Published on July 26th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Having never played a Halo game at length, I decided to jump into the series here. Everyone told me how it was inspired by Ringworld and that I would probably like it.
Well, I didn’t dislike it, if that helped.
A first person shooter set in a future where the human race employs super soldiers in the military, the story begins as a prequel to the first Halo and recaps the events leading up it.There is no Master Chief in this game, instead it has a small team in which your nameless leader heads up to bring the fight to the Covenant.Well, I have no idea who the Covenant is, but I was helpfully told about some basic aspects, like that they are sort of a religion and that Master Chief was one of the last soldiers of his kind.
A game must stand up on its own merits as a single player game, otherwise it won’t be able to sit in a hall of fame for its own obsolescence.
The thing is, the Covenant in this just seemed to be faceless and ideal-less entities that appeared only on the battlefield as obstructions to menial goals. There was absolutely no characterisation set aside for them whatever and no mention of any kind of ideology, religion or culture.
To be a game that revolves around death as its main gameplay element, making me care about whether I or the enemy dies is pretty darned important I think.
The Noble Team isn’t much better than the Covenant though, there was a very 2 dimensional obligatory input session during a brainstorm but after that it seems like the only character interaction involved merely the predictably different coloured reactions whenever a situation arose, nobody seemed to want to instigate any revealing conversation about themselves, their thoughts on the mission, the monsters or the war, let alone hold a even-tempered discussion with another character. It’s almost like perhaps I missed a game length’s worth of satire on the perceived dopeyness of soldiers, the characters were so vapid.
Probably the biggest crime though, is that despite the single adjective-d personalities of the Noble Team, they still managed to remain instantly forgettable, there not even being enough narrative for you to identify them with inane events that happened to them, like perhaps ‘the guy that slapped the girl” or ‘the chick with the attitude problem’. Later on there is some tangible memory that you can grip onto with the characters, but only in the forms of the details of their systematic deaths, by which point they became wholly irrelevant, both in the story and as a piece of emotional bait.
In fact, some of the thoughts I had of this ring true with what I said about Starship Troopers. The whole aesthetic is more militaristic-SF than the explorative culture bomb that is Ringworld. A Marauder power suit from Starship Troopers wouldn’t go amiss with the other pieces from the Spartan armoury. Also in line with Heinlein’s “right-a-thon” is a swap of solid and consistent narrative to opt for the persecution of a soulless enemy while pontificating under-developed and aggressive views about the Military and its role in alien liaisons.
To be honest I had no idea what to expect, some people rave about the story while others cast it off and play the multiplayer exclusively. I was looking for the former and in that I was extremely disappointed, I hope that Halo 3 (which is the next in the series I am due to play if Anniversary is still expensive) is more rounded and descriptive.
The gameplay, however, is another story. Although not inkeeping with the story, the mechanics and feel of the game is incredible.
It starts with the gorgeous scenery and high detail to the environment, before landing in your space chopper, you’re treated to a glorious swoop of the planet Reach in which the dull story takes place. The land is beautiful and the feel of it is believable for a human space colony. Upon arrival my first 5 minutes were spent looking at all the nooks and crannies of the immediate clearing, finding exquisite features and some great looking bits of kit around. The armour in the game looks useful and fairly comfortable, something that other games and films like to ignore all too often in favour of pitiful sexualisation, like we all go home at night to think of breasts popping out of metal plate armour. I chose a woman as my character and apart from some kooky knee movements when move stealthily, she didn’t seem to look or feel like she would rather be holding a penis than a gun, Lara.
The gameplay is fluid and the level and mission design is fun and somewhat fresh when parts like the space battle come up. These are usually done to make the game appeal to a wider audience, but it felt more like a bit of ingenuity on the devs part. I don’t like Sci-Fi that forgets it’s Sci-Fi. The space battle that I mentioned is one of my favourite parts, it could have done away with the contextual assets in the sky to make it feel more grounded, I like feeling lost and without relative coherence in space. It’s not often you can just screw around with a player’s sense of direction and it should have embraced it, like Portal, rather than hide it. Actually another thing that bugged me about the space section was that you have to hold down the thruster wasting energy in order to maintain the speed, which doesn’t make sense physically speaking. It should continue at the increased velocity until another object or force comes into action – there’s no friction or air resistance in space!
Unfortunately the game doesn’t feel like committing to the outside scenes very often and you find you’re wandering samey looking ships and interiors for most of the game, but I suppose it was probably worth it for the initial ‘Wow’.
I can’t say I can really recommend it, nor can I truly say it’s not great. I enjoyed what I played and I think managing expectations with my current knowledge of the series will make me enjoy further games more, perhaps the game requires you play online to enjoy it, but I don’t judge games by online mode unless it is exclusively so, like Battlefield 1943. A game must stand up on its own merits as a single player game, otherwise it won’t be able to sit in a hall of fame for its own obsolescence when the community dies. Either way, it’s alright.