My flask is half full
- Apr 5, 2020
I've been streaming the Halo games, in preparation for Halo Infinite. Im just on Halo CE, at the moment, after playing through Reach.
Halo CE is a game that I feel has aged like a fine wine, but I have also soured on, over the years.
The mechanical side of the game - the combat, the enemies, the weapons - are all excellent. The sandbox is limited, but built with purpose. The varieties of enemy aliens to shoot are interesting, and they all behave in distinct ways. The combat loop is satisfying, and has really held up, 20 years later. There is even an entire vehicle sandbox, of tanks, jeeps and jets, which can all be seamlessly interacted with. It really is a great game, even if some things like the movement can feel a little floaty at times (though you do adjust very quickly). The story is also fairly basic, but it doesn't get in the way, and has some fun twists and bombastic moments.
But, I am slowly starting to sour on the game for two reasons: 1) The Flood, and 2) The Levels.
I admit that I do enjoy the Flood. Thematically, I find them very interesting - intelligent space zombies who have been sealed away for millions of years, and who are responsible for the destruction of the ancient aliens who built the Halo rings. They are also responsible for the biggest twist in the game, which is still very fun. Gameplay wise, they do leave a lot to be desired.
Where the Covenant shoot, throw grenades, dive for cover, cower in retreat, and can drive vehicles, the Flood can run at you, and occasionally shoot you. Whilst this is thematically expected for a swarm-type enemy, the difference is felt immediately, and certainly not for the better. Whilst the Flood do sometimes add an interesting layer to the combat, especially when there is a 3-way conflict between you, the Covenant, and the Flood, the levels - or sections of levels - which focus exclusively on the Flood, are simply way less interesting to play, than those that feature the Covenant.
As for the level design, this is where the game's real weakness lies. That isn't to say that all of the levels are bad. If you ask a group of people what their favourite Halo levels is, there is a good chance that The Silent Cartographer will come up, and that is certainly my favourite level from the game, but whilst there is enjoyment to be found in the game's levels, most of them share the same flaw - repetitiveness.
Samey hallways, repeated rooms, and a copious amount of backtracking are served up in droves, frequently to the point of frustration. The 1st level is full of grey bulkheads. The 3rd level is full of purple bulkheads. The 5th level is just grey circular rooms, hallways, and bridges - repeated seemingly two dozen times, between them. The interior of the 6th level is a maze. The 7th level is literally running around in a circular hallway for 4 floors. Then levels 8, 9, and 10 are mostly levels 5, 3, and 1, but in reverse!
The second half of the game is a bit of a mess. The levels are either confusing, plain bad, or just the first half of the game in reverse, all featuring an enemy faction that isn't anywhere near as interesting to fight. It can definitely feel like a bit of a slog, at times.
But, I do still like this game. The Flood might not be as interesting as the Covenant, but they are still fun to blast apart. The levels might be frustratingly dull, but the combat encounters they contain are always exciting. Halo Combat Evolved is still a great tune, and still as important as ever for the genre, it just isn't as perfect as my nostalgia often describes it to be.
It would be interesting if Miyazaki did a level layout remix for Halo:CE.
On topic, got a late start on the final QuickDraw pass in RDO. Was meaning to pick up the Naturalist role when it was discounted but that time has passed. Oh well. I’m already half way through the pass after a couple hours or so. Bagged one of the newer legendary bounties, Gene “Beau” Finley which was pretty fun to try out my new explosive express anmo and dynamite arrows on the dozens of Lemoyne raiders holed up in Shady Belle. Also got the deluxe campfire which when combined with the efficient cooking skill makes crafting a relative breeze next to the story mode version.