So we’ve made our way onboard an alien ship and:
If any of you have ever been onboard any kind of naval military vessel, then you know that long, cramped corridors are something of a staple, due to space being at a premium. But those corridors usually have a number of rooms branching off from them, leading to crew quarters, communication rooms, storage facilities, and what have you. This ship doesn’t have any of that. It just has incredibly long hallways that lead only to other hallways in a criss-crossing, gradually sloping pattern that are incredibly inefficient for actually traversing the ship. When we do finally emerge from these tiny corridors we enter into huge, vaulted-ceiling rooms the size of which you’d normally only see in hangar sections of an aircraft carrier. It works okay from a game standpoint as it leads quickly from one encounter to the next, with smaller skirmishes taking place in the hallways and large setpiece battles in more spacious settings like a hangar or the bridge, but it gives you the impression that the ship was designed only for this purpose, and couldn’t ever function as a real, practical vessel.
I mentioned earlier how Halo makes a good use of color in its environments, but they also do a good job of color-coding their enemies. Tier 1 elites are blue, Tier 2 are red, and Tier Overpowered Melee Bastards are gold. The Covenant as a whole use a purple color scheme to differentiate them from the UNSC grey-green motif. In works of visual fiction this is good as it creates clear distinctions between the good guys and bad guys. If you’ve ever seen a movie where the ships/vehicles/soldiers/whatever of both sides look visually similar then you know that any kind of combat sequence involving them quickly devolves into a hectic, indecipherable mess. If you can’t pick out individual sides during a battle sequence then you don’t feel involved and all sense of tension is pretty much destroyed. As such, the Covenant purple motif, in conjuction with their much sleeker design when compared to the boxy UNSC ships, is a very welcome design element. That doesn’t change the fact that I find myself perpetually amused by the idea that somewhere in a Covenant shipyard there’s a flamboyant Navy officer demanding that every surface of their ships be coated in bright purple paint.
Another minor complaint: the Covenant have, up through now, been portrayed as not particularly eager to take prisoners. Literally your first introduction to an alien is them bursting in on that technician who controls your head and gunning him down, despite him being completely unarmed and not any kind of threat whatsoever. Yet the whole reason I’m on this ship now is to rescue the Navy Captain they apparently took hostage after the crash. I suppose they could have captured him in an attempt to coerce the location of Earth out of him, but it seems like they could do that with virtually anybody, and with people less likely to be trained to resist torture. Maybe there’s something about this universe’s method of space travel that would prevent grunts or junior officers from knowing Earth’s coordinates, but we the player don’t know that for sure and so it really just feels like this guy’s still alive only because he’s still got his plot armor on. As to why a a whole rifle squad is still alive and imprisoned with him I also can’t explain but whatever.
So after rescuing the Captain, he and the other marines loot weapons off the dead Covenant and help you fight your way back to the hangar bays so you can hijack a ship and get out of dodge. Normally I’d appreciate having an escort charge that can look after himself, but in this instance it really just makes him a target. As soon as the Covenant realize that the Captain is hauling around a pulse rifle, they start shooting at him, seemingly with a higher priority than they afford me. It’s not often that I complain about enemies not shooting me enough but geez; leave the poor guy alone, he’s wearing dress whites.
Like the Saints Row 3 menu screens.
The name of the Covenant ship was given as the Truth and Reconciliation. That’s like something the overly-enthusiastic guy at the D&D table names his sword in his three-page backstory ripped from the pages of an R. A. Salvatore novel.
Y’know when I mused before that this game could potentially be seen as a dramatic space adventure story? This soundtrack is why I say that. The string section of the orchestral Halo theme is not only wonderfully composed and fun to listen to, but it also reminds me distinctly of high-seas adventure stories like Treasure Island. Halo (the ring structure) actually has a lot in common with the “mythical island” archetype often seen in these kind of adventure tales, and I have to believe that this played some part in the inspiration for this game. There’s some really awesome ideas in here, they’re just a little muddled by execution sometimes.
You really are better off just trying to run people over as opposed to waiting for the Marine on the gun to line up a decent shot.
The locked door that stops you in your tracks is a staple of video games. Everyone from Link to Leon Kennedy has had their progress come to a grinding halt while they backtrack and scrounge around looking for a key. Let’s ignore the fact that they’re almost always holding enough weaponry to tear apart a medium-sized army, those doors are serious business.
When you finally get the blasted door open the enemy elite holding an energy sword that was previously behind it is now nowhere to be found. I’m already an exceptionally paranoid player whenever I pick up a controller, and this was doing nothing to help.
At various points throughout the game, you’ll run into the corpses of Marines, one or two at a time, with a couple of health packs, some ammo, and a replacement weapon or two lying nearby. This is a way to allow you to fill up on ammo for Earth-based weapons that makes more sense than you randomly finding a human-made assault rifle on an unknown alien planet. Nonetheless, I always found myself wondering how these Marines ended up here, deep underground in a Covenant-overrun area, with no escape pod or landing craft anywhere nearby. This is why “overextending your advance” is seen as an incredibly dangerous strategic move, I suppose.
The Silent Cartographer is a really over-the-top name for what is essentially a map. I think the Covenant have a thing about super pretentious nomenclature. Kinda like how the devs have a thing about re-using game assets.
I just fought my way down into the bowels of this ring structure past hordes of enemies, and now I had to turn back around and fight my way out. I’d been hammering on the right trigger for hours and I was getting pretty tired of it. I understand that one of Bungie’s previous games was called Marathon. Fitting, seeing as how at this point I was literally sprinting past every enemy I encountered because I was tired of shooting.
My plan was foiled by this jerk who magically re-appeared in the doorway he disappeared from when I entered. It should also be noted that he’s the last enemy in your way before you hit a checkpoint, and if he kills you (or if you fall off a ledge while backpedaling away from him) then you get booted back to the start of this little escape sequence.
In my defense, the ship doesn’t land immediately so if you just book it out the door and head back to the insertion point it’s possible to bypass the thing before it sets down and makes itself obvious. This does bring up an issue I had repeatedly, however: this game has no objective markers, save one or two when you really, really need to go off the beaten path to advance (as in you literally need to steal something that flies in order to get there). The game definitely skews towards linearity and while it’s usually pretty easy to figure out where to go just by heading towards all the people you haven’t killed yet, there’s a few times and a few areas where it’s incredibly easy to get turned around and the addition of a map marker would be a huge help. But oh well.
Upon completing this mission we learn that Halo is actually some kind of weapon, and we need to get to its control room to make sure the Covenant can’t use it first. I’m a little dubious as I don’t see how I’m going to be able to carry this thing around and shoot people with it, but I guess I’ll play along for now.