Monday, September 19, 2011

"This is but one of the legends of which the people speak..." - Twenty-five years of The Legend of Zelda

In the same vein as my Metroid retrospective, I thought it appropriate to chronicle my journey with another game series that also turns twenty-five years old this year. I realize I'm rather late to the party, as a lot of people have already expressed their own congratulations to Nintendo and the Legend of Zelda, but as it is one of my all-time favorite video game series, I felt it was almost a crime not to pay my respects to a series that not only got me hooked on a franchise, but a number of genres as well. Similar to my experience with Metroid, I did not first experience The Legend of Zelda via its original NES incarnation. Also, there are some games in the franchise I have yet to play, and as such Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Link's Awakening, Minish Cap, Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks will not be covered in this retrospective. I do have every intention of tackling the aforementioned games in the future, though.

I was first introduced to The Legend of Zelda through two friends of mine, both of whom owned Nintendo 64 consoles before I did. At this point, Ocarina of Time was brand-spanking-new, and despite constantly begging my parents to get me an N64 for my birthday, I had no means to play such games at my own house. I was eight years old when I first played Ocarina of Time, and while I didn't exactly understand what happened where in the story (from only having caught chunks of the narrative here and there as my friends progressed through the game), the graphical style and the array of items were aspects I found very appealing. When my parents eventually bought me an N64 of my very own, I played a lot of Diddy Kong Racing and Super Mario 64, but video games were expensive, and my compulsive nine-year old self was more interested in purchasing a pack of Pokémon cards or Star Wars action figures than saving up for another cartridge. Thus, most of my new games came in the form of birthday and Christmas presents.

There was, however, a Blockbuster not far from my house that had a pretty sizeable video game section. Amidst titles like Snowboard Kids, Mario Party 2, Star Fox 64, and Chameleon Twist I rented Ocarina of Time as often as possible - which wasn't as often as I would have liked, since Blockbuster was almost always out of rental copies. It seems I wasn't the only one who wanted to play this game as much as possible. In hindsight, I probably rented that game enough times that I could have purchased it twice. Still, I eventually managed to beat it.

One of the friends mentioned earlier was really into Zelda at the time, and bought Majora's Mask not long after it came out. In the same fashion as with Ocarina of Time, we spent hours at his house exploring Termina and collecting masks. I was hesitant to buy myself a copy of this new Zelda as well, but for different reasons. Frankly, there were a lot of characters and enemies that creeped me out - not as much as my first encounter with the Re-Deads, mind you, as I'd had a whole two years to grow out of some of my little kid fears. But the game as a whole struck me as eerily dark in comparison to Ocarina of Time. The other reason was the difficulty factor. To this day, I still hold Majora's Mask to be the single most challenging title in the entire series, and my friend (who was a far more seasoned gamer than I at the time) expressed how much difficulty he was having with it.

The first Zelda titles I actually owned were the Oracle games for the Gameboy Color. They were also the first games I ever purchased a guide for, since I knew full well that the interconnectivity between the two would open a myriad of bonus sidequests. To this day, I consider the Oracle games some of the best handheld games of all time. But if I had to pick one over the other, I'd have to say that Ages was superior to Seasons, if only marginally. True, Seasons arguably had better boss fights, and I'm not going to deny how clever the Rod of Seasons mechanics were in affecting the surrounding environment. But Ages was certainly the more challenging of the two, with regards to both the temple layouts and the boss fights. Either way, having played so much of Ocarina of Time, I was drawn in by the return of familiar faces, but stayed for the brilliant story and gameplay.

I know I wasn't the only one who had a less-than-ecstatic reaction when I saw the first trailer for the Wind Waker. In fact, I was so displeased with the graphical choice that I avoided it like the plague, despite the positive reactions directed at me by many my friends who had played the game. I'm not entirely sure what brought about my change of heart, but I eventually set aside my qualms about the artistic direction and gave it a try. It wasn't long before I was completely blown away by the Gamecube title. True, it was aimed at a younger audience (probably as a balance for the dark and moody Majora's Mask), but the game was presented on such an epic scale that I couldn't resist exploring each and every spot on the sea chart. I spent hours exploring before I even dove into the bulk of the story. But when I did, I was hooked. While there were some elements that intentionally tied the story back to the hero from Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker wasn't afraid to be different. Perhaps not as revolutionary as either the N64 or Gameboy Color titles, it was still one of the most polished and enjoyable games for that entire generation of consoles, with hours of playability and some of the coolest boss fights in quite some time.

Though I had warmed up to the Wind Waker's unique art style, I was very interested in the forthcoming Twilight Princess. The art style was a polar opposite to that of the Wind Waker, opting for darker palettes and a more realistic Hyrule. Still, it looked like a very visually appealing title in its own right, with some of the early enemies highlighted in the teaser trailer really grabbing my attention. Unfortunately, it would be almost two whole years between the time I witnessed the first trailer and actually played Twilight Princess. My interest would be piqued here and there as new trailers and screenshots emerged, but I felt it was high time I completed the task I should have years beforehand - I went out and purchased my very own copies of both Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, and played each of them through again.

I honestly don't think it hit me years ago just how brilliant of a game Ocarina of Time really is. I know many people hold it as one of (if not the single) greatest video games ever created. And while I don't know if there is such a thing as a flawless game, Ocarina of Time is certainly as close as it gets, which is why it sits at the top of my own list of favorite video games. Majora's Mask, on the other hand, is a largely overlooked title in the series. Even when I was replaying it, I didn't set as high a priority on completing it as I had with Ocarina of Time. Eventually, though, I set aside the time to power through the game. I for one love a good challenge in a video game, but what Majora's Mask dealt me was something very much unexpected. I was aware of the time limit, but the boss fights and the temple puzzles are some of the most challenging in the series, which makes for an interesting marriage with the story. Yes, Majora's Mask is incredibly dark and - in many regards - bizarre. But it's also one of the best adventure games I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Don't get me wrong, I love the staples of the series in the Link-Ganon-Zelda trifecta just as much as any other Zelda fan, but I feel that it is because Majora's Mask isn't limited to the same story that's been told so many times before that leads its storytelling to be so superb.

Finally, Twilight Princess was released and I got my first taste of this new Hyrule. Some had compared it to Majora's Mask, citing its rather dark narrative, while others heralded it as the Ocarina of Time for a new generation. To me, Twilight Princess was neither. It is a Zelda title, and being within that series ascribes the game to a tier few other adventure titles can even dream of coming close to. But as a whole, the game felt too familiar. I did appreciate the new layout and different regions of Hyrule, but the game's direction seemed a bit confused. The graphical style rang back to Ocarina of Time, while the story seemed to bounce back and forth between the darker adult themes (inspired by Majora's Mask) and the more light-hearted nature of characters (ala Wind Waker). Aside from that, the temples were too straightforward for my tastes - save for the Arbiter's Grounds - and the boss fights didn't present much of a challenge across the board. There were some items that saw tweaks to accommodate for the Wii's controls that I very much welcomed, and the fact that Link could swing his sword around while running or on horseback was a nice update, but as a whole it didn't feel as original a game as with each of the previous installments I had played through. I feel a large part of this is due to how much Twilight Princess tried to resonate with Ocarina of Time - even the title segment with Link riding Epona across Hyrule field is an updated take on the title animation from the N64 classic. Because of that, I think it lost much of a seperate, individual identity.

Feeling a bit let down by Twilight Princess, I decided to trek backwards, to the earlier days of Zelda. I dabbled in the original NES Zelda for a bit, but the game I was most curious about was A Link to the Past. I knew more than a few souls who swore by it as being the best in the series before Ocarina of Time rolled around. Having blazed a trail through both of the Oracle games multiple times over, and spending more than a few hours competing with friends in the multiplayer-driven Four Swords Adventures, the top-down view of A Link to the Past felt natural the moment I downloaded it to the Virtual Console. I felt the first two temples were a bit on the easy side, which initially turned me off a bit. But that third temple kicked my butt a few times before I completed it, and was happy to know that the series could still dish out a challenge to me some thirteen years after I had started. I did chuckle, though, when I first battled Agahnim, noting that his attack pattern was almost identical to that of Ganondorf on the N64 - something I had previously assumed was fresh to Ocarina of Time before it was carried on with the likes of Phantom Ganon in Wind Waker. The Dark World evoked memories of the Twilight Realm, though I felt the two were still dissimilar enough - probably due to the capabilities of the respective consoles, but I wasn't complaining.

There are two constants that I felt have always been able to immerse me in Zelda games more successfully than any other gaming series to date - the storytelling and the soundtracks. Metal Gear Solid certainly comes close with the former, but the latter I feel is unmatched. This is due in no small part to the wide variety of musical styles the series presents - not just from game to game, but within each individual title. The guitar strums heard in the Gerudo Desert are a stark contrast to the echoing howls of the Forest Temple, which in turn is vastly different from the tribal drums of the Fire Temple. And that is without taking into account the non-dungeon themes from Ocarina of Time - from the folksy air about Lon Lon Ranch to my personal favorite, the music box tune that is the Song of Storms. Though Majora's Mask does stick with a dark tone for its soundtrack as a whole, the eccentric march heard in the Deku Palace is a sort of polar opposite to the ominous theme of the Stone Tower Temple. Even the oddball tunes, like the Fortune Teller's theme in A Link to the Past and Zant's battle theme from Twilight Princess manage to go above and beyond what most other game soundtracks can. It is because of this, as well as the variation of art styles experimented with over the years, that I see The Legend of Zelda as being not only one of the best video game series in existence, but also one of the most artistically-driven.

Even though I stated that Twilight Princess was not among my favorite Zelda titles, I would still encourage fans of the series to give it a try. It may not be as revolutionary as past entries, but it's still a solid title in its own right, and might very well be the reason any newcomers to the series decide to seek out further Zelda experiences. On top of that, it's one of the best games available in this generation of consoles.

I understand that many people share this sentiment, and it's difficult for me to state the following without it sounding cliché, but as far as I'm concerned, Ocarina of Time is the best in the series. That said, the Oracle titles, Wind Waker, and Majora's Mask are all packed very tightly together behind it, as each is as perfect as can be in their own right. The Legend of Zelda is a series that has stood the test of time and constantly sets the standards for adventure games, and even some RPGs. And in that, I consider it to be the most important video game series I've played. The upcoming release of Skyward Sword has brought me to a level of anticipation and excitement I have not experienced with a video game in years. But it's pretty obvious why - The combination of new adventures with familiar experiences in each new entry presents the most perfect gaming experience I could ever ask for.

Some of my favorite boss fights from the series include:

- Ganondorf and Ganon in Ocarina of Time
- Manhandla in Oracle of Seasons
- Ramrock in Oracle of Ages
- Molgera in Wind Waker
- Ganondorf final boss fight in Wind Waker
- Stallord in Twilight Princess

Some of my favorite songs from the various soundtracks include:

- Title theme from A Link to the Past
- Fortune Teller's theme from A Link to the Past
- Dark World theme from A Link to the Past
- Temple of Time from Ocarina of Time
- Song of Storms from Ocarina of Time
- Deku Palace from Majora's Mask
- Stone Tower Temple from Majora's Mask
- Nayru's Song from Oracle of Ages
- Tarm Ruins and Lost Woods from Oracle of Seasons
- Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker
- Ganondorf Battle theme from Wind Waker
- Credits theme from Wind Waker
- Midna's Lament from Twilight Princess

Some of my favorite characters include:

- Guru-guru (Ocarina of Time)
- Ganondorf (Ocarina of Time)
- Tingle (Majora's Mask)
- Skull Kid (Majora's Mask)
- Pirate Captain (Oracle of Ages)
- Salvatore (Wind Waker)
- Makar (Wind Waker)
- Midna (Twilight Princess)
- Zant (Twilight Princess)

My favorite dungeons include:

- Forest Temple (Ocarina of Time)
- Water Temple (Ocarina of Time)
- Stone Tower Temple (Majora's Mask)
- Skull Dungeon (Oracle of Ages)
- The Forbidden Woods (Wind Waker)
- Arbiter's Grounds (Twilight Princess)

Character I use second-most-often in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl:

- Princess Zelda/Sheik

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Xbox 360 review: Halo 3: ODST

As the game opens, Dutch, Romeo, and Mickey are keeping a close eye on the battle ensuing both in orbit above and on the surface of planet Earth. Buck, their commanding officer, and Dare, an ONI operative, inform the squad members to get prepped for combat (the former stating so in a more gruff manner to try and get his Orbital Drop Shock Troopers focused on the mission at hand). Romeo seems the least moved by Buck's words, and knocks the Rookie upside the head with the butt of his sniper rifle to wake up the Rookie, the newest member of the squad, whom Dutch describes as 'the strong silent type'. As Dutch assures the Rookie that Romeo didn't mean him any real harm, the ODSTs take to their drop pods with the intent of landing on the Covenant supercarrier hovering over New Mombasa. As the pods plummet through Earth's atmosphere and towards the ship, Dare informs Buck that she has orders that are not concerned with the Covenant vessel. Before any further explanation can be conveyed, the supercarrier makes a slipspace jump, taking a large chunk of the mega-city below with it, and subsequently knocking another drop pod into the Rookie's, which sends him flying off course into the city streets below.

Following what is easily one of the biggest adrenaline-rushes of an introduction in any first-person shooter, the Rookie wakes up in his pod, which has landed a few feet above street level. He drops down and - with the assistance of the city's AI named Vergil - begins to meander his way through the city in search of his squadmates. This nighttime setting allows players to freely roam within the confines of the city in search of clues to what happened to Buck, Dutch, Mickey, Romeo, and Dare. As each new clue is discovered, the story will jump back a few hours to explain where each team member fell in New Mombasa, and how they regrouped with the rest of the squad. It is during these segments that players will control each ODST in a more traditional Halo vein. Once each mission is completed, the story will return to the Rookie, who will then have access to new areas within the 'overworld'.

Longtime Halo fans will find they will have to be more strategic in Halo 3: ODST than in past entries to the series. Ammunition for human weapons is often scarce, so players should familiarize themselves with Covenant weaponry if they are not prone to using them much in other Halo games. The default loadout presents players with a pistol and a silenced SMG. The former is not quite as powerful as the magnum from past Halo games, but will still get the job done with some carefully-placed headshots. The silenced SMG is meant to fill in for the SMG and the Battle Rifle, both of which are absent from ODST. Unfortunately, the short range combined with the more narrow line of fire and awful inaccuracy of this weapon makes it impractical for almost any situation, regardless of what difficulty setting players are tackling. Equipment from Halo 3 is still present, though it is only available to enemy Brutes, and has been limited to the flare, power drain, and bubble shield. The flare's brightness has been toned down, while the power drain will only affect vehicles, as ODSTs rely on health and not energy shields. Overshields are reserved for Brute chieftains, unless there is an Engineer nearby, in which case all Covenant species in the immediate area will be granted extra protection.

VISR mode is a new addition to ODST, which, when activated, allows players to see low-light environments and enemies more clearly. While VISR mode can be activated at any point during the campaign, players will find it most useful during their nighttime exploration of New Mombasa as the Rookie. In any of the daytime missions, VISR mode is too bright to the point where it is almost impossible for players to see anything. This presents little to no problem, though, considering how naturally well-lit the daytime environments are. Each ODST squad member is able to check up on their mission objectives, map, and collectable audio logs in the midst of a mission, in a style similar to Metroid Prime. This is not the same as pausing the game, however, as players will still be open to enemy fire while checking up on their objectives. As with VISR mode, players will likely reference objectives as the Rookie more often than as anyone else, as most of the game's missions are rather linear.

One of the biggest selling points of ODST prior to its release was the inclusion of Firefight mode, which sends waves of enemies at players so that they can rack up points. While players can host an online game with up to three friends, there is no matchmaking system supported for it. The default loadouts, which present players with the pistol and silenced SMG, can prove frustrating during the stronger waves late in each set, and this is only compounded by the fact that players are granted a single respawn location. There are, however, a nice variety of maps presented, each of which is a small section pulled from the various campaign levels. Most are more heavily focused on close-quarters skirmishes within multi-leveled structures, though a couple do bring vehicular combat into the mix.

The soundtrack is host to a number of tunes that fans of the Halo series will no doubt be intimately familiar with. But the melodic string and piano sounds as well as smooth jazz stylings give ODST's soundtrack an identity all its own. The same can be said for the graphics - true, ODST still runs on the same engine as Halo 3, and as such vehicles and weapon details will carry the same look they did in 2007. But the character models have been improved upon, with smoother facial features and more natural, relaxed motions. The lighting effects and environments are significantly more stylized, presenting a beautiful marriage of Halo 3's graphics engine will the depiction of New Mombasa from Halo 2. The cast does a phenomenal job with the voice acting. While Nathan Fillion is given center stage as Buck, Dutch, Mickey, and Romeo all prove an entertaining bunch. Their stories develop as well as anyone could hope for a six hour long campaign, and while things maintain a fairly serious tone throughout, there are also some good laughs to be had along the way.

Halo 3: ODST is a highly-experimental entry for the series. It's a breed all its own, aiming for a more strategic FPS experience without sacrificing the style that Halo has built over the years. The solo portions as the Rookie truly present a feel of isolation as players scour the streets in search of clues, while also being the only force to combat the Brutes, Jackals, and Grunts still roaming the abandoned city. Conversely, each intermittent mission as Buck, Dutch, Mickey, and Romeo returns to the familiar formula of Halo, even if these are presented as shorter and more linear. The throwbacks to players' dependency on health packs and the removal of dual-wielding certainly ring close to the original Halo, but the combination of this with the gameplay elements established in the sequels shows that Bungie understands they ought to keep some elements of familiarity, but are - at the same time - not afraid to trail a little ways off the beaten path.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Bet you can't stick it" - Ten years of Halo

"Ten years ago, Halo changed the way we play video games" - I understand Microsoft and 343 Industries' desire to pump up their audience for the upcoming Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. And let's face it, it's not like the aforementioned statement hasn't been recycled to try and sell a myriad of other video games, movies, products, etc. But I feel it's also a grand exaggeration. As someone who was not particularly fond of the original Halo when it hit the Xbox, I am still willing to give it credit where credit is due. Among the ranks of Perfect Dark and Goldeneye, Halo was one of the best first-person shooters developed for consoles. It wasn't afraid to do its own thing with the multiplayer aspect, straying from typical level designs with levels like Chiron TL-34, Boarding Action, and Hang 'em High. And it certainly helped pave the way for other games that would steal some of the PC-dominance over the genre.

My favorite genre has always been adventure games, whether they are more free-roam adventure titles like Ocarina of Time and Metroid Prime, or platform adventure games like those of the Sonic the Hedgehog and Kirby series. Aside from a few titles on the N64, I had almost zero experience playing first-person shooters, and those that I had watched others play seemed to be - with perhaps a few rare exceptions - the same game regurgitated over and over, with clunky controls and storytelling that was mediocre at best. While I don't feel that was necessarily the case with the original Halo, I kept my distance from it because, to me, it felt lacking. Yes, the multiplayer could be great fun, but only shined brightest if your friends lugged their own Xboxes and televisions over to your house to play. The story was creative, but the characters weren't particularly fleshed out, and thus I had little reason to care for them - most notably, leading man Master Chief.

I carried my skepticism towards the sequel for a few months after its release, until a friend of mine invited me over to his house for a LAN party. I was reluctant to try Halo 2, but eventually I gave in, as all eight of us playing would be staying up until well past three in the morning anyways. To put it bluntly, I was absolutely horrendous at the game. For the first few matches, I spent more time exploring the levels and subsequently being shot up than I did trying to learn the controls. I tried to stick with what I knew, and with Halo 2 being a first-person shooter, that wasn't much, save for the ability to drive vehicles. Granted, this was no Mario Kart, but I got a feel for how the Warthog, Ghost, Spectre, and Wraith all handled fairly quickly. And that became my calling for the evening - a cabbie, if you will, providing a mobile turret for slayer matches and quick getaways during capture the flag. Many hours later, I decided that perhaps my skepticism had been proven wrong - at least as far as the multiplayer was concerned. The fact that we had played so many matches with people in different states (some in different countries) was genuinely exciting.

As most of the group dozed off for the night, a few of us stragglers were still willing to have another go at the game, but decided to take turns in the cooperative campaign. Graphically, the game blew me away. It was wildly colorful and infinitely more detailed than the original Halo. The soundtrack was phenomenal to boot. I wasn't overly impressed with the events of the first few missions - sure, the segment in zero-gravity on Cairo Station and boarding the Scarab to destroy it from the inside were both pretty cool, but I felt this was more or less a highlight reel of Master Chief doing his thing - being a tough guy and killing aliens. Everything changed when things shifted to the Arbiter's perspective, which initially led me to be quite confused. Wasn't the Covenant supposed to be the enemy? Why was I controlling an Elite? Why was he being sent to kill other Elites? I soon stopped asking these questions, embracing what Halo 2 had trumped its predecessor a thousand times over with - effective storytelling, memorable characters, and a much more expansive universe.

A few LAN parties later and I went out and purchased my own Xbox, registered an account for Xbox Live, and joined in the fray. In hindsight, it was all very impulsive, as I never actually bought another game for the original Xbox - I had every intention to, but purchased Knights of the Old Republic for the PC and most other multiplatform games for either the Gamecube or Playstation 2. Eventually I upgraded to the Xbox 360, though not until almost two years after the system's launch. And of course, the first game I picked up for it was Halo 3.

I'm positive that I logged more hours of playtime in Halo 2, but I spent plenty of time in Halo 3's multiplayer matchmaking as well. Certain elements felt refined from the previous games, while others - like the equipment and Brute vehicles - felt a bit clunky and unnecessary. The story was brilliantly executed, despite my disappointment at it being shorter in length than Halo 2's campaign. Unlike many others, I had thoroughly enjoyed the Arbiter's campaign missions in Halo 2 and was sad to hear that Master Chief would be receiving the spotlight for the majority of Halo 3. I was, however, satisfied to see how the Arbiter's role in Halo 3 played out, and (as with many of the other cutscenes) I cheered as Arbiter used his energy sword to dispatch the Prophet of Truth. Ultimately, Halo 3 never felt as perfect a game as so many claimed it to be. I felt it was a fitting conclusion to the story of Master Chief, but there were so many other directions Bungie could go with this universe.

Frankly, I almost entirely ignored Halo 3: ODST when it was announced. The same went for Halo Wars. While both did present new perspectives on the Halo universe, they way they presented themselves failed to draw me in the same way the other games had. While I teased the prospect of picking up ODST, it eventually passed by, though I did take the demo of Halo Wars for a spin. I have always been quite fond of real-time strategy games on the PC, but found the resource management - or rather, lack thereof - removed much challenge from the gameplay.

I left Halo 3 behind for a while, exploring all the other games that I wanted to for the Xbox 360 - Bioshock, Resident Evil 5, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Orange Box - until a teaser showed up online for a brand new Halo title. It was to be called Halo: Reach, and was set during one of the most important points in the Human-Covenant war. I knew the basics of what happened at Reach, as the same friend who hosted that first Halo 2 LAN party had also read a few of the Halo novels and passed on that information to me. But as Bungie unveiled new information about Halo: Reach, it was expressed that this would not be Master Chief's telling of the events. Rather, a new squad of Spartans - Noble Team - would take the helm.

The thriving world that was Reach - from its hilltop farmhouses to the sprawling metropolis of New Alexandria - coupled with the variety of personalities presented in each of the members of Noble Team brought me back to my first days with Halo 2. The campaign missions were set up as a sort of 'greatest hits', an homage to missions from every Halo title before it. The gameplay elements from Halo 3 that I was not so fond of (the equipment and weapons, primarily) were either cut or fine-tuned to work with Reach's gaming engine. And yet, despite all of the tributes to and influences from Halos of yesteryear, Halo: Reach felt like the most original and creative since the series' start.

Halo: Reach was the most fitting conclusion Bungie could have dealt to fans of their series. That said, I am still very curious to see where 343 Industries takes the franchise. Hopefully they will keep the games as community-driven as Bungie did. With Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary just two months away, I think I am going to work backwards and give ODST a fair shot before I revisit the events at Alpha Halo. I have no idea what changes lie ahead, but Halo 2 - with its phenomenal storytelling and brilliant multiplayer - will always be my favorite, and the most important game in the series to me. It was the single game that opened my eyes to everything that online console gaming could be, and turned me from a Halo skeptic to a Halo fan. In revisiting the point I made at the beginning of this article, do I think the original Halo changed the way video games are played? No. Do I think the franchise as a whole did? Without a doubt.

Favorite characters from the series:
- Arbiter
- Jun-A266
- Prophet of Truth
- Sgt. Johnson

Favorite songs:
- Sacred Icon Suite from Halo 2
- Behold a Pale Horse from Halo 3
- Finale from Halo 3: ODST
- The Pillar of Autumn from Halo: Reach

Favorite multiplayer maps:
- Blood Gulch (Halo)
- Sidewinder (Halo)
- Damnation (Halo)
- Midship (Halo 2)
- Headlong (Halo 2)
- Relic (Halo 2)
- Containment (Halo 2)
- Turf (Halo 2)
- Ghost Town (Halo 3)
- Orbital (Halo 3)
- Powerhouse (Halo: Reach)
- Condemned (Halo: Reach)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary maps and terminals confirmed

When the first trailer hit for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it was announced that seven classic maps would be included, updated for the Halo: Reach multiplayer servers. While Beaver Creek and Damnation were previously highlighted, the others have now been confirmed as Prisoner, Hang 'em High, Timber Land (formerly a Halo PC exclusive), and Headlong (from Halo 2). Also included is a new firefight map, known as Installation 04. All of these maps will be playable on the Reach servers, as it seems 343 Industries wants to focus on maintaining the fanbase there instead of dividing it between two games. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will, however, feature a new gaming engine for the campaign mode, which is a sort of combination of the original Halo's play style and current-gen graphics.

Also making a comeback from Halo 3 are the Forerunner terminals. However, instead of providing insight on the Forerunners and their attempts to combat the Flood, 343 Industries has stated the terminals in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will bridge some of the gaps to Halo 4 and its subsequent sequels. 343 has also stated that Halo 4 marks the start of what will be known as 'the Reclaimer trilogy' which would seem to imply that those three titles will delve much deeper into the history of the Forerunners. Currently, two of the terminal videos have been revealed, both of which were narrated by 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of Alpha Halo. Whether this is the case for all of the terminals in the game remains to be seen.
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