This site reviews the first hour, and only the first hour, of video games. It gives a minute by minute look at what is potentially a deal breaker for many games. If a game isn't fun during the initial hour, why should we expect the last 10 to 50 hours to be any different? The First Hour updates every few days with a new game review. Please contact greg@firsthour.net for comments, game suggestions, or if you'd like to write for the site.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Full Review

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 CoverI’ve played a fair amount of video games in my life, and I’ve been playing shooters since I was five or six. This isn’t a challenge of “Yeah, well, I started when I was four!” Don’t start, that’s just annoying. My point is, I’ve been around the block a few times. Here’s a list of the shooters I played online regularly in chronological order: Quake, Team Fortress Classic, Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike: Source, America’s Army, Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

That’s really not that much, but it became impossible to keep up with the audiences. You want to play the most popular games (or at least popular games) so you actually have other people to play against, but once there was a new shooter coming out every freakin’ year, I just gave up.

Until one night, when my friend came into town for a visit and explained to me he had another copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and said it was mine if I wanted it. I thanked him and declined at first, but finally caved and accepted the offer. What the hell, it’s a free game, right?

Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut

Downloadable Content

Mass Effect 3 CoverI didn't mind the original Mass Effect 3 ending that much, but others did, hated it even. But even I can admit there were some reasonable arguments against the game's last few minutes, and maybe BioWare did too, because here we are with the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut available to download.

This introduction will be spoiler free, but after that, I'm not going to hold anything back. Nonetheless, the endings are now availabe on Youtube, but I still woke up at 4 AM this morning to download the update and replay the last few hours of the game. The developers recommend that you begin your Extended Cut journey before you enter Cronos Station, which is Mass Effect 3's point of no return. I'm not sure if it's totally necessary to start that far back (took me five hours to beat the game from this point my first time through, and over three hours my second time), but I wasn't going to take any chances the first time.

Before I go on, I believe the Extended Cut is a decent addition to Mass Effect 3, it does clear many things up, but I'm sure some will still be disappointed.

FlingSmash

First Hour Review

Flingsmash CoverI had a craving for some motion gaming the other day. Skyward Sword’s mixed bag of waggle came and went six months ago, and the surprisingly smart Wii Play Motion ran its course last summer. It was time to try something new.

The list of Wii MotionPlus games on Wikipedia almost drove the craving away. Three years after the Wii remote finally got its necessary upgrade, a mere thirty-odd games support the device. Most have the unmistakeable stink of shovelware.

The only one that caught my eye was FlingSmash, a sidescroller where you smack a spherical character into bricks and junk. High concept, it’s not. But it seems like a good excuse to excitedly wave my arms around like a toddler with a bubble wand and a sugar high.

Penumbra: Black Plague

Full Review

Penumbra Black Plague CoverAfter playing Penumbra: Overture, everyone knew a sequel was on its way. The ending leaves scores of questions unanswered and perfectly prepares a follow-up. In 2008, Frictional Games released Penumbra: Black Plague, and in many ways, Black Plague does make the original feel like a mere overture. Frictional well heeded feedback following Overture's release and significantly tuned up their product in regards to pacing, controls, physics, and character interaction. All while continuing the fantastically creepy atmosphere and adding significant new elements to the story.

Diablo III

Full Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe Diablo series is the most important series in my life. While I missed Diablo, I caught its sequel by the throat on release day and was hooked for a good…well, I’m still off-and-on addicted. So sue me. Diablo II was everything I wanted. It was fast paced, exciting, the gathering of objects was awesome, leveling was fun, playing through the game more than once was fun.

I love the Diablo series so much, that when Diablo III was announced, I called every friend I knew that ever played it and told them to check the website so they could experience the surprise. I was SO happy.

I waited 12 years for Diablo III. I got it at the midnight prerelease and tried playing the game, and we all know of the infamous Error 37. I thought about writing a first hour review of just “error 37” every minute for an hour. But anyway…

But I expected servers to be destroyed…I mean, it IS battle.net. But you know what? Despite being more than happy to wait for the servers to be available to me: I wish I had never bought it.

The truth is, this game disappointed me in almost every way possible. Let’s talk about why and what.

Link's Crossbow Training

First Hour Review

Links Crossbow Training CoverRemember when Nintendo gave Link a gun? I did when I found this baby at the media exchange shop. I wish I could say I just scored a Zelda game for a dollar, but there’s actually no “Legend of Zelda” in Link's Crossbow Training, so that would be incorrect. Also, it was two dollars.

It seems blasphemous to send Link on an adventure without his trusty sword and shield, but is it outrageous that I’m kind of excited about the idea? Zooming the Wii remote’s infrared pointer around is my favorite aspect of playing Wii games, and my best memories of Twilight Princess involved loosing arrows at goblins from horseback. Seriously, if this game lets me shoot Ganon in the face with some crossbow bolts, I may have to give it a perfect score.

I guess that seems unlikely, as any confrontation with the ultimate evil is unlikely to happen during crossbow “training.” I’ll probably just shoot targets and maybe a goblin or two. But maybe someday I’ll get my sequel, my Link’s Crossbow Conquest...

Final Fantasy XIII

First Hour Review

Final Fantasy 13 ps3 CoverI’ve played every single numbered Final Fantasy game up through XII, so playing the thirteenth entry was inevitable. But from the guy who bought Final Fantasy VIII, IX, XI, and XII on release days, finally getting around to XIII two years after release is a bit odd. But from a combination of some bad press and plenty of other games to play, I didn’t mind.

But here we are with the first hour of Final Fantasy XIII. I’ve also reviewed VII and VIII’s first hour previously, and had mixed success, though I can solidly point to the opening of Final Fantasy VII’s to be one of the highlights in the JRPG genre. Whether we can agree or not on the rest of game is irrelevant, but it sure does kick off with a bang.

And as you’ll see, Final Fantasy XIII also kicks off with a bang, but can it keep that momentum? Or is there something deeper required for a successful first hour? We’re about to find out.

Diablo III

First Hour Review

Diablo 3 CoverThe original Diablo was introduced to me by a friend probably no more than 3 years after its release, before my highschool years. Diablo would eventually see some of the most unforgettable and impactful gaming moments of our childhoods, and those of our closest friendslargely due to how much it scared the crap out of us. The first time I laid eyes on The Butcher and heard that deep, grating voice"Ah... Fresh meat"I slammed the door to his lair in his face and ran all the way out of the dungeon (a little excessive since enemies can't use doors). I can distictly recall at least two other moments that caused me to toss my mouse or phone (I was talking to said friend while playing once) in suprise and fear. Ah, the good old days.

Diablo II and its expansion would demand exponentially larger amounts of our attention due to its improved graphics, presentation, story, and gameplay (both online and off). It was a staple in our gaming repertoires, and inspired many discussions and stories of our own. I spent a good deal of my time every night reading through Brady Games' strategy guide.

When all was said and done, standing in the wake of the Worldstone's destruction, Diablo fans were sure we would someday see a sequel. It was just a question of when. The answer came at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Paris on June 28, 2008, though it would be many years more before an official release date was announced. On March 15, 2012, Blizzard finally announced that the release date was only two short months away.

And now, 11 years in the making, Diablo III couldn't have come at a more awkward time for me... I'm currently in the middle of two jobs, one of which takes up the entirety of my weekends. Throw in a small spat of the flu and new member of the family (a stray cat my girlfriend decided to bring home one night), and I'm left which much less time to play, let alone write, as I would've liked...but I finally found the time, and you didn't come hear to read my whining, so let's jump into the first hour of Diablo III.

Icons - Oddworld Inhabitants

TV Show Review

Oddworld Abes Oddysee CoverMy first exposure to the G4 network was its acquisition of TechTV in 2004, my absolute favorite station on cable at the time. I was obsessed with The Screen Savers and all the schlubby hosts the channel featured. TechTV embraced nerdom while G4 mocked it, this wasn't a happy marriage and I bailed almost immediately, along with most of the original hosts.

I've carried a hatred for G4 ever since, and find schadenfreude in its slow demise and collapse. However, amidst all of the grating personalities G4 featured about eight years ago, there were a few interesting TV shows that caught my eye. One of them was Icons, a half-hour documentary on different visionaries, studios, and game series in the industry. Spanning five seasons on a range of topics from Atari to the history of E3 to Tim Schafer, even die-hard enthusiasts would probably learn something new when watching.

I surely won't be covering every episode (famous last words), but I'll start where Icons began, with the developer studio Oddworld Inhabitants, who obviously made the Oddworld series for the PS1 and Xbox. But before I begin, take a look at the episode list of Icons, it mirrors the fall of G4 rather well as the first four seasons are about actual video game related topics while season five covers The Onion, Lollapalooza, and Kevin Smith.

The Sea Will Claim Everything

First Hour Review

the sea Will Claim Everything CoverBundle in a Box’s first bundle was adventure-themed. If you paid an astounding $100 or a trifling $1, you got the following point-and-clicky PC games: Gemini Rue, Ben There, Dan That!, Time Gentlemen, Please!, 1893: A World's Fair Mystery, and The Sea Will Claim Everything. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate, because if you beat the average price at the time you also got The Shivah from Wadjet Eye Games and Metal Dead. That’s quite a grouping and, of them, I was most excited to play The Shivah as my wife and I devoured all of Rosangela’s and Joey’s adventures in a short span of time and were eager for more from the man known as Dave Gilbert. Unfortunately, my laptop wasn’t playing nice, and so I went to the next interesting title on the list.

The Sea Will Claim Everything is a point-and-click adventure game by Jonas and Verena Kyratzes, a husband and wife team that have made some other games set in the Lands of Dreams. This one, however, debuted to the world with this bundle. It has a really unique art style to it, akin to coloring book pages brimming with content. Other than that, I don’t know much about the plot, but I’m ready to click around.

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