Thursday, November 26, 2015

Halo Reach: flying around in space

I am, apparently, a little way through the game, and I restarted halfway through chapter 3.  The difference in gameplay from the first Halo is marked, with increased reliance on team members and communication, and a move to large scale set pieces rather than small-scale battles in corridors from one waypoint to the next.  The world feels a lot more empty and open, and you have a sense of partaking in a massive war rather than an individual battle - as you drive around, you see fighting way off in the distance.

It's not just the scale of the world that feels different, but the detail.  Battlegrounds are strewn with objects, pathways, and debris.  Guns are located all over, and you sort of understand why - the previous battles have been hard.

It's still a Halo game, though, with the need for intelligent tactics to overcome the multitude of enemies.  Invisible Elites and Hunters make the combat fraught and it's best to stay at a distance as much as possible.  This isn't always easy, though, as your team mates have a tendency to barge in and get themselves killed if you're not supporting.

And then suddenly it wasn't a Halo game any more, it was a generic space shooter using Banshee controls.  Having to take to the skies to protect the space station seems a little odd, as surely the military should have a separate air force.  We're meant to be experts in ground combat.  Surely we haven't had that many casualties?

The flying bits were a disappointment.  Aim at the pre-set point and fire; there was no need to judge speed and distance unlike the Banshee battles in other games.  It didn't outstay its welcome though, especially as it transitioned into a segment set on an orbiting ship where I was able to sneak around and hit Elites with swords.  Blew up the ship, ran back to my craft, and I was soon on solid ground.

Lots of things have exploded.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Halo Anniversary: completed!

Amusingly, as I travelled to work this morning I was reminded that I completed Halo 2 eight years ago today.  And today I have completed the updated original game.

I have a soft spot for the original Halo.  When I first played through it, the story wasn't massively inspiring, but the gameplay was and as I progressed through the game I got interested with the overall objectives.  Until, that is, I got to the Library, and the flood, which seemed to go on forever and really was pretty dull.  But after escaping from the library and backtracking through previous levels, watching the covenant fight the flood, I felt a sense of urgency and importance which was compounded by the final escape run.  I said I might play it again some time.

And, you know what, I did.  I played through the whole game again a year or so later, and of course played multiplayer a few times when people visited.  Each of the levels, while part of the narrative, stands up well as a separate game.  And then when Halo Anniversary was released, it seemed an ideal time to go back to it.  Unfortunately it came at a time when I'd just finished ODST and started Reach, and it appears that I stopped playing after the Pillar of Autumn.  With a renewed freshness for the game, I decided to play it again.

The thing about Halo Anniversary is that it looks how you remember the original game to look.  For example, I remember this:

I don't remember this:

 But the second picture is what the original game actually looks like.  Plain, muddy, dark.

The needler has always been pink, hasn't it?

Lot of dead spartans in a co-op mode, looking either rugged or metallic depending on when you play the game.

Lush scenery, or foggy closeness.

At least the light bridge is the same.

One of the very cool things about remasters such as this is the ability to switch between original and new graphics at will.  This isn't quite as slick as the Monkey Island remake, with a fade to black between the styles, but it still works well.

So, anyway, I played through the game to the end.  Blah blah, Library dull, Keyes face, nuclear reactors exploding, drive warthog, escape.  Still a fantastic game.

There are some additions to the game as well.  Borrowed from Halo 3, there are a number of skulls located in hidden areas.  I actually looked up where they were, since there is no way I would ever explore enough to find them, and then went through the game collecting them - sometimes in a co-op game with both controllers in order to get to obscure areas.  It was well worth it, because some of the skulls make the game more fun to play again.  Particularly infinite ammo.  That even makes the Library fun, throwing limitless grenades, especially with the double explosion size also turned on.

I think I may have had my fill now, though.  Time to leave the comforting familiar environments behind, and go back to see where I reached in, er, Halo Reach.