My Most Anticipated Games of 2019

This week I decided to take a bit of break from the usual comic or sci-fi posts and focus on something that I’ve been watching closely, the upcoming games of 2019. With greats like God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Red Dead Redemption 2 having come out this past year, it’s going to take some serious mojo to top that list.

Let’s dive right into the list!

1.BioWare – Anthem

You’ll probably need to live under a rock to have not heard anything about this game. Produced by BioWare (of Dragon Age and Mass Effect fame) this upcoming “shared shooter RPG” is making massive waves as we near its release date of mid February. Having taken some bad press recently with their follies (Mass Effect: Andromeda to be specific), BioWare went through a complete restructuring of their development team before production on this began. The game focuses on your playable character as a member of Fort Tarsis on an alien planet sometime in the near future. In order to explore the wilds of the planet and defend the people of the fort, your character uses a Javelin. Javelins are exosuits that allow for intense combat, flight, and even underwater exploration. There are 4 main classes of Javelin: The Ranger (all around suit), The Colossus (The “tank” suit), The Storm (Wizard-like suit that hovers and uses elemental attacks), and the Interceptor (Quick and up close damage expert). Each Javelin is reportedly customizable to an extent and each player can have multiple Javelin suits of varying levels.

I personally am very excited for this game, but I, like many, have some very big reservations about a game BioWare puts out. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Andromeda… That being said, this is probably going to be the biggest game of the first quarter and doesn’t look to have much direct competition, which will help it out immensely.

2. 4A Games – Metro: Exodus

Set to release a week before Anthem, this single-player first person shooter is the next chapter in the Metro continuity. It, like it’s predecessors (Metro 2033 & Metro: Last Light), rely heavily on horror and stealth while implementing survival components to add an extra level of difficulty. Developed from the Metro novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Glukhovsky actually worked on the second game, Last Light, (having helped write the storyline) and as sole writer for Exodus. The games take place in a post-apocalyptic near future where nuclear war has devastated the globe. The population of Russia has taken refuge in the Metro and has built a vast underground civilization using the metro tunnels. A special branch of the military known as Rangers, are responsible for scouting the surface and some of the deeper tunnels which are home to some nightmarish creatures. One of the really unique points of the games is that because the people are forced to live in the metro, good ammunition is hard to come by. Due to the shortage of good ammunition, military grade ammunition is your currency; however, in a tight spot, you can load your weapons with the military ammunition to deal more damage than the sub par readily available bullets.

I’ve been a fan of this series since I bought the first game for the Xbox 360 back in 2010. I like the expansive world that Glukhovsky has built and the alternate history it contains, for example, in Last Light (the second game) you have to sneak through the front lines of a still raging Eastern front of WWII. The main character, Artyom, is also a very relatable person, he was a young 18 year old kid when he started and has since become a type of leader and hero to the people of the Metro. I’m very much looking forward to this game and hope that it will serve as an epic third chapter in a great series.

3. Ubisoft – The Division 2

Say what you will about the first game, but Ubisoft has a habit of taking something that was sub par on release and by commitment to the fan base, turning it around and making it great. They did it with Rainbow Six Siege and they did it with the Division. The first game was released to some very sub par reviews citing it as repetitive and barren as well as having a “fractured progression system”. This didn’t hinder what I thought to be a great story, which is made all the better by how plausible it is (to an extent). The story is an eco-terrorist was able to obtain a sample of the smallpox virus which he then mutated in such a way that our vaccinations wouldn’t work against it. The virus was then sprayed onto $1 bills and distributed around Manhattan on Black Friday. The virus moved its way through the city killing hundreds of thousands and forcing the government to quarantine the city. The President then activates “The Division” which is a top secret branch of the military to enter the city and find a cure while maintaining order in the streets. One of the best aspects of the game was what they called the “Dark Zone”. This was a walled off area in the center of the city that served as the PVP/PVE area. While there were high level enemies in this area, other players could also help you or try and kill you to steal your loot. Your character was only able to carry so much loot on them before having to call in an air evac. This air evac was visible to EVERYONE in the Dark Zone and attracted a lot of enemies that you would have to hold off until the evac arrived.

Division 2 is supposedly set 7 months after the first game and takes place in Washington D.C., where a civil war has broken out between the survivors and “villainous bands of marauders”.

I was a huge fan of the original game but after you got to a certain point there was a definite lull. You would be too strong to do any of the missions without difficulty and the Dark Zone was only viable if you had a fireteam; however, without the powerful gear from the Dark Zone, you couldn’t do any of the incursions because they were too difficult. I’m really hoping they’ve addressed this issue in the new game as it was one of the main criticisms of fans. From the looks of the trailer they released, it heavily resembles the first game with some notable improvements and it appears they added new weapons one of which is a crossbow.

4. id Software/Bathesda Softworks – Doom Eternal

Coming off their massive hit’s success in 2016, Bathesda/id Software’s next project is coming to consoles later this year. Coming in as the fifth main title in the Doom game series, this game serves as a continuation of the story from 2016’s Doom which in itself was a sequel to Doom 64 from 1997. At the conclusion of the 2016 game, the Doom Marine has been tricked by the Cyborg Samuel Hayden, leader of he UAC facility on Mars, and teleported away to an unknown location. Eternal will pick up after the first game with the forces of Hell invading Earth and the UAC being unable to stop the invasion. The original development team will return to create Eternal helping to ensure direct continuity with the original. One thing that I do hope they continue with is having the Easter eggs to the original games. I remember one spot in particular where you enter a door and are put in a portion of one of the old school levels with the 8bit graphics and musical score. It was a great homage to the originals that helped to pioneer the first person shooter genre. This series is known for its excessive gore and frightening monsters, something that the new series has leaned into heavily. Whether they’re Hell Knights, Barons of Hell, or possessed UAC personal, the enemies are varied and offer unique challenges to defeating each one.

I personally can’t wait for this game. I was a massive fan of the original and play it if i ever just need a game to zone out to and not think. The one thing that really captured me with this new series was the score. While most FPS games use orchestras and ambient music to generate their atmosphere, Doom lends more towards creepy Halloween style environment music blended with sci-fi and heavy metal for the action sequences. There’s nothing quite like picking up that double barrel shotgun and loading it for the first time to a massive heavy metal “dun dun… dun dun” on an electric guitar with heavy distortion.

5. CD Projekt Red – Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is an interesting prospect for this upcoming year to say the least. Coming from Studio Projekt Red who are known for the Witcher game series, this is a far cry from their medieval and magical world they got famous on. This game centers in the world 2077 wherein cybernetic modifications are the norm for most citizens. The player takes control of the character known only as “V”. V is a completely customizable character from clothing and modifications right down to eye colour and sex. While it is an RPG style of game, there are base classes that a player can choose: NetRunner (centers on Hacking), Techie (centers on Machinery) and Solo (centers on Combat). The game takes place in a city called “Night City” which is located somewhere in California. Night City is divided into six different districts that each have their own aesthetic and atmosphere. In true CD Projekt Red fashion, there will be multiple endings to the game and players actions and choices throughout the game will determine which ending they receive. The game will feature heavily on robotics, cybernetics, body modifications as well as autonomous technology.

This is one game I’ve had my eye on ever since they released a teaser trailer back in January of 2013. E3 2018, was where they showcased the first actual footage of the gameplay and it looked amazing. It blends the intricate gameplay that the studio is known for, with a distinct setting that hasn’t been touched on much, Detroit Become Human could be seen as the exception. With so much riding on this game and it being the studio’s first attempt at something other than the Witcher, this could be a make or break for CD Projekt Red.

6. Ubisoft – Skull and Bones

Alright, I’m going to be blunt with you, I love pirates. There are very few eras in history that I really enjoy and the classical pirate age is one of them. Yes, I know that piracy has been around for hundreds of years, but I’m specifically talking about the classic Pirate Lords like Captain Morgan, Charles Vance, Jack Rackham, etc. This game is centered in the Indian ocean and details the exploits of the East India Trading Company. Players assume control of a Pirate captain of their own design and set sail across the Indian ocean in a single player campaign and can take on other players in the “Disputed Waters”. Originally showcased at E3 2017, the game was then slated for a Q4 2018 release. The release date was pushed back to 2019 in order to accommodate bug fixes and 4K upscaling. Not much is known about the story of what the game will entail. The developers have stated that it will be possible to acquire other ships throughout the story in addition to the one you start with, as well as customizing the weapon loadout of your ship.

As someone who was a HUGE fan of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I’ve been longing for a good pirate game ever since. I was extremely tempted to buy into Microsoft’s exclusive Sea of Thieves, but thanks to some very observant friends who scour review sites, I did not. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed when this game got delayed, but as my friend Theo points out “If they delay it, that means they’re fixing broken things. So I’m okay with it”.

7. Capcom – Resident Evil 2 Remake

Much like what I said for Anthem, you literally have to live under a rock to have not heard of Resident Evil. Whether it’s the immense game franchise or the movie series that has been going downhill since the first one… everyone knows of this franchise that helped to pioneer the survival horror genre. At E3 2018, gaming giant Capcom surprised everyone by announcing they would be remaking Resident Evil 2 and releasing it on modern consoles. They showed a brief video of the gameplay that we can expect and it looked amazing. Serving as a direct remake of the 1998 classic for the original Playstation, Resident Evil 2 is going to bring us back to the first T- Virus outbreak in Raccoon City. Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy are the main playable characters and their Character models have been updated to coincide with some of their more modern interpretations. The main change that Capcom implemented for this remake is to change the style of camera and controls. Originally sporting “tank controls” (moving the character relative to where they are looking not the camera angle) and fixed camera angles, they have updated the interface to work with an over the shoulder third person style of movement.

When I heard that this game was getting a remake for modern consoles I was ecstatic! This is one of the few Resident Evil games that I was never able to play. It came out when I was 7 years old and I remember seeing a cardboard cutout for it at Microplay and asking my mom if I could get it. She took one look at the cutout and said “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?!” solid call on that one mom… That being said I am no longer 7 years old, so bring on the gory zombie mayhem!

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mortal Kombat 11, Rage 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant.

I feel like I should include Halo: Infinite on this list, but apart from a short video showcasing the new Slipspace engine that 343 built to run the game, we haven’t heard anything about it. The most recent information we have is that it will allow for 4 player single console co-op and have Halo: Reach style customization. I keep my ears and eyes peeled for any information on the upcoming Halo: Infinite but my guess is that it will be announced at E3 2019 for a 2020 release date.

There you have it! Those are my most anticipated games of 2019. Are there any you think I missed? See you next time!

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Rocksteady’s Arkham Series – The Best Superhero Games Ever Made

It’s been just under three years since Arkham Knight, the final chapter in Rocksteady’s award winning series was released, and it has left me wanting. The series started with the amazing Arkham Asylum for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, which centered around Batman trying to re-take Arkham Asylum after Joker had taken control.  The second game Arkham City took place several years after the first one when the city of Gotham had walled off a large section of the waterfront and dubbed it Arkham City; this game also released for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 but near the end of their run. The final installment came with the releases of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, Arkham Knight. This final installment centered around Batman as he attempts to foil the plans of Scarecrow who has rallied his enemies together to destroy Gotham and kill Batman once and for all.

Before we dive into why these games are so amazing let’s get a rundown of the plot for each one…

Arkham Series

*This post will contain massive spoilers for the Arkham series of games. Though they have been out for at least three years now, so I don’t feel guilty about the spoilers*

ARKHAM ASYLUM

The game begins with Batman capturing Joker after a very botched attempt at assaulting City Hall. When Batman drops Joker off on Arkham Island, he questions as to why the Joker allowed himself to be captured so easily. With the help of Harley Quinn and some corrupt guards, Joker breaks out of his restraints and begins his rampage through the prison with Batman hot on his tail. Joker calls in bomb threats at various locations across Gotham stating he will blow the bombs if anyone steps foot on the island, forcing Batman to bring the entire island to order by himself. Joker releases various members of Batman’s rogues gallery  including: Bane, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Zsasz before disappearing saying he was preparing his “party”. Batman defeats and captures each of these Rogues as his idea of Joker’s plan remains a mystery. After discovering a secret production facility for a drug called “Titan”, which was developed by a doctor on staff named Penelope Young; Batman discovers that Joker has secretly been funding her research to gain the formula in order to make an army of superpowered henchmen. When Young refused to turn the formula over to Mr. White (the alias Joker was using to fund her research), Joker was forced to return to Arkham to extract the formula from her himself.

Joker eventually obtains batches of the completed Titan formula and kills Dr. Young in the process, forcing Batman to seek help from Poison Ivy to create an antidote. Ivy explains that the spore necessary to counteract the Titan agent is found solely in Killer Croc’s lair deep in the Asylum. After obtaining the spores and defeating Croc, Batman ventures to one of his satellite Bat caves, which is located on Arkham Island, to manufacture an antidote. Ivy attacks with her mutated plants and Batman is forced to fight her, eventually winning and destroying the plants responsible for manufacturing Titan.  Joker announces his party is ready to accept guests and when Batman arrives, he discovers the Joker has captured Jim Gordon and intends to inject him with Titan. Batman jumps in front of Gordon taking the dart filled with Titan and saving Jim. As Batman resists the change, Joker grows angry and overdoses on Titan turning into a giant monster. Batman defeats Joker and brings the asylum to order. In the post credit scene, Scarecrow is seen floating away on a container of Titan into the Gotham harbor.

ARKHAM CITY

This game picks up several years after the conclusion of Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne arrives at a press conference in front of the gates of Arkham City to protest its creation. He is ambushed by TYGER guards and the press conference is cut short as he, along with Jack Ryder, are imprisoned in Arkham City. Hugo Strange, the Warden of Arkham City, explains to Bruce that he knows he is Batman but will keep the information to himself for the time being. Bruce defeats the Penguin and some thugs before climbing to the top of the ACE Chemicals building and retrieving his Batsuit which was air dropped via the Batwing. As he dons the Batsuit, Strange comes over the PA system in Arkham City and says “Protocol 10 will commence in 10 hours”.

Bruce deduces that if anyone knows what’s going on in Arkham City it would be Catwoman, but he overheard some TYGER guards saying she has been captured by Two-Face. He saves Catwoman from the clutches of Two Face and then stops Joker from killing her with mechanical sniper rifle apparatus. He tracks Joker to the Sionis Steel Mill and infiltrates the mill to find him. In his pursuit of the Joker he saves several doctors that tell him the Joker is unwell and was forcing them to try and save his life. Batman discovers the Joker’s lair and is knocked unconscious by Harley Quinn. He wakes up to find Joker transfusing some of his blood into Batman afflicting him with the same degenerative disease Joker has. Joker is suffering from massive cellular degradation as a result of the Titan serum he took on the island to kill Batman. He also tells Batman that he has been shipping his blood to hospitals in the area for weeks infecting as many people as possible in hopes that this would force Batman to find a cure. Batman questions him asking if this is “Protocol 10” to which Joker replies that he has no idea what Batman is talking about.

Arkham-Games

As he exits the Mill, Batman seeks out Mr. Freeze who has been imprisoned in Arkham City as well. He tracks Freeze to the old GCPD building where Freeze has set up his own lab. As he infiltrates the building it has become apparent that Penguin has kidnapped Freeze for his own entertainment. Batman arrives at the old museum which Penguin is using as his hideout and discovers Freeze and his suit, but Freeze’s gun is missing. As Batman sets out to find Freeze’s gun, Freeze himself returns to his lab to begin work on a cure. Batman confronts Penguin who is using Freeze’s gun and defeats him but in his anger Penguin detonates the floor of his lounge causing Batman to fall into a chamber that houses Solomon Grundy. Batman defeats Grundy and returns Freeze’s tech to him at the old GCPD. Freeze tells Batman that he has managed to create a cure but due to its instability it is rendered useless. Batman hypothesizes that Ra’s Al Ghul’s restorative properties in his blood would render the cure stable and sets off to find him by tracking one of his operatives. He does battle with both Ra’s and his daughter Talia before obtaining the blood sample he needs to complete the cure. As Freeze finalizes the cure he battles Batman to find the location of his wife, believing Batman to know where she is. After Batman defeats him, they open the safe to find that Harley Quinn has stolen the cure. Batman returns to the Mill and finds a Joker that has been fully restored who tries to kill him.

As they fight, Strange activates Protocol 10 which is revealed to be the eradication of Arkham City to destroy the criminal element of Gotham. Talia arrives and offers Joker the use of the Lazarus pit in order to save Batman’s life, Joker accepts and leaves Batman in the wreckage of the steel mill. Batman wants to pursue Talia to save her from her eventual betrayal by the Joker, but Alfred and Oracle refuse, stating that Batman is needed to save the people of Arkham City. Batman scales Wonder Tower (the tower at the center of Arkham City that doubles as Strange’s headquarters) and confronts Strange. When Ra’s Al Ghul reveals himself to be the mastermind behind Arkham City, he kills Strange for his failure. Ra’s and Batman battle once again, with Ra’s being beaten again. To avoid the dishonour of being captured alive, Ra’s commits suicide and Batman is contacted by Joker to come alone to Monarch theater or he will kill Talia. When Batman arrives Talia confesses she stole the cure from Harley and stabs Joker through the chest. She is then shot by another Joker still dying from the disease. The impaled Joker is revealed to be Clayface who tries to kill Batman before being defeated using Freeze-tech. Batman drinks some of the cure leaving enough for someone else and destroys the Lazarus pit located beneath the theater before Joker is able to use it. Joker stabs Batman in the side causing Batman to drop the vial of cure, which smashes on the ground. As Joker slowly succumbs to the disease Batman admits that despite everything Joker has done and everyone he has killed and injured, he still would’ve saved him. Joker dies laughing at a joke that only he understands, leaving Batman alone in the destroyed theater. Batman carries Joker’s body out of Arkham City and places it on the hood of a police cruiser before disappearing into the night without a word.

ARKHAM ORIGINS

While not produced by Rocksteady, Arkham Origins is still part of the Arkham story line taking place 5 years before the events of Arkham Asylum. It centers around Black Mask putting out a hit on Batman on Christmas Eve for 50 million dollars. This attracts several well known Rogues to Gotham in order to collect the bounty, the Rogues include: Deathstroke, Deadshot, Bane, Copperhead, Killer Croc, Firefly, Electrocutioner, and Lady Shiva. Throughout the night Batman confronts and defeats several of the Rogues until eventually it’s revealed that Joker was the mastermind behind the entire thing. Bane learns Batman’s secret identity and nearly kills Alfred by assaulting and wrecking the Batcave. This also marks the point in Batman’s career where he realized he was unable to do the work by himself. Though initially against him, Captain Gordon eventually comes around and helps Batman when Joker takes control of Blackgate prison. Batman and the police work together to bring the prison back to order with Batman being forced to stop Bane’s heart and then restart it again to save the Joker. Bane suffers amnesia after his near death experience securing Batman’s secret identity and infuriating Joker. Batman apprehends Joker rather than killing him and leaves him to be found by the Gotham Police Force and Captain Gordon. This marks the beginning of the professional relationship between Gordon and Batman as well as the rivalry between Joker and Batman. Gordon is promoted to Commissioner for his part in securing the prison, but he keeps Batman’s involvement a secret. During the credits there’s a radio interview with Gotham mayor, Quincy Sharp, where he states he intends to re-open Arkham Asylum to help with some of the more dangerous criminals.

Arkham Origins

ARKHAM KNIGHT

The third (technically fourth) and final entry in Rocksteady’s award winning series is Arkham Knight. The Halloween following the events in Arkham City, the Scarecrow enacts his plan to destroy Gotham City and kill the Bat for good. He has developed a new fear toxin that he tests on a diner full of innocent people and broadcasts it all over Gotham. He allows the people of Gotham 12 hours to evacuate the city before he will disperse the toxin. With the city deserted except for Batman and his allies along with a few remaining Police Officers, the criminals of the city run rampant. Batman tracks Scarecrow to Chinatown and finds an imprisoned Poison Ivy who refused to go along with Scarecrow and the other Rogues’ plot for Gotham. Batman frees Ivy who says that she will be taken in willingly to protect her from Scarecrow.After taking Ivy to the GCPD, Batman meets Oracle at the clock tower where, with her help, he pinpoints the location of Scarecrow’s toxin production facility as Ace Chemicals. When Batman assaults the plant he is confronted by the Arkham Knight and his well armed militia. Scarecrow converted Ace Chemicals into a toxin bomb, with a potential blast radius of the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States, and told Batman that he had captured Oracle from the Clock Tower before fleeing from the facility with the help of the Knight. Batman renders the bomb useless but not before being exposed to a large dose of the fear toxin. Due to the remaining Joker infused blood in his system and the massive dose of toxin, Batman begins hallucinating the Joker throughout the City and interacting with him. As explained before, during the events of Arkham City, Batman is infected by Joker’s poisoned blood. Along with Batman, who has hidden his infection form the others, 4 other patients were poisoned with the blood before all of the infected blood had been accounted for. The infected patients are slowly mutating and turning into the Joker with the eventual endgame being multiple Jokers running around Gotham.  It’s later shown that Robin has all the other victims in a containment ward underneath Panasa Studios where he’s working on a cure.

Arkham KNight

As Batman escapes the destroyed plant he speaks to Commissioner letting Gordon know that Oracle had been kidnapped by Scarecrow. Gordon is angered that Barbara stayed in Gotham to help Batman, and goes off on his own to hunt down Scarecrow. Batman discovers that Scarecrow had manipulated Simon Stagg, a wealthy businessman, to force him to create and deploy the Cloudburst. The Cloudburst, allowed for the Fear Toxin to be massively dispersed into the air which would coat the entire planet in a matter of weeks. Stagg owns and operates his company out of two docked Airships tethered in the Financial District of Gotham City. As Batman assaults these airships he is forced to battle the Knight’s private militia which have taken control of the tethered stations. Eventually Batman once again confronts Scarecrow only to be once again dosed with a massive amount of Fear Toxin. This new dose allows the Joker to temporarily assume control of Batman’s mind and body. As Batman fights to regain control of his body, the Arkham Knight and Scarecrow steal the Cloudburst right out from under his nose. Once he recovers, Batman tracks Scarecrow to his hideout in Chinatown and arrives to find Oracle trapped in a hermetically sealed chamber. Before he can rescue her the chamber is filled with fear toxin and Oracle seemingly commits suicide out of fear.

Harley Quinn seizes control of the Panasa Studios cave, and releases the Jokerized patients into the studio in an attempt to free them. Batman and Robin must work together along with one of the remaining patients Henry Adams, who assists them from the containment ward. As Batman and Robin capture all the patients and Quinn herself, they return to the ward to find that Henry has killed all the other patients. Henry then kills himself stating that Batman will become the perfect Joker. As Robin turns to see Batman’s eyes glowing green, he attempts to subdue and imprison Batman in one of the research chambers in the ward. Batman easily counters Robin and imprisons him in the ward stating that he will not stop until the Scarecrow has been apprehended.  Elsewhere in Gotham, the Knight activates the Cloudburst and blankets the entire City of Gotham in Fear Toxin. Batman manages to destroy the Cloudburst and convinces the captured Ivy to utilize a giant tree hidden beneath Gotham to filter out the Toxin from the air to save the City. Ivy manages to save the City, but the strain of the effort causes her death. Batman manages to track the Knight to a construction site in the Financial District where the Knight has taken the captured Commissioner Gordon. Batman arrives to rescue Gordon and confronts the Knight who reveals himself to be Jason Todd. Jason Todd was the second Robin who was seemingly murdered by the Joker many years ago in an attempt to break the Bat. It’s later revealed that the Joker didn’t murder Todd right away, but actually tortured him for months effectively shattering Todd’s psyche and deeply traumatizing him. Todd, blaming Batman for his torture and subsequent near death experience, allied with Scarecrow in an effort to make Bruce feel the pain and helplessness he felt at the hands of the Joker all those years ago. As Batman attempts to reason with Todd and even offer to help him recover from what happened to him Todd refuses and escapes. Batman frees the Commissioner and the both of them head up to the roof to confront Scarecrow. Scarecrow is revealed to have Oracle alive and well, her previous suicide being a hallucination produced by the Fear toxin and Joker control, which allows Batman and the Commissioner the ability to save her. As Batman saves Oracle, Scarecrow captures Commissioner Gordon and escapes. Batman and Oracle return to the GCPD which is then assaulted by the militia forces of the Arkham Knight. Batman fends off the attack on the GCPD but in the fray, Scarecrow uses the distraction to overwhelm and kidnap Robin as well.

Arkham City Combat

Scarecrow offers to release Gordon and Robin unharmed if Batman surrenders to him without a fight. Believing that his surrender is the only way to ensure everyone’s safety, Batman surrenders. He is knocked out and taken to the ruins of Arkham Asylum, where it all began, and is strapped to a table before having his identity revealed on live television. Scarecrow then injects Batman with another massive dose of Fear Toxin which allows the Joker to fight for control over Batman’s mind and body. As the two battle inside Batman’s mind, Joker recounts all the horrible things he did in an effort to knock Batman off balance allowing the Joker to take control. Bruce not only resists, but manages to find the one thing Joker is afraid of most in the world, being forgotten. He battles the Joker in his mind, eventually winning and locking him away in his deep psyche to be forgotten for the rest of time. As Scarecrow watches Bruce fight through the Toxin he grows enraged that Batman keeps finding a way to win and attempts to inject him again. Jason Todd, now going by his alias of Red Hood, arrives at the broken down asylum and frees Batman who then injects Scarecrow with his own Fear Toxin.

Batman then finishes cleaning up the City and ensuring it’s safe for the citizens to return. Once he has cleaned up the City and captured all his Rogues, he activates the “Knightfall Protocol”. As he arrives back at Wayne Manor, the paparazzi are all around the property and shouting questions at him from beyond the fence line. Batman walks inside the manor and as the door shuts, the house explodes and is engulfed in flames, presumably killing Bruce and Alfred. In the epilogue, James Gordon, now Mayor of Gotham, is rushing over to the church so he can attend the wedding of his daughter, Barbara/Oracle to Robin/Tim Drake. Elsewhere in the City a young couple and their son cut through a back alley to avoid the rain and are accosted by some muggers. Before the muggers can get away with any goods, they’re assaulted by a silhouette that resembles a nightmarish Batman.

WHAT MAKES THEM AMAZING

I will be the first to say, most superhero games are shit. Seriously, just garbage. Every now and then you will get some good nuggets like Marvel Ultimate Alliance or Spider-Man: Web of Shadows; but for the most part, they tend to be lackluster. The main problem with superhero games is that they always tend to be tied to some other  film or television property which severely inhibits the stories that can be told. The tie in games for various movies work well enough to bolster sales and ride the coat tail of the movie’s success, but they lack all substance themselves. Rocksteady changed that formula.

The big change that Rocksteady had was they brought in renowned comic book writer Paul Dini to craft a 100% original tale that would take place in their universe. Drawing heavy inspiration from several of his other works, Dini delivered a dark and gritty story that focused on the Batman himself and how close he is to teetering on the edge. It wasn’t until the final game Arkham Knight, that we really got to see what a Batman looks like as he slowly loses control of everything around him. There are several quotes from DC Comics that detail Bruce Wayne/Batman’s obsessive need to control everything he can. Dini took this obsessive trait and showed us exactly what it would look like to watch a man who the rest of the world thinks has all the answers, struggle to maintain his grip on a reality that is slowly slipping through his grasp. It was a stark contrast to the invincible superhero most people know. He doubts himself, he makes mistakes, he questions his crusade, and he even loses in the end; all these things happen over the span of three games and really show just how human Batman really is.

Arkham Counter

The story isn’t the only part of the series that really drove it home for most fans, it was the gameplay. You can make a game with an amazing story, that really captures everything you need it to, but if the gameplay can’t hold up to the demands the story needs, you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t sell. Rocksteady wanted to focus on the aspects of Batman’s character that make him so terrifying like his combat skills, detective work, and stealth. They derived to show the game from Batman’s point of view while still making the NPC’s react to your actions and not feel like you were some all powerful invincible being.  Entering a room with 10 enemies is a challenge because, as I said before, they react to your actions. Take one out and let another see you? They’ll group together and operate as a team making it harder to catch them off guard. They will also work to remove your advantages like destroying vents with grenades or destroying gargoyles making you stay on the ground. This coupled with the amazing combat mechanic gave us a series which delivered two games noted as Game of the Year. The combat mechanic utilizes counter attacks along with gadgets to string together combos that allow for easier taking down of enemies. As the difficulties increase for the story the combat becomes harder and you lose the visible notifier to hit the counter button. One of the best aspects to the games though, is the Detective vision. This is a vision mode which you can toggle at any point which highlights enemies and interactive objects in the environment. It adds a whole new level to planning out your moves to remove a group of enemies from a room or trying to figure your way out of some tough spots. It also is used during the moments of the game where to progress the story you must use your detective skills to follow the evidence and draw conclusions.

 

Rocksteady’s Arkham series delivered a full and immersive story that has really only been seen from AAA game studios. They brought us a full cohesive narrative with accompanying gameplay that helped to restore faith in the superhero game genre. Batman has been one of the easiest heroes to make games for based on his style and skills. There have been many attempts to make a great Batman game but none of them have been able to compare to Rocksteady’s series. I personally loved the entire series and own all the games on both the Xbox 360 and the redux versions for the Xbox One. I have logged more hours into this series than I have probably logged into Skyrim which puts into perspective the replayability of the series. There have been rumours that Rocksteady has been working on another superhero game but so far it has been kept under a tight lock as to who it will feature, but the most popular theory is either Superman or Green Arrow. There was also another rumour that a further game would be added to the Arkham series taking place before Arkham City but after Arkham Asylum. It was to feature the dynamic duo with Robin being a 100% playable character. Nothing much has been said on this front and the rumour mill has recently dies down on anything remotely related to this “new Arkham Game”. I know that while I don’t think this series needs another installment, if they did release another game, I would FOR SURE be one of the first people to pick it up. I would highly recommend that anyone who enjoys adventure games with a great story checkout this series; you don’t even have to be a Batman fan to like the game, Rocksteady does a great job of explaining everything so that even someone who has no knowledge of Batman or his history can follow the story. That being said, they do jam pack the game full of Easter eggs and little nods so that even a seasoned fan of the Bat, like myself, still finds awesome little nods to several other characters throughout the series. I would give this game series a rating of 9.0/10 for all the reasons listed above and for the amount of fun you will have while playing, as I said before, I highly recommend this series!

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The Witcher – Netflix’s Next Big Endeavour

I decided to include not only Halo, but all video games in the opening post for each month. While I focused on Halo for the past three installments, this time, I decided to focus on a game that has a series coming to Netflix, The Witcher. The Witcher is an epic fantasy saga that was based off the books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The first book of the series titled Sword of Destiny was written in 1992 and gained a cult following. Since the release of Sword of Destiny, there have been 7 more novels added to the series with the latest one coming in 2013. The novels were originally written in Polish and have since been translated into over 15 different languages, including English. The main character of the series is named Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher. In the novels, a Witcher is a monster hunter that along with some mutagen body modifications, has been trained from a young age to combat monsters. Geralt is a member of the School of Wolves but several other Witcher Schools exist in the universe.

SETTING

The saga of the Witcher takes place on the continent, the name of the continent is never given but the various kingdoms and cities all have been named. Several thousand years before the series starts, the Elves sailed across the sea and settled the continent. With the continent already being home to the dwarves and gnomes, a racial war broke out between the dwarves and elves; with both sides eventually calling a truce and settling in different regions. The elves settled in the plains and forests, the dwarves settled in the hills and mountains and gnomes took the spaces that were left, mainly coastal areas. Roughly 500 years before the first book, humans sailed across the sea and decided to settle on the continent. When humanity arrived, as per usual, they started a war against the indigenous populations and emerged victorious. With the elves, dwarves and gnomes now classified as second class citizens, they live in small ghettos in the shadows on the great cities that the humans built. While the cities are relatively safe for habitation most of the wilderness still remains unclaimed with various beasts and factions residing there.  After a magical event known as the “Conjunction of the Spheres” various supernatural beasts (werewolves, vampires, etc) arrived on the continent and began cutting a bloody path through the wilderness.

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While the humans defeated the other races to become the dominant species, they were unable to stay united in their beliefs. In the centuries leading up to the start of the series, the southern regions of the continent have come under the control of the Nilfgaard Empire, while the Northern regions have united as the Northern Kingdoms. They went to war in a brutal and bloody conflict that cost millions of lives and accomplished nothing, which is where the first book picks up, immediately following the end of the first war.

CHARACTERS

GERALT – The Main Character for the saga is Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a human male that was taken when he was born by the “Law of Surprise” which dictates that if someone cannot pay for the witcher’s services, that witcher may take something the debtor does not know they have. This law was what allowed for the witcher who performed the service for the parents of Geralt, to claim their first born child as his payment, making Geralt a witcher candidate. Forcing his parents to take him, as a new born baby, to Kaer Morhen to be trained as a witcher. As he grew up at Kaer Morhen (the witcher school for the Order of the Wolf) Geralt exhibited skills beyond his age which allowed him to take the trial of grasses early. The trial of grasses is a procedure during which the recruits are exposed to mutagens and procedures to enhance their senses to allow them to become full witchers. This trial is not without its risks, as roughly 25 – 40% of recruits can perish from these mutations. Geralt took to the mutations so well, that additional mutagens were used giving him near superhuman abilities. As a result of his mutations, his skin pigment was destroyed as was the pigment in his hair which caused his skin to become very pale and his hair to go white, earning him the nickname “The White Wolf”.

Geralt

YENNEFER OF VENGERBERG – A powerful Sorceress and the “true love” of Geralt’s life. She was born in the kingdom of Aedirn, which was one of the most heavily human colonized areas of the continent. Due to her aptitude in magical arts, she was the youngest member of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers  and was eventually courted for membership by the Lodge of Sorceresses as well. She was the magical advisor to king Demavand III and the surrogate mother to Ciri. She was known for wearing black and white garments and using Lavender as her signature fragrance. Like all sorceresses and magic users, she was born sterile, and thus was never able to have children of her own, hence why she took such a liking to Ciri and helped raise her as her surrogate mother.  She participated in several major battles and helped to bring Geralt’s memory back to him after he lost it following his apparent death.

CIRILLA FIONA ELEN RIANNON (CIRI) – Is a powerful Witcheress and the surrogate daughter of Geralt and Yennefer. Having been given to Geralt by the Law of Surprise, Ciri never really knew her parents as they were killed at sea by a storm. She was raised by her grandmother and uncle on Skellige and in Cintra for the first few years of her life. Ciri is of Elder Blood descent which allows her for some impressive abilities of travelling through time and across different planes of existence at will. Having been raised at Kaer Morhen by Geralt and Yennefer as their surrogate daughter, she developed a strong bond with the Witcher and the Sorceress. She is constantly pursued by nefarious enemies for both her Elder Blood abilities and her inheritance to the throne of Cintra. Ciri is one of the main characters in the Witcher III : The Wild Hunt game as well as in the book series.

TRISS MERIGOLD – A Powerful Sorceress and constant ally of Geralt and Yennefer throughout the games and the novels. She was born in the land of Temeria and became an extremely powerful sorceress before meeting Geralt and Yennefer. She lived at Kaer Morhen with Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri acting as an older sister to Ciri through her formative years. Along with being a gifted Sorceress she was also a talented healer and carried quite a few healing potions on her person to help others in need. She was the one responsible for stopping several of the hormonal mutagens used on the Witchers from being applied to Ciri, thus saving some of her secondary gender traits. Triss was in love with Geralt even though he never reciprocated the feeling, him being in love with Yennefer and all.

DANDELION – Also known by his birth name of Julian Alfred Pankratz, was a bard, poet, minstrel and close friend of Geralt. Not much is known of Dandelion’s past, except that he was of noble birth and that he started into poetry at age 19 thanks to his infatuation with Countess de Stael. He was educated at Oxenfurt University where he eventually became a professor. He taught for just over a year before deciding to put some miles on his soul by travelling and playing for the people. Within several months he was known as one of the best minstrels in the Northern Kingdoms with his most famous ballad, The Lion Cub of Cintra, being requested frequently.  He met Geralt in the small town of Upper Posada where Geralt was dealing with a particularly mischievous Sylvan (Goat man).  Since their first encounter Geralt and Dandelion have become close friends and allies.

THE SHOW

In early of 2017, it was announced that Netflix had picked up the rights to make a Witcher show based on the original works of Andrzej Sapkowski. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was named showrunner for her previous work on Daredevil and The Defenders Netflix series. The show will take place over 13 episodes, each an hour and length and tell the tale of Geralt the monster Hunter as he makes a name for himself on the continent amidst a war.

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I started playing the Witcher game series with the second installment, Assassin of Kings, and as someone who has never played a game of that scope before, I was blown away. CD Projekt Red really delivered something wholly unique with that installment, at least to me. I was never a fan of the Final Fantasy games so having a game that took place over 4 different discs was a pretty daunting task for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the game even if i wasn’t that good at it. I found myself waiting expectantly for the next game which turned out to be Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I pre-ordered Wild Hunt and the day it downloaded on to my Xbox I sunk probably 8 hours into the story. Coming off a gap of several years without playing a Witcher game, I was a little rusty at first and died numerous times before I finally got the hang of the combat system. The story for the show is said to be wholly original but take heavy influences from both the original novels and the games themselves.

While originally Sapkowski was attached to act as creative consultant for the project, in early of 2018 he denied any involvement whatsoever with the series. The Witcher saga has been made into a film and mini series in Poland already, taking on the title of The Hexer. While Sapkowski was not a fan of with adaptation, it was met with some commercial success in the home country. This will mark the first time that a Witcher series has been attempted by someone outside of Poland and will also serve as a beginning to an ongoing series for Netflix.

Netflix has had some very recent hits and misses when it comes to their original content. Some of it is very spot on, Daredevil, Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black being prime examples; while some is a hard miss with Iron Fist (which I still enjoyed), Disjointed and Friends From College sitting firmly in that category. While not every show can be a perfect adaptation, there are several examples of shows taking some liberties with the source material while still remaining faithful to the fan base, Castlevania, Lost in Space and Daredevil are perfect examples of this. I’m hoping that the Witcher is going to the the latter and open as a great show a la Game of Thrones, while still retaining the magic that separates it from other high fantasy stories. Warring kings and mythical beasts is nothing new for a show or even movie, but doing it well is something that several studios have struggled with. HBO has made sure to lock in a spot in history with Game of Thrones but other shows like Camelot, Merlin and Vikings, while still good, don’t have the same effect.

I’m hoping the Witcher series will provide us with a much needed surrogate to the ever successful Game of Thrones (which ends next year), while remaining as its own entity that will hold it’s own spot as one of the great shows to come from the streaming service.

The Last Wish

SPARTAN IIs – The Heroes Humanity Needed

This month for my Halo themed post, I will be breaking down the SPARTAN-II program which is the backbone of the Halo universe.  For anyone that’s a fan of the series, Halo is centered around John-117 “the Master Chief”. John was believed to have been the sole surviving member of the SPARTAN-II program, until the novel Halo: First Strike and the newest game Halo 5 : Guardians when the rest of Blue team was brought back. As I stated in my last Halo post concerning Project ORION, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the brilliant and frankly insane mind behind the SPARTAN-IIs and their success in turning the tide of the Human-Covenant War.

CONCEPTION

As I stated before in the Project: ORION post, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the driving force behind the development of the SPARTAN-II program. After the shuttering of the SPARTAN-Is (Project:ORION), Halsey met with ONI and Section III Special Projects Division, to discuss a new program to pick up where ORION left off. Halsey surmised that children would be better suited as candidates due to their relatively malleable minds and impressionable nature. The candidates were all 6 years of age, having been previously screened using an outer colony vaccination program. In 2511, the SPARTAN-II program was officially green lit, and the candidates were retrieved. The candidates were abducted in the dead of night by ONI operatives and replaced with flash clones. The clones were grown from the DNA retrieved during the vaccination program and placed with their families so that nobody would know about the missing children and in turn, the project. Due to the complication of growing a full human in the span of months, the clones suffered from degenerative defects that caused them all to die out within a year.

The candidates were sedated and whisked away across the galaxy to Reach (the main human military training world) where they would be trained under Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mendez and Dr. Halsey with the assistance of various UNSC divisions and the AI, Déjà.

TRAINING

As the candidates arrived at Reach they were brought out of cryo-sleep and rushed into the main meeting hall where Dr. Halsey was waiting. She informed the children that in accordance with Naval Code 45812 they were hereby conscripted into the UNSC to help defend Earth and her colonies. She also told them they would no longer be allowed to return to their parents and that they would endure many hardships in the coming years; the children were then taken to the barracks for a meal, then sent to bed.

On September 24, 2517, the recruits were awoken by CPO Mendez and his training staff at 0530 hours. The recruits were instructed to go to the showers and prepare for the day, those that refused were hit with a stun baton. When they finished their morning ablutions, they were escorted outside where CPO Mendez ran them through a vigorous exercise routine consisting of 100 reps of jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. They were then run a mile to the Reach Naval Academy, where Déjà was waiting for them to instruct them in Mathematics, Science, and History. The first history lesson they were taught was the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persian Empire. After their lessons they were run two more miles to the “playground” (a suspended obstacle course with a bell at the top). The recruits were divided into teams of three and told that their objective was to ring the bell, the last team to do so would go without supper. John (Master Chief SPARTAN 117) was teamed with Kelly (SPARTAN 087) and Samuel (SPARTAN 034) for the course. While John was first to reach the bell the rest of his team were last and thus they all went without supper.

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On September 25, 2517, the recruits were awoken and did their morning calisthenics routine before jogging to the classroom for another lesson from Déjà. The lesson Déjà taught them that day was based on hunting in packs; specifically, they were shown how wolves hunted a moose by corralling the animal until they could overwhelm it. Following their lesson they were run to the playground which had been modified to be more difficult. John and his team worked together and while they weren’t the first to ring the bell they were not last, John, Sam and Kelly became fast friends after that.

For the next two years Mendez taught them various military lessons ranging from weapons control and marksmanship, to setting and disarming traps, basic field medical procedures and  squad tactics. CPO Mendez always incorporated various obstacles into his lessons (snipers with paint guns, stun grenades, stun batons, etc) forcing the recruits to constantly be on guard and ready for anything. On June 12, 2519, the recruits were dropped individually in the Reach wilderness and each given a piece of a map that would be used to get to the dropship that would take themback to the base. The last recruit to get to the dropship, would be left behind to walk home. John took on a leadership role and coordinated all the recruits to commandeer the dropship from the marines guarding it and pilot it back to base themselves. Following the task, John was brought before CPO Mendez and Dr. Halsey. John thought he was getting kicked out of the program, to his surprise, he was given the rank of Team leader for his planning, reaction to the training operation, and obvious leadership skills.

On July 14, 2523, the SPARTAN recruits were paired against Tango Company (the best marines on Reach) for future training scenario war games. Despite only being 12 years old, the Spartans continuously won against Tango Company. With the men of Tango company growing increasingly brutal with their treatment of the recruits. After a brutal defeat by the SPARTANS, the CO of Tango Company, ordered his men to use live rounds instead of stun rounds. The SPARTANS were still victorious.

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In 2525 at the onset of puberty for the SPARTAN recruits, they underwent the augmentation procedures. These procedures were very dangerous and resulted in 30 of the 75 SPARTAN candidates being killed on the operating table, with a further 12 being considered “washed out” after being physically deformed from the procedures or paralyzed. The augmentations performed are as follows:

  • Carbide Ceramic Ossification – Advanced material grafted to skeleton to make it virtually unbreakable
  • Muscular Enhancement Injections – Protein complex injected intramuscularly to increase tissue density and decrease lactase recovery time
  • Catalytic Thyroid Implant – Platinum coated pellet containing Human Growth Hormone implanted into the Thyroid gland to boost growth of skeletal and muscle tissues
  • Occipital Capillary Reversal – Submergence and boosted blood vessel flow beneath the rods and cones of the subject’s retina to produce marked visual perception increase
  • Superconducting Fibrification of Neural Dendrites – Alteration of bioeletrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction. Providing a 300% increase in subject reflexes with a marked side increase in intelligence, memory, and creativity

In September of 2525, following the successful augmentation, the SPARTANS were forced to relocated to an abandoned mine on Reach to enhance the secrecy of the program and reduce risk to other training personnel. The training personnel were forced to don Mark I power armour to keep up with the augmented SPARTANS. Victory for the SPARTANS was inevitable with the security cameras used to watch the training exercises even being neutralized.

MJOLNIR POWER ARMOUR

The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour System was developed in conjunction with the SPARTAN-II recruits themselves. The program went though various iterations before finally being able to function in the way envisioned by Dr. Halsey. When the SPARTAN-II program first began, the Special Projects group had already been working on a powered exoskeleton for roughly 11 years, with some success. The Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III exo-suits were able to function but due to their immense power requirements needed to be tethered to a power source, severely limiting their range. When Halsey joined the project, they abandoned the exo-skeleton research to focus on the MJOLNIR armour.

MJOLNIR

The first iteration of the assault armour was dubbed the Mark IV in accordance with the previous exo-suit designs. This was the first mass produced armour to be given to the SPARTAN-IIs. This is the armour that the SPARTANS wore while assaulting the frigate that resulted in Samuel 034’s death.

The Mark V armour included the upgraded reverse engineered energy shield from the captured jackal tech; as well as, the ability to incorporate an AI into the armour system. This is the armour worn during Halo:Combat Evolved.  A special modified version of this armour dubbed the Mark IV Black, was developed in secret and deployed with SPARTAN Team Black in 2552.

The Mark VI incorporated a faster shield recharge time to help reduce the amount of time a SPARTAN was forced to remain in cover. It also included improved synchronization between suit and the SPARTAN allowing for faster movement harder hitting and higher jumps. This is the armour given to the Master Chief at the beginning of the Halo 2 game campaign.

The Mark VII was never widely produced due to the incredible cost associated with its production. It bolstered a lighter weight making the SPARTAN faster, limited energy shield shaping, and a nano technology repair suite.

HUMAN COVENANT WAR

Immediately following the SPARTANS being outfitted with their MJOLNIR armour, they were engaged by a Covenant frigate. The frigate and the UNSC Commonwealth, engaged in a ship to ship battle with the Spartans deploying via dropship mid fight to disable or destroy the frigateWhile exploring the ship, John 117, Samuel 034, and Kelly 087, came into contact with covenant forces. During the firefight a Kig-Yar (Jackal as referred to by the UNSC) had flanked the SPARTANS and loosed a charged a plasma pistol shot aimed at John. Samuel jumped in front of John taking the hit from the plasma pistol directly into his armour, burning through the layers and losing his vacuum seal. As the squad moved through the frigate they eventually found the engine room. John, Sam, and Kelly planted several ANVIL-II ASMs (Air to Surface Missile) around the fusion reactor to blow the ship. Due to his compromised armour, Sam volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Covenant forces to give John and Kelly time to escape via an EVA maneuver. Sam held off waves of Covenant troops until John gave him the all clear signal, at which point Sam, badly injured, detonated the missiles blowing the frigate. During this mission John and Kelly captured a functioning Jackal shield modulator which they took back to Halsey to incorporate into the armour systems of the SPARTANS.

Due to the morale effect the SPARTANS and their feats had on the entire human population, SPARTANS were not allowed to be listed as KIA (Killed in Action), they were to be marked as MIA (Missing in Action) or WIA (Wounded in Action). Sam was the first SPARTAN to be killed and listed as MIA during the Human Covenant War.

Due to the young age at which they were taken, the SPARTAN-IIs became each other’s surrogate family. The death of Samuel was mourned by all the SPARTANS and was remembered years after his death by Kurt (SPARTAN 051) who made a similar sacrifice during Onyx event.

*Kurt 051 was secretly recruited to train a new generation of SPARTANS dubbed SPARTAN-IIIs. This new generation relied more heavily on teamwork and an active camouflage module incorporated into their armour instead of shields. They were largely utilized for suicide missions on Covenant strong points. This new generation were trained on the planet Onyx.*

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Following the death of Samuel, Frederick (SPARTAN 104) was transferred to Blue Team, along with Linda (SPARTAN 058), to form the most well known version of the team. Throughout the beginning of the war, the SPARTANS were deployed against the Covenant and met with large success in ground combat. While the UNSC tactics and training surpassed the Covenant in ground conflicts, most of the engagements were lost in ship battles, in which the Covenant technology was vastly superior. On August 27, 2552, all active SPARTAN-IIs with the exception of Grey Team, were recalled to Reach for Operation: RED FLAG. Operation: RED FLAG was a multi-phase plan which entailed the capture of a Covenant carrier, the discovery of the Covenant home world “High Charity”, and the piloting of the carrier to the home world to extract a Prophet Hierarch to be used for negotiations to force a cease fire. Before the UNSC could enact this plan, the Covenant found Reach and began their assault.

THE FALL OF REACH

The Fall of Reach saw almost all of the active SPARTAN-IIs recalled to the planet in defense of the military stronghold. Red Team was deployed to the surface and believed to have died when it was thought the Covenant had “glassed the planet” (plasma bombardment from space to destroy the landscape). Linda 058, was killed when she along with several SPARTAN-IIs and the Master Chief were defending an orbital defense platform. She was later resuscitated following the battle of Installation 04.

The rest of the SPARTAN-IIs that were not tasked with defending the orbital platform, were tasked with defending various crucial points on the surface. Frederick 104, commanded the SPARTAN-IIs in their defense of Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331. While en route to the station, Bravo 001 was shot down, killing four SPARTAN-IIs and wounding several others.  Upon their arrival at the facility, they discovered the shell shocked remains of Charlie Company, the marines assigned to its defense.  Frederick split the remaining SPARTAN-IIs into 4 teams with objectives for each.

Team Alpha (Frederick, Kelly and Joshua) was tasked with eliminating an encampment of 10,000 Covenant soldiers and their hovering cruiser.

Team Beta (11 unnamed SPARTAN-IIs) was tasked with defense of the Orbital Defense Generators.

Team Gamma (Li, Anton and Grace) was tasked with the retrieval of Admiral Whitcomb.

Team Delta (composed of the injured SPARTAN-IIs along with William, Isaac, Vinh and the remains of Charlie company) were tasked with securing their fallback point at CASTLE Base.

While Alpha team was successful in destroying the cruiser, they lost Joshua (SPARTAN 029) from concentrated fire from the 10,000 Covenant ground forces. Team Beta was presumably killed when under the threat of the Covenant overrunning their position, the UNSC Majestic fired 6 MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) rounds into the base and the surrounding area; all 11 SPARTAN-IIs are presumed KIA. Team Gamma was successful but did not make it to CASTLE base and was forced to take shelter at Camp Independence. Team Delta was successful but lost all members except for Vinh, Isaac and William.

With the Orbital power facility destroyed the Covenant ships overwhelmed the defense platforms and began glassing Reach.

*Originally it was thought the Covenant had glassed the whole planet and any survivors fighting on its surface. It is later revealed the Covenant merely glassed the poles leaving the majority of the planet and all surviving SPARTAN-IIs intact.*

POST FALL OF REACH

While many ships retreated to Earth, one cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn, broke through the Covenant lines and made a blind jump through slip space. This is where the entire franchise kicked off with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved.  Following the events of the game, John 117, and several other human survivors would go on to meet up with the other survivors of Reach in First Strike. During this novel the Master Chief would team with other surviving UNSC personnel to attack a Covenant Fleet Anchorage to stall their attack on Earth.

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Eventually societal rifts in the Covenant along with the death of two of their Hierarchs, and revelation of what the Halo rings actually are, resulted in a civil war among the races of the Covenant. This civil war ended with the Elites siding with humanity against the other races. John 117, along with the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, helped to put an end to the Human-Covenant war and bring an uneasy peace to the galaxy. After the fall of the Covenant and the peace brought on between the Sangheili (Elites) and humanity, several Covenant members refused to believe the Arbiter and created splinter factions, most notably the faction led by Jul ‘Mdama which took the title, the New Covenant.

At the culmination of Halo 3, after the battle of Installation 00, the Master Chief is believed to have been lost along with the remains of the Forward Unto Dawn.

Upon his return to Earth, following the Events of Halo 2, 3 &4, the Master Chief (John 117) is finally reunited with the SPARTAN-IIs he believed to have been killed in the Fall of Reach.

The lore and history behind the Human-Covenant war is quite extensive and deserves a post highlighting the various victories and defeats on both sides.  This is just a streamlined version of the involvement of the SPARTAN-II program. Many of the members of this program would become heroes to humanity and eventually the Sangheili. John 117 (forever known by his title as Master Chief) is fondly remembered by both humanity and the Elites that he fought beside near the end of the war.

That concludes the brief history of the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. I know I personally love the franchise and with so many games, comics, shows, and novels… it’s only going to continue to grow!

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“Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost.”

“You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren’t machines. We’re just people.”

“She asked me that once, about which one of us was the machine…”

Project ORION – The Rise of the Spartans

This month for the continuation of the Halo series, I decided to focus on the SPARTANS and their origins as a unit.  Starting out in the early years of the United Earth Government (UEG), Project ORION is where it all began.

SPARTAN-II logo

PROJECT ORION

Project ORION was launched in the early years of the 23rd century shortly after the unification of the Earth into the UEG and the formation of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). The project was started in an attempt to biochemically alter soldiers to create super soldiers for use in the field. While ORION would eventually be shut down, the concept was taken and utilized as the basis for future SPARTAN programs and certain advancements were used for field kits following the Insurrectionist Civil War.

In 2390, the UEG had formally established the Inner Colonies of the Earth Empire. For the next hundred years, humanity began to expand into the Sol system establishing dozens of colonies on habitable worlds. As the expansion continued, the power and influence of the UEG began the wane to the point that political independence was the hot topic among the colonists. Colonies began to separate themselves from UEG control and the UNSC took steps to maintain a grip on the Outer colonies that were trying to secede from the UEG. In preparation for conflict, the UNSC enacted Project: ORION on April 13, 2321, as a means of developing tougher, faster and stronger soldiers. Of the original 5 candidates selected, none were deemed a success and the candidates were returned to their respective units. Each of these candidates would die within a year of being returned to their unit for reasons  undisclosed by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Insurrectionist

As the Civil Wars on the Outer colonies intensified, Project: ORION was relaunched in secret on January 29, 2491, to combat insurgent attacks. The project was opened with 65 candidates, with a future 100 volunteers being accepted following initial training. On January 12, 2496, the first ORION soldiers were deployed as part of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE to recover a sub-orbital transit station over Eridanus II. The mission was successful without any casualties and without detection, this was also the only time in the program’s history that a full unit of its operators would ever be deployed.

With the success of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, the tales of super soldiers being deployed by the UNSC spread like wildfire, causing conspiracy theories to be born. ONI used the leaked knowledge in a very aggressive propaganda run in the following decades to incite compliance from the outer colonies. During the same year as Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, ORION operatives were deployed as part of Operation: VERITAS, where they apprehended several Secessionist Union operatives who were employed in various high-level offices in the Colonial Military Administration (CMA).

As the Insurrectionist War began to heat up, the UNSC escalated their counter-insurgent activities with Operation: TREBUCHET. This operation was put into immediate action following the defection of UNSC Marine Colonel Robert Watts. ORION operatives were deployed to combat the insurgent threat and were very effective for a time. As the conflict dragged on, the insurgents became harder and harder to root out. The Insurgents adapted to the tactics of the ORION operatives very quickly and became increasingly harder to combat. While the bombings and flashpoint scenarios between Insurrectionists and the UNSC continued to increase, more civilians were caught in the crossfire, and were killed as a result. These civilian deaths added to the growing resentment for the UNSC on the outer colonies forcing more to join the Insurrectionist fight. In response to the growing Insurrectionist threat, the UNSC recruited more operatives into the ORION program, culminating in 300 active duty personnel.

As Operation: TREBUCHET continued, some of the older members of ORION began to exhibit PTSD and sympathy towards the Insurrectionists. Some operatives refused to participate in the program post-augmentation and were incarcerated as a result. Despite the success the ORION soldiers were having, the results were far below what the scientists expected. Due to the age of most candidates and the inadequate genetic screening performed during recruitment.; the genetic modifications led to minimal improvement and the immunosuppressants failed in many candidates. These issues led to irreversible genetic fragmentation and degenerative conditions in most of the ORION personnel.

In 2502, Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was put in to action. KALEIDOSCOPE was a multi pronged approach by the UNSC to pacify the Insurrectionist threat. ORION operatives were deployed to neutralize key insurgent strongholds and eliminate insurgent personnel. The main goal was to eliminate Jerald Mulkey Ander, the leader of the Secessionist Union.

KALEIDOSCOPE

On March 13, 2502, Jerald Ander was assassinated by ORION operative, Corporal Avery Johnson. With Ander’s death, the Secessionist Union was easily dismantled; however, it did not deter those from seeking independent control from the UEG, it actually served to strengthen the Insurrectionist movement on several planets. While KALEIDOSCOPE dealt a massive blow to the insurgents, it failed to pacify the planets as had been originally intended and was declared a failure as the result. As Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was wrapping up, it became apparent that some of the ORION operatives were beginning to develop severe side effects from the augmentations. These side effects ranged from physical anomalies to mental illness.

The ORION project began to decline in performance due to the ineffective strategies used by the UNSC. Operation: TANGLEWOOD was the final operation that ORION operatives participated in.

In 2506, project ORION was quietly terminated with the remaining 165 members being reassigned to various special forces elements in the UNSC. Some of the former ORION operatives began to exhibit mental instabilities and were discharged from the UNSC as a result. ONI concocted a plan to cover up the ailments being exhibited by the former ORION members as a medical ailment called Boren’s Syndrome. As many of the ORION soldiers began to retire and have families, the children of the former operatives required specially formulated injections to ensure they suffered no health defects. While some ORION members were discharged, others like Avery Johnson, were able to serve well past what is normally expected of human service. Johnson served for a continued four decades after the project was shut down.

*Johnson was dosed with an abnormally high amount of radiation emanating from a crate of plasma grenades on Paris IV; as a result, he was immune to Flood infection.*

THE FUTURE OF PROJECT ORION

Following the shuttering of Project ORION many of the augmentations and advancements were incorporated into the SPARTAN-II program and its successors. The failures of project ORION were blamed on the age of the recruits. Being adults, the recruits bodies rejected many of the augmentations, giving a less than expected result. The SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs were therefore forced to use prepubescent recruits so that their genetic information and physicality would allow for the augmentations to take hold. The SPARTAN-IV program overcame this obstacle, but that was not until after the end of the Human-Covenant War on March 3, 2553.

Due to the combat effectiveness of the ORION operatives the UNSC utilized project ORION and its operators as the model for a reorganization of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs).

In the years following the closure of Project: ORION in 2506, the small amount of special forces in the UNSC were not able to effectively combat the rising Insurrectionist threat. Around 2510, ONI began to re-examine the Carver Findings (A set of theories published by Dr. Elias Carver in 2491, predicting the outbreak of an insurrection) to determine if there was a solution within Carver’s predictions to their current Insurrectionist issue. The findings stated that the instability would continue to grow unless drastic military action was taken. ONI had conducted it’s own research and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Carver; if the threat was not subdued, by 2525 there would be an open war between the inner and outer colonies.

Dr. Catherine Halsey had taken Carver’s findings and built on them herself. Halsey’s findings predicted that if UNSC inaction against rebel leadership continued, there would be a 35 year war with over 5 billion dead or a conflict of indeterminate length that would lead to the downfall of human civilization.  Halsey presented her findings to Vice Admiral Stanforth and ONI Section III, who had come to their own similar conclusions. In order to avoid this grim future, Halsey agreed to work for ONI under Section III’s Special Projects Division to develop a solution.

Halsey

Dr. Halsey took the data from the initial Project ORION and made drastic changes. The candidates would be selected based on age, and genetic markers that would increase the success of the augmentations. The candidates would have to exhibit physical strength and mental attributes as well as being under the age of 10. The age limit also helped with instilling core military values and the understanding of War; which could not be taught to already enlisted individuals. In addition to the more selective candidate pool, one of the other major changes involved the creation of powered exoskeletons for use by the operatives. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the participants into human guinea pigs. Despite the obvious danger to recruits and the unethical means to which they would be treated, ORION-II was permitted.

In 2511, Generation II of Project ORION was initiated to combat the Insurrectionist threat.  By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been selected for the program, though funding only allowed for half that number. Thus the top 75 candidates were selected from all planets across UNSC controlled space. The selection pool included both male and female candidates as well as various ethnic backgrounds to ensure diversity. The candidates all were around the age of six years old and most lived on the outer planets. ONI operatives kidnapped the candidates in the night and replaced them with flash clones. These flash clones were grown from the DNA acquired by the Outer Colony Vaccination Program. The clones would die after roughly a year due to medical complications resulting from flash cloning an entire human being.

Halsey was not fond of the original name for the project, Project ORION Generation II, so she renamed the project out of personal preference and desire to distance it from the failures of the first Project: ORION. Halsey centered on the SPARTAN-II program as a homage to the name of ORION.

With the subsequent success of the SPARTAN-II program, Project ORION was retroactively renamed as SPARTAN-I.

spartan_evolution_by_tdspiral-d6m3nfi

 

There you have it, the story of how the SPARTAN program came to be. While the most popular iteration of the SPARTAN program is the SPARTAN-IIs and the face of Halo, the Master Chief; none of that would be possible without Project: ORION. Next month I will breakdown the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. See you next week!

Halo3Believe

Helljumpers – The Unofficial Badasses of the UNSC

With the anniversary of my one year on this site, I decided to expand some of my posts to include video games as well. That is not to say that I will be stopping with the comics, because I could never stop with comics. That being said, I will be adding a monthly inclusion from the Halo universe just like my Underrated Heroes series. So to start off the Halo series I decided to focus on a group of characters in the Halo universe that tend to get overlooked, Orbital Drop Shock Troopers aka ODSTs or Helljumpers.

Now the ODSTs are not just a singular squad of soldiers. To put it in relative terms, picture the ODST’s like the Special Forces of a country’s military; only instead of one country, it’s the UNSC (United Nations Space Command). One thing (among many others) that was achieved in the Halo universe, was the unification of the planet into one entity and the solidification of the world’s collective armed forces into one military. This allowed for great strides in technology and innovation because no singular country was trying to out do the other.

What makes the ODST’s so unique is the fashion in which they are deployed. Typically, in the Halo universe, the soldiers are deployed by either Pelicans (Air Transports), MCCs (Mobile Command Centers) or Elephants (Armoured troop transports).  The technical name for the method in which the ODSTs are deployed is referred to as “Transorbital Support Interdiction”. The ODSTs are secured in their drop pods (Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle or SOEIV) on their respective ships or orbiting stations and dropped from a low altitude orbit into their landing zone. The pods are designed for a fast/hot re-entry into an atmosphere and to withstand the impact of the fall from space, hence the name “Helljumpers”.

 

TRAINING

Prior to being able to enlist in the ODST training program, each applicant must first undergo basic training. The applicant must first pass Marine Basic and then are able to enlist in the ODST program. Anyone who is a fully fledged member of the UNSC military branch is allowed to enlist in ODST training, but only few make it through. Being RTU’d (Returned to Unit) after failing out/ being removed from ODST training is considered the most embarrassing thing a person can endure in the UNSC. The embarrassment factor is so high, that most washouts would rather choose death than being sent back a failure from ODST training.

In order to ensure all candidates are in top physical shape the first few weeks in ODST training is focused on physical training and strength tests. They train in all weather conditions and in all environments to ensure top physical conditioning. The recruits are made to crawl through miles of barbed wire and various unforgiving environments while the Drill Instructors fire live rounds over their heads to simulate a war zone. The ODST recruits also practice jumping from high locations to prepare for their orbital drops.

ODST

After the physical training is completed during the first three weeks, the following weeks are spent in squad based drills and tactics. ODSTs work in squads of 2-4 Fireteams, with most Fireteams consisting of 6-8 troopers. One of the most grueling tests an ODST recruit must undergo is during the weeks of squad training. The recruits are made to don full ODST battle gear and are dropped at the base of a mountain or gorge. The Drill Instructors are dropped behind them and given weapons loaded with Tactical Training Rounds (TTRs). The TTRs cause temporary paralysis in the area around the impact and leave a distinct red splatter where they hit.  Once dropped, the recruits are ordered to reach the peak of the mountain. If they fall behind or the Drill Instructors feel they are going too slow, the Drill Instructors shoot the recruits in the leg with a TTR. This causes the recruits to lose the function of the leg they were shot in and are forced to crawl to the top of the mountain as punishment. This test is run several times with varying difficulties added, to the culmination of the final run wherein the Drill instructors are dropped on the top of the mountain in full gear and armed TTRs to stop the recruits acting as an “opposing force”. The exercise is meant to teach the recruits to work as a unit and that sometimes in war sacrifices need to be made for the rest of the mission to survive.

Following the Squad drills the ODST recruits are broken up into Fireteams and given additional tactical training. After Fireteam tactics are thoroughly taught, the Fireteams are put back in squads ( each squad consisting of at least 2 Firetams) and given the task of taking the peak of the mountain again. This time the drill instructors are merely observers as each squad is pitted against the others to see who will emerge victorious. This type of training was meant to teach the Fireteams to work together to achieve the goal.

Among everyone in the UNSC, the ODSTs are said the have the strongest battlefield resolve after the SPARTANS. They are among the most tenacious and fierce warriors the UNSC can field. Due to their rigorous training and fierce camaraderie, ODSTs  are known to be some of the most loyal to their own. While off duty and surrounded by other ODSTs they are the most jovial and carefree of soldiers. When off duty and not with other ODSTs they are very stoic and unfriendly to anyone who is not one of them.  While most marines believe the SPARTANS to be Gods on the battlefield, they also agree that if you give an ODST a mission they will find a way to accomplish it regardless of the consequences. ODST officers and squad leaders command their squads from the front on the battlefield, due to the fact that ODSTs do not respect authority without competence. ODSTs believe that if you have the rank, you should have the battlefield experience to back it up.

Officers in the ODST regiment are meant to lead from the front and thus any officer should be willing and able to do any task he orders a subordinate to do. As such most officers do not survive for as long. Those that do are greatly respected among all ODSTs for their bravery and battlefield experience. ODST officers undergo a ritual wherein the Kanji symbol for “Bastard” or “Badass” is tattooed on them by their men. Should a tattooed individual ever present the tattoo to any ODST, active or retired, the ODST will obey the tattooed officer’s every word.

ODST insignia

EQUIPMENT

The battle dress for the ODST regiment is as follows:

  • CH252 Helmet incorporated with Visual Intelligence System Reconnaissance (VSIR)
  • Misriah Titanium composite armour with pateneted heating and cooling mechanic to match the infrared reading of the local atmosphere
  • ODST BDU full body suit

The ODST weaponry is the same as the standard UNSC armoury loadout. Each ODST trains with a specific weapon to diversify the fireteam.

The Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle (SOEIV) is shaped like a tear drop and is protected by a ceramic skin. They are made to handle the extreme stress and heat of re-entry into a planet’s atmosphere. They have a one time drop use, and are destroyed upon completion of the mission at hand.

UNSC Insertion Protocols dictate that while the officer’s SOEIV is the last to be deployed, it has a thruster attached to propel it past the rest so that the officer reaches the ground first.

The SOEIV is equipped with the ODSTs weapons, ammo, supplies, and tactical data required for the mission. upon successful deployment, each ODST is tasked with bringing the supplies from their own pod to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) for the mission.

NOTABLE ODST PERSONNEL

Despite roughly 15 different divisions of ODSTs in service in the UNSC, the list of notable ODST members is rather small.

The most notable ODST is Edward Buck; Buck was the fireteam leader during the campaign of Halo 3: ODST. During the campaign of Halo 3: ODST, fireteam Alpha-Nine was tasked with dropping into Covenant occupied New Mombasa and retrieving a defecting Covenant engineer.Voiced by Nathan Fillion, Edward Buck, he has made multiple appearances in several games, most recent being a core member of the SPARTAN-IV Fireteam, Osiris, in Halo 5: Guardians.

Aside from Buck the most notable ODSTs are those of Fireteam Alpha-Nine, the main unit during the Campaign of Halo 3:  ODST. The fireteam members are as follows:

  • Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck
  • Corporal Taylor “Dutch” Miles
  • Lance Corporal Kojo “Romeo” Agu
  • Lance Corporal J.D. “Rookie”
  • Private First Class Michael “Mickey” Grespo

The Fireteam would go through several campaigns and battles losing and adding members until eventually following the Uprising on Draco III, they were inducted into the Spartan IV program. With the death of “Rookie” during the Draco III mission, “Dutch” resigned from the UNSC; retiring with his wife and fellow ODST, Gretchen Ketola.

The members of Alpha Nine that served with distinction until their deaths are as follows:

  • Baruti “Gramps” Komen – Killed during the Fall of Reach.
  • Lance Corporal J.D “Rookie” – Killed during the Uprising on Draco III.
  • Gogo “Gomez” – Dismissed from Alpha Nine following the Battle of Sargasso, died before the end of the war.
  • “Daughter” Svensdottir –  Dismissed from Alpha Nine following the Battle of Sargasso, died before the end of the war.
  • “Sam” Samrat – Dismissed from Alpha Nine following the Battle of Sargasso, died before the end of the war.

MAJOR ODST CAMPAIGNS 

The first use of ODSTs were in the Interplanetary War with Mars, they were deployed as “Drop Jet Platoons” in 2163. It wasn’t until the end of the Interplanetary War and signing of the Callisto Treaty in 2170, that the ODSTs received their current title and designation.

The first major deployment of ODST units came during the beginning stages of the Insurrection War in 2490. The ODSTs were deployed on various offensives during the war to stop conflicts with precision accuracy. In 2526, the 10th Shock Troops Battalion was deployed to Andesia, to quell the insurrectionist threat. It was during this deployment that the battalion was overrun by insurrectionist forces and wiped out.

After first contact on Harvest with the Covenant on November 1, 2525, the UNSC redeployed all active ODST battalions to combat the Covenant threat. In April of 2526, the Covenant attacked Corbulo military Academy on Circinius IV, wiping out all ODST units deployed in defense of the school and all personnel (save 4 survivors).

ODST units would be deployed during several major battle during the Human-Covenant War with varying degrees of success. During the Fall of Reach in 2552, countless ODST squads and personnel were lost in the defense of strategic sites around the planet.  Shortly after the fall of Reach, the battle for Earth began. In October of 2552, with the exception of the units assigned to ships in deep space, all ODST units were recalled to Earth to defend against the invading fleet.

Helljumper

Following the end of Human-Covenant War, ODST units began working joint operations with Sangheili spec-ops to dismantle the rogue Covenant factions still remaining. The UNSC Infinity (human ship from Halo 4 and 5) has a full contingent of ODST troops for rapid deployment.

The UNSC Spirit of Fire (declared lost with all hands) has a full contingent of ODST troops from the 9th Shock Troops Battalion.

 

CONCLUSION

Anyone familiar with the Halo universe knows that the SPARTAN-IIs are the Gods among the UNSC military personnel. What would take multiple battalions of marines to accomplish, one SPARTAN-II can do. ODSTs are the peak of the human military contribution. They were not as selective of the applicants like the SPARTAN programs were (until the SPARTAN programs were declassified and opened to the public in 2553); anyone with the proper strength and willpower could be an ODST. They walked like superstars among the rest of the UNSC military and they knew it. But for all the bluster and praise they received, they never asked for any of it. Most of the Special Forces nowadays are referred to as the “silent professionals”. They go in, do the job, and leave without expecting praise; this is exactly how the ODST units operate. Don’t get me wrong, the SPARTANS performed amazing feats and the war wouldn’t have been won without them; however, by the end of the war, the SPARTANS were relegated to folk tales told to instill hope or resolve in new and injured marines.

ODST funeral

The ODSTs were never folk tales. They were there, on the front lines leading the defense of humanity against the Covenant. They didn’t have personal exosuits that could withstand tank shots, being dropped from space, or crushed under tons of debris; they had their wits, training, and resolve. They stood side by side with the rest of Humanity defending their home from the aliens that wished to destroy it.  For that reason alone, the Orbital Drop Shock Troops are the unofficial badasses of the Halo universe.