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Video Game Club – “Halo” (Level 3… Not “Halo 3”)

Perhaps contrary to popular belief, I am indeed slowly making my way through some games. They may be the same ol’ games, but I’m making progress, none-the-less! I got in a little more playtime with the first Halo last night, and ran into some additional frustration… though it’s completely unrelated to platforming, this time around!

(No real spoilers here, so don’t worry if you haven’t played the game… then again, I think I’m the only person who hasn’t played the game…)

There have been two instances so far where I have been almost unable to continue playing the game simply because I can’t tell what I am supposed to do (or more correctly, where I am supposed to go to do the thing that I was just told I have to do).

The first came about during level two (“Halo”) where I needed to activate a light bridge to pass across the giant gap in the roadway (shortly after getting control of the Warthog). After clearing the bridge area of baddies, I was told there was a switch to go hit to activate the bridge… but I found myself walking back and forth around the entire area completely unable to find said switch. I checked what I thought was every single nook and cranny and box and dead bad guy looking for this miraculous switch that would allow me to continue my gameplay. I took a break after something like 15 minutes to go talk to Jeff about something, and when I came back I resumed my search. Even after consulting FAQs which told me there was a ramp up on the right, I still couldn’t find the darn thing. I lost track of how much time I spent doing this, but I eventually found this fabeled narrow ramp. What prevented me from finding this? It seemed to obvious and in the open, yet I had been walking around for a ridiculous amount of time. Was it the color scheme of the stage? Was it because the ramp was so narrow? I don’t think I know the answer to this question.

I wish that was the last time I had that problem, but I ran into the exact same issue last night.

The first half of level three (“The Truth and Reconciliation”) seemed to be intended as a halfway-stealthy mission, but I have too severe a case of Gaming A.D.D.™ to be able to do that (nevermind the fact that I didn’t seem to have the sniper rifle I was apparently supposed to have). I am playing on easy, though, so that combined with the hilariously-effective stationary turrets allowed me to clear through pretty easily once I got reacquainted with the controls (it had been about two weeks since I last played). I eventually reached a comparatively wide open area that circled around a pit (for those that have played, you probably know which area I mean… it’s the second-to-last area in the first half of the level before you get beamed up). I once again had an instance where after I had cleaned out the entire area of baddies… I absolutely could not figure out where the heck I was supposed to go. I even backtracked all the way to the beginning of the level (and then back again) just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important like a side cavern or something like that. I easily spent half an hour wandering around the level, and while I managed to grab a whole bunch of extra ammo for myself, no progress was being made. I once again consulted the plethora of poorly-written FAQs on the interwebz, all of which paid no mind to the situation and told me to just continue on up the mountain as if there was not an issue here at all. If I’m spending all this time trying to figure out where to go, isn’t there some kind of issue, though? Once again, after spending this ridiculous amount of time wandering around, I found (gasp!) the narrow pathway that led me up the mountain, right in plain view the entire time.

What’s going on here? Am I just being careless? Am I not paying attention to my surroundings? Like I asked myself earlier, does it have to do with the color scheme of the game? Is it just another example of my unfamiliarity with the genre, and perhaps its non-maturation at that point in time? Am I just making excuses for my own incompetence?

How about you all? Have you had similar experiences? I’d especially like to hear about similar experiences in different genres. The closest example I can remember that’s non-FPS-related was my attempt to re-find Narsche in Final Fantasy VI which I had written about previously.

8 Comments

  1. You’re not alone. A lot of the first Halo game suffers from really old-fashioned FPS level design where not everything along the trail flows very well due to Bungie trying to incorporate a large scale map to make the whole game feel more epic. Often I was also stuck in many of the earlier Halo levels trying to figure out where to go (which was even more frustrating due to the first level being so well-structured). Having a second Master Chief (co-op) around helped because the ground could be better covered and you don’t spend so much time running around looking for switches, but definitely this was a gameplay-stopping issue for me. I didn’t get back into the game and finish it and Halo 2 until a week before Halo 3 was released because this bothered me so much.

    • That’s pretty interesting that you note how level one didn’t suffer from this, because as you can see in the post, I didn’t mention level one at all… which clearly means I didn’t have any problems with it!

      Above all else, I don’t want it to sound like I don’t like the well-scripted, linear paths. For someone like me that just wants to experience the game(s) and doesn’t have the time to invest that I may have had a decade ago, it really helps to cruise through the levels and yet still feel like I’m “experiencing” them. I hate to say that there were some “virgin” or “newbie” mistakes in the level design (since there was prior experience with “Marathon” and the like), but that’s certainly how it feels.

      I’m a little concerned about the “gameplay-stopping” you mention, because as it should be clearly evident by now, it doesn’t take much for me to drop a game. It feels like I’m always just begging for an excuse to drop a game so I can try out something new :P.

  2. I occasionally got lost in Halo as well. For the most part they give you those distance markers that tell you where to go and how far it is, but occasionally I can’t figure out where to go when there isn’t one. I didn’t have any problems with the second or third level though.

    If you ever get to Halo 3 I’ll play co-op online with you if you want. I haven’t played Halo in a while because I got bored of multiplayer, but co-op is always a great experience.

  3. I think it happened to everyone with Halo:CE the first time. It feels more like a found world than a game level, which can be fun in a sandbox kind of way, but not so much if you need to be told where to go.

    By comparison, H2 and H3 are larger in real estate, but much more linear in path. This is the labyrinth stage, that is vehicle stage; this is the small sneaking mission, that is the massive battlefield mission; et cetera.

  4. I had that same problem on level two with the ramp. I also had the same problem with finding the third area of soliders on that same level. I kept getting turned around so I thought the area I had to go to was the one I just was at and I wandered and wandered. I think its just halo 1 that suffers from that. I thought though that if you didnt go where you were supposed to after a long enough time a way point would appear to help you but I could be wrong. I also had this problem with Lego Batman. To progress something very easy hadd to be done, but i couldnt figure out what.

  5. I remember this now. Halo has, well, I don’t want to say ‘problems’ or ‘faults’ because at the time these were all par-for-course for most first-person-shooters, but with several high profile games having done so much better (and the hype about Halo being “the best FPS ever!”) makes it impossible for me to just leave it unsaid.

    Low-res textures, badly incorporated non-walk-and-shoot sections, cliched story, and (most frustratingly) poor level design.

  6. This isn’t the most popular opinion among hardcore Halo fans, but I enjoyed Halo 2 a heck of a lot more than Halo 1.

  7. Story-wise, #2 is very much the Empire Strikes Back of Halo. The addition of the Arbiter and a Covenant perspective to the war definitely made things more interesting.

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