Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the vault: Halo reach review.

This is a review I wrote for OzBoxLive ages ago but seeing as though they have decided to no longer credit me for the work I'm going to post it here. Expect more of these to come.

The game we have been devoting our lives to has released the next installment to the Halo universe… Halo: Reach.

If you have been living under a rock and are wondering what Halo: Reach is all about here is a quick run down of the story - you are Noble 6, a Spartan III who has been brought in to replace one of Noble team’s fallen. Noble team are a group of Spartan III’s (created after the legendary Spartan II of the Halo series, Master Chief) who are the best of the best. No mission is too dangerous or too great for these artists of death. They are on the planet Reach (the crown jewel of the UNSC’s defensive fortifications) fighting the Covenant for every square centimeter of the planet when it was turned to glass by Covenant ships above. The fate of Reach has been known since the first Halo, and now we can relive those famous final days. The way the story is told is great, you really get to know the characters in the short amount of time you have and develop a bond with them, which is so uncommon in games these days.

General gameplay is really good, as expected from previous Halo games. New strategies will need to be formed with players able to fly down or sneak up on an opponent. The controls are different from Halo 3 and as a result the default settings can be very confusing at first. If you want a similar feel to Halo 3 the best you can get is the bumper jumper configuration. I wished there was a custom configuration setting that you can change the controls to suit like in PC games. Halo Reach is made for teams - if you go lone wolf you'll get blown to smithereens even on normal difficulty. Especially with four player co-op there's no need to run out and do it all yourself.

Multiplayer is great. In multiplayer all the individual areas of a map have been given names so if you get pinned down you can call out where you are and everyone knows. This is important because it makes the location names universal and allows for players who don't normally play together or have just met can stand a chance against teams that train and play together. When you first enter the lobby you and your fellow players are given a choice of three maps and game types to vote on playing next. Once you have voted the map begins to load, which is super fast if not sometimes instant. When you enter the game you are given the choice of what abilities you want to spawn with. Weapons wise you can spawn with the standard assault rifle and pistol or through the options menu you can change these options. If you're familiar with the Call of Duty “custom classes” set-up you’ll know the gist of these options. Reach is mate-friendly if you want to play with your friends online the active roster shows you which friends are playing reach and what they are doing. In Halo 3 you had to tell them to quit the game and enter a lobby with you before you start matchmaking, now you can enter the lobby your mates are in and if they are in a game you can just wait in the lobby until it finishes.

New gametypes have been introduced. Along with the ones we know and love there are now four more to play with. “Headhunter” is Slayer with the focus on surviving, but when you make a kill flaming skulls scatter about the body, and when collected these are redeemed for points which make up the overall score for the round. Obviously, the more skulls you have before you redeem the more of a target you are to other players. “Stockpile” is a fancy version of capture the flag. On any given map there are flags scattered throughout, each team must collect these flags and bring them back to their base and guard them until the collection timer hits zero and the flags respawn at their previous locations. Generator Defense is an attack and defend type game. The attackers are the Elites and their job is to destroy the generators scattered about the map and the Spartans are to defend the generators. Finally we have invasion, the ultimate team slayer game type. Its Spartans vs. Elites in an objective based match designed for the map Boneyard. The Elites are the attackers and their job is to get from one end of the map to a covenant ship on the other. The Spartans are the defenders and are to prevent the Elites from getting to the ship at all costs. As the Elites get closer and closer to the objective each team can respawn with more powerful weapons. Other maps worth mentioning are Swordbase which is designed with the jetpack in mind and Power house which is a small open map made for general slayer type games.

Firefight makes a comeback and it is now possible to get the achievements for it. Because you can still get the achievements with invincibility turned on it stops being a matter of skill to get the achievement it’s a matter of endurance. It will take around three and a half hours to get the million point achievement on your own, and with mates it’s around an hour and a half. Forge mode in Reach is a significant improvement on the Forge set-up in Halo 3. No more having to do tricky stuff to make objects float and new objects mean that creating maps is easier. A new object that deserves a mention is the golf objects – you get a golf ball, mound and hole to aim for and a golf club which is gravity hammer in disguise. All the maps from multiplayer can be edited and a new map called forge world can be opened complete empty of objects that is a good place for up and coming map makers to muck around. Who knows… we may see the next PGA pro-golf tour stop over on Reach!!

Weapons have been given both a visual touch-up as well as some improvements. For starters all the weapons from Halo 3, except the battle rifle, make a return with upgrades to their accuracy and rate of fire as well as a change of appearance. Some new guns include the Designated Marksmen Rifle (or DMR for short), which is a medium-long range semiautomatic rifle that is a cross between the battle rifle and the sniper rifle, and the Needle Rifle which is the Covenant equivalent of the DMR, as usual with the supercombine ability of Needler weapons. This time around deployable tools are out and abilities are in. In single player odds are you will start with sprint but in multiplayer you can choose abilities before you spawn and give you an advantage in the battlefield. These include a jetpack that allows you to fly about the map, “camouflage” allows you to hide and strike from the shadows (no more having to pick it up in game!!) and “armour lock” which, when activated, makes you invincible but at the cost of movement, though people tend to hang back and once your abilities energy runs out one well thrown grenade will have you pushing daises. Weapon recoil is okay with the exception of the DMR. The DMR is designed to be fired slowly at long range. So if you want that headshot you can't mash the trigger. To tell the amount of recoil on a weapon the crosshair expands as you fire and contracts when not.

When you first start Reach you will have to create your character Noble 6. Given you have just started the game there is not a lot you can customize and with a 5000 credit starting budget there is even less. However the amount of customization is fantastic from helmets to chest plates, shoulder pads wrist guards and holsters. You can even change the animation of how you die and your voice. Maybe its because I spent most of my credits on the ODST helmet but some of the stuff costs an awful lot. Spartan armour is obviously not cheap!! When you see the main menu you can tell Bungie has spared no expense to detail. The background is very beautiful, it shows the planet Reach and the heaps of scrap that the Covenant have made of Reaches ships and defensive platforms.

In-game graphics are reminiscent of Halo 2 - a bit dirty and grainy, but this adds to the apocalyptic feel of the game compared to Halo 3 which was really clean and shiny. I mentioned earlier that the weapons have been given a cosmetic upgrade. They all look good except the assault rifle, I liked the look of the original one and if it isn't broken don't fix it. The HUD is better, it is a lot clearer and easy to read – obviously that’s really important when you've got bullets whizzing about your head!!

All the gun sounds have been redone to sound more like the real world guns they resemble. If you think about it, it seems a little silly that the game is set 500 years from now, yet you would think that guns may sound a little different in the future. The music keeps up with the standard that the series has set itself over the last decade and is not a distraction when the action starts and is there when it's supposed to.

I must say that for me personally Reach does not live up to all the hype. Don't get me wrong as it's still a great game but don't believe all the hype, just take the game with a pinch of salt and you'll have fun. But at the end of the day it looks like Halo 3 with everything wrong with it fixed. Good time guaranteed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Details about Battlefield 3 released

This week EA has released a fact sheet containing what is going to appear within the game. Below is the fact sheet highlighting some of the details about what weapons, vehicles and maps will appear in the game. I'd speculate more on it but I have the flu and reading is giving me a headache at the moment. But comment below and tell me how excited are you for Battlefield 3 and what features are you looking forward to appearing in game?

Play Your Way In the Biggest Battlefield Ever! From city streets to open rural landscapes, Battlefield 3 offers unparalleled depth and gameplay variety. Classic ‘Rush’ and ‘Conquest’ modes are complemented by newly introduced ‘Team Death Match’ for an instant action fix.

Extensive Co-op Campaign: Unique maps and missions are available for players to tackle online with a friend, using co-op specific gameplay features. Co-op missions tie into the single player story.

Powerful Social Features in Battlelog: Players will never go into battle alone thanks to the powerful new community features of Battlelog. Players can build their platoon, communicate with other gamers, and compare their multiplayer prowess with friends and foes alike. Battlelog is free on all platforms.

Frostbite 2-Enabled Destruction: Frostbite 2 creates a whole new level of life-like destruction. Enhanced large and small scale destruction now has a tactical purpose. Chip away at cover, blow holes in walls, deform the terrain, and bring down entire building façades on enemies.
Keep reading to see the rest of the Battlefield 3 multiplayer fact sheet.

Ultimate Vehicle Warfare: The signature Battlefield vehicle warfare experience is even richer and more rewarding. Damaged vehicles can now retreat or be defended until they automatically regain armor, while disabled vehicles become static gun platforms to cover players doing repairs.

Accessible Team-Play: Battlefield 3 offers fine-tuned team-play possibilities and accessibility for newcomers. Team-play is key for players to reach dominance on the battlefield.

Personalized Dog Tags: Players can express their individuality with their own dog tag that gets displayed to defeated enemies. Players choose a design with a dynamically tracked in-game stat that expresses their personality and play-style.

The Physical Battlefield: Use the environment to your advantage. Deploy your machine gun bipods on any mountable surface for greater accuracy. Claim the dog tag of enemies via skillful knife takedowns. Lay down suppressive fire to limit the combat capabilities of enemies.

Enhanced Persistence: There is always a new rank or reward to unlock in Battlefield 3. The depth and vast range of unlockable weapons, vehicles, upgrades, and tools will keep Battlefield 3 players occupied for years to come.



9 total including:
Caspian Border
Operation Métro

Conquest 64 (PC only)
Team Deathmatch
Squad Deathmatch
Squad Rush

 There will be close to 100 ribbons and medals in BF3
More than 350 personalized dogtags including:
Rush Ribbon
Recon Service Star
40mm Master
BF2 Veteran

Battlefield 3 will be released on October 25, 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Has Team Fortress 2 changed since becoming free to play?

Recently the popular FPS from Valve Team Fortress 2 has been made free to play on Steam. This of course has increased the number of players on its servers and made it easier to find a game but is the game better off for it?

For Valve making the game free means that their revenue source for TF2 will be from people making in game purchases of weapon sets or clothing. While many of these items are cheap (some as low as 50 cents) the large increase of people will mean that Valve's profit margins will not take a hit. The game before going free had been in a steady decline in terms of its player base. more or less because players who had bought the game were growing tired of it and had moved onto other games.

Team Fortress 2 will be four years old in october, its had a good run and for any game to last this long and still be popular is quite an achievement. Usually at about this time in a games life the developer would be well into making the next game in the series or will slowly stop supporting the game on their servers. So to see it go free to play tells us that Valve love the game but given that there have been no announcements as to a Team Fortress 3 it seems that the company are trying to milk TF2 for all its got. But to extend the life of a game does not make it better.

Over the past week (as many of you know) I've been asking you readers what you think of TF2 going free and if it has made the game better or worse. The responce I got was massive. I was so surprised at how many people had messaged me on facebook and Google+, sent me a Dm on twitter or emailed me with your thoughts on this game. Before even reading them this told me a lot. Team Fortress is popular and while its player base was shrinking the amount of people still playing is massive. After reading every single message, DM and email it seems the community are divided in their feelings.

Some people hate it because it means more servers are full and that while having one new player on the team was okay, having an entire team of them is just plain annoying. Also one reader pointed out that hackers can create accounts at no cost and make the game unenjoyable for other players.

On the other hand not every person with a free account is terrible at the game or wishes to disrupt it. It has increased the player base significantly meaning that there are little or no empty servers at any time of the day or night. Many seasoned players are just playing on servers that don't have any new players in them so the game becoming free has made no difference at all. One reader who goes by the name Amyler on steam had decided that not helping noobs was counter productive and was teaching them how to play:

"There is fun to be had in teaching people how to be better at the game. I've taught plenty of Pyro's to airblast burning allies, incoming rockets and planted stickybombs. I've taught medic's when to ubercharge and what loadout to use for matchtypes. I've taught Snipers to stop running into the front lines with the fucking uzi. Seeing people learn from what you tell them and get better is more entertaining then simply dominating a clueless opponent."

So it seems that if you're a hardcore player, you wont notice the influx of free players because odds are they play with other hardcores on their own servers or you help the noobs and create a community that has people help each other.

In my opinion making TF2 going free has given life to a dying game. It has allowed people who weren't sure if they wanted it or not a risk free chance to find out if they like it or not. Plus because of how balanced the class system is (provided you don't use community built weapons) this game could be used in e-sports tournaments as an entry level game.

Once again I'd like to thank my readers for sending me your opinions. Still if you want to weigh in on this debate feel free to comment below and tell me. Do you think that making Team Fortress 2 free has made it better or worse?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sticking up for the ODST

Halo 3 ODST copped a pretty bad wrap because of its crippling lack of PvP multiplayer and that firefight mode lacked depth. Some have even said that the one thing the game has, its storyline, was shocking. I reckon it is the best game in the series after Halo 1.

Lets look at its weakest point. The lack of a more traditional multiplayer. It appears to me that Bungie were trying something new. Instead of having people trying to kill each other you would have people work together toward a common goal. Yeah its a good way of uniting the community but in reality its just the campaign without any discernable plot besides the Earth is being invaded by aliens and your job is to holdout as long as you can. Oh wait, that is the storyline. A developer can never fully satisfy the whole community with a sequel but in order to make future games better sometimes you've got to make mistakes. Still, firefight mode made it into Halo Reach and really complemented Halos traditional deathmatch.

The selling point of Halo ODST was the campaign. It was a simple story that had you as an ODST exploring New Mombasa to discover what had happened to the rest of your squad. While the exploration between levels felt like the game buying itself time it did mean you could play the game in any order you wanted to. That being said the side story of the girl who would argue with the superintendent (the A.I for the city. Yes she was arguing with the city itself) did inspire me to explore the city and discover all its secrets.

Without a doubt the music in this game is the best by a mile. The smooth jazz gave the whole game a noir feel set in a sci-fi universe. Plus it added to the game and didn't distract you from it. I'm a huge jazz fan so to see it appear in a game automatically earns it points because it is a genre hardly used by games but one that has a lot to offer them.

All in all the game put the superman like powers of master chief aside and gave players a challenge. One that I had not seen since Halo 1. For a game that was originally intended to be an add on to Halo 3 it has done incredibly well.

Till next week, peace. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

San Andreas goes HD

I don't normally talk about mods for games mostly because there are so many and most either make the game look better or add silly stuff into the game. But this one peaked my interest.

A group of fans have ported the Rockstar classic Grand Theft Auto San Andreas into the GTA 4 engine. It's a total conversion bringing everything including missions, vehicles, collectibles and all the radio stations into the latest rendition of the series.
These guys have put a lot of work into making San Andreas HD. All the graphics have been brought to the cutting edge for the latest generation of computers. While the walking and running controls in GTA 4 are terrible I'm really exicted at seeing Los Santos with brushed up graphics.

People who loved the game back in the day will enjoy it and new players will love it. If you are new I recommend getting the original game and playing that to truly experience the game in all its glory. You can pick up a copy for as little as $20 on Steam.

The mod is only available for the PC version of the game. Hopefully Rockstar see it and re-make San Andreas for modern consoles *HINT HINT!*

The original is my all time favorite GTA game and its good to see modders really putting themselves out there. So far the Mod is in beta and you can download it for free from their website.

Comment below and tell me, What's your favorite mod and why?