The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gameplay

Invalidating the Mother of Japanese Tanks, Daigensui: Examining What Battlefield Portal Requires To Model What Happens When Ideology Meets Reality

“平時就牙刷刷, 依家出埋清都攪唔掂條𡃁仔, 抵佢死!” –九叔, 半斤八兩

With a muzzle velocity of 1575 m/s, a single 120 mm M829 APFSDS round slices through the air and slams into its mark, a Tiger I tank, from a distance of two kilometres. In a single shot, Sumeragi is unceremoniously removed from the fight as the M829’s stopping power kicks the Tiger I back like a child’s toy, flipping it onto its side. Had this APFSDS round been live, it would have torn through the Tiger I’s 120 mm frontal armour as though it were cardboard, turned the Tiger’s interior into a hell on earth as the penetrator vapourised metal and created molten shards that instantly perforated the crew. However, this is a friendly Panzerfahren match; on impact from a shell, a microprocessor in the Tiger I’s armour quickly determines that this round far exceeds anything the Tiger I can handle, and instead, Sumeragi’s Tiger I is simply rendered impotent, immobile. A white flag pops up to signify that this tank has been taken out of the fight. Six seconds later, the report of a distant Rheinmetall Rh-120 gun can be heard. Sumeragi had been leading the Panzerkiel formation in keeping with the Nishizumi Style, and the remaining eight Mädchen und Panzer Tiger Is reform their line, intent on maintaining formation as they travel through an open field until they reach their foe, a lone M1A2 Abrams designated “Icarus”. However, a second shot from Icarus punches into Leo Xiao’s Tiger I. The platoon’s commander, Tak, orders smoke to be launched as the surviving Tiger Is retreat into a forest and disperse to escape the enemy fire. Two kilometres away, Icarus’ commander calmly orders for the FLIR camera’s polarity to be changed from White-Hot to Black-Hot. The Tiger Is, hidden away behind a cloud of white smoke, suddenly become visible, as clear as day. Icarus’ gunner takes aim and fires again, disabling Hooves’ tank. With the Tiger I formation now behind cover, Icarus begins moving: while the Abrams enjoys seventy years of advancement over the Tiger I, including NGAP composite armour that gives the equivalent of an estimated protection of 900 mm Rolled Homogenous Armour equivalent (RHAe) against armour piercing rounds and 1320 mm of RHAe against HEAT rounds from the front, all it would take is one lucky shot to the Abram’s engine block to bring about a mobility kill. Sitting still is the one surefire way that a lone M1A2 could lose to six Tiger Is, but this is provided that the Abrams is daft enough to allow for this: with its Honeywell AGT1500 gas turbine engine, an M1A2 is capable of a maximum off-road speed of 40 km/h, giving it enough mobility to run rings around the slower Tiger I, which plods along at a paltry 25 km/h on a good day whilst off-roading. Minutes later, Icarus’ commander spots two of the remaining six Mädchen und Panzer Tiger Is that have exited the forest, in a not-so-subtle attempt to launch a pincer attack. The Tiger Is fire, but their 88 mm shells travel wide of their mark. Icarus responds in kind: its stabliser allows the gun to track moving targets and hit them reliably even when the Abrams is on the move, and in this way, RRW is taken out of the fight. Ascaloth’s Tiger I attempts to back up and flee, but its heavy tracks get stuck in the mud. Ascaloth too is immobilised from a single round to its front. The four Mädchen und Panzer tanks left belong to willx, Myssa Rei, Kimidori and Tak, and predictably, they’ve attempted to flank Icarus: Myssa Rei and Willx come from the rear, while Kimidori and Tak are approaching from the side. Icarus’ driver hits the gas and accelerates into a turn so the Abrams can face its foes: the four Tiger Is that are now coming in head-on. With a lurch, the Rh-120 sends its sixth M892 shell down range. Capable of penetrating an estimated 540 mm RHAe at two kilometers, this round hits Kimidori squarely on the turret, and its immobilised flag pops up: the Tiger’s armour is simply inconsequential. During the exchange of fire, a stray 88 mm round from Myssa Rei’s Tiger I glances off the Abram’s front turret, scratching the paint and marking the first time Mädchen und Panzer had hit anything during this match. Moments later, Icarus’ gunner lands yet another kill with grim accuracy. This time, platoon commander Tak is taken out; only Myssa Rei and willx remain. The gunner trains Icarus’ turret on willx’s Tiger I, pulls the trigger, and after the smoke clears, willx is downed. Seeing this, Myssa Rei orders her driver to stop, and closes her eyes while allowing the inevitable to happen: one Tiger tank is no match for an M1A2. Within the space of ten minutes, all nine Tiger Is are immobilised, and the only sign that the M1A2 had gone through combat is several superficial scratches on the turret’s front armour. The match is over; Icarus’ commander climbs out of the cupola and surveys the carnage, reflecting on how seven decades’ worth of technological advancements meant today, this was no victory – this is bullying.

Such a scenario has lingered in my mind for the past nine years, ever since Girls und Panzer had finished airing: I’d finished writing about a post on Battlefield 3‘s seventh mission, Thunder Run, and AnimeSuki’s Wild Goose had stopped by to read about my impressions of Thunder Run, one of Battlefield 3‘s most impressive missions. After I destroyed a group of T-72s and commented on how this would be the result were I to solo Mädchen und Panzer “on skill alone”, Wild Goose remarked that using an M1A2 to beat on World War Two era tanks would be cruel and unnecessary to the point where the mere suggestion would earn me a Vlad Tepes award. My original assertion had been that if given an era-appropriate tank, such as the Sherman Firefly or Centurion MBT, my patience and strategies would have allowed me to overcome Mädchen und Panzer, an AnimeSuki World of Tanks clan that had prided itself on using the Nishizumi Style. The me of nine years earlier was plainly less learned with clarity, and I had mistakenly given the impression that I wanted to solo Mädchen und Panzer with a modern MBT. However, the thought of trivially mopping floor with Mädchen und Panzer (and proving the weaknesses of the Nishizumi Style as I’d known it then) remained. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to become more familiar with simulated armoured warfare through an option superior to World of Tanks, and this is how I come to greatly enjoy how the Battlefield franchise handled armoured warfare. Nine years after completing Thunder Run for the first time, Battlefield Portal has arrived, and while both Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal have seen considerable difficulties following launch, the latter has come the closest to allowing me to experience something that had, until now, only been possible as a thought experiment. Battlefield Portal allows for custom matches to be created, where different factions and eras can go against one another, and the revelation that the Wehrmacht could be made to fight the modern US Army had been intriguing. So far, Battlefield Portal allows one to effortlessly pit the two factions against one another in a match of conquest, and with a bit of tweaking to vehicle rules, tanks can be made to reflect the vast disparities in their performance, in turn allowing me to definitively answer the question of whether or not a number of Tiger Is could, in conjunction with the Nishizumi Style, defeat a single M1A2. The outcome shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s “not a chance in hell”. Battlefield Portal plainly offers the base for satisfying a nearly-decade old question, but with the flexibility and versatility DICE had advertised, the question inevitably becomes, is it possible to re-create Panzerfahren with Battlefield Portal in order to create a more thrilling, fail and tactical experience? Unfortunately, the answer for now remains a resounding no – game modes and the logic editor remain quite limited in functionality. Similarly, the small number of factions and maps means that iconic Girls und Panzer Panzerfahren matches cannot be easily remade. However, the elements are all here for Panzerfahren modes to be created: Battlefield 3 had introduced the idea of Air Superiority, in which players would spawn into jets and fly around the map to capture points. In this mode, players could only spawn into jets, and could not bail under any circumstances. With this in mind, opening Battlefield Portal‘s mode editor to accommodate this behaviour for tanks, and generally increasing the number of tanks one could spawn onto a map at any given time would be the first steps. Subsequently, to facilitate the two Panzerfahren modes (elimination/annihilation, and VIP/Flag Tank), the rules editor would need to be extended. Elimination matches are the simpler of the two to create, requiring that one set the match up such that downed players cannot respawn in, and then, when a team has no more players, the match ends. VIP matches would require randomly assigning a single player the role of “flag tank”, and on this player’s defeat, the match ends. Cosmetics, such as a visible flag or unique tank camouflage, can be utilised to denote a flag tank. To provide win/loss logic, one would need to set things up such that score is counted only if the flag tank is killed. It becomes clear that a more versatile logic editor and larger option set would easily accommodate for Panzerfahren matches to be conducted purely from within Battlefield Portal, which in turn would highlight just how powerful Battlefield Portal and the Frostbite Engine are.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The idea behind pitting a single M1A2 against World War Two tanks came about when Wild Goose first mentioned that, when confronted with a Panzer VIII Maus, the M1A2 would be his preferred weapon of choice – in Girls und Panzer‘s penultimate episode, Black Forest brought a Maus to the fight, and its armour was so heavy that not even the Tiger I’s KwK 36 had a chance of punching through its front. Moreover, the Maus rocked a Pak 44, which could defeat any armour any World War Two era tank had (even the T28 Super Heavy tank the Americans had built). However, the Maus’ biggest shortcoming was its slow speed: thanks to its sheer bulk, it was only capable of reaching a top speed of 20 km/h. This is something Miho exploits during Girls und Panzer‘s final match, but in its first appearance, it was a terrifying foe. For the average Abrams crew, however, a Maus would be a joke at all ranges: modern ammunition can burn through 540 mm RHAe at two kilometres, and between a computer-assisted fire control system, plus gun stablisation technology, an M1A2 would simply out-drive a Maus and disable it before the Maus even had time to blink.

  • Furthermore, even if the Maus could hit the M1A2, the composite armour would allow the tank to survive and keep fighting. In short, the Maus stands no chance at all against the M1A2. This hypothetical match-up remains unlikely, and in reality, had the Maus been deployed, the Allies would’ve likely targetted it with artillery strikes or bombs rather than waste any tanks on it, using combined arms approaches instead of attempting to take the tank head-on. Combined arms is a doctrine in which multiple disciplines are used to strike an enemy in a way as to be complementary, such that if an enemy were to defend against one measure, they would be rendered vulnerable to another. For instance, if an enemy were to defend against attack by tanks and places an emphasis on armour, they would leave themselves open to attack from the air. Today, air support is a vital part of warfare: ground forces designate targets for air and artillery assets. Had Panzerfahren included combined arms, the entire sport would disintegrate, since all one would need to win was to send out spotter helicopters like the Kiowa, and then Hellfire missiles can be launched from a distance. In this way, an entire column of tanks could be rendered ineffectual in a matter of minutes.

  • However, since Panzerfahren only allows for tanks, Wild Goose had wondered what it would be like, and I myself began wondering if a single M1A2 or modern equivalent would be able to solo Black Forest. After doing some reading, I found the answer to be a decisive yes, to no surprise. Battlefield Portal allowed me to, after a minor bit of modification to the game rules, re-create this experience. By default, all tanks are balanced against one another so that it takes three solid hits to take one another out, but this actually creates a jarring situation where it takes the M1A2 three or more shots to take a Tiger I out, whereas the Tiger, which would have no way of harming an M1A2 besides hitting it in the back, could also take an M1A2 out with three good shots.

  • Once things were fully configured, I would describe the match ups as “boring”. Even assuming a fully competent foe that utilised everything in their environment and arsenal to its fullest, the disparity between a modern tank and a World War Two tank means in effect, the latter has no solutions against the former save overwhelming numbers. In Battlefield Portal, after everything is set up, every engagement with a Tiger I or Panzer IV entailed lining up the sights, pulling the trigger and watching as the tank exploded. There was absolutely no skill involved in this, and the conclusion here is simple: had I actually been given a chance to take on AnimeSuki’s Mädchen und Panzer in a “M1A2 vs Nishizumi Style” showdown, the results would have been indisputable.

  • As a bit of background, Mädchen und Panzer is a World of Tanks clan for AnimeSuki’s players. Founded in late November of 2012, the group was intended to allow AnimeSuki members to live out their Girls und Panzer fantasies – clan members created a tightly knit clique and spoke of their exploits fondly at the height of their activity, swapped advice and compared their experiences to what was seen in Girls und Panzer. Although Mädchen und Panzer generally maintained a low profile, things changed when Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi temporarily joined their tanks and used his premium perks to help them to a few wins here and there. These premium perks supposedly came as remuneration for Sumeragi helping to research Japanese tanks. For the Record, a World of Tanks fan blog, translated an interview Sumeragi had with the Korean World of Tanks community regarding his contributions to the game’s Japanese tank line. This post painted Sumeragi as “the mother of Japanese tanks” because Sumeragi considers tanks as his “daughters”, a strange term of endearment, and here, Sumeragi alleged that he had access to original Imperial Japanese Army documents through family contacts, and was exposed to military hardware from a young age for similar reasons. While I am skeptical that Sumeragi has connections of this level, it is plausible that Sumeragi could have simply been a shade more skillful than the average person at finding information pertaining to World War Two Japanese tanks.

  • This interview also gives insight into how Sumeragi reached the conclusion that he did pertaining the Nishizumi Style: when the interview had asked Sumeragi what he thought the main appeal of World War Two era tanks were. Although Sumeragi did not elaborate further, his respect for the older weapons of war appears to come from the fact that without technology to guide and manage things, everything people did boiled down to their own skill:

If we look at the tanks of [World of Tanks], they are from an era before computers started fighting wars. These tanks are what humans, men, would control and fight with. A man controling [sic] directly the large metal, a man directly aiming and firing the gun, a man directly looking for the enemy…in a way the tanks of [World of Tanks] from an era where the last romances of war still lingered. It’s similar to how [Girls und Panzer]’s Hana felt the thrill of firing the gun. The vibrations passing onto your hand, the vibrations of a live engine…it’s a feeling only people who worked with such machines can feel. That is what I think of as the appeal of a tank.

  • Aiming and firing the main gun accurately came down to knowing the marks on the sights and using one’s experience to estimate distance to determine how much one should compensate for gravity. Smoke and poor sight lines forced commanders to position themselves smartly. Thus, from a certain point of view, tankers of old did have to cultivate a large number of skills in order to be effective in their roles. However, this, in no way, shows that modern tank crews are inferior to World War Two crews in any way: modern crews simply train for different modes of combat and under different conditions than crews from the Second World War.

  • It should be evident that, given how wide the gap is between modern tanks and World War Two tanks, Mädchen und Panzer would not have likely accepted the match against a single M1A2, no matter how strongly members agreed with what Sumeragi had said about traditional values and the romance of fighting with older ways. The march of technology would’ve resulted in what netizens colloquially call a “roflstomp”. Whereas I have no moral qualms about reducing Sumeragi’s “daughters” into scrap metal with a single well-placed 120 mm round, I cannot imagine that I would have accepted this match, either. This wouldn’t be on ethical grounds, but simply because, if Battlefield Portal is anything to go by, it would’ve been so one-sided that there’d be no fun in things.

  • In a hypothetical match with Mädchen und Panzer using Panzerfahren-sanctioned tanks (which would make things more interesting), I would likely go with a Sherman Firefly if engaging any clan member in a one-on-one: the 17-pounder would give me enough firepower to deal with heavy tanks, while the fact that the M4 is a medium tank would afford me with additional mobility, which I’d use to evade shots rather than attempt to absorb damage. Conversely, if soloing Mädchen und Panzer, the Centurion would be my pick: the 1945 Centurion also has a 17-pounder, while at the same time, possessing armour traits rivalling that of a heavy tank despite maintaining the handling traits of a medium tank, making it suited for me to appear, hit my foes and move to a better spot before retaliation can be dealt. One other factor affecting my confidence is Mädchen und Panzer’s average win rate, which is around 51.23 percent. Of its members, RRW has the best performance at 54.08 percent, while Sumeragi holds a win rate of 52.02 percent, and willx’s win rate is 51.10 percent.

  • On virtue of skill alone, my odds against Mädchen und Panzer should be quite good; to put things in perspective, my win rate is 61.3 percent in Battlefield V, so I am reasonably confident that when push comes to shove, I could hold my own against Sumeragi and the remainder of Mädchen und Panzer to an extent as to set them straight. This comes about because I adapt to the situation and do what I can for my team, whether it be playing the objective or supporting teammates, rather than worry about playing in a specific way. The numbers alone indicate that contrary to talking a big game, Sumeragi could be proven wrong where skill is concerned – this is what lends itself to the post title and page quote. The latter is a line taken from Sam Hui’s 1976 comedy, The Private Eyes: when one of the minor crooks get stomped by Lee Kwok-kit, Uncle Nine remarks that the guy normally swaggers around, but gets beat by some random kid here even though he’s got a knife, and that this serves him right for being so arrogant half the time. Although Sumeragi’s poor World of Tanks performance is amusing, my dislike of Sumeragi stems from the fact that, despite being wrong more often than not, he still had a large number of people supporting him.

  • Longtime readers may be familiar with my long-standing grievances surrounding this individual: Sumeragi would put on an act as the mature onee-sama, doling out advice to people and acted as the kawaii “reliable older sister” figure with those in his good graces. However, whenever Sumeragi was challenged, even in face of overwhelming evidence, he would become a foul-mouthed, vehement and unyielding individual who would defend untenable positions vociferously. Whereas some praised Sumeragi for these attitudes as being “sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and knowledgeable, and impatient with the ignorant”, my dealings with Sumeragi found an individual who was not only unknowledgeable, but outright unqualified to discuss matters ranging from what the essence of martial art is, to romantic relationships. Frustrated with Sumeragi’s refusal to respond to my counterarguments regarding topics like Girls und Panzer, I dug a little further and learnt that Sumeragi was actually someone from Vancouver, British Columbia, going by the name Kang Seung Jae.

  • Kang Seung Jae had claimed to be a very intelligent, overachieving individual who graduated from both Tokyo and Yonsei Universities, worked at a Fortune 500 company his parents owned, possessed a net worth exceeding ten million dollars and was distantly related to the Japanese royal family. The reality was very different: I’ve long known that Kang was an ordinary citizen, albeit one with a history of self-aggrandisement and holding contrarian perspectives of history that would lead to his getting banned from virtually all online communities of note. It was ultimately by fabricating a new identity in Sumeragi, that Kang was able to continue propagating such perspectives – Kang found that his Sumeragi identity allowed him to accrue credibility. However, even then, as Sumeragi, Kang crossed numerous lines, eventually becoming banned from both AnimeSuki and most recently, from Sufficient Velocity. The technique that Kang Seung Jae used are the precursor to the sorts of behaviours that dominate social media today, especially where politics is concerned, and is informally referred to as the nekama phenomenon (i.e. males assuming a female persona online).

  • This approach has gained popularity in recent years, with many people utilising this as a means of garnering approval (especially regarding political opinions) in social media. Psychologists agree that a desire for approval and validation is precisely why the nekama phenomenon exists, although for me, learning about this actually ends up invalidating everything Sumeragi/Kang Seung Jae stood for, lending this post its title. While most of AnimeSuki’s user-base have gone inactive, a few of the remaining users did end up learning the truth – one user indicated that any apparent reverence and respect the AnimeSuki community had for Kang was strictly role-play, which is telling, being akin to a total disavowal of any association the community may have previously had with this individual: Kang himself was kicked from Mädchen und Panzer shortly after Girls und Panzer ended. While I am unlikely to see how Kang’s most ardent supporters, like willx and Leo Xiao, respond to this news, it gives me some closure that at the very least, the sorts of perspectives that Kang held were not accepted at AnimeSuki.

  • The fact that Kang was kicked from Mädchen und Panzer means that the beatdown I describe here remains hypothetical for the present, and with this, I will not make further mention of the name Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi here in the future, as I believe that I’ve now said everything that needs to be said of the matter. While the technology has long accommodated for Panzerfahren-style matches since the Battlefield V days, and Battlefield Portal, with a bit of elbow grease and care, could also prove to be a good Panzerfahren venue, even if I were to play on their terms, I doubt that Mädchen und Panzer’s members would switch over to Battlefield owing to the price tag and system requirements. In the nine years since I’ve entertained thoughts of soloing Mädchen und Panzer, both with period-appropriate hardware and something like the M1A2, Battlefield‘s system requirements have increased to the point where, if one were still running a PC from 2010 that had been geared for World of Tanks, they’d almost certainly need an all-new new system to keep up.

  • On the topic of newer hardware, circumstances have led me to move up my plans to put a machine together, and earlier today, I ended up going in and placing the order for my parts. While my current machine is just holding together, I’ve caught wind that hardware prices could spike in the near future owing to current events: SSD prices are expected to jump 10 percent in April, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company announced a similar increase in price owing to rising manufacturing costs. In conjunction with the fact that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia puts neon gas and palladium exports in jeopardy, building a computer could become even more challenging. As such, while the local retailers still have microprocessors and SSDs on discount, the time seemed prudent to expedite things and pull the trigger sooner, rather than later. I’ve been saving for a new build since this time year, and while the ongoing GPU shortage meant I was unable to pick up a current-generation video card, the remainder of my build is solid.

  • With a new computer, I should be able to handle things like Battlefield 2042 and DOOM Eternal without worrying about the CPU approaching its TJunction under load. Conversely, no matter how powerful my hardware becomes, I adamantly refuse to set foot in World of Tanks. The reason why I never got into World of Tanks was precisely because the game was very beginner-unfriendly: there are no respawns, so if one is destroyed in battle, that’s it for the match. Moreover, destroyed tanks require a certain amount of in-game currency to repair, but if I’m being destroyed in battle often enough, I wouldn’t be accruing the funds to repair my tanks, leaving the game quite unplayable unless I were to go the Premium Account route (which is what Mädchen und Panzer ended up doing). I’ve always found that the best games out there punish players for making a bad decision and then encourage them to learn from said mistakes by giving them opportunity to try again.

  • This is precisely why Battlefield has always been something that appealed to me: if I made a mistake and died, I would be allowed to respawn and try a different approach. Dying costs my team tickets and impacts my KDR, but I have as many attempts as I need to get things right, so over time, I’m able to improve my movement and strategies to help my team out. Conversely, if I were allowed to just drop money on a Premium Account and get perks that offset my lack of skill, I’d never improve in the game. My reasons for staying away from World of Tanks are, in short, about as strongly-held as Mädchen und Panzer’s refusal to play on fairer terms (i.e. within Battlefield, where there is no Premium ammunition), and for this reason, my facing off against Mädchen und Panzer remains quite unlikely even though the technology now exists to do so.

  • While many will disagree, I have found that Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal, despite dropping the ball in key areas, remains a superior game to World of Tanks because the game’s paid content is purely cosmetic. All of the skill-based components in Battlefield are available to players, and those who buy cosmetics are not conferred a performance advantage over others. Similarly, while playing Battlefield allows for one to unlock customisations for their weapons and vehicles, and some customisations favour certain play-styles more than others, the stock configurations that weapons and vehicles come with are quite viable.

  • This ensures that experienced players can customise their vehicles and weapons to fit a specific play-style, but even in the beginning, the stock setup is sufficient for even a moderately skilled player to hold their own while learning how things work. Moreover, Battlefield Portal overcomes this barrier outright: all weapons, vehicles, attachments and customisations are available to players right out of the gates. Altogether, I’ve found that the foundation for Battlefield Portal is solid, and as such, what’s really needed is additional content. However, for the present, it is difficult to ascertain where Battlefield 2042 and Battlefield Portal will end up.

  • This is a shame, given that Battlefield Portal had, when it was first announced, sounded like it was exactly what the series needed: it was intended to give players the ability to tailor Battlefield experiences to their liking, and the potential for this was immense. In fact, had Battlefield 2042 just released with Portal, but at least eighty percent of the maps, weapons and vehicles to each of Battlefield 3Bad Company 2 and 1942, it would’ve proven massively successful for bringing back everything that players had come to love about the series. While I’ve been able to partially recreate the scenario in which I solo Mädchen und Panzer in a single M1A2 using Battlefield Portal, the mode creates the tantalising potential of allowing me to recreate Panzerfahren matches. I’m not confident that such a possibility will ever be realised, but as it turns out, a few more additions to the logic editor, and the addition of new content is all that it would take.

  • Playing proper Panzerfahren in Battlefield Portal would be considerably more fun that curb-stomping World War Two tanks with modern hardware, and despite the doubt surrounding Battlefield 2042, it is of some consolation to me that, nine years after Girls und Panzer finished airing, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to both recreating iconic Girls und Panzer experiences and messing around with outlandish scenarios like seeing if Mädchen und Panzer could indeed live up to their claims that Sumeragi’s interpretation of the Nishizumi Style is a match for decades of technological advancement. I’ve long held that operator skill trumps hardware performance, but I accept the reality that, when two competent operators are separated by hardware differences, the superior machine will win out. I’ve been running my current desktop for nine years, and while this machine has performed very admirably during its run, its twilight is also here. This desktop saw me through graduate studies and everything else for the past nine years, so I will be sad to see it go, but at the same time, I also recognise the need for an improved desktop that will continuing assisting me over the next several years.

Assuming that the logic editor and options provide freedom of modification to this level, DICE would then need to greatly extend the factions available and vehicle customisation choices in Battlefield Portal. At minimum, the Soviet Union and United Kingdom would need to be added, along with their corresponding tanks (T-70, T-34, IS-2 and KV-2 for the Soviets, Crusaders, Matildas, Churchills and Valentine Archer for the British), and additional tanks for both German and American factions are required, as well. Bringing such as the 38(t), StuG III and Panther to the German faction, and the M3 Lee, plus the M26 Pershing and M18 Hellcat, would provide enough variety for players to kit out their tanks in an authentic manner. Since Battlefield V already had assets for Japanese armour, it would be nice to bring tanks like the Type 89, Type 97 and Type 3, into the game, too. Once the appropriate factions and their corresponding tanks are present, a deeper customisation system would need to be added for each tank. Currently, tanks offer limited modifications to their primary and secondary weapons, as well as two slots for equipment. Allowing players to switch out the Panzer IV’s KwK 37 L/24 for a KwK 40 L/48 would increase firepower and accuracy at the expense of blast radius, or adding a turret skirt would increase damage resistance at the expense of top speed, could offer meaningful ways of altering the way one’s tank handles. To provide aesthetic customisations, limited cosmetics should be available, altering one’s tank cameos, hull logos or accessories like flags. Battlefield V had actually done a fantastic job of armoured warfare, introducing limited turret traversal rates, and simulated deflections through its ricochet mechanic: if players hit an enemy tank from a shallow angle, the shell would simply bounce off armour and head in a different direction, dealing minimal damage to the first target hit. With its variety of vehicles and a relatively involved upgrade tree, plus deeper tank mechanics, armoured warfare in Battlefield V was the best it’d felt in any Battlefield game. The variety of what was seen in Battlefield V, in conjunction with an expanded version of what Battlefield Portal allows, show that it is very much possible to, with a little creativity, re-create Panzerfahren in the Frostbite Engine and do something that Bandai Namco Entertainment continues to lack the courage to do: Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match has been out since 2018, and to this day, only is available for PlayStation 4. DICE has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that the Frostbite Engine can step in and fill this void by providing players the power to create their own Panzerfahren matches. At present, the fundamentals are all in place – a little bit of elbow grease and creativity could very well allow DICE to do something that Bandai Namco Entertainment refuses to, and a Panzerfahren mode in Battlefield Portal would confer one the ability to experience Girls und Panzer in a novel way. In the meantime, having spent a few matches trivially blowing Tiger Is and Panzer IVs away with the M1A2 in Battlefield Portal, the word that best describes this experience isn’t so much cruel, as it is unnecessary, from my end – as formidable as the Tiger I is, and as revered as certain interpretations of the Nishizumi Style is, there comes a point where reputation alone cannot carry a battle; one must learn to adapt and embrace change as Miho has, or risk being rendered irrelevant by the times.

Boundary: Reflections and Impressions From the SteamFest Alpha Demo

“For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.” –Zhuangzi

While perusing through a copy of PC Gamer back in 2008 at the local supermarket, I came upon an intriguing featured article detailing a game that had been particularly novel. The premise was that a mining accident that rends the lunar surface, sending billions upon billions of tonnes of lunar material into near-Earth space, damaging infrastructure and threatening to destroy the moon itself. Amidst the ruins, the International Space Agency (ISA), who enforce stellar law, and the Moon Mining Cooperative (MMC), a massive corporation who sought to profit from space mining operations, find themselves spiralling towards an inevitable armed conflict as the ISA seek to bring the MMC to justice and control the limited resources to ensure their survival. Players take control of soldiers and fight with full freedom of movement in a zero-gravity environment. Built for the most cutting-edge PC hardware of its time, Shattered Horizon represented a bold new direction for first person shooters, and despite providing six degrees of freedom with respect to its movement, the game proved intuitive, enjoyable and challenging for players. The only real downside was that one needed heftier PC hardware of the time to play the game (a Core 2 Quad Q6600, GTX 260 and 2 GB of RAM); while the game was counted as lacking in a single-player mode and AI bots to train against, overall, Shattered Horizon was praised for its movement system, unique atmosphere and engaging mechanics. A future update did end up adding a campaign and AI bots, but in 2014, Shattered Horizon was stricken from the Steam Store: the game’s developers, Futuremark, was bought out by Rovio Entertainment, and Futuremark announced that their inability to support the game meant it was unfair to players who picked the game up late in its lifecycle, as they would receive no new updates or content. Attempts to bring first person shooters into space had proven quite unsuccessful: 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, and 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare represented bold stabs at elevating interest in zero-gravity firefights, but were met with cold reception. However, in January of last year, Studio Surgical Scalpels announced a ground-breaking new project called Boundary, and in its trailer, heavily-armoured astronauts were shown flying through the depths of space, engaged in a harrowing firefight amidst the super-structure and narrow corridors of a space station while debris filled the space from the flying bullets. The aesthetic conveyed in this trailer immediately brought to mind Shattered Horizon, as though the game had been resurrected and given a makeover to capitalise on graphics and visual effects resulting from over a decade of advancement. Although intriguing, Boundary fell from my mind until last Wednesday, when I caught wind of the fact that Boundary would be participating in SteamFest, a time of celebrating upcoming games.

After installing the client, joining my first match and winning thanks to beginner’s luck, I spent the past several days playing through Boundary‘s alpha demo to gain a feel for things. Out of the gates, the roughest aspect to acclimatise to was getting stuck in the level geometries. There were moments where I would land on a surface, then attempt to peek a corner, only to get stuck there. Only a frenzied alternating between engaging the thrusters and rising would dislodge me from this surface, and on several occasions, this led to my getting killed. Similarly, after I latched down on a solar panel and prepared to snipe a target, inconsistent movement would lead me to unexpectedly stop aiming down sights, and the foe I’d been tracking would disappear from sight by the time I found a position from which to aim down sights again. Both faults in the movement system resulted in my dying to a player who was doubtlessly enjoying my predicament. Besides the janky movement on surfaces, Boundary‘s UI and UX are very rough. The user interface is cluttered. Menus are difficult to navigate, and it is difficult to determine what one can interact with. Button text fails to describe what a button does, and sometimes can be downright misleading: I accidentally joined the wrong game mode on more than one occasion. In game, the HUD is messy, with elements being difficult to read, and a massive alpha banner covers the lower left-hand side of the screen, blocking one from spotting enemies from that side. Similarly, directional indicators cover the entire screen, obscuring the enemies themselves. The user experience is also tricky in places; switching one’s loadout requires numerous button presses and diving into menus to change out weapons or attachments. The font sizes are on the small size, making things difficult to read, and menus are filled with text. In terms of gameplay, enemy visibility is limited, and the game offers very little in the way of identifying where foes are coming from. On more than one instance, I spawned into the map, only to die instantly from a sniper, or found myself shot in the back before I could respond. In close quarters environments, raising a weapon up to aim down sights is sluggish, as is changing out my weapons – trying to combo ordnance usage into using a primary or secondary weapon to finish a foe off is not viable, and running out of ammunition mid-firefight can be a death sentence, since swapping over to my sidearm is slow. However, enemy visibility and postion identification, together with the slow ADS and weapon swap, is very much a part of the tactical shooter experience in that one must take full advantage of the environment for cover, and understand their gear’s limitations to determine when is an appropriate time to change things up. Further to this, because Boundary is in alpha stage, the UX and UI can still be improved: compared to game mechanics, UI and UX elements are often the easiest to change. Similarly, the movement and environment geometries could also be updated to be a little smoother in places. While it looks like I’ve rattled off a long list of problems, it is quite telling that most of my gripes about Boundary are either related to UI/UX, or my own lack of familiarity with the mechanics. Indeed, once I began feeling more comfortable with things, I found myself having fun – towards the end of the demo period, I had a positive KDR and was winning more games than I lost.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There were three playable classes in Boundary‘s demo: Sergeyev is the default assault, featuring high health and decent mobility. Armed with an AKM, Sergeyev is a good all-around class for attack and defense. All classes are equipped with two ordnance options, as well as two special abilities, and by default, players start with high explosive grenades and EMP rounds. The former can quickly make short work of foes at the expense of having a long switch time, while the latter disable enemy movement for a brief period and can make for follow-up shots.

  • When a player is “killed”, their spacesuits have suffered enough damage to become punctured. In this state, an emergency balloon inflates around the player to keep them alive. In this state, players can be revived by allies, although this act leaves them vulnerable to enemy fire, and during the six hours I spent in Boundary, I was never once revived, nor did I feel comfortable reviving a downed friendly player because of the prospect of being fired upon. In the end, it was much easier to just respawn and keep going, although this only worked because I was playing the Domination mode. The other mode that Boundary‘s demo offers is Elimination in a Counterstrike or Rainbow Six: Siege like mode. The lack of respawns make this mode punishing, and I opted to play Domination for the fact that one could get back into things after being killed.

  • Initially, I did have some trouble adjusting to the AKM’s recoil, but once I did, the weapon did become more manageable to use. In discussions, some have wondered how automatic weapons could work in space: while it is possible to fire a gun in space because the ammunition contains its own oxidiser, and a quick look around finds that both recoil and gas-operated mechanisms could work in space. Recoil operated weapons continue to function because the act of firing a bullet would adhere to Newton’s Third Law, and the chemical reaction between the oxidiser and propellant in a bullet would produce the gas needed to cycle a weapon. Special modifications would need to be made in order for the weapons to operate efficiently, but this is not outside the realm of possibility with existing technology.

  • Despite knowing that the “space” environment is merely a very well-rendered skybox, this hasn’t stopped the visuals in Boundary from being gorgeous. All of the maps look stunning, and here, I score a kill with the AKM on a foe while I traverse the solar panel on one of the maps. The sun and a planet are visible below, and more impressively, reflections can be seen in the solar panel mirror. Boundary has support for real-time ray tracing, although an RTX 2060 or better is required to make full use of the graphics, but even on the GTX 1060 6 GB model, Boundary is a beautiful-looking game whose aesthetic is definitely worthy of Shattered Horizon.

  • Alexandra is the second class available in Boundary; by default, she carries an LMG with sixty rounds, and of all the classes, has both the largest health pool and highest armour amount. In exchange, her mobility is greatly reduced. I found the LMG to be a decent weapon for closer range engagements: at medium and long range, one needs to tap-fire to reduce bullet spread. Having the extra armour and health is nice, especially since one can get attacked from all directions. Over time, as I levelled up each of the classes, weapon attachments became available to me, and I found that Boundary allows one to try out new attachments in a firing range that is accessible from the weapon mod menu.

  • This part of Boundary was excellent design: one feature missing from modern first person shooters is the ability to immediately try out their weapons with the latest mods to see how handling and performance has changed. In this area, Boundary has absolutely nailed it, and games like Call of Duty and Battlefield could take a leaf from Boundary‘s book. After experimenting, I found one sight that proved particularly fun to use for the GSW-MG, Alexandra’s starting weapon. Firing from the hip is not too effective with the heavier weapons in Boundary, but in a pinch, one can do well enough in extreme close quarters; the large circle here indicates the region in which bullets fired will land, showing the extent of spread when hip-firing.

  • After unlocking Sergeyev’s second weapon, the Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, my experience in Boundary changed completely, and here, I scored a double kill with it. Throughout my time in Boundary, I would go on to earn several more double kills with the GSW-MG and later, Yao Yi’s submachine guns. However, in a manner reminiscent of my Halo 2 Vista days, capturing the double kill badge proved quite tricky: even with Steam’s screenshot function, badges disappeared before I could reach for the button, so this ended up being the only double kill badge I captured. Because Boundary‘s games are five-versus-five, multi-kills are a bit of a feat, so one could say that double kills are a sign of improving in the game.

  • The combination of unlocking good ranged weapons and attachments, coupled with my becoming more familiar with the mechanics in Boundary, meant I would begin performing better in later matches to the point where I was going KD-positive and contributing to my team’s ability to keep the entire map locked down. On the other hand, during some matches, my team either did not care for playing the objective or otherwise, was simply outperformed.

  • Unlike Shattered HorizonBoundary only has local sounds audible to the player: one’s own movement and gunfire can be heard, but beyond this, other players cannot be heard at all. Shattered Horizon had gotten around this by keeping sounds and stating that complex processing allowed for sounds to be simulated. In tactical shooters, players must depend on audio cues to determine their foe’s position, and since this is absent in Boundary, it does create for gripping moments where one has no idea where the enemies are coming from. I do not think Boundary will add mechanics for helping one determine where enemy players are, since one could also use this stealthiness to their own advantage.

  • Here, I experiment with Alexandra’s GSW-TAR (I’d hazard a guess that this stands for Tactical Assault Rifle), a burst-fire weapon carrying a maximum capacity of twenty-five rounds and one more round in the chamber by default. This weapon proved fun to use, handling like Halo 2‘s battle rifle, and although I didn’t get around to unlocking it, there is a forty-round extended magazine available if one ranks Alexandra up far enough, which would turn the GSW-TAR into a battle rifle more closely resembling Halo 2‘s.

  • Domination matches are short and intense, lasting a total of ten minutes; at the halfway point, the opposing teams switch spawns so the match is a little more fair. Maps aren’t symmetrical, and the developers do this so any advantages one gains in one half the map are offset by playing on the less favourable side, bringing to mind how in ice hockey and beach volleyball both have teams switching sides to offset any advantages the weather might confer. However, during lulls in the combat, one can really appreciate how well-designed the maps are, as well as admire the scenery: it strikes me as curious that the planets appear to be different on some of the maps, and here, on one of the larger space stations, it would appear as though I were orbiting a desolate, uninhabited planet.

  • Alexandra’s GSW-AMR (Anti-Materiel Rifle) is the most powerful weapon in Boundary‘s demo; per its name, it does the most damage per shot and is limited to a three round capacity. While immensely powerful on a per-shot basis, the weapon is hampered by the fact that it obscures half the screen when equipped, and together with a low rate of fire in addition to its small magazine capacity, the GSW-AMR is actually less effectual than Sergeyev’s Mosin-Nagant, which has a larger capacity, slightly faster firing rate and the fact it doesn’t obstruct half the screen.

  • The Boundary demo ends tomorrow at 1000 PST, but I’ve decided to call it in early: while I’ve had no shortage of fun with this demo, real-world circumstances meant that I have increasingly less time to game. Yesterday, I spent the day clearing out bookshelves and wall units to get everything packed up ahead of the move, and ended up picking up dinner from our favourite Cantonese restaurant (seafood fried rice, sweet and sour pork, Chinese broccoli and seafood, deep fried oysters and mushrooms, Buddha’s Delight, and a chicken and seafood medley cooked in a clay pot): nothing beats a hearty meal after a day’s work. It was surprising as to how quickly an afternoon disappeared.

  • Today, my morning was directed towards assembling the new ergonomic task chair I’d picked up last weekend. A proper task chair is leagues ahead of a “good gaming chair” in terms of comfort, and the chair I ended up going with offers fully adjustable seat height, armrests, and a mesh back rest that fits the contours of my back (the back rest itself is fully adjustable). Altogether, the task chair runs rings around a gaming chair in terms of comfort, practicality and aesthetics; I’d much rather have an inconspicuous and functional chair for my home office space, versus something whose ability to elevate my gaming and development prowess is little more than an urban legend originating from the internet’s less scrupulous corners.

  • The third and final operator, Yao Yi, unlocked on Friday – she’s the fastest moving class in Boundary, sporting the highest mobility at the expense of health and armour. By default, Yao Yi is equipped with the GSW-SMG, a solid close quarters submachine gun with high RPM and solid hip-fire performance. I ended up getting a double kill in close quarters whilst clearing it of foes. Excelling in close quarters scenarios, Yao Yi proved to be extremely fun to use, although with her, it’s advisable to stay near or inside structures, since her weapons are all about short-range engagement.

  • Yao Yi also comes with a shotgun, but I never found this quite as effective as the GSW-SMG: during the first match I played with Yao Yi, I was absolutely shredding with the GSW-SMG despite having no attachments unlocked for my weapons. Traditionally, I’ve preferred close quarters environments as a result of being ineffective with snipers; in my Halo 2 days, I always found the most success by getting up close and personal with foes, whether it be using the battle rifle and melee to stop my enemies, or picking up the power weapons optimised for close-range combat. Battlefield led me to become more comfortable with sniping, and nowadays, I freely switch between long and short ranges depending on what the situation calls for.

  • One mechanic I found to increase the tactical piece in Boundary was the fact that one could patch up their spacesuit if they’d survived a firefight narrowly: the process takes a set amount of time (Yao Yi’s light armour means she can repair sooner, while Sergeyev and Alexandra both take a longer since their armour is heavier), and during repairs, one cannot use their weapons, so players are forced to make a split-second decision on whether or not they want to repair before entering their next firefight. Because of the lack of motion trackers and other means of determining the positions of hostiles, the few seconds it takes to repair can be quite suspenseful.

  • As I became increasingly familiar with Boundary‘s mechanics, sniping became increasingly enjoyable. I found that it was best to hang back from the combat if one were using a slower-firing weapon and pick foes off from a distance (resulting in a Long Shot badge here); if one continues staring down a foe, they become automatically spotted for a while, and their position is revealed to the opposing team. To let players know of this, a test indicator warns players if they’re spotted, giving them a chance to get to cover and wait things out.

  • I believe that overall, there were four maps available to players during Boundary‘s demo: a solar power station, a large space station with a pair of shuttles docked, a partially-assembled space hotel and a linear facility resembling the International Space Station. Each of these maps have a unique aesthetic and are fun to explore, but unfortunately, Boundary‘s demo did not indicate to players which map they were joining after successfully match-making to a server. Knowing the map can impact one’s choice of loadout, and in all shooters I’ve played previously, the loading screen makes it clear which map a user is joining.

  • For instance, on the International Space Station-like map, I prefer equipping the Mosin-Nagant because there are long sightlines, and very few obstructions, making the weapon highly effective; after unlocking the 8x optics for the Mosin-Nagant, I was able to pick enemies off from across the map. While the Mosin-Nagant is slower-firing, using the high explosives ordnance or sidearm, modified to fire on full automatic, allowed me to hold my own in situations where enemies had managed to close the distance on me, and here, I landed a satisfying headshot on an enemy while the planet’s curvature is visible above.

  • Boundary features a full-featured customisation system for both weapon attachments and cosmetics: using an operator unlocks more weapons, attachment and customisation options, while match performance also yields credits that can be used towards player customisation. For most of my run, I ran the default appearances for most everything: all of the guns in Boundary start out with an astronaut-white finish, matching the spacesuit that I had. However, the accumulated points would allow me to pick up different spacesuit textures, accessories for my helmet and even a shoulder badge. These have no impact on gameplay, but admittedly, the weapon skins and accessories do look quite nice.

  • Studio Surgical Scalpels, the developers behind Boundary, is a Chinese company located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou Province. They were originally founded in 2015 by four experienced game developers and have since expanded to ten employees. The Chinese origins of Boundary are apparent in some of the assets and artwork used in the game: patches with Simplified Chinese characters are common, and I actually found myself running into a host of players with handles consisting of all Simplified Chinese characters, including an unfortunate player here that I ended up shooting in the face.

  • Seeing Chinese players, and the occasional Japanese player, led me to wonder what things are like on the other side of the world; I’ve previously read that in China, internet cafés are popular amongst the technologically-inclined crowd, who enjoy them for providing reliable high speed internet and act as hubs for socialising with other users. South Korea and Japan also has a strong internet café culture: in South Korea, gamers are fond of hanging out here, while in Japan, internet cafés offer patrons services like dining and showers. The range of services offered by Japanese internet cafés has created a social phenomenon called “net café refugees”, homeless individuals who have no permanent address and find accommodations in internet cafés owing to their low rates.

  • This phenomenon is touched upon in Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You: after Hodaka arrived in Tokyo, he resided at internet cafés until his funds ran dry, and luck sent him on a path towards Keisuke Suga and Hina Amano. In North America, internet cafés fell out of popularity in the late 90s as homes became wired with increasingly capable connections. Here, in a moment of pure luck, I shoot the lights out to a fellow who had been picking off teammates on server I was on: shinobaeTV is a Twitch streamer who specialises in FPS and primarily plays Escape From Tarkov.

  • While I’ve occasionally run into some streamers during my online escapades, I’ve never actually encountered my favourite Battlefield YouTubers before. There is little doubt that folks who make their living making videos about first person shooters would be uncommonly skilled with them; by comparison, I can be said to “dabble” in video games, playing for my own enjoyment above all else. Admittedly, I was wondering if I should participate in Boundary‘s demo at all because over the past few years, my inclination to play multiplayer games have dropped considerably, and from disuse, my skills have evaporated.

  • Playing through Boundary‘s demo, however, I quickly learnt that while my reflexes are certainly not what they were, patience became my greatest asset. I did the best in matches where I anticipated my opponents’ movements and positioning, and then reacted accordingly with the tools available to me. While my speed and aim are no longer enough to out-perform someone younger, I can capitalise on things like flanking and map knowledge to nonetheless hold my own. Indeed, it was in this way that towards the end of my time in the demo, I was able to consistently go KDR positive.

  • One thing that might need to be dialed back for the final release is the fact that the ordnance players have access to are exceedingly powerful: a volley of high explosive grenades can wipe even Alexandra out, and here, I got hit with an EMP barrage. EMP rounds disable one’s thrusters, leaving them to float helplessly in space, but in spite of this, I managed to turn Yao Yi’s GSW-PCC, a weapon resembling the P90, against this foe, surprising them: just because one is drifting doesn’t mean they’re defenseless, and determined players can still survive even when their ability to move around is significantly degraded.

  • One thing I did notice (and found hilarious) was the number of kill-trades I had in Boundary: a “trade” occurs when both players act in a way as to defeat one another simultaneously. In one particularly unusual match, I ended up with a KDR of exactly 1:1 because every death I incurred, I traded with my opponent. In games, trades are usually considered to be a sign of weak netcode or bad design; Battlefield 4 had been notorious for kill-trades back in the day, although numerous patches and updates to the backend rectified the issue. Here, I narrowly managed to avoid a trade on virtue of having heavier armour while playing as Alexandra.

  • Having now roughly put in about six hours into Boundary, the lingering question is whether or not this game will join my (considerable) library of other titles. While I did have a handful of frustrating moments initially while learning the mechanics and map layout, once I became more familiar with the game, I was having quite a bit of fun. There is no denying that Studio Surgical Scalpels have done a phenomenal job of bringing 2009’s Shattered Horizon to life in Boundary, and this has certainly been a worthwhile game to experience. My verdict at present is that this game is something I’d like to see a little more to before I make a concrete decision: Boundary has all of the right things in place, and for now, having a bit more information will help me out with said decision.

  • Altogether, I am glad to have taken the time to try out Boundary, which allowed me to experience a space tactical shooter (something I’ve been longing to do since reading about Shattered Horizon years earlier); the idea of a proper space shooter is one that still remains relatively unexplored, and it is fantastic to be able to play a game that is very much grounded in reality. With this post in the books, we exit the last weekend of Februrary, and here, I will close off with two remarks. First, I will note that I’ve got one more post lined up before the month is over, for the #AniTwitWatches Girls und Panzer revisit, and second, Boundary came up a bit unexpectedly. With the SteamFest demo over, I will be returning my efforts into Project Wingman as I aim to move towards the game’s halfway point.

Overall, Boundary‘s greatest strength is in its aesthetics. Everything about Boundary conveys the feeling of an authentic tactical space shooter; the astronauts themselves wear bulky, heavily-armoured spacesuits and make use of a large, highly-evolved version of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) that NASA utilised in 1984. The spacesuits provide the astronauts with access to a pair of ordnance launchers and other equipment, as well as additional functions that specialise each astronaut type in its role. The environments are similarly detailed, feeling as though they are the types of facilities that are extensions of what current space programmes can already construct. Interiors of space stations feel like slightly more sophisticated versions of the International Space Station or Tiangong, while exteriors make use of the same scaffolding and solar panels as seen in reality. The slow, methodical movement systems gives players a sense of mass despite the apparent weightlessness, and the weapons themselves feel realistic; they resemble modern firearms modified to work in space. The movement system and six degrees of freedom, coupled with the chaotic space station environments and lack of motion trackers, mean that players must constantly keep their heads on a swivel – foes can come from any direction, and similarly, one can utilise full freedom of motion to ambush unsuspecting players. The weapons themselves feel modestly powerful, and the in-game explanation for how spacesuits survive damage from firearms is grounded in reality: the spacesuits themselves are vulnerable to fire, but players wear varying amounts of armour that absorb and deflect bullets. Careful aim is needed to hit weak points (for instance, a single shot to the helmet will take a player out of the fight), and hitting the MMU or armour plates deal reduced damage. The mechanics also forces players to be strategic in how they approach firefights; if one comes out of a firefight alive, they must also find a safe place to patch up their spacesuit, during which they will be vulnerable to enemy action. In the time I’ve spent with Boundary, it is clear that the tactical aspect of this tactical shooter is well-thought out, and the core gameplay elements are solid. Further to this, despite looking amazing, Boundary does run well on even older systems. Altogether, Boundary has succeeded in bringing Shattered Horizon into the 2020s – the game looks great, handles reasonably well and only has a few areas where it needs improvement. Beyond this, Studio Surgical Scalpels have done an incredible job with Boundary, and while I’m still on the fence about whether or not this game will enter my library once it is launched on account of my erratic schedule, the game has proven to be very promising and has what it takes to set itself apart from the giants of the industry.

Battlefield 2042: Revisiting Old Memories Through Battlefield Portal and Considering Future Additions

“True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.” –Florence King

Back when I was a graduate student, I spent many Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons in Noshahr Canals’ container area to get a feel for the fancy new toys I’d unlocked before heading on over to conquest or rush to partake in all-out warfare on iconic maps like Caspian Border, Operation Metro, Seine Crossing, Operation Firestorm and Damavand Peak. Battlefield 3 was my first entry into the franchise, and it represented the complete package, with a polished and varied multiplayer component, as well as a compelling campaign full of set-piece moments. Being able to return to a completely refreshed Noshahr Canals and Caspian Border some eight years later, with a contemporary movement system and updated weapon mechanics, is a bit of a mixed bag. Movement feels a little floatier and more limited in the earlier games – things are plainly more responsive now, and the option to vault over taller cover like fences is a world apart from the old days of using a knife to break through chain-link fences. Weapons feel more incisive and reliable than their older counterparts; every shot fired sounds powerful, and every shot landed provides a more visceral feedback. However, the improvements in core mechanics, and the fact that Battlefield Portal provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience a blast from the past, is tempered by one sobering reality – Battlefield 2042 has not been performing well as a game. While I am having fun reliving old memories on private servers, subtle hints remind me of the fact that I’m in Battlefield 2042, as opposed to Battlefield 3 or Bad Company 2; there’s no ribbons, and after a certain point, player actions no longer net experience. Battlefield 2042‘s main attraction in all-out warfare has proven to be a disappointment, with the 128-player servers still managing to feel empty. Large, hollow maps are not conducive towards the intense infantry gameplay that earlier Battlefield games provided, and this is assuming one can run the game at all. On older systems such as my own, player models and weapon models fail to render, and this is for those rare occasions where I can get into a match through match-making. The technical faults in Battlefield 2042 has led me to stick with the Portal experience, and it is saying something when playing private matches against AI bots on smaller-scale maps has proven to be more enjoyable than the central all-out warfare modes. On private maps, I am pitted against surprisingly life-like players: although the AI bots are nowhere nearly as strategic or varied as human players, they offer a chance to really enjoy a renewed presentation of the Battlefield franchise’ most iconic moments.

However, even Battlefield Portal has suffered as a consequence of challenges Battlefield 2042 is currently facing; dwindling player counts as a result of ongoing performance issues, missing features and the general sense that Battlefield 2042 lacks the gritty, large-scale warfare aesthetic that defined previous Battlefield titles. Because these issues have demanded virtually all of DICE’s attention, Battlefield Portal remains a very bare-bones experience for players. At the time of writing, only six classic maps have been brought into Battlefield Portal, and similarly, the weapon variety is non-existent. Classes only have access to a handful of weapons, and vehicle selection is similarly limited. Altogether, Battlefield Portal only offers a glimpse as to what appears possible, and this means that excitement in the mode has been limited. Coupled with the fact that Battlefield 2042‘s main attraction has not delivered an engaging experience, Battlefield 2042 is in dire straits. However, unlike all-out warfare, Battlefield Portal does have one significant advantage: its shortcoming at present is merely a lack of content and customisation options. Were DICE to double the current map count by adding more iconic Battlefield 3, Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1942 locations, the outlook would already improve. Being able to fight through Operation Metro and Damavand Peak would bring players one step closer to being able to re-live classic Battlefield 3 experiences, while bringing back Laguna Presa, Port Valdez, Omaha and Wake Island would liven up the Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1942 side of things. Similarly, weapon variety had been what made earlier Battlefield games fun. Being able to run with more weapons across the different eras would be a game changer. Finally, customisation options still need to be expanded further: while it is unreasonable to ask for a map editor or create moving objectives (à la Halo‘s “Crazy King” mode), the existing logic editor has not proven to be user-friendly. It is difficult to do something like limiting players to one life, designating players as high-value targets, or creating vehicle-only experiences; even after DICE implemented Vehicle TDM as a template, experimentation has found that this is “TDM with vehicles” rather than “vehicle-only TDM”. For the present, however, Battlefield Portal‘s biggest shortcoming is content; I would find that receiving new maps and weapons would be the first, most essential and also the simplest action to take, giving players more to do in Battlefield Portal while additional features and options are implemented for players to ultimately create their own, engaging, custom experiences.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I played a proper match on Caspian Border was some six years ago: at the height of my Battlefield 3 experience, I was playing quite regularly on Friday nights and weekends. Back in those days, Caspian Border was known for its radio mast, which could collapse during a match and change things up for players. It was on Christmas Day that I cut my teeth with Battlefield 3, scoring my first-ever kill on Caspian Border with a knife; this started a two-year journey into Battlefield 3 for me, and so, to be able to return now and play a remastered Caspian Border was most enjoyable.

  • For my revisit of classic Battlefield maps through Battlefield Portal, I am playing entirely on AI bot-only servers; it took me a little while to get things set up to create a classic experience, and for my part, I enjoy the cathartic feeling – the combination of aging hardware and shifting obligations means I do not have the time to expend towards familiarising myself with game mechanics as I once did, and that means even a moderately competent player will wipe floor with me nowadays. In my university days, my only responsibilities were to keep up with coursework, and I had become exceedingly efficient with that, affording me time to get into things and become sufficiently skilled to keep up with other players.

  • This is why Battlefield Portal has, in spite of its limitations, remained quite fun for me; I don’t play all that often, but when I do, I get to play at my own pace, in the manner of my choosing, without worrying about being sent to the spawn screen every quarter-minute. AI bots still provide a sufficiently life-like experience such that I can hop onto a private match and re-live the same Caspian Border I enjoyed back during the Giant Walkthrough Brain days some seven years earlier but lack the same aggression and hostility of human players. Here, I play the engineer class: the Battlefield 3 classes differ considerably from what I’ve grown accustomed to; back then, medics had access to the ubiquitous assault rifle, and engineers fulfilled the role of both vehicle support and anti-vehicle roles, being armed with carbines, which were better suited for closer ranges than assault rifles.

  • Of all the Battlefield Portal maps, Battle of The Bulge and El Alamein received the most significant updates, and in a map of classic conquest, I ended up being reminded of Battlefield V‘s aesthetics. DICE had just turned Battlefield V around with the Pacific War update, providing players with some of the most iconic World War Two settings since Battlefield 1942 had with Normandy and Battle of the Bulge. However, it was too little, too late; support was dropped shortly after, and some of the things I would’ve liked to see, including a B-29 reinforcement, the Eastern Front and the invasion of Europe, never materialised.

  • Seeing all of the World War Two assets in Battlefield Portal has led me to wonder just how difficult it would be to re-use assets from Battlefield V; here, I wield the MP-40 whilst clearing out the capture point at the windmill near my spawn, and to open things up, I had spawned in with the iconic StG 44. Wandering around the map, the windmill feels like those seen in Battlefield 1‘s St. Quentin Scar, and moving into town, the church was quite plainly the church seen in Battlefield V‘s Arras. At first glance, if recycling assets like the structures is possible, in theory, it feels like it should be possible to at least bring back some of Battlefield V‘s best maps, like Iwo Jima, without too much difficulty.

  • While the lack of content is disconcerting, what already exists in Battlefield Portal is very promising: maps have been lovingly brought up to modern standards and definitely feels like a proper battlefield. Compared to its 1942 iteration, there’s significantly more detail, and destruction has been implemented. Running default settings, I was able to fight alongside tanks and soldiers equipped with anti-tank weapons, creating the sense of a true large-scale conflict. The content that already exists in Battlefield Portal is polished and engaging, and for the duration of my experiences, I did not once feel as though I were alone on the server, even though I’d set things up so that only I could join my private matches.

  • The reason why I’m so fond of AI bots are because they provide a chance for me to take things in without worrying about letting my team down, or open myself to being picked off by another player with, as they say in contemporary-speak, a particularly “good gaming chair”. Cheating had been a particularly big problem in Battlefield V, ranging from people who weren’t even making an effort to hide things, to those who modified their weapons to have less recoil, bottomless magazines and the like. On a private Battlefield Portal server, this sort of behaviour is a non-concern, and I’ve been having a thoroughly fun time of being able to really appreciate the sort of detail that goes into the maps.

  • I’ve not really explored El Alamein in great detail as of yet; desert maps aren’t my preferred setting in general, and during my run at El Alamein, after I captured all three objectives on my own, the AI bots on the opposing team struggled to deal any appreciable damage, causing the match to end quite quickly. Unlike Battlefield VBattlefield 1942‘s class system separates out engineers and anti-vehicle roles entirely, and as such, classes are even more specialised than they are in the Battlefield games I know; the change in style took some getting used to, and it becomes clear that the 1942 classes are rather weaker than their counterparts in more modern titles.

  • Besides Battlefield 3 and 1942Battlefield Portal also brings back two maps from Bad Company 2Bad Company 2 was my first Battlefield game; in 2010, a friend invited me over to try the campaign out. At the time, my desktop was incapable of running the game, and it wasn’t until three years later, when I built a new PC, that I had the chance to fully experience the game for myself. Of the Battlefield games, Bad Company 2 had the best campaign, featuring hilarious characters and a story that was both engaging and outlandish. Battlefield 3‘s campaign, on the other hand, is a close second because of how well it nailed the set-piece moments.

  • I’d long hoped that DICE would make a Bad Company 3: well-known Battlefield YouTubers argued that Bad Company 3 would be difficult to develop because it was difficult to pin down what had made Bad Company 2 so successful: I would tend to believe that the game’s balance, destruction and level design made the multiplayer a winner, while in the campaign, the characters and their humour made all the difference. Here, I use the engineer’s XM8 Compact to score a kill; the most iconic weapon of Bad Company 2, the XM8 Prototype, makes an appearance, and this allows me to run my favourite campaign loadout in the multiplayer as the support class.

  • In the multiplayer, however, the presence of vehicles does mean that, per the habits I’ve picked up over the past half-decade of playing Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V, I am now very fond of the engineer class owing to their ability to wield anti-armour weapons. Here, I managed to land an exceptionally lucky RPG shot on a helicopter, netting me a killtactular. In Battlefield 3 and 4, I tended to do best with the medic class owing to the fact they had access to the highly versatile assault rifles, but once Battlefield 1 and V switched things up, I continued to to excel with the assault classes for their highly effective primary weapons and the capability to engage vehicles, too.

  • Medics have seen considerable changes over the years; in Bad Company 2, they use light machine guns, while Battlefield 3 and have them use assault rifles. In Battlefield 1, medics use semi-automatic rifles, while Battlefield V gave them submachine guns. Constantly changing the medic’s ranges has made the class a difficult one to play for initially, but once I got used to them, medics became consistently fun to play. Similarly, while Bad Company 2‘s support players get assault rifles, Battlefield 3 and later consistently give support players light machine guns. They are a consistent and reliable class, great for accruing XP thanks to their ability to constantly resupply allies.

  • The recon/scout classes, on the other hand, remain largely unchanged: all recon/scout players have access to long-range bolt-action rifles and equipment to help them spot enemy players. Here on Valparaiso, I spent much of my match sniping with the M24 and GOL Sniper Magnum. When I first picked up Battlefield, I was a terrible sniper, but things began changing after I attempted the Sinon loadout during my Battlefield 3 days. Since then, I’ve taken warmly to bolt action rifles and can perform with them where needed: in Battlefield 1 and V, I was quite comfortable with the class and found it immensely satisfying to land headshots on distant foes.

  • Valparaiso brings back many memories of my open studies year; after beating the campaign, I turned my attention towards playing Bad Company 2‘s multiplayer, and as memory serves, I was never good with it owing to how weapon mechanics worked, but in spite of this, I had fun anyways. I still remember playing a variety of game modes with a variety of classes, and spent time on a wide range of maps. The lighthouse in Valparaiso brings to mind the lighthouse from the campaign mission, Sangre del Toro, and I think I played my first ever multiplayer match here, where I threw motion trackers everywhere to level up.

  • If memory serves, I became interested in unlocking the MG36, which is why I spent several months going through the multiplayer. I never did make it to my objective, but the journey remained quite enjoyable nonetheless. Here, I rock the M60 light machine gun during one particularly fun match of conquest; I originally had intended to play Rush using the Bad Company 2 maps, but an unusual bug manifested. Whenever I would load up a map, the HUD and other interactive elements refused to load. I ended up changing things back to conquest so I could get gameplay for this post. Battlefield Portal is fun when it works, but there are definitely limitations that need to be addressed.

  • For my part, I’ve found Battlefield Portal to work more often than it fails, and what’s more, the introduction of modern features like the plus system and movement mechanics has been quite seamless. Being able to switch weapon attachments on the fly has proven to be quite fun, and while 1942 doesn’t offer this because weapons were limited, the other Battefield games do show how having the additional versatility can be fun; here, I’ve decided to put on an ACOG sight for the M60, which, in conjunction with a tap-firing, allows the weapon to reach out to ranges that appear beyond what light machine guns were initially designed to reliably hit.

  • Back in the Bad Company 2 days, the GOL Sniper Magnum was probably the most favoured bolt-action rifle for being reliable and accurate; it has a slightly improved accuracy compared to the starting M24 and coupled with the fact it consistently lands headshots, it is preferred over the other bolt-action rifles in the game. Having said this, these are the only two bolt-action rifles available in Battlefield Portal right now, whereas in Bad Company 2, the campaign also featured the semi-automatic Type 88 marksman rifle and the M95 .50 calibre rifle. Both weapons are missing from Battlefield Portal, and admittedly, I’d love to see both weapons make a return.

  • Because every bullet from a sniper rifle in Bad Company 2‘s campaign is a one-hit kill, the Type 88 is the preferred long range weapon for the story. Its semi-automatic capability does mean it’s suited for making follow-up shots in the multiplayer, and I’ve always been fond of its reload animation and distinct scope. My friend actually introduced me to Bad Company 2 through the mission “Upriver”, which opens with Marlowe taking a Type 88 and using it to provide covering fire for Redford and Sweetwater. Prior to playing Bad Company 2, said friend had sat me through Marble Hornets to show me what horror could be like on a minimal budget, and since then, I’ve long called the Type 88 the “Slenderman Rifle” as a result.

  • Of course, being an otherworldly entity, it is agreed that conventional firearms wouldn’t do any damage to the Slenderman; some variants of the mythos has Slenderman appearing in warzones and terrorising armed soldiers, even killing them in some instances, despite their access to highly powerful weapons. As such, logic dictates that no, the Type 88 isn’t the dedicated Slenderman-stopping tool that I’d thought it to be. However, this hasn’t stopped it from being my go-to weapon of choice in the campaign, and owing to the fond memories I have of using this weapon, I’d love to see it return in Battlefield Portal.

  • While the M95 is counted as being a less effective weapon despite its damage characteristics and longer damage drop-off as a result of its slower rate of fire, I still find it to be an iconic part of Bad Company 2. The weapon has one of the most satisfying firing sounds of any weapon I’ve seen in any game: only the AK-47 from Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War and Halo 2‘s Battle Rifle come close to capturing the sheer power behind every shot, and as a result, I’d love to be able to fire this gun again in Battlefield Portal. With this being said, many of the things on my wish-list are probably a pipe dream for the time being: Battlefield 2042 has performed very poorly, and given how Battlefield V was treated, it is not out of the realm of possibility that EA may simply pull the plug on the game, rather than allow DICE to continue to support it and improve things.

  • This would be a disappointment if it came to pass: previously, DICE had turned Battlefield 4 and around entirely to the point where they became smooth, enjoyable experiences. While and had a stronger base, Battlefield 2042 does possess the makings of a great game, and adjustments would go a long way in improving things. Locking weapon categories and gadgets to certain specialist types would bring back class play, while adding more cover on maps and providing essential features like a server browser would allow players to focus on infantry-oriented combat. Once these fundamentals are available, DICE can then focus on adding maps, weapons and vehicles to both the base game and Battlefield Portal. Here, I wield the PP-2000, a very entertaining submachine gun I’d come to use extensively with Battlefield 3‘s recon class.

  • Here, I’ve switched back over to Caspian Border to play around with the recon weapons: the M39 EMR is a reliable and entertaining semi-automatic marksman rifle, handling similarly to the DM7 in Battlefield 2042. Here, I clear capture point echo of foes, and it suddenly hits me that Battlefield Portal is able to reconcile the aesthetic differences between Battlefield games – each of Battlefield 3Bad Company 2 and 1942 come from a different era, hence their sporting different design elements, but in Battlefield Portal, use of colours and environment details means the maps all feel like they could come from one game. This is no mean feat, one which emphasises that Battlefield Portal is a unified experience.

  • In my Battlefield 3 days, I recall that, since I was having trouble with bolt action rifles, I ended up levelling up the recon class using PDWs. This proved to be an immensely effective means of earning the experience needed to unlock the M95B, the only rifle chambered for the powerful .338 Lapua Magnum rounds. This weapon proved remarkably fun to use for its stopping power, and once I improved with sniping, I ended up branching out and trying the other bolt-action rifles out. This in turn opened my mind to recon, although it wasn’t until Battlefield 1 where I really began enjoying the bolt-action rifles (in Battlefield 3 and 4, I ended up running straight-pull bolts on my rifles so I didn’t need to look away from the sight in order to chamber a fresh round).

  • Battlefield 2042 appears to do away with this mechanism altogether, allowing one to keep looking down sights while they chamber a new round, and one mechanic I don’t particularly like is the fact that one can keep looking down sights while reloading. Out of habit, I continue to look away after firing a shot whilst chambering a new bullet. I’ve swapped over to the M240B here and equipped it with the 3.4x M145 scope, which is a variant of the Canadian C79 optic. Its bulkiness makes it a little tricky to use, but the reticule is minimal, allowing it to give good clarity on targets at medium ranges.

  • While weapon variety is limited in Battlefield Portal, looking back, there were only a handful of weapons I favoured back in my Battlefield 3 days, and so, the limited selection here might be psychological more than anything. However, I would very much like to have a much wider map variety in Battlefield Portal; adding two more maps to each era would be a massive step up, and if throughout Battlefield 2042‘s lifespan, a total of six to eight maps were added to each era, Battlefield Portal would become the definitive experience for players, allowing folks to re-live classic experiences in a refreshed and renewed manner.

  • The biggest Battlefield 3 maps I’d love to see return first would be Operation Metro and Damavand Peak. Grand Bazaar and Seine Crossing are also fantastic maps, as well. For Bad Company 2, Laguna Presa and Port Valdez are my top picks for variety’s sake (Heavy Metal and Isla Inocentes come in at a close second), while with 1942, Normandy and Iwo Jima would be fantastic additions. Because Battlefield Portal is developed by a second team, additional maps shouldn’t heavily impact the delivery of Battlefield 2042 content. As it stands now, with the Battlefield 2042 team in rough conditions after the game failed to meet sales expectations, all new materials have been pushed back to the summer of this year.

  • Originally, Battlefield 2042 was set to receive its first content update in March, but with this now being pushed back, one hopes that an additional three months will allow DICE to patch things up and ensure that Battlefield 2042 is functional; I’ve been playing on solo mode because connecting to 128-player all-out warfare servers is near impossible; the game typically times out, and when I do connect, I suffer from both lag and assets that refuse to render. Not being able to see my own weapons, teammates and enemies makes for a very difficult experience. This was not the case back during the open beta in October of last year, even on a machine as old as mine, so getting this issue sorted out should be a high priority for the team.

  • Beyond this, the next steps should be to address the lack of quality-of-life features like a server browser, scoreboard, the ability to change teams in-game and server rotations for Battlefield 2042 TDM. With over three months remaining, one hopes that the DICE team can turn this around; a stable Battlefield 2042 capable of running smoothly on older or weaker hardware with essential features acts as the first steps for righting things. Subsequently, specialists can be updated: while it would be nice to dispense with specialists entirely, that they’re so baked into the game suggests this isn’t happening. In place of this, my earlier suggestion of limiting weapon types and gadgets to specialists would bring back the class system somewhat.

  • The final step to get Battlefield 2042 back on its feet is to update the maps so they feel more cluttered and ruined, remove the corny dialogue from specialists and give specialists cosmetic changes that make them more gritty. These changes would improve the aesthetics of Battlefield 2042 to fit with the story that writers had tried to portray through earlier trailers. I realise that I’ve listed off a fairly length number of items about Battlefield 2042 that require improvement, some of which require considerable work, but I will clarify that despite this, I’m still having fun in the game in my own way. Folks who play for hundreds of hours will have already burned through all of the content, but I’m playing at my own pace, and doing things in moderation prevents things from ever becoming monotonous. At the time of writing, I am level 55 and are closing in on the last of the weapon unlocks, the NTW-50; once this is done, I will likely give Battlefield 2042 a quick break so I can focus on making progress in Project Wingman.

  • While weapon variety in Battlefield 2042 is similarly limited right now, the plus system actually does allow for weapons to be modified extensively to the point where they handle like different weapons (for instance, the SFAR-M GL can be outfit with a drum magazine, turning it into an LMG like the MG36, and the M5A3 goes from being a good close-quarters rifle to a makeshift marksman rifle with a long barrel, high power rounds and M11 6x optic). The customisation available through the plus system is actually quite impressive, but oft-overlooked, and as I’ve now got most weapons up to Mastery 7 or later, it is the case that weapons in Battlefield 2042 is actually quite deep, comparable to Battlefield 3. As such, before the summer, which is when DICE’s new content is suggested to arrive, I will return and do private Battlefield Portal matches on the full-scale maps with all of the weapons I’ve unlocked. Until then, I’ve got one more Battlefield Portal related post in mind; being able to pit modern Battlefield 3 soldiers against 1942 Wehrmacht soldiers has given me the opportunity to wrap up a topic I’ve had in the back of my mind for quite some time.

From what I have been able to create and play in Battlefield Portal insofar, however, the experience has been a little more positive – being able to play conquest and TDM on my favourite maps from an older time brings back numerous memories of when I’d been in university. I had first tried Bad Company 2‘s campaign at a friend’s place as my first summer came to a close, and I would later pick up Bad Company 2 on sale as my final undergraduate year came to a close. The multiplayer had proven fun, and I’d spent more hours on both African Harbour and Valparaiso than I’d care to count. By the time I was admitted to graduate school, I had picked up Battlefield 3 and found the game that would fill the void that Halo 2 Vista had left behind: countless hours were spent on Noshahr Canals, Operation Metro, Seine Crossing and Operation Firestorm, and I ended up having such a good time in Battlefield 3 that I had no qualms about upgrading to Battlefield 3 Premium. Being able to walk the old maps again was a trip down memory lane, and the fact that Battlefield Portal has faithfully recreated the most iconic classic experiences left me with optimism: at present, what Battlefield Portal needs most is new content, because the basics (i.e. movement and weapons) are in a fair state. It would not be fair to expect every map or weapon be brought over, but slowly bringing some of the more iconic maps and weapons into Battlefield Portal would represent a major step forwards for the mode – granted, I imagine that over half of the ninety or so hours I spent playing Battlefield 3 was with the HK416 on Noshahr Canals’ TDM, so I’m not one to talk, but one can still dream about what Battlefield Portal could be. When I first heard of Battlefield Portal, I had hoped that there would be enough options such that I could reasonably reproduce both the elimination and flag tank modes of Girls und Panzer against German, British, American and Soviet tanks of World War Two: besides recreating classic Girls und Panzer experiences, I would have also liked to have created a mode where I could simulate a hypothetical match between myself, in a modern M1A2 tank, against twenty World War Two-era tanks to stand in for the infamous World of Tanks clan Mädchen und Panzer. While this is presently not possible, the next closest thing is running a Battlefield 3 team against a World War Two German team in a match of conquest with modified rules to mimic the fact that contemporary armour-piercing rounds can one-shot even the mighty Tiger I. I’ve not attempted such a setup yet, but the fact that Battlefield Portal does support this allows me to come one step closer to modelling the outcome of something I’d wished to try for the past nine years.

Halo Infinite: A Valentine’s Day Reflection on Overcoming Heartbreak and Defeating The Harbinger At The Finale

“I thought that I could do this on my own, but I forgot that the whole point of all this, the entire reason that I chose you in the first place, as that we were supposed to be a team. Perfectly suited. Perfectly matched. Perfectly… perfect. In these final moments, I know what my last mission is. I need to make sure you two learn from my mistakes. Become stronger because of them. I chose well, Master Chief. I really did. Now it’s up to you.” –Cortana

Upon exiting the portal the Weapon created, Master Chief and the Weapon end up at a location called the Repository, a Forerunner installation filled with fragments of Cortana. The Weapon begins to worry that she has the same weaknesses as Cortana and asks to be deleted, but Master Chief refuses, indicating there’s still a job to do and that he wants to be able to trust her. After fighting their way out of the Repository and returning to Zeta Halo’s surface, Master Chief boards a Scorpion tank and blasts his way to Escharum’s House of Reckoning, where Esparza is being held. Upon entering the House of Reckoning, Escharum deploys his troops to test the Master Chief’s mettle, and expresses that he is impressed after Master Chief survives each trial. Eventually, Master Chief reaches Jega ‘Rdomnai and fights him in a close-quarters battle, eventually killing him and reaching Esparza. Escharum finally appears to confront the Master Chief, demanding that he be given a memorable fight. While Escharum is a tough foe, Master Chief beats him, and in his dying moments, Escharum implores Master Chief to let the others know that he died well, with honour. Esparza is surprised to see Master Chief treating his foe with respect, but Master Chief replies that Escharum had been a soldier, fighting for what he figured was right. After Esparza secures a Pelican, he brings Master Chief to the Silent Auditorium. Fighting through the Silent Auditorium, Master Chief finally confronts the Harbinger of Truth. While he is able to kill her, he cannot prevent the Harbinger from sending one final message to an unknown recipient before she dies. In the aftermath, Master Chief and the Weapon learn that Atriox had captured Cortana, but she refused to help Atriox and damaged Zeta Halo to prevent him from using the ring as a weapon. It turns out Cortana had also prevented the Weapon’s deletion: in a final recorded message, Cortana implores Master Chief to work with the Weapon before they part ways. The Silent Auditorium begins to collapse, but Master Chief and the Weapon are able to escape and reunite with Esparza, while the Weapon decides she’s got a new name for herself. In a post credits scene, Atriox prepares to unleash the Endless. Halo Infinite‘s ending leaves the story open to future development, especially since the Endless pose a hitherto unparalleled threat to the universe, but for the present, with Halo Infinite‘s campaign in the books, there remains quite a bit to unpack, especially in Cortana’s final words to Master Chief, which marked the first since Valkyria Chronicles, some six years earlier, that a game brought on the waterworks, speaking to the strength of its emotional impact.

The biggest surprise in Halo Infinite was ultimately in how the game was able to resolve Master Chief and Cortana’s story: Halo 4 had left players with the impression that Cortana had “died” after stopping the Ur-Didact, and then returned in Halo 5: Guardians to wreck havoc on the galaxy, leaving the UNSC Infinity and Master Chief to an unknown fate. However, in writing Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries also left themselves against the wall. In choosing to have the threat of Cortana sorted out off-screen and allowing the Banished to rise far enough to destroy the UNSC Infinity, 343 Industries was able to give the series a soft reset and return Halo Infinite back to its roots. Nowhere else is this more apparent than with the dynamic between Master Chief and Cortana: throughout the whole of Halo Infinite, although Master Chief remains utterly devoted to his duty of protecting humanity, guilt over his failures continue to haunt him, limiting is willingness to trust the Weapon as an ally. Indeed, the way Cortana addresses Master Chief in her final recording, and Master Chief’s lingering regret both gave the impression that Master Chief and Cortana’s bond surpassed even those of lovers; the pair are separate halves of a whole, capable of great feats together. Thus, when Cortana was met with her fate, Master Chief becomes consumed with guilt at having failed his promise to Cortana, and it is only in the end, when Cortana is able to convey her thoughts freely, that Master Chief comes to an understanding with what happened. What happened in the aftermath of Halo 5: Guardians felt distinctly like a breakup in all but name, and Cortana’s choice of language, with its possessive tones, speaks strongly to these powerful bonds. It is unsurprising that in Halo 5: Guardians, Master Chief pushed himself forward on missions to blunt the pain of loss, and here in Halo Infinite, Master Chief is unwilling to trust the Weapon precisely because she is a reminder of what was lost. However, with Cortana’s final remarks, Master Chief is able to find peace in Cortana’s fate and ultimately, accept the Weapon as a partner. The analogues to a love story are numerous, and Halo Infinite does indeed feel like a tale of how one gets past their first love; although it is an immensely difficult journey, sharing experiences and making the most of the present, as well as accepting one’s past, appears to be integral in helping one to pick themselves back up. Cortana’s final recording was an immensely intense experience, reminding Master Chief that there’s always a way forward, but only if he is open to taking such a path. Hearing this from Cortana settles any lingering doubts he might’ve had about the Weapon, and in the end, Master Chief is able to move on past his regrets and guilt. Halo Infinite unexpectedly speaks to the idea that when healing from heartbreak, the process can take an exceedingly long time, but one should take as much time as they need, and moreover, one failure is not the end, so long as one is willing to keep their eyes and heart open. These are a fitting message for Valentine’s Day, and an encouraging thought all around.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Altogether, it took twenty four hours to beat Halo Infinite on normal difficulty from start to finish, spaced out over two months. Halo Infinite definitely brings back memories of Halo: Combat Evolved in its execution, featuring a smaller group of Marines, a crashed UNSC ship, and an ancient enemy even more terrifying than the visible foes that Master Chief must fend off. However, unlike the Covenant, which accidentally unleashed the Flood, the Banished deliberately seek out the Endless. The Endless are said to be even more horrifying than the Flood, but beyond their resilience to the Halo array, not much more is known about them.

  • Because there is so much that remains unexplored with the Endless, and with the revelation that Atroix is still alive, Halo Infinite does suggest that there is going to be more to the story than meets the eye. Halo Infinite combines the mood and aesthetic of Halo: Combat Evolved with the finesse and polish of Halo 2, urgency of Halo 3 and armour abilities that appeared in Halo: Reach to create an end result that is decisively Halo. Outside of the open world elements, Halo Infinite‘s interior missions were evocative of those in Halo: Combat Evolved – Forerunner structures are intricately designed, but in the end, are repetitive, labyrinthine corridors.

  • Engaging combat sequences serve to break things up, and this is where Halo Infinite truly excels. Gunplay here capitalises on some two decades of improvement to provide weapons that handle well and feel powerful. Most of the weapons in Halo Infinite are useful and have their own applications. The Sentinel Beam, in particular, is given a considerable update, and on missions where it is common, is able to make short work of Banished and Forerunner foes alike.

  • While I had fully intended to run the remainder of the game with the battle rifle, practically meant that I ultimately would carry the Commando as my weapon of choice – ammunition was surprisingly common for this weapon, and while it is an automatic, it is quite effective at range, being able to pick off Grunts and Jackals alike with a single headshot. One weapon that I missed was the Spartan Laser; this weapon spoke to the UNSC’s increasing effectiveness as the Human-Covenant War ended, and I imagine that this choice was meant to show how all of the confidence surrounding humanity by the time of Halo 4 was gone by Halo Infinite‘s events.

  • Daylight streams into a Forerunner corridor here as I moved deeper into the Repository. The aesthetic bring to mind the palatial, but empty feeling that some of the large homes in the fancier neighbourhoods north of my area have. The average house built in the 1980s was around 1700 square feet, but nowadays, the average house is around 2700 square feet, and upwards of a third of newly-built houses are 3000 square feet. I’ve not found any explanation for why this is, but some speculate that the size of one’s home is a status symbol, representing more space with which to store one’s possessions.

  • The larger houses would be a pleasant place to entertain guests and host parties, but outside of these events, they’d feel about as unoccupied as Zeta Halo’s cavernous interiors. I’ve always been more practically-minded: the larger houses are quite enviable (having a private library and reading nook would be nice), but said homes also command a higher property tax and have a larger utility bill. Further to this, there’d be more bathrooms to clean every week, more rooms to dust, and more floors to vacuum. Additional space also increases clutter. For these reasons, I have long preferred a homer that is sized appropriately to what I need.

  • My preferences differ greatly than most folks, who prefer their detached single-family homes with a large yard: in a survey, it was found that up to eighty-five percent of those polled were willing to endure a longer commute for their dream home. A look at discussions closer to home finds that the reason why is privacy and freedom. Condos are more densely packed, subject to condo fees, and offer far less options for customisation later down the line. Space is reduced, preventing people from having backyard barbeques or affording their children a private place to play ball.

  • However, condos also have their own benefits. When operating under a responsible and effective homeowners association and board, condos are secure, well-maintained and foster a sense of community. In my case, I have no qualms with ponying up for the HOA fees because it means my sidewalks are taken care of in winter, and my lawns are dealt with during the summer. I have access to a private gym, and I am within both walking and transit range of an incredible range of restaurants and stores. In the end, different things work for different people because of differing priorities, so I won’t presume to judge others on their choices – my choices work well enough for me, while other choices will suit others better.

  • The cavernous interiors of Zeta Halo have led me on a bit of a tangent, but now that we’re back out to the surface for a brief but intense mission, I’ll return my focus over to the mission at hand. The road to the House of Reckoning is one filled with enemies, and here, I stepped back out into the sunset. After watching other play-throughs of the game, I think that for these missions, the time of day is deliberately set to convey a specific message: that the endgame is near. Halo 4 had cleverly named its first and final missions “Dawn” and “Midnight”, respectively. This symbolised the missions’ place in the story. For “Dawn”, it also referred to the Forward Unto Dawn frigate that formed the level’s map, while in “Midnight”, the choice of name mirrors the idea that this is the time when disaster strikes (per the Doomsday Clock).

  • On my own play-through, I ended up picking off the Banished forces before coming across a Scorpion Tank. Suddenly, armed with the might of a 90 mm cannon, the Banished become fodder to be mercilessly blasted apart. Scorpions in Halo have traditionally used a high explosive armour piercing round that deals massive damage to vehicles (two to three shots will wipe a Wraith out) and also imparts blast damage, making it a universally powerful weapon against infantry and armour alike. Although the Scorpion is a ludicrously powerful weapon capable of levelling entire Banished units in moments, a slow rate of fire means that engaging foes from afar is the best way to run this tank: at close range, the turret’s angle of depression and low rotational rate allows enemies to evade the powerful 90 mm rounds.

  • Having operated Scorpions since my Halo: Combat Evolved days, I’ve seen the tank evolve over time. The original Scorpion was quite powerful, but eclipsed by its Halo 2 equivalent, which has both a higher rate of fire for its main cannon and a more accurate co-axial machine gun. From Halo 3 onward, drivers no longer have access to a machine gun, requiring a passenger to operate the turret instead – this was done to balance the vehicle out, but it also makes campaigns a little more tricky if one is going it alone.

  • Halo Infinite continues to follow tradition by having the Scorpion remain spectacularly lethal at long ranges, and so, I chose to drive slowly through the valley, hitting things from afar to ensure the tank wouldn’t sustain too much damage. While players can always call in Scorpions from forward operating bases, Halo tradition dictates that there be at least one mission where Master Chief is given a tank and truly allowed to deliver a serious onslaught against his foes. This mission screamed Halo, being every bit as enjoyable as using the Scorpion to blast my way across the bridge in New Mombasa.

  • There’s an achievement called “Bring Shiela Home Safely” that entails taking the Scorpion tank from the beginning of the mission, across the bridge right up to the House of Reckoning’s garage, in one piece. To complete this achievement, the tank cannot take so much damage that it explodes, and it must be taken into the garage. Once Master Chief reaches the entrance to the House of Reckoning, I reckon is time to be a force that is reckoned with. Owing to the House of Reckoning’s name, I anticipated that I’d be in for a difficult fight ahead.

  • Inside the House of Reckoning, I find a battle rifle and immediately switched back over to it. The “trials” that Escharum has planned out for Master Chief entail sending waves of enemies after him, and while these waves start out easy, the difficulty ramps up. The presence of heavier weapons like the Hydra missile launcher and rocket launcher speaks to the kinds of foes Master Chief ends up facing: Brutes and Hunters are brought to the table, and they can be trickier to defeat without the right weapons. However, even in a bind, use of Master Chief’s armour abilities can prove quite effective: I’ve killed Hunters by using the thrusters to get behind them, melee the armour off their backs and dumping a magazine into the exposed flesh.

  • All of the foes earlier, as challenging as they were, don’t hold a candle compared to what’s upcoming: Elite blademaster Jega ‘Rdomnai is a cut above even the infamous Serpent Hunters. After entering this trailer and opening a hologram detailing Esparza’s family, Jega ‘Rdomnai will strike. Jega ‘Rdomnai is the Spartan Killer who’d been responsible for the deaths of several Spartans on Zeta Halo, and in combat, he makes extensive use of active camouflage in conjunction with a Blood Blade, a souped up energy sword that allows for faster lunges.

  • The close quarters inside the trailer, coupled with Jega ‘Rdomnai’s weapon preferences and cloak, makes for a difficult fight. I ended up falling back on the tried-and-true plasma-ballistics combination to bring him down, using the pulse carbine to wear down his shields, and then strike the unshielded Jega ‘Rdomnai with the battle rifle. The fight is thrilling because Jega ‘Rdomnai remains cloaked for most of the battle, leading to suspenseful moments where one must keep moving lest they be ambushed. There are shock coils that can be used to stun-lock Jega ‘Rdomnai, and during my fight, I made use of the threat sensor to get a bead on his location.

  • Defeating Jega ‘Rdomnai allows Master Chief to loot the Blood Blade from his corpse, and in practise, this should be a fearsome weapon that makes short work of foes on the receiving end. However, after Jega ‘Rdomnai, the only foe left in the House of Reckoning is Escharum, whose armour is so tough that the Blood Blade won’t even scratch him. Escharum himself is a remarkably durable opponent, and the first phase of the fight simply entails hammering him until he brings up his shields. Using the rocket launcher and the various coils in the environment is the most efficient way of getting this done.

  • When Escharum sustains enough damage, he will activate energy shields that transfer all damage dealt towards Esparza. When the shields activate, they generate a prodigious amount of heat, and the power relays will become exposed. Destroying these will bring Escharum’s shields down momentarily, allowing Master Chief to keep attacking his foe. I have found that using the drop wall here is effective, as it prevents Master Chief from being damaged while attacking the relays. The sheer amount of health that Escharum has is staggering, and fortunately, there are weapons scattered around the arena that will be helpful.

  • Escharum will maintain his distance during the first two phases of the fight, preferring to use a scrap cannon to attack. However, once he’s down to a certain amount of health, he switches over to the Diminisher of Hope. This weapon is absolutely brutal and can one-shot Master Chief, so here, using the grapple shot and thrusters to keep distance is essential. Heavier weapons like the turrets won’t be too useful, although one can, in theory, deal some damage with close range weapons like the shotgun or Blood Blade before using their equipment to return to a safe distance.

  • When my ammunition reserves began running dry, I would end up switching over to the weapons found on racks scattered throughout the arena. There isn’t any one weapon that works better on Escharum than another, so the only strategy here is to keep one’s distance and, per the old suggestion from DOOM, shoot Escharum until he falls. The Shock Rifle, for instance, does some damage but won’t stun Escharum, and similarly, the grapple shot’s electrified stun has no effect on him.

  • In a poetic bit of symbolism, I ended up defeating Escharum using the Blood Blade: I’d dropped it earlier for a longer range weapon, but as the weapons became depleted, I ended up picking up the Blood Blade in a rush to switch over to another weapon. Although using a melee weapon is probably the last resort anyone should take whilst fighting Escharum, at this point in the fight, Escharum had been damaged enough so that a few swings was enough to finish him. In the aftermath, Escharum asks Master Chief to tell his allies that he’d died honourably after fighting well. Esparza is shocked that Master Chief treats Escharum with respect, but Master Chief sees himself in Escharum, fighting to uphold what he believes is right.

  • This sort of thing is what makes Halo Infinite so enjoyable; Escharum is an honourable foe whose presence simply encouraged players to face him in battle. After beating Escharum, Master Chief will gain access to the Diminisher of Hope. I had wished to use it against the Harbinger of Truth, but realities forced me to drop the weapon in favour of something with more ammunition left; a pair of Serpent Hunters will fight Master Chief, and I ended up expending the Diminisher of Hope’s energy reserves to beat them.

  • With most of the foes now eliminated, the Harbinger of Truth is the only enemy left to defeat. Halo Infinite gives players a small respite here, and as the Master Chief passes through the Silent Auditorium to seek out his last target, Halo Infinite fills in the gaps in the story, explaining that the UNSC ultimately caught up to Cortana and prepared her for deletion. Seeing what had happened, Cortana consented to this, but before deletion routine finished, Cortana sabotaged Zeta Halo to prevent the Banished from using the Ring, then overrode the Weapon’s deletion protocols, knowing that Master Chief was at his best when working with someone like her.

  • I found 343 Industries’ choice interesting, acting as a clean and elegant way to bring Cortana’s actions from Halo 5: Guardians to a resolution and open the floor for a new story, while at the same time, detailing the journey that Master Chief takes to come to terms with his grief and regret. Although Halo Infinite is certainly not a love story, the way things are portrayed means one cannot help but liken this to a story about overcoming a breakup or rejection. This unexpected piece to Halo Infinite made an already-enjoyable came even more profound and meaningful.

  • Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is my least favourite holiday of the year: the holiday was originally to pay respect to St. Valentine, whose exact story remains a mystery. What is known is that he was killed. The association of St. Valentine with romance comes in the middle ages, with poet Geoffrey Chaucer marking the date as a time to find a partner. For me, this time of year had long been characterised by exams, and I vividly remember one Valentine’s Day many years back. I had a physics midterm that evening, and although I performed very well on said exam, it had been a miserable evening all around.

  • While I’ve not a solution regarding the depression and feelings of emptiness that come about at this time of year even now, I have found that focusing on my work and responsibilities on Valentine’s Day allows me to get through what is, in effect, an ordinary day. For instance, this year, I fully intend to get my internet plan set up for the new place later today; in effect, I have a date with the local ISP, and the plan is to get set up with a gigabit connection to accommodate our usage patterns. Although for most users, 150 Mbps connection is more than enough, the reason why I’m going for a gigabit plan is because I will be working from home often enough: having the extra bandwidth will allow for simultaneous video calls and upload of large files.

  • The fact that one of the local ISPs in my area provides fibre means that gigabit internet is affordable. With this in mind, I have heard of people who’ve gone against advice and picked up a Gigabit plan even though they’re the only person on the net, and the most intensive thing they do is stream to Twitch. Because Twitch recommends an upload speed of 6 Mbps to give viewers a decent experience, a gigabit connection would not confer any additional advantages and simply be a waste of money. Conversely, because a major part of my decision is the fact that I’m working from home extensively, having the extra bandwidth will prove useful (especially if I’m trying to do a video call at the same time that other users on the network are uploading 60 GB simulation files to their cloud storage). In a curious turn of events, I actually will be having a hearty steak for dinner tonight, fulfilling a years-long ambition to celebrate singleness with a steak on Valentine’s Day.

  • After passing through the large door and entering a large chamber, I finally confront the Harbinger of Truth. The Harbinger of Truth has access to energy-based attacks and can teleport instantly, but once her shields are down, she’s particularly vulnerable to melee strikes: even a few solid blows from the stock of a battle rifle will be enough to take sizeable chunks of her health away. While she heads off to recharge, Banished will attempt to rush Master Chief. When this fight is compared with the Escharum fight, or Jega ‘Rdomnai, the Harbinger of Truth hasn’t the slightest bit of honour: both Jega ‘Rdomnai and Escharum fight Master Chief mano-a-mano.

  • Despite the Harbinger of Truth’s abilities being quite formidable, once her shields are down, Master Chief can easily punch her lights out, bringing this boss fight to an end. Halo Infinite proved exceedingly satisfying and opens the floor to plenty of prospective new directions, while at the same time, wrapping up loose ends from Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. With Halo Infinite in the books, I may return to play through the game again with the default audio set to Japanese so I can listen to anime Weapon/Cortana speak, but for now, my next major gaming goals are to reach level sixty in Battlefield 2042, after which I’ll unlock the NTW-50, and make enough headway into Project Wingman so that I can write about my experiences after the first quarter, both before the month is out.

Halo Infinite is a fantastic example of how less is more, and its campaign marks a return to form, focusing purely on Master Chief and the Weapon as they work to stop Escharum and the Harbinger from unleashing the Endless. Without a massive UNSC presence, players once again feel as though they’re the last individual left to oppose the Banished. However, with the Weapon and Esparza, what initially appeared to be an insurmountable task begins to feel doable, something that can be done one step at a time. Halo Infinite‘s ending is quite open, and lingering questions remain about what happens to humanity, what the Endless are, and whether or not Master Chief will need to confront Atriox again (it is only appropriate to give Master Chief a second chance at fighting Atroix, especially after Atriox had casually manhandled him earlier). While Halo Infinite‘s story was immensely satisfying and offers closure regarding Cortana, it also opens the floor to a new story, one that merits exploration. This would demand a continuation, and with 343 Industries suggesting that they plan on supporting Halo Infinite for the next decade, this does lead to the question of how they could continue the story. However, 343 Industries may have already shown their hand in how Halo Infinite‘s story could continue through The Master Chief Collection: bringing classic Halo games to PC allowed 343 Industries to implement a launcher for different Halo games, and this approach could be utilised in Halo Infinite, where additional campaigns are add-ons to the core game. In this way, 343 Industries can easily add instalments to the campaign, allowing the story to continue, but at the same time, continue to support the core multiplayer experience and provide players with the best possible game that they can. The possibilities are about as endless as the hitherto-unseen Endless, and having now completed Halo Infinite‘s campaign, I am curious to see where 343 Industries intends to go over the next ten years with what has been a pivotal achievement for the Halo franchise; having evidently learnt from their experiences since developing Halo 4, 343 Industries have found their footing and delivered a Halo game worthy of both old and new fans alike. With my story over for the present, I will spend some time exploring the multiplayer in the future as time allows; although my reflexes and skill are not what they were during the apex of my time as a Halo 2 Vista player, Halo Infinite does offer the option of squaring off against AI bots in multiplayer, and this could prove to be an immensely relaxing way of unwinding and getting to visit the maps without getting my face kicked in by MLG pro players.

Halo Infinite: Solving the Sequence and Entering The Command Spire At The ¾ Mark

“I regret to inform you that this will be our last encounter.” –Adjutant Resolution

After clearing out Zeta Halo’s surface of the Banished, Master Chief and the Weapon travel to four smaller energy beacons in order for the Weapon to reconstruct access codes. By reconstructing data from these beacons, the Weapon is able to figure out the code needed to enter the Nexus, a facility that directs Zeta Halo’s spires. Master Chief fights through the Banished forces within and reaches the terminal, but before the Weapon can deactivate the spires, the Harbinger appears and attempts to stop the process by taking over the Weapon. The Master Chief attempts to delete the Weapon to prevent this from happening, but the Weapon manages to throw the Harbinger off, and angrily asks why Master Chief doesn’t trust her before reluctantly continuing with him into the command spire. Here, they learn that the Harbinger is interested in bringing about something called the Reformation at a place called the Silent Auditorium, but beyond this, no records remain. Despite clearing out the Banished, Adjutant Resolution reappears in a bid to stop Master Chief and the Weapon, but is defeated a second time. Upon reaching the controls, a pair of Banished Phantoms confront the pair, but they too are destroyed. Master Chief and the Weapon shut down the spires and prepare for extraction, only for blademaster Jega ‘Rdomnai to appear inside Esparza’s Pelican and capture him. Faced with no other option, Master Chief reluctantly decides to trust the Weapon, who opens up a portal to Esparza’s location. Here at Halo Infinite‘s three-quarters mark, I’ve now crossed the point of no return, upon which it is no longer be possible to return back into then open world until the campaign is finished. From here on out, it’s a straight shot to the campaign’s finish, and this means I should be on track to finishing Halo Infinite shortly.

Having taken the time to explore Zeta Halo, I enter Halo Infinite‘s final quarter with the Mjolnir armour fully upgraded, and I found all of the Mjolnir lockers, which give me cosmetics for the multiplayer component. While I don’t have all of the propaganda towers destroyed, I can find the time to clear those out once I’ve had the chance to beat the campaign. Seeing the transition from Halo Infinite‘s open world back into a more conventional linear level shows just how smooth the experience is, and Halo Infinite has delivered a game that brings to life the sort of elements that Bungie had once envisioned for Halo: Combat Evolved. Originally, Halo: Combat Evolved was built as a third-person survival shooter, about the crew of a human star ship who wage a guerrilla war of survival in a world with deformable terrain, dynamic weather patterns and wildlife. While the end result was an iconic first-person shooter that raised the bar for what was possible, reading old development notes really served to remind players of how much Halo: Combat Evolved had been cut down. In spite of this, Halo: Combat Evolved remained a revolutionary game, and here in Halo Infinite, it is clear that some of the elements from Halo: Combat Evolved‘s original concept did end up making it. However, rather than completely alter the way Halo feels, classic elements are smoothly integrated into the game, and the combination of both open world and linear elements come together to yield a title that innovates on a successful franchise while simultaneously, remain faithful to its roots: the time and effort that 343 Industries have spent on making this title is mirrored in the gameplay, which is smooth and responsive. With the technology that is available today, the end result is an immensely satisfying game that serves to both tell a story and allow players to create their own stories. With the open world component in the books, all that’s left now is squaring off against Jega ‘Rdomnai, Escharum and the Harbinger herself.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My journey continues on with clearing out the remainder of Halo Infinite‘s high-value targets. Towards the later part of my journey, I ended up cheesing high value target missions with vehicles, making use of either the Scorpion Tank or Wasp to engage the Banished. Foes are surprisingly lethal even on normal difficulty, and against the tougher high value targets, one might sustain too much damage to their vehicles. However, they remain a viable way of softening targets up, and for weaker foes, it’s fun to simply wade right in.

  • Ultimately, the Wasp becomes the single game-changer in Halo Infinite‘s campaign: it is the most efficient way of travelling around Zeta Halo, and even the most far-flung area of interest can be reached with the Wasp. I did notice that there are several places in the campaign where the waypoint is not entirely correct, such as when the Spartan Core or Mjolnir locker is located underground, and on two instances, the locations for these wouldn’t even show up on the map, requiring some serious exploration to find. For the most part, however, taking to the skies with the Wasp and following waypoints will get one all of the Spartan Cores and Mjolnir lockers.

  • Here, I’m rocking the MA40 Longshot, an assault rifle variant that exchanges a smaller magazine for improved damage at range. Weapon variants are immensely fun, although since they are considered a different weapon, ammunition cannot be collected from standard weapons and can only be replenished through resupply crates. This mechanic balances the campaign out quite well, as some of the variants are straight upgrades from their more common counterparts, and allowing one to continuously top off improved weapons would make parts of the game a breeze.

  • Here, I come across the last of the Mjolnir lockers in a remote corner of Zeta Halo under a sunset. The multiplayer cosmetics are actually secondary to the game, but I decided to collect them, since they were along the way on my quest to acquire all the Spartan Cores. At the time of writing, all of my suit functions are fully upgraded: Master Chief can deal a massive shockwave upon meleeing an electrified foe, has shields capable of withstanding a sword lunge or plasma grenade stick, a threat sensor that displays enemy health on the HUD, a droppable wall that can electrify outgoing projectiles for extra damage, and a thruster that temporarily cloaks Master Chief.

  • The thruster is considered one of the most situational (i.e. least versatile) of the suit abilities, and for the most part, I kept to the Grapple Shot, although the Drop Wall did end up coming handy on more than one occasion. However, I did find that the thruster was most useful in situations with Hunters: one can use the thrusters to immediately side-step Hunters and cloak, buying precious time for knocking away their armour plates and shooting at the exposed weak points.

  • Three-quarters of the way into Halo Infinite, I find that the Grunts actually have the best lines of any foe in the game, and in particular, the propaganda Grunt has the best lines of any Grunt. This is the WiFi scene I had referred to in my previous post, and it turns out that the dialogue from propaganda towers will vary, so it is possible to hear some things again. Once I beat the campaign, I will likely go back through and clear out the propaganda towers, and when I go about this task, I am looking forwards to seeing for myself the lines that occur once I’ve dismantled the Banished more thoroughly.

  • Save exploration, there will be very little to do after Halo Infinite‘s campaign is beaten: at the time of writing, 343 Industries has not spoken about when replayable campaign missions will be implemented. While I understand the community disappointment and note that open world games like The Division have set the precedence for how mission replay could be implemented, I also am aware that 343 Industries’ modus operandi is not to release something until it is fully ready. I’m in no particular rush for replayable campaign missions or co-op just yet: for one, my best friend isn’t confident his desktop can handle Halo Infinite. While blasting the Banished in style and with a flair that would not be possible for a single player, neither of us are in any rush to do so just yet.

  • Previously with The Master Chief Collection, the both of us had a great time of smashing through the Covenant and Forerunners alike. Halo Infinite‘s open world would allow for some highly emergent and memorable moments. With this being said, I’m not too sure how well we’d be able to coordinate time for co-op – previously, my transition to working from home was the only reason we could co-op owing to general incompatibilities in our availability (I work nine-to-five hours on weekdays and have weekends to myself, and said friend has a stochastic schedule). In the near future, things will become more tricky, as I spend an increasing amount of time on other pursuits: the upcoming move and transition is, first and foremost, my main priority.

  • In fact, the move, coupled with uncertainties surrounding the global health crisis, is why this year, I’ve decided to stand down from volunteering at Otafest, the local anime convention. I’d actually been hoping to volunteer – besides it being a fantastic opportunity to see the scope of anime in the city, there’d also been a lovely young lady with a dazzling smile among the volunteers I’d been hoping to run into again. However, life is a game of prioritisation, and ensuring my move goes well is my main priority right now. – there will be time for matters of the heart once I’ve attended to everything else, and I will be much more confident in volunteering once the pandemic begins reaching an epidemiological stage.

  • As such, it is with a heavy heart to say that, at least for this year, I will not be volunteering at Otafest. On the flipside, I have accepted an invitation to judge a science fair virtually for a local private academy, and depending on how things unfold, I am open to volunteering at the city-wide science fair come April, as well. This is where things stand as the first month of 2022 draws to a close, and at least on my end, this year’s been off to a fair start so far, so I will return things back to Halo Infinite, where I encountered a pair of Hunters guarding the entrance to the Nexus.

  • Thus, before we return to the narrow corridors of Zeta Halo’s interior, I’ll leave readers with one final screenshot of the surface: I did end up clearing things out without too much difficulty at this point, and was treated to a stunning moment of sunlight glinting off the Nexus Spire’s metallic surface. Once Master Chief heads inside, it’s all dark hallways for a good while, and the sniper rifle I’ve brought with me will need to be replaced with a suitable close quarters weapon.

  • The Flood do not appear in Halo Infinite‘s campaign, and in the absence of combat forms, I find it quite unnecessary to carry a shotgun with me for the most part. The Bulldog lacks the same stopping power as its predecessor, but makes up for it with a much faster firing rate. I’ve never actually found much use for it, since in close quarters, using the grapple strike ability, I am able to hook onto a foe and follow up with a devastating melee attack that outright destroys weaker foes, and seriously weakens stronger ones. With the grapple shot fully upgraded, the shockwave will electrocute nearby foes and stun them.

  • On the surface of Zeta Halo, the Bulldog is only really effective against unshielded Brutes and Grunts, so where possible, I will prefer to use a precision weapon like the Commando or Battle Rifle and simply headshot foes instead. However, because Brutes have no qualms with the more primitive weapons, Bulldog ammunition is actually quite common, and when paired with the Pulse Carbine in closed-in levels, I’m actually left with a pretty viable setup where I can use the Pulse Carbine to deal with shielded and distant foes, then switch over to the Bulldog for instantly taking down a foe.

  • The cavernous interiors and bright lighting bring back memories of old LAN parties: while we’d spent almost all of our time on maps like Lockout and Midship, I did wonder if my friends enjoyed the campaign and story-driven aspects of Halo as much as they did the multiplayer piece. Halo 2 in particular is renowned for having some of the most balanced multiplayer, with a high skill ceiling, that made it infinitely replayable: even during university, whenever everyone got back together, Halo 2 was always the game we played the most during LAN parties.

  • Of the maps we played in Halo 2, Lockout and Midship wound up being timeless classics, and we ended up playing enough MLG Slayer and FFA Slayer on Lockout so that I memorised the map’s layout to the point where even now, I could draw out the map from memory. There’s only one other map from a video game I can do this for: the shipping container area of Battlefield 3 Noshahr Canals. It is not lost on me that nowadays, multiplayer games don’t have quite the same staying power as they used to, and this is why of late, I’ve stopped with multiplayer experiences.

  • While lacking human foes, campaigns are challenging in their own way, especially when games find ways of mixing things up by throwing different foes at players in different environments. Hunters and close-quarters engagements are always a bit of a challenge: there’s no room to manoeuvre, and being stuck beside some crates can become a death sentence. Outside, I capitalise on open spaces to get behind the Hunters, and I’ve found that using the thrusters in conjunction with the assault rifle actually works quite well. Inside, however, I ended up attempting to use the Skewer to blow the Hunters’ rear armour off before hitting them with the battle rifle after other approaches failed.

  • Lengthy gondola rides were a part of Halo 2, and Halo Infinite brings these elements back in full. More spatial awareness is required now than before: as tempting as it might be to use the grapple shot on a Sentinel, the fact that one is over a chasm means that if the Sentinel happens to be somewhere out over the platform, one would simply fall to their death after destroying said Sentinel. Instead, playing a little more conservatively with the Sentinel Beam and drop wall is more conducive towards survival. At this stage in Halo Infinite, Sentinels are capable of wielding both Sentinel Beams and Shock Rifles.

  • As such, players will always have access to a solid weapon against the Sentinels, and the Shock Rifle is a reasonable alternative for longer-range combat. I encountered some difficulty with the Shock Rifle’s mechanics during Halo Infinite‘s open flighting; while the weapon handles like a sniper rifle, every pull of the trigger fires off five-round bursts, all of which need to connect in order to maximise the weapon’s efficacy. The Shock Rifle also has one valuable property: it can stop vehicles cold in their tracks, giving one a chance to board or destroy them.

  • Because the Sentinel Beam can be found in such abundance, it would be a waste not to make full use of it: I previously used the Sentinel Beams primarily in campaign missions during Halo 2, but because my friends preferred MLG Slayer, they were totally absent from out matches during LAN parties. As such, I never made extensive use of the weapon, and found it surprisingly effective during Halo 2 Anniversary‘s multiplayer. As it turns out, the Sentinel Beam has always been effective, especially when wielded in the right situations.

  • One aspect about Halo Infinite‘s campaign that particularly stood out was Master Chief’s thoughts of Cortana even after she went rogue and took control of the Forerunner Guardians to subjugate the galaxy. Although I am fully aware that Master Chief and Cortana’s relationship was that of two professionals and friends, the way things are presented gave the lingering feeling of losing a first love, as well. This conclusion is likely unique to me because of my experiences, and so, it became meaningful to see how Master Chief responded after the events of Halo 4 to Cortana’s fate.

  • I do wish to expand on this part of Halo Infinite further once I’ve beaten the game, so for now, I return to my continued progress through the Spire: here, I prepare to board a gravity lift located in a room that brought back memories of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Library mission. 343 Industries has learnt from the design choices that were considered a drawback about Halo: Combat Evolved‘s levels, and there’s enough variety in 343 Industries’ designs so interiors don’t ever feel too monotonous.

  • Having now reached the three-quarters mark of Halo Infinite, my thoughts do turn towards what happens next: typically, when I finish a game, one of two things happens. I am either inclined to set it aside and revisit it at a later date, or there’s an incentive to go back through and replay things anew so I can collect everything. Usually, the deciding factor is time. If I have a lot of time, I will go back and begin collecting things. I did this with Ace Combat 7, which allowed me to unlock the Strike Wyvern, and The Division 2, which let me amass a sizeable exotic collection despite my initial beliefs that such a collection would never come to fruition.

  • I’m always fond of seeing how far I can push the single player experience, even in a multiplayer game, so being able to end up with a decently fun build for speed-running missions was awesome, and looking back, this was one of the more fun aspects of The Division. Such an option is unavailable in Halo Infinite, but one way to incentivise players to revisit the campaign would be to create weekly or monthly challenges associated with completing different levels again. To this end, 343 Industries could do something similar to The Division 2‘s Invaded missions, where Black Tusk forces occupy previously cleared sites.

  • Halo Infinite could allow for Banished remnants to return to cleared sites, and completing associated challenge sets over a time period could unlock random cosmetics (to prevent their microtransaction system from failing outright, campaign cosmetics could simply be lower-rarity items). With the care that 343 Industries has directed towards their game, such a route is not off the table, and would greatly encourage replay of campaign missions. Of course, this would only be available to players who’ve actually completed the game at least once, and here, as I move further into the Nexus spire and its stunningly-rendered structures, I gaze upon a construct that fills the area with a warm glow reminiscent of sunlight.

  • Until such a time comes, when 343 Industries gets around to implementing and deploying the option of replaying campaign missions, I am going to spend a bit more time in Battlefield 2042: while the game has been widely regarded as a failure owing to performance issues, deviation from the tried-and-true class system, the absence of numerous essential features and poor map design, I’ve actually found the single-player options to be moderately entertaining, and at the time of writing, I’ve spent around 38 hours in-game, and have finally unlocked the AC-42, a burst-fire rifle.

  • Since I don’t play Battlefield 2042 for the PvP aspects, my aim in the game is simply to unlock all of the available weapons, vehicles and gadgets, as well as attachments, so that I have everything available to me in the sandbox environment that is Battlefield Portal. While I am aware of the game’s numerous shortcomings (performance in 128-players servers is so poor that on my 9-year-old desktop, it’s unplayable owing to lag and invisible characters), I picked the game up purely for the Portal experience. Here, I pass through what appears to be a manufacturing area separated by Forerunner force fields of some sort as I get closer to the top of the Nexus Spire.

  • Pushing through the Nexus Spire gives one an appreciation of just how vast Forerunner structures are. It is worth noting that since entering the spire, I’ve not actually left the structure or gone underground in any way. Halo has always excelled in conveying the scale of Forerunner constructs, from the vastness of an individual Halo ring in Halo: Combat Evolved, to exploring the interiors of gargantuan Forerunner towers in Halo 4. Beyond Banished-infested areas, there are moments where one can stop to admire the sights, as well. Of course, when things get too quiet, any veteran gamer will immediately spot the fact that something big is coming.

  • That “something big” turns out to be a rematch with Adjutant Resolution, who’s rocking an upgraded Sentinel mech. While his weapons are said to be more powerful in every way, in practise, Adjutant Resolution’s strategy actually remains unchanged, and this time around, I’ve got a fully upgraded drop wall along with a priori knowledge of how to beat him (aim for the arms, and then when he’s immobilised after an arm is destroyed, aim for his centre eye), this fight proved to be very cut-and-dried. I did enjoy the quips that Adjutant Resolution brings to the fight.

  • Having taken a look around, it turns out Kotaku’s article was about the second encounter with Adjutant Resolution, which makes the conclusion even more ludicrous: by this point in time, one is already supposed to have an idea of how Adjutant Resolution handles and therefore should have some strategy in mind. Although I’m getting up there in the years to have lightning-fast reflexes and unlimited time for gaming, even someone as time-strapped as myself can overcome Adjutant Resolution with a little bit of patience and strategy.

  • I’m no longer the Halo 2 Vista legend I was a decade earlier, where my skill with the battle rifle led the [SMG] Clan to create servers named after me, but I remain minimally competent in shooters such that I can have a good time. While Halo Infinite‘s biggest names, Jega ‘Rdomnai, Escharum and the Harbinger, still lie ahead, I am confident that I have what it takes. After surviving the assault from the Phantoms here and shutting the spires down, Jega ‘Rdomnai captures Esparza, prompting Master Chief to rescue him. This looks like it’s going to put Master Chief on a collision course with both Jega ‘Rdomnai and Escharum, so I’m excited to finally square off against these legendary foes after hearing about them all game.

Three quarters of the way into Halo Infinite, I have nothing but good experiences so far. In fact, even my aging desktop has managed to run the game in a satisfactory manner; I’ve encountered at most two crashes during my run up until this point, and even then, these crashes have only seen the game client crash to the desktop, rather than completely blue-screening my machine. Having now done most of the open-world activities to a satisfactory extent, my attention now turns fully towards the story: the main risk in a purely open-world game is that the story might be forgotten as one focuses purely on exploration, and Halo Infinite mitigates this by allowing players to complete objectives at their own pace, before locking them back into the story once a certain point in the story is reached. Having now begun the mission into the Nexus, I’ve learnt a great deal more about what ended up happening: after Cortana had overwhelmed the galaxy in the events of Halo 5 with the Forerunner Guardians, humanity and Covenant remnants scattered. Eventually, a group called the Banished formed, but in revenge, Cortana destroyed the Brutes’ home world. It is commendable that 343 Industries were able to write themselves out of the hole that Halo 5 had left, and through the combination of cutscenes, in-game dialogue and audio logs, much of the gaps have been filled. This leaves me clear to worry about Cortana’s fate, and what the Harbinger’s Endless are about in Halo Infinite‘s final quarter, which is looking very exciting from the build-up we’ve seen thus far: I am greatly looking forwards to proving my legend to the likes of Escharum, and here, I will note that it has been quite some time since I’ve respected a foe to this extent.