Friday, May 14, 2010

My Letter To Bungie About Halo Reach

Halo 1: Combat Evolved - I remember opening my christmas present and seeing this attached with my xbox, thinking that it was just another "we're trying to promote this game by giving it away free with the console" - game. Turns out it wasn't. Halo 1 was an entirely new gaming experience, giving us a vast world to run and explore while fighting off hordes of aliens threatening human existence. After being released in close-quarters combat as the only Spartan left, you are thrown down to a huge alien world in which you must fight your way further into the enemy stronghold.

You didn't stop here, however. Halo 1 also offered multiplayer. I remember complaining that it didn't have simulates like one of my favorite FPS games Perfect Dark®, but this didn't matter to anyone because "the graphics are so amazing!" Then came the discovery of the LAN party. This was by no means the first game to ever use LAN, but it was the first console game with those kinds of graphics that did. Staying up until unknown hours of the night, secluded in two different rooms in the house, with 2 T.V.s, 2 Xboxes, 8 remotes, a LAN cable that we drilled a hole in the wall for just so we could be in separate rooms, and a whole hell of a lot of screaming at one another. And it still continued.

The LAN games were just the beginning. By using the incredible edible internet (RvB reference here), users were able to download, much to the dismay of Xbox and the slowly developing "Xbox Live®," Xbox Connect, or XBC. XBC was used by those clever enough to scour the internet for it, and get it set up (relatively easy). This gave Halo 1 an incredible jump on every other game that was being released. XBC would soon support many other games besides Halo, but Halo still remains the most prominently used game.

Pistol kill after pistol kill, the game never, to this day, has never gotten boring. Kill or be killed, headshot after headshot, the winner was the one who had more gaming skill. Skill... something that apparently means little to those trying to make a good online FPS nowadays. Halo: Combat Evolved changed the gaming world and set a whole new book of standards for the hardcore and everyday gamers.

Halo 2 - The anticipation killed us, we woke up each day wishing it was November 9th, 2004. Xbox live was up and booming, and the game of many people's dreams was about to hit the market. Halo 2, the sequel to one of the most revolutionary games of the decade, is released in stunning numbers. 8.46 million copies sold as of today, a stunning number for an original Xbox game.

Halo 2 brought us the BR, and along with that, the BxR, BxB, double shot, quad shot, super bounce, and so many blue screeners that we didn't know what to do with ourselves. But we put up with the cheaters, the stand-byers, the host boosters, the circle boosters, the modders, and so many other atrocities, and we continued to play; play for that notorious colored number next to our names.

Before the first rank reset, the notorious number was 21, I got to a 21 and was so proud of myself because that took about 300 wins in a row, somehow without playing modders every other game. We worked so hard for that, memorizing levels, perfecting BxRs and quad shots, only to have our ranks erased. This was, of course, to erase the ranks of the cheaters as well, but none of us cared because the game was still fun.

The new reset came with an easier ranking system, one that was still impossible to legitimately reach the top, but much easier than the last one. We played our hearts out, both having fun and trying every game, only getting upset when you had to wait for that blue screen to go away and see your flag 20 feet from the enemy's score point.

But...we...stayed.... We took all the battering and cheating, and continued to play the game again and again, and until the servers were shut down, I continued to play the game; not just for the memories, not just for kicks and giggles, I went back and played the game (just like I still play Halo 1), for the love of the game.

Halo 3 - After being teased with the beta for a few weeks, people would have given their left lung to get an early copy of Halo 3. Finally, on 9/25/2007, the release of the 3rd game in a series of (so far) perfect games is released. I will not mention the campaign at this point, for we know that these games will continue to have excellent campaign missions. The difference here was with the change to the multiplayer. Halo 3 slowed down the combat a tiny bit, to allow for more equal play amongst players. This allowed the "n00bs" to have a better chance against the elite players. The BxRs and all those glitches were taken care of, the modders and stand-byers were banned and handled appropriately, and we could once again enjoy playing the game.

A new ranking system was introduced, one that let those who dominated show their skills as Generals and recruits were easily identified. The new system also allowed matchmaking to be a little more fair, where instead of completely random pairings for matches, players were typically matched up against other players near their skill range.

You may notice that the review becomes less in depth at this point, and it is to demonstrate what I am getting at here.

Halo: ODST - A game created on the side of the typical Halo series where, instead of playing as the Master Chief, you are an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper who must do his best to protect the city before help arrives. Many people did not enjoy the game, but I thought the campaign was very well formed, and it somewhat reminded me of Halo 1, where the covenant are tough SOBs and you have to watch your back because you can die fairly easily. The heath-pack system returned and the game became much more fun for anyone who likes a game where it's not just run and gun. The element of hiding before you attack, and coordinated cooperative attacks with friends on the big enemies makes the game much more enjoyable.

ODST, besides a very new campaign environment, brought us the firefight mode. Firefight pits you (and if you like, your friends) against an infinite amount of invading covenant forces. Struggling to make it to the end of a round, or having no ammo and being forced to sneak attack an elite in order to get his gun, are things that made Halo 1 so much fun. Although the firefight mode is limited, and you cannot usually play for too long without some friends backing you up, it is a great addition to the Halo series and should be credited as such.

Halo Reach - We'll get to this in a bit. I got one of the early beta codes and have been playing it for a few weeks now. After the initial hype went away for it, I began to realize something.

First, a brief recap.
Halo 1 - Perfect. We continue to play.

Halo 2 - Promised that it would be like Halo 1, but it dramatically changing the play of Halo 1, only keeping the basic element of kill or be killed. A game that, although there were many, many cheaters, we continued to play.

Halo 3 - Promised it would be more like Halo 1, but it didn't even come close. Although the game was made more "friendly" for those who weren't particularly good at it, it was nothing like Halo 1; we continued to play.

Halo ODST - Promised to give us more of a Halo 1 feel, which it did, but there was NO MULTIPLAYER besides firefight, which had nothing to do with playing against other people - the thing that made Halo 1 so spectacular. But.... we continued to play.

Halo Reach - Promised it would be more like Halo 1, the beta shows this isn't happening.

I have continued to play, and I have continued to expect you, Bungie, to recreate the game that got you where you are today, but you have not done so. I have waited and waited for you to realize that people who played the original Halo game are the ones who got your company where it is now, and that we have expected you to continue to give us a reason to purchase your games. You have not.

I am writing this message to tell you that you have failed to recreate the game that first got me interested, you have failed to create a game that lives up to even half of the original Halo 1's reputation, you have created games, not for the hardcore gamers who love to play them, but more for those who are discouraged by playing games that are too tough, or games that don't hold their hand while they play. The Halo games, as they are now, although they require skill to play, have been toned down and simplified, items and options added, and transformed into games that nearly anyone can pick up and play with the big boys.

I congratulate you for creating games that seem more appealing to those who don't enjoy losing just because they're worse than their opponents. The games you are creating aid those who aren't as skilled, giving them a much better chance of victory, thus making the game more enjoyable. The more enjoyable you make a game for people, the more people who will purchase it, I understand that and I am glad you strive for this. The problem is how you're making the game more fun, you're making it more fun by making it easier for the people who aren't good at the game.

I conclude with this:
Thank you for the creation of Halo 1, 2, and ODST. 3 and Reach have been steps too far, and with the newest release (Reach), you will be losing the interest of many people who have longed for a recreation of Halo 1: Combat Evolved.

I hope you receive this, and receive it well. Please inform me when you create the Halo 1 type of game that so many of us long for and have been promised will come.

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