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Tag Archives: 2011

What Happened to Halo?

With the release of Halo: Reach last year the series is finally coming to a close. Well, I should say that the series as imagined by Bungie is coming to a close. Microsoft has opened a branch called 343 Industries to oversee the Halo name post-Bungie. But, the future is unclear for the Master Chief, the Arbiter, and the rest of those lovable grunts. It has been rumored that Gearbox is the next in line for a Halo release but as of this writing it is all speculation.

The point…

… I’m getting to it. Halo has changed so much over the past 4 games. From LAN parties to clan matches to forge and then to armor abilities this series has seen it all. The heart of the game is there, somewhere. This newest release, Reach, really marked for me the fall of Halo. Halo 3 was not what I expected it to be by a long shot, especially coming off of Halo 2 which was pretty much spot on in terms of fun and competitiveness.

Every title after Halo 2 has felt more sluggish, with a lesser learning curve, and a larger margin for error. This is a good business strategy, it will allow more new players to instantly pick up a Halo game and generally do well assuming they have thumbs and don’t get motion sick from watching a television. But as a fan of competitive gaming these decisions don’t make sense.

Just not fun.

I had not played Reach since December or so and decided to pop it in yesterday. I dusted off the case and put the disc in… I was actually pretty excited. But that was before the first game. Coming off of Call of Duty this game feels like child’s play.

I know that the game-play is supposed to be more team oriented but having a 1v1 fight is just awful in Reach. The way damage is handled combined with shields, combined with the weaponry available (or lack-thereof) and it takes too damn long to score a kill.

I gave it about an hour or so, just so I could be sure that I wasn’t being too quick to judge. But this game is a far cry from the fast paced shooter that was Halo 2… it isn’t even comparable to Halo 3 which was fun but definitely wasn’t up to par with Halo 2.

I don’t know how they did it but they have killed my favorite game franchise. I am now a COD man, sad to say. Bring on some Battlefield, bring on some Gears, even bring on the next COD because I probably won’t be looking for the next Halo.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over (and Other Fall Out Boy Song Title references)

Games go stale, it’s not a new thing or something that will ever stop. There are two directions that a game developer can take their waning franchise, revitalizing it with choice gameplay and setting changes, or completely obliterating it with over-the-top overhauls and unnecessary features.

Good Game Goes In, Bad Sequel Comes Out

There have been countless examples of utter failure on development companies and their publishers part. The lure of a sequel often trumps the bad juju associated with trying to out-do their last blockbuster hit, more or less with the same offering. It has happened to many beloved game franchises.

Take the Burnout series for example. Burnout 1, while not the best looking or even the best control wise, was a great game. The challenge of winning a race coupled with surviving an onslaught from 7+ AI all trying to push you into any obstacle they could find was a rush. There was a great boost mechanic which rewarded the player for doing dangerous maneuvers such as driving in the wrong lane, jumping ramps, and slamming into opponents(bonus points for actually making them wreck into a thousand tiny pieces!). The ‘story’ was progressed by means of a radio DJ calling all ‘burners’ to these races and when the player made their name known in an area they were permitted to enter races in other locales, kind of strange but it worked.

Then of course the developer, Criterion(published by Acclaim), decides to make a sequel… and guess what? It wasn’t that bad! It kept the same core mechanic and gnarly crashes while expanding in just the right areas. Namely the graphics, car selection, track selection, and AI learning is what was tweaked. Burnout 2: Point of Impact played like the original and was better in all the right places. Also, there were nearly double the races and challenges as the original… oh yeah.

After these two successes EA games bought the franchise rights from Acclaim but kept Criterion as the developers. Burnout 3: Takedown was in my opinion the best Burnout release. It bumped up the difficulty of the hard modes by adding more traffic and, coupled with the harder tracks and the way better AI, made beating your personal best that much harder. The car selection was great and varied. Game progression made sense even though they ditched the classic radio DJ theme although there was still some form of interaction with a radio personality.The game was getting kind of old but you could never really get over the bad ass crashes and full on action of the races, the series was far from being dead on arrival, or so one would think.

Sugar We’re Going Down

Now, I’ve told you all this because these were examples of how to do it right. It just so happens that the Burnout series had a great run with outstanding titles. That is, until Burnout: Revenge. This game was basically a rehash of Burnout 3, but worse. In the previous 3 titles touching any of the non-racing vehicles resulted in a fiery death, yes just barely grazing them with 1 pixel of your car or pushing the side view mirror of an opponent into traffic was enough to start a crash. On the same hand if you contacted any car after it had been crashed and was not yet despawned off the track it was an instant death as well. Burnout: Takedown changed both of these features. The 4th installment of Burnout allowed the player to ‘Traffic Check’ same-way traffic. Essentially if you were driving in the same direction of a non-racer car you could blast their rear and use them as a weapon against other racers with NO PENALTY WHATSOEVER. There was no slow-down, no damage done to your car, and if you pinballed a wrecked NPC car into an opponent it counted as a special takedown.

This one change in gameplay made almost everything about the game feel cheap. No longer did you have to actually dodge cars, all you had to do was stay in your lane and rear end every mo’ fo’ unlucky enough to be driving through the Autobahn that day. Not only did it not slow you down but Traffic Checking gave you boost! WTF. Of course this made the race mode extremely easy, but it made the crash mode ridiculously easy. In the previous titles one would have to play a level over many times to get the perfect angle and cause the most destruction, often it came down to millisecond timing and amazing reflexes. In Revenge, however, all you had to do was drive around until you were in same-way traffic and start a chain reaction. And the timer just so happened to always give you enough time to get to that same-way traffic lane. If the timer was 90 seconds you better believe it was going to take you 85 seconds to get to your crash zone.

The Burnout series wasn’t just a scene, it was an arms race. An arms race that fell completely short with its 4th title and Burnout Paradise, the open world driver was so far gone from the first game it was unrecognizable. This was one of the few times a demo made me NOT want to buy the full game. In the end things fizzled out, and I predict that the next installment will be crashing, but it certainly won’t be a wave.

Screen of Burnout 1 for Graphics comparison.

Burnout 3: Takedown screen, my favorite of the 5 console games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calm Before the Storm

I really wanted to get into other games and how they have ruined their franchises, or at least sullied their reputations… but I know I can be and already am very long winded here. I just feel pretty strongly about keeping to your guns when you know what works, and also knowing when to quit or just release some DLC instead of a new potentially bad game. Gears did it, Halo did it, Ghost Recon is also a culprit. Street Fighter, Zelda, Mario, Sonic, hell even PONG has run themselves over with their own game before.

We are on the cusp of a new ‘gaming season’ where more and more information will be released about ‘blockbuster’ games conveniently coming out near December. How are companies going to wow us, and ultimately let us down this year? A new Gears and CoD are likely releasing, along with (maybe) Duke Nukem Forever. Lets just hope we get a polished and well thought out product instead of a hastily released amalgam of old boring features and new bullcrap.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Console

 

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New Map for Call of Duty? Leaked poster image seems to confirm.

Below you will find the image that was leaked earlier this week containing the rumored titles of the Map Pack 2 for Call of Duty Black Ops. There is much speculation to be done, and don’t be fooled by the date format… it is day/month/year as most of the world does(not here in the USA though).

The big question is ‘is this real’. I for one believe it to be genuine. In a lot of images there is a small portion on the bottom detailing Xbox live and copyright info (there is a ‘First on Xbox LIVE’ brand just like the first DLC), it is just cut off on this one. The only thing that points it to being shopped is the picture for Hotel is actually already used on another Black Ops poster but this could just be a slip up on the image designers part or intentional.

There is a good bit of info on the map Hotel already. It’s loading screen has been mined out of the data on the disc that was shipped and there is also a top-down map of the gameplay area.

The Load Screen for Hotel

Hotel top down map.

From the pic and the map we can see that the left side of the map is where the stairs in the picture go to. There will likely be a rappel feature somewhere in the map, possible in the lower right hand corner which is probably the lobby area in the picture on the poster.

Zoo should be an interesting addition to the multiplayer. One can assume that there will be some sort of animal based obstacle or interaction if they continue with the trend from the last DLC of putting in ways to interact with the map such as ziplines.

Convoy is the one I am most excited for. From the teaser picture we can assume that it is set near Crystal City, Texas… a great deal closer to home than most Call of Duty arenas. I am guessing this will be a smaller map set around an underpass on a large highway. Hopefully there will be overturned cars and tanker trucks and the like for cover.

Stockpile is the only one in a snow type environment this go around. It is likely it is the map that people thought was Discovery from Map Pack 1. I have done an article that featured this screen before but it was in speculation of it being Discovery or not, now I am leaning more towards the not side.

I have no idea how the new zombie map ‘Survival’ is going to pan out. It will probably have some sort of crazy easter egg just like the 90 second death machine from Ascension. Here’s hoping!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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New Vegas DLC on the horizon? -or- How Dead Money killed Fallout

Yes it has been a while since my last post, and I apologize. I have been busy running around finding a job and playing Fallout: New Vegas. I have to say that New Vegas is pretty addicting. It is my first step into the Fallout universe but I wish that I had started with Fallout 1’s isometric(think Diablo II) view.

New Vegas is produced by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Bethesda Softworks. If it is anything like Fallout 3 there will be numerous DLCs to be had. Yet as of now there is only one offering and it is kind of a let down. But more on Dead Money later.

Due to some trademark filings made by Zenimax speculation has arisen that the next set of DLC for New Vegas will be titled Honest Hearts and be released on or around April 19th. Quite a bit of time has passed since Dead Money was released, which is a good thing… there would have been ample time to make it into a fitting DLC for the main game. Two more names have been brought up as being potential DLC in the coming months, “Lonesome Road” and “Old World Blues”.

The Honest Hearts DLC will more than likely deal with The Burned Man, Caeser’s former right hand man who was burned alive and left to die in the wastes after the first Battle of Hoover Dam. Graffiti in the wastes points to this – ‘The Burned Man Walks’. There is no word yet on when or where it will take place or if it will possibly continue the free roam after the main quest(not likely). There is however a snowglobe for Zion National Park in the game and some believe this is a location in Honest Hearts.

Now, on to Dead Money. Sheesh.

This DLC was a real pain in my ass. It was *very* linear and while the writing and story and characters were all great, the gameplay mechanics and the reasoning behind them fell way short.

First off there is a poisonous gas cloud that shrouds the Sierra Madre casino, and yes the entire DLC takes place on the casino grounds so there isn’t all that much to explore. This gas cloud is maybe the best part of the DLC as it is explained in pretty good detail. There are numerous accounts of how it came to be and how the workers building the casino had a very hard time because of it. If you are exposed your health drops fairly quickly and it makes some areas pretty challenging.

Then there is the collar. *shudders* Oh god the collar! This really got my goat, for some reason(to ensure cooperation) the antagonist of the DLC straps collars around your necks that will explode whenever he needs to kill you, read: when you tell him you aren’t going to help him. This is all well and good, except for some odd reason simple radio signals make the collars go into a countdown to doom. So you have to go through all of the areas searching for a radio that is making your collar beep and turn it off. For an even odder reason the collar also goes off when there is a speaker playing any sort of sound near it as well. This makes absolutely no sense what so ever and detracts from the experience very much.

Some of the speakers are able to be destroyed(they are blue) while some are ‘armored’ and have to be taken off line before you can blow them up(they are … red). Some of the speakers can’t be deactivated so it just puts a time sensitive barrier on certain portions of the map. Very disappointing game mechanic. Oh, did I mention that if your companion dies it sets off your collar? No? Well it does, so good luck on hardcore mode.

The level design is reminiscent of old-school FPS like Doom or Heretic. Where you had to go to X room for Y key to Z door before you could progress. The antagonist needs you to do some very specific tasks and while there may be multiple quests they are really just sub quests for the main quest. Yes you heard that right, there is really only one thing to do in the DLC. Spoilers follow.

Spoilers. You first must get 3 people who have either been brought to the Sierra Madre or been there since the war. Once you have located one you ‘convince’ him/her to go back to the start area. Once you do that you need to take them to a different area so they can do a task that ‘only they can do’. Having gotten all the people to their spots you trigger the event and are let into the casino, where you are promptly rendered unconscious.

Spoilers. For some reason each person is dragged to different areas of the casino by holograms or something and you must interact with them again(go find them and talk to them) to further the story/get a key/stop the casino from being exploded by a gas leak. Once you do all this you get access to an elevator that takes you to the vault. After a bumblefuck with the speakers you enter the vault where the antagonist finally comes downstairs and you either A)Kill him or B) lock him in the vault. Regardless of your choice you are able to take as many gold bars as you can carry (I only got 4 they each weighed 35 lbs) and thats about it. Each gold bar is worth roughly 5-10k depending on your barter.

Spoilers are over.

The title was a bit harsh, the DLC had it’s moments. Mostly these moments came in the form of reading what had happened before the war on terminals or in journals. The plot and the ways the plot was advanced were absurd. I mean, holograms that can interact with you but you can’t do anything to them? AND they drag you around the hotel after knocking you out? Cmon. I didn’t even go into how there were only 4 different kind of enemies in the entire DLC, and there were only 4 NPCs that you could interact with, and that there is hardly even any good loot in the entire ‘level’.

Meh, I am confident that the reason there is such a huge gap in the release of these DLCs is Obsidian learned from its mistakes and is actually trying to make a good DLC offering for their game. At least that is what I am hoping.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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Upcoming Shooters

I am an avid FPS and TPS player. These games are my bread and butter. There is nothing better than laying down a hail of bullets on some unsuspecting player via XBOX live. Though there is nothing worse than having the same dealt back to you. 2011 promises to be a year ripe with great games, including a few standouts from the shooter genre.

Battlefield 3

Persistent damage = Persistent fun!

This game is the true sequel to Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. It is one a lot of people, including myself, have been waiting for. Bad Company and BC2 were nice and all but I just couldn’t get into them. Battlefield 3 has so much support behind it at EA that it seemingly can’t fail. They even pulled their PC title Battlefield 1943 and some of the resources from their Free-to-Play Battlefield Heroes, not to mention putting the brakes on some BF:BC2 PC updates.

DICE boasts their new engine, Frostbite 2. Patrick Bach, the executive producer, has been quotes as saying, “Frostbite 2 is, I would argue, the best piece of technology on the market when it comes to building games.” The studio has been working on the engine for at least 5 years, possibly even during the development of Battlefield 2. The main focus on the engine is to fully utilize current-gen systems for their upcoming releases. This means that the PS3 or Xbox360 will be chugging away hastily rendering all of the lighting effects and errant debris each and every RPG blasts from a building wall. And yes, the environments will be nearly fully destructible! Color me giddy! The release is not yet confirmed but is suspected to be Oct 2011.

Gears of War 3

The Coletrain is getting nostalgic for his old Thrashball competitors.

While Gears 2 left a bad taste in peoples mouth Epic Games has stated that it has learned from its mistakes. Slated for release Sept 20, 2011 Gears of War 3 will hopefully be the standard bearer for 3rd person FPS. The original Gears pitted 2 teams of 4 in 3 round based gametypes spanning human environments turned hellish by underground dwelling Locust Hordes. The fast paced action and twitch aiming brought in many fans. Lo and behold the sequel Gears of War 2 tuned back the twitch and reflexes and bolstered new ways for carnage, but just didn’t feel ‘Gearsy’.

Gears 3 has a beta releasing soon which can be accessed through your copy of Bullet Storm. You did buy Bullet Storm right? Me either, hah, don’t worry though those BS buyers just get it early. In the beta players are going to be able to test out many new(and improved) features such as executions, ranking system, game modes. Also there are unlockables for the full game given out in the beta: A gold retro-lancer and Cole’s Thrashball costume are confirmed. This is a great feature to get people to play the beta because you actually get to keep some of the content you earn.

Modern Warfare 3

Not much is known about this game, but it matters not. The last two Call of Duty games broke record sales all time and in their first week. Some may say it is time to move on from this franchise but the market doesn’t lie. The release is speculated for November 2011, which makes sense as a CoD game has release in that month the past 2 or so years.

Will there be hackers? Will Infinity Ward do a good job with hit detection? Will you find Makarov? All of these questions have yet to be answered. And sadly I can’t point you in the direction of people who can. All I know is I will probably buy the game, and play it… way too much. But to be honest there are other games I am more excited about. Liiiiike…

Homefront

Another screen with a huge explosion!

Dropping March 15 Homefront is a large scale FPS set on American soil after North Korea invaded a crippled US. The premise alone has been enough to keep me salivating for more details. And everything that is revealed delivers. There will be a slew of drivable vehicles and user controlled war machines ranging from artillery to helicopters to armored troop transports. Drones will play a part as there will be UAVs and land-bound robots.

The game system works on BP, or Battle Points. Every action you take will net you BP which can then be used to purchase items in game, such as an Apache. The BP do not carry over from game to game, so it is sort of like a killstreak reward system that works for things other than kills too. Homefront is an ambitions project but one that I hope will turn out amazing. It’s dedicated servers can’t hurt either!

There are others, such as Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Brink, but I am in the dark on these titles. If you have any info or want some please post a comment or send me a message and I will do some research and post up a preview of any game I missed.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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