Guarding the outskirts of the anti-air gun early in Halo 3’s campaign is a quadrupedal Covenant tank called a Scarab. Stepping its spidery legs around a circular complex lined with missile pods, a large crane, and enough foot space to let half a dozen vehicles unload their artillery, the scarab is the largest working unit in the series. A far cry from Master Chief’s scripted encounter with it in Halo 2, this AI controlled enemy has a giant laser cannon and its own hit points, and is transporting a squad of Covenant sentries laying heavy fire. As you stare at it in awe, a question forms: how am I supposed to take that thing down? A couple ways. Focus all your fire on the hull and blow it away, or shoot its legs until they lower, fight your way to the power core, and set off a chain reaction. Both answers are possible in the arena littered with tools of mass destruction.
The first portal back to Mars is guarded by an army of hellspawn trying to rip you limb from limb. Agile fireball throwing imps and dual wielding Mancubus, burly Hell Knights and rocket-launching Revenants all converge on your location, employing a wide assortment of tactics while you unleash the concussive blast of your shotgun and unload mag after mag from the assault rifle and unleash its’ micro missile alternate fire. You weave between shots and sidestep claws barely missing your face, jump to the stunned body of a Cacodemon and tear out its eye only to be knocked down and witness the centaur-like Baron of Hell’s fatal finishing blow. The fight is an exhilarating and tense struggle for your survival.
Videogames were changed forever when Bungie released Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001. In that seminal release, the world met Spartan II cyborg Master Chief as he is awakened from cryo sleep to fight against the alien Covenant. We also met Cortana, the AI that would accompany Chief and become the voice in his ear as he fights. Among many of its revolutionary ideas was its holy trinity of combat that mapped guns, grenades and melee onto an intuitive control scheme that provided a deep and flexible options and allowed players access to large maps and vehicles. As the series progressed, it implemented a suite of online features and pared down gameplay into tighter design. At the end of Halo 3, Master Chief re-entered cryo sleep aboard the UNSC’s Forward Unto Dawn as it drifts aimlessly through space with Cortana watching over him. The trilogy complete, Bungie flexed their creative muscles on Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, two games that would expand the structure with new modes and matchmaking options.
When I try to make a concrete decision as to what my favorite game of all time is, the answer tends to change from day to day. More often than not, however, Bioshock is the first thing that comes to mind. My initial arrival in Rapture was a swift kick to the face, forever opening my eyes to how it feels to be in an atmosphere so thick I could taste it. Not since that precious moment so many years ago had I experienced a world so fully realized and enticing as presented in victorian Dunwall.
Syndicate’s future world is about divisions; the divisions in the economic and political landscapes, between consumer and outcast where people are interfaced with the Datascape through neural chips that feed them a constant stream of data. That world is run by the mega corporations who plot, steal, manipulate and sabotage for the sake of patents, personnel and profit and each employs its own military and special agents to safeguard its bottom line. The original Syndicate from the mid-nineties offered a bleak, violent cyberpunk world- one perfectly suited to the brutal and creative skills of Starbreeze Studio’s.
After he viciously slaughtered his way through the mafia family run by his Uncle Paulie, Jackie Estacado had vowed to never again use The Darkness. The demon had given him great strength, but had manipulated and twisted the young man. When we meet him again as he walks into a family run restaurant at the beginning of the Darkness 2, we see that he has prospered, the family is strong, its members loyal- and then they are attacked by an unknown group who want The Darkness for themselves. The scene acts as a well-designed introduction to the world and mechanics- Jackie’s leg is destroyed and he’s pulled to safety, nothing but a pistol to fend off his attackers. Where once he was an invincible god, he’s broken and dying, now just a man. It’s been two years since he’s given in to the Darkness.
When The Darkness came out in 2007 it was an enigma of a game. While it was received extremely well and was successful enough commercially, it was almost immediately evident that it would quickly exit stage left and fall into the realm of the occult.