Friday, April 23, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Halo: Reach and Starcraft 2 Previews

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Halo: Reach, and Starcraft 2 are some of the most anticipated games in the latter half of these year, and as they all look incredible and some new information on all of them came up recently, I decided to do some previews.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

When I first heard of SMG2 (no, nothing to do with sub-machine guns.), I was disappointed in Nintendo. I thought they were letting up on the creativity that has made some pretty good games, and just making more levels for the old Galaxy.

Gladly, this is far from the case. They are ramping it up in every way possible-including the difficulty. They've added Yoshi (TY!), there's a cosmic guide, much like the Super Guide from New Super Mario Bros. Wii (huh, that was a mouthful. Or eyeful, I guess), new abilities like the newly-revealed cloud suit, upgraded multiplayer (nothing like the aforementioned NSMB Wii, of course), and even rumors of Luigi being in the game.

Basically, the reason this is SMG 2 and not another world, is because there is so many more tricks they couldn't put into the first one. They had to rein the devs in so they could fit everything into the 120 star limit and the release date. Everything I've seen points to an incredible game that will likely drown quite a bit of my life.

But not as much as this next title.

Halo: Reach

This is it. The big one. You though you finished the fight in Halo 3? (Let's not talk about Halo Wars or ODST, ok?) Think again. Reach is going to be Halo's last, defining hurrah of awesome. At least from the current developers, Bungie. Anything after this will be viewed with rampant skepticism, by me as well as others. I just don't think anyone else can do Halo as well, at least not and keep it Halo.

Anyways, Reach looks awesome. This is emphasized by the MUCH improved graphics, with higher tolerance, particle effects, shadings, and all that awesome stuff. Animations are better too, including these really awesome looking assassinations.
Next, instead of everyone starting with the same weapons, there will be different loadouts to choose from, which have specific weapons paired up with "armor abilities", which take the place of equipment from the previous game. Don't worry, no one's going to starting out with anything like the Sniper Rifle, Energy Sword, Rocket Launcher, etc.

That's fairly simple, but the armor abilities are a bit more radical. You've probably seen the dev videos and trailers with jetpacks. That's one of the abilities. It seems it's best used for mobility, for example jumping up a cliff or to the top of a relatively tall building. Of course, you're a sitting duck up in the air, as you're quite a bit easier to kill than a Brute. Which reminds me of a couple of things. Elites will be faster and more powerful than Spartans, but this is made up by Elites being bigger and thus harder to hide and easier to shoot. This is explained by the main characters being Spartan III's, not II's like Master Chief, and having an earlier version of the Mjolnir battle armor, because this is on Reach, and thus before even Halo 1.

Ok, back on track with armor abilities. Another one is Armor Lock, which makes you invincible for a short time, and discharges an EMP blast to give you a chance to kill the guys that are inevitably waiting for you. Also included are Evade, which is exclusive to Elites and allows you to roll away from danger (always wondered how they could do that and I couldn't! It's in their armor!), and Sprint, which is a Spartan exclusive that, well, sprints. Pedestrian, but extremely useful. Oh, and there's also an Active Camo that works like the invisibility from earlier games, but the faster you go, the easier you can be seen.

There's also new multiplayer modes, including Headhunter, Stockpile, Invasion (my personal favorite), and Generator Defense.
Headhunter is a slayer-inspired mode with a twist. You kill people, collect their skulls, and return it back at your base. The catch is, if you die with skulls, they'll scatter everywhere, free for anyone who happens to be waltzing by to pick them up. So it's either waste time walking back to turn in your skulls, or risk losing a bunch at once and losing the game. Your choice!
Stockpile is like Capture the Flag-with a twist! Bet you didn't see that coming. Anyways, the way this works is that each team has a base where you turn in flags, like normal, but this time there's 4 flags scattered around the map, and the base collects the flags every minute. So if you miss one round and have several flags there for like 30 seconds, but they manage to get them out before the minute is up, guess what? No points. So sad.
Invasion sounds awesome. This is a larger scale, more vehicle-oriented mode. The Spartans are defending a base, and the Elites are trying to get in. Simple, right? Not quite so much. There's 3 different phases, and each phase new loadouts and vehicles unlock. It gets pretty frantic, with all the vehicles everywhere and heavy weapons dropping near the end.
The last new mode is Generator Defense. The Spartans are defending three generators, and the Elites are trying to destroy them. Fairly simple, but the Spartans can make one generator at a time (I believe) invulnerable for about thirty seconds, with a slight downtime afterward. So if the Elites are focusing on one generator, a pretty good tactic, as the Spartans have to cover all 3, one of the Spartans can lock that generator down and the Elites have to go somewhere else.

Reach is also going to have customization! Nothing on the order of Modern Warfare 2, in fact it's not even going to change the gameplay. But finally, no more generic Master Chiefs wandering everywhere looking exactly the same! If you've seen the release trailer, you'll get an idea of what it'll be like. You earn credits during matches, and possibly during the campaign (I'll try to confirm that.), which you will use to buy cosmetic upgrades for your armor. The most interesting thing to me is the fact that these also carry over to single player. Awesome, huh?

So, it looks like Halo: Reach is going to be the best new thing for Halo since dual-wielding, and I'm definitely going to get it. Oh, and there's some pretty awesome extra stuff in the limited editions.. Though I still like the 2GB dogtag USB drive with SC loaded on it that you'll get with SC2's.

Speaking of Starcraft 2...

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

How do you follow up the most iconic game in the genre of all time, a game that is still played fanatically (especially in Korea. It's bigger than soccer in Europe!) more than an entire decade after the original came out.

Pretty well, looks like. Starcraft 2 is going to be released in 3 EPIC installments, each a full-length game focusing on one of each of the three races, Wings of Liberty for the Terrans, Heart of the Swarm for the Zerg, and Legacy of the Void for the Protoss. Of course, you'll be able to play any of them in the multiplayer.

The most interesting and unusual thing about SC2, at least for me, is how surprisingly open ended the campaign is. In the original, and Warcraft as well, you just went through each mission, watching the story unfold. In SC2, you'll be able to choose your missions, technologies, and upgrades as you go through the game. Yay, you're getting your RPG in my... everything! The funny part about this, is that the campaign is around 25 missions long, which is about as long as the previous one. And that's all as the Terrans, though there are rumors of a Protoss mini-campaign, and if there's one of those you can bet there'll be a Zerg one too. That's why they're making 3 games. The later ones aren't expansions, they're full-blown continuations of the story as the other races, because they each need a FULL LENGTH game to get the story across. Can you say most epic game EVER? (Except for Mass Effect.)

They're also doing tons of new units, around half a dozen new ones for each race. Which is a lot, if you didn't know. I'd detail them, but that would take it a long time. I think I'll just tease you with some things like.. hmm. Giant Colossal walkers of death, like from War of the Worlds, huge Motherships with beams of death and tons of other awesome abilities, and huge mechs called Thors that seem like walking siege tanks on steroids. (Of course, siege tanks are already on steroids, so what does that mean?)

Then, of course, there's the multiplayer. They are completely redoing, their multiplayer matchmaking service. Now you sign in as soon as you get in, and it works almost like Xbox Live, showing your friends (throughout Blizzard games, including WoW, BTW) what you're doing and allowing you to interact. There are also going to be gaming leagues, with official matches, standings, and seasons. There's around half a dozen, including.. Practice, Copper, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and even an honest-to-god PRO league. You'll even be automatically sorted by after a few games into a division and league, according to your skill level. Speaking of that, it's obviously getting an upgrade to it's ability to judge that, which is always good. Sucks to get stuck in a match getting owned by everyone, doesn't it?

So, there you go. Previews of 3 of my most highly anticipated games of the year. Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or any other way you can think of, and I'll try to find out.

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