Halo 3 – Time to Finish the Fight

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – September 2007)

September 25, 2007 will go down in history…video game history that is. Halo 3, the much anticipated final chapter in the Halo trilogy was released at midnight on September 24th across the U.S, Canada and most of the rest of the world. Some 10,000 retailers in the U.S. opened their doors at 12:01 to allow thousands of fans to get their hands on the latest edition. Microsoft is banking on the fact that the Xbox 360 exclusive will not only be the biggest video game launch in history, but will also help catapult sales of the console itself, and solidify its position in the video game console market against rivals Sony (PS3) and Nintendo (Wii).

Halo 2 made history in 2004, when it brought in more than $125 million in its first 24 hours. And Halo 1 and 2 combined have sold more than 15 million copies since the series first launched for the original Xbox back in 2001. Two months ago, Halo 3 had already racked up over one million pre-orders, crushing all previous records, and would eventually hit almost 1.7 million pre-orders by launch time.

Microsoft has confirmed that Halo 3 grossed more than $170 million in sales in the first 24 hours after release. This is the largest single-day take in for any release in entertainment history, shattering the previous record held by the Spiderman 3 movie, which brought in $150 million in its opening weekend.

I remember when Halo first came out for the Xbox. Way back in 2001, critics were scoffing at Microsoft’s entry into the video game console market, but Halo was the killer app for Microsoft needed to turn the Xbox into a legitimate contender in the extremely competitive industry. This title was different than any games before it. It had beautiful graphics, an interesting story line, but most of all it was fun as hell to play. The multi-player campaigns were even more fun.

Halo 2 continued the story, and “the fight”, bringing with it a bigger focus on the multi-player game play, and was built from the ground up for play on Xbox live, Microsoft’s online membership service. Halo 2 is still the most played game on Xbox-live, even 3 years after its launch…something which is surely to change with the launch of Halo 3.

The third instalment opens with Master Chief hurtling towards earth in a Forerunner aircraft. After bailing out of the craft 2km above earth, Master Chief crashes into the dense forest of Africa where he is located, but though dead. After coming back online, Master Chief and his fellow humans begin the final fight.

After the first Halo is destroyed by humans, the second is activated and more are placed on standby, ready to fire. If the remaining Halos are activated by The Truth they will decimate all life in the galaxy, something that the human race along with their new found allies, the Elites, will do everything they can to prevent. You as Master Chief, along with your new ally, the Arbitor, must finish the fight against the alien Covenant and the Flood, destroying all remaining Halos in the process.

The first thing you notice when the game loads, is the gorgeous high-definition (HD) graphics. This is by far one of the best looking games to date. As you trudge through the different terrains, fighting the plethora of alien enemies, you can’t help being impressed by the incredible landscapes, and amazing realism that surrounds you. If you have played any of the Halo games before, then you are familiar with the game play. But Halo 3 continues the fun, by introducing a number of new vehicles, weapons and characters. The artificial intelligence (AI) of the characters is also impressive – providing more challenging game play.

Bungie, the game’s developer has introduced some really cool tools and features this time around. Like the addition of 4 player co-op over Xbox Live, and the ability to record your game play and send clips to all your buddies. The game also includes a new map building component called Forge. Forge allows players to “tweak, create, or even destroy the objects present on any multiplayer map.” In other words, players are able to customize maps, and then upload to Xbox Live for others to play.

If you already own an Xbox 360, then Halo 3 is an absolute must for your game collection…and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? It is an impressive game for a number of reasons, but I think the most important reason to pick it up, is the fun game play and ability to kick some alien butt with your buddy down the street or someone on the other side of the planet, over Xbox Live. So come on and join the fight to save the galaxy, and join the millions of fans who’ve already taken the pledge to “finish the fight”!

Head-to-Head: Xbox 360 vs. Sony PS3

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – September 2007)

Well, I finally caved in and bought myself a Sony PS3. I have never been a PlayStation user, opting instead for both the original Microsoft Xbox, and subsequent Xbox 360.

I would consider myself a casual gamer, but one who always needs to have the latest blockbuster game such as Halo I, II and on September 25th – Halo III. I find myself compelled to purchase the latest and greatest game to demonstrate the power and capability of my console.

I wrote a previous article on Blu-Ray (Sony) vs. HD-DVD and my conclusion was to stick with gaming console options as they were the cheapest way to go. For another $199 you could have an HD-DVD attachment for the Xbox 360, and for the price of $650 you could buy a PS3 with built in Blu-Ray.

Getting back to the reason I am the proud new owner of a PS3, the simple reason was that back in early August Sony decide to drop the price by $100. At $550, the PS3 suddenly looked attractive to me as a Blu-Ray player, with the “bonus” of being able to play some really cool games, as well as a few PS2 games I had my eye on over the years. But as I connected the unit to my plasma TV and began to explore its features more, I was pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of my new “toy”.

The PS3 is a powerful media device, which not only offers some very cool, very beautiful looking games, but as mentioned earlier, it is a full-featured Blu-Ray player allowing you to watch high-definition movies at the highest resolution possible (1080p). I am now able to watch either format of HD movies available and loving every minute of it.

But beyond these two key features, the PS3, which includes built-in wireless Internet capability, offers a slew of other neat features. These include streaming video and music from your PC, web browsing, access to the soon-to-be released Playstation Home environment (similar to Second Life) where you can create your own character and explore the online virtual world. The unit plays regular DVD and CDs as well, and performs quite well as a media hub, which Sony truly envisioned for the system.

To be fair, I still use my Xbox 360 more for gaming, as I find that PS3 still somewhat lacks those killer franchise games we see with the 360 including Gears of War, BioShock and Halo 3. I did purchase Resistance: Fall of Man with my PS3, and was quite impressed with the game, but I still give the edge to the Xbox 360 for gaming.

As far as the comparison of HD media goes, I really can’t see a difference between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray as they both look fantastic. The main difference is going to be the quality and selection of movies which are released for each format. If you have been keeping up with the HD format war, it would appear that Blu-Ray may be winning the fight. But although I haven’t seen the same movie in both formats, so far I would tend to be more impressed with movies I have seen in the HD-DVD format. But then again, I have been impressed by the picture quality of movies such as King Kong (which came free with my HD-DVD player) but not so much with the newly released 300 – which I found rather disappointing as the film effect of a “grainy-type” image really didn’t make the movie appear as brilliant as I had hoped in HD format.

Back to my review of Xbox 360 vs. PS3 — I really can’t see how you could go wrong with either system. The one major factor for deciding on which player to get may be whether or not you already own a number of PS1 or PS2 games, as the PS3 is back-ward compatible allowing you to play your favourites on the new console. This wasn’t the case for me, but the idea of getting to play a game I was eyeing up several years ago actually influenced me a bit.

Back in 2004 when they released the X-Files game for PS2, the Xbox version was to come out shortly after, but the release was actually cancelled. So I never did get to play the game. As it turns out I was able to purchase a brand-new copy of the X-files on Ebay for a whopping $12 including shipping! My new purchase suddenly opened a new library of thousands of titles both new and old.

I’m not going to bother going over technical specs of both machines, as each are very capable of offering truly next-gen graphics and game play. I think that the Xbox 360 currently has the edge as their “second-generation” of games are on shelves, displaying the true capabilities of the system’s power. It will take a while longer before game developers reach that point with the PS3, but when they do I think games will look equally as impressive as Xbox 360 games.

So once again I find it difficult to crown a winner. I think that both consoles are truly capable of amazing graphics and game play, although the 360 has the current advantage here, with more and better games. The HD quality of each is also quite similar, although the format war could change the balance here in the next year or so. Both systems allow you to play games online and stream media from your existing PC.

In terms of online game play, however, I think the Xbox 360 has the current edge once again, as their Xbox Live service works great, and has been around much longer than Sony’s comparable online capabilities. One thing the PS3 has that the Xbox 360 doesn’t is the ability to surf the Net through the console. Although it is a bit hard to read and a bit clunky, the feature could come in handy, and I have always wondered why the 360 did not have this capability…on the other hand this may easily be added in the near future with one of their periodic software updates to the 360’s operating system.