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NBA 2K13

Full Review

nba 2k13 CoverVisual Concepts’ NBA 2K series has been a heavy hitter in the basketball simulator game since the Dreamcast days, and in 2010 when Visual Concepts and 2K Sports became the first to grab the rights to feature Michael Jordan himself in their games, the 2K brand soon became the must-have in basketball sims. NBA 2K11 featured the ability gamers had only dreamt of, to soar and jump-shot like Jordan. As if sales weren’t evidence enough to display the 2K series’ dominance in the field, competitor EA soon sealed the 2K series’ role as the one to beat when they canceled their own NBA Live and NBA Elite. NBA 2K12 would soon be released, featuring even more NBA Legends and a new mode. Yet again, one year later NBA 2K13 is released with even more features, and completely Jay-Z-efied. Here is my review of NBA 2K13.

NBA 2K13 was released earlier this month and the Xbox 360 version provided to us by 2K Sports for review.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7

First Hour Review

Lego Harry Potter Years 5 7 CoverI love the LEGO videogames. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep on saying it, especially if the folks over at Traveller’s Tales use their magical powers to read my mind and make LEGO Lord of the Rings or LEGO Men in Black next. My favorite of the bunch so far has been LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, which managed to follow both the films and books while also giving fans a ton of love with their attention to details. It seemed perfect for LEGO-izing, with magic and a wide cast of characters, but I was disappointed that it only covered half of Harry’s legacy; the developers padded out the experience by giving players Hogwarts, a huge hub to explore that revealed more and more in a Metroidvania style after certain spells and classmates were acquired.

J.K. Rowling finished up all the books way back in 2007, and the money-making films now dead and done until some fool tries to remake them all in like ten years. I’ve never played any of the movie tie-in videogames—though I did have fun flying on brooms and catching Golden Snitches with Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup for the PlayStation 2—but from what I can gather, many of them are not great. Especially the Kinect ones, which tries to turn Harry into a new recruit for Gears of War. LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 could very well be the last greatest game for the franchise, simply because there’s probably not much else coming out for it afterwards.

My favorite thing about the LEGO videogames are that they are perfect for playing co-op. There’s a challenge, sure, but exploring the levels and piecing everything together is more fun with a partner. Like my wife, Tara Abbamondi. Comments from her are in red!

Okay, let’s see if the first hour of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7 is just as magical as the previous game’s.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

First Hour Review

Ghostbusters CoverHappy Halloween, everyone! Time for a spooky first hour with Ghostbusters: The Video Game. As the game sequel to one of most popular, family-friendly Halloween movies out there, and as one of my favorite films growing up, I found it my duty to finally play this game I bought during a Steam sale cheap years ago.

Released in mid-2009 on every platform available, Ghostbusters: The Video Game played on early trailer hype and fan nostalgia to sell over a million copies that summer while receiving pretty decent scores. It doesn’t hurt that essentially the entire cast returned for what some call “Ghostbusters 3”, not to mention Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd worked on the game script.

I’ll be playing Ghostbusters in Windows, a few years ago I gave the Xbox 360 demo a try and wasn’t impressed at all, so I’m curious what my reaction will be on this platform, years later. Well, bustin’ makes me feel good, so let’s get started.

Suikoden

First Hour Review

Suikoden CoverI tend to be conscious of the games I buy. When I plunk the cash onto the counter, I've usually made the decision to do so months in advance. I've read some previews, watched plenty of gameplay clips, and probably played a demo (if available). This is normal for people to do when they're about to shell out $60 and tax, but I tend to do my research even when the game can be bought for a Hamilton. What can I say? I'm kind of stingy. Chicks love a pennypincher.

I indulged in a blind-buy some time ago, when a game called Suikoden went on sale from the infallible PlayStation Network for a scant three dollars. I guess I can't really call it a "blind" purchase, considering I'd heard of the series, knew it was some sort of JRPG, and recalled some praise for it throughout the years. Still, this was a small triumph for my freewheeling, devil-may-care side. The side that grins mischievously as a tossed beer can ends up in the trash rather than the recycling bin. The side that saunters across the street with reckless abandon when the orange hand in the crosswalk orders me to halt.

I've finally worked up the courage to start playing this recklessly-bought game. Will it turn out to be as thrilling as the initial purchase, or will I pledge to never blind-buy again?

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

First Hour Review

Lego Harry Potter Years 1 4 CoverI’ve played every LEGO videogame made so far. Of all my videogames on the Xbox 360, only the LEGO games have the esteemed honor of having all their Achievements unlocked. I played them to completion as fast as possible, almost as if in a fever. If they made LEGO Schindler’s List, I’d probably play it. Same goes for LEGO Requiem for a Dream. The point I’m making here is that I love these games, and I’m twenty-six, and I’m not afraid to admit that they are just my cup of OCD tea.

Conversely, I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. I’m one of those rare folks that actually read the first three books before the first movie came out and became a worldwide sensation. I had the sixth book spoiled for me on a Lord of the Rings TCG forum. I read the last book in less than 24 hours, locked up in my parents’ basement, only coming up once to eat dinner and not talk to anyone. The movies are hit or miss in my mind, but the world and characters and magic of it all is something I can’t get enough of. Neither can my fiancée. We’re getting married this October and heading to Universal Studios on our honeymoon to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I’ve been excited about this merging of two great entities since I first read about it. I always expected the next universe to be LEGO-ized to be Spider-Man’s. My expectations are high, and after having played the demo that was recently released I have no fears that the first hour for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 will be anything but spectacular.

Iron Man 2

Full Review

Iron man 2 CoverSequels. Comic franchises converted to video games. Movie tie-ins. Studios closing their doors. Needless to say, there are a lot of barriers that can narrow the odds of producing a high quality title. It would seem that Iron Man 2 was forced to hurdle all of them. As I mentioned in my recent First Hour review of Iron Man 2, its predecessor was critically panned. But did it deserve it? Or did it fall prey to the echo chamber of hate that often befalls licensed products and spin offs? The truth is, Iron Man had it’s problems. From unwieldy controls to frame rate issues, it seemed like it stumbled each time it would just get up to speed. But it had moments of fun, high intensity super hero action that carried one through to each subsequent mission. Going into a sequel, one assumes that Sega Studios San Francisco, the developer behind both titles would make an effort to improve the failings of the original while trying to maintain those things they got right the first time. The question is, did they pull it off?

After sitting in on the developer conference call for Iron Man 2, I was hopeful that things were looking good. They talked about a dedication to listening to fans, and to implementing those lessons they learned from user feedback on the first game. They talked about simplified controls, vast levels, destructible environments and deep customization. They touted a boss that is “bigger than any boss in any game ever”. And War Machine. War Machine sounded like a perfect addition to the Iron Man gaming universe. Yes, it sounded like it had really come together. And so I eagerly anticipated my review copy, thinking back to the flawed but fun experience I had with the first game.

Iron Man 2

First Hour Review

Iron man 2 CoverYou may have seen our recent article covering a conference call presented by Iron Man 2 developer: Sega San Francisco.  The First Hour was invited to take part in a small pre-release Q&A with two of the people involved with the production of the game.  I sat in on the call and submitted a few questions. It was a good conversation and lots of aspects of the game were touched on, so if you’d like some more insight into what went into making this game what it is, please check it out here. 

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I recently sat down with a copy of Iron Man 2.  To state the obvious, Iron Man 2 is the sequel to Iron Man. Both games were released to coincide with the movies of the same name. As most people know, releasing a game on a movies timeline can be... problematic.  It often leads to rushed development schedules and lots of cut corners in the final product.  Despite this situation, the first game was commercially successful. However, it struggled to win over most critics.  With an aggregate score of 45 on Metacritic, that’s probably an understatement.  However, I was one of the people who enjoyed the first game (while recognizing it’s many flaws), which is why I was chosen/volunteered to review the sequel.  

Much like Greg’s recent review of Saboteur, this game is the final release of a studio before it gets shut down.  Sega San Fancisco, formerly Secret Level Games will close shortly after the release of Iron Man 2.  This does not bode well for the 3 other gamers besides me crossing their fingers for a Golden Axe: Beast Rider sequel.

I went into this first hour with an open mind and reasonable expectations.  Having enjoyed the first game, more of the same with increased graphical performance, control tweaks and mission diversity would be a good start.  Let’s see if they were able to squeeze any of that into the first 60 minutes of Iron Man 2.

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

First Hour Review

Super Ghouls n Ghosts CoverSuper Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a game I knew very little about. When I was about eight years old, a few of my friends said it was "the destroyer of worlds." Not just difficult, but impossible. None of my friends could progress very far, and as an eight year old, I wanted to prove to them that I was superior. Unfortunately, none of them would lend it to me, and I never really had the money to buy it and every time I went to the video store to rent it, it was always out. I don't know if it was just that popular, or if they lost it. I'm guessing the latter.

Now, I understand that it was made in 1991 by Capcom. It’s been ported to a bunch of different gaming platforms including the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable and Virtual Console on the Wii. 

It is the sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins and Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and also loosely related to Demon's Crest. I've played games like Contra and got pretty far before hitting a mark that was impassable for me, even at the wee ages of nine. So I figured… how hard can this game be?  Here's the first hour of Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.

Major League Baseball 2K10

Full Review

MLB 2K10 coverAnother year, another sports game.  Gamers hear this every few months when the newest Madden is coming out, or the next iteration in a 2K series, or even for the Tiger Woods series.  Sure, you updated the roster, but what did you really spend the last 12 months on?  That is the eternal question for series with annual updates, and it's always one someone is forced to answer.

For 2K Sports' MLB series, 2009 was a rough year.  The series was switching developers and reactions from the fanbase was generally bad.  With Sony's rival series, The Show, growing stronger and stronger with every iteration, it was not a good year to take two steps back.  2K and Visual Concepts desperately needed to show that they still worth the MLB license they paid for: 2K10 needed to be the Comeback Player of the Year.  If you believe Metacritic, they have definitely improved.  2K9 has a metascore of 64 with a user score of only 5.2, whereas 2K10 has a metascore of 76 but even more importantly, a user score of 8.0.  The MLB 2K series seems to be back on the right track.

But I never played a previous iteration of the series, let alone 2K9, so I'm coming into this season as a rookie.  I'm still expecting a lot though, my favorite baseball games are more arcadey, like Base Wars or the Ken Griffey Jr. series.  Those games were just pure fun and the gameplay was great not because it was great baseball, but because it was a great video game.  MLB 2K10, however, is realistic and trying to not let you realize that it is a video game.  Quite a bit different than what I'm used to.

So here's my full review of MLB 2K10, this was a review copy provided to me by 2K Games.  You can see read my "first hour review" of the game that actually follows me through about the first 10 hours of the game.

Major League Baseball 2K10

First Hour Review
Mlb 2k10 Cover

While I love baseball, I don't play a lot of baseball games anymore. The last baseball game I played was MVP Baseball 2005 from EA, and before that it was Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr. I also grew up playing the Bases Loaded series and Base Wars on the NES along with a smattering of sims on the PC such as Earl Weaver Baseball. An erratic and interesting history, to say the least.

So when 2K Sports offered me a review copy of their newest baseball iteration: Major League Baseball 2K10, I jumped at it. I really have very little idea how the baseball genre has evolved over the years, but I like the direction 2K10 is taking it. MLB 2K09 was generally panned by reviewers and let Sony's The Show really grab the spotlight. So developers Visual Concepts really had a lot to prove with 2K10, and while I'm not totally sold on the entire game yet, I do like the My Player mode.

My Player mode is new to MLB 2K10, and let's you create a baseball player and guide him from AA baseball in the minor leagues to the Major Leagues and maybe eventually election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's curious that this feature is just being added to the series since The Show has featured this since the series was introduced in 2006, but I'm really glad it's there because it is all I've been playing. My Player mode only let's you play as the character you created, so games move quicker and you really feel like you're part of a team effort.

This isn't going to be a typical first hour review where I play 60 minutes and describe the action, but instead I'm going to describe my experience of trying to make the Major Leagues. The road to the Show (sorry, can't help it) does take a few hours, but it is a unique and fun experience to someone who's picking up their first baseball video game in a while.

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