Gears of War is a third-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and was the original poster child for Epic's new Unreal Engine 3. It's a gritty look on a post alien-ravaged Earth and its main feature is many very large linebackers hiding behind stuff and shooting guns wildly. That's my one sentence summing up, but this game is actually deeper than it seems to be. The cover system, while not completely original, is what all the combat and gameplay is built around. The game punishes you severely for run-and-gun style of play and forces you to be patient in a world of chainsaws and spiked grenades. Gears of War sold very well, but it was not until this last month that I got to play through it completely, and that I did (twice). Now let's get right into my review.
Assassin's Creed is a new action-adventure game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 from Ubisoft. The game tells the story of Altair, an assassin in the Holy Land in the 12th century. Altair controls somewhat like the Prince from the Prince of Persia series, but focuses more on stealth and silent killing similar to the Metal Gear Solid games. But instead of hiding in boxes and camouflaging yourself in the trees, Altair hides himself among the people of Jerusalem, attempting to blend in with the public and not stand out to the guards. This makes for some interesting gameplay as Ubisoft spent a lot of time working on crowd reactions for their new kind of camouflage. Without much further ado though, let's dive into the first hour of Assassin's Creed.
For my review on the whole game, please see my Assassin's Creed review at Beyond the First Hour.
Assassin's Creed is the newest action-adventure game from Ubisoft. Since it was released about a month ago it has seen pretty good reviews and has become the fastest selling new IP since 2002 (The Getaway, seriously??). I can't argue with facts but I can't believe how many unbelievable scores this game has gotten: a 10 from Games Radar, a 9.5 from Game Informer, and 37/40 from Famitsu are just a few scores that make me go "WTF?"
For my review on just the first hour, please see my Assassin's Creed review at The First Hour.
Before I defend myself and get into why this game is both incredibly awesome and incredibly horrible at the same time, let's have a little more history. Assassin's Creed is in the same vein as the recent Prince of Persia trilogy, you can run up walls, kill bad guys with your sword, and basically just do cool acrobatics. Ubisoft made a good decision giving the Prince a break and trying something a little different. Breaking away from the Prince of Persia games, Assassin's Creed gives you a giant sandbox to play around with in three giant 12th century cities. Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus are rendered beautifully and you can tell were created meticulously and carefully. The main character, Altair, is basically a white-clad ninja in the Holy Land, so it seems like it would be really fun to dive into his stealth-killing world. What could possibly go wrong?
Skies of Arcadia Legends is a role-playing game developed by Overworks and released on the Gamecube. It is an enhanced port published by Sega in early 2003. The original game, simply Skies of Arcadia, was released on the Dreamcast in 2000. The game was pretty well received on the Dreamcast and has even ranked on some all time top 100 video game lists. The port to the Gamecube was an interesting decision considering the system was not known for RPGs, but Sega probably figured gamers would be eager to grab up a game when it stands nearly alone in the genre. They were also probably right (hey, even I own a copy).
Anyways, Skies of Arcadia follows a group of sky pirates who steal from the rich and give to the poor. The main pirate is Vyse, a young man who apparently wields a glass sword as some sort of useless forearm shield. He's joined by "up to 22 crew members" according to the back of the box, most of whom appear to be skinny, voluptuous women or tough looking pirate geezers. Not a bad combination there. The game also features ship-to-ship battles along with the typical RPG fights, so let's see how much Skies of Arcadia sets itself apart from those landlubbers in its first hour.
I've recently had the opportunity to borrow a friend's Xbox 360 and five select games. I played the first hour of all five of those for my first hour review site, and ended up playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare last. I did not stop playing until 3 am last night when I finished it. I simply could not put the game down.
I missed out on Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3, so it was kind of a wonder that I was even interested in playing this game in the first place. I gave it a chance however, and I loved it. The previous installments of Call of Duty have all taken place during World War II, which I think has been done to death. Infinity Ward instead made the correct decision to set Call of Duty 4 in our own turbulent, modern day Middle East. This makes for an ultra high-action, technology driven war experience. And this is very fun. I'm not sure how else to describe this game without creeping in on what I want to say later, so let's just get right down to it.
For my review on just the first hour, please see my Call of Duty 4 review at The First Hour.
Well, it's been over a month since I beat a game, this is pretty typical the last couple of years but since I started this particular review site, it's only brought it to my attention more. I recently reviewed the first hour of Psychonauts (actually just on Monday, three days ago!) and I could not put the game down. It may have been a month since I finished a game but it's been seemingly years since I enjoyed a longer game this much. Psychonauts actually came out in 2005 and I've had it in the back of my mind ever since, and just now I realize how stupid I am for not playing it until now. The game is simply a very funny, highly original platformer. Everything comes together in a perfect storm of awesomeness for 20 hours, and at the end, you come away very satisfied.
That's enough introduction, I'll let the categories speak for themselves. All the scores are out of 10.
For my longer review on just the first hour, please see my Psychonauts review at The First Hour.
Psychonauts is a multiplatform adventure game from the creative mind of Tim Schafer, creator of some of my favorite games: Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango. Up until recently, I had never played Psychonauts, call me cheap or call me foolish, but it's the sad truth. Times have changed though and Psychonauts is now a free game at Gametap through the end of the year! That did it for me and now I've been suckered into downloading Gametap and Psychonauts to my PC for the low price of free. Not a bad deal.
A little more on Psychonauts, it was released in 2005 to relatively lackluster sales but has since gathered a seemingly rabid fanbase. It has also been released on pretty much every digital distribution method including Steam, Xbox Live, and of course, Gametap. There aren't a lot of developers out there who are brave (or stupid) enough to make a "funny game," but Tim Schafer has the quality resume, so let's see if the first hour of Psychonauts lives up to his predecessors.
For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Psychonauts review at Beyond the First Hour.
Jet Force Gemini is a Nintendo 64 third-person shooter game released by Rare in 1999. Looking back, it seems like such an odd game: twins Juno and Vela fly around in a space ship and save furry creatures from the evil empire. But when I think about it more closely, Jet Force Gemini really seems like the ultimate Rare amalgamation of their other Nintendo 64 games - Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker's Bad Fur Day specifically. That collection of animal fur and blood and guts really comes together on this cartridge.
The game also has some interesting history during development. I used to read IGN very closely and I remember the day when some new character art was released and the twins went from being bland to sexy. Now it seems like they did this just so they could give Vela boobs, but I suppose breast sells and that's their right. Anyways, now you know all of Jet Force Gemini's exciting history (there wasn't much to cover), so let's get right into the review.
SimCity Societies is the newest entry in the long and respected SimCity series. However, as you may or may not have heard, Societies is a radical departure from the traditional SimCity game. Gone is most of the micro-management you dealt with as being mayor and gone is zoning to lay the groundwork for your city. Now you are more of the city's grand architect and visionary. You decide what kind of city you want to run, whether it's a prosperous metropolis, a spiritual mecca, or an oppressed dystopia, it is all up to you. To dictate your direction, you lay down each building individually, from houses to ice cream stands to city hall, everything is under your control.
Now not everyone likes the new direction SimCity is heading, and of course this game is definitely not for everyone. Before I played the game, the entire premise reminded me more of City Life than SimCity 4, not necessarily a bad thing, just totally different than the games I grew up to know and love. I think as fans of the series we have to acknowledge that we will probably never play a new "classic" SimCity game, which is fine with me. The series peaked with SimCity 2000 and I still play that from time to time. But let's see if SimCity Societies renews the franchise or leaves me with a sour taste, let the first hour begin.
It should be noted again that my computer is not that great and doesn't even meet the minimum system requirements laid out by Electronic Arts (it requires at least an Athlon 2100 and I have an 1800, everything else meets or exceeds). I am still able to run the game okay with all the settings at medium or below though.
Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters is a fifteen year old DOS game that has overtime gained a large following due to a variety of reasons. One of them is that the game is good, well according to the numerous accolades it has received at least. The second reason is that the source code of the 3DO port was released under the GPL license, allowing anyone to dive into the game's innards. A group of dedicated fans have taken advantage of this, and have Windows, Mac, and Linux ports simply known as Ur-Quan Masters. This open source game has had stable releases and I am going to play the first hour of version 0.6.2 of Ur-Quan Masters.
Describing Star Control II is difficult, but basically you control a spaceship on a 2D representation of space and visit planets and fight off evil aliens. The game reminds me the most of Pirates, a swashbuckling adventure where you roam a 2D representation of the high seas and visit towns and fight off evil pirates. Anyways, let's see if my first hour review of Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters can get a good idea of what the rest of the game will be like.
With Mass Effect coming out in about a week, I think we might see some comparisons pop up between Star Control II and Mass Effect. It will be interesting if Bioware was inspired by Ur-Quan Masters at all.