xbox 360

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Full Review

Batman Arkham Asylum CoverA year ago I played the first hour of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The conclusion was that I would keep playing “for a while,” and much of that decision rested on what percentage of the game would the stealth gameplay take up. I had to give the game back to who I was borrowing it from, however, and Arkham Asylum started burning a hole in my brain. I began to really want to play it again, but the opportunity never came up the rest of the year. When Christmas rolled around I said I wanted one game, and one game only: Batman.

I received the game but forced myself to beat Fable II before I moved on to something bigger and better (if I play more than one game at a time I’m bound to never play one of them again). The moment after I saved Albion again I switched over to Arkham Asylum and went to town.

Released in mid-2009, Arkham Asylum seemed to spring out of nowhere from absolute nobody Rocksteady Studios. Why and how these guys received the criminally under performing Batman license and then went out and made one of the best games of the year is a bit mind boggling, but a story for another day.

Here’s my full review of Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Fable II

Full Review

Fable 2 CoverThis was not a great way to kick off 2011, Fable II is a below average action RPG that exhibits all the same qualities of nearly every other Peter Molyneux game: far too much ambition in a totally lackluster package.

Fable II was released in October of 2008 to much hype, praise, and handfuls of cash. I'm apparently in the critic minority by not enjoying Fable II as it has a Metacritic rating of 89 and received Game of the Year award honors from outlets X-Play and Joystiq in a year that featured Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4  (if my respect for G4 could have gone any lower, it just has). But that is their opinion, and this is mine.

I'm going to try and keep my full reviews a bit shorter this year, I spent an extraordinary amount of time writing them in 2010 (what with there being about 30 of them and all), and I would like to focus my efforts back to the first hour reviews where it belongs. Speaking of first hour reviews, here's Fable II's.

Fable II

First Hour Review

Fable 2 CoverI once owned an Xbox for what it was intended: to play games. Now it sits under just about every television in my house as an excellent, but dated, media center running XBMC. Games have taken up about 1% of its total processing power over its life.

But at one point, it was the darling of my dorm room with Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. There was another game though that caught our attention, and that was Fable. I have no idea what originally drove me towards this game, but I pre-ordered Fable from GameStop and even received some throwaway bonus DVD that I would never watch.

Three of us in our house played Fable, and we all played different classes (warrior, mage, and archer) which made for three entirely diverse 15 hour gaming experiences. My roommate could one-shot werewolves from across the map and my other roommate’s hero looked to be about 150 years old after draining his body from excessive magic use. My warrior was scarred and muscular; I’d like to say that these avatars represented us in real life, but that would be a stretch.

Fable 2’s release, like many games this generation, came and went for me without much notice. I’m trying to be much more selective with what I played, and while I enjoyed my first Fable experience, I wasn’t that interested in returning to Albion.

But in time-honored First Hour tradition, with Fable 3 just released a few months ago, it is now time to play Fable 2. Here is its first hour.

Borderlands

Full Review

Borderlands CoverIn my December blitz of full reviews, this is my last one of the year. I'm not going to say I saved the best for last, because that falls to either Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mass Effect 2 at this point, but Borderlands is certainly way up there. Like Mirror's Edge, Borderlands paves its own genre and does it beautifully. The mash-up of first person shooter and RPG with a zillion guns tacked on for extra destruction gels perfectly. The classes feel distinctly different, four player online co-op just works super well, and the game features over 30 hours of content on just your first playthrough (and you will play more than once).

Borderlands was released in October of 2009, so it's been out a while and is very cheap if you want to get into it now. The team is currently developing Duke Nukem Forever so there's no fear of Borderlands 2 coming out for at least a year and a half, I would think. I plan to continue writing about Borderlands well into next year as I still have three sets of downloadable content to review after just covering the first one, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. But as the end of the year is imminent, I really feel like I need to get my thoughts on the main game out on the table.

Mike has gone into great detail already on what makes Borderlands so great, and after re-reading his review, I honestly don't have a lot to add. This is one of my favorite games of the year and I'll detail why I personally liked it so much below, but if you're looking for an in depth review I would recommend you check out Mike's.

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.

Alan Wake

Full Review

Alan Wake CoverAlan Wake has been a long time coming. After Max Payne 2 released in 2003, Remedy has used the majority of their resources for this game. Originally announced in 2005, it has naturally undergone significant revisions. Once a freeroaming affair, Alan Wake is now almost entirely linear. Instead of releasing on consoles and PC, Remedy ended up partnering with Microsoft for an exclusive 360 release. As one would expect from a partnership, the game got bigger and bigger and eventually ended up being a high-profile, big-budget release when it finally hit in May 2010. Such a big game for a small company would carry with it many risks and increasingly impatient onlookers. Is the survival-horror tale worth the wait in the end? Is the Alan Wake concept still relevant and contemporary enough several years later? Most importantly, is the game good and does it work? Let's take a dive into the darkness...

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.

Dance Central

First Hour Review

Dance Central CoverThe PlayStation Move’s release came and went without a single person I know picking a package up. Kinect was released, and again, nobody I know actually bought one. Well, except for one of my coworkers, who excitedly picked it up on launch weekend and then held a LAN party this last weekend. The two events are completely independent of each other, however. His friends at the LAN party were more interested in playing Warzone 2100 and setting up E.V.E. servers than moving their bodies in the living room, but knowing he owned a Kinect actually got me really excited.

Kinect isn’t something I actually want, or it wasn’t, at least. I like lounging about when playing games and the thought of relaxing after a day of work by running and jumping around sounds awful. But from the moment I saw Harmonix’s Dance Central back at E3, I’ll admit I was curious. As the games of Red Alert 3 broke up, I wandered upstairs with a few other guys to try out Kinect. They immediately popped in Kinect Sports, which turned out exactly as I had expected: a ripoff of Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Sports Resort. Not that this was a bad thing, and while some of the mini-games were pretty fun, the whole experience just screamed “gimmicky!”

And then we put in Dance Central, and everything changed. Harmonix is the best music game developer out there, so I had confidence that if anyone could pull off a dancing game, it would be them. This is not a traditional first hour review with minute-by-minute updates, but I hope you still find it informative and entertaining.

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.

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