First Hour Reviews

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum

    First Hour Review
    Batman Arkham Asylum Cover

    Before tonight, the only Batman video game I had ever played was Batman Forever, a seriously awful "game" that left me tossing my Super Nintendo controller across the room in disgust. You begin the game in a room where the only way out is up, and after pressing every imaginable button on the controller, you simply can not escape.(well, you can, press the Select button and then Up on the D-pad. Yeah Batman Forever, I hate you too).

    So fast forward 15 years and memories of that travesty are all but forgotten and Batman: Arkham Asylum is in my Xbox 360. Everyone's been gushing on this game since its release in August 2009 so I've finally decided to give it a whirl. While I've enjoyed the recent films and filled my afternoons with Batman: The Animated Series, I know nothing about the comic world that the game is based off of. Arkham Asylum, from a non-reader's perspective, appears to be the ultimate love letter to all those Batman comic fans who have been waiting patiently for something... awesome.

    But things are also a bit off for me: the Joker is different, the Commissioner is different, and even Batman is different. But Arkham Asylum is a stealth-action beat 'em up, a genre mash-up I felt worked brilliantly for a game like Beyond Good and Evil. So will the first hour of the game inspire me to keep playing, or will the stealth-based gameplay or unfamiliar world cause me to put it down for good? Let's find out on the Xbox 360.

  • Overlord

    First Hour Review
    Overlord Cover

    Overlord is a third-person action-adventure/RTS published by Codemasters. It takes the idea laid down by Pikmin and Battalion Wars and brings them to their evil conclusion.

    The concept is that you are an evil Overlord, with minions to do your dirty work. Will we have a good time playing as the bad guy, or is there a good reason most games have you control the hero?

  • Phantasy Star Zero

    First Hour Review
    Phantasy Star Zero Cover

    Phantasy Star is back with Phantasy Star 0, the sequel to the console based Phantasy Star Online series. However, this time Sega managed to pack in a complete online experience on the Nintendo DS, allowing four players to connect together and fight in its science fiction/fantasy setting. Phantasy Star 0 was released in November and features not only a full fledged online game, but also an offline story mode for when your friends aren't around.

    Grant has chosen to keep his first hour review limited to the offline mode, it is probably a toss up whether a new player will play online or offline anyway.

    Greg's note: In high school, I had a few friends who were obsessed with Phantasy Star Online on the GameCube. They would come over to my house and just sit on a television all night playing it, though never online. It was the oddest thing and I always wondered why they would play a game called Phantasy Star Online exclusively off. Either way, it was entertaining watching them get wiped out by a boss but mostly everyone was just bored to tears as they discussed drop rates and their latest swords. One of my friends who did play online actually bought the giant GameCube controller keyboard, where a typical controller was mutilated and had 108 keys stuck between the thumstick and buttons. Awkward

    Here's Grant's first hour review of Phantasy Star 0 (or Phantasy Star Zero for you 0/O impaired readers like me).

  • Dragon Age: Origins

    First Hour Review
    Dragon Age Origins Cover

    BioWare has been on a roll the last ten years, kicking the decade off with Baldur's Gate II, delivering more Forgotten Realms fun with Neverwinter Nights, revolutionizing console RPGs with Knights of the Old Republic, revolutionizing themselves with Jade Empire, and of course, introducing the world to Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time. BioWare decides to close out the decade similar to how they started it, with a fantasy epic: Dragon Age: Origins.

    Dragon Age: Origins was released in early November on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It has seen some pretty great success, and is one of the notable games released this holiday season that does not necessarily compete directly with the behemoth that is Modern Warfare 2. While I've never played Baldur's Gate, I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series and am excited to give BioWare's fantasy genre a spin.

    This is by no means the first Dragon Age content we've featured on the First Hour, Grant reviewed the first hour of Dragon Age Journeys, a flash-based web game set in the Dragon Age universe. In October I read Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the first novel set in BioWare's world, though it is not a novelization of the game. Dragon Age: The Calling, the second book in the series is out and is on my to-read list. Definitely check these other forms of media out if you're a big fan of Dragon Age. And on that note, here's the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360.

  • Fallout 3

    First Hour Review
    Fallout 3 Cover

    Last year, I played the first hour of the original Fallout, and I will admit, it didn't go so well. I made the comment that one hour just wasn't enough for a game like that, but I wasn't interested enough to keep going. Well, Fallout 3 has been out for some time now and the series has taken a gigantic leap into the modern, pre-apocalyptic age. I guess the game could be considered an action RPG first-person shooter with the option of being third-person, but whatever the genre is, this is not our father's isometric Fallout.

    Times have changed though, and with Bethesda taking over the Fallout license, it seemed like the logical step was "Oblivion with guns." Whether you were excited for this prospect or not, it definitely seems to have panned out as the game was honored with many Game of the Year awards in 2008. But I like to form my own opinions, and set out to eventually give the Fallout series another chance. I had the opportunity a few months ago, when my brother-in-law asked me to help him play this game. I wandered around for a few minutes in complete and utter confusion, eventually killed some important story characters (and then the game auto-saved!), and was more or less left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

    But I also like to give a game a decent shake, so here is its opportunity: the first hour of Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360.

  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

    First Hour Review
    Legend Of Zelda Spirit Tracks Cover

    The Legend of Zelda is an old and respected series of games. The brainchild of Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, the series contains some of the best-loved games ever.

    When a series continues this long, there's always a risk: either the games stay the same and get stale, or they innovate and don't fit in the series.

    December 7 ushered in the latest iteration of the green-clad hero on the DS. Spirit Tracks is a direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass, which itself was a direct sequel to Wind Waker, making this the longest string of direct sequels for the franchise.

    Set about 100 years after Phantom Hourglass, it features the descendants of the previous Link and Zelda. But what we want to know, is this game any good? Is it the same as Phantom Hourglass, but with a train instead of a steamship? Is driving a train any fun? What will the first hour of the latest Zelda game be like?

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

    First Hour Review
    Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Cover

    The first Modern Warfare is the best first hour I have ever played, it was full of action, had great cinematic yet interactive story telling, and paved the way for one of the best single player experiences ever. All in all, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had a lot to live up to, and I can confidently say it did.

    Modern Warfare 2 doesn't need much of an introduction being the biggest video game release of the year. It's faced a bit of controversy though, both on the gameplay front and with PC gaming fans, but with the sales the game is seeing, it doesn't seem to be affecting its reception one bit.

    While playing the game's first hour though, I was really interested to see how it would live up to its predecessor. The most impressive thing about Modern Warfare was its sound design, I was constantly amazed by the explosions, gun fire, and incessant chatter on the radio. I had never heard a game quite like it. While we kept hearing about the improved multiplayer, graphics, and insane story intended for the sequel, not much was said about where its audio was going. Well, let's see for ourselves. Here's the first hour of Modern Warfare 2.

  • Dragon Age Journeys

    First Hour Review
    Dragon Age Journeys Cover

    EA and Bioware are pushing Dragon Age as the next big fantasy franchise. Even the name of the core game should give you a hint. They are practically calling the main game "Dragon Age: The First One." In addition to two novels and a tabletop RPG, EA 2D developed the flash title Dragon Age Journeys, and episodic adventure that can unlock items in Dragon Age: Origins. The first chapter is free, but gamers will have to pay for subsequent chapters. I knock out the first hour of the first chapter, "The Deep Roads."

  • X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

    First Hour Review
    X Men Legends 2 Cover

    X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an action RPG featuring the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants teaming up to fight Apocalypse. Developed by Raven Soft and published by Activision, it's (obviously) the sequel to X-Men Legends.

    I have never played X-Men Legends. Why, then, am I playing the sequel? In the first game, you play as the X-Men fighting against the Brotherhood. In the second, you play as the X-Men and the Brotherhood, which seemed much more interesting to me.

    How will this game capitalize on this unique license? Will an action RPG be fitting for the X-Men (and Brotherhood)? Did I make a huge mistake in playing the sequel before the first?

  • The Wheel of Time

    First Hour Review
    Wheel Of Time Cover

    The Wheel of Time is a lucrative license: there are now thirteen total books featuring hundreds of characters, a deep and engrossing magic system, and dozens of locales to visit and explore. The possibilities for video games are endless: a Western-style role playing game, third person adventure, real-time strategy... or even first person shooter. Yes, a shooter, and out of all the options, only that has been developed and released. The Wheel of Time was released in 1999 on Windows.

    Much has been made about the game in recent years about how underrated and under appreciated it was. That's a debate for another day, but it did have some serious holiday competition with Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. The game just didn't sell well, and unfortunately, that may well have scared off publishers or right holders from working on any more games. But one needs to consider the genre of the game and the target audience, it just doesn't seem to work. This is a book series that plods along at sometimes an excruciating pace transformed into a game that moves as fast as any other shooter I've played.

    The Wheel of Time is definitely one of the more unique licensed attempts in video game history, and here's its first hour. I'll be playing the game through Wine in Ubuntu, let me know if you have any questions about getting it to run.

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