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#Halo
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Tom T

Tom T

2/18/2011 9:19:19 PM
I have been a Halo player since the beginning. Each game has introduced new features: online play, theatre, forge, armour loc... ahem, bringing the franchise on leaps and bounds. This said, the bread and butter aspects will forever be dominated by Halo CE which executed them in an unrivalled manner. This article intends to explore that in detail, by examining the Campaign, Level Design, Multiplayer and gameplay balancing that made CE the groundbreaking game it remains today. I hope you enjoy the read and that some discussion will come about because of it. [b]Campaign[/b] The original Halo was intriguing because the story was told solely from your perspective. The whole game is driven by an eerie uncertainty that was only gradually alleviated in pivotal moments of the game. [quote]"Those Covenant fools, they must have known, there must have been signs... There's no time. The Captain, you've got to stop the Captain!!" "do you know what that bastard almost made you do?" "Chief don't... be a fool"[/quote]These quotes were thought of in an instant. Each is as powerful as the last and all elicit crystal clear gaming memories. Quotes from future titles also similarly create strong feelings, but they are comparatively less evocative. "Finishing this fight" is a prime example. It is memorable and rather epic, but also one of the best indicators of the transition undergone in the franchise. In the first game you were the Master Chief, humanities last hope, as you imposed your own feelings upon the Spartan's mysterious persona. It pains me to say it but from Halo 2 onwards this relationship grows distant and detached as the chief is replaced by a superman-esk figure. The player becomes the onlooker to the wrath of an unstoppable cyborg in a number of unbelievable cut scenes, when prior to this point the actions undertaken in cut scenes were logical progressions of a player's actions or growing character relationships. We may tie this detachment down to the expansion of the storyline. Bungie tried to do too much in the later titles, when less is often more. If we take Halo Reach as an example there appears to be some effort to recapture the same spirit of the original game. Noble 6 is also an unknown, you can even customise his appearance. However this relationship is not skin deep. Character development is of vital importance and in as of itself defines the protagonist. The focus had shifted and there was very little time to become attached to any of the characters in Noble Team, or to make Noble 6 your own. In Halo CE you were the focus of all exchanges, with Cortana's advice and Guilty Sparks's humming. Everything was orientated around the player and their progression. In contrast, Reach was the story of a planet. The story of a futile self-sacrifice is touching, but it is much less player orientated, producing a weaker single player experience as a result. The Arbiter is another example; the design decision must bare significant responsibility for the cracks and crevices that led to a lack of immersion. It single-handedly gave us socio-political insight into what was before a merciless alien Armageddon and broke our bonds with the Chief, ruining any hopes of the story ever returning to its initial ambiance. The later Halo games relied too much upon an elaborate backstory and therefore lost the original's greatest asset. [b]Campaign Gameplay[/b] [url=http://www.bungie.net/Forums/posts.aspx?postID=60988249]Read more[/url] [b]Level Design[/b] Halo CE had its faults in this respect, The Library immediately springs to mind, as does the fact we were made to play half the levels twice. Yet CE still has the best made levels in the whole franchise, at least in my opinion. The reason is that it broke away, albeit briefly, from a linear experience. Walking out of a crashed drop pod to find yourself in a beautiful alien world, in which you were given an unprecedented degree of freedom and flying above a vast ocean for a beach assault in a dropship are gaming experiences I will take to the grave. The same can be said for multiplayer. While a substantial number hold Halo 2 as the golden age of multiplayer maps and gaming (for good reason when you consider phantom pistols on Waterworks), in CE every map fulfils a different role, be it for arena style matches on Derelict, long ranged combat on Hang 'em High, shotgun showdowns on Chiron, or vehicular manslaughter in a random boxed in canyon - Gone are the glory days when maps didn't have a specific theme and made absolutely no sense. So much was more was achieved in the mere 13 maps we've had available since the game launched in 2001 than any launch map selection since. [b]Multiplayer and balancing[/b] CE accommodated for everyone with very few custom options. Many need to understand that you don't necessarily alienate the majority by catering for the minority. CE had a steep learning curve, failure to adapt to using the 3 shot pistol meant you would be unable to take down skilled players, but the game was still very fun at a casual level. The AR had bad-ass sound effects and tore through players and Covenant with relative ease. It could beat any pistol user who was not especially seasoned quite comfortably. I think this is one of the most interesting things about the CE sandbox, the AR was around about equal, if not superior to the pistol, unless it was against players who were highly competent with the sidearm; this allowed more casual gamers their diverse fun, through use of more aspects of the sandbox (shotguns, plasma rifles, needlers), while also allowing those with a competitive mindset to specialise (pistol, sniper, power weapons); [b]there was no need to tweak options or move from the default set-up[/b]. Halo 2/3 attempted a similar vibe, with the SMG/return of the Assault Rifle; there was awareness of Halo CE's greatest strengths but something was missing, both games lacked a certain, near intangible, element. Yes they had an utilitarian weapon similar to the pistol, the Battle Rifle, but the learning curve was simply: drop all other weapons and use the BR. [b]Unfortunately the weapon itself had a very narrow skill gap and consequently gameplay become somewhat monotonous[/b]. This would explain why many players clustered around level 45 in Halo 3; the actual distinguishing traits between the skilled and very skilled were mostly tied down to team work, not gaming prowess. Allow me to briefly elaborate: In Halo 2 auto-aim resulted in the BR proving near unstoppable, a 4 shot was near guaranteed; in Halo 3 the introduction of bullet spread and connection issues resulted in a very narrow skill gap. Where does the issue lie then? Surely it is in trying to make every weapon easy to use, rather than tailored to different player needs. [b]Weapons need a learning curve, as much, if not more so than the sandbox requires one[/b]. Now, people often throw around the statement: "the decline of the Halo series". I would like to emphasise that I do not believe the franchise has declined, what it has done is change and adapt itself, rather than sticking to a simple overused formula over and over again (as with some shooters). I give props to Bungie for spicing up the game in their final outing. Having done the Halo Universe for so long they can't have been especially flexible; I did not initially meet the announcement of ODST and Reach with any enthusiasm, and ended up pleasantly surprised. Reach has successfully moved from the BR monotony of the prior games, the sandbox is varied, balanced and enjoyable for most people. It also allows for some level of skill, by granting players a quasi-effective sidearm to battle off the spawn and contains weapon bloom in the hope of deterring spamming and rewarding patience. While it hasn't declined I will admit that I feel it has moved away from some of its origins, to the detriment of the highly competitive gamer. While Reach is better than its predecessors, Halo 2 and 3 on many accounts, it has been unable to capture what made CE so spectacular. Bloom was a good idea, but in practice it hasn't created the skill gap I initially assumed it would. The concept of the DMR perfectly fits in with the idea of having an utilitarian weapon, with a learning curve of its own and a changing role dependent on the experience of players. Bungie seem to be so very close to acknowledging what made CE so appealing for the competitive gamer, however the randomness of the weapon and long kill times have stopped it wholly coming to fruition; varying accuracy is good, but inconsistency within that variety is bad. Reach is perfectly balanced at a casual level, if I want to just have a great time (as I do) it is brilliant. Unfortunately this doesn't translate to high level play, where coin toss style gambles detract from an otherwise very well designed game. Overall it [b]hasn't quite procured the versatility of CE, as the sandbox does not regulate itself[/b]. Skill should not just be limited to weapon use, but also to how effective one is at using that weapon. [b]Conclusion[/b] I -blam!- love Halo CE. [quote][b]tl;dr[/b] Campaign - Halo CE campaign most engaging, player was a BAMF, everything orientated around them - Less is more; expansion of backstory ruined ambiance of sequels Campaign Gameplay - Campaign difficulty intensified in sequels by bolstering AI health, rather than ferocity - Strong enemies are are boring and stifle variety Level Design - Open world element to CE, not replicated - Each map on CE intricately designed and tailored to specific play Multiplayer and Balancing - Don't alienate majority by catering for minority: no need to tweak default for competitive or casual - Sequels monotomous due to lack of weapon skill gap (weapons need skill gap as much as sandbox)[/quote] [Edited on 06.05.2011 6:25 PM PDT]

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