The power of 4

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.

Spartan IV’s ….. they ain’t no Master Chief … but they’ll do.

Also the campaign is pretty damn sweet.

Thanks 343

eremenko

Play Mobile: – Osmos HD

In all my previous posts I have been a little biased toward iOS exclusive games, however having recently procured Google’s budget friendly Nexus 7 I thought I would try to even the odds a bit by reviewing a big game that puts you in very tiny shoes.

Osmos HD is quite a unique little title in which you take the role of a micro-organism or mote, your goal is simple, become bigger than the other floaty lifeforms by absorbing the smaller ones and avoiding the bigger beasts until you are large enough to suck them up too.

The game-play itself is as simple as the mote you control with a straight-forward, intuitive user interface and colour schemes that make it easy for even the most amoebic of organisms to figure out how to play.

The degree of difficulty through the odyssey mode is intermediate after the first tutorial stage introducing you to the various other types of nasty and how to handle it in a very gentle easy to pick up manner. Then once the game is sure you have got a handle on what is required it throws a couple of really tough levels in at the end of each chapter, which in my opinion can pose a bit of problem at times, in fact the very last level on the last chapter I was stuck on for some time and in fact I only completed it via bit of a fluke. If you do get stuck though you can skip a level at any time, but what is the fun in that, plus with each chapter that you complete unlocks new levels in the arcade section. It took me a few hours to complete the ‘story’ mode and found it to be moderately challenging, the arcade it more of the same and is keeping my suitably hypnotized.

Not only is the game-play hypnotic but the music further adds to that feeling and is so well suited to the way the game behaves. Where possible do what it suggests and wear headphones and you will soon find yourself lost in a microscopic world. Another layer to this game which I think is probably my favourite part is the clever way you can speed up and slow down time in order to help you either dodge a sticky end or expedite the demise of a smaller mote. What I like in particular is the way the music drops or picks up in tempo as you perform this cool little trick and sounds as if its meant to be played at that speed. Very Clever.

So for anyone who has a tablet and is looking for a game that is not only challenging but weirdly relaxing this one is bound to absorb a lot of your time. The game is available for Android devices via the Google Play Store and iOS devices via the App Store for £1.99/$2.99 if you are a yank or a limey respectively, it also can be found on the PC with a much wider selection of levels for no more than $10 but can be found a lot cheaper if you shop around.

If you have played Osmos or if you got the game because of this roundup and want to share your thoughts please do in the comments below, also check out the other mobile titles we have recommended by clicking here or the pressing on the ‘Play Mobile’ tab at the top of the page. Thanks.

-The Quim Ninja

1 1 7th Heaven

Halo 4 Cryptum

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)

Campaign

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.

Spartan Ops

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.

Multiplayer

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

To be this good takes Ages

As a kid I was always on the Sega side of the fence, fiercely maintaining that our blue hedgehog beat the ‘stache off of Ninty’s pipe fixing Italian fella, all the while staring curiously over the divide watching with envy as Ninty fan-boys rejoiced in the brilliance of Zelda and Mario’s many adventures. In my new wiser state I realise it is not necessary to choose just one of the controlling powers in console land, if I had to do it again however I would still make the same choice.

title screen from miracle world

Platform Mastery was never so tough.

Sega have had some mixed fortunes in recent years but there is no doubt in my mind that the gaming world would not be the same today were it not for the creators of the worlds most famous blue hedgehog. Alex the Kidd on Master system, ToeJam and Earl on the MegaDrive (Genesis) and Panzer Dragoon saga on Saturn are some of my fondest gaming memories.

sega dreamcast

It may look like a dinosaur now but to a 16 year old me this appeared capable of interstellar travel.

 

The Dreamcast proved to be the last foray into the console world for the Japanese giants, long gone now but in no way forgotten. I hadn’t realised until recently just how much of a cult following the DC has garnered over the years. It’s hardly surprising though with classic titles like Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, PowerStone, Resident Evil: Code Veronica and Tokyo Bus Route coupled with a surprisingly powerful system a fab controller and a VMU which was completely unique to Sega’s ultimate console.

dreamcast game

Tokyo Bus Route … the most action packed bus simulator ever!

While they no longer produce consoles Sega are alive and well in terms of game production Sonic continues his geriatric sprint putting out titles like nobodies business, most of these however are rehashes or cash ins and the real question is “Where are the big hitters?”. Yes Mr Sega we know you can sell your blue hedgehog but what about the others? JSR and Crazy Taxi have enjoyed a resurgence of late with HD XBLA releases and even an IOS launch for the latter but isn’t it time we had some new releases from these series’? There are many rumours circulating that we will see a new Phantasy Star title on handheld devices at some point in the none too distance future which excites me no end given I was one of the few in the UK who tried with only little success to use the DC’s 56kbps built in modem to play the original console MMORPG.

Look it’s so colourful and fun …. and colourful

This brings me nicely to my main irk with Sega’s current hierarchy “Where is my Shenmue 3?”. Shenmue literally blew my mind the first time I picked it up and popped it into a console. Knowing literally nothing about the under promoted title, I spied it on a shelf at a friends asked if I could have a blast and proceeded to spend the next ten hours completely absorbed in an incredibly well realised world performing QTE sequences for the very fist time all the while knowing I was experiencing something truly magical.

What do you mean there will be no Shenmue   3?

By this point in time I had moved on from Sega and into the realms of the more “adult” PlayStation but this game snapped me right back in and once again harnessed those feelings of joy I had felt the first time I donned a pair of Super Sneakers and sprinted off in pursuit of the evil Dr Robotnik (Can anyone explain to my why he is called Dr Eggman these days? That name is just plain idiotic). Ryo Hazuki’s adventures literally forced me to go out and buy a DreamCast immediately and if Sega announced today that they were releasing a new console bundled with Shenmue 3 I would pre order it right away … no matter the cost. As it seems would many others, recently I stumbled across a twitter campaign calling for the one thing that me and my friends have wanted for years … Shenmue 3 and it seems we weren’t as alone as we thought all this time. The hashtag is gathering pace and the die hard fans are appealing to Sega to release the licence for Shenmue back to it’s original creator Yu Suzuki. If you haven’t played the first two games you probably wont understand and due to 32-bit console limitations it won’t extract the same response now as it did back then but you should still be able to see why it was so revolutionary and the reason that it still holds a place in the hearts of so many. So go now and support this epic cause #GiveYuTheShenmueLicense over on twitter RT, tweet your own desires and generally help convince Sega that this game must be made.

Allow me my vengeance or there’ll be trouble!

eremenko