half-life

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Full Review

Counter Strike Global Offensive Banner

It's been a long while since I've written a review, which is pretty commonplace due to my busy schedule. But as my days have cleared up due to seriously inclement weather, I figured I'd write a review. Not just a review, but a review on a game in a series that I am in love with. This is something I had been saving and looking forward to for the right time.

Unfortunately though, this didn't pan out like I had hoped. This is hard for me to write. Not just because of the fact it's a multiplayer experience I'm reviewing, but also because it's a dream of mine being crushed.

As I've mentioned before, I was a pretty avid player of Counter Strike, and much more so, Counter Strike: Source. My father and I played CS: Source from around 2005 until 2007. We were in a clan, competitively. (The name of it was Exemplar Sect, best player was Pug.) Anyway, we loved that game, and I remember upgrading computer parts all of the time to increase framerates, and every weekend was a Mountain Dew fueled weekend of meeting people all over the world and killing them. But then other games became popular (I played Battlefield: Bad Company 2 quite a bit.) and I went over to them, but I always visited CS: Source, and always had a blast.

Portal 2 - Co-op

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverA year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.

Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.

This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.

2011 Game of the Year Awards

Game of the Year Awards

Game of the YearAnnouncing the 2011 Game of the Year Awards from First Hour!

These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!

Portal 2

Full Review

Portal 2 CoverAs the sequel to my 2007 Game of the Year, I had high expectations of Portal 2, and so did the developers Valve, and everyone else mildly interested in video games. This was a milestone release, and Valve has been rewarded with many accolades and undoubtedly excellent sales numbers. I was able to sit down with Portal 2 for Windows and beat it in three extended gaming sessions over a few weeks.

That last sentence might be rather revealing, yes, the game took me weeks to beat. I took on the original Portal in one sitting. Of course, Portal 2 is longer than the original, and I have two kids now instead of none, but I’ll say right off the bat I felt like some kind of spark was missing.

So let’s just dive right into my review of Portal 2. This review will probably be shorter than usual simply because of my personal pact to spend less time writing full reviews this year, so hopefully I can more succinctly say what needs to be said.

Portal 2

First Hour Review

Portal 2 CoverIt has been a pretty good year of gaming for me in 2011, with Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and Radiant Historia sending out the original Nintendo DS in proper fashion, but even more exciting is one of the biggest games of the year, Portal 2.

It’s fun to look back at where the Portal “series” began: as a humble bonus in The Orange Box which featured big names like Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2. Portal was essentially created by a couple of DigiPen grads and Valve molded that into one of the biggest gaming surprises... ever. It was my 2007 Game of the Year and I wasn’t the only one to hand it such an award.

Portal 2 was released last month, but instead of riding the coattails of something like Half-Life 2: Episode 3, it comes out as a full, stand-alone game. It probably doesn’t need to be said that it is receiving beyond excellent reviews, but before we venture too deep down the portal hole, let’s visit its first hour.

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.

Portal

First Hour Review

Portal CoverPortal is just one game in Valve's newest release, The Orange Box. The Orange Box is a collection of a few different games but Portal is definitely the one that intrigued me the most. The concept of the game is that it is basically a first-person puzzle game that uses a special gun to navigate the areas. This special gun is the portal gun, which allows you to create a blue portal and an orange portal. You can place these portals on most surfaces and then walk/fall/hurtle yourself through it and you'll end up on the other side. Lots of cool things can be done with this and I'll try to explore its many possibilities in my first hour review.

Portal was actually based off a senior project called Narbacular Drop. From the sounds of it, Valve basically hired everyone on this project to help them create Portal! Not a bad turn of events. Oh, and you're probably thinking: "Portal is a brand new game! How is it possible you're reviewing it already!" It's true I don't normally review such brand-spanking new games, but I couldn't pass this one up! Enjoy this rare, new game review!

For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Portal review at Beyond the First Hour.

Portal

Full Review

Portal CoverPortal is a puzzle first-person shooter recently released as part of Valve's The Orange Box. Also in this long awaited package is Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It also includes the original Half-Life 2 and Episode One, so basically this is the perfect purchase for someone looking to get into this great series. Portal was just released this week but I had the foresight of playing it right away from the recommendations of a couple of co-workers (direct quotes: "game of the year," "funniest game ever," "best character ever"). It was a great experience as I will soon describe.

But how about a quick explanation of what this game is all about! Basically, you're a woman in a research facility, experimenting with the new portal gun. This gun can shoot two different portals, a blue one and an orange one. These portals are then connected so if you walk into the blue portal you'll come out the orange portal and vice-versa. This makes for a complex but enjoyable gaming experience as you can walk through one portal and fall out the other side if it's on the ceiling. Even more fun is the momentum you can build up by placing a portal on the floor a couple levels below you and then jumping down into it from above. Your momentum carries over from the fall and you'll come hurtling out the other portal! Very fun stuff! The portals also allow you to see yourself through the portal if they're positioned properly, making for a disorienting experience. Not a bad disorienting though. Time for some scores out of 10!

For my longer review on just the first hour, please see my Portal review at The First Hour.

Half-Life 2

First Hour Review

Half-Life 2 CoverHalf-Life 2 is one of those games that just delivers. Hyped up beyond imagination, Valve fulfilled their grand promise and gave gamers one of PC's greatest games. Delayed, leaked, and delayed again, Half-Life 2 was in the oven for a while, but many people would agree it came out perfect. But how were those first few bites, how was the first hour of Half-Life 2? Let us enter the world of City 17 and find out.

I should probably make it clear that my computer isn't that great, and the loading times are probably longer than what an avid PC Gamer would own. However, this review isn't targeted to such a small audience and my computer (Athlon 1800+, 1GB RAM, and Radeon 9800 Pro) may well be representative of the average reader. Anyways, on with the game!

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