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Halo: Reach framerate issues being addressed by Microsoft

Halo: Reach is one of the highest regarded games of the Halo franchise; taking players through a story of multiple spartans before the start of the 2001 title, Halo: Combat Evolved. When Microsoft announced backwards compatibility Reach was seen at the forefront of their advertising for it with the game case prominently displayed as one of the first titles to be available.

While Reach wasn’t one of the first titles, Xbox One owners and Halo fans were certainly excited that the game was still to come in the subsequent set of titles released through backwards compatibility.

Unfortunately for those fans, Halo: Reach has been an abject disappointment with borderline unplayable framerate issues and buggy physics all wrapped up in a package that only matches the graphical capability of the splitscreen mode of the original Halo: Reach.

The complaints of gamers have reached Microsoft and they “are aware some users are experiencing issues.” Microsoft claims the Xbox team is working on a fix, but no timeline has been given.

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“The truth” gets closer with new Halo 5 launch trailer

343 Industries and Microsoft have been constructing a masterful ad campaign with “Hunt The Truth” — a collection of various hints and teasers regarding the Halo 5 story leading up to the full release of the game in late October.

Now, “the truth” feels as close as it could be with the latest Halo 5 Launch trailer showing off more of the conflict between Master Chief and the people that previously heralded him as the hero of mankind. The new co-protaganist Spartan Locke and his squad will have a massive role in subduing Chief and Blue Team.

Where most Halo trailer purely stick to the iconic theme music and style that Halo has built up over it’s 14 year long life, 343i changes things up with a song in this Halo 5 trailer. The second half of the video has Muse, Knights of Cydonia playing over an assortment of gameplay clips and other badass moments from the campaign.

Halo 5 releases in two weeks — October 27 — exclusively on Xbox One. Microsoft is also launching a limited edition Xbox One bundle shipping with a 1TB Spartan Locke stylized console, controller, and a Steel Book containing a digital download of Halo 5: Guardians along with some small in-game extras.

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Halo Wars 2 announced for Xbox One

Halo Wars 2 a continuation to the real time strategy game originally on the Xbox 360 has been announced as Microsoft’s “one last thing” at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

The teaser trailer showcased some of the incredible CGI cutscene visuals that fans have come to expect since the last release of Halo Wars in 2009.

The game is being developed by both 343i and Creative Assembly. Creative Assembly is the studio behind the Total War strategy games, Alien: Isolation, and Viking: Battle for Asgard.

No gameplay is available at this time, but check back soon @pixelpine and at Facebook for more updates. Also look for more updates from Halo Waypoint.

A release date of Fall 2016 has been confirmed.

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Halo 5 co-op campaign to have “a new level of depth”

When Bungie released Halo back in 2001 one of the biggest features that made the game so shareable, fun to play, and a pop-culture hit was its incredible multiplayer. Now, 14 years later 343 Industries is looking to capture that same level of fun in a multiplayer but matching it to more contemporary gameplay with online co-op play.

343i’s latest blog by Josh Holmes — the head of the studio — explains that the past love that many gamers had for the co-op campaign was the inspiration to fully integrate that experience into Halo 5. No more seeing three or four Master Chiefs roaming around together for a completely unexplained reason. Now the introduction of fire teams gives Chief true reason to have the back-up he has when playing the multiplayer.

“…we have committed to co-operative campaign at a fundamental level. This creative pillar has influenced many decisions throughout the game’s technology and design. While you can still expect the same great single-player experience that Halo campaigns have been known for, engaging in co-operative play gives the campaign a new level of depth and richness.” – Josh Holmes

The biggest change in the multiplayer is the new “drop-in, drop-out” feature allowing new players to join another’s campaign without waiting to restart a level. The fireteam that both Master Chief and Spartan Locke fight besides are with you through the entire game and when real teammates aren’t there to help you the A.I. will pick up right where you left off. Chief and Locke are both capable of directing their A.I. squads wherever they see fit.

Master Chief and Spartan Locke can command their team to revive downed members during battle.
Master Chief and Spartan Locke can command their team to revive downed members during battle.

Another key aspect of the fireteams is their importance to the story. The accompaniment of additional spartans helps the personalities within the Halo universe expand significantly with some new and returning characters. (And even some vastly different characters since the last time we met them in a Halo game — like Sergeant Buck.)

Blue Team’s accompaniment of Master Chief will help players gain a greater perspective of the Spartan II’s past.

The formation of Fireteam Oriris, Spartan Locke’s team, includes Buck as well as two never before seen characters in the Halo games — Holly Tanaka and Olympia Vale.

“We’ve deliberately designed these two teams to provide visual contrast with one another. Blue Team have a heavier, more weathered feel. Their technology is proven, reliable, and practical in nature. Fireteam Osiris represent a new generation of Spartans. Their armor is sleek and modern, technologically advanced and displaying less wear.”

Check out Halo Waypoint for more details regarding the Halo 5 co-op campaign.

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Halo Channel comes to mobile devices; available now on iOS and Android

The app popularized on Xbox One and Windows 8 PCs is now available on mobile devices; The Halo Channel comes to iOS and Android.

The Halo Channel — part of Halo Waypoint — gives fans a variety of media to read, watch, and listen to. The most popular aspects of the channel offered include a detailed look at the making of Halo 5 and other general news pertaining to the Halo universe.

Season 2 of the Sprint is currently available giving fans a look at the work that went into getting the 343i presentation at E3 2015 ready. Get a “firsthand look at the drive, determination, and dedication required to bring their best at gaming’s biggest showcase.” Gamers can also check out videos on the implementation of HoloLens in Halo 5 as well.

Also included on this app is Halo Nightfall, the live-action series giving fans a greater breakdown of the upcoming co-protagonist of Halo 5 Guardians, Spartan Locke. All five episodes are available to be streamed through the app.

Those who download the app on either of the new two platforms will be given a promotional REQ (Requisition) pack containing a special emblem for use in Halo 5: Guardians when it releases on Xbox One October 27, 2015. For gamers that have already downloaded the app on their Xbox One or Windows 8 PC the same REQ pack will be given to you.

Download iOS version here

Download Android version here

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Halo 3 ODST (MCC) brings a polarizing Halo experience to Xbox One | Review

When Halo 3 ODST first released back in 2009 on the Xbox 360 it was met with some conflicting criticism. This first-person shooter released for a full $60 but some suggested the amount of content within the game was simply not enough to warrant that. Other disagreed, as it gave Halo fans a new experience along with an incredible story playing as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. This approach gives players a new vulnerability and a new take on combat in Halo games.

As the game re-releases on the Xbox One for a very modest $5, it would feel wrong not to have an extended review of the game branching off the full Master Chief Collection review. (If you haven’t read it yet check it out here!)

While Halo 3 ODST is not actually part of the direct story of Master Chief, much of its campaign ties in very well and in a fairly clear manner with the beginning of Halo 3 starting just as ODST ends. Like Halo 3, the fighting is focused on Earth — unlike Halo 3, players take on a role of a much more humble ODST soldier. Throughout the game players cycle through five soldiers with the Rookie serving as the single chararcter players consistently come back to as he tries to uncover the mystery of where his lost squad mates are.

Gameplay

Halo 3 ODST mixes a stealthy approach to combat and the classic Halo formula and it yields fantastic results.
Halo 3 ODST mixes a stealthy approach to combat and the classic Halo formula and it yields fantastic results.

Gameplay wise, the game plays directly off of the Halo 3 engine, but for those that never liked the run-and-gun Halo style that has become synonymous with the franchise this gameplay may be more enticing to you. As an ODST soldier your player is just a tad slower than the Master Chief and also has significantly weaker shields and health. This forces players to turn elsewhere for a tactical advantage — and that advantage comes in stealth.

ODST focuses immensely on stealth when playing as the Rookie, but does open up a bit more when playing as the other characters in missions. When not on a specific mission players continue as the Rookie searching the New Mombasa streets for your team. When going through the world as the Rookie the game invokes a feeling of needing to be careful — needing to be smart about each approach to combat.

The entire game slows down with this new approach and offers gamers a much greater opportunity to appreciate the art-design, music, and other aesthetics that make the game so unique in the Halo universe.

Though when you do take control of the other characters and the fire-fights get a bit more intense the classic Halo feel comes out in a fairly balanced way. Your character is still weak, but stealth isn’t a necessity. Even six years after it released this balance plays perfectly.

Story

Each piece of the puzzle brings you closer to unlocking the mystery surrounding the ODST squad.
Each piece of the puzzle brings you closer to unlocking the mystery surrounding the ODST squad.

While the gameplay is terrific, the story is what will likely draw most fans in. Taking place on Earth in the African city of New Mombasa, Halo 3 ODST takes players through five individual stories of each member of a single ODST squad that had their mission derailed by another commanding officer — Captain Veronica Dare.

As the squad “prepares to drop” into battle their drop-pods are sent awry into the New Mombasa city after their intended place of descent — a covenant cruiser — jumps into slip-space.

From the beginning players take on the role of the aforementioned Rookie who the game pulls back to after each mission. The Rookie is a completely silent protaganist, but the rest of the squad is as vocal as they can be with Gunnery Sergeant Buck, played by Nathan Fillion, being the most prominent of them all.

Also joining the team is Mickey, Dutch, Romeo, and Captain Dare.

The events of Halo 3 ODST are crucial for any fan of the Halo lore. Sergeant Buck and his role in Halo 5 can be traced back to what happens with his ODST squad — though for the sake of avoiding any spoilers, nothing specific will be mentioned in this review.

The entire game plays as a mystery on the Rookie’s end and uncovering that serves as the primary focus all game long. The story is greatly benefited by a collection of audio logs that can be found throughout the city. These audio logs explain the story of Sadie and Vergil — the superintendent program for managing New Mombasa’s public services. While the story is fantastic to play through without this side story, it is truly fulfilling when you find them all. All in all, the Halo 3 ODST campaign is one of the best stories you can currently play on the Xbox One.

Firefight

While the Xbox One version of Halo 3 ODST omits a popular multiplayer game mode that was originally included in the game, it is only fair to make mention of it. Halo 3 ODST includes a 4-player online co-op mode called Firefight which offers a wave-by-wave experience of mowing down covenant. The mode takes small sections of the ODST campaign and creates an area for players to defend together. Firefight is an excellent side to the main game and offers a great arcadey-style with an unlimited number of rounds. A squad simply plays until they run out of a lives with each wave getting subsequently stronger. Though the game mode was good fun, it is but one small drawback in an overall, great game.

Roundup

Good story, good gameplay. What’s not to like?

Halo 3 ODST is well worth the five bucks that Microsoft will be charging for the DLC to the Master Chief Collection. The gameplay is still spectacular, and the mood is set wonderfully playing as the Rookie and the way it contrasts to the typical Halo games is done so tastefully. And while Master Chief isn’t a main character in the game, the story of this squad and what happens in New Mombasa is intrinsic in the overall story of Halo and Buck’s progression ties in fittingly with the upcoming Halo 5.

9/10

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Halo 5 to include 15 free maps in DLC; no Gold required for online co-op play

In a major move to continue their work building a better relationship, developers of Halo 5, 343 Industries has elected to include 15 free multiplayer maps as DLC on top of the 20 maps included in the game’s launch. In addition, 343i will not require Xbox Live Gold for players to play online co-op. This is a major move for both 343 and Microsoft to help the Halo fanbase continue flourishing.

The information comes from the most recent Gameinformer digital release that included a detailed breakdown of some new information and things to expect from Microsoft’s E3 2015 press conference on June 16.

Also noted is the reveal of a new multiplayer mode at E3. This mode will include “all aspects of the Halo sandbox.” It has been in development for years prior to this reveal and it is likely to be a major keynote of Microsoft and 343 Industries multiplayer presentation.

Some notable changes to the classic Halo gameplay formula to come from 343i
Some notable changes to the classic Halo gameplay formula to come from 343i

Halo 5 promises to bring back a greater arena style feel with gamers getting a taste of some close-quarters combat in the game when the beta released back in late December to mid January. However, this news suggests that the grand fire-fights that many fans of the series love will still be just as present as ever.

Outside of the online player vs player multiplayer, the co-op experience looks rejuvenated as well with the ability to jump into a co-op campaign or drop-out without interrupting the game. This ties in to new information showing that both Master Chief and Spartan Locke will always be accompanied by a team of 3 A.I. partners.

Halo 5 is due to release October 27, 2015 on Xbox One and will retail at $59.99. More information will come at E3 2015 June 16-18.

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Halo 3 ODST comes to the Master Chief Collection; more new features and content

As part of the original compensation for the woes of the Master Chief Collection‘s initial release, 343 Industries is finally rolling out the free codes for Halo 3 ODST on Xbox One. All users that logged in on Xbox Live to play the Master Chief Collection between November 11, 2014 and December 19, 2014 will be getting a message from Xbox making them eligible for the free DLC.

Those who purchased the Master Chief Collection after December 19 can still get ODST for $4.99 on the Xbox Store.

Like the other remasters/ports, ODST receives a boost in resolution — now 1080p — and framerate — now 60 fps.

As of right now the game only includes the Campaign mode — leaving out a fan-favorite in firefight. The game does incorporate into various playlists like the LASO Campaign.

Outside of ODST, a variety of other updates and additions are being incorporated in the most recent community update.

A remastering of the Halo 2 map, Relic is now being added to Halo 2: Anniversary under the name Remnant.

File share searches are also being made much more intuitive as 343i adds the ability to search for individual players to access their custom maps, game modes, and more.

For more details and a full list of Halo 3 ODST achievements check out Halo Waypoint.

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What makes a game great?

The line between an art and a science is a bit weird with video games. In an odd way the industry meshes the two together so intrinsically the games we get from the process ends up with some of the most incredible pieces of work that any medium could produce. Typically we think of coders hard at work, but then there’s also the artists who deliberate constantly on the design of every fine detail. Then there’s those who work the story; creating a tale of adventure, action, love, death, and almost everything else.

But how do we get there? Triple-A titles establish mass collaborations putting so many minds together that so much wide-spread thought is put in to making the most successful game possible.

However, indie games are a bit different. These small tight nit teams are reminiscent of the classic studios behind the vast majority of games before the 2000s. Some aren’t even teams. Lone developers handle everything to make a game that — while less visually impressive that the triple-A games — plays amazingly. For all these creative and skilled developers only a few seem to make it out and really hit it big.

Indie teams and triple-A developers can both offer great games — albeit very different types of games.

For these indie teams each developer have something special that triple-A titles simply can’t match — personability. Top indie games like Braid, FEZ, The Binding of Isaac, Don’t Starve, and many more all share common ground in that they’re made by small teams but the quality of each of these games is astonishing when you look at some of the massive disappointments that the major developers and publisher roll out. The biggest key for these games to become successful is the devs making the game they simply want to make. They have no one to answer to but themselves — and for many that’s often the harshest critic. In turn, the amount of attention to detail and care that these basement-dwelling geniuses can input into their creative process is simply incredible.

Everything is followed closely and with developers working alone or in small groups, the envisioning of a project can change as they make the game. This is what makes indie development special. This is what can lead to great outside-the-box games like FEZ or Braid.

But one of the most critical factors that almost all popular indie games and popular triple-A games is the focus on a character; a primary protagonist for players to follow and observe or manipulate the story of.

Iconic characters are crucial to long-term success.

Mario and Luigi are one of the greatest duos ever serving as an icon for the Nintendo brand since the 80s.
Mario and Luigi are one of the greatest duos ever serving as an icon for the Nintendo brand since the 80s.

The idea of having a stand out character has long been a crucial part of game success. Since the early 1980s Nintendo has led the industry with its collection of iconic characters like Link, Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Samus, and many more. Every one of these characters has been the star to incredible stories and flourishing franchises that has helped shape the entire gaming industry. Today, the best stories come from those that can incite an emotional level of caring from the player towards the character.

An iconic character alone doesn’t bode too well though. Next comes the quality that most people impart their highest level of standards — gameplay. Most triple-A developers have this down to a science of following successful formulas and trends to create the highest-selling game they can. Franchises like Call of Duty, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, all sports-related franchises, and many others have games that are realistic or have high graphical fidelity.

Another quality that these top games all have that is also broken down into a repetitive formula by the triple-A devs is ‘challenge.’ The balance between hard and easy is one of the most critical design aspects that any dev must deal with. Some push the envelope in both directions with games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne being prime modern examples of this as the game teeters a careful edge between frustrating gameplay and challenging but rewarding gameplay. Many mobile developers trend the opposite way offering mindless games to kill time and not take very seriously. While these devs have success they are still the outliers as most need to find the perfect middle ground where a challenge is faced, a reward is given, and progress is felt to be made.

Challenge must be met with a sense of accomplishment and success.

Bioshock Infinite has one of the greatest stories in all of gaming.
Bioshock Infinite has one of the greatest stories in all of gaming.

But for truly popular games the most popular aspect always comes back to a story. Even in multiplayer games like Call of Duty or Halo, setting the environment, narrative, and mood of the world bleeds over into how players can approach the online experience that is quickly gaining more traction than the standard campaigns or single players that used to be the keystone of everything in a great game; not to say a story is important anymore though. It’s simply that players enjoy having an experience to be shared with friends. However, the prevalence of a game story/lore will always be important in the creation of a franchise. Giving players the opportunity to get attached and captivated by the world they explore helps the game expand beyond just a fun game and grow into a universe to be immersed in.

So there’s clearly so many ways to approach making a game, but there is a systematic approach to the creation of art. Sometimes boundaries can be bent or even broken with success, but from almost the entire history of the video game industry the the same trends have been followed among the greatest games to ever release. And it’s clear that even if you aren’t part of a triple-A team you can still make a game that’s just as enjoyable to play.

Though it’s important to keep in mind — this industry is only 30 (perhaps 40 depending on your view) years old. It’s very young in this world of video games, and maybe a developer will find a way to successfully break one of these “rules” to make a great game that stands out and breaks the confines of what is expected of a prototypical video game.

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New Spartans unveiled in Halo 5 cover art

The intriguing battle between the classic hero, and the mysterious new-comer has just gotten a bit more complex with Microsoft’s last art release showing a collection of new Spartans — including what is likely Blue Team, Master Chief’s former squad, in the bottom left corner for those familiar with the Halo lore.

It seems those sided with Spartan Locke are some exciting familiar faces from past Halo games as well. For the first time, major characters of the ODST game will be intertwined with the core story as Buck and Romeo join Locke. Macer, another main characer with ties to Locke is also featured in this blown-up piece of the major art release.

Spartan Locke will be getting help from some familiar faces in Halo 5.
Spartan Locke will be getting help from some familiar faces in Halo 5.

The narrative consisting of Master Chief and Spartan Locke’s turmoil amidst the covenant attacks on human ground is already generating extensive positive buzz around the franchise — which was certainly much needed after the negative publicity 343 Industries underwent during The Master Chief Collection’s release.

Microsoft’s involvement of the fans did an excellent job to promote the franchise with the #HuntTheTruth trend on twitter and other social media platforms. The fans were the ones who actually went out and pieced together clues left behind to reveal this new cover art, and in-turn the animated video that even furthers the excitement.

Halo 5 is due to release at the end of 2015 (October 27) exclusively on the
Xbox One.