Five years ago I played about sixty minutes of the beginning of God of War II and was impressed by how quickly the action ramps up and how the momentum is carried throughout. Big action set pieces like the Colossus battle and flying on Pegasus made for an extremely memorable first hour, and still one of the best. At that moment I made a decision that I suppose in some ways has changed my life: I reset the PS2, grabbed a pen and notebook, and started playing God of War II over again.
Five years later and a full ten days worth of first hour reviews written by me and a half-dozen other writers, we're back to where it all began. I imagine this is a one-time event, I'm not sure there's really much left to point out in the game's first hour that I didn't the first time, but the timing is fun. I've always measured first hours in how many "days" have passed, with 24 first hour reviews representing a day. Since this is review 240, the end of day ten, I couldn't really pass up the opportunity.
The review format hasn't changed a lot in five years, even then I was keeping track of "minutes to action", but I don't give scores anymore, focusing instead on what really matters: would I keep playing beyond the first hour? Fellow writer Nate has developed his own first hour review format, and from now on I'll be moving more towards that. It's very time consuming to detail every minute of action, and I'm not sure if it's entirely valuable to the reader, so things will be changing for me as a critic, I'm still not entirely sure what it will look like.
But somehow my little review site has survived five years without much trouble, or attention, for that matter. But that's okay with me, soon after I began writing regularly about a subject I actually enjoyed, I realized I loved doing it and the number of readers or amount of money I was making was far less important than the fact that I was putting my thoughts and ideas on paper.
So thank you to all readers, fans, and critics over the last five years. You have turned a curiosity into a hobby into a passion.
Announcing the 2010 Game of the Year Awards from the First Hour! We published over 60 full reviews this year, tripling our output from last year. Of course, our writing staff has grown quite a bit also. I personally beat 30 games, undoubtedly making 2010 my most productive video gaming year ever. We also played over 55 first hours, keeping up a steady pace of one a week. We have not been lacking for great games or content this year.
This isn't your normal Game of the Year awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour, so keep scrolling all the way to the bottom! If anything, our game of the year picks are the least interesting decisions. The writers here also don't vote on the categories, instead, everyone is welcome to submit their picks as their own definitive decision.
On the first of the year, the writers here presented their predictions for 2010 in the video game industry. It was our first attempt at anything like this, and since we're primarily gamers first, writers second, and industry experts in a distant last, this was definitely more of an exercise in fun forecasting than put-your-money-down-now predictions.
Well, we can't let bad predictions go forgotten and made fun of, so here we are again. We'll quickly cover what went randomly right and what went horribly wrong, but then we'll be back again on Friday for our fourth annual Game of the Year Awards.
History lesson #1: the ancient Greeks were crazy. Sure, they essentially laid the foundation for western society, but they also worshipped more gods than anybody could possibly remember, all of whom led lives with more dramatic twists and turns than a daytime soap opera. I doubt Days of Our Lives ever featured a giant man made of rock who married his sister and ate his kids, after all.
History lesson #2: in 2005, God of War tore its way into the still-beating hearts of PS2 owners with its brutal take on Greek mythology. The game introduced us to Kratos, Spartan servant of the gods and the kind of pitiless killer that most actual Spartans probably strived to be. God of War sold bajillions of copies, spawned equally-successful sequels on the PS2, PSP, and PS3, and even had its own terrible SpikeTV special for rabid fans to embarass themselves in front of the world. Not bad for fanfiction, is it?
History lesson #3: the action-packed start to God of War II is actually responsible for the creation of The First Hour. The game certainly started with a bang, thrusting the player into an intense situation right off the bat that dropped jaws to the floor. Does God of War III have the same inspirational power?
Like scampering down the stairs on Christmas morning, the excited search for a steady video feed before E3 conferences is filled with anticipation. The annual summer happening is one of the few times on the gaming industry's calendar when we can look forward to some surprise delights from the many publishers playing the role of Santa Claus in business suits. Simply put, it's the industry's biggest event in the year.
As such, the editors of The First Hour tried to guess what unexpected pleasures would manifest at the event. Some were sure bets, like Microsoft showing off Halo: Reach. Others were more risky, like F-Zero hitting the 3DS at launch. And some were planted firmly outside the realm of possibility, with Shenmue 3 topping that list as always.
When all was said and done, The First Hour hit a few out of the park...but mostly struck out.
Quick Time Events. Ever since God of War and Resident Evil 4 exploded
onto the scene with button-prompt sequences of gore and horror, the
industry has shown its sheep-like nature and incorporated these Gotcha!
moments into games without thinking about how they make an
interactive experience better. Many gamers have adjusted to the fact
that every cutscene now has an awful series of play buttons throughout, but I
personally would like to cram all the QTEs in the world into a space
shuttle full of cobras and launch them directly into the sun if it meant
I'd never have to see another one again.
That said, it's not impossible to come across decent use of QTEs. Indeed, before Resident Evil 4 set the standard at the advent of 2005, the mechanic was most prominently-used by the Dreamcast's crown jewel, Shenmue. In fact, it was Yu Suzuki, that game's director, who coined the term "Quick Time Event." Suzuki put the gimmick to good use throughout Shenmue, allowing protagonist Ryo Hazuki to do everything from tossing drunkards around in bar brawls to saving little girls from incoming soccer balls. One of the reasons the game is so beloved today is that it allowed the player to engage in such a wide variety of scenarios, many of which were supported with smartly-designed QTEs.
Good QTEs didn't end with Shenmue, however, even though sometimes it seems that's the case. Like God of War, other Playstation heavyweights have managed to use QTEs to enhance a game experience. I think it's only fair that we look at a few of those, as well as some alternatives to these timed button-prompts for cinematic flair in games.
Quick Time Events. So many games have used them to some extent in the last five years that just about every gamer has an opinion on them. Mine is that they are the worst gameplay gimmick to take the industry by storm in a long time, and I wouldn't mind seeing them all packed into a burlap sack filled with leeches and thrown into the depths of a volcano. They're tacky, they're unintuitive, and their attempts to engage players in cinematic animations backfire and break the sense of immersion one has with a game. And unfortunately for me, they're just about everywhere these days.
Two behemoths let loose in early 2005 can be thanked -- or blamed -- for the salvo of games that have featured QTEs in the last five years. The first, with a January 11 release date, was Resident Evil 4. The game was extremely well-received: it won many Game of the Year awards, offered a fresh take on the aging Resident Evil formula, and gave Gamecube owners a third-party exclusive worth bragging about. The other member of the gruesome twosome that brought us into the era of QTEs is known as God of War. Released just two months after Resident Evil 4, the game received just as many accolades and turned heads back to the PS2 as quickly as they'd been lost to the Gamecube's horror hit. Is it any wonder that the industry went in the direction it did when two such monumental successes as these both prominently featured a relatively unused gameplay gimmick?
Today we'll take a look at how the smart use of QTEs helped put these two games on the map, and watch a few examples of QTEs gone wrong. And trust me, there was a huge pool of resources for the latter.
Welcome to the third episode of The First Hour Podcast! In this episode, Paul and Greg wrap up Mass Effect 2, talk Sonic games, and more!
Please leave us your feedback!
Going to try something new this year, we're going to make some completely wild predictions that may have little base in reality. I think they're pretty self-explanatory, and hopefully at the end of the year I'll remember we did this and we can have a good laugh at how wrong we were (or be shocked at how right).
So while these are guaranteed to be wrong, they are my current feelings about the industry from hopefully a non-biased gamer's point of view. Well, non-biased until it comes to BioWare games that is.
This is my first post on The First Hour, reviewing the first hour of the game that inspired me to create this blog in the first place, God of War 2. The first hour of this game is really good, loads of action, decent introduction to the characters, and lots of blood and gore. Well, let's get right down to it then.