Halo – Top 10 Covenant Ship Classes

One of the most instantly recognisable aspects of Halo besides Master Chief and the Halos themselves is the Covenant. The bright and ornate weapons, the multicoloured armour of the alien soldiers and particularly the sleek curved metallic purple aesthetic of the ships and technology that define the Covenant have become closely tied to Halo’s identity. Covenant ships, in particular, have become iconic staples of the franchise, as both terrifying adversaries and, in recent games, powerful occasional allies. Welcome to the Top Ten Covenant Ship Classes, starting with:

#10 – CRS-class Light Cruiser

A small and compact version of the familiar Covenant cruiser design, the CRS-class light cruiser is a tiny cousin of the CCS-class battlecruiser, the mainline Covenant warship during the war against mankind. Despite this, humans didn’t see much of the CRS-class during the war, as it was primarily used for patrol and support duties within the borders of Covenant space. It was only following the Great Schism and the fall of the Covenant, when opportunistic Sangheili and Jiralhanae warlords began pillaging former Covenant space for assets, that the CRS-class began to see widespread use as a mainline warship. Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant Remnant faction in particular made use of this kind of ship in its fleet, meaning it was primarily seen during the events of Halo 4.

#9 – Sangheili Man O’ War

This tiny post-Covenant warship was used extensively by Covenant Remnant factions following the fall of the Covenant as the design dates back centuries. Due to a shortage of mainline Covenant ships after years of infighting, various Sangheili factions began to manufacture their own ships from traditional designs updated with modern technology. The result is a compact light warship that makes full use of Sangheili mastery of warship design coupled with the power of the reverse-engineered Forerunner technology of the Covenant, and at present the full capabilities of this warship have not been fully explored. The Arbiter used a fleet of them as escort ships during the Battle of Sunaion on Sanghelios, suggesting that they run rings around traditional Covenant warships due to their nimble mobility.

#8 – SDV-class Heavy Corvette

A small ship used primarily for escort duties, the most famous SDV-class heavy corvette to Halo players is the Ardent Prayer, the ship that Jorge-052 and Noble Six hijack and use to destroy the Supercarrier Long Night of Solace during Halo: Reach. During that mission we get a detailed look at the inside of an SDV-class with key areas like the main hangar, the bridge and the communications room being explored in-depth by Noble Six. The SDV-class also proves that it is more than capable of taking on and destroying a Human Frigate, as the UNSC Savannah meets an unfortunate end during ship-to-ship combat with the Ardent Prayer after a fierce fight. SDV-class Corvettes saw more use as a mainline warship after the war, as Covenant Remnant factions began to grow desperate and push escort craft into a more mainline role following the Great Schism.

#7 – CPV-class Heavy Destroyer

This distinctive Covenant vessel was a medium-sized destroyer used for ship-to-ship combat and the arduous planet-glassing process that often following Covenant military victories. As such, they became a common target for UNSC firepower and thousands of these ships met their end during the war, though their heavy armour and deadly weapons meant that many went down with several kills to their name. Though they are not seen as commonly during the main Halo games, as infantry tended to see more of the carrier class ships like the CAS that were focused on troop deployment, the CPV-class Heavy Destroyer would have been a common sight for UNSC Navy personnel in space battles, and they were almost as feared as the CCS-class battlecruiser.

#6 – Sangheili Brigantine

An ancient, massive class of carrier used by the Sangheili during their early pre-Covenant years, the Brigantine design was re-purposed following the fall of the Covenant to serve as a replacement for the increasingly rare CAS-class Carrier. Ironically, the Bringantine is actually larger and more powerful than its Covenant-era predecessor, and as the Elites have built the new ships to modern specifications, including Covenant technology, the Brigantine is a powerful ship to contend with. Luckily for humanity, it would seem that most of these ships currently belong to the Swords of Sanghelios under the command of the Arbiter, although Cortana’s Created may be manufacturing more of these ships for their new Covenant Remnant allies.

#5 – Sangheili Carrack

This large capital ship was once a mainline of pre-Covenant Sangheili fleets, but fell out of use as a warship following the War of Beginnings and would later serve as merchant ships. In modern times, the Carrack design has been reclaimed by ex-Covenant warlords for their fleets, so it is seeing widespread use for the first time in centuries, albeit a version upgraded with modern technology. Unlike modern Covenant ships, older Sangheili ships tended to be single-purpose, but the Carrack is an example of a multi-purpose ship that serves as both a carrier and a cruiser. This is likely the main design of post-Covenant warship that players will encounter in Halo: Infinite, although depending on how much time has passed since the events of Halo 5, things may have changed.

#4 – Sangheili Blockade Runner

Of all the ancient Sangheili ship design that have been resurrected by post-Covenant Sangheili factions, the Blockade Runner is perhaps the one that most closely resembles the later Covenant-era warships, suggesting that this is the ship that would go on to most heavily inspire the shipwrights of the Covenant. The model of Sangheili Blockade Runner seen in the games is the Hekar Taa-pattern design, a versatile corvette with powerful armaments that is known for its fast and aerodynamic design. The Swords of Sanghelios made extensive use of this design of ship around the time of Halo 5: Guardians.

#3 – CSO-class Supercarrier

A behemoth of a Covenant carrier, the CSO-class is perhaps most famous for its role in the Fall of Reach, as the supercarrier Long Night of Solace was only destroyed at the cost of Jorge, several Sabres and a UNSC Frigate, and dozens more appeared through Slipspace immediately following this, signalling imminent doom for the forces on the planet below. Visually, this class of supercarrier resembles an up-scaled version of the more commonly seen CAS-class carriers, although it dwarfs the vast majority of other Covenant ships as this gigantic capital ship is capable of transporting entire occupation forces single-handed, meaning a fleet of them is more than capable of taking on an entire solar system of enemy defences. The only downside to the CSO-class is, perhaps, its unwieldiness – and the fact that it presents such a massive target means that it is vulnerable to sneak attacks like the one Noble team executed against the Long Night of Solace.

#2 – CAS-class Carrier

The most common type of carrier seen during the Human-Covenant war, the CAS-class carrier struck fear into the hearts of any Human for decades, as the sight of these ships in the sky usually signalled imminent death. The bulk of Covenant infantry were transported via CAS-class carriers, so they often presented a valuable target for the UNSC. Perhaps the most famous ship of this class is the Shadow of Intent, a carrier that was stolen from the Brutes by none other than Shipmaster Rtas ‘Vadum and used as his flagship for the waning days of the Human-Covenant war, transporting Human forces to the Ark and evacuating all Human and Elite forces once the battle was over. After the war, the CAS=class carrier was a sought-after asset, as so many had been destroyed during the Great Schism that they were now exceedingly rare.

#1 – CCS-class Battlecruiser

The mainline Covenant warship for much of its existence, the CCS-class battlecruiser was a formidable warship capable of taking on almost any UNSC ship single-handed and prevailing. These ships were designed to be multipurpose vessels for both space combat and planetary occupation, so they were fast, heavily armed and able to transport hundreds of ground troops. Though many were used during the Human-Covenant war to devastate Human fleets, they were a rare sight after the Covenant’s fall. During the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, two missions are primarily set in the belly of the CCS-class cruiser Truth and Reconciliation, presenting a unique opportunity to explore the interior of this iconic Covenant vessel. Overall, though it may not be as massive as the CSO-class or as sought-after as a CAS-class, the CCS-class battlecruiser is undoubtedly the go-to Covenant warship for its speed, versatility and powerful weapons. Sadly, it is likely that no more of these ships will be seen in future Halo games, as the Great Schism saw many destroyed. However, this ship will always be what fans immediately think of when people think of ‘Covenant Warships’.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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…

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#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…

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Halo – MCC Gets a PC Release and Reach DLC – Classic Halos FINALLY get a PC Release

In a stunning move, 343 industries have exceeded fans’ expectations two-fold by not only announcing that Halo: Reach will be added to MCC, a wild but popular fan request, but also announcing that the long-awaited PC release for MCC is imminent and, remarkably, the game will be available on Steam. This is perhaps the biggest piece of Halo gaming news since the announcement of Halo: Infinite, and fans are ecstatic.

This can only mean good things for the Halo community, as provided that 343 doesn’t make the same mistakes as they did with MCC’s Xbox One release back in 2014, the Halo community is going to grow with a new influx of PC players who are either newcomers to the franchise and are curious or nostalgic former fans, perhaps those who never bought an Xbox One and switched to either Playstation or PC, who will now take the opportunity to revisit the franchise.

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Xbox 360 Era Halo Games are coming to PC at last on the MCC –

Another important thing to note is that the release of MCC on PC will mark the first time that Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 will be released officially on the PC. In fact, a mainline Halo game hasn’t been released on PC since Halo 2 Vista in the mid 2000s, so this announcement is a big leap forward for Halo in the PC community. With the inclusion of the full classic multiplayer systems for all the Halo games, as well as Firefight, Spartan Ops, Forge, Theater, and not to mention the Campaigns for every classic Halo game, MCC in its current state is quite an impressive game in terms of content.

However, there are some technical conditions to this release regardless of what version of MCC you have – for console users, Reach’s Campaign and Firefight are premium DLC, whilst the multiplayer and forge are available for free. For PC users, each game in the MCC will release separately in chronological order – that is, starting with Reach, then CE, then 2, and so on. 343 industries have decided to release MCC on PC in this way to ensure that there are as few issues as possible with the release and to mitigate any immediate problems. Whilst this may frustrate some PC users who really want to play Halo 2 Anniversary or Halo 3 on PC, this is a good sign that 343 industries are have learned from the mistakes of the original release of MCC in 2014.

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More NEW Content for the MCC is Coming

To get involved in what is essentially the Beta for Halo MCC (starting with Halo: Reach) on PC, and the concurrent Beta for Halo: Reach on the console version of MCC, it is possible to sign up to the Halo Insider program via the Halo Waypoint site.

The PC release and the inclusion of Reach are not the only pieces of good news, however. 343 industries also confirmed in the same announcement that the long-awaited Custom Games Browser is also coming to MCC. This will allow players to search for live Custom Games and join them as they would a Social Matchmaking game. This makes it much easier for players to set up their own Custom Games with enough players to test a forge map, try out a wacky game mode, or just host their own matches on the classic maps or modes they love that don’t pop up as often in Matchmaking. This is already a feature of Halo 5: Guardians and it was perhaps the best thing added to the game since Jorge’s Chaingun, and it was able to give the game a dignified send off as its impressively long post-release life came to an end at last.

However, as bombastic and exciting as all this glamorous news is, let us not forget that this isn’t even the full extent of the work that 343 industries is doing on the Master Chief Collection. In fact, months before this update dropped, a previous update to MCC that added new Skulls to Halo: CE also came with a promise that more content is being created for the classic Halo games, particularly new game modifiers in the form of either Skulls from later Halo titles being created for their classic predecessors, or even brand new Skulls that are being developed and tested by 343 industries behind the scenes. Factor in the Halo: Reach release, and the fact that Halo is coming to PC, and this opens up some exciting new opportunities, particularly with the idea of Custom Skulls, an idea that several fans have put forward as a possible means 343 industries could use to bringing modding to MCC on PC. Speaking of which…

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Modding Halo MCC on PC Will be Possible – But Not on Release

Although not every fan would necessarily ask for it as a feature, the idea of including modding capability for Halo: MCC on PC has been thrown around. For one, we know that modding Halo on PC is hardly a new idea – mods have been created for Halo: CE (via the official Halo: Custom Edition), Halo 2 Vista (but only just) and even Halo 5: Forge for PC, and we have already covered a popular new mod that was recently released for Halo: CE on Sacred Icon before – known as Halo: SPV3, this incredible mod is a full conversion that adds features from many other games to the original Halo and expands the weapon sandbox, levels and enemy variety. Could this kind of content become available for all the games included in the MCC for PC in the future? Could we see a new renaissance of the Classic Halo portfolio thanks to the ability of the community to continuously create new content?

Given that games like Skyrim or Star Wars Battlefront II, both games that have been available for a considerable number of years, still have a massive playerbase thanks to the release of new mods, it could well be possible that the Halo community, which has suffered more than a few distinct schisms and crises since 343 industries took over the series, may finally come together once again in the way that the original release of the MCC back in 2014 was intended to.

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Halo MCC – Top 10 ‘Additional Skulls’ That We Want To See Added to MCC

In the most recent update to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, 343 industries did something unexpected, exciting and ridiculous – they added new skulls to Halo: Combat Evolved, supplementing the game with several skulls that expanded its already impressive array of skulls from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary that was released in 2011. Halo: CE now features several skulls that, until now, had only been present in Halo 2, like Anger and Ghost, and several more that are staples of the modern incarnations of Halo, such as Thunderstorm and Tough Luck. However, in the blog post accompanying this update, 343 industries suggested that not only will the other Halo titles in the MCC be receiving new Skulls in the future, but also that there will be brand new skulls added to the game that have never been seen before. Since then, fans have been speculating as to what these skulls might do, so here is a list of the Top 5 ‘Additional Skulls’ that fans want to see in Halo: MCC.

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#10 – Invincible Allies Skull

This one is fairly low on the list because, if it ever exists, it will more than likely be a 0x scoring skull, and rightly so – having invincible allies would make the game very easy, in a similar fashion to infinite ammo, but it cannot be denied that having invincible allies would also be hilarious and would open up opportunities for weird and wacky glitches as it would be possible to blast or whack allies into areas that they would usually not enter. This skull has been brought up several times in relation to Halo: CE, as Marine snipers would often teamkill their allies when firing a rapid sequence of shots at eye-level , if marines walked into their line of fire. This Skull might even open up entire new ways of playing levels – if your Marine allies could survive 343 Guilty Spark on Halo: CE, or your Grunt allies could survive Sacred Icon (the level this blog is named for) on Halo 2.

#9 – Halo 2 Grunt Birthday Party Skull

This one is slightly less likely, but many now forget that in the original Halo 2, the Grunt Birthday Party Skull had a totally different effect to what it became in later Halo games. Originally, activating the skull caused all headshots to turn into plasma grenade explosions, so any time a projectile heads a character’s head – even if they are dead – it creates a plasma explosion. This skull’s effect was likely altered as it did make the game easy, as you could wipe out entire squadrons of Grunts or Flood with a single headshot, but the skull was still fun to use and, like the Grunt Funeral Skull that has somewhat continued its legacy, it can sometimes create lethal deathtraps for the player. If the Grunt Birthday Party Skull in its original form did ever return to MCC, it would likely be implemented under the name ‘Grunt Birthday Party (Classic)’, or perhaps even be given a completely new name. Either way, that feature is sitting dormant in the code of Halo 2: Anniversary and it needs to be released.

#8 – Universal Bandana

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This isn’t an idea for an original or returning Skull, but it is one of the most commonly requested ideas on Halo forums when fans are asked what Skulls they want to see implemented into Halo: MCC, and it is easy to see why. The Bandana Skull allows for exploration and exploitation opportunities in Halo: CE and Halo 2, but is not a feature for Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST or Halo: 4. As far as the hints that 343 industries have dropped in their blog posts are concerned, Universal Bandana will be implemented into Halo: MCC in due course, as it is likely that each game will be updated in separate updates.

#7 – Angry (SPV3)

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Those who haven’t played the excellent SPV3 mod for Halo: CE on the PC will likely not be aware of the Angry Skull, but it is an excellent idea that was implemented to SPV3 but would likely work on any and all Halo games. The Angry Skull turns all previously allied AI against you from the start of the level, meaning you not only have no allies at any time but also have vastly more enemies, and some sections of levels that would usually be a breeze become vicious gauntlets. If this Skull was ever implemented to Halo: MCC, parts like the first section of Crow’s Nest on Halo 3, that features almost 50 Marines, will add to the challenge, particularly if playing on Legendary with other Skulls on. This Skull would likely score around 1.3x, as it would drastically increase the difficulty of many levels.

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#6 – Combat Evolved Vehicle Armour

This Skull would essentially make all vehicles invincible, like they were in Halo: Combat Evolved. As in Halo: CE, this would not apply to certain vehicles like Banshees, Ghosts, Wraiths and likely other enemy vehicles, but would exist to give UNSC vehicles more versatility, especially on Legendary difficulty. This Skull would be non-scoring, likely having a 1x score, although a 0x score is possible. In other Halo titles this Skull would affect the Warthog, Scorpion, Mongoose and Mantis, and perhaps in Halo 2 Arbiter levels it would affect certain Ghosts, Spectres and Wraiths depending on which vehicles are intended for the player in each mission.

#5 – Bottomless Clip

As this feature exists as an option for Halo: Reach and Halo 4 in Forge and other modes, Bottomless Clip would surely not be a difficult feature to program into the campaign. After all, Bandana already gives players infinite ammo, and whilst this Skull would surely have a 0x score, it would make levels like The Storm and Tsavo Highway on Halo 3 a blast (literally). There would be other, practical uses of Bottomless Clip too in several of the Halo campaigns for the purposes of map exploration, boundary breaking, exploits and other shenanigans that Skulls are commonly associated with.

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#4 – Bang Bang

This Skull was from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but modders have since been able to access it and discover that the effect turns all weapon sounds into a voice recording of a man saying ‘Pew’. Whilst the idea is funny, the execution requires improvement, and if this Skull is to be added it should be on the condition that all weapons get their own individual voice clips that associate with that weapon, of people trying to imitate the weapon sounds of Halo, that would be pretty funny. Grenades would definitely just be someone going ‘Bang!’ though. Since the gameplay change is entirely aesthetic, this Skull would probably just have a 1x score.

#3 – Wuv Woo (Halo Wars)

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This Skull, which until now has only featured in Halo Wars, turns certain weapon projectiles into rainbow lasers with love hearts spewing from them, a sickening display which strikes fear into the hearts of all who see it. In Halo Wars, the Skull only works on Scarab beams, but for Halo: MCC, each type of weapon should have its own comical design – rainbows for Covenant weapons and confetti for UNSC weapons, perhaps? And in Halo 4 the Promethean weapons can fire multi-coloured blasts instead of their usual standard orange. Again, this Skull is aesthetic, so would likely score 1x.

#2 – Third Person

Based on a cut Skull for Halo 3: ODST, Halo: MCC should include a Skull that switches players to a third person perspective, like in Theater mode or when in a vehicle, at all times – meaning players will have to rely on the HUD more in a fashion similar to the original Star Wars: Battlefront. When combined with the Blind Skull, this Skull would open up great opportunities for making Machinimas, and would allow players to player the Halo games again in a whole new way.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Big Head Mode Skull (All enemies and allies have engorged craniums)
  • Halo 2 Black Eye Skull (Meleeing enemies gives you Overshields like in Halo 2)
  • Gamble Skull (You do more damage, but take more damage)
  • Reverse Assassins Skull (All allied NPCs are permanently cloaked)
  • Brawl Skull (Enemies favour charging melee attacks over ranged weapons)
  • Permanent Cloak (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player is permanently cloaked
  • Overshields (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player has recharging overshields

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#1 – VISR Skull

This simple but interesting idea for a Skull would essentially combine the ideas implemented into Halo 3: ODST and Halo: SPV3 by giving the player a night-vision mode instead of a flashlight for levels that are bathed in near-total darkness. Although this Skull would be fairly difficult to program, as it would require coding the VISR mode into all 4 mainline Halo games featured on the Master Chief Collection, but the end results would definitely be worth it. After all, the VISR mode was one of the best things about Halo 3: ODST, and bringing that over to the other Halo games would open up new styles of combat for each title, particularly in the Anniversary modes with their dynamic lighting.

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Halo MCC – Top 5 Features that Need to be Added to the Master Chief Collection

With 343 accelerating their efforts to fix Halo: The Master Chief Collection through regular updates, the team are listening to what fans want to see added in the near future. As such, this list ranks the top 5 features that need to be added to the Master Chief Collection:

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#5 – Classic Halo: CE Sound Effects

One of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s greatest shortcomings when it came to recreating the classic Halo experience was the lack of an option to restore the classic sound effects. Although this feature was present in Halo 2: Anniversary when MCC was released, the same was not true for the ported Halo: CE Anniversary. However, with 343 industries recently proving that making changes to the base game of Halo: CE Anniversary is possible, fans have asked for the classic Halo: CE sound effects to return when playing in classic mode on MCC, for posterity and nostalgia purposes.

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#4 – Customisable Campaign Playlists

When the playlists feature for MCC was announced back before the game launched, the idea was praised as a novel one – having the ability to play various thematically linked levels from across various Halo games in one long uninterrupted playlist was a great idea, but due to the lack of customisation options with the playlists, nowadays they sit abandoned. However, if 343 industries introduced the ability for players to create their own playlists, customise scoring, timer, skulls and other settings, and perhaps even share their playlists with other fans through the soon-to-be released custom games browser, undoubtedly the feature would become far more popular.

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#3 – Halo 3 ODST: Firefight

As Halo 3: ODST was added to the game when it was still in its disorganised and uncompleted state, at the time fans were simply grateful that something was being done to try and improve the game in some way. However, a lot of time has passed since then and, now that MCC is in a much better state, fans are now asking – where is Halo 3 ODST’s Firefight mode? After all, Halo 4’s Spartan Ops was included in the MCC, so there is no reason why Firefight couldn’t be implemented, and fans are eager to relive the Firefight matchmaking days on the MCC.

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#2 – More Maps for Halo 2: Anniversary

Another piece of extra content that was added to the MCC alongside Halo 3: ODST was the remastered version of Halo 2’s map Relic, now called ‘Remnant’, which became the seventh map in the Halo 2: Anniversary rota, not counting Forge maps. Many fans have pointed out, however, that seven maps is a pitifully small amount for what is essentially a standalone multiplayer system, and this leads to the multiplayer eventually getting repetitive – if Halo 4 maps were playable in the Halo 2: Anniversary engine then that would alleviate this, but what fans really want is more remastered Halo 2 maps. Classics that should definitely be remastered are Headlong, Gemini, Containment, Turf and Waterworks, just to give Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer a bit more of a kick.

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#1 – Increased Customisation Options

Arguably the thing fans want most out of Halo: MCC is customisation, be it armour sets and visual cosmetics to customise the player’s multiplayer character, or skulls to customise the campaign experience, or even a main menu music selector (a feature that definitely needs to be added). 343 should take the opportunity to make Halo MCC as varied and customisable as possible, in order to give players the Halo experience that they’ve always wanted on Xbox One. While fans are of course eager for new content, there are several aspects of Halo: MCC’s customisation system that can be improved using previously existing material from past Halo games – for example, adding in the ability to modify separate armour pieces like in Halo 3, or add in the skins and armour sets from Halo 4’s DLC that was omitted from MCC. However 343 industries decides to go about implementing it, increased customisation is definitely top of the list for many fans when it comes to potential new features for MCC.

At the end of the day, no matter how many features fans want to be added to MCC, the greatest wish of many Halo fans has already been granted – 343 industries is working to fix MCC, and even if none of the potential features listed here end up making it to MCC, the fact that the company is making progress on fixing MCC, but also expanding it to add new features never seen before in a Halo game, is great for Halo fans and might just be the critical show of good faith from 343 industries that will draw former Halo fans back to the franchise as it moves into a new era with Halo: Infinite.

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Sacred Icon – What’s New for 2019

Here’s a few hints of what to expect from this site in 2019:

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Big Finish Reviews

With more and more Big Finish audios being announced every week, it can be hard to keep up – and reviewers try their best to cover as much as possible on a regular basis without bankrupting themselves in the process. Nonetheless, Big Finish’s extensive back-catalogue of Doctor Who audios that were released monthly from late 1999, there’s plenty that can be picked up cheap on the Big Finish website.

This means plenty to review, and the Best of Big Finish series will continue in 2019 with more audio reviews, some branching out into the spinoff series like I, Davros and New Series sets like Classic Doctors, New Monsters.

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Doctor Who Reviews

Starting with a review of the New Year’s Special, for now titled Resolution (hopefully short for Resolution of the Daleks) we will be delving back into reviews of Series 11, starting with an overview of the series discussing what it did right and how the production team could build on it to make Series 12 even better.

We will be ranking the episodes in Series 11 and also ruminating on what changes we could see in Series 12 and the future of Doctor Who in general. Although there will be no Doctor Who series in 2019, expect a variety of Doctor Who content surrounding the show, including a review of the newly animated The Macra Terror, a Second Doctor story that has been missing for decades.

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Asylum of the Daleks Diorama

In celebration of the 55th Anniversary of the second serial of Doctor Who and the first episode of the show to feature the Daleks, a serial aptly titled The Daleks, Sacred Icon will be showcasing a diorama of custom-made Dalek Asylum inmates. As a melting pot of all different Daleks throughout their history, the Asylum brings together Dalek designs from all different eras of Doctor Who and is a perfect celebration of the iconic monsters.

The first episode of The Daleks, titled ‘The Dead Planet’, involves the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara landing on Skaro and encountering the show’s first alien menace – the Daleks. The first episode ends with the infamous cliffhanger involving and unknown threat menacing Barbara and she wanders around the empty city, and ends with her chilling scream and the thing reaches out to her. As such, the actual Daleks themselves are not shown until the next episode, ‘The Survivors’, which aired on the 28th of December 1963.

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More Halo Content

Although we do not yet know the release date for Halo: Infinite, it seems certain that the game will release in late 2019 or early 2020. 343 Industries will be releasing teaser material soon and so expect discussion posts about these, as well as reviews of any trailers or preview material.

Also coming in 2019 on Sacred Icon will be more pieces to do with the Master Chief Collection, including reviews of the new updates and how the multiplayer has changed by 2019.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Review

As a follow up to Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9, we will be reviewing the highlights of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine up until and including Season 5, as well as more Star Trek related content. Expect reviews relating to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as a possible review of a ‘classic’ Star Trek game called Star Trek: Shattered Universe.

And finally…

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The Picard TV Show?

Another potential release for 2019 is the Picard TV show, set to star Patrick Stewart and continue the story of Jean-Luc Picard in the Prime Star Trek timeline, following the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Nemesis. Star Trek fans hope that the iconic captain will be back on our screens in 2019.

If the show does release next year, then expect an episode-by-episode review from Sacred Icon. For more content, check out more from Sacred Icon:

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Halo – SPV3 – CMT’s Re-Masterpiece

As Halo mods go, you can’t get much better than SPV3. Custom Mapping Team, headed by Masterz1337, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with their fantastic re-imagining of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s campaign. Downloadable for free on PC, SPV3 features many interesting surprises for even the most hardened Halo veteran, thanks to remastered graphics, new assets, new weapons and vehicles, and in some cases totally re-imagined levels with new playspaces to explore. As if all that were not enough, the mod also features new enemy types including Brutes, Skirmishers, Sniper Jackals, Honor Guards three different types of Hunters. With so much in this mod, it can be hard to summarise totally in one article, so this may not be the only time this mod features as a topic in the future. For this introduction, the focus will be the new features of this mod that stand out the most when compared with both Halo: Combat Evolved and it’s Anniversary version.

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The Music

One of the first aspects of this mod that jumps out at you is the music. Whilst Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s soundtrack mostly stuck to the tunes featured in the original game, SPV3’s soundtrack draws from various other Halo games and many of the remasters are radically different from their original counterparts. Whilst many of the classic musical cues in the levels we remember make a return, the mod adds enough new music to make each level feel like an entirely new experience. Highlights of the soundtrack include Under Cover of Night, Rock Anthem for Saving the World, Halo, Sleeping Grunts, Covenant Dance, Leonidas, Brothers in Arms and In Amber Clad, but each and every track in the game has been painstakingly and quite spectacularly enhanced for this updated Halo campaign.

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The New Levels

The most exciting of the new additions to the campaign in SPV3 is the new levels, as each and every one has had its weapons, objectives, encounters and atmospheres altered or expanded in various ways. The Anti-Gravity sections in The Pillar of Autumn, the Anti-Air Wraith battle in Halo and the Grizzly rampage in Assault on the Control Room are among the most notable stark enhancements to the campaign’s fun factor, and long-time fans of Halo: Combat Evolved who know the game inside out will be met with many wonderful surprises when playing through SPV3’s campaign as the familiar and the unfamiliar collide in a thrilling single player experience. With all ten of the original levels plus an alternate take on The Silent Cartographer featuring in SPV3, there are a vast variety of classic and brand-new enemy encounters to overcome and dozens of tweaks to each and every facet of the original Halo experience.

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The Covenant

In the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved, there were four Covenant races featured – Elites, Grunts, Jackals and Hunters, with some of these having variants such as the Jackal Major, the Stealth Elite and the infamous Zealots. SPV3, on the other hand, has the benefit of hindsight – since Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release, various other Covenant races and variants have been introduced into the franchise such as Jackal Snipers, Elite Honor Guards, Skirmishers and Brutes, and thanks to the power of mods all of these and more are featured in SPV3’s campaign, as well as a vast variety of new Covenant weapons like the Focus Rifle, the Brute Plasma Rifle, the Brute Shot and even Halo 5’s ‘Voi. Also, the CMT have created many of their own totally new Covenant weapons that blend seamlessly into the aesthetic of the game, such as the Shredder (a Brute version of the Needler), the Particle Carbine (like the standard Carbine but battery powered) and the Brute Plasma Pistol (which includes an overcharge that spews fire upon impact). These additions to the Covenant make them more dynamic enemies to fight and the vast variety makes for some challenging encounters with larger groups of enemies that the original Halo: Combat Evolved would have struggled to process.

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The Flood

Another big surprise in SPV3 is just how much the Flood have changed in this mod compared to the original game, as they are now a more dynamic threat than ever before. Each of the five Flood levels have been totally reworked from the ground up – the original identity of levels like The Library, Keyes and The Maw have been retained but the mood and atmosphere have been altered considerably, essentially transforming the latter half of the game into a unique and exhilarating horror experience. Levels that were formerly bogged down by repetitive level design and unimaginative encounters have now been re-imagined into some of the best Halo experiences, and this is made all the more exciting by the wide variety of forms the Flood can take in this mod. In the original game, the Flood came in four basic forms – the tiny Infection Forms, the bloated and explosive Carrier Forms and the two varieties of Combat Form, derived from either Elite or Human host bodies. In SPV3, new additions to the Flood ranks include Jackal Forms that howl and screech as they leap towards the player, Brute Forms that are essentially tankier versions of the standard Combat Forms and, for the first time in a Halo game, ODST Combat Forms that are stronger and more dangerous versions of the standard Human Combat Form. If all this were not enough, CMT went one step further and added Halo 3’s instantaneous infection feature, meaning that any Covenant or Human soldiers that are attacked by an Infection Form will be transformed into a Flood form before your very eyes.

In Conclusion

Those out there who are Halo fans and have not yet given SPV3 a go are strongly advised to download this mod, it has clearly had a lot of time, care and effort put into it to make it fun and fresh for fans of Halo: Combat Evolved and the Halo series in general.

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Halo: The Flood – Book Review

When William C. Dietz was approached by Bungie to write a novelisation of Halo: Combat Evolved, a game that he had never played, he was initially reluctant. However, after going away and playing the game a few times, as well as reading the preliminary novel Halo: The Fall of Reach, he decided to take up the challenge. Following the book’s release, it received mixed reviews from critics – some said that it didn’t deviate enough from the games, some said that Dietz’s presentation of the character of the Chief wasn’t consistent with previous author Eric Nylund’s, and most said that the novel is rather repetitive – often consisting of little more than descriptions of gunfights repeated over and over again. Now that the release of Halo: Combat Evolved is but a distant memory, it is interesting going back and re-reading this novel for two reasons – first, I have not read this book since I was a child, and second, the book isn’t anywhere near as bad as many people have made it out to be.

In fairness, I am a massive fan of Halo, so perhaps the book appeals to me in ways that it would not for a casual reader. Also, there are some issues with the book that gripe me – the presentation of the Covenant, for example, is radically different from how they are presented in Halo 2, but that is hardly the author’s fault. In fact, many of the best parts about this book are actually segments that Dietz fought to have included – initially Bungie didn’t want a Covenant subplot, but Dietz felt (rightly) that it would add more to the narrative. The representation of events going on during Halo: Combat Evolved that the Chief was not present for is also particularly good, and the characters of Major Silva and Lieutenant McKay are particularly well-written. Other highlights of the book include Yayap, who provides some comic relief but is a strong character nonetheless, and the depiction of Captain Keyes and Wallace A. Jenkins’ horrific assimilation by the Flood, the former of which was adapted for one of the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary terminals.

Arguably the most engaging character is Zuka ‘Zamamee, an Elite who makes it his mission to hunt the Master Chief throughout the majority of the book. Interestingly, this subplot places Zuka in many of the locations that the Chief himself visits throughout the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved but either too early or too late to actually encounter the Chief himself, save for a few encounters that don’t go well for the Elite – all the while, Zuka is being tailed by his unwilling assistant Yayap, who is perhaps the most developed Grunt character in the entire Halo franchise. There are also several one-shot Covenant characters that appear for only a chapter or two, which Dietz essentially uses as fodder against either the UNSC or the Flood, with varying degrees of effectiveness. An example of how this doesn’t quite work appears quite early in the novel – an Ossoona named Isna ‘Nosolee, who boards the Pillar of Autumn during the opening chapters and boards Captain Keyes’ lifeboat as the Autumn is evacuated, only to be shot in the head by Keyes during the descent. Whilst this is an interesting addition to the novel, it seems to set up a plot point that goes absolutely nowhere, as Keyes and his team are later captured anyway. The reason for this is that Bungie only accepted Dietz’s proposal to have a Covenant subplot in the novel on the condition that he kill every Covenant character that he introduces in the book, so that Bungie would not have to include them in any media that would follow.

This highlights one of the weakest elements of this novel, in that the fact that everyone has to die at the end of the novel – in a similar manner to Halo: Reach, the knowledge that eventually all the characters will die except for the Chief somewhat reduces the tension throughout. Still, that is perhaps this books most prominent weakness aside from an over-dependence on military dialogue and constant action sequences, which in all aren’t particularly bad – the book is a novelisation after all, and to complain that a book that retells the same story as the game doesn’t deviate enough from the story of the game is not a fair criticism.

One of the strongest aspects of this book is the depiction of the Flood, particularly through Private Jenkins and Captain Keyes who undergo the horrors of infection but still retain a glimmer of consciousness despite their ravaged bodies being host to the Parasite. Dietz’s depiction of how the Flood picks apart the memories of their victims is truly harrowing to read, particularly since readers of the previous book Halo: The Fall of Reach will have a particular connection to Keyes as a character that we didn’t really get from Halo: Combat Evolved, with many players finding Keyes’ habit of getting himself captured very frustrating. The finale of the book from the perspective of Major Silva and Private Jenkins is poignant and really shows just how close the Flood were to getting off Installation 04, making the tension of the Chief’s final run all the higher since the stakes are raised from the depiction of these events in the game.

Overall, Halo: The Flood is an effective novelisation, but perhaps not as strong of a narrative as Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike. It is an absolute must-read for Halo fans, particularly those who are intimately familiar with Halo: Combat Evolved, but is probably a stretch too far for non-Halo fans, to whom many of the game’s extended descriptions of weapons, vehicles and locations would mean absolutely nothing. Dietz’s strongest plot threads include the side plots involving Zuka ‘Zamamee and the Flood, with the story of Melissa McKay and Major Silva being an interesting inclusion but ultimately futile. The best way to read this book is by listening to the Halo Soundtrack alongside it, playing the songs that feature in the various levels to give atmosphere to their accompanying chapters, as the book does capture the spirit of the game and that is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to its success.

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