xbox 360

Mirror's Edge

Full Review

Mirror's Edge coverHere we have Mirror's Edge, a first-person platformer of sorts, released in late 2008/early 2009 by DICE/EA. I've been interested in the game for a while, starting from its strong marketing campaign, so I jumped on the chance to play it recently.

It can be briefly summarized that in Mirror's Edge, you are a runner, tasked to transfer information between groups looking to avoid the surveillance of an overbearing government and its allies. As escaping capture is of utmost importance, runners do most of their travel on free outdoor environments, especially rooftops. Thus the gameplay is largely parkour-based, emphasizing proper use of momentum, speed and techniques to accomplish goals. At its best, this leads to a smooth, sublime experience, reminiscent of games like Jet Set Radio, Shadow of the Colossus, NiGHTS, and the original Prince of Persia. Mirror's Edge takes the player further into that experience, locking you to a first-person view with constant reminders of your physical struggles with and against the forces of gravity and objects in your world.

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.

BioShock 2

Full Review
Bioshock 2 Cover

The sequel to the original BioShock has finally arrived, and boy, is it good! BioShock 2 returns the player to Rapture, the underwater city dreamed up by Objectivist Andrew Ryan. Many gamers were skeptical of the need for a sequel, myself included, but developer 2K Marin made me a believer.

I'm not sure how much more I can say without actually reviewing the game, so let's just get into that. As usual, the multiplayer aspect of the game will not factor into my final opinion very much but I did play it for some time and will provide my thoughts on it. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version that 2K Games provided me a review copy of. I am also a big fan of the first game and you can read my review and thoughts on the original BioShock for comparison if you'd like.

Finally, check out the first hour review of BioShock 2 if you're interested.

BioShock 2

First Hour Review
Bioshock 2 Cover

In 2008, I played the first hour of BioShock and loved it. Last year, I beat it and declared BioShock as one of the best games I played all year. That's when I started reading up on the already announced BioShock 2 though. I honestly didn't see the point. BioShock was a perfectly contained game: the good guys won, the bad guys lost, and Rapture was left to crumble. Sequels are usually an easy sell, BioShock 2 was not.

I wanted to give it a chance though, I never like to judge a game without playing it. But I will admit, things are a bit stacked against it. The original development team has moved on to something new, handing the reins to 2K Marin. While they worked on the PlayStation 3 port of BioShock, this is their first new game. You also play as a Big Daddy in BioShock 2, to me, this just screams one giant hand-holding game as you move from body to body with a Little Sister. Talk about one of the worst scenarios a game designer can put the player in.

But let's have some hope here, this is BioShock. It features the same engine and the same world (the single best environment ever to appear in a video game), it's going to take a lot to mess this one up. So here we go, the first hour of BioShock 2 and our glorious return to Rapture. I'll be playing a review copy provided by 2K Games on the Xbox 360.

Mass Effect 2

First Hour Review
Mass Effect 2 Cover

Mass Effect 2. It is only the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. It is only the biggest release so far in 2010, and might be for the entire year. It is only... Mass Effect 2.

All right, I'll come back down to earth for a bit. I will admit, I am very excited for this game. I haven't been this hyped for a game since Majora's Mask. But I will try not to let it interfere with my duty as an amateur video game reviewer to answer the burning question: Would I keep playing? (spoilers: YES!)

Mass Effect 2 is the latest science fiction action/shooter/RPG hybrid from BioWare. The game picks up a few years after the first Mass Effect closed with Commander Shepard still in the starring role. The original galaxy threat is still at large, but is taking a backseat to a much more pressing and immediate menace. One of the game's big features is the ability to import your Shepard from save files from the first game. This is one of the reasons I beat the original six different times with four different Shepards. Maybe a bit excessive, but I was just preparing myself for the full experience come January 26, 2010.

So here we go, the first hour of Mass Effect 2. I will be creating a brand new character for the experience. If you're interested in checking out all of our other Mass Effect series content, we've got a ton of it.

Street Fighter IV

Video Review
Street Fighter 4 Cover

What more can one say about Street Fighter? As explained in my previous review of Street Fighter: The Movie, the franchise is one of the most popular in gaming history and has permeated almost all aspects of society. It requires little backstory here, so let's head straight to the latest iteration.

Street Fighter IV released in arcade around the fall of 2008, with console ports the following February. Through hype, word of mouth, relatively balanced play, online play and catering to players of all skill levels, the game was a smash and is now a phenomonon of no other in the fighting game world, aside from the original SFII and perhaps Marvel vs Capcom 2. With new hybrid 3d celshaded graphics, dazzling ultra moves and a cast of old favorites along with new contenders, players of all different types and generations flocked to the new release. Its expansion, Super Street Fighter IV is on its way (currently slated for spring), and the franchise shows no signs of slowing.

So what exactly is so good about the game and why does it appeal to so many people? It seems like they made almost every decision and move to connect the past and the future, to leave no one behind while still progressing as a series.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

First Hour Review
Batman Arkham Asylum Cover

Before tonight, the only Batman video game I had ever played was Batman Forever, a seriously awful "game" that left me tossing my Super Nintendo controller across the room in disgust. You begin the game in a room where the only way out is up, and after pressing every imaginable button on the controller, you simply can not escape.(well, you can, press the Select button and then Up on the D-pad. Yeah Batman Forever, I hate you too).

So fast forward 15 years and memories of that travesty are all but forgotten and Batman: Arkham Asylum is in my Xbox 360. Everyone's been gushing on this game since its release in August 2009 so I've finally decided to give it a whirl. While I've enjoyed the recent films and filled my afternoons with Batman: The Animated Series, I know nothing about the comic world that the game is based off of. Arkham Asylum, from a non-reader's perspective, appears to be the ultimate love letter to all those Batman comic fans who have been waiting patiently for something... awesome.

But things are also a bit off for me: the Joker is different, the Commissioner is different, and even Batman is different. But Arkham Asylum is a stealth-action beat 'em up, a genre mash-up I felt worked brilliantly for a game like Beyond Good and Evil. So will the first hour of the game inspire me to keep playing, or will the stealth-based gameplay or unfamiliar world cause me to put it down for good? Let's find out on the Xbox 360.

Overlord

First Hour Review
Overlord Cover

Overlord is a third-person action-adventure/RTS published by Codemasters. It takes the idea laid down by Pikmin and Battalion Wars and brings them to their evil conclusion.

The concept is that you are an evil Overlord, with minions to do your dirty work. Will we have a good time playing as the bad guy, or is there a good reason most games have you control the hero?

Dragon Age: Origins

First Hour Review
Dragon Age Origins Cover

BioWare has been on a roll the last ten years, kicking the decade off with Baldur's Gate II, delivering more Forgotten Realms fun with Neverwinter Nights, revolutionizing console RPGs with Knights of the Old Republic, revolutionizing themselves with Jade Empire, and of course, introducing the world to Mass Effect, one of my favorite games of all time. BioWare decides to close out the decade similar to how they started it, with a fantasy epic: Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age: Origins was released in early November on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. It has seen some pretty great success, and is one of the notable games released this holiday season that does not necessarily compete directly with the behemoth that is Modern Warfare 2. While I've never played Baldur's Gate, I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series and am excited to give BioWare's fantasy genre a spin.

This is by no means the first Dragon Age content we've featured on the First Hour, Grant reviewed the first hour of Dragon Age Journeys, a flash-based web game set in the Dragon Age universe. In October I read Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the first novel set in BioWare's world, though it is not a novelization of the game. Dragon Age: The Calling, the second book in the series is out and is on my to-read list. Definitely check these other forms of media out if you're a big fan of Dragon Age. And on that note, here's the first hour of Dragon Age: Origins for the Xbox 360.

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