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.

E3 2011: Halo 4 Announcement Trailer and Halo: Combat Evolved Trailer


Above is the announcement fans of the Halo franchise have been waiting for and below is the second most-awaited one. First, the announcement that a new Halo trilogy being developed by in-house developer 343 Industries was something fans have been waiting for news of and today those wishes have been answered as the announcement trailer for Halo 4 was shown at Microsoft’s E3 2011 Press Conference. The trailer pretty much starts off around the time of the final scene which ended Halo 3 with the iconic Master Chief and his gal pal, the A.I. Cortana, floating towards an unknown planet.

Rumors abound that said planet may be the long-lost homeworld of the franchise’s Forerunner race which created the Halo rings in the series. Just think of the Forerunners as similar to the Ancients of Stargate franchise. I know more than a few friends and acquaintances who have tired of the franchise. I, myself, don’t play it as much as I used to, but I still buy the games since I’m a sucker for world-building sci-fi and fantasy franchises and the Halo Universe is definitely one of the better ones to come out of the gaming industry.

Halo 4 looks set to have a Holiday 2012 release (just in time for the end of the world it seems).

The trailer below is the one some fans of the franchise have been waiting for as well and that’s the news that the very first game in this franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved (first released for the first Xbox in 2001), will be remade using the new graphics engine developed for Halo Reach. So, this game is pretty much just like the very first game millions of gamers ended up loving and obsessing over but with new clothes and fancy things. Here’s to hoping the gameplay and weapon mechanics remains just like the original.

Quick Take: Halo: Reach


Sometimes, a full review isn’t terribly useful to people. Quantitative numbers on Halo: Reach from me aren’t particularly likely to sell more copies of the game. But I do think this game is worth discussing; it’s important, in a way. So here’s some thoughts, for which you are most welcome to join me.

Halo: Reach

I was only peripherally aware that Halo: Reach was launching. I mean, it wasn’t marketed, and it’s only a small-time game series… okay, no, of course, I was suffocated by the news. And I was as excited as any casual fan of the series. The problem is… I’ve never been a casual fan of the series. I’ve played thousands of games of Halo between Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and of course, Halo 3 (I only got Halo ODST because it was bundled for free with my new XBox Arcade), and that’s the telling point for me. By the time Halo: Reach came out, I wasn’t as excited for it as I should have been. I didn’t have it pre-ordered, I wasn’t enticed by the Legendary Edition (although I’m not much for collector’s editions of any kind). And the reason why is very simple, and it’s ultimately the most important thing that I can tell you about this game.

I already knew what to expect, and I wasn’t as excited as I used to be. Were you?

By now, Halo fans know exactly what to expect. The game is based around the balanced trinity of grenades, guns, and melee attacks. It is not a cover or tactical shooter, but rather a fast-paced action shooter with players protected by regenerating energy shields. In most ways, the popular multi-player shooter was defined by Halo: Combat Evolved. The graphics are an improvement, the features have expanded, and this is the biggest and best game that we’ve yet seen in the Halo universe. Bungie is run by very intelligent people; the fans don’t want the wheel to be re-invented. They want a new release that fixes perceived problems with previous titles, hands over a whole new slew of maps, re-imagines some of the weapons while leaving other fan favourites in place, and adds a couple toys that we haven’t seen before. In a lot of ways, Halo: Reach is like Madden 11. If you change too much, then you’re not playing Halo anymore, and then what’s the point? Bungie themselves obviously understand this; to go in a new creative direction, they must create a new series.

So what’s my bottom line with Reach?

Well, like all of the Halo titles, it has a surprisingly meaty single player experience. I know that people look at you funny if you even mention the story of Halo: Combat Evolved, but there’s more there than you might expect. It’s at least as elaborate as the story in any Call of Duty title. And the storytelling is done partially through the environments we travel through. Bungie has done a consistently good job of creating beautiful environments scored by epic music. The locations and places are familiar, and yet somehow very alien. It’s an excellent narrative when you bring everything together, complete even with single moments that make you get the tingles. For my money, Halo 2 was the weakest single player campaign, but the story bridged between the set-up in Combat Evolved and the conclusion of Master Chief’s story in Halo 3.

ODST took things to another level, adding more characters to the dynamic. We saw real interaction between characters, even if the player’s character, the rookie, is the typical “strong, silent type”. Reach, I think wisely, took its cues from ODST. We’re treated to an entire cast of powerful Spartan soldiers in their powered armor, with disparate personalities and motivations that make them interesting to us. But Reach also taps into something that we haven’t seen before in the Halo universe. Reach is a prequel. It’s a historical event in the universe, and we already know how things turn out. Disastrously. So woven into the narrative of Reach is a sense of despair. The Covenant is overwhelming. Each move the Spartans make seems like it could be the tipping point, but we’re always knocked back down by the inevitability of it all. It’s rather sad.

Now, from a gameplay standpoint, I had my problems with Reach‘s single player mode. I thought it went on ages too long (although, for me, it seems that I just don’t love Halo the way I used to) and grew tedious. But the narrative quality of the single player was good; far and away better than contemporary rivals like Call of Duty: Black Ops. It took a little time for me to digest the experience, but in the end, I thought that Halo: Reach was definitely worth playing, and makes a fantastic capstone to a series that has really been revolutionary in terms of a genre that is now one of the biggest around.

Oh, and the multi-player is good. I didn’t focus on it here, though, because as I said in the open, it is exactly what you expect. There are new wrinkles – and they’re good ones! – but all it boils down to is this: Do you still love Halo? Then play on!

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops


The Bottom Line

We’ve left World War II behind, but we’re still a long way from what you might have come to expect from Modern Warfare.

Unfocused Ramblings

It wasn’t a love of Wold War II or shooters or tactical game-play or basically anything else that forced me to indulge in the Call of Duty franchise. It was the multi-player, and the necessity of playing with friends that initially sucked me in. Much like Halo, it seemed like I was on the outside looking in if I refused to play whatever the latest “hot” shooter was. As a person who is primarily interested in partaking of these games with friends, the particulars from shooter to shooter often don’t matter. I imagine there’s more than a few people reading this review who feel the same way.

Well, if the particulars of your shooter aren’t as important as playing the latest title with your friends then fear not; Call of Duty: Black Ops is a shooter. It’s more or less what you’ve come to expect, and your friends are going to play it anyway.

If you’re curious as to whether you’ll truly love this shooter, however, feel free to read on. It presents a significantly different experience than you are used to from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Some people are going to love the changes presented by Call of Duty: Black Ops, and some people are going to hate it. I earnestly suspect that few people will feel lukewarm about it.

The big differences? Well, Black Ops does its best to eliminate the practice of “quick scoping”, and reduces both the power and accessibility of kill streak rewards. Combined with faster access to the best weapons, and Black Ops basically wants its players to have the best of everything quicker, more easily, and to less ultimate effect than its predecessor. If you enjoyed the advantage of quick-scoping with your sniper rifle, or the fact that some of the strongest weapons were not available from the start, then you may have trouble adjusting to the new environment in Black Ops. Your sniper rifles aren’t going to be as strong, and your run-and-gun types are going to fare better. Submachineguns are going to be stronger than ever.

Interested yet? If so, buy the game, play with your friends, and love the fact that your franchise is going to churn out a game every year. Not everyone has that luxury!

The Big Question

Tell me how often we can re-play the same shooter before we get bored. I, personally, am tired of Halo. Is this inevitable for Call of Duty as well? The weapons are different, and the feel is earnestly different from Modern Warfare 2, but these games share so many themes that it’s inevitable that we ultimately tap this resource out. How do we proceed from here, and in what direction? Do the players prefer the Modern Wafare feel where the killstreaks actually diminish player importance (even as they make you feel like a badass) and low-profile sniping wins the day? Or do people prefer running and gunning with aging machine guns, destroying a host of foes on the move, while killstreak rewards, while powerful, are not always going to be game-changers?

Overall Game-Play: 8.5

Well, the control scheme for shooters has been established. We know that we have to learn what guns we’re best with, and what strategies counter dangerous weapons well. In other words, the formula for shooter controls is well-defined, and it’s not particularly wise to branch out. Maybe we differ on what button B and button X should control, but I think we’re going to agree on the function of the sticks.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is eminently predictable in terms of its control scheme, and you’ll have to work hard to convince me that’s a con. Why deviate from a scheme that has produced so many hours of pleasure?

Story 6.5

You won’t be astonished by the single-player campaign. Of course there are twists and turns in the story. Of course, it’s competently told. But if you’re looking for innovation in level design or game-play, then you are definitely looking in the wrong place. The game-play is tight, and the story is fine, but I can’t necessarily recommend Black Ops if you’re not intending to partake of the multiplayer modes.

The single player campaign follows the adventures of Alex Mason, a CIA Black Ops guy from the 1960s, and begins in no place other than Soviet-allied Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion. From there, you’ll battle through the typical assortment of urban and exotic environments while battling with a variety of (mostly) similar opponents. The game does throw a few curve balls in terms of the enemy selection, which is nice, but I doubt that you’ll be blown away by the foes you’re battling.

The story hook is, to my mind, significantly better than for some of the previous installments of Call of Duty, and it does use at least one significant character from World at War whom fans will remember. I have already heard rumblings that the game plays more like a rail shooter than a truly interactive experience. If you’re looking for an open-ended style of gameplay, then games like Far Cry 2 or Mass Effect (or even Battlefield: Bad Company) may suit you better. Call of Duty is a basically linear game where you’ll spend most of your time on foot or in vehicles following the lead of other characters, shooting a number of baddies before moving up to the next checkpoint. The major differences come in the fine details of these sequences, including the weapons at your disposal.

Graphics 8.0

The graphics are smooth and fluid, and the loading times extremely bearable. In a game that is perennially most anticipated for its multi-player mode, there’s not much else to ask. I compliment the level design in both the single and multi-player modes. Still, fans of the series (and, particularly,  Modern Wafare 2) are unlikely to be blown away by the graphics. They show the expected improvement on the same platform (in this case, the tangible differences are few), and not much in the way of unexpected innovation.

Sound 5.0

The score is as forgettable as the previous title in the series. But that’s not why the sound receives such an underwhelming score. The voice acting leaves much to be desired. Predictably, the lines are well-acted, and the accents are convincing, but whether by design or no, the game features far too few lines to comment on game-play. This is most notable in multi-player modes, where the game’s announcer fails to reveal critical information about game objectives anytime that it is even slightly inconvenient to do so. I can assure the developers at Treyarch that every single player in multiplayer modes would prefer to hear repetitive lines every few seconds if it meant an auditory acknowledgment that game objectives were in jeopardy. Considering that the voice actors obviously have lines recorded for any game-play situation, it seems like a debilitating oversight to simply [i]fail[/i] to play acknowledgments in key situations.

Multiplayer 9.0

Well, the game is built to be a multi-player juggernaut. From this vantage point, there’s not much to complain about. Did the match-making initially suffer serious problems? Yes. Could the game use a few more maps; particularly those geared toward one objective type or another? Absolutely. But we’re a few patches in by now, and most of the technical bugs in the match-making system seem to have been resolved. Still, since multi-player is one of the biggest points of contention on this title, let’s break things down, shall we?

Pros?

– The level design is tight and features few discernible bugs or exploits. Although we always hunger for more maps, the ones the game ships with provide a reasonable variety of terrain and encounter types.

– A new multiplayer feature, Contracts, provide yet another way to show your skills without interfering with level, prestige, or challenges. Completing contracts affords the player more in-game cash to spend on the latest equipment as well as aesthetics like emblems.

– Treyarch seems relatively responsive to potentially destructive multi-player issues so far.

– The kill-streaks, although noticeably less game-changing than in Modern Warfare 2, still manage to feel powerful and useful to the player.

– The performance of most kill-streak rewards shows some improvements. The attack helicopter is noticeably more lethal than before, the napalm strike provides an interesting and mostly-reliable option for map control, and the SR-71 (the natural evolution of the Spy Plane / UAV) is one of the most powerful kill-streak rewards we’ve seen yet, even if it lacks flash.

– Although the kill-streaks are powerful – and period specific – they lack the raw potency of the Modern Warfare 2 equivalents. There is no equivalent to the Tactical Nuke in Black Ops. In the main, I feel this is a positive step for the franchise. I always felt that the overwhelming power of the Modern Warfare 2 kill-streaks encouraged boosting and camping to a degree that diminished my enjoyment of the game. If you loved those aspects of Modern Warfare 2, then you will likely be unhappy with the high-end killstreaks available in Black Ops.

– The customisable emblems provide an endless opportunity to express yourself. This can sometimes be a con as well. 🙂

Cons?

Long-range combat is, for the most part, a thing of the past. The weapons, perks, styles, and maps all lend themselves toward a closer range of combat as compared to the Modern Warfare games.

Although the kill-streaks remain powerful, they definitely lack the allure and “badass quotient” of the kill-streak rewards available in Modern Warfare 2.

– While some players will relish the closer and more intimate combat, the game lacks quick-scoping and long-range weapons that define the modern firearm age.

– Despite some improvements, the multiplayer spawn system is still unacceptably flawed. Some of the spawn locations (particularly in objective-based games) are poorly chosen, and the spawn timing will sometimes have enemies spawning right behind you with no rhyme or reason.

– As mentioned before, the in-game announcer is mailing it in this time around. You should pay careful attention to the situation, because you can’t always rely on the audio to warn you about game developments.