Halo: Combat Evolved

January 11, 2006

Seems a bit late to be talking about [i]Halo: Combat Evolved[/i], but some of us are just late to the party every once in a while. I have owned an Xbox for a couple of years now, but I never did get around to playing [i]Halo[/i]. Even though millions of people love this game, I waited for it to hit $20 because it almost sounded like it was overrated. Combine that thought with the fact that a lot of shooters bore me if they don’t bring anything unique to the table, and you can almost see why I played [i]Halo[/i] for the first time last week.

My first piece of advice to myself is this: If a game sells millions and millions of copies, it can’t just be another of the same game within its genre. I thought [i]Halo[/i] would be just another shooter, and combine that with me preferring a mouse and keyboard for controls, and you can once again see my hesitation to play [i]Halo[/i].

Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one in this boat. Everyone has a genre that just doesn’t appeal to them so much, and they need an excellent game to come around to start enjoying that genre again. [i]Halo[/i] did this for me.

I only played [i]Halo[/i] in two sittings before I beat it (granted, on normal difficulty) because I was just that hooked. While it brought a few new things to the shooter genre that weren’t already big before, the real big thing that [i]Halo[/i] brought to us was an excellent storyline that really pulled you in. The more I played, the more I wanted to play. I just had to see what was going to happen next.

I think this is the first shooter in a long time that I really loved. While I’ve liked shooters like [i]Unreal Tournament[/i], [i]Max Payne[/i], [i]Doom 3[/i], etc., this is the first one in a very long time that I truly loved. [i]Halo[/i] really is every bit as awesome as everyone has told me. Why was I so hesitant to believe everybody?

Of course, the major gripe everyone had was the levels and that they all looked the same. It didn’t really bother me though since an unnaturally made structure is likely to look similar all over. It just makes sense from a cost standpoint that every structure would be made in a similar fashion.

I guess the reason I am writing this piece today is because I know I’m not alone. I’m sure there are a few other people out there like myself who don’t like shooters as much as other genres. Perhaps they’ve stayed away from [i]Halo[/i] because they don’t like shooters on consoles, and perhaps for some reason they didn’t bother to get it on the PC.

Either way, anyone who has yet to play [i]Halo[/i] and wants to have some fun with a truly awesome shooter should really check it out. It’s only $20 now, which means that you can get it for even less used. Forget for a moment that you’re not too fond of shooters. Forget for a moment that it was designed for the Xbox. Forget any preconceived notions that you may have about this game. You really owe it to yourself to at least try it out. I finally did, and I honestly wish I had tried it sooner.

[i]Halo[/i] is one of those games that I should have purchased the second I got an Xbox. From now on, I will not hesitate to try out new games that the whole world seems to enjoy. Odds are, if millions of people like the game, there’s good reason for it.

The Suffering

January 9, 2006

The suffering of a man within a suffering world is largely what [i]The Suffering[/i] is about. John Torque is awaiting punishment for an incredibly heinous crime: the murder of his own family. In Carnate Penitentiary, the punishment for such a crime is the lethal injection. However, fate has far worse than death in store for Torque. No, he will face his suffering, and he will face the suffering of Carnate itself.

Heh, I seem to be good at pushing a game’s mood and emotion, and I feel that it’s the best way to introduce a game that is very much focused on getting the player to engage with its story and atmosphere. One thing [i]The Suffering[/i] has going for it is a tremendous introduction to its gameplay. Torque is thrown into a cell in Carnate’s death row. He never talks, but people around him speak. It is through what they say that you begin to understand just what has brought Torque to being in this dire situation, and it leads to a lot of questions. Is it really true? Is the character you’re playing really a murderer? Does he even deserve to live? Well, it’s best to save those questions for later because the conversation between Torque and his cell mates is broken up suddenly by a power outage and some very nasty bladed creatures. From there, Torque has to stay alive and find a way out of the prison, and eventually off Carnate Island.

However, his journey is wrought with peril. It soon becomes apparent that Carnate has a tragically awful past full of death, cruelty and of course, suffering. And that suffering seems to have come to life in the form of creatures that symbolically represent each of Carnate’s most horrible incidents, as well as the methods of execution used in the penitentiary. Torque also seems to have an odd abilityA

I do want to say from the beginning that [i]Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy[/i] (henceforth, known as [i]Sphinx[/i]) was not a bad game. It wasn’t a great game either, and I think that was the problem.

From a technical standpoint, [i]Sphinx[/i] was solid. Graphically, it was acceptable for a 3D platformer (again, not great, but not bad). The controls were good, and did exactly what the game needed to do. The story was adequate for a platforming title, but that’s about it. Sphinx is quite likely the king of mediocrity in the gaming world. Not great, and not bad.

As mentioned, I could only tolerate two hours or so of this game, and it’s not because it was bad. The problem, once again, is just that it’s not great. I’ve played some excellent platformers like [i]Sly Cooper[/i], [i]Ratchet and Clank[/i], [i]Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,[/i] and even [i]Mario Sunshine[/i] prior to this game. These games are excellent platforming titles, and having played them first was likely the primary reason I just couldn’t get into [i]Sphinx[/i].

The swordplay in the game could have been a bit more fluid. It was rather button-mashy, and after [i]Sands of Time[/i], having a swordfight with a little finesse is almost expected by me. Even if the swordplay was great though, enemies were few and far between, and for a while, you just throw rocks at them that you found on the ground.

Another problem the game had was with the voice acting. No, it wasn’t bad. It was non-existent. The characters’ lips moved with text on the screen, but that was it. All these other platformers (barring [i]Mario Sunshine[/i]) had some excellent voice acting that was very appropriate for the games. [i]Sphinx[/i] however was following the expression “It’s better to be silent and thought an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt.” The trouble is, I would have taken bad voice acting over nothing in this game.

I really wanted to like this game. It looked like it would be really fun. The puzzles were well thought out and required the use of your brain, but they were not frustrating. Overall the game could have been great, but it just feels like it wasn’t polished enough. Had it been a launch title this generation, it would have gone over much better. The trouble though is that there have been many far superior platforming titles on all the major consoles and Sphinx just couldn’t compete.

The only saving grace to [i]Sphinx[/i] was that I found it for $10 in the bargain bin. For $10, could I really go wrong? Well, yes, in retrospect, I think I did. Still, if you have never played any of the other great platformers of this generation, then perhaps the mediocrity of [i]Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy[/i] will not bother you. If you, however, have played [i]Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time[/i] or [i]Sly Cooper[/i], you will be severely disappointed in just how average this game is.

Most games I can force myself to suffer through to the end, but nothing was going to change even if I put ten hours into this game. There wasn’t going to magically be any voice acting. The swordplay wasn’t going to magically rival [i]Prince of Persia’s[/i], and the graphics weren’t going to magically be the best out there halfway through the game. This title truly is the king of mediocrity. It’s really not a bad game, but it’s not great either. After having been spoiled by greatness, mediocrity is now below me. I’m better than that.

Karaoke Revolution Party

December 23, 2005

Bear with me, this is my first ever review. So let’s start off with what this game is about. This is a Karaoke game, a game in which you sing along to songs while reading the lyrics. But this game can be less forgiving to your “heartfelt” melody. The mic required for the game allows the Xbox to judge your singing, mostly the pitch (if you are sharp or flat) and the syncopation (are you hitting the correct rhythm of the words). You score more points for correct notes and beat. Now this may have turned you off right away… but fear not! There are modes! I keep mine on easy mode and it doesn’t judge you very hard… it allows more leeway, which makes you think you are totally awesome!

[i]Karaoke Revolution Party[/i] also has other fun features. You can purchase more mics (much to the delight of Microsoft) to allow for duets or competitive play. If you are insane, you can purchase or use an Xbox Dancepad and [i]DDR[/i] along with your song… yes. It has multiples of little arrows under the words. The game includes a playable demo for [i]DDR Ultramix 3[/i] (which is pretty neat as well). If you are really bored, you can play the mini games included: Beach Volleyball, and Crowdsurfing. Basically playing pong with your voice, or yelling out words to get the people to jump at the right time. Sounds neat, but this entertainment value is only trivial…cute…but the interest dwindles with the stupidity of it all.

It’s hard to rate this game because it’s not really an RTS or MMORPG or FPS… it’s…. karaoke. They spiced it up with character creations, which is really fun. You can decide what the body looks like with a unique system, then choose hair style, color, clothes, etc. As you play this game you unlock 5 more songs, trophies, and various fun outfits, such as a Tiger Mascot, Bathrobe, Devil outfit, and miscellaneous little pieces. Graphics are pretty cheesy, which makes me laugh. The characters dance…. badly, but they do their thing to the beat. They also lip-sync really well. But I like this feature because it gives your audience of friends (if you have any =D) something to laugh at and look at whilst you sing (this gets them away from hearing your voice! yay!) There are also various backgrounds from pitstop, to beach party, to music video. Each react to your performance; lights and action happen when your doing good, rain, or technical malfunctions happen if you suck.

On to the most important part… THE MUSIC. Okay… on the box it says “featuring classic favorites and chart-topping hits”. You probably won’t see your favorite song on here. Sorry. What you will find are oldies, ballads, rock, country, funk, etc. Quite various. This is good. You’ll find at least one or two songs that really appeal to your musical tastes. But that leaves the rest of the music kinda wasteful. I know I don’t sing half the songs on the game for that reason. However, there is a remedy for this lack of music problem; Xbox Live. If you have it, you can go online and download up to 100 more songs that may appeal to you more than the ones given.

Overall, this game is fun. No storyline, no career mode, just singing with your buds or perhaps just practicing your love song for a person you like.

There is pure karaoke mode with no judging, but where is the fun in that? If I missed some vital part of this review, ask away… I’m an addict, and I think it’s calling to me again…

After having seen much success with both [i]Battlefield 1942[/i] and [i]Battlefield Vietnam[/i], EA has done it again. With the newest installment in the series, EA brings Battlefield into the 21st century, as well as bringing it to the consoles. With a new single player campaign and Xbox live on its side, how does [i]Battlefield 2: Modern Combat[/i] stack up to the other great shooters that have been released recently?

[i]BF2[/i] comes to the Xbox with a newly revamped single payer campaign. The campaign is now mission based rather than being simply a handful of conquest maps where your play against computer opponents. While the single player missions are not exactly riveting story-packed epics, they are enjoyable. The controls are solid and work well in the heat of battle although they are slightly different than the online controls which may confuse some gamers.

If you’re looking for a strategy or stealth oriented campaign then this is the wrong place to look. [i]BF2[/i] has a very arcade vibe about it. You are scored on your speed of completion, how many deaths you unit takes, number of kills, and how affectively you utilize the new “hot-swap” feature. “Hot-swapping” is a way of transporting yourself from your current position to any other friendly within eyesight. This does wonders in helping to maintain the fast paced action feel of the game. Need to get across that bridge but you don’t want to walk? Just put your reticule over any of your companions in the area and with the push of a button you are now in control of them.

As I mentioned you are scored at the end of each mission. You receive stars for your kills, time, and hot-swapping and lose stars depending on how many deaths your squad incurs. You also earn medals throughout your missions for completing various skills and feats. As these stars and medals accumulate you will gain ranks which unlock more weapons for all of the different types of soldiers at your dispense.

While the single player is fun, that’s not where this title really shines through. EA has brought [i]BF2[/i] to Xbox live with a near perfect result. In online play up to 24 people can go all out in two separate modes. The conquest mode from the original battlefield where two teams compete to control strategically placed outposts and drain the other teams point count or the classic capture the flag option. It would have been nice to see at least a deathmatch or team deathmatch option though.

You can play on 13 different maps, which are all very well done and allow for success when playing any of the five types of characters. The maps are all large and look fantastic, but they are somewhat repetitive. There are only four to five different environments in all of the 13 maps but with the enormous scale and player quantity you never really get tired of them, and if you tire of the online play with all the varied play styles available then shame on you. You could snipe from the grassy hilltops, roll in with a tank or helicopter, call in air strikes, plant C4 charges in doorways or on enemy vehicles; anything is possible and it’s all extremely fun.

If it wasn’t apparent after the release of the first [i]Battlefield[/i] then it most certainly is now. EA is really onto something with this franchise. Both a well-polished single player and an addictive online experience make for one hell of a game. While the single player alone isn’t worthy of your fifty bucks, we all know that isn’t why you are thinking of getting this game anyways. One of the best online console experiences to date makes this more than worthy of your hard earned cash.