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    Devil Mingy's Reviews

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    Devil Mingy

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    Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:51 pm

    Disclaimer #1- The views expressed here by me are solely my own and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else-- does this really need to be said? This disclaimer always struck me as stupid.

    Disclaimer #2- I do not believe in numerical scoring. My review is simply that, a review of the good and the bad. I feel that a number is far too absolute for an opinion piece, particularly on subjects that come down to personal taste. If you wish to quantify my opinion, you may do so.

    Disclaimer #3- I am only reviewing from a single player perspective. I feel that multiplayer can be judged by someone far more knowledgeable. I'll write what I know.

    Disclaimer #4- Due to stipulations beyond my adroitness to explicate, I am unable to evaluate the following Halo titles: Halo DS, Halo Chronicles, Project Titan (Orion). For reasons that are beyond my control, the following titles will also not be reviewed at this time, but may be reviewed in the near future: Halo: Nemesis, Broken Covenant, The Fallen, Osiris, Seven Seraphs, Dead Orbit, New Monarchy.


    1. Halo: Combat Evolved
    2. Halo 2
    3. Halo 3
    4. Halo Wars
    5. Halo 3: ODST
    6. Halo Reach
    7. Project Lumoria- Part 1

    Comments and thoughts from others are, as always, welcome.


    Last edited by Devil Mingy on Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:23 am; edited 17 times in total


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:55 pm

    Halo: Combat Evolved

    Halo: Combat Evolved, formerly Project Blam! (and, before that, Monkey Nuts and Myth in Space), Cathedral, The Crystal Palace, Covenant, Resonance, Pulse, Solopsis, Flare, Aquarius, Gemini, and Red Shift. What can be said about this game that has not been said already? In all likelihood, it is the very reason we are here. While it has suffered from retroactive hype backlash, nobody can deny that its influence on the FPS genre, particularly on consoles, is still seen today. Interesting enough, for all its influence, it had very little true innovations. While Halo rarely treads unfamiliar territory, it explores more known frontier than any shooter before it, showcases the power of the Xbox hardware, and demonstrates the effectiveness of the (admittedly flawed) Xbox controller. Like a Greatest Hits album of the genre, Halo combines the best of all things that make shooters fun.

    Beginning on board the Pillar of Autumn, fresh from a devastating defeat at the planet Reach, Halo begins with the Chief grabbing Cortana and getting the hell out of dodge (context provided within manual). From there, the game follows, for a shooter, a fairly involved story of a last stand in an unfamiliar world. The Flood appearing midway through the game only adds a further dimension, an excellent twist with absolutely fantastic buildup. Halo also made sure that the player knew what was going on at all times without sounding overly condescending. That being said, there are some levels that simply make no sense from a narrative viewpoint. The Silent Cartographer, one of Halo's most celebrated levels, feels completely unnecessary and seems to only be in the game because it was Bungie's "all in one" sandbox map during development. Other levels, like the Two Betrayals, have a very informative cutscene that is followed by a pointless level. Not only is the objective of that particular level based on a paranoid assumption, but it's an assumption that runs counter to a significant plot point in Halo 2 and Halo 3.

    In the grand scheme of the Halo storyline, Halo is a significant benchmark, if not the most important event in the series. Inwardly, Halo is a story of a defiant last stand that ends with few survivors with the foreboding words that “things are just getting started.” However, looking at the big picture, the events of Halo represent a turning point in the war. It is the place where the Covenant start to fall apart. The Flood, who have been inconsequential to the Halo timeline for 100,000 years, rise up and feel terrifying, even if they are right back to square one at the end of the game.

    As the subtitle bombastically expresses, Halo provides an evolution in combat. Encounters are crafted with much more care than was seen in Marathon and ONI. Thanks to new technology, enemies can be brought in from dropships instead of monster closets and large vehicles can replace ridiculous boss creatures. While monster closets do make an appearance when the Flood arrive, they help bring some classical feelings to the game. It also helps that there is only one Flood level where you fight Flood alone. Other times, you can sit back and watch the Flood duke it out with Sentinels and Covenant forces (both at once in two places).

    The sandbox is minimal with a few twists. While human weapons are very familiar, the Covenant weapons add some interesting twists with the Plasma Pistol and Needler. There are a few weapons that are unusable, which is a shame but a flaw that doesn't end at this game. Weapons aren't direct upgrades of each other and remain fairly useful throughout. Because you can only carry two weapons at a time, the game encourages you to plan ahead, conserve ammo, and play smart. Otherwise, you may pay for it later on. Thanks to the game's separate shields and health mechanics, the weapons all have uses in different situations, although the Needler is still going to be underutilized. Perhaps Halo's greatest, and most imitated, contribution (not to imply that it was done in Halo first, because it wasn't) was the ability to melee and throw grenades without having to drop your weapon. This made grenades and melee, once used for only ambush and desperation, into integral parts of the game.

    Enemy variety is up with Marathon, with several different enemies that each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and AI. By the way, the AI is very impressive, including cowardice, enemies using secondary functions, and flanking tactics. While scripted melee makes Elites and Hunters predictable, they give the illusion of actual intelligence. The antithetical Flood, however, are more like the AI of old, programmed to rush at you firing and hope to overwhelm you by numbers. Sentinels, true to their place as a link between the Covenant and the Flood, hold a middle ground between old AI and new AI. Their AI is close to the AI of Goldeneye, standing in place and firing. Ally AI is passable, but rarely impresses in the same way as a Covenant Elite will. However, this is not a problem exclusive to Halo (the sequels are arguably worse in the case of this problem) and it helps to define the significance of the Master Chief. While the Marines won't win too many battles by themselves, their support is certainly noticeable, particularly while they're in vehicles.

    In addition are vehicles, both ally and enemy, that are fully integrated into the game. Rather than a simple upgrade that lets you run over people, kill faster, and move quicker (a la the Goldeneye Tank or any vehicle in Tribes), Halo's vehicles change the perspective to third person, reflecting the change in gameplay. Each vehicle has its own strength and weakness. While certain gameplay mechanics make vehicle combat too easy on the player's side, they still stand as a definitive part of Halo's combat.

    For all that is good, there are problems. The biggest problem, as I'm sure every person who played the Library on Legendary will tell you, is the level design. While reusing level geometry is common in all games (and is not inherently a problem), Halo does it in a poetic fashion... almost. While I like the idea of replaying a level to show just how much the Flood can affect the encounters (as well as show some more of the environments), it is still a problem to reuse level geometry to such an extent, especially when the levels already suffer from repetitive design, a la Assault on the Control Room/Two Betrayals. Even the more original levels are easy to get lost in, such as 343 Guilty Spark and the infamous Library. Outside of the repetition, the level design is fairly simplistic. That's not to say that it's bad, but it's not too impressive either. The most disappointing aspect of this level design is that it's not a design by choice, but rather necessity. Bungie was on a short time schedule when they made this game and had to deal with what they could. Because of this, we lost at least 3 enemy types, 5 levels, 2 vehicles (one of which was added to the multiplayer by Gearbox for the PC) and 4 weapons (two of which were added to the multiplayer by Gearbox in the PC port). Even the levels that we have were slimmed down.

    As repetitive and simplistic as the level design may be, the environments are beautiful. The Autumn, a drab corridor that begins the game, is a bad first impression meant to betray the player's perception to Halo's true beauty: large, open environments. The environments themselves are beautiful and very impressive for their time. For the first time since the original Unreal, I was truly blown away by how much fun I could have in a shooter by just walking around a large, grassy field.

    The music, one of Bungie's strong points since Myth, is back. Compared to the series' later music, Halo feels very raw. It fits the tone of the game. Marty and Michael's contributions to the series can't be overstated. Some of the tracks are downright chilling in their way to perfectly match the events that unfold as they play.

    While Halo lacks the secrets that were commonplace in shooters of the mid 90s, the game does have its fair share of easter eggs, some of which took years to find (prior to the discovery of hex modding). The less intentional easter eggs (but still not exactly glitches) are less commendable, but no less celebrated. Halo, like Marathon and ONI before it, encouraged players to think outside the box and rewarded the player for creative thinking. This is something that the entire Halo series (minus Halo Wars and, to an extent, Halo 2) should be proud for encouraging as shooters become progressively (v_v) more linear, to the point where even sequence breaking is more likely to break the level completely than just skip 15 minutes (Looking at you, Black Ops). As the game in the series lacking the most polish, Halo is the most exploitable. From the early banshee in Assault on the Control Room to bypassing the security door in Silent Cartographer, the game provides a lot of sequences to get creative.

    In 2001, Halo was a masterpiece. In 2011, it still holds up today. While it's easy to be disappointed by what could've been (a point I'll address in my Halo 2 review), it is still a great game objectively. In the context of its development cycle, what Bungie was able to create in such a short and volatile time was nothing short of amazing.


    Last edited by Devil Mingy on Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:04 pm; edited 2 times in total


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  DarkReign2021 on Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:12 am

    I agree wholeheartedly Very Happy And I like the setup. I'll probably copy this idea and set it up in my own Review board. (And I will start posting things eventually, I swear. It's hard to work when my laptop screen is broken and I'm hooked up to a blurry TV monitor. Soon as my Tax Check comes I should be getting a new computer to work with. Plus I quit one of my jobs and got promoted at my other one to something less physical, so I should have the energy to work around here again. Very Happy)


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:03 pm

    Halo 2

    I apologize for how long it has taken to post this. Believe it or not, there is actually a reason. I originally had an outline for each review that would make writing these easier as well as keep me from going off track. However, the more I wrote about the pros and cons of Halo 2, the more I wanted to divert from my plotted outline. Halo 2 is a very polarizing game for me. While it is now old enough for most of the Halo community to remember it with grand fondness that could rival Halo 1's own, I remember the many complaints about this game, ranging from the label of a “disappointing but good game” from mainsteam review sites to the “absolute train wreck” that it was called among Halo's hardcore fans. While I do have some problems with this game, I also have a lot of problems with some of the points reviewers make. While they are certainly as entitled to their opinion as I am, I am still baffled by some of their reasons for disliking Halo 2. I tried to touch on these as much as possible while keeping as close to the outline as possible. If this goes into a rant, I apologize in advance.

    Before I go too far, I will also emphasize a point in case there is actually doubt: Halo 2 is a good game. Saying that it is not is, at best, hyperbole. While you can debate its place against other shooters from 2004 (though I question anyone who thinks Doom 3 is superior) and beyond, Halo 2 is an objectively good game.

    Halo 2, unlike Halo, begins with quite a bit of context: a Covenant perspective that recaps the main events of the first game. We are introduced to a few key figures within the Covenant in this cutscene. The first is Thel 'Vadamee (not named in the game), an Elite in charge of the forces in Halo. Given that he stars in every cutscene on the Covenant side, it's a wonder people were surprised when they discovered he's actually important. Next, we have the Prophets, the leaders of the Covenant. Contrasting the warrior Elites, the Prophets appear frail and fragile. The final important character is Tartarus, a Brute leader who, 4 minutes into the game, is unsympathetic at best and palpably evil at worst. As much as I can criticize Bungie for being too subtle with certain details, they didn't even try to make Tartarus anything more than an obvious villain. The fact that we are seeing through the eyes of (what we believe to be) our enemy doesn't help the case that he's intended to be at least trustworthy.

    Contrasting the Covenant scenes are a more human touch: the Master Chief getting new armor and some props for his work in the first game. We get to see Sergeant Johnson, a minor but popular character from Halo 1, and Cortana (sporting a new haircut that cleverly foreshadows her relationship with Miranda, daughter of the late Captain Keyes). While they accept medals for their service, the Covenant arrive at Earth, hoping for an easy dig and instead finding 300 orbital guns. Eventually, the Covenant bug out and head towards a new Halo while the Elite takes on the sacred mantle of Arbiter so he can die with some dignity. Eventually, these two meet up as the Brutes and Elites send the Covenant into a civil war. The Flood, back and badder than ever, serve to only complicate the issue further. This is ridiculously short summary, but I don't think Halo 2's story needs to be retold to people who have likely played it already. However, given that it's already been three paragraphs, I will just say that this game has a lot of story.

    The scenes between humanity and the Covenant are interspersed together, giving the impression that they take place concurrently. However, this is never really made clear. The game will make a habit of switching perspective every couple of levels and the lack of context makes it difficult to follow at times, let alone try to place it on a timeline. The fact that, as the above paragraph shows, this is a very plot heavy game doesn't help matters.

    Halo 2, if nothing else, can at least say that it's one of the most important games in the series. The Covenant's discovery of Earth, the Covenant civil war, Thel becoming the Arbiter, and the Flood's escape from Delta Halo are all vitally important events that shape the rest of the Halo mythos. It's really hard to believe that Bungie intended to stuff even more plot into his game, as Halo 3 was mostly made up of cut Halo 2 ideas. As odd as it felt having two climaxes and no resolution in Halo 2's current campaign, I'm unsure how I would have felt with four climaxes and two resolutions the way Bungie intended it. There is such a thing as too much, and I feel that the later events of Halo 3 would nullify the importance of Halo 2's events (which would've happened close to the middle of he game in Bungie's intended Halo 2).

    A lot of people had a problem with the inclusion of the Arbiter and the “humanization” of the Covenant. While I can certainly understand complaints against the Arbiter, such as the strange and confusing method that the story interconnects him with the Master Chief's story, the Arbiter levels' poor level design, or the lack of variety in comparison to the Chief levels. However, most reviewers (a lot of diehard Halo fans, in fact) are against him simply because he's an Elite. I really never understood when trying to add depth to an enemy became a bad thing. Would people rather shooters stayed like Quake and had bad guys who were just evil? I can relate to not liking Bungie's execution of the Arbiter, but to be against the concept itself seems to betray the idea that people enjoyed the plot in Halo in the first place.

    Despite a new, floatier physics engine, a different melee mechanic, and the loss of a lifebar in favor of stronger shielding, Halo 2 plays largely similar to the first game. Enemy variety has been improved. Halo 2 is not as open as Halo, but it does feature larger areas. This means that sniping is a much more valuable skill in Halo 2. Halo 2 also features much more active vehicle sections where waves and waves of ghosts attack you as you move along a path. Sadly, they usually give you a tank on these areas, which turn them more into shooting galleries than a grand vehicular battle. Sporadically, you will be accompanied by invincible allies (Sergeant Johnson, Miranda Keyes, Specs Ops Commander Rtas). Sadly, they don't help through any of the game's difficult battles, but they do make some of the more intimidating encounters (such as the end of Sacred Icon) much easier.

    The Halo 2 sandbox is a wildly different beast in many ways. You now have the ability to let your allies drive and switch weapons with them. While I don't ever recommend letting them drive you, giving them weapons presents new strategies that can turn the tide of hard encounters. Their AI reflects this, too, choosing to stay back with a long range weapon or rushing with a short ranged weapon. Jackals, once an annoying riot shield enemy that could easily be taken out from long range, are now also used as a shieldless (but infinitely more annoying) sniper unit. In addition, the game adds the new varieties of Grunts and Elites (including the cool looking Honor Guards and Councilors). Hunters are no longer pushovers, able to withstand much more punishment and be able to attack you when you get behind them. However, their Fuel Rod Cannon has been replaced with an Assault Beam, which is much easier to dodge. The Flood can now utilize energy shielding, vehicles, and stationary turrets, adding to their menace. Instead of a Combat Form just getting back up, an Infection form can resurrect a Flood corpse unless you gib it, which is a great touch. Even the Sentinels have upped their game, with golden Sentinel Majors and the large Sentinel Enforcers.

    New Covenant arrivals are the Drones, which fill the wonderful shooter role of “annoying and hard to hit” enemy, the Brutes, filling the role of “bullet sponge” (unless you have a precision weapon or Needler), and the Prophets. The good news is that only one Prophet is actually fought. The bad news is that fulfills another undesirable niche: the boss battle. To make matters worse, it occupies the least logical type of boss battle (something you don't expect from a series that is overall fairly consistent): the Mishima. This is a boss whose sole offensive capability is to spawn endless hordes of enemies. However, this boss also has the lovely ability to teleport. Why we doesn't send 18 Honor Guards at you at once and then teleport out of the room is a question we were obviously never meant to ask.

    If that were the only boss battle, it wouldn't be nearly as bad. Regret, sadly, is only one of three. The other two are less stupid, but only just. We have a Ranger Elite with the ability (on Heroic and Legendary, anyway) to turn invincible at will and clone himself multiple times. The other has a shield only vulnerable to one weapon and can take 26 headshots from the Carbine on normal difficulty. Don't think too hard about the level design in the boss arenas, either. These encounters were clearly not built with logic in mind.

    In addition, the game adds three drivable vehicles (almost double the amount of drivable vehicles in Halo 1). All vehicles in Halo 2 are destructible, which means that the Scorpion and Warthog sections are no longer child's play. Vehicles have also lost their ability to instantly splatter enemies, opting instead for a system that deals damage based on velocity. While I was no fan of Halo's system, Halo 2's feels very random. To further nerf vehicular combat is the ability to board vehicles. Elites and Flood combat forms are able to board your vehicles just as easily as you can board theirs. This makes vehicular combat against infantry a more cautious affair... or it would be if you couldn't just exit the vehicle and punch the boarder. I suppose they get points for trying, though. To top this off, the added vehicles are a mixed bag. The Wraith is back from Halo and pretty much the same (it has a secondary turret, but only the AI can use it). There is almost no scenario where a Wraith is better than a Scorpion, and there are only two levels with Wraith encounters that do not feature a Scorpion nearby. The Spectre, the Covenant's Warthog, is underpowered. While it has an unlimited boost that allows it to climb certain walls, it lacks the pure speed of the Ghost and the firepower of the Warthog (in fact, its turret shots will actually bounce off most heavy vehicles, doing little to no damage). The Gauss Hog, however, is extremely valuable.

    Halo 2, as if trying to fulfill some duality motif, chooses to double the Halo 1 arsenal, adding a lot of Covenant counterpart weapons. Not only do these weapons help to balance out the sides, indirectly making the Covenant more threatening, but they also balance out the Arbiter levels. However, several of these weapons seem wholly unnecessary, such as the Brute Plasma Rifle (a red version of the regular Plasma Rifle) and the Blue Sentinel Beam (a blue version of the regular Sentinel Beam). The Energy Sword and Fuel Rod Gun, weapons that were unusable in Halo, are now fully put into the sandbox. The Shotgun has been nerfed, almost to the point that the Energy Sword is better in every aspect. The Rocket Launcher has gotten the ability to track vehicles, making it the ultimate anti-Banshee weapon. The Pistol and Assault Rifle from the first game are gone, replaced by the Battle Rifle and the anemic sounding SMG. A new Magnum is in the game, but is worthless against shielded opponents (which makes the Battle Rifle a superior weapon).

    In fact, the new dual wielding mechanic has make a lot of weapons significantly weaker to compensate. The Plasma Pistol is now useless unless you fire a charge shot, the Plasma Rifle has lost its ability to stun targets. Unfortunately, this is very effective. With such a small damage buff, dual wielding is practically useless with only a few exceptions. I always though the purpose of dual wielding was that you had more firepower, but oh well. The Frag and Plasma grenades return, but have been weakened (or perhaps the Covenant are just stronger). Several high ranking Elites and Brutes can survive a direct plasma grenade stick. This wrecks the balance that the weapon sandbox of Halo has, but the campaign does a good job of getting you to use different weapons. Even the Needler, once a niche weapon, is a powerful close range weapon against Brutes.

    Halo 2's level design is a mixed bag. On one hand, the levels feel much more claustrophobic, with much fewer open areas. Level design, thankfully, isn't nearly as bad, with only two backtracking levels (that, like Halo, are there to show how the Flood shake up encounters). Grenade jumping can also lead you to more open areas. However, this only works in certain areas, which just happen to be areas where Bungie has hidden a weapon or skull. This cheapens the magic of Halo, where thinking outside of the box is rewarded. In this game, thinking outside the box only works where Bungie has discovered it. Every other place is usually a wall or instant death trap. This not only makes the levels feel very small and oppressively linear, but takes away a lot of freedom. Even the enormous environment in “The Oracle” that is traversed by Banshee feels very small.

    Halo 2 was one of the best looking Xbox games, but the environments lack the colorful variety from Halo. Halo 2 has a lot of drab environments, particularly the ridiculously purple High Charity environments, made worse in the eponymous High Charity level, which tries (and succeeds) beating Doom 3 at its own game. Thankfully, the Halo environments are still as beautiful as ever (except Sacred Icon and Quarantine Zone, but I suppose there's a reason for that).

    Unlike Halo, Halo 2 revels in secrets. With every level containing at least one secret skull (which adds modifying traits to levels) and at least one weapon with an abnormally large amount of ammo, the game gives you a reward for exploring places that Bungie wanted you to explore. Unfortunately, exploring where they didn't will give you a quick death. Sequence breaking is largely impossible (though some encounters can be skipped by using the boost on the Ghost or Spectre), but glitches are all around. There is a nice bit of exploiting that you can do with Tartarus' boss battle that can make that battle into a two-minute curb stomp. Hell, there are a number of checkpoint exploits that can get you everything from unlimited ammo to unlimited active camouflage.

    Halo 2 has a lot of problems, but I hurt because I love. I meant to touch upon what Halo 2 could've been in a positive light, but I feel this review is long enough as it is (be glad I'm not reviewing multiplayer). I'll just say that Halo 2, in addition to having Halo 3 content, also lost at least four of its own levels, two weapons, three enemy types. The ODSTs, seen only in part of Delta Halo, were meant to be a much bigger part. However, Halo 2, flawed as it is, is still an exceptional shooter, even if it feels lesser compared to its outstanding predecessor.


    Last edited by Devil Mingy on Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:36 pm; edited 2 times in total


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:28 pm

    Halo 3

    Released in 2007 to a major blitz, Halo 3's prerelease somehow felt hollow compared to Halo 2. There was a lot promotion, but no awesome movie trailer that showed off a confusing alternate reality game. There were a lot of previews, but they only showed off three things (and it was Tsavo highway eight times out of ten).With more focus being put on improving the online experience, I began to worry if they were neglecting the single player because the developers did as well. It certainly wouldn't be the first time Bungie really dropped the ball on a single player (ONI). On September 25, I (along with two friends) went through the single player overnight on Legendary. Since then, I have beaten Halo 3 over three dozen times across three Xbox Live accounts. While this game was as polarizing to the community as Halo and Halo 2 (and all games that followed), I have found that my impressions of the game have not changed since that first playthrough over three years ago.

    Starting after Halo 2, Halo 3 begins with the Chief abruptly falling from the Forerunner Dreadnaught. A recap of events isn't shown, but it is in the manual. It doesn't bridge the gap, but that's par for the course on this game. Storytelling in Halo 3 is minimalistic a la Gears of War, Half-life, and Resistance. This is not a bad thing, especially for a shooter, as it allows you to have an intricate plot for those who wish to seek it while being largely forgettable for people that just want to shoot. However, it's jarring to see the conclusion of a trilogy be so vague after Halo 2's heavy narrative.

    The game moves us across Earth as we learn that we are to help Lord Hood with one last plan to attack the Covenant at their relic site. It is in the beginning of the game that it becomes painfully clear that this is the last cut four or five levels of Halo 2 stretched out into nine levels. This plan, that we learn about in the beginning of the second level, takes three levels to put into action. The first half of the game feels almost plotless, especially since the Ark portal reveal, a major event in the middle of the game, was literally the first thing we saw from this game. Tsavo Highway, in particular, is completely pointless. In fact, I think it may very well be the most pointless level in the entire series. There is only key event during this level (which is a foregone conclusion that is established within the ending cutscene) and the only objective is to get from Crow's Nest to the beginning of The Storm. Imagine if Bungie made a level in Halo 1 whose sole purpose was flying from the Silent Cartographer to where we begin Assault on the Control Room. As fun as it may be, it's still padding.

    The minimalist approach to the story also affects the understanding of the game. Cortana and Gravemind visions are never truly explained. The short story "Human Weakness" explains their context, but how the Chief is receiving these messages is ignored. For as big of a role as they play (appearing in two-thirds of the game's levels), I was expecting an explanation.

    Speaking of which, Cortana's words mean nothing without Fall of Reach. While they are a great fanservice, I'm sure they completely baffle anybody who hasn't read the book. This kind of continuity lockout hasn't affected the previous Halo games. Why start now?

    The Covenant civil war, a pivotal point in the gameplay and story of the previous game, is fairly overlooked. Grunts and Hunters, who were allies of the Elites at the end of Halo 2, are now back with Brutes. While Grunts receive a handwave explanation from the Arbiter, the story reasons for the Hunters remaining loyal to the Covenant are up to the fanon.

    Thankfully, the story really picks up in the last half. The last two levels, in particular, are so well done from a narrative perspective that I can completely overlook their design flaws (they are Flood levels, after all). The side story, told from seven terminals spread through the Ark levels, are also very compelling, in particular if you are playing on Legendary.

    Halo 3 pledged to finish the fight, and it finishes the fight. Whether people like how it ended or not, Halo 3 concludes the major Halo story arc. Despite how small the actual story feels, its ramifications within the Halo Mythos are easy to see, and will be more prevalent when post-war stories come out. The Legendary ending to Halo 3, in particular, has the potential to shape the future of the Halo universe. Not too shabby for a seven second afterthought.

    Halo 3 remains very faithful to Halo 2, albeit with better physics and even worst dual wielding mechanics. With Elites gone, there was a gap in the Covenant for encounters. Bungie altered the Brutes to closer resemble the Elites. For the most part, they did a good job. However, Brutes are not nearly as affective as Elites. While Elites would dodge and flank, Brutes remain to their character and take your punishment head on. While I applaud this decision for story consistency, it does hinder the gameplay. The “N00b Combo” is even more useful now that your main adversaries do not dodge. Hammer Chieftains, in particular, are easily exploitable.

    The encounter variety is Halo 3's biggest misstep. Three way battles, one of the greatest parts of Halo and Halo 2, are completely gone. Unless they are allies, Flood and Covenant will not fight in the same area (unless you're very creative on The Covenant). Hunters are underused, appearing only a handful of times in the campaign. The majority of encounters will consist of groups of Brutes. Bungie intended this in order to show off their new AI routine for the “Brute Packs”. It's a noble idea, but it doesn't work. They really don't seem to interact together any more than other Covenant forces do. Drones appear a bit more often than Hunters, but still nowhere near as much as they appeared in Halo 2. They usually fight alone, as if Bungie felt they didn't mesh with the other Covenant forces. For all the complaints I heard about Drones in Halo 2, that wasn't one of them.

    Grunts remain roughly the same, but now have a “berserk” ability where they ignite two grenades and rush towards you, a deadly tactic if they sneak up on you. Jackals have remained pretty much the same, although they have made the Sniper Jackals easier to see, as as adding a middle-of-the-road marksman class that carries a Carbine. Hunters have even more counters and defenses to keep players on their toes, as well as a health buff. They've come a long way from Halo.

    Marines don't seem as effective, and somehow drive worse. While you can give them weapons, their AI doesn't change depending on their weapon, which makes it risky to give them certain weapons. Elites, your newfound allies, fair better, but are only used twice (excluding the Arbiter, who fights alongside you sporadically).

    The Flood are back, but are never given an opportunity to drive in Halo 3. However, they do have the ability to infect characters in real-time, something even Valve never managed. The Pure Forms, a single Flood that can change into three different forms, is another great way to add some variety to Flood encounters, which are fairly plain by design. These two also show off some impressive work on Bungie's park to showing us the evolution of the Flood from Halo 2

    Sadly, the Sentinels have scaled back. While one can argue that the Auto turret equipment is a new design, the loss of Sentinel Majors and Enforcers was disappointing. In fact, Sentinels are barely fought at all. It's entirely possible to play through the game without killing a single one.

    One terrible boss still made it into the game, two steps in the right direction from Halo 3. 343 Guilty Spark, who could've worked great as a super powered Sentinel, instead plays out like an interactive cutscene (a la Gears 2's final boss or half of Resistance 2's bosses).

    Halo 3's weapon sandbox is great, but a bit excessive. Between the Plasma Rifle, Spiker, and SMG, the Assault Rifle feels useless. The Shotgun is nerfed even further, making it completely useless against its superior close range cousins, the Mauler shotgun pistol, the Gravity Hammer, and the Energy Sword. Halo 3 also introduces heavy weapons, which take you to a third person feel, slow you down, and prevent you from using melee for grenades. In exchange, you get impressive firepower from a human turret, a plasma turret, or a flamethrower. How they get this balance right but couldn't handle dual wielding is anyone's guess.

    For the excessive weapons, Halo 3 has a very good vehicle balance. The Transport Hog, Mongoose, and Hornet are very welcome additions to the UNSC arsenal that are given their time to shine within the campaign. The Hornet, in particular, is a beast. Sadly, the Hornet also deprives us of a single encounter tailored to a Banshee (and, unless you're very creative, you won't pilot a Banshee at all). The fairly useless Spectre is replaced with the much more interesting Prowler. While it's still not as powerful as it should be, it makes up for it by being built like a tank. The Brute Chopper, however, is possibly the best addition. Not only is this a great vehicle that fits its own niche within the Mongoose and Ghost, it's a great design.

    Equipment, Halo 3's contribution to the Halo formula, can add a major twist in gameplay. Equipment certainly fulfills its promise of changing the way Halo encounters play out. However, some, such as the trip mine, flare, and radar jammer, are useless and more likely to harm the player than the enemies. While Brutes make fairly good use out of the equipment, its true potential is never capitalized in the campaign.

    Level design is a major improvement from Halo 2. Sadly, the death traps have been replaced invisible barriers, which are much more intrusive, but at least they don't outright kill you. More consistency and logic was put into the environments. While you won't find too many weapons for grenade jumping, there are still plenty of nice things to find when you search around. Halo 3's environments are beautiful. Flood infected Covenant design is as hellish as ever, but it's an organically hellish design that is aesthetically attractive. The Ark and Halo, in particular, are wonderful to look upon.

    Skulls are back in Halo 3, and some are more creatively placed. The game has also added Terminals within levels to provide some extra backstory. Sequence breaking, though not as easy as Halo, is back and better than ever. A creative mind can exploit almost every encounter in the game. You can pilot the initially unusable AA Wraith, give Arbiter or Sergeant Johnson the weapon of your choosing, or even drive through difficult encounters.

    Halo 3 is a big step up from Halo 2, but not in every way. Still, the game is a satisfying conclusion to the story and ties up the major loose ends that the previous two Halo games have set up. The game stays true to Halo 2's mechanics while returning to a lot of the things that made Halo 1 so great. It's a shame that a few pitfalls in mission design prevent the game from reaching full potential.


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:54 pm

    Halo Wars

    Announced to a mixed reception in late 2006, Halo Wars had a lot to live up to. Not only did this game's announcement arrive shortly after the Microsoft-backed cancellation of the highly anticipated HaloGen mod for Command and Conquer: Generals, but was also the first (and, to date, only) official Halo game that was not made by Bungie. Halo's origins in the RTS genre sparked a lot of interest into the project, as did a well made demo at E3 2007. Released in early 2009, Halo Wars had undergone quite a refit from what people had originally seen. While many dismissed it for the simple reason of not being a Bungie project, Halo Wars received a lot of press, becoming one of the Xbox 360s top selling RTS games.

    Like most RTS games (and Halo games for that matter), Halo Wars tells its story through cutscenes. The cinematics, done by Blur, are impressive, and the in-game ones are to-the-point and, given that it's an RTS engine, fairly impressive if not unimpressive in comparison. Starting five years into the Human-Covenant War, Halo Wars begins on Harvest and Arcadia and eventually to a Forerunner Shield World where the UNSC Spirit of Fire must stop the Covenant from using a Forerunner artifact to amass a fleet of Dreadnaughts. While the characters in Halo Wars take Archetypal characterization to its extreme, they serve their purpose to the narrative. The inclusion of the Flood, however, seems like an afterthought to stretch the game's length. You can take most of the Flood levels out of the game and the story doesn't suffer one bit.

    Halo Wars is the first game in the series' timeline and is fairly disconnected from the other games in the series. However, Halo Wars does introduce the Flood 20 years before the events of Halo. Of course, since the game ends with the Spirit of Fire lost in space, it remains fairly inconsequential. However, it does give the Covenant their first contact with the Flood. The game also loses three more Spartans, a problem that doesn't need to be emphasized. However, this is not a problem exclusive to Halo Wars. Overall, Halo Wars is not too important to understanding the Halo universe. It's a good side story, but not much else.

    Halo Wars is the black sheep among Halo games simply by genre alone. This is a very streamlined RTS that uses the controller to its fullest advantage. The game is simple, but with enough depth to keep the average fan interested. Covenant forces, true to any RTS, are usually always superior. Halo Wars' Legendary difficulty requires specific tactics (sometimes only a few tactics will actually work). The campaign gradually builds you up with more and more powers and units unveiled as you progress through the game. By the last level, you have every thing at your disposal (except, strangely, the Grizzly, which has already had two appearances, I suppose). However, some units are taken away from you in certain missions for little to no reason besides making a mission more difficult (such as no flying units in Dome of Light). The game also has Hero characters, which are are invincible Halo 3 style. If they go down, you can simply clear the area and move near them to revive them. These Hero units are also immune to Flood infection, making them very useful in later levels.

    Halo Wars is a RTS built in the same style as Command and Conquer. Units are fairly specialized, much like the Halo weapon sandbox. Knowing when to use certain units is the key to victory in Halo Wars. However, as you rise in difficulty, aerial units and tanks become much more useful. In the later levels, Flood render any infantry force useless (except Hero units), but have little defense against a tank assault. Covenant units are specialized in equal but different fashions, making them significantly more threatening. Brutes appear in one level in the middle of the game and serve little role other than annoying you. Their purpose, much like the Flood, seems to be simple fanservice.

    Halo Wars has a very linear mission structure, but there's some variety in here. The game has the usual types of RTS missions, such as destroying enemy bases, defending certain areas, or taking over certain areas. In addition, there are several secondary objectives to complete that either give you bonus units or more points to your score. The mission structure is consistent to the story and you rarely question what you're supposed to be doing. It's not perfect or even groundbreaking, but still very well done.

    Much like Halo 2, Halo Wars takes place over several areas. The levels are beautiful with lots of variety. From snowy chasms and Forerunner ruins to lush Forerunner environments and Flood infested wastelands, there's a lot to see.

    The levels also have several collectibles. In addition to secondary objectives, the player can collect skulls (spawned by achieving a special objective) and black boxes (which unlock pieces of a very impressive Halo timeline. The game does have some bad glitches, such as the Cryo-bomb exploit that allows you to reach the highest tech level in five minutes on any level with a Cryo-bomb. Other glitches, such as moving the camera out of the map, are less useful, but still fun to see in action.

    Halo Wars had a lot to live up to. The predominately pro-Bungie Halo community was skeptic to see another company, even one as respected as Ensemble, introduce Halo to another genre. While it's far from perfect (and maybe not even as good as what the demo implied), Halo Wars is a good, if not unremarkable RTS game that is well worthy of its brand.


    Last edited by Devil Mingy on Wed Jan 19, 2011 1:11 pm; edited 1 time in total


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Wed Jan 19, 2011 12:46 pm

    Halo 3: ODST

    Halo 3: ODST, formerly Halo 3: Recon, was announced in late 2008 (intended to be an E3 announcement, but oh well). Set as a Halo 3 expansion pack during the events of Halo 2, Halo 3: ODST is an interesting title. Stretching gameplay-story segregation to its extreme, the game puts you into the boots of several ODSTs (who have about the same attributes as Spartans). This is a bit jarring, but I figure that if Bioshock 2 can get away with it, why not let this game?

    The game is set during the first part of Halo 2, where the Covenant stumble on Earth and begin to capture the city of New Mombasa. An ODST team is sent in just as the Carrier jumps out. Now, separated in a destroyed city, the ODSTs must regroup and figure a way out of the city. The game's story is told mostly through flashbacks, an interesting style of “nior mystery” plot where you try to piece together events as an ODST Rookie (until the last two chapters). Because the flashbacks can be completed in any order, there is little structure in the story, feeling more like a group of set pieces loosely tied together. However, the characters (while true to Halo's archetypal nature) are entertaining enough. That being said, the game does flow better when you play the game in order. The side story, Sadie's story, can be found through 30 audio logs, is very good. It was also a nice touch for the side story to directly affect the game (as opposed to Halo 3's terminals, which are only implied to affect the end), even if most people didn't notice it.

    Being a side story, the game does feel overall inconsequential. Most of the flashbacks consists of the team regrouping with few pivotal events occurring until near the end. The game does introduce Engineers to the shooters (Halo Wars beat them to the punch) and tells us how the UNSC found out about the Ark (something that always bothered me about Halo 3). However, ODST is not required reading for the Halo experience.

    Being an expansion pack to Halo 3, the gameplay is very similar. It shares all the benefits and most of the flaws. In order to shake things up, ODST goes back to shields and health. The shields, now representing stamina, is a Gears-esque red tint across the screen indicating damage. The game also gets rid of the versatile Battle rifle, but n00b combo is still a powerful ally. The game's vehicular encounters can still be easily skipped. In order to capitalize on the game's newest feature, there are plenty of “Firefight encounters” in the game. These sections add some variety, and are among the best encounters in the game. Invincible allies make a return, but they are in Halo 2 style. While they are used sparingly, they do make certain areas too easy. The game also has only one Scarab fight. While Scarab encounters were never truly interesting after the “wow” wore off, it was still disappointing.

    Halo: ODST rearranges the sandbox a bit. Since the game does not allow dual wielding, a lot of the dual wielded weapons have been buffed to compensate, making a more efficient sandbox. The Brute Plasma Rifle replaces Plasma Rifle. The SMG gets a silencer and a scope, becoming the go-to automatic weapon in the game. The fairly niche Halo 3 Magnum gets replaced by the Halo 2 pistol with a scope, which is very useful for headshotting everything without shields. The Brute Spiker gets a damage buff. Unfortunately, Bungie forgot to balance it with other weapons. The SMG and Spiker increase makes the Halo 3 Assault Rifle even more useless. The game also leads to missed opportunities. It's weird to see Law Enforcement as allies as well as reworked weapons, but then Bungie decided to omit the custom Shotgun used by Law Enforcement. I know I don't want to judge a game based on what could've been, but it seemed out of place for Bungie to mention it in an off-hand intel article and not follow through.

    ODST also gives us a Banshee encounter (or, should I say, level) instead of Hornet. Engineers, a long-time addition to Halo, finally make it into a Bungie-made Halo game, providing shields to all around them. Hunters, in addition to their ray variety, can now be found decked in gold with the original Fuel Rod Cannon. On a more subtle change, Brute Jumpers also get two new ranks, a Captain and Ultra. Being an Earth based game, Flood and Sentinels make no appearance, though the game does give us our first human enemy if you collect the audio logs. Equipment is gone, replaced with VISR, a nice vision mode that is almost essential for traversing some of the darker areas of the city. However, Brutes will still use equipment to all their ability.

    Halo 3: ODST's environments are urban and linear. It's difficult to get lost, especially with objective markers on the fly. The flashbacks connecting to the hub world are an interesting way to reuse environments. If nothing else, it's an imaginative way to look back at areas to see how they change. The environments, unfortunately, all are found within a single city. They can be repetitive, but a few of them do have their charm. The overworld, used to connect the levels a la the classic 3D platformers, is an interesting case. On one hand, it's a large area that gets loathesome to traverse as the game goes on. However, collecting audio logs allows you get better equipment, including a Mongoose, to traverse to city better. The Superintendent, an AI helper, is also an interesting dynamic that alerts you to enemy patrols and audio logs. It helps to give the otherwise derelict city some much needed life.

    Easter eggs in ODST are low-key, such as the Siege of Madrigal (now with 100% more Marty), the Mongeese in the streets, and the 1000 ammo rockets in Coastal Highway. Sequence breaking can occur in some levels, but the game is overall fairly linear. The game features no skulls (already unlocked from the start), but audio logs are nice to hunt.

    Halo 3: ODST is an expansion pack, but it's single player is able to stand on its own. While it suffers from many of the same problems that Halo 3 did in terms of encounters, Bungie has shown that they have learned a lot from past mistakes. Expansions usually set low expectations, but I feel that this is one case where the echo beats the voice.


    Last edited by Devil Mingy on Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:01 pm; edited 1 time in total


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:46 pm

    Halo Reach

    Released in 2010 with a significantly toned down pre-release campaign, Halo: Reach is a prequel that sheds light on one of the pivotal points in the Halo saga. Through the eyes of Noble Team, we see a game that is second only to Halo Wars in showing us why fighting the Covenant is an exercise in futility. All we're asked is to “Remember Reach”. This game joins Evolutions as a grand departure of the series' roots in storytelling while, ironically, returning the gameplay to form. The relatively impersonal militant Halo that Nylund formed is replaced by a more human touch. The despair of loss overrides Nylund's glorification of sacrifice for a greater good.

    Like Halo 3, Halo Reach's overall story is marred by minimalistic storytelling. Noble Team, in particular, has a lot of potential in the beginning that is lost, particularly tension between Emile and Jorge. This is further emphasized by the game spending less time spent with certain members. Emile, in particular, is very overshadowed, especially since the level that you spend exclusively with him is a complete mismatch (he carries a shotgun in a level with almost no close-range combat). The “Field Marshall” villain is barely even a part, and the only way to understand that he is even supposed to be a villan is from the commentary (and you don't get credit for something you didn't put into the game).

    However, it gives us a great look at Reach, its citizens, and Spartans that, for the most part, feel like characters more than Nylund's automatons (yes, even Carter) while still being true to what a Spartan is. Noble Team know duty, and they know what is at stake if they fail, something that the dispersed narrative of Fall of Reach (and The Flood and First Strike, for that matter) never really got across.

    Halsey also gets portrayal as a sympathetic character while still being the same Machiavellian as she was in the expanded universe. Reach shows her initially as a conflict to Noble Team, who give her amount of respect that I personally feel she deserves (#1 reason why Noble is probably made up of Spartan IIIs). At the end, she proves to have humanity's best interest at heart, allowing us to respect her, if nothing else. Fall of Reach painted her in broad strokes. We were told she was admired and gave us the impression that she was a likable character. However, her every action was to the contrary. In Fall of Reach, she was aloof and obnoxious at best and sadistic and uncaring at worst. The closest we ever got to a question of Halsey's character was a comment by Cortana that is said and left hanging. However, Reach unfortunately creates continuity lockout to those unfamiliar with the expanded universe. Dr. Halsey is given little context unless you've read Fall of Reach, which directly contradicts Reach in a number of ways. Even a excerpt in the manual would've been just fine.

    Cortana herself is even given more importance in Reach's version, finding Halo as a singular purpose to her being rather than finding it on a blind hunch. It is nice that humanity's whole salvation wasn't a complete crapshoot.

    From the beginning, we knew the end. That alone should describe Halo: Reach's place in the overall storyline. Besides a few tidbits, it's a standard prequel, not required in the least. Still, it's an interesting take on what we knew from Fall of Reach. Halo: Reach does overwrite a lot of the later events of Fall of Reach, but most hardcore fans are really overreacting. People believe that Halo canon “all fit so perfect” before Reach ruined everything. It didn't. Get over it. It sucks that things change, but it's not the first time. Besides, I fell in love with Halo the game, not Halo the book. People who dismiss this game as non-canon seem like the same type of people who criticize Halo 2 with multiplayer stat graphs or dismiss Halo 3 as non-canon because Truth had a different voice actor.

    Halo: Reach doesn't stray too far from the mold Halo 3: ODST set up. VISR is replaced by armor abilities, which are equipment that can be used more than once. Dual wielding is still out and shields and health are separate. Invincible allies are back and you spend the majority of the game with them. However, they are fairly ineffective compared to the Covenant, mostly because their AI seems very passive and you can't give them better weaponry. Encounters are set up very similar to Halo 1, with a lot of emphasis on the player choosing which one to do first. Army troopers are next to useless, but Marines in later levels are much more effective ally. Enemy AI is aggressive and puts up a good fight. Elites are back and better than ever. The N00b combo is still very useful, but Elites dodge well enough to make it less of an “instant-win” tactic than it was in the previous three games. The AI knows how to react to armor abilities, including the deceptive active camouflage and hologram abilities (something Crytek couldn't manage). In the middle of the game, a special segment with the Sabre shakes up the gameplay. It's a nice scene, and I almost wish there was more to the encounter.

    The weapon sandbox is not nearly as bad as Halo 3. The Reach Assault Rifle still useless. Hell, it's probably even more useless since it sacrifices power for accuracy. Like in every game since Halo 2, the weapon design is symmetrical to give a variety of weapons in both human and Covenant variety. However, there is more contrast between human and Covenant weaponry. The weapons are fairly similar, but are both radically different, or at least different enough to be used for different situations. Curiously, the foreshadowed M6J Carbine from a Bungie.net article is not present, but we do get the DMR. The UNSC vehicle sandbox is shaken up with Ghetto hogs, the Missile Hog, and the excellent Falcon. The sole Covenant addition, the Revenant, is actually a decent Covenant warthog, though it pales in comparison to the Missile Hog.

    Brutes back to Halo 2 style (except Chieftains), where they have armor that can be shot off for an easy headshot. This also means that the Needler is the weapon of choice again. Hunters are back down to one type, but are very tough and very threatening with the Fuel Rod Cannon. Grunts and Elites have their special roles that we have seen before, but their new armor makes them look distinguished. Jackals and their new cousins, the Skirmishers, really showcase themselves in this game. They are threatening, but not the annoying pests that they've been. Engineers have been balanced, replacing their permanent overshield with a pulsing one that wears off periodically.

    Armor abilities add the same twists as equipment, while being infinitely more useful. For as varied as they are, the armor abilities are strangely balanced. The AI, as mentioned, reacts to and even uses the armor abilities to impressive effect.

    Halo: Reach's level design is very open, reminiscent of Halo. This helps in encouraging exploration and rewarding outside-the-box thinking. With a few exceptions, there are a lot of choices in vehicle combat, usually giving you at least two options for every encounter (ONI Sword base even gives you a blink-and-you-miss Transport Hog to use). While the “return to battle” barrier is restrictive in many places, the levels appear larger and more open, to the point where I barely noticed the barriers until I was deliberately trying to find them. Jetpacks really make encounters interesting on Exodus and Package. While you may not be going anywhere that Bungie didn't intend you to go, they do allow you to get to the places they did much quicker. The environments are beautiful as they are varied. Even the one repeated level is completely different, to the point that my friend didn't even notice it was the same level. Watching Reach go from a beautiful, alien world to a devastated landscape is awe-inspiring.

    Reach was Bungie's swan song, and they've packed it to the gills with fanservice. There are some excellent easter eggs. Between the Data Pads and radio messages (which provide the game's extra side stories), the new Siege of Madrigal, and being able to pilot the Pelican and Phantom. One specific easter egg of special mention is the Tribute Room, a room in Halsey's Lab dedicated to the benchmarks of the Halo fanbase. BOBs, golden Ranger Elites found in almost every level, provide a nice mystery and a literal easter egg hunt. The encounters, like in Halo, are easy to sequence break. Thinking outside the box can even get you special vehicles that weren't intended, such as the Seraph, Transport Hog, and the Falcon on Winter Contingency.

    As a sendoff to over a decade of hard work, Halo Reach is a worthy member of the Halo series. While a bit of extra characterization would've gone a long way, the game is truly a love letter to all things that made Halo special.


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    Re: Devil Mingy's Reviews

    Post  Devil Mingy on Wed Jan 19, 2011 11:59 pm

    Project Lumoria- Part 1

    Yeah, I'm cheating. Whatever. Project Lumoria is a fan made single player level for Halo: Custom Edition. It's been quite a bit in the making but only half done. Naturally, this is a review of the first episode, which can be found at here.

    Set early in the Human-Covenant War, the level takes places on a planet called Lumoria, where scientists discover a Forerunner artifact that can point them to any star system the Forerunner visited. Unfortunately, the Covenant invade and hope to use the Lumoria relic in order to locate their sacred rings and their control center, the Ark. Prior to their capture, a lone scientist was able to activate a distress beacon. Now, a small ODST team along with Spartan May-073, are sent into to rescue the scientists and drive the Covenant away from Lumoria. In addition to custom cinematics, there are also scripted events built into the level. Overall, this is one of the most professional looking custom maps I have ever seen for Halo: CE. However, it does have its problems. For one, voice acting is subpar and the volume is too low. Not only is it distracting to an otherwise excellent experience, it actually takes away from the gameplay as vital instructions are given by a character you can barely understand.

    Encounters borrow heavily from Halo 1 design. TM Mapping Team makes great use of the level design to craft the encounters. They are fast, furious, and very enjoyable. However, there are some drawbacks. A few encounters are very unforgiving, especially early on in the level where health kits are sparse (the first half of the level contains three of them, two of which are after a five-wave gauntlet). On Legendary, this makes the level very frustrating. To compound matters, the ally AI usually focuses on the first threat they see rather than the closest or most dangerous. Therefore, if they are gunning on the Warthog, they will ignore a Ghost ripping them to shreds in favor of a Grunt in the far off distance because the Grunt was the first enemy in their sight (and, no, they won't shoot at it if it's not in range. They'll just stare at it while you die). To end the level on a sour note, they give us a subpar boss fight that can easily be taken out by a grenade. I hated Halo 2's bosses for lack of consistency, but forsaking a good fight for consistency isn't much better of a solution (best solution: don't have bosses). Lumoria also gives you Brandon, your invincible ODST ally. However, armed with only a Shotgun, he is very similar to Emile in Reach: relatively useless.

    Sticking with native resources, you won't find much new in Lumoria. Besides the Halo PC Fuel Rod Gun, the game sticks to the native weapons set. If you like the old familiar feeling, it's a perfectly acceptable choice. However, given what has been done in other mods, it's disappointing to not see something extra. The fact that Lumoria takes place early in the war makes this design choice even more jarring. Enemies, however, share some nice variety. With the exception of the Flood, every enemy type from Halo can be found here (although Gold Elites are replaced with Red Zealots to closer resemble E3 2000). Speaking of E3 2000, the boss is a Sword Elite with a triple-triangle energy gauntlet. Lumoria also gives us a special new enemy for an encounter that works remarkably well (and is, in fact, my favorite fight in the level): Drones. Drones were an excellent touch, and I only hope that they follow through with their promise to include Brutes in the second part. TM Mapping Team has also placed two new vehicles into Lumoria: the Halo PC Rocket Hog and the pre-release Shadow (A more angular Spectre). Both of these vehicles work remarkably well, even if the AI doesn't know how to use the Rocket Hog very well.

    Level design is one of the weaker parts of the map; there's a lot of rough edges. There are places that you can easily fall in and can't get out, forcing you to restart the checkpoint. This leads to a different problem: checkpoints are very spread out. While Bungie usually put in at least one checkpoint after every encounter, Lumoria usually waits until there's a loading zone. This means that a simple mistake can set you back almost 15 minutes. The level also has no waypoint markers to show you where you're going. Since this map is absolutely huge, this makes it rather easy to get lost if you're not careful. There's also a lot of wasted space in this level. While there are some goodies tucked away in corners for those who want to explore, the level also has several empty spaces that are just that.

    Lumoria is beautiful, but it suffers from Halo 1 repetitive design. It's very easy to get turned around and confused. A lot of scenery borrows heavily from the E3 2000 trailer of Halo. There is also a custom made skybox which is simply beautiful, to the point where there's even a hidden area whose sole purpose to just admire the view. There are also some pretty lazy areas where level geometry and resources are clearly taken from Halo, such as the driving section that is not even trying to hide the fact that it's a tunnel right out of Assault on the Control Room. Not only does it make little sense for the semi-frozen tunnels from Alpha Halo to be on grassy, warm Lumoria, but it also sparks questions as to why they didn't at least change the textures.

    There are several glitches in the level which can negatively affect the experience. As mentioned, it's easy to get stuck in places and have to restart. The final boss battle can be skipped by jumping over the trigger. In fact, I assumed I was being clever at first by flanking the boss by going up a side path. After wasting three grenades on him and realizing he was invincible, I then had to double back to trigger the cutscene so I could kill him properly. Ally AI gets stuck in scenery and there are minor clipping issues. The most curious glitch (at least I think it's a glitch) I experienced was that I could not get back into the Warthog after I exited it. This only occurred after the chasms, right before a big fight where you regroup with your ODST allies.

    There are some nice hidden easter eggs, but they may not be what the average Halo fan (or Metroid fan, for that matter) would really want to look for. A large area that isn't wasted will spawn loads of hostile Sentinels (which are very deadly on Legendary). This, along with a background Enforcer, are foreshadowing for Episode 2. A likely glitch (but I'll still count), because of the cutscenes being in-game, is that your character will always die on Legendary or Heroic at the end cutscene, a hilarious sight to watch. It even comes with its own exclusive Legendary Ending, if you can survive Legendary.

    I know what you're saying. It's too harsh to judge a fan-made mod like this. I shouldn't be comparing it on the same scale as Bungie's work. However, for as negative as the review has been, the scale that I'm grading it on is the best compliment I can give it. This map is so good that is deserves to be judged on the same level; the first custom level I have ever played for Halo: CE that feels like it could've been made by Bungie. It may not try to stray from Bungie's established encounter structure, but the fact that it can match and, at times, surpass it is a triumph. Anybody who owns Halo PC should try this map out.

    UPDATE: Tragically, like all good mods, Lumoria is no more. The team apparently couldn't hold it together.


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