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Do you “FIFA”?

So what did you take away from TGS? Anything monster?

Back home I’m still without a Xbox hard drive and I’m twiddling my thumbs, relying on a storage device that is only just large enough to hold my profile and a Halo save game. It’s a good job my copy of FIFA 09 appears to be lost in the post as I don’t think I’d have room to save out a season’s campaign even if I wanted to.

Why are they using

This year the classic choice of FIFA or Pro Evo has swung in EA’s favour, for once. It’s been a good few years since I’ve bought into their highly polished version of the beautiful game but with all their leaps and bounds forward, compared with Pro Evo’s continuing insistence to neglect to fix up niggles that have plagued the series for years, I’m happy to invest. Play seems smooth and natural, and for as much as I have the greatest respect for Konami’s efforts they just haven’t evolved enough, in my opinion.

Continuing on from my enjoyment of UEFA 2008’s multiplayer, FIFA brings with it what can really only be described as a clan system. A whole squad of you and your friends can get together, form a “club” and then up to ten of you can play online at the same time in the same team. Obviously this could be disastrous and I initially had visions of a school playground where players would flock after the ball like birds in migration, but when executed well with a group of competent team mates it does have tremendous potential.

The sticking point may be which team we adopt as I’ve seen one friend obsess over Cheltenham town, we have a Cardiff support in our ranks and Spurs aren’t exactly setting Europe alight this season. We may have to go for some neutral ground… Spain or Brazil, maybe, as a compromise.

Online annoyance

Over the last few days, a reasonable chunk of my spare time has been spent tearing around Liberty City generally causing what’s known as a disturbance. Things are going well, I’m still enjoying the experience, but one thing has started to grate and that’s the online mode.

Put simply, where is the private match option? There is no way, so it seems, that you can create a closed party where just you and your friends can chill and try out the game modes on your own.

Prime example of this was where we decided to enter free-play mode and were causing an impressive amount of havoc, when a stranger popped into our game, walked up to us, blew us all up and then left, undoing all our efforts of the previous half-hour.

It’s a minor annoyance, I know, but when the game is so good you’d expect all the simple bases to be covered; I don’t want randoms I don’t know ruining our six star spree.

That aside the online modes seem really good, with the free roaming city a great achievement. Highlight of this mode was where four of us all stole attack helicopters and roamed the skies above Liberty City… until it ended in a bloody fireball as three of us met in a midair collision.

Bricking it

Throughout Microsoft there are a lot of what I term “guff email rings.” Groups of people all subscribe to an email alias with the sole aim of talking crap on a variety of topics whilst inserting as many lolcats as possible into a single, off-topic thread.

Mostly they contain nothing but whittering noise but occasionally, just occasionally, an utter gem appears.

Ladies and gentlemen, in honour of this weekend’s Halopalooza, may I present to you the LH3FFK: The Lego Halo 3 Foundry Forge Kit.

Hats off to this man who has spent over $300 creating this fine piece of geekery where he is able to mock up his Forge creations on his dining room table before jumping into the map maker itself.

Legendary

“W00t!!!!!!!!!1!!!eleven!” and other such internet exclamations of joy. The Legendary Map Pack for Halo has landed, and just in time for this weekends Halopalooza.

I’m looking forward to a weekend of Dodgeball, Grifball, Ram Raid, Avalanche, Blackout and Ghost Town. Good times ahead.

Grifball

I discovered a new love over the weekend: Grifball. An oh-so simple custom game from within Halo 3′s bowels that could be considered a cross between rugby and whack-a-mole.

There is a ball in the middle of the pitch and the aim of the game is to get it into the opposition’s goal. Simple.

Now replace “ball” with “bomb”, “goal” with “enemy spawn zone” and arm everyone with gravity hammers and you can see how Grifball starts to mix things up a little.

It is ridiculously simple but played with a group of friends and over a period of time and it becomes quite tactical as you must first wrestle the ball from the opposition and then shield your carrier from their retribution. Going in and hitting wildly isn’t neccessarily going to work and a good sense of timing and team play is helpful.

After the stress (and, yes, it is stressful) of the ranked hoppers, such a relaxingly manic game type is welcome. They are short and snappy matches, and anywhere you can earn a Killimanjaro award is welcome.

Instant death

Despite coming out last November, it has taken me this long to plug Call of Duty 4 in and get online to experience the game that is keeping Halo 3 off of the top spot of Xbox Live’s Most Played chart.

I was too engrossed in being a Spartan to switch to this more grounded combat but having seen my office-mate Errrm constantly play CoD at lunchtime, I thought now was the time.

And not a giant alien in sight.

At first I hated it. As is always the way when you switch from nice comfortable surroundings to somewhere a bit foreign, everything is out of place and just wrong: sound effects seemed as though they had no origin; you died every twenty seconds; maps were disorientating; and all the weapons seemed unresponsive.

The problem was obviously that I was bringing my adventurous Halo style of play into a game that required a bit more thinking before throwing yourself into harm’s way. Two bullets could easily send you to the respawn screen and once I had accepted that, things started to get better.

A good marksman will be able to pick you off very quickly in the open so camouflage and cover are key. You’ll never find a fire fight out in the open (or at least, one that lasts very long) and so it hearkens back to my Rainbow Six days of caution and constantly edging around looking down your sights.

Behind the main game you’ll also find and RPG. Not Rocket Propelled Grenade, as it could easily have been, but a Role Playing Game, because for every good thing you do, i.e. assists, kills, recon activation, you gain XP which will allow you to gain promotion through the ranks, unlocking guns and abilities as you go.

It feels slightly cheap that the better players will have the better guns when you first begin but, as with all XP games, even those less-than-average players will be able to grind their way to the top to gain some loot.

Some of the abilities just feel cheesy, like the ability to drop a live grenade just before you step into the light, but most allow you to balance of your stopping power with your own sturdiness.

Unfortunately, there are a couple too many “cheesy” ways to get kills; given a good enough kill streak players can actually call in attack helicopters and air strikes. It is certainly something to reward players but I can’t decide whether this is madness or genius on behalf of the designers. Sure it mixes a standard shooter up but the majority of the time it just feels cheap as you die at the hands of an unseen enemy.

Having said that, CoD does a lot more right than it does wrong. Whilst I didn’t think its more considered pace would be my cup of tea, the added extras of unlockables and the sheer challenge of adapting to the environement have won me over.

This may not replace my Halo, but it sure is a good compliment to it.

Battle Report

A day late, but still here none the less, I present to you the battle log of the Humpday (also linked to in Articles on the side bar); a round up of all the slaying that occurred in the internet pipes linking Twycross to Redmond that is so big and juicy it deserved its own page.

Brace yourself.

 Edit: Bungie have also posted their own write up. Whilst they may have shown little enthusiasm for our final game, I do quite like the second paragraph in Game 2.

As the dust settles…

And it’s over. After what seems like months and months of build up, our Bungie Humpday Challenge is over. I actually feel quite strange as the adrenalin is still making its way round my system but with no other output than this keyboard in front of me.

The first thing to say is that we did ourselves proud; my main concern was that it would all unravel and everything we had worked towards would fly out the window, but I shouldn’t have worried. We may have gone down 2-1 in the series but we can leave the field with our heads held high.

So here are the standings:

Round 1:
Team BR on Guardian: Bungie 50 v Rare 41

Round 2:
MLG Slayer on Pit: Bungie 50 v Rare 44

Round 3:
Team Rockets on Construct: Bungie 72 v Rare 100

We were close in the first two but they kept the lead throughout and their classed showed. In the last one, I just pulled out one of my favourite game types. Grin.

I’m off for a lie down. Expect a full write up soon and you can find all the videos on my fileshare.

Pre-match build-up

Welcome to the morning of the biggest day in my Halo “career”.

After finally getting broadband enabled at home, I spent a couple of hours last night and this morning limbering up for tonight’s big match and I have to say that I’m a little scared. I’m putting it down to pre-match nerves and assuring myself everything will be fine once the bullets start flying but it doesn’t stop the butterflies.

Anyway, here’s the promo that went round work this morning…

“In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Twycross underground. Today, still wanted by the Covenant, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the Rare Team.”

Crazy fool, I ain’t getting’ in no Banshee, sucka! Now give me that milk!

Tonight, BIGsheep, Hey Ernie, Mr Fiddler and Gavster will attempt to do the company proud as we take on Bungie at their own game: facing them in their Humpday Challenge, a best-of-three series of Halo 3.

Although months of training, countless expletives and buckets of sweat have gone into this, the odds are stacked against us as the separatist’s team is full of ringers and elite players (plus Frankie). We will give it our best shot but whatever the outcome we will share the videos of our gallant defeat/historic triumph once the dust has settled.

Wish us well as we march to the frontline and hope that our plasma grenades fly true.

BIGsheep

Suicide is painful

One of the greatest pieces of tech that is included in Halo 3 (yes, we’re on about that, again) is the replay theatre and the ability to capture superb moments of skill and daring to share with your friends.

 What it can also do, however, is capture the painful and humiliating episodes that everyone has when things just aren’t going their way.

 Please, please, please, can I recommend to you this clip of my brother Mapoo and his extraordinary suicide.

Watch it. Laugh at it. And then watch it again for sheer “how the hell did he do that” of it all.