xbox

The Hobbit

First Hour Review

the Hobbit CoverMarrying my wife a few months ago came with a videogamey bonus: a Nintendo Wii. And it wasn’t until several weeks back that I kind of realized that this system can also play GameCube games on it. The Nintendo GameCube is a system I missed out on hard, having only really played two games to my memory: Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin. GameStops statewide seem to still sell a good selection of GameCube games, and I was able to pick up The Hobbit for less than a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the local market. As a true J.R.R. Tolkien fanboy, I couldn’t wait to play it. Alas, I had to wait. Long story short, I had to make a return trip to pick up a memory card so I could actually save my progress.

Anyways…The Hobbit. It came out in late 2003, and I’m assuming that its makers were banking on a lot of eager fans awaiting more Lord of the Rings action would be interested in seeing how the journey all started. In fact, blazing bright and gold on the game’s cover is some silly marketing pullquote that says “the prelude to the Lord of the Rings!” Yeah, we know. Hopefully they don’t pull the same silliness with the upcoming theatrical adaptation. The Hobbit, Part 1 of 2: The Prelude to the Lord of the Rings! Bad enough there’s going to be two films.

I’ve played a number of other games based on the Lord of the Rings over the years. Some were decent amounts of fun (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), and others just an unfair mess (The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age). Will The Hobbit soar like the Lord of the Eagles or sink like the One Ring abandoning its former master? Let’s find out with the game’s first sixty minutes.

Black

First Hour Review

Black CoverWhen I think back to the first time I saw Sonic the Hedgehog running on the Genesis (which I wasn't yet familiar with), I recall marveling at how much better it looked than the Mario games I had at home. I remember the time my brother tried to explain Super Mario 64 to me, and how little I understood what he was saying until I finally witnessed it in action. When I brought home a Gamecube the morning it launched, I was impressed with the speed and fluidity of the Death Star trench run that began Rogue Leader, at least when compared to its predecessor on the N64. But the first time I saw Call of Duty 2 at Toys R Us on an HDTV screen, the only thought that ran through my mind was...

"Really? This is next-gen?"

Yes, the characters were constructed of more polygons. And the textures were clearer. And of course, the higher resolution made everything easier to see. But I just couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, seeing that the the game, and others in the 360 launch library, just didn't seem to bring any worthwhile improvements to the table. In fact, it wasn't until the first time I saw Lost Planet's smoking RPG trails, gorgeous boss monsters, and swarms of flying enemies that the feeling of a new generation really sank in.

On the other hand, many quality games are released at the end of a console's life cycle, once developers have a firmer grasp on the intricacies of the hardware. It is unfortunate that they're often overlooked for the next console's rushed launch titles, but that's reality. EA's Criterion studio, creators of the high-octane Burnout series, attempted to buck that trend with Black, a first-person shooter for the PS2 and Xbox that was marketed as a next-gen shooter for current-gen platforms.

The game certainly looked impressive the first time I saw a friend playing it, some five years ago. Does it still pack a punch, or will Black forever be lost between generations?

Half-Life 2

Full Review

Half Life 2 CoverIt's hard to find a gamer who doesn't have some experience with the Half-Life franchise. A champion of PC software when things started shifting heavily in the favor of consoles, the original Half-Life wowed critics with its pulse-pounding scripted sequences and seamless stitching of narrative and gameplay in first-person. The long-awaited full sequel, Half-Life 2, received just as many accolades, if not more, for its advances in artificial intelligence, character animation, and especially the robust physics engine powering the game's many objects.

And yet, it was only two weeks ago that I first experienced a game in Valve's flagship franchise myself. I've never been much of a PC gamer: I can count the number of games I've played on a computer monitor on one hand, and four of them begin with the words "Star Wars." I've had many consoles in my life, but rarely a PC with the power to play current games. I'm actually typing this on a Macbook right now, and as we all know, Macs just aren't for gamers.

That said, Valve has made an effort to bite into the Apple market with Mac versions of Steam and many of its own big games offered therein, just in time for the annual 4th of July sales on the incredible digital distribution service. And if Valve is willing to create a Mac version of Half-Life 2 and price it at an outrageously fair $3.39 just for me, then I guess I owe it to them to try the game that millions have gone headcrab-crazy for.

But for all its fame and glory, the bottom line is that Half-Life 2 is a six-year-old PC game in a genre I'm not terribly enthralled by. Did I hate it? Hit the jump, smash that caps lock key and ready your profane comments, PC fanboys, because I'm about to tear into your beloved Half-Life 2 like a shotgun into an antlion.

Onimusha: The Best Series Everyone Already Forgot About

Blog Post

Onimusha CoverAfter a flurry of six games in just five years, there hasn't been another Onimusha game since March 2006.  I understand that the series always played second fiddle to Capcom's other series, Devil May Cry, but man, Onimusha always had an awesome combination of historical inaccuracy and great hack-and-slash action.

I played and loved the four main games in the series, even the one that takes place in France with Jean Reno.  The first time I ever played an Onimusha game was at my uncle's house; the only thing I knew about Onimusha: Warlords was that it played like Resident Evil and was rated Mature.  This seemed to indicate to me that the game would be scary or something, but what it turned out to be was simply a blast to play.  Fast action, great puzzles, a storyline with famous Japanese figureheads that I recognized, and more gore than scare.  My kind of game.

XIII

First Hour Review

Xiii CoverBargain bins. Sometimes they hold treasures, other times just stuff better left at the bottom where no one can see. Still, I'm poor and always hoping for the best so I can't help but look around. Surprisingly, I found XIII in one of these dumpster dive sessions, and for $1.99 at that. All I really knew of the game was that it was cel-shaded, likened constantly to an action-fused comic book, and a FPS.

A few weeks ago, Games for Lunch's Kyle Orland reviewed XIII's first hour. He died numerous times and was ultimately frustrated with the game's gameplay. Hopefully I'll have a better sixty minutes.

Red Dead Revolver

First Hour Review
red Dead Revolver CoverIt's easy to forget that Rockstar Games actually develops other series besides Grand Theft Auto.  With nine studios making up the Rockstar empire, it's seemingly unbelievable that the only games they've released since Grand Theft Auto IV two years ago is a new Midnight Club racing game, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS and PSP, some music game called Beaterator, and a few Grand Theft Auto DLC's.  So what are all the other studios working on?  Well, Rockstar San Diego is almost done with Red Dead Redemption, the sequel to our first hour focus today, Red Dead Revolver.

 

Red Dead Revolver was released in 2004 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.  It plays like a Spaghetti Western film and follows a very linear tale of revenge.  The last Western game I played before Red Dead Revolver was Sunset Riders, a side-scrolling shoot 'em up featuring simultaneous multiplayer and a whole lot of fun.  I have some great memories playing this game on the Super Nintendo with my friends in middle school.

April was originally going to be "Western games month" on the First Hour in what was sort of a celebration of the release of Red Dead Redemption and in honor of the many obscure and not-so-obscure Western games including Sunset Riders, Gun, Call of Juarez, Outlaws, Rising Zan (Samurai Gunman!) and maybe even Custer's Revenge.  But with the delay of Red Dead Redemption until May and the general annoyance of getting locked into theme months, we decided to skip it.  Here's what's left of it though: the first hour of Red Dead Revolver on the Xbox.

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.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Full Review
Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction cover"Comic book video game."  Maybe not the most successful four-word combination in the history of the world.  But you can't blame them for trying, right?  What could be cooler than playing as your favorite super-hero?  The premise of Ultimate Destruction is that you play as the Hulk, and the Hulk smashes things.  And although there's more to the game than that, smashing things is the basis of the gameplay, and guess what.  It's fun.

This game was developed by Radical Entertainment and released in August 2005 for XBox, PS2, and GameCube.

Ultimate Destruction is an open-world game.  Basically, there are three areas. Two of the areas are huge, the third is a hub that is much smaller.  In each area, you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want.  And by that I mean smash whatever you want.  The main progression of the game involves buying new moves for hulk to smash things.  In order to unlock new moves, you play through story missions.  The story missions are normal comic book video game fare, and they mostly boil down to smashing things, getting from point A to point B while smashing things, or smashing things while trying to keep something from being smashed.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Full Review
Knights Of The Old Republic Cover

Back in 2003, I played a bit of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the PC when it was released. It was college, so everybody was doing it, but for whatever reason, I only played a few hours. In 2009, I played the first hour of the game and rediscovered a gem. I loved Jade Empire and Mass Effect, but here was their older brother: slower paced and much more heavily based in the D20 rule set. It seemed like it wouldn't be possible to take the step backward from those action heavy games to Knights of the Old Republic, but after playing the first hour, I had to give it a try again.

I have a bit of an odd history with the game, like I mentioned, I played KotOR when it was first released, but gave up on it after reaching a key point in the game about 8-10 hours in. While replaying the game this time around, however, I couldn't remember how far I had played. I kept thinking, "oh, I remember doing this before, but there's no way I played beyond that" until I reached a point where I thought I really was playing all new content. Turns out, a few weeks ago I was perusing some random posts I wrote on a message board in 2003 and I was actually having a discussion with someone about reaching a particular scene I have absolutely no memory of playing. It was this really weird sense of deja vu, like I could have beaten the game but not remembered it.

I've beaten the game now though, here's my full review of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox.

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

Video Review
Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast Cover

Our first video review comes courtesy of Steve and one of the all time greatest arcade racing series: OutRun. Steve will be playing the 15 minute continuous cross-country run in OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast. It spans 15 very different levels with one common feature: lots and lots of powersliding. The game is beautiful, so here are two high definition videos of the run, complete with commentary about the game and series.

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