xbox 360

Split/Second

Full Review

Split Second CoverIn all my years, I’ve never been much of a racing game fan. Quite honestly, the idea of doing the same thing over and over feels tedious to me. While some games, like Need for Speed Underground and Gran Turismo have offered vehicle customization to try and keep things fresh, they still seem to fall into a slump of painful repetition.

But Black Rock Studios, the creators of Pure, have strived to come up to a solution to this plague, and that is massive destruction and a game premise unique from any other racing game I’ve ever laid my eyes on. This solution is called Split/Second.

The premise of the game is that you’re a stunt driver in a reality television series called Split/Second, that has these stunt drivers racing against each other in cities manufactured by the television show. While stunts, in themselves, are not entirely new, the massive chaos is extremely refreshing.

We’ve all played Mario Kart, and we’ve shot koopa shells at our enemies and laughed as they were rendered motionless while we passed them into first place, and it’s relatively satisfying to a point, but this is different.

But where Mario Kart is set to stun, Split/Second is set to kill. From gas station explosions and helicopters dropping explosive barrels to air planes crashing on the raceway, this game delivers a completely original adrenaline rush that delivers over and over again.

You’re in control of these beautiful disasters with power plays, which are your weapons in this dog-eat-dog racing world. The way to activate them is to accumulate energy. You can accomplish this by drifting around corners, drafting behind your opponents, and jumping with your vehicle. You also receive a bonus amount of energy by passing opponents while drifting, jumping past opponents and dodging power plays set off in your path.

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.

The Saboteur

First Hour Review

Saboteur CoverA few months ago I reviewed the first hour of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.  I enjoyed it, but had issues with the controls which really hampered my experience.  Fast forward to... now, and I'm about to tackle Pandemic Studio's final game, The Saboteur.  It's disappointing when a studio is closed down, and definitely scary considering EA bought them out at the same time as they did BioWare (can you imagine EA shutting them down?).  While I never really played any of Pandemic's games, the Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans series were always popular, sad to see them go.

Anyways, the game!  You came here for some World War II open world action set in Paris, right?  Well, this is what you're going to get.  The Saboteur was released late last year on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and has you killing lots and lots of Nazis.  Everyone hates Nazis, and The Saboteur features a ton of different ways to execute that hate into physical violence.

There's more to this game than just beating up baddies, but a city to save by raising their morale and will to fight.  If you're looking for a World War II game that isn't a derivative first person shooter, well this might be it.  Let's get into the first hour of The Saboteur.

Assassin's Creed II

First Hour Review

Assassins Creed 2 CoverA few years ago, I had to opportunity to borrow an Xbox 360 along with a bunch of games when my friend was out of the country. Assassin's Creed was one of them, and while I was more or less satisfied after the first hour, the entire game left a lot to be desired.  I found it incredibly repetitive and full of crappy A.I. while lacking any kind of story framework.  It had its moments, like finding the lookout points around the city along with some beautiful graphics, but the game left a foul taste in my mouth.

Fast forward more than two years later and this time Assassin's Creed II has fallen into my lap.  Everyone was raving about how much Ubisoft had improved the game over the original, but then again all those same people had lavished praise on the first one.  I'm not one to judge a game without giving it a try though, so here we are for another go around with the first hour of Assassin's Creed II.

For a quick introduction, the Assassin's Creed series is all about third-person parkour in the past.  You play as an assassin who runs around the city doing what assassins do: finding out information about their target and then taking them out.  The first game took place in the Holy Land in the 12th century whereas the sequel is set in Italy during their Renaissance in the 15th century.

Warning: Do not buy this game for Windows as Ubisoft wrapped Assassin's Creed II in some of the most awful DRM anyone could ever imagine: a required, persistent internet connection for a single player game.  Avoid this at all costs, don't buy it and don't pirate it for Windows.  Do not give Ubisoft any reason to justify what they did.  Two years ago, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia without any DRM whatsoever, ask them to return to those days.

Borderlands

First Hour Review

Borderlands CoverWhen I first heard about Borderlands, I somehow just knew it was going to be a game that I would like.  I don’t know how I knew, I just knew.  It reminds me of the days when I was 12 years old and shopped for video games by looking at the pictures on the back of the game box in the toy store so long ago.  I don’t know how it worked, but I could look at those 2 or 3 screenshots and read that lonely paragraph and know with certainty if I would like the game or not.  Just like shopping in the toy store years ago, I actually knew very little about the details of Borderlands.  I knew it was an FPS, and I had heard it had RPG elements. I had read a story on Kotaku that discussed a drastic shift from “realistic” graphics to a more “cartoony” cell shaded design.  There was little else I could tell you about the game.  But somehow, I wanted it. 

So, I added it to my mental list of games to play without too much thought. I wasn’t in a big hurry, simply because I’m generally pretty patient about getting games.  This allows me to scoop up great deals from the Target clearance game shelf.  As Greg, purveyor of First Hour, noted in a recent conversation on LIVE, I’m a person who often likes games that other people don’t.  Well, I’m also a person who loves to get a bargain and both traits suit me well for the clearance shelf.  If I wait that first month to buy a game and it’s a critical and commercial failure, there’s a good chance it will see 50% off on the Target clearance shelf. It wasn’t long before I realized that Borderlands would not be one of those games.  Apparently, people were liking it. Good for the developers and bad for my wallet.  This only fueled my desire to play the game sooner rather than later. I finally found a Sunday ad with the game on sale for $39.99 and decided it was fate.  You’re about to read the first hour of what fate decided was a game I must play.

Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter

First Hour Review

Serious sam hd the First Encounter CoverSerious Sam HD: The First Encounter is a recent remake of the fps classic, Serious Sam, both developed by Croteam. While I own the original Serious Sam Second Encounter, I really never played it, being somewhat put-off by the seemingly cheesy nature and waves of ugly enemies. But I recently got the update fairly cheap and decided to give it another shot. After quickly running through the demo level, I start the actual game here, so here we go... and if you wish, you can follow along with the youtube playlist.

Mass Effect 2

Full Review

Mass Effect 2 CoverI've been delaying writing my review for Mass Effect 2 for a while now.  It was my most anticipated game in years, and I bought it the day it came out and finished it a few long nights later.  I pored over 40 hours into my first playthrough of the game, longer than even my first run of the original.  This was going to be my defining game of 2010, my Game of the Year.  It's two months later now and I've played it more since I beat it, but I still haven't compiled all my thoughts on it.  Half of me wants to write the best review possible for one of the best games ever, and the other half of me wants to make sure it really was one of the best games ever.

I'll start with my conclusion though: I loved it.  It's a beyond excellent game that takes the series and the genre into new territories.  Mass Effect 2 tries something new at every bend and seemingly succeeds at them all.  I had built up an incredible amount of hype for the game, and I can honestly say it surpassed my expectations.  BioWare, my hat goes off to you.

A little more introduction though: Mass Effect 2 was released in late January of 2010 for the Xbox 360 and Windows.  It's the direct sequel to Mass Effect which was released in late 2007.  The game was published by EA and is its flagship product for its downloadable content scheme.  The free-with-a-new-purchase Cerberus Network has provided us with plenty of free and paid for DLC since the game was released, and more is on the way.  It's BioWare's second big AAA title in about as many months with Dragon Age: Origins coming last November.  Everything seems to be going right for them.

So you can tell I enjoyed the game already, but read on to see exactly why.  Here's my full review of Mass Effect 2.

Borderlands: It's gonna be addicting

Blog Post

Borderlands CoverI received Borderlands from my brother-in-law for Christmas, but didn't have the opportunity to play it until my other brother-in-law was over to visit and asked to play it.  I watched him play while trying out the new Miles Edgeworth game, but Borderlands really grabbed my attention.

He chose to play as a berserker, and after the initial bus ride cutscene, he was on Pandora and kicking butt.  The game was very open but it always seemed like he had something to do. There were a couple of quest givers, he was leveling up, finding new guns, shooting more and more enemies.  He played for about two hours and had taken out the game's first boss after a few attempts, and then it was my turn to give it a go.

I can't believe I left this game on my shelf for so long, it's... awesome. I haven't played a game like it since World of Warcraft.  The open world feels big and intimidating, but it's one of those perfect examples of sandbox non-linearity with just the right amount of linear guidance.  The quests keep coming and I just kept leveling up.  There were skill points to earn and bigger and better guns to collect. I'm already hooked.

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.

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