Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Accurate Look at: "Halo Legends"

Say what you want about fratboys' favourite game involving using thumbsticks to have generic Mary Sue space marines shoot at each other, but the Halo universe is surprisingly deep and fleshed-out, unlike many of the franchise's fans. Whether you like the games for the story, the music, the technology, the characters, the world design, or the multiplayer, or are just a fan of the comics, novels, or merchandise and have never played the games, there's something for you in Halo Legends. Even if you're not very familiar with the Halo universe, Legends is an exciting sci-fi journey that will introduce you to the war-torn galaxy and thrust you into it.

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Halo Legends is a series of eight animated episodes (the first two being halves of one story), made by Production I.G, the group responsible for the groundbreaking Ghost in the Shell anim├ęs (without a doubt, 2nd Gig is one of the greatest seasons of television I have ever had the privilege of watching, animated or otherwise). The first 2 chapters introduce the history of the Halo universe. As a PC gamer who hasn't yet played Halo 2 since I wasn't going to get a new OS just to play it and Halo 3 isn't even available yet, these episodes were helpful in getting me caught up. They're slow, but dark. Chapter 3, "The Duel," is a heavily-stylized tale featuring the Arbiter being torn between duty and honour. Chapter 4 is titled "Homecoming" and follows a Spartan-II subject who didn't want to be chosen, and features one of the songs right from the soundtrack of HALO: Combat Evolved used particularly effectively. Chapter 5, "Odd One Out," is the story of (I kid you not), Spartan 1337, the clumsy one (remind you of anyone?). It serves as much-needed comic relief, considering the depth and darkness of the other shorts. Chapter 6, "Prototype," is a return to seriousness, in which a troubled sergeant tries to fight the ghosts of his past. (Also, the vehicle introduced in this chapter SERIOUSLY needs to be made into an action figure.) I should also mention that fans of Production I.G's Ghost in the Shell series might pick up on a reference they planted in this episode. The seventh chapter is called "The Babysitter" and follows some ODSTs on the mission of their lives. Which might just be the last mission of their lives. And the final short, "The Package," is a CG-animated space-flying dog-fighting battle as a team of Spartans, led by the Master Chief himself, attempt to retrieve a package stolen by the Covenant.

Legends is immensely enjoyable and exceeded my expectations. The format of a series of short films works to its advantage, showing different facets of the war in ways a single two-hour film could not. My biggest complaint about Legends is the lack of the games' original voice actors. Having Cortana voiced by anyone other than the lovely Jen Taylor just feels wrong. Granted, the actress who gives Legends' Cortana her voice does sound like Jen, but she can't act like Jen, and her performance unfortunately falls somewhat flat. I also found the ending to be a letdown. Sure, I see what they did there, but I was expecting more, especially since it started so strongly.

Halo Legends is an epic journey through time and space, across planets, peoples, and battlefields. The scope of the film is remarkable. There's much more here than just guys in space suits blowing stuff up. The seven-action packed tales present a galaxy in peril and the brave efforts of soldiers doing their jobs with impossible odds against them. I also particularly enjoyed how they portrayed the Spartans: they are looked up to by their fellow soldiers, they are feared by their enemies, and they are devastating when unleashed in the field -- but they are human. They are fallible. And they are mortal.

Legends' seven action-packed tales of sacrifice and honour are exciting, but also touching and powerful. Never thought you'd hear something Halo-related be "touching," did you? And that damn sad tune gets to me every time. Legends reveals the grit and pain of war. It's not all pulling a trigger and getting Gamerscore, boys and girls.

Halo Legends is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and as 2-disc special edition DVD set. And no, you won't get any Achievements by watching it, but that's not a reason to avoid this adventure. Frat boy Halo fans will clearly not see the merit in Halo Legends. But for all you Halo fans out there with taste, Legends is not to be missed.

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The Legacy of Rapture Continues...

So, recently - several years after its initial release - I obtained a copy of Bioshock. And finished it quite promptly. To say the least, I was sucked wholly into the world of Rapture and its filthy and degenerate populace. The game's steampunk-esque world and intricate storyline are worth the buy alone. The game itself plays like a dream, alternating between plasmids (like superpowers...that become part of your DNA) and regular weapons. The hacking system was fun, the graphics beautiful, the game just the right level of challenging. And for those who like to simply rush through games in order to reach the ending, I don't recommend this for Bioshock. I recommend taking the extra few minutes to explore small areas and discover the tape recorders which reveal background plot and secret information about Rapture, widening its range even further. Although the end Boss fight was a might to quickly finished in my opinion, the game itself was hours of fun and includes hours of re-playability with different plasmid and tonic (like...body enhancements) choices.

The story is that you are a man on a plane in 1959 and you crash in the ocean, stumbling upon a lighthouse like structure in the middle of the ocean. You enter and discover the underwater city of Rapture, a city meant for the worlds best and brightest to be themselves with no hindrance - an intellectual Utopia. But it has all gone horribly wrong, with gene-splicers gone mad, raving and violent, everywhere. You are helped by man via radio named Atlas who tells you you must take down Andrew Ryan, Rapture's creator and current Head Honcho. Along the way you must collect ADAM to buy upgrades and extra plasmids and tonics. The only way to do so is to harvest or rescue a Little Sister...who is protected by the heavily armored and deadliest creature in Rapture, the Big Daddy.

Luckily for me, when I received and finished Bioshock, Bioshock 2 was only within a month of release. So, I pre-ordered, and I got. I finished Bioshock 2 and was left just as impressed as I was before, I refreshing feeling from a sequel. Considering it was almost three years on in development, I suppose it was likely to be good. The adventure continues, but this time it is ten years on since the end of Bioshock and you are playing the Alpha Series of Big Daddies, your name is Delta. One of the original, plasmid using, more independent thinking Big Daddies, your quest to save Rapture from itself continues.

The game-play did not go untouched, however. Plasmids have been edited and made severely better. Enemies have been made tougher, and some new faces show up - it can't be all the same, your a Big Daddy now. The system for hacking was changed, not for the better I feel, but I suppose to a more realistic format. At least, compared to previously. The ADAM gathering, which is now done by adopting a Little Sister as your own so she can collect the ADAM from the "angels" (Can you see the light in their tummies?), is incredibly hard. Or, can be. The game is surely tougher, despite the fact you are constantly dual wielding plasmids and weapons at the same time, including the signature Big Daddy drill.

The new nemsis, Sophia Lamb, has taken over Rapture and attempted to mold it in her image - and that imagine is reminiscent of a certain Dorian Grey. New splicers and Big Daddies attempt to stop you on your quest to save the Little Sisters and take down Sophia Lamb and her new weapons, the Big Sisters.

A fun game with many hours of game-play and re-playability, this game is highly worth the expense. And if you're into art and music, I recommend the Rapture Edition which includes the soundtrack of Bioshock 1 on vinyl, the soundtrack of Bioshock 2 on CD, the Art Book for Bioshock 2 and some Rapture posters. Mahalo.