Games that Need More Credit- Predator: Concrete Jungle

It’s time for change! A breath of fresh air. A breath that involves inhaling the nostalgic scents of burning metal, smoke, and blood. Rather than following what has become my regular routine of finding a new story and writing an article, I have decided to write about a game that has been out for a while, putting my own little twist on one of my cowriters’ (Dylan) “Better Late than Never” segment. Today I am going to talk about a game which I think did not get the credit which it was due. While this game could possibly have gone by without you knowing of its existence, you probably know about the franchise which birthed it: Predator.

Predator: Concrete Jungle was a game for the original Xbox which hit shelves in early 2005. Created to ride the fan wave made by the film Alien vs Predator (AVP). Naturally, as all video gamers do, I presumed that this game was going to be horrible- a simple attempt to gain more money from the fan base- however, when I bought it, I was surprised. While this game was no Skyrim (clearly, as it came on the original xbox, in a time when gaming was still adjusting to more advanced consoles), it still had its merits.

The Game’s Story

In the summer of 1930, a Yautja (Predator) hunter came to ‘New  Way City’ to hunt the greatest of prey- man. According to the introductory narration, we can assume that the creature had been there for some time, earning the nick name “the New Way Devil”. The Devil had taken to hunting and killing gangsters and mob bosses, and his hunt was coming to an end. However, the devil slipped up, and on the night where he killed Bruno Borgia, the God of Gansters, he sustained serious injury (you find out how later in the game). Dropping his advanced equipment, the Devil fled, making for his final target before leaving the planet. This is where the player is given control of the Predator.

Players must carve a path through a mob of rioting prohibition-era gangsters. When the last of his victims dies, the player must return to their ship, however the floor collapses beneath you en route, trapping you underground. Predator fans can probably predict what happens next. Bound by the ways of the Yautja, who do not want the population to know of their existence, the New Way Devil activates his ships self-destruction sequence, hoping to wipe its error and existence from the Earth.

The predator had the misfortune of surviving the explosion, and was forced to face the harsh judgement of his kin who arrived shortly after the explosion. Exiled to a desolate planet, the predator had to fight and survive to live his life of shame, atoning for the sins and consequences of his grievous error in judgement. However, we soon discover that the predator must atone for that and more, as his actions on Earth sent ripples through time, effecting the world in a way that was never meant to be.

One hundred years pass, and the New Way Devil has survived his exile. When his kinsmen arrive, he presumes that it is time for him to return to his people- but he is wrong. After watching a recording aboard the ship, he sees that humans found his hunting technology and adapted it into their own machinery, which was used in turn against his kin. As a result of this, he is sent back to earth, where he must atone for the sins of his past, and avoid further damaging the future.

Game Mechanics

Now, as this is an Original Xbox game, it is not surprising that the game will have its bugs and faults, however Predator: Concrete Jungle’s gaming mechanics have more negative aspects than positives. Most of these aspects can be blamed on poor programming and the game engine.

Let us start with one of the largest problems, which is a source for many other issues. The developers could not decide on it’s genre of game play. Instead of focusing on a certain specific genre (such as a stealth adventure, Action RPG, etc) and building on it, the game slapped a general ‘adventure’ genre sticker on the product, which resulted in it having numerous but unrefined game features and playing styles, which result in awkward mechanics for the gamer.

For instance, there are some platforming elements in the game, as players are forced to scale buildings and leap from roof to roof, however it feels as though the developers took the mechanics of Super Mario and made it into 3D. The jumping system is primitive at best, and the mobility lacks any particular vigor that you would hope for while being in control of a massive Yautja warrior.  The game lacks a ‘recharge’ system for health/shields/energy (though it was not as prominent when the game was designed), which means players have to go on a wild goose chase to find health packs and power sources. While this is a negative feature to some gamers, others would find this to be appealing, as it forces them to be more conservative with their tactics and use of powers.

As with most adventure genres, this game comes with several different environments, though most are urban and seem to be similar in regards to the tactics used around them- the environment diversity really just boils down to industrial indoor, dense urban outdoor and industrial outdoor. The world itself is set in numerous non-linear stages that allow players to roam freely within the confines of the environment. These environments were cast in low res X-box graphics, which gave them a boring appearance after a while. The game fails to captivate players visually, though it does have ample amounts of gore to entertain more sadistic gamers.

The game has an interesting variety of weapons (which fell under two groups: thrown/projectile/Special and main weapons- which consisted of your Glaives and Combisticks). While some were the generic swinging blades of death that had a hand full of unique animations, others were very fun to use, such as the Smart Disk, and the Helmet HUD, which allowed for voice recording and mimicking as well as a whole boat load of different vision modes. These weapons, which usually could be upgraded, made for some entertaining and gruesome in game kills.

But what point is a weapon if you have nothing fun to use it on? Well, if there is one thing that Predator Concrete Jungle does right, it is allowing for a diverse array of enemies. While this doesn’t hold a candle to massive modern games in terms of the unique enemy collection, it was one of the few games that did it at an interesting extent in it’s time. We got to fight foes, old and new, including humans, cyborgs, weaponized mechs, the notorious black serpent like ‘Xenomorphs‘ (From the ‘Alien’ films) and even other Yautja. This put the numerous weapons to use, as some weapons worked better on certain enemies than others, which would prevent a player from obtaining a super weapon and using it for the entire game.

All in all, the mechanics of the game weren’t all that impressive, which is why it was not noticed by many gamers, as most reviewers were turned off by this factor.

Conclusion

All in all, while the game was low end in terms of graphics and general gaming mechanics, I do not believe it to be to the point where the game should automatically be written off. Its story and fun factor makes it worth a short term rental. After all, how many chances do you get to play as a Yautja in a large open world environment? If game developers decided to revamp the title, I believe it could be profoundly successful, since we have the technology to make the game visually captivating, and refined game engines to allow for smoother mechanics.

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Playstation All-Star Battle Royale: This will upset Hipsters

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ battle royale?

Super Smash Bros was one of the first games to bring this element to console gaming, allowing for players to take up arms with familiar Nintendo faces. Well, while Super Smash Bros still makes new games, it is clear that Sony wants a slice of the cake.

And so, Playstation All-Star Battle Royale was born!

Taking the concept of Super Smash Bros, playstation is attempting to breath its own influence into the cross-title gaming genre. We saw them do this before with titles like Kingdom Hearts, however taking a page from Nintendo’s gaming book could be the best decision that Sony has made…or the worst one.

Who really cares about originality these days…besides hipsters of course…yet even so, this blatant rip off of Super Smash could be taken as a borderline offensive move on Sony’s behalf. Sure, you can up the graphics, change the characters, and maybe add a little story, but honestly, people will see right through it and know that you guys just want to copy Nintendo’s brain child. Then again, it’s not like Sony tries to hide it, as we can see in their almost carbon copy layout (2D arenas and health bars are token SSM)

With that being said, I still can’t help but be pumped up for this title. With years of gaming in my resume, I personally went into ‘fanboy’ mode when I saw appearances by non-PS3 characters, namely Jak and Daxter, which was the first Playstation 2 game I owned (never played the sequels though).

Along with that dynamic duo (who acts as one character), we also know that Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Big Daddy (Bioshock), Cole MacGrath (Infamous), Heihachi Mishima (Tekken), Toro Inoue (some Japanese thingy), Sly (Twisted metal), Fat Princess (no clue where she is from), Sweet Tooth, Radec (Killzone) and…drum roll please…KRATOS, will all be on the games main roster. Some of these characters fit in while others…well…let’s just compare them to randoms in Super Smash like R.O.B. Even so, they are fan pleasers and thus, play a role in the game.

I hope that we see even more epic PS3 characters (I really really really want some Final Fantasy characters to make appearances; where you at Sephiroth?) And I doubt I will be disappointed; with the benefits of PSN, I am sure we will see downloadable content with new characters and arenas very soon.

What this article leaves me wondering is, will Xbox come up with their own version of the All star battle royale? Or will they pull a hipster and claim that it is too mainstream for them? Because really, who doesn’t want to see Master Chief take on the entire Xbox roster with one hand tied behind his back!

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Halo 4: Forward Onto Dawn

The Story of Halo 4 Begins at Dawn

If there is one thing that Halo does well outside of the realm of gaming, it is marketing through their live action trailers. The makers love teasing fans with clips of what clearly has the potential of a movie worthy feature. With that being said, fans have a lot to look forward to in Halo’s new live-action web series ‘Forward onto Dawn’, which is meant to lead into the newest installment of the Halo series, Halo 4.

Look below for trailer

The Story

Now, I am sure there may be one or two readers who have no idea where Halo 3‘s story left off, but most of you readers will be wondering how Forward onto Dawn leads into Halo 4 since Master Chief should be floating in a derelict ship somewhere. The story of FoD takes place thirty years prior the events of Halo Combat evolved (wow, Master Chief is like Chuck Norris, an old BOSS).

Rather than following Master Chief, this series will follow the story of a young cadet by the name of  Thomas Lasky (Tom Green), and his experience in Corbula Academy, a military school for the higher end of military life. This school trains students like Lasky in fighting rebel forces (known as the Insurrectionists), the major problem of the galaxy which is the reason the Spartan Program was created. While Lasky has clear potential to be a leader, he lacks the military mentality, making the Academy an unpleasant experience for him. However, just before Lasky could leave, the academy came under attack (judging by the scene with the phantom in the puddle, I believe it is safe to assume that it is the Covenant).

Forced to fight for his life, rather than for a simulation, Lasky straightens up and accepts his role as a leader as he and his class mates are pushed to their limits in order to survive the grave new threat. But they are not alone, and will be joined by a familiar face; the golden visor on a green mjolnir helmet is common among spartans, but the 117 imprinted on his breast plate tells us that this is more than just your average Spartan.

With such potential epicness, most fan boys are gripping their seats in anticipation for the show, which is scheduled to be released on October 5th of this year.

All of this information leads us back to my opening sentence. The Story of Halo 4 Begins at Dawn. But how? As the live action series takes place 30 years before the first Halo game, how much of it can really link up to the story of a galaxy that has changed so drastically? It is safe to assume we will probably see cameos, but to what degree will these characters be integrated into Halo 4’s story? There is only one way to find out. Look out for Forward onto Dawn on Machinima Prime and Halo Waypoint on 10.5.12.

For more information on Halo 4, click here.

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Halo 2: Anniversary Edition

In this month’s Official Xbox Magazine, fans and skeptics were tossed a controversial bone. While only a rumor, the possibility of a Halo 2 Anniversary Edition is a topic that can either instigate annoyance, or giddy anticipation. I myself am on the annoyed side of the spectrum. Really? I mean, really? The first I can understand, but why remake Halo 2.

I am a fan of the Halo franchise, and have been playing the games since they made their appearance on the original Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved. As a fan, I found myself quite happy to hear about 343’s venture to remake Halo 1. I enjoyed playing the original Halo, and would even pick it up from time to time to relive the experience, though I would always be annoyed by the graphics of the game.

When they announced the Anniversary Edition I found myself skeptical, wondering if the game industry was going to turn out to be like the film industry, remaking and corrupting legends of the past. I was pleasantly surprised by 343’s efforts to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the game by simply revamping the graphics and textures rather than actually remaking the game from scratch. It followed the original Halo’s gaming experience to a T, and added a few new features such as terminals which explain the events that led up to the Halo games, as well as foreshadowing the story of Halo 4. The Anniversary Edition did its job, making me happy that I bought it. However, I think it should have ended there.

 

The possibility of a Halo 2 revamp is no where near as pleasing to me as its predecessor was. Unlike Halo 1, which was very primitive in  terms of game play and graphics, Halo 2 was quite advanced, especially for its time. While its graphics are not perfect, they are no where near as painful as the first games. Halo 2 was my personal favorite chapter in the saga, and the only complaint that I had, like most fan boys, was the ending which did not have the same closing effect as the first game, or any of the subsequent games. Even so, I think the game  is awesome, and perfectly fine as it is.

I mean, what more could they add to it? They could touch up the graphics, bringing it to the standard of Xbox 360 graphics, but what else besides that? More terminals added would be pointless, especially since Halo 4 will probably come after it. Maybe 343 intends to give us perks and a taste of the multiplayer system again, but what would be the point in that, since multiplayer would probably just be using the same engine as Halo 4.

No, I can’t see any real purpose in making a Halo 2 anniversary edition besides to suck more money out of fans. It is this cheesy business tactic that upsets me, not the lack of logic around the games production. Why does 343 want to suck more money out of us? They made reach, remade the first game, and are making Halo 4. These are all great business ventures, but remaking Halo 2 is a sham, without even having the decency to hide its intent. I hope you fan boys get enraged by my opinion and comment below because I really would like to know the point in remaking the second chapter of Halo.

And here I thought I had retired…

I am hoping that this is all just a silly rumor, because I believe the creation of this game could spell trouble for 343 industries and the Halo franchise. Check out an article on the rumor from Gamerant’s website.

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Halo 4: Reservations and Expectations

If you can find me a single gamer in the world who has never heard of the name ‘Halo’ or their own language’s equivalent of the word, Masterchief would make a personal appearance at that individual’s home, and educate him on UNSC Spartan Protocal.

Halo, the game franchise which took the Xbox from being a second rate console to the most talked about gaming system, has been an anchor for modern gaming, especially in the realms of Online Multiplayer and First Person Shooters. With five games, a book series and several shows, it has become one of the most influential icons in video-game history. After creating Halo 3: ODST, Bungie threw in the towel and claimed that the series was ending. However, a few years later, after the release of successful offshoots of the series, 343 Industries, the makers of Halo Reach, announced that the series was not yet done.

A brief teaser trailer was shown at E3 2011, revealing that Halo 4 was in production. We all know that 343 is a capable company, as Halo: Reach was a great success, however some wonder if bring Master Chief out of stasis may be a mistake. With the Covenant defeated, and the Flood destroyed, what more does the story of John 117 have to offer for us?

The Story that we Know

The teaser trailer revealed little and less about Halo 4, save for the fact that it is indeed a sequel with Master Chief as the main character. However, this year after numerous leaks and announcements by 343 industries, we have a better idea of what is in store for us with Halo 4. One year after the E3 announcement, this years E3 conference treated us with a live-action trailer for some context, as well as a chunk of sexy game play.

If you are too lazy to wait for the trailers to load, here is a brief synopsis of Halo 4. Master Chief is presumed to have perished with the last halo ring; the UNSC marks him as ‘MIA’ to keep with tradition (There is a saying: “Spartans never die, they only go missing in action”). Even though earth is shattered by the loss of their heroic savior, they know that they must push on, and so the UNSC commissions a disarmed warship, known as the ‘Infinity’, is sent into the unexplored regions of space with the mission of colonizing uncharted worlds through peaceful means.

Of course you all know it wouldn’t be a Halo game without it’s healthy chunk of violence!

Something goes drastically wrong on Infinity’s journey, causing the ship to crash on an unknown planet (later revealed as Forerunner world ‘Requiem’), which also happens to be where Master Chief is located. As Master Chief watches, a gigantic mysterious metallic orb rises behind him, and takes off after the crashing vessel, beckoning Master Chief to give chase. That is when we see the covenant. Most people grimaced at this part. The most common thought in gamer’s minds was “What the hell, didn’t we already kick their asses?” Well don’t worry my friends, 343 has much more in store for us than Elites, Grunts and Jackals.

As he gets closer to the crash site, Master Chief is spotted by a scouting party. While Master Chief out the bulk of the scouts, he witnesses an elite get incinerated as if he was nothing more than a noob grunt. That’s right, we have a new enemy in Halo 4, one that makes the Covenant Elites look like play things. Wielding forerunner weaponry, these metallic beetle like creatures seem to prove to be a challenge in a fight. They can teleport and dish out as many hits as they take.

Known as the Prometheans, these beings were members of the highest rank in the Forerunners’ Warrior-Servants caste. They are mentioned before, in the Anniversary edition of Halo: Combat evolved and Halo Forerunner novel saga. Due to a disagreement with the builders, the Prometheans are cast from the council, which is why we do not see them until Halo 4.

Along with the appearance of the Prometheans, there are rumors of other Spartans in campaign mode. Rumor has it that these Spartans are from the new Spartan-IV program, and are assigned to the Infinity for its new mission. Dubbed as Majestic Sqaud, the Spartan-IVs will be seen in the campaign, as well as be the central focus of the new multiplayer form, ‘Spartan Ops’. This combination of a new enemy and an old story gives the new campaign a promising edge.

Multiplayer

Most of the information on Halo 4’s multiplayer came from leaks, such as the leaked multiplayer-beta footage. This multiplayer looks much different from its predecessors, as we see new armor, weapons and maps. While there are some familiar halo elements, the new textures cause most to sooner assume that this multiplayer belonged to some other space oriented FPS. 343 is playing at a dangerous game here, with so many new features added to the game that most played with die hard loyalty. Will the new fans like it?

As Halo was made famous for its great multiplayer experience, most gamers are critical on the footage that has been released for the multiplayer, however the scales are tipped towards positive feedback for the new multiplayer systems, which include familiar features such as ‘Slayer’ as well as new features like ‘Spartan Ops’, which will replace ‘Fire fight’ which is seen in Halo: Reach. Halo 4’s multiplayer promises to be an integrating and enthralling new experience for gamers (old and new).

Reservations

Multiplayer looks just as promising as the single player campaign, and with the integration of the two through Majestic squad, 343 is welding Halo 4 into a great game. However, there is a catch to this greatness, as 343 industries has announced that gamers will either need 8 GB of free space on the X-box hard drive, or an 8 GB USB in order to use the multiplayer settings. WTF 343, really? 8 Gigs?  What the hell do you guys need 8 gigs for? This had better be worth it!

Anyway, Halo 4 does look enticing. Maybe enticing enough for me to buy a new hard drive. Look for the game in stores in the distant future; it is scheduled to hit shelves on November 6th, 2012. Until then, satisfy yourself with another teaser trailer that the game released recently:

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Mass Effect 3 Extended Ending: Promises to fix the mistakes

Let’s have a vote: How many of you guys absolutely HATED the ending of Mass Effect 3? Me too. Well with Mass Effect 3’s extended cut coming out, Bioware is going to give the game’s ending a second shot!

“The extended cut is content that players can download at no extra charge which expands the endings of Mass Effect 3 through some additional scenes and an epilogue sequence. So it provides a lot of the closure that players are looking for and it answers some of the questions that people have been asking. And it gives a sense of what the future holds as a result of your decisions throughout the series. Your final choice is just one part of how the story ends up, but then there’s the whole game and whole series worth of choices that results in story decisions and a lot of those now are going to be reflected.”

Most of us have played and fallen in love with the Mass Effect series, whether we gobbled the first disk off of game store shelves in 2007, or if we just recently picked up Mass Effect 3 when it came out this year. Commander Shepard‘s story is enthralling, as he and his team are forced to face a galactic invasion force, and kick the galaxy into gear to prevent it from being destroyed. The series was filled with epic decisions and an intense action and consequence system that made every decision matter.

Yet this was all undercut brutally, as many fans (and myself) believe, with the cookie-cutter ending that Mass Effect 3 gave to its fans. Even those of us who have played the game since it’s first episode were given mediocre endings. Naturally, this prompted outrage among fans, as their in-game decisions went unappraised. The uproar that followed threatened to cast Mass Effect down from a ‘Hall of Fame’ game to a failure. But Bioware was quick to pick up the pieces, after seeing how many fans utterly hated the ending.

Now, four months after the game release, an extended cut is about to be finished and given to us, for FREE. In an interview with Mass Effect 3’s executive producers, Biowares community manager questioned the executives on the precise nature of the extended cut.

Now, while some people hated the endings to the point where they wanted Bioware to completely rewrite them, I was not as harsh. I felt that the endings had their merit as a close to the over all arc of the galaxy. However, before you guys rip me a new one, I want you to know that I am not saying that the endings were good.

In Mass Effect, we had numerous story arcs playing out simultaneously. We had the story of Commander Shepard, the first Human Spectre, and a legendary soldier who had to carry impossible burdens on his shoulder, we each of his team members’ unique stories, we had the story of Humanity, a new race attempting to make a name for itself, and we had the story of the Universe as a whole, as numerous species fought with one another over resources and ideals.

The three endings that players are given satisfies the Universal Arc; the Reapers leave earth, whether through destruction or retreat, and the galaxy is spared of mass extinction. While this is all fine and dandy, most players were wondering what happened to Shepard’s team, and all of the people he interacted with. This was why people made certain decisions through their play-throughs, and when the ending failed to highlight the results of these decisions, players felt betrayed. I can’t blame them, how many people replayed all of Mass Effect 1 once they found out that you didn’t have to kill Wrex? How many times did you redo the assault on the collectors base to ensure that everyone survived? I understand the betrayal that you feel, and I feel it as well.

I remember when I first beat the game; I expected the worst, as I had friends who warned me about the ending. I sat through the last set of dialogue, made my final decision (which reminded me a lot of Deus Ex Human Revolution), and then watched, waiting for horror. It didn’t hit me at first, I shrugged it off and called it mediocre. But then the hate began to stir within me. The more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got. I wanted to know what happened to earth after the reaper invasion, I wanted to know what happened to the Krogans, the Turians, the Quarians and the Geth. I wanted to know if Shepard was honored with a statue, or simply by word of mouth. I had this image of a memorial ceremony, and a gathering of all the old characters. I wanted speeches about my acts of valor in the previous games. Did I get any of that? NO. All I got was some silly cut scene with a colored light, an explosion, and a forest planet. I almost destroyed the game out of annoyance…

However, after listening to this interview with the executive producers, I feel a glimmer of hope; an epilogue and an extended ending that shows the consequences of our decisions is exactly what I had hoped for. The game doesn’t need to be altered in any other way,  so long as they cover what happened differently because of the decisions you made through out the game(s).

On Tuesday, June 26th, Bioware will make an attempt to redeem itself in the player’s eyes. I urge all players to get the downloadable content – it is free so what is the worst that can happen. As for players like me who are without Xbox live, lurk on Youtube and hope that someone posts the new endings!

I hope you guys enjoyed this article, and be sure to leave your comments below.

You can read more about Mass Effect and the extended cut on these sites:

The Interview on Gamerant

Mass Effect’s Wiki

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