How to Fix – Halo: Reach

Welcome to another article in our How to Fix series, a collection of features dedicated to outlining the main issues with the story of a film, game, TV show episode or book and suggesting ideas of how to effectively ‘fix’ it. As stated in previous installments of this series, the subject in question does not necessarily have to be something that is already bad – a prime example of a How to Fix article covering a title that is already of a decent standard is this one. Halo: Reach is without a doubt a legendary game. With a community that is still active to this day, and the recent announcement of a PC release that is likely to lengthen this game’s already impressive post-launch lifespan, the game is still a popular title even nearly ten years after its release. And yet, as popular and enduring as Bungie’s final Halo title is, there is still a lot about the story of the Campaign in particular that can be improved. So, how could Halo: Reach be fixed?

reach story.jpg

Story and Campaign

Though epic in its scope and powerful in its delivery, Halo: Reach’s story does leave something to be desired by the end, especially after multiple playthroughs. The early story is gripping as it peppers multiple clues about Halsey and the Covenant through the various missions – the discovery of Halsey’s data in the first mission, to meeting Halsey herself, and then after that being chosen by Cortana to get her to the Pillar of Autumn so that the story of Halo: Combat Evolved can kick off. But there are many aspects to the story, particularly later on, that are unexplained, and plot threads left unanswered. Some of these are smaller, more nitpicky things such as ‘Why do Emile and Jorge hate each other?’ and ‘What was Carter and Kat’s prior history?’ that are never truly resolved as the various characters die before their stories can progress. Whilst this does add to the shock factor and warfare immersion initially, as it keeps the player on their toes and reminds them that warfare isn’t kind, but after multiple runs through the story you expect the deaths to come and yet there is still no way of expanding on the character’s backstory.

As for the campaign itself, the gameplay is almost perfect – there really isn’t much to fix here, as Halo: Reach has some of the largest and most intricate levels in all of the Bungie games, and despite not featuring any Flood or Forerunner enemies, the game still manages to make the levels feel varied as it features the most Covenant enemy varieties of any Halo game to date, even beating Halo 2. That being said, as with many later Halo games, your allies do not feel as useful in this game as they did in previous titles. Although your Noble squadmates feature in some levels as AI bots to help you through the mission, in a manner similar to that of the Arbiter in Halo 3, they are not exactly masters of aiming precisely on target – in fact, one might go so far as to say that the Noble team AI is almost totally pointless, and the Marines actually offer better support to the player in missions than their Spartan compatriots do. Not only that, but the AI driving for Noble Team seems to be particularly bad – an infamous example of this being Kat’s godawful attempts at keeping the Rocket Hog steady during the run on the AA Guns in Tip of the Spear, only to topple both herself and the player off a cliff.

reach multiplayer.jpg

Multiplayer

Although Halo: Reach’s multiplayer is perhaps one of the most treasured of all the Halo games, and the recent announcement that it is coming to PC via the MCC has fans ecstatic, upon its initial release the game was met with a mixed reception from fans, who called it too far of a deviation from the classic Halo formula to be considered a ‘true’ Halo game. They were of course referring to the additions of armour abilities, specifically Sprint and Armour Lock, which were quite radical additions to the Halo sandbox at the time but, in hindsight nearly 10 years later, these pale in comparison to some of the additions that Halos 4 and 5 would go on to add, so by comparison it doesn’t look as bad – although the dreaded firefight-stalling pace-shattering Armour Lock still remains one of the games most controversial features.

As for the maps, there are plenty – although almost all are sourced from either the Campaign missions, or Forge World map variants. This is not necessarily an issue in itself – after all, Forge World is a really diverse map and, as previously discussed, the Campaign does involve a variety of different terrains and arenas, so the developers definitely had plenty to source from. The main problem with Reach’s maps is the lack of specialising particular maps for particular kinds of game – with the addition of Sprint, as well as Anti-Vehicle Armour Abilities such as Jetpack and Armour Lock, many of Reach’s maps moved away from map control and layout memorisation. This is further exacerbated by the inclusion of Loadouts, though these are not present in all game modes online, and in recent years the Reach multiplayer seems to have moved away from Loadouts and Armour Abilities and more towards emulating the classic Halo style in some game modes, suggesting that they have taken fan criticism to heart.

falcon.jpg

Weapon and Vehicle Sandbox

Though there is no denying that Halo: Reach had a fantastic weapons sandbox, including a diverse variety of new weapons such as the Grenade Launcher, Focus Rifle, Concussion Rifle, Plasma Launcher and the legendary Target Locator, one of the essential elements missing from Reach’s weapons sandbox is specialisation – many of the weapons have counterparts that do a similar or, in some cases, the exact same job. Examples of this include the DMR and the Needle Rifle, both one-shot weapons capable of landing headshots and good for medium-long range aiming, the Plasma Rifle and the Spiker, both two-handed automatic Covenant weapons with a similar rate of fire, and the Concussion Rifle and Grenade Launcher, both of which are short-range explosive weapons for clearing out large areas. Some weapons do have special traits, such as the Needle Rifle’s supercombine and the Grenade Launcher’s EMP, but overall some more diversity in the weapons sandbox might have been better – the DMR is a solid rifle, but the Battle Rifle reigns supreme.

Speaking of notable absences from Reach, many previous Halo vehicles are absent from Reach’s sandbox, including the Chopper, Prowler, Spectre, Hornet and Elephant – and although there are some new vehicles, like the Revenant and the Falcon, overall Reach’s vehicles seems to be the only aspect of the game in which it feels like there is actually less content than there was before. This would begin a trend in Halo games up until Halo 5: Guardians in which the number of Covenant vehicles usable in the game is drastically reduced, which is a shame considering that they are among the most fun vehicles to drive. As always, the Banshee, Ghost and Wraith all feature, and Reach’s Banshee has the best handling of all the Bungie Banshees – but unfortunately, the addition of the limited boost feature for all three vehicles has significantly reduced their effectiveness. Overall, Reach’s vehicles are perhaps its game’s biggest shortcoming, but there are two particular vehicles of note in the game, ironically the two vehicles original to the game mentioned earlier, the Falcon and the Revenant. The Falcon is an instant fan-favourite, the ‘team troop carrier’ that was ideal for Capture the Flag getaways – although there should have been an option to turn on the pilot’s main weapon and the inner passenger seats for Custom Games. As for the Revenant, it is hilariously fun to drive and finds a sensible middle ground between the Ghost’s speed and the Wraith’s firepower. Plus, it has a passenger seat!

forge world

Conclusion

All things considered, Halo: Reach is definitely one of the best Halo games in its own right, as it remains one of the most unique and creative Halo games in history and definitely a fitting sendoff for Bungie. The inclusion of Reach into MCC, and the concurrent and long-awaited release of Reach on PC, is definitely good news for fans. Overall, the issues that Reach experienced early on were mostly due to sudden and unexpected changes that fans weren’t happy with but, in hindsight, Reach seems far closer to the earlier Bungie games like Halo 3 now that the new pariah of the franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, has released. No prizes for guessing what the next Halo How To Fix will be about…

Read More

 

 

Halo 3 Multiplayer – Top 5 Halo 3 Maps

Halo 3’s multiplayer  is one of the most fondly remembered of all the classic Halo games, and the recently news that it will finally be coming to PC after over 10 years has many fans excited. In light of the recent announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC, we’re counting down the Top 5 Maps in Halo 3 Multiplayer – discounting remakes, for now…

narrows.jpg

#5 – Narrows

This map usually leads to games that are best described as hilariously frantic. Considering the fact that many players will stick to the upper level of Narrow’s ‘bridge’, the actual play-space of this map is actually quite small. As a result it is best suited for small arena-style games, but usually ends up being used for 4v4 matches. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your point of view – on the one hand, Narrow’s multiple paths can lead to some interesting strategies with 4 players on a team, including a two-pronged assault on the opposite side using the gravity cannons and the lower bridge to take the enemy by surprise. However, if both teams are disorganised matches can end up with both teams just mincing each other in a war of attrition (usually involving frag grenades). Overall, if you’re using it for the right kind of game, Narrows is easily one of the best maps in the game – small but packed with potential. The map design is reminiscent of Gephyrophobia, a Halo: CE PC map involving a huge bridge over a cavernous chasm, although Narrows is a far more downsized affair that involves no vehicles. Then again, adding a Banshee to the map might make things interesting…

sandtrap.jpg

#4 – Sandtrap

Speaking of vehicle maps, none of them hold a candle to Sandtrap, a map designed with vehicles in mind. The most memorable and exciting feature of this map is the Elephants, gigantic UNSC transport vehicles that serve as drive-able mobile bases that can make for some creative and interesting matches. Players have also created entire gametypes around the Elephants, such as a Pirate game in which both teams are disallowed from touching the sand and must use the Elephants as makeshift boarding vessels. However, Sandtrap has much more to it than just these vehicles – almost every vehicle in the game can be featured on this map (depending on settings) and the huge size makes for some hectic gameplay. The ring design makes races a common social gametype for this map, and even if vehicular combat isn’t your style, the semi-submerged Forerunner ruins in the map make excellent hiding spots. Inquisitive players who delve deeper into the ruins may find themselves rewarded with better power weapons, the Sniper Rifle being a particularly deadly example.

guardian.jpg

#3 – Guardian

This is perhaps one of the most popular maps in Halo 3, simply because of its versatility. Being set in a strange arena-shaped structure suspended among humongous trees in a Forerunner forest, the map has a very distinct identity both in terms of its aesthetic and its gameplay. This map is very reminiscent of previous Halo arena maps such as Lockout and Wizard, and like all good Halo maps it has excellent vertical movement options. The Gravity Hammer placed at the very bottom-centre of the map is usually the thing that players rush for when a game starts, making for some intense combat in the confined lower area of the map. Another spot that seems to attract frantic fights is the area around the gravity lift, as well as the central arena – a combination of a Shotgun and Needler nearby often leads to teams trying to wrestle control of that area early on. As for the visual design of the map, you couldn’t ask for a better setting – the forest harks back to several iconic levels from Halo: CE and Halo 2, and the bright grey Forerunner structures break up the greens and browns of the various trees.

the pit.jpg

#2 – The Pit

A classic Halo arena, The Pit is relatively simple in its aesthetic, being set not on an ancient Forerunner facility but instead in a simple military training ground on a human planet – but it is also surprisingly complex in its actual level design. What at first appears to be a simple setup disguises an intricate maze of power positions and weapon placements, and experienced players know the best areas of the map to defend or set up an ambush. Due to its various tight corridors that surround an open exposed playspace, the map is particularly good for free-for-all matches or games with particularly large teams – Halo is known for its hectic firefights over power weapons, and The Pit is a great map for this. Overall, as arenas go, The Pit has a bit of everything – wide open spaces, tight enclosed corridors, hidden power weapons and some great opportunities for intense firefights.

high ground

Honourable Mention – High Ground

A favourite for objective or assault-style games involving one team attacking and the other defending, High Ground is set in an abandoned UNSC base near the coastline, and the fact that the facility has clearly seen action in the past opens up some creative strategies for assaulting the base, as a full-frontal assault on the main gate is usually not the best way to go – that is, at least, until you can get it open. The primary objective of attacking teams, whatever the gamemode happens to be, is always to open the main gate – this creates a kind of multi-tiered style of gameplay in which, if the defenders fail the first objective of defending the gate control console, they all fall back further into the base to concentrate on defending the objective. As good a map as High Ground is for Objective games, it features here as an honorable mention as it is not the best choice for standard team or free-for-all Slayer games, but is still a fantastic map in its own right.

valhalla.jpg

#1 – Valhalla

Regardless of which map took the top spot, there will inevitably be people who disagree. After all, each individual Halo fan will have their own opinion of which maps are best based on their personal experience, their playstyle, and even their favourite aesthetic. However, few can argue that, objectively, Valhalla is a truly astounding map. There are plenty of excellent maps in Halo 3 that invoke similar gameplay ideas – maps like Standoff and Sandbox, to name a couple – but although they are both excellent, they both fall just short of topping Valhalla. Combining the best elements of almost every aspect of Halo’s multiplayer at the time, this perfectly blends vehicular combat, oppurtunities for map control, power weapon positioning and team-based combat. With the classic trope of two bases, one canyon, Valhalla harks back to two of the most popular Halo maps of all time – Blood Gulch and its Halo 2 remake, Coagulation – but at the same time takes a completely new spin on the layout – it is considerably smaller in scale compared to Blood Gulch, but the more varied terrain and map topography allows players on foot a better chance, and the addition of the man cannons on the bases cuts down map travel time and improves the pacing of objective-based games. Speaking of which, Valhalla is a classic objective map – the telltale sign of truly great map design in Halo is when a map is perfectly suited for both Slayer and Objective gametypes, and Valhalla is one of the most popular maps in the game for both categories. By staying true to the classic Halo map design philosophy but tweaking the transportation system of the map from teleporters to man cannons, the Bungie managed to create a perfect balance of the vehicle combat from Blood Gulch and the intense run-and-gun firefights of Beaver Creek within Valhalla’s map design and it stands as a suitable middle ground between these two gamemode-tailored maps. At the end of the day, nothing beats the simple but effective map design of two opposing bases in a canyon, one red, one blue.

Read More

 

Halo: Reach – Why Forge World is Actually the Best Halo Map Ever

Halo has a huge number of maps, many of which have become timeless classics. Fans who spent hours each evening duking it out in arenas like Hang ‘Em High, Blood Gulch, Lockout, Midship, High Ground and countless others will all agree that Halo has some of the best map design and optimisation in the FPS world. Alongside Call of Duty, Halo may have among the best oppurtunities for map strategy in the console FPS market. One thing that Halo has over Call of Duty, however, is the diverse variety of settings and locations that the maps are based around – from terristrial battlefields to some wacky off-the-wall mazes.

The title of this piece may come as a surprise to most fans – at the end of the day, compared to the professionally-built multiplayer maps in the game, Forge World cannot compare – in its default state it is practically useless for most gametypes, and its vast size makes it a poor choice for local multiplayer. However, the clue to Forge World’s success is in the name, as this map was created with one particular purpose in mind – it is the ultimate Forge environment. At the time of release, Forge World had the biggest selection of Forge items of any Halo map, and the fact that Halo: Reach’s Forge system expanded and improved on Halo 3’s Forge in almost every conceivable way, it isn’t hard to see why Forge World was one of the most anticipated features of the game in the run-up to Halo: Reach’s release.

Forge World Canyon Blood Gulch
The iconic Blood Gulch remade in Forge World’s Canyon

And, unusually for the modern gaming world, it actually lived up to the hype. Since it was released Forge World has become one of the most popular maps of all time, and fans have used the tools available in Halo: Reach’s Forge to create some extraordinary creations. But it is not just the expansive Forge options that make Forge World great – after all, Bungie could have simply released a blank sandbox that allowed players to build whatever they want in a large space. But Bungie aren’t known for cutting corners and would often go the extra mile, and that is exactly what they did with Forge World. At the time of release it was the largest Halo map to date, so large that the developers were able to re-create several sizeable maps from classic Halo games within the space of Forge World itself, such as Blood Gulch, Ascension and Sanctuary, all made using the various natural features of the map, and the Forge budget is the largest of any map in Halo 3 or Reach with 10,000 credits – for a sense of how big that is, most Halo 3 Forge maps barely surpassed 1,000.

The fact that so many classic maps have been remade in Forge World illustrates how versatile the map is, and betrays the fact that a lot of the map’s natural terrain and topography is either inspired or directly recreated from the environments of classic Halo maps. For example, the ‘Canyon’ section of Forge World is very similar to Coagulation, and the aptly-named ‘Pillar’ rock formation in the ocean is what forms the basis of Ascension (and its remake). Perhaps the most efficient and creative use of space in the map is the Collosseum, a large hangar-sized indoor arena embedded in a cliff-face, and the fact that the grassy area on top is the perfect size for either sports-based minigames or remaking many of Halo 2’s arena maps.

Forge World Island
Forge World’s Island, the location of many popular Forge maps

These are just a few of the possible locations to Forge on the map – others include ‘The Island’, an assymetrical playspace surrounded by water that includes a cave system, a mountain and several rocky paths for vehicular play – and that is just the basic layout, before any Forging has even been done. With some creativity and imaginative level design, fans can use the prexisting structures to make some truly incredible creations, such as using the Canyon as the crash site for a spaceship or building structures around the Waterfalls to create a suspended arena surrounded by flowing water. This is all made much easier due to the fact that Forge World was the first Forge map to allow players access to the elusive ‘Structures’ section, allowing them build their own buildings, bases and even entire arenas when previously all players could do in Forge was edit weapon and vehicle placements. This opened up a huge variety of gameplay sub-types with Forge, such as creating artwork, playing a Forge 1v1 with a friend or even creating intricate minigames and mazes.

Forge World Halo Ring Skybox
Forge World’s beautiful skybox is yet another reason why this map is so memorable

Needless to say, many of these features have gone on to be included in later Forge versions, and it has to be said that both Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians have Forge modes that expand massively on the features of Halo: Reach. For example, Halo 4 added dynamic lighting to Forge, meaning that the structures you create will actually cast shadows, and Halo 5: Guardians completely reworked the Forge tool to make it much more developer-focused, adding scripts and all sorts of features that have taken map-making to a whole new level. However, the Forge frenzy that began with Halo 3 was truly actualised in Halo: Reach, and the one map that stands out from all the others when any fan thinks of Forge is, of course, Forge World. It does somewhat beg the question of why, with all the new features and upgrades that 343i have added to Forge, they haven’t remade Forge World itself for the new generation of Halo players. 343i have released some Forge sandboxes in the past, such as Forge Island, several blank sandboxes and some smaller Forge arenas in Halo 5, but none of these have ever truly lived up to the variety, creativity and diversity of options presented by Forge World itself.

Read More