halo: combat mutated

Tomorrow, Halo goes back to Hollywood Video, and I don’t plan to play it again. Maybe it’s great for multiplayer. I may never know. It’s a cool game, and I really want to like it, but its flaws are too deep and too many.

I played through the “Belly of the Beast” mission again and fared much better this time. My sniping early on went much better than it had, and I made it into the Covenant ship with a lot more health. Again and again, I saw cool things: the enemies AI is really clever; the weapons selection (and availability) forces interesting tactics; there are great side-effects. My favorite example of the last item is the direct plasma grenade hit. If a marine is hit dead on by a plasma grenade, it sticks to him, igniting his uniform. After a moment, he’s thrown through the air. All of the through-the-air throwing in Halo is cool.

The problems remain, though. My teammates AI isn’t bad, but it’s got a few key problems. I can’t order them around, which just bites. They often storm into rooms where I want to snipe. They run into my line of fire. (It’s amusing that, when they get hit by friendly fire, they say things. My favorite is the apologetic, “That was my fault!” Any marine who can manage to say that when I shoot him is A-OK by me!)

Checkpoints are not close enough together. I shouldn’t have to repeat a 15+ minute battle several times. Maybe that’s fun for some people. It isn’t, for me. It’s even less fun when I’m losing because just as I get a bead on the enemy sniper, a space marine leads a charge in front of me and gets a bolt of plasma in his ear. I’m the Master Chief! Back the hell up!

I just don’t care for the FPS+Vehicles genre yet. I’ve played Halo and C&C: Renegade, and both games seemed kludgy. Eventually, sure, I believe in the massively multi-tier strategy game. I play Risk, my generals play Civ, their colonels play Empire Earth, their captains play Halo. When that game exists and is good, I will play it all the time. So far, though, I don’t even think they’ve gotten Halo right. Of course, maybe that’s because what I really want is Risk.

Written on April 17, 2003
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