Thursday, 27 November 2008

Game Review: Halo 3

This one has been out aaages and so I thought I'd better tell you about it before letting you know about some of the newer releases I've been playing. By the way I'm assuming that all people interested in Halo have probably completed it already and if you want a game review then there'll be thousands probably only a short Google search away. But I'm under the immodest assumption that you're interested in my opinion so I will intermittently post up reviews and thoughts on video games as and when I play and complete them. So anyway on to the conclusion of one of the biggest video game trilogies ever.

Rough Plot

Well as the astute amongst you will have noticed Halo 3 follows on from two previous games so there's a lot of story to catch up on. Humanity is at war with a number of alien races who have formed a military and religious union called the Covenant. The beginnings of the war have yet to be fully explored, but there are more Halo games on the way. The first game begins with one ship, Pillar of Autumn making a random jump to escape a Covenant attack and lead them away from Earth, which had not been discovered. They happened on something incredible though, a ring shaped world they came to dub Halo.

They were followed to the planet and the battle continued, but they found an even greater enemy - The Flood, a parasitic race that infected, killed and possessed the bodies of the dead and were considered a threat to all life by the mysterious Forerunner who built this ringed world. The humans did have one weapon though - the Master Chief, one the enhanced super armoured SPARTAN II soldiers commissioned by Earth's military. They found a way to stop both the Covenant and the Flood, with the help of the Chief's AI, Cortana, they found that the Halo was a weapon that could wipe out all life in the galaxy - the only way to stop the flood. They couldn't halt the installation so they rigged their crashed starship to explode before narrowly escaping the installation.

OK, that was a bit longer than I wanted, but I guess I had to stuff a lot of key concepts in there. In Halo 2 we have another side seen, the side of the Covenant. The battle leader who failed to stop the Master Chief is condemned and given one last chance of glory in the suicidal warrior role of the Arbiter. Things are looking bad on the home front when a Covenant fleet arrives at Earth, destroying ships and dropping troops and monstrous scarab tanks on the surface. The fight rages and another installation is discovered and, you guessed it, more Flood who start infecting the Covenant and even form a vastly intelligent Gravemind. The Covenant Prophets want to activate the rings but are stopped by the Arbiter, who has realized that the prophecy is a lie and that activating the rings won't start a spiritual journey, but will kill them all. He and his species leave the Covenant and now fight alongside the humans. They discover an ancient massive starship that goes to Earth with the Chief on board, Cortana is captured by the Gravemind and I'm really bad at being concise!!!

OK onto this game - the Chief returns to Earth and joins the Arbiter, who he grudgingly recognises as an ally. They battle Covenant forces and regroup at a military base, which is also attacked, but they arm a bomb and evacuate, wiping out the pursuing forces. They head to the starship which has landed and is the site of a Covenant excavation. They assault the forces there, but a portal is opened into which the Covenant ships go. All thoughts of pursuing are lost when a covenant ship infested with Flood comes through and crashes on Earth, the Flood spill out and are defeated, but at great cost. Finding a message from Cortana the Chief and the Arbiter's forces go through the portal, with the rest of Earth's fleet staying to defend the little humanity has left. They arrive at The Ark, a massive structure which builds Halos and can control their firing sequence. That's a chunk of the plot, I'll say no more other than WATCH THE CREDITS!!!


OK, enough of that storyline stuff I think and onto the game. The Halo trilogy is FPS, that is first person shooter, where you spend most of the game looking down the barrel of a gun. It is one of the defining games of the medium, particularly in Sci-Fi and the range of weapons and enemies make it exciting, challenging and above all fun to play. I think the fun element is an important one as the game doesn't rely only on it's cool storyline to hook the player, actually just running through the level with plasma rifles blazing is incredibly fun, and this is augmented by a great multiplayer feature, which makes is still the most popular game to play online. There is also a range of vehicles from tanks to the two seater Mongooses introduced in this game, there is also equipment such as a bubble shield which protects from any attack for a short time and features like turrets that you can pick up and carry around with you. It's strength is in being a fairly standard shoot 'em up, but having a number of nifty techniques and tricks you can master and work out for yourself - for example, by trial and error I found a really good way to do jumps while driving that don't bounce your vehicle everywhere and lots of other nifty fun ways that don't just involve trigger pulling or button mashing.

Sci-Fi Stuff

OK, this game is clearly loaded with SF stuff so I'll focus on one or two things that stand out for me, and maybe do a follow up if necessary.

The Halos

I can't discuss Halo 3 without discussing the Halos themselves, the idea of an artificial ringed planet is fascinating and I was in awe when I played the first game and saw the land ahead of me stretch out and reach up to the sky, from then on I was hooked. I will just note that I discovered that this is not their first appearance in Sci-Fi, winged worlds have been a feature of SF for some time it seems, but I still think what the Halo team did with the concept is original and fantastic. These structures were built by a mysterious race called the Forerunners, who may well have been human, or who certainly have a link to humanity. The rings are colossal, have natural vegetation and water as well as housing sophisticated structures built a long time ago. From the outside they are visibly artificial with machines and structures to keep it in place and presumably to maintain atmosphere etc. And just as you start to ask why they were built, you regret asking...

The Flood

The Flood are a great aspect of Halo, as it makes it about more than just a war between aliens and mankind there is also a greater element that threatens all life in the univese which humanity must stop while still barely holding off a vicious enemy. The Flood are very clever as to one extent they are essentially zombies, passing an infection that turns a human or alien into one of them. But they are done so cleverly and differently that you get none of that idea, yet the same creeped out feeling of watching a horror movie. The Flood don't bite you, instead little annoying infection forms come at you, which are easy to destroy but deadly if they contact a person without the shielded armour of the Chief. They also get more intelligent as the infection spreads and can eventually create their own forms without needing to infect another life form. They even grow a super intelligent Gravemind. They make a great element when they first turn up as you go from fighting a war to fighting to survive. The mystery and intrigue surrounding them drives the game on and makes the characters risk everything to stop them. They fantastically animated and presented in this volume, making them seem very real and very scary.

Worth Playing?

Definitely - nuff said!

Well I've written more than enough on this one, I would reccomend the Halo trilogy to you, especially with three more Halo games in the pipeline. I will maybe do a Bible based follow up like I did with Creed and at those to my reppertoire, but I'll see, maybe a huge war with a race based on a false religion might give me enough to go on!!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Matrix Online: Kill code

It's been a long time since I've done this but I'm going to give you a bit more info on the storyline of the continuous online game The Matrix Online. This is of course an attempt to plug the game as well as a geekish delight in sharing the details with you all. I will just say that at the moment we are living in fairly exciting time in the game with a bit of a redesign in the mission system and storyline progression.

Funding and workload and other issues had lead to a decline in the storyline, but the devlopment team and "Rarebit" in particular used this to revitalise the game. 'Rare' personally drew and animated new cinematics, which were one of the things that had to be cut. These have no sound and aren't necessarily as smooth as the earlier ones, but they've used that to make them longer and more widespread in terms of impact. I have to say I'm pleased to be playing a game where a developer would go to that extend to make the game more interesting and exciting for players.

Anyway, on with the story eh?

System Reboot

The major thing going on at the time, so major I didn't even know the other event was going on, was that Sony Online Entertainment was taking over the game. The game had low sales and high costs and so it could no longer support itself, which meant it was handed over to SOE who run games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies. This meant quite a reduction in events and live content and it meant that things never quite returned to the glory of the original days, something that is still resented to this day. Nonetheless SOE have kept the game afloat and the Matrix story alive for three years so far and the game runs pretty solidly still and I'm still intrigued by what the story turns up.

Neurophyte returns

Back to the story...again! At least on the servers where she had been kept alive Neurophyte made a return to the stage in a drastically changed way. She first appearad at parties in the city, taking orders to rest and relax seriously.

Meanwhile things were sturring in the Merovingian camp as the Frenchman tried to find out more about the red eyed agents and the masked men. He also confirmed what was now widely assumed to be true, that he was indeed responsible for sending the Assassin after Morpheus. This coupled with reports of Zion trying to find a way to kill him, made things ready for a showdown. The Assassin himself even showed up in the Matrix, but evaded attempts to stop and kill him.

Neurophyte showed up again, this time looking weak and shaken, and sometimes speaking words that didn't appear to be her own. She was being followed by the Red Eyed Agents, but she had known they were coming and fought back. She still had a remnant of the "kill code" that had infected her - a powerful remnant. Code lightning struck the impostors, killing them in large numbers. Neurophyte had returned in force!

But then one of their "Super Agents" showed up and fought her. These agents had also been able to summon similar lightning in their initial engagement with the redpills and he seemed fairly immune to Neurophyte's power and quickly seized the upper hand until help came from a very unexpected source.

The Assassin appeared on the scene, easily destroying the agent and evading the attacks of Neurophyte and other redpills. After staying for a short while the Assassin typically slunk back into the dark recesses of the Matrix, leaving Neurophyte weakened and tired. While a powerful force to be reckoned with the events had taken their toll on her and things were not going to go well for her crew as we will see soon. As far as I'm aware this was the last time we saw Neurophyte, and pretty much the last time we saw the Red Eyed Agents, out in force like this anyway, but the power behind them was not far from revealing itself...

Hope you've enjoyed this, the story around the takeover period is pretty sketchy in terms of chapter divisions and ordering so I hope I don't miss too much out or get things in the wrong order, but yeah - this was the kill code event - it happened, lots of other stuff happens too in the never ending story of The Matrix.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

SF at the Movies - November 08

Well we're way past the half way mark of this month so I guess I'd better have a peek at what's out at the movies for this month. We seem to be having a bit of a slow patch SF wise these past few months with few 'proper' Sci-Fi releases at all. There's a few out this month, but all are a little leap to the Sci-Fi world and most are just horrors with a slightly fntastic setting.

Max Payne

Released 14/11/08

Mark Wahlberg stars in the latest video game to make an on screen adaptation. Max Payne and it's sequel have been some of the most popular video game titles released and are still memorable several years after the release of the second game. According to my friends, wh o know more about the titles than I do, the film is actually a pretty accurate representation of the events of the game - which doesn't happen too often. The film is gritty and action packed, though a bit bewlidering at times if you're not familiar with the original source. It is mostly a thriller with a touch of film noir, but there's enough weird companies and body enhancing drugs to keep me happy with putting it here.


Released 21/11/08

This film takes as it's plot the possibility of what might happen if a city's population turned blind. It is highly reminiscent of the plot of day of the triffids, only without the moving plants that killed everyone. This has put me off somewhat, but I've had a look at the trailer and the plot does seem quite convincing and original and is set to be more than just a rip off or piece of Sci-Horror. Not entirely sure if it's for me, but it looks a perfectly valid showing for this month.

Released 21/11/08

This one definitely is a horror, with maybe a bit of SF hidden inside. Some people go to a place, find some weird diseasy type thing that's killed people and stuff. They go in to find out then the place gets quarantined and they're stuck inside. Looks like it's going from a news crew's perspective so it might be a bit Cloverfieldy...probly more Blair Witch. Dunno, could be good - if it is let me know and I might nod or something.

Won't be long till next month - keep an eye on the apple website for trailers, there's some cracking good ones on there, I'm particulsrly looking forward to Push and Monsters vs Aliens.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Star Wars Legacy - The New Jedi Order part 3

Posts on here are getting less frequent and I do have to apologise, but actually having a real work schedule for the first time in my life is starting to take it's toll. It's quite a while since I've done a Legacy post, but I figured I'd get ahead and introduce to you a few of the Jedi who popped up in some recent issues.

As you may or may not remember Cade and his pals arrived at a hidden temple where a large number of Jedi were in hiding, there were too many to introduce in the issue review so I'll post about them now, enjoy.

Hidden Temple Jedi


Species: Zabrak
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Iridonia (?)
Position: Jedi Knight (maybe Master)
First Appearance: Legacy # 25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Mai was one of several Jedi who found refuge in the Hidden Temple set up by Nat Skywalker and others. When the Imperial Knight delegation came to the temple she was tasked with attending Azlyn Rae their agent. Later she approached Jariah Syn who had just identified his father's killer, but mistook his emotions and was surprised an knocked unconscious by Syn.

Tili Qua

Species: Chadra-Fan
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Chad (?)
Position: Council Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy #25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Tili Qua was one of the most senior Jedi to escape the Sith and make her way to the Hidden Temple. As such she was elected to the impromptu Master's Council that guided and lead the Jedi who chose to remain in the temple. She was very skeptical of the Imperial Knights and still harboured regret about the Empire's involvement in the Sith War and take over. She and the other council members also chose to reject Cade's plan of assasination, deciding it wasn't the Jedi path, nor was it time for the Jedi to become involved in war against the Sith.

T'ra Saa

Species: Neti
Sex: Female
Homeworld: Myrkr (?)
Position: Council Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Republic: Darkness

T'ra Saa was a surviving Jedi from the Old Republic era who was also a treelike Neti, one of the oldest and most mysterious species in the galaxy. She had been part of the Jedi Order for centuries before the clone wars broke out, helping train such Jedi as Mace Windu and Quinlan Vos. Despite misgivings of some Jedi she felt able to uphold her Jedi principles and yet have a loving relationship with fellow Jedi Tholme. She and Tholme were part of the galaxy wide Clone Wars and both survived Order 66. But sometime after, perhaps merely from old age, Tholme died and Saa rooted herself at his graveside and became treelike as her species can. The details of what happened next are unclear but it appears she did not join the New Jedi Order for some time as Cade was unaware of her existence, but sometime during or after the way she rejoined the Jedi and sat on their council in hiding, later joined by another Old Republic master K'Kruhk.

Tobias Sun

Species: Human
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Unknown
Position: Jedi Knight (possibly Master)
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy # 25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Tobias Sun was one of the Jedi Knights who found refuge at the Jedi temple, while young and energetic he resigned himself to the quiet contemplative hiding the Jedi Order needed to escape destruction. Tobias was tasked with looking after Cade's crewmates while he met with the council. Deliah was eager to find some excitement and Tobias went along with her and was delighted to see she could fix a speeder bike that had been broken for months, the two took it for a test drive, Tobias clearly enjoying the break in routine.

Rasi Tuum

Species: Cathar
Sex: Male
Homeworld: Cathar (?)
Position: Jedi Master, Jedi Master
First Appearance: Star Wars Legacy #25 (The Hidden Temple, part 1)

Those of you with extremely good memories may remember this face and name as having popped up before. It turns out Rasi Tuum was a family name for a group of Cathar Jedi. The one previously seen was named Ahn, who died at the hands of the Sith, and there was another named Zho, who was out searching for Jedi to bring to the temple. The other featured here was once the master of Azlyn Rae before they were seperated in the Sith assault. He tried to convince her to return to the Jedi, but Azlyn wasn't sure. Soon after he was confronted by Jariah Syn, whose father he had killed on a mission years earlier. Rasi got Syn to face up to the truth of what his father was and Syn begrudgingly left the Jedi alone.

Well that's it, other than to catch up on an issue or two - enjoy this content while it lasts folks!!