September 16, 2010

Into the Armor [ Review of Halo: Reach ]

So, I finally stepped into the armor, and into the world of Halo. Yes, I've started playing videogames and Halo:Reach was the first one I loaded into the console, overtaking Mass-Effect2 which I plan to play next.

As I look back into the first few hours of my gameplay experience, I appreciated the fact that the narrative behind Reach is given much weight--that its not just all about shooting aliens. Well, maybe perhaps--as it’s what you’re gonna do most of the time to finish the rest of the game. But, the great thing is that the sense of teamwork is emphasized, “ lone wolf this time,” as I heard in the dialogue. So i’m itching to play multiplayer mode someday.

Being a noob, I started with the solo campaign. But I felt reassured that I have teammates that will cover me as I fumbled with the controls during a heated battle with The Covenant (aliens). It was quite easy to imagine that the soldiers fighting beside me are not just characters programmed with algorithmic AI behaviours, but each of them has a story to tell. We are the Noble team, and I play the part of the newcomer--a replacement to their previous colleague. And as i donned that Spartan helmet, it wasn’t long before i started to internalize the character of Noble Six, running around, shooting aliens, intently listening to my teammates, tracking and staying close to them as much as I can.

That was the great part. But here comes the bad. And it’s sad because i have to write it about such a great game. And I have to say it because this blog is focused on things Exoplanetary.

Walking around Planet Reach did not make me feel like I was on another planet at all. It was so earth-like. I felt disappointed because the quality of the graphics is stunning but it failed to immerse me in another world.

At times, I often had to gaze up at the sky to see the gorgeous ringed planet just to "remind" myself that i am on an exoplanet, and that i'm there on a noble mission. But the moment i resume and see the familiar trees, the usual grass, the same old rock formations and typical mountains-- I am suddenly just pulled back to Earth!

Am I asking too much? All I wanted was just a little bit of the taste of “otherworldliness”. What could be missing? Well, perhaps some weird flora would be a good start. Maybe some kind of orchid here and there would have done the trick. Or maybe some trees with some unique growth patterns or odd textures.

How about the animals? Well, what were the ostriches doing on planet Reach?! Or were those turkeys and livestock by human colonists there? I just shot them in frustration. I even saw a falcon. Or was it an osprey, oh my. I wish there were alien animals there that did not remind me about what we have here on Earth.

People are clamoring for the discovery of an earth-like planet. And there's media frenzy on every chance to delight the public with sensational news about earth-like worlds. Yet here i am, begging for an alien world from a videogame! From a videogame for Pete’s sake!

Stepping into the armor was fluid and natural. But stepping onto the exoplanet called Reach was not. I wish the makers of Halo had a little bit more creativity in terms of the planetary aspect. Or perhaps they should have hired some Astrobiologist to decorate that Planet.

Now that Microsoft is taking over of the franchise, I hope the next one will be much more awesome. I wish Halo to be Kinect-enabled to bring more immersion into gameplay. And I hope this review will be seen as a constructive criticism to the Halo franchise, or to any game that would be so much better if it immersed players into other worlds.

Yes, immersion is what i seek. And the reason why i started playing games is because i want to visit other worlds, and be immersed in them.

So now, for me to finish Halo: Reach, i must imagine a bit harder that the setting of Halo Reach is on an exoplanet. And if my mind gets tired of going against the grain, then i’ll just make an excuse that Planet Reach is simply the most Earth-like exoplanet I have ever seen.