quick time events

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Full Review

Uncharted CoverI was disappointed in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I’ll just put that out there right away. The game received near universal acclaim upon release (it scores an 88 on Metacritic), but I’ve heard rumblings in the recent years that the game has problems. This isn’t uncommon, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released two years later to even higher scores (96 average!), so people discover things to gripe about as time passes. But I haven’t played any other Uncharteds, though the game is over four years old, maybe I’ve just soured on it in other ways.

Released in 2007 and quickly labeled as the year old PlayStation 3’s best game, Drake’s Fortune kicks off the Uncharted series that has gone on to sell millions of copies on both the PS3 and PSP, and is headlining the recent Vita launch. It stars Nathan Drake as the supposed ancestor to real treasure hunter Francis Drake, and combines cover-system firefights with Assassin’s Creed-like climbing.

I recently published my first hour review on Uncharted, along with the complete video of its opening. If you watch it, you should definitely be able to see why I was so excited to keep playing: it has action, intrigue, and witty writing, along with a cast you can’t help but love. But problems eventually plague all aspects of the game, let’s get into them.

Heavy Rain

Full Review

Heavy Rain CoverI am willing to give every video game genre a try, including what Wikipedia describes Heavy Rain as an “interactive drama” and “psychological thriller.” To the traditional gamer, those probably rank right up with the dating sim and train simulators of the world. Why play an interactive drama when I could just watch a movie?

But this is a valid question that can be used to juxtapose any type of media. Movies are an excellent format at telling a story in about two hours, while many games take a two hour story and stretch it across 12 hours with bits of action padding the time. Heavy Rain was created from the ground up to challenge the idea that not only can a video game tell a compelling story, but that it can deliver the same emotional punches that a movie can too.

Released in February 2010 by French developer Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain tells the story of a father, a journalist, a detective, and an FBI profiler all tracking down an elusive serial killer who targets young boys. As one of the PlayStation 3 exclusives I’ve wanted to play the most, I was very excited to get my hands on the game after two years. You can see my first hour review here, or read on for spoiler-free thoughts on Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain

First Hour Review

Heavy Rain CoverSince the PlayStation 3’s release over five years ago, I’ve been making a list of exclusives I needed to play when I finally owned the system. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was on there along with the Uncharted series, but at the top was Heavy Rain, the interactive drama from Quantic Dream. After thoroughly enjoying their previous psychological thriller, Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit), I was ready for whatever the studio had to offer.

Of course, being a system exclusive is annoying when you don’t own that system, so a full two years after its release I’m finally getting my paws on the game full-time (along with pretty much every other PS3 exclusive I was interested in). Was the wait worth it? We’re about to find out in Heavy Rain’s first hour.

If you’re interested in Quantic Dream’s previous work, I have the first hour of Indigo Prophecy available for your perusal. It was actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote, and the game really kicks off excellently. I’m definitely curious to see if Heavy Rain can replicate that energy.

Knights Contract

First Hour Review

Knights Contract CoverSo, it's been a long time since I wrote about video games. I very much miss it. Not just the playing of video games, which has also been very sparse lately as my wife and I are preparing to welcome baby #3 into the world, but actually writing, even just contemplating gaming, video games and the industry. With run-on sentences like that last one, you can really tell it's been a while.

Well, I had the opportunity to pick up a new game yesterday and even the chance to pop it into my incredibly dusty Xbox 360. The poor thing groaned to life as I realized that it was even louder than I remember. After a litany of updates and dashboard wizardry (the new dashboard is still growing on me), I was able to get my game loaded up and running. It felt good to dim the lights and nestle into my sectional for a gaming session.

Unfortunately, I didn't intend to actually play for a full hour and didn't think I'd care enough about this game to log it. Plus, since game time has been pretty sparse lately, I wanted to play uninterrupted and just enjoy it. For that reason, this first hour will be a little bit vague with regard to the minutes, since I'm writing it from memory, rather than from notes or my usual voice recordings.

So, without further to do, lets take a look at Knights Contract, a button mashing hack-n-slash developed by Game Republic, published by Namco-Bandai and released on February 22 for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Captain America: Super Soldier and Captain America: Super Soldier

Full Review

Captain America Super Soldier artAww yeah, it's a SHOVELWARE SHOWDOWN!

In the last two weeks, I started Captain America: Super Soldier for both the PS3 and Wii. At hour's end, I decided to keep playing each game, but with the expectation that I wouldn't actually finish either. As it turns out, I stuck with both through the credits. And I didn't do it solely for masochism's sake: movie license hex be damned, neither version of Captain America is mere shovelware. They won't be gunning for any Game of the Year awards, but they are games worth playing for the right price.

Okay, so they're not bad. But which version of Captain America: Super Soldier is the not baddest? The choice isn't as simple as HD versus SD, like in many Wii port afterthoughts: the parallels are there, but these are two very different games. In classic head-to-head style, check out how each of the versions stacks up against each other in their major elements.

Captain America Wii - Video

First Hour Review

Captain America wii CoverLast week, I checked out Captain America: Super Soldier for the PS3, a decision based equally on hope and whatever horrible curiosity entices people to play movie-licensed games. It was like approaching a derailed train full of puppies: you can't look away from what's sure to be a disaster, but also there's a chance everything turned out okay, and wouldn't that just be wonderful?

Well, here we are again. Another game called Captain America: Super Soldier has been released for Wii. It has the same name and is capitalizing on the same blockbuster movie, but it's a very different game by a very different studio. The PS3 and 360 versions were handled by Next Level Games, a developer that quietly created some of my favorite gems of the generation (in addition to a few duds, apparently). In contrast, the Wii version was in the hands of High Voltage Software, a studio that hyped its first big project to high heaven before the final product would be condemned to gaming purgatory. Since then, the company has released an immediately forgotten sequel and made some noise about what will surely be vaporware in due time.

That said, I can't help but admire the ambition and genuine enthusiasm High Voltage Software brought to trade shows, even if it didn't translate into a worthwhile package in The Conduit. HVS also seems to be one of the few developers that actually took Wii development seriously at some point, so I suppose it's qualified to bring Captain America to Nintendo's neglected little box. My expectations are about as low as you can get, but I'm curious enough to give the game a try anyway.

And hey, video! Watch a superdeformed Captain America throw his mighty shield, solve some mighty puzzles, and even throw a mighty Shoryuken.

Captain America: Super Soldier - Video

First Hour Review

Captain America Super Soldier CoverI think I like Captain America because he's sort of the underdog. In a universe of telekinetic superbeings and indestructible immortals, Cap's basically just a buff dude with a shield with a penchant for punching Hitler. I like to think he's Marvel's Batman, the mere man who needs only his natural resourcefulness (and a liberal dose of super-steroids) to be a star player in the superhuman leagues.

Apparently, Next Level Games sees a similar link between Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers. Charged with developing the game that would tie into Captain America: The First Avenger, the developer appears to have taken some inspiration from Batman: Arkham Asylum. Among other details, Captain America's context sensitive combat style especially reminds me of the dark knight's award-winning game.

Despite favorable previews and some excellent games in the developer's back library, I haven't forgotten that Captain America: Super Soldier is a game with a movie license. Stunted development time, split effort across all systems, and NLG's inexperience with HD consoles kept my expectations low going into the first hour.

The following is a video sample of some early goings in the CA:SS story mode. See Cap fight, decode, and get his gymnastics on.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

First Hour Review

Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands CoverHollywood and video games have never had a healthy relationship. Ever since the Super Mario Bros movie ruined millions of childhoods, video game franchises of all kinds have received blasphemous silver screen adaptations. The latest mainstream abuse of a video game license comes from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I'm not one to praise the narrative of most games, but I really enjoyed the bittersweet fable of the Prince and Farah that the 2002 hit presented. I've heard less favorable things about the movie, and I don't think I want to see how it ended up.

The existence of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is the result of one of the strangest cross-media cycles I've ever seen. The Forgotten Sands, a sequel to the Sands of Time video game, was released alongside the Sands of Time movie, an unrelated adaptation of the Sands of Time video game. Even stranger, Sands of Time already has a pair of sequels (Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones), but Forgotten Sands apparently precedes them. Even strangerer, the Wii version of Forgotten Sands is actually an alternate tale to the version of the game available for PS3, 360, and PC!

I'm still trying to wrap my head around all that. The plotline of the Sands Trilogy was already mind-bending enough with all the time travel going on, but now Hollywood's gone and made everything worse! Oh well. I guess the more pressing topic at hand is just how forgettable Forgotten Sands is on the Wii.

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