Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Replay: Halo - Reach (via Xbox One Backward Compatibility)

So there I was, staring in awe at the latest footage for Call of Duty Infinite Warfare out of E3. In the scene they had, the player would ride a spacecraft, fight through waves of enemies and capital ships, and eventually board one, switching from fighter ship controls to first person shooter in just a few steps.

When I was watching this, I thought it was an innovative scene and something that I haven't experienced before....so it seemed interesting to me.

Then a few weeks after Activision had shown COD:IW, I had installed Halo Reach on my Xbox One. I had finished this game years back and already forgot about most of its campaign missions.

Then I arrive at one mission in the game which was about the same in concept as what COD:IW had shown at E3 2016. Of course, Activision's version was newer and shinier, but Bungie had already pulled off something similar years back, with hardware running on 512MB of RAM (now tiny by today's standards).

Replaying Halo Reach, I realized this game was really trying to merge the 'Modern Warfare' sensibility of games at the time, with the sci-fi fantasy setting of the Halo universe. The 'modern shooter' was becoming incredibly popular and i suppose there were some people who were more interested in playing something that reflected gunfights in the 'real' world (the world now), rather than playing something that had aliens and robots everywhere. It was a major trend at the time of Halo Reach's release that games have some realistic edge, so Halo Reach seemed to me to be a reaction to that.

Playing the campaign again, you get to appreciate all the nice little details Bungie put in this game. They would hint at some backstory about the Spartans, and how they were really for enforcing the rule of law across different planets. You get to meet some regular citizens and they don't exactly like the Spartans; they're seen as an extension of some authoritative hand that seeks to subjugate the colonies on various worlds that the humans had occupied.

You get to meet Spartans other than Master Chief. Honestly, Spartans usually just have the same character, they're just all about duty and getting the job done. You won't get much drama out of them. For me, they stay interesting even with the flat characterization. Most of the time you're shooting things instead of listening to someone lament about their personal situation. Right now I don't have a lot of time to game since I'm getting older, but this immediate and direct approach to gameplay is becoming a lot more appealing to me.

The campaign itself is below 10 hours but I found it long enough. You go to various locations and there are some scenarios which differ from the usual 'get from point A to B' because they introduce some new vehicle or some new method of engaging enemies.

The game lets you use the DMR as the replacement for the battle rifle....though this is technically in the past, so maybe the DMR was the precursor of that weapon. It's alright, but i missed the cadence of the sound of the Halo Battle Rifle in this game.

Okay I said there isn't much drama with the characters, that is true in the sense that you won't hear them crying about the invasion or how hard it is to battle aliens. The drama that IS in this game is how every Spartan dies. Even you. The planet that the game takes place on, Reach, is well known in Halo lore as the place where Master Chief was trained, and also as one of the first planets that the Covenant 'glassed' (basically they rain down plasma on everything, turning everything into 'glass' by superheating it). Watching each Spartan fall were good moments in the game, yes they were sad, but in a sense they were well implemented. You could really get a sense that they were heroes in their own way, fighting a battle that you already know would be a lost cause.

Overall, I enjoyed replaying Halo Reach. This game really has good replay value because the scenarios they put in the levels don't play out the same every time you play it. You get a lot of options in each encounter (as with most Halo games) and that makes every fight fun in its own right. I think if i play it again in a few years in the future, it will still be fun.

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