By Angularbanjo 4 Comments
Game 1: RACE Pro
BEFORE: This one's actually not even mine, which is a first for the Backlog series. I might have bought it if I didn't have a racing nut friend who got it for Christmas and decided to share the easy achievements love. This is supposed to be the poor man's Forza. Some of my best gaming memories from back in my Amiga days are of playing knock-offs of other classic games - now that I think about it, most original Amiga games probably were.
AFTER: Wow, this is a pretty hardcore sim racer. Total old-school PC-style racing sim. The sound and visuals are nothing special, but the driving engine is pretty solid. I can't really see how this is supposed to compete with games like Forza 3 at retail, though. The first achievement popped four minutes in for completing the first tryout in career mode, and I stuck around for the first career race. I'll be mining this for achievements while catching up on podcasts.
Game 2: Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City
BEFORE: The Ballad of Gay Tony popped up in a lot of GOTY lists last year, so that's the one I'm checking out first. I was pretty much done with GTA IV by the time I finished it, the final missions of that game felt like too much of a grind for me. Hopefully, Gay Tony will bring some fun back to Liberty City.
AFTER: I must have spent a lot more time with GTA IV than I remembered. The setting and mechanics are instantly familiar. Deep, deep hooks here. Although the past two years haven't been too kind to the engine - the framerate was never that hot in the first place - I want to play this to completion right now. Played for an hour and 15 minutes before I scored an achievement playing golf.
Game 3: Lost Odyssey
BEFORE: I've never played a Final Fantasy game. I intend to play FFXIII when it comes out later this year, and Lost Odyssey should be a decent warm-up - if the JRPG conventions aren't immediately off-putting. I've warmed up to western RPGs lately, so let's see if Japan can do anything for me.
AFTER: The opening sequence is stunning. An amazing CG cutscene turns into a fairly epic player-controlled battle sequence almost imperceptibly. The battle system seems manageable enough, with simple menus, nice animations and satisfying sound effects. I got the first achievement one hour in, way too early to say whether I'll stick with it all the way through four discs. I'm definitely intrigued, though.
Game 4: Darksiders
BEFORE: There wasn't much coverage of Darksiders leading up to its release, but the reviews have been mainly positive, so I decided to give it a try. Although most reviewers have complained about the game's derivative nature, I haven't played all of the games it derives its ideas from - that might be a good or a bad thing.
AFTER: Well, that was rather intense. Buttonmashy combat, post-apocalyptic demonic cityscape that's just about cartoony enough to land on the cool side of scary, and some great voice work by Mark Hamill. Got my first achievement for dealing in demon souls after 45 minutes. I suspect it will take me a few more hours to get into the game proper, but so far it holds plenty promise.
Game 5: Oblivion
BEFORE: If nothing else, this should be a nice contrast to Lost Odyssey. Though I've enjoyed it, I haven't quite fallen into the clutch of Fallout 3 so far. I'm more well versed in the post-apocalyptic wasteland setting than traditional fantasy, but after hearing John Davison going on and on about Oblivion in the early days of the 1UP Yours podcast, I decided to pick up the GOTY edition and give it a go.
AFTER: Pleasantly surprised. It's dated, for sure, but the world looks and feels really nice. Plenty of loot, plenty of character customization options. I intended to do as mr. Davison advised and play until I got out of the sewers, and just as I saw daylight for the first time, the first achievement popped. 50G, no less. I'd like to play more at some point, although with Mass Effect 2 coming out later this month, I can't see myself doing so anytime soon.
Game 6: Earth Defense Force 2017
BEFORE: This is supposed to be a B-movie game in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. I don't know if I'm ready for this. I will not be playing for the first achievement. I checked, and that would require me to finish the game.
AFTER: Everything you've heard is true. These aren't the production values you're looking for. I'm having fun, though. I really like the destructable buildings, a feature Red Faction: Guerilla also did well this year. I must have shot more skyscrapers than I shot giant alien ants during the first mission, which took me about 13 minutes to complete. I'll have to check out the co-op sometime.