Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halo and Stuff

I was driving home from class today and on KMNR (college radio that I'm a part of) I heard a fellow DJ playing the textbook Halo theme on-air. This reminded me that I promised myself and maybe a few others who couldn't care less about my opinion that I'd write somewhat of a review of Halo: Reach, the newest title in the Halo series and last one ever handled by Bungie before their breakaway from Microsoft. So, yes... I played it. Brace for long discussion.

These guys have cooler armor than the fanboy fave Master Chief
A little bit of background first. Before playing Reach, I had only played the first 2 Halo games. I didn't touch 3 , ODST, or Halo: Wars. This was mainly because I felt like after a while they were just milking the Halo name for all that it was worth while fanboys proclaimed Halo to be the greatest game in existence ever. I didn't buy that shit and felt that Halo was only popular because it was the first semi-decent FPS on a console. PC shooters had it beat with titles like Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena. Halo was beta-trash gameplay wise in my eyes. So I went into this playthrough of Halo: Reach not expecting much different. It was Halo with updated graphics and different characters. So let me start off on a good note...

Reach was, out of any Halo game I'd played, the best one. Was it absolutely jaw-dropping and balls-to-the-wall amazing? Nah. Was it fun to play through casually? Yeah, I'd say so. It *almost* made me do a double take and play through Halo 3 and ODST to see what I'd missed as far as the culture goes, but I didn't, and won't do so. Reach kind of gave me a little glimmer of hope for Bungie. They actually managed to make their last game good and go out with a bang - sortof.

I started this post off with a mention of the music - Halo's main theme - the one you've all played on Guitar Hero or Cock Band, or whatever. In my opinion, that's where Halo shines. It's music is catchy and elevating, and gets you into the game. Even the main title screen (although it was a different theme) was good. Music score +1. We need more games with music like Halo.  However, there were some parts in the game that music could have been utilized better, or more often, because I often found myself just trotting around as Noble 6 without even so much as background noise - filler music - nothing. It was either all on or dead quiet sometimes. I like background music, even if it's just ambient piano or something.

The gameplay mechanics haven't changed much for Halo. You run around, you jump ridiculously high, you unload at aliens, the works. I won't tell you how the cookie cutter FPS formula works. You can customize your armor, which is nice if you really want to make your Spartan look like a black wall of death with a gun, or a pansy with pink unicorn armor, but the armor you can unlock by earning credits through both single and online play don't really do anything for you other than change how you look. Why not? If I unlocked SuperBadassHelmetOfSex, I'd want it to automatically headbutt anyone who wasn't wearing said helmet's skulls into gewey mush. Or at least a shield upgrade... whatever. And why do I get to wear all this badass looking armor, while the supposed hero of the Halo series, Master Chief, has just relatively plain looking (in comparision) green armor?

The story was much more interesting than the other games I'd played, where instead of "Chief, go here, do this, save world", it was more of a team focus. Bungie tried to give you a team to communicate with and relate to, which is nice, but they don't really make me feel so attached, since you know how the game ends right when you start. Reach is a lost planet - Noble team loses. The simple fact of knowing you lost before it even begins is kind of cool. However, I think Bungie kind of broke the story, or at least bent their own rules by the end of the game, pretty much ruining the whole "Master Chief is the last surviving Spartan" thing that they'd been running with since the original game. No, you don't live (after-credits playable scene was cool), but they allude that someone else does. Someone not the chief. When I finished the campaign, I was glad I gave it a chance, but not completely awestruck. I wasn't disappointed - I had fun. And that's what games are for.

I have to bitch about the graphics. They don't seem to have come too far since the original Halo. The environments and everything in the distance looks nice, but for some reason the character models and anything in your immediate view still look dated and clay-ish. Also, I really could not stand the forced motion blur every time something in my field of view moved - at least give me the option to turn off motion blur rather than making me get used to it (which I did, but still... ).

Oh, the multiplayer? Yeah, I played a little bit of it in my brief rental of the game. It was Halo, complete with screaming 12-year-olds and teabagging and really only interested me when I was drunk. I liked the firefight mode though. I still don't understand why people think the multi-player on Halo is so orgasmically great compared to any other FPS.

I'm not gonna give this a score. But do I think it deserves the 9.5/10 or 10's that it's been getting overall? No, I don't think it's that close to perfection. But it was enough fun that I'll probably buy it when it's on the used rack for like $30 or somethin, since it was better than the other Halo titles... Take that as you will.

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