Halo Mega Bloks: Infinity Armour Bay – A Review

121110megabloksHalo isn’t for everyone. There I said it. It isn’t for everyone because some people don’t like sci-fi. And some are more interested in bullet porn than plot. I am not one of those people. I love sci-fi. I love a game driven by a story – a story, I might add, I’ve invested more than a decade following – and I love Halo.

I mention this because I’ve played the Halo 4 campaign start to finish a lot. And every time the story drives me to do better. To make more efficient kills, to move faster, be better. To be more…Chief. I’ve raced to the top of the tower to warn the UNSC Infinity about approaching the Forerunner planet, secretly hoping that if I’m just that little bit faster I’ll catch it in time. And every time I get to the end a part of me always hopes that I can somehow change the outcome. So by the time we see the Chief on the armour deck it’s a solemn and lonely moment for the Chief. Amongst a deck of supermen the Chief is a giant. Alone in a room full of equals. It’s a very powerful scene.

It also aptly demonstrates how far the UNSC had come in the years between Halo 3 & 4. The deck and the armour bays are a testament to the size of the Infinity, the number of Spartan IV’s at its disposal, the disparity between them and the Chief, and the sophistication of the UNSC war machine.

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The Amrour Bay kit is for the fan and for the collector. It’s not for the kiddies or the idle kit builder. It’s for those that look upon that moment in the game and marvel.

It’s a very cleverly designed kit. It does a good job of conveying functional aspects of a warship and the next-gen armour removal system. The kit is also a pain in the bum. The hateful flat black used in the manuals making some of the parts indistinguishable and one part I had to rebuild three times before I was using the right parts. Now, I’m a pretty bright guy so I know it’s not a general lack of mental acuity. A fractionally lighter shade would make all the difference.

The kit is also beyond fiddly for the first few steps and doesn’t gain any stability until the deck plates are down. If you build it on anything other than a table it’ll fall apart more times than an Oscar Winner giving a speech. However, once the deck plates are down the kit comes together very rapidly. The whole thing was done, with the Spartan in place, within 40 minutes or so. Which is odd considering how much back and forth there was.

The armour bay is way cool though. It’s a sizeable and substantial kit and the concessions made for the limitations of the figures are nicely done and don’t draw attention to themselves. The articulated arms are really well done: they look the part and with a little adjustment all fit around the Spartan in the harness. The little touches make for an authentic feeling kit. The readouts are reflective of the game and the use of the weapons locker allows for two stories to be told. Liberal use of the round transparent ‘lights’ helps give the impression of energy and action. Considering what the set depicts, there’s a lot of movement to it. It feels urgent and solid. It, basically, feels like an armour bay. And how cool would two or three look next to each other?

I would have liked the Chief to be in the kit and I’d also have liked the accompanying technician be to scale, but I suspect it’s more of a case of the Spartan’s being too small than the technician being too big. But it’s a minor gripe and a child certainly wouldn’t care even if they noticed.

Compared to the Warthog kit it’s more time-consuming for its size and, arguably, it’s less fun for the kiddies but for fans of the Universe and Halo 4 it’s just as satisfying. Again, it feels like it belongs. Mega Bloks didn’t take too many liberties with the composition or the look. And considering the target age there aren’t too many bright and cheerful colours.

Most importantly of all, it feels like a part of the Infinity and Halo. And for what it is, that’s pretty special.
The UNSC Infinity Armour Bay is available from Amazon priced £19.99.

Halo Mega Bloks: Night Ops Gausshog – A Review

121110megabloksThe other day, after I’d finished a review for a certain Y-shaped starfighter for a certain game set in a galaxy far far away, I got to thinking about licensed products and just what a company will allow their name and their IP associated with. It didn’t take me long for my mind to wander to Halo. Halo being the Tony Stark-esque holiday home my brain frequents when it’s not kicking it analogue style in the wonderful world of wargaming.

There’s no shortage of licensed products to look at for Halo but to keep things hobby focussed I thought it best to take a gander at a the sets from Mega Bloks. Fortunately for those lovely people at Mega Bloks obliged me and so I’ve got a couple of kits to take a look at over this review and a second to follow. My interest being this – can a licensed product, especially something like a brick kit capture more than just the flavour, but the feel of that universe?

First up is the Night Ops Gausshog set.

MEGA BRANDS INC. - Mega Bloks Halo Construction

It’s been a long while since I built a kit of this ilk so I’ll say this – things have moved on since I was a kid. The components stretched into the hundreds and the sophistication of the kit impressed me. The designers cleverly built up layers of bricks so the Warthog looks every bit the rugged ATV we all know and love from the game. They even managed to get the independent suspension just so. Plus the overlapping bricks makes for a very sold model should you want to drive it around your living room floor. Which I totally didn’t do.

Moreover, the two tone casting of the bricks is a simple but effective way of making the Warthog seem camouflaged without having to design and produce a precise and ultimately crap looking camo-patterned kit.

The gaussgun is an ugly bit of kit. That’s no reflection on Mega Bloks. It’s an ugly bit of kit. And it’s all very cleverly put together so you get the crude bulkiness of the middle weight tank killer with a little bit of flash with the heating magnetic coils represented by the blue connector pins. My one grumble here is the weapon mount is a bit too flimsy. The gun slides onto a pig that’s too small to take the weight so it drops. And in an effort to make the turret as adjustable as it is in the game the central column isn’t fixed which makes it a pain to position the Spartan on it. Partly because the weapon handles are also a tad too close together for the hands to easily grasp.

Build time was about 90 minutes but do remember I’m pretty rusty on building these kinds of kits…Not enough clippers and plastic glue for my liking. Also the instructions were a bit frustrating. Whilst it was very good that the manual highlighted in colour where the bricks should sit, if any of the components were black the details of the brick were all but impossible to see. And some of the diagrams weren’t as clear as they could be. There was also a fair few spare parts, not to mention some fairly pointless yellow brings that were supposed to life the Warthog ‘up on blocks’ which is a totally unnecessary, if a nice, touch.

The Spartans are pretty cool though. Made up from Spartans from the UNSC Infinity, they boast some of the armour variants you unlock as you play the multiplayer which collectors and gamers will appreciate. The simple paint job works and it’s nice to see figures from a brick system with a bit of depth of colour. Plus the multi-joint approach allows a far more loyal reflection of the Spartans whilst allowing for more faithful kits to fit them into. Oh and the firearms they come with a nicely detailed for what they are.

The Promethean is massive and it’s a nice touch that the back plates move as in the game but overall the level of detail is a bit disappointing. It just feels like a bit of an after thought. But I suppose the Warthog is the main event and when it comes to tearing across the living room floor, gaussgun blazing, one Promethean isn’t going to last long.

And I suppose that’s the point. It’s a Warthog. It looks like a Warthog and feels like a Warthog. It lacks some of the wonder because it’s lifted from the Spartan Ops part of the story so, whilst still cool, it isn’t as cool as the Chief. Harsh but it’s cold hard fact. But you’re still going to drive it around making all the sounds effects that the engine doesn’t do for you. You’re still going to find room on a shelf for it so you don’t have to put it ‘somewhere safe’ and risk breaking it. And you’re still going to make the whit-doooo noise every time the gaussgun fires. So yeah, I’d say it successfully captures the spirit of the Halo games. rather nicely.

The Night Ops Gausshog is available from Argos priced £29.99)

Spartan Ops Episodes 6 & 7

After a brief hiatus, Spartan Ops is back. I’ve been a bit slow off the mark putting up the two new episodes partly because I’ve been working on The Shell Case Shorts Anthology and partly because I’ve been slogging my way through the Spartan Ops missions that can be found as part of the Halo 4 offering.

It’s a brilliant way of fleshing out the Halo Universe 4 years on from Halo 3 as much has changed within the UNSC both politically and technologically, but also expanding the sub plot without detracting from the main storyline. And it probably means I’m going to have to play through the campaign again just so I’m clear in my mind how everything fits together.

But anyway, without further yapping from me, here’s episodes 6 and 7 of Spartan Ops. There is more shooty boomness and shit gets slightly real.

Where Halo Goes From Here


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Followers on Twitter will know that having completed Halo 4 I decided to replay the entire Halo series starting with Halo: Reach and working my way through. This was as much to do with getting the full story in my mind as anything else.

Whilst playing Halo 2 I realised something. It sucks. Out loud. It received a lot of criticism at original release and at the time I didn’t understand why – although I knew it wasn’t as good as the first – but with this recent replaying I’ve figured it out.

It isn’t the fact that the game jumps from one perspective to another, although it is annoying, it’s the fact that the story is just messy and rushed. It feels like Bungie were trying to cram an awful lot of plot developments into Halo 2 to allow for the Halo 3 to conclude the Flood story arc. I suspect this was as much to do with Bungie already deciding that they wanted to go in a different direction to Microsoft Game Studios. Even if that isn’t the case the statement still stands: Halo 2 is just too fussy. The civil war within the Covenant just escalates far too quickly and becomes a fleet scale war in no time at all.

Halo 2 Retro Poster

And it all happens with far too many gaps. In a way Halo 2 was a proper stab at making a game a movie with multiple protagonists with the story developing along converging plot lines. It was ambitious but, sadly, rubbish. I also suspect one of the main reasons the story suffered was that an awful lot of time, effort and, therefore, money went into the multiplayer part of the game. According to an interview on the bonus disc it was a last-minute decision to leave the multiplayer in at the expense of some of the campaign because there wasn’t enough space on the disc. On the one hand I’m glad they did as Halo multiplayer is ace, but I play for the campaign so I’m never going to be entirely happy that thecompromise had to be made.

It’s made worse by the Retcon. In Halo 2 the Brutes were new additions to the Covenant but they feature in Halo Reach. Admittedly the events of Halo 2 aren’t that much later than Reach but enough that it doesn’t make sense.

Granted much of the reasoning is explained in the subtext of Halo 3: ODST but that came out in 2009 and Halo 2 in 2004. That’s a long time to wait to fill in plot holes and it’s not really good enough. ODST is a fine game in its own right – an elegant film noir that fleshes out the Halo universe – but it was as much about patching over the cracks as anything else.

There has been talk of Halo 2 Anniversary. A similar deal to Halo Anniversary in which a second game engine runs along side the original one making it look all pretty. At first I thought this would be a good thing but I honestly don’t think it’s the way to go. Halo 2 Anniversary should be a rebuild. The plot needs tightening up, the timeline straightened out and some of the more pointless parts of levels taken out or improved. Either way it shouldn’t be a straight reskin. They could even go all out and have Halo 2 & ODST Anniversary as a double pack.

Indications are Halo 2 Anniversary, if it goes ahead, will be out in 2014 and Halo 5 in 2015.

And what of Halo 5? By the way this’ll contain spoilers if you haven’t completed the game yet and intend to.

With Cortana dead and the Chief finally back on Earth he’ll face not only having reintegrate with a world he’s never+the Chief will be confronted with his humanity more than ever, forced to deal with loss, the fact that he is now not only removed from humanity but removed from other Spartans.

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Halo 4 was all about revelations and loss. Halo 5 will, I suspect, see the Chief paired with a new AI being forced to adjust to a new personality that doesn’t have the history that he and Cortana had, and all the while having to deal with the death of Cortana and the realisation that he is not only removed from humanity but from his fellow Spartans too being the last of the MkIIs and the MkIVs being augmented adults without the psycho indoctrination although lacking none of the bravado of the Mk IIIs.

Of course the real question is who will the Chief be facing? The Didact is dead and the Promethean Knights left behind on the Shield World. The Covenant is all but disbanded and an uneasy truce exists between its members races and humanity. But clearly something is about to get real as it’s called the Reclaimer arc for a reason.

Whatever the foe I can’t wait to find out what awaits the Chief.