The weather is warming up, and I played a ton of games over the last few cold months. Here’s what I thought about them.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Ah, the Kinect. So much potential… so little realized. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have Your Shape, The Kinect would be gathering dust on top of my TV. As it stands though, this “game” is an awesome workout. I use it a couple times a week to do some cardio, and believe it or not, I actually feel better! It has been much easier to go back to than Wii Fit or any other workout game since it doesn’t require you to hold a controller or strap on any weird sensors. Since I’m new to the workout scene, I haven’t delved into the more intense stuff (including some light weight training), but the way that the Kinect can track you and instantly help you correct any issues is pretty awesome.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
The last Spider-Man video game I played was Ultimate Spider-Man on the Gamecube. So, my bar was set pretty high for what a Spider-Man video game should be. I intentionally avoided some of the other less well received titles, but the notion of playing as 4 Spider-Men linked by a common story thread seemed interesting. And you know what? It’s a pretty darn good game. It doesn’t have any of the open world swinging around from past games, but you still do your fair share of web slinging, and each character brings some neat twists to the central gameplay. It has just the right mix of new and old villains… and the cameo by Deadpool was my favorite part of the game. Would love to see a spinoff of the Noir Spider-man into his own game. Overall, it’s just a fun romp through a goofy Spidey story. What more could you ask for?
Alpha Protocol is a game that I’m glad I let simmer after its release. Initial reviews were not great, but some kind words from Obadiah on Riot Control, paired with some new info on how to play convinced me to try it. Here’s what I found: lots of potential. First, the good; the Mass Effect style conversation options and overall storyline are great. Its a Bourne-esque trip around the world, and as long as you sink tons of points into stealth and martial arts you’ll be just fine. But if I wouldn’t have read up on the proper way to play and sunk all my experience into, say, tech abilities… I would have had a much more frustrating time. This is a game that would have benefitted from 6 more months of development tweaking, but as it stands, it’s not terrible if you focus on its strong points.
Before Bulletstorm’s release, all indications pointed to an insane action game peppered with crude dialogue and crazy weapons. The finished product did not disappoint. The addition of Skillshots to an above average shooter made this game a joy to play. Could have done without all the “creative” anatomical references and swearing, but it is what it is. The cooperative online mode left something to be desired, and without any competitive multiplayer, one playthrough was all I needed to get my fill.
Dragon Age 2
Here, let me show you something.
Need I say more?
At E3 last year, Dance Central appeared to be the savior of all things Kinect. It controlled well, had a decent soundtrack, and most importantly… it was fun. It also covered up many of the Kinect’s inherent flaws by not showing your avatar on screen. I can independently confirm that all of the above statements are true. Here’s the problem though… it’s HARD. You’ll reach a critical point, maybe halfway through the list of songs, that you’ll have to decide if you want to spend your time memorizing and practicing dance moves… or play something else. I chose the latter.
The original Portal is one of the true gems of the gaming industry. With roots as a college dev project, Valve was able to introduce an awesome new puzzle solving mechanic into it’s Half Life universe. Portal 2 takes that premise and runs with it. The portals are back, obviously, but along with it comes some neat twists in the form of blue, red, and white gels. Add in some light bridges, some new characters, and some truly spectacular environments and you’ve got a serious contender for 2011’s Game of the Year. Adding a complete co-op campaign and an awesome storyline doesn’t hurt either.
…and that’s it! Actually, I’ve been playing quite a few XBLA releases as well. What’s that, you want me to do a one sentence review on each of them? Well, here you go!
Fun, mindless, lighthearted kingdom building sim.
This turn-based resource strategy game is TOUGH, but fun.
A campaign for RISK with fun new mechanics? YES PLEASE.
I see what all the fuss is about, but it got repetitive quick.
Pretty fun, awesome music, but got bored halfway through.
Awesome modernization of Pac-Man… and easy 200G.
Never finished the original… might not finish the remake.
It’s Torchlight… on my couch.
Right now I’m playing through Crysis 2, and after that the only major release I’m looking forward to is Red Faction: Armageddon. Can’t wait until E3 to hear about Nintendo’s new console!
And as always, if you want to snag the “buy 1 month get 1 free” deal for Gamefly (and help me get a free month)… click here.
The cold and snow has set in, Christmas is over, and I’ve played a ton of video games. Here… take a gander.
Fallout: New Vegas
I played a TON of Fallout 3. I unlocked every achievement in the main game, and almost every one in the 5 DLC packs for the game. And I think the mammoth amount of time I put into that game was the reason that I didn’t feel compelled to finish New Vegas. Don’t get me wrong… everything that made Fallout 3 great is featured in New Vegas (with some notable improvements to companions and inventory). But it looks almost identical, it runs on a 6 year old engine, and the prospect of sinking another 60 hours into what felt like the same game was choked out by the desire to play some of the other great games coming out this holiday season.
Dead Rising 2
Here, let me just copy and paste something really quick… I played a TON of [Dead Rising]. I unlocked [almost] every achievement in the main game, and every one in [Case Zero]. And I think the mammoth amount of time I put into [those games] was the reason that I didn’t feel compelled to finish [Dead Rising 2]. Don’t get me wrong… everything that made [Dead Rising] great is featured in [Dead Rising 2] (with some notable improvements to companions and inventory). But it looks almost identical, and the prospect of sinking another 60 hours into what felt like the same game was choked out by the desire to play some of the other great games coming out this holiday season. [In an interesting turn of events, I’m pretty sure that the awesome time I spent playing Case Zero actually diminished my desire to play all the way through DR2. I fully intend to download Case West when it releases, as it appears that bite size chunks (no pun intended) of Dead Rising is exactly what I’m looking for.]
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Now we’re talking. This one was the most anticipated title of the year for many people, wondering how well the series would fare after MW2 developer Infinity Ward was gutted and the WW2 setting has been played out. As far as base expectations are concerned, this one delivered in spades. The guns felt right, the multiplayer had some great maps… any seasoned MW2 player could make the transition easily. What takes it even higher is the great campaign and the addition of wager matches in multiplayer. The story is interesting to follow, and made even more so by the inclusion of real life characters like JFK and Castro. And the ending… wow. Kudos to Treyarch for picking up where Infinity Ward left off.
Assassin’s Creed 2
With all the recent talk about how good AC: Brotherhood is, I felt that I needed to get familiar with the series. I skipped out on the first game and went straight to #2, but read up on the first game to get acclimated. I really dug the whole sci-fi concept of a dude in the future living out the past life of one of his ancestors. The 15th century Italian world they’ve created is absolutely stunning. The traversal aspect of the game is also made so simple… just hold down the right trigger, press ‘A’, and oh look I’m on top of the tallest church in Florence. It’s unfortunate, though, that the developers feel the need to muddy up an otherwise great game universe with a bunch of pseudo-religious new age mumbo jumbo.
Disney Epic Mickey
This game looked amazing up to release. You’ve got a bizarro-Disneyworld (messed up by Mickey Mouse himself) that chronicles all of forgotten Disney history while letting you paint and erase parts of it as you see fit. Sounds great! Except… it got boring. I’m not usually one to complain about the camera in platforming games, but this one sucked pretty bad. There were definitely some standout moments, like the scrap heap of memorabilia on Mickeyjunk Mountain, or the Tron-inspired Tomorrowland, but sadly a lot of the areas tended to blend together. Also, and this point can’t be stated enough… WHY WASN’T THIS GAME RELEASED ON A CONSOLE THAT CAN OUTPUT IN HD?
This game is a 6-8 hour nonstop action movie. The characters are campy, the guns are huge, and the main character’s crazy rocket-boot-bullet-time action is FREAKING AMAZING. For lack of a better comparison, Vanquish is Gears of War on some type of industrial grade amphetamine. There’s also a running score tally for all the destruction you’re creating, which is about the only thing that lends itself to replayability. Definitely recommended for a solid Gamefly rental.
Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den DLC
So, this is technically not something you can get via Gamefly alone, but I would be doing a great disservice if I didn’t mention it. This was, hands down, my favorite story thread in the Bioshock universe. It retails for $10 as DLC, and is well worth it. The story begins with you as another prototype Big Daddy, attempting to get into the Central Computing area of Rapture: Minerva’s Den. Along the way you’ll get to see the brains behind all the security bots, cameras, and turrets… as well as use lots of retro-future weapons to fight your way to the information core of the underwater city. I’ll stop short of spoiling any story elements, because as I mentioned before, it’s my favorite bit of Rapture lore.
Well, that’s all I’ll get into for now. For those wondering, yes, I got the Kinect for Christmas, and yes, I like it a lot. I wasn’t sure if I would get bored of it quickly or not, but so far I’m really having a ton of fun with Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports. The rest of my family is digging it too, and honestly that’s where the Kinect really shines. I hope to get Dance Central through Gamefly sometime soon, but the demand has been pretty high with the massive amount of people also snagging a Kinect for Christmas. Other than that, the next major release on my Q is Two Worlds 2 at the end of January and then Bulletstorm in February… so the next several weeks will be spent catching up on some games I missed this past year. Any games that you think I should be snagging? Let me know! [Oh, I suppose I should mention that I got NFS: Hot Pursuit with a gift card. That game is awesome, but I didn’t throw it on this list because I didn’t get it through Gamefly.]
The past few months have brought some good games, and some “quick returns”. Check it out.
Toy Story 3
Hands down, the best movie tie-in game I’ve ever played. I liked it so much, I got all 1000 gamerscore in it! The visuals are great, the story loosely ties in with the movie, but the main standout is the “toy box” mode. It’s basically Grand Theft Pixar. The later levels of the story also feature some great platforming that is reminiscent of Mario Galaxy. If you loved the movie, check out the game!
Metroid: Other M
I’m going to review this game with one word, but first let me just say that I’ve played-and loved- all of the Metroid Prime games and also Super Metroid. (Games which *HINT* did not feature any dialogue from Samus). You ready? Here it is: YAWN.
Oh my. Where to begin? They’ve basically perfected the Halo formula with Reach, and rightly so- this is Bungie’s final Halo game (Let me go on the record and say this is probably NOT Bungie’s last Halo game). The visuals are spectacular, the new weapons and abilities are great, and it features the best campaign of the Halo franchise. Add in the best multiplayer experience on the 360 and you’ve got the full package. If you want to hear myself and Obadiah from RadioU go on a 20 minute rant about the game, check out the Riot Control podcast.
I really enjoyed the first Crackdown. I really wanted to enjoy Crackdown 2. And, for the first hour or so, I did enjoy it… but it just got boring. You do the same missions over and over, and other than adding the “freaks” that come out at night, this is essentially the first game all over again. It’s not a bad game, it just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
This one was a bit perplexing. It started out fine, the premise being that your wife was killed and you need to battle your way through hordes of monsters to avenge her death and bring peace to the world. The combat system was great and fun to learn. The big problem for me, though, was what they gave you to do your fighting with. Now, I am a Christian, so everything I play is filtered through the truth that Jesus has the true power over all evil. So when a game attempts to make me use the power of demons to fight evil… I’m sorry. That’s just not gonna fly. As the Man said himself, “How can Satan cast out Satan? A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” So anyway, as soon as that stuff showed up, the disc got ejected and sent back to Gamefly.
Darkstar One: Broken Alliance
Currently playing this one right now. I heard bits and pieces about it over the summer, but it was a Giant Bomb Quicklook that finally got me to pull the trigger. A little backstory first… Wing Commander: Privateer is one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve constantly been looking for something that delivers the same experience. This is as good as I’ve seen so far. It’s essentially an “open world” game where you can pick up missions, trade cargo between star systems, and shoot anyone you please. Along the way you’ll pick up artifacts to upgrade your ship, buy new weapons and gear… oh and there’s a hokey sci-fi story along the way too. The fun for me is flying around and doing whatever I want… IN SPACE! I plan on getting all 1000 gamerscore in this one. :)
There you have it. Fallout: New Vegas is on its way right now, to be followed soon by Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s gonna be a busy winter! Oh… and I guess I should mention one other game that I’ve so far sunk about 50 hours into.
One more turn, please.
I knew this would happen! It’s been quite a bit since my last post, but don’t fret… my experience with Gamefly has still been quite positive. Let’s get up to speed, quickly.
Transformers: War For Cybertron
Definitely surprised me with just how compelling of a world they’ve created in Cybertron. The plot is straight out of a Transformers G1 cartoon, but the action is on par with a Ratchet & Clank title and the set-pieces are HUGE. Great mindless fun, and the multiplayer is a blast too. That final boss battle though… jeez… insta-kill much?
Splinter Cell: Conviction
This was my first experience with a Splinter Cell game, and although it supposedly diverges a little from the traditional formula, I can see what all the fuss was about. Sneaking around and taking out dudes was all sorts of rewarding. I could have done without all the moronic dialogue from the enemy thugs, and the ending left me wondering where they hid the rest of the game.
Left 4 Dead 2
I already own this one on Steam on the PC, but this is a story that deserves being told. A friend of mine was organizing a L4D2 LAN party using Xbox 360’s. We had 4 people, 4 HDTV’s, 4 Xbox 360s… but everyone needed a copy of the game. The party was on Friday. So, on Monday, I added L4D2 to my Q, and it arrived on Thursday. After the party it went back to Gamefly! Pretty awesome to be able to grab a game quickly without having to worry about trading it/selling it.
…and that brings us up to speed! Right now, I’m playing:
…and so far, it’s great! I’ve put about 3 hours in so far, and I love the setting, love the art style, love the “open world jank”, and love the main character! The game also includes one of my favorite tutorial popups ever: press “LB” to walk like a Nazi. [DISCLAIMER: I generally love open world titles, even ones that were panned by critics, like Pandemic’s earlier title Mercenaries 2.] Another point for Gamefly… I would never have paid money for this game. The not-so-stellar reviews and not-so-mentioned marketing caused me to forget about it, until I saw it on Gamefly. So far, I’m glad I did!
So, I learned some important Gamefly lessons over the 4th of July holiday. Some positive, some negative. Let’s start with the negative. As far as I can tell, for new releases, you MUST have an open slot in your Q before they start shipping the new game (which is usually Monday before a Tuesday release). I had shipped my game back on Friday, and with a 2 day turnaround, I thought I’d test if they would ship out Crackdown 2 on the same day they received Split/Second. Short answer: No. Besides the fact that the mail didn’t even run on that particular Monday, they had already shipped their available copies before they had checked in my returned game. Also, I didn’t have anything else in my Q at the time, so nothing got shipped until later in the week when I finally realized I was going to be out of luck until someone finished Crackdown 2 and sent it back. So… lesson learned. (This might have been a different scenario if the game I’d returned was a “FastReturn” game, where a scan from USPS would trigger the next game shipment. But it wasn’t.) And now for the positive. When I don’t have a lot of time to play games, I’m not losing money on the deal. As you can tell, the 4th of July was some time ago. It was also the last weekend I played any games until this most recent one. In the past I had shelled out the $60 for a new game, only to get sidetracked by some more important things and by the time I got around to playing it, I could have picked it up on sale from amazon or wherever for about $20 less. In the case of Blur, I could have picked it up for $50 less. So, we’ll see how things go from here on out. The next game I’d like to try and snag on release week is Metroid: Other M, but that’s not until the end of August. In the meanwhile, I’m checking out some games that I probably wouldn’t have purchased on my own; Transformers: War for Cybertron and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Gotta love the colons! I’m halfway through Transformers, and I’ll have a review up soon.