Revenge of the Golden Triangle
Back in the era of the ancient ones - during the release of the original Halo: Combat Evolved - Bungie touted a gameplay mechanic they referred to as the "Golden Triangle", a gameplay mechanic combining guns, grenades and melee. At that time, the standard for a first person shooter was to carry an inventory of roughly twelve different guns including rocket launchers and other heavy items. This highly unrealistic yet heavily entrenched idea was challenged in the mainstream for the first time with Halo (Trespasser and others aside.) Reducing players to being able to carry only two guns at a time with very limited precious ammo made firefights intense and every kill feel like a close scrape. To compensate for that, a short supply of grenades became essential to clear areas of enemies, or, with the new fangled AI, at least force them to fall back and divide their ranks. Given the need to constantly rush forward to claim any weapons on the ground from your dropped foes to keep the firefight going, those grenades would need to be followed up by a strong melee on the stragglers hovering near the abandoned weapons. Meanwhile, it was all a careful dance to manage Master Chief's health.
Equipped with Mjolnir armor and shields, he was able to absorb a lot of damage and recover with his shields, but after that, his health meter would begin depleting until his shields recovered, requiring players to scavenge the wreckage for health packs. And thus the Golden Triangle was complete.
Yet in Halo 2 and Halo 3, the "Golden Triangle" became more of a "Bronze Rectilinear Plane." The careful dance of tactical management was outmoded by a more super-hero type Master Chief. Where in Combat Evolved he felt like an ultra tough super soldier, in the sequels he became more of a power-armored Captain Universe capable of charging a room, guns blazing
like a big green John Wayne, dual wield, duck for a few moments and keep charging. With no health to worry about and enough firepower to largely ignore grenades and melee, he was an unstoppable force of bravado. That's not to say there was no challenge or that dying often wasn't probable, after all, the enemies were beefed up and in greater numbers than ever, but simply, the careful tactics more replaced by faster pacing and more action.
Halo 3: ODST marks the triumphant return of the true Golden Triangle. With all the hype about the weaker feeling ODST troopers versus the iconic Master Chief, it's easy to expect a more dramatic difference than is actually achieved. The troopers feel heavier, slower, certainly. They're also a bit shorter. While it's a subtle difference, the Chief stands a bit taller than all other soldiers on the battlefield, making your allies always look small and insignificant, just beneath eye (or camera) level. ODST troopers place the camera at the correct eye level for a mere mortal, and it dramatically changes your perception of
events. Additionally, another subtle difference is that your weapon appears much smaller, consuming far less of the game screen. It's an almost imperceptible difference I hadn't even noticed until I fired up Halo 3 after completing ODST. The Chief's guns consume a huge
portion of the screen giving you the feeling of wielding an unstoppable cannon ripping through enemy hordes. The scaled-down visible gun of the ODST trooper once again provides a mood of a lone soldier fighting the battle with whatever guns are available. The guns, are of course, the same ones, but the art style scales them back a bit for mood. The single
largest change for the game, though, is something that's not new at all, but quite old. The ODST troopers work almost exactly like the Master Chief did in the original Halo: Combat Evolved. While officially the ODST troopers don't have the Chief's shields, thus making them weaker, they effectively do have the same shields. Taking a small to moderate amount of damage (including a direct sniper shot) causes the screen to go red and the trooper to begin breathing heavily. If ducking out of combat for a few moments, the screen clears and you'll find your trooper back to normal with no health impact. If you continue taking damage, your
health bar will decrease, which can be mended by finding an Optican health pack located at self-serve kiosks and various other locations around the game world. In short, combat works exactly as it did with the original Master Chief. This is a pleasant return for fans of the original, and makes the original's deliberate tactics as important as ever.
By and large the biggest shift in the game is in the mood and art style. This becomes immediately apparent even during load screens. While the true Halo 3 feels somehow "bigger" and presents itself as an epic space opera even on load screens with it's particle effect rendering of the halo ring, the load screens in ODST are grittier, with map generation searches generated on a New Mombasa computer terminal. The major new world element is the gritty urban feel. While Halo is known for mostly huge outdoor environments, pushing forward constantly, followed by constrained indoor hallways, ODST takes on a close outdoor urban environment detailed more like conventional shooters, but with distinct Halo flare. The tight streets give way to some larger outdoor missions, but the new mood is significant, and very well anchored by the iconic chime and voice of "Vergil," the snarky AI that has in itself become a new character unto itself. Recognizable by its round green face appearing on terminals and synthesized voice and "chime" sound, it's nearly a nod to GlaDOS of Portal
fame, and brightens up the fairly gloomy badly-damaged urban jungle of New Mombasa. Vergil creates a sense of identity to the new environment which would otherwise be more alien to most Halo players than a Covenant carrier.
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