Archive for the ‘XBox’ category

Halo: Reach Multiplayer Trailer analysis

March 3rd, 2010

Bungie have just released the “MP bomb” that Marcus Lehto referenced yesterday – it’s a trailer showing some multiplayer action from the Alpha build of Halo: Reach, and it shows of some new features we’ll see in the public Beta in May. You can read about it and download HD versions direct from Bungie.

I’ve stepped through the video frame-by-frame and came up with the following observations:

  • 00:13 – 00:15 From the Loadouts bit, I think it’s clear that jetpacks, active camo, and sprint are all armour abilities.
  • Also looks like the radar shows you the name of the area you’re in e.g. “Slipway” (00:15) , “Yard” (00:21) – should help with team communication :)
  • 00:22 The bit where the Spartan survives the Ghost ram, looks to me like the Spartan does some kind of power punch to the ground or something that kills the Ghost? As kidtsunami points out on the HBO Forum the movement of the Spartan is very reminiscent of the action in the Halo 3 CGI trailer where Master Chief triggers the bubble shield
  • The Covenant weapon at 00:48 looks like a plasma grenade launcher or rocket launcher with tracking projectiles :)
  • Human grenade launcher at 1:03.
  • You can see the armour ability icon “recharging” the jetpack ability at 1:05 – a small circle around the icon.
  • 1:09/1:10 some kind of new gametype where you have to blow up the generators? It’s marked with a “C”, and it’s definitely called a “Generator” in the text that comes up when you blow it up. A Territories variant?
  • 1:12/1:13 – Phantom airstrike taking out the tank?
  • 1:16 is definitely some kind of Covenant equivalent of the Spartan Laser.
  • 1:17 you can see “Revenge” come up as he headshots the guy – is this a new medal?
  • 1:20 – DMR looks like one head shot kills.
  • Looks like the Covenant Laser is back at 1:23 (top-left, targeting the tank).
  • 1:24 Guy that lands beside the “May 3, 2010″ shoots the human grenade launcher towards the camera

Conversation about the video is progressing in this thread on the HBO Forums :)

Halo 3 ARG – Iris

June 21st, 2007

There’s lots of stuff I’ve been meaning to post recently, including my final impressions of the Halo 3 Beta, but they’ll have to wait. The “Halo Nation” is abuzz over Iris – the Halo 3 ARG. So far there haven’t been many puzzles to solve, but rather we’ve been led from place to place. There’s lots of coverage at Hushed Casket, but I’m following things over at the newly created forums at args.bungie.org.

I’m not going to go into the progress so far in detail here, but it started with the appearance of AdjutantReflex on the Bungie.net Halo 3 forum, and links to www.halo3.com/comic, which in turn led to http://www.societyoftheancients.com and a countdown site at 206.16.223.65. The countdown finished abruptly as AdjutantReflex was destroyed/asimilated by something older, more powerful, and now you are redirected to 206.16.223.61 where there’s one of the “servers” that are referred to on the www.halo3.com site.

Clicking on certain glyphs on the rotating machine provides several files to download, and also plays a movie. I’ve managed to re-encode the movie as a Quicktime Movie. You can download it by right-clicking here and chosing Save Target As… or whatever is equivalent in your browser. It looks like this ARG will give us more info on the Forerunner and the background to why they did what they did 100,000 years ago. I’m eager to find out more, but hopefully it will involve more puzzles and less just waiting around for the next thing to be revealed :)

Betalicious!

May 18th, 2007

Halo 3On Wednesday I was able to download the Halo 3 Mulitplayer Beta and jump into the action – unlike people who were waiting to use Crackdown to download the Beta. Apparently there were problems that led to a 15-hour delay while Bungie and Microsoft came up with a patch to Crackdown that sorted things out. There were also problems with some people that got in via the “Rule of 3″ promotion that didn’t receive their codes via email, and Bungie have resent these emails and are dealing with any remaining issues themselves. The Internet nearly melted with the ire flowing from disgruntled players, with Major Nelson seeming to get the brunt of it, bringing down MajorNelson.com. You’d think this was something important :)

Thankfully for me the biggest problem was to decide what to delete to make room for the download. I’m considering getting the 120GB drive when it comes out later this year. The game appeared in the “Demos and More” section, and started up no problem – with a simple loading screen that said “Loading”, “Halo 3 Beta”, and “Love, Bungie” :)

» Read more: Betalicious!

Halo 3 Release Date Announced

May 16th, 2007

Halo 3Bungie last night announced the official release dates for Halo 3. It will be available in the US on the 25th of September 2007, and in Europe on the 26th of September 2007. This comes as a bit of a surprise, since many people expected to see a November release date given that Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were both released in November. Mind you, it’s a nice surprise :)

Now that the dates are official, I’ve updated my countdown timers on My Halo News and Halo Screen Saver.com. I’ve also put the countdown timer into the sidebar here.

For some reason a lot of French gaming sites picked up on the original date I used (07/07/07) and thought it was official because there was a news post up on Bungie.net about my updated screen saver. Well, now they would be right :)

Roll on September!

Halo 3 Beta Starts Today

May 16th, 2007

Today marks the start of the Halo 3 multiplayer beta for those of us who weren’t given a head start via Bungie’s “Friends & Family” scheme. I found my activiation code in my inbox this morning 😀

I can’t wait to get home and start enjoying the Halo 3 goodness! I’m going to make the most of the next three weeks. See you all online!

Sinclair ZX Spectrum is 25 years old

April 26th, 2007

Sinclair ZX SpectrumI came across this article from BBC News about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and how it is now 25 years old. The Spectrum was an affordable home computer popular in the UK and Ireland in the days before PCs came to dominate. You hooked it up to your TV in a similar way to today’s game consoles. It came with 48KB of memory, an 8-bit Z80 processor, and a built-in BASIC interpreter. It had 16 colours, sound, and eventually had a large library of games which you would load from cassette tapes. It was brilliant :)

Friends of my family had a son that got a Sinclair ZX-81 – the precursor to the Spectrum. This had a whole 1KB of memory, a flat membrane keyboard, and the built-in BASIC interpreter so you could type in programs line by line. I got my own ZX-81 soon thereafter, and cut my programming teeth on it with the help of the simple programs provided in the manual. When the Spectrum came out a short while later, I just had to get it. I can still remember the smell of it when I took it out of it’s box :)

It’s hard to over-estimate the impact of the Spectrum – not just on me, but on the UK computer game industry. The Spectrum was as much about creating the games as playing them with it’s focus on programming. The manual was a good primer on BASIC, and once that was mastered you could delve into the depths of Z80 machine code programming. Magazines would publish games that readers had sent in – often requiring you to type in lines & lines of machine code instructions in hex, and if you got one wrong it would crash when you went to run it, and you would have to start typing it in all over again (unless you were smart and had saved the code to tape first!). It’s funny to think that I owe my livelihood in a large part to the same programming language I began with over 25 years ago :)

As for the gaming side of things, my adolescence was filled with time spent battering that rubber keyboard attempting to make Daley Thompson run a bit quicker to win the decathalon, cheering on tiny stick men that played out the highlights of matches in Football Manager as I made my way up the divisions, and fought and traded my way across the galaxy in Elite – still one of my favourite games ever! There were many, many more games, some of them not so good. But the good ones were typically really good. I think this was because the limits of the machine meant that there wasn’t flashy graphics and 5.1 surround sound, so gameplay was really important. None of the games could look so good that it didn’t matter so much if it was crap to play.

And now, the legacy of the Spectrum lives on. Rare, the studio that has created games such as Goldeneye 007 for the N64, and Viva Pinata for the XBox 360 (and many more) began life creating some of the best Spectrum games. Founded in 1982 by the Stamper brothers, it went on to create chart toppers for the Spectrum throughout the 80s, and followed those up with games for various Nintendo platforms, before being acquired by Microsoft in 2002 for US$377 million. Earlier this year, the Stampers announced they were leaving Rare to pursue other interests.

And now, the circle is complete. You can now download an updated version of Rare’s first Spectrum game Jetpac as a XBox Live Arcade game Jetpac Refuelled. It includes the original game, as well as a new HDified version with 128 levels. I had to buy it, and it brought back memories of trying to get a big enough score to send in to CRASH magazine by sellotaping down the fire key and positioning my spaceman in just the right place on one of the levels where he was safe, but would continue to kill the aliens – while I went downstairs for dinner :)

All this, from a small black box with rubber keys.

Alien Hominid HD is a blast

March 13th, 2007

Alien Hominid HDAlien Hominid HD has recently been released on XBox Live Arcade. I have to say it’s great fun. The graphics remind me of Invader Zim, as does the sense of humour in the game. It’s a 2D side-scrolling shooter where you play the role of an alien whose ship has been shot down and crash-landed on Earth, and is being pursued by FBI agents. It’s fast paced frenetic fun, with 2 player co-op adding even more fun. There’s weapon power ups and shields to be collected as you progress, along with vehicles you can jump in to mow down the men in black. Each level contains typical old-skool-type bosses whose weakness you have to work out while avoiding its pattern of attacks. There’s also minigames to unlock which can be played by up to 4 players over XBox Live. It’s just great fun 😀 I liked it so much I unlocked the full version (800 points).

Crackdown Screenshots

March 12th, 2007

I’ve just added some screenshots from Crackdown to the site here. These came from a fansite pack that you can download from the official Crackdown site. It’s pretty good, with the screenshots, concept art, art assets for theming your Crackdown fansite, and lots more. Check it out!

Crackdown impressions

March 12th, 2007

Crackdown LogoLast Thursday night I got time to take a look at the Crackdown demo available for download from XBox Live. Crackdown has received a lot of attention in the gaming press and the Halo community due to the inclusion of invitations to the Halo 3 Beta in retail copies of the game. There was an initial impression that the Halo 3 Beta invitations must be a marketing ploy to help sell a sub-standard game. However, it appears that Crackdown can stand on its own two feet.

Major Nelson has a whole podcast dedicated to it, and has been going on about the game for a while now. That said, he is a Microsoft employee, and despite his claims about doing his shows and his site in his own time with his own cash, etc., he would have a certain bias, and would no doubt be happy to help promote XBox games. It is unlikely that he would promote a crap game though :)

JVB from Podtacular has put together a review of Crackdown. He was pretty impressed with it, and he was one of several XBox community members invited to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington to a special Crackdown community event. You can hear all about their experiences in Podtacular Episode 99.

So, I decided to take a look for myself. In the game, you play the role of a genetically enhanced super-cop in a city overrun with crime. Your job is to clean up the city any way you see fit. It’s a sandbox-type game, similar in some aspects to the Grand Theft Auto series of games. You can go wherever you like, and do whatever you want. There are missions and objectives, but you can approach them in whatever order you like, and there are many ways to complete them.

The game also has some RPG elements, in that you can develop and improve your character’s abilities. These include skills such as driving, firearms, and explosives, and atributes such as agility and strength. The more you use the skills, the better you get at them. Driving, shooting, throwing grenades, etc., all develop your skills – “skills for kills” as one of the developers of the game put it. Strength is improved through melee atacks and lifting/throwing items. You can build up your strength to the point where you can throw trucks around the place!

Crackdown - blowing things up!

The agility attribute is possibly the most interesting. You improve it through finding Agility Orbs – glowing green spheres dotted around the rooftops of the city. Finding one of these improves your agility – allowing you to jump higher and further. This introduces an element of platform gaming to the game. Soon you start keeping an eye out for the telltale green glows (easier to see at night), and before long you’re making Matrix-style jumps across the skyline – complete with concrete-crushing landings. It is surprising how quickly you start looking at the city from the point of view of “can I jump up there/that far?” or “how can I get to that orb?”, and of course each time you get another orb, those limits are pushed even further. There’s 500 to find throughout the city, and there’s other mystery orbs to find too.

Overall, my impressions were positive about Crackdown. It successfully coveys the impression that you’re a genetically-enhanced super-cop that can do whatever he likes in his attempts to clean up the city. The city itself is well populated, with realistic inhabitants and environments that feel very three-dimensional. Apparently the co-op system is fun, with each participant completely independent and can go wherever they want – they can help their partner too if they want :) The achivements are supposed to be good too, with fun achievements in there too. For example you get an achievement for climbing up the top of the tallest building (and successfully jumping off it too!), juggling a body with the rocket launcher, and so on.

I don’t tend to buy many games, mainly because I don’t get enough time to play the games I already have :) However, I’d definitely pick this up if it was on sale, or perhaps pre-owned. For regular game buyers, I’d definitely recommend it.

Halo news catchup

January 23rd, 2007

So, the big news is that Halo 3 was officially announced, with a release in 2007 confirmed – though no specific date. At E3 in May a new announcement trailer was shown for Halo 3, and I updated my screen saver program in its honour. You can download the trailer and the screen saver over at Halo Screen Saver.com – nearly 26,000 downloads so far since June!

Later last year at the X06 event, there were several other Halo-related announcements. Halo Wars from Ensemble Studios was announced. This will be a real-time strategy (RTS) game based in the Halo universe at a time prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Ensemble Studios are responsible for the successful Age of Empires franchise, so there’s a good chance that this will turn out to be a good game. There are concerns over how an RTS will play on a console with a controller, rather than on a PC with a keyboard and mouse. However, the recent Lord of the Rings RTS on the XBox 360 showed how it could be done, so I have high hopes. No release date has been announced for Halo Wars yet, but there is a CGI trailer available over at the official Halo Wars site.

The second announcement was that Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame, would be teaming up with Microsoft to create a new games studio called Wingnut Interactive, and that they would be working on a series of games based in the Halo universe. Jackson was vague about the details, but talked about a new type of gaming experience that could be more like a movie. Perhaps this means episodic content delivered via XBox Live, or something akin to the old laserdisc arcade games like Dragon’s Lair. I think Jackson doesn’t necessarily know exactly how to do what he wants, but feels that there is an opportunity to do something different. Only time will tell if anything comes of this, and if the end product will be any good.

Late last year Bungie also annouced that there would be new a set of maps for Halo 2 available in Spring 2007, and that they would be available over XBox Live Marketplace for XBox 360 owners only. They also announced that they would be holding a multiplayer beta for Halo 3, also in Spring 2007, with various ways of getting into the beta. It looks like I may have got into this – confirmations will be going out this week. There will be more chances to get into the beta later this year. North American players can play 3 hours of Halo 2 online in February and then rush to register on halo3.com – the first 13,333 will get into the beta. Also, there will be special copies of Crackdown, a new XBox 360 game out shortly, which will include invites to the Halo 3 beta. Also, community sites outside North America have places on the beta available, and some are still giving them away. I got mine from an Irish gaming site World Gamer Live, and I’m very grateful to them. These announcements were accompanied by a CGI ad for Halo 3 that appeared on US TV. While it’s not generated using the game engine, it was based on actual models and game assets provided by Bungie, and it looks beautiful.

Since then, Bungie have been releasing bits of information over at Bungie.net via the Weekly Updates. Some information on new multiplayer maps, new weapons such as a revamped Assault Rifle, and new vehicles such as the Mongoose ATV has been released, and this was fleshed out with a “viddoc” called “Et Tu, Brute”. This 7 minute video showed footage from alpha builds of the Halo 3 engine, and showcased the Brutes. Bungie staff admitted that the Brutes were not very interesting in Halo 2, and in Halo 3 they will play a large part. There will be new squad behaviour that will make all enemies more believable, new weapons such as the Brute Spiker and the Spike Grenade, as well as all the eye candy you would expect from a next-gen game. Even in the alpha build things look impressive. The video also gives glimpses of an elite with armour similar to the Arbiter’s, so it looks like he’s returning, and may well be fighting alongside the Master Chief. We also glimpse other weapons, and see rough animations of dual-wieldable swords and a Brute tearing the arms off a marine. I can’t wait for the beta!

In other Halo news, the Halo movie has hit some snags. Mainly it seems to do with money, and disagreements between the studios and Microsoft. The relationship has broken down, so Microsoft are looking for someone else to help fund and distribute the movie. They have stated that they will not do it themselves, since they are not in the movie business. It does look like they are serious about doing it properly and not compromising the creative vision of the Halo story. Peter Jackson is also in dispute with New Line over money related to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to the extent that they are saying he will never be involved with The Hobbit. I hope they sort that out, since it would be a real shame if he wasn’t involved. As for the Halo movie, I would rather it’s done right or not at all, which seems to be the way it’s going.

The Halo Graphic Novel came out last year, as did the latest novel Ghosts of Onyx. The HGN had several stories, with one main one, “The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor,” showing how Half-Jaw (the spec-ops Elite commander) got his name, and giving insight into the Covenant and their relationship with the Flood. Other, shorter, stories show the latest Mjolnir armour being tested by an apparently retired female Spartan; a story set in New Mombassa as the Covenant start their invasion; and “Breaking Quarantine,” which shows Sgt. Johnson escaping the Flood on Installation 04.

The HGN also contains a gallery of Halo art by several artists, and this includes a single page by Robt. McClees from Bungie. This page shows what looks like a chat transcript and details of a file download, surrounded by photos and other details, that in sum seem to suggest that Sgt. Johnson may in fact be a Spartan-I, and that Dr. Halsey was fed false information about Johnson having Boren’s Syndrome – which was supposed to be why he was not infected by the Flood. There’s also passing reference to characters from I Love Bees, so it looks like Bungie is trying to bring some of the story elements from that into the Halo “canon”.

Ghosts of Onyx, the latest Halo novel, also gives us more information on the Halo universe, talking about the Spartan-III program, and tying up several loose ends in relation to Dr. Halsey and the other Spartan-IIs. It also introduces us to a Forerunner “shield world”, and further illustrates the advanced technology of the Forerunners. The way the story ends probably means that there’s no real scope for Spartans other than the Master Chief appearing in Halo 3, though you never know.

So, 2007 is shaping up to be a busy Halo year, with the multiplayer beta and Halo 3 itself due to be released. Beyond that there’s Halo Wars on the horizon, Wingnut Interactive’s project (whatever that will be), the Halo movie, a couple more novels in the pipeline, and talk of a Halo comic also. Not all of these will arrive this year, but there’s sure to be enough information about all these to keep our appetite whetted.