Halo 4

There are different ways to take over an established franchise from another studio. Some make it clear upfront that they are not the same studio and make a completely new game where only the name and a few lore references are maintained. Others try to reimagine and modernize the basic gameplay while making sure the ideas are still intact, and still others strive to be as faithful to the original as they possibly can. Halo 4 is definitely in the last category and 343 studios have very carefully followed the formula laid out by Bungie.

This makes Halo 4 feel very familiar – the only thing that did change notably is the story. In this regard, it feels like Halo ODST, but the difference is that Halo 4 hints at wanting to be something more. The new enemy types and weapons are an attempt at establishing new lore that ties in with the existing story surprisingly well, but the resistance they pose and the weapons they drop differ little from what is already there.

The story is told better than the previous Halo games – some of it doesn’t quite agree with my perception of what Halo should be but that’s probably a personal thing. And even if Halo 4 does not add anything to the Halo formula, it executes the Halo formula really well. I look forward to seeing if 343 expand on the gameplay in the next iteration.

Posted on Mar 03/13 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Mark of the Ninja

More than anything else, Mark of the Ninja gives the player the feeling of being a stealthy assassin. Moving around is smooth and reading the environment is easy – except for a few sections where the story dictates otherwise, you are always in control of the environment. When stealth is easy and obvious, clearing a room becomes a puzzle instead of a timing challenge – unlike most other stealth games, Mark of the Ninja is about what you do with your skills rather than actually doing it. The scenarios are never particularly difficult so after grasping the basics it becomes more of a sandbox to play around with – the challenge suffers, but the feeling is still there.

It does have some slightly annoying platforming to go along with it though. Checkpoints are occasionally few and far between so attempting to clear certain bonus objectives becomes a frustrating exercise in repeating mundane tasks. The way Mark of the Ninja makes the game harder for a second playthrough is by removing the UI, which does not really enhance what’s unique and good about the game, it just makes it more frustrating.

It is a gorgeous game though – the graphics are moody and manages to give you a ton of clues in an elegant manner. It offers a variety of ways to play it and encourages you to try them all. It is visceral and responsive – no matter if it is relatively easy, picking off guards in a room one by one never gets old.

… In addition, and this seems to be becoming a theme;

The Bridge is a nice puzzle-platformer that looks like an Escher- sketch and consists of rotating the world around you. It has some really clever mechanics and devious puzzles – sadly, it suffers a bit from the very limited set of inputs. For the first third of the game puzzles are mundane, after that they become a bit hard to read and often reliant on precision movement – I had to try things in small increments on many levels which became frustrating since the game was so slow. Still, there are a decent number of really intelligent puzzles in there and it looks really good.

Posted on Mar 02/13 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »