GI January: HALO: Reach
So, as I mentioned previously, on a monthly basis I receive Game Informer. It is a monthly magazine that I love to get because it is usually first to get information on all the big name games before anyone else does.
I figured that since you guys don't receive this in Australia that I would run the main cover story for you guys to keep you in the loop. Sometimes I will do a separate article on a different game aside from the Cover Story as well.
So without further ado, welcome to the first of a monthly, reoccurring, article just for us console boys. Enjoy!
Platform: XBOX 360
Style: 1-Player action (multiplayer TBA)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release: Fall 2010
IN 2552, THE PLANET OF REACH IS HUMANITY'S BEST HOPE FOR VICTORY OVER AN OVERWHELMING ALIEN THREAT. It houses a huge stockpile of military assets, from training facilities to industrial mineral production. It is an impenetrable fortress planet bristling with UNSC forces and surrounded by orbital defense platforms. Its enormous tactical and strategic importance is hidden deep behind dozens of outer colony worlds, and well obscured from enemy infiltration. it's not enough. This symbol of humanity's military might falls in that same year, overwhelmed by a massive Covenant force that turns the surface of the planet to glass. A lucky few, like the Spartan II known as Master Chief, will escape. for everyone else on the surface, the end is a foregone conclusion. Reach will fall. And we'll be there to see it.
Now when I first heard they were continuing the Halo franchise with a new prequel, I was a little more than skeptic. How long can they draw this franchise out? When will they bring something fresh to it? Is anyone else getting tired of the assault rifle? These questions and more arose to me as I scanned the front of the magazine. Heck, for petes sake, I was bored with the Halo franchise after Halo 2. I haven't even played Halo 3! Yeah, yeah, chastise me later boys.
But as I read the article (full with BEAUTIFUL pictures that I have yet to find on the net for you guys) I grew excited....
Halo: Reach is not a retelling of 2001 novel, The Fall of Reach. In that prequel tale, readers learned the origin of Master Chief and the Spartan IIs, witnessed their training, and came to understand the tragic talk of how Master Chief ends up frighting as a lone Spartan through the three following games. The Characters in this story have never been seen before. They are fresh and new. And they foretell the events leading up to Halo 1.
The game tells the story of Noble Team, a six-person squad of (mostly) Spartan IIIs who have the misfortune of being on the planet when the Covenant forces find it. These third generation Spartans were cheaper to train and produce, leaving the as the military's "fire-and-forget" solution to a problem.
Somehow, Noble Team survives against the odds. Missions after mission they keep coming back from suicide assignments. When one falls, another is brought in to fill the gap. The newest member is a little more rough around the edges than most would like. While boasting myriad of combat accomplishments, he has to lash out at superiors a little too often for comfort. This new, mysterious, replacement solder is the games new hero. Noble Six.
The rest of the team is said to have attributes that will appeal to different gamers in their own rights.
Carter-259 leads the elite squad and has pulled them out of enough impossible scrapes to earn the loyalty of his teammates. His second-in-command is Kat-320, a female Spartan who is fiercely loyal to Carter and the team - a devotion that cost her right arm, which has since been replaced by a robotic implant. Carter and Kat are the only two survivors of the original team, and therefore share a close bond. Jorge-052 is the heavy weapons specialist and the only Spartan II on the team. He's bigger and bulkier, and he's fought countless battles to survive as long as he has. Emile-259 is the silent type. His helmet is painted with the visage of a skull, and he lets his actions speak for him. Jun-266 is the last of the lineup. This thoughtful soldier tackles sniping duties when the up-close approach won't do.
Reach is that last important player in the game. While Reach has never-before been visualized, Bungie is taking no shortcuts on making sure it will stand up to ideas we all had for it in our heads. Reach mostly comes across as a rugged and harsh wilderness filled with towering mountains and weather-beaten forests. Things are overall going to be taking a darker hue than the previous titles. You will have military outposts to discover, along with hmoes of early colonists and industrial installations.
A big focus of the game play is making the Covenant frightening again. A lot of what made them scary or foreboding has been lost over the last few titles. Halo: Reach is set before all of the previous games and therefore the Covenant are much scarier because they are much newer to the protagonists in the game. The UNSC has been at war with them for sometime, but for some in the game, it is the first time they has seen Covenant forces. Enemies perpetually speak in their own languages. Low and guttural voices. They are vicious and unrelenting. A new species joins the familiar antagonists: a cousin of the Jackals called the Skirmishers, who are deadly and cunning enemies that attack in packs and flank their foes.
And be bored no more with the tech that has been used on the previous titles. Bungie has moved mountains for Reach. Their newest engine, which they call the "imposter" program. In simple terms, distant objects are rendered at far lower polygon counts and with cheaper shaders. These imposters still look great from a distance, and the detail on the objects increases the closer you get to them. This means there's less chance of pop-up, as environmental geometry, plants, buildings, enemies, or anything else can be placed into the visual field at extreme distance with seriously impacting system performance.
Indirectly, the imposter system can free up memory that Bungie can devote to other aspects of the game. Such as lighting. In Halo 3, Bungie could include three or four dynamic lights on screen at one time. Now they can provide an amazing 20 to 40 lights on screen at a time. As plasma bolts fly, they move across the screen with their own independent light source, casting beautiful light and color across space. On the back of a Warthog we a chaingun let loose. Hundreds of real sparks fly from the stone wall. Even more impressive, the particles interact not just with the wall, but with the normal map as well. The particles that scatter down onto a nearby vehicle react with its curves and lines. The sparks actually bounce and flow along the tiny textured surface.
A new weather system has been implemented as it throws rain down on many of the missions giving Reach a more tragic tone. Also the sky, unlike previous Halo titles, is not just a "skybox". A painted, curved, picture stretched across the sky. It is its own space that can be filled with jump ships as you actually watch them lower from afar to your position.
With this new engine come MUCH bigger battles. Halo 3 could only push about 20 AI enemies on screen at time. Reach? Let's try 40 AI, plus 20 vehicles. Expect to feel a little scatterbrained at times.
Animation has taken a turn for the better as well. Bungie, for the first time, has used motion capture. Character also will display what is called variable gait blending. Which means animations are smooth from one speed to another. Walking blends right into running, and running into sprinting. When turning on a pivot, players will no longer stand still and turn on a circle. Characters will move and turn their feet with their entire bodies to move in any direction. For facial work, Bungie has enlisted Image Metrics, which you may recall from the Youtube hit "Emily" that appeared in 2008 and blew gamers away. You saw it in use for Gears of War 2 and for GTA IV. I can't wait to see what it can do for Halo... but wait all the protagonists are wearing helmets.... wait a second!!!
Weapons have also changed. You'll see new additions along with some oldie-but-goodies. One of the new ones is the DMR (designated marksman rifle). The single shot DMR fits somewhere between the sniper rifle and the battle rifle. It's deadly at range, but a quick trigger finger and a steady aim will assure you of its usefulness at other ranges as well.
Stealth missions will be available as well. Assassinations of Covenant will be accomplished if they are unaware of your presence. You will perform a context sensitive knife kill while then watching your enemy sloop to the ground.
These new game attributes and game engine only makeup some of the story of Noble 6. Their story has a darker emotional core behind it, set as it is among characters and upon a world the we already know will be destroyed by the games conclusion. The technology accompanying that storytelling is a profound step up from anything the gaming world has yet seen from Bungie.
Well guys, hope you enjoy. In a couple of days I will put up the write up for Splinter Cell: Conviction. Keep in mind that this is not verbatim from the magazine. That would take forever. I wrote a lot of it myself, but took the main points from the magazine.
What'd he say? "Falls Off Fences?"