The Final Conflict

Published Date
01 - Oct - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2007
The Final Conflict
And Microsoft's ensured that every Xbox-toting gamer has been sweating in anticipation. I don't usually have much hope after so much hype, but surprisingly enough, Halo 3 lives up to a generous portion of it.

The Script
The Halo games have a book's (two, even) worth of background pseudo-mythology behind them; for now, you must satisfy yourself with a condensed version. Humanity is at war with a fanatically religious race of aliens (go figure) called the Covenant, led by the Prophet of Truth. Humans are scum, and must be eradicated from the universe. Once that deed is done, they'll be taking their stairway to heaven by activating the Halo rings spread out around the universe. What they don't know (or choose to ignore) is that their path to salvation is really a highly destructive force that can wipe out all sentient life from the universe. It's all social commentary on what's been happening in the world today-stupid, malicious things being done in the name of religion and all that. At the beginning of the game, you're reminded that the Covenant has located the Ark-a device that can remotely activate the Halos-on Earth (the reference to the Biblical Ark of the Covenant doesn't seem coincidental), so things might get a little uncomfortable rather swiftly.

You, as Master Chief Petty Officer John SPARTAN-117, will have none of this nonsense. You're back on Earth after your adventures from the previous game, ready to kick the Covenant's followers in hurtful places.

The Battle
Halo 3's controls aren't too complex, so the game doesn't offer you much training before it throws you into the action. Action, mind you, that starts early into the game, and literally doesn't stop-sure, you'll get time to breathe a little every once in a while, but your heart rate doesn't drop to normal till you rip yourself away from your console. You're constantly beset by Covenant forces in large numbers, so skirmishes are long and intense.

Most of the time, you'll be battling Brutes-the more elaborate his armour, the higher he is ranked, and thus more dangerous. The way they tend to charge at you is very worrying-especially in the beginning-and if they get too close, can kill you with considerable, well, brutality. Their edge wears off as you get used to dealing with them, but they're always fun to fight. Soon, you'll be pitting yourself against the Covenant's vehicles, including the jaw-droppingly massive Scarab Tank.

There are many ways to approach the same situation, so you don't get that I'm-hitting-my-head-against-a-brick-wall feeling every time you die (which tends to happen a lot at some points) and spawn to try again. You're also only allowed only two weapons at a time, so your choice also affects the approach you take in battle. And speaking of weapons…

The Tools
Most of Halo 3's weapons are standard FPS fare-assault rifles (making a comeback from the first game), sub-machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and their Covenant counterparts. Also like in other FPSes, you can man turrets to deal with more enemies, or just more pesky ones. Even better-and this is my favourite part-you can rip the guns off the turrets and lug them around, wreaking general havoc. You don't go as fast, but when you're mowing down battalions of Brutes and laughing evilly, who cares?

You're not fighting alone for a large part of the game-your fellow soldiers are not only too happy to help you dispose of enemies, but you can also ask them for their weapons if you get bored with yours.

Finally, there are the vehicles-the faithful Warthog returns, as do many of the old favourites, and you now get to take command of the quad-bike-like Mongoose. You can also take command of enemy vehicles, including the Brute Chopper-a rather ungainly motorcycle with a razor-like front wheel and powerful cannon. You can also sit in the back of a vehicle if you'd rather shoot than drive, but your fellow soldiers are the worst bunch of Sunday drivers I've ever seen.

The Verdict
The thing that hits you about Halo 3 is the scale-nearly every scenario finds you in a super-massive environment. The visuals are as stunning as we've come to expect from Xbox 360 games, with a few subtle niceties like the real-time reflections on Master Chief's visor and self-shadows on objects.

I've voiced my dislike for the console-FPS combination before, but surprisingly, Halo 3 felt just right. I only had trouble with the flying drones, but luckily I had comrades to dispose of them while I hid in a corner. There are elements of the game that reminded me of Half-life 2: the Breen-like appearances of holograms of the Prophet of Truth, the fact that you're leading lesser humans into battle against the aliens that threaten humanity and that every time there's a huge boss coming up, you'll find the heavy-duty weaponry required easily accessible.

But that doesn't really matter-what truly matters in a game is how much fun it is. Halo 3 is fun-every controller-gripping, nature's-call-holding, meal-skipping hour of it.

Rating    :    9/10
Developer : Bungie
Publisher : Microsoft
Distributor : Redington
Platform : Xbox 360
Contact :
Price    :    Rs 1,895
Idealism, Utopia? Naw… not here…

Rapture… An underwater city. Created by idealists… populated by a hand-picked group of artists, scientists and industrialists, once teeming with life… ideal no more. As a chance interloper you'll find yourself exploring its corridors, unravelling its secrets, all the while defending yourself from the remnants of its now-violent, genetically-mutated denizens. You will lose your humanity bit by bit, as you are forced to adapt… to mutate… in order to survive, while the sea struggles to reclaim what was taken from it.

With System Shock as a spiritual predecessor and new-age cutting edge visual and aural tools at its disposal, BioShock was never for the faint-hearted. After your plane crash, you'll swim to a beacon from a lighthouse that seems to serve no apparent purpose in the middle of an ocean, descending via a rusty bathysphere to Rapture. Once there you'll navigate around-guided by a mysterious voice, a man who seems to have his own reasons for keeping you around… for the time being at least.


Rapture is sprawling-and you get to poke around...

Rapture, the creation of maniacal businessman Andrew Ryan, is a city of the future… completely capitalist and free from government interference and religious limitations. In its bloom it might well have been idealistic, but something goes horribly, irreversibly wrong. The city's in disrepair as genetic mutants called Splicers roam around attacking on sight, or on sound. The fight is now for a powerful and corrupting substance called ADAM. This substance is what makes genetic mutation possible, what the fight is all about. It gives men god-like powers-like the ability to shoot out lightning bolts and fireballs from your fingertips, create cyclones or even move objects by sheer force of will (read telekinesis). Such powers are available by injecting tonics called plasmids. You can come across these plasmids or purchase them from vending machines, ADAM being the currency. There's another genetic substance called EVE, which is the charge required to use your powers, and you'll have a bar displaying the current reserve of EVE in your body. An EVE top-up is an injection away. You'll also get the old-fashioned firearms and melee wrench which you can find lying around, or purchase from vending machines with cold cash.

And this is what makes BioShock's combat unique: weapons used in conjunction with ADAM EVE make for some pretty memorable fights. Imagine freezing an enemy solid and whacking him with your wrench till he breaks into a thousand icy shards. Or imagine what you could do with your fireballs when you chance upon a group of opponents caught flat footed on an oil slick... Alternatively you could send out a swarm of vicious insects to sting antagonists and while they're busy swatting and shrieking pop 'em one in the head…

Enemy variety is lacking, and for the most you'll be battling varieties of Splicers-Leadheads, Spider Splicers, Houdini Splicers and so on. You will come across small mutated girls called "Little Sisters" who harvest ADAM from dead bodies and store it within their bodies. You'll face a moral dilemma-rip them open for a sizeable amount of precious ADAM, or exorcise them to restore them to their human selves, thereby saving them for half the ADAM. Before you decide, however, you will face their guardians-"Big Daddies." These huge, hulking guardians seem like proverbial tortoises that couldn't dodge a wheelchair, but attack them and they'll come at you with the speed and impact of a bullet train. Kill them, however, and you'll have Little Sister and all her ADAM at your disposal.

You'll follow the regular mission-style theme throughout levels, all the while indulging in ADAM, sometimes performing tasks for more than one master as you continuously refer to audio logs to discover for yourself what exactly went wrong.

Visually, BioShock is splendid enough to keep all but the extremely myopic hooked. The water effects make Half Life 2 look like a woody cartoon… Fire and explosions look very real, as does the (sometimes) flickering lighting; this adds to the grim ambience the game intentionally sets. And its not just the pixel shading goodness you'll notice: this game has a darn good aural experience in store as well. You'll hear enemies moving around at times, but won't be able to pinpoint their exact location-only the general vicinity they populate. This is intentional, and keeps you always on guard, on edge. Play it after dark with the lights off, and you'll jump at indistinguishable sounds, while the more mundane ones add to the immersive realism that'll spoil you silly.

BioShock is a unique game that mixes the 1960s with sci-fi themes of bio-genetic mutation and self-modification. Throw in a deep storyline with the freedom to interact with the world as you choose, and unique first-person action that mixes mundane weapons with not so mundane super powers, and you have a recipe for a real thriller. Add a dash of stunning visual graphics and a realistic audio component and you've got a winner. This one is a dish best served hot. It's not sans flaws though-enemy AI, unrealistic weapon damage models, and the fact that its too darn easy. Of course it requires a behemoth of a PC to run as well: 2K Games wasn't kidding when they ideally recommended a GeForce 8800GTX / Radeon HD2900XT card.

Even if you aren't the idealism swilling, dystopian kind of Ayn Rand fan, you should give BioShock a try… It's sure to zap your senses.

Rating    : 9/10       
Developer: 2K Boston
Publisher: 2K Games
Distributor: eXpressInteractive
Price: Rs 1299/-

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