“But this wasn’t the mission. The mission’s changed, they always do.”
Written by: Gamewriter (Michael Abraham)
Xbox confirmed its next-generation Halo title, Halo Infinite. The head of 343 studios, Bonnie Ross and Creative Director Joseph Staten talk about the legacy of Xbox and Halo, as they both mark their 20th anniversaries respectively. For the first time ever across Xbox and PC, players will be able to play multiplayer with no barriers, as Halo Infinite’s multiplayer will be free to play at launch.
A brief clip was shown of the ‘Zeta Halo’ ring which was seen previously during the first look demo, followed by a new campaign cutscene showing off the next chapter of the MasterChief’s story. Chief is seen floating through space making his way to a space station while remembering the past but reassuring his comrade of the future. Not much is known apart from the fact that this will be Chief’s greatest challenge yet, as we see the unveiling of a new AI who you’d think is Cortana’s sister. Chief learns that Cortana has been deleted mysteriously following her rampancy from the last game. The cutscene ends with this new AI joining the Chief just like Cortana always did.
Microsoft finished the announcement by debuting a first look at multiplayer which will get fans hyped up. It looks like classic Halo with a load of fun new stuff added, such as new vehicles and the grappling hook. But no announcement was made about when the game was going to be released this year.
Halo Infinite is coming this year to Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One and PC.
The Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase dropped a killer trailer showing off the fast paced action and blitzing all out war for the next Battlefield in the series. The tactical shooter shows all the goodness of tanks, RPGs and close quarters combat that will be brought to the forefront, with a new element of twist for multiplayer this year. Vicious tornados will be something players will have to look out for while fighting in eccentrically lighted cities.
Another new feature showed weapon modifications being swapped out, but whether this will be live in-game or just a part of the trailer is unclear due to the footage being pre-alpha state. The trailer resonated with the likes of Battlefield 3’s multiplayer on steroids. So whether you’re on foot, in air, riding a three-wheeler or crashing a chopper; enter the next era and experience an all-out war on an ever changing battlefield.
Battlefield 2042 releases October 22nd 2021 on Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC, PS4 and PS5.
There was a time when Xbox was rising out of nowhere and going from strength to strength, we saw Microsoft unveil the original Xbox with the launch of Halo: Combat Evolved. We saw Xbox 360 and Halo 3 take the console to many homes across the world and became the most popular console.
Xbox was on top of the world, you could say slightly ignorant too because in 2013, Xbox would suffer one of the biggest presentation flops the gaming industry has ever seen. The company started to forget why they were so successful and what mattered most at the heart of it all: we, the gamers.
The majority thought Xbox was done for, nothing seemed to be going right for them, Halo 5 was the worst game in the franchise among fans due to its story, Gears of War 4 had a mediocre story that didn’t pull fans in like the original trilogy and certain console exclusives were delayed for extended periods or right out cancelled all together. Anybody remember Scalebound?
Xbox was humbled and through all the tests and trials they faced, one thing remained; their perseverance. 2014 saw a new Head of Xbox, a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of Phil Spencer. They say it takes a great leader to turn the tide when no one else thinks it can be done. If the MasterChief is Halo’s knight in shining armour, you could say Phil Spencer was the equivalent for Xbox.
He was a man who engaged with the audience, he really cared about what gamers had to say, he realised it was about listening to the community that made them successful to begin with. Each and every year when E3 came, we began to see small but crucial steps being taken by Phil. We began to see Xbox continue to hold E3 Briefings and engage more with the community while Sony started to drop out of E3 and act like they had it in the bag.
Having the frank, honest discussions such as realising that more console exclusives were needed, more game studios were being introduced in partnership with Xbox and giving more recognition and platform space to smaller indie developers. Phil welcomed game developers from all walks of life, it wasn’t about the household exclusives anymore, but about how Xbox can start to work and give back to the community and to its faithful gamer audience that stuck with them despite the failures.
Going in the Right Direction
Here are some of the foundational frameworks laid down by Phil Spencer in the space of just 7 years that I believe will draw more gamers and the general audience to Team Xbox this generation.
Backwards Compatibility – Truly Xbox is the King when it comes to delivering backwards compatibility, you can play games from all three previous gens on your current console. It’s never been done and unheard of, gamers love this.
Xbox One X: – “The World’s Most Powerful Console.” It really was at the time and being a mid-generation upgrade it demonstrated the power & put the PS4 Pro to shame.
Partnership of five game studios: – The Initiative, Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory & Compulsion Games.
X-Cloud Gaming Service: – This allows Game Pass members to play all their games on the go via their phone or PC.
The Xbox Game Pass: – One of the biggest weapons I believe they have in their arsenal today. PS Now can’t touch this.
Acquiring Zenimax Media: – Their biggest investment to date containing 8 studios. Future exclusives anyone?
Xbox Developer Mode: – Something not many were aware of, but this lets you turn your Xbox into a emulation beast.
The Xbox Series X/S: – Learning from the Xbox One X, next-gen comes in strong with the powerhouse of Series X.
Xbox Velocity Architecture: – Improves how Xbox Series X loads game assets from storage, known as asset streaming, while reducing the space those assets occupy on the drive.
From the blueprints listed above, I’m going to discuss the four most critical ones that will aid Xbox this generation like never before since they were introduced.
Xbox Game Pass
Not many people realise this, but with the recent global pandemic, Xbox and their idea of Game Pass was one of the most godsend opportunities that can set them up to a triumphant victory this generation. Why is this so important now than at any other time before? Because the next generation of gaming also brings us at a higher cost for videogames, just a standard edition of a game on PS5 retails at £69, with deluxe editions selling for £79 and ultimate editions going for £100.
Gone are the days when you only had 2-4 AAA titles being released, nowadays you have more games than you can count, and not enough time to play them all. You end up deciding which ones you’ll play for definite and which you’ll have to miss during the year. But even if you had three games releasing in the space of 2-3 weeks, think of the cost. For three standard edition games on PS5 you’d be paying £207, and not everyone will have the luxury to pay for all these games, more people will be inclined to Xbox’s Game Pass value for money service.
For £10.99 you get the Xbox Gold membership, access to multiplayer, crossplay between Xbox and PC, party access to chat to friends and best of all, access to over 100 titles, that keep getting updated, with many titles coming as a Day One release on Game Pass, titles such as The Outer Worlds and Outriders.
This is why I believe Game Pass is Xbox’s secret weapon, something I’m certain will not only appeal to gamers but the general audience too. Who wants to fork out £69 when you can play and try it out on release day with Game Pass?
Acquiring Zenimax Media
Nobody saw this one coming. I remember walking into work and having people who weren’t huge gamers like myself asking me if I knew about this. Xbox acquiring Bethesda for $7.5 billion dollars, I was stunned. But at the same time, it brought a surreal thought to the forefront of my mind, and that was just how serious Phil Spencer and Xbox were about their commitment to their gamer audience, and the community who have supported them through their restructure and rebuilding of the brand.
My next thought was, imagine The Elder Scrolls VI, Starfield, the next DOOM, and future titles being exclusive to Xbox, I was mind blown. We see a huge blueprint being put down to establish the brand to bring more bigger exclusives. One thing I know for sure, if The Elder Scrolls VI does become exclusive to Xbox, many people would buy an Xbox just for this massive title. Are you starting to see what I’m seeing yet? Team Xbox is taking all the necessary steps to be what it once was, the favourite son among gamers.
Xbox Series X/S + Developer Mode
Now that the next gen consoles have been released, and getting hands-on time with the Series X, I can see just how well Xbox has done right off the bat, the Series X is quite small, even though in the photos and videos it looked a lot bigger. But on closer inspection it’s form factor is unique and impressive compared to it’s previous predecessors, a perfect fit to be put away in a corner next to your TV or monitor, it hardly takes up much space. And it’s counterpart the Series S is even smaller and takes up even less room. Whereas the PS5 looks like it’s cousin the PS3. It’s big and clunky and takes up way more space especially if you’re trying to fit it into a TV cabinet.
Next let’s talk about Power, Series X at launch is being dubbed ‘The World’s Most Powerful Console.’ And they aren’t lying. If you check out the specs you’ll see the fact that the Xbox Series X is more powerful than the PS5. The Xbox Series X features a faster processor, clocked in at 3.8 GHz, and a better graphic processing unit (GPU) that’s a minimum 1.875 teraflops more powerful than the chip inside the PS5.
More power means that in the long run developers won’t be limited, they’ll have the ability to do more and utilise the Xbox taking full advantage of their games on the console. Similar to what was done when Xbox One X came and demonstrated the difference compared to the PS4 Pro.
Finally, there’s something called ‘Developer Mode.’ Did you know that with the Series X|S you can turn your Xbox into an emulation beast? That’s right, you can play games for the NES, SNES, N64, PSX, PS2, PS3, GameCube, PSP, and the Wii. Still thinking that Xbox can’t overtake the PS5 this generation? This news had spread like wildfire across the gaming community, for £249 not only can you get a next gen console, but Xbox is one console for every videogame now. There is a one-off fee of £20 which will allow you to access this mode on Xbox but after that you’re good to go.
In summary, Xbox are committed to showcasing things like never before, that make gamers and the community who supported them all the more reason to be proud of. When you have a console that is more backwards compatible with PlayStation than PlayStation itself, you can’t help but find the funny side to it, realising just how far the underdog has come since their downfall. It’s a really interesting time, and I’m rooting for the underdog to come back this generation and give Sony something to sweat about, and I truly believe we all win if that’s the case.
I remember looking back to the days when the Xbox 360 ruled the console era, and one of the titles that I didn’t expect to take off at that time was Assassin’s Creed. Though I heard nothing but praise from my peers, I was more interested in multiplayer at the time. I did find myself monitoring the series over the years, noticing some titles did extremely well while others not so much due a shaky release full of bugs and poor performance. Games were being released every year just like Call of Duty. It was getting to a point where quantity was being favoured over quality, and it started to show when the titles were released.
When this happened, Ubisoft decided to pause and take an extra year which gave them time to bring a soft reboot. Ready to showcase the next game in the series, the consensus was generally positive with the majority including myself being surprised by the path they were taking. This was the first time I was on board to buy an Assassin’s Creed game, fittingly named Origins which focused on the beginning of the Assassins. Though this direction was needed to save a horse that was dying, there were some trade-offs which became more noticeable with time as the series continued.
So, what are these trade-offs? Glad you asked, let’s talk about the latest installment: Valhalla. This definitely isn’t your typical Assassin’s Creed game, I’m 20 hours in and throughout my playthrough so far, I get the strong feeling that Ubisoft has forgotten what made Assassin’s Creed feel like it’s original predecessors. Now one could argue that I didn’t play the older games, but I did watch them on YouTube,and when you have friends who have played all of the games noticing what you are too then you know something is going wrong.
The biggest trade-offs I noticed in Valhalla was that I didn’t feel like I was an assassin. The reason I say this is because Valhalla focuses heavily on the theme of Norse mythology and the history of England in the ninth century. At times during my journey, I would totally forget that I was playing Assassin’s Creed, because it felt more like a ‘God of War’ spin-off title with Vikings.
Certain segments reminded me that I was an Assassin such as the Animus or when I could sneak up to assassinate an enemy. But when I’d travel with my clan to raid farms and villages, I found myself forgetting most of the time that my Viking is also an Assassin who can parkour his way around, if need be, and this is what hurts the game because Vikings were known for raiding and brawling not for sneaking around like a stealth killer. This could have easily been released as its own entity.
At the heart of the franchise, the spark is in the feeling of being an Assassin, but Valhalla falls short here to deliver this. In reality what we have here is a game about Vikings set in Norse mythology that attempts to deliver the Assassin’s Creed experience that just doesn’t work. But what does work is Valhalla, a stand-alone game without the Assassin’s Creed name.
“Lycans and Gentlemen! We thank you for waiting, and now let the games begin!“
The Horror genre was never a big thing in the gaming industry; in fact after the game industry crashed in 1983 there were only a few games that were even considered a horror experience in the decade that followed with titles such as “Alone in the Dark” and “System Shock.” But it wasn’t until Resident Evil or (Biohazard in Japan) made its way on the scene back in 1996.
This was the moment that really defined a true horror experience in gaming. It sparked a golden age in horror and game development which lasted from 1996 all the way into the early 2000s. Fast forward another decade and what we have now is a Survival Horror experience like never before. The all new title is the 8th major installment in the Resident Evil Franchise which established the genre nearly 25 years ago!
Three years have passed since the horrifying events of Resident Evil 7. The opening sequence starts with a fairytale style story reminiscent of something out of the Little Nightmares video game, which will catch you off guard, yet you’ll find amusing at the same time. The story narration ends with a cutscene of Mia Winters reading a bed-time story to her daughter Rose.
Everything seems fine at first. The opening shows Ethan and Mia living a peaceful life with their past behind them, taking on new roles as parents and introducing Rose Winters. But as you progress within the first 15 minutes of the game; you start to see cracks and the phycological effects hall-marked through the conversation the couple have. Mia wants to forget all that took place, while Ethan argues how can they forget?
Just as they are building their new life together, a shocking event occurs. As the couple are about to have dinner, Mia is sprayed by a barrage of bullets. The big surprise turns out to be Chris Redfield, the original hero from the Resident Evil series, is reunited with the couple and horribly disrupts them. It almost makes you think that could Chris have gone rogue.
Ethan and Rose are escorted out the home but end up in an accident. When Ethan regains consciousness he finds himself in a strange village trying to seek answers after being thrown into seemingly deadly circumstances.
Resident Evil Village takes a substantial leap forward on the Next-Gen consoles. When I downloaded the 1-hour demo and booted up the game, my initial reaction was “wow, this snow-covered village looks real!” I was mesmerised to the point where I was walking around and taking my time to appreciate what was there in front of me. From the frosted foliage to the detailed muddy terrains. If you really want to go all in and have the best experience make sure you have a 4K HDR TV or monitor that has a minimum of 60Hz and preferably either of the Next-Gen Consoles; Series X, PS5 or a high-end PC to be really immersed.
Like Resident Evil 7, you continue the first-person playthrough of Ethan Winters, with the focus on a Father trying to save his daughter and to what lengths he will go. Lost in a Village, that very much reminded me of Resident Evil 4, the nostalgia warmed my heart. The idea that not only are you in a village, but that you should explore till you’re content is what Resident Evil has always been about.
10 hours in, it’s safe to say that Resident Evil has followed the rulebook to the tee. This game has a little bit of everything from all the previous games in the series, which will keep fans delighted and desiring more. The Village is surrounded with a dark gothic castle, an unpleasant; slime-filled underground mine, and a mountain-top mansion that screams “Stay Away!” All are peak attractions, filled with strange artifacts, complex puzzles and terrifying creatures. You advance through the game by finding keys to open locked doors, which is another Resident Evil signature set-up. Each location is unique in its detail and design, and the game loves to hint at the nightmares that await you.
Upon entering the Village, you’ll quickly learn of the Lycan army and their leader Urias, who looks like a werewolf demigod swinging around Thor’s storm-breaker hammer. First impressions make you think they are the reason why the Village has hardly any survivors, but as you start to piece things together you’ll quickly learn that not everything is at it seems. Instead of the traditional zombie virus, Village brings aboard Cadou fungus, Lycan type creatures this time. You will need a steady and sharp aim to keep these guys at bay!
Ethan has plenty of enemies this time around. The guy can’t catch a break! There is one ally and friend he makes on this journey and that is Duke, the “Humble Merchant”, as he states! When I first saw Duke, I couldn’t help but smirk about the fact how he comes out of his little wagon. It’s something I’m still trying to figure out after finishing the game. This morbidly obese man clearly enjoys the finer things in life such as meat, cheese and wine. But he also keeps weapons and ammunition, which will be crucial for your journey. Duke is also a save point and appears almost in every section of the world map. Best of all, if you bring him ingredients such as chicken, fish and meat, he will serve up delicious meals that give you permanent upgrades to your abilities.
As mentioned, the enemies are plentiful and the developers ensured players did not become discontent with a lack of variety and challenges. Lycans are not the only enemy you face but Mother Miranda, the powerful and mysterious ruler of the village, and the Four Lords who serve under her.
The first Lord is Lady Dimitrescu, a 9-foot tall vampire with big knockers who has become extremely popular with the fan community. Capcom didn’t really capitalise on the character, but she ultimately became the game’s star via its marketing. As I entered Lady Dimitrescu’s Castle, I was reminded of the Mansion from Resident Evil 1. The inside of the Castle and the way you go about doing things from unlocking doors to finding certain items definitely felt very similar.
Lady Dimitrescu and her three daughters Bela, Cassandra, and Daniela appear through-out the castle, as you look for items; find cryptic messages, lore notes and solve puzzles. You get bombarded with their presence at random and I found myself going from calm and relaxed, to anxious and running. The excellence of Resident Evil, is the way things can switch up in an instant when you least expect it. You could be minding your own business trying to solve a puzzle, when suddenly Bela, Cassandra and Daniela show up in a spot which you previously thought was safe.
The castle is a short-lived section of the game that ends quickly and any fans expecting a longer role from Lady D are going to be unsatisfied that her story ends early in the playthrough.
The Second Lord is Donna Beneviento, the doll maker. She carries around a possessed doll called “Angie” who looks like a nightmare. As I journeyed to this dark old estate, one thing was for sure, I wasn’t getting back out without being traumatised! In fact, out of all the lord bosses, this was the scariest and affected me on a deep level.
However Donna and Angie were not challenging at all when it came to what you might think is a boss fight. Though where it lacks in weakness with dealing as a boss it makes up for along the way; as you journey around the estate and the things you encounter on the way to the end, from the super quiet rooms to the creepy mannikins you’ll see hanging all over the place and even subtle but effective methods such as lights flickering off for a split second, photos dropping off the walls or a never-ending collection of ghastly Victorian dolls which you think will jump-scare you and fright the living day lights out of you.
This segment had me on my toes, due to the fact all my weapons vanished when the lights went out. I was always vigilant and watching in paranoia whenever something happened that made me nervous. The most anxious feeling is walking around in the dark and not having a weapon to defend yourself. Trust me, when you have no weapons and you’re being chased in the dark, by a giant giggling baby monster, it’s anybody’s worst nightmare!
The Third Lord is Moreau who on first impressions will remind you of a mutated version of Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. While this wasn’t physiologically nerve-wrecking as Donna and Angie’s part, it sure hell was the most repulsive out of the bunch. I found myself sickened by all the nasty slime and gloopy mess when I arrived at this reservoir highlighting the windmills sector.
Moreau seems thick in the head to be a Lord but that’s where things change as you soon realise that he can turn into a gigantic fish-monster with a thousand-eyes that will remind you of the Yu-gi-oh card ” Thousand-eyes Restrict.” What was memorable about my time with Moreau was the challenge of multi-tasking which involves you pacing around trying to power an electric generator, drain the lake, solve a sequence and not get eaten by Jaws all at the same time while trying to survive an acid rain monsoon. Pack your GM-79; cos you’re going to need it.
The Forth Lord is Karl Heisenberg. When you first encounter him you think he’s a cross between Magneto from X-Men and a horribly-aged Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption. One of the most memorable moments in the game is when Heisenberg greets us all with the saying “Lycans and Gentlemen! We thank you for waiting, and now let the games begin! I revelled in the announcement for a slight second only to realise I was the main attraction of this deadly Hunger-Games Tournament. Yes that’s right, a new game was beginning inside the game itself. I had other matters to attend to such as finding Rose, but here I was entering another game alongside the main plot where there are no rules, except play to live.
Heisenberg is the most calm, cool and collective out of the bunch. When I finally crossed paths with him, He was the only one who wanted to help me take down Mother Miranda. Upon finding some narrative writings, it’s clear that Heisenberg hated what happened to him and wanted to use Rose as a weapon to get his vengeance against Miranda. Although this makes sense to the player, it also makes perfect sense why the father, Ethan doesn’t agree to this.
One of the longest sections in the game is Heisenberg’s domain. I probably spent at least two plus hours there as I learned Heisenberg’s vision to create Skynet all over across the land. In the distance you see hundreds of these machine and flesh twined beings making their way down into the molding departments. You spend much of your time using the elevator having to back-track from one level to the other either to find components that are missing from the molding station or keys to unlock certain sections to progress further all the while having to worry about being chased on multiple occasions by a turboprop engine with legs.
Just when you think it’s over; you are met with one of the strongest boss fights in the game, which I loved every second of when you face Heisenberg. The mold powered Lord takes on the form of a transformer, but you will have a little back-up of your own to take him down.
Towards the closing chapter of the game, things take a major turn in style, pace and direction. We are reacquainted with the forgotten hero Chris Redfield, and all of a sudden it feels like a Call of Duty game. I did have mixed feelings about this, but nothing that affected the game or story experience necessarily; however, there was a dramatic change to the point I started to think am I even playing the same game anymore?
Thankfully, the pace and direction does revert back to the style you were playing for the last 9 or so hours and things start to feel comfortable again. I felt the game finished pretty strong and you are met with a meaningful ending after the credits roll. Although the Father’s story might be done with, the saga is far from over. I’m excited to see where they will take this Franchise in the years to come.
Mercenary Mode, CP Points and New Game +
Having finished the game at 11 hours myself, I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of effort put into making Village replayable. Introducing New Game Plus with a new difficulty called “Village of Shadows” named after the storybook theme through-out the game. This is the highest difficulty available in Resident Evil Village. This difficulty is recommended for hardcore fans and seasoned players of the series. Other bonuses are also unlocked after completing the game called Completion Points or ‘CP’. These can be accessed from the main menu through the bonus section. CP is given for completing objectives throughout the story mode such as how many enemies are killed, or killing a certain number of enemies using a particular weapon. CP can then be used to unlock new weapons or buy special perks to use on your next playthrough such as infinite ammo for a fully upgraded gun.
There is another bonus you can buy for 10 credits called Mercenary Mode. This game mode is so much fun, it’s similar to Doom’s Arcade mode. You defeat a certain number of enemies in a certain amount of time all while working out how to achieve a high score using combos, time bonuses and orb power-ups that can turn the tide when the aim is to beat your previous high score. Waves of enemies from all out the game will appear, and it’s up to you to show them you mean business.
Resident Evil Village is a well-executed story with great narrative coherence, balancing elements of action and survival horror effectively. A strong contender and a potential Game of The Year Nominee. In short, Village takes the best from all the past games in the series and brings them to the table like a buffet, with a little something for everyone. Stunning visuals, influential characters you’ll remember, and a closure to Ethan’s story. Since Resident Evil 4, this is the strongest the series has ever been, and that’s a job well done!
Great Story and Narrative Coherence
Taking the best from the past games
Side Bosses were underwhelming and easy to forget.
Certain Characters were not utilised to their full potential.
“This mission is far more than a simple shakedown run”.
Well known pop culture such as Star Wars is considered by many to be a Science-Fiction that has no equal; that is until now. It’s not an understatement to say that if Mass Effect was made into an actual movie, it could very well give Star Wars a run for its money. Having a great reputation with their already established index of titles; Bioware has now gifted us Mass Effect and one thing is for certain, history has been made.
Commander Shepard aboard The SSV Normandy Spaceship
The year is 2148. Humanity has ventured beyond their home world Earth; learning quickly that we’re not alone. During an excavation on Mars we discover the origins of an extinct civilization and their artifacts. By the year 2183 humanity has leaped forward thanks to these relics, now able to travel across the galaxy at super light speeds; impossible otherwise. Despite how far we’ve come, we find ourselves struggling to cope amongst a society of different alien races. Some see us as a threat while others see that we have potential.
We play as Commander Shepard operating under the Systems Alliance Military, in defense against an ever-changing and dangerous cosmos. Stationed aboard the SSV Normandy; we’ve been assigned a top covert mission to recover a beacon from a human planet known as Eden Prime. At the same time we’re being evaluated by a Spectre called Nihlus from Citadel Council, for the chance to become the first human spectre to join the council’s ranks.
The Citadel Council is a galactic board run by aliens who speak for all races throughout the galaxy, while a Spectre is an agent that represents the council’s power and authority operating above the law and answering only to the council.
Upon arrival to Eden Prime we learn of Saren Arterius, a rogue Spectre who is betraying the council and leading an army of synthetic machines called the Geth. Working against time, we secure the beacon but are unable to stop Saren escaping. While waiting for extraction the beacon activates and Shepard receives a vivid vision of an ancient threat, shortly there after the beacon overloads and disintegrates.
Having the only evidence about Saren, the Geth and a mysterious vision Shepard must seek help and support from the council and when evidence is brought forth about Saren’s betrayal, the council commission Shepard as a Spectre to bring Saren down by any means necessary.
During pursuit of Saren, Shepard learns of a far greater threat known as the Reapers who appear once every 50,000 years to destroy all organic life. Linked to the vision from the beacon, Shepard starts to understand over time who the real threat is between Saren, the Geth and the Reapers.
Our First Encounter with The Reaper called Sovereign on Eden Prime
Mass Effect has wonderful graphics for an RPG game. From its lush and vibrant setting on Eden Prime, to the rich and dense cut-scenes. In the beginning of the game we’ll be given options to set up the resolution, film grain and motion blur. These options are there so that we don’t notice the glaring imperfections in textures and movement if we have a HD TV.
Personally, the Motion Blur makes it impossible to aim while moving, and the Film Grain makes it difficult to aim from far away if I’m using anything but the zoomed Sniper rifle. Having said that Film Grain makes the game look pretty good but I probably wouldn’t recommend the Motion Blur setting.
Fix up. Look Sharp.
Giving birth to our Hero.
Upon starting we’ll be given two choices regarding our character profile. We can play as default Shepard or a custom male or female Shepard which allows us to change Shepard’s facial appearance. As we continue to set-up our profile we’ll select a background history about Shepard and the type of personality that others will famously know us for throughout the game.
We’ll finish our profile off with a class selection known as ‘military specialization’, choosing from six sub-classes of unique and individual fighting styles. Each class will vary differently during battle and force us to change our combat strategy based upon the class we’ve selected for Shepard.
Are we there yet?
After becoming the first human Spectre – Shepard now commands the top Alliance ship; SSV Normandy.
Who would have thought that travelling in a spaceship would be so much fun? We have an Alliance vessel now at our fingertips, ready to take us across the universe to unknown and uncharted worlds. On the Normandy we’ll use the ship hologram called the ‘Galaxy Map’ to scope and mark our destination across the Milky Way for our main missions and assignments. Bioware have made the Milky Way a vast exploration site, the sky’s the limit here.
The Galaxy Map: when viewed aboard the Normandy
The map is broken down into four fragments, in increasing detail:
We command a team free of alien discrimination but not everyone agrees..
Bioware truly knows how to make a cast of characters that we won’t forget anytime soon. Like Garrus Vakarian who instantly becomes our bromance if we play as male Shepard, or Tali Zorah who always keeps us curious about her culture, people and what she looks like under that suit and helmet. From doctors and mercenaries to soldiers and cops; we command a team free of alien discrimination but not everyone agrees with us. Being the first team of aliens and humans working together, we have a mutual goal to bring down Saren.
You still talking?
The Dialogue Wheel is the game’s mechanic of discussing and making choices.
Mass Effect is a talky and techy type of sci-fi game. It reminds us of the original Star Trek series, where the show was mainly based on characters talking to each other with the odd battle scenes. We can relate to this when playing Mass Effect. The game is mainly built around a system known as the dialogue wheel which is the game’s mechanic used during conversations with other characters for discussing, investigating and making important choices.
Mass Effect doesn’t just play out one way; it can be played in a number of different ways because your choices will affect the outcome on a galactic scale. This is what I love about the game; it’s not a one way ticket. Nothing is set in stone as different conclusions can be reached throughout the journey making it a unique experience every time we play.
It’s All About Talent
Acquiring Talent points will boost Shepard’s overall health, level and special abilities.
Throughout the game as we complete main missions and side quests, we’ll be gaining experience points (XP). Every time we level up and gain enough XP we’ll gain Talent Points. Acquiring Talent Points will boost Shepard’s overall health, level and special abilities. We can spend these points manually or let the talent points be automatically assigned to us and our squad members.
The Morality System
Choose your side
Paragon and Renegade is a morality system that works alongside the dialogue wheel. As we unlock talent points we can use them to upgrade the charm and intimidate tabs. Increasing the charm tab will help with Paragon dialogue which will be available to us in certain decision-making conversations. Same goes for the intimidate tab which will help with Renegade dialogue. It basically comes down to being morally right which is the Paragon way or letting the end justify the means, regardless of the consequences going down the Renegade path. Take your pick.
Combat and Strategy
The Power Wheel Interface – Selected during real-time combat
Mass Effect’s combat system takes some time getting use to, but after that we’re rolling. It relies on a combination of the power wheel, special abilities, weapons and take cover. Fights take place in real-time from a third person view. The power wheel is used to select weapons and assign special abilities against your foes. We can tag an enemy either by facing in their direction which will lock on automatically or we can zoom in with our weapons for more accuracy.
When we or our squad are taking heavy damage, a medical item known as Omni-gel can be used to heal our squad’s health. We can find Omni-gel while exploring or by trading weapons and armor.
We can specialize in all weapons providing we select the correct class. Not every class will allow us to use every weapon so think carefully before going with a certain class. There are five weapons to use in Mass Effect; they are pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and grenades. Throughout the game we’ll be able to upgrade and purchase bigger guns and better armor which is required if we decide to be brave and play the game on ‘Insane Difficulty’.
Listen to this soundtrack!
It’s very rare that we would buy a game just to listen to the game’s music. But this is what Jack Wall has managed to do with Mass Effect. The soundtrack perfectly captures the mystery and grandeur of the game. Mass Effect transports us to other worlds and realities that we can forget for a few hours that we’re stuck in our own reality.
Overall Mass Effect is a transcendent experience that would match up to the likes of Star Wars any day. I have played many RPG games over the years, but nothing has come close to the experience that Bioware has given us in this epic Sci-fi fantasy. Mass Effect has really stepped up the competition and taken gaming to a whole new stage; worthy of its own movie franchise.
Superb Voice Overs.
A deep and immersive story, taking RPG to the next level.
Amazing Soundtrack giving a true Sci-fi feel and experience.
Settings such as Motion Blur do more harm than good on the Xbox.
Side Quests can feel recycled and repetitive at times.
The game textures take a few seconds to load during cut-scenes & gameplay.
Abbreviations: ME1 – Mass Effect 1 / ME2 – Mass Effect 2
“Then See To It That We Don’t Lose Him”.
Bioware’s second instalment in the franchise outshines the first Mass Effect and makes it a whole lot better!
We all loved Mass Effect 1 and how it captured our attention span for countless hours with its diverse range of multi-cultural species. We had the Asari, the Krogan, the Salarian, the Turian, the Elcor, the Volus, the Quarian, the Hanar, the bartarians, the Geth, the Keepers and the Rachni. Not to mention the pre-historical and now extinct species known as the Protheans. The dialogue and choices we made were numerous. We got to choose whether we wanted to play as a male or female Shepard. By far Mass Effect had raised the bar up too freaking high within the RPG genre and fans were enthralled by it.
This is what makes an RPG game special; when it has the ability to get us caught up in the story, the characters and the action. Mass Effect 2 undoubtedly hits the nail on the head with this.
The Opening Scene – The Illusive Man and Miranda Lawson
The opening starts with two unfamiliar faces (Miranda Lawson and The Illusive Man) who seem to know a lot about who Shepard is and what Shepard has accomplished. We learn through dialogue they are a part of Cerberus (an organisation that believe they represent humanity, but are considered morally fallacious by the Alliance Military. In ME1 Shepard learnt about Cerberus and the twisted experiments that were preformed on humans).
They realise that Shepard has become more than a Spectre, he is now humanity’s symbol of hope and their greatest asset. The entire galaxy’s view of humanity has changed since Saren’s attack on the Citadel because humanity saved the Council. As the conversation continues they realise that the Council and the rest of the galaxy are blinded to the real threat which are The Reapers.
In Mass Effect 2 we return as the main protagonist Commander Shepard, back from the dead literally! Just like in Mass Effect 1 we will be working under an organisation. But instead of the Alliance Military and The Council, we will now be working for Cerberus and The Illusive Man. We’ve been tasked to investigate attacks on human colonies around the galaxy and find out who or what is doing this and why. We have no idea what we’re getting into, but humanity is at risk and therefore we need to act.
On the first mission to a human colony known as Freedom’s Progress, we’ll search for clues of how the colonists have gone missing. Towards the end of the mission we’ll find CCTV footage of the attack in a warehouse, showing the kidnappers to be The Collectors. They are a rare and legendary species from beyond the Omega 4 mass relay, that many believe to be nothing more than a myth since few have hardly seen them in person.
Confirming The Illusive Man’s suspicions he fully equips us with resources such as Cerberus funding, old crew members (Joker and Dr Chakwas) make a return to our team. A new Cerberus Normandy Ship, which is twice the size of the original Normandy and dossiers on assembling our team. If we’ve purchased DLC content such as armour and weapons, this will be made available upon entry to the Normandy.
Now that we’ve learnt about a new threat, our mission is clear and simple. Compile a team, track down the Collectors, locate a way through the Omega 4 relay and find out what they’ve done to the thousands of missing human colonists. They say it’s a suicide mission, let us defy the odds once more then.
Jack Wall you’ve done it again!
Soundtracks can make or break a game. In the case of Mass Effect 2 it wouldn’t be the game it is today without the soundtrack. Jack Wall once again has crafted another masterpiece. The game and the soundtrack are just made for each other, it is simply spectacular. My favourite track is ‘The Suicide Mission’. Even after all these years the soundtrack hits me. During the suicide mission we hear Harbinger say “Human, you’ve changed nothing. Your species has the attention of those infinitely your greater. That which you know as Reapers are your salvation through destruction“. Combine that scene with the suicide mission soundtrack and I’d say it was the best scene in the game. Sadly I would have to say that Mass Effect 2’s soundtrack was underrated and overlooked by many.
The game textures are smooth as hell!
Playing Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox 360, we instantly see that the graphics have surpassed that of Mass Effect 1. ME1’s close up textures didn’t look right and visual effects such as motion blur just made things worse. This has been fixed in ME2, the close up textures and detail make the visuals very pleasing to watch. ME2 doesn’t suffer from these previous issues and runs very smoothly.
Carry on why don’t ya!
Military Service History during ME1
One of the things I’ve loved about Mass Effect 2 is the service history. Essentially what this allows us to do is import our character from ME1 and carry on the journey in ME2. Yep, that means every decision good or bad we’ve made in the first game will affect how the story is told in ME2. This includes rank, military specialization (I used Solider) our psychological profile, whether we killed or supressed Wrex, whether we let Ashley or Kaiden die on Virmie and whether we saved the Council or let them be killed. All these choices that we’ve made will play out in ME2 and it’s brilliantly executed!
Goody two shoes or Badass?
Paragon vs Renegade – The Morality of Decisions
I’m thrilled to see the Paragon and Renegade options return in ME2. Mass Effect is all about making choices. Our choices will make an impact on the story one way or another. Want to be the perfect saint? Then go Paragon all the way. Looking for a bit of mischief? Then Renegade will give birth to a badass, who knows how to leave their opposition feeling burnt, yet leave us amused all at the same time.
In ME2 we don’t require talent points anymore to unlock new dialogues, instead these will automatically unlock as the Paragon and Renegade scores increase over the course of the game. Whether that’s buttering someone up in conversations or chopping off someone’s balls and selling them to a Krogan; we can get what we want in this game through persuasion or intimidation, providing the scores are high enough.
A new addition to the Paragon and Renegade is an introduction of what’s known as The Interrupt System. During certain conversations with characters throughout Mass Effect, a blue paragon symbol will flash at the bottom of the left hand screen or a red renegade symbol will flash at the bottom of the right hand screen for approximately 3 seconds. If we choose to respond and select, Shepard will perform either an act of good will which will boost your paragon scores considerably or Shepard will do something ridiculously crazy and hilarious to boost your renegade scores high.
Possibly The Best Team You’ve Ever Assembled
Together Everybody Achieves More
The title says it all really. This has to be the biggest and varied team I’ve seen complied together for an RPG game, a team consisting of the top doctors, scientists, mercenaries, soldiers and assassins. The team is a mix of old and new faces. While the original team is 10, purchasing DLC will expand our crew to a maximum of 12.
Having a big team doesn’t mean we’re all on the same boat. We learn quick that within the team are conflicting personalities that clash. As Commander it’s our job to make sure that everyone will be working together and to put any disagreements aside.
It’s also about loyalty and the level of trust between Shepard and the individual team member. While playing through the main missions we’ll eventually be notified by Kelly Chambers that team members require assistance with a personal issue. Speak to a comrade individually and they will ask for something to be done, doing them a favour will gain their trust and loyalty meaning the squad will have a more suitable chance at surviving the Suicide Mission.
Hmmm, who shall I pick?
Mass Effect’s romance stirred up a lot of controversy for a video game. The romantic choices have gone up from three to six. There’s much eye candy and a lot of unique personalities which will make it hard to pick one. But rest assured that whoever we select as our love interest, we’ll be investing in a deep and meaningful relationship.
We have six women to spark up a love affair with regardless if we’re a male or female Shepard.
Miranda Lawson – Cerberus Operative who helped rebuild Shepard during The Lazarus Project, she may seem cold but there is a person under there.
Tali Zorah Vas Neema – A Quarian on her pilgrimage who joined and helped Shepard in ME1 by stopping Saren and the Geth.
Jack – Also known as Subject Zero, a powerful biotic who has history with Cerberus and will make the perfect love interest if we’re going down the Renegade path.
Kelly Chambers – She serves on the ship as our assistant regarding messages, announcements or any debriefing.
Samara – An Asari Justicar who upholds justice by a set of laws referred to as The Code.
Morinth – She is Samara’s daughter, during a mission you can choose to kill Morinth or kill Samara. If we kill Samara, Morinth will take her place on the team. But we may want to think twice before romancing her.
Very similar to ME1 the combat takes place in third person view. To target an enemy simply face in their direction and it will automatically target them. Those of you who have played ME1 will immediately be comfortable as not much has changed with the combat, but then again that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it works don’t fix it.
The Power Wheel is the combat system which is re-introduced in ME2. There are two power wheels, one is assigned with Shepard’s special powers and abilities. The other is assigned with weapons, we’re also able to control our squad members powers and abilities while taking down enemies. When we select it during a real-time battle, it freezes the combat on-screen until we have selected our power or ability.
The Power Wheel displaying your powers and abilities
‘Quick map system’ this gives the ability to map out one specific poweron the power wheel to a squad member allowing quick and accessible use of them during combat. Once mapped we won’t require the power wheel to select a squad member’s power. We can combine these powers and abilities to focus on taking down stronger foes.
Not every power or ability will affect every enemy. When selecting the Power Wheel, as we hover over a specific ability we’ll be given a description of what the ability can do and give a hint as to what kind of enemy will be affected.
Overall Mass Effect 2 has done true wonders as an RPG and topped it’s predecessor. It will be a special journey for the plentiful fans out there who will keep this one close to their hearts. Games like this are a fine rarity, a true masterpiece that will be remembered in gaming history and will still be up there in the instant classics for years to come.
Beautiful and Updated Graphics.
Breath-taking Story and Narrative coherence.
The Interrupt System improves the Paragon/Renegade experience.
Magnificent Soundtrack and Score.
A fine selection of larger than life characters which you build a relationship with.
DLC content is a bit pricy and should have been included in the original release.