Destiny Alpha

It’s been hyped for years, it’s costing $500m and it’s the future for Bungie and for the last 4 days the Destiny Alpha has been available on the PS4.

Some quick thoughts after a few hours play:

  • The presentation is very slick throughout the Alpha
  • There are many nods to Halo throughout the game which I guess is no surprise
  • Graphically it’s impressive but some of the environments feel quite sparse, although again it’s an alpha and no doubt much more to come later in the year
  • The music and audio are great – really atmospheric
  • The more I played through the missions, the more it felt like Halo which while great as Halo is a game I really enjoyed, I was expecting a bit more. Working as a team, playing through a set piece and then moving on through to another set piece – all been done before.
  • Character customisation looks to be really deep with most locked off in the alpha. Three different classes to play through too.
  • Multiplayer was accessed via the Crucible. Two maps, basically hardpoint from Titanfall and while they played OK on moving back to Titanfall it showed that Destiny felt a bit lacking.
  • The firing mechanics are fine, just felt a but unsatisfying. Only really played with a couple of weapons so too early to tell if this is an issue
  • Ammo is limited in multiplayer – you have a heavy weapon for example but no ammo for it, with random and infrequent drops during the game.
  • It is a very pretty at times

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140614084525

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There is one big downside to the Destiny Alpha – it’s limited in scale and finished yesterday. The beta launches in July but the real game isn’t out until September. It’s going to be a long three months as despite some shortcomings I’m looking forward to the final release.

A final shout out to the PS4 which allows you to copy screens and video to a USB disk. Makes for easy transfer of great quality screen grabs and also allows you to show off some video from Destiny.

Halo Update

Still loving it, campaign on legendary is very hard, multiplayer is very very good and the ability to download maps and game variants that other people create and share offers so much life. We played a rocket racing mode tonight which was great fun.

There have been lot’s of reviews but I’m wondering…another 10 from Edge? I think it would be justified and would also be the first game series to be awarded two 10’s.

Halo 3 Rocks

So I’ve had 3 or 4 hours on Halo 3…enough for a quick opinion but not much else.

It’s a very pretty game. There’s been a lot of talk that it’s not up to par with Gears or Bioshock but in those games you only see a few enemies at a time and the levels are small and enclosed. The maps in Halo are very big, have lot’s of enemies, ships flying around, vehicles etc and I think it looks stunning. No glitches, always smooth (although I haven’t played much) and a very solid feel. They are also far more colourful than the drab, but detailed, Gears and Bioshock.

Halo 3

I’ve only played through a tiny bit of the campaign (screenshot from my campaign trial this afternoon) as I’m keeping that for co-op only. The sections I did play were pretty tough and the AI seemed much improved. I also kept running out of weapons and didn’t get to see any new weapons at all. Still, early days for the campaign. I played on heroic although fancy doing co-op on legendary to keep the challenge high. Looking at my friends list today there were a couple of folk running through the game on normal….looks like they took 6-8 hours to rattle through the game. So play on at least heroic to enjoy the game at it’s best. Thank goodness co-op mode was added as this will probably be the first Halo campaign I will actually complete.

However the campaign is the smallest part of Halo 3 – the emphasise looks to be on multiplayer as that’s what will keep gamers occupied for the next couple of years. I say years as I played and enjoyed Halo 2 for over two years and I hope this latest version has as much depth online as the previous version.

Halo 3 - Sword Action

I’ve only really played Team Slayer (4 vs 4) and on 4 maps so far. Firstly, no lag to be seen. Second, no cheating either. The new weapons offer quite a varied arsenal and it will take a while to get used to them. Old ones have also been tweaked. Sword for example does not last forever and also takes longer to pull out and use – it’s still powerful but not as much as in Halo 2.

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much but that’s a good thing as there wasn’t too much wrong with Halo 2. Bungie have addressed some community issues though. No more listening to morons on Live screaming, swearing, shouting, calling you gay, asking if you want a cup of tea and a scone. There’s a variety of options including not hearing opponents and being able to quickly mute your team. They’ve also introduced push to talk which has quietened things down too. It made for a far more enjoyable online experience.

Halo 3 - Flying Sword

There seem to be many more online game modes with the ability to create your own and share those creations with friends. Rocket Warthog racing anyone? I’ve not had any time to dabble with Forge which is a game mode in it’s own right that allows one team member to drop weapons, vehicles, change spawn points – basically customise the map to their hearts content. This is another option that should give longevity to the title.

Bungie have also increased web and community integration. Using the theatre mode I can share film and screenshots with friends and also via the Bungie website. I can download screenshots from Bungie and also select in game clips from the website to view on the 360. As the movies use the in game code you can only view the movies in game on the 360. How lovely (but massively bandwidth intensive) would it have been to save movies to a Bungie Youtube equivalent that could have been used to share in game movies with anyone? They have also made it easy to see what your friends are playing and how far they are in their game and they’ve upped the post game analysis details on their website.

The screens above are all from my short play time this afternoon (Flickr set here and will grow over time). The top picture shows the level of detail seen in the campaign mode. The next two are from one game of Team Slayer. The second picture is me wielding a sword and about to double kill another red guy. The last picture is an in air kill, again with the sword. You can also see a team mate sniping form right to left. The level of detail (bullets, blood etc) in incredible and a great example of how good the Halo 3 engine really is.

That’s about it really. A cracking update to the Halo universe and something I’ll look forward to playing for many months. Call of Duty 4 though will provide some stiff competition as it’s online mode is excellent. I probably played my last game on it tonight though as most of my friends will be picking up Halo 3 tomorrow. Let the big team battles begin.

Halo 3 Countdown

Not long until I get my grubby little paws on Halo 3 (some already have it). A new video released by Bungie today called Cinema Paradiso highlights the features outside a normal FPS that should keep me coming back to Halo time and time again. The Forge is a map editor that allows the placement of weapons, vehicles, spawn points, turrets and objects to be user controlled. It looks amazing although could take some time to get to grips with.

More impressive is the game replay, film creation and photo creation tools. Call of Duty 4 has a death camera that shows where you got shot from. Halo 3 takes it one step further allowing you to review the entire game, see exactly how you were owned in a game and then save and upload your best bits for other gamers to see. I’d talked about something similar during Halo 2 and it’s great to see something along those lines finally come out.

This video also highlights some great multiplayer action – the hammer looks amazing. Just as well I’ve got a few days off to enjoy the new game.

Halo 3 Thoughts

I felt it was worth playing more than a handful of games before commenting on Halo 3 as it takes time to get used to some of the more subtle changes. The most noise on the net at the moment is with the quality, or lack of, of the graphics. I’ve been happy with them but they aren’t mindblowing. I’ve been impressed with the bubble shield, the increased detail on all the maps, the water effects and the higher res that everything is presented in. While it’s a beta I don’t expect them to change much between now and September although the single player may have an extra sheen as seen in previous Halo games when compared to multi-player.

The three maps in the beta are all very different, new and provide fresh challenges. Most disappointing is Snowbound as it’s fairly small with not much detail. The snow effects are nice but there isn’t much cover on the map leading to quick deaths. Still, the Ghost on this map does allow me to mow down folk.

Highground is a fantastic map consisting of a beach, with a main path heading up to an abandoned base. Lot’s of hiding places, multiple routes to the base and also the chance to try the Mongoose. Think smaller, aster more vulnerable Warthog. Great fun. Finally there is Valhalla which is a more traditional Halo map – large with a base at each end and in a valley with undulating terrain and a stream running through it. The water really slows the Warthog down and when you die in the water your body is carried by the currrent and the sound is muffled…a great touch.

First Halo 3 Match

The new weapons are a mixed bag at the moment. The Spartan Laser is very powerful but balance is provided in that it takes 5 seconds to charge. Machine gun turrets are now removable but really slow you down – still makes an effective weapon for mowing down groups. The Brute Spiker is a great new weapon close up – dual wielding seems to be most effective and does a lot of damage.

Most notable is that the pace has dropped slightly. It feels a tad slower than Halo 2 but if anything this has made the game feel even better. One of the early rumours was that the game physics could be altered by the host so that gravity, speed, weapon power etc could be altered so if true it would be easy to adjust running speed. I’m not convinced by offerring these variable options though – every game could feel different, odd even for all those playing apart from the host. I guess this won’t apply to ranking matches if there is such a feature.

Certainly the first 20 or so games for me have been excellent and are a great taster for the full release in September. In an attempt to beat the de-rankers you now have experience point (Ranking Points) which allows matchmaking to be refined and be based not just on your current skill level but also your experience.

After the lack of party features in Gears of War it’s great to form your own party and take your friends into a game. If this was in Gears of War I think I and many of my friends would have played it more. It makes for a great game online when it’s your friends rather than strangers your fighting with. The speech is a little awkward though. By default team speak is off with only proximity chat on. Most games with strangers have been fairly quiet so far. With friends in your team it’s a bit more vocal but I would have preferred that team speak was default rather than a button press.

I guess the most annoying feature is the time limit as the beta ends on June 10th. The last three nights have seen some fantastic online games – mostly close games and a great laugh. Maybe it’s for the best as no doubt we would be tired of the maps by September. I’m in no doubt however that this is another classic that will eat up as much time as Halo 2 did. Roll on Sep 26th – my pre-order has already been made.

Gears of War - where's the depth?

The post title is pretty negative so let’s get the good stuff out of the way…

  • Gears of War (GOW from now on) is a fantastic looking game – not seen anything on the 360 that gets close. Some of the textures and effects are very realistic. Loving the rain in act 3!
  • The single player mode has got me gripped more than I expected and certainly more than Halo 2.
  • Online co-op adds so much to this game. Playing through chapters with friends over the last few nights has been great – hopefully more games in future will allow you to play any level via co-op.
  • The look and feel of the levels so far (half way though the game) has been varied with some stunning cityscapes and architecture on display. You can easily see the influence that cities and in particular London have had on the game.
  • Lack of story. Yep – thats a positive for me. I’d rather a company focused on gameplay and good content throughout the whole game than a good story, great cinematics towards the start and then a rehash of old content and textures towards the end of the game as publishing deadlines start to bite.
  • Weapons! The chainsaw on the gun is inspired – I’ve still to tire from killing and covering my screen in blood. The active reload of ammo is also far better than I expected. As you reload you need to time a button press to get a faster reload and increased ammo power. Miss it and your gun will jam – get it right and you do more damage. On paper it sounded really tacky. In practice it makes for a great feature that adds to the pressure in the heat of the battle.
  • Online has been fun. Loving the destructible furniture and the encouragement of good team play. Been some great finishing moves to the matches too.

Sounding good so far but now my moans…

  • Biggest and loudest is multiplayer. Three measly options which are all derivatives of team deathmatch. Through play we tend to end up only playing warzone which really is team deathmatch.
  • Online Maps – although there is a fair number there isn’t much variation, probably due to the style of gameplay. Hide, shoot. Hide, shoot. Hide/Camp, chainsaw.
  • Best way to play the game is with friends. Can really take advantage of people’s strengths and weaknesses and employ some tactics. Think a slightly dumbed down Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six. So it’s good to know that I can’t play ranked games with friends. Only with randoms. Thats very poor, especially when ranked games with friends is rumored to be a feature being worked on while another story said you couldn’t do ranked games with the True Skill features in Xbox Live. Thats just bull.
  • Ultimately a lack of depth. Although I’m enjoying the single player mode and co-op, and online has been fun, I’ve been finding it a bit tiring after an hour or so. Very samey gameplay with not much variation. It’s got some teamwork depth but thats about it. Halo was is far more satisfying.
  • Forward rolls are the new jump. I remember when Perfect Dark Zero came out. rejoice – people can’t jump. True but they can forward roll all over the place. Has lead to some quite bizarre fights with 3 or 4 players rolling, shooting, rolling away, taking stock, rolling, shooting etc etc etc. What a pain in the arse. Far more annoying than jumping.
  • Downloadable content is inevitable. How much?

Should you buy the game? Absolutely. Fun will be had, the single player mode rocks and the online side is fun but limited. Just don’t expect to be playing this in two years time. A recent interview with Bungie shows why I think Halo 3 will still be the game to beat on the 360. Can’t wait.

Anniversaries

5 years since the Xbox, and hence Halo was launched…

4 years since Xbox Live was launched…

Just over 2 years since Halo 2 was launched…

I guess it’s not a big stretch to expect Halo 3 to launch around this time next year but there was some news today of upcoming developments. Firstly there’s a multiplayer Halo 3 demo coming next spring and to wet the appetite a new screenshot was shown.

Halo 3

More of a surprise is that there are new maps for Halo 2 coming next spring. I still regularly play and enjoy Halo 2 so it’s great to see a more than two year old game get extra content, even if it is paid content and a final chance to extract some money from Halo 2 players. The only restriction is that you need a 360 to enjoy the new content.

Reading about the Xbox Live anniversary brought back memories of my first time on Live. I was beta testing the UK service and it was a Friday afternoon when I first plugged in the headset and booted up the beta Moto GP. I had no idea what to expect so picked a random game (there were only a few available) and joined. Only three people in the room, one of which was a Climax developer. This was amazing. Silky smooth, no lag although it felt a bit odd talking to other gamers. The next Moto GP session had around eight players. Still great although the voice chat was brought to a crashing, jarring stop. ‘Who’s that fanny thats in front’ could be heard…from the mouth of a wee Glaswegian ned. Unmistakable. ‘Oot the way ya prick’. Ouch.

Funnily enough those two sessions sum up all thats been good and bad about Xbox Live. Great online gaming with real and virtual friends with the occasional (slightly more than occasional on Halo) annoyance of some wee turd running his mouth off. Americans in particular. Still, it was a revelation and revolution that is now being copied by Sony and to a certain extent Nintendo. Console gaming just wouldn’t be the same without it. For all the abuse that Microsoft received (and still gets) it should be applauded for bringing out Xbox Live. Roll on the next four years.

The Banhammer

Ouch – after boasting about playing well in Halo and folk reporting me for cheating I logged onto Halo tonight to find I’ve been temporarily banned. Bastards. I wouldn’t mind if I had cheated but I haven’t – no mods, no standby by nonsense – nothing. Not even the occasional super jump like so many others tend to do.

If it was a one off then so be it but at the Bungie site they say that a repetition of the cheating will mean a permanent ban. Totally agree when your cheating – harsh when you’ve done nothing wrong except play well. I’m now looking forward to the 360 more than ever – might even dust off PGR2 for a spot of ‘in anticipation’ gaming.

Happy Birthday

Today Halo is four years old. Halo 2 is one year old. To celebrate Bungie has posted some historical background and also some news about how both games will look on the 360.

Halo sold the Xbox for many and got a controversial 10 in Edge. It was the start of a series that Microsoft now depend on and has spawned a movie. The gameplay in the first one for me was flawed, dull and repetitive. Halo 2 fixed that by providing Xbox Live support. I can’t think of many games that I have played regularly after 1 year. Halo 2 is unique in that not only do I still play it, I look forward to playing it. Anyone up for some Team Snipers?