Tag Archives: 343 Industries

Halo 5: Guardians Review

Halo 5 ReviewHalo 5: Guardians (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 24
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries
Release Date: October 27th, 2015

Parent Talk: Halo 5: Guardians has been rated T for teenagers 13 and up. The only disclaimer mentioned is for blood, mild language, and violence. The Halo franchise isn’t overly realistic, and while violent, there aren’t ample amount of blood. Typically you’re fighting aliens, robotic enemies, and creatures that sort of fit in-between those descriptions.

Plays Like: It seems obvious to say the game plays like the rest of the Halo games before, but I should really say that it plays very closely to Halo 4, which was a more modern take on the series. The same evolution made to the gunplay and mechanics returns here. You have access to a wide assortment of weapons, vehicles, and some fun extra abilities such as a running dash.

Review Basis: Microsoft sent us a review code, and I played through the entire campaign on Normal difficulty, as well as tried out the various multiplayer modes and maps on scheduled multiplayer days. I’ll edit the review once the game is live so that I can experience the multiplayer under normal conditions.

It has been almost three years since Halo 4 hit the scene, and a lot has changed since that time. First-person shooters have continued to gain popularly, and the Halo franchise is larger than ever. 343 industries proved they were willing to take risks with the series after Bungie left with Halo Reach, although they did stumble a big with the Master Chief Collection. Is Halo 5: Guardians their way of making up for the lackluster collection, or is this another game that just don’t quite hit the mark?

Halo 5_1The Great:

Multiplayer has reached new heights of awesome. From the incredible four-player coop campaign, which I touch on a bit later on, to the extensive competitive multiplayer modes, Halo 5 has got what it takes to stay in your Xbox One until Halo 6 is released, and no I’m truly not joking. From the absolutely fantastic 24-player Warzone mode, to all the customization options make this one a keeper. Warzone offers the largest maps ever seen in a Halo game. Matches often last upwards of 30 minutes, and you score points not only from achieving your primary objective, but also from capturing key locations, taking down difficult NPCs, and much more.

As you play you earn REQ points, which can be used to purchase powerful weapons and items. You have to be very careful how you spend these points though, do you save them for a Scorpion tank, or does your team improve their initial loadout with more powerful weapons? I love how strategy is built into everything now. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a dominate strategy as players get used to this mechanic.

Customization options are intense, allowing you to select from 15 multiplayer maps, 8 gameplay modes including Slayer, Capture-the-Flag, Stronghold, Breakout, SWAT, Free-for-All Slayer, Shotty Snipers, and Neutral Flag. Then there are all the options for loadouts, etc.

Halo 5_2The Good:

  • The storyline is interesting, and the new villain is far deeper than all other enemies previously introduced in the Halo universe. The story is far less black and white, and by the end you may find yourself actually siding with the protagonist saying their motives are actually quite sound.
  • The banter between Locke and his squad is quite interesting. Because Cortana is no longer a central character, it’s refreshing to hear new voices, and get some backstory to some of these new characters. Sadly Master Chief’s squad is far less developed, and I never found myself caring about any of his teammates. It’s true that Blue Team’s backstory is part of the expanded universe, so there is a way to catch up on this group for those interested. I still think a few missions should have been dedicated to this group just so I would have felt their comradery more.
  • Four-player co-op multiplayer is a blast. It’s online-only this time around, which I’ll get to later on in this review. The missions don’t feature the largest maps ever seen in the series, but they do feel much more open and less linear. There are multiple ways to tackle each objective, which makes these missions perfect for replay. I loved that each player could tackle a different aspect, one could be snipping, another could be working with a partner in order to take down a Hunter, etc. Variety is the name of the game this time around, and it’s great!
  • Speaking of your teammates, even while the AI controls your squad mates, I loved having rudimentary command options at my disposal. Being able to tell the squad to focus their attacks on a single enemy or turret is fantastic, as is telling them to press on ahead.
  • Weapons are absolutely top notch. Typically I stick to the tried and true when it comes to this series, but not this time around. There were a good five or six weapons I always wanted to have on me, which is fantastic.
  • The core gameplay is great fun. Missions are primarily made up of the go to this location and kill everything that moves type, but given the wealth of options available for you to take out your enemies, I never found the missions to get repetitive or dull, even though I was tasked with doing the exact same thing over and over again.
  • Jumping has never been so fluid. There’s a fantastic climbing mechanic that is great in both multiplayer and single player. Trust me when I say you’ll never miss another jump ever again, because so long as you’re close to a ledge you can grab on and pull yourself up.
  • The audio visual presentation is absolutely top notch, not that you weren’t already expecting that. You can clearly tell this game was built from the ground up for the Xbox One. The environments are chalk-full of details everywhere from little critters running around some of the alien planets, to gorgeous particle effects. There’s always something to keep you impressed. The audio is also a show-stopper. The soundtrack is phenomenal, and the sound effects are exactly where they should be in terms of pulse-pounding explosions, and great use of surround sound.

Halo 5_3The So-So:

+/- Some will love this, and some will hate it, but this isn’t a Master Chief game. This is the first time in a numbered entry in the Halo series where you don’t really play as Master Chief, instead you play as Spartan Locke for over 80% of the adventure. I didn’t mind this, but I know some will. Be warned of this in advance if you’re a die-hard Master Chief fan.

+/- The artificial intelligence can be quite good, especially if you highlight an enemy target for your squad to take down, however if you yourself get downed, don’t expect your squad to always come to your rescue. I purposely put myself in harm’s way, died, and tried to get resuscitated, and instead of taking out the enemy standing over my corpse, they simply stood there trying to say me and thereby getting killed themselves. Also, don’t ask the AI-controlled squad to drive, they like to ram into walls and other stationary objects, because why not.

+/- There’s an odd breakdown in the missions. Three of the 15 missions can be completed in 45 seconds or so. These act as somewhat interactive story missions where you’re challenged with finding someone, talking to them, and then talking to someone else. Boom, mission complete. It feels a little jarring, and doesn’t add anything that a minute cinematic couldn’t do.

+/- While the overall storyline is good, you absolutely have to know the Halo lore if you’re going to get the most out of this game. It’s expected from a sequel, but a nice overview of the entire franchise would be nice as we’re now five games in and there’s a ton of story to digest here.

+/- Spartan Locke isn’t Master Chief. His motives are far less interesting than the Chief’s, making him out to be nothing more than a typical soldier.

Halo 5_4The Bad:

  • The lack of local multiplayer hurts. 343 Industries says this was done to ensure the game didn’t run at 30 frames-per-second (fps), but rather a steady smooth 60 fps. The problem with this is that the Halo series was founded on its strong support of local multiplayer including LAN. This is the first game in the series to completely do-away with local multiplayer including LAN, split-screen, etc. If you want to play with another human being, they’re going to have to own an Xbox One, and a copy of Halo 5.
  • There’s pretty much one boss in the entire game, and you go up against him over and over again during the campaign. This enforces the game was made for multiplayer, as his only weak point is on his back. With or without live players I found the battles to get repetitive by the forth encounter.

Halo 5_5The Lowdown:

Halo 5: Guardians does a lot right. The campaign is enjoyable, the multiplayer is outstanding, and the storyline can be thought-provoking, however it’s what the game does wrong that ultimately bring down the package. This isn’t a bad game, not by a longshot, but it’s not great either. The lack of local multiplayer is what truly hurts the most. Sure it’s 2015 and everything is online, however LAN matches are still a very big part of Halo, and not being able to have those, or even have a friend come over and play through the campaign really is disappointing. Halo fans will love the game, no question about it, however the most diehard fans will likely walk away wanting more.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Official Trailer Released!

All you Halo fans out there, sit back and enjoy the first official trailer to Microsoft’s hour and a half commercial for Halo 4.  OK, maybe not, but the whole objective of this live-action web-series is to get you ubber excited forHalo 4.  I want to know if it worked!

So what do you think? Some of the acting is a little questionable, but it’s nice to see Anna Popplewell (of Narnia fame) again, and seeing Master Chief is always a plus.  So does this pump you up for Halo 4, or were you laughing through the whole trailer?  I want to hear your thoughts!

Numerous ‘Halo Infinity’ Domains Registered

Apparently, Microsoft’s brand management offshoot has been busy this week, buying up a handful of website names for what could potentially be an upcoming Halo product or a component of said product. The domain names revolve around the terms ‘Halo Infinity’ and ‘Halo Multiplayer’.

 If the domain names amount to anything, ‘Infinity’ could be used for anything from a game title, a marketing campaign, a book, Master Chief pencil case merchandising — anything, really. Some people suspect it may refer to the new version of Halo 3’s Forge creation system, whereas others point to the ship in the Halo mythos known as the ‘UNSC Infinity’ upon which several SPARTAN IVs are stationed. SPARTAN IVs are the modified soldiers who kick it up in the game’s multiplayer mode, so “Infinity” may accordingly be a tie-in to Halo 4’s multiplayer mode as a handful of the registered domains could lead one to believe.

 

If one is to look at the ‘Making Halo 4: First Look’ video documentary, franchise development director Frank O’Connor says that there is a “fairly convincing and compelling reason why red SPARTANS can fight blue SPARTANS”. Could it be that red and blue SPARTAN IVs are engaged in combat as a form of practice for the real battlefield? Perhaps as part of a UNSC Infinity training mission?

 

The developers at 343 Industries have stated that they want Halo 4’s multiplayer to make sense in the context of the campaign, and this could be the way to do it.

 

But I digress: ‘Halo Infinity’ is just a name and could refer to anything or nothing. It’s all speculation at this point, but speculation is often more fun than the official announcements, wouldn’t you say? We’ll update if any further details emerge regarding these domain names.

 

Source: Fusible

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1-16
Genre: FPS
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries / Saber Interactive
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Xbox Live: Online multiplayer
Kinect-supported

Parent Talk: Do you remember Halo: Combat Evolved?  If so, you know there’s a lot of blue and green blood, and tons of aliens to destroy by any means necessary.  The ESRB rates Halo Anniversary M for mature as such.

Plays Like: The original Halo and most other FPS games available.

Review Basis: Finished the campaign with a buddy, and tried what amounts to the new Halo: Reach map pack.

Halo Anniversary is wonderful fan service for everyone that enjoyed the original 2001 Xbox masterpiece. My goodness, has it been ten years already?!  Newcomers and old-timers alike can enjoy Anniversary, but a few refinements would have helped in completing the reimagination of the original classic.

The Great:

Finally, online co-op arrives in the campaign that started it all. After ten years, it’s wonderful to grab a friend, head online and play Halo. That’s where this HD remake shines the brightest because it’s a feature players asked for since Live originally launched.

The Good:

+ Original mystery still holds up.  The story is minimal, which is what makes it so great.  You don’t really know what’s happening, and when you do it’s too late…events are already set in motion that will change the future forever.  I loved reliving this excellent tale.

+ Nice extras.  Hidden skulls are added to each campaign mission, new terminal videos reveal more detail about the plot, and other tidbits here and there make Halo Anniversary a slightly more enhanced HD remake than you’re probably accustomed to.

+ Love and care.  Unlike most remakes that just upscale the resolution to 1080p, 343 Industries stepped up and used the Saber engine to bring Combat Evolved to life like never before.  While not as detailed and rich as modern shooters, the attention marks this as one of the best HD remakes we’ve seen thus far. 343 should be commended.

+ Switching between the original visuals, and the enhanced version. It shows you how much nicer the graphics truly are. There’s a slight delay while switching, so we don’t recommend doing so during a heavy gunfight.

+ The map pack is excellent for the online community. 343 essentially wrapped Halo maps around the Reach engine, thus this isn’t really Combat Evolved. The original multiplayer is nowhere to be found.  Some of our Halo and H2 favorites are featured, but it’s Reach’s gameplay. Furthermore, achievement progression for this pack goes towards Reach, and not Anniversary. Achievements for the remake deal only with the campaign.

The So-So:

+/- The campaign.  Huh?  Most of the campaign is a delight, but Halo hasn’t aged as well as some would like to think.  While still fun, it’s also repetitious.  The environments blend, especially towards the end.  Anyone remember the Library?  It’s even more annoying than it was ten years ago.

+/- Kinect support works well while watching the terminal videos, but fails to impress during gameplay.  You can shout commands such as “grenade” to lob a ‘nade at an enemy, but it’s a problem when there’s a delay between speaking and Master Chief actually throwing. It’s much easier to just press a button.

+/- Some say don’t mess with a classic, but the franchise’s overall improvements show how dated Halo can be.  There’s no dual-wielding or plasma swords, and really some of the additions should have been included in a “Remix” mode or something similar.  As it is, I feel Anniversary didn’t go the distance. Some will argue that you’re paying for an HD remake. In that regard, the game delivers.

The Bad:

– All the original issues are still there: repetitive level design; loose Warthog controls and questionable AI.  You expect this in a remake, but just be warned.

The Ugly:

Conquering the Library after all these years.  It’s ugly alright…

The Lowdown:

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is intended for those looking to experience Halo with a fresh coat of paint. There’s not much to dislike about a $20 cheaper-than-retail price and the inclusion of a fairly deep Reach map pack. I would have appreciated a few more refinements to the gameplay given all the improvements made to the visuals.  The best new feature is the online co-op.  This is an easy recommend for those wanting to re-experience a modern shooter classic.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: If you can’t get enough Halo, there’s enough here to keep you occupied for the next month or so.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: If you’ve played Combat Evolved a thousand times and want more modern refinements.

Halo Remake First Title By New Halo Developer?

In-between Black Ops zombie sessions (damn those two achievements!), I had just enough time to whip up this story.  It’s starting to sound as though the first title to be developed by the new Halo makers (343 Industries), will be a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved.  1Up is my source for the rumor, but it seems like a logical move considering the ongoing success of the series.  All the rumor suggests is that the remake will be released in late 2011 followed by Halo 4 in 2012.  Microsoft has said before they wanted to release one Halo a year to mimic the success of Call of Duty.  Obviously we have no clue if this rumor holds any weight, but I thought it was interesting just the same.  Would you be interested in a Halo remake already?