June 27, 2007

343 Guilty Spark Escaped

A Covenant, a flood, Sentinels, Banshees and Warthogs. I finally destroyed the whole Halo, but...

2 full weeks! What with fighting the Covenant, exterminating the flood, and dealing with Sentinels, my plate has been full. Not to mention strugging to fly Banshees and drive Warthogs. I finally destroyed the whole Halo, but that sneaky, chirpy little bastard escaped!

I've been playing this game called Halo for a fortnight now. It's not a new one; I've had this game on my Mac for the better part of three years now. I never got around to playing it because I am so used to playing "keyboard-only" First Person Shooters. Using a combination of Mouse & keyboard for motion is a paradigm shift; a new skill. Twelve years, almost to the day, since I first played Doom. Hitherto I'd given Halo the same condescending look old dogs gave new tricks. I finally succumbed and adapted to the gameplay. I can truthfully say that I've never enjoyed any game quite as much as this one.

I am Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN-117 (generally addressed as "Master Chief"), a cyborg super-soldier far in the future. Humans are at war with an alien race called the Covenant. The story starts off aboard a spaceship called the Pillar of Autumn, which is about to crash on a mysterios ring shaped world: the Halo. Captain Keyes entrusts me with Cortana, a female AI construct who installs herself in my body CPU, and guides me throughout the game. We're more of a team, Cortana and I, exploring the Halo and fighting myriad enemies.

The game itself has the usual linear progression, and is very elegantly designed. The story is coherent and has a flow to it. Frequent cut-sequence video clips interwoven with the game play, and the many conversations between the characters: Me, Cortana, Captain Keyes, various human soldiers etc. provide the story flow. The result is a very engrossing and entertaining player experience; I spent all my free time in the last two weeks playing.

Some notes about the game play; unlike most other FPS's, the player is allowed to carry exactly two weapons and 8 grenades. There's a wide selection of weapons to choose from; humans use pistols, sniper rifles, shotguns, automatic rifles and rocket launchers, whereas the Covenant use needlers, plasma pistols and plasma rifles. The human weapons need to be reloaded periodically, but the Covenant weapons are use and throw; just discard them when exhausted. All this adds to the challenge, since a bit of strategy is required to pick up the correct weapon.

The player can't save games. Game saving is automatic, and defined checkpoints. The player must make it from checkpoint to checkpoint at one go; any death in between will put the player back to the start of that checkpoint. This can be quite cumbersome sometimes. Let's say there are 8 enemies to kill between two checkpoints; Seven done, but the eighth kills you. You have to start all over again.

I was planning to write the whole story down here, but what's the fun in that ? Play the game yourself; I recommend it very strongly. Right now, I'm hooked onto another game with similar player controls: Max Payne.