Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

Old Entries
First time visiting? Be sure to flip through the archives. I've been writing for friggin' ever, and you never know what you might have missed.

Score Breakdown
Just what those wee numbers mean exactly.

Visit the Forum
Multi-platform gaming chit chat, along with whatever interesting news and downloads I happen to stumble across amidst the interpipes.

TPS approved custom
built gaming PCs

Future Plans For the Site
28/7/2012 22:31

Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
8/1/2011 5:54

2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
6/3/2010 20:58

iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

More...

If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

A Huge Spoiler Filled Review of Halo 2
Posted by Diggler - 9/11/2004 12:51

Turn back now if you don't want every single aspect of Halo 2 revealed to you within the next 1500 words. This is one of those truly rare milestones of gaming that deserves to be played both unspoiled, and untarnished by other people's views. Rest assured if you dug the first Halo game, you'll love this one - there's your review. Now go.

For the weak-minded readers still here though, let's continue...

Remember how much I loved Halo? While not quite the best game ever, it still holds the distinction of the most fun if you ask me. It put Bungie on the map as one of the premier games developers of all time, showed the world there was finally a reason to own an Xbox, and perhaps most admirably of all, proved that consoles could do first person shooters just as good, if not better in this case, than PCs could.

So to put it lightly, Halo 2 has much to live up to. And on playing through the first couple of levels, you might think that it'd failed in that regard. But you'd soon be proven wrong.

Click to enlarge
No FMV here, this is all rendered in-game believe it or not
First let's back up for a second. Before the game even starts, the story is introduced via a rather splendid cut-scene that picks up right from where the original Halo ended. It's a court room of sorts, with a disgraced Covenant Elite soldier being sentenced to death for his failures in the first game.

This is just one of several mind blowing cinematics that emphasise Bungie's skill at interweaving an involving story into the game, and it's one area much improved over the original. Also of note though, is just how incredibly stunning these cut-scenes look - especially when you consider they're all rendered real-time within the game engine. With liberal use of blooming, bump-mapping, high detail textures, and depth-of-field blurring, these sequences go down as some of the best graphics I've ever seen in a video game. Yes, right up there with Doom III.

Dr Jekyll & Mr Hype

So when the actual game starts up shortly after, and we subsequently find that the gameplay graphics are several notches lower, it all feels a bit disappointing. It's a very pretty game, don't get me wrong, but it can't even begin to touch the pure beauty of those cinematics, and it's one of several initial downers that start the game off on a bit of a bad foot I feel, the other main one being the weapons.

The original game had you kitted out with the assault rifle and the pistol for 90% of the time, and let's be honest, you were more than happy with it that way I'm sure. These were some of the all-time greats in video gaming weaponry, making the gunning down of thousands of evil alien scumbags all the more fun. The bad news is that the assault rifle is long gone in Halo 2, and the pistol has been nerfed to near uselessness.

In their place we have the new sub-machine gun, which with the weediest of sound effects, lacks any sense of power, and joining it is the new and "improved" battle rifle - although it comes with a scope, it's relegated to three bullet bursts though, which sadly rules out the old "hold down the trigger with a demonic grin" style I was so accustomed to in the first game. These weapons are joined by tons of new alien ones, including the lightsab...er, I mean Covenant Sword, and they may take a bit of getting used to.

The bottom line is that your first experiences with Halo 2 are strange and new, rather than familiar and friendly. You'd hope it'd be like catching up with an old friend, but alas it's not quite there. Sure, on the one hand it's same old Halo, with that awesome feel to the movement, the rock solid architecture, the glorious sound, and the crazy sense of humour - but it just doesn't feel quite as cool as it used to.

This isn't helped by the slightly mundane opening level or two. Fighting through Earthen settings is just a little disappointing compared to the beautiful alien worlds of the original. And what happened to that epic E3 demo level from 2003? No where to be seen here, yet it would have been a much more ideal opener to the game.

Tanks For Coming

Yet fear not, because around level three or so, you're given access to a Scorpion tank, and the subsequent vehicular-centric episode is a pure belter - truly one of the best bits from either Halo game, and from then on it's sweet, sweet candy. It becomes clear from this section forward actually, that the vehicles play a huge part in making this game such a work of art.

Click to enlarge
Vehicles are just as fun as ever...particularly jacking 'em
Remember the fun you had in the first game when you took off in that Banshee and flew around in the snow for a whole level? You get much more of that sort of thing here. There's huge airborne dogfights, full-on long range tank warfare, and perhaps most fun of all, massive Ghost pile-ups on a regular basis. The game sprinkles vehicles around liberally, and importantly gives the enemies equal access to them too. Some levels can't even be finished without 'em.

With the levels improving as the game progresses, the graphics also seem to pick up as well. The greatest part of this revamped engine is its ability to render wide open spaces, and it's something which far, far outclasses any other first person engine I've ever seen. Although far more detailed, even Far Cry's epic views fall short of the tremendous landscapes you can see here. I honestly thought some were simple 2D background images until I took a closer inspection though my newfound binoculars. Such views will most definitely take your breath away.

In addition, this much enhanced engine also allows way more action to take place on the screen at once, giving you colossal fire-fights right up there with Call of Duty for intensity. Needless to say, the more you play, the more those initial twinges of disappointment dissolve.

Deadly Alliance

Click to enlarge
Not only do the same enemies return, but now you're fighting with them
To quote Fox News though, in the interest of being fair and balanced there remains one central trait of Halo 2 that I think was a conceptual mistake. Despite excellent execution, I just can't help but feel that the inclusion of an alternate player character was a case of bad judgement. This series is all about the Master Chief after all - or more specifically, it's about him beating the shit out of the Covenant. Having you therefore take control of the disgraced Elite from the opening sequence, goes way, way against that. In possibly the biggest mistake of the entire thing, the game even has you controlling the Covenant for the final end-game mission.

Okay so this character, The Arbiter, turns out to be a semi-interesting guy in his own right, but I couldn't shake that yearning for more Master Chief any time he was "off screen" and the Arb's missions kicked in. I also think that the fact that many of these missions have you facing off against renegade Covenant, with therefore no human weaponry in sight, hurts their enjoyment level too. The alien guns look nice and all, particularly the railgun-like sniper rifle, but there's nothing to beat that feeling of rock hard Earthen shotguns and rocket launchers filling up half your screen.

Click to enlarge
I challenge anyone to find me a better multiplayer game than this work of beauty
But fuck it, why complain when there's so much more I could praise instead. The new widescreen mode for one, the complete removal of slowdown from the engine for another, then there's the return of that glorious co-op feature, the new and improved physics, the gloriously rich story, the hilarious dialogue of your fellow marines, that kick ass laser sword, bumping into familiar faces, the even more ferocious Flood, vehicle jacking, duel wielding, your team mates new-found ability to drive vehicles, and perhaps best of all...Xbox Live play!

Multiplayer is much improved right across the board in fact. Although it lacks an online co-op option, it's otherwise flawless, destined to go down as one of the all-time online greats. The maps are nigh on perfect, blending all styles of play together in some form, and the weapons are expertly balanced too, resulting in much more interesting and strategic showdowns. It's good old Halo, but at the same time there's hints of Battlefield 1942 creeping in at the same time, thanks to the new humungous size of the maps. On the whole it's even more polished than the single player game in fact, and I actually think it's so well done that you could pick the game up solely for online play if that's more your bag.

Is This The End?

So on the whole, while it took me a little while to warm to Halo 2, a stark contrast to the insta-love I felt towards the original, it captured my heart in the end. Halo 2 continues the legacy of the Xbox' benchmark title, and provides a nice mixture of the familiar with the unknown. Although it won't change the world like the original did, simply 'cos this is a series we now know inside out, not a surprise hit coming outta nowhere, it'll still be remembered as one of the system's prize accomplishments decades from now when the Xbox is long gone.

Switching back to the first game after navigating the Halo 2 single player campaign, I was surprised just how dated it now looks in comparison. Don't go using the original as a coaster any time soon though, as Bungie recently announced their next game would be kick starting a brand new series - these two games could well be all we see from the Halo universe.

Or will they? With Cortana getting hit on by The Flood king, Chief about to take on the entire Covenant Armada, and The Arbiter stranded too far away to be of any use, there seems to be plenty of story left to tell. Halo 2 actually ends with a big arse Empire Strikes Back style cliff-hanger when you think about it, albeit a slightly anti-climactic one.

So here's to Halo 3 then - Xbox 2 launch title perhaps?

(Pictures courtesy of Bungie)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

Forums

The TPS Forum
Official boards for the site

RLLMUK Forum
The old Edge forums gone independent. The busiest and most interesting gaming board around, worthy of multiple visits a day

NTSC-UK Forum
Another exceptional gaming forum, featuring one of the friendliest communities on the net, and up to the minute news

NeoGAF
A more US-centric gaming board, with huge piles of traffic and even the odd famous face

Gaming Shows

The 1up Radio Network
1up.com's collection of weekly gaming podcasts, the pick of which would have to be ListenUP, full of juicy rumors and interesting banter week in, week out

Area 5
Formerly The 1up Show, since losing their jobs the old video editing team have continued doing what they do best, in an independent internet-based TV show, covering whatever upcoming games they can get their hands on, and various other bits and pieces

Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
The humongous gaming site known as Gamespot broadcasts a video show each week, in which upcoming games are demoed live on air, and viewers are invited to send in questions to find out more

The Hotspot
Gamespot's audio-based companion to On the Spot, in which site editors cover the week's news while simultaneously poking fun at all that is gaming

Gaming Steve
A more mature podcast, hosted by a long-time games industry professional armed with a ton of insider info and loads of interesting opinions. The Dig's been known to post articles and stories on here from time to time

Consolevania
Quick-fire internet-based TV show with console reviews and comedy sketches. Funny as hell

Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

Kotaku
What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

Gamespot
The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

GameFAQs
The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

X-Fire
A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

Please do not use anything on this site without credit
X-Fire Profile
Feel free to add me to X-Fire, Xbox Live or any of the other apps to the right
Xbox Live:
Diggler26
Wii Friend Code:
1224 7821 4721 8136
Playstation Network:
Diggler
Steam:
Diggler26
Twitter