The Infinite Zenith

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Feedback and Reflections on Insider Flighting with The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3

“I would prefer even to fail with honour than to win by cheating.” –Sophocles

I had previously received an invitation to test Halo: Combat Evolved earlier in February, but an account issue prevented me from logging in and participating. This time around, 343 Industries has begun testing Halo 3 ahead of its release into The Master Chief Collection, releasing just over half of the single-player campaign missions and rotating multiplayer game types during its run. I was provided with an invitation to participate in the flighting programme and hastened to experience both the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game before the test period ended. The Halo 3 flight offered five of the nine campaign missions: out of the gates, I was impressed with the visuals and handling. I will be returning once the game is finished to deal with the story and my impressions of gameplay – this time around, I will be focused more on the technical aspects of the game as a result of the flighting. Out of the gates, there are no major performance issues that are immediately apparent: the game handles smoothly, with no frame drops or any stuttering even in busier areas. The only major issue affecting the campaign is the weapon audio: the report of a weapon is barely audible over the music and ambient sounds during a firefight. However, while Halo 3 appears ready from the campaign perspective, the multiplayer component is stymied by a major problem with the mouse sensitivity to the point of being unplayable: in close quarters engagements, I favour having higher sensitivities to ensure I can continue tracking my targets, and I typically position myself in such a way so that I can favour closer-range engagements in Halo. At present, the maximum available sensitivity in Halo 3 is far too low to be effective in the multiplayer, and this is something that needs to be improved prior to the full release of Halo 3.

The reason why the sensitivity settings are too low in Halo 3 for the gameplay is related to the presence of both mouse-and-keyboard and controller players: in The Master Chief Collection, players who use a controller are given an aim assist utility that is intended to help them keep up with mouse-and-keyboard players by automatically shifting the camera to be centred on an enemy. In practise, this has allowed players using controllers to have an immense advantage over those who use mouse-and-keyboard in close quarters scenarios: since the time-to-kill in Halo is high, being effective means consistently landing shots on an enemy. Players must track their targets and time each pull of the trigger: on a mouse-and-keyboard setup, how well players can pull this off boils down to a matter of skill, and an experienced player can be quite effective with the mouse-and-keyboard in all scenarios. However, controller players have aim assist which handles this tracking; the player only needs to pull the trigger, and aim assist ensures their shots will land. This leaves mouse-and-keyboard players at a massive disadvantage in close-quarters firefights – the inevitable result is that during the Halo 3 flighting, I’ve been unable to see any sort of success in a given multiplayer match against players using controllers. Because of low sensitivities, I’ve experienced a reduced ability in being able to reliably track targets: players move faster than I can keep my crosshairs on them, and if they have a controller, they are assured that their shots will find their mark. Beyond sensitivity issues, the other gripe I have with the flight is that dual-wielding is similarly unintuitive: whereas Halo 2 was designed so that the left mouse button would fire the left-hand weapon and the right mouse button would fire the right-hand weapon, Halo 3 has this reversed, and there is no easy way to change this. Similarly, having separate reload buttons means that it is hardly practical to dual-wield, and for most of the campaign, I simply eschewed dual-wielding in favour of running the battle rifle.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My performance in Halo 3‘s flight was worse than what it was during the old days of LAN parties when my friends switched us over to Halo 3 from Halo 2: back in those days, I was lucky to get 5-10 kills a match, but most games during the flighting, I found myself unable to even hit five. Halo 3‘s gameplay is slower than that of Halo 2‘s, and almost all of the weapons are weaker than their predecessors. As a result, it was quite difficult to get used to the new way things handled.

  • Owing to the weaker weapons and the fact that I simply wasn’t able to aim and track as quickly as I’d like, triple kills did not happen during my time with the flight. I do, however, have a pile of double kill medals for my trouble, and admittedly, while the experience in the flight was decidedly negative, I did have a few moments here and there in the multiplayer. My friends have long felt that Halo 2 was the superior game when it comes to multiplayer, featuring superior weapon balance and mechanics that were more skilled based.

  • While the multiplayer portion of the flight was not quite as smooth as I would have liked, I had absolutely no trouble at all with the campaign: the Halo 3 flight made five of the nine campaign missions available, giving a good spread of what was available. Overall, I have no complaints about the campaign at all. I was originally considering splitting this post to cover both the campaign and multiplayer, but it’d be tricky to do that without the full story on the table. As such, I will be doing a full discussion of the campaign once Halo 3 is launched.

  • Heretic is Halo 3‘s remake of Midship, one of the best close quarters maps in the game for MLG slayer. I’m generally not fond of FFA-style games, since there’s too much opportunity to be vultured after a firefight, but the flipside is that a skillful player has more opportunity to chain impressive multi-kills together in FFA than they would in MLG Team BRs. In the days of old, I struggled to get kills with the battle rifle and instead, most of my kills came from melee or grenade sticks.

  • One aspect I did enjoy in Halo 3 was the addition of the gravity hammer: this Brute weapon is a weaker incarnation of the gravity hammer that Tataurus yields in Halo 2, and with a powerful shockwave projector, can flatten enemies or even deflect projectiles. Having confiscated a gravity hammer from another player on Guardian, I ended up going on a short killing spree with it and earned myself a double kill for my troubles. Guardian is the Halo 3 equivalent of Lockout in terms of design, but no Halo map is as enjoyable as Lockout: an update would later add Blackout, a map that has the same layout, to Halo 3.

  • The other fun aspect of Halo 3 is the inclusion of the Spartan Laser: while I’ve now fired one properly on PC in both the Halo: Reach and Halo 3 flight campaigns, the flight represents the first time I’ve been able to pick up the weapon in multiplayer and get kills with it. It is with the power weapons where players can witness the more sophisticated physics engine of Halo 3 at work. Explosions can result in unusual things materialising, lending itself to comedy in some moments, such as when one accidentally kills themselves with a traffic cone thrown by an explosion.

  • The larger maps in Halo 3, coupled with the fact that the battle rifle is no longer as effective as it was in Halo 2, means that firefights are protracted and drawn-out. At medium ranges, the battle rifle stops being effective. As it turns out, Halo has a mechanic called “bullet magnetism”, which refers to the tolerance a bullet can be from a target and still count as a hit. Halo indicates that a player’s shots will register when the reticule is red, bullet magnetism is in play, and one’s shots are guaranteed to curve towards an opponent.

  • Outpost is probably my favourite of the Halo 3 maps from an aesthetics perspective: the combination of bases on the edges of the map, open areas in the map centre, and massive radio dishes in the background, set under the light of a day coming to an end, creates a very unique and interesting atmosphere. It is on larger maps where the battle rifle feels inadequate in Halo 3, and firefights that would’ve been very manageable in Halo 2 turned into a situation where I would dump an entire magazine at a foe, only for them to kill me instantly.

  • The aim assist aspect of The Master Chief Collection is the subject of no small debate since the launch of Halo: Reach, with some players feeling that aim assist outright ruins the game for mouse-and-keyboard players, and others believing it to be a necessary part of the game for players who run with controllers. I lean more in favour of the former: in excess, aim assist takes the skill out of Halo, and a degraded experience for mouse-and-keyboard players is bad for a game that was ostensibly supposed to bring the Halo universe into the realm of mice and keyboards.

  • As it stands, I consider defenders of strong controller aim assist to be players who want to do well at all costs. Such players fear their advantage might be taken away by any changes to aim assist, and vehemently defend aim assist under the impression that a good enough player should be able to overcome them, irrespective of input scheme. Here on Last Resort, Halo 3‘s interpretation of Zanzibar, I managed to go on a short streak with the sniper rifle. Unlike the Halo 2 sniper rifle, which yields sniper medals for every successful kill, Halo 3‘s sniper rifle only awards medals on a headshot kill.

  • The sniper rifle is even more valuable in Halo 3 owing to the fact that it can reach targets that the battle rifle cannot touch: while my team focused on closing the distance to secure the flag, I hung back with the sniper rifle and picked off stragglers to stop them from firing on teammates. The sniper rifle remains fun to use, but the old firing sound is a little weaker compared to the Halo 2 Anniversary incarnations of the rifle. The UNSC sniper rifles of Halo fire 14.5 mm rounds, which are larger in bore than 50-cal rounds, but as the rifles fire APFSDS rounds, their recoil is far lighter than that of a rifle firing BMG rounds, allowing even the marines in Halo to fire the weapon from the shoulder.

  • Infection is one of the more unusual game modes, officially introduced into Halo 3 after the Halo 2 custom game mode became popular. The inclusion of these novel modes mixes things up a little, although having spent the better part of the past seven years in Battlefield, where games are objective-oriented and set on large maps, upon returning to Halo, I find myself gravitating back towards the smaller-scale eight player matches more frequently, since these represent drop-in, drop-out sessions that fits my schedule particularly well.

  • During one match, I saw for myself the impact of a controller: one of the players on my team, “LilMissLehCar”, began racking up kills at a rate that seemed impossible: we had ended up on a larger map, and I would guess that this player was evidently using a controller and fully enjoying the benefits of aim assist. Players who’ve used both mouse-and-keyboard and controller setups state the latter gives an unfair advantage: LilMissLehCar’s performance is a result of exploiting controller aim assist rather than legitimate skill. This is what lends itself to my page quote: I don’t have fun when I lose unfairly, but I have even less fun when my team wins through the action of players who play dishonourably.

  • Whereas gaming from an older age emphasised improving by having fun (i.e. “the more fun you have, the more you are encouraged to improve, so you can have more fun”), these days, gamers seem fixated on creating meme-worthy moments even if it comes at the expense of integrity, For these people, they believe that if they can make my meme and get upvotes for it, underhanded tactics are acceptable to use.

  • In the old days of Halo 2 Vista, I remember the thrill of improving enough in multiplayer to earn multi-kills and go on kill-streaks on virtue of skill alone: using a controller to gain an advantage over mouse-and-keyboard users, however slight the edge is, is still to be playing dishonestly, and consequently, while I do have an Xbox controller floating around, I am not going to resort to using it just to have fun in a game. As it stands, the Halo 3 flight is still quite buggy, and one of the known issues in the game was poor hit detection, which could further have exacerbated the situation.

  • 343 have acknowledged that hit detection is an issue owing how game steps on PC handles differently than on the Xbox because of to frame rate differences: in conjunction with the poor sensitivity, this is likely why my experience in the Halo 3 flight was particularly poor. The hit detection is a known issue in Halo 3‘s flight, and 343 is likely going to work on getting this one ironed out. However, the mouse sensitivity doesn’t appear to be something on their radar.

  • Another issue I’ve experienced since Halo 2 was the fact my text chat no longer seems to be working. This isn’t an issue in multiplayer, but in co-op, I use it to coordinate with friends who don’t use voice chat. I’ve had several occasions where I needed to pause and step aside for something, but because text chat wasn’t working, they proceeded ahead and entered a firefight short-handed. I’m not sure if 343 will address this issue, but in the flight for Halo 3, I tested the chat out and my messages did not seem to be getting through in the multiplayer, suggesting that it may be similarly broken if I create a lobby and co-op with friends.

  • One thing that was extremely frustrating in Halo 3 was the fact that vehicular handling is worse than it was in any Halo game I played thus far: vehicles bounce and flip on the slightest provocation, and there were a handful of matches where, had I not flipped over or slowed down as a result of the game’s implementation of vehicle physics, I might have actually ended up with a triple kill or overkill.

  • My performance in the Halo 3 flight was so poor that I wondered if I had lost my touch with FPS in general, and so, a day before the flight was set to end, I returned to Battlefield V to see if my skills had been lost. In back-to-back matches of conquest, I went 21-14 and 21-13, respectively. When I spun up a match in Halo 2, I performed as I normally would. This tells me that, rather than my skills being an issue, the poor showing I had was a result of issues in the game and a lack of familiarity with the inconsistent mechanics.

  • With a rough flighting experience, I am glad that things at least ended on a decent note: I won my last match and here, scored a kill on the enemy team’s MVP, ending a spree of theirs in the process. The flight ended two days ago, and I’ve already submitted my feedback for the team’s consideration. I hope that 343 will address the issues and make Halo 3‘s entry a success: I am fully confident that the campaign will be amazing, and I may play a match or two of the multiplayer to see if it is in a state that I am able to have fun in. With this post, we now enter July, and today is Canada Day. Traditionally, it’s a day to go out into the mountains, but owing to the global health crisis, and the fact that Canada Day is in the middle of the week, I will instead spend the day relaxing in a different way, before celebrating Canada Day properly by watching a virtual fireworks presentation.

Consequently, mouse sensitivity is the most critical fix that needs to be applied to Halo 3 at present: increasing the maximum sensitivity by around 50-80 percent will ensure that mouse-and-keyboard players have a fighting chance in close-quarters battles. If a player are given the means track their opponents at least as quickly as they move, then in a firefight, the outcome becomes dependent on skill, rather than the input method. The presence of aim assist is a contentious one in the community, and I’ve felt that a simple implementation of a much higher mouse sensitivity ceiling would level things out considerably. Overall, Halo 3‘s flight shows that once a few critical fixes are made, the game is ready to roll out into the release phase, which currently is anticipated to be mid to late July. I am particularly enthusiastic to go through the campaign: the missions were built with co-op play in mind, and with no critical performance issues whatsoever, the campaign looks like it is ready to be launched, allowing me to finish the fight and wrap up the original trilogy in Halo. Similarly, the core aspects of multiplayer are working in a satisfactory manner, and I’ve not encountered any serious issues like being disconnected from a match, or clipping through geometries in the maps at all during my run of things. If the issue of sensitivity can be adequately addressed, the multiplayer could be an engaging component of Halo 3, as well: as it was during the flight, the multiplayer was unenjoyable and frustrating to play, not for any reason beyond the fact that I’m not able to track my opponents at a speed that I am comfortable with. Beyond this, the other issues I’ve found are more of a matter of acclimatisation, and even if unaltered, I could learn to adjust to the new schemes over time.

Portal 2: A Reflection and Recollections of the Perpetual Testing Initiative

“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am?! I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!” –Cave Johnson

Chell finds herself pulled out of stasis by the AI Wheatley, who informs her that the Aperture Science facility has fallen into a critical state and that they need to escape. Leading Chell through old test chambers, Wheatley attempts to work out a plan while Chell locates a portal gun. However, they inadvertently reactivate GLaDOS, who separates the two and sends Chell into a series of test chambers to continue on with where they’d previously left off. When Wheatley figures he’s got a solution, he creates a distraction, allowing Chell to escape into the maintenance passages beyond the test chambers. Chell sabotages the turret production line and disables the neurotoxin generator before heading off to face GLaDOS, successfully inititing a core transfer. Wheatley takes over Aperture Science’s main system and places GLaDOS in a potato battery powered CPU. However, he reneges on his promise to send Chell to the surface, and when GLaDOS reveals Wheatley was designed to inhibit her, he throws the pair into a shaft leading into the bowels of Aperture Science. Making her way through the old Enrichment Spheres, Chell learns that Aperture Science was once a shower curtain manufacturer for the military and received an incredible amount of funding to test their products. Helmed by Cave Johnson, Aperture Science began exploring the realm of science with a reckless abandon, and over time, the company began failing even as Johnson started developing an illness from testing products on himself. His final act was to transfer control of the company to his assistant, Caroline. When Chell reunites with GLaDOS, the two set their differences aside to return to the upper levels and stop Wheatley from destroying the facility. GLaDOS reveals that she has Caroline’s memories and begins opening up to Chell. Upon their return, Chell makes her way through Wheatley’s test chambers to stall for time and manages to elude his crude traps, eventually returning to GLaDOS’ main body. She manages to change out the personality cores and places a portal on the moon, sending Wheatley into the depths of space. Back in control, GLaDOS stabilises the facility and decides to let Chell go, figuring that killing her is too much effort. Wheatley laments his decision to betray Chell and wishes things were different. This is the adventure that Chell goes through in Portal 2, the 2011 sequel to 2007’s acclaimed Portal, a highly innovative and remarkable puzzle game built in the Source Engine with Half-Life 2 assets.

In contrast to its predecessor, Portal 2 is much livelier, and although Chell is exploring an abandoned, derelict Aperture Sciences, Portal 2 never had the same sterile, cold feeling that Portal did. Portal 2 explores a greater range of Aperture’s constructions, and in doing so, also explores a greater range of emotions. Wheatley provides an endless supply of comic relief, driving players forward with an improvisational tone even when he does take over Aperture and develops GLaDOS’ old tendency to want to kill Chell. When she falls into the depths of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson’s old recordings give insight into a once-brilliant mind and his fall from grace. The ruins of the old facility are the only remainders of his legacy, giving the entire area an air of melancholy. GLaDOS is a more multi-dimensional character, carrying out her directive per her programming but also recalling that she was once human and coming to understand why Chell chose to act the way she did. The characterisation creates a much richer experience that ultimately tells a story of regret and longing, as well as coming to peace with what has come to pass, set in the cavernous interior of Aperture Sciences. Besides an enriched story, Portal 2 features all-new mechanics to properly differentiate itself from its predecessor and Half-Life 2. Aerial faith plates propel players to new heights from fixed points, thermal discouragement beams require careful placement to activate exits, hard light bridges to reach distant points, special gels encourage lateral thinking to help players pass otherwise impassible areas, and excursion funnels provide a thrilling way of transporting player and materials across chasms. Like its predecessor, players must use a combination of their knowledge of previous mechanics to devise solutions for clearing different areas, and as Chell edges closer to escaping Aperture Science, she learns more about its storied past. In this way, Portal 2 and Portal share the same relationship that Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved shared; both sequels participate in extensive world-building that enriches the player’s experience of the world, at the expense of the suspense created through the minimalist story-telling of their predecessor. In addition, the sequel’s introduction of new mechanics also changes the strategy players take in completing the game – in the case of Portal 2, the new mechanics cement the notion that the game has evolved into a separate entity from Half-Life 2 with its own distinct elements, but it also creates the caveat that some areas must be cleared a certain way, which restricts players’ freedom to solve puzzles in their own way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • An indeterminate amount of time has passed since Chell last ventured through Aperture’s test chambers, and in that time, the facility has become dilapidated, overgrown with vegetation and mould. It is through these test chambers that Chell makes her way through, and initially, she’ll find the single-portal gun and advance a short ways before locating the full portal gun. Like its predecessor, Portal 2 gradually introduces players to game elements, although players familiar with Portal will doubtlessly have itched to advance further more quickly.

  • It’s been eight years since I last wrote about Portal 2 – eight years earlier, I had been staring down the MCAT, and at this point during the summer, I had just begun my MCAT course; my physics course had finally ended, and I could turn my full attention towards what would certainly be a challenge. However, in between studying, I was able to unwind by going through a friend’s Steam library: in between study sessions, I was able try a few of his games out, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Portal 2. I blazed my way through the former before beginning the latter.

  • Chell’s gear has changed somewhat since the original Portal: long fall boots take place of her original her knee replacements, and she dispenses with the top of her jumpsuit. I’ve seen a few Chell cosplayers at Otafest in past years: when I first attended, Portal 2 would’ve been two years old. The game’s requirements aren’t steep at all, and even in those days, my old desktop had no trouble running the game smoothly, although there was the minor annoyance that the light on top of the portal gun never lit up owing to a limitation in my old GPU. This particular matter is no longer an issue, and in my current screenshots, the light on the portal gun lights up as expected.

  • Death lasers (formally, “thermal discouragement beams”) replace the high-energy pellets of Portal, and require redirection towards a receptacle in order to activate doors and lifts. Like the high-energy pellets, lasers can kill Chell, but only after prolonged exposure, and they typically must be redirected using a combination of portals and redirection cubes. Portal 2 also introduces hard light bridges, which function similarly to those of Halo. The new mechanics of Portal 2 are fun additions to the game, adding further nuance to various puzzles. Not everyone shared this sentiment, and many regarded Portal‘s simplicity as being more conducive towards creative solutions for solving a particular test chamber, whereas the new mechanics made it clearer how one could solve the test chamber and restrict novel solutions.

  • The lift taking players to the next level have changed in appearance: originally, they were solid, and Portal loaded different segments similarly to Half-Life 2, but by Portal 2, they look sleeker, and the game loads new levels quite separately. The lifts are surrounded by screens that give a visual representation of how a new mechanic works, and one of my favourite animations was the one depicting the turrets in action, showing the automatic chambering and firing of rounds. In Portal, turrets could be disabled by knocking them over, and while this is still viable in Portal 2, there is a rather more entertaining way of dealing with turrets.

  • Using a redirection cube allows one to focus a laser on a turret, which heats up its inner structure and eventually causes it to explode: back in Portal, the high-energy pellets could only knock turrets over, which, while functionally equivalent, was nowhere nearly as satisfying. Because Chell is completing these test chambers to occupy GLaDOS while Wheatley works out an escape plan, there’s the sense that something big is in the making.

  • The new test chambers of Portal 2 have a different aesthetic than the test chambers of Portal, being composed of sliding panels rather than the metal cubes. The amount of portal-conducting surfaces are also reduced in many places. While this initially felt restricting, it’s also a bit of a clever way to subtly hint at where portals should be placed. Here, I grab ahold of a weighted cube and make my way across a hard-light bridge: it suddenly strikes me that, since the Perpetual Testing Initiative days, I’ve not actually gone back through Portal 2 until now.

  • Test Chamber 20 is the only test chamber that’s completed and ready to roll: it most resembles the test chambers of Portal and every surface is capable of conducting portals. While seemingly simple, it involves redirecting the lasers into the right receptacles using a combination of redirection cubes and portals. I’ve heard that it’s possible to finish this test chamber without placing any portals, but this requires precise use of the redirection cubes. Once this test chamber is cleared, Wheatley returns and prompts Chell to go into the maintenance access surrounding the test chamber.

  • Portal‘s maintenance areas had a more Half-Life feel to them, and Portal 2 modifies them to have a different aesthetic. I can’t help but wonder if the design was inspired by areas of Facebook headquarters. Once Chell’s escaped, Wheatley will have her help in sabotaging the turret manufacturing line and disabling the neurotoxin supply before taking her to face GLaDOS. Chell manages to perform the core transfer, placing Wheatley in charge of Aperture Sciences, but the additional processing power drives him insane, and he reneges on his promise to Chell. When GLaDOS insults Wheatley, he loses his cool and smashes the lift Chell is in, sending her and GLaDOS tumbling into the depths of Aperture Sciences.

  • After falling into the depths of Aperture Science, some four-and-a-half kilometres beneath the surface, Chell is briefly knocked out and comes to just as a bird carries GLaDOS away. This is the loneliest it gets in Portal 2, and Chell can only count on her wits to figure out how to return to the surface: there is no Wheatley to lighten the moment up, and no GLaDOS to make snide remarks. The sense of scale at Aperture Science becomes apparent here, giving an idea of just how extensive the facilities are. When I first came here in Portal 2 some eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with how the older facility was presented, and it was here that the melancholy in the game became visibly felt.

  • Wandering through the unused sections of Aperture Science, I would come upon the vault door that leads into the next section. Portal 2‘s designers stated they wanted to play with some visual humour, in which they would use an immensely large vault door to conceal an ordinary door. At this point during my first play-through, I was wrapping up a physics course and making more headway into the MCAT preparation course. The timing of this was excellent: I had been a little worried about a potential scheduling conflict, but with physic concluding, I was free to focus purely on the MCAT.

  • By the time I’d set foot in the catwalks leading into the first of the Enrichment Spheres, Portal 2 had been out for just over a year. One of my friends had already completed the game and began using the music to test to in accompanying his videos of his Otafest experiences. Portal 2‘s soundtrack was carefully composed to fit the atmosphere of different areas of the game. The music of the Enrichment Spheres, in particular, create a light-hearted sense of science fiction that suggests a combination of whimsy and cleverness that is needed to complete this section of the game.

  • I’m guessing, then, that for my friend, Otafest represents a similar challenge for visitors in that it requires an open mind and awareness of one’s surroundings to ensure one doesn’t miss anything. This turned out to be true: when I attended Otafest a year later, I planned to attend for one day and played things by ear. While it was a fun experience, I would subsequently learn that I’d missed a bunch of events and a chance to collect special pins. For future conventions, I planned ahead and would go on to have a more comprehensive experience. Here, I pass through one of the older offices, and a trophy case of Aperture’s best achievements of the day are visible.

  • Besides Otafest vlogs, my friend had also made extensive cross-overs of Portal and Team Fortress 2 with The Melancholy of Suzumiya HaruhiLucky☆Star and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand half of the intended themes in crossovers, and upon asking my best friend to take a look, and they were similarly uncertain as to what was going on. If I had to guess, they probably represent how he may felt about certain character interactions and themes in a show, brought into a context he was familiar with. Portal 2 captures the feeling of loneliness and the hubris of ambition in this section, so for me, these sections of the game were the most memorable.

  • Chell eventually makes her way into the control rooms that activate the different mobility gels: these modify the properties of a surface, allowing for movement in areas that would otherwise be impassible. While it’s a lonely journey through the bowels of Aperture Science, Chell is accompanied by Cave Johnson’s hilarious, but also increasingly erratic dialogue, which gives a rather detailed history of Aperture Science, which began as a highly successful company that Johnson ran into the ground with uncertain, experimental projects. While a man of science, Johnson evidently had a stubborn pride about him, as well.

  • After reaching a series of abandoned offices, Chell will find the potato that GLaDOS is stuck to; a bird had carried her away earlier, and GLaDOS becomes deathly afraid of birds for a period after she reunites with Chell. Having GLaDOS attached to Chell’s portal gun, Portal 2 suddenly feels a lot less lonely, and the two work out an alliance with the aim of getting back to the main facility so that GLaDOS can stop Wheatley from destroying everything in his incompetence.

  • Once GLaDOS is back, she’ll occasionally react to Cave Johnson’s recordings: it turns out that GLaDOS was built from Caroline, Johnson’s pretty-as-a-postcard assistant with a bright personality who was also evidently competent. Upon hearing one of Johnson’s recordings, GLaDOS responds with a heartfelt and genuine “Goodbye, Sir“, hinting at her origins. It turns out that Johnson had intended to have his mind transferred, but in the event that he died before the process could be carried out, Caroline would take his place. These exchanges match the melancholy, wistful feeling one gets when traversing these test chambers. The inquisitive player can locate a picture of Caroline and unlock an achievement for doing so in this test chamber.

  • I still have vivid memories of being stuck in this enrichment sphere after arriving for the first time: I had started playing Portal 2 as a bit of a study break, having hit a wall of sorts in revising the new MCAT materials, but wound up without a means of completing this test chamber. I ended up putting the breaks on Portal 2, returned to hit the books and ended up understanding the concept I was looking at. The early summer of 2012 was characterised by me being entirely focused on the physics and MCAT courses; most days entailed me going to campus to take the courses and then returning home in the afternoon to study.

  • By June, my physics course had nearly wrapped up, and all that was left was the MCAT course, which ran until the end of July. I spent many a beautiful day indoors doing review problems with friends who were also facing down the MCAT or had previously done so. I constantly swung between an impatience to take the exam and a gripping panic during this time, but with support from my friends, I weathered on. Most of my days were punctuated by a great deal of gaming, which helped me to unwind and focus in between studying sessions.

  • Finally, August came, and I sat the exam. When I had finished, it was as though a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. With the remaining twenty days of the summer, I spearheaded an effort that some of my colleagues had taken to submit a paper to an undergraduate journal earlier that year: we had become swamped with coursework and the paper was shelved. However, two of the remaining colleagues had expressed an interest in continuing, and since I was not officially doing summer research then, I had unlimited time on my hands.

  • After receiving everyone’s drafts, I ended up writing out the entire paper and then asked that my colleagues review it as they were able. As August drew to an end, and my final undergraduate year started, we had a fully finished draft. My supervisor was happy to review it, and we ended up submitting it to the journal. It was accepted some time later, and I was invited to participate in the undergraduate research symposium with my older project from a summer earlier. Seeing the extensibility of this project led me to build my undergraduate research project off it, and for my troubles, I ended up doing very well.

  • As I return further up the facility, I recall that because I had been in the midst of MCAT season and had wanted to finish Portal 2 as quickly as possible. I therefore skipped over the sections of Portal 2 where Chell and GLaDOS return to the more modern Aperture Science facilities, returning to the point after the pair reach the stairwell leading back into a more modern-looking test chamber, shaving about 15-30 minutes off my run. In retrospect, I needn’t have skipped this part, but what’s done is done.

  • According to the screenshots, I finished my first run of Portal 2 precisely eight years earlier and ended up writing about the new mechanics here. At that time, this blog was really more of a side resource where I could go to write shorter articles, supporting the content at my main page. However, as the limitations of became increasingly apparent, I transitioned all of my writing to this blog. Here, I make use of a portal conducting gel to coat the interior of this shaft, allowing me to freely place portals in critical areas to reach further up.

  • While I had finished Portal 2 and wrote about it eight years ago to this day, that same summer saw Valve introduce the addition of Perpetual Testing Initiative, adding co-op chambers for players to complete. Any owner of Portal 2 was automatically granted a special discount coupon for Portal 2 to gift to friends so that they could claim a copy of the game for 5 USD. My friend, having heard about my enjoyment of the game, sent me his coupon, and a few hours later, I was the proud owner of Portal 2. I started my journey late in August, and finished the campaign a second time just before term started.

  • On my second play-through, I went through every area of the game, including the shafts leading back to the more modern facility and the crawlspace just beneath the modern test chambers. As I passed through familiar test chambers and the bowels of the facility alike, I recalled with vivid clarity the old thrill of studying for the MCAT. Three days later, my MCAT results came back, and it was to my immense relief that I’d done rather well. I wouldn’t actually use the results in later years, having developed a keen interest in software development following my undergraduate thesis, but the lessons and experiences from taking the MCAT persisted: besides being a better tester, I also relaxed considerably regarding challenges.

  • I don’t believe I have any screenshots of Portal 2 left over from those days: all of the screenshots for this post were taken relatively recently. Upon returning back to the modern facilities, it’s evident that Wheatley has made a mess of things, creating illogical tests. Fortunately, there are solutions to Wheatley’s tests, and the introduction of the excursion funnels, which act similarly to the hard light bridges but also offer laminar flow, allowing players and objects to be pushed across an area.

  • Despite displaying fluid-like properties, the excursion funnels are not liquid in nature. Special switches allow their direction to be switched, and they become an invaluable mechanic for crossing over large chasms opening into the deepest reaches of the Aperture Science facility. Wheatley’s tests leave massive gaps in the floor, which expose infrastructure and also give an idea as to how vast Aperture Science really is. Chell can exit the funnel at any time by means of normal movement, but careless movement at the wrong time will lead to death.

  • Besides Chell herself and objects like weighted cubes, the excursion funnels can also be used to transport mobility gels great distances. Solving puzzles with a combination of the mobility gels and excursion funnels turned out quite fun: by this point in time, familiarity with all of the mechanics means that players will have no trouble figuring out what needs to be done. Of note was the part where one needed to use the repulsion gel on turrets to safely deactivate them: once coated, they begin bouncing around erratically and plummet to the depths of the Aperture Science facility.

  • A distant light can be seen as Chell heads towards Wheatley with every intention of stopping him and restoring GLaDOS’ access to control Aperture Science. Traveling through this excursion funnel, with a distant light illuminating the way, players cannot help but feel that they are almost at the light at the end of the tunnel. This screenshot here perfectly captures how it felt to watch the days between myself and the MCAT count down to the doom of my time.

  • The fight with Wheatley is hilarious: while he takes measures to prevent himself from being defeated the same way GLaDOS was defeated, conditions transpire against him, and Chell is given all of the tools needed to stop Wheatley, by corrupting his main core with alternate cores and prompting a core transfer. Once successful, Wheatley is sucked into space, and regrets betraying Chell, while GLaDOS stabilises the facility and allows Chell to walk free, since killing her was too much work. This brings my third play-though of Portal 2 to an end, and having gone through both Lucky☆Star and both Portal games, I turn my attention towards The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya next, which holds the answers to lingering questions I had surrounding Otafest.

Being more extensive than Portal in every way, Portal 2 ultimately is an immensely enjoyable and immersive experience overall. In particular, I was most fond of the game’s midsections, which sees Chell explore the abandoned ruins of the old Aperture Science. The sheer scope and scale of the old Enrichment Spheres are a monument to Aperture Science’s hubris: Portal 2 demonstrated that level design and voice acting alone can tell an incredibly compelling story: Cave Johnson himself never appears, having long died from being poisoned by the moon dust used in creating portal-conducting surfaces, but old heirlooms and artifacts do much in filling in the gaps. Together with the derelict state of the old facilities, one really gains a sense of the hopelessness and desperation Johnson had to bring back the glory days even as Aperture Science fell further into ruin. These missions are reminiscent of exploring haikyo: although the walls of abandoned buildings might not speak, an entire story lies beyond their silence, told in stone and mementos alike. Altogether, Portal 2 places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of the series compared to its predecessor, which, while succeeding on the merits of its simplicity, left many questions unanswered. Portal 2 answers some of these questions and suggests that behind the events of Portal, there was a human element to things, which help players to really understand the dangers of an unchecked desire for progress. Together with areas that capture the scope and scale of Aperture Science, moments that help characters grow, and a generally livelier atmosphere, Portal 2 represents a novel direction for Portal that adds nuance to the series, and while its story leaves players no closer to understanding the role Aperture Science and the Borealis plays in Half-Life 2, does offer closure for those who had lingering questions after completing Portal.

Battlefield V: A Swansong, The James Bond Loadout, Fields of Lavender and A Desert Encampment

“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.” –George Orwell

The final content patch that Battlefield V received adds one new map, Al Marj Encampment, expands upon the existing Provence for full-on conquest, along with five new primary weapons and two new sidearms, four new gadgets, three new grenades, two new armoured vehicles and new aircraft. This content update stands as one of the biggest updates that Battlefield V received in its lifetime, and while perhaps not as large as any of the DLC packages in earlier Battlefield titles, this update is one of the best boosts Battlefield V has had. Both of the maps in this final update bear the hallmarks of what I’ve come to count as being a good map, featuring a design that allows any class to be successful. Al Marj Encampment is set in Libya and is infantry-only: from narrow canyons of the western end and a desert village at its centre, to the airfield on the east, Al Marj Encampment features narrow streets and tight quarters on the northern end that favours high RPM weapons, but a large road running east-west provides open space that allows snipers to keep an eye on enemy movement. Fast paced, chaotic and unpredictable, Al Marj Encampment plays similarly to Operation Underground in its layout, while possessing the aesthetic of Battlefield 1‘s Zeebrugge and Achi Baba maps. Provence was completely reworked, as well: for all intents and purposes, it is a new map now set under a swift sunset providing the last light for lavender fields and a small riverside town. With both confined streets of town and wide open lavender fields separating two villages in the map’s western end, Provence is a map accommodating vehicular play as well as frenzied infantry combat in town. Being set during a sunset means Provence’s colour palette has also changed considerably: with the golden sunbeams washing the map in the melancholy last light of day, Provence feels like a visceral visual of Battlefield V‘s sunset. The map itself is a triumph that mirrors the end of Battlefield V, with its sunset signifying the end of Battlefield V as players have come to know it.

As the last content update, all players gain immediate access to the new weapons, gadgets and grenades. The assault class receives M1941 Johnson, a semi-automatic rifle that lost out to the M1 Garand. With a slight recoil and lower firing rate, the M1941 is a reliable and accurate weapon for the assault players that offers a hard-hitting weapon. Medics gain the Welgun, a replacement for the Sten gun that fires slowly but has solid hip-fire accuracy and reach further than the other submachine guns. Support players get two new weapons: the Chauchat and Sjögren Inertial shotgun both make a return from Battlefield 1. The Chauchat light machine gun is perhaps the most hard-hitting weapon available in its category (at close range, it can down enemy players with three shots), and this comes at the cost of a high recoil. However, because it can be configured to fire in semi-automatic, the weapon can be made to perform like a semi-automatic rifle, making it a longer-range weapon that can compete with some of the longer-range weapons in the game. Finally, the recon class is given the M3 Infrared semi-automatic rifle and the K31/43. The former is a bulky, cumbersome weapon with an unusual set of optics: the infrared optics occupy the entire right-hand side of the screen and can reduce visibility, but the weapon itself is remarkably effective at shorter to medium ranges. The K31/43 is a similarly entertaining weapon, allowing players to freely switch between the side-mounted optics and iron sights. This helps players to remain stealthy by removing scope glint, and overall, the K31/43 is fairly consistent and effective. Finally, the game also adds the Walther PPK, a German semi-automatic pistol that was popularised by Ian Flemming’s James Bond, and the Welrod, a suppressed pistol that is immensely effective at close range. On top of new vehicles, Battlefield V‘s final update feels like a send-off for what was probable the most troubled Battlefield title in memory, although with the new content and retaining the game’s solid gameplay, this is a bit of a bittersweet conclusion to what could’ve been a journey with a much greater scope and immersion.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This is probably going to be the last Battlefield V post I write in a while, so I figured that I’d make it a bigger post: I will be showcasing forty of my favourite moments from the summer update. Per tradition, I open with my first kill on the map – after spawning at capture point echo in the M4 Sherman, I made my way over to the town and managed to get a kill. For the first few matches after the update was live, I lost consecutive matches. With my current record, however, this did little to affect my stats, and I took the time to get used to the map.

  • The addition of the Walther PPK to Battlefield V allows me to run an authentic James Bond loadout: Ian Fleming chose the PPK as Bond’s sidearm on advice from one of his readers, Geoffrey Boothroyd, made the suggestion that the PPK was well-suited for Bond given that it used the 7.65 mm cartridge, which both was relatively common and hit harder than the .25 ACP Beretta that Bond had previously carried.  A firearms expert, Boothroyd’s letters to Fleming would shape Bond forever: Fleming had greatly appreciated this and ended up naming Bond’s armourer after him. In Battlefield V, the PPK deals less damage than most pistols, but has a very high firing rate and short reload time.

  • The M3 Infrared is probably the most unusual gun in Battlefield V: the real-world incarnation was developed ahead of the invasion of Okinawa, and 105 units were built. Essentially an M2 carbine with modified optics, the M3 is one of the earliest weapon with a functional set of infrared optics, and despite its extremely limited range as a result of the sight’s shortcomings, it found applicability in picking off night patrols. The early technology meant that soldiers worked in groups of two or three in order to be effective, and the concept would be improved, extending the night vision scope’s effective range by the time of the Korean War.

  • The BAS Welgun is a submachine gun chambered for the 9 x 19mm Parabellum round and intended to replace the Sten. Originally designed for the Special Operations Executive, the weapon was incredibly compact and accurate, but other submachine guns were selected, with only a handful ever being made. The precise reason behind why the Welgun never was selected was lost to time, and while it’s a weapon with a cool bit of history, I honestly would’ve preferred to have the Sterling Submachine Gun, which was developed in 1944 as another Sten replacement. The Sterling was exceptionally successful, and after it was formally introduced in 1953, would become a mainstay in the British Army until 1994, after which the L86A1 was introduced. The Sterling would influence the design of the E-11 Blaster that Imperial Stormtroopers would use in Star Wars.

  • Admittedly, I miss the bright blue skies of the original Provence map. The original lighting on the map was that of either a late morning or early afternoon, and it gave the map a Sora no Woto-like feeling, bringing to mind the streets of Seize as Kanata browsed through the open market while on break one day. However, by setting Provence during the evening (evidenced by the fact that the sun is in the west rather than east), the golden light creates a much more varied palette for the map, as well as symbolising the end of Battlefield V.

  • There are a couple of drivable tractors on Provence, and while these are fun to operate (I ended up using them to travel quickly between a few capture points in my time), they are also incredibly fragile: a single rocket will destroy them. Here, I managed to get a kill on a player using a tractor with the Bazooka, and felt a twinge of remorse – players typically drive the tractor for fun, but they also represent a target that could potentially reach a capture point. My remorse quickly evaporated, since my team had been losing that match.

  • The assault class’ M1941 Johnson rifle is a short-recoil operated semi-automatic rifle that was a contender along with the M1 Garand as the main service rifle for the United States Army: its internal capacity was greater than that of the M1 Garand’s, and it could be topped off with 5-round stripper clips or individual rounds, whereas the M1 needed en bloc clips that required the entire clip be ejected before a new one could be replaced. However, the M1941 Johnson rifle’s recoil operated mechanism made it more susceptible to failure, and the weapon’s construction meant that it was shipped with small parts that were easily lost. The weapon was less reliable than the M1 Garand, but its designer, Melvin Johnson, would continue refining the weapon, and the M1941 Johnson’s bolt design would eventually be used in the AR-15.

  • The bridge at capture point charlie is typically the most contested area on Provence during conquest: players on foot will typically swarm around the bottom of the bridge by the river in the hopes of remaining unseen by enemy vehicles, while the top of the bridge usually sees vehicular traffic. The team that can control this point and hold it will gain the advantage during the match, as each team has two capture points that are relatively easy to take ahold of (one in the fields in the south, and one in the town in the north side of the map).

  • During one match, I ended up managing to grab a Sturmtiger that my squad leader had called in. Admittedly, I’ve not operated one since January of last year – for most situations, the 380 mm rocket the Sturmtiger fires is impractical, having a very low muzzle velocity and a 7.5 second reload time that limits its usage to close ranges. Moreover, the driver doesn’t have access to any coaxial weapons for mopping up infantry, being completely dependent on gunners to ensure no one can sneak up on the tank. However, the Sturmtiger is indeed a monster with its armour and primary weapon under some circumstances, such as in the narrow streets of Provence.

  • I thus find myself eating my words that the Sturmtiger is better suited for an anti-infantry role; I managed to go on a small rampage with the 380 mm rockets as the match drew to a close, demolishing several tanks with a single shot. As the match ended, I got a triple kill on another tank that had been attempting to take back capture point bravo. Overall, the Sturmtiger’s greatest strength appears to be its durability, which exceeds that of even the Tiger I: the American T34 Calliope has a much more versatile loadout and can similarly destroy vehicles with its rockets, but otherwise has the same durability as a standard M4.

  • Besides new weapons, the update to Battlefield V also adds a pair of new armoured vehicles for the German and American factions. The Germans get the Sd.Kfz. 234 Puma, a wheeled vehicle fulfilling the role of a light tank. Capable of moving swiftly across the map and capturing points, the Puma is lightly armoured, and in its base configuration, is equipped with a 20 mm autocannon that is better suited for dealing with infantry and light vehicles. I promptly swapped it out for the 50 mm cannon as soon as that became available, allowing me a fighting chance against more heavily armoured vehicles.

  • Of the two maps, I prefer Provence because of its setting: the sunset portrayed in the level is downright beautiful, and DICe did a fantastic job of extending the play area out into the lavender fields outside of town. It is not lost on me that under different circumstances, DICE could’ve likely done the same for the Lofoten Islands map: besides connecting all of the play areas together and adding boats, the Schwimmpanzer II and DD Valentine could’ve been included as amphibious vehicles. As it stands, Lofoten Islands will become a forgotten map that is only accessible through Team Death Match and Squad Conquest game modes, lacking support for the 64-player matches.

  • One loadout I experimented with was the Sniper Elite V2 endgame setup – towards the end of the game, OSS sniper Karl Fairburne acquires the Gewehr 43, which has the fastest firing rate and magazine capacity of any sniper rifle in the campaign. This comes at the expense of a lower muzzle velocity. For most missions, Fairburne is also equipped with the Welrod, which is suited for stealthily removing a lone guard from the equation. The Battlefield V Welrod is an exceptionally powerful pistol at close quarters, being able to take out opponents with a single headshot at ranges of 25 metres or less. This demands patience and a steady aim: missing with the Welrod is a death sentence if one is dealing with a player alerted to one’s presence.

  • Of the new gadgets, the most fun is probably the pistol flamethrower, which offers players with a pocket flamethrower. Most effective against infantry, the weapon is useless against vehicles, and for the most part, I prefer running dynamite to maximise my ability to deal with vehicles; here, I manage to get another triple kill with dynamite after blasting an unlucky jeep that had passed by me while trying to reach the capture point. Triple kills in Halo 2 are a big deal, but by this point in Battlefield V, I’ve seen my share of them more often: Battlefield V, with its superb weapons handling and large player counts, is naturally more conducive towards multi-kills compared to Halo, where 4v4 matches means that it would take a bit of luck in addition to skill to score an overkill (formerly killtacular).

  • While I’ve elected to run with the M1 Bazooka for its range, the proper Karl Fairburne loadout in Battlefield V is the Gewehr 43, Welrod pistol, Panzerfaust and Dynamite, plus an offensive grenade of some sort. If memory serves, my interest in Sniper Elite V2 was because it took players into the streets of Berlin during the latter days of World War Two and the fall of Germany, including the massive flak towers that Hitler had ordered built to defend the capital from Allied strategic bombing. Eight were built in Germany, with three in Berlin: these reinforced concrete structures had walls up to 3.5 metres in thickness and possessed a large number of FlaK 30 20mm cannons, as well as the 128 mm FlaK 40.

  • One of the potential maps set in the fall of Berlin, then, could have been at the Tiergarten Flak Tower, featuring the Soviets attacking against the defending Germans. In a potential breakthrough map, the Soviets would attempt to capture the flak tower. This could have come alongside a map to capture the Reichstag building. Of course, in present circumstances, such an experience is relegated to the realm of the imagination along with D-Day and Stalingrad, unless DICE decides to revisit World War Two properly in the future.

  • While I had been hit with a streak of losses early on whenever I made to play matches on Provence, my fortunes would eventually turn around, and during one particularly thrilling match, I ended up securing enough squad requisition points to call in a V-1 rocket that scored a triple kill. Players have gotten wise to the use of the squad reinforcements, and no longer crowd around on a capture point towards the end of a match – towards the end of a game, players tend to steer clear of capture points since most squad leaders will attempt to drop a V-1 or JB-2 in a bid to clear it out. Consequently, the massive multi-kills I got early in Battlefield V‘s lifecycle are no longer as frequent.

  • The American equivalent of the Puma is the M8 Greyhound, which replaces the LVT as the light vehicle. Compare to the basic Puma, it is slightly more compact, has inferior handling and stability, but slightly better firepower thanks to the 37 mm cannon. This can be further improved by adding armour-piercing shells, although in general, the Greyhound remains best suited for engaging light armour, transports and infantry while swiftly capturing points. Here, the lavender fields are just visible; the flowers are beautiful, and lavender itself is an immensely useful herb. Oil extracted from the plant is used in traditional medicine, being useful in maintaining skin health and stress reduction, amongst other benefits.

  • In the week after the update, finding matches on Al Marj Encampment was quite difficult, since there were only a few servers running the map at a time. I was lucky to find one, and promptly went about testing out the new Sjögren Inertial shotgun, which first made its appearance in Battlefield V. Like the other shotguns of Battlefield V, the Sjögren Inertial is a powerful close quarters weapon that can one-shot infantry but becomes increasingly inconsistent at longer ranges. The shotguns of Battlefield V see very limited utility for most engagements, but are sufficiently powerful so that I continue to see the occasional complaint about their usage as low-skill weapons in the text chat.

  • Al Marj Encampment is set under sunny skies and terrain reminiscent of the deserts surrounding Binoten in Broken Blade, as well as Sora no Woto‘s Seize. With a similar aesthetic as Achi Baba of Battlefield 1, and a layout reminiscent of a scaled down version of Sinai Desert, Al Marj was originally a map designed for the now-cancelled competitive 5 v 5 mode and was reworked to support 64 player game types. Historically, the battle here was fought earlier in World War 2, being a battle between the Australian and Italian armies on February 5, 1941. Battlefield V completely dispensed with historical accuracy, and while this is acceptable for gameplay, World War Two games typically carry the expectation that battles be depicted with some degree of realism. This is why there’s been a desire to see Battlefield return to the modern era, which would allow for more creative freedom.

  • On this match of breakthrough, my team had been doing a phenomenal job of pushing to capturing objectives, and shortly after I spawned in, I scored a kill with the suppressed PPK, James Bond style, before exiting the church. As my team pressed into the final sector, I was shocked when my power had gone out: lightning in the province over had knocked out transmission lines, leading to blackouts in my area. I gave up the win on this match, picked up a book and began reading, before taking a quick kip. The power outage lasted for a shade over an hour, after which power was restored and I continued on with my Battlefield V adventures.

  • One of my goals in Battlefield V will be to get all of my ground vehicles to a point where I’ve unlocked everything for them. The Puma and Greyhound are both strong vehicles for rapidly moving around a map, making them great for seizing the initiative in capturing points: this is my plan for levelling them up quickly, since there is a sizeable reward for neutralising and capturing in conquest. While the vehicles can hold their own against infantry, even a basic M4 or Panzer IV will turn the light vehicles into scrap metal.

  • For the past three weekends, thunderstorms have torn through the area, bringing with it a copious amount of rain and lightning – we’re about a week away from summer and have already seen at least four thunderstorms in the spring alone. The storms seen this year have all been direct hits, whereas most years, storms would pass by north of the city. With their potential for hail damage, thunderstorms are no joke, but they also bring about cool, refreshing air once they pass through the area.

  • One conspiracy theory I’ve seen making the rounds about in Battlefield V is that low level players are given a very minor damage and health buff to ensure that they are not blown away by veteran players who are much more familiar with game mechanics. Player speculate that this is the case, given that lower level players seem to absorb more damage and can score kills faster than what is normally possible compared to players of a higher level. Having seen what lower level players do for myself, I wouldn’t consider this implausible – players under level thirty always give me more trouble than experienced players.

  • Of course, this could just be that I remember being killed by a low level player better than the higher level players because of the innate assumption that a higher level player spent more time in Battlefield V and therefore is more familiar with the mechanics. Here, I play in probably the most one-sided match I’d ever played in Battlefield V: the opposing team was simultaneously disorganised and we ultimately smashed them. I ended up 10-0, since the match ended rather quickly, marking the first time I’d completed a game without dying once.

  • The Chauchat originally made an appearance in Battlefield V‘s Tirailleur campaign mission as the starting weapon for Deme Cisse. Similar to its Battlefield 1 incarnation, the Chauchat is a slow-firing, hard-hitting light machine gun best suited for medium range combat. The recoil on the weapon is very noticeable when firing on automatic, even more so when the 3x optics are equipped, but with the Nylar sights, the weapon jumps around less when fired in automatic.

  • Conversely, switching the Chauchat over to semi-automatic fire turns it into a makeshift marksman rifle for the support class. In this mode, players can reliably hit more distant targets without wasting ammunition. The Chauchat does fit in with recurring trend in the latest update, which brings numerous slow RPM weapons to the table that favour steady aim at moderate ranges. While the Chauchat is a fun LMG to use, the KE-7 and Bren remain my preferred weapons. I refuse to use the Lewis Gun on principle: with its large ammunition capacity and no overheat, the Lewis Gun is the weapon of choice for cheaters.

  • The last time I fired a suppressed PPK in a video game, it would’ve been 2003’s 007 Nightfire, which I count to be the best James Bond game in recent memory. Players eventually upgrade to the Walther P99 in Nightfire, which has a larger magazine capacity and better damage. From a gameplay perspective, I prefer the P99, but from an aesthetics perspective, the PPK is the better weapon for Bond, since it is much more compact. GoldenEye 64 popularised the PPK’s suppressed variant, and while Battlefield V has a more realistic firing sound for the suppressed variant, a part of me was hoping that the weapon would feel like its GoldenEye 64 counterpart.

  • Here, I score a kill with the suppressed PPK on “zlMAXIMOllz”, a rather vocal player who was insulting everyone on my team even as they were winning and topping their scoreboard. A quick look suggests that zlMAXIMOllz is someone who pads their stats the same way Eris pads her chest. I disagree with the suggestion that lower level players who perform well in Battlefield V are simply just “good” at the game – every Battlefield game has slightly different mechanics that take some getting used to, and Battlefield games differ greatly from those of something like Rainbow Six: Siege or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. To suggest one could be an instant expert within a half hour of picking up the game is ludicrous, since there are nuances one must pick up over time.

  • Originally, only Provence had a dedicated playlist, and I spent most of last week on Provence. This week, Al Marj Encampment got a dedicated playlist, so I’ve been able to play on servers running this map exclusively to get a feel for it. Being an infantry-only map, Al Marj Encampment possesses transports that, while fodder for any assault player with AT weapons, can nonetheless make quick work of infantry. Transports are especially valuable in the breakthrough mode, which offers as intense and chaotic an experience on this map as breakthrough on Operation Underground.

  • With its massive infrared flashlight and a dedicated 3x telescopic sight that picks up the thermal signatures of enemies, the M3 is a bit of an impractical weapon to use in practise. The optics and housing block out most of the screen, and the optics themselves barely pick out thermal signatures of enemies, who can defeat the weapon with smoke grenades. However, with a high rate of fire and a suppressor, the M3 Infrared can be used to tag enemies at medium range more effectively than the pistol carbines, and it can hold its own at close-medium range combat: in the right situations, the weapon is certainly very entertaining to wield.

  • While the K31/43 might not be the most impressive of the bolt-action rifles in Battlefield V, it certainly is one of the most entertaining weapons to use owing to its ability to switch between the side-mounted optics and iron sights. Resembling the rifles of Battlefield 1, the biggest advantage about the K31/43 is that while using iron sights, scope glint disappears, allowing one to be much stealthier. Switching between the two enables players to identify targets and pick them off with accuracy.

  • On this particular match of breakthrough, I was landing headshots with the K31/43 and keeping hidden, ending the match on a very strong note as my team successfully prevented the enemy advance. The specialisation tree for the K31/43 is an intriguing one: options for the weapon include a 6x scope to replace the default 3x optic, a bipod to eliminate weapon sway and a box magazine for faster reloads. While not the most damaging rifle in the game, the K31/43 does have some interesting options available to it that make it a unique weapon to use.

  • The Battlefield V incarnation of the Welgun puts it as a slower-firing, but hard-hitting weapon similar to the M3 Grease Gun. Performing best when hip-fired, the Welgun has better accuracy and range compared to most submachine guns, but for some reason, I initially had considerable difficulty in making the most of the weapon: its low rate of fire corresponds to a low DPS, and players equipped with faster firing weapons would melt me before I could get the killing shot off because I had engaged them at extreme close quarters rather than a more suitable distance.

  • Once I acclimatised to the Welgun’s handling and characteristics, I began to have more success with it; the weapon is great for combat out to around 40 metres, the range that the faster-firing submachine guns like the Type 2A and Thompson begin to lose their efficacy. Like the other submachine guns, the Welgun excels when it is specialised for hip-fire performance: as I rank the weapon up, I’ll look to put in points to maximise its hip-fire accuracy, which should help offset the lower rate of fire.

  • Sneaking around the southern edge of the map to get a flank for capture point C, I managed to get the jump on two players here and finished them off. With Al Marj Encampment’s terrain reminding me of Broken Blade, and following an enjoyable conversation with a buddy on the anime, I note here that I will have plans to write about Broken Blade in the very near future – the desert terrain and weather of Broken Blade remind me of Sora no Woto, and when I first watched both series, I was set to take my basic operator’s license.

  • I’ll save that story for the Broken Blade post proper, and return to Battlefield V: while my team ended up losing this game of conquest, and I found myself being smoked by a rather uncouth player calling himself “beserker1000”, who considered camping to be “skill”. Their foul attitude was only matched by their pusillanimity, and as I roamed the map, looking to help my team out as best as I could while rocking the Welgun, I didn’t encounter that particular player again. I ended up bringing my own KDR back to positive anyways and got a better measure of the Welgun from that experience.

  • Capture point echo, located close to the American deployment, is a spice market. Even during the frenzied combat, small details, such as the different boxes of spices, are present. Because the focus is on capturing points, dealing with enemies and helping teammates out, on most matches, I’m less attuned towards the attention paid towards making maps authentic. I can see myself returning to empty servers to go exploring at some point in the future to really appreciate the amount of work that goes into each map. Further to this, I believe that there is a dinosaur Easter Egg on this map, as well, that is closer to capture point Charlie.

  • I’ll close this post off with me scoring another kill with the M3 Infrared while overlooking the desert beyond town. Al Marj Encampment ended up being a fun map that feels like an infantry-focused variant of Sinai Desert. It is a bit sad to see the last of Battlefield V – in the future, I may return periodically to complete weekly assignments for the Battlefield Currency, which would allow me to unlock premium cosmetics, as well as finish ranking up the ground vehicles, but otherwise, I won’t be playing Battlefield V with too much frequency. Having said this, the game does end on a reasonable note, and one cannot help but wonder if, under different circumstances, DICE might’ve pulled off a comeback for Battlefield V the same way they had previously done for Battlefield 4.

Battlefield V ends on the best possible note with its final update, and overall, I’ve had an immensely enjoyable experience with the latest maps and weapons. On the whole, Battlefield V has tended towards being more enjoyable than frustrating for me: despite my encounters with cheaters and the lack of iconic maps, I’ve had fun going through Battlefield in the past year-and-a-half. With this being said, the biggest challenge I face in Battlefield games is the progression system: it takes a bit of time to unlock everything, and this is time that I may not always have available to me. In conjunction with a community that is becoming increasingly malignant and flippant, it becomes difficult to contemplate a return to Battlefield: when timed weekly challenges necessitate I continue returning to unlock things in servers filled with players who have no intention of playing objectives and spewing insults to those calling them out for not playing properly, a core part of the Battlefield experience becomes lost. My experiences with Battlefield V have shown that my time as a player of the Battlefield multiplayer is likely at an end: while I can still hold out against the meme-oriented players in terms of raw skill, I do not believe I will be able to commit so much time towards games with intricate progression systems in the future. With this in mind, I reiterate that I did have fun with Battlefield V, and I have no regrets whatsoever: while the game did not deliver an iconic World War Two experience, the gunplay is amongst the most satisfying I’ve ever experienced, and there was a joy to unlocking and using period weapons to mimic various loadouts I’ve seen in anime, from Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches to Sora no Woto and even Girls’ Last Tour. I play games to relax and do wild things, which Battlefield does offer, but I prefer to unlock things at my own pace: as it stands, I will not be picking up the next Battlefield game for this reason. Instead, the time has come for me to return to the realm of Halo, as well as get a start on the other titles in my library that I’ve accumulated over the years, but have not yet gotten around to looking at.

The Division 2: Reflections on The Last Castle, Incursions into the Pentagon

“What might sound like science fiction elsewhere in the world at DARPA was future science.” –Annie Jacobsen, The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency

When a SHD operator discovers that the Black Tusk have located a perfusion bioreactor in the depths of the Pentagon, the agent is sent to investigate. The Black Tusk have locked down the area, but the agent manages to reach the visitor’s centre and open the main gate to the Pentagon. Subsequently, the agent must enter the Pentagon’s offices and find any intel that might give some insight into where the bioreactor is located. The agent discovers that the Black Tusk are intending to drill their way into the Pentagon’s basement to extract the device and destroys the drilling apparatus, before moving on to locate a project list that contains the bioreactor’s location. After securing the server room, the agent must engage and destroy a massive XB-31 Marauder Drone. Once the data is secured, the Division finally determines the location of the bioreactor, located in the DARPA Research Labs, located deep underneath the Pentagon. With their drill destroyed, the agent navigates their way into Cold War era tunnels to retrieve the bioreactor. The bioreactor is recovered, and the Division notes that in conjunction with the broad spectrum anti-virals they’d secured earlier, the possibility of being able to mass-produce a vaccine and save lives becomes a reality; this is a major win for the Division. The Pentagon missions are a part of The Division 2‘s second major content update, which released in October 2019 and further added a new specialisation, exotics and PvP game modes. While not quite as large of an update as the first content update with respect to new missions, The Last Castle nonetheless made some considerable quality of life changes on top of providing a pair of new missions that allow players to explore The Pentagon, one of the most iconic locations in Washington D.C., located south-west of the National Mall.

The two new main missions set within The Pentagon offer a chance for players to visit the world’s largest office building. The first of the two main missions sends the agent through the more mundane side of the Pentagon: a offices, corridors and a cafeteria comprises the bulk of the mission area, indicating to players that most of the Pentagon is really just an office, albeit with a colourful history and whose unique design has come to represent the United States’ military. Fighting through the different areas of the Pentagon, things as mundane as photocopying machines and stacks of binders on a shelf are common. However, the Pentagon’s typical functions soon give way to more speculative designs as the agent reaches the server room and DARPA labs. The second of the missions takes players into the realm of fiction, supposing that deep underground, there exists an intricate network of subterranean tunnels and research facilities for America’s most secret projects. The side-by-side juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary has always been one of The Division 2‘s greatest strengths, simultaneously weaving in the real-world settings with fictionalised inclusions to show a blurring of the two boundaries. The result is a highly compelling and thought-provoking game that underlines the possibility that underneath familiar systems, there may lie elements that are beyond comprehension. This is one of those themes that The Division 2 excels in conveying through its game-play and story experience, and in the second content expansion, players are left with mixed feelings; on one hand, those involved in the Green Poison and the effects of its aftermath are still at large and may potentially deal damage, but on the other, the Division has secured the perfusion bioreactor, which gives them a massive advantage in being able to synthesise the anti-viral drugs that may finally bring the Green Poison’s outbreak under control.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Construction on the Pentagon began in September 1941 to replace the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings, which had been constructed as a temporary site for the US Military headquarters in 1918. The Main Navy and Munitions Buildings had occupied the National Mall, and raised criticisms that the unsightly structures, which were well-constructed, would continue to occupy the open space of the National Mall.

  • In the end, once the Pentagon had finished construction, the Main Navy and Munitions Buildings would be turned over to the Navy, and continued to be used until the 1960s, during which it was found that the buildings begun developing structural issues. They were subsequently demolished, and the space was converted into the Constitution Gardens. The Division 2 has players start by exploring a side mission at the Pentagon, which becomes available at World Tier 5, but this side mission turns out to set the stage for two full-fledged missions.

  • The Pentagon’s primary enemies are the Black Tusk; with its close quarters environments, such as one of the cafeterias, my preferred loadout this mission was a LMG paired with the MP-X. The rationale for my choice is simple: a submachine gun excels in short range combat against small groups, dealing consistent damage without strong recoil, while the light machine gun and its high ammunition capacity makes it well-suited for handling the heavy soldiers and various automaton that the Black Tusk deploy.

  • The interior of the Pentagon is quite dark, and I found myself wishing that I’d equipped a flashlight on my sidearm for some of the darker areas. The Division 2‘s lighting means that the contrast between light and dark is more pronounced, and in conjunction with the fact that I no longer equip the pulse skill to locate hidden enemies, firefights tend to be a bit more thrilling as I strive to keep alive and work out where enemies are coming from. I do prefer The Division‘s lighting for providing a more consistent experience (and also because it makes for clearer screenshots), but from a gameplay perspective, the different lighting in The Division 2 makes for more gripping combat.

  • In the Pentagon’s courtyard, the Black Tusk have set up a massive drilling apparatus, which the agent must destroy. For the wide-open spaces, I’ll switch over to a semi-automatic or marksman rifle depending on what my requirements are. Running with the sharpshooter specialisation affords me access to a powerful long-range option at all times, but .50-calibre ammunition remains scarce even with the right perks, so it’s sometimes prudent to switch over to a long-range rifle with a larger ammunition pool to work with. Once this area is cleared out, and the drilling rig is dealt with, players return back into the depths of the Pentagon.

  • The next stage of the mission is to locate a project list, which should contain the location of the perfusion bioreactor that the Black Tusk and Division alike seek. The pursuit to reach it first creates a sense of urgency in the mission, although this is purely from a narrative perspective; players can and should take all the time they need to ensure every area is properly cleared out, especially for solo players lacking teammates to provide cover and if needed, revives.

  • The race to reach a high-value asset first is not a foreign concept to me, and the most recent example I’ve got would be Weathering with You: with the release of the BDs, I was finally able to write a review for it, and I’d made the audacious claim to have the first proper review with screenshots out. As it turned out, Random Curiosity, had a review out for Weathering with You predating mine by three weeks. I was shocked, and wondered how it was possible to obtain screenshots for Weathering with You without the BD release: did they have access to resources that were unavailable to those outside of Japan?

  • As it turns out, nothing quite so dramatic had occurred: upon a bit of investigation, Random Curiosity had simply used a modified version of Weathering with You, itself an OBS screen recording of a hard-subbed stream from the Dutch service Pathé Thuis dating back to late April. Some folks had edited out the Dutch subtitles with a filter in video editing software and overlaid English subtitles on top of it to create a watchable experience for those who weren’t willing to wait for the BD. Random Curiosity’s screenshots of Weathering with You were clearly obtained from this video, and the subtitles were subsequently cropped out of the image for their screenshots. While their review is fine, the screenshots are of a poor quality that do not indicate the visual fidelity of Makoto Shinkai’s latest film: they do not have the same colour balance as screenshots from the BD and possess noticeable artifacts.

  • The motivation behind why Random Curiosity pushed a review out with low-quality, modified screenshots is their own; my interest in the topic was primarily motivated by how they’d accomplished this, and I am reasonably happy at having worked out the answer. I’d known about the Dutch Weathering with You stream and the efforts to remove the forced-in subtitles since April, but elected not to write about the film until the BDs were available so I could ensure that I was using the highest possible quality of screenshots for readers. The price of ensuring a good reader experience can mean giving up first to write something, but as it stands, I feel I can still lay claim to having the first and only collection of screenshots on Weathering with You on the internet.

  • Back in The Division 2, I rather enjoyed fighting through the sun-lit offices en route to the server rooms, and close inspection of the office space will find the presence of many details like knick-knacks belonging to the individual who worked at a given desk. Exploring abandoned buildings always evokes a sense of melancholy in me, since seeing all of the items left behind in a haikyo raises the question of who once worked or lived somewhere, what factors prompted them to leave, and whether or not they’d intended to come back. During Christmas, I gifted to myself Jordy Meow’s Abandoned Japan, and most melancholy of all are the abandoned homes.

  • Access into the more interesting areas of the Pentagon is gained by passing through these massive blast doors. The Pentagon, being home of the Department of Defense, has undergone renovations to as a part of the Pentagon Renovation Program, which aimed to replace structural elements of the building that were not reparable. In addition, the renovations also aimed to remove asbestos. In addition, construction reinforced the Pentagon’s interior with a steel frame and incorporation new two-inch thick blast resistant windows. The project began in the 1990s and finished in 2011.

  • Typically, where data needs to be pulled from a server or data stream, all players will need to do is interact with a terminal somewhere, and then ISAC will take care of the rest. This leaves the player to focus on threats: as a gameplay element, every time the agent begins downloading data from a secure server or by intercepting signals, bad guys will always be made aware of this and attempt to neutralise the player. For these sorts of fights, having the assault turret is vital, as it allows me to lock down choke-points and control the firefight.

  • If the bulk of the first mission in the Last Castle update had been a little dull, I can say with confidence that things are about to become considerably more entertaining: once the server room is secure, the agent is sent to the Pentagon’s rooftops to stay within range of a transmitter. Up here, agents must deal with a horde of Black Tusk units, along with the XB-31 Marauder, a gargantuan drone equipped with rockets and a powerful chain gun that can shred the player’s armour in seconds.

  • The XB-31 Marauder can be encountered randomly in the open world, but the Last Castle iteration has been modified to be tougher. My strategy when engaging this leviathan was to stay in cover and pick off all of the Black Tusk on the rooftops first, before focusing my fire on the drone’s propeller housing and other weak points. The drone’s health pool is enormous, but it’s not invincible, and in conjunction with help from the assault turret to keep Black Tusk off my back, I ended up destroying the drone without much difficulty.

  • Here, the importance of having a good LMG cannot be understated: a large ammunition capacity and decently accurate fire, plus good damage makes these weapons indispensable for dealing with the heaviest of all threats. It was later that I found out that the drone proved to be difficult for a fair number of players, and what was interesting was that in discussions, people offered unique ways of beating the drone, from using a flame turret and stinger hive to keep the Black Tusk away, to simply using the health chemical launcher and revive hive to increase one’s healing factor as they take on the drone.

  • The second of the Pentagon missions is set deep underground, in the DARPA facilities. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is responsible for research and development of the technologies that the US Military use, and was originally founded as the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1958 by Dwight Eisenhower to drive American advancement following the USSR’s successful launch of Sputnik. Since then, DARPA has been involved with projects that have had a considerable impact on all of society, especially the microprocessor, which fundamentally changed the way communications work.

  • Their actual headquarters is located in Arlington about four kilometres away from the Pentagon, but The Division 2 supposes that DARPA has a secret subterranean installation deep beneath the lowest floor of the Pentagon. It is here that the agent must fight through en route to the perfusion bioreactor: it’s a labyrinth of cutting-edge bio-research labs and testing grounds for machinery. The agent’s presence down here is a cause of concern for the Black Tusk, who mobilise their forces in an attempt to stop the agent.

  • In the labyrinthine tunnels of DARPA, a veritable army of Black Tusk stand between the agent and the bioreactor. This complex-sounding device sounds like a piece of science fiction, but breaking the term down into its components yields some insight into what the functionality is. A bioreactor is a device that contains a biologically active environment (i.e. the conditions needed for biological reactions to occur), and perfusion is a process where the cells are retained in an environment while media is cycled through to remove waste and introduce fresh media.

  • A perfusion bioreactor, then, is a device that constantly refreshes the media while it synthesises a biological compound. Such a device would be suited for manufacturing a vaccine to the Green Poison: vaccines are really just isolated samples of a viral agent, either an antigen, receptor or even a killed version of virus itself embedded in a media. By providing a patient with an agent that the body recognises as a foreign entity and will mount an immune response to it, such that if a live version of that agent (i.e. a virus or bacteria) is encountered, the body can immediately mount a secondary immune response, bypassing the primary inflammatory response (which accounts for symptoms like sore throats and fever and swiftly dealing with the invading pathogens before they can deal serious damage.

  • Ultimately, vaccinations are a critical component in modern medicine, and the WHO counts vaccine hesitation as one of the greatest threats to global health, creating outbreaks and even fatalities from otherwise manageable diseases. Taken together, the goal of the Pentagon missions are to locate a perfusion bioreactor and using it to mass-produce a vaccine against the Green Poison: the samples of the broad-spectrum anti-virals had been secured, so the challenge the Division now face is making enough for distribution, hence their interest in the perfusion bioreactor.

  • One of the most curious places to fight in the DARPA lab is a testing ground for the automaton that the Black Tusk employ. By this point in time, the Warhounds and Mini-tanks are trivially straightforwards to engage, and after a firefight to clear the room, a named elite will appear. I ended up using the TAC-50 to blast the named elite in two shots. I’ve yet to unlock any of the new specialisations at the time of writing, so one of the things that I can do once all of the content episodes are completed is to work towards unlocking them. The Last Castle gave players access to the Technician, whose signature weapon is the P-017 Missile Launcher, a lock-on weapon that can target up to six entities at once.

  • There are currently a total of three new specialisations on top of the ones that accompanied the base game: the Gunner specialisation gives players a portable M134 Minigun and defensive perks, while the Firewall specialisation gives players a flamethrower that is devastating up close. At the time of writing, I’ve finished the first of five assignment tiers for the Firewall: of the new specialisations, it looks the most fun to use, being the most suitable for close quarters engagements. Players who purchased the Year One Pass would have had immediate access to these new specialisations right away and could still complete the assignments for in-game rewards.

  • As I draw nearer to the end of the Year One content for The Division 2, in the knowledge that farming for gear as I did with The Division isn’t exactly the best of ideas. Instead, I’m likely to concentrate most of my effort towards unlocking the different specialisations and hunting down exotic blueprints: there are still some activities that are worth taking a look at without the Warlords of New York expansion, and eventually, I would like to attempt the Ronald Reagan National Airport mission on my own just to see how far I get. I did something similar with the incursions in The Division, where I thought I could get through them solo, and found myself outgunned at all turns, but it was fun to at least try.

  • In The Division, while I had been rather proud of being able to acquire every exotic weapon and gear piece in the game, along with the full classified Striker’s Battle Gear and Fire Crest gear sets on my own, the truth is that this process was greatly accelerated by joining random parties and fighting legendary missions in groups: completing these missions guaranteed an exotic cache, and my journey towards finding an MDR meant that I would accumulate almost everything else en route. By comparison, The Division 2‘s legendary missions only offer apparel pieces and 2:25 odds of getting an exotic.

  • In conjunction with the limitations of being at level 30, I’m not sure it would be worth my while to attempt any legendary missions just yet. On the other hand, while I’ve not yet got a full gear set or any of the more exciting exotics, I am now sufficiently well-equipped as to solo the most areas of the game without much concern on standard difficulty: shortly before beginning the second Pentagon mission, I picked up an armour piece that conferred bonus armour for every kill I got. This effect stacked up to a certain point so as long as I was in combat. As such, by chaining multiple kills together, I can effectively double my armour for short periods of time and absorb insane amounts of damage in a firefight.

  • Such talents means I could actually stop running with the repair drone, which I’ve been using since I started my journey in The Division 2. I’ve still yet to actually test some of the game’s more powerful talents: the Holster talent “Fill ‘er up” allows all weapons to be refilled from empty when one weapon is reloaded. It’s been reduced from its original incarnation: originally, players had unlimited ammunition thanks to the fact that it reloaded a weapon without dipping into the player’s reserves, but it still remains quite viable for ensuring one is never caught empty in a fire fight.

  • After clearing out most of the room, my effective armour had doubled: the bonus armour is seen in blue, and I can see how with the right build and specialisation, I could take on traits from Bofuri‘s Maple to absorb obscene amounts of damage. The gunner specialisation and riot shield skill would helped to increase armour further: such a setup would be valuable in team play, since one would act as a damage sponge while teammates could engage enemies. As a solo player, this build is less viable.

  • After clearing out the tunnels, the agent finally arrives at the perfusion bioreactor. It’s a large apparatus that requires extraction, and after taking an elevator back to the surface, the agent calls in for an extraction. The remaining Black Tusk are desperate to stop the Division at this point, and it’s a titanic fight here up on the surface: the sheer amount of firepower the Black Tusk send is astounding and indicates just how determined they are to have the reactor. In my case, it’d be doubly embarrassing for the Black Tusk, since my lonesome just squared off against and wasted their entire force.

  • The final named elite to deal with is Petrus Brenner, who is a ruthless and dedicated soldier utterly beholden to the Black Tusk. He’s able to regenerate his armour during the fight, so it’s imperative to deal as much damage in the shortest amount of time possible to beat him. In this situation, the TAC-50 is actually less useful, since Brenner will duck for cover and regenerate after being hit. Instead, a close-quarters approach is viable: getting close enough and then deploying an assault turret or drone, plus use of an LMG and SMG will do the trick nicely.

  • Once the extraction zone is secure, the Division will bring a helicopter close and lift the bioreactor to safety. It’s a major win for the good guys, and with this content in the books, I only have one final set of missions to wrap up before finishing off the story component to The Division 2. This brings my talk to an end, and I will be returning at some point to wrap up Coney Island, after which I will make a call as to what route I take with respect to Warlords of New York.

With The Last Castle now in the books, I only really have the third episode to wrap up, which sends players to Coney Island in New York and sets the stage for the Warlords of New York expansion. When my journey through The Division ended, I recall spending a considerable amount of time revisiting old missions and completing various events, which would help me to find every exotic weapon and gear piece, as well as complete my Classified Striker’s Battlegear set. While the occasional return to The Division 2 to hunt down gear set pieces and exotics would be the next logical move once I finish off the third content update, The Division 2‘s major expansion, Warlords of New York, rendered virtually everything at level thirty useless. Everything I find or craft would be trivially displaced by level 31 items as I progress, so there’s no real incentive to start hunting for exotics and gear set pieces. As it stands, to have the most complete experience, I would need upgrade. At present, I am leaning towards joining this fight once the time is appropriate; there’s a decent amount of story content, and New York itself looks to be an intriguing mission, but I do wish to get the most bang for my buck, so I’m likely to be waiting for a discount on the DLC before I pull the trigger. In the meantime, I would need to actually go through and finish Coney Island: my current loadout and equipment in The Division 2 is satisfactory for getting the job done, so I don’t have any concerns about being able to wrap up these last remaining missions solo. I will likely be more focused about gear sets after I make the plunge into Warlords of New York, and for the present, my focus in The Division 2 will be to unlock the remaining specialisations. Further to this, I can attempt to hunt down the blueprints for some of the earlier exotics, which I can craft and re-craft later to ensure they scale with my level.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 2 Anniversary Multiplayer, A Return with Triple Kills and Killing Frenzies

“When nothing else gets the job done, the BR-55 Battle Rifle will do. As the standard gun for all UNSC forces, the BR-55 is the easiest gun to pick up and use.”

Whereas Halo 2‘s campaign is a superb experience, the multiplayer is the single-most remembered piece about Halo 2; aside from the traditional split-screen and system link setups, Xbox Live was supported, allowing players to verse one another over the internet by means of automated match-making. This was a major innovation, and coupled with Halo 2‘s multiplayer design, resulted in an experience that became an iconic part of 2004. The combination of skill-based gameplay and internet connectivity pushed console gaming into the next generation, and Halo 2 revolutionised games were played. However, even without Xbox Live and internet play, Halo 2‘s multiplayer featured some of the best-designed maps and weapon balance of any game ever made; a group of friends with a sufficient number of televisions and Xboxes could link their systems together for sixteen-player matches, and there is very little that compares to the thrill and energy of a traditional LAN party. It was in LAN parties that I had my first real experiences with Halo 2‘s multiplayer, and while I never particularly excelled, having had no console and therefore no opportunity to familiarise myself with maps, these events were always fun: after several rounds of MLG Slayer (Battle Rifle starts) on Midship and Lockout, we would move towards more chaotic and hilarious game mode like Rocket Ball or Siesta KOTH. This was how I played Halo until some years later, when Halo 2 Vista became available, and having picked it up, Halo 2 became my go-to multiplayer game during my time as an undergraduate student: during evenings after finishing lab summaries, coursework and review, I spent a fair bit of time in Halo 2‘s multiplayer, coming to finally have the experiences that I wished to have at LAN parties.

Because Halo 2 was the only shooter I spent a considerable amount of time in, I became somewhat skilful with the mechanics and came to really appreciate the game: Halo 2‘s multiplayer was something one could drop into, play a few matches and then leave. There was no progression system to speak of, so one could purely focus on enjoying a match. However, to really become skilful, one needed to master the basics. The entirety of Halo 2‘s multiplayer is about the art of timing and knowledge: one needs to use their skills in the right place, at the right time to be successful. From timing a jump to timing a melee attack, Halo 2 is about knowing when to do what. Further to this, Halo 2 demands excellent map and weapon control, which is dependent on knowing where everything is, and what everything does. A well-placed jump on Lockout allows one to escape enemy fire or gain the drop on an opponent. Memorising weapon locations allows one to control the power weapons. In spite of its simplicity, Halo 2 is complex, and therein lies the multiplayer’s genius: this seemingly contradictory mix elegance and depth is what makes Halo 2‘s multiplayer so compelling, and presently, with the Halo 2 multiplayer joining The Master Chief Collection, an old classic finally makes a triumphant return in both its original form, as well as through a re-imagined version that introduces a few minor changes while largely retaining aspects that made the original Halo 2 multiplayer so compelling. Having now finished Halo 2‘s campaign and having sat through a few matches, memories of what makes Halo 2‘s multiplayer great are returning to me.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It is appropriate to start this post off with a screenshot of me getting a kill using the best gun, on the best map, in the best Halo: the BR-55 Battle Rifle on Lockout in Halo 2 is the only way to play the game in the classic multiplayer, and in the anniversary build, things proved equally as fun on Lockdown, the reimagined Lockout. The map has the same layout as the original, but there are a few key differences that change the gameplay slightly, most noticeably, ice stalactites that can be broken to disrupt the sniper tower, BR tower and centre platform on the map. In addition, rather than being set on a snowy evening as with Lockout, Lockdown set set on a clear, chilly-looking morning that has a very Christmas morning-like vibe to it.

  • Halo‘s “Double Kill” is two kills, within 4 seconds of one another; multi-kills are the premiere achievement that players strive for in Halo, since it takes a considerable amount of skill and some luck to be in the right place, at the right time, to bag multiple opponents in a short timeframe. In FFA slayer, it’s just a player and their wits about them, so map and weapon control is instrumental. Having not played Halo 2‘s multiplayer for upwards of seven years, while I still retain knowledge of the maps, I’ve completely gone out of touch with how weapons handle.

  • Having spent the past seven years playing Battlefield, the high TTK of Halo 2 is quite foreign to me: since all players have powerful energy shields, it takes an entire magazine from the assault rifle to drop a player from full shields. The assault rifle is found in standard Slayer matches in the anniversary build, fulfilling a role between the submachine gun and battle rifle. It’s a satisfactory weapon for the most part, but owing to its low accuracy at range, in Slayer matches, the advantage shifts to whoever holds the battle rifle.

  • One thing about Halo 2‘s anniversary multiplayer on PC is that it feels considerably darker than the classic counterpart. Here on Warlord (the remake of Warlock), I toss a lucky grenade that landed me a double kill. Unlike Battlefield, where grenades are primarily used as powerful limited-use tools, grenades are an integral part of players’ arsenals, being used to weaken shields and perform access denial. Halo 2 allows players to carry a maximum of eight grenades: four fragmentation grenades, and four plasma grenades.

  • Regardless of the game, camping is a technique I count dishonourable and low-skill: it is defined as the act of staying in an area and waiting for players to come by, rather than proactively roaming the map for engagements. Because campers have the drop on their opponents, this is a cheap trick, and the fellow I caught with a grenade here, “RolandTheSlayer”, had secured the Energy Sword early on in the match and took to hiding in rooms for kills, before I ended his undeserved streak with grenades.

  • The Sentinel beam is an unexpectedly powerful weapon in Halo 2‘s multiplayer: it quickly melts shields, damages health and has a very fast melee. I’ve had some success with it: if one can keep the beam on their target, it does massive damage thanks to its continuous beam. In a bind, the fast melee means one can use it to deliver a swift attack, and here, I scored a kill on a player who had found the cloak power-up. Halo 2‘s excellence came from its simplicity: the overshield and cloak are the only available power-ups, unlike later Halo titles, which add armour abilities and various pick-ups.

  • Returning to Halo 2 means returning to a multiplayer setup where one remembers the players they played simply owing to the fact that the average match is eight players, and here, I scored a melee kill-from-behind on an unsuspecting player calling themselves “DarlingMarina”. During my time with Halo 2 Vista‘s multiplayer, I noticed that many players had names taking the form “adjective noun“. I’m guilty of this myself (infinite is an adjective, and zenith is a noun); despite not being terribly sure where this trend comes from, I think that the style is chosen because it rolls off the tongue well and is easily remembered.

  • “DarlingMarina” ended up being on the receiving end of several more headshots from me during my quest to warm back up to Halo 2-style gameplay: the battle rifle is my favourite all-purpose weapon in Halo 2, whether it be the campaign or multiplayer (hence the page quote). The most effective way to wield this weapon is to fire three bursts into the body of an enemy, dropping their shields, and then aim the final burst at the head for a kill. In four pulls of the trigger, one can down an enemy, and with 36 rounds available, a modestly skilled player can kill up to three players before reloading.

  • If memory serves, I believe our team ended up winning this match just shy of a “Steaktacular”, thanks in no small part to DarlingMarina being a source of free kills. “Steaktacular” is a special condition where the winning team has a point differential of twenty or more that was named after a bet two Halo developers had placed on the outcome of a match: the vanquished must treat the victors to a steak dinner, and this outcome did in fact, happen. The medal was subsequently incorporated into the game, and while I’ve heard that it appears when one wins with twenty points or more, I’ve only ever received this medal for winning by a margin of twenty or greater, which has occurred in subsequent games.

  • My favourite combination for close-quarters combat is the shotgun shot followed up with a melee attack: a single well-placed shot can down an enemy, and with a maximum of twelve shots, one could hypothetically get a Killionaire and then some if the spawns lined up. This weapon is the ultimate close-quarters tool, and while it can be unforgiving if one misses their shots, against lone players, it is remarkably fun to use. The shotgun’s power is offset by the fact that it is useless at long ranges, and it is easily countered by a battle rifle or sniper rifle.

  • Against most players, I fare modestly well and finish matches with a slightly positive or negative KDR. However, there are matches where I will perform uncommonly well. During one such match of Team Slayer on Lockdown, I started the match by picking up a shotgun and earned a shotgun spree en route to the sniper tower. I managed to get the drop on two players, and one of them had dropped the Energy Sword. I thus decided to forego the sniper rifle and swapped out the shotgun for the sword.

  • After returning to the energy lift, I equipped the energy sword and slew three enemy in rapid succession to earn my first-ever Triple Kill in Halo 2 Anniversary’s multiplayer. On Team Slayer, a Triple Kill can be trickier to get, since the default game mode is a four on four, and most players are usually scattered around the map. An Overkill (four kills, each within four seconds of one another, formerly known as a Killtacular) would be even tougher, since this would entail wiping the entire enemy team out. With a power weapon like the Energy Sword, this isn’t tough when everyone is close together, but owing to the stochastic movement of players, an Overkill in Team Slayer would be rarer.

  • Besides my first Triple Kill, I also earned my first-ever Killing Frenzy (10-streak, formerly “Running Riot”) with the Sword. I believe my luck ran out here, and I was slain by another player. This did little to change the outcome of the match: my team was far enough ahead such that we would go on to win it, and I placed first on my team to earn a nifty achievement for my troubles. The presence of power weapons changes the way a match can progress, and players can completely control a map with the shotgun, Energy Sword or rocket launcher. This is why MLG variants of Slayer only permit the battle rifles to spawn on the map: besides being a skill weapon, it also levels out the playing field.

  • After my first university term started, I had finished Halo 2 Vista‘s campaign and had moved into the multiplayer. My earliest matches were characterised by dying often, but in those days, Halo 2 didn’t track one’s stats, so I never worried about KDR or win-loss ratios. Further to this, I had entered in the knowledge that I’d never really been a good Halo player, having only gotten a handful of kills per match during LAN parties. So, I died often, lost games, and considered it a learning experience: in my LAN party days, getting kills at all in a match was a big deal for me, so I counted it a match well-spent if I walked away with five or more points.

  • Returning to Halo 2‘s anniversary brings back memories, right down to players with the excessive Xes in their name. As I spent more time in Halo 2 Vista, I eventually became more familiar with the mechanics and metrics: on Friday evenings, I spent an hour or so playing Team Slayer on Lockout, and this became my routine right through my first year of university. I ended up skipping the campus-wide end of year drinking party for Halo during my first year and have no regrets about that. By the time I entered second year, I had a reasonable grasp of the mechanics and during the fall term, I ended up scoring my first ever Killimanjaro. However, course work was steadily picking up, and I ended up dialing back on the Halo so I could survive.

  • In the end, I barely survived my second year and fell to just below satisfactory standing entering exams, so that year, I ended up hanging out with my fellow classmates during the campus-wide end-of-year celebrations, and then studied with them. In conjunction with K-On!, I recovered enough to minimally make satisfactory standing, and that summer, I resolved to make the most of things and relax more. When I wasn’t hanging with friends, going to LAN parties and pubs or travelling during my downtime from summer research, I found myself back in Halo 2. I left that summer refreshed and ready to take on my third year.

  • While my third year saw me raise my GPA back above the minimum to do the honours thesis course, it also saw the beginning of the end for Halo 2 Vista; the servers were beginning to shut down, and it became increasingly difficult to find populated servers. I turned to a friend, who suggested picking up the then-recently made free-to-play Team Fortress 2 and the similarly-themed Microvolts. While both games were modestly entertaining, it never quite fulfilled the void that Halo 2 had once occupied (I ended up sticking with Team Fortress 2 for about a year before getting bored, and dropped Microvolts because it reminded me of my pre-MCAT jitters). I also ended up trying Tribes: Ascend, which had a Halo-like atmosphere but otherwise a completely different set of mechanics. It wasn’t until I bought Battlefield 3 that I found a true replacement.

  • I think one of the reasons why I was able to pull of Maple-level stunts in Halo 2 Vista might have been the fact that there were community servers with incredibly high score limits and no time limits, allowing me to play until I couldn’t play anymore. Conversely, in Halo 2 anniversary, the playlists are tightly governed and regulated, resulting in very contained experiences. The plus side is that I am assured to be able to finish a game, even larger modes, like one-flag CTF on Stonetown (Zanzibar), in a reasonable time. On my first match on Stonetown, I ended up playing on the winning team, who had secured a flag in an earlier round and then fought the other team to a draw during later rounds to win the match.

  • “Tea-bagging”, a form of victory dancing that predates the memes of Fortnite, has its origins in Halo, and is an integral part of the Halo culture, being regarded as an in-joke. Bungie was aware of this and even implemented an animation for tea-bagging. I don’t mind admitting that I had partaken in this during my Halo 2 Vista days, and I personally find it hilarious. Of course, tea-bagging leaves a player vulnerable to retaliation, and so, my practise was only tea-bagging players with certain names, or in response to breaking a nemesis streak that they had. Curiously enough, the Battlefield community takes tea-bagging very seriously, and I’ve been kicked from servers before for doing this (although it’s not stopping me from doing this to players who camp or whenever I get a lucky kill against someone who’s cheating).

  • Coming back to Zenith (formerly Ascension) and seeing the remastered visuals was an absolute blast: this open map is excellent for sniping, but also features side passages for flanking options. The original Ascension was a moody, overcast map, but Zenith is set on floating rocks above the surface of a Halo ring. The map is really quite spectacular, and the scale feels much more impressive. During a match, I’m usually more focused on the game, so it is the case that it is only after a game, when I’m sifting through screenshots for posts like these, that I’m really able to appreciate just how nice everything looks.

  • On that sunny Sunday morning many years ago, after I finished working with my friend on our science fair project on the safety of fission reactors and their viability as a replacement for fossil fuel fired plants, my friend put in his copy of Halo 2, hooked up his Xbox and opened up a game of split-screen Slayer on Coagulation. A remake of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Blood Gulch, Coagulation is a large map set in a valley surrounded by cliffs under blue skies. With bases on both sides, and paths to the edges of the map for infantry, it is an iconic Halo map, but it is also unsuited for two-on-two matches where we started with submachine guns.

  • Because all of us were new to the game at the time, the kills were very slow to come, and we ended up messing around for the afternoon. Coagulation would later be replaced by Lockout and Midship at LAN parties, resulting in more action-packed matches. In Halo 2 anniversary, eight-player servers are inherently ill-suited for matches on large maps, so I ended up getting into a match on the remake of Coagulation, Bloodline, by playing on the larger matches. Right out of the gates, I was impressed with the visuals on the map, and immediately set about trying to help my team out.

  • The reimagined Coagulation has a few additional features to further provide cover for infantry, although it still favours vehicles owing to the wide open spaces. I believe our team would end up losing the match, but it marked the first time that I was able to visit Bloodline: it was a trip down memory lane, being quite fun, and while I would’ve like to try my hand at sniping, there’s no better weapon than a shotgun for defending capture points on KOTH, which is pretty much Halo‘s version of Battlefield‘s conquest.

  • Besides Stonetown and Bloodline, Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer also includes Remnant, a remake of Relic. This large scale map is normally used for CTF and KOTH, but with the larger player count, it keeps things fresh enough for eight-on-eight Team Slayer. This implies that it is possible to have Team Slayer on Bloodline as well, and one of the things I look forwards to will be going back to Bloodline again in the near future. Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer uses the same medal system as Halo 4, and so, many of the medals were redesignated: what was once an assassination is now a beat-down, and a beat-down is now simply a melee.

  • In the days of LAN parties, my friends would choose Relic as a map for CTF, although it ended up being chaos as we would go with four teams of four, rather than two teams of eight. Typically, whichever team scored once would have enough points to win the match in this scenario. I believe that this decision coincided with the fact that having four teams meant fire would be less concentrated, but there’d still be plenty of opponents to engage, increasing the probability of scoring an Overkill medal. My friend’s main intention was to gather footage and make a Halo 2 montage set to Dragonforce music, which is why for a time during my days as a high school student, I spent every other Sunday with a bunch of friends at his place.

  • My friend did end up with a fair amount of footage, but I don’t think he ever ended up making any completed montages with them. Instead, what did end up happening was that he introduced me to Dragonforce in the process, along with Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori’s work. I thus picked up my first Dragonforce albums during high school, and found them to be superbly fun songs to listen to; even now, I find that the spirited power metal Dragonforce performs to be vastly superior to any of the electro-pop out there that seems so widespread.

  • Dragonforce’s latest album, Extreme Power Metal, appears to be a poke at their own style, and I’m particularly fond of the song “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine”. Some of my favourite Dragonforce songs include The Power Within’s “Fallen World” and “Seasons”, as well as Ultra Beatdown’s “Heroes of our Time”, which, while retaining the aural signatures that define Dragonforce, also explored different directions. Their songs have seen mixed reception over the years, being considered lacking in innovation, but of late, their newest albums have been excellent, exploring new sounds while at once retaining faithfulness to the band’s origins.

  • I get a headshot here on a particularly unfriendly player here calling themselves “About 61 Pandas”, having picked up the sniper rifle early on in the match. I’ve never been a particularly good sniper in Halo, and prefer to close the distance between myself and opponents before using a combination of gunfire and melee to score kills. However, after my Battlefield days began, I became much more comfortable with sniping, having made extensive use of bolt-action rifles: one of the biggest things to get used to again in Halo is that most firefights happen in extreme close quarters, although having spent so much time going for the head in Battlefield, getting headshots in Halo 2 is now more intuitive than it had been when I first picked up the game.

  • The updated rendering of the Halo ring in Zenith is most apparent here, and it really feels like I’m floating above the surface of Halo. The best way to really get a sense of scale on Zenith would be to hop in a Banshee and fly around the area. I score a splatter here on someone who was trying to board me during one match while exploring, and wonder why Zenith needs a Banshee when there’s so little space to fly around in: vehicles in Team Slayer feel a bit excessive, and a skilful pilot can go an entire match unchallenged. There is a rocket launcher on Zenith, on a platform on one side of the map, that can be used to take out Banshees.

  • Because Halo 2‘s mechanics do not impose hip-fire penalties, the practise of “quick-scoping” is widely practised: the sniper rifles of Halo are semi-automatic and new rounds don’t need to be chambered after each shot, and moreover, the optics only offer improved visibility. As such, it is possible to be an effective sniper without staying scoped-in – Halo‘s battles are close quarters, and staying scoped-in is to leave one at a disadvantage, with reduced situational awareness. Experienced players argue that no-scoping is an essential skill for Halo, and while this creates a culture where trick-shots are coveted, players of lesser skill, like myself, can also follow-up sniper shots with a melee or battle rifle burst.

  • Using the rocket launcher against infantry is typically considered overkill: the 102 mm rockets deal a massive amount of splash damage and can wipe out entire groups of people in a single shot, but this is offset by the fact that ammunition is scarce, and the reload times are long. Curiously enough, the rockets themselves do no impact damage whatsoever. As a primarily anti-vehicle solution in Halo 2‘s campaign and on larger matches, players nonetheless covet the rocket launcher on slayer matches, capitalising on its power to quickly build up a lead early on.

  • This is one of my favourite strategies in team slayer: if either myself or my teammates could get to a power weapon, it could help considerably with getting easy kills early in the game that set the pacing for the remainder of a match. Power weapons are by definition, weapons that hold a clear advantage over conventional weapons and do not require a great deal of skill to use. The shotgun, Energy Sword and rocket launcher easily fall into this category, since one pull of the trigger will almost guarantee a kill unless one is facing off against an extraordinarily skilled player or unusual circumstances.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Warlord has a very DOOM or Quake-like dungeon feel: the dark stone constructs feel like DOOM‘s Kadingir Sanctum given a different colour palette, and overall, visibility on this map is tricky because of the dark corners players can hide in. Warlock in Halo 2 was a round, arena-like map that was well-suited for small team battles, and the Halo 2 classic incarnation was itself a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Wizard. The maps have become increasingly grim-looking as time wears on.

  • Because of the close-quarters nature of most Halo 2 engagements, the shotgun is a terrific tool I’ve had a great deal of success with, but owing to their rarity on a map, it takes a bit of map knowledge to find them swiftly when a match begins: if I cannot get an Energy Sword, the shotgun is an acceptable alternative. While powerful, they are easily countered, and so, cannot be said to be overpowered. Shotguns in Battlefield have varied over the years, and from my Battlefield 34 and 1 days, I found them to be solid choices for some scenarios: it is only in Battlefield V where shotguns became inconsistent even at close range, rendering them quite unusable.

  • In returning to Halo 2, I’ve found myself reacclimatising to the fact that the smaller player counts means being killed by the same four people during the course of a match, which is a bit of a departure from Battlefield, where larger-scale maps means I’m defeated by another player once or twice on average. The end result of this is that I tend to remember certain players better than I did in Battlefield (where players really had to go out of their way to be remembered). I’ve noticed that players with screen names designed to irritate others are more likely to participate in negative behaviours in-game. While one might chalk this up to a natural inclination to remember players who act in subversive ways during a match, there actually is a paper by Kokkinakis et al. that demonstrate players with more unusual names are naturally predisposed to actions that degrade the experience for others in the game.

  • In matches where a Steaktacular is inevitable, I usually end up doing well enough to either score a fair number of multi-kill medals or go on longer kill-streaks. To date, I believe I’ve obtained a Steaktacular medal on three occasions, and here, I used the shotgun to further help my team cement our lead, in the process earning myself another Killing Frenzy, ten consecutive kills without dying. Not every match I play is so straightforwards, and I often find myself wondering why the match-making system in Halo is so unpredictable: in some matches, I am a tour de force, racking up kill after kill and earning multi-kill medals like it’s going out of style, and in others, I find myself unable to even land a single burst on an enemy before dying in a single shot from them.

  • Besides players with anti-social sounding names, players with anime-like names are among those that I tend to look out for as well, if they are on the opposing team. Historically, players who seem to be able to one-shot me before I can even flinch have almost always run with Japanese honourifics or picked a name that sounds like either some idol or schoolgirl. I’m sure there’s a logical reason for why people run around with kawaii-sounding names and put so much effort into a game, but that doesn’t make dying repeatedly to these folks any less fun, so a part of the fun in Halo (and any shooter in general) is to get my revenge and get these players at least once, preferably with a tea-bag thrown in to make clear my discontent.

  • Here, during a match of KOTH on Lockdown, which is pretty much a scaled-down version of Battlefield‘s conquest, I managed to score a kill using the stalactites hanging from the BR tower. The environmental hazards are great for dislodging players from a capture point, and add a new level of nuance into Halo 2 that allows players to be strategic, without fundamentally changing the mechanics that made the original games so enjoyable. While my team would lose this match, I still had a good time, and in general, my enjoyment in Halo 2 comes primarily from being able to perform decently in a match. On the whole, save a few games where I’m trampled, I’ve been having a good experience with Halo 2‘s multiplayer; now that Halo 2 is back, it would appear that my days in other shooters is coming to a close.

  • Before then, however, I do have plans to return to Battlefield V and take a look at its upcoming final update, which adds at least one full-scale 64 player map and potentially may have an update to Provence, alongside several new weapons and gadgets. I’ll close this initial impressions post of Halo 2‘s anniversary multiplayer with me getting a Sword-spree concurrently with a Triple Kill on Lockdown; I would go on to win and top the scoreboard with a personal score of 21-7, my best match to date. With this post in the books, I will be focusing on my two upcoming posts: I’m planning to write one more post before the month is over, for Heya Camp△‘s OVA, and then start June off with the long-awaited post on Tenki no Ko, which, at the time of writing, is still on track to being the first and only proper review of Makoto Shinkai’s latest film on the internet.

My old exploits in Halo 2 Vista‘s multiplayer have been the stuff of legends; I recall turning around entire CTF matches on my own and wiping entire FFA servers out back in the day to the point where the SmG Clan named servers after me. However, having not touched Halo 2 for seven years, my skills have since evaporated, and these days, I’m a much more modest player: the mechanics of Halo 2 are something I’ll have to pick back up again and learn anew. However, some muscle memory remains from those older days, and I find myself settling right back into the maps and weapons in the anniversary multiplayer, which I’ve been itching to try since it was released for the Xbox One in 2014. A week into the Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer, I’ve become sufficiently versed as to have made a pair of Killing Frenzy and Triple Kill medals: the next goal on the horizon is to attempt to score an overkill (originally, “Killtacular”). While this is seemingly an incremental task, the setup of Halo matches means that this is much more difficult than it sounds, and the lack of a server browser makes it difficult to consistently know whether or not I’m acclimatising back into the Halo 2 mechanics from my Battlefield days, where movement and TTK are completely different. Being forced to rely on the matchmaker is limiting: I have been matched into very lop-sided situations where I will either get wiped, or else be placed into a server where I perform much more consistently. The absence of a server browser notwithstanding, when I do get placed into a server where the other players are of a similar skill level, I generally have a solid time and perform almost as well as I once did, with a small collection of multi-kill and spree medals to show for it. As I spend more time in Halo 2‘s multiplayer, my performance should become more consistent, and now that it’s finally possible to experience the remastered Lockout in PC, I look forwards to spending more time on the best map with the best guns in the best Halo, especially in the knowledge that Battlefield V‘s reaching its final days with the upcoming patch.