Mad World: The Best Video Game Commercials in Recent Years

I had a pre-roll ad for the new Ultimate Edition of Gears of War before a Datto video pop up the other day, and it got me thinking a bit about gaming commercials. For me, that first Gears of War ad, with Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” still is one of the all time greatest commercials for a game. So today, to kinda take a breather from Destiny talk, as well as a take a break before we hit the crazy season, I thought I would pick out a couple really strong commercials from the last few years.

GEARS OF WAR – “MAD WORLD”
I said that this was the one that got me thinking about this topic, so I think it’s the perfect place to start. It’s maybe a little hard to think about this ad now – with the continued success of gaming as an industry, gaming ads have had to step up the quality of ads. This commercial, for a brand new franchise, was a little different. It was short – the original run was only about 30 seconds. It wasn’t showing cut together gameplay footage, with some dubstep in the background. Instead, it focused on the emotional side of a game that was already heavy on the cheesy testosterone. We knew about chainsaw machine guns and all the action that was coming, but this trailer decided to forego that side of the game. Using a song that is airy and simple and has a decidedly depressing feel to it really helped create the sense going in to that first game that the world really is ending. The Locust have overrun us, and this is the last ditch effort to stop them – and we might not make it. All of that in a really short ad – it was a fantastic way for the franchise to open. So much so, that they’ve essentially remade the commercial for the new Xbox One anniversary edition.

HALO 3/ODST – BUBBLE SHIELD/LIVE ACTION
There’s two classic Halo ads that I really can still remember as being just ahead of their time, and still resonating with the fanbase. First up was the Halo 3 ad, showing off the Bubble Shield for the first time. Sure, it was a CG trailer, but the scale of the battle being shown, and the fact that Master Chief was clearly hopelessly outnumbered, really I think helped cement the fact that this was the end of the story. Now, we know now that Master Chief wasn’t done with us yet, but at the time, Halo 3 was all about Finishing the Fight. This particular trailer really I think helped give that feeling – Chief was pulling out all the stop on this battle. Shortly after Halo 3, we got the side-game ODST. It’s a horribly underrated game I think – it’s short sure, but fills a super important role in fleshing out the storyline in Halo. It’s got a really cool story telling mechanic too – seriously, it’s part of the Master Chief Collection now, I fully recommend playing it. And as part of the ad campaign for it, we got one of the best live-action trailers I’ve ever seen for a game. Showing the process of becoming one of the ODST soldiers, before culminating in the actual drop into combat. I still think it’s one of the better live-action trailers out there, even almost 8 years later.

CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS
Sticking with the idea of live-action trailers, I very clearly remember the Black Ops live-action trailer. It was a bit of a shift in tone for the series, it took into account the rather crazy setting that is online multiplayer, while also acknowledging the popularity the series had hit. This was the first one that really featured a bunch of celebrities in the action. They’ve used this formula a couple times again, usually when they start talking multiplayer. It’s a trend that’s caught on – Madden NFL has really taken that idea and run crazy with it. This year’s ad in particular is just crazy – it’s about 5 minutes and is honestly pretty entertaining.

There are always a ton more ads to look at – and I know that I missed a whole bunch. But that’s one of the best part of gaming – it is just like music or TV or movies, everyone likes different things. I picked a few ads that I really loved – hell I actually went and downloaded that Gears of War ad way back in high school to show my friends. And I also neglected to mention trailers – the Fallout 3 reveal trailer was awesome, but it wasn’t a TV ad. Trailers are a whole different beast and there are way more amazing trailers than commercials I think. As we get into the last couple weeks before the new crop of games is unleashed, we’ll start to see a bunch more great commercials and trailers. Just keep your eyes peeled, and maybe don’t skip that YouTube ad immediately.

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Top 10 Week – The Top 10 Halo Multiplayer Maps

Halo Master Chief CollectionI’ve been in a countdown frame of mind, thanks to watching a bunch of videos on YouTube, so with that in mind, I thought this week I would come up with a few countdowns of my own. Since I’ve been playing Halo a lot still with my friends, I thought I would go through my picks for the ten best multiplayer maps in the series.

10. BATTLE CREEK/BEAVER CREEK
Starting things off with an old map, Battle Creek goes all the way back to Halo: Combat Evolved. It was such a popular map, that it was brought back as Beaver Creek in Halo 2. the only real changes between the two versions really is the removal of the ladders and additions of ramps that lead up to the sniper perches. At its core, the map is a symmetrical, small box canyon with two identical bases. Each base has three points of entry, not counting a fourth on the roof that is only accessible through some jumping. It’s a map that functions really well with CTF and Oddball, and Slayer of course always works. It’s a fast paced map, thanks to the placement of the warps behind the bases, and multiple routes that players can take.

9. HEADLONG
Halo 2 brings us a perfect example of a huge asymmetrical map that works for pretty much any kind of game – multiflag, one-flag, oddball (with a high score count), assault, snipers, SWAT – plus the addition of vehicles really helps keep it fresh. Since it’s a really big map, there are plenty of different ways to get around, including warps, grav lifts and plenty of multiple level structures. The sightlines are awesome, with plenty of long range fights, that a good sneaky player can get behind the enemy to disrupt.

Halo 3 Guardian

8. GUARDIAN
The first entry from Halo 3 is one of the smaller maps in the series, with close range fights being typical. That said, there are still some longer sightlines, including some that criss-cross the open central arena. It works best for games of oddball, multi-team games, and infection or swords variants. And with Halo 3 having Forge, there’s plenty of options to turn the map into whatever you want. It’s a map that makes flankers shine, with two main levels that you need to keep eyes on, and thanks to the presence of active camo, close range weapons can swing a match.

7. MIDSHIP/HERETIC
One of the more popular maps in Halo 2 for arena matches, I’m actually in the minority with this one. I get why Midship is so popular, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. To me, the spawns have never been kind. But regardless, it’s a really great small team map – multiflag is fast-paced, oddball is hectic, and slayer is always close. Heretic, the updated version from Halo 3, plays pretty similar, but with the new mechanics some weapons play different. For example, sword clashes are more common, the shotgun’s smaller clip means you have to show a bit more control with it.

6. LONGEST/ELONGATION
A bit of an under the radar choice, Longest has always been one of my favorite maps from Halo: CE. The basic form of the map is essentially a giant figure 8 – just a bit boxier. The two long hallways are great for the original pistol and shotgun in Halo, and in the Halo 2 remake, Elongation, it plays phenomenally with the battle rifle. Oddball is great, CTF is fun, and Infection can be pretty tense. Even with long sightlines, which in the remake are broken up with the boxes on conveyer belts, close range weapons excel. All around a really fun map.

5. CHILL OUT/COLD STORAGE
My personal favorite map from the first game, Chill Out is one of those asymmetrical maps that still plays perfect in CTF games. Custom variants using the shotgun as the primary are fast paced, insane and totally fun. Taking the shield off makes it even quicker. The Halo 3 remake is pretty similar in pacing, but with changes to the shotgun, there are other game modes that are better to play. King of the Hill, with a focus on close ranged weapons is fun, and Infection is also a pretty good fit.

The Pit

4. THE PIT/PITFALL
Perhaps the best map in Halo 3, it’s a symmetrical map that works for almost any game mode. CTF, oddball, King of the Hill, VIP and Infection all work – as do Slayer variants. And of course, thanks to Forge, it’s possible to tweak the map around in all sorts of ways – closing off sections to redirect flow totally changes the matches. The updated Halo 4 version includes a couple changes that help make the sword spawn harder to lock down and camp, which is actually a good thing, just play with classic settings and no ordinance drops.

3. HANG ‘EM HIGH/TOMBSTONE/HIGH NOON
Another standout that has become a series main-stay, Hang ‘Em High features a semi-asymmetrical layout, with the two bases identical to each other, and a large open expanse between them. All sorts of games work – CTF, with lots of weapon variants are fun, straight pistols is a classic, and snipers is also a really tense one. The updated versions, from Halo 2 and Halo: CE – Anniversary, make use of the newer mechanics. In Tombstone, they added in grav lifts to open up new ways around the map, and the BR totally adds a whole new way of playing the matches.

2. BLOOD GULCH/COAGULATION/HEMORRHAGE/BLOODLINE
There’s a reason this map has been remade so many times, and also served as inspiration for Halo 3‘s Valhalla. It’s giant, so bigger parties work well, and vehicles add another dimension. Since it’s symmetrical, CTF games are great – any variant really work well, and even games like oddball work. Even with the long range, it’s important to keep an eye on weapons like rockets and the shotgun to help keep the base safe. With the update in Coagulation, they added a whole new dimension by adding the Banshee. Just adding one level of the base and one vehicle made the map have even more depth.

Halo 2 Lockout

1. LOCKOUT/BLACKOUT/LOCKDOWN
My pick for the best map in the series is Lockout from Halo 2. Hands down, it plays the best in the series and has the smoothest flow of any map. Even with the changes they made to the map with Blackout in Halo 3, it still plays solidly. But overall, the Halo 2 version plays better. The sightlines are clearer, the weapon balance is a bit better, and the jumps are a bit easier to manage. CTF works, oddball is fun, infection is fast paced, king of the hill is hectic and the slayer variants that play well are numerous. The Halo 2: Anniversary version adds in destructible icicles that hang over three major points, which can help prevent camping.

Halo Week 2014 – Halo 3

Halo 3Continuing through the four games in the Master Chief Collection, today we’ll look at 2007’s Halo 3. Halo 3 was, at the time, the biggest launch of all time – perhaps partially due to being the first game in the series on the Xbox 360; but also because it was the conclusion to the Covenant war. Story-wise, none of the Bungie Halo games have ever disappointed me, Halo 3 was no different. But Halo 3 also was a pretty big shake-up on the Multiplayer front. Halo 2 was really the game that validated Xbox Live for online play, but it was still in its infancy; by 2007 it was more stable, and that meant that Halo 3 could do a little more. The biggest change up was really thanks to Forge – the in game map editor; along with custom game variants. Bungie saw that people were playing certain game variants in LAN settings that weren’t part of the hoppers online, but with Forge and the better flexibility of the game and Live, were able to start putting custom maps and gametypes online. As we’ve done all week, I want to look at a couple of the skills that Halo 3 requires; then look at some of my favorite maps.

Halo 3 really shook it up a little with the multiplayer – especially from Halo 2. Sweep sniping is all but gone, thanks to the aim assist being much less noticeable. Dual-wielding is still around, but the options are a bit different. The Assault Rifle is back as a default, no longer the SMG. The Needler is no longer a dual-wieldable weapon. There are also new deployable items scattered around the maps; these include the flare, bubble shield, trip mine and power drain. While it’s not quite as important to control these as the power weapons, it’s still good to try to. A power drain can help clear out a room being held; and a trip mine can take out a vehicle that’s been dominating you. The Battle Rifle at this point is a four shot kill, assuming that last burst hits the head – so your skills with that weapon will transfer over from Halo 2 or if you’re a newer player, Halo: Reach and Halo 4. One other weapon that has become a standard over the last 7 years is the Spartan Laser. It made its debut in Halo 3, giving players a solid second option against vehicles instead of the Rockets.

Halo 3 Guardian

Map-wise, Halo 3 had some really strong maps that dominated gameplay – both small and medium sized maps this time around. Halo had great mid-size maps; Halo 2 had much better small maps – Halo 3 has a few good ones at each size. We’ll start with the smaller ones first. Probably the best all around small map, in my mind, is Guardian. It’s very similar in layout to Lockout, with a little bit more visual flair. It’s not an exact remake, but the general flow is very similar – sightlines that are about the same, and pretty much the same general shape. While there are a few good spots for snipers, there are also enough flanking routes that us close range guys can easily get around behind them. It’s also a really good map to mess around with in Forge – I can remember making some real fun Infection layouts on it. It’s also probably the best map for playing Swords on, I think.

The Pit

A more mid-size map that really stood out has to be The Pit. It’s a symmetrical map, that is perfect for team games – especially CTF; but really, anything plays well on it. It’s possible to place vehicles on the map in Forge, but they don’t spawn by default, and even then the vehicles are only the smaller ones. The sightlines are really clean, snipers and BRs really dominate, but at the same time, each of the major landmarks is small enough for a sword or shotgun to clear them out. Oddball is a lot of fun, Assault is always tense – CTF almost always comes down to the very last minutes. It’s definitely got one of the more action packed openings to any map, with most matches starting with a rush towards the Rockets. Learn how to get away from the grenades, or find a way to flank around the side.

Another mid-size map, albeit a bit on the larger side of things, that I always liked was Narrows. Another symmetrical map, it’s a phenomenal sniper map, with really clear, long sightlines. That said, unless you’re actually playing Snipers, the under-bridge route along with the man cannon makes it possible to get around their view. The man cannons open up a few unique options using the new deployable gear – tossing a Power Drain through the man cannon can help ensure you have a safe landing. It’s a great map for CTF – again, the man cannons open up a pretty cool capture path. Oddball can be fun, but it is possible to get out of the map, which kind of breaks that gametype. I never played around too much with Forge on it, but I can definitely see some good maps coming out from it.

Halo 3 Narrows

One last map to look at, Halo 3‘s answer to Blood Gulch, which doesn’t appear in this game, is Valhalla. It’s got the same design principle – symmetrical bases, with a wide open canyon between them. Before it got muddied up with Mantises in later games, Valhalla was a really strong option for vehicle combat. Banshees, Warthogs, Mongooses, and Wraiths all spawn in the default variant. This makes controlling the Laser, Rocket Launcher and Missile Pod very important. You only other option really is a good sniper, or solid grenade skills or boarding skills. Long range firefights tend to dominate the matches, but there are definitely some real close spots that a Shotgun or Mauler can do well at; in particular inside the bases for objective games.

One final point to consider – some of my very favorite maps that I used to play back in 2007 or so were player created variants. Almost every LAN party we had we played a couple Infection variants on Last Resort custom maps, or Sand Trap maps. Storm the Beach was probably the first map I downloaded – I think just about anyone that was around with the launch remembers this map. Don’t be afraid to look through file shares to find custom maps and games.

Mapping Out December – Part Three: Earn Your Halo

December is flying by, we’re already to part three of my series on some of the best maps in multiplayer shooters. First we looked at a few older games, last week we took a trip to the Battlefield series of games. Today, it’s a series that is near and dear to my heart – the Halo franchise. It’s almost hard to believe that the series is over 10 years old, it really does seem really fresh in my memory all the times playing the first game at LAN parties back in high school. Hell, the first Halo game is the whole reason I bought my Original Xbox, so this should be a fun little look back on the series.

Halo 3

As always, let’s go back to the beginning – Halo: Combat Evolved. Right away, there’s the big map – Blood Gulch. Probably the most popular map across the whole series, for a couple reasons. First off, it’s perfect for CTF games – well balanced, with a good mix of ranges and styles of combat. Secondly, it has existed in just about every game in the series, so new and old fans get to play it. Thirdly, we can’t over look the impact of Red Vs. Blue on the map, never mind the level of connection that Rooster Teeth has with the Halo franchise in general. We’ll head from Blood Gulch, to the other big CTF map I remember playing a ton – Sidewinder. Again, balanced layout, good mix of vehicles and heavy weapons and intense games that can come down to whoever gets one capture. Great objective map for sure. I want to hit on two more maps, Chill Out and Hang ‘Em High. Both are good for either CTF or Slayer, but focus more of infantry combat – no vehicles needed. Hang ‘Em High is great for pistols, or rockets CTF games, while Chill Out is still the best Shotgun CTF map I think I’ve ever played. Looking back on the whole map list, there really are only a couple stinkers in the batch – Chiron TL-34 and Boarding Action. The rest of the maps are all really solid.

Blood Gulch

Let’s jump ahead to the sequel now – Halo 2. Admittedly, I think this is probably the black sheep of the series. The tweaks to the multiplayer “leveled” the playing field by putting in a generous aim assist, which turned every person on Live into a “pro no-scoper,” while also turning other weapons into paper weights. That said, there were actually a few stand out maps that still play well. First, easily the best example, Lockout. Great for SWAT games, good for CTF, great for slayer or one flag games as well, it also has some really unique ways to move around the map using the exterior of the geometry. Next, Ascension is a great small map for CTF, or even snipers/SWAT games. The design is also pretty unique, with lots of little touches that make it a great map. Lastly I want to touch on two more real quick – Zanzibar and Ivory Tower. I know a lot of people would mention Midship, but I always preferred Ivory Tower. It’s a great map with lots of different levels, good flanking routes, and it’s a great one flag map. Zanzibar, on the other hand, is one of the better mixed action maps in the game. Vehicles can do some real damage, but there are plenty of good other options to move around the map, and CTF games are reminiscent of Sidewinder games – intense matches that can end in a 1-0 score.

The Pit

Now on to Halo 3 – the first on the Xbox 360, and the first to feature the best feature in the series for multiplayer – Forge. Let’s start however, with The Pit. Probably the most balanced infantry only map (because let’s be honest, no one used the mongoose on that map) for CTF, SWAT, Slayer, King of the Hill… the list goes on. It’s a really well balanced map, with good weapons that keep the action flowing and really doesn’t allow for camping. We’ll go big with the next map, and talk Valhalla. It’s a spiritual successor to Blood Gulch, and features the same basic premise – simple design and map flow makes for really fun CTF matches. Weapon control and vehicle usage makes the difference, and can turn the tide of a game. Another winning CTF map would have to be Narrows. It’s a throwback to simple maps from the early days of shooters – it’s a bridge, with really only four ways to cross it. You’re always playing defense, while at the same time, trying to send a few guys to poke and prod and grab the flag. It’s another map that can either end up 1-0; or can end with a flurry of caps. Great map design, for sure. One last one from Halo 3, Guardian – similar to Lockout, it’s a great SWAT map, or even CTF. Small, cramped quarters, with lots of close combat makes for a fast paced game that always comes down to the last few minutes and is always close.

Let’s look real quick at Halo: Reach and Halo 4. In Reach I want to touch on Countdown, Boardwalk and Sword Base. All are smaller maps, without vehicles, but feature a great mix of combat – snipers can do well, especially on Boardwalk, shotgunners can dominate a hallway or room on any map, and a good DMR can lock down a path. Each plays a little different, but all demand precision and good teamwork for sure. When we talk Halo 4, I think we need to look at Haven, Exile and Solace. Haven is a great arena style map, it really works for any slayer variant, King of the Hill and Ricochet; and games can come down to the last few seconds. Exile is one of the better big maps, featuring all of what makes Halo unique – different weapons, vehicle combat and chaotic action for the duration of the game. As for Solace, it’s a unique set-up for CTF – seemingly symmetrical, but each base plays a little differently for the defenses. Great for objective games as well as King of the Hill.

I purposely left out two big parts of multiplayer games these days – DLC maps and Player-created maps. Forge changed the way Halo plays – player-created gametypes and maps that get vetted by the community, show off the things that the community really feels are the strengths of the game. Infected is a huge example, as is Grifball – another direct tie to Rooster Teeth and RvB. As for DLC, I left it out because I do think there are people who still don’t buy additional content for multiplayer, and honestly, that’s totally fine. I don’t recommend it, but hey, that’s cool.

Next week, we’ll wrap (ha!) up the best maps feature with Call of Duty, and then that last week of December, I think we’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum and talk crappy maps. See you then.