The final instalment of the original story arc was always going to have to be something special and it delivered. Personally I have found memories of the games release in 2007 as a friend and I hooked the Xbox 360 up to my dad’s projector and surround sound system. The hours of gaming that followed as we ran through the campaign on heroic always comes to mind any time I play the game. So what made Halo 3 almost the perfect shooter…
Like Halo 2 the major format of game play remains largely unchanged from the original but adds a couple of new elements. The inclusion of “support weapons” made it easier to take down large groups of Brutes or vehicles. Extra firepower comes at a price as caring the two handed weapons prevents you from using grenades and slows movement. Limited ammo in “support weapons” means that you can’t hang on to them forever which prevents the game from getting easy.
The other major addition to overall game play was the introduction of deployable equipment which includes grave lifts, energy drains and different shields among other things. These items can be picked up and swapped like weapons depending on your tactics. This new feature is helpful in campaign but really comes into its own during multiplayer due to the faster pace. While some equipment is clearly more useful then others it does provide players with more opportunity to change their strategy which for me has always been important to the success of Halo.
Along with the general game play additions Halo 3 introduced a couple of new multiplayer features which allowed it to capitalise on the strength of Halo 2. The most revolutionary element of the game is the introduction of Forge a personalised multiplayer map system which allows players to change the location of vehicles, weapons and items. Historically I haven’t been a massive online gamer and have only briefly tested this out but I can definitely see its appeal. Considering this It’s not surprising that 343 have promised to add Forge to Halo 5 with an update.
Personally, my favourite multiplayer option has always been cooperative normally on a split screen. Halo 3 unlike most games didn’t ignore this method of gaming as it introduced online cooperative for the first time and to capitalise on players’ competitive nature this included a points rank system. This feature provided a lot of potential which is set to be recognised in Halo 5 as players all had original characters; Master Chief, The Arbiter and two elites. Unfortunately, in Halo 3 game play is the same for all characters which is where Halo 5 will take the next step.
Storyline & Setting
The main campaign starts from where Halo 2 unceremoniously left fans hanging and picks up the story with Truth’s forces occupying part of earth. The first part of the game sees the Chief hook up with some old friends to regroup before moving to attack. At first it’s a bit odd playing through Halo without Cortana’s usual commentary but we are constantly reminded of her presence due to some quick flashes.
Despite your best efforts the Chief can’t stop Truth from reaching the Ark but before he can follow the The Flood crash High Charity into the remains of the city. Thankfully this gives the Chief the opportunity to keep a promise and save Cortana before traveling through the portal to stop Truth and The Flood.
Unlike Halo 2 the campaign is hugely satisfying as it incorporates customary Halo twists where the Chief finds himself temporally allied with different enemies and more importantly an ending. The storyline even works on character development with the forming of a friendship of sorts with the Arbiter and a clear progression of the relationship between Cortana and the Chief which becomes central to Halo 4. In the main storyline Halo 3 even gives homage to the original which gets the nostalgia really flowing and is a real payoff for diehard fans.
Halo 3 is the most complete game in the series as it continues to develop game play in small ways while retaining the formula that has made the series a success. In addition, it builds on the strengths of Halo 2 while clearly making an effort to improve open it’s weakness through a well developed central storyline. If this is the way the world ends, I’m cool with it.
Game play: 9.5
E3 2015 is done and dusted so I thought I’d look more in-depth at the games that really caught my attention and those I personally can’t wait to get my hands on.
Halo 5 guardians
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: 27/10/15
A new Halo is always a big deal for the Xbox community and the first instalment on the new console will be expected to boast overall console sales just like the past. The small snippets of the story line have got fans like myself sitting on edge, is the Master Chief a traitor, is Spartan Locke friend or foe and the inclusion of Buck voiced by Nathan Fillion from ODST is a welcomed addition. At E3 we were given a glimpse of the campaign that diverges a little from the traditional formula as it seems more like ODST and Reach with two teams of Spartans led by Locke and the Master Chief made for drop in & out coop play. In addition 343 industries gave us Warzone a new 24 player multiplayer mode combining elements of PvP and PvE where two teams compete with the added fun of AI opponents in a crazy overload of Halo awesomeness. Suddenly the 27 of October seems so far away.
Forza motorsport 6
Platform: Xbox One
Release date: 15/9/15
Recently I have really got into playing Forza 5 as it has outstanding graphics and is perfect for gaming when you have time constraints. The 6th instalment promises much of the same running in 1080p it looks stunning and with an extensive list of 450 cars it’s perfect for car enthusiasts. However, the main development is the addition of meaningful racing conditions, this goes beyond the basic visual effect and includes real world experience as rain doesn’t just look pretty but actually make the track slippery and effects your handling. A subtle inclusion but one that will make it just that little more challenging for seasoned racers.
Platform: Xbox One and Windows
Release date: 2015
This free to play cooperative title has been promoted before at Microsoft events as it demonstrates the capabilities of Windows 10’s cross-platform gaming as PC and Xbox users can play alongside each other. Legends offers gamers a different experience than previous titles as players can choose between the traditional hero game play without the exploration alongside possibly up to 3 friends or as the villain who plans the obstacles faced by our band of heroes like a strategy game. It seems like an interesting combination of different game styles and I’m looking forward to testing it out later this year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Platform: First on Xbox
Release date: 10/11/15
Crystal dynamics sequel to their 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider promises a lot with different combat options and more opportunity for discovery. Learning from the feedback after the previous title developers have incorporate a new ability for Lara to use her environment to create weapons and make choices as to how she will engage combatants. Most notably this includes the ability to avoid lethal engagements using items as distractions and finding other methods to take down the enemy. In addition crystal dynamics have stated their aim to make Lara the most realistic and humanised character in gaming by focus on the emotional impact of decisions and the storyline. We shall have to wait until November 10th to see if Rise of the Tomb Raider delivers.
Gears of War ultimate edition and Gears 4
Platform: Xbox One
Release date: 25/8/15 and holidays 2016
The other Xbox franchise also had its time at E3 with two announcements. Gears of War Ultimate Edition was unveiled and its more than just a remastered HD version of the 2006 original but more of a full rebuild. The Coalition has gone back to basics with new motion capture and animation to help bring the game into the next era of gaming. Beyond this the remake incorporates new game elements from more recent titles in the series including an enhanced multiplayer. Even thinking about it gives me a pang of nostalgia.
Gears 4 the first game in the franchise since Microsoft took over the rights shows more of what we expect, chainsaws, weird creatures and a post apocalyptic setting. Still scarce on details all we really know about Gears 4 is that the gameplay looks similar to the other titles in the series. It’s still far away but any new chance to saw through your enemies can’t easily be passed up.
Platform: Xbox One
Release date: 4/8/15
This collection of 30 classic Rare games is a steal for the $30 price tag. Many of the games pre-date my gaming experience but classic 64 titles like Banjo Kazooie, the sequel Banjo Tooie and Perfect Dark are enough for me to jump on board. Adding some Xbox 360 up dates to those series alongside a host of other games to explore for the first time and I’m counting the hours of game play. The only disappointments are the absence of GoldenEye and Diddy Kong Racing due to legal restrictions. Click here to see the full list.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC
A self professed Star Wars tragic I have been looking forward to this one since Battlefront 2 was released years ago. One of my absolute favourite Star Wars games because it allows players to jump into the epic battle and key events of the films like no other game. Gameplay follows the same basic format as the earlier titles in that it is primarily a third person shooter with different class options and you need to complete a series of objectives in order for your side of the Star Wars conflict to gain victory. It doesn’t look like there are any real changes to this basic formula but the new Battlefront takes advantage of the next generation consoles through new game modes and refinement. Personally I can’t think of a better way to get in the spirit before the release of The Force Awakens.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Platform: Xbox One, PS4 and PC
Release Date: Q4 2016
Details are still scarce about the new Mass Effect but we learnt at E3 that the game is set outside the milky way in the Andromeda galaxy long after the events of Mass Effect 3. This means that developers have the freedom to imagine a new host of planets and new alien species without being restricted by the previous games. Despite this scope for innovation its clear that this next chapter will maintain most of the elements we have come to expect of the series as the game will still follow a human protagonist leading a team made up of different specialists. Beyond this we also know that Mass Effect Andromeda will use the Frostbite 3 game engine behind Dragon Age Inquisition which promises a rich experience. I’m very excited about this one as I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing through the previous titles multiple times, I’m just shattered its such a long wait.
Check back later as I preview the best of the rest from E3
E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.
Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.
PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.
Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.
Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.
Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.
PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content
Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.
Finally … Peripherals
Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.
PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.
Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.
It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.
But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.