The original Super Smash Bros. was a crash course on the Nintendo properties that I ignored in the early nineties. I learned that the orange robot from Metroid was actually a woman in a suit. I learned that the green elf guy wasn’t actually named Zelda.
I also discovered that Nintendo made a futuristic racing game called F-Zero. Although the Falcon Punch was the coolest thing in the world, I still couldn’t be persuaded to try out an F-Zero game. Cruis’n USA and Wipeout convinced me that racing games weren’t my thing.
Racers still aren’t my game of choice, but a bargain bin find has led me to give the F-Zero series the old college try. It’s been almost ten years since the earth-shattering Nintendo/Sega tagteam effort gave birth to GX, and though Nintendo has buried the underperforming series beneath Wii-branded successes, a small but passionate fanbase still thrives. Is an hour with the game enough to place me in their ranks?
We haven’t played a lot of first hours of racing games: Diddy Kong Racing, Beetle Adventure Racing, and Split/Second, that’s about it. They don’t make for very conducive first hour and usually a gamer can figure out within the first lap of the first race whether they’ll enjoy the rest of the game.
But Burnout Paradise set about to turn racing games on their head. Mixing the super-arcade pedigree of the previous Burnout titles with the open-worldness of the Grand Theft Auto series produced one of 2008’s hits. Criterion Games produced a well received game that has allowed them to branch out and work on last year’s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which also received similar acclaim (and many, many sales).
I have a long history with the Burnout series stemming from a random rental I made of Burnout 3: Takedown during college. I was very excited to play Paradise when it was released but had to settle with just playing the excellent demo for the longest time until I received the game myself for the Xbox 360.
This first hour review was originally supposed to be for the site Games ‘N Beer, which hopefully much like this site, is self-explanatory in nature. I conducted some drunk driving safely in my own living room playing Burnout Paradise with a six-pack of Summit beer in January 2010, with the intention that he would post the review along with my thoughts on the beer. Alas, CJ Stratton has seemingly given up on the site with only one post since then, so I’ve decided to deliver the goods the normal way.
As for the beer, it was delicious and went down smooth. As for the game, here’s the first hour of Burnout Paradise.
Having just finished Split/Second last night at the midnight hour, I’m ready to talk about the experience. It was an intense, blister inducing ride that brought great joy and frustration to this veteran gamer. As I mentioned in my first hour review of the game, I’m not a fan of realistic racing games, but arcade racers like this and the Burnout series have a very special place in my heart (and on my game shelf). The first hour of the game blew me away, even though I played it almost two months ago, I remember the evening vividly. Split/Second was going to rock.
I just reread Ian’s full review of Split/Second (we received a copy of the game from Disney, the publishers, and have been passing it around the writers here - look at the perks for writing for this site!) and I really have to agree with almost every single point he made. It’s a really fun game but can be incredibly frustrating at times. I wouldn’t go as far to say as there’s all out NFL Blitz style rubber band A.I., but the computer is a very challenging opponent, and there are seven of them out there on the track with you.
There’s a list of things I found wrong with the game, but I’d really like to start off by saying that this is a really good game. If you like arcade racers like Burnout, you will enjoy Split/Second. If you like unique genre-mashing experiences, this game might be worth a try. Here’s my full review of Split/Second for the Xbox 360.
I’ve been a fan of the Burnout series for years, ever since I rented Burnout 3: Takedown for the PS2, it has been my favorite racing series. Friends know that I am not a fan of realistic racers such as Gran Turismo or Forza, but would much prefer a round of destructive racing. As the Burnout series evolved with traffic checking in Burnout Revenge and an open world system in Burnout Paradise, I began to miss the classic vehicular elimination.
Enter Split/Second, an arcade racer from Black Rock Studios released earlier this year by Disney for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. This was just the game I was looking for: lots of destruction in fast cars on skinny streets. Split/Second has an additional twist though, and that is the primary way to take out your opponents is to trigger some kind of set piece explosion.
It’s not easy to explain, but just imagine you’re on a Disney World ride that’s on rails and you can tell the animatronic pirates ahead of you to cut the head off your rival. Now replace the Disney World ride with an abandoned airstrip and Johnny Depp with... well, an airport terminal blowing up in a million pieces.
This is Split/Second, and this is its first hour. Also check out Ian's full review of the game.
Some games are unforgettable. After forking over our birthday money at K-Mart, we bounce all the way home in the backseat of the station wagon, wrestle the plastic wrap away from the box, gingerly place the game in the system, and steady our feverishly shaking hands with an anaconda grip on the controller. We don't let go for hours. And when the credits roll, we tear up a little, knowing we'll always cherish that first time through.
And then there are games that are largely forgotten weeks after release. Niche appeal, scathing reviews, or even just lack of hype can doom a game to obscurity and the Target bargain bin. But even these games deserve a second look...sometimes. Every once in a while, a kernel of brilliance can be found within these steaming piles of mediocrity. The purpose of this feature is to sift out some of these conceptual gems and put them under the microscope.
Today we'll deal out the Poker Races from ExciteBots: Trick Racing, and see how easy it can be to add layers of strategy to a game by simply cramming another game into it.
In all my years, I’ve never been much of a racing game fan. Quite
honestly, the idea of doing the same thing over and over feels tedious
to me. While some games, like Need for Speed Underground and Gran
Turismo have offered vehicle customization to try and keep things
fresh, they still seem to fall into a slump of painful repetition.
But Black Rock Studios, the creators of Pure, have strived to come up to a solution to this plague, and that is massive destruction and a game premise unique from any other racing game I’ve ever laid my eyes on. This solution is called Split/Second.
The premise of the game is that you’re a stunt driver in a reality television series called Split/Second, that has these stunt drivers racing against each other in cities manufactured by the television show. While stunts, in themselves, are not entirely new, the massive chaos is extremely refreshing.
We’ve all played Mario Kart, and we’ve shot koopa shells at our enemies and laughed as they were rendered motionless while we passed them into first place, and it’s relatively satisfying to a point, but this is different.
But where Mario Kart is set to stun, Split/Second is set to kill. From gas station explosions and helicopters dropping explosive barrels to air planes crashing on the raceway, this game delivers a completely original adrenaline rush that delivers over and over again.
You’re in control of these beautiful disasters with power plays, which are your weapons in this dog-eat-dog racing world. The way to activate them is to accumulate energy. You can accomplish this by drifting around corners, drafting behind your opponents, and jumping with your vehicle. You also receive a bonus amount of energy by passing opponents while drifting, jumping past opponents and dodging power plays set off in your path.
Our first video review comes courtesy of Steve and one of the all time greatest arcade racing series: OutRun. Steve will be playing the 15 minute continuous cross-country run in OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast. It spans 15 very different levels with one common feature: lots and lots of powersliding. The game is beautiful, so here are two high definition videos of the run, complete with commentary about the game and series.
Talk about an adventure in licensing, Beetle Adventure Racing was released a few months after Volkswagen's New Beetle car was launched and featured a garage of cars filled with just variations on the Beetle. I'm not sure if there's ever been a racing game quite like this, sure Gran Turismo is overflowing with licensed vehicles and there are even games like Corvette Evolution GT or Ford Racing, but none of them take one single car and create an entire game out of it. But this isn't your typical licensed racing game, it's San Francisco Rush starring German family cars. The levels include Inferno Isle, Wicked Woods, and Coventry Cove; sounds more like Diddy Kong Racing now, and yes, there's a four player battle mode.
Beetle Adventure Racing was released in 1999 on the Nintendo 64. I really enjoyed the game the couple of times I played it, as a few years later I was vacationing at Mackinac Island and my friend and I stopped into a local video game rental shop. As I mentioned in my Mercenaries review, there is no better place to pick up great games for great prices than at obscure little stores out in the middle or nowhere. Beetle Adventure Racing and Blast Corps were sitting on the shelves going for a few dollars apiece, easy decision for me. My friend picked up NBA Hangtime if you're curious. While our hunt for cheap copies of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger never panned out, we still snagged some fun games.
So let's continue our month of licensed games with quite the odd one, here's the first hour of Beetle Adventure Racing.
Wheelman is one of those games I always thought looked interesting, but it got luke-warm reviews and slowly faded into obscurity as more popular AAA franchises consumed the markets (as well as my) interest. That is until one fateful day at Target when I saw it on the clearance shelf. Reviewers Note: Just in case you aren’t aware, Target stores generally have a clearance shelf near the electronics department. It’s usually an end-cap and that’s where they put the unpopular games out to pasture, along with poorly selling MP3 players, Barbie-themed boomboxes and other retail failures. Whenever I’m at Target, I make it a point to check that shelf. When I saw Wheelman for $14.99, I had to pick it up. Was it a mistake? Did the game hook me? Read on to find out.
Okay, so here’s what I knew going into Wheelman. I knew it was a pet project for Vin Diesel, an action star whose movies I’ve more often enjoyed than disliked (although Babylon A.D. was a particular stinker). I had read that Vin was an avid gamer and always wanted to be involved in the production of an action game. That sounded interesting enough, but then I found out it was going to be an all-out, over-the-top, in-your-face driving game and that there might even be a movie attached. Okay, so the movie didn’t pan out, but the heavily hyphenated Game got made and was even published by TWO major players, Midway and Ubisoft. The game was developed by Tigon Studios and Midway Newcastle. So, let’s see what the first hour of Wheelman looks like.
Editor's Note: Tigon Studios was founded by Vin Diesel and their first game was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a game I started to play once and I will admit, has a pretty amazing first hour.
Cel-shaded graphics, fast action gameplay, and a rocking soundtrack? Sounds like the perfect game for me, and maybe a few of you readers too. That game would be Jet Set Radio Future, a 2002 inline skating action game released just for the Xbox. With the Dreamcast done, Sega was looking to branch out and become just a third-party publisher and I suppose the original Jet Set Radio must have been popular enough to warrant a sequel. I found it a bit surprising that Sega chose the Xbox, as that pretty much threw out the Japanese audience for a game that feels very... Japanese. Microsoft must have made a deal though, as the game was eventually bundled with Sega GT 2002 and thrown in free with an Xbox.
This was definitely a big time for cel-shaded games, with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, XIII, Dark Cloud 2, and Viewtiful Joe all released within the next year. When executed well, I believe the game's can rise far above in terms of style than any realistic looking video game. Jet Set Radio Future definitely has style, but does it actually play well? Well, let's find out; and no, I won't be splitting time with Sega GT 2002, I hate realistic racers.