Are you a fan of the Halo series? Are you curious as to what people think about the newest addition? Are you frustrated with Halo Reach and can’t figure out why, or wondering if anybody else is as flustered as you? Are you bored and want to read a well thought out post about a game that sold millions of copies on the Xbox 360? I can tell you that I considered Halo Reach to be a disappointment and it’s not because I had high expectations. If you answered yes to any of the opening questions, or even if you didn’t but you would still like to know why I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the highly anticipated installment,
I will admit that I was as anxious for Halo Reach as much as anyone. I played Halo: Combat Evolved when I got my first xbox and instantly fell in love with this amazing first person shooter (FPS) series. I then played Halo 2 and remember matchmaking over Xbox Live for the first time. The number of hours that I spent playing that game can never be counted, and it’s probably better off that way. My friends and I killed an unbelievable number of days by playing Halo 2, against each other, against noobs on Xbox Live, against the AI (artificial intelligence) in the campaign, and if I was given the chance to go back to those Halo 2 days, I wouldn’t have changed any of that. I actually made some close friends thanks to Halo 2, friends that I would consider some of the greatest to this very day. Then, September 25, 2007, Halo 3 was released, and it was all I could think about. I can still remember fatso784 and I sitting in the back of our Honors Algebra 2 class going nuts as we talked about all of the things we were going to do in the game when we got home from school. We played through the campaign on normal to take it all in, only to do a run through on Legendary difficulty to get all the achievements and bragging rights. I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually found a game that I played more than Halo 2. My friends and I played matchmaking all day sometimes, but to quote Bertrand Russel, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted”. I had also been following Major League Gaming (MLG http://www.majorleaguegaming.com) – a competitive league that revolved entirely around video games, with Halo 2 being the flagship game when I started watching – since the 2006 season. I began playing MLG gametypes in Halo 3 and getting really involved with the league, following every team change, watching every tournament via live stream, and even contemplating competing myself. It’s something that I wish I would have considered more, something my friends still remind me of to this day, and they all think I should have. Where I would have placed… who knows? I know I played with some of the best from time to time, but when you get on stage in front of a crowd of people, with even more watching online, and then you’re reminded that you’re playing for $100,000, anything could happen.
But then I had to go to college. I stopped playing video games all the time. I stopped following MLG for the most part. I even considered not purchasing Halo Reach because I was unsure about how much I would actually be playing it. But I couldn’t do it. I knew it was a part of the Halo series, a series I had grown to love over the last 7 years or so. So on the night of September 13, 2010, a friend and I sat outside the Gamestop on campus to anxiously wait for the midnight release of Halo Reach. Finally, around 12:15 AM September 14, I had a copy of Halo Reach in my hands. I ran back to my dorm room, through the disc in my Xbox 360, and immediately began playing the game I’d been longing for. I didn’t put the controller down the entire night. I eventually turned off the game to get ready for my first class of the day. I almost fell asleep in that microeconomics class about a dozen times, but it didn’t matter to me that I was sleep deprived. I got out of that class, hurried back to my dorm, and played the rest of the day. Nothing was going to ruin my day. NOTHING. I loved Bungie’s (http://www.bungie.net) newest game. But then I started playing a little bit more, getting slightly more serious, and getting more and more annoyed. This is the meat and potatoes of this post. These are the reasons I can barely stand playing Halo Reach anymore:
- Reticule Bloom: Originally, I thought this was an interesting idea for the Halo series. I told myself that it would increase the skill gap in the game. It would separate the top tier players from the amateurs by forcing them to time their shots to guarantee accuracy. Boy was I wrong. All this implements is pure randomness. I was really pumped for the new gun in this game, the Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR), which replaced the classic Halo weapon, the Battle Rifle (BR). It didn’t take long though before I began despising this weapon. Five shots placed on an enemy’s head is supposed to kill them. Too bad by the time you shoot your 5th bullet, your reticule has so much bloom that the bullet could hit anywhere within a 5 meter diameter target. The counter to this of course is to time your shots slower. Excellent idea right? WRONG! If you take your time to fire your shots, you’re guaranteed to die because your opponent will land their finishing blow thanks to a stray bullet from their 7th pull of the trigger. If I had a dollar for every time I died from another player spamming their DMR shots, I would be a grossly rich man. With that being said, reticule bloom must be taken out of this series ASAP. It doesn’t benefit the game at all other than Bungie being able to say they have added another new feature.
- Explosions: I want to know who created the new explosions for Halo Reach. The blast radius on the grenades and rockets is absolutely unbelievable. In Halo 3, if a grenade was thrown at your feet, if you were alert enough, you had a chance of running far enough away that you would take minimal damage, if any at all. If a grenade lands directly in front of you in Halo Reach, you may as well stick your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye. There is no way to escape these explosive projectiles in this game. They hit far too much of an area and cause more damage than necessary. And rockets are even worse somehow! If a rocket makes its impact even remotely close to you, that’s it, you’re respawning. These weapons are clearly broken and make playing painful. They need to be toned down immediately!
- Armor Abilities: I cannot stand these developers dumbing down games. Every single FPS is beginning to look exactly like its competitor. It’s like fans aren’t even expected to think any more. In Halo Reach, Bungie has actually found a way to encourage poor decision making in game. What’s that, you ran into 3 enemies? No problem! Just sprint out of there and act like nothing ever happened. Need to get to higher elevation to get the upper hand on your opponent? Well technically, you should either take the given path or make a skillful jump that takes a little bit of practice, or I guess we can just give you a jet pack to use… It’s really sickening. These armor abilities are ruining the game! Countless times I have found myself in a DMR fight with an enemy, I make him one shot, he turns around and sprints away. Combine that with the ridiculous amount of bloom on my reticule and it is impossible to kill him. Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how frustrating that it? If you play Halo Reach, I know for a fact you do. Don’t even get me started about the other armor abilities either. Armor lock? Granting players a few moments of invincibility by sacrificing movement? Somebody truly thought that would be a good idea. Nobody saw this being exploited by an entire team? I cannot believe how much Bungie has dropped the ball on this one. But as long as Call of Duty (shutters) has perks and such, all other games will feel obligated to place them in there. Why? I don’t know. Bungie had an amazing fan base built up before Halo Reach. A fan base that also contained a very competitive segment, a segment that would have given anything for another typical Halo game with great balance. Instead, they were given something that feels sloppy and cheap. If the Call of Duty series is really that wonderful, why is there a new one every year? Oh yeah, to keep the fan base entertained because they get sick of the current one so fast. Bungie was always known for making quality games. They went years without putting out a new title because all of their customers were still satisfied. Why would they start following the Call of Duty model now is beyond me, but I can assure you that there are very few who are happy because of this decision.
- Active Camo: The first time I picked this up in Halo Reach I had no idea what was going on. I was wondering why it was wearing off so fast. Apparently the new active camo is dependent upon how fast you are moving. Lemme tell you this, I consider active camo to be fairly useless now because of that. I don’t rush it at the beginning of games anymore, I don’t think competitors worry about the opposition getting active camo like they used to. In Halo 3, if you picked up active camo, there was a decent chance you were going to get 3+ kills with it. In Halo Reach, active camo feels more like a burden. You’re forced to walk ever so slowly if you want it to have any effect, and to optimize its ability, you must stand completely still. Why would you want to promote stand stills in a game? Who wants to play a game just waiting around a corner for another player to walk by, even if that means just staring at a screen and not doing anything for 6 minutes straight? I don’t know, but I can tell you that it’s not competitive players. It’s also not viewers of competitive gameplay. These groups of people want constant action. Nobody wants to be part of a standoff. It’s boring to play, it’s boring to watch, and most importantly, it’s not fun. In the end, that’s what video games are all about, having fun.
- Ranking System: Another example of dumbing down the game Call of Duty style. Back in Halo 2 and Halo 3, you used to battle for a ranking number that was displayed aside your name in the matchmaking lobby. A number that gave you a decent idea of what skill level players were on. In Halo Reach, Bungie decided that they would eliminate this number, and your ranking would be based purely on experience. Not a horrible idea, but here’s the catch: you receive experience regardless of a win or a loss. Thus, in theory, the very worst and best Halo Reach players could have the same exact rank. This is similar to the Call of Duty series where you are granted experience no matter the outcome of the game, thus allowing any Jow Schmoe to get the highest tier of accolades. Now, I’ll give Bungie some credit here. I would have to imagine the reason behind this was to prevent the hacking and selling of accounts that had a 50 (the highest ranking in both Halo 2 and Halo 3). They also said that players have a Trueskill system that matches similarly skilled players against one another, and each player has a Trueskill still, it just isn’t displayed publicly. I find this fairly hard to believe based on opponents and teammates that I have been matched with, but I suppose everyone gets unlucky from time to time. But still, this ranking system is just an attempt to make everyone a winner. But let us remember here, that without losers, there are no such things as winners.
- Bleed Through Damage: Finally, my final point in this rant, bleed through damage, or should I say the lack thereof. Nothing annoys me more in Halo Reach than this new breed of players whose play style revolves around sprinting at their opponent to get a quick melee, only to follow it up with another melee for a finishing blow. How is this possible you may ask? I’ll tell you how. Bungie has designed this game so that if your player has ANY shields left, even if it’s just the tiniest sliver, and that player gets smacked, the hit will completely pop his shields, but his health will remain untouched. Now this makes a very unbalanced scenario. For example, say a player is rushing at me. I’ve shot him 3 times in the head with my DMR before he gets in close quarters with me. I’ve been hit once by one of his teammates. This player melees me and I melee him in return. We know both have no shields and full health. But how is this fair? That player was hit 3 times prior to our close quarters assault, I was only hit 1 time. However, now we are both at the same amount of shields and health. This is a horrible balancing job. What’s the point of even shooting another player if you’re running at each other and you know you’re both going to end up no shields and full health? What needs to happen is Bungie needs to bring back the old melee system. The one from Halo 2 and Halo 3. The one where if a player was low enough shields, your melee killed him. It didn’t just deplete all of his shields and allow him to stand there requiring another shot to finish him off. That system made sense! That melee system gave incentive to shoot your opponent before going in for a hit because if you were able to take out enough of his shields before getting there, you would be rewarded with a kill. I have no idea why Bungie switched what seemed like a nearly perfect function of their series, but I can confidently say that it was a horrible decision to do so.