Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pathfinder Online, Crowd/Cloud Fundraising, and Kickstarting

Before I get off on too much of a rant, let me assert that I feel Pathfinder is a fantastic system.  I've played it and enjoyed every moment of it.  It not only provides an outlet for players to both run and experience unique content outside of the boundaries computer-programming sets before us, but gives us a place where we, as friends, can relax and be nerdy without the need to feel judged or ostracized for our interests. is - at its roots - a website that allows users to post projects (ranging from video games, to digital media, to books, charity causes, etc.) to the internet with the hopes of receiving funding towards its completion.  There's a good amount of guidelines that those projects have to follow, but that's not entirely what I'm here to talk about.

Massively recently ran a story about Pathfinder Online's newest Kickstarter project.  This made me think for a moment - Kickstarter projects must have finite goals, therefor having more than one Kickstarter related to the same over all project didn't really make sense to me - until I read further.

It appears that the 300k (6x the 50k goal they had initially asked for) goal raised by the first Kickstarter was merely for the Technology demo - which you can view part of on the top of their new Kickstarter.

That's a good place to start really digging into the meat of my beef with this whole thing.  That tech demo is one I'd expect to have seen years ago.  Maybe even so far back as a decade.  It looks like a dozen already released and now-dwindling games.  But I digress.  It's only a tech demo after all.

WAIT A MINUTE, that's the whole point!  A tech demo is usually shown to investors in order to garner interest and future investment in your game.  It shows the people that initially tossed you a few $ that it was money well spent.  That tech demo sucks!  It's short as hell and looks like crap!  Didn't you guys get SIX TIMES THE AMOUNT YOU ASKED FOR?!?  AND STILL DELIVERED THAT.

Where's the WOW factor, Goblinworks?  That video is the most underwhelming thing I've watched in a long time.  It looks like something I'd have expected around 2004. (In fact, it bears a VERY strong resemblance to Everquest II.)  I realize it's a demo of your tech, a display of your competency in developing your game, but what you did was take the money and show me something that really gives me little-to-no desire to play your game.

Dungeons and Dragons Online is considered by most 'hard core' D&D players to be a miserable failure.  And while I'm not one to harp on its free-to-play conversion, it's something that I want to briefly touch on.  Converting your business model after launch is a sign of failure - you can argue about degrees of failure all you want, but changing something means that what you had before wasn't working.

Today, DDO is a ghost town, even though it's free to play.  I can't wait for someone to tell me about how I'm wrong on this one - so don't take my word for it.  It's free and a relatively short download on broadband.  Go try it out, let me know how many people you see talking, wandering around the starter area, or any area really.  Feel free to come back here and tell me I'm right, I love that kinda stuff.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and the game has somehow received a resurgence of new players - truthfully, I love being wrong about video games and seeing them thrive - but the fact is that this happens RARELY.  Most games are money-grab gimmicks to pick up some fast cash in the onset, and then languish in limbo for years providing scarce, buggy updates that most players will mow through in a few weeks, if that.

Why go off on that rant?  Because D&D and Pathfinder are essentially the same thing with different rules.  The game didn't work once - it doesn't translate well into a programmatic system of absolutes.  Part of what makes the D&D experience so versatile and engaging is the human factor.  That is completely lost when played in a video game and bound by its constraints.  Unless they have a living, breathing person on-staff to constantly ensure my game play experience is as unique and engaging as the pen-and-paper version, this title will ultimately disappoint me and many others.  Why set yourself up to fail like that, Goblinworks?

So where did this all come from?  (The rant, not the goblins) A few comments on that original Massively article I linked bluntly stated that what Goblinworks (and to an extent Kickstarter as a whole) is doing is nothing more than "Cyber-Begging", even going so far as to state that it has no place on the internet.  That one made me laugh.

*NOTE Many of these comments have been removed or deleted by the users as of this posting. did a great, albeit a little dated, article on Angel investing.  In case you've never heard of NYC's Broadway, Angel investing has been around long before anyone reading this today was even alive.  It's not something new, and everyone posting on Kickstarter has just as much right to post their goals and ideas on there, asking for funding, then Broadway does to operate today on the backs of people anonymously (or publicly) donating money to their shows so they can operate. 

So when I say this, you should understand that it's not about the "Cyber-Begging" nonsense some uneducated fucks have begun spouting across the internet.  There's really just one reason why I'm even writing about the second Kickstarter Goblinworks put up for Pathfinder Online:

You got 6x what you asked for the first time, and I walked away with a "Meh - seen that before" impression.

Sorry guys, I'm all for helping new games develop.  But a short tech demo that had extra funds to really make an impression on me failed to even make a dent.  Good luck.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Beginnings for The Balance, and Star Wars

New Beginnings.  Not just for me and this blog, but for the Star Wars Universe as well.

As for things here, as of this post we're moving to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday format, Barring holidays that's something I'll be sticking to - and hopefully something you'll be looking forward to.  The topics will remain mostly the same, but perhaps branch out a bit more to talk about not only video games, but different aspects of technology and real world events as well.  We'll see how this experiment goes.

Speaking of experiments, I mentioned Star Wars, didn't I?  In case you were under a rock during the month of October this year, you probably already know that Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion.  Their plan?  To release a new Stars Wars film every "Two to three years." (Source)

Ya like that, huh?  That's another new change.  When I do research/quotes/state facts, I'll make sure I list sources.  This effectively nullifies anyone's right to complain about anything.

To be honest, a new film every two to three years scares the shit out of me.  But they probably won't follow through with that.  You'll see them do a follow-up trilogy and then it'll go dormant again for awhile.  If they did, god only knows what kind of garbage we'd get after they spent the better part of a decade parking the Millennium Falcon on a dead horse.

What I'm more concerned about, however, is what these new films will contain.  (I know where I'd take them, and because I am always right and never, ever wrong, I'll save my ideas for the end of this.)  I guess my real point of contention is that these actors are getting old - and while we can make them look younger, I'm kind of interested in what happened right after Return of the Jedi, not what happens decades later (but don't get me wrong, I'd like to eventually know that too.)

Maybe what scares me the most is that they won't use a character that spent the better part of a decade being a dominant force in gaming.  In case you missed out on the mid-90's FPS+Lightbaber scene, I'm talking about Kyle Katarn.

Seen here in the live-action scenes from the first Jedi Knight game.  You can read more about him here: Kyle Katarn.
 Aside from taking us through the Dark Forces saga, his premier game, he takes us through multiple other titles eventually leading up to him helping Luke Skywalker himself re-found the Jedi Order.  Holy shit, those were good games - you can get them all on steam for about $20 (total) if you're feeling lucky - I say that because getting them to work on newer computers can be challenging.

I need a lightsaber.
But aside from the Dark Trooper Project, and his discovery of the force, Kyle has a certain side of him that combines the two leads from the original Star Wars saga.  He's a loner with an attitude; "I'm no Jedi; I'm just a guy with a lightsaber and a few questions."  That quote alone is something you could almost hear Han Solo saying, aside from his preference of having a good blaster at his side.

On the other hand, regardless of how you played him (good or evil) through the games, Kyle often reminded me of Luke.  He was lost, desperately trying to find his way while coping with a lot of family drama.  There's that whole "Holy shit!  I can use the Force!" thing too.

If you played the games, you already know that he'd be an excellent choice for the main character in the 7th movie.  That being said, you can't just pick up the story with him, we've waited almost 30 years to see what happens after Return of the Jedi (you can read about it in a few books, if you'd like.

So maybe he'd be better left off to the 8th or perhaps even 9th movie?  Hell, putting him in towards the end of the 3rd trilogy leaves a hell of a segway to the 4th. 

But the problem is, well.  The actors are getting old.  And we kind of need Luke to re-found the Jedi.  If it takes another 8 years to produce the next three movies, that'll make it kind of difficult to put an almost 70-year-old Mark Hammill into live action scenes during Kyle's story.  In the Star Wars Lore, Luke would only be about 6 years older than he is during Episode VI.  But that's all just guess work at this point.

Who knows where Disney will take the franchise.  I'm eagerly awaiting some news - but for now, I'll secretly hold out that one day I can see Luke and Kyle drop into an Empire base and dispatch hundreds of Stormtroopers within a matter of minutes.

God damn those were awesome games.  Go play them.  Seriously.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Planetside 2 - A Beginners Guide

Short and sweet, a point by point list of some seemingly-basic things that Planetside 2 fails to teach you thanks to its lack of tutorial.  (I'm a bit pissed about that still, can you tell?)

I'll continue to add to this as new things come up - feel free to drop anything you can think of into the comments, I'll add it here and credit you accordingly  I've saved the ones that require pictures for the bottom of the article, you can click on any pictures here to make them larger.

- First and foremost; DO NOT SPEND ANY STATION CASH ON A CHARACTER YOU DO NOT WANT TO PLAY.  Unlocking something with Station Cash (Sony's currency, available in $5 increments) is applicable to that character only.  Not every character of that faction.  It's gone forever if you delete that character - might as well set the money on fire instead. This is especially important regarding faction choice - God, I wish I didn't roll NC, constantly <20% activity and constantly getting rolled on my server, but now I'm locked in.

***DISCLAIMER: MOST WEAPONS ARE DISAPPOINTING AND A WASTE OF MONEY.  A select few are amazing, but will still not compensate for a lack of skill.  Get the best of your impatient side and preview things before you buy them.***

*NOTE Sony was VERY helpful to me in restoring the Station Cash I spent before realizing this.  If you accidentally made a purchase without understanding the system, contact them.  They will help you - once.

- The "E" key is an important one.  It lets you enter and exit vehicles, use terminals, etc.  It's worth noting that pressing this key while piloting a vehicle ejects you to your doom (if flying).  Your crew is soon to follow.  You may want to rebind it.

-The Engineer and Medic 'classes' can level you faster if utilized correctly. 

*The Medic's Gun can heal friends and resurrect them if they fall (Default #3).
*The Medic's Ability can heal everyone around you, INCLUDING yourself, and recharges quickly.  (Default "F" Key)

*The Engineer's Repair gun can... repair anything.  Including friendly MAX's (armor suits).  (Default #3)
*The Engineer's Ammo drop (Default #4)can resupply all friendlies that walk over it with ammo.  That's a CRAZY amount of experience very quickly if you drop it in common fighting area during a big fight.
- The F1-F12 keys dictate the positions in a vehicle, with F1 always being the pilot/driver.  You can swap at any time, and you can ask someone to swap with you by hitting their corresponding F# key, and waiting for them to confirm (by pressing Y or N when the prompt in the bottom right appears).

- Don't spawn ground vehicles at the warp gate (main base on each continent) unless you can't spawn them anywhere else.  Why?  They have a good chance to fall through the ground.  Especially if you're spawning something other than the Magrider (A Vanu Tank).  I've died no less than a dozen times forgetting about this.

- Push the Page Down button to bring up the vehicle status screen.  From there you can lock the vehicle to everyone, just allow your squad into it, or deconstruct it (remove it from the map).  To troll people, fill up a Galaxy (12 man carrier) and fly them out into the middle of nowhere, then eject them at 1000 feet by switching the vehicle to squad only, or private.  Always good for a laugh.

-You can re-deploy at any time.  It takes 10 seconds to remove you from the current area and give you new options for deployment.  Pushing the M key for Map and clicking re-deploy in the bottom right will start the timer - you must stay in that screen until it completes.

- Flying takes practice.  Turning any aircraft efficiently requires mastery of the spacebar (hoverjets/lift), "C" Key (Air Brake and landing gear) as well as careful manipulation of the throttle and Roll of the aircraft.  Practice somewhere - bouncing off walls and other aircraft always results in severe damage and near-certain death spins.

- There are cheap upgrades (like 10% health for every 'class') available for 1 Cert (certification point, gained through experience).  There's simple things like zoomed sights for vehicle weapons, extra ammo, and a few others waiting for you to easily pick up.  These make a difference - but don't forget to equip them! (See the next point)

- You need to equip things you unlock.  Seems rather obvious - yet almost every five minutes I hear someone wondering why something they just unlocked isn't working.

The Standard Loadout screen.  Here, you can see my Reaver's Performance slot is empty.  I just purchased The Hover Stability Airframe upgrade.  To equip it I'm going to click on the performance slot.

Then, I'm going to click on the upgrade itself.  It should be highlighted AND appear on the far right hand (rectangular) box.   Then I should click 'Previous' in the top left hand corner to confirm it's there before spawning the vehicle.

Yep, it's there.  Go shoot stuff.

- You can preview any weapon in the game (even vehicle weapons) for 30 minutes.  You can do this again with a different weapon every 8 hours.  To do this, go into any loadout screen, select a weapon, and click "get more".  Then, press the gold "unlock" button, and at the far bottom of the window, in blue, you'll see the 'preview' button. 

*NOTE that you can not preview a weapon if you are in combat, or dead.  After starting the preview you must go to a place where you can equip the weapon in order to make it active in that load out, and actually start using it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Planetside 2

So, there's a few things to know:

First and foremost - if you are someone that does not learn quickly, cannot adapt, and gets easily frustrated at video games, PlanetSide 2 (PS2) is not for you.  Do not download it.  Do not play it.  Dismiss it without a thought and move on to the next game of interest.

I say this so bluntly and with such emphasis because the game literally dumps you out into the wild and leaves you to fend for yourself.  It does not teach you anything.  There is no tutorial - only a link on the patcher that takes you to some overly verbose videos that will help, but offer nothing to the majority of gamers that want to learn by playing - not watching someone else play their game.

I always get angry when I come into a game that doesn't have a tutorial.  It's inexcusable.  There is no reason except apathy and a lack of consideration towards your player base to justify not having a five-minute experience showing newcomers the ropes.  Industry standards.  Go try to develop software privately and hand it to a client without showing them how to use it.  Let me know how that works out for you. 

So, what does happen when you start the game?  You get a short video that tells you what's about to happen - you're about to be dropped into a hot area and instantly killed by something that you couldn't see, weren't prepared for, and didn't know how to combat.  Sounds like a fantastic first impression.  Imagine if every time you saw an advertisement, the first five seconds of the commercial was someone uttering racial slurs and profanity, and then kicking a small, cute, animal.  That's about the frustration-educing level that PS2's opening impression leaves a player with.

Before I break into the usual good/bad/balanced, I just want you to know I'm fighting an urge.  An urge to just type up all the shit you need to know about this game that will make your experience INFINITELY better from the moment you re-spawn after that bitter first death.   I'll do that, in the next article, which you'll be able to find here when it's done.

You can't actually do this in PS2.  But it would be bad ass if you could.

The Good

- The game runs well if you have a half-decent computer.  My current rig is over 3 years old, its sub-optimal in many many ways, and it's been giving me problems galore lately.  It still gets 50+ FPS in PS2, and I haven't messed with the settings much.

- The game rewards strategic, cooperative play - even if most of the people mindlessly running around haven't figure that out yet.

 - Holy shit, this game is fun.  I've spent far more hours than most would consider safe or reasonable flying around my Reaver this holiday weekend.  (That's a small fighter-jet type vehicle).  There's ground vehicles too, and if vehicular manslaughter isn't your cup of tea, the infantry vs. infantry aspects of the game are solid as well.  I can say something about PS2 that I can rarely say about any game - it has something that everyone can enjoy.

- The game involves everyone.  If you want to just be a pilot that ferry's troops, you can do that.   They need you to do that.  It's a long ass walk otherwise.

- Well thought out, intriguing maps.   I can imitate flying an A-Wing through a canyon just like in Rebel Assault.  I can shoot down enemies over a lush jungle, or I can watch as they leave a crater in the icy landscape.  You can actually be strategic in this game, instead of just moving from cover to cover and shooting whatever you find.

- You gain certification points (in-game 'currency' that you spend to unlock customizations, guns, armors, utility abilities, etc.) offline.  They said that PS2 ripped this feature from Eve-Online.  People that say that are stupid - Eve is, nor ever was, the only game to give you credit towards something while you are offline.  This gives players the chance to catch up even if they haven't played for awhile.  (I believe there is a limit to this, but can't say for certain - you don't get these points forever)

- A subscription model that makes sense!?  For $15 a month I get +25% experience, and resources (used for vehicles and other stuff), AND I get 500 station cash (= to $5).  So I really pay $10.  Also, that % of rewards goes up for each month you keep it active (by 5%, up to 65% I believe).  If you like this game, holy shit, that's worth it.

- Kickass music.

- NO HITSCAN WEAPONS!!!!!  What's that mean?  Hitscan is a fucking horrendously archaic game mechanic that means if you aim a shot right, it hits, no matter what.  Bullet travel time is irrelevant - if the crosshairs line up, you hit all your shots.  That obviously makes cheating much easier for the douchebags that do it.  Every shot you fire in PS2 has travel time, so you need to lean your targets, etc.  Needless to say, sniping is very hard. Aim bots won't help you much here.

The Bad

- I've done a lot of software QA in my day, all professionally.  As with most games at launch, there are nearly game-breaking 'features' that should not have made it to a live build of the game.  For example, you can not see your squad mate's position on the map if they are in a vehicle.  This makes squads for airborne friends rather frustrating.  "Where are you!?!"  Another favorite of mine is spawning in, and then falling through the ground and dying.

- The client and imagery reeks of Everquest 1.  That's right.  EQ1.  The foliage, ground textures, mountains, I could swear almost all of it was ripped right from that game.  It has a lot of the same UI errors that were never fixed, as well.  Like saving preview options when switching specs:  If I view the Medic's guns, then switch to the Light Assault and view their guns, it still shows me the medics guns because I went to him first.  Pretty awesome stuff.  You get used to it.

- This game does not run well on old machines.  It will be unplayable.

- Lag can be frustratingly bad if you're an infantry soldier and stuck in a huge battle.  The servers just can't handle that many bullets, grenades, etc.  I've noticed ZERO lag in vehicles - far less action in the area is my guess - although that doesn't make much sense.  Server load is server load.

- No tutorial means there's literally dozens of things you need to figure out on your own.  Things that many people will quit in frustration of without ever realizing they could do.  Like having to actually equip things other then weapons when you buy them.  Call me crazy, but when something says "Gives 10% health", I expect it to do that.  Not "Gives 10% health when equipped."  There's a big difference.

- Random flickering enemies, friends, tanks, planes, trains, and automobiles.  Starts happening about 1 hour into a session.  Restart the game often, there's a memory leak. Also, there are no trains.

- No trains.

- No Tutorial.  I have no idea how large bases are captured.  We literally spent 10 hours yesterday fighting over one huge base that the enemy somehow retained spawn-rights to (in one room).  They'd group up and fan out over and over.  Lots of experience, and frustration.  They had nothing else anywhere near that base, yet they kept coming from that one room.  Wish I knew what was going on.


 The Balanced

-  While the game leans VERY FAR towards the pay-to-win equation of free-to-play (F2P) games, there's hope.  You can't unlock everything with money, just weapons - obviously, some are better then others and provide a huge advantage.  HOWEVER, raw skill balances this out - if you are better than your opponent, you will win almost all the time.  Further balancing this out is the fact that there are customizations galore, armor, shields, health, unique abilities, etc. that can't be unlocked with money - you need to play the game, and do well, to unlock them in a reasonable amount of time.

- The flight controls can be anger-inducing until you get used to them.  But once you get a few hours behind the ... stick (?) you'll get the hang of it and maneuver with ease.  Incredible ease, actually.  And its a hell of a lot of fun.

- Every class and play style has something to offer.  From anti-air tanks, to medics, to heavy assault troopers.  Nobody has any real overpowered (OP) garbage that they exploit endlessly for an advantage.  At least not that I've seen.

- Room to grow on.  New continents, weapons, vehicles, classes, lots of options.  LOTS.  Interested, but cautiously optimistic about what the future holds for this game.

So, what did I miss?  Anything?   Leave me your thoughts below.  Also - keep an eye out for the PS2 Survival guide that will be out some point this weekend, and don't forget to check back here often - I've always got new stuff coming out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Halo 4 - Team Snipers, A Survival Guide

This article is the first in a series of video collaborations with - N3ac3y's one of the few Halo 4 commentators that's doing informative, well-versed videos that provide gamers with actual insight they can turn into results during their own matches.

Oh, he's also one of the select few doing it in full 1080p as well.  Trust me, that's no small feat given that Halo 4 is Xbox only.

I want to jump into a point N3ac3y goes right into (briefly) at the beginning of the video, and then returns to in both his commentary on the video, as well as his comments under it.  The video is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

The most important thing to realize with Team Snipers is that you're going to have bad games.  You'll get lag, you'll get matched up with group of players that are better shots then you are, and there will be nothing you can do about it.  You will get spawned killed every game, at least once.  You need to not get angry, understand what's happening, and try to minimize the damage by making the right moves at the right time.  Not by going out and trying to get lucky.

Without beating a dead horse and summarizing N3ac3y's video directly, I'd like to provide to additional points that complement his instruction on map control.

1 - Pathing.   Every map has points that people naturally gravitate toward.  This is even more evident in a game with specialized weapons, like Team Snipers.  While practicing head shots is great, and will obviously improve your performance, practicing games in general will help you understand the map layout.  Every single map in Halo 4 has select spots that provide definitive advantages.  Becoming familiar with these, and exploiting them, will improve your game play ten fold, even if you're still not the best shot.

2 - Covering angles.  Not just your angles, but your teammates as well.  Once you get to know the maps, and the likely places your enemies will gravitate towards, you'll have a pretty good idea of where fire is likely to come from.  When you're reloading, or moving, take stock of where your teammates are, and where (if) they're firing.  In a game like Team Snipers, kills happen quickly.  Unless you see your teammate drop, they probably don't need your help picking up a kill.  Don't stop mid-sprint out in the open to back them up, get somewhere safe, take stock of the situation, and then decide where you can do the most damage.

So between the video and what I've written here, I hope you can come out of the 15 minutes you spent between the video and this article a better player.  Feel free to drop us a line by either commenting here or on's youtube channel, let us know what's worked for you.

Oh, and don't run around in the open unless you absolutely have to.  Some of the guys that get picked off by N3ac3y in that video make you wonder if there is any hope for the human race.

Check back here often for more updates, guides, and general tips on how to dominate at Halo 4.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Halo 4 - Multiplayer Tactical Package Loadout Guide

By popular demand, I'm going to keep this short and sweet.  Feel free to drop your own commentary at the end - I'm curious what the common Tactical Package (TP) setups are these days, and how people are using them to the fullest.

If you're looking for guides on the other loadout slots, you can click below for the respective guide:
Primary/Secondary Weapons + Grenades
Armor Abilities
Support Upgrades

Mobility - Infinite sprinting.  Fantastic for mobility on large maps, catching up with the runaway flag, or getting to a hiding spot.  Mobility is king if you utilize it correctly.

Shielding - Your shields will recharge twice as fast.
*NOTE that this has NO effect on the delay that occurs between when you stop taking damage, and start recovering shields.  This changes how quickly your shields return to full once they start recharging

*ANOTHER NOTE - There is difference with or without this TP when you are inside a Regen Field (granted from an armor ability).

Resupply - Makes 2 grenades drop from any fallen enemies.  Not just the enemies you kill, but all the enemies on the map (hence more than one person having this on a team is completely pointless).  Anyone can pick up the grenades, the type is determined in the following hierarchy:

1: What type of grenades did the enemy have when it was killed?
(If it had no grenades, it defaults to:)
2: What type of grenades was this creature given when it was spawned?
(The default grenade for the loadout that spartan was using is dropped)

It always drops the same 2 types of grenades, even if in the case of #1 the enemy only had one grenade on them when it was killed.

AA Efficiency - I actually covered this TP in its entirety in a previous post.  You can read about it in depth by clicking here.  Without details - this TP will cut the time it takes for your ability to fully regenerate in half.  Some abilities do react differently though, namely Regen Field and Hologram, it's worth reading up on how/why.

Grenadier - Increases grenade carrying capacity (with all grenades) to 3.  You'll spawn in with 3 grenades of your chosen type, instead of two, as well.

Firepower - Lets you use two primary weapons instead of a Primary/Secondary.  You can read all about the Primary/Secondary weapons in my guide covering them, as well as grenades, by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


So there's a lot of bullshit out right now about how to level fast in Halo 4.  Some if it involves cheating with extra controllers logged into your xbox during multiplayer, some if it involves stupid tactics like playing Kind of the Hill games and just letting someone win quickly and farming the match bonus, and some involve just AFKing during matches after getting a kill.

It's all dogshit.  The most I've ever gotten from ANY matchmaking game was 4100, and that was when I went on a rampage with a banshee in a big team battle and racked up over 40 kills.  In a row.

If you want to level quickly, and you are playing ANY MATCHMAKING GAME WHAT SO EVER, you are doing it wrong and leveling slower then you could be.

You need to be playing spartan ops - NOT WITH FRIENDS, but through the solo "Find Game" option in the spartan ops interface. (UPDATE - This will work on ANY mission, as long as you get 11 or more kills, and the mission duration is longer than 8 minutes and 30 seconds).

You need to be active and actually play to get the max bonus, which is a whopping 5950 experience. You need more than 30 kills (which is very easy to do if you are half decent at Halo) in order to get that bonus, otherwise you'll get somewhere around 5k.

*NOTE:  Spartan Ops is miserably laggy, you can experience up to a full second delay.  Stick with it, you'll adjust to the lag and be just fine after the first few kills.

If you're terrible and somehow manage to kill less than 10 enemies, you'll get around 3k, which is still SIGNIFICANTLY more than you're probably getting in any matchmaking game, unless you're awesome and getting 30+ kills a match.

If you AFK, you get nothing, something like 700xp for completing the match.  Report people that do this - it will get them banned and everyone will be better off for it.

So again, Spartan Ops, Matchmaking, 11 or more kills, 8 minute 30 second duration = 5950xp

Absolutely nothing else is faster.  If someone tells you they found something better, demand a screen shot before you go waste your time, because they're wrong.

No go level to 50 and unlock those specs!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Halo 4 Multiplayer - Armor Ability Guide

If you want to bypass the explanations for each ability, and just get the durations and cooldown timers of each - you can click here.  HOWEVER, you will be somewhat out of the loop in not reading this article at least once - not because I wrote it and want you to read it, but because it explains how some of these abilities can be used while cooling down, how many shots it takes the sentry drone to kill things, etc.

If you're looking for guides on the other loadout slots, you can click below for the respective guide:
Primary/Secondary Weapons + Grenades
Tactical Packages
Support Upgrades 

I love the Armor Abilities in Halo 4.  It really helps you define a role for your character.  In a way, this is the greatest choice you can make as far as customization is concerned - proper selection and use of these abilities before and during battle can make the difference between a mediocre (and struggling) Halo 4 enthusiast, and a dominating force to be reckoned with. 

I'm going to tell you everything.  Durations, activation times, approximate areas of effect, and most importantly (I haven't found anyone else doing this yet), I'm going to tell you the duration and recharge reduction of your AA abilities when you select the Tactical Package AA efficiency.

For clarification; the Tactical Package slot is another choice, just like Armor Abilities, that you select on your loadout.  I'm going to write a separate guide covering all of them, but since the AA Efficiency package can directly factor into your choice regarding which AA ability to take, it needs to be noted here.

All of these AA Abilities are unlocked with 3 SP (Spartan Points) so these descriptions can help you pick an ability early and save those points for experimenting with weapons and tactical packages.

*Note, I had to manually time these abilities with a stopwatch.  I did 10 experiments with each, this took a lot of time, but if you feel I've left something out or have misstated some information, leave a comment!

*Another note!  It's VERY IMPORTANT to understand that once you've expended all the duration on an ability, there is a period of time before that ability starts cooling down - 2 seconds.  So, in effect, when reading through the abilities below, the cooldowns from completely spent to fully available are two seconds longer then listed. 

*Final note (for now) all abilities can be activated again before completely cooling down, once they have restored 30% of their total duration.  Obviously the AA Efficiency package makes them available sooner, and more often.

Hologram - Releases an image of you that runs toward the target location.  This image shows up on the radar and can fool enemies into thinking it's you, or another player.  Particularly useful if you duck into a corner and sent out the hologram, then finish them off when they chase it down.

Regardless if you have the AA Efficiency (AAE) package equipped or not, the clone lasts for 7 seconds - which is ALSO the time the ability takes to cool down before you use it again.

With AAE the ability is ready again in 3.5 seconds!  You can not send out two clones at once, however, and the first one will disappear upon activating the ability again.  This can be confusing as hell for an enemy team, as you and a friend can team up and make it look like a parade on their radar.

Cooldown:  7 seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 3.5 seconds
Clone Duration:  6.75 seconds, OR until the ability is activated again

Promethean Vision - Lets you see enemies through walls.  The longer it remains activated, the further away you can see enemies.  It emits a pulse from you, granting you sight as it expands.  Enemies can see this pulse on the radar, and it will give away your position even if crouched/otherwise invisible.

Duration: 5 seconds
Cooldown: 10 seconds

*Note, you can reactivate it again with a shorter duration about 3 seconds after it has started to recharge.  It takes 2 seconds after expiring before it starts to recharge.  So - once you completely use the ability, if you wait 5 seconds, you can use it again for 3 seconds.

Cooldown w/AAE:5 seconds!

*Note, you can reactivate it again with AA EFF equipped MUCH faster, if you wait 3 seconds after completely using the ability, you can use it again for 3 seconds.  This means you can have it effective about 1/2 the time - but the overall range will be depleted.

Thrusters - Provides a little mini-jump in a direction of you're choosing.  You'll move about 3 spartan-widths away from your current location.  You can also use this ability to extend the reach of a jump (not the height) if you time it correctly.

Cooldown:  3 seconds - be aware, it must cooldown completely before using it again.
Cooldown w/AAE: 1.5 seconds

Active Camouflage - Awesome if used correctly, worthless if used wrong.  Players correctly utilizing this ability will slaughter countless enemies who never see it coming.  While crouched, you will be completely invisible to the radar, and nearly invisible to enemies who have line of sight to you.  While standing, the faster you move, the less effective the camouflage is.  I highly recommend staying crouched at all times while using this ability.  Not only because crouching always hides you from the radar, but because it prevents the camouflage from being less effective due to moving quickly while standing.

Check out this video from N3ac3y at, it's a prime example of how to effectively use Active Camo:

*Note:  When you use active camouflage, enemies and friends alike will experience 'ghosts' on their radar.  Random indicators of enemies (or friends, in your teammates case) appearing all over your location.  Anyone paying attention will know that someone using active camouflage is close by.

Like any ability, you can use it again after it has began cooling down for 20% or more of its total duration.  However, there are penalties for starting active camou. early, or ending it before it finishes its duration timer.  You'll lose about 5% for doing either.

Duration:  16 seconds
Cooldown:  14 seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 7 seconds

Autosentry - Your own personal turret that appears over your head and shoots things, the closest thing, as a matter of fact.  It takes 5 shots to take down an enemy's shields, and 4 more shots to finish them.  It fires a shot every second, and it always fires at the enemy's chest.

This ability really shines on big team battles, where it will help you pick up LOTS of assists, and occasionally kills.  It takes anywhere from 2-3 seconds to destroy the turret depending on what gun your enemy is using, 3 shots for a DMR or battle rifle, or a few more for things like the assault rifle, etc.

*Note while 'summoning' the turret, your spartan will stand still and be completely vulnerable for 1.5 seconds.  There is no way to end this vulnerability early by un-summoning the turret.  Once you select 'activate' you're stuck there until the turret appears.  So, don't do this out in the open.

Duration: 1 minute or until shot down.
Cooldown:  18 Seconds
Cooldown w/AAE:  9 seconds

*Note that if you call back the turret by using the AA ability button again, you will completely expend the duration.  Triggering the standard 2-second timer before the ability begins to cool down and make itself available again. 

Regeneration Field - Probably the best all-around AA, the regeneration field has the same drawback as the autosentry, in that your spartan is vulnerable for 1.5 seconds while activating it.  Once active, however, you and all allies in the area (about 10 Spartans in diameter) will have their shields slowly regenerated.

It's not invulnerability, enemies shooting at you delay the effect about a half second, so this won't save you from getting killed in direct engagements with a few enemies, but it will almost certainly be enough to outlast an opponent 1v1 and down them if they aren't also in a regeneration field.

Health restoration:  When not taking damage, it takes a full 3 seconds to completely regenerate shields, that's pretty sick.  'Health' is completely restored once the shield begins recharging the shields, which is immediate as long as you aren't getting shot.

Duration (add 1.5 seconds for the activation vulnerability):  10 seconds
Cooldown:  30 Seconds (it begins cooling down IMMEDIATELY, there is no 2-second down-timer as with the other abilities.
Cooldown w/AAE: 15 seconds.  You can almost constantly have a regeneration field up, with only a 5-second overlap without having one if you equip the AAE.

Jet Pack - Hovering over the battlefield (temporarialy) has its advantages.  You can jump over terrain that could otherwise cause you to make a lengthy, and probably exposed, run around.  Unfortunately, while death from above can have its own advantages, it comes as a double-edged sword.  It's NEVER a good thing to make yourself visible to more enemies, which you always do when using the Jet Pack.

*Pro Tip:  Never just turn on the jetpack,  always jump into your activation.  This provides you with some extra height and momentum necessary to get the most (or anything, really) out of your Jet Pack.

Duration:  2.5 seconds of lift - you'll need to play around with this in order to understand exactly what you can, and can't Jet Pack to on certain maps.  It'd be unfair and nearly impossible for me to guesstimate the overall effectiveness of the height gained by using this ability.

Cooldown:  7 Seconds. 
Cooldown w/AAE:  3.5 Seconds. 

*IMPORTANT NOTE:  The Jetpack can begin to restore some of its duration if unused for a second.  This amount restored is TWICE AS MUCH when using AAE.  That can significantly increase your air time if planned correctly.

Hardlight Shield - Throws up a deflective barrier in front of your Spartan.  Deflective is a key word there, as with the correct angle it can actually return fire to the enemy shooting at you (more noticeable if they're using an automatic weapon, like the assault rifle).

Duration: 5 Seconds
Cooldown: 10 Seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 5 Seconds

*How much damage does it take?  That's a difficult question to answer, since there's no way for me to say "It takes 20 points of damage!" since Halo doesn't distribute damage numbers.  I can sum it up in a few ways:

-Unless your enemy is using an explosive weapon (rocket launcher, etc), they will not be able to break the shield before it runs out of duration.
-Explosions do less damage.  A frag grenade will take down about 2/3rds of your shields if it lands in front of you.  A rocket will just take your shields down instead of outright kill you.  A plasma grenade will bounce off it.
-Holding off two enemies is tricky, it depends on what weapons they're using and if they're hitting all their shots.  As a general rule, expect to survive against two people 1/2 the time.

Hope this helps some people, I scoured the internet for this info, and didn't find it anywhere.  Tell your friends!

Once again, to see JUST the abilities and their duration/cooldown timers, click here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Halo 4 Armor-Ability Quick-Reference Guide

You can return to the main article by clicking here.

Cooldown:  7 seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 3.5 seconds
Clone Duration:  7 seconds, OR until the ability is activated again

Promethean Vision
Duration: 5 seconds
Cooldown: 10 seconds
Cooldown w/AAE:5 seconds!

Cooldown:  3 seconds - be aware, it must cooldown completely before using it again.
Cooldown w/AAE: 1.5 seconds

Active Camouflage
Duration:  16 seconds
Cooldown:  14 seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 7 seconds

Duration: 1 minute or until shot down.
Cooldown:  18 Seconds
Cooldown w/AAE:  9 seconds

Regeneration Field
Duration (add 1.5 seconds for the activation vulnerability):  10 seconds
Cooldown:  30 Seconds (it begins cooling down IMMEDIATELY, there is no 2-second down-timer as with the other abilities.
Cooldown w/AAE: 15 seconds.

Jet Pack
Duration:  2.5 seconds of lift
Cooldown:  7 Seconds. 
Cooldown w/AAE:  3.5 Seconds. 

Hardlight Shield
Duration: 5 Seconds
Cooldown: 10 Seconds
Cooldown w/AAE: 5 Seconds

You can find your way back to the main article, which explains the abilities IN DEPTH, by clicking here.

Halo 4 - Primary/Second Weapons and Grenades - Multiplayer Loadout Guide

So, this guide focuses on the first three slots of the Halo 4 Multiplayer customization features - Primary and Secondary Weapons, as well as Grenades.

If you're looking for guides on the other loadout slots, you can click below for the respective guide:
Armor Abilities
Tactical Packages
Support Upgrades

I note the unlock costs for these weapons at the top of each subsection, SP are spartan points, you get 1 SP every time you level.

Primary Weapons
*Unlock cost:  The BR and DMR each cost 1 SP to unlock, every other primary weapon takes 2.

Assault Rifle (AR) (unlocked by default):

Fully Automatic.
32 Rounds per Magazine .
128 Rounds by default (4 additional Magazines).
224 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (7 additional magazines).

10 Rounds to de-shield an enemy.
6 Rounds to kill a de-shielded enemy (headshots, while difficult, will instantly kill them once de-shielded) .
16 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

Battle Rifle (BR) (unlocked at SR2):

3-Round Burst.
36 Rounds per Magazine (12 shots)
72 Rounds by default (2 additional Magazines).
144 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

4 Shots to de-shield an enemy.
3 Shots OR one bullet to the head (each shot fires 3 bullets) to kill a de-shielded enemy.
13-18 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) (unlocked at SR 2):

3-Round Burst.
14 Rounds per Magazine.
28 Rounds by default (2 additional Magazines).
56 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

4 Shots to de-shield an enemy.
3 Shots OR one bullet to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
5-8 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

Storm Rifle (unlocked at SR 5):

Fully Automatic
100% Charge for a normal loadout.
150% with the Ammo Support Upgrade.
Every two 'rounds' = 1% charge.
Firing it to the point of overheating eats up 16% of the total charge.

9 Rounds to de-shield an enemy (5% charge).
6 Rounds to kill a de-shielded enemy. (3% charge)
15 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy. (8% charge)

Covenant Carbine (unlocked at SR 5):

18 Rounds per Magazine.
54 Rounds by default (3 additional Magazines).
90 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (5 additional magazines).

7 Rounds to de-shield an enemy.
5 Rounds OR one shot to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
8-12 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

Suppressor (Unlocked at SR 22:

Fully Automatic.
48 Rounds per Magazine .
144 Rounds by default (3 additional Magazines).
192 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

12 Rounds to de-shield an enemy.
8 Rounds to kill a de-shielded enemy (headshots, while difficult, will instantly kill them once de-shielded) .
13-20 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

LightRifle (Unlocked at SR 22):

3-round burst (looks just like one continuous shot)
36 Rounds per Magazine. (12 shots)
72 Rounds by default (2 additional Magazines).
144 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

*NOTE - This weapon is the only one currently in the game that does more damage if zoomed in, hence there are two sections below regarding damage.

5 Shots to de-shield an enemy.
3 Shots OR one shot to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
6-8 Shots to kill a fully shielded enemy (18-24 rounds)

3 Shots to de-shield an enemy.
2 Shots OR one shot to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
4-5 Shots to kill a fully shielded enemy (12-15 rounds)

*NOTE - One shot zoomed in will guarantee a 3-shot de-shielding of your enemy, even if the 2nd and 3rd shots weren't zoomed in.

Secondary Weapons (Each requires 2 SP to unlock):

Magnum (default):

8 Rounds per Magazine.
16 Rounds by default (2 additional Magazines).
32 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

5 Rounds to de-shield an enemy.
3 Rounds OR one shot to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
6-8 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

The Plasma Pistol (SR 8):

100% Charge for a normal loadout.
150% with the Ammo Support Upgrade.

1 shot = 2% of your total energy.
4 shots to de-shield an enemy.
8 shots to kill a de-shielded enemy (yes, really.)

Hold the trigger for a charged blast.
The charge takes a total of 22% of your total weapon's ammo capacity in order to charge up fully and fire immediately.
If you hold the charge you will lose about 5% energy a second until you fire the weapon.
If you wait until the weapon's energy hits zero, it will fire the charge and the weapon will then be useless.

1 charged shot to de-shield an enemy, or disable a vehicle temporarily (~3 seconds)
3 charged shots to kill a de-shielded enemy.  Nobody would ever do this, but I figured it would be fun to know.
4 Charged shots to kill an enemy. 

Boltshot (SR 18):

10 Rounds per Magazine .
20 Rounds by default (2 additional Magazines).
40 Rounds with the Ammo Support Upgrade (4 additional magazines).

10 Rounds to de-shield an enemy.
6 Rounds OR one shot to the head to kill a de-shielded enemy.
11-16 Rounds to kill a fully shielded enemy.

Hold the trigger to charge up the shot.  After two seconds pass, or if you release the trigger before that, it will send out a burst shot lethal up to about 4 spartan lengths away (testing this was fun).  Any further than that and you're likely to just de-shield the enemy instead of outright kill them.

This fire mode consumes five rounds.

Grenades (Each requires 2 SP to unlock):

Frag (default):

One grenade to take down shields, another to finish them off.  Note that these can do significantly less damage the further away an enemy is.

Plasma (SR 8):

An outright kill if stuck to an enemy, or if they're very close to one that's resting on the ground.  Two will, of course, finish off anyone nearby.

Pulse (SR 18):

These little beauty's land, encompass a small area with a orange ball, and then explode 2.5 seconds after.  The ball will do damage during the initial explosion, while it's in effect (visible) and then again after the 2.5 seconds pass and it explodes one final time.

An enemy must be present and inside the ball for the initial explosion, the ball's duration, and the final explosion in order for them to die.  Running through the ball will incur a small amount of damage: for reference, walking through the ball will damage a Spartan's shield by about 1/3rd.  Sprinting through the ball will damage them by about 1/10th.

*NOTE that while these grenades stick to walls, and bounce off Spartans, HOWEVER, they will explode (in mid air) near an enemy spartan if hit.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Halo 4 (Multiplayer)

Right into the thick of it - you need to face a truth about multiplayer and Halo 4.  It's one I'm horribly sad to both report to you, and accept as an individual. 

If you played any previous version of Halo, and you weren't good with the Battle Rifle (or equivalent weapon), you won't be good at Halo 4's multiplayer, as it is 100% Battle Rifle oriented, with the exception of a very small amount of different game types. 

 There are two UNSC versions of the Battle Rifle in Halo 4 - the traditional variant that fires a very quick 3-round burst, and the "DMR", which fires a one round burst.

The difference between the two is that the battle rifle is a little better suited for medium/long range, while the DMR has a slightly better scope/zoom multiplier on it, and is a tad better for long range.  Both weapons are nearly identical, it takes the same amount of trigger-pulls to kill something with either gun, it's really a matter of preference.

I use the word preference, and not choice.  You have no choice.  One of these two guns will be your primary weapon, or you will be bad.  There's no if, and, or but.  Pick one of them and master it, or try to, or enjoy getting dropped by the players that have.

Now that we have that behind us, Halo 4's multiplayer is fantastic.  Allowing you a pseudo call-of-duty customization suite to compliment your play style.  I use that word a lot, play style.  What I really mean is figuring out what you like to do, and how you like to do it - from there play with different weapon sets (as long as the primary is the Battle Rifle or DMR :) and abilities, and find something that works for you.

Now, I plan on releasing a few guides, so I won't spoil the tidbits for you, but I did mention primary weapons above and at this point you might be asking yourself, "Are there secondary weapons?"  Indeed!  Allow me to explain:

As you level up, you'll gain rank.  Think of it as a level.  These levels aren't based on skill however, instead they're based on how much experience you earn.  This is important to keep in mind - if you see a level 50 in your game, it might not be because they're good!  It might be that they just have an inordinate amount of time to play Halo.  Although, anyone that stuck with it that long is likely to be decent - winning games, and performing well levels you about 1.25-1.75x faster then just playing a losing.

As you gain rank, you'll get SP (Spartan Points) which can be used to unlock items for your loadout.  A very cool feature they included.  You can have 5 loadouts, or variants of gear you can choose to bring into battle with you.  You can switch a loadout every time you die in-game, so you're not stuck with one set for an entire match.

Loadouts consist of 6 slots, Primary Weapon, Secondary Weapon, Grenade, Armor Ability, Tactical Package, and Support Upgrade.

Primary slot consists of the DMR or Battle Rifle, don't bother buying anything else in that one.  Especially the god-awful Promethean weapons.

Secondary Weapons give you some options, the Magnum (pistol) for rapid fire close range finishing of enemies, or the plasma pistol for disabling vehicles and noob-comboing people with a DMR or Battle Rifle.  There's the piece of shit boltshot too, which is a useless piece of shit.

Grenades also come with 3 options, frag, plasma, or worthless Promethean.  You should know what these do by now.

Armor ability is somewhat new, although some of the features are directly from (or versioned off of) previous games.  Things like the Hologram, Jet Pack, and Active Camo. all return from previous games.  There's a few other options, like a (shitty) automated sentry gun that is the only Peomethean anything even close to worth using, and a regeneration field that rapidly heals all friendly players around you (it kicks ass.)

Tactical Package (I said Package) lets you add an augmentation ranging from faster cooldowns on the armor abilities listed above (super useful) to faster shield regeneration, infinite sprint (for people who think this is call of duty), extra grenades, or the use of two primary weapons (LIKE THE DMR AND BATTLE RIFLE, TOGETHER!)

The support upgrade rounds out the customization slots, and has a few things which can be invaluable to your character.  Aside from making sure you have a DMR or Battle Rifle at all times, this slot might be the most important choice you'll make.

The Ammo upgrade gives you extra ammo for your starting weapons (MOAR DMR AND BATTLE RIFLE AMMO), as well as extra ammo from ordnance drops that appear randomly throughout the matches (or when you kill enough people to earn one).  That means you can get a spartan laser with 6 shots instead of 4.  Pretty kick ass.

There's an upgrade that lets you use your motion sensor even when zooming with a weapon, which is fantastic for snipers that can't stop getting snuck up on.  And one that makes you reload/switch weapons faster.

All in all, there's a lot of potential setups, and with enough time and patience you can level up and get them all.  You can only use one for each slot at a time though. boo.

This all serves a grander purpose though, specializations!  Once you make the long, arduous trek to level 50, you'll unlock a special armor set that you can use!  This is where the game really begins, but seeing as I'm only level 31 at the time of writing this, I can't talk much about it.  INSTEAD I'll link this kickass video for you:


I'm excited as hell to try some of those out.  Be sure there are guides coming from me as soon as I get a hold of them.

There are also a few new game types too!  You won't find much information about them though - this is because 343 dropped the ball and didn't even bother to put them on their website.  I literally had to google and search through forums to figure out what some of these games were about.  Don't bother to look in-game either, Halo 4's menu's don't tell you shit either.  Thanks guys, appreciate that.

There's the typical Slayer and Big Team Slayer, of course.  There's also "Slayer Pro" which takes away the motion sensor.  This is for babies that can't deal with playing the real Halo in all its glory, and want a watered down version with less distractions so they can feel good about themselves.

King of the Hill, Oddball, Capture the Flag and Flood all return.

But then there's Regicide.  What the hell is that?  Well, its a game mode where the person with the highest score gets a target put on his head at all times.  You can kill anyone, though, and get points.  The person with the high score is worth a little more.  First to the score limit wins.  Its a nice change up from solo slayer, but a little stupid.

Dominion is the other major gametype, it replaces territories in almost every way, except now you take bases instead of random plots of land.  These bases can get turrets, give you vehicles, and erect (I said erect) shields to keep enemy players from just walking in - they take about 2 melee hits to take down, which buys you time to defend.  It's fun, but can be annoying unless you join with a good team.

The maps in general are all pretty solid, I have no complaints with the over all design of the levels.

My last and final note is semi-personal, the state of the Banshee which has fallen into near-uselessness.  With a myriad of weapons and vehicles that possess strong anti-air capability, the Banshee might score you a kill or two before getting the attention of everyone on the battlefield who will eventually shoot you out of the air with whatever they have handy. 

Review: Halo 4 (Campaign)

I have to be honest - I picked up Halo 4 with very little expectation-wise. I didn't think I'd get much out of it, except a chance to gloat at another sub-par sequel flooding the market this year.

Boy, was I wrong. 343 did nothing short of an astounding job not only surpassing my meager expectations, but surprising me in many ways. Potential spoiler alert.

I love that for the first time in the games, I heard Master Chief called John. I'm a real fan of the Halo series, even going so far as to read the Reach novel this past summer - which filled in a lot of the blanks regarding the beginning cut scene of the game. I highly suggest it for anyone even remotely interested in the Halo series that's looking for a good read. You can find a link to the book for purchase at Amazon here.

The real heart of the story shines through the stale game play and sub-par difficulty (until you crank it up to legendary, more on that in a second). There's a real connection established between the characters, and for the first time in many years I found myself beating a game and immediately wanting to know more. I want to see those relationships developed. I want to know what's next. 343 outdid themselves in that regard.

Why do I say stale game play and sub-par difficulty? I could literally go on for days. Let me throw out some bullet points before I sum up my overall thoughts:

 - No dual wielding. This was a fantastic addition to the games in the past, but (probably for balance reasons) was done away with. This added a bit of your own flavor to weapon combinations. Also, double-needlers were awesome.

- The new weapons are bad. Easily the worst that have come into any of the games thus far. The entire Promethean weapon set is either a direct copy of other weapons (sniper rifle and rocket launcher with different effects), or absolutely and completely useless. Unfortunately, there are many Promethean-only stages in the campaign, and you are forced to squander through them wondering why you're not just meleeing everything.

- Grunts don't look like grunts. Everything else looks nearly the same, why change them now? It looks like the pillsbury dough-boy snuck into my video game.

- The enemies don't say anything funny. Ever. Even with the rare-dialogue skull enabled.

- The vehicle control is awful at times - mostly regarding flight-capable vehicles. In previous Halo games, I'd go on 50-kill rampages with the Banshee. Not going to happen in Halo 4, partly because the control is bad, and partly because of reasons I'll mention in the multiplayer review.

 - The campaign is short, if you've played Halo before, you're used to this. It's about 5-6 hours on normal. But on Legendary...

That's where this was all leading up to. Legendary was frustrating in previous games, it forced you to take stock of situations and approach them differently in order to succeed.

Legendary in Halo 4 doesn't do that. For starters, anything but a headshot doesn't seem to count. Shooting enemies in the back is a complete waste of time. Grunts will soak up entire clips if a headshot isn't scored. Sticky grenades don't kill elites outright, just takes down their shields (yes, really). Their shields take 1-2 clips of ammo in order to bring down - then you need to finish them with a headshot quickly, or the shields recharge.

 You die in 1-2 hits, if a grenade goes off anywhere near you, you're dead. Jackal snipers, again. I've played through most of the campaign, and it's significantly harder then its predecessors - the only genuine complaint I have is that I honestly don't have enough ammo. I can play the duck and cover game, make sure my shots count, but I'm constantly finding myself without enough ammo to finish off a room of enemies.

Now, before you troll me, I'm a good player. I'm probably hitting 80% of my shots in the enemies' face. I have good grenade placement, and I don't sit out in the open and complain I get wrecked time and time again.  Truthfully, I'm not dying that much. The problem is, neither is the enemy.

All in all, it's a good game - but the Legendary difficulty is definitely one to bring your friends along with. It'll just be easier and faster. You won't notice much difference between normal and heroic, and easy is well... laughably easy. Won't divulge much more for the friends that haven't played it yet and after all, there's a whole world of multiplayer to talk about!