The last Halo game to be made by Halo’s creators, Bungie. Now that’s not to say there won’t be anymore Halo games, Microsoft owns that franchise and will milk it for what it’s worth. They just don’t own Bungie anymore and those guys are ready for something new. They even say goodbye to the franchise and thank the fans in the credits. Do they go out with a bang? Hellz yes they do! Currently sitting with a well deserved 92 on metacritic, I’m gonna go with a solid 9/10. I’ll be talking about single player mode of course. I might go a little longer than usual with this one 😉
The Good – First off, I gotta mention some technical stuff here. The thing I noticed when I 1st booted it up, was how fast it loaded, in comparison to pt. 3 and ODST of course. Those games were painful to boot up if they weren’t in your cache or whatever those guys did. It’s just smooth how quick I’m able to get up and going when I turn it on. Second, that new graphics engine….man, it’s sweet. Halo 3 & ODST were some really good looking games, but IMO, there was something about them, maybe the way they meshed with everything else….just felt, I dunno, out of date. Especially when you look at the Gears games. Now I wouldn’t say Reach looks as good as a Gears, but it holds it’s own with it’s own style, and pushes the fact that we don’t need new gen consoles just yet. Even the cutscenes are all in game, done way better than in the past, all keeping a fluidity to the presentation. Detail is definitely improved, and colors have a more realistic tone to them. There are times when you’re on a cliff, you look over and there’s war going on in the distance, it really gives an epic feel to the situation.
With Halo, or any other game for that matter, you come for the presentation, then stay for the gameplay. Yeah son, it delivers big time. If you’re a long time Halo fan, then you’ll feel right at home. Bungie took the ‘if ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach for the most part, like usual. Though they did add some improvements. Riding the Warthog feels so much smoother than it did before. Since you don’t dual wield in this one, they put the reload button back on X, and they put melee on the RB, which feels just right. Grenade switching with the B button is a little weird though. Honestly, I don’t miss dual wielding, the lack of it worked fine in ODST and here as well. Sneaking up on foes and holding melee provides a damn satisfying stealth kill with a knife. And as with any new Halo game, some new weapons are thrown in for good measure. As m’man Jamie mentioned in his previous post, the weapons list is ridiculous, so I’ll just highlight a few that I really liked. The concussion rifle, the covenant’s answer to a grenade launcher, makes short work of anything in it’s path, it makes me feel safe when I have it. The plasma repeater, I’ve always loved the plasma gun, this is sort of bigger brother to it, unfortunately it became a bit ineffective towards the end for me, but I’ll get to that later. There’s a few more goodies there too. Throughout the campaign, I felt they mixed up the selection pretty well, so I was able to get a good feel to most of the weapons this time around. It kept the action fresh for me.
The power ups. What. an. improvement. Seriously, they introduced these in Halo 3, problem was, they were weird icons where I didn’t know what did what. I dunno if I’m alone on this one, but I pretty much didn’t use them cuz in the heat of battle, I don’t have time to figure out what the apple core looking thing does. Here, it’s all money. Huge color specific icons when you go to pick them up, that show a pic of what the soldier does. If it’s fast running, there’s a dude running, if it’s armor, there’s a dude crouching in a huddle position, if it’s a jetpack….well, you get the idea. Speaking of jetpacks, how can you not love those things. There’s an awesome strategy thrown in, in which the powers are for a limited time, but do recharge quickly. Which means you can’t just fly through the whole level, but it gets you to some spots easier than just running up there, or my favorite, in the heat of battle. I can’t tell you how many times a Brute would come rushing at me with his 1-hit kill hammer, I would boost away, shooting while looking down, screaming at the TV as he keeled over. It’s pretty awesome. No matter how you cut it or slice it, this is Halo 4 with a prequel story. This one definitely has my favorite gameplay and fighting out of all the Halo games. And it’s definitely the best Halo package well worth the 60 bux I’ll put down on it. Sorry, I really dug ODST, but it was an EXPANSION to Halo 3 that should’ve been cheaper, they lied and charged full price. But anyways, I can go on all day about how cool it was to do this, or do that, but the gushing has to come to end folks. Time to touch up on what I feel are some of the flaws.
The Bad – As with most games, I like to play on normal mode, for I feel this is how I think the developer wanted the player to experience their creation the first time through. A solid challenge is what makes a game fun to play to me….do you know what doesn’t make it fun? When that challenge becomes ball-punching abuse. Reach’s campaign is crazy awesome fun, then at the last couple levels, things get knocked a little out of balance as you’ll get to areas where you’re too overwhelmed with enemies. You’ll get to sections with Hunters where instead of a fun battle, they’re just a pain in the ass cuz you’ll die so much, yes I know they were always toughies, but you will unload MANY clips. Some of the elites come flying through with frickin almost invincible armor. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but when I have to reload more than twice, and their shields still aren’t down, it gets annoying. I know it’s supposed to be the last hurrah and all that good stuff, but there’s other ways of making a battle feel epic without just making enemies too strong.
There’s a space ship flying section…..which is actually pretty cool, but there are times there, restarting a checkpoint for a 6th time, just pissed me the hell off. I felt the game took maybe an hour or so to really get going, I mean, I’m all excited when I 1st fire it up…..then I sit there like, ok, it’s Halo….basically, some of the new stuff could’ve been introduced a little quicker. The story, ah yes…..titanic syndrome, since much has been made about the book Reach is based on, we know the planet goes down in the end. So no surprises there…..while the cutscenes look awesome, again, maybe I’m alone in this, but I can’t tell you what the hell just happened…they didn’t exactly engage me, it’s like, ok, get me to the next level. They shoulda brought some of that cool storytelling style from ODST over. Some of the new weapons aren’t really given a chance to flesh out their potential to gameplay…..how many times did we get to use the target locator? Halo’s own hammer of dawn, once I think?
The Ugly – There are some dark moments in this one….when you first come back to the planet after the covenant has ravished everything….buildings burning in the background, bodies all over the place, it’s a creepy site. Either that or I ran out of steam and didn’t know what to put in this section 😉
Channeling that awesome Nate Dogg album? Naw, double R here and what’s been on my mind. Like the top of the blog says, as a couple of old dudes(we in our 30s yo!), we’ve seen gaming go through some serious transformations. If you’ve heard us on the podcast(we hope you have), you’ll know I’m big into the audio, music, etc. of gaming. We’ve seen games go from the simple bleep-bloops, to the NES days which has music known as chip tunes today. Super Nintendo rolled around and brought “CD quality” sound as the box put it. Then once games were stored on disc, there was no limitation to the music quality of games. Sure, sound effects may not have been up to snuff all the time, voice acting too, but bigger and better chips were put in the consoles. So here we are today, where if you play a lot of games with your eyes closed, you’d think you were watching a big hollywood movie.
Back in the 16-bit days, once I got a feel for the game’s sound, I could just throw on a Wu-Tang Clan CD and zone out. Effectively killing 2 entertainment birds with one stone, but today’s a little different for me. Real world and all that good stuff, free time is precious, and we have to really balance our entertainment options, what I usually call my ‘eff off’ time. Because really, talk to some people, and god forbid if I’m not doing anything productive in my free time. You know the type, where it’s okay to sit and read a book for an hour, but if you sit and play a video game for that time, there’s something wrong with you. Okay, I’m veering off topic here, that’s another subject for another day. Anyways…
I may not consume nowhere near as much new music as I did when I was 15, but I do like to listen to podcasts. Looking at my weekly rotation, I got 9 of them on that plate….now that’s alot. I’ll get back to that in minute. With today’s games, audio cues and sound effects are pretty important to listen to. In Gears Of War, when the music starts to pump, you know shit’s on. Then you get the sound that tells you the area’s clear and you can breathe again. In shooters, surround sound is awesome, not just in quality, but adding to the gameplay. Hey, if there’s a dude behind you to the left, you’ll literally know it because of the surround sound. Sound has to invoke emotional response too sometimes, take horror games for example. The sound plays a big part in instilling fear into the player. And then there’s the actual music quality. Man, I appreciate some good musical scores I tell ya…the Halos, Bioshocks, and Silent Hills are few franchises that come to mind.
So what I’m basically saying is, that how I used to play aurally when I was 15, I can’t really do as much anymore. Obviously by choice, but I’d really hate to miss out on the awesome work that goes into videogame audio. But today’s gaming does give me a compromise, in the way of downloadable games. Check out my reviews and you’ll know I go through my fair share. What’s great is, with most of them, I can hear what they have to offer, but since they’re small experiences, you don’t have to monitor the sound the whole time. And I can throw on that Wu-Tang album…I can listen listen to one of those podcasts…I can hold a conversation with someone without missing an important cue. Videogame sound is great and I love it. I get that there’s cats out there who couldn’t care less. Hey, it’s all good, different strokes for different folks and all that good stuff. But to the peeps who have any kind of appreciation for videogame sound, how do you guys like to rock it?
I came across some interesting screen shots of the new Unreal Engine. I know the Gears of War story is kind of played out, it’s not that impressive in it’s scope. Alien mad. Invade earth. Kill Humans. Humans Revolt. Etc etc. But, it’s all about killing Aliens anyways? Kind of like a pron movie who cares about the plot. (rich does L O L) So there’s some new screen shots that quite frankly look more like uncharted than Gears of War. Could they go that route and add in jungle fighting? Maybe? I saw DO ITTTT because I f’in love Gears of War. =)
So you just got a new xbox 360 and you’re not staring at the wall wondering what in the world to purchase. Maybe the 59.99 new game price tag is scaring you, maybe you don’t want to pay MORE on top of the new system you just bought, maybe you have to run or you are ok with spending money for what’s considered to be the best games. Well here’s a little guide towards purchasing games for the new xbox 360 owner. I’m going to post this with the thought that my partner in crime will add something in the comments! 🙂
Away we go.
1. Gears of War – Exclusive to Xbox – First person shooter, Mature Language. This is the game that really kicked off the xbox 360 craze in my book. This game is to the 360 what Halo was to the original Xbox. I read a stat that nearly all of the new consoles in the year this game out were bought with a copy of Gears of War. It’s a Third person with a switch to First person shooter set in a post apocolyptic world. You kill aliens while cursing, yelling and taking a heck of a lot of cover. The graphics are gorgeous. It’s also a moderate length game. Only the most extreme gamers will finish this in one setting though. You’re looking at 12 or so hours. The best part is that there is a good amount of replay value due to the harder settings. See Also Halo 3, Gears of War 2, Rainbow 6 Vegas, and Call of Duty.Price 19.99 used.
2. Lego Star Wars – Not Exclusive to any system – RPG-light action. Family oriented. This is a wonderful game for the non shooter/blood types. Maybe you want to jump from your nintendo days into something a little more. This game is a two button game solving puzzles and jumping over spaces on your own or with a teammate. Sound familiar? The story is easy to digest and very light humor that will leave you giggling in parts. You can easily put in 80-100 hours. About 8x the normal game.You can also subsiute Lego Star Wars with Indiana jones, batman, or the new Lego Harry Potter (no release date). The Lego Star Wars one is considered to be the best of the 3 due to the following of a well known story. Price 17.99
3. Grand Theft Auto 4 – Non-exclusive to any system – Heavy Violence,Graphic Language,Sexual Content. If you loved any gta game before this, this game will drive you wild with excitement. I think our kid is still giggling over this game and it’s been a year since release. There is a MASSIVE world to run around in. You’ll do any number of jobs within the city. The radio stations are as varied as they are epic in it’s quality. The cutscenes are no joke. The violence is over the top so this is not geared towards the faint of heart. Price 39.99
4. Fallout 3 – Core gameplay not exclusive to any system but DLC is exclusive for a time. Heavy Violence. We constantly talk up this game on the podcast. So much so we devoted an entire one to it. It’s extremely easy to pick up for the uninitiated gamer though it make take a hour or two to get “into” the game. It starts off slow but when it picks up, it’s an EXPLOSION. There is enormous amounts of game-play in either 3rd person or 1st person and you’re not exclusivly set to either setting. There are multiple updates for the game that cost 10$ more that add more content into the game. You can specialize your character to have abilities and weapons that make you unique in your own way. I’ve talked to multiple people on how they play the game and everyone says something different. See also : Obvilion (fantasy version) and Mass Effect. Price 54.99
5. Fable 2 – Exclusive to xbox360 – Mature theme’s, Action-adventure. This is a “role playing game” of sorts. To me this game is a almost 100. With the only exception being lack of clothing you are given. It’s THAT close to being perfect for me. The game-play can be challenging at times but 90% of your game-play is playing part of a wonder full fantasy story line. You are given vast expanses of land, though not as large as other games, to explore. You’re given a dog that does commands like fetch a ball or play dead….And you’re given a dog. Which is so awesome it’s worth mentioning twice. Casting spells is easy, maybe too easy, you just press and hold a button but still fun. You can make your spells stronger through leveling up screens and nearly every choice you make has a outcome on your story. It’s WoW without the addiction. There is DLC for this game but not to the extent of Fallout 3. Price 39.99 used
Just seen on joystiq that there’s a Gears of War 2 map expansion disc(I’m assuming the disc part) coming out.*Edit*-Got too excited, sounds like there’s a disc and it’ll be on Xbox Live for 20bux on July 28th. Now I normally don’t care about these things cuz I rarely do the online multiplayer thing anymore, but this is what caught my eye, a deleted campaign chapter called “Road to Ruin.” The J-man and I have expressed our love for the Gears series many times on the cast, so I’m stoked to have more campaign love…..is that weird?…WHO CARES?!? GIMME MORE GEARS!! 🙂 Check out Marcus and Dom pimpin Theron outfits!