All The Best Game Music Is On SoundCloud

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You know this probably sounds like a self explanatory title, but if you haven’t ever heard of SoundCloud it is a streaming music site that is used by a lot of unsigned bands and DJ’s/Composers to showcase their talents. Those can be original songs, remixes, podcasts and anything in between.

But it’s also home to a lot of excellent and beautiful music from our beloved video games. Many developers have released songs to stream on the site and Playstation also have a great load of game music on their page as well. In fact, you can find a lot of publishers, developers and composers who have released their game music on SoundCloud. No longer are iTunes or Spotify the only places you can find these gems of video game composition. So just to be a bit of debate starter I’m going to list some of the favourites that I’ve found, my personal highlights if you will, and if you have anymore then please link them and share.

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Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture promised many things and it has delivered on them so far. One of these things was a beautiful soundtrack. Composed by Jessica Curry and James Morgan, Dust and Shadow is just one of the haunting choral and orchestral melodies that you will here in the game.

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Max Payne’s dark, disturbing and melancholic theme is one thing that has stuck throughout the series. There is a great communication in the soundtrack to a game sometimes that perfectly portrays the world and character. This version of the cello theme from Max Payne 3’s composers HEALTH is one of the most haunting versions.

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Ok so this is a bit of a cop out but it is on there and I challenge you to find a better game that so brilliantly uses the leitmotif in this theme and throughout game. Gustavo Santaolalla is a magnificent composer and, like all good entertainment, his score is one vital part of a great big experience.

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I’ve put this here because it is a wonderful score in general. The darkness of Mordor and the lore that precedes the green prettiness of JRR Tolkein’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is here in abundance. It is also is co-composed by Nathan Grigg and Garry Schyman, the latter name you might know from the Bioshock series.

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Long live Tangerine Dream. Edgar Froese’s music is one of the great things that glues Grand Theft Auto together. His electronic progressive rock that mixed with experimental soundscapes gave us an excellent connection between three otherwise distant and different characters. Whilst the music featured on Grand Theft Auto is some of the best popular music in recent years, the music OF Grand Theft Auto is also some of the best composed music.

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Here we go on a bit of a love letter to Devolver Digital, but we said in our review of Titan Souls that one of the things that really binds the feeling of loneliness in the game is the music, expertly composed by David Fenn. The inspirations behind this are easily recalled which is a testament to how well the music has captured the genre and respected those that came before it.

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Are you kidding me? Of course we’re going to have some Hotline Miami on here. In fact the entire soundtrack to the first game is available on Devolver’s page and is perfect for a Friday afternoon countdown to the weekend.

There are some great selections from Hotline Miami 2 as well. These two are my personal favourites but you should definitely look them up yourself.

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Here’s a more fantasy based game with The Witcher 3. Polish composer Marcin Przybylowicz’s soundtrack (featuring Percival) is a brilliant achievement and as many of the games journalists on the internet will testify to, a great part of an even greater game. You’ll also find some select cuts from The Witcher 2’s soundtrack on his page as well.

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I make no bones about the fact that the Halo soundtracks are some of my favourites. I’ve waxed lyrical about the Halo 3: ODST soundtrack in the past. But if you asked me to choose one song from it all, it would be Unforgotten, or as the rerecorded Halo 2 Anniversary edition version is named “Unforgotten Memories”. It is a wonderful theme that repeats itself throughout the second and third games, along with the inspired change of tact from the more well known gregorian monk chanting. But for good measure I’ve included that below along with some riffing guitar too.

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How Video Games Tackle My Misanthropy

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The closest words I could find to describe myself in regards to this article was ‘misanthrope’ and ‘nihilistic’, and yet that’s still not entirely accurate. Technology has progressed to a level that can propagate genuine fear in the human psyche. Not the ‘50s sci-fi death robots or the ‘70s Bond movie machines-of-destruction fear, but the Phillip K. Dick-esque psychological fears. The warnings of a futuristic society broken by humanity, like those played out visually in Charlie Brooker’s inspired dark satire, Black Mirror. Which is why when I see the Microsoft Hololens that was announced a few weeks back, I can’t help but imagine then bad things that it could do. The kind of salacious things that someone like Paul Veerhoven would put in a movie as an aside like a virtual, holographic erotic dancer, being viewed by a Dad of three at breakfast – living the subterfuge of the happy families lie.

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It’s not that I don’t trust the technology, but I don’t trust the operator. Which is why you could call me a misanthrope. But my opinion is that the human species are survivors and work to create the best things under the pressures of extinction and unity. In an age where I can walk 300 yards and pick up a box of Strawberries in mid-January, I feel more removed from any kind of human condition than I suspect I ever would have in previous generations. Which is why there is an escapism that I practice in video games. The escapism of the open-world dystopian/fantasy role-playing game or the escapism of a destroyed earth that you must walk to survive. Heading from realm to realm regardless of if its fiction is magical or futuristic.

If I were to list my favourite games of all time I would be sure to add Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption and Halo to that mix. Halo has a futuristic science-fiction world that borrows from many of the genres greatest tropes and presents them in a way that, while militaristic and brimming with bravado, creates the impression that there is more out there. The impression that there is more history to uncover, more secrets to be known and things more important than just throwing our DNA out to every planet with an excess of oxygen. Red Dead Redemption places itself in a changing world that operates like a Cormac McCarthy book. Its turn of the century gentrification and modernisation of the Wild West puts in to perspective how the elements of human greed and corruption have created such fallout that to live a simple, rewarding life is no longer possible and to survive in the 20th Century, some elements of the past must be destroyed to forge that.

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It’s this kind of connection I make to these games that makes me invest in the character I’m playing. Not because of divine or fatalistic consequence but because a situation has made this person rediscover what it means to be a human in some way. With Skyrim the free nature of how you can create your own story, whether it is through emergent gameplay or in an intertextual way through the game’s fiction, completely places you in that world. It’s a world at war with political allegiances astray all over, the threat of large creatures destroying everything and ancient history restoring or upsetting the balance by placing you at the centre of it. The same can be said for the way that Fallout 3 operates within its own fictional world.

To bring this in to a more recent context, the same can also be said for the Dragon Age series and the latest title, Dragon Age Inquisition. Dragon Age allows you to create someone who is fatalistically placed in the centre of a predicament but the way you make choices in this world is a lot purer, if you will, than your modern day life or even many similar games. When you make choices to peruse a relationship with another character in the game, it isn’t because their dowry will be rather large or because moving in together will save a lot more money in rent. It’s because you’ve decided that particular person is someone you want to get to know, to invest in, to discover. Like love and the forging of relationships should be. When you make the decision of which members of your party should come with you, it’s because they bring the best chance of survival and the best talents to that situation.

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It’s much more meaningful and dramatic compared to working on a PowerPoint as a team which you end up having to cover 75% of anyway. This is why so many people have replayed all of these games. Especially Skyrim and Dragon Age. Because there is the submission to playing the role presented before you that allows you to rise above the day-to-day postmodern nihilism that we live in. It’s the same reason people read books or view masses of DVD box sets and Netflix series. It’s even the same reason that people follow, attend and submit themselves to sports and the vast arenas they are played in; to be part of something bigger.

This is obviously escapism but because I write about games and have a passion for them, much like people do for movies, music, and other hobbies (for lack of a better word), I feel I have a much larger investment intellectually in them. So that I can see what parallels they have to our current human condition, or more to the point how the evolution of that condition has robbed us of the simpler, more honest notions in life. This misanthropy may be borne out fear but in the current context of cyber crime, viral news cycles, click bait and the anti-humanistic oppression that interconnectivity can bring, it is video games I turn to in order to remind myself of what humanity truly can be at its best and sometimes its worst. I think that is something we all need, even if video games aren’t the way you get it. Books, drama, theatre, however you remind yourself, anything is equally valid as long as you take away something human from it.

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My Love Affair with Bungie

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If you are reading this then it means you aren’t playing Destiny at this moment. Which is fine. Maybe you’re at work and haven’t received it yet. Or maybe Bungie’s new outing and its first in the next-generation sphere isn’t for you. Which is also fine. I however need to confess my love for Bungie.

Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly unbiased in my gaming critique. But Bungie have had me sold for a very long time. My experience started when I first got Halo. Back in those days I was a PC gamer, despite owning a PSX  for Smackdown games and a (new at the time) Playstation 2 for Grand Theft Auto 3. So my first Halo experience wasn’t with an Xbox… Actually I did play it on my friends Xbox so I guess it technically was, but I never actually owned an original Xbox. My first full on Halo experience was with the Gearbox ported PC edition. A game that still has people playing its multiplayer even now.

Halo as a PC experience was absolutely incredible. It wasn’t the most graphically superior game even then, but its atmospherics were the same as the Xbox version and were utterly enthralling. There were PC games even then that could trump Halo in many regards but something about it just stuck with me and many others I’m sure. It’s this dedication for scope and environment I think that make Bungie games great and, no offence to 343 Industries, makes the later Halo games/ports a little tepid. But I’ll come on to that.

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I have to admit that Halo 2 was a game, because of my lack of Xbox ownership, that took me 4 years to get around to playing. Several things get in the way of gaming when you’re just entering your 20s. You start social gaming a lot more and you don’t get as much time to play. So you sacrifice and dedicate yourself to one game. I had a good run playing the Grand Theft Auto games and the then excellent Pro Evolution Soccer series… The memories *sniff*. I was also dabbling in having meaningful relationships and doing all of that affection rubbish which meant my PC became my Laptop, became my girlfriends possession when visiting me and then became a Sims only zone. I enjoyed The Sims of course but Halo was still installed, hiding in programs menu waiting for us to sneak some playing time in together.

When I realised that the meaningful relationship endeavour was not only harder than gaming but that Microsoft’s offering had superior graphics to my Sims-top and the exclusive Halo 3, I pulled together some money and brought myself an Xbox 360. A full six months before Halo 3. Which meant that it was finally time to play Halo 2. It’s weird now, having seen and played the Halo 2 Anniversary edition, that I was incredibly impressed by how pretty the graphics were and how big the game was. Even for most PC games, and Half-Life 2 was out by this time, Halo 2 had so many different environments, two different story lines that came together, two different playable characters and a story that elevated the series far beyond its humble Science Fiction homage beginnings.

This is where I get to tip my hat to Bungie and explain why I have this love affair and why it was rekindled with Destiny, because they have directly decided which console I have brought for the last two generations. There is something about the feel of a Bungie game. It’s the perfectly designed and executed combination of easy to pick up controlling, ethereal music, absolutely beautiful concept art realised magnificently and imaginative storytelling not yet dictated by the Boxset/Netflix generation. Which is why the Anniversary editions of Halo feel so weird. They are great visually and are completely the same game as they were but the combination of them feels like Halo wearing a mask. It’s a bit like when your favourite footballer leaves your team for a rival and starts getting the goals. You like them still but it feels a bit sad.

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Which is why, when Halo 4 came out, I was sanguine. I had bid a fond and hard farewell to Halo with Halo Reach. I expected there to be more of course with the formation of 343 Industries but for my own personal journey with Bungie’s lovechild, it was over for me. And I was happy it was over. We left in a great place and we would always be friends. It was a time fondly remembered and will always bring me some glorious nostalgia when I reach into the shoebox of Halo memories. I wasn’t sure I was ready to let Halo back in to my life again. I enjoyed my brief flirtation with Halo 4. I gave it a lot of time and the same level of achievement hunting and completion I had given all of its elder siblings. But it wasn’t what it was. That spark that Bungie had lit for me wasn’t there and I knew it wouldn’t be. I wasn’t sad or disappointed. I’d enjoyed my time in the new Halo universe. But much like when your favourite bar changes ownership and gets renovated, I knew it wasn’t for me anymore.

So here I am with Destiny. I played the beta and it hit me. That feeling that I last got with Halo Reach was here with Destiny and I was excited. This was a new chapter, a new story but with the same love and affection that I had enjoyed before. That’s when I realised that my love affair wasn’t just with Halo. It was deeper and for the first time since being a PC and PS2 gamer, I fell in love with the way a studio designed a game rather than the game universe/franchise they create. I can describe the many different faucets that make this happen to me but the best way to describe it is simply thus: Fun.

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It’s fun to play! It really is as simple as that. Which is why my favourite Halo game isn’t anything directly related to Master Chief, it’s the excellent and vastly underrated Halo 3 ODST. Which is why when Halo Reach ended I was happy and I felt satisfied with the ending of this universe. Which is why when I think of multiplayer gaming I think of the private games I had with many friends of my own creation in the Forge, my version of Predator, and the good times we all had. Which is why my fondest memory of Halo is the 4 player co-op of the final level of Halo 3 where all of us kept crashing our Warthogs to annoy everyone else. And which is why, when I picked up the Destiny beta, I felt like I had picked up the fun where Reach had left it.

Destiny has just finished installing on my Playstation 4 now. I’ve been to friends houses to make sure they receive their deliveries of the game and console while they are at work. The extra content codes and season pass are all redeemed and I’ve made sure that I’ve had breakfast and coffee. Finally, I’ve come clean. I’ve opened my heart about my love for Bungie and now, for the first time in four years, I think I’m ready to fall in love all over again.

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Missing the Obvious: Strategically Console

I can list the amount of strategy games that worked on a console this past generation on one hand. Shall I list them for you? OK, I will, and just so you know whilst this is also my opinion, it is complete irrefutable fact… Honest:

  • Halo Wars
  • Civilization Revolution
  • Tropico (Series)

Suffice to say that it has not been a popular genre. I am also aware that I’ve missed things that are classed as strategy games like R.U.S.E and XCOM. I’m on about the proper classic strategy games, those isometric games that rob you of several months and – if you’re lucky – several years of your life. Civilization, Black & White, Theme Park/Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Command & Conquer, Caesar, Anno 1602, Heroes of Might and Magic… Just so it doesn’t look like a Molyneux rap sheet of course.

Civilization Revolution 1I mentioned on a recent review that console gamers, in the least insulting way possible, don’t particularly have an aptitude for strategy in gaming. Maybe patience should be a better word. But to be honest, this has been well known by gaming developers and publishers. Hence why we haven’t really had that many strategy games on console platforms. Even the most recent iteration of Command & Conquer, that 90s powerhouse of strategy gaming, was cancelled.

But it isn’t because the games aren’t popular anymore. Look at the success of Tropico, Civilization V, new indie game Banished and even SimCity. These games are not only successful but still raise the bar in what is considered to be good for the genre, especially in the PC market.

The problem is that developers have never found a way to engage with the console audience with strategy games. It sounds crazy that in this world when SimCity has been released and Transport Tycoon has been remade for iOS that the console market has no way to allow the strategy market to gain a foot hold in the living room/gaming den of your console owner.

That’s because publishers can be quite dumb. Yes, I said it. But they have had, at least for one console, a way to make intelligent forward thinking strategy game with a control method that will suit every Next Gen owner. One of the big problems with this of course is the control method for strategy games being rather elaborate compared to the capabilities of the control pad. Not graphics, audience, IP or anything else except that there isn’t a suitable control method that will allow a console gamer to play a game.

WRONG! There is one. There has been one for the past three and a half years and it has been improved greatly and re-released since. I am of course talking about Project Natal, or as you know it, Kinect.

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Kinect has been utilized in the poorest way possible in the development of games. Its use as a semi-alternative controller or voice command unit in some games is a start, but the controller has basically been used for fitness/dance/sport game tracking and occasional camera use. If we’re honest, that’s it, right?

WRONG! The Kinect has been used for one thing, specifically non-gaming, and the idea and ethos behind it would be perfect for strategy games. That particular thing is the Xbox dashboard. It’s simple. Hand controls on squares to move things select things and now intuitive voice commands that can tell the Xbox what to do.

Let me immediately evoke for you the picture of Tom Cruise from Minority Report. This is exactly how a strategy game could work. If you will, imagine the future world of Command & Conquer on your screen. This time with seven translucent boxes displayed, four each side of your screen except one side which would have three with a mini-map as well, and your isometric view of the world in the middle of your screen showing you the world.

Minority ReportSimple controls: everything you need building wise is in these boxes, you can use iOS style controls to zoom in and out of the world (parting your hands across or bringing them in), movement can be controlled by a hand in one direction and voice controls can tell your squads what to do. You can use your voice to “select all” or “attack” or even “special function”… Do you see where I’m coming from? It’s the most immersive thing to happen to this genre and exactly what it needs to “Kinect” with gamers… PR teams may steal that line if needed.

What I’m saying is that the platforms and tools are there for strategy games to work but they must be based around the controller rather than the controller be adapted to the game. Which is why Halo Wars and Civ Rev especially were so good at what they did. They developed a game around the controller. And with Kinect, people have the most intuitive and free-controlling system around.

Admittedly if you developed a game or pitched such a thing it would not be an easy sell. But as long as you made a good enough game and succeeded in making the controller a vitally useful part of the game, rather than the quirk that it has been marketed as since inception, then there is no holding back.

Not convinced? Imagine playing Black & White or such style of game using a Kinect controller. If you aren’t playing it out in your mind and getting excited by it, then visit your local GP.

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Storytelling 117 – The Successful Narrative Evolution of Halo

It’s no coincidence that many of the writing team from Bungie for Halo have now written novels. Without trying to be condescending or arrogant, anyone can write a book. But to write a good book, imply relationships and create something spectacular requires understanding of storytelling. To suggest that this is any different in video games would be naive. The evolution from a love letter to the science fiction tropes and characters of the 80s, with nods to iconic literature, might have made survived the first game well. But as soon as Halo became more than just one game, the challenge was not to let the rich universe they had created down. Many different series in television for example have the problem of crumbling under their own weight. Without watching it myself, I am reliably informed that Lost is a good example of this.


With the limitations of the technology of the time, compared to now of course, this need to tell something entertaining is paramount to creating an enjoyable video game. It always has been and if we are honest with ourselves with any of the franchise lust/technologically blinkered vision, the problem with modern computer games. Which is sad because we all like games, we all appreciate the ridiculous sacrifice of man-hours to complete such a graphical opus and we certainly want to spend our money on them. But, and I’m going from the traditions of point and click LucasArts mastery all the way to Lego Harry Potter with this one, you need a good story if you want to make a good game. Otherwise the artists, and they are artists, will strive for hours to create a collection of pretty pixels that end up being YouTube clips. Even sports games, let’s take the FIFA series as an example, employ some form of narrative to keep the game entertaining. You have the personal narrative of besting your friends but there are Ultimate Team and Manager modes where you are basically writing your own fantasy football story with you as the great architect of it. In fact any career mode in any sports game is a narrative. Be under no illusions, this is a very interactive narrative device that the earliest of board games employed. Is the joy of winning at Monopoly simply winning? Or is it the recalling of how you carefully planned and plotted where to build your Hotels and how employed tactics to create your own empire?

Halo rose to the challenge of a potentially limited one off premise to create a ten game saga and an incredibly rich universe. Which is ultimately why I keep coming back to it. In fact I will go on record as saying I wasn’t really interested in Halo 4. I am now, having been brought it and completed it for all its worth. But I failed to see how a new trilogy for the Master Chief would benefit the story of the Halo Universe. I was happy to leave this spectre, this hero in the eyes of humanity, tragically floating endlessly in space waiting for a rescue that would never come. Because, by Halo 3, the joy for me wasn’t just playing a good game, it was seeing how it ended. I was happy because the Chief and Cortana were together and they were where they needed to be, as they were right at the beginning of Halo: Combat Evolved: On standby. I enjoyed that the games continued though as the obviously rich source of material the Halo Universe had coined was now ripe for the picking. Halo 3: ODST received a lot of criticism due to it being basically an add-on repackaged as a independent title. But I firmly believe it is the best Halo game. The narrative structure of flashbacks, snapshots and detective work was beautifully played against the artistic vision of the game itself. Dark, desolate, broody and above all, lost. Halo Reach answered some questions about why the Spartans were created and how this war started. It could have used the incredible story that Eric Nylund wrote about the Fall of Reach detailing the programme and the growing of John-117. But it didn’t. It used the universe to its advantage to create arguable a better story for video gaming. Everything that has been done throughout the Halo’s has been useful in sustaining and creating this great fiction. Which is why the series has spawned so many sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and live action features and adverts.


Take Grand Theft Auto 4 for example here of useful/non-useful in-game narrative. Girlfriends can be a useful element in its game play. They give you some bonuses when you need them. In the narrative however, they mostly benefit nothing to the overall story of the game. They allow you to play the game with a relaxation on difficulty but to this great American Dream that Niko Bellic is slowly discovering, they become an irritant to the player. It’s your judgement as to if they are worth the investment of time and stress in the game but the fact that they do isn’t because they make the game harder to complete or affect your playing ability. It’s that they take you out of the story and create another one that you feel you don’t need or takes things needlessly too far. Their inclusion is useful to the nuts and bolts of driving down the street being annoying tailed by a policeman but not to what you’re actually invested in, the story of Niko Bellic. Which is why the follow up Halo games are good. Because by the end of Halo 3, also in part thanks to a stellar cast who bring these roles to life and great musical direction, the narrative arc of the Master Chief is done, but you are invested in the Universe it’s created. You want to stretch your legs and know more. Reach out and become a part of it, more than just from behind the amber visor of the super solider. You feel like you’ve been assimilated into the ethos of Halo’s fictional future and that is very a powerful thing.

The successes for this are simple, well they sound simple. They are in fact incredibly difficult and taken utterly for granted. The first is the relationship, dialogue and evolution between the Chief and Cortana. Something that Halo 4 does very well is point out this weird duality between the two of them that one is a machine and one is human, yet the reversal of this is the basis of the relationship. They are in love, partners, paternal, and completely symbiotic. The exciting thing is that this dissolving of their dynamic in the future Halo games will change the Chiefs character exponentially and how 343i handle this. But there is something so natural and endearing between the two that has held the games together where they are involved. Secondly is Halo 2… Yes, Halo 2. This game expanded the universe successfully when, ultimately, it didn’t need to. But it did and we are thankful. The religious nature of the covenant, their society castes, the civil war, the flood, the destruction of humanity, the sheer cinematic quality and scope of the entire game really helped the series, and arguably video games (Half Life not withstanding), out of a hole to really remember how important story is to any entertainment experience. The switch from cheaper alternatives to give a game its full scope (actors, writing, development, concepts, even the inclusion of an orchestra over computer-synthesised music) lifted the console market into a new era and challenged a lot of conceptions on what actually makes a good game. Without Halo 2 being so well produced, in all regards, most of your blockbuster games wouldn’t be as good.


Of course, the universe is still key to Halo, or it is at least perceived to be. It’s not just a cult following of fans like television shows get. It’s an important part of people’s hobbies. For many years in the future, generations will recall how good they used to feel after playing a Halo game and how they don’t make them like they used to anymore. The universe is the most important part of that. Comics, movies, soundtracks, novels (although someone should really re-novelise The Flood. No offence to Mr Detiz but it was pretty rubbish) have all expanded the universe. I’m sure at some point in the future; someone will give a Peter Jackson that blank cheque to create a film trilogy. Because the source material is so rich, it would be very hard not to be able to create a decent script. I could do it and I would do it. I could even see how Halo could become a couple of television mini-series. Halo in the past 11 years has evolved in every sense, not just in narrative. Now it is taking a fresh evolutionary turn with the new trilogy. Everyone is aware that 343i can create a very good playable game. But what we really need is a great story. Halo 4 had some hints of one, but ultimately was quite forced and felt slightly stagnant in how it handled progressing the story compared to the previous games. We have another 2 games, and presumably a new console to launch, with these titles. We only hope, as fans and I as a critic, that 343i will be up to the task of carrying out the audacious narrative arc they are embarking on.