Of Spartans and Men - Gaming Thoughts

Taking a little bit of “me” time recently, I finally decided to load up Halo’s The Master Chief Collection that I had picked up with my Xbox One a few years back. Replaying the first two with their upgrades and their new scenes, the third, and ODST that I had never played, and Bungie really did make a hell of a series. While having started off as nothing more than another first person shooter, Halo set the bar and become revolutionary for first person shooters. Adding in sequels that have held some rather strong narratives between the spin off of ODST and the prequel that was Reach was just bonus alongside a continually refined gameplay that made the campaigns just as fun as the multiplayer.

I just wish that Reach would be added into the Master Chief Collection like ODST has been.

A man of many words, Halo’s Sierra 117, Master Chief knows how to get an entire room to listen. Just a little more than a silent protagonist, John has jumped from one ship to another riding a bomb that he was returning to enemy forces. He’s jumped through portals in order to stop the prophets from launching their attacks. Hell, he’s even ridden nothing more than his combat suit in an atmospheric drop down to the ground because the ship came apart. He’s rough, he’s tough, he’s a Spartan. It takes a lot of effort to take one out as the enemies of Reach’s squad found out first hand.

So when you’re that strong, when you can essentially punch alien races in the face and end their lives to conserve ammo, how do you go about switching the scenario to be nothing more than a couple humans fighting for their lives? You’ve seen the troops die left and right beside you, they have armor sure but not power armors. They don’t have giant shields and casings to hide behind. The Spartans, like in ancient Greece, are the best of the best. These are Humanity’s elite and it shows as just the Master Chief sparks fear into his enemies as they have called him the demon. So when you finally take control of a human soldier, the enemies that seemed so easy and dispatchable are scary as hell and you’ll have to pick your way forward carefully.

The change in ODST was really neat and I’m a bit sad that I hadn’t played it up until two weeks ago. While I’m pretty sure that it was a test case for Reach, they play out fairly different from one another as in Reach, you’re at least a Spartan. Taking control of a Rookie in the ODST, Orbital Descent Shock Troopers, you land rather harshly into the city of New Mombasa which is where the Master Chief in Halo 3 will zoom through on the way to the Covenant's excavation site. In your case however, you’ve crash landed away from your team, alone, and in the dark when you finally wake up from the nasty crash that you took. Heading into the city to hopefully find other members of your team and however else is still left fighting off the alien invasion, you’re going to need to tread lightly as the Brute can crush you in a heartbeat.

The shift into playing as a human was big. Going back to having to heal up was a neat touch though the sound chimes under a certain health percentage could have been passed on. Having a shield system helps but it doesn’t last long as it’s only designed to take a few hits. Especially after having gone through Halo 1-2-3, having to remember to take things slow and not pick large fights was just the start of the changes. I’ll be honest, yes I went up to a Brute and punched it in the face. Was it smart? HELL NO as his buddy crushed me flat. Being a plain old human this time around changes it up as a sort of hard mode in a sense.

What really made ODST shine though wasn’t being put into a human’s shoes for a day, as it really is a day or two in game. Where it shines is that it’s a non-linear approach to the events of the invasion. Having to search the city for your squad mates you’ll come across logs of people trying to get out of the city which gives you a more realistic view into the state of things. While also searching for them you’ll come across pieces of hardware or equipment and by hacking into the CCTV (Closed Circuit TV) feeds, you then play through each of these members’ events as they moved through the city trying to find each other as the mission was pretty much scrapped the second you landed and the commanding officer gone missing in action.

So in effect, there are really two storylines and they mesh really well together as the second doesn’t always answer a question without adding in another one. Are they still alive? Are they dead? How far did they make it? As the rookie you’re on your own and at night it’s fairly tense as you don’t really have the firepower right away to truly make a dent. You’ve got to take it slow, hide, take your enemies out one by one. Eventually though sure, you can storm through if you’re lucky enough to not die, but at that point, you’ve at least got a few people on your side to help.

Having gone from a “on the rails” to a non-linear open space actually worked quite well for the series as it wasn’t just how it was spatially designed. Having changed “you” from a Spartan to a Human added in some atmospheric tension that would never have been present as a Spartan. Sure things can feel tense against the Flood for the first time or two, but it was never a looming threat of dying outright because you literally cannot take a hit. While moving into 343 Industries’ Halo 4 which I’m probably going to have finished by the time of this posting before also finally getting to Halo 5, and Bungie did really well with how they ended off their original saga. I wish I could say that Destiny had the same range but while it doesn’t, it’s slowly getting there.

Article by Pierre-Yves


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