Re: Has Bungie ever released a really great game?

The short answer to this question is "Yes. Myth II." The complete answer is a little more complicated. Let's examine Bungie's line of very-very-good-but-not-great games.

1. Marathon & Marathon 2: Durandal. Clearly two very good games. The Marathon series had many technical features which did not appear in PC shooter until much later: double weapons, alternate fire mode, jumping, sloped floors, helper NPCs, etc. It also had a rather involving plot, which played out on monitors that the player could stop and read. Rabid fans abound, and a quick net search will show you that their love of this game runs deep. So, is it a great game?

Two problems. One -- the majority of gamers own only PCs, and never played Marathon. And two -- Doom.

Doom was the best computer game ever. It was so good that it absolutely defined what a first-person shooter was, what deathmatch was, what a shareware program was. Marathon's slower pace and more limited market meant that it is less remembered today, but Marathon may indeed have been a great game, only overshadowed by Doom.

2. Myth: the Fallen Lords & Myth 2: Soulblighter. Again, these games are both clearly very good. Myth was truly innovative, a real-time tactics game with a three-d engine, blood and body parts, a non-Tolkien-derivative fantasy world, and best of all, dwarfs with explosives. The single-player campaign was tense and involving, and playing multiplayer on bungie.net was damned near the best thing since sliced bread. (or woulda been, if the place weren't overrun by kiddies and statwhores)

Problems? Well, controlling the camera angle was a little dicey at times. The single-player could be damned difficult. The aforementioned kiddies and statwhores. Multiplayer games degenerating into click-fests. Ultimately the Myth games stand as one of a kind, real-time tactics games a breadth apart from the venerated RTS tree.

3. Oni. Again, an innovative, genre-blurring game that kicks some major ass. Not a great game, but definitely a good one. The engine is nice, the anime stylings are definitely on, and beating people up with combo moves will never go out of style.

Unfortunely, Oni has a case of console-itis: you must reach the next save point to get your progress saved, controls are not editable in-game, you must put them in a text file. Worst of all, no multi-player. Also, controlling Konoko can be a bit difficult until you get used to it.

So, what's the common theme here? All of Bungie's games have the potential to be great. Certainly you can find plenty of people willing to ramble on about the greatness of this game or that. However, all of their games lack the elements of mass appeal that would put them up there with Id and Blizzard. Straying from established genres, using slightly less friendly control schemes, trying to include the Mac market -- all these factors chip away at games that display periodic flashes of brilliance.

I would rate Bungie as a great game company, if only because the quality of their offerings is so consistently high. Whatever happens, you can be sure that Halo will not be an ordinary game.

It would that the above articles were all written prior to the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, and in the case of dogwalker's entry, without having (yet) played it.

Whilst many of Bungie's back catalogue have had the potential to be great, yet not been as well received as they might, Halo really does succeed in all the ways that the other games may have failed. How so?

  1. The control system is by far and away the best ever for a console-based First-Person Shooter game. This was always a cause of hesitation as to whether I should buy an XBox for me, but having done so I can now safely say that it works damned nearly as well as the mouse/keyboard combination so favoured by PC FPS players.
  2. The easier difficulty levels give in-game tutoring whenever you encounter a new feature of the game, such as using the ever-present melee attack, or climb into a vehicle (more on them later).
  3. The two-weapon only system introduces another dimension to a genre which has repeatedly been called stale; instead of carrying around a mini armoury, you must constantly think about which weapons are most appropriate, based on your enemies, the terrain and of course, what weapons are available. Running out of shotgun ammo on the later (Flood) levels certainly can force you to re-think your strategies.
  4. Without a doubt, the best Artificial Intelligence yet seen in a videogame. The difference between it and the AI from games such as, say Return to Castle Wolfenstein, is striking. The combination of interaction between friendly and hostile NPCs, the randomised starting positions of the enemies, and a variety of difficulty levels, means that the player will encounter many fantastic set-pieces which arise simply as a result.
  5. Seamless transition from First-Person Shooter gameplay to vehicle gameplay, be that on the ground in a jeep, an alien hoverbike, tank or even a single-person fighter. The vehicles work so well that you wonder how it is that just about every other FPS game has so horribly buggered up vehicles.

There are other things that make Halo great, an interesting storyline and fantastic graphics amongst things, but whatever criticisms you level at it, you cannot claim this game to be anything other than genre-defining. Like Half-Life before it, Halo has taken the FPS genre, turned it upside-down and given it a good shake.

As an aside in response to the remarks of Sky and Twiin, Halo will still be released on both the Macintosh and PC; the conversion is being handled by Gearbox Software (of Half-Life: Opposing Force fame) and is due for release between summer and autumn 2003.

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