Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Halo 4 Review

As with my comparison of MLB 12: The Show vs. MLB 2K12, I think this review will have some value because I am not a professional video game reviewer, but rather a regular dude like you.

When reviewing an FPS game, it seems like one can't help but compare it to something else. In this case, with Halo 4 coming out around the same time as Call of Duty Black Ops 2, people are naturally going to compare them. So rather than resist what seems inevitable, I will address Call of Duty in general (but not Black Ops 2 specifically) in this review. (Note that this review is focused only on the multiplayer aspects of the games mentioned.)

First, a disclaimer: I have been and probably always will be a fan of Halo. I played Halo 2 extensively in college. I've played Call of Duty Modern Warfare 1 and 2, as well as Black Ops 1. There are three main reasons I can't ever seem to get behind them and why I always seem to go back to Halo. I will address these issues I have with CoD while at the same time pointing out the advantages that I think Halo generally has.

1) Aim down sight: I have just never liked how your weapon, when drawn, takes up so much of the screen. Less significantly, but still importantly, I don't like that I have to hold two triggers (as opposed to one) to fire a weapon. In fairness, if this had been the system with which I began playing first-person shooters, I would probably feel the opposite way. But the fact is that I did begin with Halo's system, and I find it difficult to switch to an ADS system. And before anyone comments, yes, I know you can hip fire, and get really good at it, such that you don't have to ADS as much. But this actually leads well into my second point.

2) Strategy: Basically anyone from casual to die-hard Call of Duty players will agree that there is simply less strategy to Call of Duty, and much more of a "run and gun" style. The learning curve is far less steep. Nobody can really deny this, and in fact, many CoD players point to these facts actually as key distinctions which makes the game more fun. Well, perhaps for some, but not for me. The less strategy there is, the less thinking you're doing, and the more the game devolves into simply who has the best twitch reflexes. And while basically any FPS game will test your twitch reflexes, I am looking for more of a mental test than CoD provides.

3) Vehicles: Beyond anything else, what I and other gamers look for in games is for them to be fun. This is why we play. To me, vehicles introduce a fun element of mayhem that cannot be provided by foot soldiering alone. They also provide a lot more explosions, which I think we can all agree makes for a better game. I could almost overlook the other flaws of CoD games entirely if they just had vehicular combat. And quite frankly, I don't understand why they don't have it already. I can't possibly be the only person who thinks they should. My guess is they have limitations on the multiplayer engine that is preventing it so far, but I think they will likely introduce vehicles in the future.

So, now that I have established why I prefer Halo to Call of Duty, the question still remains, is Halo 4 worth playing? I say yes, and here's why.

Halo 4 is the fastest Halo game yet. I think this was really necessary. I hear CoD fans say Halo is too slow, and that was a valid point. But this is now largely a non-factor due to the fact that everyone can sprint now. However, it doesn't feel too fast, which is also important. Halo 4 also now has personal ordnances/power-ups, which are great. Now I'm sure a lot of you are thinking something like "well that's just a ripoff of CoD, they're so late to the game." There's really no denying this, but how many things did the first Modern Warfare rip off from the Halo franchise? Games borrow from each other, big deal. The question is, does it work for what the game is trying to do, and does it make it more fun? In the case of Halo 4, the answer is yes.

Aside from faster play and ordnance drops, Halo 4 is also much smoother than 3 or Reach. This is crucial in an FPS. Of course Halo 4 also has new maps, new vehicles, and new weapons. They are all good. And Halo 4 now has loadouts, with better weapons and abilities available for the more you upgrade your player.

Again, the question I go back to is, is the game fun to play? Yes, Halo 4 is really fun to play. And it's easy and fun to track your stats on Halo Waypoint online.

So now to answer the big question "should I buy it," I break down the buyer into three categories:

If CoD is your thing and you have no interest in Halo, I don't know that this game will change your mind. I mean, maybe, it could. But there seems to be this war between CoD and Halo, which I don't really understand. Why can't you play both (if you want to)? The only way it really makes sense is if you can only afford one game. That doesn't seem like a majority of gamers, though. So, if you're a CoD fanboy, keep playing it.

If you used to play Halo but now play CoD, I think Halo 4 makes significant inroads to winning you back. Why did you move to CoD in the first place? There are many reasons, but I think Halo 4 addresses most (if not all) of them, to the extent that I think you could enjoy Halo again.

If you are a Halo fan, but were disappointed with some of their recent offerings (read: Reach), whether or not you've played CoD, Halo 4 will not disappoint you. And even if you're a Halo purist, you can play the "Pro" playlists without loadouts, ordnance drops, and armor abilities. From what I've seen in the early going, though, people really like the new features.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 - The Year America Changed

This is mainly a sports blog, and as such I try to stay away from political stuff. But in light of the recent presidential election, I cannot restrain myself, and must offer some words from the heart.

I was and am a Mitt Romney supporter. I am not, however, a straight-Republican ticket voter. I believe above all that we need to elect people who are good and honorable, and will govern according to the will of the people, regardless of party affiliation. Further, I believe that the traditional American values and ethics as exist within the Constitution need to be honored and upheld.

Mitt Romney has served people throughout his life, both in the private and public sectors. He has donated tens of millions of dollars to charity. Perhaps most telling, he doesn't proclaim his selfless service before the world. Instead he only grudgingly allows others to tell that story. Truly, Mitt Romney isn't just a good, decent, and honorable person, he is in fact a great person.

It is not shocking to me that there are people in this country that fall for phrases like "yes we can" and "Romnesia," or that believe stupid things like "Mitt Romney is going to take away your birth control." It's not shocking that there are people who think that government exists to redistribute wealth, or that there are people who choose to believe lies. What's shocking, and quite frankly, heartbreaking, is that those people now outnumber the rest of us.

I suppose the title of this post is somewhat inaccurate-- 2012 isn't really the year America changed, it's the year that change became so obvious that we can simply no longer ignore it. Mitt Romney didn't lose the election. America lost. The citizens of this great nation gave up a chance to elect someone who truly could have made real progress, helped to heal our nation, and bridge the widening partisan divide. Instead they chose to re-elect a rock star with a pathetic record and a progressive agenda not embraced by the majority. In short, they elected someone with a lot of style but very little substance.

I'm upset that my guy didn't win, but I'm far more upset, and disheartened, by the American electorate. We will all pay heavy prices in the future, foisted upon us by a new majority.