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More on Halo: Reach

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 12 Oct 2010 12:00
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Response to the Halo: Reach video was in some ways predictable, but in other ways less so. What was predictable was the inevitable cry of foul because I have no interest in multiplayer. Co-op is one thing, but that's basically just single player with a ball and chain (and if you've never gotten that impression of co-op, it's because you're the ball and chain). But as for competitive multiplayer, I'm sorry, I just don't see the appeal of playing the same maps over and over again to find out which one out of you is the best at whatever it is you're doing. That's not why I'm into gaming. Call me antisocial.

"I still think that saying 'a game has to stand up on single player alone' is a very silly statement. So is the quality of an MMO diminished because there's no mode to grind quests by yourself?"
- ProfessorLayton (not the real one)

But MMOs do have modes to grind quests by yourself. In an MMO like World of Warcraft you're in a huge playing environment and can take whatever experience you want from it. It's not like Halo where you have to fanny about with lobbies and logistics and getting everyone on the same server - all the other players are already there incidentally. I did most of WoW single player, only partying when quests were too hard for little ol' me all by my lonesome. The only parts I'd classify as multiplayer are raids and those team deathmatch things you have to queue up for like fucking fairground rides. But I digress.

What was less predictable about the Halo: Reach responses was that everyone seemed surprised I didn't rip on it more. I guess its timing was good. It caught me during a time when I'm having a big negative phase for "realistic" games with all that tiresome cover-based shooting, and anything with the slightest retro lilt is refreshing. Even if Halo is only retro because it has refused to update its core gameplay in any way in the last nine years.

But I did notice a few responses from Halo fanboys who made declarations along the lines that I am in total agreement with them and think Halo: Reach is great. As if criticism is only about giving some kind of binary yes or no, with everything that gets rescued from the big sucking drain being of equal merit. That's definitely not the impression I want anyone going away with. The kindest thing I can say (and indeed did say) about Halo: Reach is that it's basically inoffensive. It'll certainly pass the time and it even has a few fleeting impressive moments, but I'd be very surprised if I even remember it at the end of the year, let alone stick it in the Top Five.

It's adequate, that's all. Mediocre. Halo remains what it has always been to me: strictly rent-only - at best. But in the interest of clarifying my position, here are some more reasons why it didn't set my pants alight.

As I said, the gameplay is the same as always. There is that one brief space combat mission, but I refuse to call it a new element added to the Halo formula because the Halo formula is still there, unchanged, with the space combat being nothing more than an interlude. It's woven into the gameplay in the same way a commercial break is woven into the story of this week's Inspector Morse. As for the formula itself it's a sparse, nuts-and-bolts kind of first-person shooter, with the same enemies, weapons and vehicles in each game, and light on anything one could call a puzzle or a boss fight. The physics tend to have a floaty feel to them, especially where the main character is concerned. I'm led to understand from ancillary media that a Spartan warrior in full armor is supposed to weigh, like, a ton. Bollocks he does. He jumps around like he's tied to a weather balloon. And those flying vehicles never seem to have any trouble taking off when you (or, indeed, several Spartans) are on board, and all I see are helicopter propellors, not magic fairy wands.

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