Meet Halo 5 Guardians’ Team Osiris and Team Blue


Halo 5

Video games are something I will probably never outgrow.

While I’ve slowed down in the amount of time I play them, I still put in the time when it comes to some of the more classic and iconic video game franchises. One such franchise is set to mark it’s return to the video game world with the release of it’s first title on the Xbox One. The game I speak of is Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo was a franchise that helped revolutionize the first-person shooter on the console platform and added a touch of the cinematic to what in the past were just your typical run-and-gun gameplay. As console platforms become more and more advanced the very gamers who buy them demand better graphics, gameplay and, for some, a much more immersive experience.

I will say that I am a huge Halo fan so this upcoming title in the franchise is very much in wheelhouse. As more and more information filters out of Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries (producer and developer) about this title I’m more than hyped to see how they plan on making Halo 5: Guardians stand out from the previous titles in the series and from the multitude of other first-person shooters set to come out this holiday season.

For now, time to meet the two rival teams that the game will focus on during the games very cinematic campaign gameplay: The upstart Team Osiris and the old-school Team Blue.

Team Osiris Opening Cinematic

This cinematic literally will open up the game’s campaign and the action is very reminiscent of the opening action scene in this past summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron with it’s sweeping camera angles that moves in concert with the characters. The only thing missing is a slo-mo reveal of Team Osiris.

Team Blue Opening Cinematic

Where the Team Osiris opening cinematic showed just how badass the genetically-modified Spartan-IV members of Team Osiris act when in concert against a large number of enemy forces, we get with Team Blue’s opening a more subdued, but no less kick-ass opening. Where Team Osiris was all about shock and awe. Team Blue’s older Spartan-II super-soldiers show that one doesn’t need to overpower an enemy force to defeat them. Sometimes a battle could be won with a minimum amount of fuss.

Trailer: Titanfall “Gamescom Gameplay”


TitanfallReveal

Titanfall is really turning out to be one of my most-anticipated game titles of 2013.

It’s the very first title for Respawn Entertainment. A studio made up of the people who first created the Call of Duty studio, Infinity Ward, and who ended up being fired (or leaving to follow their fired leaders) by the powers-that-be who held sway over Activision. There was talk about whether Respawn Entertainment would ever get a chance to show Activision and it’s detractors that they still had what it takes to succeed in the first-person shooter market dominated by three titles (Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo).

Titanfall looks to dispel such notions first with a triumphant return to this summer’s E3 where they revealed the title to everyone to much acclaim. Now we got to see more of the gameplay itself both in mechanics and graphics at this past week’s Gamescom 2013 over at Cologne, Germany.

The gameplay trailer pretty much dispelled whatever doubts I might have had about this title and now has my money ready to be exchanged for it when it comes out for the Xbox One (for some on the PC or Xbox 360) in early 2014.

Trailer: Halo (Official E3 Trailer)


Halo5

What would an Xbox console be without it’s flagship title. The Xbox One will have it’s Master Chief and at Microsoft’s E3 Presser we were introduced to the first trailer of what could only be the next title in the long-running and critically-acclaimed series simply called Halo.

If the announcement that the game will run on a smooth and native 60 frames per second then this trailer may just be in-game (though we’ll find out in due time if this is a correct assumption or not). Whether it is n-game scenes or a pre-rendered cinematic matters not. It’s a new Halo title and after the success both financially and critically of Halo 4 there’s no doubt that there’s now new life in the franchise that both fans and critics alike were calling dated and obsolete.

343 Industries will have a new playpen with advanced tools to make the move of the franchise from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One a smooth upgrade.

Halo for the Xbox One is set for a 2014 release date.

Trailer: Elysium (Official)


Elysium

It’s not often that a filmmaker makes such a major splash in the industry with their initial full-length film becoming not just a commercial success but one which gained widespread critical-acclaim. South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is one such filmmaker. Initially tapped by Peter Jackson to direct the planned HALO film adaptation Blomkamp ended up doing District 9 (based off of his own short film Alive in Joburg).

The film became the sensation of San Diego Comic-Con 2009 which raised the hype for it’s inevitable release a month later. It’s now been 4 years since District 9 and we finally get a chance to see the first official trailer (a 10-minute film reel was shown to invited industry and press which showed a bit more of what the film will be about) for Blomkamp’s much awaited follow-up to his hit first film.

Elysium looks to continue Blomkamp’s attempt to bring social awareness to the scifi genre and do so with a mixture of real-world gritty realism and scifi fantasy. just looking at the trailer the space station Elysium where all the rich and privilege live in a paradise-setting look like an amalgam of the HALO ringworlds and the Citadel Station from Mass Effect.

It’s still months away, but just this teaser of a trailer has just raised Elysium to the top of my list for most awaited films of 2013. If it’s as good or better than District 9 then Blomkamp will cement himself as one of his generation’s best instead of a flash in the pan like so many of his contemporaries.

Elysium is set for a wide release date of August 9, 2013.

Song of the Day: 117 from Halo 4 (by Kazuma Jinnouchi)


It’s now been three or more weeks since I began playing halo 4 and to say that it has surpassed my very high expectations for this title would be an understatement. Even the soundtrack has been such a wonderful surprise that I’ve been listening to it almost nonstop. I already profiled one of my favorite tracks from Neil Davidge’s work on the score with the song Green and Blue and now I pick another track from the soundtrack for the next “Song of the Day”.

This one wasn’t composed by Neil Davidge but from another composer brought in to create the final end credits song. The game could easily have settled for using music that played during the game to score the lengthy end credits, but everyone involved went for broke and decided really remind gamers that what they’ve just gone through was epic both in gaming terms but also in cinematic. It’s hard not to listen to Kazuma Jinnouchi’s contribution to this title’s score, simply titled “117”, and not imagine some sci-fi blockbuster film rolling up it’s credits with this type of song being played alongside.

From just listening to “117” one could hear some early James Horner influences in Jinnouchi’s composition in the track’s beginning and middle before it transitions in it’s last third to something that resembles one of Basil Poledouris’ epic martial scores. For fans of Martin O’Donnell’s own work in the previous Halo titles this song reaches a crescendo around 6:05 mark with a very familar musical cue. For those who complained that the Halo 4 soundtrack abandoned the iconic sound of the Bungie Studio produced Halo soundtracks should listen to this song around that mark much more closely.

While Neil Davidge deserves all the praise he has been getting for his work on the soundtrack for Halo some of it should also be heaped Jinnouchi-san’s way for the very epic (yes it bears repeating that word) musical composition he created to end the Halo 4 title and leave fans wanting the sequels to arrive now rather than later.

E3 Trailer: Halo 4 “The Commissioning” (Live-Action) & Gameplay “Light Gun and Scattershot”


It’s E3 week in Los Angeles (in a couple week it’ll be Anime Expo so as Lisa Marie would say, “Yay!”) and that means a load of announcements for new games and other gaming-related stuff. If there’s on game I’m really interested in checking out it’s the latest in the Halo series. Bungie has moved on but Master Chief and all remained with Microsoft Game Studios. Taking over Bungie’s development duties is an in-house studio created by Microsoft to continue the Halo franchise after Bungie Studios’ departure.

343 Studios has big developmental shoes to fill since many fans of the franchise equate the series with Bungie Studios and no one else. Microsoft and 343 have done a good job of preparing fans of the franchise for the change in studios which has been several years in the making. Their first title is suppose to add new life to the Halo series while making some necessary changes to keep up with the “Jonses” so to speak.

Halo 4 takes place four years since the end of Halo 3 and, from what the two trailers unleashed on the masses during Microsoft’s pre-E3 press conference, we see the familiar Covenant enemies but also a brand-new race that seem to have Forerunner technology. From the gameplay video shown below the first-person HUD series fans were so familar with has been tweaked to make it look like the player is actually looking out of the Spartan helm. I’d say this is 343 Studios trying to replicate the look and feel of Tony Stark looking through his helmet, but this time in a first-person point of view instead of the outside view we see in the films.

One thing that’s always a wonder to watch is what kind of live-action trailer Microsoft has come up with to help announce the game. Like their previous live-action trailers which behaved like short films, the one for Halo 4 just ups the epicness from the previous ones. Sci-fi fans may even recognize the actor playing the captain of the UNSC Infinity as Mark Rolston who played the doomed Pvt. Drake in James Cameron’s Aliens.

Halo 4 is set for a November 6, 2012 release date.

 

Halo: CE Anniversary


Some of you may remember, back to a day just over 10 years back, when a little console called the XBox launched. It was, at the time, a seemingly suicidal attempt to challenge the dominance that Sony held over the home console market – albeit without much relevant interference from previous juggernaut Nintendo – and to establish a new console master. The XBox had such innovative features as an onboard hard drive (only standard on PCs since they were conceived) and a more interactive BIOS that let the owner of the console do things that had never really been possible with a home entertainment console before. At its launch, the XBox boasted such titles as Dead or Alive 3… Project Gotham Racing… Jet Set Radio Future (and I don’t think this launched in the US!) annnnnnnnd a very tiny game called Halo: Combat Evolved.

Most game fans, at least those who dabble in first person shooters, have played Halo: CE. Even in 2011, ten years after CE’s launch, with a whole new generation of gamers. At the very least, contemporary gamers are familiar with the Halo franchise, which has now spawned seven games (counting the offshoot Halo Wars), as well as novels, comics, and even an animated feature which tried to delve deeper into the mythology of the Halo universe. All of that – a billion dollar franchise – was spawned by this one little, innovative title.

Before I begin my review of the new game, launched a mere week ago, I think it’s important that we take a peek at the significance of Halo: Combat Evolved, as a franchise. Until CE launched, the gold standard for console FPS games was 007: Goldeneye, on the Nintendo 64. Now, Goldeneye is a fine game, and it actually incorporates many of the same elements that Halo would later exploit to their fullest potential, but there was never any danger of Goldeneye challenging PC titles like Counterstrike. At the time, the keyboard and mouse were irrefutably better for the world of the first person shooter. Goldeneye was really the pioneer that taught us how much fun it could be to play locally with a few friends split screen and try to kill one another. But Halo perfected this art; we learned to love the 16 player LAN, with a game that had faster pacing and a shallower learning curve than any PC-based shooter title, and was dramatically more advanced than Goldeneye.

You can look back and criticize the game now. It had poor multiplayer balance (well, really, the balance was excellent, so long as everyone had only a human pistol or sniper rifle), the single player re-used a lot of set pieces and enemy models, and the lack of true multiplayer – to be fair, XBox Live did not exist at this point! – made it impossible for Halo to truly outshine fully multiplayer active PC titles. But there is simply no denying that Combat Evolved launched a franchise which is now viewed as the flagship title of the XBox and Xbox 360, and one of the most successful shooter games of all time. Even Call of Duty, the chief rival in the field, has adapted a number of features from Combat Evolved over time.

Flash-forward to November, 2011.

I belatedly remembered that Microsoft Studios, in a shameless attempt to milk more revenue out of the franchise, was releasing the 10th Anniversary edition of Combat Evolved. Bungie has released the Halo franchise, and stated over and over that they’ll release no new Halo titles. Microsoft Studios, on the other hand, spun off 343 Studios (343 Guilty Spark, anyone?) specifically to create more Halo games. This remake of the original is just the beginning, as Halo 4 is already slated to be released sometime during 2012. Many fans may be turned off by Bungie’s dissociation with the brand, and I assume most every fan is going to look with some skepticism at this Anniversary Edition release of Halo: CE. To be honest; if I’d had to pay $60 US for a copy of this 10th Anniversary Edition, there’s simply no chance that I would have. Instead, I was able to rent the game, and so guilt-free I offer the following review:

The graphics are good. They are not cutting edge, and certainly do not test the limits of the XBox 360’s hardware. In a very real sense, the graphics of this updated remake were obsolete even before the launch. They don’t compare to the visual spectacle that we see in the level and model design of, say, Modern Warfare 3. So, those expecting some kind of visual masterpiece had best look elsewhere. However, the updated graphics are so far beyond the capabilities of the original XBox (the original graphics, like many XBox Arcade titles, are available with one button press). A couple of swaps between the original graphics and the updated ones should be more than enough to demonstrate how far graphical processors have come in such a short time.

If you’ve ever waxed nostalgic for the single player mode of Halo: CE, the Anniversary edition is for you. It adds nothing. Literally; nothing. But it does take us back to a game that many of us now lack the means to play; a classic title, but with beautiful new set pieces. The control setup feels very ‘classic Halo’, right down to the speed the Master Chief moves, and the way that he jumps. This will be unsettling for players of contemporary titles like Halo: Reach at first, but you’ll settle back in without too much trouble.

As for multiplayer, the Anniversary Edition builds on Halo: Reach. It features a number of remakes of original Halo maps, including Battle Creek, Damnation, Prisoner, Hang ’em High, and the Halo 2 map Headlong. All of these maps are set in the Halo: Reach multiplayer engine, so Halo multiplayer diehards will find nothing new here beyond the maps.

Of course, the Anniversary Edition also includes Online Co-Op, so you can play the story mode with friends across the world. Don’t sell that short; Halo’s storyline has always been more involved than people give it credit for.