moral decisions

Infamous 2 - Video

First Hour Review

Infamous 2 CoverI vividly recall some trials and frustrations in my time with the original inFAMOUS (not the least of which was that horrible spelling which will henceforth be abandoned), but overall I really enjoyed the game. As much as the sticky platforming, messy mission design, and transparent morality system bothered me, I ultimately had a great time surfing on power lines, tossing electric grenades, and guiding a concentrated lightning storm down alleys of soon-to-be-corpses. It was inevitable that the game would get a sequel due to its ending (and the sad, predictable nature of this industry), and I really hoped that Sucker Punch would iron out a few of the teeth-grating problems I had with the original.

Lo and behold, it's one month and two years later, and there's another Infamous game. Boasting a locale with more colors than gray, melee combat that's not completely worthless, and the promise of acquiring more elemental powers, Infamous 2 certainly seems like the kind of sequel that boasts incremental improvements over the original and hasn't yet worn out the franchise's welcome. Pretty typical of a "2," really.

I find it amusing that the game arrived in my mailbox last Monday, the same day that Sony featured a trailer from the game in its E3 conference. Shortly after their presentation, I had my first taste of Infamous 2. I grabbed three clips from my first hour: arrival at the new sandbox city of New Marais, the first new power tutorial, and an early choice between good and evil sidequests.

Mass Effect 2 - Zaeed: The Price of Revenge

Downloadable Content

Mass Effect 2 CoverThe supposedly final piece of Mass Effect 2 downloadable content was released recently, and while Arrival bridges the gap between Mass Effect 2 and 3, Zaeed - The Price of Revenge was available at release basically as an incentive not to rent the game or buy it used. Within Price of Revenge is the game's first downloadable character, Zaeed, a gritty mercenary who can pretty much be boiled down to as Wrex the Human - scars and all. We also get Zaeed's loyalty mission, a short little romp into the history of this rather bland character.

Due to how EA set up Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network, if you didn't buy the game new, you had to purchase separate access to the Network just to play this particular piece of downloadable content along with the Normandy Crash Site that I reviewed recently. I'm not sure if EA originally wanted every piece of DLC behind this paywall, but this is pretty much it for substantial content that the Cerberus Network required. That's a good thing.

So here's another quick review of some content I've been meaning to cover for a while. It's my goal to completely cover Mass Effect 2 before number 3 is released in six months or so.

Fable III

First Hour Review

Fable 3 CoverI wasn’t much of a fan of Fable II, so I’ll be honest to say that Fable III has a lot to prove to get me to play past the first hour. The gameplay needed a lot of improvement to start, and the overall presentation of Fable II just felt stuttering and lazy. I do have some hopes that developers can learn from their mistakes, however.

Released in October of last year, Fable III received good scores from major review outlets and had sold over two million copies by the end of the year. A respectable number, though creator Peter Molyneux says it needs to sell about five million for the series to continue. I’m not an industry analyst but this seems like a long way to go now that the holiday season is over.

While I may not like the finished product much, I will probably continue to play the first hour of Molyneux’s games though as he can just be so fiendishly over the top with his ambition and pride. Will Fable III be able to succeed where its predecessor faltered? Or will its first hour lock me in? Let’s find out.

Mass Effect 2 (PS3)

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 ps3 CoverSome games are just so damn popular and beloved that you can't ignore them, no matter how hard you try.

When Mass Effect invaded my world in 2007, I couldn't have cared less. Sure, it was from the same BioWare that produced the excellent Knights of the Old Republic, and seducing blue women sounded like a pretty good time, but it definitely wasn't enough to put a 360 in my life. I'd grown weary of shooters of all kinds since burning out on Halo 2, and with RPG elements mashed in, it only seemed less enticing. I even gave the game a try last year on a friend's machine and didn't make it off the Citadel before losing interest.

The hype hasn't fallen on deaf ears, though. The rave reviews, rave first hour reviews, GOTY awards, and FOX News scare tactic hilarity all kept me up at night, wondering if I was missing out. EA was intent on making me give the series another shot, as they recently completed a PS3 port of Mass Effect 2. Because one of the series' bullet points is importing player-dictated narrative choices from the first game into the second, Dark Horse Comics was called in to help create a short interactive comic that fills in PS3 owners on some of the events that they missed out on from Commander Shepard's first adventure, even allowing the player to make some of the more important decisions to impact their experience with the full sequel.

As it turns out, that comic is DLC, unlockable either by a code included in the game's box or for $15. I rented the game and didn't plan on shelling out fifteen bucks for a fifteen minute comic, so I ended up going into the sequel without much knowledge from the first game. From that starting point aboard the exploding Normandy to the final trip through the Omega 4 relay, I've experienced just about everything included on the PS3 disc of Mass Effect 2 -- as much as you can in one playthrough, anyway -- as Elmer Shepard, a Vanguard of equal parts paragon and renegade, lover and fighter, savior and failure. And sometimes he forgets to feed his fish, and they die.

Greg has already written about the Mass Effect series extensively, having played both games and plenty of extra content on the 360. With that in mind, I'll try (but likely fail) to keep this brief. If you need a primer or refresher for the series, check out one of his excellent writeups. An avid fan of the series, he does a much better job of explaining the core elements of Mass Effect than I could.

Disney Epic Mickey

First Hour Review

Disney Epic Mickey CoverMickey Mouse was never a big part of my early life. I guess that's to be expected: my grandfather remembers seeing Mickey Mouse cartoons when he was young, and a kids' cartoon character can only stay relevant for so long. I've never been into the whole corruption-of-childhood-icons thing, either. It always sort of struck me as puerile and cheap, like finding a genitalia-spacecraft dogfight penciled into the margins of a social studies textbook.

So when I first saw the Game Informer cover art for a dark take on Disney called Epic Mickey, I scoffed. I'd never imagined such a thing would exist, and I couldn't fathom it being worth a damn. I let out an unapproving sigh as I skimmed over the concept art in the magazine, featuring mechanical perversions of classic Disney characters. The designs themselves didn't bother me beyond their tired post-apocalyptic, steampunk styles, but the concept itself seemed like something a goth 7th grader might come up with after being dragged to Disney World by his family.

As it turns out, all of that imagery was just pre-production concept, used in the magazine to create as much hype as the shock value could muster. The final product has a safer appearance, one that most would say is more "tame." I think it's just less gimmicky. Further details would catch my interest as well, including the use of forgotten Disney properties to create an off-kilter gameworld (rather than just a dark one) and the moral freedom system that's supervised by a guy who excels at that sort of thing.

It's been a strange hype cycle, but Epic Mickey has finally arrived. For the first time, I'm actually anticipating a Mickey Mouse property. Is my newfound interest warranted, or should I have left it in the trash with that issue of Game Informer?

Fable II

Full Review

Fable 2 CoverThis was not a great way to kick off 2011, Fable II is a below average action RPG that exhibits all the same qualities of nearly every other Peter Molyneux game: far too much ambition in a totally lackluster package.

Fable II was released in October of 2008 to much hype, praise, and handfuls of cash. I'm apparently in the critic minority by not enjoying Fable II as it has a Metacritic rating of 89 and received Game of the Year award honors from outlets X-Play and Joystiq in a year that featured Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4  (if my respect for G4 could have gone any lower, it just has). But that is their opinion, and this is mine.

I'm going to try and keep my full reviews a bit shorter this year, I spent an extraordinary amount of time writing them in 2010 (what with there being about 30 of them and all), and I would like to focus my efforts back to the first hour reviews where it belongs. Speaking of first hour reviews, here's Fable II's.

Fable II

First Hour Review

Fable 2 CoverI once owned an Xbox for what it was intended: to play games. Now it sits under just about every television in my house as an excellent, but dated, media center running XBMC. Games have taken up about 1% of its total processing power over its life.

But at one point, it was the darling of my dorm room with Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. There was another game though that caught our attention, and that was Fable. I have no idea what originally drove me towards this game, but I pre-ordered Fable from GameStop and even received some throwaway bonus DVD that I would never watch.

Three of us in our house played Fable, and we all played different classes (warrior, mage, and archer) which made for three entirely diverse 15 hour gaming experiences. My roommate could one-shot werewolves from across the map and my other roommate’s hero looked to be about 150 years old after draining his body from excessive magic use. My warrior was scarred and muscular; I’d like to say that these avatars represented us in real life, but that would be a stretch.

Fable 2’s release, like many games this generation, came and went for me without much notice. I’m trying to be much more selective with what I played, and while I enjoyed my first Fable experience, I wasn’t that interested in returning to Albion.

But in time-honored First Hour tradition, with Fable 3 just released a few months ago, it is now time to play Fable 2. Here is its first hour.

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