Captain America: Super Soldier - Video

First Hour Review

Captain America Super Soldier CoverI think I like Captain America because he's sort of the underdog. In a universe of telekinetic superbeings and indestructible immortals, Cap's basically just a buff dude with a shield with a penchant for punching Hitler. I like to think he's Marvel's Batman, the mere man who needs only his natural resourcefulness (and a liberal dose of super-steroids) to be a star player in the superhuman leagues.

Apparently, Next Level Games sees a similar link between Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers. Charged with developing the game that would tie into Captain America: The First Avenger, the developer appears to have taken some inspiration from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Among other details, Captain America's context sensitive combat style especially reminds me of the dark knight's award-winning game.

Despite favorable previews and some excellent games in the developer's back library, I haven't forgotten that Captain America: Super Soldier is a game with a movie license. Stunted development time, split effort across all systems, and NLG's inexperience with HD consoles kept my expectations low going into the first hour.

The following is a video sample of some early goings in the CA:SS story mode. See Cap fight, decode, and get his gymnastics on.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part One

Half-Hour Handheld

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part one CoverSome months back, while browsing the shelves at our local GameStop, my wife picked out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One for the Nintendo DS; I had earlier warned her of the bad reviews for the Kinect-heavy atrocity of the same name that dropped on the Xbox 360, and we both assumed that the DS version would almost have to be better than that. However, she did not play for very long, returning to her staples of Animal Crossing: Wild World and The New Super Mario Bros. She either lost interest or got stuck; at one point, I had to help her through an unclear potion-making minigame.

With the final installment of the final movie creeping closer, I thought this would be a perfect time to see how solid of a Harry Potter game it actually is. Plus, I had some time to kill while on vacation.


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.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

First Hour Review

Enslaved Odyssey to the West CoverThe First Hour is all about first impressions. But it’s very hard to go into a game without any preconceptions, probably best illustrated by my recent foray into Fable III, a sequel to a game I didn’t like very much. But sometimes games are just so far off your radar, that they fall into your lap as a mysterious disc, ready to be explored and uncovered.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is one of those games. The only thing I know about it is what I can glean from its name and cover art. Let us see... the title alone seems to suggest something related to slavery and An American Tale, while the cover might make you wonder why the slaves are running from a Colossus. And then you might question the colorfulness of such a dire situation, and why that girl from Heavenly Sword is hanging around?

Yes, I am in the great situation of playing the first hour of a game I know nothing about. My first impressions can truly be formed by just the game itself and none of the surrounding hype. But first, a real quick primer. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West was released in 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, developed by Ninja Theory (creators of Heavenly Sword, so that explains the girl). Scores were good, sales were lackluster, and Andy Serkis of Gollum fame did motion capture.

Okay, let’s get into this, here’s the first hour of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

First Hour Review

Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands CoverHollywood and video games have never had a healthy relationship. Ever since the Super Mario Bros movie ruined millions of childhoods, video game franchises of all kinds have received blasphemous silver screen adaptations. The latest mainstream abuse of a video game license comes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I'm not one to praise the narrative of most games, but I really enjoyed the bittersweet fable of the Prince and Farah that the 2002 hit presented. I've heard less favorable things about the movie, and I don't think I want to see how it ended up.

The existence of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the result of one of the strangest cross-media cycles I've ever seen. The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time video game, was released alongside the Sands of Time movie, an unrelated adaptation of the Sands of Time video game. Even stranger, Sands of Time already has a pair of sequels (Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones), but Forgotten Sands apparently precedes them. Even strangerer, the Wii version of Forgotten Sands is actually an alternate tale to the version of the game available for PS3, 360, and PC!

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that. The plotline of the Sands Trilogy was already mind-bending enough with all the time travel going on, but now Hollywood's gone and made everything worse! Oh well. I guess the more pressing topic at hand is just how forgettable Forgotten Sands is on the Wii.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Full Review

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 CoverOne of my favorite activities in college was brainstorming ideas with my roommates. When bored, we would gather in the living room, get out the whiteboard, and come up with some imaginative business idea or a get-rich-quick scheme or an outline of a blockbuster screenplay. The ambitiousness of our outlandish dreams was matched only by our enthusiasm to start making them a reality.

Then, after disagreeing for a few hours about what the title should be for our Atlantis-set romantic comedy, we'd give up and play Smash Bros. For the record, though, I still think "Mermaid for Each Other" is just brilliant.

I get the feeling that Fatshark, the small Swedish developer given the reigns to Bionic Commando after its previous steward was dissolved, had similarly lofty goals and equally tragic work ethic for the series' first 2-D sequel. The result is Bionic Commando Rearmed 2, a sequel that I suspect was conceived with a drive to do it big but produced with a reluctance to do it at all.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Full Review

Batman Arkham Asylum CoverA year ago I played the first hour of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The conclusion was that I would keep playing “for a while,” and much of that decision rested on what percentage of the game would the stealth gameplay take up. I had to give the game back to who I was borrowing it from, however, and Arkham Asylum started burning a hole in my brain. I began to really want to play it again, but the opportunity never came up the rest of the year. When Christmas rolled around I said I wanted one game, and one game only: Batman.

I received the game but forced myself to beat Fable II before I moved on to something bigger and better (if I play more than one game at a time I’m bound to never play one of them again). The moment after I saved Albion again I switched over to Arkham Asylum and went to town.

Released in mid-2009, Arkham Asylum seemed to spring out of nowhere from absolute nobody Rocksteady Studios. Why and how these guys received the criminally under performing Batman license and then went out and made one of the best games of the year is a bit mind boggling, but a story for another day.

Here’s my full review of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

First Hour Review
Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 CoverLooking back, Bionic Commando Rearmed may have been a more important game than most realize. It was one of the first blockbuster hits on both the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network digital distribution models, scoring critical praise unlike any other console downloadable before it. It also arguably opened the floodgates for the proliferation of retro-styled games and HD remakes: more and more publishers are digging up their buried treasure and giving it a spit-shine worthy of the HD era, and just as many are building new experiences from old foundations.

It goes without saying that the company that spawned hundreds of Mega Man games would return to a good thing, so I'm a little surprised it's taken over two years for Capcom to follow up the original retro re-do. Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is not quite the talk of the town in the same way the groundbreaking original (erm, original remake) was, but I've been looking forward to it since it was announced at last year's Captivate event. I'm rarely one to complain about getting more of the same, especially when it's as distinguished and polished as BCR was.

Some will cry foul at "Rad" Spencer's newfound ability to jump (gasp!), but it hardly appears to be the game-changer than many feared. Capcom has even affirmed that the game can be completed without ever taking a hop. I think I'll put that claim to the test for some of this first hour.

PS3 owners beware: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 employs a type of DRM that requires you to start the game while connected to PlayStation Network. Inconvenient for a game that is played almost entirely offline.


Full Review

Magicka CoverIndie games. I love indie games. Many are free, and those that aren't are usually still cheap enough to buy virtually regardless of your budget. Another reason I am a fan of the Indie market is that they're very good at listening to their fans. A great example is Mount and Blade: Warband. After the first game was introduced, fans wailed and screamed for multiplayer, and you know what? They got it. Mount and Blade: Warband features multiplayer that many people find sufficient, and if not, you can modify the game to hit your sweet spot.

But that isn't what I love most about indie games. No, no, no...I much prefer the fact that indie developers have much less to lose, so much more to gain and that means they push the envelope. Hell, they don't push it, they light the sucker on fire and piss on the ashes, developers Arrowhead Game Studios and publishers Paradox Interactive that is.

The game I'm talking about today is a fantastic example of a developer unleashed, and how fantastic it can truly be to see true geniuses able to work they way they want to. That result is Magicka, an action game based on Magic and its elements.

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening

First Hour Review

Devil may cry 3 CoverThe video game industry isn't as surprising as we'd like to think. Sequels rule the sales charts, and even new IPs tend to be paint jobs of proven gameplay schemes. It's easy to point the finger at developers and publishers, but let's take a look at a few of the bigger gambles that companies have taken with their properties.

Back in 2001, the first footage for the next Legend of Zelda caused some serious uproar when, rather than an updated Ocarina of Time fantasy setting, the new game went with a wholly cel-shaded, cartoony art style. Many had been won over by the charming new Link by the game's release, but I bet that just as many swore off Nintendo for good after this "kiddie" debacle. Later in 2001, those who had recently purchased Metal Gear Solid 2 were appalled to find the game had pulled a bait-and-switch, tossing the series' longtime protagonist Solid Snake aside within the first hour of the game for a never before seen pretty boy. The ensuing explosion of discontent was megaton in proportion.

Nintendo and Konami have had their share of death threats on message boards for these switcheroos, and now it seems Capcom's neck is on the chopping block. The long-rumored Devil May Cry 5 was finally made public at TGS 2010 as "DmC," and fans were shocked to see that it would reboot the series with a new, barely recognizable, adolescent punk version of cocky anti-hero protagonist Dante. Further, Capcom itself isn't even spearheading the development of the title, leaving Heavenly Sword developer Ninja Theory in charge. The response has been almost entirely negative.

Amidst all the noise on message boards and in video comments, I realized I hadn't spent any quality time with the old Dante myself, despite how much I enjoyed the modern Ninja Gaiden action games that are often compared to the Devil May Cry series. I borrowed a copy of the franchise's most acclaimed game, Devil May Cry 3 (which also happens to be the earliest in the series timeline) to serve as my official introduction to the outrageous half-demon. It's hard to empathize with the gamer rage that DMC fans feel at the moment, but will I change my tune after walking a mile in the old Dante's boots?

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