First Hour Review

Borderlands CoverWhen I first heard about Borderlands, I somehow just knew it was going to be a game that I would like.  I don’t know how I knew, I just knew.  It reminds me of the days when I was 12 years old and shopped for video games by looking at the pictures on the back of the game box in the toy store so long ago.  I don’t know how it worked, but I could look at those 2 or 3 screenshots and read that lonely paragraph and know with certainty if I would like the game or not.  Just like shopping in the toy store years ago, I actually knew very little about the details of Borderlands.  I knew it was an FPS, and I had heard it had RPG elements. I had read a story on Kotaku that discussed a drastic shift from “realistic” graphics to a more “cartoony” cell shaded design.  There was little else I could tell you about the game.  But somehow, I wanted it. 

So, I added it to my mental list of games to play without too much thought. I wasn’t in a big hurry, simply because I’m generally pretty patient about getting games.  This allows me to scoop up great deals from the Target clearance game shelf.  As Greg, purveyor of First Hour, noted in a recent conversation on LIVE, I’m a person who often likes games that other people don’t.  Well, I’m also a person who loves to get a bargain and both traits suit me well for the clearance shelf.  If I wait that first month to buy a game and it’s a critical and commercial failure, there’s a good chance it will see 50% off on the Target clearance shelf. It wasn’t long before I realized that Borderlands would not be one of those games.  Apparently, people were liking it. Good for the developers and bad for my wallet.  This only fueled my desire to play the game sooner rather than later. I finally found a Sunday ad with the game on sale for $39.99 and decided it was fate.  You’re about to read the first hour of what fate decided was a game I must play.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

First Hour Review

Serious sam hd the First Encounter CoverSerious Sam HD: The First Encounter is a recent remake of the fps classic, Serious Sam, both developed by Croteam. While I own the original Serious Sam Second Encounter, I really never played it, being somewhat put-off by the seemingly cheesy nature and waves of ugly enemies. But I recently got the update fairly cheap and decided to give it another shot. After quickly running through the demo level, I start the actual game here, so here we go... and if you wish, you can follow along with the youtube playlist.

Borderlands: It's gonna be addicting

Blog Post

Borderlands CoverI received Borderlands from my brother-in-law for Christmas, but didn't have the opportunity to play it until my other brother-in-law was over to visit and asked to play it.  I watched him play while trying out the new Miles Edgeworth game, but Borderlands really grabbed my attention.

He chose to play as a berserker, and after the initial bus ride cutscene, he was on Pandora and kicking butt.  The game was very open but it always seemed like he had something to do. There were a couple of quest givers, he was leveling up, finding new guns, shooting more and more enemies.  He played for about two hours and had taken out the game's first boss after a few attempts, and then it was my turn to give it a go.

I can't believe I left this game on my shelf for so long, it's... awesome. I haven't played a game like it since World of Warcraft.  The open world feels big and intimidating, but it's one of those perfect examples of sandbox non-linearity with just the right amount of linear guidance.  The quests keep coming and I just kept leveling up.  There were skill points to earn and bigger and better guns to collect. I'm already hooked.

BioShock 2

Full Review
Bioshock 2 Cover

The sequel to the original BioShock has finally arrived, and boy, is it good! BioShock 2 returns the player to Rapture, the underwater city dreamed up by Objectivist Andrew Ryan. Many gamers were skeptical of the need for a sequel, myself included, but developer 2K Marin made me a believer.

I'm not sure how much more I can say without actually reviewing the game, so let's just get into that. As usual, the multiplayer aspect of the game will not factor into my final opinion very much but I did play it for some time and will provide my thoughts on it. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version that 2K Games provided me a review copy of. I am also a big fan of the first game and you can read my review and thoughts on the original BioShock for comparison if you'd like.

Finally, check out the first hour review of BioShock 2 if you're interested.

BioShock 2

First Hour Review
Bioshock 2 Cover

In 2008, I played the first hour of BioShock and loved it. Last year, I beat it and declared BioShock as one of the best games I played all year. That's when I started reading up on the already announced BioShock 2 though. I honestly didn't see the point. BioShock was a perfectly contained game: the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and Rapture was left to crumble. Sequels are usually an easy sell, BioShock 2 was not.

I wanted to give it a chance though, I never like to judge a game without playing it. But I will admit, things are a bit stacked against it. The original development team has moved on to something new, handing the reins to 2K Marin. While they worked on the PlayStation 3 port of BioShock, this is their first new game. You also play as a Big Daddy in BioShock 2, to me, this just screams one giant hand-holding game as you move from body to body with a Little Sister. Talk about one of the worst scenarios a game designer can put the player in.

But let's have some hope here, this is BioShock. It features the same engine and the same world (the single best environment ever to appear in a video game), it's going to take a lot to mess this one up. So here we go, the first hour of BioShock 2 and our glorious return to Rapture. I'll be playing a review copy provided by 2K Games on the Xbox 360.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized

Half-Hour Handheld
Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Cover

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a huge hit, and Modern Warfare 2 was a huger hit. Activision expected that, and decided this wasn't a chance they could pass up. At the same time MW2 was released, the original Modern Warfare was remade for the Wii, and Modern Warfare: Mobilized was set loose on the DS.

This handheld FPS mimics the control scheme of Metroid Prime Hunters, using the stylus to aim and the buttons to move and shoot. This worked out pretty well for the DS entry in the Metroid series.

Modern Warfare and its sequel both have amazing, hi-definition graphics. But how does a studio go about shoehorning that into a system that hosts mostly 2D games? Will the controls work? Will Modern Warfare be the least bit exciting on a handheld?

A word about Half-Hour Handhelds. We review games based on their first hour and whether it's worth it to continue playing. However, handhelds games are generally designed to be played in short bursts. They usually have shorter levels, less overall content (leading to a shorter game length), and less lengthy exposition. Because of this, an hour would be a really long time to play a handheld game for a first impression. It would likely delve into a larger percentage of the overall game and it would not be consistent with how handheld games are usually played. Plus it would be uncomfortable. All that being said, I think half-an-hour is a generous amount of time to allow for a first impression. If I've played a DS game for half an hour and it's not fun yet, there's no way I'm going to give it another 30 minutes.

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.

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.

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.

Call of Duty: World at War

First Hour Review
Call Of Duty World At War Cover

Call of Duty: World at War is the fifth Call of Duty game as the series once again, goes back to World War II. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was simply one of the most amazing games I've ever played, and I awarded it the first perfect score for a first hour review ever (I don't give numerical scores anymore, but I'll let you all know if I play one better). World at War was released in 2008 on all modern consoles and the PC and uses a modified version of the Modern Warfare engine. I will be playing the Windows version.

I was a bit disappointed to hear that Activision chose to set their latest during World War II, since the technology in Modern Warfare is part of what made the game so great. I wasn't planning to play the game, but I received a free copy with my graphics card, so how could I refuse to play at least the first hour of it? Of course, the multiplayer portion of the Call of Duty series is undoubtedly one of the more popular aspects, but I will be limiting my time to the single player campaign.

Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II. Let us hope there is never another one like it.

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