Halo Combat Evolved, the first Halo game in the franchise, is famous for many reasons. The evolution of FPS gaming on consoles, or the controllers we see today could all be directly linked to Halo Combat Evolved. However, there is one element from Halo Combat Evolved that is always mentioned by fans. Halo fans always talk about how the game felt so open and beautiful the first time they played it.
The Sense Of Wonder
There is a vast amount of opinions when it comes to discussing Halo Combat Evolved in the Halo community. One common opinion is that Halo Combat Evolved had incredibly good level design in the campaign. The feeling of amazement and wonder that fans felt the first time they landed on the Halo ring in the second mission is something other Halo games have failed to reproduce. The closest Halo has come to providing this sense of wonder is Halo 4’s second mission.
This sense of wonder is not purely a graphical experience, nor is it an experience that someone can have purely from a large scale environment. It is difficult to summarise exactly what it is that makes a Halo fan say “wow” when playing a Halo game. It can be speculated that in the case of Halo Combat Evolved, the alien nature and environment played a big part.
When players first leave the escape pod in the second mission in the original Halo they are met with an incredibly large area filled with trees, a waterfall and of course, the covenant. The game does a brilliant job of allowing players to look around at their own pace, whilst also encouraging them to move along the level. I think this is a key element that has been extremely lacking in a Halo campaign for a very long time, and is an element that Halo Infinite could revive.
Exploration In Halo
Having a large open space doesn’t always encourage players to explore. Usually in many games, these open spaces are filled with items or secrets that players can find. Halo Combat Evolved had no such secrets, but somehow still managed to encourage this exploration. The question is, how? Halo Combat Evolved provided multiple scenarios in such levels as Halo and The Silent Cartographer that allowed players to go back and forth between areas without the game feeling boring. Providing different enemy encounters and routes allowed players to explore the level effortlessly.
Two levels that provide an incredible mix of enemy encounters and exploration are Assault on the Control Room and Two Betrayals. Both of these levels allow players to take their time finding the objectives, whilst also providing alternative routes to give players a choice. This choice is a big element in making exploration in environments sustainable. If there is too little choice, then players will not explore the levels. Too much choice, and it will feel frustrating for the players.
Games like Halo 2 and Halo 3 are usually criticised for having too much of an A to B style campaign. You start in point A and have to get to point B. There is little room for diverting from the path or exploration. Whilst some levels in Halo Combat Evolved also include this, the vast majority of levels do not. There is very rarely a feeling of urgency to rush a mission in Halo Combat Evolved. Playing through the campaign is a very relaxing experience, since players can take their time and look around.
Are linear Missions Bad?
The short answer is no. Having a mission in which you have to complete a set amount of objectives on a very set path is not a bad thing. However, it must be done in balance with missions that allow some freedom to the player. Having a game, specifically an FPS, that forces players down a set path every single mission will only reduce the chance of replay value. Halo very much so prides itself on replay value, especially when it comes to the campaign. Players usually play through the campaigns multiple times for various reasons, so making it feel fun and different every time is vital.
This replay value is something that Halo Combat Evolved struggles with slightly. The open world feel of the game does help bring players back, however, the campaign can feel too long at times. This is due to a lack of direction to the players. This is why it is vital to have a balance of A to B style mission layout and the opportunity for players to explore. If a player wants to complete the game quickly, they should not be forced to explore areas. The same can be said if players want to explore a mission but it is too linear to do so.
How Will Halo Infinite Incorporate These Elements?
During E3 2018, Halo Infinite was revealed to the world. This reveal was in the form of a breathtaking engine demo featuring the new Slipspace Engine. This engine demo did something that Halo fans have been waiting for for a very long time. It brought back the sense of wonder. From the trees to the wildlife. From the skyline to the mountains. The Halo Infinite engine demo demonstrated that the sense of wonder and level of exploration that has been absent since Halo Combat Evolved may return.
Many fans have been asking how what looks like a semi open world experience would work for Halo Infinite. This answer can be found back in Halo Combat Evolved. Halo Infinite can incorporate the perfect balance of objectives, enemy interaction and exploration to make the game feel bigger than it actually is. With Halo Infinite expected to release nearly 20 years after Halo Combat Evolved, the possibilities for an incredibly large scale Halo campaign are endless. This scale however will be meaningless if balance and replayability are not taken into account.
Overall there are many elements that allow the feel of exploration to succeed in a Halo title. These elements may have not been perfected in Halo Combat Evolved, but 343 Industries has the potential to do so for Halo Infinite. Do you think Halo Infinite will be semi open world? Would you like to see a Halo Combat Evolved style campaign again? You can let us know on the Gaming Instincts Twitter and keep up to date on Halo at Gaming Instincts.