Monthly Archives: September 2007

Halo 3 Thoughts

I’ll have some spoilers in this post, so you might want to avoid it if you haven’t finished the campaign. I’ll black out any that directly talk about what happens at the end, but I won’t mark obvious or minor ones. Consider yourself warned.

Anyway…the biggest game of the year has arrived and I’ve finished it, as have millions of others, no doubt. All the speculation about how they’d close it – in my case whether or not they’d fire the rings and kill everyone – have been answered and now all we have to show for it is one of the most complete multiplayer games ever made. It’s a hard life…

Master Chief vs a Scarab: no contest

Overall I loved the game, and with the exception of one massive low – mission 8 on heroic was like jabbing myself in the eye for 40 minutes – I thought that the campaign was up there with the first game. In fact I’d probably say it was better since Halo wasn’t without its own infamously bad level and Halo 3 was much less liberal with the repetition of environments, at least dressing them up differently or changing things around. Off the top of my head there are three missions here that I could play until my thumbs drop off and not bore of them – The Storm, The Ark, and The Covenant – up there with The Silent Cartographer and Assault on the Control Room as classics.

Multiplayer is as supreme as it was back in the beta and little has changed since my initial impressions. Big Team Battle on Valhalla with a team of friends is dangerously close to a perfect multiplayer experience, and it’s the new features that allow you to relive it that I want to talk about.

Even if they haven’t yet been matched for depth, Halo 2 was the big step towards making persistent stats a standard feature that has been co-opted for the likes of Battlefield 2 and Resistance. Halo 3 just takes it to the next level, with everything that Halo 2 had and more, including the screenshot facility that we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of as the popularity grows (see Gran Turismo 4, Forza 2, PGR3, etc). Just going to the stats page for a game lets you view all of the saved media of the best moments such as my double laser kill from across the map (plug). I love taking screenshots to show off the stunning lighting in the game, and the above screen is one such example from my campaign.

The sharing features, coupled with Forge (I’ll link to Bungie’s explanantion since I’ve barely scratched the surface) and the way that it allows you to essentially make custom game modes to be shared and recommended amongst the whole community pushes what LittleBigPlanet will be doing, just with little things like a single player mode and orthodox multiplayer. That’s not a bash of LBP since I want it badly, but the fact that many of these revolutionary features are available right now in Halo 3 – a first-person shooter, in case you’ve forgotten – is why it’s getting all these tens.

I’ll end, aptly, with my thoughts on the ending. It didn’t do what I expected but I found it very satisfying and a great way to finish up the story. Things are still open to some extent (I hope this doesn’t mean Halo 4, though) but it gave closure. I enjoyed how it bookended the whole thing, as the Halo trilogy began with Master Chief getting out of his cryo-pod with little information on his past and ended with him getting into one with a similarly uncertain future. Beautifully done and impressively understated. But in case I haven’t been clear about this, leave the story where it is.

Not one ‘finish the fight’ reference. I’m so proud.

Consolevania’s Halo Parody

I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the new Halo 3 TV ad, which may or may not spoil the whole thing for everyone (Bungie has assured everyone that it doesn’t), and if you haven’t watched it you should. I’ll wait here until you’re finished.

When that’s done you need to watch this absolutely sublime parody, created by the Consolevania team:

Superb, and oh so true.

Warhawk

These are unusual times. I’ve found a PS3 game to play and we’ve got a proper game that’s being digitally distributed. ‘Proper’ meaning not a touched up classic and not a £5 twin-stick shooter. It’s something new to console gaming and I really like it – Sony’s taken what could easily have been the next Shadowrun and done it right, making what’s probably my favourite PS3 game yet.

The Warhawk concept has been reinvented as a multiplayer-only Battlefield clone which, to be fair, is the game you want to copy if you’re making a multiplayer war game. And like Battlefield, it suffers from fairly average infantry and ground combat mechanics that are entirely forgiveable in light of some superlative aerial combat. While limiting yourself to the dogfight servers means missing out on certain dimensions of the gameplay, it’s the best way to guarantee a good game without the risk of being left behind without even a wheeled vehicle to carry you into the fray.

I inevitably gravitated towards flying the titular aircraft with sticks (I make no secret of my dislike of the ‘waggle’ fad), a setup which gives one stick to traditional flight and the other to the necessary aerobatics that make dodging and weaving between rock formations quick and intuitive. It never fails to be exciting when you have 16 wingmen flying with you towards the inevitable chaos of missiles and flak that await in the middle.

Warhawk isn’t particularly fully-featured and seems to have constant issues with connections and stats which should really be ironed out by now, but Sony has gone about it in the right way by making it £20 (or £40 on disc with a Bluetooth headset). To make the Shadowrun comparison again, that was also light on content but sold at retail for £50, and look how that turned out.

If this is a way to sidestep crippling development costs while still giving us proper next-gen games, I’m all for it. Of course I still want my big budget BioShocks and blockbusting Halos, but we can’t afford to spend £50 on every game that comes along.

That Sinking Feeling…

You know the feeling when you suddenly realise that you’ve done something stupid and need to check just to make absolutely sure in case you’re not? My 360 gave me that last week.

I’m not talking about the red rings – although that would certainly induce a sinking feeling two weeks before Halo – but how I lost EVERY SINGLE ONE of my saves. Ten hours of BioShock gone: start again; my nearly-maxed-out Crackdown character: lost; halfway through the last mission in GRAW 2: nope, try again. BioShock is the one that really got me because most of my games are finished and I always have the cheat mode in Crackdown if I want to mess around, but still. It’s my record of hundreds of hours that’s just vanished.

For no apparent reason my 360 started logging me out of Live whenever I tried to get into the online modes of a game. It would let me access my friends list and such, but just dropped the connection when I tried to play. I tried the usual tricks – logging in again, restarting, connection test – all with no joy, which left the option of recovering my account to see if that worked.

Before you delete the account it gives you the option to either delete just the account itself or to delete all the saves, DLC, and such associated with it. I chose to delete the account only and then proceeded to recover it, a process that inexplicably takes up to an hour.

That done, I logged in fine and went into the beta which now worked fine. Then I noticed that my custom class was missing, and the eponymous notion kicked in. I loaded up BioShock since it was in the drive where I was only given the option to start a new game, and a random XBLA game (Symphony of the Night) was the same. Fuck.

I even went as far in my recovery efforts as buying an Xport 360, hoping that they had persisted somewhere in the depths of the drive but no, they were gone. As great as BioShock is I don’t know if I want to go all the way back to Fort Frolic from scratch again, taking the time to find all the secrets that I discovered the first time, and the rock to that hard place is that I don’t know if I’ll go back later when I have Halo 3 and COD4 to play. I don’t even know if getting a save from someone else will work since they tightened up the save security in the last Dash update.

Still…at least I’ve still got the touch in Call of Duty.