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Killzone 3 Beta Impressions

Blog Post

Killzone 3 CoverMy experience with the Killzone series is rather limited. A couple months ago, I reviewed the first hour of Killzone 2's campaign, noting that I might keep going. I did end up running through another hour or so, but it takes something special to keep me interested in an FPS campaign, and Killzone 2 didn't have much of the sort. And though I planned on giving multiplayer a try, I never got around to it.

So when The First Hour was given a code for the Killzone 3 multiplayer beta, I wasn't sure I was the man for the job. I've never really been drawn into the world of online play in shooters -- the exception being Uncharted 2, which I played regularly for a few months when it launched -- so I don't have many comparisons to use for my experiences with the Killzone 3 beta. Luckily, I've heard plenty of commentary regarding Killzone 3 versus other shooters over the in-game voice chat that I can relay. And, surprisingly, I witnessed no personal attacks or foul-mouthed adolescents...and only one instance of a microphone being left in front of a stereo playing nothing but Madonna hits from the 80s. I guess that's a fringe benefit of a semi-private beta.

I've spent about four hours on the battlefields of Helghan, and I think I have a good enough grasp on the Killzone 3 multiplayer beta to make a report. I tried briefly looking around news sites and message boards for a comprehensive outline of the beta's features but didn't find any. With that in mind, I think I've constructed a pretty detailed outline of what's going on in Killzone 3 at the moment (at least as of Halloween, anyway).

All in all, despite my indifference to the franchise and its genre before jumping in, and the brief re-introduction to dual-analog that saw many deaths and few kills in my first hour of play...I have to say, I'm enjoying the Killzone 3 experience a lot more than I thought I would thus far. Or, what little of it is available in the current beta, anyway. Hit the jump for all the details floating around in my head.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Full Review

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 CoverRemember that big game from late last year? The one with all the controversy where you shot civilians in an airport, defended America's cities against direct attack, and weren't allowed to run your own multiplayer dedicated server? Yeah, that one. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In my circle of gaming friends this game came and went. I beat it and pretty much put it away for good. Apparently it is still really popular though, and I like to keep track of every game I beat now, so I present my full review of Modern Warfare 2.

The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and is the direct sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a game that features what I believe to be one of the best first hours I have ever played (so good, in fact, that I went on to beat the game in one sitting). The game as a whole was also very good, so I had high expectations for Modern Warfare 2. The first hour of it was impressive and pressed me to play on (but across multiple sittings this time), but in the end, it wasn't able to hold my attention as much as the original.

Here's my impression on the single player campaign, I did not play enough multiplayer to properly grade or judge it, in my opinion.

Borderlands

Full Review

Borderlands CoverSo it's been a while since I've written about games. It's actually been a while since I've played more than a few minutes of one. A crazy summer of children in the hospital, surgery, putting our dog to sleep after a nasty month-long illness, and planning a family reunion has meant that gaming has taken a back seat to lots of other things the last few months. My wife and I have made a name for the summer of 2010. It is, “The Summer of Suck”.

So that explains where I've been. But what is the reason I'm back? Well, to write a Beyond the First Hour review of course! But what game could be significant enough to get me out of my pitiful stupor of gamelessness? That game would be a little FPS that takes place on a planet called Pandora. That game would be Borderlands.

If you've been around The First Hour long enough, odds are good you've seen me comment on Borderlands, either from my First Hour review of the game, or via the comments section where we've discussed it several times. If you haven't, let me get you up to speed; I really enjoyed it. Ok, sure, that's a bit of a spoiler of the review you're about to read, but at this point in my life, I'm willing to do that. The reason is because the fourth and final DLC installment was just released on Sept. 28th.

I've been waiting for this ever since I finished the 3rd DLC back in March. So enough about me, let's get to the review.

Halo 3: ODST

First Hour Review

Halo 3 Odst CoverI don’t know if this is just really good timing, or really bad timing, but Halo: Reach was released yesterday, so here’s the first hour review of... Halo 3: ODST! A first person shooter that came out last year on the Xbox 360. Now, last year wouldn’t be that big of deal, I cover older games all the time, but it’s already out of date a year later (not to mention it being basically an expansion pack to Halo 3 that was released in 2007). I’m guessing this is bad timing.

Haters gonna hate though, so we must trudge on with what we’ve got. I wasn’t a huge fan of Halo 3, so I pretty much ignored ODST when it was released. The game doesn’t star Master Chief, multiplayer is just Halo 3 with some new modes, and everyone knew the real sequel, Reach, was on its way.

Here’s the first hour of Halo 3: ODST.

Left 4 Dead

Full Review

Left 4 Dead CoverWhen I heard the announcement for Left 4 Dead, I was enormously elated. Finally, a game dedicated to fast-paced zombie action. A game I could rely on to really satisfy my urges to kill a swarm of infected. Then, when I saw the videos of people at E3 playing it for thirty minutes and then heading to the back of the huge line to play it again, there was no question.

My hunger for a real zombie game had been stirring for years. I hated Resident Evil, and still do. The idea of searching around everywhere and solving more puzzles than killing zombies -- I was disgusted. The only thing that helped curve my thirst was Counter Strike: Source, where my friend and I would play “zombies” by pitting ourselves against 30 or so bots and allowing them to only use knives. I was even happier to hear that was the way Valve decided to make Left 4 Dead. They did the exact same thing.

I was counting the days in November, 2008, for the game's release. Every day at college just seemed to drag on and on, forever, until finally the day came. My classes felt longer than those of my final days before Christmas Break. When I got done with school the day of Left 4 Dead's release, I went straight to the store to pick up the game.

I purchased the PC version, and played through the entire game in a very brief period of time, but that was okay. With all of the achievements to be had, as well as the scoring and varying difficulty levels, this game had more replay-ability than any game I had played before or since. It never gets old. I love this game, and now I own it on Xbox to play the game cooperatively with my wife. We also spend quite a bit of time online playing against other players. 

Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned

Downloadable Content

Borderlands CoverIf there’s a formula that has worked the last couple of years for video games, it is that zombies makes things more fun. Call of Duty: World at War was wildly successful with Nazi Zombie mode, and the Left 4 Dead series is one of the most popular online games played today. In the near future, Dead Rising 2 will be released and Crackdown 2 will feature zombies roaming around the city during the night. Just about the only series moving away from zombies is Resident Evil, with both 4 and 5 featuring a lack of undead we know and love.

So it probably came of little surprise when Gearbox announced the first piece of downloadable content for Borderlands would be about zombies. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned to be exact. The name itself is intriguing to veterans of the game, as Dr. Zed was a friendly NPC that helped you on your quest for the Vault, raising the question: who is Dr. Ned compared to Dr. Zed?

The answers lie within this multi-hour extra, along with many, many zombies to blow away. This DLC is available via download or by buying the Double Game Add-on Pack disc which contains Zombie Island and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot, which I’ll be playing next. The disc is useful for a number of reasons, while the initial price is the same as if you bought the add-ons online, you can pass the disc on to friends or even resell it. The only catch is if your hard drive gets wiped or you uninstall the content, you’ll have to install the DLC from the disc again.

Perfect Dark

Full Review

Perfect Dark CoverSometimes, nostalgia has the habit of biting back. Hard.  Ten years ago, Perfect Dark was released on the Nintendo 64, and along with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, capped off a great system by pushing it way past its limits.  I gobbled this game up when it was released by throwing parties in my parent's basement and putting off getting my driver's license for another month.  GoldenEye 007 was a great first-person shooter, but we were ready for some Perfect Dark.

Ten years later, and Perfect Dark is ported to Xbox Live Arcade.  I was a bit worried: how would a pre-Halo first-person shooter play against its modern day brethren?  In my opinion, while GoldenEye was the console shooter breakout hit, Halo had set the standard for how they should actually play.  Its control scheme is still used to this day, and imagining myself strafing with the C-buttons gives me the shivers.

For only $10 though, it was a hard bargain to pass up.  Here was a game that I coughed up $59.99 + tax before I even had a job, I could easily hand over 800 Microsoft Points for a trip down memory lane.  My friend Jim also bought the game, and we decided to take the journey together, playing through the single player campaign via online co-op (imagine doing that ten years ago on the Nintendo 64!).  While we had both played the original, I was the more die-hard fan and had pored countless hours into my multiplayer character.  We started up, with him playing as the lovely Joanna and me as the blonde no-named sister.

Some thoughts on the Halo: Reach beta

Blog Post

Halo Reach CoverI used to be a huge Halo fan.  Played 16 player LAN matches nearly every other night during college in the dorms on the original, and then stood in line at midnight to pick up my copy of Halo 2 even after we had downloaded an early leaked French version.  But even though I had loved Halo, the sequel left a bad taste in my mouth.  It was probably a combination of the totally crappy and unfinished story along with the extremely gimped pistol that just left me wishing Bungie still cared (not to mention the horrible "ohhh take it!" E3 Zanzibar video).  My brand new Xbox Live membership went virtually unused and I used my Xbox to play good games like Beyond Good and Evil.

By the time Halo 3 rolled around, I was as unexcited for the series as ever.  Every time there's a new Halo, we always here about how there's now more polygons in a gun than in an entire soldier in the last game. Who cares?  Well, I ended up playing through Halo 3 with a friend and I enjoyed it for what it was, a decent ending to a tumultous series.  Here I was, a guy who had beaten the first Halo over five times including on Legendary, and I was giving Halo 3 a seven out of ten.  What had happened in to this series?

Red Steel 2

Full Review

red Steel 2 CoverThe first third-party Wii game was revealed in the May 2006 issue of Game Informer. It promised intuitive swordfighting controls and unmatched precision in gunplay, all in a stylish Yakuza setting. In the six months between reveal and launch, Red Steel hype built to unattainable levels. Disappointment was inevitable. But even with tempered expectations, Red Steel is barely an average game, and the case for motion controls in action games took a serious blow when it failed to impress.

That said, the game rode the launch hype into some pretty decent sales, eventually crossing the million mark. A sequel was rumored almost as soon as the original appeared on store shelves. It took three and a half years, but the sequel did eventually arrive in March 2010. Barring the focus on guns and swords, Red Steel 2 is nothing like the original: the realistic visuals are switched out for a cel-shaded style, the Yakuza setting and characters are changed to an otherworldly-mix of Samurai and Western trappings, and the hopes dashed by waggle at launch are replaced with renewed fervor for precise motion controls, which are provided by the Wii Motion Plus controller attachment that Red Steel 2 requires.

Even if you made the mistake of purchasing Red Steel back in 2006, don't make the mistake of ignoring Red Steel 2 now.

XIII

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.

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