Star Wars – Battlefront II Conversion Pack v2.3 Review

Following up on last week’s article comparing EA’s Battlefront II with the original Star Wars: Battlefront II from 2005, this review will cover something slightly different but still related to the original Battlefront II. One of the major selling points for the original Battlefront II is the mods, and one that many consider essential is the Battlefront II Conversion Pack v2.3, a mod that adds dozens of new features to the game including new maps, new units, new heroes, new weapons and new vehicles. What makes this mod important is that it also adds many of the maps and features of the original Star Wars: Battlefront to the game,including the beloved Bespin: Platforms.

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What’s Old

Many of the original Battlefront’s maps were fans favourites, including Geonosis: Spire, Kashyyyk: Docks and Rhen Vhar: Harbor, and the look and feel of the original Battlefront is replicated in this mod through the use of the ‘Classic Conquest’ mode, which aims to faithfully re-create the original Battlefront, even down to removing the sprint feature. Lots of the old maps are also playable in normal Conquest mode with the new units and vehicles, but the mod also ensures to retain the original Star Wars: Battlefront II as well – playing on Conquest mode on the original maps from the game gives you the classic Battlefront II experience with no significant additions – and many of the original maps have added modes that include the new units and vehicles.

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What’s Even Older

kotor.pngProbably one of this mod’s biggest selling points is the addition of a whole new era – the KOTOR era, set four thousand years before the events of A New Hope, based on the legendary Knights of the Old Republic games. This era is included on almost every map, and even sports its own Space map, and features many units from the KOTOR era including Dark Jedi Acolytes, T3-Units, Sith Heavy Troopers and the surprisingly effective Jedi Gunman. One slight drawback with this era is the total exclusion of all vehicles on ground maps, something that makes maps like Bespin: Platforms and Hoth somewhat redundant. However, the Heroes in this mode are varied and exciting, and there is even a Hero Assault option enabled on most viable maps for the KOTOR era, meaning you can pit all the KOTOR Heroes against each other in a similar fashion to Hero Assault with Galactic Civil War. Speaking of which…

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What’s New

Torrent.jpgThis mod adds a huge range of content to both the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War eras including new units, new classes, new vehicles, new weapons, new Heroes, new modes and overall a generally improved gameplay experience compared to the standard game. Every new map now features several new classes, and as points are earned the player is ‘promoted’ until eventually unlocking the Commander class, which is a boon-focused unit with a powerful blaster and an orbital strike droid. Before that, however, the player unlocks a Commando class, and for the Clone Wars era the Clone Commando is used for the Republic faction from the game Star Wars: Republic Commando, which is a fantastic detail in itself, but the Commando class itself is perhaps the best part of the game – it completed changes the gameplay, as you get stronger and more versatile weapons to the point that it feels like you’re playing as a Hero.

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What’s Even Newer

The fun doesn’t stop there, however, as there has been a patch and even a content update for this mod – the latter of which adds the ability to play Galactic Conquest in the KOTOR era, even adding the KOTOR era ships and fully integrated with the standard Galactic Conquest system of unit and bonus purchases coupled with the strategic fleet movement.
This mod also features countless other brand new features that add even more to an already bountiful mod. Hunt mode is now expanded to feature the KOTOR era and more maps, including Felucia, Polis Massa, the Death Star and even the maps from the original Battlefront. A new Order 66 mode pits Jedi against Clones on a variety of maps, and there is even a mode that pits random creature Jedi against various bounty hunters, and playing as a Jawa Jedi is hilarious.

drallig.pngNot only that, but there are several new versions of classic modes that are spread across the various maps. Trying out different combinations of modes and eras can lead to some unexpected and sometimes hilarious results, such as pitting KOTOR-era Sith against Ewoks, Mandalorians against Sith Assassins on Kamino, Clones against Acklay on Felucia or even Jedi vs Sith in the Death Star.

The best thing about the Conversion Pack mod is how much it makes the 2005 Star Wars: Battlefront II feel like a totally new game, whilst at the same time preserving everything that fans loved about the original. Not only that, but it also incorporates elements from some of the most popular Star Wars games out there, from adding the maps of the 2003 Battlefront, to the addition of the KOTOR era, to even something as simple as adding in the Commando class, clearly this mod was created by true Star Wars fans who understand what players want from a Star Wars Battlefront game.

EA should be taking notes.

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Star Wars: Clone Wars – Making the Best of the Worst of Star Wars

“Like fire across the Galaxy, the Clone Wars spread…”

In the wake of the announcement that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be getting another season before the decade is out, it seems only fitting to look back at the progenitor of all ‘Clone Wars’ TV media – the original Star Wars: Clone Wars show which aired on Cartoon Network in 2003 and was directed, produced and co-written by Genndy Tartakovsky. This series is well-known among the fanbase for famously bridging the gap between Episodes II and III before Episode III itself had even been released. It’s distinctive style and impressive scope makes this series a must-watch for any Star Wars fan, particularly those interested in the prequel era.

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The Battles

Firstly and most obviously, this series is renowned for its depiction of some of the most epic and large-scale battles of the Clone Wars. The battles on Muunilinst, Dantooine, Hypori, Yavin, Mon Calamari and numerous others were brilliantly depicted in this series, with some battles taking up entire episodes and others spanning several episodes in a sequence of mini-arcs spanning the first series. Each of these depicts a totally unique Star Wars battle in enviroments that were not explored in the main films, such as the mass-fighter space battle above Muunilinst in the first few episodes or the uniquely fought battle of the dust fields featuring Mace ‘Keyhole’ Windu and his impressive jumping and punching techniques.

A particular highlight of the series is the Battle of Mon Calamari, a plot thread that takes up only one episode yet depicts several unique scenarios in Star Wars lore – notably, the appearance of a lightsaber working underwater, how factions in Star Wars battle underwater in the first place, and more insight into how the Mon Calamari and Quarren races fight in their native habitat. The inclusion of Kit Fisto as the star of his own individual episode was a nice touch too, seeing as how he is brutally murdered in the next movie.

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The Clones

Oddly enough, one of this series’ major strengths is how it uses dialogue-less sequences with the Clones to depict plot development. A perfect example of this is the entire ARC troopers sequence, which spans several episodes, many of which are totally dialogue-free as the ARC troopers wordlessly delegate commands to each other through the visual hierarchy of the Red Sergeant and his Blue and White subordinates, all of whom work together to form a deadly and efficient squad who recur throughout the series, taking on a threats ranging from a giant cannon to General Grievous himself. Aside from the ARC troopers, the depiction of regular Clones in the Republic Army is effective in demonstrating both their tactical importance and their disposibility.

Whilst the series emphasises the true nature of the Clone Wars, the lack of respect for its Clone characters compared to its successor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is a major disadvantage to the series. However, whilst the Clones are not used for emotional impact, they are effective in their role as the show’s cannon fodder – in fact, the Clone death toll in this series is probably higher than any other piece of Star Wars TV media.

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The Characters

Star Wars: Clone Wars introduced several interesting characters to the Star Wars on-screen canon, particularly fan-favourites like Durge and Asajj Ventress. Both of these new characters get special focus throughout the show, but what is perhaps more important is how Star Wars: Clone Wars depicts its returning characters – and the answer is, it is spot-on. Characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Amidala and Mace Windu seem by all accounts to be accurate depictions of their appearances in the movies, and although this show focuses primarily on combat and less on dialogue, there are still some great character moments, particularly the scenes involving Anakin and Obi-Wan.

Like the later Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the 2003 series does a great job of showing the friendship that existed between Anakin and Obi-Wan before the tragic events of Revenge of the Sith – but unlike its successor, Star Wars: Clone Wars actually shows the evolution of the rivalry between Master and Apprentice that was apparent in Attack of the Clones to a genuine friendship over the course of the series.

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The Villains

Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without the villains, and Star Wars: Clone Wars features the return of many iconic villains from the prequels as well as the debut of even more fan-favourite villains from the prequel era like Asajj Ventress, Durge and General Grievous. An interesting trend in the Star Wars prequel-era TV shows is that they use their villains a lot better than the prequel movies themselves did, and the same is definitely true of this show. A perfect example of this is General Grievous – he makes his debut in this series in one of the most epic lightsaber duels in the show, makes mincemeat of half a dozen Jedi, and then comes back for more later in the series leading up to its cliffhanger – yet his appearance in Episode III makes him seem as though in the meantime he had half of his brain removed. The show even acknowledges this by having Mace Windu crush Grievous’ chest in the finale, causing his signature cough. The character of Durge, a fascinating antagonist to Obi-Wan’s first story arc, is another example of a really interesting villain idea – without giving too much away, he finds some interesting ways to fight toe-to-toe with a Jedi despite not owning a lightsaber, and his terrifying physiology makes him a memorable character in the series.

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The Duels

Needless to say, there are some epic duels in this series. From the more literal interpretation of a Star Wars ‘duel’ involving lightsabers, such as Grievous vs Ki-Adi Mundi or Ventress vs Anakin, to the less conventional such as Durge vs Obi-Wan or Ventress vs Dooku, each and every duel in this series is truly fantastic. This is particularly evident thanks to the wide variety of locations in this series, and the duel between Anakin and Asajj Ventress that involves a lot of jumping between trees in the jungles of Yavin, for example, become immediately memorable. The previously mentioned duel between Grievous and the Jedi on Hypori is a rare example of a Star Wars duel that involves multiple combatants fighting one immensely powerful duelist, and Grievous doesn’t even make use of his four arms and yet he is still able to wipe the floor with many of the Jedi in various brutal ways. Of all the factors that contribute to what makes this series so good, the quality of the lightsaber duels is definitely one of the stand outs.

Overall, even after all this time, Star Wars: Clone Wars is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of Star Wars media and, whilst it is certainly no Empire Strikes Back, it works wonders to redeem many of the elements of the first two prequels and paved the way for the fantastic pseudo-sequel Star Wars: The Clone Wars years later.

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Sacred Icon – What’s New for 2019

Here’s a few hints of what to expect from this site in 2019:

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Big Finish Reviews

With more and more Big Finish audios being announced every week, it can be hard to keep up – and reviewers try their best to cover as much as possible on a regular basis without bankrupting themselves in the process. Nonetheless, Big Finish’s extensive back-catalogue of Doctor Who audios that were released monthly from late 1999, there’s plenty that can be picked up cheap on the Big Finish website.

This means plenty to review, and the Best of Big Finish series will continue in 2019 with more audio reviews, some branching out into the spinoff series like I, Davros and New Series sets like Classic Doctors, New Monsters.

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Doctor Who Reviews

Starting with a review of the New Year’s Special, for now titled Resolution (hopefully short for Resolution of the Daleks) we will be delving back into reviews of Series 11, starting with an overview of the series discussing what it did right and how the production team could build on it to make Series 12 even better.

We will be ranking the episodes in Series 11 and also ruminating on what changes we could see in Series 12 and the future of Doctor Who in general. Although there will be no Doctor Who series in 2019, expect a variety of Doctor Who content surrounding the show, including a review of the newly animated The Macra Terror, a Second Doctor story that has been missing for decades.

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Asylum of the Daleks Diorama

In celebration of the 55th Anniversary of the second serial of Doctor Who and the first episode of the show to feature the Daleks, a serial aptly titled The Daleks, Sacred Icon will be showcasing a diorama of custom-made Dalek Asylum inmates. As a melting pot of all different Daleks throughout their history, the Asylum brings together Dalek designs from all different eras of Doctor Who and is a perfect celebration of the iconic monsters.

The first episode of The Daleks, titled ‘The Dead Planet’, involves the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara landing on Skaro and encountering the show’s first alien menace – the Daleks. The first episode ends with the infamous cliffhanger involving and unknown threat menacing Barbara and she wanders around the empty city, and ends with her chilling scream and the thing reaches out to her. As such, the actual Daleks themselves are not shown until the next episode, ‘The Survivors’, which aired on the 28th of December 1963.

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More Halo Content

Although we do not yet know the release date for Halo: Infinite, it seems certain that the game will release in late 2019 or early 2020. 343 Industries will be releasing teaser material soon and so expect discussion posts about these, as well as reviews of any trailers or preview material.

Also coming in 2019 on Sacred Icon will be more pieces to do with the Master Chief Collection, including reviews of the new updates and how the multiplayer has changed by 2019.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Review

As a follow up to Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9, we will be reviewing the highlights of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine up until and including Season 5, as well as more Star Trek related content. Expect reviews relating to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as a possible review of a ‘classic’ Star Trek game called Star Trek: Shattered Universe.

And finally…

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The Picard TV Show?

Another potential release for 2019 is the Picard TV show, set to star Patrick Stewart and continue the story of Jean-Luc Picard in the Prime Star Trek timeline, following the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Nemesis. Star Trek fans hope that the iconic captain will be back on our screens in 2019.

If the show does release next year, then expect an episode-by-episode review from Sacred Icon. For more content, check out more from Sacred Icon:

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Star Wars: Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

As Star Wars games evolved and adapted throughout the late 20th century it was inevitable that eventually the games would take on a life of their own and become almost totally independent of the film series, and nothing is more telling of this than the success of the Jedi Knight series that focused almost entirely on characters that were never even mentioned in the original trilogy. Yet characters like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors and Tavion have become just as synonymous with Star Wars for many fans as the likes of Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are for fans of the movies.

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The Story

Both Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have fantastic storylines set deep within the now ‘Legends’ canon – both games follow the story of Rebel Agent-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn and his fight against the Reborn faction, led by Desann and later Tavion. The development of Katarn’s character is one of ‘Legends’ canon’s greatest achievements, and makes these games all the more interesting as we follow the adventures of one of the Galaxy’s most legendary heroes. The main antagonists of both games are the various Dark Jedi associated with the Reborn faction, notably Desann, Tavion and Alora, and games are also filled with various minor antagonists, obstacles and puzzles to overcome as the player explores the world of Star Wars post-Return of the Jedi. An interesting feature in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows the player to create their own Jedi, who trains under Kyle Katarn in Luke’s new Jedi Temple on Yavin IV. Whilst Outcast‘s story is more linear, Academy allows players to choose their own missions whilst unravelling the game’s story and decide whether Kyle’s apprentice should stay on the path of the light or embrace the dark side, which gives Academy’s story two very different endings.

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The Multiplayer

By far one of the most memorable aspects of these games was the multiplayer, with maps like Death Star, Nar Shaddaa Streets, Vjun Sentinel, Taspir, Yavin Hilltops, and Coruscant Streets being among the more enduring and iconic maps in the series. Players have been able to use the game’s well-designed lightsaber combat system to create some quite interesting moves and strategies, which was further enhanced by Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy’s improved engine that allowed for double-bladed lightsabers and more advanced gymnastic Force abilities. Every map has a vertical element that can be used in conjunction with the almost limitless freedom that the hilariously overpowered Force Jump provides to take unsuspecting players completely by surprise, which is particularly rewarding in open maps with lots of ledges and platforms. As for the multiplayer setup, there are many different game modes to try, from Free for All to Capture the Flag, as well as modes designed around Star Wars battles in the movies like Power Duel and Siege. Even when playing solo, the game’s bots are challenging enough that it is still great fun.

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The Characters

A notable aspect of the campaign and multiplayer of the Jedi Knight series is the vast array of characters – particularly in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, in which an entire team can be made up of the various types of Stormtrooper in the game – and there are a fair few familiar faces from the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Mon Mothma. Like all good contributions to the Star Wars lore, however, the Jedi Knight series also has its own large cast of recognisable characters and this, coupled with Jedi Academy‘s character customisation option, means that players are never short of choice in multiplayer when it comes to characters. The voice acting in this game ranges from genuinely good to downright hilarious, particularly in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that has some funny dialogue but even funnier combat dialogue for the enemies.

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The Combat

It has to be said that one of the greatest assets of the Jedi Knight series is its combat mechanics, and even later Star Wars games like The Force Unleashed were never able to capture the simple-yet-effective approach that the Jedi Knight series took with its combat system. Lightsaber battles flow well and feel authentic – rather than having the player and the AI simply bashing sticks at each other until one of them drops dead, the combatants will lock blades and scoring direct body hits requires skill and precision. This means that each combat encounter feels like a mini-duel in itself, making the Jedi Knight games one of the quintessential Star Wars experiences for lightsaber combat.

There are other forms of combat present in the game too, however, and in some levels weapons other than the lightsaber are useful or even necessary. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy feature a diverse sandbox of weapons and each has a specific function – a Star Wars equivalent of a shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher are all present to make the games accessible to fans of the first-person shooter genre. Like all good FPS games, gunfights in the Jedi Knight series are dependant on movement and good aim, but many of the guns are useless against lightsaber wielders. The game’s weapon sandbox truly shines in the campaign mode, particularly since players can either mince through legions of Stormtroopers with their lightsaber, use the various Force powers to easily sweep through encounters, or choose to play more fairly and switch to gunplay for a more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) combat experience.

Many who played the Jedi Knight games regard them as among the best of the Star Wars video games, and for good reason. Whilst it may no longer be part of the Star Wars canon, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy remains an essential Star Wars experience.

 

Star Wars: Obi-Wan – Original Xbox Game Review

Star Wars games are like Star Trek movies – they’re either really good or monumentally bad. Occasionally, though, you get something like Star Trek: First Contact, an exception among the norm of polarising quality that is good in some ways and terrible in others. For Star Wars, undoubtedly that distinction goes to Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Released in 2001, this game has been brushed under the rug for the most part in the wake of the release of later Star Wars games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Battlefront and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy that far outstripped it in terms of quality and fan reception. Nonetheless, there are still aspects of this game that are unique and it is perhaps not entirely deserved of its status as a really bad Star Wars game. But before elaborating on the aspects of this game that are good, the elephant in the room must first be addressed.

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The Controls and Mechanics

This game suffers from terrible controls and mechanics that, if corrected, would increase this game’s fun factor and replay-ability immensely. Some of the major issues include the fact that Obi-Wan himself injures far too easily, health is often hard to come by, many encounters leave the player overwhelmed and out of options, the lightsaber controls are awful (and were thankfully never repeated in any other Star Wars game on consoles), and the camera controls were prehistoric. Of these, one of the most important is the lightsaber controls – the idea of using a thumbstick to swing a lightsaber is interesting, and given more time and better execution the idea could have made the game something truly special. Unfortunately, the mechanic is implemented into this game without any real thought or care, and it often makes encounters far harder as that extra layer of precision needed to effectively block and swing often cause unnecessary damage to the player. Speaking of which, the health system in the game required the implementation of a ‘Force Heal’ ability – many levels are made far too difficult with the lack of flexibility and overly harsh punishment of bad strategy.

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The Level Design

Moving on from the obvious Achilles Heel that this game suffers from, the level design throughout is actually quite good. Aside from a few clunkers around the Naboo sections in which it can be difficult to easily see which is the correct path, often the levels are large and expansive enough that exploration is rewarded, something that is often valued in action-adventure games. The is also some great variation in the location and style of the various levels – one is set on a skyscraper and involves a lot of vertical gameplay, another is an expansive exploration of a sinister swamp, and of course the iconic locations of Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant make an appearance. There are several instances of the level design showing considerable neglect, however, such as the the missions in the Trade Federation Control Ship that essentially amount to repeating corridors and the dozens of times you are catapulted back to Coruscant to face several functionally identical Jedi Masters in the same bland arena.

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The Story

Interestingly, Star Wars: Obi-Wan tries to expand on the story of The Phantom Menace, to the extent that it is several levels in before we reach the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. The game adds in a few interesting plot developments, such as how the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are in secret cohorts with both each other and the Trade Federation, how Queen Amidala was briefly kidnapped by Tusken Raiders whilst Qui-Gon first encountered Anakin, and how Obi-Wan and the others managed to sneak back into the Naboo city so easily. The game also adds other tantalising mouthfuls of pre-prequel lore in the form of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s conflict with the Black Heth and later the Jin’ha. An odd quirk with this game is the voice acting – Obi-Wan has a Scottish accent and talks like he has a blocked nose for some reason, and many of the game’s NPCs sound as thought they are delivering their lines at gunpoint. Then again, it is that easy to accidentally kill NPCs that maybe they are right to be scared of this poorly-rendered Obi-Wan imposter.

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The Enemies

Star Wars: Obi-Wan has a vast variety of enemies spread across its various levels, from Battle Droids to Tusken Raiders. If this game does anything well, it’s keeping the encounters varied and interesting. The earlier levels see Obi-Wan go up against simple thugs, which later evolves into a conflict with the more advanced Jin’ha soldiers. By the time the player encounters the Trade Federation, they will already be veterans with the game’s unique combat system, and even after the game intersects with the story of The Phantom Menace it finds ways of introducing new enemy varieties – the Tatooine section that pits Obi-Wan against Tusken Raiders is a notable example of the game throwing a curve-ball at the player with its unique variety.

To Conclude

Maybe Star Wars: Obi-Wan isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. Whilst it does definitely suffer from poor mechanics, the game is enjoyable if it’s flaws can be overlooked. Although it is not among the best of the Star Wars games, it is still among the more interesting side of the Star Wars game pantheon.

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Halo – SPV3 – CMT’s Re-Masterpiece

As Halo mods go, you can’t get much better than SPV3. Custom Mapping Team, headed by Masterz1337, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with their fantastic re-imagining of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s campaign. Downloadable for free on PC, SPV3 features many interesting surprises for even the most hardened Halo veteran, thanks to remastered graphics, new assets, new weapons and vehicles, and in some cases totally re-imagined levels with new playspaces to explore. As if all that were not enough, the mod also features new enemy types including Brutes, Skirmishers, Sniper Jackals, Honor Guards three different types of Hunters. With so much in this mod, it can be hard to summarise totally in one article, so this may not be the only time this mod features as a topic in the future. For this introduction, the focus will be the new features of this mod that stand out the most when compared with both Halo: Combat Evolved and it’s Anniversary version.

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The Music

One of the first aspects of this mod that jumps out at you is the music. Whilst Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s soundtrack mostly stuck to the tunes featured in the original game, SPV3’s soundtrack draws from various other Halo games and many of the remasters are radically different from their original counterparts. Whilst many of the classic musical cues in the levels we remember make a return, the mod adds enough new music to make each level feel like an entirely new experience. Highlights of the soundtrack include Under Cover of Night, Rock Anthem for Saving the World, Halo, Sleeping Grunts, Covenant Dance, Leonidas, Brothers in Arms and In Amber Clad, but each and every track in the game has been painstakingly and quite spectacularly enhanced for this updated Halo campaign.

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The New Levels

The most exciting of the new additions to the campaign in SPV3 is the new levels, as each and every one has had its weapons, objectives, encounters and atmospheres altered or expanded in various ways. The Anti-Gravity sections in The Pillar of Autumn, the Anti-Air Wraith battle in Halo and the Grizzly rampage in Assault on the Control Room are among the most notable stark enhancements to the campaign’s fun factor, and long-time fans of Halo: Combat Evolved who know the game inside out will be met with many wonderful surprises when playing through SPV3’s campaign as the familiar and the unfamiliar collide in a thrilling single player experience. With all ten of the original levels plus an alternate take on The Silent Cartographer featuring in SPV3, there are a vast variety of classic and brand-new enemy encounters to overcome and dozens of tweaks to each and every facet of the original Halo experience.

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The Covenant

In the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved, there were four Covenant races featured – Elites, Grunts, Jackals and Hunters, with some of these having variants such as the Jackal Major, the Stealth Elite and the infamous Zealots. SPV3, on the other hand, has the benefit of hindsight – since Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release, various other Covenant races and variants have been introduced into the franchise such as Jackal Snipers, Elite Honor Guards, Skirmishers and Brutes, and thanks to the power of mods all of these and more are featured in SPV3’s campaign, as well as a vast variety of new Covenant weapons like the Focus Rifle, the Brute Plasma Rifle, the Brute Shot and even Halo 5’s ‘Voi. Also, the CMT have created many of their own totally new Covenant weapons that blend seamlessly into the aesthetic of the game, such as the Shredder (a Brute version of the Needler), the Particle Carbine (like the standard Carbine but battery powered) and the Brute Plasma Pistol (which includes an overcharge that spews fire upon impact). These additions to the Covenant make them more dynamic enemies to fight and the vast variety makes for some challenging encounters with larger groups of enemies that the original Halo: Combat Evolved would have struggled to process.

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The Flood

Another big surprise in SPV3 is just how much the Flood have changed in this mod compared to the original game, as they are now a more dynamic threat than ever before. Each of the five Flood levels have been totally reworked from the ground up – the original identity of levels like The Library, Keyes and The Maw have been retained but the mood and atmosphere have been altered considerably, essentially transforming the latter half of the game into a unique and exhilarating horror experience. Levels that were formerly bogged down by repetitive level design and unimaginative encounters have now been re-imagined into some of the best Halo experiences, and this is made all the more exciting by the wide variety of forms the Flood can take in this mod. In the original game, the Flood came in four basic forms – the tiny Infection Forms, the bloated and explosive Carrier Forms and the two varieties of Combat Form, derived from either Elite or Human host bodies. In SPV3, new additions to the Flood ranks include Jackal Forms that howl and screech as they leap towards the player, Brute Forms that are essentially tankier versions of the standard Combat Forms and, for the first time in a Halo game, ODST Combat Forms that are stronger and more dangerous versions of the standard Human Combat Form. If all this were not enough, CMT went one step further and added Halo 3’s instantaneous infection feature, meaning that any Covenant or Human soldiers that are attacked by an Infection Form will be transformed into a Flood form before your very eyes.

In Conclusion

Those out there who are Halo fans and have not yet given SPV3 a go are strongly advised to download this mod, it has clearly had a lot of time, care and effort put into it to make it fun and fresh for fans of Halo: Combat Evolved and the Halo series in general.

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Doctor Who – Ranking the Masters

Over the years the role of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis has been played by a diverse range of actors and although some have had far more time in the part than others, all have made unique contributions to defining the role of the villainous character. But after nearly ten incarnations of the beloved villain, how to they rank against each other?

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9 – Peter Pratt

Having only played the Master in one televised story, The Deadly Assassin, Peter Pratt is perhaps the least-known of the Master actors, particularly since his face was obscured by the gruesome mask that depicts this incarnation’s decayed appearance. His role in the episode in which he appears is brief, but significant – by engineering a conspiracy on Gallifrey, the Master attempts to steal the Sash of Rassilon and restore his damaged body. During this scheme he encounters the Fourth Doctor several times, and there are some great scenes between Petetr Pratt and Tom Baker. Unfortunately, due to the restrictive nature of the costume, Pratt doesn’t really get a chance to make the role his own – particularly since half the time it is difficult to understand what he is saying. In the end this incarnation resorts to ranting and raving, and whilst that is not unusual for the Master, Pratt never really gets the chance to portray any of the nuance of the character.

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8 – Eric Roberts

Unlike Paul McGann, who returned to Doctor Who following his part in the 1996 TV Movie in the form of Big Finish Audios the same decade, Eric Roberts left it a little longer before returning to reprise his role in the Audios – a pity really, since he did actually show promise during the TV Movie. Whilst there were undoubtedly issues with the direction of the Movie, and certain aspects of the film from the script to the costume design were questionable, Roberts does play a great villain, and it was clear despite his inexperience with the role of the Master that he at least knew how to play a deranged scheming megalomaniac. It would have been nice to see his version of the Master develop in Eighth Doctor Audios, but that role later went to Alex Macqueen. Still, Roberts is finally returning to the role in a new series of the Diary of River Song, of all things, so there is still hope for his incarnation. Speaking of Macqueen, though…

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7 – Alex Macqueen

Technically Eric Roberts’ successor in terms of the Master’s chronological timeline (probably…) Alex Macqueen’s incarnation takes on a far more delighted and almost child-like direction – he seems to always see the funny side to being pure evil, and although he has appeared exclusively in audios so far his version of the Master is clearly distinctive from the classic incarnations of the Master. Clearly inspired by the Simm incarnation, Macqueen does bridge the gap between the Classic and New Series Masters effectively, and he is a great foil for the Eighth Doctor. Interestingly, although this incarnation is best known for his appearances against the Eighth Doctor, this incarnation actually debuted  against the Seventh Doctor, and Alex Macqueen also voiced the decayed incarnation possessing his incarnation’s body against the Sixth Doctor. Both the Macqueen and Beevers incarnations regain their own minds to face off against the Seventh Doctor in The Two Masters, which incidentally is the first multi-Master story in performed Doctor Who, which is a testament to both actor’s skill as they do great impressions of each other’s specific Master personalities.

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6 – John Simm

Being the first Master incarnation to be depicted on screen post-regeneration, Simm’s incarnation initially came off as a bit too wacky and mad to really be the same Master that fans remember from the Classic Series. Whilst the gaps have since been filled by various Audios, fans at the time did concede that this was the Master immediately following the horrors he experienced in the Time War, and it was very possible that he had simply gone totally insane.Whilst Simm does have some character moments with  David Tennant’s Doctor and does a fantastic job of playing a crazed lunatic, unfortunately throughout his two appearances in the Russell T. Davies era his incarnation is never given a chance to slow down, and even when there are moments between the Doctor and this incarnation of the Master, they are always overshadowed by this incarnation’s instability – either through the ‘drumming’ arc or the fact that he is hungry for human flesh. Thankfully, Moffat gave this incarnation a bit more nuance in Series 10, and Simm shows his true talents as he effortlessly carries the role of a more Classic-themed Master perfectly.

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5 – Anthony Ainley

The official ‘replacement’ for Roger Delgado in the 1980s, The only real criticism that can be set against Ainley’s version of the Master is that he is in fact too good at emulating his predecessor. Even so, Ainley does make his own mark on the character, and develops the role over his long tenure that spans the last three Doctors of the televised Classic Series, and he is the definitive version of the Master for many Doctor Who fans. Known for his flamboyant personality, Ainley’s Master seemed to hate the Doctor a fair deal more than Delgado’s incarnation did, and his plans often revolve around achieving his ultimate goal to kill the Doctor. Still, like Delgado’s incarnation, he was not above siding with the Doctor if he felt it necessary – often leading to moments in which his true allegiances are a mystery, as in one of the most memorable scenes of The Five Doctors.

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4 – Derek Jacobi

Despite only playing the Master briefly in Utopia, Derek Jacobi’s performance immediately sold him to audiences as the genuine article, perhaps even more so than John Simm’s incarnation did in the same episode, and it stands as a testament to his incredible ability as an actor that Jacobi could effectively snap from being a lovable, innocent old man to a violent and psychotic killer. Needless to say fans were eager to see this more of this Master, and having been given his own Big Finish series as well as appearing in the U.N.I.T. spinoff series, the Jacobi incarnation definitely deserves a return in the TV show itself.

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3 – Geoffrey Beevers

Initially appearing in just one episode of the Classic Series, The Keeper of Traken, Beevers would later reprise his role as the Master in the Big Finish Audios, and it is in these audios that he truly excels. This particular incarnation of the Master is interesting as he has more on his mind than simply conquest or domination – most of his plans revolve around survival or somehow acquiring more regenerations in order to prolong his life. That being said, his multiple appearances in various Big Finish Audios have allowed for some great character moments between his incarnation and various Doctors, with a particular highlight being the Seventh Doctor audio Master. Beever’s greatest asset to the role is his distinctive voice, which makes his audios all the better, as his line delivery is always spot on.

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2 – Michelle Gomez

The first female incarnation of the Master proved the perfect foil to the Twelfth Doctor thanks to both Michelle Gomez’s dynamic portrayal fueled by her interesting personality and the fascinating direction that Steven Moffat took the character, particularly during his final series as showrunner. Known as Missy, Gomez’s interpretation of the Master pays homage to many previous incarnations, particularly Delgado, and shocked fans after appearing regularly as a mystery plot arc throughout Series 8 only to drop the bombshell that she was actually the Master as the plot twist cliffhanger to the penultimate episode of the series. Following her brief return in the opener of Series 9, Missy went on to be one of the most fascinating elements of the incredible Series 10, and her redemption arc was perhaps one of the best executed in the New Series.

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1 – Roger Delgado

The original, you might say. Although the role Delgado played has been adapted by many talented individuals since his death, there is no doubt that Delgado had a true understanding of the character and his relationship with the Doctor and none since have been able to truly recapture the entirety of that complex understanding. Truly the perfect ploy for the Third Doctor, Roger Delgado’s Master filled the role of mustache-twirling supervillain to counter the Doctor’s role as the dashing secret agent/detective hero, and would often ally himself with various invading alien races in an attempt to conquer the Earth. Charming, manipulative, cunning and pure evil, Delgado’s Master is the archetype of the character and would inspire the character of each and every incarnation to come.

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