The Infinite Zenith

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

“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” –Shelby Foote

A few weeks ago, 343 Industries conducted a flight for Halo 3: ODST, during which several campaign missions were playable, alongside the fondly-remembered Firefight mode and an updated Halo 3 multiplayer which was intended to address issues surrounding hit detection in the retail build. This marks the first time that I’d ever played Halo 3: ODST, an entry in the Halo franchise that is often forgotten amongst the giants like Halo 3 and Halo Reach. As I progressed through the campaign missions, it became clear that at least, for the campaign, Halo 3: ODST is ready to roll. Having experimented with both the Rookie’s free-roam in the deserted streets of New Mombassa and the flashback missions, I found no major issues with gameplay or performance. Events trigger appropriately at the stipulated points in the campaign, movement and shooting feels solid. The smart HUD and VISR function as expected. Although the campaign playlists meant levels were played back-to-back rather than as the campaign originally arranged them (the flashback missions should be started when the Rookie finds evidence in the streets of New Mombassa), I imagine that these are merely loading mechanisms, and the campaign should be functional when it hits the Master Chief Collection later this month. I will, of course, be reserving my impressions of Halo 3: ODST, with regard to the themes, enjoyment factor and contributions to the franchise in a dedicated post once the retail version becomes available, and in this brief reflections post, I will be showcasing my exploration of the New Mombassa streets on legendary difficulty.

The playlist for the city streets only allowed the Rookie to explore New Mombassa with Halo‘s toughest enemies, bringing back memories of the year that Halo 3: ODST came out for Xbox 360. Back in those days, I was acclimatising to life as a university student. During that first term, I found myself in an unfamiliar environment, and my classmates all had different schedules. Having made a small mistake during registrations early on, I ended up reshuffling my schedule to fit everything in, resulting in a chemistry lab that ran into the evening. On days where I had labs, I would spend my free time studying in the basement of building housing the largest lecture halls on campus. Down here, it was quiet, making for a good place to hit the books in peace. After finishing any review and assignments I had, I would head to the chemistry labs in the building over. During these study sessions, I listened to Halo 3: ODST‘s soundtrack, whose film noir elements created a compelling sense of loneliness that I would come to associate with that far-flung corner of campus. During those late nights, darkness crept back into the world as fall gave way to winter. Exploring the deserted hallways of campus had a melancholy feel to it, a melancholy that the Halo 3: ODST captures well, and at present, after spinning up Halo 3: ODST and wandering the streets of New Mombasa, memories of those days return to me as I locate a biofoam injector, bent-up sniper rifle and a helmet embedded in a screen. Provided that the retail version of Halo 3: ODST handles as smoothly as it did in the flight (there were no game-breaking bugs, crashes or performance issues that I found during the time I spent exploring), I anticipate that Halo 3: ODST will be a very smooth launch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Halo 3: ODST was originally released on September 22, 2009 for Xbox 360 and became a distinct entry in the Halo franchise for its focus on an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) known as the Rookie. These special forces are known as “Helljumpers” for their mode of being deployed into a combat situation, and during the Battle of New Mombasa, a small squad is sent on a clandestine mission that goes awry.

  • The flight allowed me to check out most of Halo 3: ODST‘s campaign, but for this post, I’ll purely focus on the streets of New Mombasa after dark – there is actually quite a bit going on in the story, well beyond the Rookie investigating New Mombasa for clues on a stormy night, so I’d figure that I’d showcase some of the more interesting places around New Mombasa now and then save the campaign moments for the full post later on.

  • The biggest surprise I had going into the New Mombasa playlist during the flight was that this was locked to legendary difficulty, which created an additional element of immersion. Even simple grunts and jackals, which are trivially easy on normal, become a challenge to engage, and every individual brute is a mini-boss, capable of absorbing a magazine-and-a-half of sustained fire from the suppressed submachine gun. It therefore became a matter of picking my fights (and avoiding them) as I picked my way through the deserted city streets.

  • Compared to its standard variant, the M7S suppressed submachine gun is a little more accurate and deals less damage per shot. It also possesses a reflex sight that is linked to a smart optic, giving the M7S a bit more reliability at long range. The Rookie has the M6C/SOCOM, a semi-automatic pistol with an integral suppressor and a VnSLS/V 6E which allows for shots to be placed with accuracy out to a longer range than the M6C. Against grunts and jackals, a single well-placed headshot will deal with them swiftly, and despite being a relatively weak weapon, it is also immensely satisfying to use.

  • When Halo 3: ODST released, the university had not yet undergone construction work to modernise it, and as such, campus relied entirely on sodium-vapour lamps to illuminate pathways with an orange glow. While waiting for a ride on evenings where I had chemistry labs, I would wander around the darkened campus, which had a very similar atmosphere and aesthetic as the streets of New Mombasa.

  • In retrospect, I was never too fond of chemistry labs, since they were set in an old building that, while still satisfying safety code, had outdated equipment that could be fickle at times. I found myself wishing I was back in secondary school, which had more modern facilities and a generally more relaxed atmosphere: university chemistry labs were a ways more stressful and we were also assessed based on how successful our yields and results were. The labs themselves dealt with relatively simple, practical applications of the theory we learnt in lecture, and at least in my first year, I performed decently well in the laboratory component.

  • Even during the academic semester, campus empties out very quickly at night, with only a handful of classrooms being occupied by lectures or tutorials. My days thus fell into a familiar pattern: once a week, I would stay late on campus to do my labs, and I had a four hour break on those days, so I would study in the basement hallways of the largest lecture building on campus until it was time to start the lab. Because my linear algebra course had the lightest textbook, I would often do most of my linear algebra here while listening to Halo 3: ODST‘s soundtrack.

  • In this way, my first term would pass in the blink of an eye, and after final exams ended, I found myself with a decent performance. During the winter break, I ended up reconfiguring my schedule somewhat to reduce the amount of time spent on campus after dark, and because the Halo 3: ODST soundtrack reminded me of those lonely days spent drilling on eigenvalues and testing for invertibility by means of Gaussian Elimination, I promptly stopped listening to the Halo 3: ODST soundtrack. Halo 3: ODST similarly fell to the back of my mind as I started the new semester, which I spent studying with friends in a much more well-lit, inviting space in the student centre.

  • During the moments exploring the more remote reaches of campus in the time after a lab and before my ride arrived, I typically walked around the outside of campus to figure out the best routes between different buildings, or else went into the basement network that linked most of the science buildings together. In my first term, all of my courses were concentrated in the sciences area, so it was easy to get around, but later on, courses would be scattered in unusual areas based on classroom availability, so knowing how to get between buildings quickly was of value. However, the engineering building was intimidating to me, and I rarely went in there early on. It wasn’t until the summer I began exploring campus more fully.

  • I managed to find a shotgun during my trek through New Mombasa, which was an immensely valuable asset in that I finally had something with the stopping power to deal with brutes, even on legendary. One thing I did notice during the Halo 3: ODST flight was that I never encountered the battle rifle, which was my go-to weapon in Halo 3 for being a solid all-around weapon: Bungie deliberately cut the battle rifle from Halo 3: ODST in order to really drive home the idea that the Rookie and other ODSTs were vulnerable, lacking the overwhelming power that the Master Chief’s presence brought to each fight.

  • When I first opened up the New Mombasa streets playlist, I was quite unaware that it had been on legendary difficulty, and even after I took out my first enemy squad, the difficulty didn’t seem to be an issue, although I had felt that I used a bit more ammunition than I’d intended to. However, after reaching the first building and entering a courtyard full of grunts, what I’d thought to be an easy fight suddenly turned into a slaughter, as a few stray plasma rounds ended up wiping me out.

  • Playing on legendary is supposed to be the iconic Halo experience: enemies are incredibly tough and hit hard, and the player’s own damage and durability are reduced. On legendary, it becomes clear as to just how vulnerable the Rookie is on his own, when even a lone grunt can wipe him with a plasma pistol. In conjunction with the lack of a motion sensor integrated into the HUD, one must use the Visual Intelligence System, Reconnaissance (VISR) display to plan out their next move, knowing when to fight and when to quietly sneak by.

  • Other parts of Halo 3: ODST‘s campaign are set during brighter hours of the day, and the Rookie’s segments are extremely dark. Fortunately, the VISR also has a special low-light mode that enhances brightness somewhat, as well as highlighting enemies in red, resources in yellow and allies in green. For these screenshots here, I’ve disabled the VISR so that each scene is as they would appear, but during combat situations, I leave the VISR engaged for improved visibility. The VISR is also immensely valuable for locating evidence, emitting audible cues as one closes in on something important.

  • Because YouTube had not been quite as user-friendly during the game’s original release, Halo 3: ODST remains the Halo title I’m least familiar with, and as such, the flight actually marks the first time I’ve seen much of Halo 3: ODST – this iteration of Halo did not come with a full multiplayer component, instead, using Halo 3‘s multiplayer and consequently, I don’t think any of my friends picked up the title. We never did Firefight during LAN parties, so ODST wasn’t really a title that any of my friends had experience with.

  • Instead, Halo 3: ODST stands out to me for its music, which has a completely different feel than the epic guitar and Gregorian Chant from earlier Halo games. Instead, composers Michael Salvatori and Martin O’Donnell adopted a jazz noir sound that evokes a mysterious, contemplative feeling through the use of saxophone. However, rather than the contemplative tone that traditional jazz noir creates, Halo 3: ODST has a more melancholy sound for its nighttime segments. The combat sequences and flashbacks, on the other hand, have a more traditional, militaristic sound.

  • That Halo 3: ODST balances both out, creating the film noir atmosphere for the Rookie’s segment, and then returning to the form that Halo is known for, creates a very compelling atmosphere during different segments of the game. The film noir tone, however, calls for the orange-yellow glow of sodium vapour street lights, and some years ago, my city transitioned away from those to LED lights. The university followed suit shortly after, replacing all of the aging lamps with modern LED ones.

  • This simple change transformed the campus’ nightscape to be a shade brighter, less shadowy. In the years following, I carefully timed my labs so they did not occur during the evenings, and most of my late-night stays on campus usually resulted from taking exams. In my graduate degree, I stayed late to help with various events around campus or invigilate exams. On the occasions where it was dark by the time I left, I noticed that the brilliant white lights of the LEDs helped to create a more inviting environment.

  • While the flighting has ended, and we’re likely due to see Halo 3: ODST somewhere later this month, I note that I’ve deliberately chosen to write about the flight now because it coincides with the first day of lecture, which admittedly took some getting used to. I believe today should also be the start of a new semester, as well. As I moved through my university program, the first day of lecture became less noteworthy: by graduate school, I regarded the first day of lecture as little more than a time for when hallways became busy again.

  • For the actual Halo 3: ODST discussion, I’ll delve into more plot-related elements and gameplay mechanics. There are enough differences in Halo 3: ODST to warrant playing with a different style, but some elements remain unchanged (such as the fact that ODST can hit as hard as Master Chief can when meleeing enemies). With this being said, it’s time to wrap things up: I realise this is my third games-related post in a row, so I assure readers that my next post will return to anime.

  • Altogether, it took about two hours to hit each piece of evidence and wrap up the streets of New Mombasa in full on legendary: once I reach the building that leads into a complex housing the Superintendent’s data core, this playlist concludes. I will be returning at some point in the future to write about Halo 3: ODST proper, and having gotten this bit of reminiscence out, that leaves me free to focus entirely on Halo 3: ODST without lapsing into nostalgia about university.

Once Halo 3: ODST hits retail, all eyes will turn towards Halo 4, the first Halo title that 343 Industries developed. The previous Halo titles, Halo 3 in particular, have set the precedence for what to expect, and moving into the future, I am anticipating a very exciting launch for Halo 4, as well. It is a little surprising to see The Master Chief Collection nearing completion, around a year after Halo Reach first released to PC, and in all honesty, The Master Chief Collection coming to PC was probably the biggest event in gaming this year, outstripping even the likes of Call of Duty: Warzone for me. Admittedly, a lot of gaming these days has begun straying from the path of what makes them enjoyable: the Battle Royale genre is one I have no patience to play, either dispensing with skill (such as Fortnite, where dirty tactics like camping are accepted) or falling to its own success (Call of Duty: Warzone and its cheaters, for instance). Seeing classics make their appearance on PC has been most welcome: Halo has always been about immersing players in a different world through its campaign, and striving to improve and learn through its multiplayer. To see the Halo approach to gaming still standing strong after over a decade, against modern titles, attests to just how well-designed and innovative the series is, and the Master Chief Collection will be something that continues to give its players enjoyment long after Halo 4 releases and finishes off the collection, keeping people engaged and excited as 343 Industries works toward releasing Halo Infinite.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3

“You know me. When I make a promise…”
“You…keep it.”

–Master Chief and Cortana

After crash-landing on Earth, Master Chief is recovered by Sargeant Johnson and The Arbiter. Master Chief helps the UNSC forces defend an outpost where Commander Keyes and Lord Hood are planning a counter-offensive against the Prophet of Truth to prevent him from activating a Forerunner artefact. However, this is ultimately unsuccessful, and Truth is able to use the Forerunner artefact to create a slipstream portal. In the chaos, a Flood-infested Covenant cruiser crashes on Earth: Master Chief fights his way through the horde of Flood and boards the vessel to try and find Cortana, while The Arbiter and the Elites glass the area to stop the Flood from spreading. While Master Chief is only able to recover a recording from Cortana, it convinces Hood to send UNSC forces through the slip-space portal. Upon passing through the portal, both the UNSC and Elites discover a vast Foreunner construct known as The Ark, a structure containing the means to remotely activate the Halo array. After touching down on the surface, Master Chief and The Arbiter fight their way to the Cartographer. They locate Truth using the Cartographer; he is hiding in a Citadel defended by a powerful shield. Upon deactivating the shields from three towers, the Gravemind appears and suggests they form an alliance to stop Truth from eradicating all life in the galaxy. With the Flood fighting alongside the pair, The Arbiter and Master Chief reach Truth and kill him, only for the Gravemind to betray the pair. Both barely manage to escape and agree to activate a lone Halo ring to eliminate Gravemind. Meanwhile, the remains of High Charity crash onto the Ark’s surface, and Master Chief heads off into its cavernous interior to find Cortana, who has the Index needed to activate Halo. Once Master Chief finds Cortana, they rejoin The Arbiter and Johnson, heading into the new Installation 08’s control room to fire Halo. However, when 343 Guilty Spark reveals that Halo is not ready to be fired yet, as construction is still ongoing, Johnson overrides him and primes the Halo to fire. 343 Guilty Spark kills Johnson and is in turn destroyed by Master Chief. Regrouping with The Arbiter, the pair use Johnson’s warthog to escape, barely reaching the Forward Unto Dawn and escaping. In the aftermath, the Forward Unto Dawn splits in two: The Arbiter manages to make it through the portal and pays respects to those who have fallen with the Earth’s commanders, while Master Chief prepares to enter cyro-sleep, asking Cortana to wake him should anything happen in the future.

Halo 3 is, in every way, bigger than its predecessor: nowhere is this more apparent than in the design of the levels and scale of each mission. Using a new engine, Halo 3 sported vastly improved visuals over its predecessors without increasing polygon count, and further to this, was able to render a much larger number of agents on the map at once, as well as create more complex agents. Together with larger levels, Halo 3 is able to create a sandbox feeling in some of its larger missions, giving players an opportunity to fight at a scale that had hitherto not been seen in previous Halo titles. This created an exciting new pacing not seen in older titles: multiple squads of Covenant force players to choose their fights wisely, and in what is probably the finest example of what Halo 3 is capable of, players are able to fight two Scarabs at once, disabling their legs to board them and then destroying a reactor to finish them off. The Scarabs of Halo 3 are fully-realised agents capable of independent movement, and it was exhilarating to fight them, as giving them autonomy made them somewhat unpredictable to fight. Similarly, the Flood are able to become an intimidating foe once again: the more powerful engine allows Halo 3 to render a much larger number and more varieties of Flood than before, making them feel like a properly overwhelming, frightening enemy as they had felt in Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 3 is able to create the sense of large-scale battles in its levels; while the game is still decidedly linear, no Halo game had previously been quite as open as Halo 3, and consequently, in conjunction with refinements to the weapons and the introduction of deployable equipment (essentially power-ups that can be used strategically to help one’s situation), Halo 3 is a straight upgrade to Halo 2. Upgraded gameplay and a sense of scale mesh well with Halo 3‘s story, which provides the closure to the Halo series in a satisfying manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Thirteen years after Bungie launched the acclaimed Halo 3 for Xbox 360, I finally step into the jungle of Halo 3‘s first mission, and this marks the first time Halo 3 screenshots grace this blog. For Halo 3, I’ve decided to go with 50 screenshots to give readers a good scope of what the game looks like, without creating something that would take me too long to write. Halo 3 released to overwhelming praise in 2007: at the time, I had grown somewhat familiar with Halo 2 as a result of spending Sundays at LAN parties, and reading about the campaign from a strategy guide that was available at the local library. This was back during a time when the library still had an excellent selection of books to check out: today, most of those books are only available at the central library downtown.

  • When Halo 3 released, I was impressed with the gameplay footage I did see, but found myself a little less awed at the soundtrack. I remember discussing this with a friend at the school’s library: overall, if there was one part of Halo 3 that did not eclipse its predecessor, it was the music. Halo 2‘s soundtrack was intense, captivating and also surprisingly emotional at some points, while in Halo 3, the music felt a little less noteworthy. Today, I still stand by my belief that of all the Halo games, Halo 2 has the best music, and in the Anniversary edition of Halo 2, the soundtrack took everything about the original and improved them even further.

  • I only had the vaguest idea of what Halo 3‘s campaign missions were like, and so, entering Halo 3 myself for the first time, I was immediately blown away. Even though Halo 3 might be a thirteen-year-old game, it’s aged very gracefully with the work that 343 Industries have done on it. At 1080p and enhanced settings, lighting effects and visuals are still strong, looking as good as many modern titles, and the handling is excellent. The only thing that feels a little dated are the textures and models.

  • The assault rifle of Halo 3 is a straight upgrade from its Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation, having superior accuracy and damage, as well as a shorter reload time, at the expense of more rounds. It is a strong all-around weapon, and when paired with the battle rifle, one is reasonably assured of being able to deal with almost anything in Halo 3. With the Elites no longer an enemy, Brutes take their place, and the battle rifle is particularly strong against them on PC. The assault rifle now reduces the utility of the SMG for most close-quarters engagements.

  • One touch about Halo 3 I particularly liked was the fact that Phantoms can now be destroyed, marking the first time these Covenant drop-ships can be taken out of a fight. The last segment of the first mission has players reaching a dam of sorts to rescue Sergeant Johnson, whose Pelican crashed. A veritable army of Brutes stands between Master Chief and Johnson, but with liberal use of explosives, it is straightforwards enough. Once Johnson is rescued, a pair of Phantoms appear, but will be destroyed by Pelicans.

  • The second mission sees Master Chief and The Arbiter defending a UNSC outpost from Brutes. Halo 3‘s missions are rather long, and made up of several distinct sections. My favourite part of this mission entails going a little further into the tunnels and listening to Marines argue about a password. This is apparently an Easter Egg, a callback to the Red versus Blue series, which was a famous Machinema (a video made using game engines, often to tell a story) using Halo: Combat Evolved.

  • My favourite Machinema series is Freeman’s Mind and Arby n’ The Chief; the former is a Half-Life series following the neurotic Gordon Freeman and his vociferous ruminations as he experiences the events of the Half-Life (and later, Half-Life 2) campaigns, while the latter has a Toy Story-like setup, with a Master Chief and Arbiter figure coming to life, playing Halo and going on zany adventures both within and without of their worlds. I admit that I’ve not followed Arby n’ The Chief closely since season five ended in 2011.

  • According to one of my friends, season six and later (2011 to present) is more of an existential drama, and at this point, while the humour is still present, it becomes increasingly dark (admittedly, too dark for my liking). I’ve always felt the best jokes to come from the earlier seasons, whether it be Chief’s gloating about Recon armour and losing it after resorting to cheats, Josh Butterballs and his perceptually useless advice for improving in Halo, or my personal favourite, “Digital Fruitcakes”, which has Chief introduce his squad of friends and their defeat at Arbiter’s hands after Chief unwisely gambles a week’s worth of Xbox time on the outcome of a four versus one.

  • Lines like “he only stops playing halo 2 drink m0ar cough syrup” or “MAGNUM ADN SPRINT? / THATS IT? / U CANT B SRS” are iconic, and my best friend and I still reference Arby n’ The Chief in our everyday conversation. Unfortunately, the series does feel quite obscure at times, and no one else I know, either in reality or through blogging, are familiar with the series. As such, the notion of “magnum and sprint”, meaning “the basics” for me, isn’t something others will immediately get.

  • Meaningful, well-written jokes have existed long before advances in internet communications made meme culture popular, and unlike the crass, unoriginal memes of the present day, jokes from the age of Halo 3 are much more civilised and thoughtful. I’ll take “All Your Base” and “Steamed Hams” over Pepe The Frog and Fortnite dances any day of week: jokes are the most funny and meaningful when the concept being ridiculed is universally understood, and the jokes of old appealed to many as a result of the effort people put into them. Memes of the present, on the other hand, are more of a low-effort inside message that are a dime-a-dozen and incomprehensible to those outside of the loop.

  • After clearing out the outpost, rearming a bomb that the brutes disabled and facilitating for an evacuation, Master Chief heads to the town of Voi using the Tsavo Highway. It is here that the size of Halo 3‘s campaign maps become apparent: more so than its predecessors, Halo 3 makes use of wide, open areas that break up the claustrophobic design of a map. While the game is still very linear, these arena-like spaces and large-scale battles are epic.

  • One of the leading gripes I had following the Insider Flighting was the fact that the weapons of Halo 3 sound nowhere near as powerful as they did in earlier games, and with the retail version of Halo 3, I think that the weapons sound slightly better, if still a little weak. Fortunately, in the campaign, the battle rifle still hits hard despite its firing sound, and it is my go-to weapon of choice against Brutes. Ammunition for the battle rifle is uncommon, and while it’s an excellent weapon to use, finding rounds for it and its Covenant equivalent, the Covenant Carbine, can be a challenge.

  • Halo 3 introduces the idea of equipment, extensions of the overshield and active cameo, except this time, players can choose when to deploy them, extending their utility. On standard difficulty, they’re curious assets, but I imagine that at Heroic and above, knowing when to deploy or switch out equipment could make a difficult fight considerably easier. My favourite equipment would probably be invincibility, which negates all damage the player takes, and regeneration is not too far behind, allowing me to instantly regenerate my shields.

  • The shotgun in Halo 3 is completely different than the shotgun of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2: unlike the M90 of the earlier Halo games, which held twelve shells, the M90A of Halo 3 can only hold a maximum of six rounds, and while having a longer effective range than the M90 as seen in Halo 2, is still inferior to that of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s M90. Its stopping power, however, has been restored, and in general, aside from only having six shells, the shotgun is the ultimate weapon for close quarter combat.

  • For the last portion of the mission, I commandeered a Wraith and used it to tear through an entire Covenant armada. While considered a tank by in-game mechanics, the combat role and performance of a Wraith renders it more similar to a piece of self-propelled artillery: a main battle tank like the Scorpion is designed for direct fire with tanks, whereas the Wraith and its plasma mortar lobs superheated plasma in an arc against infantry and other vehicles. In reality, self-propelled artillery and main battle tanks further differ in manoeuvrability and armour: the former lack heavy armour and are more mobile. Halo portrays the Wraith as being a little more nimble than the Scorpion thanks to its gravity propulsion drive, but otherwise, the Wraith has similar durability.

  • After punching through tunnels and opening the gates for the column of UNSC vehicles, Master Chief and The Arbiter are tasked with decimating several anti-air Wraiths. These anti-air vehicles cannot be operated by players, and if one were to board it, the vehicle will explode after the pilot is neutralised. The first of the compounds gives a sense of what this fourth mission is about: as Master Chief blows away the anti-air Wraiths, the clouds in the sky darken as Truth begins to activate the Forerunner artefact.

  • Drones and Jackals are among my least favourite enemy to fight in Halo: the portable shields that Jackals hold can deflect a large amount of damage, and the most effective way of dealing with them is either a well-placed grenade or carefully aiming at a small opening in their shields using a precision weapon like the battle rifle. Drones travel in swarms, and while individually weak, can overwhelm players with a nonstop hail of plasma pistol fire. Against drones, the assault rifle and submachine gun are excellent weapons, as well as the Brute Spiker and plasma rifle. Thanks to the superior physics engine in Halo 3, Drone swarms are far more terrifying than they were in Halo 2 on account of being much larger, although thankfully, Drones still land periodically, allowing them to be picked off.

  • Scarabs were amongst the most powerful ground vehicles the Covenant deployed, and in Halo 2, the Scarab that tears through New Mombassa was unstoppable until Master Chief boarded it and annihilated it from inside. By Halo 3, the game engine was advanced sufficiently such that the Scarab was a fully autonomous agent: Scarabs are smaller and more frequently deployed, possessing fully destructible parts. In particular, when the legs take enough damage, the Scarab will “kneel”, allowing players to board it. There’s a special reactor in its rear that, once destroyed, will cause the Scarab to explode spectacularly.

  • When I played through this section of the mission during the Insider Flighting, I had trouble finding the location of the reactor. This was not a problem by the time I returned to Halo 3 and, once the Scarab is destroyed, Master Chief continues through a warehouse to reach a large anti-air cannon. This mission marks the first time that players face off against Hunters: unlike the end of Halo 2, which saw the Hunters backing The Arbiter up, Halo 3‘s Hunters are enemies. This was a deliberate design choice to minimise player confusion, and the Hunters of Halo 3 have armour plates that fall off when they sustain enough damage. Like the previous iterations of Halo, it is best to flank them and fire on the exposed orange flesh to dispatch them, although if one has heavy weapons available (such as the rocket launcher or missile pod), Hunters can be dealt with trivially.

  • The last section of the fourth mission entails clearing the forces defending the Type 27 anti-air gun, and then firing on an exposed power coupling to destroy it. While intended for use against small targets, it’s been claimed that a single Type 27 would be able to shoot down a Charon-class Frigate like the Forward Unto Dawn. Once this gun is destroyed, the UNSC fleet begin opening fire on the Forerunner Keyship, the Anodyne Spirit, but even with direct hit from MAC arounds and missiles, the advanced Forerunner armour meant that not even a scratch is dealt. As Truth begins to ascend into the portal above the Anodyne Spirit en route to the Ark, a Flood-controlled Covenant ship crash-lands nearby.

  • Once the Flood arrive, the lighting and atmosphere in Halo 3 immediately shifts: the area is now covered with a noxious haze of Flood spores, and hordes of Flood begin overrunning the area. In short, it feels a great deal like the American Deep South as seen in Left 4 Dead 2. Compared to earlier Halo titles, Halo 3‘s portrayal of the Flood is a cut above – infection forms travel in much larger swarms, and it is now possible to watch real-time infections unfold as an unfortunate victim becomes transformed into a combat form. Carrier forms, when destroyed, now release up to three times as many infection forms.

  • Halo 3, in short, makes the Flood feel terrifying again, and after a lacklustre presentation in Halo 2, the Flood are a return to form, being a highly menacing enemy against which prolonged combat is not an option. Master Chief and The Arbiter also encounter Pure forms for the first time in these missions. With a calcium-based exoskeleton, Pure forms are highly resilient against damage and come in three varieties: the spider-like Stalker, Ranged forms which can spew toxins at the player from afar, and the massive Tank form.

  • While all weapons will be effective against the Flood in some capacity, in earlier Halo games, kinetic weapons were more useful against the Flood, and in particular, the M90 was the ultimate weapon for handling The Flood. Halo 2‘s Energy Sword proved to be even more useful, being able to disintegrate Flood biomass and prevent corpses from being reanimated. By Halo 3, plasma weapons have been upgraded so that they can deal more damage to the Flood, making dual plasma rifles a potent choice for situations where one is low on shotgun or Energy Sword reserves. In-universe, plasma weapons, with their high thermal output, are generally superior, being able to burn Flood tissue beyond recognition.

  • Halo 3‘s campaign handles smoothly, but one aspect I disliked were the Cortana moments (and later, Gravemind moments): I felt them to break the flow of the game somewhat by slowing things down dramatically. With this being said, they accentuate Cortana’s descent into rampancy (a state where AI begun functioning erratically) and the Flood’s madness well, and further to this, while disruptive, Bungie did an excellent job of placing them such that they only play when players are not in any danger. As an added layer of safety, when a Cortana or Gravemind moment plays, players are rendered immune to all damage – this would be especially valuable in co-op, if one player triggers the moment while the other is still mid-firefight.

  • When Keyes learns that Cortana might be in the crashed ship, she sends Master Chief into the bowels of the Flood-infested ship in search of her while The Arbiter and other Elites remained outside to prevent any Flood from entering. The interior of the ship is a putrid mess of Flood biomass, and as it turns out, Cortana isn’t present. Instead, it’s a recording of her, giving vital information on how to stop the Flood and also, the imminent arrival of High Charity, now under the Gravemind’s control. In the aftermath, Hood consents to send a task force through the portal to The Ark, and the Separatist Covenant forces, now allied with the UNSC, prepare to glass Voi and its surroundings to stop the Flood from spreading.

  • After passing the portal and running into a Brute Fleet, the Elites prepare to engage them while UNSC forces prepare to hit the Ark’s surface. Upon landing, they find themselves in a completely different area well outside the Milky Way galaxy. While one ODST is impressed with the sights, the others are unperturbed and push forwards with the mission. Master Chief opens the mission with a sniper rifle; this mission is supposed to be an amalgamation of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s third, fourth and fifth missions, since players start off with a sniper rifle, are seeking out a Cartographer of sorts, and has the chance to use vehicles.

  • The sniper rifle is best suited for engaging Brutes and Hunters: a single headshot will neutralise the former, and hitting the latter in the back will down it immediately. Against weaker enemies like Grunts and Jackals, the sniper rifle is overkill, and since players can only carry a maximum of twenty-four rounds (four in the rifle and then twenty in reserve), the sniper rifle is best used for engaging tough targets. The Covenant equivalent, the Beam Rifle, also appears in Halo 3, but most Jackal Snipers in Halo 3 carry the Covenant Carbine instead, making them rather less lethal than their Halo 2 counterparts.

  • A pair of Hunters is deployed at the end of the first area. Halo 3‘s Hunters are tougher than their Halo 2 counterparts and require multiple shots in their exposed regions to eliminate: even with a sniper rifle or beam rifle in hand, it takes at least two shots to kill them. Besides being more durable, Hunters are also faster and possess more armour plating than their predecessors. Offsetting their incredible power is the fact that Hunters are comparatively rare: only eight appear in the whole of the campaign: two during the fourth mission, four here, and then two more in the next mission.

  • Once Master Chief clears out an area of anti-air Wraiths, the Forward Unto Dawn arrives and drops off a bunch of Scorpion Tanks. Unlike its Halo 2 incarnation, drivers no longer have access to a co-axial machine gun, and instead, require a gunner. Beyond this, the tank remains very powerful: its main gun can devastate almost everything. When Master Chief first boards a Scorpion and begins dealing damage with it, a marine will comment that the tank beats most anything, Wraiths and Hunters alike. With enough fire, even Phantoms can be destroyed. While players must abandon the Scorpion to reach the next section of the mission, the UNSC forces will bring another Scorpion into the next area.

  • Having a Scorpion makes the fight against the Scarab much easier: the 90mm shells will make short work of the legs and force it to shut down, giving one enough to to board it and overload the reactor. Scarab fights are immensely fun, easily the biggest highlight of Halo 3 for me: there are plenty of options for how one approaches dealing with Scarabs. In this area, players can use the Scorpion, a Gauss Warthog and its coil-gun, any shoulder-fired weapons like a rocket launcher or fuel rod gun, to knock it down for boarding, and once the reactor is melted, watching the resulting explosion is immensely satisfying.

  • The Cartographer lies just ahead of this point: Halo 3‘s map room looks incredible, featuring a large platform opening out to a waterfall that makes Niagara Falls look like amateur hour. Once Master Chief finds the map and locates Truth, The Arbiter appears shortly after with Johnson and they head off in hot pursuit of Truth. Being able to play Halo 3 means being able to finally walk areas I once could only watch on YouTube at 480p: when Halo 3 came out, any friends I had with an Xbox 360 were more interested in the multiplayer than the campaign, and during LAN parties, our entire focus would’ve been Team Slayer.

  • When Halo 3 released in November 2007, I still vividly remember pushing my way through fall term as a student. At this point in time, one of my friends had just put together a working Ragnarok Online private server and invited a bunch of us together to try things out. I ended up rolling a mage and spent countless hours in the Payon Caves farming undead. Back then, my days consisted of studying, doing various extracurricular activities and then playing Ragnarok Online. LAN Parties were the only time I would be able to play the most cutting-edge games, and consequently, The Master Chief Collection is something that now allows me to experience what my peers experienced back in the day, albeit with a mouse-and-keyboard, at 1080p and 60 FPS.

  • The Covenant is the single longest mission in Halo 3, and it’s one of the few places where Master Chief has access to the Spartan Laser, which is, on a per-shot basis, the single most powerful weapon in all of Halo 3. However, it is only limited to five shots, and in this mission, I’ve found that it is best to hang onto the weapon until one encounters and defeats the Hunters: the Spartan Laser will one-shot Wraiths, and players encounter a pair of Wraiths en route to the first shield tower. Once the Hunters are defeated, the Spartan Laser should still have a single shot left in it, and giving this to a marine prior to boarding the Hornet will allow one to have vastly improved firepower while in the skies.

  • Featuring a mix of vehicular combat in wide open areas and closed corridors, the seventh Halo 3 mission shows off what Bungie is like at its finest: large squads of Covenant and transitioning between long-range and close-quarters combat at the drop of a hat means that players must switch constantly between different weapons to adapt to the situation at hand. Halo‘s two weapon only loadout means that players can’t get attached to a particular setup and change out weapons based on the combat scenario, as well as what ammunition is available. More so than the previous games, Halo 3 pushes players to manage their ammunition well and make snap decisions in when to drop a strong weapon in favour of a weaker weapon whose ammunition is more plentiful.

  • Of all the vehicles I’ve flown in a Halo campaign, the Hornet is high on my list of favourite vehicles. Handling like Halo Reach‘s Falcon, the Hornet has excellent firepower, being able to make short work of other air vehicles and armour alike. The Hornet sports a .50 calibre heavy machine gun for dealing with light vehicles and infantry, as well as dual missile pods that are suited for anti-armour functions. In the temperate shores of the Ark, Master Chief engages numerous enemies en route to the last tower.

  • Wraiths and Phantoms stand no chance against the Hornet’s missiles: in exchange for its versatility, the Hornet has weak armour, and can be destroyed quite easily. However, as long as one is taking care to circle a target, the Hornet should remain in good condition for most of the fight leading up to the final tower. The shield surrounding Truth’s citadel can be seen here, along with the remains of a Phantom I’d just shot down. Altogether, this mission, dubbed “The Covenant”, is probably the best of Halo 3‘s campaign missions, featuring a variety of combat options and grand settings that capture the scale of what Halo 3‘s capable of.

  • Once the last tower is disabled, Master Chief boards a Scorpion and rides into a snow-filled valley. At the end of the path are a pair of Hornets: the Hornet becomes invaluable here, as two Scarabs are deployed into the valley in a last-ditch attempt to stop Master Chief and The Arbiter to keep Truth Safe. A combination of missiles and gunfire will quickly halt a Scarab, and while the most skilled of players can then manoeuvre the Hornet behind the Scarab to destroy its reactor without disembarking, I ended up dropping the Hornet on top of the Scarab, disembarked to take the reactor out and then boarded the Hornet again to deal with the next Scarab.

  • I believe that, during the Insider Flighting, I lost my Hornet after taking the first Scarab and was forced to deal with the remaining one with shoulder-fired weapons. Here, I circle the first Scarab as it fires on me with its main gun: the Scarab gun might not be as powerful as its Halo 2 incarnation, but it still packs a punch and can pull a Hornet out of the skies in seconds. In Halo 2, I did end up going for the Scarab Gun and Soccer Ball achievements: in a conversation with a friend, we agreed that achievements are for folks who really want to get the most milage out of their game. Said friend had been completing some of Halo 3‘s trickiest assignments on Legendary difficulty for fun, and I admire that dedication – with my schedule and habits, I don’t see myself doing that any time soon.

  • After the two Scarabs are eliminated, Master Chief and The Arbiter enter the Citadel, clearing away the Brutes between them and Truth. They are aided by Gravemind and The Flood, but once Truth is dead, Gravemind betrays them, and the pair must fight their way back outside. The narrow bridges leading out of the Citadel make survival tricky, but somewhere along the way, I picked up an invincibility power-up and used it to push through the last section, bringing the longest mission of Halo 3 to an end.

  • Of all the levels in Halo 3, none are more unsettling than the penultimate mission. By this point in time, High Charity has been changed beyond recognition, filled with endless halls of Flood biomass. Having crashed into a lake, most of the familiar cityscape have been submerged. The doorways and portals are now sphincter-like in appearance, and the entire level was very unsettling to wander throughout. I’m betting that Halo drew inspiration from Alien in some design aesthetics: Sevastopol Station in Alien: Isolation began taking on a very similar look as the Xenomorph begins creating a nest of sorts to spawn new aliens.

  • Like Halo 2, the Energy Sword is the best weapon to use against the Flood: a single slash is enough to destroy a Combat form and Pure forms. Swords are found in moderate abundance in High Charity, along with incendiary grenades and even a flamethrower: fire is immensely effective against the Flood, and a single grenade will burn a tank Pure form in no time at all. Unlike Halo 2, if the Energy Sword is not available, the shotgun is an acceptable substitute, as it can now disintegrate Flood bodies, as well.

  • It is very easy to get lost in the halls of what remains of High Charity, and I got lost in the labyrinthine tunnels of Flood biomass. There is, however, a bit of a trick: the Flood will stop spawning in areas Master Chief has already cleared, so one knows they’re headed in the right direction if there’s more Flood to fight. One thing to be mindful of are the Flood pods on the walls: when destroyed, they spray Infection forms everywhere, and moreover, are camouflaged rather well with the other biomass. In the heat of a firefight, when bullets are flying this way and that, these pods can make a tricky situation worse, so it’s worth checking one’s fire before shooting.

  • When Master Chief finds Cortana, she’s a little worse for wear, having endured the Gravemind’s countless intrusions into her mind. Seeing Master Chief helps her to regain her composure, and she reveals that she’s got a copy of the Halo activation Index, and when the Gravemind realises what’s happened, he sends hordes of Flood to stop the pair. In order to buy some time, Cortana proposes destroying High Charity’s main reactor, bringing to mind how Master Chief and Cortana destroyed Installation 04’s Pulse Generators in Halo: Combat Evolved.

  • The resulting explosion will destroy all of High Charity’s interior, leaving only the outer hull. From here, Master Chief escapes on a Pelican bound for Installation 08, a reconstructed Halo that replaces Installation 04. The Gravemind survives the destruction of High Charity and is attempting to reestablish itself on Installation 08. The final mission thus becomes clear: activate the new Halo ring and destroy Gravemind for all time.

  • However, after arriving on the snowy wastes of Installation 08, it becomes clear that reaching the control room and activating Halo is not a trivial task: an entire army of Flood stand between Master Chief, The Arbiter and the control room. This canyon brings to mind the setting of Halo: Combat Evolved, but with no Banshee available, one must fight through the legion of Flood. Here, the best setup would be an assault rifle and Energy Sword, and on my play-through, I found it more effectual to only engage anything that stood in front of me, rather than anything that moves.

  • Master Chief and The Arbiter must wait for The Monitor to unlock the door leading into the Control Room this time around, and a seemingly-endless stream of Flood await both. On the ramps leading up to the door, there’s a flamethrower, but since the flamethrower will reduce one’s movement rate, it’s not an option I would choose. Instead, it is possible to pick it up and give it to Johnson: the flamethrower is the ultimate weapon against the Flood, and even a quick burst, consuming 2-3 units of fuel, will ignite and kill the tank Pure forms with ease. By this point in the campaign, I’ve gotten used to the controls for dual-wielding, and while it’s not as effective as using a two-handed weapon, it can still be fun. Dual wielding is actually a fair option against the Flood: if one manages their reloads well, they can more or less fire continuously.

  • The Monitor reveals that Installation 08 is not ready to fire, and when Johnson makes to override him, is fatally wounded. In turn, Master Chief destroys the Monitor using the Spartan Laser, the only weapon in Halo 3 capable of dealing any damage to him. Johnson’s death hit the Halo community hard: tough talking, reliable and sporting a big personality, he was portrayed as well-respected amongst the UNSC marines and for the player-base, was a source of amusing jokes and one-liners. Once the Monitor is done, it’s time to escape Installation 08, and players will get to pass through familiar sights that were seen in Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Assault on the Control Room.

  • Yesterday evening, I finally had clear skies in my region, after a tornado warning was issued during the afternoon and a massive cumulonimbus cloud over the city centre began rotating. As the sun set, it was as though there was no storm at all, and so, I decided to see if I could catch a glimpse of Comet C/2020 F3 (better known as NEOWISE). Media outlets had advertised the comet as being visible to the naked eye, with an apparent magnitude of around 1.0 (while not as bright as a star, it should still have been easy to find). Such was not the case: when I got out there, NEOWISE was at magnitude 7, not visible without binoculars. I only managed to find it using a star chart, and after star hopping with my 10×50 binoculars, saw an underwhelming smudge. This was disappointing, and I’ll be looking for another shot at seeing it as weather favours.

  • While NEOWISE might’ve been a disappointment, Halo 3 has been anything but: the final mission is an absolute trill to play through. In a callback to Halo: Combat Evolved‘s driving mission, Halo 3‘s last segment features a race to the Forward Unto Dawn as Installation 08 begins collapsing from the premature firing. The scaffolding that forms the path for Master Chief and The Arbiter to travel along will begin falling apart. Cortana’s countdown and urgent tones are not for show: even though there isn’t a countdown time, there’s a rush to the finish, since the disintegrating scaffolding is set to explode and open up as scripted events on a timer.

  • With the Forward Unto Dawn in range, Master Chief prepares to make one final jump, bringing the gameplay of Halo 3 to an end. For me, this means finally finishing the fight as I’d longed to do since 2007. I had fun every step of the way through Halo 3‘s campaign, and it appears I’ve also timed this post nicely – yesterday, Microsoft revealed gameplay of Halo Infinite, which sees Master Chief working to save humanity from the Banished, a fanatical Covenant splinter group who’ve found a Halo ring and intend to activate it in revenge. The footage looks beautiful, and the game looks like it is was Bungie originally intended Halo: Combat Evolved to be. Set for a holiday 2020 launch, Halo Infinite will be available on PC, as well as Xbox One. This brings my latest Halo post to an end, and as we head towards the end of July, I’ll be looking to do a talk on Warlords of New York, as well as Oregairu Kan after three episodes.

At its conclusion, Halo 3 answers the questions left open by Halo 2: Truth is dead, and with this, the Covenant do not pose a serious threat to humanity, having splintered apart. Gravemind has been eradicated, and the Flood appear to have been neutralised, no longer troubling all life in the known galaxy. For players in 2007, Halo 3 was a well-deserved conclusion to a journey that spanned some six years, and in The Master Chief Collection, Halo 3 is a welcome addition. Despite lacking any of the remaster work that went into Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, Halo 3 still looks and feels excellent. Granted, some of the textures look decidedly dated, but beyond this, the lighting and effects in Halo 3 holds up to this day. Overall, it is easy to see why Halo 3 is considered to be one of the best games of all time: besides decisively closing off the Original Trilogy of Halo, gameplay and engine improvements make Halo 3 the most refined Halo game of its time, demonstrating a culmination of the lessons learned from Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved. Having now gone through Halo 3 myself, a meagre thirteen years after the original released to PC, I definitely appreciate why people consider Halo 3 to be the apex of the Halo franchise. While representing the end of one era, Halo 3 would also foreshadow a continuation: players tenacious enough to finish the game on the legendary difficulty were treated to a cinematic of the Foreward Unto Dawn drifting towards an unknown planet that was dubbed the “Legendary Planet”. This hinted at the idea that Master Chief’s journey was not yet finished, and until 2012’s Halo 4 continued the story, the Legendary Planet was subject to much speculation even as Bungie released Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach. I am immensely glad to have had the chance to go through Halo 3 for myself now, and at this point in time, only Halo 3 ODST and Halo 4 remain. The former is to be released in the very near future, being a side-story of sorts that follows a rookie ODST in New Mombassa following Regret’s jump to Delta Halo, and I am looking forwards to finally stepping into a game whose unique atmosphere and soundtrack brings to mind memories of my first term as an undergraduate student.

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.

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.

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.