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  • Halo Infinite Review: Eyes Up Spartan

    Halo shoots for the moon and destroys the moon! As we gain access to Infinite‘s various modes, we’ll begin to analyse them in the lead up to a final decision ahead of its full release. Let’s get into it, shall we? Single-player campaign Note: This portion of our review in progress will follow Microsoft’s preview guidelines, which consist of four campaign missions and a slice of Halo exploration. A franchise as old as the Xbox itself, Bungie created an instant classic with Halo: Combat Evolved. It followed suit with several spectacular sequels — Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach — before bowing out and moving over to the fabled Destiny franchise. With the IP firmly in Microsoft’s hands, a new studio called 343 Industries was born and charged with continuing the Master Chief’s legacy. Halo 4 very much felt and played like a classic Halo game, though introduced an entirely new enemy faction in the form of the Prometheans. The new faction also allowed for new hardlight weaponry and skills that the Chief had never used before; 343’s sequel also introduced us to the likes of Spartan Sarah Palmer and the UNSC Infinity, opening the world of Halo up like never before. All up, it was a sign that 343 could be trusted to carry the fabled franchise forward. This was followed up by Halo 5 Guardians, which did every little thing wrong with the giant exception of multiplayer. The Chief took a backseat, playing second fiddle to a new Spartan named Locke and a conflict that you knew was going to wrap up far before the game itself did. Co-op was key; Spartans no longer were killed on the field but first downed, meaning you’d have to go and revive a mate (or go and help an AI teammate… or vice-versa) out instead. Gameplay felt better suited for a Call of Duty title than Halo, and the only real saving grace of campaign was the story of the Chief, his Blue Team compatriots and the ongoing rampancy of his trusty (not so trusty) AI, Cortana. In part, Halo Infinite ignores all of this, throwing the story forward in time and offering up what TV producers would term a ‘mystery box’ for us to solve. The Chief is called back into action on Zeta Halo after (again) being listed as missing in action. In that time, the fight was finished — and the UNSC lost. Chief is awakened not by Cortana — her whereabouts and fate are unknown — an instead by an unnamed pilot only referred to as Echo 216. The fight against the Prometheans or any remaining Flood no longer matters; instead, the Chief needs to save the UNSC soldiers who’ve been stranded on Zeta Halo with depleting reserves and little sense of hope. Halo Infinite is a reboot in many ways but at the same times carries forward 343’s established storyline. It admittedly helps to know what’s happened in previous Halo games — including the Halo Wars franchise — but it’s not necessary. Chief is soon coupled with The Weapon, Cortana in appearance but not in attiude (nor in colour) and throws himself at wave after wave of Brutes, Grunts, Jackals and Elites, now branded as The Banished rather than the Covenant. If this seems like a complaint, it’s not; so far, Halo Infinite has proven to be a shining example of what a Halo game is while simultaneously feeling fresh, invigorated and very modern. I’m attibuting most of that success to the Chief’s new grappleshot tool. As experienced in Infinite multiplayer, the grappleshot is just one tool at the Chief’s disposal, and one that drastically changes gameplay. You can use it to zip around the map, disrupt Jackal shielding, nab weapons that are out of reach and just so much more. Playing on Heroic difficulty, I found it was a perfect way to fight aggressively and then zip away to relative safety when needed. My only real problem with the grappleshot is that it’s too good — I’ve rarely seen the need to swap out to a threat sensor and I continue to forget I don’t have access to the tool at all times in multiplayer and end up looking a right fool. Tools aside, all of Halo‘s iconic core remains intact. There are familiar weapons, vehicles and enemies (alongside the introduction of new weapons, of course, but they feel very familiar as anyone playing multiplayer already knows). These tools form the heart of the sandbox that is Infinite, essentially Halo 3 ODST on steroids. As the player, you have freedom to head straight to a main mission objective or instead divert to a Forward Operating Base (FOB), Banished Outpost, UNSC marine rescue, high value targets and more. The Zeta Halo is absolutely gorgeous and extremely varied, with insane terrain that just begs you to get creative with the grappleshot. Your sense of exploration as the player (and perhaps duty as the Chief) is rewarded through new weaponry, tool upgrades in Spartan Points and the all too important currency of Valor, which in turn unlocks more weaponry and vehicles back at any FOB. So far, this combination of old-school game from a new angle has proved incredibly enjoyable. Main missions feel like main missions, while side content is a lovely, Halo-feeling palate cleanser. The Chief’s not going on fetch quests or stopping to play checkers with some UNSC marines taking a break, he’s instead traversing the Zeta Halo, taking names and kicking ass. Character and Combat Director Steve Dyck told me that Infinite‘s philosophy was to say yes to the player, and so far it’s done just that. From the removal of fall damage to the introduction of throwable Power Cores, every action you make feels like a Spartan-fuelled power play. You are strong. You are fierce. You are the only one who can save the remnants of humanity on Zeta Halo… and I can’t wait for the chance to jump back into Infinite‘s campaign and do just that. Surprisingly, Infinite‘s Academy section is robust, a primer for multiplayer but with applications we imagine will extend into the campaign as well. At the forefront of the Academy is a tutorial that introduces new players to Halo‘s mechanics by way of a hidden Spartan Academy (named the Avery J Johnson Academy of Military Science in a great throwback to Halo of old) that trains a new flock of elite soldiers while the Master Chief and his compatriots on the UNSC Infinity hunt down Cortana on the Zeta Halo. Lead by Spartan Laurette Agryna, the tutorial begins with a cutscene that shows us just how the fourth-generation Spartan came to join the cause. In command of a ragtag bunch of new Spartan recruits, Agryna teaches you the basics and puts you through your paces. You’re first introduced to your new AI companion named BUTLR (though you can go and customise this later on — I recommend FRET, cause it’s awesome) before tasked to take down a movement course and a shooting range before heading into a bot match to chain your knowledge together. There are a number of Achievements tied to the exercises, so it’s well worth doing for that let alone the introduction to Agryna, who also serves double duty as the overseer of Infinite’s multiplayer Multiplayer With the campaign locked firmly away until December, the meat and potatoes of Infinite lies in its multiplayer for the time being… and perhaps after that as well. While the campaign will set (non-Xbox Game Pass subscribers) back an additional fee come next month, multiplayer is free-to-play. Those looking to kit out their Spartan — like I’ve done above thanks to a spiffy new HCS Cloud9 colour scheme that I’m just pretending is a Stevivor one — can do so with one-off microtransactions or a purchaseable Premium Battle Pass that unlocks new items as you progress. The Battle Pass thankfully never expires, meaning a player can purchase the functionality and pick away at it at their own progress. Those who rush through it may find themselves a little bored in Infinite‘s first season however; it’s technically started earlier than planned and runs long into May 2022. That all aside, multiplayer is crazy fun. It was great back in the Infinite multiplayer technical test and it remains so today. I’ve literally just spent the better part of 12 hours — basically, since its surprise announcement — playing, and I regret nothing (apart from forgetting to shower until very, very recently). It’s fast-paced but not as ridiculous as Call of Duty Vanguard‘s insanely fast time-to-kill (TTK), with a range of weapons that actually feel different from one another. The Sidekick handgun is ever-reliable as ever, and I find myself gravitating to the VK78 Commando or battle rifle on mid-range and smaller maps alongside a trusty CQS48 Bulldog on smaller ones. The Commando’s great a long-range when you zoom in with LT, but otherwise I’ll treat it like a Halo of old and just hip fire when a baddie is nearby. Big Team Battle means you’ll need to change up your tactics, with weapons like the Skewer, the Ravager and a trusty sniper rifle going a long way. Maps feel relatively fresh — though somehow a tad samey at the same time — but all have their strengths and weaknesses. Recharge as an example is great for Slayer (kill the blues… though they’re not the blues anymore) and Strongholds (secure the points!) while it can be a bit of a mess in Oddball if the one team can get into the vents; it’s a relatively easy area to protect. Streets seems to be the Stronghold map of choice, with three positions that are easy to just continually rotate around, though a rocket launcher spawn in the middle will certainly draw your attention away from the capping dance. I kept finding myself playing Capture the Flag on Bazaar, which works well with a variety of long sightlines and vertical vantage points. Big Team Battle (BTB) is hectic, but in the right ways. We’ve only had one Stockpile match thusfar, but BTB is great because you can really play to your strengths and support a team without it being a 4v4 affair. If you’re good at sniping, sit back on the point and pick away. If you’re a vehicle guy, jump in a warthog and slam on that horn until someone jumps on the gun. Matches today seem pretty balanced; all have been close calls and nothing feels like a waste of time. Again, it’s easier to digest than Vanguard and without the five minutes of running to a point only to be sniped like in Battlefield 2042. There’s a learning curve in finding weapon and vehicle spawns, alongside one where you need to realise what weapons and equipment will be effective where, but that’s half the fun. Really, the only thing I don’t enjoy about Infinite‘s multiplayer at this point is its Battle Pass system. Sure, the mode’s free and the pass never expires, but I’ve been playing all day and I’ve only reached level 3. That’s because 1) I didn’t spend extra money to jump up 25 levels and 2) I’m having fun playing how I play; the problem with the Battle Pass is that you only progress through completion of challenges which you cannot swap out unless you’re of a higher pass ranking or pay to do so. Otherwise, you’ll have a challenge that tasks you to go and commandeer that one Banshee that spawns in a BTB match and kill five baddies as if you’re John McClane… or John-117. I’d much rather my Boxer, Killing Spree and Perfect medals — or simply just the score that I’m racking up in each game — feed into my progress rather than a random, proprietary system that seems designed to make you play in a different way than you’d like or simply just exists to impede your natural progress. Stay tuned for updates and a final deliberation

  • 'Battlefield 2042' Promises to Fix Launch Issues With Two Big Updates

    Despite launching less than a week ago, Battlefield 2042 has quickly become one of the worst-rated games on Steam, amassing almost 30,000 negative reviews in the span of just days. Now, hearing player feedback, EA and DICE have promised to bring a series of fixes to the game through two major updates coming in the near future. Scheduled for tomorrow, the second update to the game will introduce a series of important tweaks to existing gameplay. A new respawn protection system will fix the bug where downed players have stayed in that state for too long, while revives have been optimized so you won’t suffer from being too close to walls or objects. Balancing mechanisms will be introduced for both the LCAA Hovercraft as well as the MD540 Nightbird, and UAV-1 will also be adjusted in Portal mode. Most importantly, weapon bullet spreads will also be tweaked to reduce dispersion and increase consistency. A third update will follow shortly and bring a series of fixes to everything from user interface and matchmaking systems to map changes and accuracy improvements for weapons. “We couldn’t be more passionate about this game and will be supporting and evolving it for years to come,” reads a statement from the developer. “The teams across the globe are working 24/7 to evolve and deliver improvements to the game.” For those playing, the second major update will arrive on November 25, followed by the third in early December.

  • 'League of Legends' 2022 World Championship Will Be Hosted In 4 Different Cities

    Less than a month after concluding its 2021 Worlds event in Iceland where EDG took home the victory, Riot Games is now looking forward to the League of Legends 2022 World Championship, announcing that it’ll be the first-ever multi-city tournament. Spreading across four parts of North America, next year’s championship will take place in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, San Francisco’s Chase Center, and Mexico City’s Liga Latinoamerica arena. Aside from being the first of its kind to run concurrently at numerous cities, the 2022 occasion will also mark the first return to the North American region for the first time since 2016. “The momentum behind League of Legends Esports has only continued to grow since the last time we hosted Worlds in the U.S. in 2016. We’re thrilled to bring the full scale of our global sport back to North America, and, COVID permitting, welcome fans into the stands across three countries and four different cities,” said Naz Aletaha, the global head of League of Legends esports. “Worlds is the showcase of the greatest of our sport, and we look forward to celebrating that with our fans in North America and across the world.” There are currently no official dates for the event just yet, so fans of the game should stay tuned for more updates to come.

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