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Mirror's Edge

Full Review

Mirrors Edge CoverThink about your favorite part of any platformer game, it probably has something to do with excellent level designed coupled with you being in the zone and cruising through the stage on a perfect run. Like in Super Mario Bros. 3 where you bounce from goomba to goomba and take off in flight as Raccoon Mario.

Now think about the worst part in any platformer, for me, it's when a platformer stops being a platformer and tries its hand at something... less than adequate. This might mean boss fights that require more luck than skill or high action sequences that seem better at home in a much different genre.

Mirror's Edge is a prime example of a game where excellent platforming level design collides with obnoxiously out of place non-platforming. Thankfully, the highs outweigh the lows in this ambitious first person platformer. The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows in 2008 and was planned to be the first game in planned trilogy. Sales apparently weren't good enough for Electronic Arts and no word of a sequel has been announced. Though in classic industry PR, they "haven't not not" announced Mirror's Edge 2.

This is the First Hour's second opinion on Mirror's Edge along with my conclusion after playing its first hour earlier this month. Here's my full review of Mirror's Edge.

Mirror's Edge

First Hour Review

Mirrors Edge CoverNew genres don't come around that often, but genre mash-ups have been popular lately. Mirror's Edge is a first person platformer, with a dash of shooting and a few heaps of parkour thrown in for good measure. Plenty of first person shooters have tried to integrate platforming, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter immediately jumps to mind, but that was a disaster. Mirror's Edge takes what works from a game like Assassin's Creed with its assisted climbing and fluid action and sticks it in a first person view.

To some, this may sound great, others are undoubtedly skeptical, the rest of you have already played this two year old game and made up your own mind (nobody ever said the First Hour was timely *groan*). I've been intrigued by Mirror's Edge since its release, but the opportunity to play it never came up until Steam had it on sale for about $5 earlier this year. So I bought it and tossed it on my proverbial digital backlog, only to finally get around playing it now when my brother-in-law lent me his copy on the Xbox 360. No, I didn't play it on the Xbox, but it did encourage me to finally get around to it on the PC (odd how that works).

So here's my first hour review of Mirror's Edge, Steve previously wrote a full review on the game with a stunning gallery of self-taken screenshots at the bottom.

Dragon Age: Origins

Full Review

Dragon age Origins CoverSince I built my new PC in October, I've been playing games that I had not had a chance to in quite some time. My brother in law had come into ownership of a few games I had really wanted to play, and while in the mess of mediocrity, one game stood out as a gem that ended up sucking my time away. That game was Dragon Age: Origins.

Let me begin this review by saying I am a big fan of Bioware fantasy RPGs. I loved Baldurs Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights. I love the DND based RPGs. These types of games, these fantasy RPGs with choices are fantastic and end up taking hours away.

However, despite me loving these past titles, I never finished a single one. I always ended up failing to complete the main story line, so when I installed Dragon Age, I was worried I wouldn't finish it.

Dragon Age: Origins was released by Bioware, the makers of Mass Effect, on November 3rd, 2009. It was well received, and it was announced months ago that Dragon Age 2 would be released in March, 2011. It's the first time Bioware has made a fantasy RPG that does not include DND rules. Many people were upset at this, but honestly, the DND elements are still there. You can still intimidate or persuade folks, or randomly kill them in conversation, making for some hilarious conversations.

Killzone 3 Beta Impressions

Blog Post

Killzone 3 CoverMy experience with the Killzone series is rather limited. A couple months ago, I reviewed the first hour of Killzone 2's campaign, noting that I might keep going. I did end up running through another hour or so, but it takes something special to keep me interested in an FPS campaign, and Killzone 2 didn't have much of the sort. And though I planned on giving multiplayer a try, I never got around to it.

So when The First Hour was given a code for the Killzone 3 multiplayer beta, I wasn't sure I was the man for the job. I've never really been drawn into the world of online play in shooters -- the exception being Uncharted 2, which I played regularly for a few months when it launched -- so I don't have many comparisons to use for my experiences with the Killzone 3 beta. Luckily, I've heard plenty of commentary regarding Killzone 3 versus other shooters over the in-game voice chat that I can relay. And, surprisingly, I witnessed no personal attacks or foul-mouthed adolescents...and only one instance of a microphone being left in front of a stereo playing nothing but Madonna hits from the 80s. I guess that's a fringe benefit of a semi-private beta.

I've spent about four hours on the battlefields of Helghan, and I think I have a good enough grasp on the Killzone 3 multiplayer beta to make a report. I tried briefly looking around news sites and message boards for a comprehensive outline of the beta's features but didn't find any. With that in mind, I think I've constructed a pretty detailed outline of what's going on in Killzone 3 at the moment (at least as of Halloween, anyway).

All in all, despite my indifference to the franchise and its genre before jumping in, and the brief re-introduction to dual-analog that saw many deaths and few kills in my first hour of play...I have to say, I'm enjoying the Killzone 3 experience a lot more than I thought I would thus far. Or, what little of it is available in the current beta, anyway. Hit the jump for all the details floating around in my head.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Full Review

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 CoverRemember that big game from late last year? The one with all the controversy where you shot civilians in an airport, defended America's cities against direct attack, and weren't allowed to run your own multiplayer dedicated server? Yeah, that one. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In my circle of gaming friends this game came and went. I beat it and pretty much put it away for good. Apparently it is still really popular though, and I like to keep track of every game I beat now, so I present my full review of Modern Warfare 2.

The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and is the direct sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a game that features what I believe to be one of the best first hours I have ever played (so good, in fact, that I went on to beat the game in one sitting). The game as a whole was also very good, so I had high expectations for Modern Warfare 2. The first hour of it was impressive and pressed me to play on (but across multiple sittings this time), but in the end, it wasn't able to hold my attention as much as the original.

Here's my impression on the single player campaign, I did not play enough multiplayer to properly grade or judge it, in my opinion.

Split/Second

Full Review

Split Second CoverHaving 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.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

First Hour Review

Castlevania Lords of Shadow CoverIt's not uncommon for a game's narrative concept to change mid-way through development. Story is just one of many factors that go into a title's creation, after all, and is probably the most malleable. Alterations to the game mechanics from the original plan often crop up during the creation process, and the story is adapted to reflect them. Other times, a new intellectual property will be merged into a proven franchise in order to create instant brand recognition. Before it was a celebration of all things Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. was "Dragon King: The Fighting Game." Star Fox Adventures started out simply as "Dinosaur Planet."

Such is the case for the newest installment in the Castlevania series. Lords of Shadow was originally the title, not the subtitle, and had no real connection to Konami's classic series. It also went through a few of those oh-so-common story adaptations. It was originally pitched as a remake of the original Castlevania's tale of Simon Belmont, but eventually became the series reboot released last week. And a reboot is something many would say Castlevania sorely needed: five attempts at a 3D installment of the series ended with five instances of mediocrity, and it's obvious that some fresh perspective would help, here provided by relatively unknown developer MercurySteam.

The game found its way into my mailbox last week, courtesy of GameFly. I'm a noted Metroid-vania fanatic, though my time with Lament of Innocence a short while ago was largely underwhelming. Does the reboot take the polygonal half of the franchise a step in the right direction?

Borderlands

Full Review

Borderlands CoverSo it's been a while since I've written about games. It's actually been a while since I've played more than a few minutes of one. A crazy summer of children in the hospital, surgery, putting our dog to sleep after a nasty month-long illness, and planning a family reunion has meant that gaming has taken a back seat to lots of other things the last few months. My wife and I have made a name for the summer of 2010. It is, “The Summer of Suck”.

So that explains where I've been. But what is the reason I'm back? Well, to write a Beyond the First Hour review of course! But what game could be significant enough to get me out of my pitiful stupor of gamelessness? That game would be a little FPS that takes place on a planet called Pandora. That game would be Borderlands.

If you've been around The First Hour long enough, odds are good you've seen me comment on Borderlands, either from my First Hour review of the game, or via the comments section where we've discussed it several times. If you haven't, let me get you up to speed; I really enjoyed it. Ok, sure, that's a bit of a spoiler of the review you're about to read, but at this point in my life, I'm willing to do that. The reason is because the fourth and final DLC installment was just released on Sept. 28th.

I've been waiting for this ever since I finished the 3rd DLC back in March. So enough about me, let's get to the review.

Final Fantasy XIV Beta Impressions

Blog Post

Ff14 CoverWithout question, Final Fantasy XI deviated strongly from MMO traditions and norms.  In doing so, it managed to greatly polarize the community.  By moving at a slow, calculated pace throughout (even for an MMO) and requiring players to rely on others to accomplish the most simple goals, many players were forever turned off, including Greg and myself.  Past level 15, players required a party to do any sort of leveling.  Many damage-dealing classes were simply not wanted and sat in the main city for hours until they could find a group, while tanks, healer and support classes were welcomed into parties within seconds.  The economy was absolutely broken, with incredible inflation stemming from gil selling and the gap between rich and poor players.  Farming for money (outside of instanced colliseum-style fights) consisted of sitting at rare spawn locations for hours along with the other farmers and bots, just hoping that you manage to attack the monster before anyone else and then praying that it would drop what you wanted.  Simply put, the game had a lot of glaring problems that pushed people away.

Years after its original Japanese and subsequent North American release, FFXI began changing significantly, modifying nearly everything and adding features to appear more tempting to the average gamer, especially once under the shadow of MMORPG behemoth World of Warcraft.  FFXI has always enjoyed a degree of success, as a profitable long-running MMO with a stable user base.  However, it has not gained significant market share either.  By hearing customer feedback for the past few years as well as observing current MMO trends, Square-Enix is surely hoping that they'll be able to grab more of that growing market with Final Fantasy XIV.  But how much have things really changed?  Have they fixed the basic and more complicated issues that people had with XI?  I was genuinely curious and tried out the beta for just this reason.  Here's what I've found...

Trine

Full Review

Trine CoverTrine is the kind of game you can't help but wish came along more often, as a rare legitimate platformer. Frozenbyte (along with certain notable indie developers) shows us that 2d platforming is in fact not dead and can be pushed as far as you'll willing to take it.  Perhaps most impressively, Trine is in elite company as one of the few download-centric titles that could be mistaken as a traditional retail release.

For example, check a screenshot of some random game. You likely see an area with a background, or maybe walls or repeating buildings. Perhaps an enemy or two are in the frame and an interactive objects of note. Now take a look at random screenshot of Trine. You see a struggling forest that has been encroached on by both technology and a plague of death. The foreground partially hides you in sparse blades of grass, a handful of flowers, and a large warped tree root. In the background, multiple metallic gears are encrusted into the hill, which is itself overlooked by a towering mountain. The sunlight beaming from above onto wild mushrooms is nothing but welcoming as your knight just escaped from the cave and is heading to a well-constructed but still wobbly bridge up ahead. While one could say such lush descriptions could be extrapolated out of any image; to me, the difference is clear. Trine tries to feed your imagination and create an organic, living environment. While the experience does not stay fully fresh the entire way, Trine has more than enough creativity and character to deserve a second look, as noted in our earlier first hour playthrough.

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