Tag Archives: Halo 4

A Recap of the 2012 Video Game Awards

Last year I watched the Video Game Awards for the first time ever and reacted pretty harshly to the show. To summarize the article, I found the 2011 VGA’s to be immature and pandering. Some of the most memorable moments of the awards perpetuated the worst stereotypes of an industry that is still plagued by issues of sexism and sexuality. And even disregarding that, recognizing the work of the medium’s most talented artists and writers took a back seat to celebrity shills cavorting about on stage.

I don’t think I have lofty expectations for these awards. I said in last year’s recap:

[box_light]”I understand that the show is a vehicle for game trailers and commercials. I don’t expect or want the grandeur and extravagance of the Oscars. All I want is for the producers to treat the fans, and more importantly the game creators, with respect and at least pretend to care about our medium.” [/box_light]

And this year the Video Game Awards did exactly that. The turnaround that Spike TV made between 2011 and 2012 is admirable. This year’s awards excised a lot of the superfluous nonsense, like the augmented reality stuff (Which I genuinely enjoyed, but admit in hindsight was a waste of use) and the weird Nickelodeon game show-style contests going on in the periphery. The 2012 VGA’s focused instead on the games, and while some of the sketches and performances fell flat, the entire night was without question a show for gamers, about games.

The awards opened with Eric Cartman beating Bilbo Baggins to death with a cane. Of course, this was a shameless tease for South Park: The Stick of Truth, but it was an entertaining introduction to the show (It’s also one of the more anticipated games of 2013) and succinctly opened the night. Samuel L. Jackson took the role of host this year and did a pretty good job with what he had. I’ve gained a lot of respect for award show hosts since hearing Louis CK explain how much of a nightmare these things can be, so I can’t even fault Jackson or his writers for the lackluster jokes. The running gag throughout the show was ‘Sam Jackson Mode’, a gameplay tweak that added Jackson into all types of games and had him use his iconic badassery and curse words to get results. It heralds back to those old MTV awards skits that superimposed celebrities into movies.

I thought this was pretty clever. Far more entertaining than any of the gimmicks from last year’s show, at least. These moments also served to highlight the different games nominated this year, which fall all over the spectrum in terms of genre, scope and play-style. Regardless of what can be said for the VGA’s in years past, they seem to always do a stellar job nominating games that deserve to be recognized. This year took that concept even further, almost to the realm of controversy, by including smaller, independent games in the Game of the Year category. It’s sparked a lot of debate over what constitutes a “Game of the Year” or even a video game for that matter, A challenging discussion, and one that merits a lot of thought. I’m at odds with myself on the matter. I think Journey is easily one of the most worthwhile experiences in gaming this year, but to compare it to something like Assassin’s Creed III, which nearly takes up all of Journey’s playtime before even introducing the protagonist. It’s hard to put them on equal footing. As I did last year, I’ll list the nominees, the winners and my picks below.

Before I do that though, let’s talk reveals. There were some startling trailers last night that caught a lot of people by surprise, and some that were expected but nonetheless welcomed with excitement. The VGA’s premiered new trailers for Tomb Raider,  The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite, which the community already knew about, but continue to look impressive. We were also treated to announcements for Dark Souls IICastlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and, the steal of the show, a mysterious game called The Phantom Pain.

This trailer was announced with very little explanation, and it credits only a previously unknown team, Moby Dick Studio, for development. Now, there are pages and pages of speculation, theorizing and educated guesses pointing to the idea that this is either a new teaser for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Metal Gear Solid 5, or a similar Hideo Kojima game. I will err on the side of caution and say that this looks like a very interesting new IP, I look forward to hearing more about it, and that you should immediately go and read this NeoGAF page on the subject.

Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance were both noticeably absent from the awards, as was The Last Guardian once again, to my chagrin. GTA V was nowhere to be seen either, but I expected this with their newest trailer released so recently. Rockstar marches to the beat of its own drum, Video Game Awards be damned.

Alright, now for the nominees and winners. Like last year, winners will be in bold and I’ll mark my picks with an arrow (<).

[box_light]

Game of the Year:

The Walking Dead: The Game
Assassin’s Creed III (<) (Review)
Dishonored (Review)
Journey
Mass Effect 3 (Review)

Studio of the Year:

Telltale Games
343 Industries
Arkane Studios
Gearbox Software (<)

Best Xbox 360 Game:

Halo 4 (Review)
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Borderlands 2
Dishonored

Best PS3 Game:

Journey
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Borderlands 2
Dishonored

Best Wii/Wii-U Game:

New Super Mario Bros. U (<)
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles
Zombiu

Best PC Game:

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (<)
Diablo III
Guild Wars 2
Torchlight II

Best Shooter:

Borderlands 2 (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Max Payne 3

Best Action Adventure Game:

Dishonored
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Darksiders II
Sleeping Dogs

Best RPG:

Mass Effect 3 (<)
Diablo III
Torchlight II
Xenoblade Chronicles

Best Multiplayer Game:

Borderlands 2 (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Guild Wars 2
Halo 4

Best Individual Sports Game:

Hot Shots Golf World Invitational
SSX (<)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
WWE ’13

Best Team Sports Game:

FIFA Soccer 13
Madden NFL 13
NBA 2K13 (<)
NHL 13

Best Driving Game:

Need For Speed: Most Wanted (<)
Dirt: Showdown
F1 2012
Forza Horizon

Best Song in a Game:

“Cities” by Beck – From Sound Shapes
“Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park – From Medal of Honor: Warfighter
“I Was Born For This” By Austin Wintory – From Journey (<)
“Tears” by Health – From Max Payne 3

Best Original Score:

 Journey (<)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Max Payne 3

Best Graphics:

 Halo 4
Assassin’s Creed III (<)
Dishonored
Journey 

Best Independent Game:

Journey (<)
Dust: An Elysian Tale
Fez
Mark of the Ninja

Best Fighting Game:

Persona 4 Arena (<)
Dead or Alive 5
Street Fighter x Tekken
Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Best Handheld/Mobile Game:

Sound Shapes (<)
Gravity Rush
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
New Super Mario Bros. 2

Best Performance by a Human Female:

Melissa Hutchison as Clementine – The Walking Dead: The Game
Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright – Sleeping Dogs
Jen Taylor as Cortana – Halo 4
Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3 (<)

Best Performance by a Human Male:

Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack – Borderlands 2 (<)
Dave Fennoy as Lee Everret – The Walking Dead: The Game
James McCaffrey as Max Payne – Max Payne 3
Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker – Spec Ops: The Line

Best Adapted Video Game:

The Walking Dead: The Game (<)
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Transfomers: Fall of Cybertron

Best DLC:

Dawnguard – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (<)
Leviathan – Mass Effect 3
Mechromancer Pack – Borderlands 2
Perpetual Testing Initiative – Portal 2

Best Downloadable Game:

The Walking Dead: The Game
Fez
Journey (<)
Sound Shapes

Best Social Game:

You Don’t Know Jack
Draw Something (<)
Marvel: Avengers Alliance
Simcity Social[/box_light]

And that was the 2012 Video Game Awards. If you missed the show or want to see it all again, the entire thing is available on Game Trailers. I was so happily surprised with the show this year, and I’m glad I decided at the last second to watch. Here’s to a great 2013, whose first quarter looks to be a massive wallet drain!

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Halo 4 Review: You’ve Left an Impression of Sorts on Me

Once upon a time, or more like ten years ago, this female gamer decided to buy her very first Xbox because she played Halo at a friend’s house and fell in love.  Ever since then, a passionate love affair has existed between her and subsequent Halo games, so of course you could expect her to highly anticipate Halo 4.

But as with most love affairs, there are ups and downs, sacrifices to be made, and compromises to be had.  Halo 4 is like a compromise, but one that’s growing into a hopeful up.  After playing through the entire campaign, all of the Spartan Ops, as well as many hours of multiplayer, here are my initial thoughts and reactions to the game.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.  DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE A HALO 4 VIRGIN.*

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CAMPAIGN/SPARTAN OPS

Story – The plot surrounding Master Chief and Cortana’s survival and of course the continuing salvation of the human race has little issues and runs very fluidly from one level to the next (and oh, man, is Cortana’s rampancy excruciating to watch).  Many fans were wary of how the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana would play out considering the fact that neither is actually romantically tied to the other, but 343 Industries stayed true to that status, keeping the couple’s relationship based 100% on mutual trust, dedication, and shared experiences.  How this will play out in future games, though, will be interesting not only because of the apparent loss of Cortana, but also because Master Chief suddenly has to deal with the fact that he has emotions that she slowly pulled out of him, and that he is more human than he’d like to believe.

My only concern with the campaign was that outside of the immediate Chief/Cortana storyline, there are threads of stories that tie in to theirs that are never truly explained or satisfied.  For example, Halo 4 starts 4 years after Chief disappeared, and suddenly humans are fighting the Covenant again, a fact which is never explained.  The game also starts with an officer questioning Dr. Halsey about her involvement with Cortana and Master Chief; the only valuable information we get out of this is that the leaders-that-be consider Chief to be dead and they want to replace him.

However, after finishing the first five Spartan Ops, my husband and I watched the video that was released to us for completion, which clarified one of my concerns about the story.  I must say that if 343 Industries planned to leave these threads in the campaign unanswered simply to be filled in by the Spartan Ops videos and other supplementary material, all I can say is that they made a genius marketing decision.  I’ll want to make sure I can download every single video to get the entire story, and I’m sure many other players will be hooked on this method of storytelling, too.

Gameplay – A blast.  I only experienced one glitch total, and the rest of the time gameplay was tight, fast-paced, and purposeful (there never seemed to be a ridiculous  number of enemy waves or useless confrontations of any sort).  Many new weapons are introduced and though I could get into the benefits and drawbacks of all of them, I think in general that the Promethean/Forerunner weapons are not impressive and tend to be lesser versions of both human and Covenant alternatives (this is especially true in multiplayer).  Personally, though, I am glad to see the beam rifle back, which was my favorite sniper weapon for quite a while (yes, even above the human sniper) even though I’m not that good at sniping.  However, the binary rifle is quickly becoming my top favorite because of its smooth, quiet functioning.

The new Promethean enemies were fun to figure out considering they are purely digital constructs, a concept that may be hard to grasp at first for some Halo players because we’ve never fought enemies of this sort before.  Specifically, I love that the Knights are able to teleport closer to you and swipe their swords right across your face.  The experience was different from previous games, which made it a challenge and forced me to stay alert and interested in the game the first time through.

Music – I have to throw this in here because I simply fawn over all the previous Halo soundtracks, even ODST.  At the initial load screen of Halo 4, a haunting, single female voice starts chanting in the style of ancient Celts or even Egyptians, reminiscent of the original Halo theme of a monk-like, a capella chorus.  I was excited to hear the rest of the score as I continued play.

However, there were several instances throughout the campaign where I felt that something was amiss, and I finally pinpointed the issue ¾ of the way through the game: the composers brought in too many horns for my taste.  The horns overpower the strings on a fairly regular basis, which is frustrating because Halo music became famous because of its ability to combine what normally doesn’t get put together (strings, guitar riffs, drums, and chorus) in an epic, powerful wave of sound.

On the credits list, I couldn’t find either Martin O’Donnell or Michael Salvatori, composers for all previous Halo games, which would explain why the score for Halo 4 sounded different.  The new composers seemed to be going for the traditional heroic sound with triumphant horn crescendos, but I prefer the old-school Halo strings and monk singers any day.

MULTIPLAYER

Gameplay – In general, 343 Industries has some work to do on multiplayer.  Almost every game that I played (that loads properly) had some sort of glitch or situation where, even if I wasn’t doing that well, should have turned out a bit more in my favor.  Then again, I’m sure many players right now feel this way.

Multiplayer feels like a throwback to Halo 3, where reactions seem slightly lagging and less tight than what Halo: Reach achieved this last year.  I know many disagree with me, but this is what I have experienced thus far.  Melee has a split-second pause from when you pummel to when the enemy dies, or vice versa.  Sometimes the Spartan abilities don’t load at all, which makes sense then that you can’t always call in ordnance properly, either.  Grenades are pretty bouncy and may or may not go off where you’d like them to, and let’s not even get started on how unbalanced the weapons are.

Weapons/Vehicles – No, actually, let’s talk about that.  As I mentioned earlier in the Campaign section, I felt that the Forerunner weapons were crappy versions of human and Covenant weapons.  The bolt shot, for example, is a less powerful version of a human pistol, and the suppressor is good for what its name implies, but little else.

The only two Forerunner guns I prefer are the rail gun and binary rifle; otherwise, I avoid all else in favor of traditional Covenant and human weapons.  This could be because I am used to these, but I truly feel that the Forerunner weapons have good uses in the campaign, but are hard to work with in multiplayer.

In regards to vehicles, I think that the Mantis, though a great new addition as a vehicle, is overpowered and will probably have its damage infliction reduced in future updates.  It’s a bit much to have a Warthog, Mantis, AND Banshee coming at you in some of the maps, and nearly impossible for the team not in control of these machines to have a balanced and fair game.  Fortunately, though, the Banshee and Warthog have all remained in similar states to what they were in the past, and haven’t received any game-altering updates.

Maps – We need some diversity.  Right now, most maps are medium-sized spaces that really don’t allow for proper one-on-one combat nor long-range options.  There’s no such thing as a massive Sidewinder version nor lots of compact maps like Blood Gulch.

My other problem with the Halo 4 maps is that they involve lots of little environment details that unfortunately only hang you up as a player.  My husband and I have had several instances already where we get caught on a branch while we’re backing up, or where the Warthog wouldn’t drive over a rock.  That seems really inconsistent when you’re a freaking Spartan warrior and can supposedly flip over a Warthog all on your own; I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to crack a branch under your foot.

[divider]

So there you have it.  As a Halo fan since the original game, I am disappointed in the multiplayer experience this week, and yes, I do realize that 343 Industries is most likely receiving constant feedback and planning to implement patches on a regular basis.  However, since 343 kept their promise to stay mostly true to the Halo universe in regards to the Campaign and Spartan Ops missions, this is why I am calling Halo 4 a compromise in my love affair with the entire franchise, a compromise that will hopefully grow into a more positive experience over time.

‘Halo 4’ Trailer: It’ll Pump You Up

For fans of the Halo universe, these past few weeks have been nothing less than a conglomeration of anticipation and teasing. The Forward Unto Dawn series released its first full-length episode instead of the short vignettes we’d received before, and NewEgg.com ran an incredible sale of $15 off the pre-order (if you missed out, sucks to be you).

Now the live-action trailer for Halo 4 is out, and like the previous live-action trailers before, it does not fail to grip the viewer with its intensity even in such a short amount of time.  The trailer, entitled “Scanned,” features a captured Master Chief being tortured in some way by the new enemy gamers will face in Halo 4:

The trailer was produced by David Fincher, that guy who made those awesome films like Fight ClubSe7en, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Tim Miller directed the trailer, pairing with Fincher as he had previously worked on special effects for Fincher’s Tattoo.  The two delivered Halo fans an impressive piece of artistry here that again only makes us more anxious for the game’s release.

Though we love these live-action trailers, the question amongst gamers still remains; will this new “ancient enemy” be a worthy foe like the Covenant have been for the past 10 years, or will they just be something to roll our eyes at?  The enemy leader in this trailer appears to be quite threatening (anyone who can capture Master Chief definitely shouldn’t be underrated).  Hopefully, the game creators have integrated the race deftly into the timeline, canon, and framework of preceding Halo lore.

Live-action Halo 4 trailer shot of creepy villain
Creepy, dude.

We’ll find out how everything is presented in only two weeks.  If you haven’t already, make sure to ask off work for November 6, when the regular and limited editions of Halo 4 will be released so you can game the day away.

Bryan Singer’s Latest Project: “H+ The Digital Series:

Where were you on April 23rd, 2005? I don’t remember where I was. Hell, I don’t remember what I was doing yesterday, much less seven and a half years ago.

Thankfully we do know where this guy was.

Jawed Karim was uploading the first ever video on YouTube.

Since that day YouTube has become an ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. According to Alexa, YouTube is the third most visited site on the internet. Not hard to see why, as not a single day passes where I don’t look something up on the site. It can range everywhere from the completely absurd, to the extremely useful. A good amount of the time it is for either a music video or web series. In the past year or so, YouTube has made a conscious move from being a bastion of baby crying videos to being a viable entertainment option. With everything from live streamed concerts to “web tv” style channels, they’ve started their march, and with big names coming to play, the future is looking bright.

One of those potential bright stars is a new offering from director/producer extraordinaire Bryan Singer and his production company, Bad Hat Harry.

Welcome to H+, The Digital Series. It is directed by Stewart Hendler of Sorority Row fame. Okay if Sorority Row doesn’t blow your skirt up, he is also the director of the upcoming Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.

The premise? Well it’s simple- an implant is developed and released to the public that enables them to turn their brains into computers with a heads up display. The idea is based on the transhumanism ideology that man is in a constant move forward and that in the not too distant future, technology will play an even larger role in that evolutionary move. Played Deus Ex? It’s sort of like that, but not really.

So pretty much everyone has these implants and they can bring up their iTunes library while walking down the street, or watch a football game while driving, although this is dangerous and apparently illegal. Their vital organs are being constantly monitored which conceivably stave off preventable diseases such as diabetes.

Sounds great. It is great. It’s great until “The Event”.

And that’s all I’m telling you. Mainly because I don’t know much beyond that myself. The series debuted on August 8th and has put up an episode, each roughly 4-6 minutes long, every Wednesday since then. I sat and watched them in sequence and truthfully, was sort of frustrated because I so badly wanted to like it. Each episode was of a different time and different place, and different people. Then it jumps back to the original group/time. The disjointed storytelling just wasn’t doing it for me.

Then I watched this vlog from John Cabrerra, one of the creators and writers of the series (who also was on Gilmore Girls which I could not place for hours until it finally came to me as I ate a bowl of peas- and there’s a glimpse into my daily life, welcome) and after a few tweaks, I was really enjoying the series.

See, H+ is not your normal web series in which you sit down and watch episode a through z and it all forms a nice, compact, linear story. Instead, this series is composed of “moments of time and space” that you can move around to however you desire. I set up a playlist for myself where it was linear and each location told it’s story at one time. However, no one is forcing you to make your own playlist- if you want to watch them as they air, have at it. Whatever floats your boat.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! You can head over to hplusdigitalseries.com and see pictures, short bios, and an interactive map which did clue me in that the locations we’ve already seen, are not all there are. Something to look forward to.

I know another thing I am looking forward to seeing is fellow St. Louis native, Sean Gunn,  (I’m not really a native but I did graduate from high school there, same as Mr. Gunn) also a Gilmore Girls alum. As far as I can tell so far, he plays some sort of technology hating man who has to rely on some sort of technology to get around. Yay conflict!

Check out the existing episodes on their YouTube page and tune in on Wednesdays for new episodes.
And let us know what you think- are the transhumanists right and we are headed for an inevitable takeover by technology in our day-to-day lives? Or is the iPhone5 about as far as we are going to get?

Either way, it’s an interesting conversation to have and an entertaining series to watch.

CCI 2012: Halo 4 – Forward Unto Dawn Live-Action Trailer Plus Multiplayer Reactions!

As if Comic-Con wasn’t exciting enough, Microsoft and 343 Industries released the official trailer yesterday for their upcoming digital web series, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. It. Is. Epic.

Based on the beloved Halo universe, the series will premiere on October 5, 2012, on machinima.com’s new premiere channel, Machinima Prime, and on Halo Waypoint on Xbox Live. Five episodes are planned for promotional purposes leading up to the release of Halo 4 on November 6. The official Xbox Halo Waypoint site says, “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn brings a brand new Halo story to life on a scale never before seen in the Halo Universe.” (Xbox.com: Halo Waypoint)

The story goes something like this:

Set against the backdrop of a United Nations Space Command (UNSC) military academy, a group of highborn cadets are training to be the next generation of soldiers in the UNSC’s ongoing war with insurrectionists in the outer colonial planets. Among these cadets, Thomas Lasky struggles with his doubts about this war, and with the burden of expectations he may not be able to carry. As Lasky comes to terms with his potential as a military leader, the terrifying alien alliance known as the Covenant arrives and turns his world upside down. Inspired by the Master Chief, he must decide what it means to be a hero. Halo fans who experience Lasky’s thrilling origin story in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn will be rewarded with special insights into the story of Halo 4 and the “Halo Infinity Multiplayer” experience. (finance.yahoo.com)

Written by Todd and Aaron Helbing of Smallville and Spartacus, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn also boasts director Stewart Hendler of Sorority Row. The up-and-coming cast is riddled with smaller names that have made appearances in big-title films. For example, Master Chief will be played by Daniel Cudmore, who has been in X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Twilight Saga. Tom Green (Dance Academy) will play Thomas Lasky, the character whose story drives the web series. More stars and their respective characters include Anna Popplewell (The Chronicles of Narnia) as Chyler Silva, Ayelet Zurer (Angels & Demons, Munich) as Mehaffey, Mike Dopud (Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol) as General Black, Enisha Brewster (Footloose) as April Orenski, Masam Holden (Grey’s Anatomy, Elizabethtown) as Michael “Sully” Sullivan, Osric Chau (2012) as JJ Chen, Iain Belcher (Supernatural) as Vickers, and Kat De Lieva as Dimah. (finance.yahoo.com)

Do I think this web series will be incredible? I think that was just a rhetorical question. Of course it will be. When video games started coming out with live-action trailers before the official release dates, all I could think of was, “That’s genius! What a way to get people more interested in the story than the gameplay. Video games are becoming real and relatable now.” Then when I saw the “Remember Reach” trailer which came out for Halo: Reach‘s promotion, I thought, “HO-LY SHIT. What did I just see?! My mind cannot contain or comprehend the glories that just scrolled in front of my eyes.”

If I was that stoked about the Reach trailer, you can very well expect this Halo fan of over 10 years to be more than ecstatic for another live-action viewing opportunity. For those of you wondering about the actual Halo 4 gameplay that is currently available at Comic-Con, all I can report is that our very own C Tan claims that the “multiplayer is awesome.” Take our word for it. (EDITOR’S NOTE: It was pretty sweet. Reminds me more of Halo 2 multi versus Halo 3, which is good. What was bad was I sucked at playing Halo so I got my ass kicked. Regardless, enjoyable and just feels a bit more balanced but that might have to deal with the fact no one else played it and didn’t have a great feel off the bat.)

For some additional eye candy on this series, you should check out this video by IGN: IGN First Look: Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Behind-the-Scenes. They were able to attend the set in Vancouver, B.C., and get some incredible behind-the-scenes footage. You can then add this to your list of total Halo achievements completed.

Check out more Comic-Con coverage here, more pics on our Tumblr and follow the action at the Con over on our Twitter!