MLG Dallas is just around the corner, and for our avid followers this can only mean one thing: it's preview time! I had the opportunity of sitting down with the two twin stars from our line-up, Alex and Will Buck, for a talk right before they head off to Texas. In the interview, we approach several events surrounding the team as of late, including their unexpected performance at EGL8 and their ambitions going into America. We were also able to venture into predictions from the veterans' very own insight. Last, but not least, the brothers shared their initial thoughts on the latest release of the Halo franchise and discussed the competitive future of the game.
Alright guys, let's kick this off with a pretty typical question: how are you feeling a few days prior to the big day?
Alex: Very excited! It will be the first ever Halo 4 tournament, and I personally can't wait to compete on the new title. However there is a lot of uncertainty in terms of how the event will unfold, what with it being an entirely new game and no teams being able to practice on it other than a handful of matches at promotional events leading up to the weekend.
Will: I'm really looking forward to it, attending the first Halo 4 tournament as my brother has already said. It will be an amazing experience and also set the first standard in terms of the level of play on Halo 4 at a professional standard. But just like Alex said, there has been limited play time on the game for most players so it could lead to some upsets for former top Halo: Reach players in the US. We've been lucky enough to play Halo 4 for a good amount of time thanks to launch events with Xbox and Xtreme Gaming, so we're very excited to play Halo 4 in tournament play to show off our skills on the newest Halo title!
How are you entering the event in terms of confidence? You've mentioned that the factor of unpredictability slightly annoys you, but have you got anything stored?
Will: In terms of practice we've not practised as much as we normally would for an event, due to the circumstances of the tournament with the game not even being released until the day after the event. However all of our team have had chances to play the game for a few times, be it at promotional events or at EGL8 where there was a small booth to play Halo 4 at provided by Xbox. Myself and my brother have probably racked up just under 100 games now on Halo 4 over multiple events so we have a small advantaged on some other teams and players!
We attempted to arrange some extra practice prior to Dallas however there has been no luck with getting anything sorted with Xbox/343i. Although they did attempt to help us, it was just too early before the release of the game and there were other titles being released the weeks leading up to Halo 4 so they couldn't fit in any private events for us to practice at sadly.
Alex: We've played our fair share at promotional events, and the Friday of MLG Dallas will be dedicated to free play so we should get a chance to warm and and play a few games as a team.
Going into the event, it wouldn't be blunt to say that you're slightly favoured considering the circumstance. You had the incredible chance of laying your hands on Halo 4 before the release, something that only a few men on Earth have done thus far. If we look at it from another perspective, do you think that there's something that, on the contrary, puts you below the major competitors?
Will: I think the only thing that could potentially be a disadvantage for us would be the fact that our team is still relatively new in comparison to some of the top MLG teams who have stuck together now for multiple events on Halo: Reach and are now moving over to Halo 4 and keeping all that team chemistry and knowledge. However I think our team is maturing very quickly and we'll be more than capable at dealing with the top US teams and be able to make a big impact at MLG Dallas!
Judging from your past tweets, I have gathered enough evidence to assume that you were somewhat disappointed by your result in Manchester. How do you plan to improve the performance to avoid a similar scenario? Considering the short span of time between MLG and EGL 8, I guess you guys didn't have enough time to refine tactics or benefit from a few hardcore practice sessions, so what is it going to be?
Alex: We're just going to have to put EGL Manchester behind us. We know what we should've done; practised more as a team. However this event is a lot different to any we've been to, as we won't be able to actually practice properly until the day before the tournament starts! We just need to make sure we're all on the same page, have some basic strategies laid out and make sure we never underestimate our opponents, no matter who they are.
Let's rewind to a few weeks back. What, according to you two, went wrong at EGL? As you've mentioned, the main reason was a severe lack of practice, but were there any secondary factors that determined the result?
Will: The only other real factor was luck really! And that fact that we had none of it! For some of the games we lost there was freak accidents which happened in crucial parts of the game which could've changed the outcome of some of the games. But again, these were happening in the last games of the series which we would've have even gotten to if we had more LAN practice prior to EGL. I was happy with the teams performance at the event, as we've already previously stated it was just down to lack of LAN practice that hindered us.
BUK57, Frankie from 343, BUK20 and JC
None of the participants at Dallas had time to properly play the game, only vaguely, like in your case, or not at all. So what is it going to come up to?
Alex: It'll come down to whoever can adapt to Halo4 best both individually and as a team. The game itself may have the same basic components, but with the introduction of new maps, the return of new vehicles and new abilities, adaptation will be the key to success in my opinion.
To move a little bit off topic, how are you guys liking Halo 4 with the little time you had to try it? Do you see a bright competitive future ahead of it?
Will: I've loved every second I've played of the game! I honestly can see it being a huge sucess at MLG and also at EGL in Europe and other leagues across the world. The game is a much faster paced game compared to Reach and it brings back the good old Master Chief which we all know and love and they've added new maps and weapons to mix! Excited doesn’t' describe how I feel about being able to play the game in a tournament early and also being able to get my hands on the game prior to release yet again! I see a very bright competitive future ahead of Halo 4.
It's going to be the first major event of the sequel, although in a very "particular" setting. How do you think it's going to unfold?
Alex: I think there will be a lot of upsets, a lot of interesting tactics being used and hopefully some of the most exciting Halo ever! I just can't wait to see how the weekend unfolds!
Will: This event is very strange in terms of its setting, however I think that the Halo players will make the most of their practice that they've had and put on an awesome show for the spectators and showcase the reasons why Halo has been so successful in the past. Other than that I agree with Alex, there will be lots of upsets on old top Halo Reach teams which will make for an interesting weekend!
Although nothing is stable when it comes to predictions, is there any specific team you guys are leery of?
Will: I'd say Instinct and Dynasty are two of the very strong Halo: Reach teams who I can see making an explosive start in Halo 4 just because of their players being so individually talented and having such good history's on the Halo games. Other than that there is a few more players that are very strong however those two teams are the ones who I'll be keeping an eye on to track their progress and to see if we will be meeting them in the bracket!
Alex: I'll be especially cautious of any of the teams/players who placed inside the Top8 at MLG on Halo:Reach. As any player who placed inside the Top 8 has proven to be both individually talented and also a strong team player. But like I said earlier, I’ll be careful when playing against any team, as it would be foolish to underestimate any team which competes in Major League Gaming events.
Is the newness of your line-up somehow going to affect your performance in Halo 4? On a relevant note, have you guys managed to adapt to the fresh additions yet?
Will: I don't think it will really hinder us too much, as we've had time to play with the new teammates now on LAN at EGL, normally it's just down to the fact that you haven't sat down physically and played together that when you first do it, it can take a while getting used to certain aspects of the players. But we've had that time at EGL to get used to each other, so I don't think we'll be having any issues with the newness of our team. With that said I believe we have fully adapted to our new teammates now, the only thing which took some while was the names in which we use for communications in game! Due to the fact that we have 3 players named Alex on one team!
Out of pure curiosity, how did you fix the communication issue?
Alex: I'm the only real Alex on the team though, the others Alex’s have learnt to respond to their gamertags when playing haha
Will: We decided that my brother would be the only "real" Alex on the team! Haha, by only calling him by his first name and calling the other two by their gamertags. It was weird to start but now we've grown used to it.
Over 256 teams, that's a quite impressive figure. But what do you think this blow up in numbers is due to? Perhaps the pre-release enthusiasm that invades every Halo fan out there? Or maybe the motivation to support the community? The eagerness of showing MLG, the industry that has backed you up since the very early days, that you can still compete against other major titles?
Alex: I think it's a combination of all those reasons. A lot of players were getting tired of Halo: Reach from both the competitive side and the casual side of it, and Halo4 is seen by many as a fresh start. The community as a whole has also risen to the challenge of selling out the event, which is a good sign to show that SC2 and LoL aren't the only games which can bring in both the competitors and the fans.
The team competing at EGL 8
Do you think Halo is going to be featured in the next MLG circuit? And what does Halo 4 have that Reach didn't? Could we see the cycle repeat again? Is there a little element that will ensure the stability and everlasting prosperity of the new sequel?
Will: I think it will be definitely used on the MLG Circuit, it's got all of the features of Halo 4 and more! As already shown, the popularity of the game is several times larger than that of Halo: Reach and it's back to the Halo core as a sequel to Halo 3 rather than an ofset game such as Reach. I really do hope that the popularity stays with the game and that it continues to be used competitively, I believe it has the legs to last as long as if not longer than how long Halo 2 and 3 lasted.
Alex: The only problem it may have, is trying to compete with the audience sizes that both SC2 and LoL have. As both of these PC games have huge followings which makes it a no brainer for MLG to set up regular tournaments for them. I just hope that everyone tunes in to MLG's live broadcast of Halo4, so that we can show just how much the gaming community wants Halo back on the circuit!
Out of that astronomical amount of participants, Western Wolves are going to be the only European Halo team present at the venue. That must put some weight on your shoulders. Do you feel any additional pressure seeing as you're the only representatives of your continent? For centuries, there's always been that strong competition between America and us, and the phenomenon is even more notable when it comes to video-gamers. Do you think you'll be able to bring the pride and honour back home?
Will: Yes! I always like to feel that I perform better at MLG events because there is a higher level of competition to urge myself on to play my 100% best. I don't ever really feel any extra weight on my shoulders representing Europe, if anything it's nice to be able to be the underdogs or the team from "across the pond" because we sometimes get overlooked by some teams and that will make our job of causing upsets easier!
Alex: We've been to countless events in America over the years and I think that a lot of players do respect us as players already. However, as always, we want to improve our standings in America and prove that we can compete at the highest level.
There will always be a few who will start "USA!" chants when we're playing, but with our Tritton Headsets we'll hardly be able to hear them!
What are you looking forward the most this weekend?
Will: I'm just looking forward to playing Halo 4 again! I'm easily pleased!
Alex: Halo wise: I'm interested to see how teams like Instinct and Status Quo play Halo4; it's a new game so I’m wondering what strategies they'll be using and whether they'll stick to what they know, or start using some of the new weapons and abilities.
Outside of Halo: American food, sightseeing and catching up with our American friends and fans.
I guess this wraps it up pretty well. Thanks a lot for you time guys, and hope to see you dominate in Dallas! All the final words belong to you.
Will: Thanks for taking time to interview us!
Just want to do a quick thank you to our teammates at Western Wolves, including the staff and management. And a big thank you to our Sponsors who make everything we do possible!
Alex: Yeah, thanks for the interview!
Just like to say thanks to all our sponsors and Western Wolves for all the support that you've given us. It's amazing how much we've done thanks to gaming and we only have you to thank!