Game finished: Halo O.D.S.T.

Halo 3 - Master Chief
Image by Ricardo Saramago via Flickr

I finished Halo O.D.S.T. (aka Orbital Drop Ship Troopers), the 4th game in the Halo series (or like the 8th, if you count the Marathon games as the spiritual predecessors they were) over the weekend. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected. I’ve solved all the Halo games at this point, including 2 of them in coop, and I figured I had seen everything the Halo games had to see at this point, plus Halo 3 concludes the Master Chief‘s story arc, and I sort of figured without the Master Chief I wouldn’t be interested.

I only ended up getting the game because Toys R Us had a buy 2 get 1 free sale after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t find anything else I was interested in. My first session with the game seemed to confirm my suspicion – been there, done that, I thought, and I quickly set the game aside for others. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out my game backlog before buying any new games though, and I love buying new games, so I returned to it and warmed up to it as I played.

The Halo series does a pretty good job with their basic combat mechanics, and their level design focuses on setting up repeated ‘situations’ or skirmishes that require tactical thinking, skill, and sometimes a little luck. The same skirmish can play out wildly differently each time you approach it after a failure too, which helps enormously with enjoyment. In terms of what ODST brings to the party this time around…well, not much new. Some tweaks to the weapons, graphics, vehicles, a lack of the more resilient Master Chief, and that’s about it. The relatively short plot follows the misadventures of a squad of soldiers on a mission in a city under siege by alien invaders. It’s told non-linearly, and while in the end it’s not that exciting, by the standards of most first person shooters it’s actually pretty solid. I played on normal difficulty and either the game is fairly easy or I’ve played enough Halo games to do really well at them, because I mostly found it pretty easy.

The one new thing that ODST does bring to the table is a multiplayer mode called Firefight that’s pretty fun – it’s basically the human players versus increasingly powerful waves of AI characters in skirmish battles. It’s tough, frantic, and a good deal of fun. The rest of the multiplayer is basically what you see in Halo 3 with a bunch of additional maps included, including some which were DLC for Halo 3.

So – would I recommend it? Qualified yes – if you’ve played Halo games and really enjoyed them, no question, you should pick it up. If you’re a singleplayer only player, well, it’s a tougher call. The single player is fun and well designed and has an above average story for the genre, but it’s also fairly short. If you’re a Halo 3 multiplayer fan, it’s probably worth picking up just for the Firefight mode alone.

Friday fun for halloween – Zombie outbreak

Armed Assault is a first person shooter that aims to be more of a simulator than a run and gun action game. It got decent reviews when it came out, and was notable for the strength of its mod community and the tools available for it, along with the size of the areas you can play in. There are tons of available mods, most aiming to simulate various military activities – using a squad to liberate a city, fight off an incursion from an attacking force, implement an ambush on a military convoy, that kind of thing. In honor of Halloween, I offer up the Zombie Outbreak mod for it, which allows you to set up a sort of ‘Day of the Dead‘ scenario where a number of zombies get introduced into an area and can infect the civilians and military personel in the region. You and a team of friends can then try and combat the outbreak, using the kit you start with and anything you can scrounge. It’s really pretty cool, and I’m posting this partly in the hope that a friend or two will pick up Armed Assault so we can team up, but even as a solo experience it’s pretty fun. You can score Armed Assault cheap off of ebay, or in the $30 range on Steam or Definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in some Halloween themed zombie battling action. PC only, you need a decent gaming rig to run this.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

An ingame screenshot demonstrating the high dr...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a ~5 minute youtube video showing off what the gameplay looks like:

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Friday Fun: Play Team Fortress 2 for free this weekend

Valve’s just released a new map, gametype, and a host of new weapons and achievements for the Medic class in Team Fortress 2, the first of a coming wave of achievements and additional weapons. To celebrate, they’ve announced that everyone can play Team Fortress 2 for free this weekend. All the details are here. TF2 is my current fave FPS. If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to give it a shot this weekend since it will cost you nothing, and the full game is like $19.99 and more than worth 3x the price.

Game finished: Call of Duty 3

I’ve played most of the Call of Duty games at this point, including the various console ports. I’ve played through 2 on the PS2, and 2 on the PC (three if you count one of the expansion paks for the original game) and I played through 4 on the xbox 360 right after Christmas. I enjoyed that so much I went out and got COD3 for the Xbox 360, and played it through over the last couple of weeks. It’s nowhere near as good as 4 was, but it’s decent at what it is – a formulaic WWII console FPS. What novelty it has you can tell was tacked on because of the WII and PS3 motion sensing bits in the controllers, because there are these interactive sequences like ‘plant this bomb on the anti-aircraft gun’ which require sequences of button presses and twists, which on the wii or PS3 would have been actual motions with the controllers. They’re weak on the 360 because they feel contrived and because you can exploit them for a limited invulnerability by sprinting for the objective and initiating the sequence, which mostly keeps the AI from shooting at you so you can charge into insane situations and survive. The other new addition to the formula is scripted moments where you get jumped from around corners by enemy soldiers, which starts a ‘quicktime event’ style melee combat where you have to press the right buttons at the right time and speed. It’s basically as weak as it sounds, made worse by the fact that each of them requires whacking on the shoulder buttons, which it’s not easy to do quickly. There are also driving sequences and sequences where you control tanks or other heavy weaponry. These are just ok, and not as good as the ones in COD2, but they’re not bad either.

I didn’t try the multiplayer, because I already have the superb COD4 for that, not to mention Team Fortress 2 on the pc, so I figured why bother.

You can score the game for under $20 for the PS3 and the 360 if you shop carefully. At that price it’s worth it if you’re a fan of the genre, and who isn’t – after all, shooting nazis never gets old 😉