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.

kyle-katarn-chiss.jpg

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.

jkja-multiplayer.jpg

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.

jedi-knight-characters.jpeg

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.

jedi-knight-kyle-vs-desann.jpg

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.

obi wan swingin

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.

obi-wan-music-scene.jpg

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.

obi-wan-menu.png

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.

obi-wan-trade-federation.jpg

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.

Read More

 

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.

spv3-soundtrack.jpg

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.

halo-spv31.jpg

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.

spv3-covenant.jpg

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.

spv3-the-flood.jpg

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.

Read More

Top 10 Halo 2 Glitches

It is a well known fact within the Halo community that Halo 2 was rushed to release, and although the finished product is a great game, it wasn’t as polished as the developers would have liked, particularly in some areas of the campaign. This is great news for players, who in the time since the game’s release have found a multitude of ways of exploiting glitches in the game’s physics engine to explore outside the levels in the campaign, which the developers actually filled with Easter Eggs knowing that this would happen. Some of the glitches in Halo 2, however, are less to do with the lack of level boundaries and quirks with the physics engine and more to do with specific objects or enemies in particular levels that, to the uninitiated, may come across more like Easter Eggs – and for all intents and purposes they are, albeit unintentional ones.

needler-sentinel.png

10 – Needler Sentinel – Quarantine Zone

The origins of this particular glitch are somewhat unclear – either Bungie originally intended for Sentinels to carry and use weapons other than their usual energy beams, or it was simply a one-off error with the coding of this particular Sentinel – but either way, in a particular room on the game’s eleventh level, the player encounters a massive firefight between Sentinels and Flood combat forms that can get pretty hectic. In the chaos, it can be hard to miss this one particular Sentinel that fires Covenant Needler rounds instead of the Sentinel Beam, and when it is destroyed, it drops a Needler. Interestingly, the Sentinel Enforcers do use a weapon similar to the Covenant Needler, but that weapon fires red shards instead of purple, and Sentinels are never seen wielding that weapon either. Bungie employees have given varying explanations for this, from an accidental ‘slip-of-the-mouse’ when the level was being coded to an entirely cut feature in which Sentinels would use their own version of the Needler on occasion – regardless, it is an interesting glitch.

spectre-great-journey.jpg

9 – Sergeant Johnson Drops Dead/Four Sergeant Johnsons – The Great Journey

This glitch is actually two (or perhaps even three) glitches at once, all in the same place on the same level, but they essentially amount to the same result. If the player can manage to maneuver a Covenant Spectre into the final room of the final level of Halo 2 – no small feat – one can actually use the vehicle in the final boss against the Brute Chieftain Tartarus, and can even convince Sergeant Johnson to climb aboard. As Halo 2 veterans will known, Johnson is crucial in the final fight against the Chieftain – he uses a Covenant sniper rifle to lower the creature’s shields, thereby allowing the player to deal the fatal blow. Due to a strange glitch in the design of the three-tiered arena, however, crouching on the lowest level will cause the player or any other character to drop dead instantly, because you technically intersect with the death barrier that prevents you from falling beneath the floating structure. If one can maneuver Johnson in the Spectre onto the bottom level and cause him to climb out, and because Johnson always crouches after exiting a vehicle, the normally invincible Sergeant will drop dead, allowing you to loot his weapon.

Also, using the same method of getting Johnson in the Spectre, the player can amass a small army of Johnsons since the game automatically spawns a new Johnson when the old one moves too far away from his sniping spot – undoubtedly to keep the battle fair in case Johnson somehow falls. With one Johnson on the powerful plasma turret and two Johnsons riding shotgun, plus another Johnson occupying the sniping spot, this glitch can seriously tip the balance of the boss fight in the player’s favor.

heretic-leader.jpg

8 – Bullying the Heretic Leader – The Arbiter

For those who played the first two Arbiter levels and thought “How is the Heretic Leader always one step ahead?” and aren’t quite satisfied with finally killing him at the conclusion of the level The Oracle, on the original version of Halo 2 for the Xbox it is actually possible to reach him early and essentially beat him up – you can toss grenades at him, throw him into a chasm, or even drop a Banshee on him, and yet he will simply refuse to die. For this to happen, you must equip an Energy Sword in the scene in which the Heretic Leader is visible through a window giving orders to his men and then climbing aboard a Banshee to escape your wrath once again. If you time it right, it is actually possible to use the sword’s lunge attack to clip straight through the window and hit the Heretic Leader directly. Now simply use a grenade to render his Banshee inoperable and he will just stand there, as if accepting his fate. It should be noted that doing this makes the level impossible to complete, and as previously mentioned this only works on the original Xbox version of Halo 2, so it might be more trouble than it is worth at this point. Still, a fun time-wasting glitch that is actually one of the few glitches in the game to be patched in later re-releases.

lake-regret.jpg

7 – Exploring ‘Lake Regret’ – Delta Halo/Regret

Who doesn’t love exploring outside level boundaries? This particular glitch can allow players to not only explore outside the usual confines of the levels Delta Halo and Regret, but it also demonstrates the Master Chief’s less-well known ability to breathe underwater indefinitely, something that comes in very handy when walking across the bottom of a deep lake Pirates of the Caribbean-style. To accomplish this, one has to simply use a grenade to propel the player onto the hills around the final part of Delta Halo or the first part of Regret, and then simply walk around the lake to find a point in which it is possible to walk into the water. Falling into the lake is not a good idea, since fall damage will usually kill the player on contact, but another method that involves using a Ghost to climb the grassy verges around the level can speed things up a bit. (This is easier with the Sputnik Skull enabled that allows the player to propel themselves further with explosives). Once in the lake, the player is free to wander around, study the architecture of Regret’s temple that seems to float on the lake with the supports cutting off about 3 feet beneath the water’s surface, listen for the sound of invisible Whales, and find a large and ominous hole in the floor that seems to serve no real purpose whatsoever.

It should be noted that, although not included here, the well-known ‘Vacations’ that can be taken on almost every Halo 2 level (using similar methods to exploring Lake Regret) constitute their own ‘sub-category’ of fun and interesting glitches. In fact, that might be the subject of another article later down the line…

out-of-his-throne.jpg

6 – Knock the Prophet out of his Throne – Regret

Speaking of the Prophet of Regret, another fun glitch allows the player to temporarily remove the shriveled Covenant hierarch from the safety of his Gravity Throne. During the boss fight with him at the end of the level Regret, the throne must be boarded in order to injure the Prophet as his shields absorb anything the player can throw at him from overcharged Plasma-Pistol shots to both barrels of a Rocket Launcher. However, since Regret;s throne is treated like any other vehicle in order for the boarding mechanic to work, with enough explosive force the player can flip the throne over and, like all occupants of a flipped vehicle in Halo, Regret will be forcibly ejected. Interestingly, the Prophet will simply sit on the floor in the same position as if he were occupying his throne and then attack the player with a Plasma Pistol of all things. This alludes to the fact that in the Halo novels he and most other Prophets are depicted carrying at least one Plasma weapon as a sidearm, and the Prophet will actually drop this pistol upon death whether he is in or out of his throne. This glitch is tricky to pull off, and it is recommended that either the Scarab Skull or weapons like the Fuel Rod Gun or Needler are used since only these can create enough inertia to bounce Regret out of his seat.

keyes-in-space.png

5 -Miranda in Space – Cairo Station

For those who are not convinced that Miranda Keyes is an unmitigated badass, this glitch confirms that Miranda Keyes can actually breathe in space. Using an Energy Sword on the level Cairo Station, it is possible to push Keyes (or Johnson, for that matter) past the point in the level in which they would usually leave the Chief and through an airlock, and as they are programmed to be invincible the repeated strikes will not kill them. By eventually pushing them into a section of the level that they are never supposed to enter, the player can actually push the naval officers into space, as the next section of the mission requires Chief to exit the station and fight Covenant EVA troopers. Though they need the player’s help to get through the level, Keyes and Johnson will attack enemies that are nearby and speak to the Chief, despite the fact that they are in a near-vacuum without any protection whatsoever. Oddly, they will de-spawn if the player attempts to push them back into the station later in the level, and nudging them off the station and into the vast abyss of space will cause them to drop like a rock, still adopting a combat-ready pose as they plummet into the Earth’s atmosphere.

plasma-grenade.jpg

4 – Plasma Grenade Fountain – The Oracle

This is another glitch that exploits the Heretic Leader, specifically one of his holo-drones. At the start of the game’s seventh level, the player encounters a hologram of the Heretic Leader that taunts you and your allies before disappearing. However, in the game’s code, this hologram is treated as an enemy – and if you melee it with the Piñata Skull on in Halo 2: Anniversary, it will drop Plasma Grenades in abundance. Using the faster swing of the Energy Sword means that in the brief time the hologram is present the player can spawn dozens of grenades, and this can cause a massive explosion if they are all detonated at once.

envy-skull.jpg

3 – Permanent Invisibility – Chief Levels

In the original Halo 2 for the Xbox, Skulls had to be found and activated in levels on Legendary, and the effects of the skulls only lasted until the console was switched off. This was done because, at the time, there was no menu option to activate and deactivate Skulls, they were merely included by the developers as wacky Easter Eggs. As a result of this, acquiring the Envy Skull in the original Halo 2 and using it just as a checkpoint passes, saving and exiting, and then restarting the Xbox and loading up the level will cause the Chief to be permanently invisible. This works because the Envy Skull trades Chief’s flashlight for Arbiter’s active camouflage, a feature that he can never acquire in regular gameplay, but only for the time in which the Envy Skull is activated. Because switching off the Xbox deactivates the Skull, saving and exiting a level while Chief is still invisible means that, after the Skull is deactivated, the game cannot revert him back to normal visibility and the player will be able to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and eliminate them at their leisure. This glitch is most useful on Legendary, but it can only be used in levels in which Chief is the playable character.

creepy-cortana.png

2 – Cortana’s Scary Face – The Great Journey

This glitch is a result of the feature in Halo 2: Anniversary that allows players to switch back and forth between the classic graphics and the updated, remastered graphics created by 343 Industries and Blur Studios. At the conclusion of the final cutscene of Halo 2 when Cortana accepts Gravemind’s offer of answering his many questions about Humankind and the Covenant, switching from new graphics to classic graphics at the last second of the cutscene after it cuts to black will present the player with this abomination – clearly Cortana’s rampancy is taking its toll. This is caused in part by the fact that the remastered cutscene is longer than the classic cutscene was, and so switching back shows the player the models after the cutscene has technically already finished, and is also due to the fact that the camera has panned inside Cortana’s head, leaving only her eye visible. Hilariously, this glitch is also accompanied by the spooky final few notes of the Halo 2 Soundtrack’s Epilogue.

Honorable Mention – The ‘Ghosts’ of Halo

This phenomenon caused quite a stir when it was first discovered in the early days of Halo 2 on Xbox Live. According to legend, players on maps such as Lockout on Xbox Live began reporting sightings of strange characters that resembled other players but lacked a gamertag, movement animations or a place on the scoreboard – these ‘Ghosts’ would reportedly kill players by sliding around the map and tossing grenades in all directions, and in certain cases they were apparently un-killable. Various explanations for this odd occurrence were suggested throughout the fanbase such as the ‘Ghosts’ being a result of a glitchy network connection, but other more ludicrous theories sprung up such as the idea that Bungie employees had programmed bots into the game, that Microsoft were spying on players or that the maps were legitimately haunted. Ultimately, confirmed sightings of the so-called ‘Ghosts’ that haunt various multiplayer maps of Halo have been scarce since Xbox Live has improved, which would suggest that the phenomenon was a result of little more than a bug in Xbox Live or a dodgy network connection, or that the entire thing was a hoax. Either way, the ‘Ghosts’ of Halo are still regarded among the game’s most infamous glitches.

honor-guard-councilor.jpg

1 – The Honour Guard Councilor – Gravemind

Halo 2 had numerous boss battles in the game, ranging from our old friend the Heretic Leader to the Brute Chieftain Tartarus, but one boss fight in the game was actually created by accident as a result of a glitch in the game’s code. The final enemy of the mission Gravemind is an Elite with a unique set of armor that changes each time the level is played – sometimes the Elite will have an Honor Guard helmet, a Councilor helmet, or even no helmet at all – but the armor will always be white with the gold and black spurs of the Honor Guard. This mini-boss with unique randomised armor is actually the result of the game trying to spawn an Elite Zealot that was coded with the wrong tags, causing the Elite to spawn with widely varying armor and much higher shield strength. Strangely, the Elite can sometimes spawn with the face of Rtas ‘Vadum, an ally to the Arbiter throughout the Halo 2 and Halo 3 campaigns, and sometimes the Elite spawns with a strange and unique helmet that was coded into the game but never allocated to any characters. This visually unique accidental mini-boss is arguably the best example of how good some of the glitches in Halo 2 actually are – although the game is riddled with bugs like these, it doesn’t negatively impact the gameplay, and instead serves to make the game that bit more interesting.

Read More

 

Halo – What makes the ‘Classic’ art style of Halo: Infinite so important?

My recent article on how Halo: Infinite could save the Halo franchise talked briefly about how the new Halo game seems to be adopted the ‘Classic’ art style from the original Halo trilogy, and how this represents a significant shift in the direction for the 343 Industries and how this could mean a brighter future for the franchise. But what is it about the ‘Classic’ art style that is so important to Halo, and why should 343 Industries pursue this art style rather than their own take on the games that they have been developing for the past few years? The answer comes in several parts, the first being:

halo-classic-mission.jpg

The Classic Halo Art Style Didn’t Need Changing

This is the primary reason why Halo fans were embittered by 343 industries’ sudden change of the look and feel of the universe between Halo: Reach and Halo 4. For many, the change came as a disappointing shock, similarly to if the new Star Wars movies had decided to totally change how Darth Vader, Lightsabers, Star Destroyers and Gungans looked between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It is important to note that Halo fans were never against the inclusion of new things into the universe – even the unbalanced and bullet-spongey Prometheans from Halo 4 were effectively inducted into the Halo universe, particularly thanks to their overhaul in Halo 5: Guardians, and all the new weapons that 343i have introduced have been fairly well-received, like the SAW and Forerunner weapons like the Light Rifle and the Scattershot – the problem is that 343i decided that the art style needed changing regardless of whether or not fans wanted it, and suddenly all the iconic things in the game we had all come to love the designs for – such as the shotgun, the Scorpion tank, the Banshee and even the Grunts looked totally different to how we all remembered them, breaking the immersion to a degree.

As such, the radical change to the art style – such changing Chief’s armour during the time he was in cryo, changing the look of the Elites, and remodeling all of the Covenant and UNSC weapons and vehicles – was met with resistance by many players, and for many the look and feel of the games was never the same. The ironic thing about this is that, when pushed to recreate Bungie’s art style in the Anniversary versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, 343i actually did a really good job. Both Halo: CE Anniversary and Halo 2: Anniversary look and feel fantastic and, most importantly, authentic. 343i managed to recapture the nostalgia of the Bungie games despite them being totally remastered, so why not recapture that same magic in their newer, original games?

halo infinite

Halo’s identity, and how it can keep it

Another crucial reason why Halo’s art style is so important is that Halo had, and perhaps still has, a definitive and unique identity as a game – it is more than just a simple sci-fi shooter, as any Halo fan knows, and how the game looks and feels is important to contributing to this. Halo: Combat Evolved‘s first few levels depict a human ship in the midst of combat against strange aliens, a desperate escape to a mysterious alien ringworld, and a sense of shock and awe as the environment of the Halo ring unfolds before the player. The mind-boggling potential of having the entire ring seemingly at your fingertips, traversing the vast environments of an even more vast alien landscape, that is still remarkably familiar. Part of the charm of the original Halo game is things that regular players might not even consider at first – things like finding the beam emitter towers in the canyon near the start of the second level, and experiencing the blend of wide, open and natural environments and angular, metallic Forerunner structures, that perfectly illustrates how Halo defines itself as a game that is both about the familiar and the alien being forced together.

As the more iconic Halo games begin to drift further and further back in time, it is imperative that the newer Halos attempt to recapture that magic of the original and the sense of ancient, mysterious wonder that comes with it. Halo: MCC tried its best to repackage the original games for newer players, but unfortunately its less-than-ideal launch meant that this didn’t reach as many players as it could have done. In light of this, it has never been more important that 343 industries look over their art style and focus to better cater to Halo fans, old and new, in the modern age.

halo-mcc.jpg

‘Classic’ Halo is just Halo

The overall issue of the ‘new vs old’ debate with the art style of Halo boils down to how the game feels for those who play it. Clearly in recent years Halo fans have been less-than-optimistic about 343 Industries’ handling of the franchise, and in many ways the loss of the old art style in the newer games is a major factor contributing to this. Thanks to the clear decision to recapture the old art style in Halo: Infinite, it looks like Halo is back on track to recapturing the old nostalgia, mystery and magic that the original offered to millions of players back in the 2000s, and offering just as much to new players in the 2010s and going into the 2020s.

So that’s my thoughts on why the original art style of Halo is so important, and how Halo: Infinite is taking steps to redeem the franchise. If you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow Sacred Icon here or on Facebook for more content like this.

In the meantime, look down below for more of my Halo-related content!

 

 

Halo – Ranking ALL the Halo Games

Eventually, it had to be done. A comprehensive ranking of every Halo game, so that’s Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. Not included are Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2, because comparing strategy games with first person shooters is ultimately pointless. So, to begin:

halo-4.jpg

7 – Halo 4

I can’t express how hard it is to actually rank Halo 4 as the lowest. I compare ranking Halo games to ranking Doctors from Doctor Who, in that they’re all good in their own way so picking a worst one essentially comes down to picking what everyone else considers the worst one. In ranking the Doctors, this means that Colin Baker usually comes last, and when ranking Halo games, it’s Halo 4. Why? Well, because Halo 4 seemed like the biggest missed opportunity in Halo history. It was a decent game in it’s own right, and the multiplayer was prematurely killed off by rapid release of various DLC until the release of The Master Chief Collection, but what really brought Halo 4 down was the campaign. The story was ultimately quite good if you bothered to read the multitude of deep-lore novels (which the average player does not) but without the added understanding of the in-game terminals and a very acute knowledge of the Halo expanded universe the story was baffling to most players, with the Didact appearing as ‘just some guy’ instead of the threatening villain he was supposed to be. Added to this is Cortana’s death, which in the narrative of the game is a beautiful and emotional ending to a fairly moving (if nonsensical) sci-fi story, but in the wider context of the Halo universe seemed like a cheap ploy to make 343i’s first game somewhat memorable. Added to that is the music, art and sound design radically changing from the previous game, again to make 343i’s games seem more distinct from Bungie’s games, when it really didn’t need to. Why does everything suddenly look totally different from how it did at the end of Halo 3? The Anniversary games showed us that it is possible to update graphics without changing the overall look of a game, so why was this sudden and unexpected change necessary? If anything it only served to distance Bungie fans even more from 343i’s games, which is ultimately what it came down to with Halo 4 – it split the userbase between new and old fans, with a growing number of Halo players backing the ‘it was better how it was’ camp rather than accepting 343i’s takeover of the franchise.

halo-3-odst1-e1523826517331.jpg

6 – Halo 3: ODST

If you haven’t already, be sure to find some way of checking out Firefly, a fantastic Space-Western orientated series that aired on Fox between 2002-2003, it’s an absolutely fantastic show even accounting for the fact that because it was unfairly cancelled the last few episodes of the first season were never made. Some of the cast of Firefly later worked on a game called Halo 3: ODST, including star Nathan Fillion. Like all the Halo games, Halo 3: ODST had an engaging story, interesting characters and a swath of fun gameplay. The problem with Halo 3: ODST is that it is just too short. The campaign consists of Halo’s first (and until now, only) open-world experience, as you awaken in an enemy occupied city and try to figure out what happened to your squadmates by finding and activating certain ‘memories’ related to them, that take the form of flashbacks to your squadmates prior missions in the city. These flashbacks are essentially the levels of the game, but there are not many of them and they are often short compared to normal Halo levels. For some context, in Halo: The Master Chief Collection the par time is used to determine how quickly a Halo level should be finished in, even for someone who isn’t speed-running. Normally, a par time in The MCC is about 10-15 minutes, but many of the Halo 3: ODST levels would struggle to hit 5 minutes. Added to that is the lack of multiplayer, and although ODST does contain the debut of the Firefight mode, Halo: Reach did this much better without sacrificing a multiplayer mode.

halo 5

5 – Halo 5: Guardians

The most recent 343i-made Halo game was not without its fair share of controversy – from microtransactions to updates that really just added in the bits of the game that were missing on release, Halo 5 somewhat divided the Halo community. But, in many ways, it also somewhat united it too, since it added features into a Halo game that the community had never seen before, such as a Custom Games File Browser that allows players to search for player-made games online, and the most advanced Forge system to date that also got its own port on PC. The campaign is what really let this game down, with a story that didn’t live up to the hype that the trailers whipped up around the game, and characters that barely meet the standards for being described as ‘paper-thin’. Other than Buck, who had received development in Halo 3: ODST, practically every squad member – even Master Chief’s Blue Team from the novels – felt under-developed and underused. Overall, if it weren’t for a pretty decent multiplayer (once all the updates were released) and a fancy new engine (that apparently got split-screen removed) Halo 5: Guardians would hardly be worth considering. But with such a strong potential for community-driven direction and a platform for user-created content, Halo 5: Guardians has pushed 343 industries further in the right direction for what to do next with the franchise.

reach

4 – Halo: Reach

The controversial younger cousin of the Bungie games, Halo: Reach has the dubious honor of being the final Bungie game of the series and is therefore seen by many fans as a turning point in the franchise. Despite the inclusion of several questionable additions such as Armor Lock, Halo: Reach stands out as a shooter that has maintained its population for nearly ten years and experienced a renaissance following the release of its backwards-compatibility on the Xbox One. One of the best aspects of Halo: Reach is the campaign, which tells a relatively simple story but in a way that draws the player close to one particular team of Spartan soldiers among hundreds, and depicts their fate with startling stone-cold sincerity as characters that it is easy to feel close to are killed off one by one. Add to this a vast variety of interesting levels that often use in-game events to embellish the melancholy story with visceral detail, such as the destruction of the civilian transport in the level ‘Exodus’ or the annihilation of the frigate Savannah in the level ‘Long Night of Solace’ that add to the sense of helplessness as the player watches the tragic events play out. A lingering standout feature of Halo: Reach is its multiplayer, which served as the epitome of community involvement for the Bungie era, as the heavily modified Forge mode allowed for more intricate map creation. Also, the variety of gamemodes and the ability to customise the character’s armor allowed for a vast freedom that few Halo games before or since ever offered the player.

halo ce

3 – Halo: Combat Evolved

The game that started it all cannot be underestimated, even nearly 20 years after its initial release. The story is intricately woven throughout the campaign levels that are specifically designed to invoke a feeling of wonder and intrigue as the game takes the player on a journey through an ancient and mysterious fortress-world that combines stark, metallic structures and caverns with rolling hills, tall forests, snowy valleys and festering swamps. The campaign is structured so that as the locations advance, so to do the difficulty levels of the enemies, ensuring that a smooth learning curve guides the player through the variety of levels and enemy types. Add to this the incredible music, that served as the inspiration for many tracks on Halo soundtracks afterward, and perfectly sets the tone of every level with a provocative soundtrack that enhances the alien-ness of the setting. The only real drawback to Halo: Combat Evolved is the multiplayer, which was designed for system link and is woefully unbalanced, meaning that online play via The Master Chief Collection is largely pointless. Whilst the MCC does a great job of transitioning the game to the next generation, the best way to experience Halo: Combat Evolved is in its original form, on an original Xbox, and preferably with the original Duke controller that gave everyone RSI.

halo 3

2 – Halo 3

Halo 3 is considered by many to be the definitive Halo experience, and it has definitely earned that title. This game delivered the immense hype that built up prior to its release in 2007, and it rounded off the story of the original Halo trilogy with dignity. The multiplayer was and still is stellar, with a wide variety of maps and modes and even an inclusion of a rudimentary Forge mode, since this game was the initial debut of the mapmaking system that Halo: Reach would eventual expand greatly upon. The greatest thing about Halo 3 is how all the elements come together, both from a production and marketing perspective but also from an in-game story perspective, since this game sees the Master Chief and the Humans in the UNSC side with the Arbiter and the Elites of the former Covenant, which has now been taken over by the Prophet of Truth and his Brutes. The campaign picks up where Halo 2 left off and although it doesn’t quite meet the level and enemy variety that Halo 2 did, Halo 3 still delivers an action-packed campaign in which almost every level is definitive, apart from that one we all hate.

halo 2

1 – Halo 2

Halo is indeed a great series, and Halo 2 is what made it so. Aside from being the biggest video game of all time on its release, Halo 2 gave the first person shooter genre its big break on consoles, with the inclusion of a revolutionary online and matchmaking system that allowed players from all over the world to battle each other online on Xbox almost instantly, and also a ranking system that introduced a competitive side to online play that drove gameplay hours up. Halo 2 also had a much more cinematic campaign experience, with a story that built on what had already been established in Halo: Combat Evolved and pushed Halo further into the grounds of high-concept science fiction whilst keeping the gameplay fun and refreshing. An overhaul of the health system from Halo: Combat Evolved made the gameplay more fast-paced, and Halo 2 saw the inclusion of the most diverse and varied selection of enemies yet, from the Heretics with their Grunt-Needler army, the Sentinels with their massive Enforcers, the Flood with their newfound ability to drive vehicles and the debut of the Brutes who play a vital role in the story. Halo 2 also saw the surprise inclusion of the Arbiter as a playable single-player character, with his own story that runs in tandem to Master Chief’s throughout the game and offers a new insight into the Covenant and their society. Overall, although the game itself has been dwarfed by subsequent releases, the impact of the release of Halo 2 on the gaming market at the time was great, and to this day it remains the greatest Halo game.

Top Ten Sci-Fi Spaceships

The Science-Fiction genre is replete with examples of iconic spaceships, often used as transports and even mobile homes for the characters in science fiction. As such, the ship almost becomes a character in itself, developing its own quirks and technicalities that give it its personality. But the question remains – which ship is the best? For this list we will be judging based on how useful the ship would be, and the extent of its powers. To begin:

10 – Red Dwarf – Red Dwarf

red-dwarf.jpg

Despite being a slow, unwieldy, ancient mining ship that is peppered with meteorite impacts, Red Dwarf always pulls though and provides a home for its disparate band of occupants. Also, it comes packaged with Holly, the transgender eighth generation ‘hologrammic’ computer with an IQ that supposedly exceeds 6,000. Depending on the day, Holly might be sane or totally senile, and the ship seems to attract trouble on a near-daily basis. Don’t look forward to speedy travel with the Dwarf, however, since it trundles along at a snail’s pace. You do, however, get Starbug, but its up to you whether or not that’s a good thing.

9 – High Charity – Halo

highcharity

The Covenant Holy City-ship of High Charity serves as the cultural, political and military headquarters of the alliance, and mobilises the Covenant assault force against Humanity.  The best thing about High Charity is its environments, which you explore during the Halo 2 levels Gravemind and High Charity. The curved purple interiors and modular architectural design demonstrate the alien nature of the Covenant, and in terms of power it boasts a slipspace drive for instant transportation and a vast array of destructive weapons, with docking structures that can contain and transport hundreds of capital ships. So whether you like strolling through botanical gardens or invading planets with huge fleets of warships, High Charity is for you.

8 – Thunderbird 3 – Thunderbirds

thunderbird-3.jpg

The ultimate classic rocket design, Thunderbird 3 might not have weapons but it is extraordinarily fast – able to make it halfway around the world in a matter of minutes, in some cases. Overall, the red rocket tops any other rocket-type ship in sci-fi, and the best part about it is that you might even get Tracy Island thrown in, as well as the ability to travel to and dock with Thunderbird 5, an orbital space station. Designed to launch as an SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit) rocket, the ship can be re-used unlike contemporary rockets used by NASA, and it even runs on the same fuel,

7 – Ebon Hawk – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

ebon_hawk1.jpg

The spiritual predecessor to the Millenium Falcon, the Ebon Hawk serves as the home for the traveling circus cast of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This ship was constructed over 1,000 years before the Falcon, so it isn’t as fast but it does seem to be more heavily armoured. However, featuring dual engines, the Ebon Hawk was certainly fast for its era, and could certainly hold its own against more powerful ships like the Leviathan. After all, this was Darth Revan’s ship for a reason.

6 – Serenity Firefly

serenity.jpg

Similar to the Ebon Hawk, Serenity is a freighter primarily, designed to haul cargo from planet to planet. Thanks to heavy modifications, however, she serves as the vessel of Mal Reynolds and his crew, a band of vagrants and smugglers who partake in various illegal activities. The ship was described by Firefly creator Joss Whedon as the ‘tenth character’ of the series, and she has character indeed – fans have likened Serenity to freighters like the Millenium Falcon. The biggest strength of Firefly-class ships is their durability and ease of repair, and Serenity is no exception.

5 – USS Enterprise-D – Star Trek: The Next Generation

galaxy class

The USS Enterprise is a fantastic ship in its own right, but the USS Enterprise-D surpasses it in almost every conceivable way. For one, it is essentially just a more powerful version of the original Enterprise, and it also has much more advanced technology aboard like the Holodeck and the Saucer Separation. Not only that, but the ship is also more luxurious, with more space and better living conditions – the original Enterprise was built with practicality in mind, with dull grey bulkheads and no inch of space wasted, whereas the Enterprise-D has a warm beige interior design with the occasional appearance of wood paneling. With the addition of the crew, particularly Data, the Enterprise-D is equipped to deal with any obstacle, whilst also providing a comfortable environment.

4 – Millenium Falcon – Star Wars

millenium falcon.jpg

Allegedly the fastest piece of junk in the Galaxy, the Millenium Falcon is certainly a go-to starship if speed is a priority. Han Solo boasts in A New Hope that the Falcon ‘made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs’, which sounds like he made it up on the spot but will undoubtedly be extrapolated to the Nth degree in the upcoming Solo Movie, but the general jist of what he is saying stands – the Falcon is a fast ship. Able to outrun any Imperial starship, this unassuming-looking freighter has gone on to become one of the most famous ships in the Galaxy, and aided in the destruction of not one but two Death Stars. The only real downside of the Millenium Falcon is its amenities – it is essentially a grotty smuggling vessel, with very few forms of entertainment to pass the time during the long hyperspace jumps (unless you count a dodgy holographic chess set and a flying ball.) The ship would be handy in a pinch, but for long-distance travel the Falcon falls short of the best ‘conventional’ starship in Sci-Fi, which is:

3 – USS Voyager – Star Trek: Voyager

voyager.jpg

The Intrepid-class starship won the top spot for Top 10 Federation Starship Classes, and the most famous ship of its class is at least half of the reason why. The exploits of the USS Voyager top any starship of this dimensional plane, and its already advanced and reliable design is augmented by many modifications that the crew picked up during the ship’s time in the Delta Quadrant, including some Borg technology and a massively improved warp drive. With the Voyager also comes the Delta Flyer, a greatly upgraded and improved redesign of the standard Federation Shuttlecraft for ship-to-surface transport or even ship-to-ship dogfights, an innovation that other Federation starships lack. Despite the greater focus on tactical systems and speed, the Voyager still features the entertainment systems available on the Enterprise like the Holodeck, and is sleeker, faster and comes with a holographic medic.

2 – Heart of Gold – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

heart of gold

The Heart of Gold is powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, a wonderful new method of crossing interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace. This incredible propulsion system temporarily launches the ship through every part of conceivable space simultaneously, and the only payoff is a temporary bout of extremely high improbability, which can cause hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, or a complete rewrite of the ships entire internal environment at a molecular level. Known effects have included the creation, and spontaneous upending, of a million-gallon vat of custard, marrying Michael Saunders, the transformation of a pair of guided nuclear missiles into a whale and a bowl of petunias, and transforming one of its crew into a penguin.

1 – The TARDIS – Doctor Who

tardis

The TARDIS may not look like much of a spaceship, but its abilities exceed all of the other ships on this list combined. Capable of traveling anywhere in time and space, the TARDIS can quite literally take its crew anywhere in any time period, and even other dimensions under the right conditions. If that were not enough, the ship is dimensionally transcendental, meaning the interior exists in a separate dimension to the exterior, creating the illusion that it is bigger on the inside, and the interior of the TARDIS is so vast that after over 2,000 years of owning the ship the Doctor has still not managed to fully map the floor plan. The TARDIS is alive, in a sense, and can alter and reshape its interior to suit the needs of its occupants, as well as allowing for a huge amount of internal systems such as a karaoke bar, a cinema, a library and a swimming pool, all of which occasionally move, change, or in rare cases fuse (causing the swimming pool to sometimes appear in the library). The ship is shielded to the extent that Dalek missiles – of which less than 10 are needed to eradicate a planet – don’t even scratch the blue box. Undoubtedly, no other spaceship in Sci-Fi even comes close to beating the TARDIS.

tardis interior.jpg

And that’s our list of the Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like, and you can follow us and like us on Facebook for more content like this. If you have your own list of Top 10 Sci-Fi spaceships, be sure to leave it down in the comments below!