Thursday 6 March, 2008
In a lot of shooting games, it becomes pretty clear which weapon or two are the most effective. This narrows the gameplay and make the game less interactive. Halo 3 does an excellent job of making almost every gun useful and fairly equal. You want to go into a CQB situation with an sub-machine gun or shotgun, you feel like the Battle Rifle is the best all around, the Needler is deadly from mid-range, etc. Deciding which weapon you want to use in which situation is half of the fun of Halo 3 multi-player.
If you add in the different types of grenades, the possible ways a given combat situation can unfold is staggeringly high. And what else is nice is that this largely applies to campaign mode as well.
One gameplay aspect that I'm not sure how I feel about is the meelee lunge. This is a small movement that a player executing a meelee makes towards his target, allowing him to meelee opponents otherwise out of reach. The problem I have with this is that I think it goes against the trend of gameplay Halo already established by making the conflict as player skill-oriented as possible. The meelee lunge basically means that you can have the upper-hand on someone, and they can lunge at you from an impossible distance and steal a kill. Every other action taken in Halo is triggered by the player. Every single movement, except the meelee lunge. It is automatic and not only does it lower the quality of gameplay, it lowers interactivity.
I mentioned earlier how the reward system in Halo was optimal because it had the ability to respond pretty much only to player actions and not too many outside variables. Another interesting thing about Halo's reward system is that the player is constantly being rewarded. The player is made aware of every kill they get, including just about any kind of streak or spree. bullets cause a satisfying clash with an enemy's shield, letting you know you've hit. New levels allow new player model customizations as well as the respect among your peers. Halo does an excellent job of "keeping the player playing" as per the second required seduction for any game developer by constantly rewarding the player.
I think another underrated design decision in the Halo series is the way it handles Health. Whereas the original Halo actually monitored a player's health, Halo 2 and 3 both use just a shield system. Once your shield goes down, you are in trouble basically. I like this because it changes the way skirmishes are fought. If you nearly finish someone off, but fail to get the kill, that person can re-appear in a few seconds with full shields ready to retaliate. This raises the chance that the better player wins, and not just the one with more health. It helps to balance the gameplay.