halo

Halo Infinite: Death or Revival?

After taking a couple of weeks to allow the gameplay reveal of Halo Infinite to simmer in my thoughts, I confidentially can say I’m excited about what I have observed. However, not without a certain degree of reservations. Expectations are sky high, and the internet is ablaze with memes of Craig the Brute, but the real question is where does the flagship title for the next generation of Xbox go from here?

In truth, the next generation of Xbox is more GamePass than it is Series X. And Halo becoming a live service, or a platform that will be continually updated over a ten year period, fits in with a GamePass oriented future. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. The lore of Halo is rich and expansive, and the fact that Infinite begins on Zeta Halo delights my inner child to no end.

My main concern here is the rating: please let it be Mature as opposed to Teen. Considering this is the home of the palace of pain, Mendicant Bias, and the Primordial, not to mention a simultaneous war against the Banished and Cortana-led Prometheans (honestly, I think she’s been corrupted by the Flood). Will the precursors return? Will the flood invade from the far reaches of space? What of Atriox? So yeah, this is some rich soil for story to be grown over a prolonged period of time.

I adored the gameplay they showed off on July 23. I really did. It felt far more like Halo than Halo 4 or 5. I dig the grappling hook and the drop shield. I also thought the interaction between the pilot and Master Chief was well crafted. The AI appeared solid, and this Escharum figure got my blood pumping. Halo Infinite is hitting the right notes so far in regards to story and gameplay, two of my key ingredients in developing a good game. It’s a solid foundation to build on.

Also, the multiplayer going free-to-play doesn’t bother me. I’m hearing rumors of a Battle Royale mode being added, and as long as they include classic modes the series is famous for, this should fit in just fine. Going free should, in theory, create the largest player base in the history of Halo. Will there be Mircotransactions? Possibly. I saw a rumor of a Battle Pass and I’m not overly worried about it. I’ve also heard if you buy the physical copy of the game you won’t have to buy a battle pass. While this is unclear, a 120FPS multiplayer Halo packed with all the goodies the series is known for, plus a battle royale mode and the largest player base in history, leaves me satisfied for now.

Last bit of the good feels: knowing story expansions will be free also makes me happy. Not to mention this is a OPEN WORLD Halo game with RPG elements. Yes, please. New weapons? Check. Will there be new vehicles? Dual wielding? Assassinations? Space combat? Different worlds to explore? An entire ring to transverse? The musical score is already shaping up nicely. Honestly, I feel the negativity online towards this game thus far has been misplaced to a large degree. Plus, give me more Craig! And on a side note, I’ve heard rumblings that Forge is going to be epic.

Ok, now on to the negative. The graphics, while colorful and definitely a call back to CE, were still flat. There was no ray tracing (and apparently this will be an add-on? Needs to be day one). I did see some improvement between the gameplay reveal and the trailer they released right after. Still, a lot of work needs to be done. And the sound from the weapons also left me underwhelmed. My gut feeling is a lot of this will be fixed over time after the game is released. I think this is a mistake. This title should be a graphical powerhouse. It doesn’t have to wow in the “realism” factor, but it needs to be the best looking Halo ever, while keeping in line with the series art style. I feel like I’d be beating a dead horse if I continue on this line of thought, but seriously, 343, you have a $500 million budget. Improve the visuals.

Losing two legacy weapons, the magnum and shotgun, is unacceptable. I like the idea of customizing weapons and introducing new variants, but don’t remove legacy weapons. They are staples of the franchise. Include them.

The gameplay area they decided to present, underwhelmed. It felt lackluster when taken in the context of: here’s the next evolution of the biggest franchise on Xbox. The pop-ins were concerning. The fact that this was the most “stable” demo the game has thus far is concerning. Will it be released with bugs? Memories of the MCC launch come to the forefront of my mind. Will this launch be drenched with glitches and broken elements? Will the game be delayed?

Overall, I tend to lean more on the positive side of things. I am optimistic regarding Halo Infinite. I have faith that 343 is doing all in its power to do the series justice. Microsoft has essentially granted them a blank check, giving them all the financial backing they need to be a success. I would love to see destructible environments, the ability to create missions in Forge, and a more in-depth melee system. I’m also still waiting for the day I can take out an enemy base, jump into a starship, fly into orbit, engage in space combat, land on an enemy ship, blow up the enemy ship, and head back down to the enemy base where I get shot down and parachute onto an enemy tank in the middle of a massive ground conflict. Am I dreaming? Maybe. But isn’t that what next-gen console launches are supposed to do? To cause you to dream about the possibilities? To imagine the limits that will be pushed? Here’s hoping that Halo Infinite is everything it needs to be and should be.

Xbox July 2020 Showcase

The oddness of this next gen transition cannot be overstated. Some of it has to do with the wild circumstances we find ourselves living in: pandemic, protests, unhinged politicians, and rising global tensions. Few of us go untouched by it. Additionally, Sony and Microsoft have completely different marketing strategies. It’s mind blowing how different they are. Meanwhile, Nintendo must have taken a vow of silence, choosing to stay mum on just about everything. It’s frustrating sometimes.

The Ubisoft event a couple weeks ago proved to be a letdown. The Nintendo Direct earlier this week delivered plenty of meh. That Sony Conference last month? Ok. Not bad. Nothing heart stopping. The Xbox May Conference showed some low budget titles, but nothing spectacular. The July 2020 Xbox Showcase? Solid. 8 out of 10 even. Still, nothing jaw-dropping. Nothing screaming next gen. Where is the game justifying the purchase of these next gen systems?

The half a dozen trailers presented in the pre-show accomplished a glimmer of hope. After all, they had some solid surprises with standouts like Hello Neighbor 2 and Balan Wonderworld. And the main event itself offered a refreshing splash of diversity with a multitude of genres being touched upon. But if it failed in one arena, it would be the obvious lack of gameplay.

Halo Infinite opened the show and the gameplay blew me away. I actually loved what I saw. Upon closer examination, I was a bit disappointed in the texture pop-ins, and the graphical detail (not to mention the lack of Ray Tracing). Everything else though felt like classic Halo, only smoother and bigger. The trailer they threw up after the event did a better job of getting me pumped up for the release. Overall, I’m satisfied with what I saw and am not overly worried about 343 touching up the game before release. But exactly how has this game taken advantage of being on the Xbox Series X as opposed to the Xbox One? I don’t know.

After that opening, the rest of the games didn’t bother with extensive gameplay demos. Hellblade 2 is getting inspiration from Iceland. That’s it. No other update. Forza looks like a 2022 title. And while Avowed and Fable were two of my favorite reveals, I’m going to assume 2022-2023 release windows for both. No gameplay teaser.

State of Decay 3 looked terrifying, but again, another short trailer. The Medium looks good. I liked most of the games they showed, to be fair. However, not once did my jaw hit the floor. Not once did I stop and exclaim this to be a next gen revelation. And I left what should have been an eye opening showcase, perhaps the most important showcase in Xbox history, feeling the show was just solid. Not great. Not excellent. Not revolutionary. Solid.

From my understanding, Xbox held a lot back. Time will tell if this strategy pays off. Banjo? Perfect Dark? Elder Ring? Apparently Xbox wants to counter the Sony event taking place on August 6. At this point, will either of these companies rise up and show us what next gen gaming is truly capable of? Will they stop trying to outwit and out maneuver one another long enough to impress the masses? Right now, neither system has convinced me a purchase is warranted. Maybe that’s something they need to keep in mind.

Let me end on a brighter note. Listen, the pro-consumer things that Microsoft is doing are incredible. Xbox Game Pass is the best deal in gaming. All gamers should support it. Xbox Live appears to be going free. Smart Delivery is awesome. The backwards compatibility (that includes an uptick in graphics and frame rate) is exciting. Seriously, I wish Nintendo and Sony would take note. Xbox is doing a ton of things right. They’re listening to fan feedback. They interact with their fans! They also have games now. All they need to do is show off that killer app, that God of War level tease. That’s all I’m asking for.

Destiny

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 Pros:

-Excellent Game Mechanics

-Tight Controls

-Beautiful Visuals

-Fantastic Soundtrack

-Plenty of Potential

-Nicely Polished

Cons:

-No Story

-No Wit or Charm in Dialogue

-No WOW Moments

-Lack of Mission Variety

-Poor Voice Acting

-Barebones RPG Elements

-Barebones Multiplayer Modes

-Unbalanced Multiplayer

-Lack of Vehicles

-No Hijacking Vehicles or Assassinations

-Lack of Melee Weapons

-Cheap AI

-Bullet Sponge Bosses

-Quietest and Least Social Online Game Ever

-Broken/Uninteresting Loot System

-World’s Lack Life

The Rundown: While fun at first, its many shortcomings left me bored and frustrated.

Score: C

I think comparing this to a Free-To-Play title is not without merit. The game feels like the meaningful content has been reserved for expansion packs and dlc. The loot system lacks the depth and enjoyment of a Borderlands or Diablo 3. The multiplayer is subpar when compared to the likes of the very series Bungie created (Halo). With no story to speak of and an overall experience that left me quite unsatisfied, this game has been sunk by the weight of its own hype. I doubt I will remember it a year from now, much less the expected 10 year life span that has been advertised. Grinding and/or farming may be enjoyable to some people, but for me, I don’t see the point. I made it to a level 25 Warlock and have no desire to pick it up again. That speaks volumes to Destiny’s failure to live up to the awesome amount of potential that exists here. To sum it up: fun for a few missions, but mind numbingly boring soon after.

System: PS4

e3 2014 Review

Conferences

Micosoft
Grade: C+
xbox one
Review: I was thrilled that Microsoft dedicated an entire e3 conference to games. And they managed to deliver a solid showing. As a big Halo fan, the Master Chief Collection should keep me satisfied until next fall’s Halo 5: Guardians arrives. However, it’s everything else that remains suspect. Scalebound looks promising, but Fable Legends appears to have lost all the magic that made the original so good (in my eyes, the series has been in serious decline since Lost Chapters). Crackdown 3…well, I am still aching from the mediocrity that was Crackdown 2, so that title has a lot to make up for. Project Spark looks like fun, but I have a bad feeling it will not live up to expectations. Sunset Overdrive looks funny, but I am still not sure what to think especially after hearing from numerous sources the game felt “floaty.” It hurts knowing that all the third party titles shown, given previous history, will look and run better on a PS4. Yea, they finally did the right thing by getting rid of the Kinect, but where does that leave the Xbox One? The entire system was built around the Kinect. Microsoft left this dilemma untouched for folks like me who have yet to purchase an Xbox One to ponder. And it is worrisome. The biggest highlight of the conference was Ori and the Blind Forest, which looked beautiful, but it’s not enough to justify a $400 purchase.
Next Time: The original Xbox had Halo and Knights of the Old Republic to convince me it was worth a purchase. The Xbox 360 had Halo 3 and Mass Effect. The Xbox One is in sore need of another AAA franchise. They really need a WOW moment. What about the Samaritan demo Epic showed off a couple years ago? A huge selling point for me would also be to make backwards compatibility a reality.

Sony
ps4
Grade: B
Review: Another solid showing even if the conference lost some steam with the awkwardness in the middle. Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Driveclub, and Little Big Planet 3 all look to be fine exclusives. I am not sure what to think of the exclusive title Let It Die, but at least it shows Sony is not afraid to take risks. The highlight of the show for me was definitely No Man’s Sky. And after confirming that the trailer showed for Uncharted 4 was running on the in-game engine, yea, that is a must buy title for next year. But that’s next year. What about this year? I am still left wondering what all the other Sony in-house studios are working on. And really, nothing shown made me think I need to run out and purchase a PS4 right this instant. The most exciting titles announced were multiplatform.
Next Time: Where was Last Guardian? How about that open world RPG Guerilla Games is working on? Games, games, games. That is what this system sorely needs. The potential is there and I know the games are coming. Offering up more teasers, surprises, and wow moments will knock the next conference out of the ballpark.

Nintendo
wii u
Grade: B-
Review: Welcome back, Big N. Legend of Zelda certainly offered up the WOW moment Nintendo needed to make the Wii U pop up on my radar. And with the success of Mario Kart 8 and another Smash Bros game due this fall, things are finally starting to look up for them as well. However, 3 major things give me caution: 1. The void that was third party support is deafening. It makes me wonder if this system will go the way of Gamecube. I would hate to purchase the system this year and next year have Nintendo release a new system. I can’t shake the feeling that this is a major possibility. 2. Hearing from a few sources that the Star Fox that was announced may be nothing more than a glorified tech demo disappointed me for sure. 3. Where was Metroid? Yea, as the conference came to a close we were left with a little tidbit that an announcement may be made in the near future. But here is the problem: delays. Everything on the Wii U feels like it is being delayed. Xenoblade. Smash Bros. The system is on life support as it is. It needs games, not delays. And see, this is where third party support would come in handy in keeping the system afloat.
Next Time: I need assurance that Nintendo doesn’t plan to abandon ship with the Wii U. This conference was a start in the right direction. But its baby steps when really Nintendo needs to be running. Unveil the games. Open the wallet for third party support. Oh, and how about allowing more than a single gamepad to work per Wii U?

Top 5

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1. Witcher 3-It’s beautiful. The cities are thriving. The environments are so colorful. The combat looks fluid. This game continues to wow me with every showing.
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2. Batman Arkham Knight-Batman done right. Everything I have seen from this final chapter of Rocksteady’s epic trilogy screams awesome. My only worry is story. Arkham Origins has had the best story of any of the Arkham games and that was even done by Rocksteady.
dragon
3. Dragon Age Inquisition-Bioware appears to have a megaton hit on their hands. I have loved everything I have seen and greatly appreciate that Bioware’s pledge to listen to fan feedback wasn’t lip service. My only gripe? The cities. Or lack thereof. Will there be cities to explore? And will they be as thriving as they are in Witcher 3 or will all the NPC’s be stuck in mud?
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4. No Man’s Sky-The idea of exploring an infinite galaxy sounds incredible. The atmosphere looked beautiful. And every player starts the game on a different planet? How cool! But will this game live up to the ambitions of its creators?
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5. Evolve-I came into this e3 without a concern or care in the world for this game. After watching it in action, I can safely say I was so wrong for ignoring it. Fun is the word that best describes it. An incredible amount of fun.

Surprises

lego
1. Lego Batman 3. Ok, don’t laugh. I loved Marvel Superheroes. And this comes from someone who is not the biggest fan of Lego games. So color me surprised when I saw this and thought, “Wow, that looks like a blast.” I’m keeping this on my radar although I am not guaranteeing a purchase. Not just yet.
shadow
2. Shadow of Mordor. I’m sold. The Nemesis system is one of the best things to happen to this new generation of consoles. The game looks and feels great. If the story can be on par from the gameplay that was shown than this will end up being the LOTR game I have always wanted.
rainbow six
3. Rainbow Six Siege. I’m a little sad that Patriots was canceled after showing so much promise. However, the hostage situation multiplayer matches looked fantastic. It made you think. It made you sweat. If this game can continue down this path it will not only distinguish itself from COD and Battlefield, it will also be a blockbuster hit.

Honorable Mention

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Far Cry 4-The game looked beautiful. I have major concerns with story. I also question Ubisoft’s ability to create a living world. And does there need to be so much profanity? It may be an attempt to come across as cool, but to me it is just lazy writing.
Assassins-Creed-E3-Unity
Assassin’s Creed: Unity-Perfect time period selected what with it taking place during the French Revolution. Four player co-op? Yes. I was particularly intrigued by the murder scene investigation the player stumbled across. However, I am a bit turned off but what I feel is too much hand-holding in Ubisoft’s games. Also, after Assassin’s Creed 3, I am still fatigued with the series. So much so that I never bothered played Black Flag. This game has my attention, but it is surely divided at this point.

Disappointments
1. Mass Effect Trilogy-So maybe I got my hopes up. But seriously, this would have been awesome to have on the next gen consoles. 1080p/60 fps, all dlc included, and the combat in ME 1 tweaked to perfection. But the conference came and went without even a whisper of its existence.
2. Mass Effect 4-Concept art? Really? The game is playable, but all we get is concept art? Listen, I know you don’t want take the attention away from DAI, but still. A teaser trailer would have been significantly better than a few pieces of concept art.
3. Bioware’s New IP-Ok…what did I just see? A building. Day and night cycle. Right. What’s the point? Give me a name. A teaser trailer. Something to latch my excitement upon. This felt absolutely pointless.
4. Star Wars Battlefront-I get it. You went to some locations. You’re staying true to the Star Wars brand. But this feels like a theme that was pretty consistent with the entire EA conference. We have lots of cookies in the oven, but nothing to show right now. Like, nothing. No teasers. No game footage. Nothing. I don’t know whether to be excited or stumped. Therefore, I am left disappointed.
5. Last Guardian –You vehemently defend the notion the title is not canceled, but can’t so much as show a building with a day and night cycle. Man, we got that from Bioware’s IP. And what, Last Guardian has only been in development since the rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. If it’s canceled, admit it. If it’s in development, then show it. At this point, you need make a decision and stick with it.

Overall, e3 2014 was a “Play It Safe” event. I understand the reasons. However, the lack of WOW moments has made what was a solid show mostly forgettable.