Back again for another backlog update! Man, I love having a laptop with me for school. It is literally the best – I can blog so much more now.
I’ve decided that Wednesday is the best day for me to put these up. No real reason for this, it just seems to work. So, here we go!
Here’s the obligatory stat comparison:
New games since last update:
- Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (Steam)
- The Adventures of Shuggy (Steam)
- Painkiller: Hell & Damnation (Steam)
- Halo 4 (360)
Beaten games since last update:
- Painkiller: Hell & Damnation (Steam) [I’ll have to write about this some other time]
Yeah, so Steam had one of their famous (or should I say infamous) sales for Halloween briefly last week – and, well, I fell for it. I’d been meaning to pick up Fallout 3 on Steam for a while now since I love that game to death, so that was a no-brainer. I’m looking forward to playing through it again, only with mouse + keyboard controls this time. Shuggy was just the icing on the cake – for $2.50, I just had to. That was another game I had been eyeing since its release. It’s a simple 2D arena-based platformer, which is something I’ve been craving lately.
I ended up grabbing Painkiller HD on Halloween, too, since I was in the mood for some demon/skeleton/zombie/witch/clown/orphan slaying – and fittingly so. Initially I had a rough first impression of it, but after about an hour I was in love. But more on that in next update, because there’s this other game that just came out that’s kind of a big deal.
Y’know, THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS: Halo goddamn 4.
SUSPENSEFUL ESTABLISHING SHOT. Click the “continue reading” button there to, well – continue.
Currently, I’ve put more than a few hours into both single-player, multiplayer, and Spartan Ops. Overall, the game feels sort of like a blend between Halo 3 and Reach, which I think works perfectly. Halo 3 had this very simplified, almost cartoony feel. Reach kind of did away with that and it felt a lot more serious in tone, which was probably to be expected – it is a game about the downfall of an entire planet, after all. But where Reach lost me was in the gameplay. I think the addition of the DMR is what threw me off. See, the Battle Rifle in Halo 3 was just perfect. It wasn’t automatic like most of the other weapons – no, it was burst-firing, but fast enough to usually pull off a quick 1v1 victory, usually regardless of the scenario. It was fast, deadly, and accurate – a combo that none of the other weapons in the game could really stand up to. I’m not saying it was like, overpowered or anything though – a well-placed rocket shot always wins. But it was, without question, the first choice for most players when it came to multi-purpose usage.
Reach did away with the thing though, and that was a damn mistake. Like I just went on about in that paragraph there, I love the thing. But the DMR? Oh, no. Not even close. It was slower, required more patience (the nerve!), took more shots, and just wasn’t as satisfying to use.
Luckily for people like me, Halo 4 includes both, and I’ve already noticed that both are fairly on-par now, which is nice. The BR we have now will never be the glorious BR of old, but whatever. Enough nitpicking.
What else of Halo 4? Well, apart from it being the best looking Halo game out there and putting most other current 360 titles to graphical shame, it’s got some of the best audio I’ve heard in a video game. Even on my rather cheap Turtle Beach X11s, the game sounds absolutely fantastic. I’m a huge fan of excellent sound design in games, especially in shooters where you’re pretty much destined to hear repeating gun sounds the majority of your playtime. So it makes sense for the developers to make the gun sounds the best they can be.
Everything sounds great – here, have some audiophile descriptors: crisp, clean, punchy, mechanical – it’s just a constant audible palette of wartime goodness. Best of all are the gun sounds, though. All of them have been completely re-done, and some of them sound so foreign from the Halo sounds I’m quite accustomed to that it’s almost eerie at times. The assault rifle sound is probably my new favorite – it’s still got that signature “thump” to it, but the “budda budda budda” sounds as mechanically awesome as ever. Sorry for the non-technical terminology. I’m bad with that sort of thing. But seriously! Halo 4’s sound is some of the most ear-pleasing I’ve come across in years. And don’t forget – making loud repetitive popping noises sound good is not easily done.
I’m not a huge fan of the Promethean enemies, though. It’s definitely a must at this point to bring in some new type of enemy since we’ve been fighting the Covenant for over a decade now. But these new enemies, as I predicted, are just not as satisfying to repeatedly shoot, kill, and smack around – and it’s pretty apparent why. One is, they take forever to kill. Sure, to be fair, so do the Hunters or even the Elites. But when you’re shooting them, you get a visible indicator of how much damage you’re doing. In Hunters, delicious orange Tang spills everywhere. They’re full of the stuff – shots to their vulnerable backs spill the wondrous glowing goo all over, and it’s quite a sight. For elites, their shields shimmer with every shot until – POP! – they break, and then it becomes international space grape appreciation day as purple blood smears and drips all over the walls and ground. Sure, my descriptions might go kinda far. But you get my point.
With the Prometheans, they behave just like robotic enemies – they’re barely organic in terms of reactions to being shot at. They don’t scream, they don’t flinch, and they don’t really bleed, and if they do – well, I haven’t noticed it. This might all sound rather masochistic and violent, frankly – but from a design standpoint, it’s actually a serious flaw. Not only does it trip the gameplay up because you have to empty so many bullets/plasmas/electric lemons into these guys, but because when you do it, it’s just not satisfying. And when your game is a shooter, in which you’ll be shooting at these same enemies again and again for eight hours plus – well, it has a negative effect, without question.
It’s not even about them being robotic in design, either. Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is one of my favorite last-gen shooters that featured robots killing robots. But the gunplay in that game is still incredibly enjoyable, even though there’s no blood and no guts. Why? Well, you can blow off limbs and completely dismantle enemies – and they scream, too! Much like Halo’s own grunts, the “Mil Bots” in MA:GitS run hopelessly in circles, arms flailing in the air if their situation suddenly becomes drastic. They shout and scream like maniacs before being blown to bits seconds later, and it’s all a lot of fun. They (and the Grunts) have something the Prometheans desperately lack – personality. And when you’re involving other living things in your game, friend or foe – it’s important to make sure that they have some sort of place carved out for them, and some displayable behaviour. Otherwise, taking them down becomes about as exciting as beating up a blow-up doll conveniently named Steve. Compelling.
But other than that, Halo 4 is a good amount of fun. As usual, it took me a while to get into the single-player campaign, as I only just started really enjoying it as of the fourth mission. Overall though, it’s a great effort by 343 and one that clearly demonstrates they’re capable of handling the franchise from here on out. I’m less than ecstatic about the new Promethean enemies, but whatever. I’ll manage.
See you next update!