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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.

Penumbra: Overture

First Hour Review

Penumbra Overture CoverJust in time for Halloween, we have a special first hour of Penumbra: Overture. Released in 2007 by indie developer Frictional Games, Penumbra: Overture is the first in a trilogy that promises to be a uniquely frightening experience. As part survival horror, part puzzle solver and part first person shooter, initial previews evoke thoughts of Half-Life 2 infused with terror, which is just fine with us. I've heard great things about the game for a while, mostly from flattering word-of-mouth. This is as good a time as any, after purchasing it from the Humble Indie Bundle several months ago.

For this first hour playthrough, we've trying something a bit different. I played through and recorded the initial first hour and then sent the video to Greg, who then watched and wrote what he saw and felt during the run. I was curious in seeing how his experience would differ from mine, especially since third-person impressions are so important to overall game opinion, especially when it comes to making purchasing decisions. So I'll hand this off to Greg (while adding some extra comments I deem appropriate) and then bring it back for the conclusion.

If you wish, you can follow along yourself with the provided Youtube videos. Apologies about the graphical and slight sound sync issues, but you can blame Youtube for those.

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.

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.

Civilization V

First Hour Review

Civilization 5 CoverI have a long history with the Civilization series, I was first exposed to it when reading Nintendo Power magazine while they pushed the original’s Super Nintendo release for months on end. The game seemed unlike anything I had ever played before, particularly on a console. I read and re-read their strategy articles trying to wrap my head around what this game was exactly supposed to be.

I never had the opportunity to play the original Civilization, but it wasn’t long until the second game fell into my lap, and there went my next few summers. The depth of Civilization II was incredible. Every game I played was challenging and had its own fun quirks. I loved the multiple paths to victory and the differences between each civilization. I really liked the early turns in each game before the game seemed to get bogged down in city management and what felt like watching all the other civs take their turn forever.

After Civilization II it was Alpha Centauri, the game I believe to be the pinnacle of strategy gaming and easily the best “Civilization” game in the series. Alpha Centauri can be described simply as Civilization II in space, but it’s really so much different. You have the ability to create your own units and civilizations are instead broken up by ideological factions, which turns everything on its head.

Civilization III was released and I jumped on it, but it just never felt right to me. I had invested way too much time into Civ II and Alpha Centauri and anything that deviated from those games made me angry. I gave up on III and went back to my old standbys. This might have been for the best, however, as Civilization IV was released when I was in college, and playing that might have been a disaster!

So here we are with Firaxis’ latest entry in the series, Civilization V. I’ll admit, I’m intrigued. I haven’t seriously played the series in a decade, but every time Sid Meier slaps his name on a game, I’ll at least give it a try. So let’s give it a shot, here is Civilization V’s first hour played from the free Steam 100-turn demo.

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...

Mafia II

Full Review

Mafia II CoverSince Grand Theft Auto III was released in 2001, there has been a new expectation of open world video games. Along with a story, there needs to be dozens of extra things to do that usually have little to do with the actual plot, such as driving a taxi cab, delivering pizzas, or putting out fires (that you started!). Now what if we had a game that featured an open world, but was story driven and linear? Seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what Mafia II is.

Mafia II was released in August on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows. Reception has been good but for a game in development for over half a decade, some gamers and analysts were expecting better. Mafia II is all about recreating that favorite mobster movie of yours and putting control into your hands. While it isn’t my favorite genre of film, I can appreciate a good mob tale when I see one.

Our copy of Mafia II was provided to us by 2K Games, this review is for the Xbox 360 version.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

First Hour Review

Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty CoverNot since Half-Life 2 has a PC game release needed no introduction. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has sold millions, will sell millions more, and is just the first game in a billion dollar trilogy. Of course, games are generally popular for a reason, not always the right reason, but in StarCraft II’s case, it seems we actually have a great game on our hands too.

You undoubtedly know what StarCraft II is already, so I’d rather talk quickly about how nearly every interested gamer can play the first hour (and more) of Wings of Liberty for free! Each copy of the game comes with a 14 day / 7 hour free trial, and since at least three of your friends already own the game, just pray they still have a code available.

So let’s just play, here’s the first hour of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

Mafia II

First Hour Review

Mafia 2 CoverWhen someone talks about the mob, the first thing that pops into our head is probably a great gangster movie. Be it The Godfather Part II, Scarface, or Goodfellas, there are a lot of excellent mob films to land on. 2K Games would like to change that though with Mafia II, the sequel to the 2002 hit, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

Can you even name a decent mob game? Sure, there have been Godfather games, a bargain bin full of Yakuza titles, or even the Grand Theft Auto series, but there has not been a standout mob game since the original Mafia. A game that flew way off my radar, but must have landed on someone’s as it received a lot of critical acclaim.

So here we are eight years later with Mafia II. Yes, the game has essentially been in development that entire time as it was originally slated to release on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 (remember those?). Fans of the original are going to be expecting a lot of improvement over nearly a decade of development, and those who are unfamiliar with the series are going to be asking what sets Mafia II apart from the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Mafia II was released on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows. The First Hour’s Xbox 360 copy was provided by 2K Games.

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars

Half-Hour Handheld

Broken Sword Shadow of the Templars CoverBroken Sword is not a new game. In fact, it was released back in 1996, a year so far gone that I barely remember anything about it. I know I did not experience Broken Sword then or even heard of it; I was just a lad with a PlayStation and a little RPG called Suikoden to occupy my time. Broken Sword only existed in my mainframe later on as a cult thing, something people talked about playing, but were never caught playing. I later played other point-and-click games like Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle and Escape from Monkey Island yet never got to try this “classic.” Then I discovered it in my mother’s DS collection (yes, she plays) a few weeks back and found my chance to try it out for the very first time, some 14 years later. And this is the Director’s Cut which, I guess, means something.

As it’s a story-heavy Nintendo DS game, this is only a half-hour review. I hope it hits all the points and really clicks! Um, I apologize for that…I know it was a stretch.

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