June 19, 2024

This piece accommodates spoilers for Halo: Attain.

Within the pantheon of platform exclusives, few loom so massive as Halo. Because it was launched by Bungie in 2001, Microsoft’s first-person shooter collection has spawned at least 15 video games, alongside limitless volumes of novels, comics, artwork books and a TV adaptation. It is also offered the world with one of the vital iconic characters in science fiction: John-117, aka the Grasp Chief. To many individuals, the Chief is Halo. However what occurs once you depart him out?

To place this one other manner: usually you’d count on that the primary entry could be the most effective place to start out when trying to dive into the collection, and Halo: Fight Developed stays a implausible leaping off level. However I might argue that it is the sixth mainline sport, and Bungie’s swansong, 2010’s Halo: Attain, that gives one of the vital full and rewarding gaming experiences in all of Halo – and all with out the Grasp Chief himself.

I do know this as a result of Attain was my introduction to this specific universe. I might spend the times and nights with my finest good friend at college, attempting to beat Legendary Rocketfight on Courtyard. The sound design of these rocket explosions and enemy screams are burned into my mind endlessly, and the entire thing ignited an alien bloodlust in me that result in the acquisition of my first Xbox console, as Halos 1 by 3. Within the months and years that adopted, I delved deeper and deeper into the Halo universe, and so over time Attain has grow to be greater than a treasured introduction to the collection. In storytelling phrases it seems like the top. I now see it as essentially the most deft illustration of hopelessness and dread in Halo, and an journey that I return to time and time once more.

Here is a glimpse of Halo: Attain.Watch on YouTube

Dread is the principle factor that Attain has going for it, and dread is what means it is nonetheless an important gaming expertise even at present. Terror and despair seep from each pore of the sport, like thick blue blood from a bullet-riddled Grunt. Attain is a brutal, uncompromising and surprisingly emotional trip. Gone is the plot armour of the legendary Grasp Chief, and with out him the stakes have by no means been greater. That is as a result of, as a prequel, everyone knows what occurred on Attain from the very begin. Even the promotional supplies for the sport said, “From The Starting You Know The Finish”.

With that notable absence, you are solid as a member of Noble Workforce, a squad of Spartans tasked with investigating misery beacons on the Earth-like planet, Attain. Initially it is thought that there is a insurgent rebellion underway. The true gravity of the state of affairs quickly turns into clear, although, as you and your squadmates uncover a Covenant presence on the planet. Whereas the lore of Halo is messy – and Attain particularly is a significant level of rivalry amongst die-hard followers – there isn’t a denying that an alien invasion spells bother. You are in for it.

Two Spartans chat in front of a rugged backdrop of dawn mountains in Halo: Reach.

A lone Spartan with antlers surveys the dusty horizon in Halo: Reach

An armoured soldier surveys the scene in Halo: Reach

Halo: Attain. | Picture credit score: Bungie/Microsoft

You actually are. As you progress by the sport, you’re taking the battle to the advancing forces, tackling encampments and the sieges of key army locales, preventing alongside your squad and a smattering of fragile Marines. Attain is concentrated, however due to that invasion storyline it feels large, too. One degree has you evacuate civilians from a burning metropolis, whereas one other has you disabling an enemy tower; later you will hearth gigantic cannons at a Covenant frigate, expel their presence from mining services or reclaim comms outposts. And whereas there are victories, the sport cruelly rips them away from you again and again.

Take teammate Jorge’s dying, for instance. It is a Spartan who was born on Attain and all the time remained loyal to the planet, and he makes the last word sacrifice in manually detonating a slipspace “bomb” aboard a Covenant vessel. As he throws your character out into area and to security, the ship is destroyed and evidently the mission is a tragic success. However simply seconds later, whereas I for one was nonetheless tearfully punching the air, a convoy of ships arrives to switch that which has been destroyed. It is all been for nothing. For lower than nothing. Unusual feelings to construct a sport round, however it works, as a result of Bungie is all-in on the fiction right here.

Jorge is just not the one seemingly-invincible Spartan to chunk the mud throughout Attain’s marketing campaign, and each dying teems with a depraved sense of irony. Jorge was the Attain-born soldier who vowed to by no means depart the planet, solely to die in area; Emile is a hand-to-hand fight professional who will get stabbed to dying; tech professional Kat is the brains of the crew and – considerably glibly – dies by a sudden headshot out of nowhere. Even Noble Six, who’s launched as a ‘Lone Wolf’ character, infamously dies because the final member of the pack in an epilogue degree that solely ends if you find yourself overrun by an limitless horde of Elites.

A Spartan stands in profile in front of a scene of planetary devastation in Halo: Reach

A Spartan stands before a mountain watching a flaming spaceship in the sky in Halo: Reach

A spacecraft races past a huge Covenant ship in Halo: Reach

Halo: Attain. | Picture credit score: Bungie/Microsoft

Alongside these private moments, Attain offers us large set-pieces the place we get to see the results of the invasion in actual time. It nonetheless seems like a landmark sport for this type of factor. Whereas we have traversed city settings like Halo 2’s New Mombasa, the streets are abandoned. However when Noble Workforce tries to expel the Brute invasion of New Alexandria, you achieve this amidst seas of civilian corpses. Or once you fly above the town to disable Comms jammers in a hospital, a penthouse and a nightclub (which homes an outstanding Easter egg of enemies dancing), you possibly can see the fixed “glassing” of the town taking place within the background. As the sport progresses, the greens and greys of the panorama give approach to blood purple and hearth orange. Essentially the most “alive” sport of the collection will get killed off in actual time.

If it appears unusual to be speaking concerning the fiction a lot in a collection recognized for its open-ended sandbox design and superb gunplay, I believe that is the purpose. Attain makes Halo’s fiction really feel actual to me. It makes me care about characters and stick round to observe cut-scenes.

A Covenant ship hangs in the sky while a Spartan watches in Halo: Reach

Halo: Attain. | Picture credit score: Bungie/Microsoft

And it turned out to be an ideal send-off for Bungie, because the group indifferent themselves from the collection to give attention to Future. (In truth, a number of options of Attain are successfully prototypes for options of Future. I am pondering of issues like character customisation, ship and placement design and particularly armour talents.) The reins have been handed off to 343 Industries, a model new studio that had a collaborative hand in Attain. And though that studio was custom-made for the event of Halo, its Reclaimer trilogy of video games has sparked a lot ire from followers. Halo 4 was obtained pretty effectively, however the marketing campaign of Halo 5: Guardians has been consigned to historical past by many within the Halo sphere, and 2021’s open-world entry Halo: Infinite was so damaged and incomplete upon launch that solely lately has it began to grow to be the sport we hoped it will be. (For the file, it is now very, superb.)

In the meantime, Attain exists as this excellent, anguished second on the centre of Halo. The hero’s lacking, however maybe that is why this sport is so good. It is the final hurrah of the individuals who created this world, and it provides further color and impetus to the lore, to make the occasions of the principle collection that rather more vital. All of us belong to Attain.