without a killer app. Even worse, adoption of the Blu-Ray format wasn't nearly as fevered as the PS2's prominently-featured DVD drive. It was once said that the best-selling game in the PS2's first year was The Matrix on DVD: people ignored the lack of games, they just wanted a DVD player, and PS2 provided a cheap solution, which the $600 PS3 was anything but.

Perhaps Sony's first true hope for a must-have game, Heavenly Sword was released in November 2007, a full year after the system launched. The game was marketed heavily, taking top slots in Sony's E3 presentations and making appearances on television months before it was to launch. When Heavenly Sword finally descended onto store shelves, reviews averaged out to a positive mark, though the range of praise spanned from "Perfection" to "disappointment."

As a bit of a 3D action game buff, I've always had my eye on Heavenly Sword, but I'm only just now playing it for the first time. I've got specific tastes in the genre: even God of War managed to disappoint me on some levels. Let's see if Heavenly Sword cuts it.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

First Hour Review

Lego Harry Potter Years 1 4 CoverI’ve played every LEGO videogame made so far. Of all my videogames on the Xbox 360, only the LEGO games have the esteemed honor of having all their Achievements unlocked. I played them to completion as fast as possible, almost as if in a fever. If they made LEGO Schindler’s List, I’d probably play it. Same goes for LEGO Requiem for a Dream. The point I’m making here is that I love these games, and I’m twenty-six, and I’m not afraid to admit that they are just my cup of OCD tea.

Conversely, I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. I’m one of those rare folks that actually read the first three books before the first movie came out and became a worldwide sensation. I had the sixth book spoiled for me on a Lord of the Rings TCG forum. I read the last book in less than 24 hours, locked up in my parents’ basement, only coming up once to eat dinner and not talk to anyone. The movies are hit or miss in my mind, but the world and characters and magic of it all is something I can’t get enough of. Neither can my fiancée. We’re getting married this October and heading to Universal Studios on our honeymoon to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I’ve been excited about this merging of two great entities since I first read about it. I always expected the next universe to be LEGO-ized to be Spider-Man’s. My expectations are high, and after having played the demo that was recently released I have no fears that the first hour for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 will be anything but spectacular.

God of War III

First Hour Review

god of war 3 CoverHistory lesson #1: the ancient Greeks were crazy. Sure, they essentially laid the foundation for western society, but they also worshipped more gods than anybody could possibly remember, all of whom led lives with more dramatic twists and turns than a daytime soap opera. I doubt Days of Our Lives ever featured a giant man made of rock who married his sister and ate his kids, after all.

History lesson #2: in 2005, God of War tore its way into the still-beating hearts of PS2 owners with its brutal take on Greek mythology. The game introduced us to Kratos, Spartan servant of the gods and the kind of pitiless killer that most actual Spartans probably strived to be. God of War sold bajillions of copies, spawned equally-successful sequels on the PS2, PSP, and PS3, and even had its own terrible SpikeTV special for rabid fans to embarass themselves in front of the world. Not bad for fanfiction, is it?

History lesson #3: the action-packed start to God of War II is actually responsible for the creation of The First Hour. The game certainly started with a bang, thrusting the player into an intense situation right off the bat that dropped jaws to the floor. Does God of War III have the same inspirational power?

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

First Hour Review

Dragon Quest 4 CoverDragon Quest is one of the most popular gaming franchises in Japan, but it has always been in the shadow of other RPG series like Final Fantasy over here in the west. Square-Enix decided to see if they can rekindle some interest in the series putting the series on the DS, with remakes of IV and V already released, and VI and IX coming within the year in the States. While all eyes are on IX, let’s look back at the first Dragon Quest remake for the Nintendo DS, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. Originally released on the NES, and then remade for the PlayStation, the DS version brings us new features, a new translation, touched up graphics, and two-screen goodness.

Super Mario Galaxy

First Hour Review

Super Mario Galaxy CoverI'll be the first to admit this review is rather ill-timed, heck, I've already published my full review of Super Mario Galaxy 1, and Nate's first hour of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is already up!  But I had this stored up for the right moment, and unfortunately that right moment came and went a few weeks ago, so the new right moment is now.  Better late than never.

I loved Super Mario Galaxy, what an awesome game.  I didn't even have a chance to really play it until this year, but it still astounded me, the only game on the Wii that has.  I already talked about why I love the game, but here's how I started loving the game.  My impressions of the game's first hour, at the time it had a lot of work to do on me.  I worshiped Super Mario 64 in my early teens but could never get into Super Mario Sunshine.  The game sat on my shelf for months until I finally returned it to my friend.  So here was another 3D Mario game that I didn't really care about playing, but of course I was going to give it a shot when the opportunity arose.

So sorry this is late, but there is always someone out there who hasn't been exposed to Super Mario Galaxy, and here is it's first hour review, just for you.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

First Hour Review

Super Mario Galaxy 2 CoverFor all its talk of innovation this generation, Nintendo seems to be falling back on its old tricks like never before. Alongside its Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus, Nintendo announced two games at E3 2009 that surprised the videogame community: New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

What's that I hear you say? "Big deal! How are new Mario games a surprise?" Well, New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the first 2D Mario game to hit a console since Super Mario World, just under nineteen years ago. And Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the first direct sequel to a Mario game since Super Mario Bros. 3, just over twenty years ago. Nintendo may be feeding casual gamers with one hand, but it's got plenty of snacks for Mario lovers in the other.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii was set loose upon the world last November, and continues to sell like Wii-branded hotcakes well into this year. But Nintendo held Super Mario Galaxy 2 off until this summer, ensuring that they have a full three years to create bold new worlds for Mario to explore. Is the Galaxy worth revisiting, or was one trip to the cosmos enough?

Resident Evil

First Hour Review

Resident Evil CoverResident Evil is the original survival horror game.  It didn't invent horror, but it definitely laid some groundwork as far as the genre went in video games.  It was originally released in 1996 for the Sony PlayStation.  In 2002, it was released as a remake for the GameCube in a surprising deal that had the series on Nintendo's system and eventually led to the stellar Resident Evil 4.  It is the GameCube REmake (get it, RE stands for Resident Evil?  Ah, nevermind) that I will be playing.

So what I want to know is this:  Is this game good, and is this game scary? I've played Resident Evil 4, and had a few good jumps, but overall it was just a moody action game (arguably becoming the basis of the modern third-person shooter).  The original (and remake) had a lot more focus on puzzle solving and exploring, and less on fighting.

I'm going all out with this one.  I'm playing at night, while everyone else is sleeping, with the lights off.  Let's see if we can get a good scare out of this.

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