Wednesday, 21 November 2012 17:44

Halo 4:' singleplayer review

Still legendary 

There's a line in 'Halo 4's' campaign that immediately got my attention. When Cortana is dealing with the effects of her rampancy (which is basically an AI's version of multiple personality syndrome, and all of the personalities are crazy), she bemoans her fate to the Master Chief. In an emotional state, she predicts that they'll pair the Chief with another version of her, 'but it won't be me' is her resigned, saddened conclusion.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012 00:08

Halo 4:' multiplayer review

Restructuring Bungie's online battlefield

In games as in movies, sequels are a delicate thing. You have to simultaneously protect everything that made the first game great while adding more features and polishing the whole experience. In the case of 343 Industries, they've had to take on the role of torch-bearers and bridge-burners. To bring 'Halo 4' up to speed with improvements that other first-person-shooters have made in the past few years while keeping the 'Halo feel' is no small task. Stepping into 'Halo 4's' multiplayer, longtime fans have to ask, is this budding developer up to the task?

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Thursday, 08 November 2012 01:13

A Monument to Change

How Halo changed the FPS landscape

2001. The beginnings of an all-new console war were brewing, and each combatant in this three-way war was stockpiling ammunition at E3. Sony showcased its powerhouse successor to the Playstation with a new 'Metal Gear' game. Nintendo pleased the faithful with the return of beloved franchises from days of yore. It seemed like things were shaping up for both of them to build on an already-solid foundation.

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There are giant words all over the screen during every cutscene. In the first hour some rich guy makes a joke about trickle down economics; the screen gets split in half, one piece gets slid over, frozen and black-and-whited, and 'TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS' pops up in it while the action continues in the other half. Guy Ritchie is adapting a book all over my screen, and I don't really get it. I guess the punchline is that it's kind of refreshing to see giant words after playing so many games that are obsessed with putting giant numbers all over my TV!

I can think of one other game where giant words all over the screen was a selling point, and it's whatever Splinter Cell game that was. I played that Splinter Cell game splitscreen, sitting on my friend's futon in his cheap apartment and getting sweaty. Not because of the game; it was summer and all he had was one of those great plastic window fans. Well, whatever. My hands never sweat when I'm playing videogames, anyway. Ever. That's a real genetic advantage, right there. I guess that Splinter Cell game was pretty fun. The big words were stupid.

Anyway: I like my big-budget action-movie videogames to be mechanically straightforward and aesthetically confident. Ideally, their stories are dirty and hopeless. 'Max Payne 3' is all the things that I like, so I guess I will go ahead and like it.

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'Alan Wake's American Nightmare' is about escaping meaningless fires to pop songs. It's not as cool as it sounds. Limp-wristed QTEs get in between you and the switches you need to hit; every time you pick up a plot-related item it will leave its watermark on the corner of your screen until you figure out how to use it; there is always at least 10 times the ammunition you could ever need scattered about your immediate vicinity. These and other face-against-wall ideas are scattered all throughout this little game like tiny, chewy raisins in an otherwise just-OK bagel or surprise walnuts in what you already thought was a too-cakey brownie.

Alan finds himself wandering around a dreamlike ghost town where his own personal Dark Tobey Maguire is wreaking havoc on the local townspeople (three women). Alan tries to save them, fails and gets returned to the beginning of the game to try again. Things change each time - the dumb women Alan is trying to help start to get a clue - until Alan ultimately, uh, does whatever. On the way you'll get to experience the revolutionary game mechanics of Pistol, Shotgun, Grenade, and Third-Person Shoot. To be fair, another major mechanic is that you have to blast enemies with your battery-draining flashlight before they're vulnerable to traditional gunfire, and this is almost cool. Except! You're constantly equipped with enough batteries and backup flares to stop an army of shadow-zombies dead in its tracks at any moment.

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