Monday, September 27, 2010

Halo - Is it me you're looking for?

Peow. Peow. Whumph-whumph-whumph.  Dakkadakkadakkadakka.  "Incoming!".  Dakkadakkadakka.  Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.  BOOOOOM.  "Shit!".

That, ladies and gentlemen, is just a brief transcription of me playing Halo Reach on the toughest skill level of "Legendary".  A difficulty level that makes Demons Souls and Braid look like Duck Tales on the SNES.

Halo Reach is Bungies last game in the Halo Franchise; a prologue that tells the last days of the planet Reach and the destruction of humanities last (but one) hope, the Spartan Super-soldiers.  You play Noble 6, the newest recruit to Noble team.  Your colleagues are a cliched bunch of action hero types; the sarcastic one, the clever one, the heavy weapon one.  They're such generic cyphers that I struggle to remember their names; they're probably Zack, Dirk, Hank, etc - a proper selection from the Puffin Bumper book of Action Hero names.  They're supposedly the last hope for Reach, but you're the only one that really does any work. In missions where you're accompanying them, they'll happily stand on the sidelines happily taking the odd shot but contribute little other than that - It's like you're the Spartan YTS guy; given all the dirty jobs.  I'm supposed none of the missions entail you having to ask for a long weight or being sent to suppliers for a glass hammer.

The single player campaign is epic in scope, moving back to the huge vistas (and multiple approaches) of Halo: Combat Evolved as opposed to the others in the series (Halo 2 in particular) that almost became corridor shooters.  Your time in Noble Team will be spent assaulting huge Covenant bases, dogfighting in outer space and prowling around enemy infested cities - Unfortunately, we all know it won't end well.  The very fact that Master Chief is the only Spartan alive at the start of Halo: Combat Evolved means that you shouldn't go making any long term plans; I.e. booking a holiday or the like.

On Heroic skill level (one above "Normal") the campaign is difficult enough - However, as mentioned in the opening paragraph, on Legendary it's an exercise in terror.  Even the enemies you typically found cannon fodder will attack you with deadly accuracy and new found vigour.  Fights against anything other than grunts become long drawn out wars of attrition, and it's a proper challenge - albeit a frustrating one.

The campaign will last a half decent player about six hours or so, but it seems to be the multiplayer where Bungie have really put the effort in - There's enough to keep a player busy for months.  The ranking system lets you earn credit for playing games to buy new armour pieces to customise your character; judging by this alone, it'll be around six months of playing before I can even afford a new pair of in-game fingerless gloves.

Overall, a very worthy conclusion to Bungies contribution to the series.  Although slightly worrying that now another company is taking it over, Microsoft have been quoted as saying they think three years is too long between Halo releases and will like to see the time between games released to just a year.  I feel that as more Halo games come out, the quality will drop dramatically.  Halo Reach may be the last truly great Halo game if Microsoft have their way.

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