Saturday, December 8, 2012

Entanglement - Fun for free


Entanglement
How about a nice relaxing puzzle game to start the day? Entanglement plays like an ancient oriental board game. Your aim is simply to match the hexaganol tiles to create the longest line possible. As you can tell from the screen shot above, it doesn’t stay simple for long. It’s beautiful, addictive and free. Check it out.
I've looped back once. Can I go round the middle and do it again?
I've doubled back once. Can I go round the middle and do it again?
You create your line by placing hexagonal tiles. Each tile has a number of routes carved into it, and you can to rotate the tiles to guide your line down new paths. Here’s where it gets really addictive. You get bonus points for doubling back and sending your route through tiles you’ve previously placed. Just when you think you’ve reached a dead end, you can place a crafty U-turn that sends your red line snaking back through ten or more tiles and then – Blammo! 100 points and an enormous sense of satisfaction.
Pretty soon I realised that it’s possible to plan ahead and position the unused routes on each tile to set up a secondary path that can hopefully be used to double back later on. There’s also a backup tile that you can swap in at will. This allows you to snatch a tile with a convenient U-turn to use later on.
Yes, twice! Kapow! Massive points.
Once you’ve earned yourself a respectable score, you can upload it to the global leaderboard, which means picking suitably Zen name for yourself. While the choices may not strike fear into the heart of others, the choices match the calm feeling of the game.  Click here to play the game. Give it a whirl, and tell us your high score and Zen name in the comments.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Walking Dead - A Big Hit


Sometimes, life seems too shiny; shiny in the sense that all of the niceties and posturing that have become part of modern everyday life are merely masks  all people are taught from birth to wear; a mask people use to cover up their true human nature. What, you ask, is the true nature of man? If you’ve taken a philosophy class at San Diego State (Which I haven't) , you’ll know true human nature rears its ugly head almost everywhere you look, from politics to war to third-world countries and low-income communities.
Yet, flaws and all, what humans have today is paradise compared to the desperate, melancholy and zombie-ridden world developer Telltale Games has masterfully created in its latest and best episodic game series. Based on the wildly popular transmedia universe, “The Walking Dead” began as a humble comic book series and has now become a three-word legend on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, you name it.
Like its past games, Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” is basically a point-and-click adventure spanning five episodes. You may be aware Telltale’s past movie-to-game adaptations, such as “Back to the Future,” received predominantly negative reviews with a common consensus that the gameplay mechanics killed the otherwise-solid story, animation and voice acting. Rest assured, however, Telltale didn’t make the same mistakes again with “The Walking Dead.”
Before getting into the game, a little background is needed to understand what’s going on (don’t worry, relatively no spoilers here, but if you want everything fresh and new, you should skip this paragraph). The player controls Lee, a convicted murderer who is literally thrust into the zombie apocalypse (hopefully, you’ll understand the reference when you play). Lee, in a fateful moment of serendipity, soon comes across an 8-year-old girl named Clementine in her backyard while searching for help. He quickly adopts her in an attempt to make amends for his crimes, a decision which drives the game’s events and choice-based story line, especially in the last few episodes.
Telltale’s choice to make “The Walking Dead” a decision-based game was an excellent one. Not only does it add replay value, but it also culminates nicely into one of the most nerve-racking, but poignantly human conversations in the last episode. All five episodes present the player with difficult choices which determine whether characters live or die. However, the first three episodes are the most powerful and emotionally taxing.
Similar to the TV show,  “The Walking Dead” video game never lets up on the dark and twisted themes central to the comic books that inspired its creation. No spoilers here, but some of the choices you’re faced with are downright disturbing. When it comes down to life or death, self-preservation becomes paramount and attracting zombies to you by making a sound to save someone else will probably not be on the top of a survivalist’s to-do list. When you get bit, there’s no cure-all shot, antidote or medicine to heal you. Instead, you die slowly and painfully, then “reanimate” as one of them. This, to me, is a very powerful theme many other games overlook without attempting to leverage the emotional turmoil of putting down a loved one who is bitten to save them from “turning” invariably produces.
One of the themes that made “The Walking Dead” comic book series so popular is its almost-flawless portrayal of the human race in its darkest hour. Again, no spoilers here, but when the game reveals the key antagonist’s motivation for harassing Lee after his death, I almost felt remorse for the decisions which led to the character’s demise. He clearly broke the insanity-border a long time ago, and yet, killing him gave no real solace to Lee or myself. Once you get to the end of episode 5, hopefully you’ll feel the same way. Because of the overwhelmingly positive fan and media reaction, Telltale has already officially announced a “second season” of “The Walking Dead” game. To add to the pomp and circumstance, the game’s first season has also been nominated for Game of the Year by several media outlets, most notably Spike’s 2012 Video Game Awards.
During my time playing and replaying, “The Walking Dead’s” gameplay remains pretty solid. Apart from a few confusing and laggy animations during fast-paced events throughout the five episodes, the point-and-click controls work well on PC, but fit comfortably on any console. In terms of environmental exploration and interaction, Telltale did a very good job with consistency, fluidity and environmental boundaries, although I don’t appreciate how Lee walks into an invisible wall when the player tries to go past a boundary. Much of what takes up game time is dialogue alone, but that was more of a pro than a con. The dialogue brought the characters to life, which made them human. Unlike “Call of Duty,” “Dead Rising” or “Resident Evil,” “The Walking Dead’s” characters aren’t indestructible juggernauts with infinite ammo and extra lives (although you can die and have to replay the specific part you failed). Not that those things aren’t fun and all, but “The Walking Dead” does so much more without those constraints common among post-apocalyptic video games and movies.
Overall, Telltale’s version of “The Walking Dead” is an absolute must-play and a probable Game of the Year winner. Out of a score of five, despite some flaws and a hard-hitting ending worthy of the comic books that spawned it, Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” earns a solid five out of five.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Black Ops 2 Campaign Review


Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - screenshot 1
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 provides players with three games in one: multiplayer, a single player campaign and an entire set of games revolving around zombies. Some players will eagerly tear through all three; others will just do one part of the game like the multiplayer.


To say developer Treyarch wasn’t aiming for something unique and different with Black Ops 2 would be denying them well-deserved praise; at the same time, there’s still just more of the same in the follow-up to the insanely popular Black Ops, a game which I felt had one of the strongest narrative stories in any Call of Duty game before or even since.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - screenshot 2
Unfortunately, an ongoing mystery akin to the “numbers” from the first Black Ops isn’t present in the sequel. While I figured out the ultimate mystery in Black Ops before the main character did, at least there was an attempt to have a storyline pay-off.
 The pay-off, instead, is in what ending you will get at the end of Black Ops 2 based on decisions you made earlier in the game.
The issue is, you might not always know when you’re making decisions. Sure, you probably should know right away that skipping or failing the Strike Force missions – which I abhorred every moment of – will result in a “bad” ending. But some decisions come down to you not moving fast enough through the battlefield. Fail—and the “decision” has been made and the story continues.
You can’t undo a mistake you make during the heat of battle. Fail to catch a bad guy in one mission as I did? Tough. There’s no checkpoint. Annoying? Sure. But impactful? Heck yes.
Oddly enough, you’ll even be given the choice to play as the bad guy of the game, Raul Menendez, and sure enough, decisions you make as him will impact the ending. Wait… what? Why would the bad guy make the “good” decision? It’s a bit off-putting, and while it helps see his perspective, it didn’t appear to belong with the rest of the story.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - screenshot 3
But at least Treyarch is attempting something different. While the characters that return from the previous Black Ops feel shoe-horned in – the numbers are barely mentioned in this game and the allusion to Mason killing JFK in the previous game is all but forgotten – the performances are quite strong. In particular, I enjoyed the camaraderie between the younger Mason and his best friend in the game, who’s given a fun, unique personality and gruffness by voice actor Michael Rooker.
And there’s a lot of incentive for replays—something I’ve never felt before in a Call of Duty game.
(Of course… this all makes me wonder how they could do a Black Ops 3 given the vast differences in the endings you could wind up with.)
As I mentioned, I did hate the so-called Strike Force missions where it’s more like a sandbox-style RPG and you play as soldier, robot or Overwatch—commanding the battlefield from the sky and issuing squad commands. The AI is so incredibly terrible, I usually went in as soldier to make sure the bad guys were killed or the mission objectives were accomplished. If I could have skipped these sections without impacting the ending, I probably would have.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - screenshot 4
Overall, the pacing is also a bit off with Black Ops 2. It starts with a very exciting mission, but then turns into quite a slow burn. However, the final three missions are incredibly epic, something that gets harder and harder to say the longer in the tooth that Call of Duty seems to get.
It’s a fairly long campaign—about eight or nine hours on normal. The story isn’t as strong as it was in Black Ops, but I’d still say it was easier to follow than either Modern Warfare 2 or Modern Warfare 3.
Whether or not future Call of Duty games will implement the idea of branching storylines is unclear. But hopefully, the next few developers will continue to push the envelope as Treyarch did—even if they don’t succeed with every new innovation.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 - screenshot 5

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Medal Of Honor - Reborn


It's easy to hate Medal of Honor: Warfighter, EA's 'ultra-authentic' terrorist-hunter starring a global assortment of Tier 1 operators decked in gear so authentic they're hard to tell apart.
This is the publisher's tenth military shooter in five years, and the genre's been tapped. We've spent a generation peering down iron sights, and Warfighter doesn't change the formula: you'll follow-the-leader in sneak missions, dash from exploding bases, control drones, consult shady informants and more than a few times hop on a turret to mop up.
Nothing new, then, but ask yourself one question: is there anything inherently wrong with that?
Medal Of Honor Warfighter Screenshot
Comparisons are often drawn between 'CoD clones' and Michael Bay's school of ADHD filmmaking, so let's run with it. Is Transformers wildly unique? Does it push boundaries? No, but it tells a decent story and had more than its fair share of explosions. Simply put, you know what you're getting. That's the ethos here - if you want fresh, play Dishonored.
Of course, since the term 'military shooter' has become almost a dirty word in some industry circles, developers Danger Close opt to justify, or perhaps divert attention from, constant killing with a little melodrama. Cutscenes in between missions detail U.S. Navy SEAL Preacher's dysfunctional relationship with his wife Lena and their daughter Bella, a relationship that is stretched each time he abandons them to join the frontlines.
Lena and Bella are less emotional anchors and more general annoyances. Let's be honest, you're here to fight, to be whisked through a shooting gallery on the end of an AK-47, told where to aim and when, and that's where the more engaging of the two conflicts lie, one set in bombed out Middle Eastern theatres rather than dreary American diners where creepy character models talk about their feelings. There's nothing wrong with a little context, but there's a lot wrong with shoehorning it in.
Fighting wars is what Warfighter does best. While not necessarily more realistic than its contemporaries, featuring knee-sliding, hip-firing and a generous dose of regenerating health, the inconsequentially of battling it out in a war zone gives the action a tone of authenticity. You're capping insurgents in unpopulated village squares, not the Oval Office.
Medal Of Honor Warfighter Screenshot
In one memorable section, you'll infiltrate a Somali coastal village lightly smattered with a few drops of rain. The further you push, the more it pours, eventually breaking the levee and spilling out tides which lap your waist. By the level's end, you're forced to extract in a military-issued RHIB motor boat, taking turns to both shoot and drive past rocket-wielding pirates firing from rooftops which happen to be floating off down the street.
Even if on-rails vehicle sections are hardly a new conceit, it's an exhilarating sequence.
Another killer linear section involves you taking a hatchback to the packed roads of Dubai, dodging black-tinted security 4x4's who object to how you've tied up their envoy and stuffed him in the trunk. It's like EA's racer Shift in rush hour, swiping the in-cockpit impact camera and searing sense of speed to violent effect. Warfighter mostly borrows, but it should get credit for creating too. A stealth variant on the car chase sees you shaking off pursuers in a hub-like residential area while you upload a malicious file onto a network, ducking into alleys when you see approaching cars on the GPS.
Medal Of Honor Warfighter Screenshot
It also handles tricky first-person cover brilliantly. You'll hold the left shoulder button to snap to walls and barriers, then use the left stick to lean in and out. You can do this standing, crouching or even prone - a tactical alternative to running-and-gunning. Killzone 2 did it first, but this does it better.

MEDDLESOME HONOR

What the game lacks in originality, it makes up for in functionality. Your tutorial takes place in a Pakistani-mountain-embedded terrorist training course which, in a body-swapping twist, you actually raid as a SEAL later. There are also several sections where you'll guide a rocket-firing MUSA demolitions robot via remote control. These may be isolated moments of creativity, but no-one can say Warfighter isn't solid at its foundation.
Multiplayer is no exception; it treads the line between Call of Duty's fast-paced close-quarters gunplay and Battlefield's 3 weighty heft, borrowing the latter's Frostbite 2 engine though dropping the framerate down and removing environmental destruction.
Medal Of Honor Warfighter Screenshot
Your classes are a selection of 12 Tier 1 operators from across the globe (though, as mentioned at the start, they all look pretty much the same), whom you can kit out with guns equipped with various stocks, optics, muzzles and barrels, unlocking more as you progress.
Guns form the main incentiviser, because apart from an efficient Battlelog matchmaking system, and seen-it-all-before equipment such as C4, wire cutters and tomahawks (all more balanced than CoD's gunships and packs of dogs but nowhere near as fun to use), there's not much to keep you going.
Multiplayer is hardly broken, but it ultimately does nothing new, and while Warfighter could get away with that in the campaign, it can't in a sphere which includes a bevy of not only competent, but fantastic online shooters.
Medal Of Honor Warfighter Screenshot
Medal of Honor: Warfighter offers no shock or revelation. There's no No Russian moment. There's no indicated trajectory where the genre as a whole is headed. But fundamentally, it works. Guns feel ferocious and enemies are satisfying to shoot (quite crucial in a shooter); memorable set-pieces break up the flow, and there's an earnest multiplayer to get involved in.
So enjoy your military shooters - they only come around a few times a year.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Farmville 2 - Just another spammer?


FarmVille 2 is the long-awaited follow-up to one of Zynga’s most consistently popular social games. Promising all-new 3D visuals, a fundamental rethinking of the farming genre’s gameplay and a specific effort to be more player-friendly, hopes are high for the new game — but does it deliver on its lofty ambitions?
Like its predecessor, FarmVille 2 casts players in the role of a custom avatar who has inherited an overgrown, abandoned farm. Through harvesting crops, caring for animals and purchasing various new items, it’s up to the player to take ownership of the farm, make it their own and make as much money as possible along the way.
So far so FarmVille — so let’s look at the differences between the two.
The first and most obvious difference is in presentation. Rather than the soulless cartoony graphics of other Zynga games, FarmVille 2 makes extensive use of 3D graphics, but deliberately keeps the models simple so the game will theoretically run well even on less powerful machines. In practice, a lot of the “3D” objects are, in fact, 2D sprites overlaid atop a basic polygonal landscape, but since it is impossible to rotate the view away from its default isometric perspective, this fact remains well-hidden to all but the most observant. The change to 3D doesn’t make a particular difference to the gameplay in and of itself, but it does give the game a distinctive aesthetic that sets it apart from its predecessor.
Another difference is in the way the player interacts with their farm. While FarmVille required players to click on everything they wanted to interact with one at a time, FarmVille 2′s “paint” system allows players to click and drag to select a whole group of, say, crops at the same time, and then the player avatar will run over and deal with them in rapid succession. There is no waiting for unnecessary progress bars to fill while actions are completed — the avatar simply hacks through crops happily and sprinkles water with gay abandon, meaning that it’s possible to get a lot done in a significantly shorter space of time than in the original. The fast pace is very much to the game’s benefit, and very reminiscent of Supercell’s Hay Day for iOS, which makes use of a similar gestural system.
Thirdly, the game has supposedly dropped the play-throttling “energy” system that has blighted most of Zynga’s games over the years. While this may initially appear to be true, it is in fact still present, just more well-disguised and marginally more player-friendly. Instead of every action costing energy, certain important actions require the use of a “water” resource. The player’s water supply gradually regenerates over time (or may be immediately topped up with hard currency) up to a hard cap — initially 30 units. This limit may be expanded by completing various building projects found in land expansions. While the “water” system is more thematically appropriate to the game, it is still clearly an energy system by another name, designed to throttle progress for non-paying players as it becomes more challenging to level up.
New social features include the ability to hire friends as farmhands, who may then be dropped on various locations around the farm to perform functions such as fertilizing crops and feeding animals. In practice, this mechanic is effectively a “reverse neighbor visit” — rather than relying on one’s friends to log in to the game and visit to help out, this allows the player to use the players they have already invited to their advantage, even if they’re not actively playing. It is, of course, also possible to go and visit friends’ farms in the usual manner, with small daily rewards on offer for players who do so. Many buildings also require friends’ cooperation to complete — or the expenditure of hard currency.
The social mechanics are supported by compatibility with Zynga’s “community” feature, meaning that it’s possible for players who are not Facebook friends with one another to play together and help each other out. The game does not, however, do a very good job of explaining how this works — clicking on one of the “add friend” buttons at the base of the screen simply brings up the usual Facebook invite dialog box.
Speaking of invitations, the game is rather pushy about posting stories to the player’s Timeline, asking them to invite friends and send free gifts. Early in the game, the player is confronted with several non-dismissable “Invite Friends” dialog boxes, and upon completing every quest, the game automatically ticks an easily-missed “Share Rewards” box that silently posts to the player’s Timeline. Even if this box is unchecked by the player once, it automatically rechecks itself with every new completed quest, making it easy for the game to build up a ton of Timeline spam without the player realizing it. Facebook’s new methods of organizing Timeline content do at least collect all these stories together into a single activity box, but in the meantime it’s possible that the game could clutter up a lot of friends’ News Feeds. Players should be able to uncheck the box by default and only share specific achievements that they would like to post, rather than the default being to share everything.
Ultimately, FarmVille 2 tries hard to take a step forward with its distinctive 3D visuals, efficient control scheme and use of interconnected systems to make the farm feel much more “realistic.” But the new title remains mired in the past by the established conventions of social gaming — progress throttling; Timeline spam; enforced “socialization” that is, in fact, not all that “social”; not-so-subtle nudges in the direction of monetization options. Zynga had the opportunity to try something truly different here; instead they have produced a game that, while a worthy sequel to one of its most popular titles, certainly isn’t going to change the minds of any social gaming skeptics.

Play

While a worthy successor to FarmVille and thus likely to enjoy a good degree of success, it’s a little disappointing to see FarmVille 2 relying on so many of social gaming’s least endearing conventions.

Bf3's After Math may have Dinosaurs?

If you are a Battlefield 3 player, there is a lot of great content to look forward to, with the next expansion pack being Armored Kill followed by the mystery Aftermath and End Game DLC packs. DICE are staying silent on what the final packs will contain, but there has been prolonged speculation that it may have something to do with a dinosaur survival mode.
Reasons why BF3 Aftermath DLC will include dinosaurs
The very mention of Battlefield 3 and dinosaurs shouldn’t be too alien to you, as if you have played Wake Island to death you may have already discovered that DICE has planted several toy dinosaurs in the map. If you haven’t seen them yet, you can watch the video below which shows this exactly.
Although talk of a secret dinosaur mode has been evident since Battlefield 3 first launched last year, interest in this mode has considerably picked up after the Battlefield Twitter account officially acknowledged a user question relating to dinosaurs. The reply from DICE to the user asked whether the dinosaur mode should be dinosaurs vs humans and immediately received countless retweets from fans who were excited to see DICE acknowledge this finally.
But there’s even more. DICE’s community manager replied to a follow up thread on Reddit, by saying that if fans wanted to get their points across to EA regarding a dinosaur mode – they should try to get #BF3Dinos trending on Twitter. We’re not sure if it did end up trending at one point, but doing a search for BF3Dinos certainly brings up a lot of feedback from BF3 owners who obviously want to see this become a reality.
Is it already in development though we ask, and this is just the first step in DICE’s marketing campaign to build up anticipation? We’ve read some pretty amazing clues online and it does seem to suggest that dinosaurs are coming to the game in some capacity. It was originally thought that ‘End Game’ would end up being the expansion that features dinosaurs, but now due to the unveiling of a fifth expansion pack, it is most likely to be Aftermath now.
Firstly, take a look at the official cover art for Aftermath which DICE has released. We see what appears to be a man running in the rain with a flare in his hand. There’s also possibly a car in the background and the man could be wearing a pair of goggles as well. Does this sound familiar to you?

You may not be aware of this, but a scene in the famous Jurassic Park movie shows Jeff Goldblum’s character in a very similar scenario. During the T-Rex scene shown at 1m37s below, he is seen running away from the T-Rex with a flare in his hand – there’s also a car in the background and it’s also raining.
This still may be a coincidence to some of you, but there are still a few other pieces of evidence. There’s also a dinosaur reference on Gulf of Oman which you may not have spotted yet, while BF3 gameplay designer Alan Kertz even teased fans with this picture showing two lego figures – one in a dinosaur suit and another with a gun who is wearing goggles.
All these hints are too blatent to just be a coincidence in our opinion. The flare cover art inspired by Jurassic Park seems like a dead giveaway and in the build up to Aftermath releasing, it will probably be a big surprise if we don’t see dinosaurs included.
What do you make of all these clues? Could we possibly be seeing a survival type mode, where you can jump on vehicles to escape from the charging dinosaurs? It sounds really epic and we just hope that it comes true. Don’t forget that Aftermath is due out before the end of the year. Let us know if you have any input to these theories. Presuming that dinosaurs are coming to BF3 – how would DICE be able to make it work?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Halo 4 - The Best Halo Ever?


Halo 4 Review

Halo isn’t allowed to die just because Bungie and Microsoft parted ways. It’s too big, too popular, and too vital to the Xbox brand to simply fade into obscurity. And so 343 Industries was assembled, and handed the keys to one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time. Its task was significant, and expectations were massive. With Halo 4, 343 has proven itself not only proficient in building a Halo game, but capable of building a better Halo franchise in a post-Bungie world.
Halo 4 paints a portrait of a much calmer universe in the years following Halo 3, letting John-117--better known to the world he saved as the Master Chief--spend his years of stasis in a half-destroyed spaceship undisturbed. Outside the Chief’s chamber, his AI companion Cortana acts as a watchdog, though not without a price: She is slowly slipping into a state called Rampancy, a fate akin to dementia that eventually befalls all AI. After four years of silence, she is forced to hesitantly wake John when the ship he’s on is scanned by a mysterious force. Before long, the Chief is involved in another galactic conflict, attempting to prevent an ancient Forerunner from unleashing his Promethean soldiers on an unsuspecting, peaceful Earth.
Halo 4 Review

Halo 4’s narrative is enthralling, and much better in structure than the series’ predecessors. The characters feel multidimensional and have strong personalities, running in stark contrast to past clich├ęd heroes and villains. More important is Master Chief, who has had a personality overhaul of sorts to make him more than a generic intergalactic hero. Cortana’s slow deterioration has forced a personality out of him, creating the Chief everyone imagined, but wasn’t really there--the interesting, complex, and (more importantly) broken man he was always said to be. The Spartan program tore him apart and put him back together, and though he didn’t let it show in the original games, this mental scarring is deep, and has grown into fruition in Halo 4, explaining the stoic character completely.
This story is held up on the shoulders of wonderful gameplay, and a campaign that keeps things varied by traveling between interesting locations to make for varied battles. Halo’s combat has always had a certain physicality to it that makes it feel more substantial and tangible. This is something which not only exists in Halo 4, but thrives. Seeing a vehicle in the distance means you can destroy or pilot it, and firefights often take place across sprawling mountain tops or in fields. Personal, intimate encounters with foes exist, but they’re spread between massive battlegrounds where the Chief is tasked with taking on dozens of enemies in vehicles.
Halo 4 Review
These encounters are the bread and butter of Halo, and though other action-packed cinematic elements have been weaved throughout the story, there’s still plenty of classic action, and it’s as good as it has ever been.
Sadly, it’s also a bit shorter than it’s ever been, clocking in at around six hours on Normal and a good deal more as the difficulty is ramped up. Length wouldn’t be an issue if the pacing didn’t also feel a little rushed, as if the campaign was attempting to get the story with as quickly as possible. Chief will often step through glowing portals and land exactly where he needs to be, which, whilepartially explained and given context, still feels like a cop-out to expedite getting from point A to point B. When you step into a portal and land in the middle of a raging battle without anyone addressing the convenience of it all, you’ll start to feel like Halo 4 has some place to be, and it isn’t with you.
The basic gameplay of Halo didn’t need much work, but 343 upgraded features where it made sense. The addition of sprinting is helpful, but you’ll likely wish it was joined by iron sights, at least for some of the awesome new guns you’ll pick up. It's not that it's necessary--far from it--but with so many other elements shifting forward it feels out of place when zooming in on a pistol changes the entire screen. Other elements where it tried to evolve, such as canned assassination animations when you melee enemies from behind, fall flat, as it puts visual flare over gameplay, since you’re still vulnerable to gunfire while Chief throws an enemy down and stabs him.
Halo 4 Review
The aforementioned changes definitely makes things feel more advanced, and help the multiplayer side of Halo--which has always been among the best when it comes to online shooters--catch up with the competition. Sprinting is joined by Ordinance Drops (similar to kill streak rewards), weapon and item loadouts, and deeper customization to allow you to create the Spartan that’s right for you. These definitely help modernize the Halo experience, even if they only have it falling in line with the modern era of shooters, instead of actually speeding past them. Multiplayer has also been given context, tying into the lore that the United Nations Space Command has partially revived the Spartan project in Master Chief’s absence. All multiplayer now falls after the “Infinity” moniker, a part of the game where squads of soldiers compete in wargames to up their skill, fighting in typical Halo multiplayer battles.
The area where Halo 4 truly revolutionizes is with Spartan Ops, a new cooperative story mode that’ll be rolled out weekly following release. Spartan Ops follows a squad of Spartans as they take on different operations around the galaxy. Built for co-op play, these free mini-missions are absolutely thrilling, providing classic Halo campaign battles in an episodic, easy-to-digest nature. The idea that five new missions will be available each week for ten weeks--adding around four or five hours of gameplay a month--nearly makes up for the abridged campaign, and we’re excited to see how it changes in the months following release, providing a glimpse into what may truly be the future of gaming. Or at least the future of post-release support for a game.
Halo 4 Review
While 343 builds on the world, expands on characters, and adds to the lore of the Halo universe, its greatest focus in Halo 4 was investing in Master Chief--and a wise investment it was. By doing this, 343 Industries’ Halo 4 establishes itself not as “the next” Halo game, or “another sequel,” but instead opts to be a new beginning for the franchise--one with more commitment to its characters. It’s refreshing to see the series admit its shortcomings and catch up with its contemporaries without sacrificing what makes it unique, and that’s just what Halo 4 does, creating a name for itself without relying on its popularity, and getting us excited to start, continue, and one day finish the fight all over again.