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E3 2010 Preview: Halo Reach

I gotta admit to poppin’ a little stiffy when Bungie revealed that the Halo Reach campaign would incorporate space combat in the vein of Wing Commander or Colony Wars. I love a good space dogfight and can only hope there’s more of it in the full campaign than the couple of minutes we were shown at the Bungie booth at E3 2010.

Bungie confirmed that up to four players playing the campaign co-op will be able to pilot a Sabre in the game. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do so in player vs player Matchmaking. Yeah, I’m disappointed too, but Microsoft’s got a hell of a spinoff game idea if they ever wanted to, you know, print some money.

Campaign Space Combat Gameplay Video:

“Firefight 2.0″:

Building on ODST’s Firefight game type, Bungie’s added a lot more customizeability to Reach’s Firefight. Some the things we’ll be able to change are the number of rounds in a game, the types of enemies we face, and the weapon/armor ability loadouts that we take into battle. From there, we can save the customizations and upload them to our Bungie File Shares for others to download.

At first I was concerned that this would fracture the player base, but Firefight’s four player focus on cooperative survival means that each game will be fairly self contained. Each player is going to be dealing with the same conditions in a given play session. I just hope there’s a better way of discovering and playing the best user generated gametypes. I always found it difficult in Halo 3 to find and play custom gametypes that weren’t available in matchmaking buckets.

In the live gameplay video below, you’ll also see the unimaginatively named new weapon, “Target Locator” in action. Frankly, they could have called it “stapler” for all I care. Nuking stuff from orbit never gets old.

Finally, for those who played the beta, “Generator Defense” actually turned out to be a test for Firefight 2.0. I’m glad it turned out to be a gametype tuned for AI enemies. As a player vs player gametype it got very one sided and frustrating at times.

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Split/Second Demo Impressions

Homeboy got exploded

Sometimes simplicity is good in a racing game. Getting into a Forza 3 or Gran Turismo or even memorizing what all the different power-ups do in Mario Kart can be a daunting experience. If it’s one thing Black Rock Studios (makers of PURE) got right with Split/Second, it’s the pick up and play aspect of an arcade game.  Toss in a shitton of explosions, pretty graphics, a breakneck sense of speed, and you might just have the perfect game to play in short bursts with gamers and non-gamers alike.  Think of it as Burnout 3, but with controlled explosions instead of boosting.

There’s essentially three buttons you use in Split/Second: “Gas”, “Brake”, and “Power Play”.  The first two are self explanatory.  The third one is what you use to get a leg up on the other racers.  Fill your power meter to level one and you can unleash a Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay-esque environmental movie explosion on cars in front of you.  These can come in such forms as a hovering helicopter dropping an explosive barrel or an exploding tunnel collapsing on top of your opponents.  You can also use a level one Power Play to take shortcuts along the course.  Fill your power meter all the way to level two and you can completely level the race course itself (preferably while your opponents are still on it), changing the path everyone has to follow.  There are three ways to fill the power meter: drafting behind opponents, drifting around corners, and by catching air time.  Personally, I found few opportunities to jump in the demo, but the other two maneuvers are plentiful.

I had a few concerns with the game though.  First, there don’t seem to be many opportunities to use the level two power play.  It can take out 3-4 opponents at once, but I often found myself missing good opportunities waiting for the game’s permission.  Second, I found myself constantly wishing for a nitro button or something to get me ahead of the competition when no cars are nearby me.  You need cars around you to be able to use even a level one power play.  Finally, the Split/Second demo is short. There’s only one track and you can’t choose your vehicle.  In fact, it’ll take you under 5 minutes to complete a three lap race.  Yes, one of the game’s strengths is the ease of which to pick up and have fun, but I hope there’s a bit more depth in the full version.

That being said, if you like racing, explosions, blowing shit up, or fun, go give the Split/Second demo a download.  You’ll probably like it.

(Oh, and for anyone worrying about the “reality show” premise being annoying, it’s not. There’s no cheesy announcer or anything to even remind you of reality TV once you’re playing.)

The game's title wasn't kidding. F.

Download the demo:

Xbox LIVE Marketplace | Split/Second.