Posts Tagged ‘ Halo ’

My Brother And Me

Outside games journalism itself, the press often gives video games a hard time.  While this is a sweeping statement, you only have to look to figures like Mary Whitehouse, Jack Thompson and even other vocal opponents such as Julia Boseman or Hillary Clinton for proof.

Now, most gamers I know wouldn’t try arguing games are without issues or faults – far from it.  Most would implore very particular treatment of young gamers, for example, and few would dispute the fact that, like all things, games are a hobby best suited for moderate consumption.  However, this is a long and complex discussion that has been raised before, and I am not about to wade into the quagmire today, especially without considerably more research.

The point of this article is simple: to underline my belief that there are very valid and very personal reasons why games can be a good thing.  In my case, it’s my brother.

Although similar in age (we’re just 18 months apart), my brother and I are very different people with very different interests.  Fortunately for us, being brothers and all, we have the same parents.  This means we shared the same upbringing, and have – over time – come to share many values.  Growing up, despite all the tomfoolery, squabbling and enthusiastically destructive play in which we indulged, we remained quite close.  Sure, there were some wobbly moments in the teenage years when I didn’t like my brother (or anyone else) very much, but time has mellowed us both.

However, my brother likes the UFC and MMA, boxing, cars, and Formula 1, none of which hold much interest for me.  I respect what he likes, except when I don’t, or see an opportunity to take the piss, but his interests are not my interests.  The exception is gaming.

Keith Jardine knocks Rampage Jacksons Mouthpiece flying

Keith Jardine knocks Rampage Jacksons Mouthpiece flying

We grew up playing games together – both video and “real” ones.  Everything from Roland in Time on the Amstrad CPC 464 to Goldeneye on the N64, we played it.  Perhaps nostalgia has helped cement the bond (we both remember going to look at the £1.99 Amstrad tapes under the glass counter in our local toy shop), but we still love games now.  It’s a common interest for us, and we will chat for hours about the upcoming releases, the good times on Gears of War or Skate 2, and even what idiots we encountered in the latest round of online gaming.  He knows the same people I do online, we like the same games (shooters, mainly), and he is of a similar standard.

My brother, Tommy, is good company anyway, and we’ve shared many a magical moment online.  I will never forget the time Tommy pulled up next to me in a Warthog and yelled at me to “get in the van.”  You’d never guess he was involved in the building trade at the time…  Okay, so he’s not quite as devoted to gaming as I am – he tends to wander in and out of remembering to pay his broadband bill – but that makes no difference to either of us.

"Get in the van" - Tommy

"Get in the van" - Tommy

In short, gaming has brought us closer – we always got on well, but over the last few years my brother has fast become one of my best friends.   I have faith that many other such stories exist out there – perhaps a couple who met through gaming, or a father and son playing together; maybe a family where video games have provided an outlet for other problems.

This is all a far cry from the thoroughly negative press that gaming often gets, and proves that video games can be a positive influence. As someone else once said, “virtual spaces, real relationships.”

Some come on, what do games mean to you and yours?

Score Tissue Page 12: Hero

score_tissue_12
Who did you think i was talking about?

I’m a huge Nathan Fillion fanboy (*swoon*)
and an even bigger Halo fanboy (this was the costume I made for halloween 2007)
So ODST is very much, as they say, relevant to my interests.

In fact, screw this typing stuff. I’m gonna go and play some more.
See you next week (a little more on time, hopefully)

Score Tissue Part 4

Hello and welcome to score tissue!
Alright, yes, I know. You’ve all already been here for the last four weeks,
but thanks to a tragicomic parade of technical problems (broken netbook screen, exploding MacBook power adapters, a three week delay in my home internet connection set-up, etc.) this is the first time I’ve had the chance to present one of my comics myself…

…Uh, so here it is.

Reaching

In all seriousness, I hope that Halo: Reach turns out to be a multi-class, team-based, co-operative awesome-o-thon. Team Fortress 2 meets Left 4 Dead in the Halo universe.

I think typing that paragraph almost broke my “-” key,
so I shall take that as my cue to leave.

See you next Wednesday with more Score Tissue.

My work this week

Well, I’ve had a busy week this week.

Starting off with a mad dash to London to freelance the Halo ODST event for ve3tro. You can find my coverage at the following links.

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HANDS ON PREVIEW, CLICK ME TO READ!!
BUNGIE INTERVIEW, CLICK ME TO READ!!

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I had a blast covering the event and playing ODST with fellow journalists, look out for future games coverage.

My new favourite weapon, this pistol is nasty!

My new favourite weapon, this pistol is nasty!

Another great new addition, superb gun, really kicks when it's shot though.

Another great new addition, superb gun, really kicks when it's shot though.

Halo Wars Review

Plasma grenades, Battle rifles and Warthogs are the things that make the Halo universe great. Alongside these are Spartans, Covenant and lots and lots of jumping.
Bungie made a fantastic world for those who own an XBOX and then a 360, An engaging storyline with terrific gunplay and multi player options that make developers jealous. This is a huge legacy for Ensemble studios to uphold, Can they do it?

Well, That’s a very difficult question to answer.
Ensemble are known for making great RTS’s particularly the Age of Empires and Age of Mythology series. With their expertise on board, Halo wars was going to be a huge success and it is a success, for Microsoft anyway.
Ensemble studios was due to be closed down upon finishing Halo wars development, So this would be their swan song. All that history, all those intricacies that made their games great……Are sadly absent in Halo wars.

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Ensemble have managed to twist the tales of Halo superbly throughout telling the story of the battles from each perspective concisely. The story is focus of the cut scenes, which have to be amongst the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. As you play through the game these are unlocked in a theatre mode for you to watch again, Which I have done a few times now just to revel in the quality.
The story twists and turns whilst you play the campaign and I think any Halo fan will be pleased with the narrative.

The gameplay will be familiar to you if you’ve ever played an RTS. You’re given a mission and the basics of an army and from there you build a base and army to a level of world domination proportions. There are resources to collect which you then spend on parts of your base and your units.
You are given an empty base with building grounds branching off of it and you just select the area you want to build on and what you want to build, Done. Then once all your buildings are in place you can start lining up your troops and vehicles.

All a simple affair, actually a very simple affair. If you are a big fan of the RTS genre and are hoping for this to quench your lusts for console RTS, you may be disappointed. While incredibly accessible for newcomers to the genre, Halo wars leaves you wanting more. More units, more choice, more control over actions.
Don’t get me wrong, the units there are great fun to build and use. There’s nothing like building a scarab and marching across the battlefield to your enemies certain doom.
The controls are very simple but with a clunky feel to them, an example of this is being able to scroll through your units with the right trigger, But you can’t scroll back with the left trigger. So if you miss the unit you want you have to run through them all again. This is very frustrating in the heat of battle.
For all the depth of the Halo universe, the game lacks the depth of control wanted in an RTS.

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Each of the units has fantastic animation and sound to them and zooming in to watch the action can be an excellent scene to behold. All the units have secondary attacks which are notorious to the characters. The warthog shoots units with the press of the X button and then rams them with a tap of Y.
You also have a leader character to control, a bit like a general. There are six in total, three for UNSC and three for the Covenant. The latter can only be used in Multi player skirmish modes.
Each of these leaders brings different elements to your army, be it building certain exclusive units or using their leader “power” These leader powers can range from bombing runs to healing units.

The missions in the single player campaign are varied and fun to play, some can be frustrating but this is usually down to incorrect unit building or placement.
The campaign really comes into it’s own in co-op though, Halo wars played with a second person brings more fun to the game. Tactics can be used between you and the battle set pieces can be enjoyed with inane banter. During co-op you both control the same base and army which is quite a unique way of controlling the aspects of an RTS. It can be incredibly helpful if you are in the heat of the battle and need more units built. Your partner can be stacking units and vehicles while you fight the good fight.

There are other multi player aspects to be found here in the form of deathmatch gameplay.
These matches are played 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 and can be played with friends, in public games and with A.I. These are very good fun, at first. As with other entries into the RTS genre it becomes a race as to who can build the most units the fastest and then walk them around the map destroying bases. Which is great fun to start but becomes monotonous as your tactics need to be perfect to “out-build” your opponent.
There two ways of playing it, deathmatch which speeds up the building of units or standard which plays at a slower pace, much like the campaign.

I would have thought that Ensemble would have mimicked Bungie a bit more by adding in game modes like territories and capture the flag. Which if planned well, could’ve worked brilliantly. I sincerely hope that features like these will be seen in upcoming DLC packs, otherwise I fear that the longevity of the game may be doomed.

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Halo wars is exceptionally fun and captures the Halo universe picture perfectly.
To any Halo fan that wants to jump into an RTS, this is a perfect game for you. You can have it all, the look and feel of the sci fi mystique and a simple control system used to play through an interesting campaign.
If you are looking for a great RTS on consoles then you may be left wanting with Halo wars, it’s no fault of Ensemble but of consoles in general. RTS’s are meant to be played on a PC or a Laptop where you can control everything with pinpoint precision.
With the hope of DLC in the future, there is a hope for more content in the campaign and multi player aspects.

Hi-score: Easy pick up and play feel, superb graphics and sound, great story.
Lo-Score: Sometimes tiresome and too simple, lacks longevity, clunky controls.

Final Score- 6/10

Halo Wars Demo Impressions

Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 and Halo 3 each known for their grandeur, Bungie have certainly set up one hell of a legacy. Can Ensemble studios do justice to a series held in such high regard by gamers and critics alike?
Can they capture the look and feel of the Halo series?
If the demo is anything to go by, Yes they can.
Ensemble studios have set themselves one hell of a task, not only do they have to please millions of Halo fans but they also have to use the hardest console genre to do it, the RTS or Real Time Strategy.

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When the demo fires up you are greeted with a tutorial which is short and simple and it lays out everything you need to get going. The controls could’ve easily let Halo Wars down but Ensemble have got it pretty much spot on. The face buttons deal with all the simple needs of the player and everything you learn is easy to commit to memory. It’s safe to say even in the full game, the controls should never let you down.

The graphics are very clean and the “character models” are superb. All of the Halo universe has been captured beautifully from the glow the plasma rifles firing across the battlefield to the warthogs back end swinging out as it careens around corners. The usual Halo humour is in there too, heard above the amazing sound effects dialogue can be heard that will make any Halo fan smile.
Obviously the most important part of the demo is the gameplay and it didn’t let me down. The game plays very well and it seems to have been made for the Halo audience rather than an RTS audience. Which is in no way a bad thing.
It makes the game very “pick up and play” everything in the demo is very much, move here, shoot that and collect this. But it gives you a feel of being immersed in the universe and once the action gets going it’s a roller-coaster of explosions and gunfire that Hollywood would be jealous of.

All in all as a demo it shows a lot of promise not just for the game but the future of console RTS’s. As long as the full game delivers the feel of the demo we’ll all be very happy gamers.
If you own an XBOX 360, you should really download the demo from the marketplace and give it a try. Even if you think RTS’s aren’t your “thing” you might be pleasantly surprised.