Spartans IV hire

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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.

UNSC_Infinity_SpartanMarsInfinity, underused in the campaign gets shown off to a greater degree here

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.

spartan palmerSpartan Plamer, The poster Spartan for crazy

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.

imagesThorne, he may have Hollywood looks but he’s got Spartan skills

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 gamesThe 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.

images (1)“Just let me figure out what you have to do next Crimson”

“Is it push this button?”

“…… Yes”

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.

468px-Spartan_OpsLets open a can of whoop-ass Spartans

eremenko

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Hey, 343. You’re alright.

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.

Multiplayer

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.

Spartan Ops:

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.

Campaign:

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.

-SK1LLZ

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

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

Hey…. Low high points

So as Dosser already informed you we recently had the chance to play a bit of Halo 4 at the Eurogamer Expo. It was epic, the atmosphere among the Haloites there was one of nervous excitement and from the moment we stepped into the conference hall waiting for Frankie to begin his play-through of the third level in the new campaign appetites were well and truly whetted. The campaign looks brilliant, seems to be a really clever mix of classic Halo gameplay and the new exciting elements on show. All of the Forerunner weaponry has a completely unique look but also retains enough familiarity that you can immediately recognise what role each weapon will fulfill. What we were all really looking forward to though was getting some hands on time with a bit of Infinity slayer.

I have to admit I have been somewhat apprehensive about the additions the good folk over at 343i are bringing to the table, as a long time Halo fanboy I was worried that new load-out options, new weaponry and the added ordinance drops were going to make my beloved franchise into a COD clone… Far from it. 343 have undoubtedly taken note of some elements of the worlds biggest selling fps but they have made them their own and incorporated them into the Halo sandbox seamlessly. The most important difference for me between Halo and the military based shooters out there is that it makes you feel like a super human bad ass. In Battlefield, for example, you can spend an entire round pinned down in a corner trying to hold off a full on assault from wave after wave of merciless opposing troops as a Spartan however that feeling of fear is completely removed and Halo 4 is setting itself up to be no different in that respect. Overpowered weapons, insane assassinations and tremendous speed are a Spartans best friend, you find yourself whooping with joy after pulling off the most insane moves and surviving with barely a millimeter of shield bar remaining. Even when loosing a firefight I felt like I wanted to get back into the fight and have my revenge, the new instant re-spawn gives you the ability to do just that launching yourself back into the high octane, adrenaline pumping battle mere moments after you were mercilessly plowed down by your enemy can give you the drop on your opponents as they try to recover from your previous battle, this fact puts even more emphasis on ensuring you keep moving, there will be no snipe camping in this game, that much I can already tell.

My weapon of choice from the main load-out options was without a doubt the returning Halo 3 favourite the Covenant carbine rifle, not quite as powerful as the UNSC equivalent (the DMR) the carbine has a much higher rate of fire which means those players with a steady aim can often shred down your shields and pop in the decisive head shot before the opposition has fired off the first round. I didn’t really experiment with too many armour abilities but I think the thruster pack is shaping up to be a real life saver in a pinch, the Promethean vision is no doubt a game changer in a one-on-one situation and the hardlight shield could prove to be incredibly effective …. if I could just figure out when to use the damn thing.

Specializations are going to be a key element in multiplayer and having a good balance in your squads abilities could very well turn the tide in your teams favour which will massively increase the importance of having a team of Spartans you are used to playing with. Halo has always been more fun with friends and these additions will no doubt increase the importance of building on what is already an exceptional community. While we didn’t really have time to actually fool around with these aspects during the frantic action packed ten minute rounds it was still evident that each choice in your load-out will make a substantial difference to your gameplay experience. The one thing that irks me about the experience is the apparent lack of gameplay differences presented by playing as a Spartan IV as opposed to the earlier games Spartan II’s which the extended fiction informs us are far more powerful and well trained super soldiers, that said the Spartan III’s in Reach presented very little differences too and I never complained about that.

Spartan II’s vs Spartan IV’S what is the difference?

Truth be told I was so incredibly excited to actually be at a games con let alone playing Halo 4 that I was always going to love it really, add to that playing with my fellow TeaBaggers and some great other people from the community including the gents from Dust and Echoes and the one and only MCG_Mushball aka Mitch we were left with all the ingredients to have something really special. I probably would’ve had just as much fun playing Halo 2 over in the retro zone with these guys but we didn’t. We got to play Halo 4 and … it …. rocks.

Hve you played Halo 4 yet? What did you think? Does this installment entice or disgust you? let us know, follow, comment, rinse, repeat. Spartans Never Die.

– Eremenko

Halo 4 – Teabag Evolved

The release of Halo 4 is imminent and when this post comes out 28 days will remain on the clock. To say the game itself has caused somewhat of a stir in the community would be an understatement, with the so-called ‘old-school’ up in arms about the overhaul 343i is giving our beloved franchise. Much of the furore surrounded changes such as the addition of editable loadouts, unlocked armor mods that give the player an advantage in a certain area and weapon drops can be called, nearly all of which are undeniably drawn from other military themed shooters out there that Halo fans love to hate. Now we are ‘old-school’ Halo fans here at TBoD and personally we would like to say to all those other ‘old-school’ fans who are resistant to change – quit your bitching and adapt. Now you know where we stand lets move on to the fun bit where we got play Halo 4 at the EuroGamer Expo. Here are my thoughts.

Having played for a whole day on the thursday and a bit too much on friday to the expense of some other games and I feel comfortable in saying this is most definitely still Halo. Sure the UI is new and sparkly but the influence of the previous games and surrounding mythos is immediately evident. This new game is a very different beast but if I had to compare it one of the previous iterations I would say it feels a lot more like Halo 3 than Reach, which is no bad thing and as eremenko pointed out when we were discussing this post, this makes sense canonically as it is a direct sequel and true successor to the Master Chiefs last outing and so the game play should be accented as such.

Gameplay wise its augmented heart beats more quickly than any other Halo title. I did expect this from what I had read and seen previously in videos etc but I was quite surprised how subtle this increase in tempo was, first game I played it did feel somewhat twitchier to reach but after the first round that twitchiness morphed into a silky fluidity that leaves the previous Halo’s and indeed many other modern FPS titles lacking.

Finally after years of plodding along 343i have made sprint standard issue, no more deliberating whether you want this in your loadout at the expense of another armour ability and more importantly no more running away. When you run into an enemy it pretty much forces hostile engagement, constantly testing who can kill the quickest, if you need to regain health during a firefight this little addition makes you constantly more aware of the cover around you, rather than simply fleeing you have to be a touch more tactical and make sure you drop your foe to ensure you escape with your skin intact. This tiny change makes something like the health regen armour ability more relevant and useful than in other Halo titles, throw this down for a quick boost and turn the tables on that person charging after you.

Not that I did this, in fact I tried out very few armor abilities. I had a quick go on the active camouflage in combo with the sword (noob camper style), used the thruster pack to zoom forward by accident once and used the health regen once, again by accident. I didn’t even try out my go-to jetpack from Reach which apparently has been heavily nerfed *whimper*. No I got all excited about how fuckin awesome the weapons felt and played pretty much the whole time Halo 3 style. Just me and some very very powerful guns!

The weapon sandbox from what I could tell was really well balanced and I think the trick employed here by the guys at 343i to make the playing field so even was to make every The DMR, what a beast.gun really bloody powerful. I spent a lot of time with the BR and the DMR and both were efficient at dropping my foes in pretty much equal measure but I would have to edge the DMR purely down to sound effects alone, it makes me feel I am firing mortars rather than bullets into the opposing squads faces. The needler found its way into my hands a few times and ermagherd like four or five needles equals pink mist, enemy sad face and me serving high tea on said enemies corpse, I was so surprised at just how quick suckers fell to that weapon. Like the rest of the arsenal the AR has seen a long overdue power upgrade, I actually found it viable against a BR at mid to close range and killed a couple of guys with it in that type of battle, if you miss a shot with a precision weapon the AR will make you pay the iron price.

Now onto the power weapons that I managed to get my grubby mits on. The sniper rifle is as powerful as ever and oh so satisfying when some poor sap wanders out of cover only to receive a 50 cal ear bud removing all the ear wax and gray matter in one fell swoop. I don’t think the sniper has received a power upgrade gameplay wise but it didn’t really need one, The Scattershotsound fx wise jesus christ, every shot that hurtles out that barrel sounds like a granite cliff face split down the middle because of some turmoil occurring with the earths crust. The immensity of it all is almost unbearable – until a split second later your quarry lies pwned on the other end of the map. The new forerunner weapon the scattershot is a totally different kettle of fish, an uber-close range shotgun style thing that when you hit the sweet spot turns whoever was on the business end into burning shreds of paper caught in a breeze.

I have saved the best until last, for those long time readers you may remember me mentioning in a post a I wrote last May that I was looking forward to using the Railgun in Halo 4. Well now that I have. Ho-ly-Shit. It is unstoppable, I know now whenever I get that as a choice for my ordinance drop I will choose it each and every time. Once that is in your hands killing the other team is inevitable. Works like the trusty spartan-laser but with half the charge time meaning you don’t even really need to track your target, just reticule red and CRACK dead, reticule red and CRACK dead. Wash, rinse and repeat. I was literally jumping out of my seat cheering when I wasted people with this death stick, utterly unaware that there was like a hundred people behind me in line to play probably thinking I was a total dick.

In summary any reservations I had or indeed you have about Halo 4, well forget them because this is shaping up to be the best Halo yet. What’s that? You want to play it and judge for yourself? That’s fine, I know you will agree with me and when you do join me for a game and tell me I was right, I will be patiently waiting, Railgun at the ready…

The Railgun AKA Brown Pants Time

Snack PAX

PAX 12

The Penny Arcade Expo, more lovingly known as PAX, has become one of the best venues for showing off the biggest new games. This bite sized post is about just three of those games I wouldn’t mind a blast on.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

Having never played the previous games due to my irrational phobia of PlayStation’s I have to say that I was a tad confused by some of the trailer. However what I do see is that this game drips awesome graphically and atmospherically. The Conjurer of the stealthy franchise Mr Kojima says that this current generation title is in fact a prologue to Metal Gear Solid 5 which will be a next-gen title. I have to say it looks pretty bad ass and although the ‘game play trailer’ is a little light on actual game play it makes up for in awesome cinematics. As long as you don’t mind subtitles check it out below. Oh and whats more it’s on both PS3 and Xbox 360 so I wont have to get my hands dirty.

Borderlands 2

I always appreciated the almost Scanner Darkly-esque shaded graphics of the first game, but the sequel to this action RPG seems to have ramped things up more than a bit. As you will see in the trailer it totes more guns, baddies, character customizations, environments and even a bad ass ranking system so you can measure just how much of a bad ass you are. Its got 4 player co-op to quadruple the ultra violence levels in-game and trade any weapons with your buddies. It looks totally over the top and I love that about it, I mean anything which has an acid shooting machine gun and black hole grenades can’t be wrong. Take a look for yourself.

Halo 4

Of course I couldn’t go without mentioning Halo and PAX has brought another selection of UNSC tapas for our delectation. Check out this little video about 343’s some poor suckers getting flagsassinated on the latest to be showcased ‘Exile’ during a CTF game,  I feel some of the footage here kind of affirms that it still has that Halo feel but now with a little more added super soldier.

The many details on multiplayer have been receiving mixed reactions from the community. Personally I am all for the changes, after all it is meant to be Combat Evolved right? However the good people at 343i have been understandably quiet about the campaign involving everyone’s favourite Spartan – The Master Chief. The video below though is probably the best ViDoc they have released to date and shows a substantial amount of ‘making of’ footage and to me really conveys the level of consideration and just how hard they are working to make the campaign something really special. There are even a couple of extra bits of unseen cut-scene footage in there. The video below should really give you a feel how much the team is

Hope you enjoyed this post, are you looking forward to any/all of these games, any other games that were showcased at PAX that you like the look of? Let me know in the comments and as usual if you like what you read please subscribe. Thanks

-MS Dosser

Meta Critical

When it comes to video game to movie cross overs the success ratio is, how can I put this nicely, shite. But don’t just take make my naughty word for it. Lets take a brief examination of the facts. (Warning I may shit on some of your childhood memories so you may just want skip over the next few paragraphs if you want to maintain those happy delusions)

Streetfighter: The Movie

With the game turning 25 years old not so long ago (inoright?!) it seems relevant to start here, in 1994 a film was made which on paper seems to tick all the boxes for a great movie. It had Van Damme kickin’ ass and taking names as Guile, the late great Raul Julia in his last proper movie as Bison and our nations favourite adopted daughter Kylie wearing some tight clothing. As an 11-year-old this film seemed to be the greatest movie that was and ever will be made. About a year ago I flicked over and found this polished turd on TV and I am telling you now I just couldn’t watch more than 5 minutes of it, it was diabolical in all kinds of ways from the migraine inducing script to the wafer thin storyline. Epic fail.

Mortal Kombat (both of them)

Now I love Christopher Lambert as much as the next dude and because of Highlander he will be excused forevermore. However this man cannot read, if he could he would realise how utterly substandard the scripts for these movies were and would not have done them. The first one I can almost stomach but number 2 (Annihilation) is dog shit on so many levels. If you don’t want to burn you retinas on this filth check out this audio commentary of MK2 over at JTPodcasts.com. I will say these films did one thing right and that was to only waste a small amount of money in the making of them with their limited budget

Tomb Raider (again both of them)

Now I loved these games as a teen, mainly to try in vain to get a look up Lara’s shorts when she was swimming (you know you did the same) and don’t get me wrong 11 years ago when the first movie surfaced I like most easily excitable 17-year-old boys of the time, were more than happy to sit through an action heavy and plot deficient film in the vague hope of seeing some side boob from Miss Jolie. Ok so the first one is actually OK (partly down to my inner 17-year-old) but that second one can be described in one monosyllabic, all-encompassing word – Gash.

Right, I think it best to stop the attack on shit movies you love there. I could go on about the Final Fantasy movies which all look very pretty but are boring as fuck. I could flip it and talk of how many great movies got turned into rubbish games (see Avatar, almost any movie based superhero game, any game based on a Pixar film.) or the exceptions to that rule (see Goldeneye64 and Lion King on the SNES). Instead lets look to the present and the very near future.

So in my opinion the whole game characters to the big screen hasn’t translated so well, so this next movie maker took a different route altogether and decided to make a film about the makers of games instead.

Indie Game: The Movie

If you read my co-blogger elth’s post about our society’s dismissal of gaming culture and you want to see just how much effort goes into making games, or you just want to watch an expertly crafted documentary which happens to be about games developers then please watch this. This independent film follows a few independent (indie) developers as they strive to get their games out there to the masses and documents their heartfelt struggles in making their respective games and their daily lives. This documentary is poignant at times and it really makes you feel for them and what they are going through. Either way I would suggest you watch this by purchasing from the official site or as most of you have it get it off iTunes. It’s only £6.99 ($9.99) and it will make you happy.

Right time to remove my makeup and emotions, let’s talk explosions.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Whether you are a Halo super-fan like me or you just like a good bit of sci-fi this forthcoming web-series by the team at 343 Industries shows a lot of promise. In the build up to Halo 4 this episodic story tells a tale of a group of cadets a couple of decades before the Halo game series at the beginning of the Covenant War, detailing their fight for survival. For those who have no idea what I just said this series will introduce you to the rich Halo universe and show you what you have been missing out on.

The story is not all guns and ammo, the creators of this series say it is very much character driven and aims to develop the relationships between these young soldiers facing this impossible situation. Those worried about it getting a bit too soppy this will not be a snooze fest, with Daniel Cudmore (of X-Men and Twilight fame) taking the role of a young Master Chief you can be certain that a lot of Aliens are going to die.

Needless to say I am creaming myself over this but don’t take my biased view on how good it is going to be watch the trailer here for yourself and do a little sex wee afterwards.