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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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Call of Duty Black Ops Rush Tactics part 1

What a lazy sunday. No school, definitely no church, guess it’s time for a new post right? Might as well set off the new week with part 1 of a short series about rush tactics in Blops. I’ll be going over some basic strategy for each map with a few routes off of each spawn.

For this mini-series the blue and red lines will represent routes for blue team and red team. Yellow lines will represent line of sight to potential enemies for red, while green will do the same for blue. Confusing right? Also, you should always have a rush class, it doesn’t have to be your main class but you should pretty much always start the match off with a Marathon/Lightweight/SMG(or sniper/shotgun) and switch after you die.

Array

Array is a strange map to rush, there are a few different routes that are viable, with 1 from each spawn requiring either a sniper rifle or very careful aim with an AR/LMG.

I dont recommend rushing the bottom lane as blue spawn, its much more useful for red.

Spawning on blue side one has options, and lots of them. My most used rush is the long rush up top, you won’t likely get first blood but you have a good chance of catching 2-4 people unaware. Just hoof it out around the big open area and do your best to cut corners and jump obstacles to make your way to the backside of the truck ASAP. If you have a longer ranged weapon go ahead and take pot shots at the people running through the array, the 2 sets of windows you will be able to see offer great views of the back of the enemies head.

The other rush is to cut through the open container and head into the basement of the array itself, then use the tunnel to get the side view of the truck. This one is best with a silencer, so you can get the 1-2 people at the truck then quickly turn and go through the main floor of the array and get anyone looking out windows.

On red spawn you will be strongly urged to go to the truck. I mean, thats where all the action happens right? First and foremost you MUST blow up the truck with a grenade before any of your boys get there… otherwise the enemy will get an easy quad with a semtex. Either A) Hop on the barrel, then onto the truck top and spam AR downrange, or B) nestle up on the truck hood and snipe behind the snow vehicle. But make sure to put a claymore at the opening of the stairs to prevent a blue player getting behind you.

On the other hand you can skirt the outside of the array and boost on to the blue spawn area. This is my favorite rush on this map as sometimes all 6 (bad) enemies will go there to snipe and you can pick them off one by one from the back. Also you will be there fast, way faster than any of them are ready for… and the ones that would be ready for it are already rushed to your base to pick off your stragglers, so easy money.

Cracked

Remember, always toss a nade over the middle.

Wow, talk about lines. It’s ok, just take the routes 1 by 1 and follow it carefully and you should be able to decipher what I was going for.

On red you will have 2 quick rushes and 1 roundabout one. I always go for the roundabout because it is likely to net the most kills, and a great place to put a Tactical Insertion if thats your bag. So hit a right after spawning and sprint across the courtyard, take note of the windows on the blue side buildings as they may have people posted up in them. After you get into the safety of the building you are pretty much home free, just sneakily walk up behind the people staring at the middle and get easy kills. Place the tac in the first building you enter, and move it slightly every spawn.

The middle rush is fast, you should throw your nade a couple of seconds after the match starts kind of diagonally right, then immediately go left and under the middle building. After you check the corners for people going to the middle rush to the stack of boxes under the red building and climb up and through the window there.

The left rush is the second fastest rush. It gets you in prime position to enter the red building from the doorway. It is always claymored, don’t question it, just throw a concussive grenade and run in. Before that you may encounter some would-be rushers from the other team, they are probably just coming out of their building area and won’t really suspect you so just spray them down and move on with your business.

Blue side isn’t much different. The left most side(right handed rush) is the long rush, which will take you behind most of the other team. This is safer and more rewarding than the other 2 rushes so it is the one I use the most. You pretty much just need to make sure you are able to kill anyone in your way before you actually get to their spawn. Once you are there be sure to kill all the people in the vantage points first before going for spawners and campers, this will allow your team safer passage over the middle.

The middle rush for blue is a bit different, instead of going through to the other side you make shop in the middle building. After you kill one or two from the safety of the first room sprint across to the other rooms and pick them off from their new spawn. Claymore the double stairs as this is where they will be coming from.

The right rush (left side to blue spawn) leads you to the building that has an indention on it with pillars. This is a great spot to catch people off guard as most people never look/go there. You will be met with opposition on the ground level and from one or more of the vantage points. Incidentally the pillared indention is a great tac insertion point. After clearing the street run up into the 2 story building and wait a while before coming out and nabbing some kills from behind.

Summit

A quick sprint will get you lots of kills on this map.

Summit is a really easy rush map, the thing is a lot of people who are ‘rushing’ are doing it wrong for this map. They either don’t have the appropriate class or they take too long on obstacles and are slow maneuvering over the terrain.

The right side of the map will be a hot spot for both sides. Nearly every game 2-3 people per team will run this way. If you are quick on the draw it doesn’t matter which side you are on you will likely kill everyone opposing you.

Blue only really has one other option in my opinion. And that is to go around the enemy team and to catch the people respawning after they die in the first 15-20 seconds as well as people who are setting up on corners waiting for your team to come through the map. This is best done by entering the main building then hugging the left side and coming out at the end of the long straight away into the red spawn.

Red side on the other hand has 2 other routes for rushing. The first is the middle rush which will put you in the top computer room with a view of at least 1 enemy. They will be either crossing the main room so you can shoot them through the window there or they will be rounding the corner just in front of you where the boxes are… it is best to keep your eyes this way until you know no one is coming.

The other route is a sneakster type deal. It circumvents the whole team so you come up behind them. This is handy if you suspect they will hole up in the computer room looking out of the windows into the main area. Their backs will be towards you just waiting for a stab. Start out going through the building with a pillar in the middle and jump out of it onto the metal bridge, continue on that side of the map until you come up to their spawn, then wreak havoc.

 

Stay tuned this coming week as I release more of the map strategies I have been using, I will update the posts with video and pictures as well.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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PS3 gets Call of Duty Black Ops DLC this weekend.

The PS3 finally gets the First Strike Map Pack DLC this weekend and I couldn’t be happier for them. Yes I own a 360 but what? I can’t share some enthusiasm for my friends across the console pond? I mean, I am not excited that Microsoft paid Activision a (probably large) sum of money to get early rights to CoD DLC. I feel like I can speak on the maps however, having played them for a month or so.

So come, PS3 users, join me on an exploration of the new maps you’ll be downloading and learning this weekend. Let me drop some knowledge on you, with some overhead maps.

Kowloon

This is a map inspired by the single player, I think … I didn’t actually delve into the campaign. It is set on a very rainy day in a high rise slum area. There are 2 zip lines that the devs tauted as AMAZING and GAME CHANGING, but you can pretty much ignore them because they are lamely in the middle of the map going outwards to either base. The map is pretty much a square framed around the middle building that houses some monkeys for some reason. There is also a secret tunnel under the map that is perpendicular to the zip lines which is very useful.

Team 1 spawns up top in between A2 and B2, while Team 2 spawns down where E4 is. The middle area just left of the napalm marker is the top room, where the two yellow dotted zip lines originate. C3, the monkey room, has a great view of both spawns and pretty much 40% of the map.

There are many crevices and ‘secret’ areas which campers love to hang out in but being aware should keep you alive. This is a fun objective map as you can get pretty much anywhere on it in 25 seconds, great for clutch Search plants.

You should always take the scenic route on this map because there will ALWAYS…. ALLLLLWAYS be many enemies watching the obvious routes. Also there are about 3 or 4 ways up to each vantage point so if an entire team is not there you have a good chance of catching whoever is off guard.

Stadium

Stadium is the kind of map where you see it and say ‘Why the hell did they name it this?’ There is barely any of the inside of the ice hockey rink to go into, which is very disappointing. They could have set it in a mall, or a parking deck or anywhere really and gotten the exact same map. Oh well it is fun to play on at least.

This above map is pieced together from some of the mini maps in game, sorry it is the only pic I could find. the center area with the circle is a large fountain, it is the lowest spot in the map and a real cluster f*** in objective games. As you can see by the player position marker this is a very small map, 15 seconds and your across the whole thing.

If you can read it, the area that says C3 is a large plywood scaffolding that comes out of the stadium, there will be tons of people sitting on that. The same can be said for the lower yellow marker, that and the B3 mark 2 very camped spots as they have an immense view of the middle and about 1/3 of the map from each spot.

The view from the scaffolding.

There is a bit cut off from the bottom left, but it is a gym type building that you can get on the roof, it isn’t very useful but you will spawn there a good deal. Again, take the long route to get around pesky snipers or areas where you think someone is holed up in a corner.

Berlin Wall

Ahh Berlin Wall. This map is cut in twain by a large ‘no man zone’ with only 3 routes from side to side. This isn’t so bad though as a lot of the time you spawn on the same side as the enemy. So you don’t always think of this map horizontally, sometimes it is vertical. And it is vertical in more ways than one. Each side has multiple buildings with windows just waiting to be camped in. The record store to the top right of D3 and the building where the yellow marker are in are polar opposites. Each has a great view of the middle and one other route across the no man zone.

B Flag

Always be wary of the windows, one or 2 plays on it will give you an idea of which ones to check before rushing out. There are also several fire escapes which make for good places to catch players unawares. Domination on this map is a bitch sometimes because B flag is right in the center. There is 1 thing about the no mans land though, if you throw a smoke in the right place you can run through the middle unscathed. Also, the turrets make an alarm sound when you enter the red zone, so you can fool enemies into looking that way by quickly running into it and out. Just be careful, and don’t blame your swiss cheesed death on me!

Discovery

This is the largest DLC map, so ironically it must have the smallest image. There are 3 destrucable bridges in this map, but they can be jumped over after destruction so it isn’t an issue. Again there are really only 3 ways from side to side but instead of auto turrets to kill you there is a big death pit. There are a myriad of buildings to hide in and shoot out of so watch yourself if you are on the ground because there is probably a Wa2000 aimed right at you!

The top has a long… looooooooong catwalk from side to side. This is oddly enough one of the most used ways to traverse the map, seeing as how it is 1)elevated and 2) has NO cover on it. Keep an eye out every once in a while for people running their mouth and trying to get to your base. There is not a set way to really prosper on this map, just have a gun with some range and a steady aim and you will be ok. It may take a day or so to get used to the giant aurora going on in the background, or to wrap your head around just WHY is there so much military hardware at the south pole… but just try not to think about that.

Overview

Overall these 4 maps are a great addition to Call of Duty Black Ops. Ya’ll PS3ers, or Xbox users who are just buying the maps are in for a treat. You may be frustrated at first because I am sure there are SOME dual owners who will take advantage on the double xp weekend, but don’t get discouraged, you will learn the maps soon enough. One great thing about them is most of them have *extremely* easy to see Spy Planes… no more Hanoi or Summit where you only have 10% visibility. I am excited to hear some feedback from you guys on if I helped any or not so please drop me a line here or at BlackOpsForum.com where my name is “ALungsackFish”

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Console, FPS

 

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