Insanity is catching in FarCry 3

FarCry returns on an island paradise corrupted by Hellish warlords and the scum of the Earth

FarCry should most definitely be a common gaming title on the ears and lips of players who are eagerly enthused with First Person Shooters.

The original game in the franchise (released in 2004 on PC, with the HD reboot unveiled in 2010) offered the player a new experience in the First Person video game genre, with gorgeous visuals and an island paradise setting that was ruled over by merciless mercenaries and shrouded in a horrific conspiracy that could forever change the world. Going up against tyrants, soldiers of fortune and monsters that were known only as ‘Tridents’, the player travelled through twenty levels of strategic combat scenarios, covertly annihilating enemies and encampments, whilst neutralising and demolishing enemy structures and key support services.

If there was one thing that FarCry did thoroughly well, it was to convince gamers that a tropical paradise was not all it was cracked up to be, and the next time I found myself in Bali, I looked around the tropical paradise, expecting mutants to jump out at me from one corner, and mercenaries from the other.

The sequel (released in 2009 on all consoles) went in a completely different direction. With Crytech, the original designers of the game shifting their gaze to focus on the promulgation of the ‘Crysis’ franchise, Ubisoft, the game’s producers, kept the rights to the game’s name and began to develop the sequel.

Set in Africa, the player was immersed in an action role playing game experience, where their actions would inevitably result in what conclusions came to fruition. A great number of changes went into the development process of the second installment in the FarCry franchise which inevitably separated it greatly from the original, with the action oriented RPG becoming best known as the game that S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl attempted to be.

FarCry 2 was met with both skepticism and appreciation. Some enjoyed the new scenarios, the unbelievably gorgeous visuals of the savannah and the overall evolution that the game had gone through. Others however preferred the original, and were somewhat irritable that the game had changed so drastically.

On that note, FarCry 3 offers the players the ability to once more return to an island paradise. Instead of providing a synopsis of the story, allow me to quickly begin the analytical process of dissecting the game’s qualities.

Before I do that though, here is one of the more recent videos for the game which outlines the overall storyline the gamer will be involved in experiencing. For those who are unfamiliar with the overall storyline, I urge you to watch this trailer. It only goes for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds and will efficaciously fill in the blanks. I would like to note that I am not the original author of the work at the following site.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJpBeBllyxA&feature=fvst

The first major change to the gaming franchise is the character. Not the name or anything, but the heroic traits that he possesses. Upon the instigation of the game, the character that you portray has absolutely no survival skills; he is a virgin in regards to violence and murder; and is a novice in any and all strategic militarian battlefield supremacy techniques.

This is a significantly different scenario than what was produced in previous titles in the franchise, with the lead characters being polar opposites to the new hero. This adjunctively helps the player become further immersed in the world for they will instantly feel very comfortable, or uncomfortable as the case may be in the shoes of the game’s protagonist.

Our hero in FarCry 3, Jason Brody, is literally a tourist. Luckily however, he learns extremely fast, and so does not remain prey for very long. To upgrade your character to a suitable standing upon the island, you need to spend experience points in one of the three key areas; the Heron, which presides over abilities consistent with long range weaponry, aiming and the accuracy of any and all firearms; the Shark, which is fitting as an image of destruction for it presides over one’s ability to survive, giving rise to greater health bonuses, healing properties, potential damage immunities and brute strength, allowing you to become fit for a full combat experience. Lastly, there is the Spider, which presides over one’s stealthy capabilities, allowing you to move faster, go undetected, and covertly evade and neutralise threatening forces.

The point system does not however work the way it does in games the Likes of Mass Effect and Dead Space, where you must level one section of your character’s particular skills as to level up the next. In FarCry 3, much of the player’s skills are unlocked by completing missions and other quests, or by achieving certain tasks; for instance, one skill asked that five enemies be killed by grenades; another asked for ten opponents to be killed by machine gun emplacements; and another asked for a Bull Shark to be neutralised. On that note, the way to acquire higher levels is to play the game, rather than gain points from achieving certain goals.

However, acquiring points is not exactly easy, as the player only gains one every one thousand skill points, which are attributed to the player from kills (special kills such as head shots and covert strikes having greater rewards), the successful completion of missions (you can acquire more by not being detected, having no friendly casualties during the operation, etc) and by acquiring many of the secret artifacts located randomly about the island.

Finding said artifacts proves to be a valuable, rewarding and fun experience, providing to you free reign to do whatever you please and explore the wide open terrain. Other games the likes of FarCry 3 might have loading sequences as the game renders new areas and prepares for new segments, but this is not the case, the continuous freedom playing an incredible part in the player’s general ability to do whatever it is that he or she may choose.

Additionally, some items, the likes of plants, or more accurately, the leave of plants, prove to be some of the most efficacious and necessary parts of the game. All leaves can be mixed together to create powerful potions, the likes of health vials, the ability to absorb more punishment from certain attacks, the ability to domesticate certain animals for a certain time period, et al.

On the subject of health, your health bars will naturally regenerate – unless you have being poisoned or crippled by some other means. In that case, health packs and other like items are necessary to ensure one’s survival.

Moreover, the controls in FarCry 3 are different again than from previous installments in the franchise. Learning these controls will alone take a couple of hours to successfully master, and even then you are likely to every so often make a costly mistake. Not long into my play through, I accidentally clicked the grenade button whilst looking for the switch weapons reticule, and thus alerted every enemy in the base I was assaulting to my presence. Switching weapons is also a bit of a hindrance, for many games that include a weapon wheel will often pause the game whilst you select the next weapon – not FarCry 3. Whilst switching weapons the world around you will continue to move, and if you are under attack , the enemy will proceed in their attempts to eliminate you.

This leads to the next aspect of the game – the difficulty. The game in general is not terribly challenging per se, but the health of your player is incredibly weak and is depleted at an alarmingly rapid rate. Jason is not up for much punishment, and even after you upgrade your health and overall strength, a good couple rounds from any weapon will remove a cube of health, and when you are being shot at by an assault rifle, you can easily imagine how quickly your life line can be reduced from maximum capacity to absolutely none. A single swipe or bite from a predator will often remove a single cube, and when under attacks from herds of animals, or a larger beast the likes of a tiger, the chance of survival is limited exponentially.

As mentioned previously, you can easily restore your health with kits which you develop on your own or find scattered across the island, however, these will prove useless whilst engaged in a firefight. You cannot actively heal whilst you are running for your life, and when you pause to heal you allow your enemy not only the opportunity to reach your position, but allow them to take pot shots at the bulls eye you inadvertently place upon your back. On top of this, if you continually receive punishment from your opponents whilst you are healing, the hit points you lose will be immediately taken away, so by the time you have healed, you may only gain a fraction of what you were supposed to receive.

However, moving back to assigning points and the overall strength of the protagonist, not everything is quite as enjoyable. At its heart, the game is more of an RPG experience than that of the second game. What that means, is that you will be continuously picking up random pieces of grot, looting the bodies of your enemies and their places of residence and completing random missions for the occupants of the island. This would not be such an intolerable hindrance at times if not for its annoyingly realistic scenarios.

The loot sack your character has at all times needs to be expanded over time else you will continuously be alerted that you have officially run out of room for the forty seventh time in the past half an hour. This can be done by skinning animals that you find across the island – you read that right. As mentioned in the last paragraph, the game is incredibly realistic when in contrast with its predecessors, but one may have to wonder if it has gone too far. True, the realism in games is often what the general public wants, but suspension of disbelief plays a powerful role in fictional pieces of media and players are well accustomed to occurrences transpiring which would be unbelievably impossible in reality – take the ability to carry objects. In games the likes of Gothic, the player is capable of carrying as much as they choose without becoming over encumbered. Basically, the billions of items the player carries weighs nothing more than a feather upon their shoulders, when in reality it would consist of a nice 3,999,999,999,999 kilograms.

Adjunctively, the character’s wallet is in need of expansion if you wish to carry more money, and your ability to carry arms is also in need of an upgrade, with the character initially only being capable of carrying one weapon, which can thus be boosted to accommodate an additional two upon the body of the protagonist.

So, with that in mind, the player will constantly be seeking out wild animals to assist in their ability to carry that which they require to successfully survive the island, which inevitably results in quite a bit of bloodshed and a fair bit of repetition. Safe to say that animal activists will not be impressed with what Ubisoft have done here.

True, it is not every day you can fight a Komodo Dragon or go head to head with a Bull Shark, but if you skin one animal you have basically skinned them all. Of course, any and all skins are applied to your inventory, so that which you require to build your inventory is also one of the major factors which reduces its size – ironic. It is natural to assume that an animal skin could take up one block in one’s inventory, but the idea that a leaf could do so is simply absurd. That’s right – one leaf shrinks your inventory by one, and since you will no doubt be cutting down a lot of them, expect half your inventory to almost always be filled with random leaves.

In regards to the island moreover, the environment is incredibly detailed, and to say that the graphics are gorgeous would be one of the greatest understatements ever conceived. The faces of characters are brilliantly exposed with a detail that will leave you mesmerised as your converse and dispatch your opponents, and the island in general is graphically flawless, the vibrant colour of the scenery and atmosphere drawing you in with beautiful, unflinching effects.

Errr, do you wish to go out for coffee later?

Like with the last game, the island will move from morning, noon and into the night, none of which lasts a particularly long period of time, but will ultimately affect your experience all the same as battling at night time is very different than what it is during the day.

Of course, just a note – do not be shocked by the sheer size of the island. The map you are provided generally makes the number of islands that the player is stranded upon appear to dwarf even the United States, which might suggest the longevity of time you will be stranded there. The main mission is made up of enough jobs that will probably keep you playing for around 10 – 12 hours, but the additional side quests and the continuous freedom will keep you engaged for quite a bit longer, the general length of the game being determined by the general style of game play the player chooses to exhibit.

The environment has being upgraded from previous experiences furthermore and can benefit you at times rather than prohibiting you from successfully navigating an area. When falling down a cliff, your character will immediacy begin to slide, which reduces the damage you sustain from the fall. The game will adjunctively tell you when to interact with the environment, which can include leaping up to higher ledges, and the use of vines (which players might remember from FarCry Instincts) adds an environmentally interesting approach to clambering up mountains and other such areas.

Missions in FarCry 3 are more constrained than what they were in previous games. In both of the predecessors in the franchise thus far, the player had free reign to approach mission objectives any which way they wanted, and although FarCry 3 is more free and open than any of the games before it, this specific aspect of the game has not being carried over. When playing through missions, players are forced to go about them the way the game wants. There is always one direction; one method; and sometimes even one type of weapon that must be used to ensure successful completion of the operation, else you will automatically fail.

Upon failure of an operation, the game automatically reboots the player at the last checkpoint. If that is not annoying enough though, any vehicle you had with you at the moment your last checkpoint was activated will have subsequently vanished without a trace and you will have to pursue any and all objectives on foot, which is, as one can easily imagine, often a slow and grueling process.

Furthermore, unlike in FarCry where the player was forced to discover checkpoints in order to safely secure their progress thus far, or in the sequel where the player could only ever save the game by making their way to specified save stations, in FarCry 3 the save system has changed again.

When happily navigating the islands, the player can save the game whenever they wish. This is disabled during missions, and it is then that the player is forced to rely upon checkpoints.

However, there is only one save slot, and every time the player chooses to save their progress they are subsequently overwriting their last save, so often you need to be vigilant and careful when it comes to saving your campaign else you might find yourself in a problem that you cannot escape from.

Returning to the concept of missions, in general they range from a wide assortment of duties, some of which will require significant travel arrangements to be made. Vehicles again make a helpful asset throughout the campaign, a long list of jeeps, regular old fashioned cars and sea worthy vessels being at your disposal. The new ability to fast travel to locations which you have previously conquered adds an additional helpful application to the game and allows you to go back to a store (or a locker, as both serve the same purpose) to sell and buy products before travelling back to where you were beforehand.

As a side note, just like in FarCry 2, enemy vehicles patrol the roads, and will attack you if they spot you.

On the mention of ‘conquering’ areas, this is a new part of the game. The map itself is bare at first, although certain points of key interest are displayed, everything else from routes, to the locations of certain animals and places of interest are not available. The locations of radio towers are however, each of which have being supplied with an inhibiter which prevents them from sending a signal to your map which will display everything that an adventurer will need to survive. Taking out the jamming transmissions upon these towers is a necessity in that sense to progress through the campaign.

Towers are not all that requires conquering though. There are two ‘teams’ upon the island who are fighting for its dominance and control. There is the Rakyat, the people who your character sides with at the beginning of the game, who have the banner of a blue flag presiding over their territories to symbolise their control over the area; and then there are Vaas’s Pirates, the enemy, who run beneath a red banner. Segments of the map outlined in a red colour reveal areas occupied by the enemy, and parts of the map clear of any red show where the Rakyat have dominance.

Like in a tournament, one of the game’s goals is to seize control of the enemy controlled sectors by invading them, killing the enemy occupants and in doing so, seizing control and having the Rakyat officially move in. Once an area has being cleared of hostiles, the enemy do not secure dominance in that sector again.

Die you rotten bastards!!

The enemy in general is rather intelligent moreover, but the AI can be easily beaten if you covertly evade their actions. Enemies patrol encampments and other such areas, but do not bother to turn around if you silently creep up behind them, allowing you to progress through entire areas without even using a bullet.

However, the sheer volume of certain groups can sometimes make this almost impossible and additional strategies need to be implemented. On occasion enemies will even call in reinforcements, which you certainly do not want occurring.

When in open combat the enemy will take cover, throw grenades to draw you from the cover you have taken, and flank your location, Your compass however, which shows the locations of pissed off bad guys is so good at doing its job, that you can always clearly tell where the enemy are flanking you from, which makes them so much easier to dispatch.

Depending on the weapons that you have unlocked (or are at present using), these will primarily be the arms that the enemy take up, which, much like in the second game is FarCry’s way of giving back to you what you use to dismiss the enemy. The magazines your opponent’s drop though are not worthy of mentioning, for a couple of rounds is not nearly enough to sustain you through a war, and replenishing your ammo at stores and lockers is often a frequent quest.

In regards to the weaponry, there is a wide assortment of pistols, SMG’s, assault and sniper based rifles and other equipment which can be used at your leisure. Although slots need to be developed to accommodate for more equipment, the player will often feel most at home with that which they no doubt initially equip upon their character. Some items can additionally be upgraded with equipment the likes of scopes, silences and additional attachments to enhance the general accuracy of the weaponry at hand to make your character more dangerous in battle.

Moving onto the driving force of the game, the major goal is to secure the release of your friends from the island. Although Jason and his friends believed the islands to be a beautiful paradise, the sudden realistaion that it certainly fails to live up to their original expectations is present by the fact that they have each being captured and are subsequently scattered about the island and are in dire need of rescue. This in turn is the primary mission for the player, but like with all games, the general notion of ‘I’ll help you if you help me’ plays a significant role whilst interacting with the inhabitants of the islands.

What I will say about the storyline is that it can at times be more emotionally in-depth than the previous experiences in the franchise, and over the course of the game you learn about the lives of each character and how they each came to be in the situation they are in now. The story is driven by themes of friendship, family and love, which influences Jason in attempting to save his friends, even at the cost of his own life.

The fabulous orchestral musical score which on occasion rumbles through the game enhances this experience and empowers these emotional moments and themes with an incredible sense of urgency.

In conclusion, FarCry 3 appears to combine aspects of FarCry 2, Red Faction 3 and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic to create an experience which is better than James Cameron’s Avatar (the videogame) but perhaps not quite as enjoyable as FarCry 2.

Image References (Harvard style)

-Andog Hype 2012, Far Cry 3 unveils two new characters: Dennis and Citra, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.analoghype.com/video-games/playstation-3-news/far-cry-3-unveils-two-new-characters-dennis-and-citra/>

-Cheat Code Central 2012, Far Cry 3 Preview, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://www.cheatcc.com/ps3/rev/farcry3preview.html#.UKvuqYaDfIU>

-Wikipedia 2012, Far Cry 3, viewed 21st November 2012
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Cry_3>

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Shepard and Aria team up to slap Omega out from the Illusive Man’s greedy little hands: Analysing the Mass Effect 3 DLC “Omega”

Team up with Aria and Nyreen to take back Omega

Size: 1.99 Gigabytes

Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points

It was not long into the Mass Effect 3 campaign that Aria, the so called ‘Pirate Queen’ of the ominous Terminus station Omega sent a message to Shepard’s private terminal, requesting the player to meet her in Purgatory on the Citadel and to not keep her waiting. After running around the centre of Galactic government, Shepard successfully unified the three primary mercenary bands in the universe under her command, whilst at the same time she specified why she was on the Citadel; how the Illusive Man, the ring leader of the circus that is Cerberus, a pro-human splinter group comprised of terrorists and other antagonists, was now ‘at the top of her shit list’, and was thus going to pay ‘for every minute (she had) spent in this bureaucratic hell hole’ for stealing Omega away from her.

After helping Aria twice during the second game, once, by unveiling to her how the Blue Suns, the Eclipse and the Blood Pack were planning to unanimously destroy her after the death of Archangel; and again by helping to save her former adviser, Patriarch, it was rather obvious that once more Shepard would be required to perform another duty for the powerful Assari this time around.

The campaign, which consists of four levels of game play with additional cinematics, begins with an e-mail from the illustrious Aria, asking Sheppard to return to the Citadel and meet her in Dock 42 so they might discuss her ‘pet project’. After several weeks of preparing the counter offensive assault to take Omega back from Cerberus, Aria is officially ready to take back her station, and although Aria relinquishes control and allows herself to be bossed around by Shepard during the game play, she still does have a few addendums; the least of which being that none of your crew are to accompany you during the game.

Having little trust with regards to your affiliates, you will instead find yourself braving the fight against Cerberus with a team consisting of none other than Aria herself, and a Turian Huntress named Nyreen, who is additionally the leader of a rebellious group on Omega titled the ‘Talons’, who have being attempting to fight Cerberus for the right to control the station.

Primarily the game will be played with Aria, who you are able to personally level up in the Squad menu, with new abilities the likes of Lash, Flare and Biotic Protector being readily available for use. To say that Aria’s powers are extraordinary would be a terrific understatement, with whole garrisons of enemy troops often being literally wiped out by but a blast of her biotic capabilities.

Nyreen on the other hand randomly assists you as often as she goes off on her own, and so half the campaign will be spent without her personal assistance as she wages the battle in other areas across the station.

Over the course of the game you are able to find out about the background of both unique squad members and their in-depth history together, however, if you are interested in discovering bucket loads of information on Aria you are going to be terribly disappointed, the information being slim at best.

Additionally, over the course of the campaign, Aria will come off as a cold, manipulative and unemotional monster who is willing to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of her vengeful mission against the Cerberus forces. Nyreen on the other hand is the polar opposite, and instead worries frantically about the lives of civilians, and during conversations when you are forced to make paragon and renegade choices, will be the voice of reason, whilst Aria maintains her freezing cold demeanor and criticises many of your paragon choices.

However, if you successfully keep up a paragon reputation throughout the campaign, you may be able to slightly tweak Aria’s lack of consciousness so that she becomes a little more, well, civilised, but again, this comers at the price of her criticism.

Moreover, unlike the Extended Cut, this particular DLC is not an emotionally powerful experience, so players will only have to bring themselves to the fight, rather than additionally bringing a box of tissues (or in my case ten). In fact, emotions of any kind (with the exception of hate and loathing) are not focused upon in the slightest. The entire campaign is basically a grudge match between Aria and the Cerberus forces. Even on the occasions when saddening occurrences transpire, the amount of in-depth concentration which is applied is barely significant, and even though during the rest of the game these emotional scenarios were focused upon quite strongly, these instances are severely overlooked during this DLC package.

Moving on, your primary enemy throughout the campaign comes in the form of General Oleg Protrovski, who unlike other Cerberus Commanders does have a seemingly militarised code of honor, although, at the same time he is still very willing to make horrific sacrifices to achieve victory, and thus the goal of the campaign is to seize control of the station from him.

The Illusive Man rather unfortunately does not make an appearance of any kind, and some may feel the levels are incomplete without his unfathomably egotistical personality and antagonistic wit.

Every Cerberus opponent you have faced before, from the basic foot soldier to the dangerous Nemesis; from the agile Phantom to the incredibly powerful Atlas will make a number of appearances though throughout your efforts to retake Omega. At times, the number of enemies who stand against you are considerable, and potentially outnumber the strength of the army protecting the Illusive Man’s base which you assault at the game’s conclusion. The number of Atlas’s you will face is greater than that of any other fight and dwarves previous encounters.

Although the campaign, yes, can be challenging, this is also contradicted by the notion that you will frequently find yourself drowning in medical packs, and so you will rarely find yourself without a full collection of medi-gel in your power wheel (on a side note, the amount of medi-gel is almost drowned out by the sheer number of credits that number in the tens of thousands which can be found over the course of the campaign). Additionally, your team is incredibly competent to the extent that during my play through, not one of them fell at the hands of the Cerberus soldiers.

On another note, a new addition to the Cerberus army, the Rampant Mechs, are very fun to go up against, and are more capable than the basic mech artillery you were forced to frequently endure during the second game. These Mechs are well armored and carry powerful shotguns that do considerably damage at close range, and if that is not enough, they come equipped with powerful Omni-tool based weaponry which can shred your shields if they come within an inch of your body. Even in death these Mechs are a nuisance, and it is frequently best to keep a good distance between both your character and them whether they are running around on both legs or have them pointing up in the air.

Another opponent that makes a debut in the campaign is the Reaper creature known only as the ‘Adjutant’. These (often) failed Cerberus experiments look a lot like a cross between both the Cannibal and the Brute, and can literally tear into you with their sharp claws and leap considerable distances to close in on your location. From afar they are able to shoot moderately potent biotic powers from their right arms which can temporarily disarm you, their attacks continuing to affect you for  a few seconds after you have being hit (much like the biotic attacks by the Banshees). However, these creatures only make a couple of appearances, and it is disappointing that they appear infrequently throughout the campaign due to the challenging nature of such an opponent who deserved a much larger role.

The Omega DLC will provide you with somewhere between three and five hours worth of additional game play, and by the end your character will be granted some powerful war assets that could potentially tip the scales in your battle against the Reaper menace.

If there is one thing that the campaign does well it is build your interest and keep you entertained, and judging by the hype and excitement that has being attributed by the online media that is no surprise. However, this is also the campaign’s weakness.

Although you will recognise a couple of the surrounds that you fight through from your original trip to the station back in the second game, you will be barred from exploring most of it. On top of this, the amount of the station that you do fight through feels considerably small when in contrast with the sheer enormous scale and size of Omega. Due to this, you, the gamer, will often continuously ask for more; more action; more places to explore; more in-depth character driven narratives; more of the exciting Mass Effect experience; the issue is that the Omega DLC whets your appetite, and nothing else. By the campaign’s conclusion you will be left with an insatiable hunger for more, and thus will be unable to satisfy your appetite.

Omega is an entertaining addition to the Mass Effect universe in its own right, with a couple side missions to complete for some of the folks in Omega, and additional objectives which include fighting through a mine dripping with Ezo deposits (which may remind gamers of Dead Space 2 and Doom 3), destroying shields and defenses, deactivating land mines and neutralising garrisons of Cerberus combatants.

However, when in comparison to Mass Effect 3 as a whole, the Leviathan DLC, or even the Extended Cut, you will find your lust for the Mass Effect universe remains, and your wish for an incredibly potent experience goes unfulfilled.

On a final note, since the Bioware team who developed the Mass Effect franchise are primarily beginning to focus on new ventures, and Bioware Monteal has now announced they will be working on the new Mass Effect game, fans of Mass Effect 3 may wish to smoke this DLC while they have it – for there may not be another DLC for this game again. Judging by the fact that in four months time the game will be celebrating its one year anniversary since its release, and DLC’s for previous titles were discontinued half way into the following year respectively, this assumption is made even more likely.

In Summary:

Good:
-New entertaining and powerful enemies
-Challenging atmosphere
-Never before seen environments
-Plenty of credits are left lying around
-Aria’s powers are beyond amazing
-Potential war assets can be acquired by campaign’s end

Bad:
-Entire campaign is an unemotional experience
-Relatively short
-The four levels can feel small in comparison with the significant size of the station
-Exploration of both the station and characters is limited
-Adjutant Reaper enemies deserve greater role
-Sheer amount of medi-gel dissolves many of the challenges
-You, the gamer, will be left wanting more

Image References:
-Mass Effect Wiki 2012, Mass Effect 3: Omega, viewed 26th November 2012
< http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_3:_Omega>

In the world of video games, the end doesn’t always justify the means

 

Although some may refuse to believe this statement to be true, games have indeed matured since the days of their orchestration. Initially beginning as nothing more than experiences which required the gamer to run and gun their way from the start of a level to its conclusion, additional storylines, character development and in-depth background of locations, scenarios and occurrences have modified gaming into an experience which can easily rival the enjoyment ascertained from reading and watching films.

As the title of this piece suggests, my belief, and a factor of gaming that I especially enjoy, is as follows; although a game may more often than not require a gamer to potentially blast their way from one side of the game to the next, the ending does not necessarily have to end with such violence; nor does the game as a whole.

Nowadays, a majority of games have cinematics and other such occurrences which separate one action sequence from the next which adds depth to the fictitious piece as a whole. In an RPG, this happens more often than not when in comparison with a shooter, a great comparative example being that of the Halo franchise and the Mass Effect series; both are entrenched with an amazing character driven narrative which immerses the player in futuristic alien environments against vile, antagonistic opponents who seek the destruction of humanity. Shrouded with other themes, the likes of friendship, family, love, betrayal, redemption and revenge, these games offer the player a gratifying experience that is worth experiencing again and again.

On that note, if a game has being leading the player through a substantially powerful storyline amidst the many action sequences, the conclusion could no doubt carry the same weight. The days when an ending to a game was simply a mix of explosions, mixed with the demise of the end boss is indeed still apparent, but more is conveyed during the moments that follow on from this particular occurrence, and it is that which I am aiming to discuss.

When I am playing a game and find myself at its conclusion, more often than not I would like to experience an ending which is incredibly emotional; a simpler way would be to say a real tear jerker.

The first time I finished a game which ended in much the same way I have described above the year was 2003, and the title of the game was Unreal II The Awakening. Since that time, it has again happened in regards to titles the likes of Bioshock and its sequel Bioshock 2, Halo Reach, Halo 4 and Mass Effect 3 (especially when played with the Extended Cut DLC).

Adjunctively Gears of War 2 and 3 moved me emotionally, but these moments occurred during the games rather than at their conclusions.

If a game has already proved itself capable of delivering unto the player an experience that is consistent with the kind of powerful storyline you would expect from a genuine blockbuster at the cinema, then an emotionally charged ending is no doubt an inevitability by the game’s end.

Of course, the stereotypical feature only runs for a period no less than two hours, where as the shortest stereotypical game one is likely to experience today will go for approximately three times that amount. So, if I am going to immerse myself into a fictitious world for that amount of time, then I would very much like for the ending to be as passionately powerful as the overall experience from start to finish was for me.

I can only speak for myself, but I very much enjoy being fully immersed into the world of a video game to such an extent that I will genuinely feel something; I will become sad if a protagonist who I had befriended and fought beside dies; I will smile if the vile antagonist who caused such pain and suffering is defeated by game’s end; I will feel contempt at the evocative nature of any relationship that I manage to instigate between my character and a possible paramour.

With that said, certain readers may find it interesting that I would rather be brought to tears by the ending of a specific title, rather than find an epic amount of explosions dazzling across the screen before the credits gradually start rolling. True, I don’t believe that people in general enjoy crying, but that rule does not apply in my opinion when you are viewing fictitious content. To be moved in any which way; to tears; to fits of hysterical laughter; to glances of awe, is not always possible with every title, no matter the content, and to become emotionally distraught by a tragic ending is not something to be horrified at, but something to be ecstatic with.

If a feature has moved the viewer in the way that the writers, director and developers originally intended, then they have successfully achieved that which they had set out to do. If I had not being moved to tears by the game’s ending then that would have being an issue for I would not be acquiring the experience that I had paid for. Game’s in general often cost three times the amount of a film, and to be moved by the conclusion is well worth the one hundred odd dollars that the campaign was valued at.

In conclusion, I would very much like for more game’s to have an emotionally charged ending after playing through the campaign, or, like the Mass Effect series, build up on that possible ending through a franchise. After all, if I am going to be fully immersed into the world of a video game, I would genuinely appreciate the ability to be moved by an ending that has being developed by people as passionate for the game as I am, rather than end on the stereotypical explosive scenario that many game’s to this day conclude upon.

To be moved to tears by a game’s ending is not something that people should look down upon; it simply means that the player is human. As a species, humans are more often than not affected emotionally when something tragic happens. All I ask is that this in-depth feeling of humanity is written into the game’s that I play.

Thank you for reading.

If you have any comments on what I have written, or opinions of your own in regards to the subject matter, please, feel free to discuss them in the comments section below.

My Star Wars Episode 7 Rant-a-thon (in which the writer goes insane and is taken away by men in white coats)

 

I have never being one to come out with my own opinion every time an occurrence that could be described as ‘breaking news’ is dropped upon society. So, with that said, perhaps people who read this might find it in their heart’s to forgive me if I suddenly appear hypocritical as I analyse my thoughts on the seventh episode in the Star Wars saga that was unveiled last week.

The biggest thought crippling me so may very well be one that other fans of the sci-fi franchise have thought frequently since the new title was announced: why? Of course, many of them (I know I did) may not ask the question in such a gentle, or be it, formal way, with perhaps a few profanities being blasted at the thought of this new feature.

Let’s face it – and the fans will probably agree with me – Star Wars ended perfectly.

Although I myself had doubts about how Episode Three could successfully lead into the original installment, I was amazed at how well crafted, engineered and written the end of the new series successfully followed through into the old.

Adjunctively, the storyline that pushed the new series along beautifully made sense when in contrast with the original series, with the plot, storylines and characters all coming together in what could only be described as ‘magical’. Although there was a lengthy hiatus between the end of the original series and the beginning of the new, I personally could not have asked for a better Star Wars franchise.

So, on that note, again, I ask why? Why must a new film be written and directed when obviously, there is no need for it? Of course, those who can smell the tarnished scent of money and power will obviously be able to answer my question. Why? That’s simple – with George Lucas selling the rights to his franchise to the major movie monopoly Disney, it is obvious that this humongous conglomerate wishes to cash in on as much economical gratification as it can.

To renew the audience’s love of the franchise and to prove that life still exists in the old dog, it is a requirement of Disney to release a new film as to whet the appetite of old and new fans alike. However, is it a requirement of Disney to perhaps heinously tarnish the reputation of this inspiring series as well? I certainly hope not.

Additionally, buying the Star Wars brand from Mr. Lucas would not have been cheap – and they obviously require compensation for that which was required to gain such expensive film rights.

Now, Disney fans may read the paragraph that came before the one directly above and suddenly perceive me as a pariah. However, allow me to say this. I don’t doubt that someone could write up a storyline that could perhaps compliment the franchise. I don’t doubt that Disney has the budget or the special effects crew to successfully deliver to the audience amazing graphics and imagery. I simply doubt the point to this entire exercise.

There are other ways that Disney could have brought new life into the franchise (which by the way they are pursuing with talks of a couple new TV shows happening) without them having to develop a new film. So, with that said, here are my questions (and comments) in regards to the idea that I have been generating – why? Additionally, how and what will be involved in the promulgation of this film?

One – Episode six of the saga came out in 1983 – by my count that was quite a while ago. My point? Well, do I really need to elaborate on this obvious ideology?

The actors who portrayed the primary characters in the original franchise would have matured considerably. Mr. Ford, who portrayed the plucky Han Solo is 70 this year, whilst Mr. Hamill who portrayed the revered hero Luke Skywalker is somewhere in his mid sixties, whilst Ms. Fisher, a.k.a Princess Leia being either 55 or 56 (I’m not totally down on the low down).

Now, I realise that with digital effects these days anyone of any age can look brilliant (Digital Jeff Bridges), but even with that said, I cannot imagine Mr. Ford running around a set like he used to, blasting away storm troopers, making out with his girlfriend and cracking jokes with his fellow hairy companion.

On this note, due to the longevity of time between episode six and seven, how do the writers intend to attribute this into the feature? Will the old gang be the lead protagonists once more? Or will they be in the background, with a new group of younger protagonists ready to steal the stage?

Two – Obi Wan Kenobi made several appearances in the original series as the spectral guide to Luke Skywalker, beneficially aiding him in his quest for knowledge and aid. Now, Alec Guinness is unfortunately no longer a part of the acting community, God rest his soul, so who might they choose to portray him in this new feature?

Seriously, Obi Wan Kenobi was in all six of the films! You cannot make another without him! One might imagine that Mr. McGregor could reprise his roll, with some digital effects to age him; however I doubt the likeness will be successful.

Three – Will Lando Calrissian be making an appearance?

What about other characters, the likes of R2-D2, C3PO, Chewbacca and other protagonists from the saga?

Four – Yoda – quite possibly one of the single most lovable sci-fi characters ever conceived. Will Yoda appear as a specter from the Netherworld of the Force? Addendum – Frank Oz earlier this year stated that he no longer wished to do any voice acting roles that involved him portraying the character Yoda. So, if our ‘little green friend’ as a certain Sith Lord once called him makes a surprise appearance in this new feature, who will voice him?

Five – Twilek women. Come on, they’re gorgeous! Will any of them appear? I guess it will be asking too much that Aayla Secura returns from the Netherworld of the force, right?

Six – Does anyone recall the character Kyle Katarn? Those who read the fan fiction may remember such a name, but, more importantly, those who played the ‘Dark Forces’ games certainly will recognise him.

Appearing in the original Dark Forces game as the central protagonist, along with his pilot, Jan Ors, who flew the vessel the Moldy Crew from one mission site to the next, Katarn was initially an Imperial, who came to the realisation that what he was doing was wrong. Becoming a mercenary for the Rebellion, he remained primarily neutral throughout the war effort, however did efficaciously aid the Rebellion by stealing the plans for the original Death Star, and discovering the threat of the ominous ‘Dark Troopers’, who were a significant upgrade of the regular Storm Troopers. Those who played the multiplayer game ‘Battlefront’ will recall this particular character class – well, those who played Dark Forces will remember they were far more bad ass in that – and creepy. Baring in mind I was considerably younger when I played the original game, so to have a giant man in a suit flying towards you with a plasma gun with a rocket launcher attachment was especially creepy.

Then, in the sequel, Dark Forces II Jedi Knight, Katarn discovered his family’s connection with the force and trained himself to become a Jedi, fighting against the ruthless Sith Lord Jerec and his numerous municipals. It was where this story ended that the fan fiction began, with Katarn befriending Luke Skywalker, the two of them establishing Jedi training temples together, although Katarn, fearing the dark side of the force, eventually handed his light sabre over to Skywalker and turned away from the powers of the Jedi.

My point – will the seventh film introduce characters that were not in the original film series, but played significant roles within the other forms of media based texts that were conceived in regards to the original Star Wars universe, such as Katarn, Ors, and others?

If so, they could rehire Jason Court, who played the character of Katarn during the cinematics of the second game, and, who additionally is the person that all versions of Katarn have being based upon since the release of the second game.

Other characters could very well be Zac, Tash and Uncle Hoole from the Galaxy of Fear franchise, after all, often in almost each text they did interact with the lead protagonists from the original film franchise, and it was Luke Skywalker himself who convinced Tash through his amazing Force abilities that she should attempt to control her own and become the Jedi she always wanted to be – just a thought.

Seven – Will the vile Huts be present in the feature?

Eight – Will characters the likes of Ahsoka Tano and others who were specifically in the Clone Wars TV show make an appearance in the film?

Nine – In regards to the Sixth question, in which I made reference in the dark Jedi Jerec, it is obvious that the universe is potentially filled with other members of the Sith code. My point? With the death of the lead antagonist at the conclusion of the Star Wars saga, who will take up the role in this new feature?

Ten – An overview, rather than a question; Disney are most notably known for the creation of features that are targeted towards a younger generation. True, films the likes of Tron Legacy and John Carter are quite mature in regards to other features and are enjoyable for all ages, not that their other films are not, but Disney will always ensure that their films can appease a younger market, not just an older one. Might this factor get in the way of successfully developing a new Star Wars feature that is reminiscent of its predecessors?

Thank you for reading. I hope my rant did not prove too deranged.

Also, I would like to mention one final statement – when the seventh film is released, I will attend the theatre and watch it on a cinematic screen, and if the new film proves to be a spectacular blockbuster, I will personally develop a new post saying how wrong I was to rant about it and how meticulously well conceived the film was. If the film doesn’t prove to be a blockbuster – well, don’t hold your breath on any positive posts being postulated in regards to it.

What thoughts do you have on the development of a seventh Star Wars film? Do you believe it to be necessary, or a waste of time and money?

Do you agree with any of my rants, from 1 – 10? What are your opinions? What might you want to see in this new feature that was present in the original six films?

I would like to know your thoughts!

Yum?

 

For the best experience imaginable, read this whilst eating a meat sandwich

There are alien organisms scurrying across the floor;
tens of thousands of cockroaches; cockroaches galore.
Come on family; it’s me and you,
crush every last one beneath your shoe,
then party! Clap your hands and stomp your feet
and thank our Lord above, we now have meat
that tastes better than pig and better than cow,
those farm animals, they taste so foul
and don’t go well with our rotten vegetables.
Is this meal not truly sensational?

Going Deeper into the Darkness: Analysing the Call of Duty Black Ops II Single Player Campaign

The name Call of Duty in the gaming world today contains significant weight, with the franchise having a global monopoly on multiplayer gaming, not to mention being able to convey incredibly brutal and action packed single player campaigns.

After the Modern Warfare franchise officially came to a close, one may begin to wonder where COD could efficaciously go next. They have explored a multitude of the wars that have torn across the world over the past century, so what else can they do to show the militarian expertise that they thrust upon players shoulders?

COD Black Ops 2 provides the answer, by sending the gamer into the year 2025.

Now, the original Black Ops was considerably different than the other titles in the franchise, and its sequel is no different. The graphics of Black Ops were nowhere near as good as the Modern Warfare franchise, appearing to be a little outdated. The story did not follow a stereotypical chronological path, and could on occasion temporarily lose the player within the continuous battles. The fact that the lead character, Alex Mason, was additionally losing his mind throughout the story did not exactly help matters either.

Black Ops 2 however manages to bypass some of these issues as it attempts to clamber to the top of the many games that have already graced our screens this year alone. The graphics alone rival that of the Modern Warfare games, however, with the unfortunate release of Halo4 last week (unfortunate for Treyarch), the graphics are unable to measure up to that which 343 Industries threw at the player in their new addition to the Halo saga.

The storyline, like its predecessor, is just as confusing, but just as compelling at the same time, and even if at any point you feel overwhelmed or lost, the action alone will keep you wanting to experience more of the game play.

Returning to the screen is Alex Mason, whose story picks up in the 1980’s. Here, the story of both him and Frank Woods continues as they attempt to go up against many oppressors, their story inevitably affecting the future, where Mason’s son David, takes up the flak and becomes the lead protagonist for that specific part of the campaign.

With voices from actors Sam Worthington, Michael Rooker and Tony Todd, just to name a few, the characters alone are eccentric enough to keep you wanting to experience the campaign till the very end.

However, the voice acting alone is not all that compels you forward. A game that could perhaps have being called ‘Blow Up’ rather than Black Ops, you will continuously find almost all of the environment being blasted into smithereens at one point or another. From the very opening of the game, you take control of the turrets on a chopper and lay waste to an array of enemy tanks that are attempting to seize control of the battlefield, and from that moment on the explosions continue, with more blasts than a fireworks display frequently lighting up your screen.

Additionally, a new feature in the game that makes it more exciting are the load outs that grace you at the beginning of each mission. A lot like Soldier of Fortune, you are able to select from a wide variety of armourments, many of which will gradually become available as you continue to play. For each specific character, there are different weapons depending on the time period that you happen to be in.

On top of this, many weapons can be equipped with an additional piece of weapon tech, from either a scope, an additional few rounds, etc, that will make combat more effective.

One great aspect of the load outs is your ability to not only take some pretty heavy fire power into the map with you, or the ability to change the weapon skins, but the ability to take an additional kit on the mission. These will also be unlocked as you move through the campaign, each one coming with its own unique factors that will help you through the mission. One allows you to move faster whilst you are looking through your scopes. Another allows you to reload significantly faster. The most interesting would no doubt be the access kit, which allows you to hack/pick the locks of certain doors and crates which gives you access to what is inside. When playing as Alex, there is a particularly good moment where you can acquire a sniper rifle and some animal traps within a locked storage room. On the other hand, whilst playing as David, you can acquire a cloaking device inside a locked crate that allows you to be almost entirely invisible, which is beyond cool.

Yes, you read that last line right – a cloaking device. By sending the game into the future, Black Ops 2 not only gives you access to new equipment and weaponry, but other interesting pieces of technology. This can include the ability to take control of remote robotic devices the likes of cannons, sentries, turrets and other gadgets across the maps that enable you to defeat the never ending swarms of enemies that attempt to defeat you at every turn.

With that said it is obvious that, much like the original, approximately half of the game is going to be spent on your back, with your legs and arms in the air. A single bullet is enough to cause significant trauma, your screen continuously being a bright red in colour as the heart of you dying character beats in your ears. Although this may sound sinister, the game alone will take around 6-8 hours to complete on the ‘Hardened’ difficulty setting alone, so don’t expect the campaign to last you for the rest of the month.

On top of this, the realism of the game is just as intense and further draws you into the environment surrounding your characters. Rushing water propels you backward, pushing you in the direction of the current if you refuse to move with the tide. Pieces of debris shower you from all angles as explosions tear through the environment. Smoke and other particles arise from walls and other such aspects of the maps as your bullets connect with the area around you. This and more allows you to feel right at home on the battlefield.

Apart from the general length, which is often an issue with many games of today, the other two issues are as follows; one is the game itself. Too often the game will automatically take over. During the first level, there is a particularly sweet part where Alex leaps out of a helicopter, lands on a boat, and just as an enemy proceeds to jump atop of him, he slits the throat of his opponent, almost severing his head entirely, with blood profusely spilling out across the screen. The issue with this gloriously bloody scene? You, the player, have nothing to do with it – the game does this for you. On another occasion in the future, where you use ‘Nano Gloves’ to walk along a rock wall, the game does this for you again, with a few scenes in-between where you need to swing your fellow partners in crime along with you, before swinging yourself to the next segments of the terrain. After this, there is a pretty beautiful flying scene where you don a pair of wings and go flying through the jungle. Again, the game does most of the work here, and all you need to do is on occasion turn the right thumb stick and you will graciously avoid flying into trees (unlike me on my first attempt). Later still, there is a time when the game will automatically put your character into prone, and crawl under a fallen tree. Can’t the player be involved in completing any and all of these objectives on their own? There is something incredibly fun with doing many of these kick ass moves on your own – for one, you become more fully immersed, and you feel impressed deep inside that you yourself were involved in successfully completing that objective. If the game takes over, then that feeling is non-existent. In fact, the game baby’s you so often, that when it comes time for you to take control, on some occasions you will narrowly miss hitting the key that you are acquired to hit and fail the operation.

On other occasions, the game does seem to make up for its lack of providing the player with full control during scenes that do not involve continued gun fire. These moments however are as rare as they are short. During one scene, you are forced to continuously press the ‘X’ key (XBOX 360 controller reference, may be different for other platforms) so many times that you eventually lose count as to keep your character under control and to stop them from blowing away the antagonist you are attempting to interrogate; a process that is not made easy by the suspect’s stubborn resolve.

There are a number of entertaining moments that indeed occur throughout the storyline however which make up for this, including storming luxurious villa’s; spying on enemy targets; manoeuvring through ravaged landscapes whilst attempting to outmanoeuvre technologically advanced sensors; blasting through enemies with an amazing array of powerful weapons, and not to mention the availability to now pilot and control vehicular transport.

Whilst playing as Alex, you are provided the opportunity to travel on horseback across a colossal Middle Eastern battleground that is reminiscent of Stallone’s First Blood Part 3. You work side by side Middle Eastern Comrades, which is a first for the entire Call of Duty saga, as you rush around on horseback, taking out enemy gunships and anti-armour defences, all of which is as challenging as it is exhilarating.
Of course, David is additionally provided with the availability to use transport, with an intensely fun buggy cruise through a ravaged city. Anti-air defences fly down on you in the shape of drones as they attempt to blast you off the road, whilst fellow enemy buggy patrols fire volley after volley of bullets from their turrets. Defenceless? I think not! Simply boost your vehicle in the direction of the opposing forces and watch their vehicle flip and fly across the map, before exploding as easily as everything else in the game.

If there is any problem with the vehicular battles, it would be the controls. At times your vehicle may suddenly go faster than your fellow characters, and during other instances may be hopelessly unable to catch up, both of which could lead to dire ramifications for your character and the progress of the mission. Adjunctively, in certain intervals it can be very easy to run your vehicle into random parts of the environment for the twists and turns that you may need to perform seem to not come as easily as you would wish. These issues however are unable to outweigh the fun that you will easily gain from these moments, and you will most likely be feeling upset that the vehicular combat aspects of the game did not involve as much longevity as you would have wanted.

The other issue (as discussed five paragraphs back) you might find is another new aspect of the game. In the future, there is a new game type that, although it does not have much pertinence with the overall storyline, necessitates completion all the same. In this new game variant, you, the player, are able to place the game into a RTS (Real Time Strategy) camera mode and control characters from above. You can move your teams to certain locations, target them to attack certain enemies and/or targets, and complete basic level objectives. Of course, if you at any period of time feel that the general AI is wavering in its competency, you can easily take control of either a player or potential robotic device and go into first person mode once more where you can attempt to complete the many objectives on your own. Upon dying, you will either automatically be sent into the body of another soldier, or be sent back to the screen above, where you can overlook the map. You needn’t worry so much about the death count of your team, for new members are continuously being shepherded in, but the quick way the map can change from being in your hands to being in jeopardy is quick, if not annoying, and will keep you guessing as you attempt to overpower the impressive numbers of the enemy’s forces. Survival is obviously not necessarily guaranteed. Although new ideas and aspects are always well appreciated in games, it feels odd to change up an already well defined first person shooter franchise with such a new course of game play.

Challenging, bloodthirsty, and riddled with profanities, COD Black Ops 2 does strengthen the Black Ops franchise, but have some of the changes gone too far? The continuous action scenes will keep you mesmerised, and the twists and turns of the story as it is slowly but surely revealed to you in dribs and drabs will keep you committed unto the end.

At A Glance: Halo 4’s Multiplayer

 

The last post I published upon my blog was my impression on the single player campaign found within the new addition to the gaming franchise, Halo. Now, I wish to take a look at the multiplayer features. True, single player is an important part of the franchise, but multiplayer compatibility has become one of the single most popular and addictive aspects of gaming today.

For those of you who remember the multiplayer matches that were associated with Halo Reach, you will clearly remember that they were, in a word, disappointing. The maps were clear cut designs taken directly from the game. One however does not have to fear the same issue appearing in the new Halo game, with 343 Industries focusing especially on the multiplayer aspects in many of the interviews and previews they were showcasing before the game’s official release.

In Halo 4, the multiplayer can be found under the title of ‘Infinity’ the name of the UNSC Spartan super carrier. The multiplayer features of this new instalment are surrounded by a back-story; to keep their skills sharp, the Spartans on board the vessel continuously engage in ‘War Games’; where they upload themselves into holographic interfaces and fight one another in tactical game play, so they are expertly prepared for whatever is awaiting them on the battlefield.

Now, not only is this a new addition to the multiplayer system, but adjunctive changes have being applied as well. One, is the system of altering your general character. In Halo Reach, one had to earn credits to purchase new bits and pieces from the Spartan Armoury to beef your Spartan up with new pieces of equipment to make their physicality more, in a word, awesome. Playing the campaign and the multiplayer features of the game allowed the gamer to acquire points to spend, and additionally allowed them to ascend to higher militarised ranks which further unlocked new equipment, from helmets, to leggings, and even voice talent.

In Halo 4, the credit system no longer applies, but the rank capability certainly does. One will immediately find that almost everything is locked off, and by successfully completing multiplayer based battles, the gamer will be able to ascend to higher militarised ranks within the Spartan Program, and hence unlock new equipment and features that can then be applied to your character.

Another new feature are load outs. Players who couldn’t get enough of Firefight in Halo Reach might remember the automatic load outs that one could select from upon spawning. In Halo 4, one can gain access to load outs by completing sections of the multiplayer campaign, and can even design their own, which makes the game far more hands on and therefore, more fun, allowing you to begin any match any way that you want.

Now, on the subject of Firefight, that is another change which has being implemented; simply put, there isn’t one available with this particular new instalment. This may be considerably disappointing to some gamers, however, the replacement is the newly formed Spartan Ops, an XBOX Live only game where players sign in and complete operations together in teams, many of the missions having some reminiscence of the single player campaign. Although I myself have had very little experience with this particular game type, 343 Industries is promising much more variety in the coming weeks as other matches become available on Live, and the general speculation from many reviews is that such content will be unbelievably awesome.

Moving back to War Games, there are an additional three new game types; Dominion, Regicide and Extraction, along with the return of the Flood game type from Halo 3. Flood has being altered however, and now when someone officially becomes a member of the parasitic team, they completely change into a creature, rather than continuing to retain their Spartan appearance.

Other changes include small new designs with game types, including the ability to carry the flag with a pistol in Capture the Flag, and have unlimited ammunition for your side arm, allowing you to blow away bad guys from afar, whilst smacking them with the flag if they wish to pry it from your fingers. Oddball also comes equipped with the ability to throw the ball to team members, which means that when one is near death, they can attempt to throw it to fellow team members as to ensure it stays on their side for a period of longevity, rathe than having it fall immediately into the hands of the enemy. There is also of course the many new weapons, which add a new flavour to the fight. Trying to dodge rounds from the new Promethean weapons which can eviscerate you with a single hit (especially from the Incineration Cannon and Binary Rifle) is incredibly challenging, and the new ‘no grenades in the map’ policy (unless you specifically alter your map capabilities and change such a fixture), makes grenades more precious than ever before, the days when you could throw them around willy nilly being long gone.

Another change, like with the grenades, are the weapons themselves. As previously mentioned, grenades in Halo4 multiplayer can become incredibly scarce, and so too can the ammunition. Throughout each match you will frequently hear what can only be described as explosions – this is the sound of new weapons being dropped into the map, the HUD displaying the distance between you and these items. Players who enjoyed Firefight in Reach will see how this is reminiscent of the weapon drops in that game type.

On top of this, a player can be rewarded for their accomplishments, anything from ending a player’s killing spree, killing a large allotment of players or extracting vengeance upon someone who killed them being ways to gain access to one’s own personal weapon drop. Note however, this is only available in select game types. Each time this occurs, by using the D-Pad, a player is able to select from a rare few items to be immediately blasted down in front of them for pick up. This can efficaciously turn the tide of a single battle.

Back however to the lack of ammunition. In many circumstances, I found that weapons and grenades began to stop being deployed back into the map, and instead each player was forced to use all that they had at their disposal. For instance, in the level ‘Adrift’, my fellow gamers and I were eventually down to nothing but pistols, with absolutely nothing left to scrounge, and our only hope was to eventually bonk each other over the head, before respawning with enough ammunition to give players unfair advantages over those who were not newly endowed with fresh artillery.

Additionally, in regards to unfair advantages, in maps the likes of Exile, where players were given access to a vast majority of vehicles, those who had access to the Scorpion were especially capable of devastating the opposition. I myself managed to acquire a cool 350 points whilst driving around in the metallic beast before accidentally blowing myself up  because a certain enemy decided to fly her Banshee too close to my turret. True, the tank does indeed make winning far easier, and I’m not saying that to win is a bad thing, but it certainly lacks a challenge when your opponents, whether they have a Warthog with a Gauss Cannon, a Ghost or a Spartan Laser are unable to prove themselves a significant threat because at the press of  a button you can successfully decimate them all. My point is that to win without challenge fails to constitute an amazing win that one should be entirely proud of.

Moving on, as with previous games, the Energy Sword and Gravity Hammer make fighting up close and personal unfathomably fun, with bodies being tossed about the map with unparalleled power. Explosive weapons the likes of the Rocket Launcher and Spartan Laser will again make you flee like a Grunt if you are not as well accommodated in the map as your opponent, and the vehicles continue to add that special flavour that some games have not yet being able to replicate.

Continuing on with the weapons, on frequent occasions, weapons the likes of the Battle Rifle, the Rocket Launcher, Spartan Laser, Sniper Rifle, Sticky Detonator, Gravity Hammer and Energy Sword failed to make huge appearances within the campaign. With the influx of many new weapons into the game, thus could be understandable. What multiplayer does effectively well is allow the player the use of these amazing pieces of equipment more often, which is unbelievably fun to experience because such weapons desrve a far larger place than what 343 Industries provided within the single player storyline.

With other new changes to the game, along with maps that have being specially designed for this new installment in the Halo franchise, the multiplayer feature is looking to be an exciting new look on one of gaming’s most popular shooters. Can’t wait to experience what other secrets the Halo 4 multiplayer is dying to reveal. Additionally, any DLC that 343 Industries chooses to bring out in the future will be really well appreciated and enjoyed, because the designs for the maps in game are not only unique and well designed, but continuously add new and exciting challenges.

Thank you for reading!

If you wish to fight by my side, follow me on Twitter: @DerekChilds1

If you wish to have me as your friend on the battlefield rather than as your mortal enemy, come help me stop the Covenant on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/derek.childs.94

Halo returns to reclaim its title as an impressive action shooter

 

The following review is based upon my personal opinion of the Halo 4 single player campaign.

Let’s face it – 343 Industries have some pretty big shoes to fit into since Bungie officially decided to move on from the Halo franchise. Leaving behind an incredibly successful campaign of single and multiplayer compatibility, it is very easy to assume that many gamers may be stricken with fear with what they might find upon bringing the next generation of the Halo story home with them.

Safe to say, after two years of being without a new Halo game to play, it has been absolutely worth the wait to have this new game added to the Halo collection.

Halo Reach, the prequel to the Halo storyline, was an incredibly great game for Bungie to leave their saga on, with a beautifully epic and emotional single player campaign that was as challenging as it was captivating.

Halo 4 dares to push that daring storyline even farther this time.

From the very moment the game begins, you know you are onto something special. Swept up in the complete awe of the graphics, not to mention the high definition sound quality that explodes out from your television set, the music immediately sets up an emotionally charged moment, and you cannot help but shed a tear to be glad to finally be back where you belong – in the loving embrace of the ever imaginative Halo universe.

Halo 4 is the first in a trilogy of new Halo games that are known as the Reclaimer Trilogy. The game immediately picks up after the events of Halo 3. For those who played the game on Legendary, they might remember seeing Chiefy and Cortana’s vessel, the Hammer of Dawn being pulled into the atmosphere of an unknown planet.

It turns out that this occurrence which transpired at the end of the Halo 3 credit’s is set four years after the Ark’s devastation, and the gruelling end to the antagonistic foes which dominated the original Halo trilogy. The game starts out with Cortana fulfilling the promise that the master Chief granted to her at the conclusion of the last game – ‘wake me when you need me’, and sure enough, the first words that come out at you are those of Jen Taylor, reprising her role as Cortana asking you to awaken from your slumber.

Now, the reason for your slumber being broken is, funnily enough, not because your ship is plummeting towards the alien planet below – no; it’s because you have some unwelcome visitors on board. The remnants of the Hammer of Dawn has been boarded by Covy’s (Covenant forces), and it is your job to punish them for coming aboard your vessel.

The planet Chief and Cortana find themselves falling towards is Requiem, or, in Layman’s terms, the world of the Forerunner’s. This is the beginning of the story, and the primary one which shall flow throughout the franchise. Chief and Cortana crash land on the alien planet, and subsequently need to leave. Seriously – this storyline could have been completed in one game, and it is here that the major issue of the game comes into play – its length.

One can complete the game on the Heroic setting in around 10+ hours, which makes it far shorter than previous campaigns. You may notice that I have not dared to mention the length it might take for you to complete the game on the Legendary skill setting. Safe to say I did try such a skill, but I do believe, and the Halo guide (valued at an average of $38.00) agrees unanimously with me, that one should not play the game on the highest skill setting immediately upon entering the game. The aliens will make certain that you do not enjoy your experience, as they punish your every breath with immediate destruction. One should probably stick with Heroic, and learn the layout of the land before daring to progress forwards, but I will go into more detail about this later on.

However, 343 Industries further envelops the primary storyline with a wide variety of additional stories that spread it out, and will keep it alive for the following two sequels. The major plot one will immediately find is the relationship between Chief and Cortana, and how much longer this is going to last for. Being an A.I, Cortana only has an 8 year life span which is on the verge of being fulfilled. As one can imagine, this leaves a lot of questions open, including whether she will outlive such a span unlike other A.I constructs, and whether all that she has been through in the previous Halo franchise will in any way affect her life.

For me, I have always being kind of wishing that Chief and Cortana will suddenly realise their feelings for one another and begin a romanticised relationship, so I guess this indeed may pose as another legitimate question to Halo fans.

The other new addition to the storyline is the enemies. The Prometheans are in no way friendly, and will prove to be a challenging adversary for the Chief to fight against this time around. However, one should not be disappointed, because previous enemies, including Elites, Jackals, Hunters and the ever lovable Grunts whose heads explode like confetti (if you want them to) make appearances along the way as well to remind gamers how great it felt to blow these Covenant bastards out of your jurisdiction. These guys are different this time around; more fanatical, and as Cortana early on says ‘perhaps you could ask them real nicely (to borrow one of their craft)’, and the Chief replies rather pluckily ‘asking has never been my strong suit’, and the fact that the alien bastards can’t speak the Eng will further endorse this. Long story short, expect them to be covered in a different set of armour, and for them to be a little more bad ass than their previous Covenant buddies who are choir boys in comparison to what 343 Industries have cooked up.

That is not to say that Halo 4 is difficult – in fact it is quite the opposite, which poses another issue. I have always played the Halo games on Legendary, and this new title in the franchise perfectly suggest why. Going back and playing the first level on Normal, I found myself blasting away through lines of Covy’s with little trouble, the aliens falling at my feet before my endless slaughter, whilst I made my way out from each and every battle relatively uninjured.

Playing the game on higher difficulties is in this sense recommended, not only to ensure the further longevity of the title, but because it is here that the really challenging atmosphere, not to mention the amazing nature of the AI of the enemy combatants can be truly garnered during game play. Enemies will duck and weave their way out from your attacks, and shall suppress, flank, snipe, toss your grenades back at you, defend fellow soldiers, call in support and do all manner of other tactical combat strategies as to annihilate you with extreme prejudice. During Halo Reach I was impressed with the way the Elites successfully manoeuvred across the battlefield, leaping like jumping jacks out from the line of your fire, only to return fire with alarming accuracy. Halo 4 further pushes this impressive nature, and will continuously leave you breathless as the enemy AI does an alarming excellent job at defeating you time and time again, which only furthers the enjoyment you receive upon successfully triumphing over them.

Even during these battles though, Halo not once loses that feeling which was found during fights back in the original Halo franchise. Feeling is an incredibly powerful aspect of games, and I can happily say that it has not changed under the new management. Blowing large groups of enemies up with grenades and charging through them with your battle rifle is just as fun as it was back in Halo’s past, and the new affects including new sounds for all weapons and challenging new combatants add additional pleasure to the action.

The vehicles too are much the same as with previous games. The first time you find yourself behind the wheel of the Warthog you will be unable to do anything but smile in glee as you go bumper to bumper across the ‘roads’ that stretch out before you. Upon coming face to face with uglies, you will often find yourself switching the minigun turret for your wheels as you happily run over your hapless victims as they attempt to leap out of you way.

The little upgrades here and there – the additional spiralling colours on the Ghost; the fresh coat of paint on the Warthog; the brand spanking new designs of the weapons; the new HUD and general physical design of Chief’s outfit, not to mention the unbelievably gorgeous physicality of the sexy Cortana; the way the Forerunner technology is working in synchronicity with one another; everything makes the game come to light like never before.

However, the Covy weapons you will find often lose their charge at impeccable speed, and the ammunition with weapons the likes of the favourite Needler and the not band Covy Carbine is downed like pop corn, which will keep you switching weapons throughout the campaign. This adds an additional flavour to the challenging atmosphere, especially on higher difficulty settings where this becomes especially noticeable.

As with Reach moreover, special little devices can be picked up to aid you in your battle. The ‘run’ ability that could be grabbed in Reach is an automatic attachment, and when you push down on your movement stick you will find Chiefy propelling across the ground at great speed. Other new attachments can include anything from cloaking gadgets, to shields and other bits and pieces to help you in your struggle. Believe me when I say – these will prove effectively helpful.

Battling against the Knight will leave you having to use all manner of combat strategies as to defeat the alien menace, and the Crawlers will keep you checking your tail in case they have once more managed to sneak up behind you, because they do not get their name for no reason – they really will crawl about the battlefield.

Now, Halo is not just an all out action blockbuster. Returning to the story, the game maintains an emotional connection with the gamer from the very beginning, and focuses on the past histories of both John 117 (Chiefy to some) and that of Cortana. Players will be glad to find that the original voice talents of Chiefy and Cortana have returned to reprise their roles, and both do admirably effective jobs at making the story more vibrant and alive. This develops into a story about friendship, love, compassion, loss, redemption, vengeance and freedom, and is filled with terrific moments that you will wish to experience endlessly again and again.

Additional new characters, including the crew of the Infinity, a fellow UNSC vessel that was unfortunate enough to crash onto Requiem as well, the Librarian, and the new antagonistic Forerunner force known as the Daedric, that is not only very interested in Chiefy – but in the complete and utter eradication of all human life, add additional sustenance to an already engaging storyline.

Now, even though I have played all of the previous Halo instalments, including the original Halo reboot, gamers like me, who have focused less on the fictional stories and other such narratives that have been introduced to tell the Halo story may at times experience information overload. It would seem that 343 Industries at times caters for the true Halo Geeks by presenting them with a genuine reward for reading the fiction by making many references to that which can be found in such books and other mediums. Long story short – at times one may sometimes think ‘what?’ as the story unfolds and you are introduced more and more with aspects, titles and creations that were never brought up in previous games – but were brought up in the books.

This aside, none of this ever gets in the way of harming the primary story – the connection between Chiefy and Cortana. Armed with an ending that you will not see coming, Halo 4 is a definitive new edition to one of the greatest FPS franchisees around and boldly makes you fall in love again and again with that which made the Halo franchise great. 343 Industries calls this the ‘Reclaimer Trilogy’. One look at the unfathomably gorgeous visuals, powerful storyline, impressive enemy combatants and the wide open spaces in the glorious level design and you will know why; Halo is back to reclaim its throne as one of the greatest games of all time.

Halo 4 is a bona fide masterpiece in the making. A 10+ in my book.

Later today, I will unveil my critique of the Halo multiplayer – if I find someone worthy to fight me that is…

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Thank you for reading!