Halo Month, Part 3

I’m painfully old-school sometimes, so normally I write blog posts in a plain text editor and copy/paste them into the WordPress editor. Today I’m testing Word/Wordpress integration so I apologize in advance if things are messed up.

I’m in the final stretch of Halo’s Bungie years. I played through Halo 3: ODST, read “Halo: Evolutions” and watched “Halo: Legends” and just started Halo: Reach.

I’m not sure why I feel the need to put quotation marks around book and movie titles but not around game titles. It’s bugging me that not everything has quotes around it, but it looks awful if it’s all one way or the other. I should probably edit this out, or get back to talking about Halo.

So. Halo 3: ODST, the Halo Game Where You Don’t Play As A Spartan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this game is really where the book lore starts heavily seeping into the games without very much explanation. The ODSTs are in Halo Wars, but not really talked about much, and stuff like biofoam and the Engineer race were straight-up printed-page-only material until they appeared on-screen here. It does cheat a little with the lore. ODSTs should not have shield technology, and they don’t TECHNICALLY have shields in this… but you do have a “Stamina” bar that works exactly like a shield.

I had a fair bit of trouble with ODST on my first playthrough, back in 2010 or so. I felt really squishy, as it were, and I remember dying an awful lot. That wasn’t the case this time around – apart from one late-game segment where you’re trapped in a very small space with a Brute Chieftain with a gravity hammer, I really didn’t go horizontal too often. I think it’s a game that rewards patient approaches to encounters, and I’ve gotten a lot more patient with games.

It doesn’t hurt that the enemies seem much faster to fall over in this game than in previous games. One of the things that frustrated me with Halo 2, in particular, is that your opponents are very spongy and just seem to suck up a ton of punishment before dying. The Covenant forces in ODST weren’t nearly as painful to deal with – with the exception of Hunters, of course, which are just my least favorite enemies in any of the Halo games so far. There’s never a sense of accomplishment after I’m done with a Hunter fight, just a weariness and a hope that I don’t see them again for a while.

Along with the enjoyable gunplay, ODST has a very different atmosphere from your typical Halo excursion. Rather than playing one character for the entire game, or swapping between two as in Halo 2, the game has you jumping into the perspective of five different characters, with levels designed to encourage very different play styles. There’s a sniper level, a “drive around in tanks” level, a particularly notable level where you are fighting a slow retreat to keep data out of the hands of the Covenant and escape, a flight level, and so on. Some of these are daytime, some set at night, all of them are very distinct things.

I’m a big fan, I think is the short version, and I should probably just stop here so I can get on to briefly ranting about the other Halo media I went through in the last couple of days, none of which I liked all that much.

Halo: Evolutions and Halo: Legends are both collections of short stories set in the Halo universe. Evolutions is marked by something of an overuse of the Heroes Heroically Sacrificing Themselves For The Mission trope, and I just got a little tired of all of the Heroic Sacrifice. I did enjoy “The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole” and “The Return”, but I’m not sure it was worth reading a 400 page book for two enjoyable short stores.

Likewise, Legends really suffers from Downer Ending Syndrome. It tries to lighten things up with a downright wacky story detailing the exploits of “SPARTAN-1337”, so at least ONE of the people writing the shorts didn’t get the memo that everyone should die tragically, but… well, I had a hard time sticking with it, until about 15 minutes before the end.

15 minutes before the end is where you see “The Package: Directed by Shinji Aramaki” and that’s where any fan of a certain age will sit up and pay attention. I won’t spoil anything, but if you like Macross-style ridiculous missile barrages, you will be well-served by The Package.

So… well, I had a hard time with most of Halo: Legends, but mostly because I had a hard time getting in to the mood for Everyone Dies And It’s All Pointless. For the most part, the games are just so much more hopeful than the extended-universe stuff.

This was, of course, just the perfect mood to go into Halo: Reach with, since that game IS a game about everyone dying at the end. It also marks the return of some really ridiculous bullet-sponge enemies – Elites, in particular, seem to be color-coded depending on how much damage they can soak up, and if you don’t happen to have a plasma weapon the silver elites are just a drag to fight. Really kind of tempted to skip this one, but… well, I’m only a couple of levels in. Maybe it will pick up.

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