October 7, 2010

The View From Reach

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 5:38 pm

Halo Reach
There’s a fiendish grin on my best girl’s lips, which slips into a smile nearly every time her battle rifle smacks across the face of an Elite.

In the futile rush to push back the Covenant invasion, there were plenty of times we lost track of one another, separating in the rush for cover, but often reunited by familiar Halo bottlenecks that never seem to leave enough ammo lying around when Hunters block the road ahead.

Greener pastures are open spaces where I can rush out to face the horde, pushing them back just as she circles around to catch them from behind with that crack of the rifle that makes her smile so.

Playing Reach constitutes her first steps in a Spartan’s boots, and a very long war seems fresher through her eyes. It gets a little easier to remember the first time I tried Combat Evolved, playing with a friend until my eyes burned from the purple of the Covenant fleet and the fact that the sun was sneaking up and cutting through the windows to glare against the warm glow of the television.

It’s so easy sometimes to treat anything popular with disdain, that I forgot how much I enjoyed playing through most of the damn campaigns in this series.

Halo Reach
Reach’s somber tones and cinematic detours gives us time to talk about the other entries in the series. She’s curious now to learn more about a series I hardly ever mention. Not a want for knowing more about the narrative of the franchise, but rather about the battlefields. Everything feels fresh again as she notices the way Grunts break ranks when faced with enough force, or how Elites change the flow of battle, and to a lesser extent, why I still have trouble keeping a warthog on the road.

There’s still a lack of focus that has us suddenly blasting into space as if just for the hell of it, with no mechanical complaints, but a sensibility that feels like we sidestepped the real battle to briefly get in one last ride on the local roller-coaster. There are still plenty of times where we ask each other what the hell the objective even was.

But then there are also times where we stop talking, suddenly distracted by the skyline, the clouds flashing with a sea of deep colors as the invasion intensifies in the distance and Reach finds new notes for the desolation that exists throughout the series, but revels in this release.

Halo Reach
About halfway through the campaign, we both realized that there hadn’t been any arguments, none of the gripes and accusations that co-op games seems to so often invite.

Halo Reach is the least divisive co-op game we’ve played together to date. A lot of this seems to owe to an open battleground that doesn’t force direct instances of required assistance – no enemy ever grabs a hold of one player and pummels them until the second player acts.

Mind you, stepping back from the action to bring a teammate back to life can still cause some arguments, but more often than not, the co-op feels natural. Somehow we seem to always split at the right moment, and reunite as needed without any deep strategy discussions.

Those are the moments that bring me back to the reasons behind the original love affair, when a well timed grenade from her tosses an enemy over my head before I need to fire. When I’ve survived every pocket battle Bungie has to toss my way. When I’ve collected these small battlefield stories cooperatively with another player, not from the narrative of the game’s direct intent, but through the chance occurrences inherent to the battlefield.

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