Iron Man 2

First Hour Review

Iron man 2 CoverYou may have seen our recent article covering a conference call presented by Iron Man 2 developer: Sega San Francisco.  The First Hour was invited to take part in a small pre-release Q&A with two of the people involved with the production of the game.  I sat in on the call and submitted a few questions. It was a good conversation and lots of aspects of the game were touched on, so if you’d like some more insight into what went into making this game what it is, please check it out here. 

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I recently sat down with a copy of Iron Man 2.  To state the obvious, Iron Man 2 is the sequel to Iron Man. Both games were released to coincide with the movies of the same name. As most people know, releasing a game on a movies timeline can be... problematic.  It often leads to rushed development schedules and lots of cut corners in the final product.  Despite this situation, the first game was commercially successful. However, it struggled to win over most critics.  With an aggregate score of 45 on Metacritic, that’s probably an understatement.  However, I was one of the people who enjoyed the first game (while recognizing it’s many flaws), which is why I was chosen/volunteered to review the sequel.  

Much like Greg’s recent review of Saboteur, this game is the final release of a studio before it gets shut down.  Sega San Fancisco, formerly Secret Level Games will close shortly after the release of Iron Man 2.  This does not bode well for the 3 other gamers besides me crossing their fingers for a Golden Axe: Beast Rider sequel.

I went into this first hour with an open mind and reasonable expectations.  Having enjoyed the first game, more of the same with increased graphical performance, control tweaks and mission diversity would be a good start.  Let’s see if they were able to squeeze any of that into the first 60 minutes of Iron Man 2.

The Saboteur

First Hour Review

Saboteur CoverA few months ago I reviewed the first hour of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.  I enjoyed it, but had issues with the controls which really hampered my experience.  Fast forward to... now, and I'm about to tackle Pandemic Studio's final game, The Saboteur.  It's disappointing when a studio is closed down, and definitely scary considering EA bought them out at the same time as they did BioWare (can you imagine EA shutting them down?).  While I never really played any of Pandemic's games, the Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans series were always popular, sad to see them go.

Anyways, the game!  You came here for some World War II open world action set in Paris, right?  Well, this is what you're going to get.  The Saboteur was released late last year on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and has you killing lots and lots of Nazis.  Everyone hates Nazis, and The Saboteur features a ton of different ways to execute that hate into physical violence.

There's more to this game than just beating up baddies, but a city to save by raising their morale and will to fight.  If you're looking for a World War II game that isn't a derivative first person shooter, well this might be it.  Let's get into the first hour of The Saboteur.


First Hour Review

Xiii CoverBargain bins. Sometimes they hold treasures, other times just stuff better left at the bottom where no one can see. Still, I'm poor and always hoping for the best so I can't help but look around. Surprisingly, I found XIII in one of these dumpster dive sessions, and for $1.99 at that. All I really knew of the game was that it was cel-shaded, likened constantly to an action-fused comic book, and a FPS.

A few weeks ago, Games for Lunch's Kyle Orland reviewed XIII's first hour. He died numerous times and was ultimately frustrated with the game's gameplay. Hopefully I'll have a better sixty minutes.

Mass Effect 2

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 CoverI've been delaying writing my review for Mass Effect 2 for a while now.  It was my most anticipated game in years, and I bought it the day it came out and finished it a few long nights later.  I pored over 40 hours into my first playthrough of the game, longer than even my first run of the original.  This was going to be my defining game of 2010, my Game of the Year.  It's two months later now and I've played it more since I beat it, but I still haven't compiled all my thoughts on it.  Half of me wants to write the best review possible for one of the best games ever, and the other half of me wants to make sure it really was one of the best games ever.

I'll start with my conclusion though: I loved it.  It's a beyond excellent game that takes the series and the genre into new territories.  Mass Effect 2 tries something new at every bend and seemingly succeeds at them all.  I had built up an incredible amount of hype for the game, and I can honestly say it surpassed my expectations.  BioWare, my hat goes off to you.

A little more introduction though: Mass Effect 2 was released in late January of 2010 for the Xbox 360 and Windows.  It's the direct sequel to Mass Effect which was released in late 2007.  The game was published by EA and is its flagship product for its downloadable content scheme.  The free-with-a-new-purchase Cerberus Network has provided us with plenty of free and paid for DLC since the game was released, and more is on the way.  It's BioWare's second big AAA title in about as many months with Dragon Age: Origins coming last November.  Everything seems to be going right for them.

So you can tell I enjoyed the game already, but read on to see exactly why.  Here's my full review of Mass Effect 2.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Half-Hour Handheld
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days coverIf you didn't already know, Kingdom Hearts is a crossover series between Square Enix and Disney.  As unlikely as that seems, the games have been quite popular.  Two Playstation 2 games, a GameBoy Advance game that was later ported to the PS2 (I know) and a PSP game have come out of this union.

358/2 Days is the DS (and latest) installation of the franchise.  Although nobody's really sure how to say the title, it was a smart move to develop it for the dual-screened handheld, as more people own a DS than any other system.  The question we'll be asking ourselves today is the usual: is this game worth continuing?  Because it's a handheld game, which I believe should be designed for shorter playing sessions, I'll be playing just the first half-hour for review.

Kingdom Hearts has a lot of... how to say... avid fans.  Personally, I'm more of a casual fan.  I think that strikes a good balance for reviewing this game.

Mirror's Edge

Full Review

Mirror's Edge coverHere we have Mirror's Edge, a first-person platformer of sorts, released in late 2008/early 2009 by DICE/EA. I've been interested in the game for a while, starting from its strong marketing campaign, so I jumped on the chance to play it recently.

It can be briefly summarized that in Mirror's Edge, you are a runner, tasked to transfer information between groups looking to avoid the surveillance of an overbearing government and its allies. As escaping capture is of utmost importance, runners do most of their travel on free outdoor environments, especially rooftops. Thus the gameplay is largely parkour-based, emphasizing proper use of momentum, speed and techniques to accomplish goals. At its best, this leads to a smooth, sublime experience, reminiscent of games like Jet Set Radio, Shadow of the Colossus, NiGHTS, and the original Prince of Persia. Mirror's Edge takes the player further into that experience, locking you to a first-person view with constant reminders of your physical struggles with and against the forces of gravity and objects in your world.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Full Review
Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction cover"Comic book video game."  Maybe not the most successful four-word combination in the history of the world.  But you can't blame them for trying, right?  What could be cooler than playing as your favorite super-hero?  The premise of Ultimate Destruction is that you play as the Hulk, and the Hulk smashes things.  And although there's more to the game than that, smashing things is the basis of the gameplay, and guess what.  It's fun.

This game was developed by Radical Entertainment and released in August 2005 for XBox, PS2, and GameCube.

Ultimate Destruction is an open-world game.  Basically, there are three areas. Two of the areas are huge, the third is a hub that is much smaller.  In each area, you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want.  And by that I mean smash whatever you want.  The main progression of the game involves buying new moves for hulk to smash things.  In order to unlock new moves, you play through story missions.  The story missions are normal comic book video game fare, and they mostly boil down to smashing things, getting from point A to point B while smashing things, or smashing things while trying to keep something from being smashed.

Odin Sphere

First Hour Review
Odin Sphere Cover

If there’s ever a time to start completing your PlayStation 2 collection, now is that time. A bunch of solid PS2 titles are still being sold in the numerous brick and mortar businesses that like to hock videogames. Each one will most likely cost less than $20.00, and given the number of games filling bargain bins to the brim, there’s good reasoning to dig around.

For example, Odin Sphere. A stylized, 2D action RPG based on Norse mythology from Atlus, it won’t win any "games as art" debates, but it could probably put up a decent fight for "games with great art." How will it play though? Let’s give it an hour.

Dead Panic

Full Review
Dead Panic Cover

Zombie games are gaming's latest craze gone wild. With the popularity of zombie shooter Left 4 Dead at its peak, Call of Duty: World at War featuring a Nazi zombie mode, and old classics like Zombies Ate My Neighbors being re-released on the Virtual Console, a zombie outbreak is as ripe of setting as ever. Independent developer Sean Maher has brought the classic hobby of mowing down zombies to the iPhone now with Dead Panic, a tactical zombie shooter. Dead Panic is light on story, but heavy on difficult scenarios for your soldiers to survive. The premise is simple: strategically place your soldiers, and let loose horde.

Dead Panic is our first indie game review of 2010, we'll be featuring five more indie-developed games throughout the month of February. Dead Panic is available on the Apple App Store right now for the very reasonable price of $1.99.

Mass Effect 2

First Hour Review
Mass Effect 2 Cover

Mass Effect 2. It is only the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. It is only the biggest release so far in 2010, and might be for the entire year. It is only... Mass Effect 2.

All right, I'll come back down to earth for a bit. I will admit, I am very excited for this game. I haven't been this hyped for a game since Majora's Mask. But I will try not to let it interfere with my duty as an amateur video game reviewer to answer the burning question: Would I keep playing? (spoilers: YES!)

Mass Effect 2 is the latest science fiction action/shooter/RPG hybrid from BioWare. The game picks up a few years after the first Mass Effect closed with Commander Shepard still in the starring role. The original galaxy threat is still at large, but is taking a backseat to a much more pressing and immediate menace. One of the game's big features is the ability to import your Shepard from save files from the first game. This is one of the reasons I beat the original six different times with four different Shepards. Maybe a bit excessive, but I was just preparing myself for the full experience come January 26, 2010.

So here we go, the first hour of Mass Effect 2. I will be creating a brand new character for the experience. If you're interested in checking out all of our other Mass Effect series content, we've got a ton of it.

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