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Completed Games – Halo 3: ODST

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – September 22 2009

Halo 3: ODST was originally conceived as an expansion to Halo 3 before being expanded to a full retail release and comes with a separate disk including Halo 3 multiplayer and a new multiplayer mode, Firefight. I was surprised by this game as it now my favourite Halo game so far in terms of a single player experience. It changes up the standard Halo formula by making you play not as Master Chief or even a Spartan, you play as an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper).With this you have to play the game differently from past Halo games, you have to play more strategically and keep a closer eye on health, and in general be more stealthy because of you deficiencies when compared to the single army of Master Chief.

What I like most about the game is the desolate open city environment that you can roam around looking for weapons and encountering the occasional covenant patrol. Your drop on New Mombasa goes wrong and your team is spread out all over the city, but when you wake up most of the fight has been done and you piece back the events through flashbacks. It’s not just the same mission after mission, you are given time to explore.

The story for me was also more interesting, it isn’t a grand universe spanning tale but instead focuses on one mission from different perspectives. There is also a side story which is told through terminals which play back pieces of an audio recording of the plight of Sadie in the midst of the covenant invasion of New Mombasa. It is relatively short experience (around 5-6 hours) but I like how self contained it is. Music is also a change in pace with a more jazzy sound instead of the usual orchestral fare. It fits with the graphics which is filtered differently because the game is mostly played at night and you have to turn on a filter which makes the game look very cyber punk.

I’m playing Halo Reach now and I don’t think I’m going to change my position of ODST being my favourite Halo game. Definitely pick it up even if you don’t like Halo games, perfect for anyone who is discouraged by the standard Halo games.


Traditionally Controlled Games Are Becoming a Thing of The Past

One thing that I have notice from all the games shown at E3 this year is that the traditional control method (twin sticks, 4 face buttons, d-pad and triggers) is being replaced or augmented by a range of new control paradigms. Last year’s E3 saw the introduction of the MS Kinect and PS Move, and this year both companies reaffirmed their commitment to the future of how we will control games.

Now I’m not saying traditional controlled games will be obsolete (they will still be ever present), but I do think developers are thinking of ways to allow people to more easily interact with games in new ways. Seeing the way voice commands are being used in Mass Effect 3 utilizing Kinect, or hearing Bioshock lead developer Ken Levine talk about the ways he will use PS Move in Bioshock Infinite, I see a definite trend of developers taking up the challenge of advancing the way we control games. It is no longer just a gimmick, it is the future of video games.

And I haven’t even mentioned Nintendo yet, with their next console they will continue the path of motion controlled games and will add the next big thing, tablet touch pad controls. They are taking the success of their portable systems and mobiles devices like the iPad/iPhone to create a system that will encourage developers to think of new innovative ways to design games. These new methods of control allow a wider range of people to pick up and instantly understand how to play certain games. It also makes gaming a more involved and fun looking endeavor which is necessary to continue growing the industry.

Nintendo had a true hit with the Wii by innovating the way games are played but their approach had it’s flaws. Nintendo looks like they have learned not to abandon the core gamers by creating a system that developers are excited to work on with powerful processing and graphics capabilities. Hopefully this would lead to more games being released on the Wii U than the Wii and I’m excited to see how games like Assassin’s Creed play on the Wii U.

Also I hope more developers take advantage of the capabilities of the Kinect and PS Move as we are at a point where the technology is there but we just need the games. The key is finding the right mix and making control decisions that make sense, enhancing the gaming experience rather than making it seem gimmicky. From what I’ve seen at E3 this year I feel confident that the industry is moving in the right direction.

P.S. 3D gaming is also here to stay and video games are the perfect medium to get the most out of it. The technology is improving each year and developers are doing a better job of implementing it in their games. It’s time to stop grousing about 3D in video games, if you don’t like it you can still play your games in regular 2D.

E3 2011 Video Roundup

Nintendo Official Videos

Electronic Arts Official Videos

Ubisoft Official Videos

Playstation Blog

 Other Videos

E3 2011 Microsoft Announcements Round-Up – Halo 4, Ryse and Lots of Kinect Supported Games

Here is a list of notable announcements and details of Xbox 360 games and features announced today at Microsoft’s Press Conference for E3 2011 (plus a couple features revealed later on Major Nelson’s Blog).

  • Already announced games featured Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect 3 (Kinect voice support, dialogue and squad commands), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (Kinect support for all future Tom Clancy games), Gears of War 3, Forza 4, Star Wars Kinect
  • EA sports games to get Kinect Support – Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden, Fifa and one other.
  • New Game AnnouncementRyse for Crytek, a Kinect game set during the Roman Empire era.
  • New Halo games announcedHalo 1 remake 10 year anniversary and Halo 4.
  • New Game Announcement – Fable: The Journey, on rail magic shooter just for Kinect.
  • Other New Games Announced – Kinect Sports Season 2, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, Disneyland Adventures, and Dance Central 2.
  • New Dashboard with graphical and functional improvements. Search support with universal Bing search capability, youtube, live TV (i.e. UFC) capabilities, more Kinect support, Beacon feature (more streamlined game invite system) and the big one cloud support for game saves and profiles.

5 Games We Will Learn More About at E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) opens on the 7th June, just over a week away and here’s 5 games I’m looking forward to learning more about. All of them will be released at the end of the year around November and all are the 3rd game in a franchise.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations continues Ubisoft’s tradition of a new AC game every year and this one is the third in the Ezio trilogy starting with AC2 followed by AC Brotherhood. Ezio will be much older in this game and will be climbing around this time in Constantinople. Multiplayer will also return hoping to expand on the innovative experience that debuted in the last game.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 continues the Modern Warfare offshoot, this time going global with recognisable landmarks and cityscapes. Preview impressions of the single player side of the game are already up at many gaming websites, but most people are waiting to hear how multiplayer has changed.

My most anticipated game of the year Uncharted 3 will be shown and will probably show off more of the graphical innovations from their desert setting. I looking forward to hearing more about the story and what historical/mythical legend is being pursued by Nathan Drake and his buddies.

Resistance is back with Resistance 3 after a 3 year development cycle hoping to bring more excitement and polish that was lacking in Resistance 2. The unique 8-player co-op mode from Resistance 2 is dropped, and more focus is put on the competitive multiplayer and the story mode.

Battlefield 3 is the the long awaited sequel to the main Battlefield series instantly garnering attention with its gorgeous visuals. Looking forward to hearing about what new gameplay and multiplayer features are being introduced.

Completed Games – Halo 3

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft

Release Date – September 25 2007

This is the first Halo game I played on consoles, I didn’t own an original Xbox, but I did played through the first Halo and partway through the second on the PC. I remember really enjoying the first Halo because of the dynamic combat and enemy AI but it wasn’t enough for me to pick up an Xbox. Now even though I’ve had an XBOX 360 for years I didn’t really consider picking Halo 3 up until now. It is a testament to the quality of the game that it holds up pretty well now over 3 years later.

I had a lot of fun playing through the single player campaign twice, once co-op and one time by myself, as it so much different and unique from other FPS games that have become so popular nowadays. I have to say I prefer the futuristic weaponry and the more gamey style when compared to the more realistic setting of COD and Battlefield. I don’t know why it took so long to get back into Halo but I’m now excited to play through the two other Halo games that have come out since, ODST and Reach. I’m even more excited to hear about what Bungie are going to do with their next new IP they are developing which is being published by Activision.

The pacing and interweaving of story and gameplay is what I liked the most along with the variety of strategies you could employ in each firefight. It’s great being an ultimate super soldier instead of just being a normal soldier and I like how it justifies the use of advanced weaponry and armor in the game.

I am slightly disappointed with how you can’t have a single player campaign going on at the same time as a co-op campaign without overwriting the current in mission save. Other than that I think co-op is one the great strengths of Halo that has become so important in other games since then. I haven’t tried multiplayer and probably won’t until I pick up Halo Reach as I could imagine the type of the people who are still play Halo 3 absolutely destroying me.

Too Human Review (Xbox 360)

Developer – Silicon Knights

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – August 19 2008

Silicon Knights before this game developed the classic horror game Eternal Darkness on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002. In 2004 they collaborated with Konami to remake Metal Gear Solid also for the Gamecube.

Too Human is a game that started development on the Gamecube but the rights were bought by Microsoft in 2005. The game has had massive changes in concept and game play throughout the years and was originally designed to be a trilogy. It’s easy to say that the long development cycle contributed to the dated feel of the game but I can’t think of any other reason to explain why the combat in this game is plain bad. It’s always tough to recommend a game that plays poorly as it is the single most important part of a game and fundamental to a player having fun. But there are some qualities in Too Human that may interest some gamers.

I found the design of the world and environment quite interesting as it is a futuristic world ruled by Norse Gods. The game is grand in scope and deals with serious themes, in fact the game takes itself very seriously and a lot of work is put into the story scenes. The game is an action RPG and so loot is important; there is a multitude of armor, weapons and cybernetic upgrades which helps in keeping you playing. I like the RPG elements of the game as it gave the game some depth and was a welcome break from the monotony of the combat.

The way the combat is controlled is almost all with the right analog stick, point the stick towards the enemy and you glide, yes glide not run, to the target and hit the enemy without feeling much weight in your actions. You just fight waves of waves of robots, and later undead robots, with very little variety or combos. There are elements of Devil May Cry as you can juggle enemies with your gun but it is not nearly as flexible or fun to do. And to make things worse the camera sometimes gets in your way.

The game ends very abruptly, I have rarely seen such a anticlimactic end to a game. They should have just let the credits roll just after the final mission and put the ending story section as the stinger. The ending left the game open for a sequel but given the sales performance it is unlikely that we will see a Too Human sequel.

Completed Games: Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts (XBOX360)

Developer – Rare

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – November 11 2008

10 years after the release of the original Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64, Rare returned to their once popular bear and bird duo but not to do another platformer. Instead Nuts and Bolts is a vehicle based open world game with a main hook of total customisation of vehicles. The easy to use vehicle building system allows you to create vehicles of all shapes, sizes and types, if you wanted to make a jet just add some wings and a rocket or make a helicopter by adding a propeller. Heck you can even make a vehicle that does everything with retractable parts for whatever mode of transport you want at anytime. The challenge of the game is building a vehicle to beat the mission given by the inhabitants of the different worlds of the game. But the game does have plenty of problems that probably would frustrate people pretty quickly into the game.

The game starts with a smart opening by showing some B&W clips of original N64 games and then cutting to present day where Banjo and Kazooie are fat, eating pizza, and playing xbox. The moment you start controlling fat banjo, he breathes a lot and is very slow. Unfortunately the smart writing, for example acknowledging that they are second-rate characters, doesn’t carry on to the rest of the game but there are a few gaming references and jokes that are mildly amusing. You only play fat banjo for a little while before a mysterious character appears and puts him in a game against his nemesis Gruntilda and the vehicle based gameplay starts. Your stock vehicle is just a tray with a motor and a lot of the missions involve carrying things but there are other missions involving vehicle combat, races and a few more unique missions pop up.

The art style and environments are pretty plain and unmemorable although I do like some of the pixel effects (disintegration) that happen. It is very colourful and the worlds do vary but it all seems very dated. The driving which if anything should be the strong point of the game can be frustrating with frequent clipping on objects and strange reactions to terrain and objects.

This is game I would recommend only if you have any interest in creating interesting vehicles with a lego type builder. The missions and story are definitely not fun and interesting enough to warrant a buy even at a discounted price.

Well Done Microsoft – Another Xbox 360 Failure

My 360 has just got the E74 error with one flashing red ring. It is 1 year 3 months old, out of warranty. Most likely I will have to pay for it to be repaired as only the 3 red rings are under the extended 3 year warranty. I am disappointed with Microsoft as when I bought in at the end of 2007 I thought the problems were over.

My experiences with new OS’s

I didn’t buy OSX 10.5 Leopard to upgrade my old Macbook Pro with OSX 10.4 Tiger. So this is the first time using Leopard. I like stacks but only in list view which reduces the amount of time it takes to get to files I need to use. I haven’t had the need to use spaces or time machine. A few things here and there are more streamlined but not much different from tiger. However I rely on boot camp which is not available in 10.4 and with it I installed windows 7 beta. It installs just fine, the only thing you need to do differently is when the win 7 installer asks you to choose a partition to install on you have to reformat the partition that boot camp set up to NTFS.

I like Windows 7 a lot with the clean polished look and it works fine on my Macbook. I had a lot of BSOD with vista on my macbook pro which I’m sure it had to do with Apple’s graphic drivers for the ATI X1600. Not everything runs since it’s a beta (L4D doesn’t but TF2 does) but it is still at least 6-12 months from release. The thing I am most excited about is Microsoft being able to build a light weight efficient OS despite being such a large corporation. It seems none of the bloat is there which is common with new product versions.