Ok folks, welcome back to another episode of the TBoD Podcast, our lively debate this week consists of the following stories;
Ok folks, welcome back to another episode of the TBoD Podcast, our lively debate this week consists of the following stories;
Another week, another installment on the TBoD podcast.
The topics on the smörgåsbord for discussion this week are;
and our Indie game of the week is “Total Chaos“.
As always thanks for tuning in, if you like what you hear leave us a comment or a review on iTunes, if you have a burning question that you need answering in a meandering tangenty fashion by all means give us a shout on Twitter, Facebook or leave a comment here on the blog.
With an Open Hand < — Right click and choose “save as” to download
We’re back again to talk the latest gaming news.
This week: starting out with the XBone Zone, we look at the unbundling of Kinect, as well as the Netflix and Hulu Gold requirement being lifted, and Games with Gold – officially no longer shit! Moving on, we talk new Halo news.
Our Indie game this week is beautiful looking The Forest, go check it out.
Well met adventurers!,
We have a veritable feast in store for you this week.
In this show we cover: an addition for Naughty Dog following their recent departures; could Titanfall be coming to PS4?; Steven Spielberg’s Halo series may not be as exclusive as we once thought; we get a bit weighty with our thoughts on sexism in gaming and society, thanks to this article; the obligatory Destiny circle-jerk continues, and further; plus, an exciting reveal from Sony on the real purpose of the DS4′s lightbar.
Our indie game this week is Stoked!, currently on Kickstarter. Head over and give it a look.
Howdy chaps and chapesses,
TBoD return the normal schedule this week with more news from the gamesphere from the past 7 days or so.
We firstly bash Xbox for erroneous reasons; the Game with Gold this month is indeed Hitman: Absolution. Apologies to Microsoft…
We touch on our thoughts around the more broad points from Gagnon30′s recent post.
Amazon Fire TV, among others
The indie game this week is the truly excellent Gang Beasts
Word to your Matriarchal Figure,
This week we make a ton of shoutouts,
Talk about the the new Thief game
We mention the new platformer on all platforms Battleblock Theater
We also discuss the usual rumours for the next Xbox and answer some listeners questions including “What is our Everest Game?”
We mention a ton of other stuff I cannot recall when typing this….
We forget to talk about the Castle Map Pack for Halo 4 .. So stay tuned for next week for that!
By request here is our RSS Feed Link
Inspired by the Nerdist podcast interviews with the head of Valve Gabe Newell and the fact that Gabe is to be given a fellowship by BAFTA today, I thought this week instead of the usual game review, I would do something a little different and compare and contrast two of my favourite games developers around – Valve and 343 Industries. In particular I thought I would touch on each developer’s approach to their respective communities and then discuss how 343 Industries could improve as a company if they could take a page out Valve’s book.
So first things first, the community management by both companies are some of the best in the industries. Since 343 inherited the mantle (accidental pun) from Bungie they have really made an effort to stress the importance of their community in their success and have done so in a number of ways – interacting and seeking constant feedback on their own forums on Waypoint or others such as Neogaf, using social media tools especially twitter to create conversations with and between community members and having a great track record of actually hiring community members such as bsangel and more recently MLG’s Bravo. The fact that Microsoft created 343 by hiring Halo fans really has paid dividends in regards to having an enthusiastic team and that enthusiasm is certainly something that has rubbed off on the community.
Of course Valve are equally well known for the importance they place in the happiness of their community, although they go about it slightly differently to 343i. Rather than having a dedicated team whose job is to look after all things community, Gabe believes that everyone at Valve should listen and interact with their community, no one has that job because it is everyone’s responsibility. Ultimately this type of approach is best for both company and community alike because at the end of the day the community are the customers and without their support Valve would not exist. This is obviously why Gabe thinks that any interaction with the community should be entertaining and is a big fan of easter eggs, like putting the announcement for a game in another of their game’s code for their fans to find. Similarly 343, like Bungie, have a fondness for this type of communication, having hidden things in web code for treasure hunters to uncover. Both developers do the same throughout the games they make and I think they both do so for the same reasons and that’s to create a connection with their fans. Fans spend some time in their games looking for them, so by the effect of mere exposure the fans feel a deeper connection with the game and by-proxy with the developer, but also once discovered the fans feel like they are in on some secret put there just for them, whether it be a tidbit a of story, a reference to another game or some in-joke that only the hardcore fan would get.
Again, both companies encourage the creation of content by their respective communities. For example, Valve’s TF2 has so much community content, way more than Valve could ever imagine to make themselves and the diversity of mods and maps is astounding. Similarly, 343i have again kept Forge in Halo 4 to encourage the same type of content creation, of course given the hardware constraints between PC and the Xbox obviously the Halo community can only take baby steps in comparison, but still it’s certainly a good thing to give your fans the tools to come up with new ways of playing the game.
So, in terms of their community these two devs have a great ethos with regards to community. However, if we examine how each of each are arranged hierarchically they could not be more at odds. 343 Industries is of course a subsidiary of Microsoft, one of the largest, most successful and some might say one of the most traditionally corporate organisations around today and this is reflected in the way 343 is structured. Within 343′s camp there is a definite pecking order, Bonnie Ross being the General Manager and top of the pile at 343 has various department managers reporting to her and they have their head designers and so on. Now this set up is the norm and is echoed not only in the games industry but companies the world over. Of course there is always an exception to the rule.
When Gabe Newell set Valve up he envisioned something much more radical, perhaps something that may have been inspired in part by his time at Microsoft. To say Valve’s hierarchy is different would be incorrect because a hierarchy simply does not exist. Sure Gabe is the ‘head’ of the company but the way he sees things is that everyone at Valve is equal. People are responsible for their own work at Valve because Gabe believes that no-one should be the gate-keeper of someone else’s work. The upshot of this is that it gives Valve the ability to adapt quickly when developing a title. A corporate structure can slow the whole creative process down. For example, Halo 4 is a great game but it shipped as an unfinished product. Hypothetically, if 343 had had less line managers and more people physically working on the game would the file share been in at launch? Possibly. Would the servers have been a little more reliable at launch? Maybe so. The point being, art and business are in-congruent and Gabe recognised that, and minimised the corporate so it would not interfere with Valve’s mission – to focus on innovation as oppose to profit and growth. Now I am not saying 343 are not focused on creating quality content and innovating within their Halo landscape, but ultimately they are there to make Halo successful by moving units for Microsoft. I do not mean that cynically, it’s just the truth. Triple AAA titles on consoles are there to make as much money as possible by appealing to as many people as possible.
For fear of this getting a little dry I think I will just finish by saying that both of these companies do their utmost to involve their communities but in a perfect world, if 343 could emulate the set up of Valve, even more quality Halo based content could be created. At least, in my opinion, 343 create some great things – despite the constraints they have. If other large games companies were to take notes from Valve, they might actually come up with something innovative and exciting rather than yet another slightly upgraded version of the same game each and every year.
This article was something I have thought about for a bit and would really love to hear what you, the reader, thinks about the content here. Please leave a comment or get in touch with us via twitter. Thanks
- The Quim Ninja
Spartan Ops Season 1.5
In the build up to Halo 4 one of the things that excited me most was Spartan Ops. Something that promised to combine the excitement of multiplayer and the simple thrills of firefight with the deep and immersive story elements of campaign was riviting to a cannon head like myself.
Having been somewhat underwhelmed by the first half of season one, I was beginning to long for ODST’s firefight, but still held tight to the thin glimmer of hope that the return of Palmer, Dalton, Thorne and co would prove to be more engaging and exciting… luckily it was just that.
Despite my misgivings for the first five episodes I still always looked forward to the opening cut scene each week, the beautifully rendered, the short but always impressive bites of story we were treated to were brilliant, not least because of the characters. Thomas Laskey captain of the UNSC Infinity would already be familiar to most of you from the campaign and probably from the live action web series Forward Unto Dawn and for me he was the real star of show here. Palmer however seemed to be a little psychologically unhinged and somewhat unfit to command the legions of Spartan IVs, Infinity AI Roland is a great character and it’s nice to finally see another smart AI other than Cortana getting some screen time, the addition of a couple of characters recognisable from the main story and the extended fiction in Jul M’dama, leader of the covenant splinter faction composed mainly of the ‘Storm Sangheili‘, along with none other than Dr Catherine Halsey only served to further the excitement and the way that story develops through the second set of five episodes and serves to heighten the Spartan Ops experience.
The main thrill of the second half of Spops is the feeling that your characters “Fire Team Crimson” are really making an impact on the story and garnering more respect from the key players in the story of the Forerunner shield world Requiem. Where in the first half it felt as though it was all about Majestic in the latter stages it is Crimson who take center stage. This is good because this bunch of arrogant and annoying Spartans really were starting to get old (with the exception of Thorne), luckily Majestic take a back seat from episode five and onward. As the story plays out the episodes begin to gather pace and it really starts to feel like a Halo campaign rather than a set of boring “go here, press this, defend this, leave” errands, yes there are still elements of that but the maps and the way they are used in the second half, breathe a new life into the beast that is Spartan Ops and finally start to make it look like a worthy successor to FireFight. I won’t go into detail about the missions because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are yet to live out the experience which builds to an unexpected, exciting climax.
Playing through with a group on Legendary is already very tough but I can’t help but feel that the addition of a FireFight-esque lives system would hike the tension levels and make the whole thing a little more interesting and challenging, 343 are promising to re-run the episodes though and hopefully this is one of a number of things they could and should add, skulls would be nice, as would a theater mode and having your medals show up as you earn them ala multiplayer and FF would be a nice touch, that said I wouldn’t have too many complaints if they didn’t add any of these features because this method of story enhancement has now proven itself as a more than worthwhile escapade. Plus it was free, all ten episodes of season one for not a penny is a complete bargain.
It’s a smart move from Halo’s new grand overseers at 343 because not only was it an excellent way to increase the games longevity and keep the fanboys happy between map packs, it could also prove to be a nice cash cow in the coming months should they decide to release what would most likely be a pay to play second series. We saw the success that Tell Tale games ‘The Walking Dead‘ game garnered with this kind of episodic content winning praise from all corners, including a game of the year award, this kind of game shows developers exactly what gamers are willing to pay (in time and money) if you put out quality even in small doses.
“Is it push this button?”
So what does the future hold for Spartan Ops, well it seems that the overall reception has been positive with most of the folks I have spoken to admitting they would be more than happy to pay up to 1200 Microsoft per season, I don’t think they could quite get away with charging 400 msp per episode without seriously increasing the number of chapters contained in each weekly release but who’s to say they won’t try.
The day is finally here. Since Bungie were forced to release details pertaining to their latest IP Destiny due to a legal issue way back in November, gamers around the globe have been eagerly waiting to see more concrete evidence of the latest title from the creators of the Marathon and Halo franchises today we were treated to just that.
Is this your Destiny?
Friday saw a behind closed doors press conference in which Bungie unveiled the latest sci-fi shooter they and publishers Activision hope will take the world by storm, little was known about the project ….. until now. A short five minute vid-doc has been released which shows not only a lot of concept art but also gives us a glimpse at a tiny amount of the games engine. The focus of this short video seems to be to get the idea behind Destiny across and set the community talking about the game. Many of us will be salivating at the idea of an open world, massively multi-player shooter from a studio already established as game changers in the field, however with Activision now firmly at the helm how will this new offering stack up against our beloved Halo? Well at present it’s hard to Judge it’s difficult in fact to even tell what Destiny is yet. Bungie is calling it a living world, persistent in a way that players of MMoRpgs will be more than familiar with, what they seem to be striving to create here is a World of Warcraft for the CoD generation. This is an idea that both appeals to and terrifies me in equal measure, the current popularity of free to play MMo’s is a little disturbing as it signifies (to me) a movement away from quality stand alone titles to games which are driven by the principle of “pay-to-win” where the more you spend the better you are, now I’m not a penny pincher I’m happy to pay for expansions and special editions should the rewards be significant however I have no desire to splash the cash in order to get a minimal advantage over my friends or opponents. Anyhow back to Destiny.
So the trailer (for want of a better word) opens with some intriguing insight into the future setting of the game, an Earth ravaged by war and brought to the brink of destruction by alien forces thus far unknown. Enough humans have survived (thanks to the appearance of the mysterious giant floating globe known only as “The Traveler“) to found a new city and begin the rebuilding process. This city it seems will be the base of operations for the elite of the survivors (us the players) to go out and re-take what we can of our planet and the others that were once under our control, unfortunately it seems the alien aggressors are wise to our plan and want to make things as difficult as possible for our rag tag bunch of re-claimers.
“The Traveler” Mysterious and massive (nobody say anything about forunners!)
We are treated in the video to a lot of stunning concept art work, a touch of the atmospheric music and even small moments from the game engine. A few soldiers running, some others gathering in the last bastion of humankind, not exactly something you can sink your hungry teeth into true, but given that the title is rumoured to work with both current and next gen consoles, I wouldn’t read too much into that and I would expect that we will be seeing a lot more actually gameplay footage in the coming months. At the moment we are aware that there will be three classes in the game but I get the feeling Bungie are holding out on us here too and extra classes will be unveiled all in good time (hopefully we wont have to pay for each one individually). We are also privy to a couple of quick shots of spacecraft and what appears to be a customization feature for our own space faring vessels. Fair enough this vid-doc doesn’t reveal much we couldn’t have already surmised for ourselves but what it does serve to do is increase excitement levels and makes sure that we haven’t forgotten about our old friends Bungie in the wake of 343′s Halo 4.
A friend of mine and a Prince among men DayandKnightly gets all nostalgic and gives us his first standout map in a new series on his blog, well written stuff by an old school Halo Lover.
Originally posted on Reactive Bias:
The multiplayer maps of the Halo series have my respect for two reasons: first, they are well made to the point that every inch of an area must be explored in order to learn the best strategy and two, the overall story of the Halo Universe is written across their battlefields in unique ways.
Campaign (and now Spartan Ops) is the prime example of setting storytelling, where the story happens because the characters have an interest in what’s going on at a location. To put it another way, the setting is intrinsically important because the plot is happening in it.
But the multiplayer maps of the Halo games have no such luxury. Their settings are inconsequential to the main goal of their design – player vs. player carnage.
And yet, both Bungie and 343 Industries have wrapped the tight corridors and sniping vistas of the multiplayer maps in a warm blanket of story. What could have been…
View original 354 more words
After a little over a month’s hiatus I’m now ready to write about Halo 4. I’ve had plenty of time to fully immerse myself in 343′s franchise debut. Sip it like a fine glass of Scotch, and inhale it like a finely rolled…cigar… I’ve also taken in what others have had to say, from the mainstream gaming journalists on high, to my fellow plebeian scribes here in the underverse.
I have chimed in and discussed the game in great detail on my (shameless bump) podcast: PGCR. In that particular episode I joined my rapier wit, with that of my co-host Evander, laying waste to Halo 4′s campaign in true “Devils Advocacy”. But as many listeners are aware I simply enjoy frazzling another certain co-host who shall remain un-named but obvious. So without further delay allow me to offer my true Impressions on Halo 4.
I should start by saying that this is not a review. I find myself despising game reviews these days finding them more of a smarmy pissing contest, offering plenty of douchey commentary, but little constructive feedback about a game. And at the end of the day, after the hype is pulled away, and the fanboy giddiness subsides Halo 4 is merely another game. It’s only fair that I keep this in mind when critiquing any title.
Leading up to the games release I had always predicted that there would be little to no problems with Halo 4′s multiplayer. I (along with many community members) collectively agreed that it was time for change, and 343 delivered in a way that couldn’t have been better executed, nor at a better time in the franchises lifeline.
I’ve always been more of a campaign geek, but suffice to say that for the first time since H2 I have been deeply drawn into the online landscape and its various playlists, and modes and keep going back for more. It still has that classic Halo feel, but it’s almost as though 343 locked Halo, Call of Duty, Crysis, and Battlefield in a honeymoon suite with unlimited champagne and other FPS aphrodisiacs. Halo 4 is the streamlined love child of these other industry giants, resulting in a refreshed and revitalized online presence.
The new co-operative frag-fest which has kicked the beloved game-mode firefight to the curb like a used up hooker is ironically my biggest disappointment with Halo 4. Don’t get me wrong, it tells a fairly well delivered story with plenty of intrigue…via the cutscenes. In game play application it’s little more than a rehash of campaign moments, lightly dotted with some nods to multiplayer, and RVB.
I would have liked to see more diversity in gaming environments. Requiem is a massive artificial world, so it makes little sense to use copy/paste play-spaces from the campaign. It feels like a continuation of the campaign, but many of the scenarios play like redundant encounters like: “flip this switch, or destroy this objective.” in a cramped arcade-ish locale. In fact, it kind of contradicts 343′s supposed development formula of not re-using campaign play-spaces in Multiplayer… Too bad it never carried over to Spartan Ops. I can only hope that 343 pour some more creativity and tailor some new and exciting level designs into S-Ops.
Halo 4′s campaign was a roller-coaster ride for a long time fan like myself. Chock full of shocking revelations, hard truths, honestly emotional twists, and turns. But like any intense thrill ride, Halo 4 definitely has its ups AND downs.
Take Halo 4′s audio design for example. Lead composer Neil Davidge has created a lovely soundtrack that stands apart independently from the work of Marty O’Donnell. Sometimes H4′s musical background is recognizable as Halo, and at times it’s like Mass Effect and Tron had a sexy baby. (As awkward as that may read.) But this is a good thing. The MUSIC, is a triumph.
The sound effects on the other hand are an entirely new “Up and Down” all their own. The guns primarily sound absolutely succulent. The warthog on the other-hand is an alienating mess. When I first hammered down on the Warthog I literally slammed on the brakes as the horrid sound of a late 90′s racing game, or monster truck rally filled my ears. I can say with confidence that, it there’s one thing I hate about Halo 4, it is the sound of the Warthog.
Even the covenant seem to suffer. The grunts sound like nasally Steve Urkel ghouls, and without the ever classic “FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW” dialogue they feel odd. The covies do however play well, and on Heroic or Legendary show their true ravenous and oft devious nature on the battlefield.
The story itself, starts off great, the characters are easily at their best. The facial animations, and voice acting are top-notch. I won’t bother going into great detail on Halo 4′s graphical delivery – but suffice to say it is the best looking 360 game I’ve seen since Crysis 2/3.
Where the story really hits snags for me, is gaps that may have been better left void, and newly opened gaps that simply leave me scratching my head. For instance, let’s just segue right into the new kids on the chief’s galactic block: The Prometheans.
The story behind them is definitely intriguing, and at the same time tragic. The terminals do a stellar job (no pun intended) of delivering a juicy new slice of Halo’s Forerunner story which began with Greg Bear’s recent literature. But fighting them at times felt like a Spray & Pray gong show which turned Halo’s original 30 seconds of fun formula into 4-5 minutes of pure monotonous bullshit.
Maybe it’s because I (admittedly) have not read Mr. Bear’s series yet, that I am so baffled…if not OVERWHELMED with the flood (pun intended) of information the player gets literally water-boarded with during the campaign, and terminals.
343 did take something away from Halo which I loved, and replaced it with a complex and sometimes baffling saga. For me, the feeling of humility, and humbling mystery behind the forerunners is what made them so interesting. A vanished and superior race which created ring-worlds, dyson spheres, and shield worlds, and there was nothing left of them. We didn’t even know they had six fingers on each hand yet. (wtf?)
Not knowing, for me was what made Halo so amazing. And in my opinion, shedding light on all these things so suddenly has taken that mystery, and sense of awe, and replaced it with a sensation akin to: “Oh. So that’s what that is…”
It felt…perhaps not “bad”..but after learning all this, the big mystery felt sullied and unfulfilled. Is it wrong that I’m not compelled to delve into Bear’s series? A big part of me didn’t want to know every last detail behind the forerunners.
Cortana really did steal the show, the ever lovely Mrs. Taylor really delivering her best material yet in this series. Her long developed on-mic interaction with Steve Downes was apparent, and pairing them in the same studio was a superb move for 343. Their performance was epic.
To wrap things up, I can safely say that Halo 4 was a great game. It is also a firm handshake from 343 ensuring their confidence, and dedication to developing a new and exciting direction for this series. It simply begs the question: Where are we headed now?
Bungie’s contributions to Halo are in a league of their own, but 343′s product is solid and obviously is a labor of love. From here on its their baby. Let’s all hope they can handle the lil’ tyke because it’s a handful.
Red Guy – “Oh Shit!”
After our too long absence Quim has talked about his enjoyment of the Master Chiefs fourth outing so what I have to say is hardly going to be surprising but since we love Halo so much I thought I’d mutter on about it for a bit.
It’s a mammoth task 343/Certain Affinity have taken on. In attempting to recreate an experience which defined the console multiplayer fps experience, it was never going to be easy. So how close have Microsoft’s in house design company come to taking forth the mantle from Halo’s original creators? Damn close, so close in fact that Bungie would feel the clamy breath of the new wave Spartan IV’s on the back of thier necks, were it not for the Mjolnir armours visor being in the way.
For me this is the stand out new weapon, it was hard to believe any pistol could top the magnum or the plasma but if anything can this is it.
The pace and flow of the game is perfectly measured and all of our fears about ordinance, weapon waypoints and instant respawns were completely unfounded. What 343 have achieved here is nothing short of spectacular dragging the most possible from the 360′s ageing hardware but more importantly making sure Halo once again feels special and different to the other fps offerings out there.
As a Spartan the idea is that you are a super soldier, gun fire, explosions and vehicle warfare hold no fear for you and your mastery over any weapon you lay your armoured hands on. This is the essence of Halo and it shines through once again. The rush you get from scoring multikills, headshots and vehicle takedowns is something that just can’t be matched by other shooters. We’ve played it half to death now and each match is still insanely enjoyable and leaves you gasping for breath and wrestling with the familiar Halo shakes.
New game mode Dominion is certainly the pick of the bunch, taking elements from Battlefields Conquest mode but creating an altogether original monster that creates some really tense and exciting moments.
There are clearly still some teething issues with the matchmaking system and the servers (all of which could probably have been identified and abolished with a brief beta). The strain was way too much on the opening week rendering the multiplayer pretty much unplayable at peak times and more recently problems have been appearing that are at times game breaking, lag, glitches even mini Covies have all been well documented. However all of this can be forgiven because of the love and dedication that has gone into crafting the maps and the game types.
Personally I was never on board with the idea of loadouts and weapon unlocks for Halo as it does detract somewhat from the purity of Spartan combat but I have to say they have implemented them well here. Progress is much slower than it is in some games of this type but that’s to be expected when 343 have worked so hard to maintain the balance of the the previous games in order to make sure no one ever really feels as if they are at a disadvantage simply due to their lack of unlocks. This in itself is testament to the amount of thought that has gone into overhauling a game without destroying it’s core. I don’t think I have come across a single player online who had any problems with the way the game plays the only issues seem to be about the networking. Joining games in progress is never fun especially when you are dropping in so close to the end of a fight but that should mean you get into the game quicker….. it doesn’t work however, the whole matchmaking just seems broken especially when playing in a larger party. Many times we have had to resort to playing custom games which is actually pretty fun, especially game types like hog wars and 8vs8 Griffball which are epic.
All this said weekly playlist updates are working well to keep things fresh thus far and with more game types like griffball and assault on the horizon along with new maps and stacks of forge efforts already kicking about things look good for the future of Halo.
Also the campaign is pretty damn sweet.
Since its announcement in June 2011 all of us here have been on the cusp of spooging our under crackers waiting furtively for the triumphant return of Master Chief.
We have read the books and bulletins, listened to and appeared on podcasts, gone to expos and spoke to and played Halo with fans all over the globe all the while avoiding spoilers in a bid to take our mind off the release date which seemed like an eternity away.
Now, after all the waiting and hype Halo 4 has finally been unleashed in the wild and I thought I would pen a shit load of thoughts about it without getting too fanboyish about the whole affair. (Alert: – fanboy ramblings inbound)
This is easily the portion of the game I have most been looking forward to given that it is the only area that 343i have managed to not blurt out every single scrap of information on. From that first cut scene right up until the closing credits my brain was gripped on how much effort must have gone into crafting this delightful tale. The visuals are of artisan quality, the passion that has been poured into this is nothing short of breath-taking and captivated me throughout; partly because of its sheer beauty but also because I was astounded that this level of graphical prowess was even possible given the age of the Xbox.
But then again what are the use of pretty graphics without a compelling storyline? Thankfully 343 have triumphed here too providing us with something almost Shakespearean in its construction. A sci-fi epic come romantic sonnet, this new narrative truly adds something more significant than in my opinion even the mighty Bungie ever did. Drawing on the most recent extended fiction to ensure an unrivaled richness otherwise unseen in any of the series, 343 have pulled off something really rather remarkable, giving us something completely new and original whilst maintaining the bittersweet struggle that the universe is all about.
I have but one small gripe with the campaign and that is with the time it took for me and my fellow Spartans to complete. A mere five and a half hours it took to run through the whole thing from start to finish, which given the promise that this would be the hardest Halo yet made me feel there should have been more to it, perhaps there is an issue with difficulty upscaling because I have spoken to a couple of very proficient players who say the difficulty on solo is more of a challenge. In the same breath I do think the quality over quantity ethos is preferable to a long and unsatisfying slog. My own personal issue though is I want more! I must find out what happens next and I don’t know how I am going to pass the time until Halo 5! But then again this is yet another sign of how great a story 343 have come up with and I guess I will just have to wait it out like every other Halo nut.
As a proper admirer of Halo fiction, when Franklez first spilled his love beans about this concept, I was pretty amped about the idea of being given a whole extra campaign’s worth of story thrown into the mix for the petite price tag of zilch dolla. If I had written this as intended last week you would find me fairly underwhelmed by the whole affair given that Team Majestic came across as a bit of a herd of douche shaped buffalo in the initial cut-scene, even the sweet candy glossed visuals of that first cut-scene wasn’t enough to keep the bitter taste of these augmented dolts out of my mouth. Before you say it yes I know we take the role of the competing Team Crimson but these are the not the faces we see. I also know this move is probably intentional to promote some kind of perceived competition between you and Majestic but personally I would have preferred them to be a little less atypical jock. With that said it’s a new week and a new episode, it has started to kick off right royally story wise and all of a sudden I find myself in the same lane again and I am more than intrigued to see where captain 343 will steer UNSC Infinity next and given their track record on delivering an epic campaign I’m sure it will be a smooth jump to slip space.
The meat and potatoes of all Halo games to me comes from the re-playability and addiction that is multiplayer. I personally have been in the pro-halo camp welcoming all their revamping and in some cases rebuilding of all we love about our Spartan slaying game-types. At first I was totally loving every little sliver of War Games had to offer quickly getting my couple of loadouts sorted and streamlining my play. A couple of days in at about level 24 I had a minor freak out about the unlock system when I compared it to another game I love, Battlefield. With Dice’s military shooter having so much to offer with regards to weapons I was a little nervous about whether or not I would find a bit of a void in unlocks, loadouts wise, between late 20′s and the end game of specializations. However once I spoke to a couple of friends I realised I may have overreacted somewhat. Firstly, I see now that it was a little unfair to compare two relatively disparate games who both have utterly different unlock systems and now I am at level 34 I have found that the perceived unlock void was all in my head and I would say to anyone who may have felt a similar feeling that it’s easily overcome by embracing experimentation. At first I thought mobility and dexterity were easily the top unlocks and I would probably stick with these throughout, true I still have a loadout that I use regularly, however with four loadout slots available to me I now have more space to tweak and hone my setups dependent on map and/or gametype. Now I truly appreciate the method in which items unlock and reckon there is plenty to keep me or indeed any other player motivated to keep on fragging.
I feel I should make a cursory mention of the armour permutations. Personally, I do see what 343i are going for but I don’t really find any of the options compelling enough to change from the Mark VII armour set I was rewarded with from our legendary run. Canonically I know Spartan IV’s are meant to cost less than the Spartan II program so in that respect the armour certainly does reflect that in how cheap it looks but I doubt this was the goal set out for the armour design team. With that said I wouldn’t mind pimping my visor colour for a couple of games.
I thought I would finish off on a high by discussing what really matters: how it plays, and what a high it is! In fact I find it a little hard to breathe at this altitude of awesomesauce. Imagine Halo 2 and 3 combined with Bruce Lee, the movement is so fluid even Bruce would be impressed by how akin to water you are. That feeling of power flowing through my hands when engaging a foe truly gives my Mjolnir clad super soldier the feeling of being just as godly as the weapon in which the name hails from. Combine this awesome player movement with the most evolved and balanced weapon sandbox I have come across and the most gut punching sound effects applied to a halo game yet and you suddenly find that your witnessing a real masterclass in FPS craftsmanship, hooking you to want to play until your thumbs bleed. But it doesn’t stop there, I mean what’s the use in having a pitch perfect Spartan armed with the an unparallelled weapon sandbox without any decent game environments? Well thank Thor that 343 have served up some real classics on this front too. If we hark back to Reach a lot of the community complained that, unlike Halo 3, it did not have any standout maps. For me Halo 4 sits in the same position but for a very different reason and that is, in my opinion, pretty much all of the maps are as strong as the next. In fact I would say (and don’t hurt me for this) our beloved remake Ragnarok is probably the weakest of the pack mainly due to the Mantis unbalancing things somewhat but that is just my opinion. Movement on every single one is never at all awkward, providing multiple routes throughout each map and in any of the environs the places in which a team can camp out and hold can be overturned without too much trouble if the opposing side works together. Could you say the same about Reach? see Sword Base or Power House for proof. If I had to name a favourite map at the minute I would say Exile, Haven and Complex are right up there, oh and Adrift. My point is Halo 4, in my opinion, has the strongest multiplayer yet and can easily compete in this overly crowded FPS market.
A friend of mine known as The Woaf asked me to describe Halo on Day 2 post launch in three words, I said “almost spot on”. A week on I still feel pretty much the same given that the server issues still exist but once they solve that then I will be comfortable saying this might just be the ‘Best Halo Ever’. 343 have shown that they can make a game that is totally relevant in today’s market which not only keeps up but legitimately locks horns with the big FPS mammoths of recent years, but also feels every bit as ‘Halo’ as anything that has come before. Not only is John finally awake but so is the rest of the world to 343′s ability to make an outstanding game.
Firstly thanks for reading, I hope you can tell that this franchise bears some weight in my life and I would like to hear what you think. Do you agree or not? Is there a particular aspect I didn’t mention that you love or hate? Leave me a comment and subscribe if you want. Also my gamertag is The Quim Ninja. If you wanna play some Halo with me and the rest of the teabagordie crew send me a friend request. Requiem Awaits.
-The Quim Ninja
So we have finally come to the climax of our epic recollection of our own personal ghosts of gaming past. There are so many games that we haven’t had the chance to talk about like Road Rash, Desert Strike, Tomb Raider, FF7, Nebulus, World cup italia 90, Tennis Ace, Alex the Kid in Miracle world, Splatterhouse, Ghouls and ghosts, Another world, Turtles in time and Speed Ball are just some of the titles I considered boring you to sleep with. Alas we decided to narrow our selections down to five and without further ado onto the last.
For my final choice I opted for a game that was again released in the bumper year of ’97 (coincidentally the very same year our beloved Bungie was formed) I didn’t mention this or my compatriots game in my previous posts run down of titles from the same year as I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you, our lucky, lucky readers. (MS Dosser: – unfortunately I did like a nob)
The game I’m about to discuss has an age rating on it so for argument’s sake lets say I didn’t play it til around ’99. After the original ’96 title received critical acclaim this extended version was released to tide fans over whilst awaiting the sequel. A first for me, despite having seen George A Romero‘s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead a few years earlier, I had never before had the chance to go toe to toe with a horde of flesh-eating, brain-dead Zombie Bastards.
You had probably already come to the conclusion that I was going to be talking about the RE series. Like me, many of you would have screamed yourself silly when that first iconic dead head craned his neck and rose to meet Chris/Jill after being so rudely uninterrupted from his less than conventional snack. From that moment on this game kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the glorious rooftop climax. Capcom, previously better known for the hugely successful Street Fighter series and Megaman games you would probably never have guessed that this (almost) spoof of Western horror flicks would become their biggest and most profitable franchise to date. However with the popularity of the PS amongst adolescent teens and young men the walking dead were always destined to become a massive hit.
The opening sequence was most unusually filmed footage with real life actors!! Far from lending the game some gravitas this shoddy B-movie style intro actually detracts somewhat from the horrors you would find within the Arklay Mansion. That said I still love everything about this cheesy intro (from Barry’s blatantly stuck on ginger beard to Chris woodenly shouting “No! Don’t go!” at a rapidly shrinking badly animated CG helicopter) and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So you escape the attentions of the first Zombie and try to find your missing fellow S.T.A.R.S (special tactics and rescue service) members from the Raccoon city police department, things can surely only get better right ….. right? Nope.
Pretty soon you get the hang of dodging or killing the shambling, moaning, biting, rotting corpses wandering the hallways of this mountainside mansion. Should you decide to try to take out each and every T-virus victim you are going to run out of ammo pretty quickly (Unless you are playing on noob mode), which you will soon live, or not, to regret. In the early stages of the game running from Z-heads is not the most of your worries and you will find yourself spending most of your time searching through files for clues (some of the most important plot points come from reading through various documents and diaries known as files) rifling through drawers for ammo and searching high and low for the various jewels, crests, crank handle and keys required to gain access to the other areas of the mansion giving the game something of a puzzle/mystery adventure. As you delve further into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Bravo team and the Umbrella corporation’s sinister experiments you find yourself up against odds stacked increasingly against you.
Sit Ubu Sit …. good dog.
The Zombies become the least of your worries when you discover what other mutants the mad scientists have created from the labs hidden deep within the mountain under the mansion. Cerberus the infected dogs are one of the earliest to be introduced, their movement speed combined with your characters slow aiming makes them incredibly difficult to take down without taking some serious damage.
Hunters come next, a kind of mutant frog zombie thing with razor claws that will slice you to pieces given half a chance. If you think that’s the worst of it you’re wrong, as giant spiders, snakes, bloodthirsty sharks and more await you down each and every corridor and lurk in all the dark corners.
The villains are brilliant (I wont name names in case you have yet to discover who it is but most of you know who I mean) and the spooky atmosphere created here is topped probably only by the brilliant Silent Hill and the game will have you jumping out of your seat time and time again (especially if you insist on playing it alone in the dark). I know it’s not without its drawbacks, the clunky animations of the square chunky character models stand out against the lush static backgrounds and I know many who would criticise the games slow pace, you could wander around for hours searching for a key and not encounter any enemies. Every time you enter a door or climb a set stairs you are treated to a painfully slow first person animation depicting the opening door or ascending of stairs, for some this is an unwanted distraction, for me however this along with the frozen camera angles (which at times seem to be designed deliberately to make it impossible for you to see your foes) just adds to the tension, an important aspect for any horror title movie or game. Yes the voice acting is a joke and the way the characters gesticulate wildly whenever they speak is borderline hilarious and completely unnecessary … we can tell who is speaking thank you very much but these are minor flaws and they have little impact on the game.
Resident Evil is one of the best titles, not just of the 128 bit generation but of all time. It has been so influential to many games that have come since (Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness, Project Zero, Obscure to name but a few). A series which has spawned many sequels, prequels, Hollywood movies even novelizations and reboots over the years, most notably a full remake on GameCube and DS and continues today. With the forthcoming RE6 looking to bring together some of these games’ most beloved characters I think there is life in this old viral mutant romp yet.
I have to give thanks Capcom for preparing me for the inevitable Zombie Emergency from a very early age.
-” So I ate his face Itchy …. tasty ….”
The last game on my list I know pretty much every gamer holds dear to their hearts and undoubtedly gave a lot of you your first proper case of ‘Nintendo Thumb’. It’s a totally obvious choice so by all means call me a noob in the comments, that’s fine because this game pretty much invented everything in every game I play now in one form or another. Its Goldeneye 007.
Whilst you lot finish your silent nerdgasms at your desks and public fist pumping on the bus I’ll give you a brief history. For those 3 people who don’t know it was released in 1997 and developed by Rare, who also created the brilliant Donkey Kong Country mentioned earlier in this series, Goldeneye is a stealth game that takes place during the James Bond movie of the same name released 2 years earlier. At first it was destined to be a Virtua Cop inspired on-the-rails shooter but given the strides in console technology the viability of a more Doom based 3D shooter meant that the Goldeneye we love was born.
This game’s accomplishments have been trumpeted from on high and still echo round the crevices of gaming culture today and I think it’s important to just recognise how this game was able to become so influential. I am sure this was down to the fact that Rare were given as much time as they needed to develop this game and were under no pressure to get it released to coincide with the movie. Which if released today, for a game such as this is a scenario that would just not be permitted with the likes of EA and Activision banging the drum at developers to make sure they row or face a lashing. This game proves that time is by far a developers greatest resource.
So now we know how (complete with sly corporate dig) the question now is why was this game so bloody good. Personally as much as I loved the single player, I mean that moment where you hurl yourself off the Contra Dam sticks with anyone who played Goldeneye, but as usual the multiplayer was where the real fun started for me.
It is even more staggering that Martin Hollis the lead designer said that the multiplayer was “a complete afterthought”. Good job you put it in there Mr Hollis because every console shooter has only really moved a couple of inches since from your vision and in fact in some cases have taken a step back by not even allowing split screen multiplayer.
The N64 brought you the ability to have up to four players at once in split screen mode and with Goldeneye being the first proper multiplayer console shooter it paved the way for those early LAN party style play sessions where automatic gunfire ushered in the birth of talking smack for a whole generation. Living close to school I spent many a lunch time and even more revision time for mock GCSE’s glued to my TV trying to, often unsuccessfully, kill three of my mates whilst another few lads watched on awaiting their turn.
The only rules were winner stays on and no one can be Oddjob.
The game modes were genius and still directly translate into almost every modern shooter. Take the always tense and quite often very campy You Only Live Twice, whereby a player has two lives and once you lose those lives your out, you lose and are subsequently mocked by your friends. A modern parallel that immediately springs to mind is that of the Call of Duty series Search and Destroy mode which just added an objective which everyone ignores and got rid of a life. Similarly the License to Kill mode is a one shot one kill game which is basically Halo’s Team Swat and The Living Daylights is an objective game whereby you must control a flag and hold it for as long as possible… sound familiar? It should because this mode exists in pretty much every FPS out today.
Continuing with the theme of firsts, the guns again were right up there, Goldeneye used realistic models of guns which if you look at most of its contemporary PC shooters like Quake they were much more pretendy, as were the guns in the N64′s coldly received Turok. Proximity and remote mines made an appearance which as far as I am aware had not surfaced before, which personally led to some of the most ridiculous infinite proxy mines custom matches and now are seen throughout most realistic military shooter in the form of claymore’s and C4. Oh yeah it had throwing knives too, nuff said.
Most notably though is the console appearance of the zoomable sniper rifle which, along with MDK that Elth mentioned last post, Goldeneye is credited for popularising. You just have to look at any game with guns in it and this feature is as standard.
I could go on about the level design for an age but I wont as I know this is getting a little long and gushy but I will say Archives and Facility were a triumph and especially good for those remote mine insanity sessions I mentioned earlier. The variety of levels was great too and it didn’t matter one bit about the extensive use of gray-scale throughout most of them. Back then this game was cutting edge and it felt like it every time you played, nowadays its firmly planted in the history books as the game that pushed the console shooter snowball off the top of the cliff. Epic cannot even describe my love for this game and it’s perfect in every way.
Just ignore the fact you can’t jump.
Well that’s it, the rose tinted glasses are off and our look back at our most memorable games as a youngster has come to a close. Did you play Resident Evil or Goldeneye? What did you think of them or indeed any of the games in the previous posts? Please subscribe and leave us comments, you can also follow us on Twitter @TeaBagOrDie.
So far we’ve talked beat em-ups, adventures, and puzzlers what we have sorely missed so far is a war game. There were two games in the running for me Desert Strike and Cannon Fodder I decided to roll with the latter.
Cannon Fodder ’93
Virgin are now known more for their high-speed internet and TV services but in the early days they had fingers in all kinds of pies and they published this RTS gem from Sensible Software. Where other games can tend to glamorize war Cannon Fodder took a different approach and hidden behind this comical war sim was a pretty strong anti-war message. The thing that sticks in my mind most about this game was not the excellent gameplay and humorous little digs at the futility of many of our planets great conflicts, but the intro song. Those who played this game on a 16 bit console probably wont have heard this before but it was a killer track and I still remember the lyrics completely today.
War .. Never been so much fun.
They were right war probably had never been so much fun. Taking control of a small squad of teeny soldiers the player was tasked with taking on much larger armies of little shooty men. The game starts out pretty easily but the difficulty soon gets ramped up as you are forced to take on more crafty enemies in more difficult terrains. A mouse based game, your infantry follow your clicks around the screen and can be split into groups in order to more effectively take out your opponents or cover ground more quickly.
Getting your troupe to the objective alive was important. Loose a soldier and you would have to bring in a new recruit, one whose lesser experience made him/her a less efficient killing machine, luckily you could arm them with more than just machine guns. The standard tiny dot firing guns were effective against infantry and explosive barrels but for the more difficult jeeps and for those craftily placed troop houses you needed something with a little more punch. Grenades and rocket launchers were available but ammunition was sparse so making good use of your power weapons then was as important than as it is in modern shooters.
The game found itself in a spot of bother after the media claimed the opening imagery was mimicking the remembrance day poppy and that this, combined with the games comical take on war was in someway undermining the importance of the symbol. The media had a point I guess but it was blown all out of proportion and I doubt it was ever the intention of the developers to make light of the sacrifices made in the past, I feel it was intended more to make people think twice about the necessity of future conflicts. More importantly the game was great fun to play and another tick in the box of a fab developer from the 16-bit era.
Ok you dirty bitches, time to seamlessly segue into my pick, no more fucking about lets bring out the big guns. Yeah that was an awful segue but you wont care when you see the bad boy I have on the cards here. Donkey Kong Muthafuckin Country! (the swearing is not part of the actual title.)
I will always remember the day our parents got my brother and I got us a SNES as a joint Christmas present, our first console. It was amazing, playing classics like Super Mario world, Super Mario kart, Super Mario all-stars… hell anything with that mustachioed fearless plumber in was some of the most fun I have ever had and I will always hold Mario on a pedestal. However it was not the flagship brotherly combo of Nintendo that wins the 16 bit gold medal for me. It was DK all the way. In fact, game wise, it was my first true love. Eventually I would move on and meet Halo, who I knew was the one I wanted to grow old with, you know get a villa in Spain with a pool, some dogs and a garden and have the grand kids John and Cortana over in the summer to float around lazily in their rubber ring….*blinks*…Wow, that got weird, lets move on.
So why was Donkey Kong Country so fapping good?
Rare made it, the legendary developer behind so many Nintendo classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and of course the seminal Goldeneye 007. This company made some amazing games for various Nintendo systems, but it was DKC that announced their arrival as a heavy hitter.
The level design and variety was impeccable, the difficulty increased at exactly the right gradient. Some of the outstanding levels that spring to mind still are Barrel Canon Canyon and Vulture Culture. Oh and of course Mine Cart Carnage! Those mine cart levels were the exception to that well honed difficulty gradient. When one of these cropped up on you then the fun and games were over and you had to lean forward and put every mental faculty you had in to each jump and when you finished that level the sense of achievement was worth more than a thousand wham bars. Oh and looking back there was a level called Necky’s Nuts!? oo err.
Rambi the Rhino, what a legend. In fact all the animals that you got to ride were perfectly useful for the level they were found on, but everyone loved Rambi, most for the fact that you could get to bonus games with him very easily when you accidentally crashed through a wall. Personally I loved him for the noise he used to make when he hit enemies.
The replay value of each level, always striving to get those letters to spell K O N G for the extra life, if you missed one, you went back and played until to got it.
Visiting Cranky Kong was always a laugh even though his tips were never really that handy.
The music spot on for each level as well, sounding fun on easier lighter levels and descending into something entirely more creepy the harder or darker the level got.
And finally the graphics, oh the graphics. For their time they were mind-blowing, that little cartridge squeezed every drop of capability out of the SNES, and this isn’t just me being ultra nostalgic, this game genuinely broke through the graphical barrier the console had, I remember reading in Nintendo magazine that they had never seen the like of it and when I got my paws on it I honestly thought graphics in games could never beat this.
On this point alone I am glad I was wrong. Although I think I could still get down with 16 bit Halo…
Did you spot the anti-war message in Cannon Fodder? or did you just like blasting sprites to bits? Let us know.
Do you have as fond a memory of DK or have a different favourite game on the SNES, please leave us a comment, subscribe, like, tweet or +1 us. Thanks.