Xbox truly here to stay

If you’d like to be part of the next Microsoft product, then you’re in luck because the company are looking for testers for an Xbox 360 system update (via 1up). But this isn’t an ordinary update which tinkers around with the dashboard or adds avatars, the thousands of people picked will be helping Microsoft “prepare for an updated Xbox 360 disc format.” Initial thoughts skip to the now defunct HD-DVD discs but the likelihood of that is slim considering Toshiba, the main manufacturer, dropped the format swiftly back in 2008 plus it would mean all Xbox 360 owners would need a player, which they don’t have and part of the reason HD DVDs died out.

Nothing more was said other than those who partake in the testing will receive a copy of Halo: Reach, presumably in this new disc format and possibly more rewards in the future. While it’s all a little bit cryptic, it does suggest the Xbox 360 isn’t going anywhere soon with Microsoft instead choosing to upgrade the existing hardware. It’s sensible really, over 10 million people have bought Kinect with a good number of Xbox 360 bundles as part of that figure so releasing the next piece of hardware anytime soon would sour this new audience.

Other than having to be a resident of the US with an Xbox Live Gold account, testing is open to anyone by simply clicking here.

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Prey 2, the Boba Fett story

Human Head’s Prey 2 was announced late last week to a fanfare of “Wha?!” from gamers who thought they’d seen the last of Tommy and the sphincter corridors he navigated in the first game. Turns out they were half right. The first chunks of info have been revealed in Game Reactor and conveniently translated via one NeoGaf user who states that Tommy has been replaced by one Killian Samuels, a sheriff and prison guard. That may explain the funky get up seen in early promo imagery (seen above). Xbox 360 will be the lead SKU but a PC and PS3 version is also in the works and has been for three years using an updated version of id Tech 4.

Since Prey was, to over simplify it, Doom with portals and gravity manipulation so the guess would be that Prey 2 furthers those ideas. However the game’s producer said Kilian’s adventure is heavily inspired by Mirror’s Edge with a dash of Mass Effect, The Chronicles of Riddick and Blade Runner for good measure. It sounds as if Human Head are pulling lots of mechanics from different games because the article claims you’ll be doing battle in large scale arenas comparable to Assassin’s Creed II, utilising shadows for stealth kills or popping in and out of a Killzone or Vanquish-like cover system. The Mirror’s Edge inspiration comes from Killian’s skills in Parkour and the world is said to have the freedom of Mass Effect.

Tommy hasn’t been forgotten so to speak because Prey 2 will take place along side the first game. It begins (spoiler!) pretty much at the start of Prey 1 but has you playing as Killian rather than the stereotyped native American. Human Head gave a Star Wars analogy to the storyline saying: “If the first Prey was the Luke Sywalker version of the story, Prey 2 is Bobba Fett’s story”. So does that mean the rumours of Prey 2‘s protagonist being a bounty hunter are true also? Oh an there won’t be any multiplayer either since the developers prefer to focus on making a stella single player game instead of adding a half-baked multiplayer mode, “Who would pick the MP mode of Prey 2 ahead of the one in for example Halo Reach?” they said.

Prey 2 sounds good. Really good and draws its influence from a lot of great games. It’s not expected until some time next year which gives plenty of time for the hype to build but seeing as Prey 2 will almost definitely be providing an experience completely different from the first game, why make it a sequel and not a new IP? It’s not as if Prey was a big name in gaming back in 2006. Good yeah but not something you’d expect to receive this kind of treatment. Hey, I’m not knocking what Prey 2 could become just find it a little perplexing. But whatever, this game, regardless of its lineage, has got me already psyched for a 2012 title. Well done you!

Halo HD. Fact?

Microsoft’s most successful franchise is soon to return to its roots in glorious HD according to Joystiq who are reporting a Halo remake is being made. A rumour about a high def Halo has been around for some time and at the start of December, Microsoft commented, or rather, chose not to give any details away by saying they had nothing to announce at the time. In gaming terms, you can take that as a yes. The studio behind Timeshift, Saber Interactive is said to be tasked with porting the game to the Xbox 360 and despite earlier thoughts, it won’t be running on the Halo: Reach engine but something new altogether with new art assets too.

Its release of November 15th this year would mark the ten year anniversary of the original versions launch which is frightening. Ten years have passed since I first played Halo!? In that time we’ve seen an adoption of the two-weapon limit in a lot of shooters and a desire to add vehicular combat to campaigns thanks to the pioneering work of the folks at Bungie did. Vehicles weren’t new to shooters but the brilliant implementation was, particularly on a console.

An upscaled version of Halo can be played at the moment via backwards compatibility or Live but the new game will be full 1080p and have a multiplayer mode featuring online co-op. The audio and now-iconic chanting monks are likely to remain the same whereas everything else is getting a once over. And it won’t be the only Halo either with 343 Industries supposedly working on a brand new game too. A high definition remake would be a fitting salute to Halo‘s achievements so let’s hope these aren’t just more rumours and Master Chief will indeed return in November. Even if it is to redo a mission he’s already conquered.

The best games of 2010: Halo: Reach

Wow, what an ending. I’m not talking about what happens before the credit role, though that part is particularly good, I mean after the mass of names flood the screen. As video games go, it’s one of the finest. As for the combat leading up to such an intelligent finale, Bungie have spent years perfecting the first person shooter genre and made their best game with Halo: Reach. Firefights aren’t so heavily scripted that they break any sense of immersion but rather treat the player with some degree of dignity, opening up the playing field to allow for multiple paths and skill sets. And isn’t it nice to have enemies that actually react to you, running for cover when shot at or mocking your existence if they’re doing the killing? Numerous multiplayer modes help keep the game firmly in the disc trays of Xbox 360’s all over and a loyal group of players help keep this online space a fun place to visit. Yep, Halo: Reach is like all the other Halo‘s before it only better looking and grander gameplay. Is that such a bad thing? No, it’s a great thing.

Microsoft give standard response to Halo HD rumour

Yesterday, a flurry of sites reported on the rumour that Microsoft are currently working on a HD remake of the original Halo and today they’ve responded to the claims: “Right now our focus is on supporting Halo: Reach. We have nothing to announce at this time.” Hmm, very different to Phil Spencer’s comments in late October about making HD version of classic titles. Back then the Microsoft Game Studios Corporate Vice President said “We obviously have a lot of new things going on, so the thought of re-doing a bunch of things is probably difficult to just weave into the overall portfolio.” Though he did also say how he didn’t think it was “necessarily a bad idea” and how he’d “think about it from a customer’s perspective.” Today’s noncommittal statement sounds like he and the rest of Microsoft have been thinking very hard about it since “nothing to announce at this time,” usually means something is coming.

The rumour (from Games Master magazine) stated that Halo: Combat Evolved HD would use the Reach engine and be released before the 2012 sequel to Halo 3 by 343 Industries. Eurogamer speculates that November 2011 would be a fitting time being the tenth anniversary of Halo and all.

Not since GoldenEye on the N64 has there been such a revolutionary console FPS like Halo. Spawning a massive following of dedicated fans, remaking the original based on the superb Reach would no doubt be very popular, as long as they streamline the library level and maybe address the fact that the flood are a pain in the butt.

Though it’s not like a remake is necessarily ‘needed’ since you can already play it upscaled on the Xbox 360 thanks to the backward compatibility and Live Marketplace. When Spencer dismissed the idea back in October, he was criticised for doing so when Sony’s initiative to release HD versions of their classic franchises was very well received. However, for the majority of PS3, playing upscaled games from last generation isn’t an option unless they’re remade for their latest console. But regardless of system, be it PS3, Xbox 360 or even Wii, a remake of any sort if enough to induce excitement in the fanboys. Lets see how this rumour pans out…

Reach for the stars

Not even a day old and Halo: Reach was already breaking records. Bungie proudly announced on twitter last night (via Video Gamer) that Reach already surpassed the all-time highest record for Halo 3 concurrent unique users on LIVE. Woot!” Woot indeed and with good reason. I’ve only played a small amount of Reach and so far it’s proving to be the Halo game that we’ve always wanted, perfecting the gargantuan franchise. Please Bungie, don’t go!…

Halo: Reach £28 deal in Tesco

Deal junkies and first person shooter fans rejoice, superstore giant, Tesco, are selling Halo: Reach for only £28 if bought with a 2100 MS Point card, which normally retails for £18. Bungie’s farewell salute to their Halo franchise has an RRP of £49.99 – though the average high street price is £40 – so you’ll effectively be getting 2100 space bucks for £6. Proof of the deal comes from Frugal Gaming (via MCV) who snapped a shot of Tesco’s cut-price marketing. It maybe a bummer for specialist retailers and anyone who pre-ordered Halo: Reach early but with a deal like this, Tesco may run out fairly quick when it’s officially released tomorrow.