So I finally played it (Destiny)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, May 04, 2022, 11:37 (722 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I remember being super hyped for Halo after seeing the reveal at Macworld in 1999. As Jason Jones walked up on stage, he told the audience that it would be a game you’d play cooperatively with your friends as you explore a strange sprawling world. He said that Quicktime was great, but what you were about to see was no Quicktime movie, but rather a game engine rendering in real time on a Macintosh. The demonstration video began in a corridor, with the player’s character distracting and goading three elites into following him. As the player exits the hallway, it transitions seamlessly to a large outdoor environment, with the sky, mountains and lakes sliding in to engulf the frame. A frame of wild possibilities. What was there to find and do in this huge world?

It was a feeling I still had when finally playing the game for the first time on Xbox. The promise of the Macworld video never surfaced in my mind. The game we’d gotten was just as alluring. The moment of stepping out of the life pod and into the unknown of Halo was just as powerful as when the Marine ran outside in Macworld. Perhaps it was because I had no expectations, having written Bungie off after the Microsoft acquisition. Or perhaps it was because the game was new, fresh, and had a different soul.

Halo Infinite I think is the Macworld Halo realized as best as it could be. In retrospect, the Macworld demo was smoke and mirrors. There was no plan for what to do and what to find in this world. It was a tech demo with no design yet. While your imagination would run wild, there were practical considerations at play when designing such a game. So when I say that Infinite probably is the best version of that theoretical game, I’m being literal.

Still, playing it there was a lingering disappointment. The realization that the moments don’t play the same way. You step out of the pelican onto a world more huge and more populated than Halo from the original game, and yet Halo is the moment that sticks. Walking out of that life pod, looking up and around. The contrast between the Pillar of Autumn and your welcome to this wonderful new experience that'll change things forever. Infinite isn't inviting you into the unknown. It's leading you into a polished version of the known.

For me, that’s the problem. The loop of the game is fundamentally the same, a similar experience I’ve had for years with this franchise. There are bells, whistles, and updates, but at the end of the day it just FEELS like you are playing Halo. Some would call that a win. But I call it a bit boring. It felt like this in 2010, and it’s 2022.

And that’s a hard feeling to shake, because you are technically doing different things. The grappling hook is a really cool tool that’s thankfully integrated seamlessly into the mechanics rather than being limited to specific places. It’s interesting finding out how to use it, and see what it can do for you. And yet, that actually feels similar to how working out the mechanics of Halo CE felt. I’m not sure I’d agree that it “changes the game totally”. It just feels like another tool you can use in the Halo sandbox.

But for the size and detail of this world, it all just blended together. All the open world sections were mountains, trees, rocks, and modular bases. I can’t really differentiate and one encounter or base from another. It’s the same thing with the story missions that happen in the structures underground. It all feels like and endless series of similar rooms and hallways. Levels and encounters in previous games at least had personality, or were unique and stood out. Even casual players would be able to tell the “Island level” apart from the “Snow level”. But in Infinite it felt like there were only two levels: Outside and Inside.

I rescued a couple FOBs. They are 'optional', but I don't imagine anyone having much fun without getting at least a few of them. The ability to fast travel to them, get weapons, and deploy vehicles is just so huge, I don't even want to know how frustrating it would be having to walk everywhere and hoping you could jack a vehicle. My favorite thing was loading up the transport warthog after giving 5 marines rocket launchers.

I played on Heroic, which honestly felt like Halo 3's Legendary. Maybe it's because I'm now bad at FPS games, but the enemies had substantially more range and accuracy than I remember Halo games having. They seemed intelligent enough, certainly feeling more alive and dynamic than the Destiny. The first heroic playthrough was fairly challenging.

The story is a giant mixed bag. While Halo 5’s story was a convoluted mess full of proper nouns, there was some semblance of emotion with the Chief and Cortana. Infinite’s is decidedly more streamlined and ‘clear’, but I can’t help but feel totally unattached to anything. I'm not saying that having a lot of the major things you were expecting to deal with happen off camera before the game starts is necessarily bad, but that necessarily puts a distance between you and what happens. It's kind of the part we care about right? How are we going to stop Cortana from subjugating the galaxy? I guess the answer was that Atriox wanted to use the rings, so she blew up Zeta Halo and deleted herself?! Huh?! Why didn't she just kill him with a guardian? Didn't she power up the ring at the end of Halo 5? If you can just make a copy of her and delete the bad parts (as the game explains that’s what Halsey did), why did the original Cortana not just… delete her bad parts? It’s all hand waved kinda, and while technically not a huge part of the main narrative, it’s nevertheless a thread full of important decisions about characters we care about. I feels so far detached from any of the moments ostensibly meant to be pivotal and emotional.

I don’t understand why releasing the Endless is a big deal. In Halo, we see firsthand and immediately why the flood cannot be allowed to leave the ring. No explaining is necessary. In Infinite, all we get is one line about “The Forerunner locked the Endless away on this ring. Doesn’t that scare you?” The Master Chief also just says “No.” I do not understand why their escape would be bad, and what’s at stake. I can only guess. The fact that the Chief is going to all this trouble to stop something I don’t understand the stakes of does little help me connect to the story.

I agree with CruelLegacy here, in that the Pilot was kind of annoying, and the character relationships don’t really make me care. I don’t really have anything to expand upon here, as what’s here is basically my feeling as well.

In reading that post now that I’ve finished the game, I’m glad he brought up the idea of having the character we play as know things we don’t. Being behind the character you are playing as does not feel good. To be wondering about something, then having your avatar explain it. Oh, so you knew that all along and I didn’t, only because I didn’t get to play as you six months ago in the story? Ok… right. In some sense, this to me feels worse than the player knowing things their character doesn’t. At least there, you can create dramatic irony. But he other way around doesn’t really bring much.

So overall, I’m kind of sad. I’m kind of sad I couldn’t be more excited about the team’s work on this. I’m kind of sad it all just felt familiar and unimpactful to me. And most of all, I’m sad there was no co-op.

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