Tag Archives: Halo Reach

VGA 2009 Winners: Who won? Uncharted 2 or Modern Warfare 2?

The Spike Video Game Awards televised, and in their own strange way legitimized, what most gamers already knew. With Saturday night’s awards, Spike TV’s 7th annual show delivered awards–game of the year went to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2–and a slew of new game reveals.

The winners were:

  • Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Studio of the Year: Rocksteady Studios
  • Best Independent Game: Flower
  • Best Xbox 360 Game: Left 4 Dead 2
  • Best PS3 Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Best Wii Game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • Best PC Game: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Best Handheld Game: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • Best Shooter: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter IV
  • Best Action Adventure Game: Assassin’s Creed II
  • Best RPG: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Best Multiplayer Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Individual Sports Game: UFC 2009 Undisputed
  • Best Team Sports Game: NHL 10
  • Best Driving Game: Forza Motorsport 3
  • Best Music Game: The Beatles: Rock Band
  • Best Soundtrack: DJ Hero
  • Best Original Score: Halo 3: ODST
  • Best Graphics: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Best Game Based On A Movie/TV Show: South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play!
  • Best Performance By A Human Female: Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Best Performance By A Human Male: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Best Cast: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Best Voice: Jack Black for the voice of Eddie Riggs in Brütal Legend
  • Best Downloadable Game: Shadow Complex
  • Best DLC: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
  • Most Anticipated Game of 2010: God of War III

A big round of applause for the folks who made Shadow Complex, Flower, Uncharted II, Batman Arkham Asylum, and for “newcomers” Rocksteady Games.

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343 Industries Sparks Halo Legends, Bungie

Microsoft’s Halo series just fastened a powerful spark plug to its massive engine.  In conjunction with a recent rumor about 343 Industries (343 referring to Halo’s mad bot Guilty Spark), and a San Diego Comic-Con announcement about Halo Legends, an anime-style series consisting of seven short films, Microsoft today announced the official creation of 343 Industries, helmed by everyone’s favorite Halo artist and message board master, Frank O’Connor. O’Connor is 343 Industries’ creative director, first revealed in the LA Times.

The master expands his legend.

The master expands his legend.

“343 Industries is the publisher of the blockbuster Halo series of videogames and, as part of Microsoft Game Studios, oversees the Halo franchise, including novels, comics, licensed collectibles, apparel and more,” Microsoft said in a press release today. “343 Industries is home to world-class developers working on future Halo projects, including Halo Legends and Halo Waypoint, as well as partnering with renowned developers such as Bungie LLC and Robot Entertainment to produce Halo games for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.”

“If you look at how George Lucas held on to ‘Star Wars,’ not just to make money from action figures but to control the direction the universe went in, you can see why we think it’s pretty vital,” Frank O’Connor told the LA Times. “Luckily, Microsoft has the resources to enable us to do that.”

Halo Legends is in development with five animation production houses: Bones, Casio Entertainment, Production I.G., Studio4 C, and Toei Animation. Microsoft will supervise, approve, and manage the Halo property–including all art, presentation, and written material.

After a good long stint working as a social media manager at Bungie, Frank O’Connor left Bungie (about 8 months ago) to work at Microsoft. It wasn’t just an ordinary side-stepping job, it turns out. Put that together with Bungie’s separation from Microsoft to become its own studio, and now it all makes sense.

Bungie split from Microsoft to become more independent and gain a little more control over its destiny (although arguably all we have seen is more Halo games, and Halo 3: ODST seems a little like contract filler, to be fair). With O’Connor at MS looking over what is essentially a new publishing division at MS, Bungie is very likely going to be under different restrictions (fewer), and have better management over its properties than before. It’s essentially a custom publishing brand specifically made for Bungie.

Better custom management by a Bungie insider who knows games? Sounds like a great idea to me. Congratulations, Frankie!

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E3 2009: Halo ODST Deeper Detail Preview

Behind closed doors at the Microsoft event Bungie showed a deeper look at this fall’s Halo ODST, a first-person shooter that’s both very different than the Halo trilogy but that also shares some similarities.

The demo showed essentially a deeper look at the same level that debuted at Microsoft’s media briefing Monday, with more detail and storyline revealed. Also, for clarification, Halo ODST will arrive in one package on two discs. The first disc includes the story campaign, which can be played with one to four players cooperatively; Firefight, a survival-style co-op mode; Theater, which enables screen capture and movie replay just like in Halo 3; and Extras, the gateway for gamers to enter into the Halo Reach beta (when it becomes available). The second disc is the multiplayer disc, which includes all of the (unannounced) MP details. Creative Director Joseph Staten confirmed that Bungie separated the game onto two discs because of space restrictions.

Staten led the demo, which started at the beginning of the game, in a starship high above New Mombassa with a group of ODST marines shooting the breeze before their next mission. You meet Dutch (who goes missing later on the game), a red-headed soldier who is friendly. You also meet a black dude, an angry squad captain, and a female leader who one of the soldiers notices wears new and advanced gear. The mention of her gear, her relationship with the squad captain, and her story all appear as hooks into a deeper storyline that assuredly will be explained as you, “The Rookie,” find various items in the broken scraps of New Mombassa, each one initiating a flashback sequence and more storyline. Halo ODST is a prequel to Halo 3, taking place weeks before that game started, and explains what happened to New Mombassa after Halo 2.

The next scene shows you jumping into a landing pod, which along with hundreds of others, are maneuverable space craft designed for hard, fast drops into heavy military zones. You jump in and are given a look at what looks like a solo space elevator, except with controls to maneuver, slow down, and even pull a tech parachute for landings. As you’re falling you’ll start in space and get a good view of the craft you’re leaving, plus you’ll get a great view of the other pods dropping from the mother ships underside. You fall through space, make the transition into the atmosphere, and then pick up where the media briefing demo started off, watching a Covenant spaceship enter into slipstream leaving a destructive blast in its wake and scattering your team mates across the wide terrain below.

You make a hard landing, and wake up six hours later, at night, all alone. Upon landing you begin seeing the biggest differences between previous Halo games and Halo ODST. First, you’re a regular guy, sans cybernetic enhancement and alteration and a SPARTAN suit. So, you’re a lot less powerful and must be smarter about how you approach and attack enemies. Unlike the Halo trilogy, in Halo ODST, you’ll have different and in some cases more helpful gear, such as a compass and a unique visor in your helmet and HUD. You’ll need to pick up health from first aid kits because while you have a health meter and an adrenaline meter, the health meter doesn’t recover on its own — a first and a step…backward (sideways?) for the series? As a quick aside, Halo introduced the regenerating health system to first-person shooters (after which all other shooters followed), so for Bungie to change this, and for Halo fans, this alteration ought to be, well, different at best. We shall see. Anyway, the visor provides a low-light vision mode so you can see at night, and it also provides a target acquisition scanner that identifies objects of importance, such as enemies (which show up in red). You’re equipped with different weaponry, too: two silence weapons. You’ll get a sound suppressed sub-machine gun with a zoom function, and a sound suppressed Halo 1 pistol, which frankly, kicks ass.

Sensing the game’s new mood was difficult even behind closed doors (the Alan Wake sub-woofers next door were exceptionally loud), but Staten illustrated how the new game was designed with a greater sense of mood. Halo ODST is a mystery, and as such, the coloring, music, and story will reflect that idea with red skies, a much vaster scale of the city and you’re small place in it.

Bungie loves its AI characters and in ODST, instead of Guilty Spark, you’ll meet the city’s super smart AI, The Superintendent, created by ONI, the office of naval intelligence. Known as the “Super,” this city AI reaches you by making a phone call on a public phone. When you answer, you learn he is watching you and wants to help. The Super is also damaged, partially broken due to the Slip Stream blast the Covenant ship caused. The Super gives you a top-down digital map of the whole city, and provides you with beacons you can set to help guide yourself and others (if you’re playing co-op, for instance) as the story progresses.

The first enemies you’ll see are basic grunts, after which you’ll encounter basic level brutes. In these first battles, you’ll have to strafe, distract, run, and keep the enemies guessing, unlike the straight run-and-gun of Halo 1-3. These fights, however, didn’t appear to be terribly difficult nor interesting.

Staten ended the demo by showing the Firefight mode. Firefight is basically a massive survival mode, in which your team is given a finite amount of team lives (seven) and must withstand nonstop, increasingly difficult Covenant attacks. Bungie is in the process of completely re-designing its Website to incorporate new stats and functionality, leaderboards, etc., to reflect the demands of the new game. We watched a replay of ODST troopers fight off Brute leaders equipped with their giant hammer/staffs, which pretty much just ended the fight, as each ODST militant was eventually hammered off his feet and propelled 30 to 50 feet into the air like a sharply hit tennis ball serve.

While Bungie is correct in thinking that the next Halo needs to look, feel, and play differently, not running and gunning in Halo, not recharging instantly, and not being a super bad ass seems like a weird idea for any Halo game. I mean, those are, in some basic way, the tenets of what Halo is. To play it differently, stripped down to human proportions, makes me wonder why it’s called Halo at all. I say this, of course, not having played it or experienced the story or what Bungie has to fully offer, so I am not fully equipped to judge. So what I am hoping is that place of these tenets, there are bigger, more impressive elements to be revealed that compel gamers in ways that are so great and enticing that they will accept this new Halo style and embrace it. From an experienced perspective, having read all the books and played all the games, it’s tough to see those enticing elements just yet.

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E3 2009: Microsoft Delivers Project Natal, The Beatles, Halo Reach, and Forza 3 at Media Briefing

Microsoft held its E3 2009 news briefing at 10:30 am Monday at the USC Galen Center on a three-screen stage lit with its trademark green circle design and delivered its much rumored hands-free controller, along with a top-notch lineup of 15-plus games, 10 of which are exclusive to the system. (See shots of the conference, including Beatles people here.)

Microsoft kicked off its 2-hour conference with Harmonix’s Rock Band The Beatles (due 9.09.09 on Xbox 360 and PS3). The developed showed the first-ever footage from Rock Band The Beatles from flash graphic-style cutscenes to a full band set up including three singers, guitarist, drummer, and basist, demoed by the Harmonix’s house band, and followed up with guest appearances by the last remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

Carefully crafting the order and games for its conference to mix both casual and mainstream efforts with hardcore titles, Microsoft sent Pro skater Tony Hawk to the stage to demo Tony Hawk’s Ride replete with developer Robo Moto’s wireless skateboard controller (due fall 2009 on Xbox 360 and PS3).

Tony Hawk’s Ride was followed by in-game footage of Modern Warfare 2, which will enable gamers to ride and shoot enemies from snowmobiles (due 11.01.09 on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360), Final Fantasy XIII (with in-game footage including a summons spell calling “Odin” to fight alongside you; due spring 2010), and in-game footage from Donald Mustard’s new Shadow Complex, a sidescrolling action adventure game inspired by GI Joe and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (due summer 09).

Microsoft then demoed the free avatar racing game Joy Ride (winter 2009), a GC presentation of Crackdown 2 (which looks to feature big, nasty bosses who are much stronger than you), a CG video of Left4Dead2 (see L4D.com), an in-game video presentation of the exclusive Xbox 360 and PC game, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction (due fall 2009), and the not-so-surprising Turn 10 game, Forza 3–which Producer Dan Greenawalt said four times is “The definitive racing game of this era.”

Bungie Studios’ writer Joe Staten then introduced the first in-game footage of Halo ODST, which falls between Halo 1 and Halo 2 and puts gamers in the shoes of a non-Spartan military special ops team called Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST), who, when collecting various articles on his journey, initiates flashback story chapters to tell the story. Halo ODST introduces a few gadgets such as the returning Halo 1 pistol, a scanning visor, two sound suppressed weapons, and a rocket launcher. Halo ODST includes the co-op mode Firefight, and is due September 22 worldwide on Xbox 360. Staten also revealed Halo Reach, which was only shown in video and is due on fall 2010. Staten explained that when you pre-order Halo ODST, you’ll automatically be invited to participate in the Halo Reach beta.

Remedy finally showed Alan Wake, which still isn’t coming out this year (due spring 2010), but its very pretty, polished-looking adventure-horror game featuring tons of lighting effects issued from flashlights and flares.

Microsoft then announced a slew of partnerships to bolster its multimedia prowess. It announced it has partnered with Last.fm, an online music service that has a subscription of 30 million users worldwide, which will be free for all Gold Members. Following that it’s improved its Netflix service, eliminating the need to use the PC to browse for movies and now enables players to instantly connect to movies without wait times. Microsoft also announced a partnership with SkyTV, which will benefit folks in the UK and Ireland to be able to watch live TV shows from their Xbox 360s such as Premiere League Football.

For all those who thought the Zune as gone and dead, it’s not. Zune Video enables Xbox 360 users to see 1080p videos “without discs, delays or downloading, using what MS called its “Instant On 1080 HD streaming service.

Microsoft didn’t stop there. It then announced it’s partnered with Facebook and Twitter, both of which can be used directly on Xbox 360. FaceBook on Xbox 360 enables players to post pictures directly to their 360s; both services are due in fall 2009.

Finally, and perhaps biggest of all was the announcement of Project Natal, a demo driven by designer Kudo Tsunoda and endorsed on-stage by Stephen Spielberg and Lionhead Studios’ Peter Molyneux. Tsunoda showed how Microsoft is taking the Wii controller idea and attempting to take it to the next level of controller-less games by eliminating the controller all together. Project Natal enables consumers to use voice recognition, facial recognition, and motion sensing technology to grant gamers the ability to scroll iPhone-style through the dashboard and pick movies, launch games, or turn off or on their 360s with a gesture. Gamers can play 3D breakout-style games (MS called this game Ricochet) by using their hands to hit and their feet to kick in coming balls, as well as create painted objects on virtual canvases (Paint Party).

Paint Party brought the biggest laughs, however, as the crude painting looked more like Jackson Pollack style abstract expressionism, and the shadow game elephant that was demoed on screen, while fun, also brought on uncontrolled laughter from the audience (as it showed male and female demo-ers bent over to imitate an elephant eating). Tsunoda also showed how the Mii-like avatar that Microsoft introduced last year is now fully useable as a movement controlled avatar onscreen, who looks like and mimics your movements.

Microsoft concluded its conference by showing a Lionhead game temporarily called Milo, which uses the Project Natal technology and showed how users could interact with a crude artificial intelligence “boy” who recognizes the user, speaks to the user, “understands” the users voice textures, and hands users things on the screen. Conceptually, Project Natal is a brilliant idea that was easily the most impressive aspect of the entire Microsoft briefing. The hard part, however, will be executing the concept in a way that works seamlessly and believably. Mattrick added that the technology will work with all games that have been released in the past on Xbox 360 and all games in the future. Tsunoda said the techo demos are shipping now out to developers and publishers.

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