Intriguing game releases spice up season

Throughout modern gaming history, first-person shooters have held a significant portion of the video game market. And within the first-person shooter genre, two major juggernauts stand out in the eyes of avid gamers: Call of Duty and Halo. By displaying dazzling, big-budget spectacles and offering competitive multiplayer experiences, Call of Duty and Halo have established themselves as two of the most critically successful and best-selling video game franchises of all time.

November will witness one of the biggest showdowns in video game sales history with the releases of Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which are separated by a mere week. Enhanced by Nintendo’s release of the Wii’s successor, the Wii U, November promises an exciting month for games.

The year 2007 marked the supposed death of a giant, as major American game developer Bungie separated from Microsoft Studios and lost grip on the reins of the Halo franchise. Formed under Microsoft Studios, 343 Industries stepped up to the plate to take on the challenge of creating Halo 4. With a current Metacritic score of 87 percent indicating “Generally Favorable Reviews,” it appears 343 Industries has successfully returned the Halo franchise to its former glory with the best-looking installment yet.

Intended to be the start of a second Halo trilogy, Halo 4 picks up four years after the events of Halo 3 as super-soldier Master Chief awakes to the sight of a Forerunner planet called Requiem. Aided by his faithful artificial intelligence companion, Cortana, Master Chief must discover the secrets nestled within the cracks of Requiem and confront the deadly and technologically advanced race of Prometheans, an evolved caste of the “extinct” Forerunners who have retained their ancient hatred toward humans.

Aside from its goals to make the fourth installment part of a larger trilogy, 343 Industries has exceedingly enhanced Halo’s multiplayer experience. One highlight is Halo 4’s Spartan Ops feature: In this game mode, players must complete several objective-based missions either cooperatively with other players online or as lone wolves, if they so please. Uniquely, Spartan Ops reveals its own storyline in a series of episodes, which will be updated on a weekly basis.

Classic fans of the series will truly appreciate Halo 4’s War Games feature. Similar to multiplayer in past Halo titles, War Games sports familiar fan favorites, including Team Slayer and Capture the Flag, that players can choose from. On top of these, Halo 4 introduces a mechanic called Specialization. Players are now able to customize their loadouts, choosing a primary and secondary weapon, a grenade and their own specific armor ability. Such versatility and customization establishes Halo 4, which hit shelves Nov. 6, as a significant title in the Halo franchise.

Just one week after the release of Halo 4, the Xbox 360’s best-selling video game franchise gives birth to its newest title: Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Though the Call of Duty franchise adds a new release every year, Black Ops II promises an element of originality with a unique setting and innovative game mechanics.

Set during both the Cold War and the year 2025, Black Ops II allows players to manipulate robotic drones and use cyberwarfare along with more traditional firearms to defeat their enemies.

A new feature in the Call of Duty franchise is the mechanic behind “Strike Force” missions, which are dynamic situations or events the player comes across during the 2025 story arc. Each outcome of the Strike Force missions informs the rest of the storyline, incorporating the player’s choices and performance into the game’s campaign. The missions cannot be replayed, even if you fail them, for the rest of the playthrough, unless the player starts a completely new campaign.

Accompanied by its familiar and satisfying matchmaking capabilities, Call of Duty: Black Ops II promises to be a sure hit in the hands of faithful, first-person-shooter diehards. It will be available at game retail stores on Nov. 13.

In the world of video game hardware, a new challenger has appeared in the form of Nintendo’s latest creation: the Wii U. Intended to be the successor to the third best-selling home console of all time, the Wii, the Wii U boasts several new advancements for enhanced gameplay and experience.

The most prominent feature appears in the form of the Wii U’s GamePad. Including an incorporated touchscreen and motion control capabilities, the GamePad serves as the Wii U’s primary controller. Because of its elaborate design, the GamePad offers a wide variety of features that can be incorporated into games available for the Wii U. Aside from gameplay, the GamePad can assist in television multitasking, allowing users to display the game on the GamePad’s touchscreen while someone watches something else on television.

With such technology, Nintendo promises to change the world of video gaming forever. Will the Wii U triumph over its Microsoft and Sony counterparts? Decide for yourself when the Wii U becomes available on Nov. 18.

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