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Looking for the heart of Halo in Bungie’s finest momenton 23 August 2020 at 8:00 am Eurogamer.net

I’ve had an extremely good time revisiting Halo 3, but you can have almost as good a time just reading what the people of 2007 had to say about it. Halo 3 – and this is news to me, fifteen and blissfully ignorant at the time – was apparently one of those battleground games, where lines were drawn and sides chosen in arguments about what it meant for the future of medium. In 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was that future of big-budget gaming because, as one half of our enjoyably angsty retrospective put it the following summer, “it experiments with means of storytelling that are specifically about being a videogame, not a movie.” Call of Duty’s storytelling was interactive, you see, and Halo’s action tired, its cutscenes archaically passive.

What’s great is how cyclical it all is. Follow that thought all the way through to today and Call of Duty’s progress seemed to hit a rather jarring brick wall – something about pressing F and paying respects. And today’s tastes, meanwhile, are if anything obsessed with the systemic; storytelling is now considered best when it’s emergent and player-directed, as opposed to the occasional quick-time button-press in what’s otherwise painstakingly scripted. This is what the mainstream rediscovered with PUBG and Breath of the Wild, and the playable, writeable hang-out zone of Fortnite, I’d argue – what gaming’s intelligentsia loves about the work of studios like Arkane, IO Interactive and Larian. As a result, attempting to recapture some magic, Call of Duty and Halo have both turned back to their past: CoD with Modern Warfare Remastered and 2019’s Modern Warfare; Halo with Halo Infinite, which seems overtly pitched as a return to the colourful vibes of Combat Evolved.

Anyway, circle back to Halo 3 and marvel with me, will you, at just how little it cares about any of this. As modern follow-ups increasingly resemble a playable existential crisis, Halo 3 is a masterclass in force of will. Total self-assuredness, Bungie a team playing with the freedom created by confidence, if you fancy it in sporting terms. The result is a kind of immaculate clarity. It’s pure reward: yes, you may carry the machine gun turret; yes, you may have a bigger laser; yes, you may drive the tank. Only the turret’s a true first out of those, but it’s not about novelty so much as generosity. For all the biblical gibberish in Halo’s story, the way grunts like to call you “the Demon” does at least stick. Halo 3’s generosity feels like power earned through a very good deal with the devil.

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I’ve had an extremely good time revisiting Halo 3, but you can have almost as good a time just reading what the people of 2007 had to say about it. Halo 3 – and this is news to me, fifteen and blissfully ignorant at the time – was apparently one of those battleground games, where lines were drawn and sides chosen in arguments about what it meant for the future of medium. In 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was that future of big-budget gaming because, as one half of our enjoyably angsty retrospective put it the following summer, “it experiments with means of storytelling that are specifically about being a videogame, not a movie.” Call of Duty’s storytelling was interactive, you see, and Halo’s action tired, its cutscenes archaically passive. What’s great is how cyclical it all is. Follow that thought all the way through to today and Call of Duty’s progress seemed to hit a rather jarring brick wall – something about pressing F and paying respects. And today’s tastes, meanwhile, are if anything obsessed with the systemic; storytelling is now considered best when it’s emergent and player-directed, as opposed to the occasional quick-time button-press in what’s otherwise painstakingly scripted. This is what the mainstream rediscovered with PUBG and Breath of the Wild, and the playable, writeable hang-out zone of Fortnite, I’d argue – what gaming’s intelligentsia loves about the work of studios like Arkane, IO Interactive and Larian. As a result, attempting to recapture some magic, Call of Duty and Halo have both turned back to their past: CoD with Modern Warfare Remastered and 2019’s Modern Warfare; Halo with Halo Infinite, which seems overtly pitched as a return to the colourful vibes of Combat Evolved.Anyway, circle back to Halo 3 and marvel with me, will you, at just how little it cares about any of this. As modern follow-ups increasingly resemble a playable existential crisis, Halo 3 is a masterclass in force of will. Total self-assuredness, Bungie a team playing with the freedom created by confidence, if you fancy it in sporting terms. The result is a kind of immaculate clarity. It’s pure reward: yes, you may carry the machine gun turret; yes, you may have a bigger laser; yes, you may drive the tank. Only the turret’s a true first out of those, but it’s not about novelty so much as generosity. For all the biblical gibberish in Halo’s story, the way grunts like to call you “the Demon” does at least stick. Halo 3’s generosity feels like power earned through a very good deal with the devil.Read moreEurogamer.net

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