Sunday, May 9, 2010

Halo: Reach

I've never really been a huge fan of the Halo game series.

The first game in the series, Halo: Combat Evolved, was overglorified and overmarketed because Microsoft really didn't have any other good games at the launch of their Xbox console in 2001.  Halo had a few original ideas, but was basically a straightforward game.  It's mostly "run from Point A to Point B whilst shooting all the aliens along the way."  It was also somewhat simplified for the console-gaming crowd.  "Dumbed down," one might say.  For someone like me, a kid who played first-person shooters on the PC, playing Halo was taking two steps down in quality from what I was used to.  I hated it, and was constantly frustrated by the fact that nearly all of my friends were obsessed with it.

Then Halo 2 was announced.  They showed a new trailer of the game, which looked really, really fun.  I was actually getting very excited.  The general consensus among gamers was that Halo 2 would be the greatest single achievement in human history.  Then it came out, and it was... well, it was more Halo.  It didn't exactly fix any of the previous game's problems, and it didn't really make me like it a whole lot more.  Fortunately, by this point, I had played enough of the Halo games (at friends' houses) to actually get pretty good at them, so I could have fun with the game.

By the time Halo 3 rolled around, most of my Halo-playing friends were gone, so I was left to myself as far as that game went.  I loved it.  Really.  Something about the way they'd balanced the overall gameplay and enhanced the visuals made it much more fun to play than its predecessors.  The multiplayer was even better than before, and I really enjoyed it.
Then, over time, it started to get less fun.  Other games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, started to show all the newer and better ways to make first-person shooters work.  In hindsight,  Halo 3 wasn't that great after all.

Now, the beta (preview) of the new game, Halo: Reach, is up and running.  I got to play it yesterday, and... wow, it's really good.
(the below paragraph may make no sense to the non-Halo-initiated)

Something about the way the game is balanced seems to be much better than before. In the multiplayer for Halo 1-3, the individual player didn't have much of any effect on the overall game, but now, with the addition of the new (somewhat limited) special abilities in each loadout (jetpack, sprint, camo, and shield), it really feels like each person in every game has the ability to turn the tide for his/her team.
Example: last night, I was playing CTF with two of my friends. We each had different abilities (they had jetpack and sprint; I had camo), and assaulted the enemy flag room together. My jetpack guy landed right in front of the door and caught the entire enemy team by surprise, while the sprinter ran alongside him from the ground. The two of them managed to move through the room like a wave, clearing it so that I could sneak behind them (while invisible) to snatch the flag. (random note: the flag now has a one-hit-kill melee attack. FUN. :) ) We managed to use our different strengths to their fullest, and safely got the flag home in plenty of time.
That one match has now convinced me that Halo is now, finally, awesome.