Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bad checkpoints make me a sad spartan

If at first you don’t succeed then you are definitely doing it wrong. That’s how Halo: Reach’s checkpoint system feels at times. Having just completed it on heroic, I certainly saw my fair share of deaths and checkpoints, but not all of them were entirely helpful.

You’d like to think a system that delivers you from the cold arms of laser death and throws you back minutes in time to a period when you had a lot more spring in your step, energy in your shield and bullets in your gun would be a consistently good thing. The problems start arising however when you decide to randomly pepper these checkpoints throughout the player’s adventure with the regularity of your bowels after pizza night.

The particular experience that upset this little camper is when the game granted me a checkpoint during one of the final fights that seemed overwhelmingly difficult. I had swept the area and killed everything that was really big. Feeling quite proud of myself I start looking around the area for any nice lootables. At this point I hear a manic scream and see a comical midget like enemy running towards me with grenades held aloft.

Attempting to avoid a severe case of agonising plasma death, I started to retreat whilst firing valiantly at my assailant. I killed him just as I stumbled down the small chasm with no exit. The game also decided that having reached my new inescapable tomb, I should have a checkpoint placed there so I can reload and enjoy it all over again.

Unfortunately, the walls were so high and so steep they could not be climbed, and the only way out was to follow the tight canyon along until you encountered the piece of ground that instantly killed you. It required over an hour of back tracking through the most challenging part of the game. You know, the bit that feels like a slog, but somewhat of an achievement once you complete it because you don’t need to do it again.

The issue here is probably a mix of a level design oversight and an irritating run of bad luck with the checkpoint system, but this kind of thing is still frustrating. Only having one checkpoint stored at a time means that these things can not be corrected when they occur.

I still remember playing PC games where I have quick saved, just as I discover that the lump under my foot was actually a primed grenade ready to send me into a loop of infinite pain and discomfort. It’s really frustrating when these things happen, but at least I can say things like that on those occasions it was my fault.

An auto-checkpoint that simply takes you back to the site of your impending grave however is damn frustrating, especially on the last level. I know I’m just waggling an irritated finger in Bungie’s rough direction, but I seriously think that this kind of thing shouldn’t happen in games nowadays. Maybe I found the only place in the game where something like that can occur, but it’s still annoying.

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