Archive for the ‘PC’ Category

2020: Year of Halo – Part 3: It Was All A Blur

It… might actually happen. We’re now over halfway through the year, and somehow also over halfway through the Master Chief Collection‘s chronological rollout of PC-optimised Halo games. As the rest of the gaming industry attempts to navigate the pitfalls of 2020’s justified uncertainty, Microsoft continues to drop its tantalising sci-fi FPS breadcrumb trail. And so at long last, sixteen years after the fact, I have finally finished the Halo 2 campaign.

But for goodness’ sake, dear reader, let’s not undersell this; sixteen years after the fact, I have finally played Halo 2.

If 2002 was an exciting year marked by the seemingly limitless possibility of a new console generation – where even Nintendo fanboys could marvel at the possibilities of a company like Microsoft joining the console war – 2004 was defined by entrenched teenage loyalties for yours truly. I won’t hesitate to admit that I have no memories of any hype around Halo 2‘s initial release – When I wasn’t dealing with high school drama I was too busy immersing myself in what would become three of my favourite games of all time: Tales of Symphonia, Pokemon Leaf Green and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. My brother also got a PS2 that year, with two controllers and the original Star Wars Battlefront to boot. I had more than enough to chew on, and my friends at the time weren’t exactly Halo superfans.

And so years later, when I found myself in the Microsoft ecosystem thanks to my very own Xbox 360, the reverence I discovered for the second Halo game came as a bit of a shock. But I still didn’t dive in, because Halo 3 was already out and, well, we’ll get to that. Long story short, in 2020 I still knew much less about Halo 2 than I thought I did, and most of my experience playing the game felt wonderfully fresh as a result.

That is, when it worked.

Yes, this post arrives perhaps a month or two later than I wanted because for far too long I could not get a co-op game running with my Combat Evolved partner. No matter how many fixes we googled, what settings and configurations we changed, those first few weeks after Halo 2 launched in early May were beyond frustrating. We could play competitive multiplayer, but not campaign. When life (and other videogame releases) got in the way, we benched the idea until one day in late July, when our schedules aligned and at long last, I was able to take one of my favourite screenshots of the year so far:

I don’t know how much of this was due to my heat-of-the-moment decision to buy Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Steam after uninstalling the repeatedly disappointing Game Pass version, and how much was just months of game patches bearing fruit. All I know is I’ve never been happier to see the face of another Master Chief. Anyway, onto the game itself!

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2020: Year of Halo – Part 2: Co-op Evolved

They did it. The world is going crazy, but the mad lads at 343 Industries got another Halo campaign out on the PC in 2020. We are one step closer to achieving the Year of Halo.

The original Halo: Combat Evolved is – surprise surprise – hugely nostalgic for me. I had a friend who got the game Day 1 alongside four controllers at the 2002 launch of the original Xbox. I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but I was definitely jealous. As a Nintendo kid by trade I was already well used to console launches boosted by games in well-known franchises, so the Xbox came in with a definite disadvantage; but Bungie’s Halo was just so ridiculously polished that playing it made you quickly forget its status as a series debut. Halo didn’t originate twin-stick FPS controls, but it refined them and brought them into the mainstream; the jank of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark would never be convincingly disguised again. The splitscreen multiplayer experience on Blood Gulch is now legendary. I don’t think it’s that controversial to call Halo: Combat Evolved one of history’s greatest console launch titles.

But despite three or four attempts over the decades, I have never surpassed the second level of the first Halo campaign. The notoriously minimap-free level design has tripped me up on more than one half-hearted occasion over the years. That finally changed early last month, when I lined up a Halo-loving mate for another tilt at the campaign that started it all – now with yet another new coat of paint and a handy suite of fresh features on the mighty PC. Thanks to all manner of spicy technical difficulties, it would eventually take us almost two months to get it finished. But before we began, it was time to play some Halo multiplayer again at last.

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2020: Year of Halo – Part 1: A Bit of a Reach

Late in 2019 Microsoft did something rather devious – After a considerable period of drawn-out hype, the storied partnership between 343 Industries, Splash Damage and Ruffian Games bore its first meaningful piece of fruit for PC gamers; Halo: The Master Chief Collection took its first steps onto the wild plains of the personal computer. This was devious, of course, because it came roughly a year before the purported due date of the next Xbox console, and Microsoft has made a real point of saying that Halo Infinite will launch on the same day. What’s more, while only Halo: Reach is out on PC now, the remaining four-and-a-half Halo games are slated for staggered release over the course of 2020. Rarely has a pre-release run of hype dominoes been so tantalisingly lined up.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a year of Halo.

Now I have only finished one Halo campaign in my life – ODST – and only because it was a mostly irrelevant sub-story. I’ve been playing Halo games for a long time, but the lore and plot hasn’t ever really had a chance to grab me. One of the reasons I was so readily able to rank Halo 5 so high in 2015, after all, was my complete disinterest in its campaign. To me, Halo has always been about the presentation and the multiplayer.

But with such a ready-made setup, I will likely never have a better chance to get into the main story of gaming’s most famous contribution to the sci-fi canon. The motivation just wouldn’t be there otherwise. So, Halo: Reach, here we go; it’s time at last for me to finish your campaign.
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The Games of Not-2018

2018 felt a little different to me in terms of the way I used my free time on videogames. For whatever reason – be it a less intense schedule of new releases that interested me, weariness of the same old drop-everything-to-play-the-new-thing habits, finally acquiring a decent gaming PC, or a combination of all three – I was somehow more OK with the idea of putting time into older games this year. So I feel like it wouldn’t be a full representation of my 2018 in videogames if I didn’t jot down some quick thoughts on them. I also figured I’d include remasters or re-releases on this page too, just to take some heat off the main list.

I’ve listed the games roughly in the order I played them this year. I’ve also listed either the most prominent initial release version of each game or, where relevant, the version I owned or played back in the day instead. Then on the line underneath I’ve noted the version I played in 2018. Stop looking at me like that, I have to catalogue these things properly.

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Pokemon Crystal Version

GBC Release: 2001
3DS Virtual Console Release: 2018
How much I played: Start to finish including Kanto, 25+ hrs

I was super-vulnerable to this release when it hit the 3DS eShop in late Jan. There wasn’t much else to play and I was about to head off on a coastal family holiday. The rest I wrote down in its own separate post which you can read here.

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Final Fantasy XIII

PS3 Release: 2010
Steam Release: 2014
How much I played: The first ten chapters and some messing around in Chapter 11 makes 30+ hrs

Not gonna even try to hide it – seeing this game run in forced 4K on some YouTube video last year was a huge percentage of the reason the dominoes fell and I finally invested in a gaming laptop. After a discussion with a friend about whether FF XIII really did look better than XV in parts or whether that was just our memory of it, I had to jump back in after a decade and it turns out that, despite a truly, ridiculously awful port job, the game’s astonishing art direction sings in higher resolutions. I did play more than half of the game again, hoping to dive into a proper thousands-of-words retrospective, but the gaming calendar moves fast. Near the end of the year Microsoft gave the XIII trilogy a huge Xbox One X-supported backwards compatibility push, so who knows, maybe Square has more plans for a re-release or something. Either way, I will write that post one day. I will.

 

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It’s Hard Out Here on a Mac

As we come towards the end of another guest week, storied tech enthusiast jonwestenberg touches on a very familiar topic for many.

—Written by jonwestenberg—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

There’s a long established tradition that any kind of gaming is almost impossible when using what the kids (from the late 70’s) call an Apple Mackintosh Personal Computer. You’d be hard pressed to find any new release games that debut on Mac as well as for Windows PCs. The reasons for this are pretty varied; partly, it’s due to the wide spread dominance of Windows machines in the 90’s as the open platform was widely adopted by third party manufacturers, making the install base so much wider. Another reason is Apple’s walled garden that prevents users from upgrading or modifying their computers.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a history of Mac games development. If you’re a Halo user who hasn’t played the Bungie classic Marathon series, you’re missing out on an integral part of Halo’s development history, which is deeply rooted in that early, groundbreaking sci-fi shooter. However, it’s been a long time since Mac was a platform that supported real gaming.

As a gamer and a Mac user, I’ve been keeping an eye on Mac gaming over the past few years, and while it’s not as bleak as it once was, you’ll find that there are still enough obstacles to Mac gaming that it’s not entirely worth your while.

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A Borderlands Retrospective

Rolling on to the entertaining thoughts of tehdr4g0n, an accomplished medical practitioner with fiery opinions and a blog you can check out at the bottom of this page!

—Written by tehdr4g0n—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

Before I begin this article in earnest, I’d like to thank Ryan for featuring me on his blog. In doing so, the man shows a remarkable degree of courage, considering my usual style. With this in mind, I’ve toned things down a little.

So, on to the actual content of the article. With the recent release of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, this seems as good a time as any to take a look at the Borderlands franchise as a whole. In other words, strap yourselves in because I’m about to talk about three Borderlands games, and various aspects of each. Full disclosure, I’m going to talk about my own experience and thoughts on each game, so there won’t be any philosophical discourse on this article. It’s just going to be my experience and opinion on each instalment in one of my favourite franchises of all time.

Borderlands

The original Borderlands game, released in 2009, was adventurous and different. For any whose memories of the time are hazy, this was the year of Uncharted 2; the auspicious first release of Dragon Age: Origins; James Cameron wowing the world with pretty trees and blue aliens in Avatar; and me curled in a little ball trying to ignore the calamity that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Yes, more stuff happened, no I’m not going to name them all. That was just off the top of my head.

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…Not.

Sorry LoL, the Monado is waiting.

Why I’ve Decided to Give Up All Other Games and Just Play League of Legends

My dear friends, I am tired.

I’m tired of videogame release after videogame release, all vying for my attention and my increasingly dwindling pool of time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last several hectic months of my life, it’s that there is such a thing as spreading yourself too thin. If you play too many games, regardless of your good intentions, it becomes near impossible to do justice to any of them.

So I’m done.

Not with games per se, but with playing so very many games. The Final Fantasies, Legend of Zeldas and Call of Duties of the world will hardly miss me if I leave them in my past in order to focus on new horizons. New and insanely popular horizons. Yes, the world’s most played game is calling my name, and its name, of course, is League of Legends.

I may only have dabbled in the game in the past, but what I have played is enough to convince me that I’m making the right call here. There just isn’t a more replayable game out there – it just flat-out doesn’t exist. Every game of LoL is different, and though it’s surprisingly easy to get your head around at first, its sheer, near-bottomless depth, constantly shifting metagame and regular content updates have made it one of the biggest eSports on the planet. And, i mean, have you seen an official League of Legends eSports broadcast? They are so polished I sometimes can’t tell whether I’m watching a traditional sporting presentation or not.

It’s bananas, yo.

I’m not saying I’ll ever be any good at the game, but I’m starting to see what all the hype is about, and it’s just about time to take the plunge. Faced with less free time than I’ve ever had in my life before, League of Legends offers me what other games cannot – an experience that never truly ends, but can be enjoyed in bite-sized pieces. 27 million daily players cannot be wrong.

See you online.

 

Game Review: Towerfall Ascension

This review was an unfinished draft destined for obscurity a month or two ago, but now Sony has announced that the game is free on Playstation Plus this month, so hello relevance! Only a couple of days left to add this one to your cart for no cost, though.

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Platform:
PS4, PC
Developer:
Matt Makes Games
Rating: PG
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I've never reviewed a download-only game before on this blog, so this presentation style is a trial.

I’ve never reviewed a download-only game before on this blog, so this presentation style is a trial.

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It’s Bow-etry in Motion.
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Spawning, taking a split second to line up a perfect cross-stage shot, loosing an arrow that pins one opponent to the wall, double-jumping over to his corpse to retrieve both your arrow and his, leaping down to meet a fresh airborne assault, timing a button press just right to catch an incoming projectile, retaliating instantly with a pair of arrows to nab a second kill, feinting a ranged attack on the sole remaining player before accelerating your fall and ending her with a swift head-stomp. All your opponents are in the same room as you, and all you need to do is glance around with a grin on your face to confirm their priceless rage.

The spirit of cut-throat local competitive multiplayer is not dead, nor is it exclusive to Nintendo consoles. Towerfall Ascension is proof enough of that. It’s charming, manic and highly customisable, and over four months after its launch it remains unquestionably my favourite game currently available on the PS4.

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The Power of the Steam Sale

Day number two. Here’s a friend of mine who has recently followed the light at the end of the Steam-powered tunnel.

—Written by CrAk3rs—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

Steam and sales – two words that are burnt into the minds of the lucky people who are part of the glorious PC Master Race, (sorry console kids). The sales are those of legend, creating hysteria, hype and pandemonium, ravaging our wallets of the hard earned cash that we have so long worked for.  But Steam hasn’t always been the go-to marketplace for PC. Believe it or not there once was a time where people were highly critical of the platform.

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