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Halo: The Master Chief Collection – Remastered FPS Excellence

Xbox’s premier franchise is undoubtedly the Halo series. For several years, FPS fans have flocked to Microsoft’s home consoles to step into Master Chief’s boots and deal with the alien menace that threatens him and the human race. The Xbox One’s next main Halo numbered title (Halo 5: Guardians) is a year away. Microsoft Studios, 343 Industries and several other game development teams know this, which is why they have compiled all four main Halo games into one complete package. Halo: The Master Chief Collection does an awesome job of making the wait for Halo 5 a lot more manageable.

Halo Master Chief Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection provides the best looking versions of the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. It’s easy to see that owning this collection means you own the definitive editions of each game. Each of these entries now run at an impressive 60 frames per second and every game except for the Halo 2 remake has a native resolution of 1080p. All four titles look amazing with their new coat of fresh graphical paint, especially Halo 2. The redone cut scenes, soundtracks and updated visuals for Halo 2 Remastered‘s multiplayer stage offerings are the most impressive part of this entire collection. Hitting a button to switch between the past visuals and upgraded graphics is also a nice touch for Halo 1 and Halo 2.

Halo Master Chief Collection

The single-player portions of each game are offered in their full glory. Diehard Halo fans who have played through each game’s story extensively know what to expect here. For those you who have never touched even one of these games, you’re in for bouts of enjoyment and unwelcome frustration. In this reviewers opinion, it’s easy to see which games rank from great to decent when it comes to their overall campaign – Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4 and Halo 1. Having the option to pick any mission you want from any game and customizing the available Skulls and other game factors that impact each play session is awesome. However, each game remains unchanged in the gameplay department. Each game has an issue of constant backtracking, more specifically Halo 1 (damn that Library level!). The ho-hum Arbiter stages from Halo 2 are still disappointing, too.

While the issues persistent in each game is still prevalent, the fun factor of each game is also still present. Simply put, this is the best way to chronologically experience the main adventures of Master Chief. The lack of other Halo games (Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach) is a noticeable problem, but this is The Master Chief Collection after all, so those omissions should come as no surprise. The main attraction here of course is the multiplayer component. All four entries include their respective game modes, plus fan favorite options such as Forge and Theater are thankfully here. The biggest addition to multiplayer is the option to play through preset mission playlists for all four games. The mixing and matching of co-op missions provides hours of replayability.

Halo Master Chief Collection

At launch though, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is plagued by online connectivity issues that keep you from enjoying the full multiplayer suite. Waiting to connect to online games and group up with random/friendly players takes forever. And finally getting into a map may lead to issues such as an unequal number of players on teams or major lag. It’s depressing to see the online multiplayer portion of the game be hampered by apparent launch problems. Patches will surely fix this issue over time, but it’s still saddening to see upon release.

Halo Master Chief Collection

Along with the games seen in The Master Chief Collection, a bevy of other extras are offered. The Halo: Nightfall live-action series can be viewed (to be completely honest, it’s really not that impressive), as well as access to Halo 5’s multiplayer beta at a later date, story videos from each game and a Help menu for Halo newcomers. With all that included in a $60 package, it’s hard to find a reason to NOT want this collection. Halo: The Master Chief Collection still includes the issues that plagued each game from its first release and online connectivity issues, but the remastered work done on each one makes this the best way to experience Master Chief’s journey.

Images: Microsoft Studios, Bungie, 343 Industries, Ruffian Games, Saber Interactive, Certain Affinity

Sunset Overdrive Review: Slick Parkour Meets Fun Monster Mashing

When gamers hear the name Insomniac Games, visions of several first party PlayStation exclusives come to mind. Insomniac has crafted classic franchises, such as Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance. The year is 2014 and Insomniac has opted to lend their creative talents to Microsoft’s next-gen machine. Their major contribution to the Xbox One comes in the form of an incredible open-world shooter called Sunset Overdrive.

Sunset Overdrive’s plot exudes elements of punk attitude and going against the big wigs that hover over the free world. A massive conglomerate known as FizzCo introduces a new energy drink – OverCharge Delirium XT. Those unlucky enough to chug a whole can of this stuff turn into mutated, bloodthirsty creatures. Your custom created character comes in close contact with the anarchy that erupts as the entire city is closed off to the world, leaving you and some fellow survivors to fend off these disgusting mutants. The story here is fun to follow thanks to jokes that always hit the mark, a wide range of interesting protagonists and antagonists, and several nods to modern pop culture.

Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive takes place within a huge open world. The conveniently named Sunset City looks like a punk rock poster come to life within a sprawling metropolis, with huge parks, hundreds of apartment buildings, enormous skyscrapers and an entire network of power lines, streets and alleyways between them, all pulsing with vibrant colors and lights. But the size of Sunset City isn’t about setting alone; Moving your hero around Sunset City provides half of the fun. Your character can boost through the air, bounce off of cars, skate alongside rails and perform an impressive array of parkour stunts. The feeling of constant motion and racking up your temporary boost meter by doing tricks adds so much to an open world setting that has become more of a convention than an exciting feature in most AAA titles. If there are any barriers to jumping straight into Sunset City it’s the controls, which take some getting used to, and a wonky camera that can be a hazard while you’re careening down the street and trying to focus on a specific point of interest.

The majority of Sunset Overdrive is composed of main story missions, traversal challenges, tower defense mini games and a myriad of smaller side missions. Each task is a joy to play through, thanks to an abundance of variety to be found in each subset. One minute you’re taking down a pissed off FizzCo mascot and the next you’re using a wrecking ball to smash tons of invading mutants. The mission variety here offers hours of gameplay. The multiplayer modes are just as engaging. Defending your base against swarms of energy drink filled mutant with human allies never grows tiresome.

Sunset Overdrive

If there’s one thing we love about Insomniac Games, it has to be the developer’s creative collection of zany weaponry. Sunset Overdrive is packed with a ton of weapons that you wish you could stock up on for the zombie apocalypse, including a shotgun that shoots flame rounds, a harpoon gun that releases a pool of overcharge, a lethal bowling ball rocket launcher and a vinyl-launching machine gun. Each weapon feels distinct and fun to use, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that some guns are better than others. It’s easy to get attached to certain weapons because of their ability to down enemies more quickly. While there’s always the option to level up and upgrade each weapon, if the one you like happens to be fairly low on damage output, it’ll never match the firepower of its contemporaries.

The better implemented systems at play in this shooter are the use of amps and overdrives. These permanent boosters make your character stand out by adding special attributes to weapons and abilities. Equipping your melee weapon with the ability to send out flames, for example, mixes things up enough to make every subsequent enemy encounter feel fresh and new. The name of the game is mixing and matching different overdrives to power up your weapon classes and raise your defense against certain enemies.

Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is one of the killer apps finally available on the Xbox One. The game’s personality-filled open world, rocking soundtrack, cool array of weaponry and never-ending variety of missoins make Sunset Overdrive a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Images: Insomniac Games