Assaulting the Covenant in the new top down Halo Shooter

The following review is for the XBOX360 edition of Halo Spartan Assault.

Title: Halo Spartan AssaultHalo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover
Developer: Vanguard Games and 343 Industries
Distributor: Microsoft
Cost: $20 on XBOX Live

Length: Between 4 and 6 hours

Rating (out of 10): 6

Pros:
-Nice graphics
-Frequent action
-The return of some sweet firepower
-Kick ass vehicles

Cons:
-Frustrating glitches
-Vehicles often handle like a double-decker bus
-No checkpoints

Who reading this remembers that McDonalds advert about a decade back with the slogan ‘things that make you go Mmmmm’? In the case of Halo Spartan Assault and the many glitches that can be associated with it, the slogan should most definitely be ‘things that make you go Arrrrrrrggggghhhh!’

Now, normally I begin a review by discussing the finer points I enjoyed about a title before moving onto the more irritable aspects, but with this particular Halo game, I simply cannot. When it comes to this gaming franchise, to say I am an adoring fan would be putting it mildly. So when another Halo game with 343 and Microsoft written all over it was released, I had expected to play something that was going to enthrall me for days on end.

Upon downloading this game from XBOX Live I knew there was trouble. The download kept freezing and shutting down, forcing me to restart, and after consulting a number of forums, I found I was not the only one who experienced this annoyance. However, the hits just kept on coming.

Spartan Assault is separated into six chapters, each containing five levels. For the first four chapters I was continuously followed around by a shroud of darkness that came in the shape of an error which caused the game to freeze, lock-up, and then automatically shut down. Any progress I had made in the level was irrefutably lost, and what made matters worse was the irritable fact that the problem happened to almost always occur whilst undertaking the final mission in a level.

From chapter five onwards the errors became less frequent, but lost none of their annoyance when they did occasionally happen. Other issues included the use of the left trigger, used to initiate a power up. Now, I did acknowledge that a cool down period was required after every use, but even after that had expired, I could press the button until my hair grew long and bushy and still see no affect. There was one moment where I lost my entire shield as I kept hitting the key, hoping for something to occur.

On a less than paramount note, there were additional issues with the sound and music, which could occasionally grow softer, and even drop out entirely for a short time period.

Moving on, as previously mentioned, the game itself is not terribly long, going for between 4 and 6 hours, however, if you include the hours in which you are pulling out your hair and shouting profanities at the screen, it might go for a little longer.

The graphics look pretty darn attractive, especially when you consider that this game was originally made only for a mobile device. Everything stands out in gorgeously vivid colour, which aids in bringing the environments and enemies to life, and if you’re anything like me, you may in fact be pleasantly surprised.

Furthermore, the controls for this title are fairly easy to master; the left stick is used for movement and the right controls the aim, and whatever direction you point in is where your firepower will be focused. The same goes for vehicles, however I noticed that these controls are especially touchy, and more so when using Covenant class vehicles, the Ghost moving a full 180 degrees with the tiniest of nudges.

Although this can be annoying, the vehicles have lost none of their firepower, however their strength and armor is considerably less that you may remember from other titles. New vehicles, including the Wolverines and a double barreled Scorpion though are incredibly impressive, and must be seen to be believed.

You will first notice when beginning the game the lack of any difficulty setting. Although the first couple levels basically play themselves, the game becomes exponentially challenging as your proceed, and the lack of checkpoints becomes almost painful in the later levels. Although every level is not exactly long, the sheer number of enemies you encounter further into the game, and their vehicular and turret allies, do not make this any easier. On a lighter note, the challenge does make it all the more enjoyable, and causes the relatively short experience to last just that little bit longer.

The challenge can be further beefed up by initiating skulls, much like in other Halo games, although the number available are very limiting. Spartan Assault does come equipped with two new additions, including Hollow, which allows players to have only a shield (when it drops, so too do you) and Pacifist, where every bullet you fire also depletes your shield. Two skulls can be active at any given time.

Over the course of the game you encounter a mass of Grunts, Jackals and Elites (including Commanders and Zealots), along with the occasional Brute and Chieftain (whose hammer works a lot like a nuclear bomb – there’s no survivors when it comes crashing down). There are however no Hunters, and perhaps the player should only be too glad for that, although funnily enough, on the front cover of the game, there is, you guessed it, a Hunter. False advertising much?

The human weapons include every kind found in the original Halo, with newer varieties including the Battle Rifle, Rail gun and SAW taking a day off, although dual SMG’s are occasionally available. Covenant weapons offer very little in variety, and include only the Plasma Pistol and the Needler, along with two weapons from Reach; the Plasma Rotator and Focus Rifle, a number of the weapons sounding exactly as they do in the Halo franchise.

Strangely enough there is no reload key, and the weapons will continue to fire until all ammo has been exhausted. On top of this, Covenant weapons which ran on a battery during the other Halo games can be rejuvenated of their ammo supply simply by walking over a dropped weapon – nifty!

Along with the weapons, players are able to use a power-up, including known favorites; sprint, active camouflage, auto-sentry, etc, along with a couple of new ones, such as the stun blast (which does as its name suggests), seeker drone (which chases after an enemy and blows up), over-shield (fans of slayer will know of this gorgeous thing) and rejuvenation (a bubble shield device).Moreover, there are the boosters, which can temporarily increase the health or damage implemented, or even increase the number of points received.

Yes, you read that right – points. In every level the player acquires points for everything they do, which is greatly increased from receiving awards (fans of Firefight will know of these). At the end of each level these are tallied, and you can receive one of three awards (bronze, silver, gold), which increase the number of points that you have for the next level. These you can use to buy items that will last only for the following level, and you can swap these out for credits to upgrade the general proficiency, however you need to be online to enact this ability.

Over the course of Spartan Assault, you play as both Sarah Palmer (from Halo 4) and Spartan Davis, as you attempt to thwart a new Covenant threat from a rogue faction that have ignored the Human-Covenant cease fire enacted after the events of Halo 3. The game predominately takes place on Draetheus V, and its moon, X-50, and is told from the point of view of Roland, the Infinity AI, who is providing this information as a guide to future Spartan soldiers to learn from, so, rather than happening in real time, the game is basically a history lesson that you experience inside a simulator.

More often than not you work alongside a group of both Spartan and human marines, although during the most difficult stages of the game you are almost always alone. Missions are occasionally repetitive, and range from killing or destroying specific targets; defending an area from attack; protecting particular individuals; or assaulting an enemy stronghold, to name a few.

There are a couple of occasions which are specifically unique to Spartan Assault. As an example, I personally had always thought that seeing an Elite wielding two energy swords would be pretty awesome. After having to fight an epic boss that utilised this particular skill, I can assure you, it surely is not!

However, even these few unique moments to this top down shooter are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of the game, and half the time when your heart is racing as you fight the fourth Wraith you encountered in a level, it is not because you are afraid of dying; it is because you are afraid the game is going to automatically shut down. Although this is a nice attempt at a new Halo experience, fans of the series do not want nice; they want amazing, and frankly, so do I. Halo has proven itself time and time again to be a franchise that will continue to live on, but this game here does little to strengthen this notion.

Image link: http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130812032133/halo/images/a/ac/Halo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover.jpg

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Derek Childs storms a Castle or two in the new Halo 4 Multiplayer DLC

 

Hailed as the last multiplayer DLC for Halo 4, Castle contains three new maps for War Games.

Daybreak is a map that is rather odd and for a number of reasons. Initially, upon first glance, the map seems quite small, but upon wandering about the map for a minute or so without another player in sight, one will begin to immediately realise the sheer size of the map. Daybreak in that sense is best for those who wish to experience the game online, rather than through a split-screen setup.

The map can be efficaciously used for both deathmatch oriented battles and for team games the likes of CTF, with two easily recognisable basses allocated to the map. Each base contains a jump pad of sorts; the base to the north contains a pad that leads up a vertical chamber that allows one a great vantage point to snipe unwilling foes, whilst the one at the opposite base allows a player to quickly converge on the location of the turret, to ensure that nobody can easily escape their grasp.

Both bases contain a heavy machinegun emplacement that allows for a wide area of cover, with additional Warthogs, Mongoose and Ghosts positioned about the environment to bridge the gap between one base and another. The right side of the map is more open; the terrain a more green in colour, with a great ledge over to the side that one will probably rather not take a swan dive off. To the left, the map is more enclosed, with a cave system that one can easily become lost inside due to its repetitive structure.

On the right side moreover a Banshee can be found, which provides an unfair advantage to whoever takes control of it. However, the map seems to be ill catered for such a vehicle, because one is unable to fly to high, else they risk receiving the ‘return to the map in the next 10 seconds or get blown up’ message on their screen. This allows the Banshee to be quite easily commandeered by those on the ground who wish to rid the current pilot of their enjoyment.

On top of this, the default weapons that will be deposited into the map include none other than sniper rifles and fuel rod cannons that will prove to be of worthy assistance.

All up, Daybreak seems like a combination of many ideas randomly strewn together that altogether proves effective, though the entertainment can really only be enjoyed with a wealth of players to fight against.

The second of the three maps is Outcast, which is set within a mining installation. On the far side of the map, a vessel will often appear to escort miners from the fallen installation to safety, before returning to acquire more. However, very rarely will one have time to admire the view.

To the right, the map has a number of fantastic vantage points, some of which are additionally equipped with turrets. This allows players the opportunity to get the drop on others, which proves to be a necessary part of this particular map. The wealth of vehicles stored in this environment, from Warthogs to Ghosts, and the vast number of open roads one can drive though means that guns are not the thing you need to be most frightened of; it’s the deranged lunatics behind the wheel of a vehicle intent on splattering other players across the surface of these mean streets that one needs to keep a close eye out for.

Additionally to the right there are a couple of small buildings that one can hide inside for some brief moments of cover, and there are plenty of rocks and other pieces of debris lining the roads for one to hide behind. This becomes a necessity for when certain players decide to take control of the Wraith; you read that right, the Wraith over on the left side of the map. Much like the Banshee in Daybreak, the Wraith offers an unfathomably unfair advantage to those who seize control of the vehicle and thus, take control of the roads, for when this happens the match basically becomes a struggle for survival rather than anything else.

The last of the three maps is Perdition, which is no doubt the smallest of the three maps and the easiest to navigate around; a city where the primary reactor has gone critical, an imminent explosion however being the last of anyone’s concerns as they rush about the complex. The continuous alarms quicken the pace of the map and constantly provide the player with a feel of urgency. The centre of the map is a terrific circular platform that is shrouded in a great red light, furthering the sounds of the frequent alarm. One may wish to be careful here for although these is a railing, falling off the edge proves to be very easy – as Ron, a player who I versed discovered when he tried to run me down in a Ghost and instead found himself flying over the edge and down into the drink. I certainly hope he enjoyed the swim.

Much like the other two maps in this particular DLC, Warthogs and Ghosts are present, and the paths are very easy to navigate through, making vehicular combat an obliged necessity rather than a choice. However, those who choose to hoof it additionally gain the advantage of the default weaponry, which includes a fuel rod cannon and an incineration cannon, both of which can quickly turn the tide in any game. The inclusion of the energy sword however feels almost obsolete in an environment where one may garner very few chances to use such a devastating piece of Covenant weaponry.

For those who wish to escape the roads, there are a couple of rooms to be found on the sides, some of which are used for storage and others for high tech computer equipment. Unfortunately, these rooms prove to be the locations where weapons are deposited, so don’t expect to be able to find yourself alone in these rooms for long when the weapons start falling down around you like hail stones.

All up, Perdition especially feels like a parallel environment, with both sides of the map being reminiscent of each other, which, as previously mentioned makes it easy to navigate can also make it difficult to find where all the action is when so much of the map looks the same.

In conclusion, Castle provides the player with some frenetic vehicular combat, however I believe that the previous two Halo 4 DLC’s were more entertaining than what 343 Industries has included in this particular map pack.

Kiss your Majesty goodbye in the new Halo 4 DLC!

Map Pack: Majestic

Size: approximately 400 megabytes

Levels: 4

Release Date: 25th of February in the Northern hemisphere, 26th in the South

Landfall:

This medium sized map has unbelievably detailed graphics which efficaciously cause the city to come to life in mythic detail. To further accentuate the overall feel of the city under dire threat, Covenant forces have attacked in full, with capital ships visible in the background decimating buildings left and right. Huge fires cover the horizon, with mushroom clouds of smoke gliding across the air. Human civilian transports rush into the battlefield to pick up stranded refugees, before moving out as quickly as they arrived, with two Broadswords located just outside the map, ready to help reinforce the depleting numbers of hardened marines battling for the safety of the planet.

Photo-0004

Within the realm of the map, the word ‘evacuate’ moves across computerised screens in bold yellow letters, furthering the idea in the mind of the player that the city is under massive threat. But so too are you, the player, within the multiplayer map. There are many tight corners and corridors across the map which will inevitably cause one too many close calls and tight fight sequences to take place. Explosive ordinances are left lying about the map, which can advantageously assist players in dispatching weakened opposition. The lack of any good vantage point, with the exception of two separate corners prevents those who would normally prefer to camp out the inability to acquire those perfect head shots from the view of a sniper scope.

Landfall is one of those rare few maps that is great for any occasion, whether you are into hardcore deathmatch or team based games the likes of capture the flag.

Monolith:

For its name, Monolith is not quite as gargantuan as one might have initially believed upon seeing its title; in reality it is a moderately sized map that is suited to almost any specific game type.

Reminiscent of previous maps in the Halo 4 game the likes of Erosion and Impact, this particular map is located within an asteroid field, with two specific bases located at either end, even the rocky surface of the ground you fight upon changing colours to alert you to which base you happen to be stumbling into. The walls and general feel of the entire map is reflective of a forerunner facility long abandoned and left forgotten in the vast blackness of outer space, repurposed now for the means of terminating battling Spartans.

Unlike other maps, upon entry into the game, vast quantities of ordinances appear immediately to help accommodate the player lusting for a better weapon than the conventional AR5.

There are a number of jump pads located in front of either base, which can be used to effectively avoid enemies and quickly move from one location to the next without fear of being targeted for assault. Jump pads positioned at the rear of either base are perfect for sneaking up on opposition undetected, which can hinder those attempting to snipe targets making their way towards their base. Although the map offers fantastic vantage points to overlook the surrounding area at either base of operations, the rear jump pads offer your opponent the potential chance of assassinating you just as effortlessly.

Skyline:

For those familiar with the Citadel in Mass Effect, in particular, the second game of the trilogy, Skyline will no doubt make you feel right at home. The distorted sound of the voice over crackling over the communication transmitter beckons you into this futuristic civilisation in the dead of night. Looming over the city from one of the many far corners of the civilised planet, the player is given the spectacular vantage point to see a vast quantity of choppers and other like transport gliding through the air in the distance, whilst other vehicles quickly rush across the freeways below.

The sound of beeping terminals and the flashing of computers further immerses you into this living, breathing civilisation yet to be touched by the malicious hand of the Covenant war machine.

halo 3

This relatively small map which is suited best for accommodating players interested in participating in deathmatches, comes equipped with two floors, the upper providing the player with the unfair advantage of easily targeting the opposition running about on the lower deck. Although stairs can be used to defeat the purpose of the advantages of the players who occupy the top most floor of the structure, jump pads are just as easy as getting this done.

Additionally, for those on the lower floor, you will more often than not feel more like a rat in a maze than a Spartan super soldier, whilst those who overlook the lower floor can quickly jump from one side to the next due to the vast number of objects which stick up that can be used as unconventional bridges to help those on the upper floor track those on the bottom.

Vortex:

This is the only large map accommodating vehicles which comes in this particular DLC. Unfortunately, you the player may feel somewhat cheated, for the map will no doubt remind you of Solace in more ways than one. Unlike the former map mentioned, where at times it was difficult to spot enemies in the vast number of vantage points within the map, Vortex has a more structured feel to it, and is especially great at supporting those wishing to play a team based game the likes of capture the flag.

As previously mentioned, this map supports vehicles, however I did not specify how many; safe to say, if you love Halo vehicles, then this map is for you, because if you can’t find a vehicle in this, you are certainly not looking hard enough. Warthogs are positioned in front of either base and along the sides, with additional Ghosts and Mongooses to support these. In the centre of the map a Warthog with a rocket launcher attachment is up for grabs to either team, whilst the strongest vehicle on the battlefield is the Wraith, hidden away to the side.

The building in the centre positioned over the top of the central Warthog is reminiscent more of Covenant technology than the bases which are representative of historical Forerunner facilities. Here at the central compound, weapon turrets overlook the bases, with the red base in particular being in sight of one of the turrets, which can be used by the opposing team to wipe out the enemy forces as they waltz out from the base and onto the map proper. With this particular building and the sheer size of the map in general, this particular battlefield is a great place to hone those sniper skills of yours upon a long distance rifle being deployed into the map.

For those unfortunate enough not to have a vehicle (for instance, those running about the map with an enemy flag), the few jump pads can be used to increase the distance between Spartans running about the map on foot and those in hot pursuit in vehicles. Of course, the side passages, especially one covered with cacti on the right side (the left when moving out from the red base) are perfect for avoiding vehicular manslaughter and a vast majority of foot traffic in the process as well, with most of the firing taking place in the centre of the map which is essentially a kill zone for any not fast enough to outmanoeuvre stronger combatants.

On a final note, entering enemy bases is relatively easy, and judging by their abnormally small size, acquiring whatever is mandatory for successful completion of the game is just as simple – it’s getting out alive that is the hard part. Safe to say, this is one match worth playing for anyone wishing to participate in a Halo team building exercise.

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.

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…

To keep up to date with me:

If you wish, come fight Covenant with me on Twitter: @DerekChilds1

Or, if you want to, come follow the fiery beast on Facebook by becoming my new found friend: http://www.facebook.com/derek.childs.94

Thank you for reading!

You know you have been playing video games too long when…

 

-you think by walking over things you will automatically pick them up.

-the last time you had a girlfriend, Cleopatra was Queen of Egypt.

-during a fight, you frantically look for the ‘b’ button as to perform a successful melee attack.

-you duck and roll into office cubicles rather than walk into them.

-at work, when a person throws a file at you, you quickly toss it right back from fear it might explode.

-you think your LAN connection is faulty when things go wrong in life.

-you would rather toss a hand gun than use it, preferring a minigun because if you want to kill something, the last thing you wanna do is miss.

-you think ‘Facebook’ is a Reaper indoctrination device.

-you and your friends walk around, bumping into any and all areas of the environment like a bunch of brainless bots.

-your fingers are permanently fixed into a claw from continued use of console triggers.

-you become annoyed when weapons do not load quite as easily in reality as they would in a video game.

-‘Tali, do you want to go out for dinner tonight?’ you ask your girlfriend who is in fact named Rachel, Stephanie or True.

-your boss fires you for failing to come to work for the past two weeks, and the last thing you ever say to the man is ‘but boss, the Krogan need me!’

-you feel more at home in sewers and ventilation shafts than in your own bedroom.

-you’ve sat on your ass, played video games and eaten food so often that the last time you saw the numbers 1,096 was on the bathroom scales.

-when purchasing clothing, you check the label to see how much damage resilience it will offer you.

-you are unable to perform a jump because your body is not equipped with a space bar.

-you remove all the doors in your house from their hinges and have everyone you love wear bells attached to their necks for their protection, along with your own, to ensure you know where everyone you care about is at any given time in your house as to not have them sneak up on you and force you to inevitably slay them.

-you look for the little blue ‘x’ button when entering and exiting vehicles.

-you can’t find your flashlight, so use a flame thrower or chain gun to light your way instead.

-when your wife throws items at your head even she is amazed when you duck and roll with record reaction time from the amount of practice you have received from battling killer mutants from outer space.

-at funerals, you wonder why the dead bodies do not fade away, and question the priests about whether there is a fault with their software when this fails to happen.

-you attempt to install cheat codes into your body as to allow yourself to walk through walls and have infinite ammo.

-you look for an invulnerability sphere at your local pharmacist.

-the sun hurts your eyes after you emerge from what feels like an eternity of gaming, whilst your beard seems a few meters longer than what it was when you began.

-to begin a conversation with a person, you wait until they are highlighted, or look over their bodies in the hopes of discovering a ‘use’ key.

-the growl of the dog and the meow of the cat cause you to leap over the couch for a better vantage point whilst reaching for your semi-automatic.

-you take a vowel of celibacy as to lose your virginity to an Assari Huntress.

-you take an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher, not Role Playing Game!) to your high school reunion cuz you know when the shit hits the fan an area effect weapon is better than a pistol.

-during game play, when an enemy attacks your character, you slide off your chair as to tactically avoid them.

-your television and monitor are riddled with bullet holes.

-your XBOX 360, PS3, keyboard and mouse require cleaning every couple days rather than every couple months.

-after playing a video game you need a long hot shower as to wipe away all the excess blood from your face, whilst your friends wonder why you are covered in so many scars and bruises.

-your girlfriend’s snoring reminds you of the Hell Knight from Doom…and makes you consider leaving the chainsaw beneath your bed from fear she might actually be the Hell Knight from Doom.

-you dress up as your favorite video game character for conventions, Halloween and all manner of other occasions, but your friends always recognise you.

-you move all of your first aid kits closer towards your game console.

-you mistake your wife’s best friend’s boob job for a couple rocket launchers.

-you randomly speak your mind, knowing if you do something wrong, you can always load from the last check point.

-your trigger finger twitches whenever someone enters the room.

-you ask for the Quad Damage weapon multiplier at the local gun store.

-all of your consoles automatically boot directly into your favorite games unless you press a specific key.

-you find yourself looking for Kevlar and anti-radiation suits at your local K-Mart.

-when buying a helmet, you ask the shop keeper for the one with the A.I port at the rear.

-you don’t bother turning on the lights because you know your eyes come with a night sensitivity mode.

-when a man insults you, instead of saying ‘I challenge you to a duel’ you say ‘I challenge you to a deathmatch!’

-you don’t worship God – no, you worship the Covenant forerunners.

-you walk up and down the super market complex looking for ‘Citadel Souvenirs.’

-when sick, you ask the doctor for a stim-pack.

-you look for sniper towers in toilet cubicles and elevators.

-you‘re annoyed when your parents buy you the new car they have been promising you – only to find it was not a Warthog.

-you find it odd when your environment does not stall or become pixilated.

-during physical altercations you ask your opponents to pause so you might heal.

-you think the mole on your left wrist is in fact the Omni-tool activation switch.

-you quickly run in and out of rooms, watching your back to see what creature follows you out.

-you choose to play a video game rather than spend the night with a woman. Funny fact; in 2009, a survey in Australia looked at male gamers – the question? Would you rather spend the night playing a video game, or spend the night with a woman. 78% of those surveyed – said they would rather spend the night playing a video game.

-your girlfriend leaves you, slamming the front door as it comes back to knock her in the ass. She cries at the top of her lungs ‘you love your friggin’ game box more than you love me you selfish bastard!’ You don’t twitch nor flinch as you persist in trying to eliminate the final boss at the end of the game. Besides, saving the universe from total destruction is more important than she was, right?

-during conversations, you pause as to allow time for the next conversation option to appear before your eyes.

-you believe certain mushrooms will bestow onto you a temporary boost of magika.

-you walk into Best and Less and ask where they keep their Spartan Armor.

-you barter for random goods and services, and try to sell goods you don’t need back to perspective shop keepers.

-you squint your eyes, rub at them and close them completely, wondering why it is that the crosshairs are not appearing.

-you volunteer to carry your all of your friend’s goods, along with your own, from the belief that you can carry several hundred kilograms worth of equipment before becoming over encumbered.

-you think it’s odd that the bodies of all the women you know look different rather than similar and that their breasts are not huge and cumbersome.

-you think during the two minutes it takes you to walk from one side of the house to the next you can experience morning, noon and night.

-your friends are worried that you are not getting enough sun, explaining to you this is the first time you have been out of the house in the past six months.

-you go pressing up against walls in the hopes that one might open to reveal a secret area.

-you randomly look around your environment, hoping to find spare ammo clips.

-you search your girlfriend’s body for the following pieces of equipment; power cables, the ‘on’ switch, volume control and the mute button.

-you are so used to been called ‘marine’, ‘Shepherd’ or ‘Master Chief’ that when someone actually says your name you simply ignore them.

-when at the local car dealership you notice the vehicle you are after is not present and so ask if they have run out of Ghosts’.

-at the local shooting range, you ask the clerk behind the desk for the BFG.

-when you look at your reflection in the mirror you expect to find the ‘change appearance’ button.

-you pick fights with people, knowing that if you lose you can always respawn at full strength.

-when you enter a friend’s house you always look for where their flag is located so you might steal it and take it back home with you when they’re not looking as to score yourself a point.

-you believe every locked door can be opened with a red, blue or gold keycard.

-you are constantly being arrested for the minigun emplacement attached to the rear of your vehicle.

-you frequently wonder why you feel pain when injured.

-your best and most truest friend is a five inch tall, seven year old woman named ‘Cortana’.

-during family altercations, you reach for your assault rifle, believing a team deathmatch is on the verge of beginning.

-you side step down hallways as to avoid your work colleagues from fear they might assault you.

-you haven’t been able to open your fridge in the past two weeks because you are having difficulty locating the ‘use’ key.

-when your girlfriend blows you a kiss, you leap out of the way to avoid it whilst reaching for your shotgun.

-you don’t care so much when you are gravely ill or dying because you’ll probably be able to find one of those mega-health’s lying around.

-your favorite Backstreet Boys, Lady Ga Ga and Daughtry albums are left in the corner of your bedroom gathering dust, whilst the illegally downloaded music files from Halo, Doom and Mass Effect reach the rank of ‘most played’ in Windows Media Player.

-you expect to receive ‘paragon’ every time you say something nice.

-you wonder why you have five fingers on your hand rather than three.

-you constantly find yourself wondering why everything is not in third person mode.

-you think you are ill when your HUD does not appear before your eyes.

-‘I’ll be there in a minute honey, just let me finish this level’ is your most frequently used expression.

-when you open a door, instead of turning on the lights, you toss a grenade into the room.

-where everyone else puts on trunks or a bikini (if you swing that way), you equip anti-radiation suits before entering swimming pools.