Archive for October, 2006

Funkmon’s Ghosts of Onyx Book Review

October 31st, 2006

Funkmon wrote a review of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx over on Subnova, but the server is taking a beating. Since rapture really beefed up our servers, we have a copy in case they go down.

For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about: Funkmon wrote a review of Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. If, and only if, you have finished the book already, click “read more” to view his impressions.

Funkmon sez:

Quick! What’s your favorite book? Everyone’s answer will be different, from The Art of War to Jurassic Park to the infamous 10000 word essay on the mating habits of migratory birds written by our own Max. However, if you ask Halo fans this question, many of their answers will be the same: Halo: First Strike.

As the third book in the popular Halo (a video game these novels are based on, and one of the focuses of this website) series of novels, it encompassed everything wanted in a sequel. More action, more story, more interaction with everyone’s favorite Spartan (the main characters of these novels), and more ‘science’ than you can shake a stick at, but not enough to scare off newcomers, and, of course, answers. This made First Strike a stellar science fiction novel, even outside of the Halo universe. Unfortunately, Eric Nylund’s next book, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (Goo) fails in every single one of these aspects.

The book starts off in a familiar fashion, like the first book, retelling a mission the Spartans had been on. It introduces a new character…well, 300 new characters, while incorporating no old ones, and it dizzies the reader with new facts and information. Fine, for a first novel in a series, but for a sequel, very tough to follow. It tells of a massacre of what we expect to be Spartan IIIs, almost 300 of them. Once the reader gets past that assault of information, it’s on to more familiar ground: Spartan 117, John, and his team winning over insurmountable odds, in a similar retelling of a mission.

After this, however, it’s all new territory, at least until halfway through the novel. Kurt, the Spartan II introduced in the second retelling, becomes the main character, and the reader follows his actions after being kidnapped by ONI to train the Spartan IIIs. A stock character, Kurt is an everyman, trying to do what is best for his trainees, but also trying to preserve them in a greedy fashion. The reader meets dozens of new characters, and some old ones which had never been intimately known, but as soon as these people arrive, they disappear, with only two people being constant, Kurt and a character from the first third of the very first novel, Chief Mendez.

In this fashion, the book reads very much like a fan fiction, typographical errors and all, with so many needless code words and capitalized phrases it feels like a Pokemon game, every NOUN and ITEM capitalized as if they were all ACRONYMS for some sort of more COMPLICATED DEVICE.

Moreover, this first half merely seems like a device to give backstory, not to tell one. Indeed, it is, taking place almost entirely before events in Halo: First Strike. The whole time, I was wondering when Nylund would get back to telling the real story, of the Master Chief, Spartan 117, or of Earth between the events of First Strike (FS) and Halo 2, or even of the events of Halo 2. Nylund, however, gave all of that a miss, and completely assumed that the reader had played Halo 2 and had no questions concerning the events in between FS and the game. Not bad, I guess, at least I get to hear more about the Master Chief and the artificial intelligence Cortana, right?

Wrong. The second half of the book almost completely ignores the hero of the Halo series, only alluding to his troubles and mentioning his informal name, John, a few times. We once again meet Dr. Halsey and Kelly, who we know from a previous book, and we find out why Halsey had kidnapped the Spartan Kelly, literally the only answer we get to a question raised in the video games and books not already surmised by the intelligent Halo fan base. They make their way to Onyx, the training ground Kurt is on with his Spartan IIIs. Dr. Halsey morphs herself into a treacherous new character, different than the super intelligent mother figure we’ve come to know her as, and she requests Spartan backup to Onyx.

Then, to our relief, we’re reintroduced to another familiar character, perhaps the only one besides the Master Chief we’d be comfortable spending a whole book with, Fred. Unfortunately, we get about 40 pages with him, as he runs to help Dr. Halsey at Onyx. We then promptly switch back over to Kurt, where he excercises his command over our friends from former books, leaving the reader with a “Who the hell does this asshole think he is?” feeling.

The Spartans fight together against forerunner sentinals and Covenant warriors alike, and they eventually get to the core of Onyx, revealing secrets and typical battle sequences we know from the first three books. While still pleasurable, the book tries to go for a perfect record, and, in the style of everything else, manages to screw these up, though only slightly. There’s always a lot of stuff going on in these battles, and they’re a little tough to follow, but they’re still fun to read.

This good part of the book ends with Kurt dying. This guy we spent the whole book not liking too much, disliking, then learning to tolerate again, just died, wasting all our emotions, and, effectively, our time. Fred, Halsey, Mendez, Kelly, and the other survivors escape into a ‘shield’ for the ‘reclaimers’, and the story ends with them starting to recon the area, not a cliffhanger, not a classic ending, but certainly a fitting one. Nylund has essentially prepared us to not see them again, but later, if they show up, we won’t be too surprised.

I’ve spent most of this review bashing the book, so I don’t want anyone to get me wrong. It’s a good book. Honest. It just doesn’t measure up to the standard set by the other books in the series, except for Halo: The Flood, which it surpasses in almost all areas (especially continuity). To liken it to video games, which the readers of this site understand well, Goo was supposed to be Halo Book 4, when it really just turned out to be Halo Book 4: Expansion pack, leaving a whole section of story missing, and then adding a side story to that.

With Goo containing typos, way too many new things, not enough old things, and a bad main character, it really does bring down the authors overall writing skill. The story is contstructed well, the writing is good, and the action sequences are fun, but these things don’t make the reader forget about the shortcomings of the book, and the betrayal I felt as a Halo, and therefore Spartan 117, fan.

Writing: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Characters: 5/10
Novelty: 6/10 (How cool the book is)
Reader Enjoyment: 7/10 (How good I felt while reading the book)
Aftertaste: 4/10 (How I felt after reading the book)

Overall: 7/10 (How I feel it was overall)

Bottom line: A good, fun book, I suggest it to all Halo fans who have played Halo 2, but to be wary that it’s not like the other ones. I suggest the Halo series to all science fiction fans, but to not include this book in it, at least not yet.

MLG Vidcast Episode 4

October 31st, 2006
Over at MLGPro.com, MLG Vidcast Episode 4 has been posted; a talk with FBI GamerGraffix, highlights from the championship series. Go watch! Thanks, 3Suns.(Louis Wu 21:35:47 UTC)

GoO Review online at Subnova

October 31st, 2006
Over at Subnova, Funkmon wrote up a review of Ghosts of Onyx - he wasn't horribly impressed. Do NOT read this review if you haven't finished the book yet - it's chock-full of story spoilers. Personally, I disagree with a lot of what he says - but he backs up his arguments with examples, for the most part, so you can decide for yourself whether his logic is credible. Give it a read! (Again, only do this if you've FINISHED Ghosts of Onyx - or you'll be disappointed when you DO read it.) Update: If you're having trouble reading this, be patient (or come back later) - apparently, you guys are swamping the SN server. Oh, the price of fame... Update 2: Mintz wrote to say this is mirrored at Halo: Portable, as well, just in case.(Louis Wu 19:43:05 UTC)

Red Rover

October 31st, 2006
Paul Maestri points out that Halo Heads 24 is up. He gently shows us that some games don't translate from one medium to another...(Louis Wu 17:52:51 UTC)

Out For The Count.

October 31st, 2006
You know... I've actually been waiting for the pun used in today's Holiday One One Se7en for several years... I'm glad it was finally garlic-pressed into service.(Louis Wu 17:02:00 UTC)

Pretty, ain’t it?

October 31st, 2006
Captain Spark released another couple of dozen snippets today - some were upgrades on existing clips, but the new ones are all now browsable in our Dialogue Databank. (You can, of course, grab them from his website, as well.)(Louis Wu 16:57:12 UTC)

Git ‘er done.

October 31st, 2006
Heh - there's an editorial at Cinema Blend today about how Halo (the movie) could make a billion dollars. Okay, that's probably a stretch. The gist, however, is solid - there are a LOT of gamers, they WANT to see a good movie, whoever nails it first is gonna make a mint. And Halo has everything going for it. Here's hoping the funding comes through!(Louis Wu 16:32:36 UTC)

Halo Movie Postponed

October 31st, 2006
Wow. Looks like the Halo movie is on hold at this point. A press release (quoted by both Ain't It Cool News and the Halo The Movie blog, though not, apparently, available on the web anywhere) from Peter Jackson and Wingnut Interactive states that they've agreed to "postpone making a feature film based on the Halo video game universe until we can fulfill the promise we made to millions of Halo fans throughout the world that we would settle for no less than bringing a first class film to the big screen." This is not a cancellation of the project - but it does put a kink in a 2008 air date, that's for sure. Check both sites above for more details.(Louis Wu 13:37:39 UTC)

Halo Film Indefinitely Delayed?

October 31st, 2006

Coming Soon has up what it claims is an official press release from Wingnut Films, detailing a joint decision by Microsoft and Wingnut to delay production of the Halo feature film until such time as they can guarantee they'll be bringing a "first class film" version of the game to screens.

Cinema Blend linked to the story with some additional commentary along the lines of go big, or stay home. Looks like the Chief is staying home... for now.

Until there's confirmation from Bungie or Microsoft we're labelling this one an unfortunate rumor.

Halo Film Indefinitely Delayed?

October 31st, 2006

Coming Soon has up what it claims is an official press release from Wingnut Films, detailing a joint decision by Microsoft and Wingnut to delay production of the Halo feature film until such time as they can guarantee they'll be bringing a "first class film" version of the game to screens.


Cinema Blend linked to the story with some additional commentary along the lines of go big, or stay home. Looks like the Chief is staying home... for now.


Until there's confirmation from Bungie or Microsoft we're labelling this one an unfortunate rumor.



New Game, New Features

October 31st, 2006

You'd have to have been under a rock (or on a business trip, natch) to have missed the revelations about Halo 3 multiplayer from Swedish gaming magazine, Level, last week. Similar material is upcoming from EGM, and their online presence, 1Up, is doing a special Three Weeks of Halo 3 page. They also summarized the information in that issue. MyGen summarized the information from Level, as did XboxAddict.

Out of respect for Bungie's wishes, we aren't hosting any scans, or links to scans. If you really must find them, you know where to go, you don't need to ask me.

However, nobody owns the rights to the information that's in that article, which seems to boil down to the following:

  • Halo 3 will have new weapons.

    No huge surprise there. Bungie added quite a few weapons to Halo 2 after Halo 1, as well as making changes to old weapons and adding in the dual-wielding system. New weapons appear to include the "Brute Spiker", the "Spartan Laser" and the "Nail Grenade".

  • Halo 3 will have new vehicles.

    According to the article, the Mongoose ATV that was originally slated for inclusion in Halo 2, but was removed because there was no good mission placement for it, will be in Halo 3. It supposedly seats two and is weaponless, so unless you can fire a weapon while driving (now there's some dual-wielding action) the only support fire you're going to get is from your passenger.

  • Halo 3 will have a new Man Cannon.

    I'm not sure what happened to the old Man Cannon. In fact, I'm not even sure what a Man Cannon is. Some articles have likened it to jump pads from Quake and Unreal Tournament, but Halo 2 multiplayer already had those-- the jump platform in Ascencion and the air vents on Foundation and in other levels. Others seem to think this is an object you carry, like a weapon, that you can aim at the ground and use to launch yourself in the air, or perhaps the Halo version of the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, allowing you to manipulate enemies and objects in the level from a distance. That last idea would be cool; the gravity gun was easily the most fun thing about HL2.

  • Halo 3 will have new controls.

    The Xbox 360 has moved its black and white buttons to the shoulders, above the triggers. It has the same number of buttons as the previous controller. Apparently, in Halo 3, the shoulder buttons independently reload the gun on each hand; left shoulder button, left gun reload. When there's no weapon in the left hand, the left shoulder switches between plasma and frag grenades. There's no word on where the headlight/active camo function is going, and tantalizing hints about what the X button will do now that it doesn't need to do reloading duty.

  • Halo 3 will have new eye candy.

    Your secondary weapon will apparently be visible on your body, hanging from your shoulder. Personally, I think it's a small touch, but it's great to see. Halo's two weapon restriction is a great example of a less-is-more philosophy, and while realism is not really a priority in this game, eliminating the "where does that huge sniper rifle go when I switch weapons" question is worth it. Whether there is tactical value in being able to see an opponent's slung weapon is yet to be seen, but it's a nice touch anyway.

  • Halo 3 will have new packaging.

    Supposedly there will be as many as three editions of the game, culminating in a collector's edition, called the Legendary Edition, that will come with four discs of content and be packaged in a Spartan helmet (or a package shaped like one). At least one source mentioned a Halo movie sneak peek in this content, but with no studio backing for the film now, that sounds a bit premature unless it's just interviews with Peter Jackson, director Neill Blomkamp, and the Bungie gang. Not that there'd be anything wrong with that.

New Game, New Features

October 31st, 2006

You'd have to have been under a rock (or on a business trip, natch) to have missed the revelations about Halo 3 multiplayer from Swedish gaming magazine, Level, last week. Similar material is upcoming from EGM, and their online presence, 1Up, is doing a special Three Weeks of Halo 3 page. They also summarized the information in that issue. MyGen summarized the information from Level, as did XboxAddict.


Out of respect for Bungie's wishes, we aren't hosting any scans, or links to scans. If you really must find them, you know where to go, you don't need to ask me.


However, nobody owns the rights to the information that's in that article, which seems to boil down to the following:





  • Halo 3 will have new weapons.


    No huge surprise there. Bungie added quite a few weapons to Halo 2 after Halo 1, as well as making changes to old weapons and adding in the dual-wielding system. New weapons appear to include the "Brute Spiker", the "Spartan Laser" and the "Nail Grenade".





  • Halo 3 will have new vehicles.


    According to the article, the Mongoose ATV that was originally slated for inclusion in Halo 2, but was removed because there was no good mission placement for it, will be in Halo 3. It supposedly seats two and is weaponless, so unless you can fire a weapon while driving (now there's some dual-wielding action) the only support fire you're going to get is from your passenger.





  • Halo 3 will have a new Man Cannon.


    I'm not sure what happened to the old Man Cannon. In fact, I'm not even sure what a Man Cannon is. Some articles have likened it to jump pads from Quake and Unreal Tournament, but Halo 2 multiplayer already had those-- the jump platform in Ascencion and the air vents on Foundation and in other levels. Others seem to think this is an object you carry, like a weapon, that you can aim at the ground and use to launch yourself in the air, or perhaps the Halo version of the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, allowing you to manipulate enemies and objects in the level from a distance. That last idea would be cool; the gravity gun was easily the most fun thing about HL2.





  • Halo 3 will have new controls.


    The Xbox 360 has moved its black and white buttons to the shoulders, above the triggers. It has the same number of buttons as the previous controller. Apparently, in Halo 3, the shoulder buttons independently reload the gun on each hand; left shoulder button, left gun reload. When there's no weapon in the left hand, the left shoulder switches between plasma and frag grenades. There's no word on where the headlight/active camo function is going, and tantalizing hints about what the X button will do now that it doesn't need to do reloading duty.





  • Halo 3 will have new eye candy.


    Your secondary weapon will apparently be visible on your body, hanging from your shoulder. Personally, I think it's a small touch, but it's great to see. Halo's two weapon restriction is a great example of a less-is-more philosophy, and while realism is not really a priority in this game, eliminating the "where does that huge sniper rifle go when I switch weapons" question is worth it. Whether there is tactical value in being able to see an opponent's slung weapon is yet to be seen, but it's a nice touch anyway.





  • Halo 3 will have new packaging.


    Supposedly there will be as many as three editions of the game, culminating in a collector's edition, called the Legendary Edition, that will come with four discs of content and be packaged in a Spartan helmet (or a package shaped like one). At least one source mentioned a Halo movie sneak peek in this content, but with no studio backing for the film now, that sounds a bit premature unless it's just interviews with Peter Jackson, director Neill Blomkamp, and the Bungie gang. Not that there'd be anything wrong with that.







Update: H:P Maintenance Week

October 31st, 2006

Update: Looks like the migration is complete. Woot! If you find any bugs, send Mintz lots of email. Funkmon and Tex, too.

Good night now.
-rap
———–

Media Temple has hooked H:P up with a sweet new Grid Server (we can now take a B.netting and more). I’m in the process of moving all of the public downloads to a new system (because the old download links are teh borked). Give me a day or two for all of the download links working again. It may be sooner if I can stay off of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on XBOX Live Arcade.

Toasty!

How many Hot Pockets is that?

October 31st, 2006
Over on Bungie.net, there's a fun little story packed with statistics - as of today, just shy of 2 years since launch, Xbox Live passed the four billion games played mark. Wowwowwow! More numbers for your digestion in the article.(Louis Wu 02:04:32 UTC)

Xbox 360

October 30th, 2006

Earlier today, we reported the buzz from Japan claiming that the Xbox 360 Fall update will be released tomorrow. Well, the release of this system update is official now. Below is the press release with the announcement. You can also find the complet...

Xbox 360 Fall Update

October 30th, 2006
http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/12117/Xbox-360-Fall-Update-Announced/


Earlier today, we reported the buzz from Japan claiming that the Xbox 360 Fall update will be released ...

Weekly Porridge #41: Frankincense and 360

October 30th, 2006

QualityJeverage sez:

Hey Guys!

Sorry for not releasing a Porridge last week. There was a massive sudden pile-up of lots of other things, nothing serious, but they were nonetheless time consuming. So I decided to take that week off.

Anyway, we're back on track now, so enjoy!

More discussion in the forums!

Weekly Porridge #41: Frankincense and 360

October 30th, 2006

QualityJeverage sez:

Hey Guys!

Sorry for not releasing a Porridge last week. There was a massive sudden pile-up of lots of other things, nothing serious, but they were nonetheless time consuming. So I decided to take that week off.

Anyway, we're back on track now, so enjoy!

More discussion in the forums!

New Halo Movie Review Blog Opens

October 30th, 2006
Demag0gue stopped by to say he's started a new Halo movie review blog, entitled Penitent Tangential. Very cool idea - check it out!(Louis Wu 22:52:01 UTC)

Four Billion Played and Counting

October 30th, 2006
Roger Wolfson, Bungie's database programmer extraordinaire, reports today that we have officially surged over the four billion games played mark, a little under two years after the game's launch. He also notes that we're close to hitting the four million unique players mark, not too shabby. Read on for some more detailed usage statistics from the past month.