Saturday, 20 July 2013

Halo: Inititiation Preview

Along with today's release of Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows 8, Dark Horse Comics, the folks behind the new comic series starring everyone's favourite Spartan IV, Sarah Palmer, have released a 10 page preview of the first comic due out in August.

You can view the preview by jumping over to the Dark Horse site, you do need to set up a (free) account, but it only takes a minute.




Marvel's efforts to bring the Halo universe into comics were a bit of a mixed bag, so it's nice to see it handed off to a fresh team. Dark Horse tend to publish more mature stories than Marvel, with the likes of Hellboy and Sin City being their main attractions. The difference in tone can be already be felt in this preview and it actually has me pretty hyped to read the rest of it.

Although Palmer has yet to appear so.. y'know..

- Cowboy Out.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Halo 4 Bullseye Map Pack Achievements

Viewable on the Halo Waypoint Xbox app, these are the new achievements for Halo 4. They come next month as part of the Bullseye Map Pack which can be bought on its own for 480 Microsoft Points or as part of the Champions Bundle for 800 Points.

Some of them sound fun, all the ricochet ones seem fair enough, just so long as it sticks around in matchmaking long enough to get them. Take a look:

Protect this House (30G) 
In matchmaking, assassinate the ball carrier within five meters of your own goal in Ricochet.

Hat Trick (33G) 
In matchmaking, score three times in one round of Ricochet.

From Downtown (25G)
In matchmaking, score by throwing the ball from 30 meters in Ricochet.

Repeat Survivor (25G) 
In matchmaking, survive three vehicle explosions in a row with the Survivor package.

Can't Catch Me (20G)
In matchmaking, score a goal in Ricochet while taking damage with the Resistor active.

Just a Scratch (20G)
In matchmaking, recover full shields from low health with both Resistor and Recharge active.

Pitchin' a Tent (40G)
In matchmaking, effectively camp one location without dying for a full 60 seconds.

One Man Army (27G) 
In matchmaking, get 4 consecutive kills with the Rocket Launcher without dying.

Shocking (10G)
In Bullseye DLC Matchmaking, activate both electrical surge systems during a match on Vertigo.

Got It! (20G) 
In Bullseye DLC Matchmaking, acquire the Rocket Launcher at the start of a match on Pitfall.


I've spoken in the past about how achievements shouldn't encourage negative player behaviour, it seems 343i have listened to those words and decided to play their troll card. Pitchin' a Tent rewards a player with a substantial forty gamerscore for sitting in one area without being killed for a whole minute. And they didn't even call it "It's a legitimate strategy"!?

Great.

- Cowboy Out.

Friday, 12 July 2013

What's In a Name?

When the new Halo game was announced at E3, many assumed it would be Halo 5, after the numerical progression we've seen in Master Chief's games so far, it seemed the logical conclusion. 343industries programmer, Corrine Yu and the Xbox Twitter account even referred to it as Halo 5 immediately after the reveal, although both Tweets was quickly deleted.

Halo designer, David Ellis, was quick to state that it actually wasn't called Halo 5, and that we should wait for an update from @HaloWaypoint to confirm the game's name.

Since then, both @HaloWaypoint and Halo community manager, BS Angel, have been referring to it as "Halo Xbox One" and a folder has been added to the Halo Waypoint forums titled "Halo Xbox One"

"Halo Xbox One" may be a working title, and judging by some people's revulsion, there is a large section of the Halo community who hope it is. One thing we know for sure though, is that it won't be called Halo 5.

We can infer quite a lot from this; everyone, including key Microsoft employees, thought it would be called Halo 5. So if they were sticking with numbered titles, there would be no need to be coy about it, they would have just come out and said "Bam! It's Halo 5! Go pre-order."

There are several reasons to step away from numbered sequels. In a heavily story focused franchise like Halo, it can be very daunting for new players, people would feel they need to play Halo 1-4 before playing 5, a particularly troublesome issue on Xbox One where there is no backwards compatibility. Dropping the number also removes a lot of expectancy people may have about feature parity with the previous games in the series. A game called "Halo 5" needs to be a first person shooter, starring Master Chief, with competitive multiplayer, co-op, theatre mode, forge etc. A game called "Halo Xbox One" can be whatever it wants, it could be a squad based third person shooter (It won't be, before you shout at me in the comments). There's also the issue that 343 may think dropping the number allows them to distance themselves from Bungie's Halo games, they may feel the need to step out of Bungie's shadow, and not having their game look like a direct continuation of Bungie's series is a good way to do that.

But could it really be called Halo Xbox One? Well, Nintendo have been naming their games after their consoles for decades (Super Mario Bros, Mario 64, Mario Kart Wii etc.), so it is by no means unprecedented. There's just something unsettling about it, Halo is such a huge, cross-media behemoth that tagging the console's name on the end just seems a little.. low rent? That said, I can certainly see the attraction; every Halo Xbox One advert becomes a double hit advert for the console as well and makes it crystal clear that this is a game you can't play anywhere else.

But what do you call the sequel? Halo Xbox One 2? Nintendo can name their games after their console because they only make each game once per console cycle, a strategy I'm sure Microsoft won't want to replicate. Do we end up in the muddy territory of subtitles? Halo Xbox One: Reclamation would surely be a few syllables past consideration.


They could, of course, just call it "Halo". There's an elegance and finality to it, along with all manner of implications: this is the definitive Halo, this is the best Halo, this is the one that matters. It does a lot of the marketing team's job for them.

As with so many things related to Halo, whatever title 343industries and Microsoft choose is sure to be controversial, there will be those who get upset and there will be those who feel it's the right decision. Naming a game is not something to be taken lightly, the message that the name sends out will be well considered and intentional.

They should totally call it:
"Halo: The Starhopping Misadventures of Master Chief and His Best Pal Tom"

- Cowboy Out.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

"Master Chief" in GTAV?

In the newly released GTA V trailer we get a look at what appears to be a satirical take on Master Chief stood outside Hollywood's Chinese Theatre.


I'm suddenly very interested in seeing their take on Master Chief! You can watch the trailer on YouTube below "Master Chief" pops up at 0:38.



- Cowboy Out.

Halo: Mortal Dictata Announced!

Tor books have just announced the final book in Karen Traviss' Kilo-Five Trilogy.

"Tor Books and 343 Industries are excited to announce the forthcoming January 2014 publication of Halo: Mortal Dictata by bestselling author Karen Traviss. 
Based on the universe and characters from the multimillion copy selling Xbox video games, Mortal Dictata completes the "Kilo-Five" trilogy set in the Halo universe, and ties into the story of Halo 4, which launched in November 2012."


Karen Traviss' books have been very divisive among the Halo community, there are those who love the angle we've had on post-war Sangheilli politics and the comraderie among the crew of the UNSC Port Stanley, but then there are those who couldn't see past the heavy-handed nature of the persecution of Catherine Halsey, both narratively and in-universe.

Personally, I enjoyed the books, especially Thursday War, and I'm looking forward to seeing the conclusion. I'm really hoping for a UNSC-Arbiter team up, but I feel like 343 will want to strengthen the power of Jul 'Mdama going into Halo 5.

For those wondering, Mortal Dictata is a legal ruling in the Halo Universe that forbids the creation of human clones. The same law Catherine Halsey is in breach of in both the creation of Cortana and the Spartan IIs, so that might give you an inclination of what to expect from the book.

That cover art though...

- Cowboy Out.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Introducing the Champions Bundle DLC

During the Halo panel at the Rooster Teeth Expo, 343industries announced the next wave of Halo 4 DLC. Launching on 20th August in a single bundle for 800 Microsoft Points, you will get:

Bullseye Pack:

Pitfall  - A remake of The Pit
Vertigo - A new map made by Certain Affinity
Ricochet - New gametype, like Grifball meets basketball meets Assault.
NFL styled Spartan Armour


Infinity Armour Pack:

Prefect - Foreunner styled Spartan Armour
Mark V Armour
ODST Armour


Steel Skin Pack:

Steel Skin Pack - Steampunk skins for all loadout weapons




800 points gets you all three packs, or you can buy them individually, 480 points for the Bullseye pack and 240 each for the Armour and Skin packs. If you pony up for the full pack you also get a bunch of extra armour skins, weapon skins and stances thrown in too.



343 have released this short trailer teasing some of the new features:



Aaaaand here's the promo shots:





- Cowboy Out.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Halo 4 Global Championship Registration is Open Now!

The Halo 4 Global Championships have just been announced, again in association with Virgin Gaming.
You can register now by going to: www.Halo4GlobalChampionship.com

There's a $200,000 grand prize and $500,000 total prize pool! So well worth taking a shot.

Even if you're terrible at Halo, you get a free Avatar shirt just for signing up - lovely!



"Spanning multiple live events and five weeks of head-to-heads on Xbox Live, the tournament is the biggest “Halo 4” competition yet, and will kick off at the Rooster Teeth Expo in Austin, Texas on 5th July, and then on Xbox Live on 15th July. Competitors will test their skill and fortitude against one another in intense free-for-all matches over a series of qualifying rounds (based on average scores and elimination matches), for a chance to rise through the global leaderboards and win coveted prizes. 
The tournament will culminate with a two-day Finals competition in Seattle, WA from 31st Aug. to 1st Sept., where players will battle to become the ultimate Spartan, with the top players receiving cash prizes. 
Six finalists from each of the live events and 20 from the online qualifiers will receive an expenses paid trip to participate in the Finals in Seattle, Washington."

Sounds pretty epic! Hop over to Halo4globalchampionship.com to register and claim your free Avatar shirt.

- Cowboy Out.

Halo 4 is the Best Selling Microsoft Studios Game*

Microsoft have announced that Halo 4 is the best selling Microsoft Studios game ever - Sort of. 

"Exciting news for the Halo team at 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios – critically acclaimed, “Halo 4” is now the best-selling Microsoft Studios title ever in the U.S. market*, surpassing its predecessor, “Halo 3” for sales during each respective launch year."

So it's the best selling game in a particular territory in a particular time frame? Presumably this means Halo 3 sold better if worldwide sales are included?



Nevertheless, this is good news for the franchise moving forward and accusations of franchise fatigue - at least as far as sales are concerned - are wide of the mark. 

- Cowboy Out.  

Monday, 1 July 2013

Today Is Not Halo Free Day

Contrary to earlier reports, today is not Halo Free day. Halo 3 will still be free for gold members, but at an unconfirmed date in the future. Today's free game is Defense Grid, which is a pretty good tower defense game, but it's not Halo 3.

The populate Halo 3 campaign will have to hold fire for a few more weeks at least. Rest assured I will bring you news of Halo 3's free day as soon as it's available and we can all jump on and bask in the no sprint, armour ability or loadout simplicity of Bungie's masterpiece.


- Cowboy Out.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

New Halo game is not called Halo 5

When the new Halo game was announced at Microsoft's E3 conference it was simply titled "Halo". The trailer appeared to follow on from the events of Halo 4 so people assumed this was Halo 5. When the Xbox Twitter account called it Halo 5 that was taken to be official confirmation. However, 343industries designer, David Ellis, has suggested on Twitter that this may not be Halo 5 after all.


Intriguing... 

Could be an episodic Halo adventure, perhaps? It couldn't be a prequel or reboot.. Sounds like we'll learn more soon at any rate. 

- Cowboy Out.