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2023 Retrospective: The Best Year of Gaming? (Gaming)

by Morpheus @, High Charity, Wednesday, December 27, 2023, 10:23 (206 days ago)

I just finished reading what I thought was a pretty thought-provoking article about 2023 and how/why it churned out hit after hit, despite brutal layoffs and rock-bottom working conditions. Some of the things I already knew about, but it was still eye opening to read and realize what really goes on behind the scenes.

Give it a read: https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/a46190511/best-video-games-year-all-time-2023/?utm_source=pocket-newtab-en-us

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2023 Retrospective: The Best Year of Gaming?

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, December 27, 2023, 21:29 (206 days ago) @ Morpheus

Gamers and critics love to argue about the medium's best year of all time

The author then proceeds to list all the years that aren't 2001.

Let's take a look:

Halo
Metal Gear Solid 2
Pro Skater 3
Final Fantasy X
Ico
Silent Hill 2
Smash Bros Melee
GTA 3
Gran Turismo 3
Max Payne
Oracle of Seasons
Devil May Cry
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Baldur's Gate 2
Serious Sam


I probably forgot some, but no year will ever be as absolutely stacked as 2001.

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2023 Retrospective: The Best Year of Gaming?

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Wednesday, December 27, 2023, 22:41 (206 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I probably forgot some, but no year will ever be as absolutely stacked as 2001.

01 was a hell of a year, but nothing matches 07.

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2023 Retrospective: The Best Year of Gaming?

by Coaxkez, Thursday, December 28, 2023, 06:59 (206 days ago) @ Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316)

2004 was pretty badass.

Halo 2
Half-Life 2
Doom 3
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Ninja Gaiden
Knights of the Old Republic II
Far Cry
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
World of Warcraft
Fable (lmao)

I remember that being the big year in gaming when I was a teenager, and while I know the hype for Halo 3 reached epic proportions, for me personally, nothing ever came close to the build-up to Halo 2's release.

I would sell a kidney to experience the euphoria of seeing the Master Chief board a Ghost for the very first time at E3 2003 again.

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Let's go to the stats

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Friday, December 29, 2023, 21:02 (204 days ago) @ Morpheus
edited by Cody Miller, Friday, December 29, 2023, 21:09

[image][image][image][image]

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-blam!-ing hate this

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Saturday, December 30, 2023, 06:57 (204 days ago) @ Cody Miller

- No text -

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What the fuck is Playtika?

by Coaxkez, Saturday, December 30, 2023, 20:44 (203 days ago) @ Cody Miller

- No text -

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2007 was better

by Anna Komnene, Monday, January 01, 2024, 15:46 (201 days ago) @ Morpheus

- No text -

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2007 was better

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Monday, January 01, 2024, 17:26 (201 days ago) @ Anna Komnene

Played "The Covenant" level of Halo 3 the other day. I'd forgotten just how epic it is. And you never forget that you're part of a narrative.

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Citadel in sight! Brutes are mobilizing everything they got.

by Anna Komnene, Monday, January 01, 2024, 19:48 (201 days ago) @ Kermit

*music kicks in*

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Two. Scarabs.

by CyberKN ⌂ @, Oh no, Destiny 2 is bad, Monday, January 01, 2024, 20:30 (201 days ago) @ Anna Komnene

- No text -

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AT THE SAME TIME

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 00:32 (201 days ago) @ CyberKN

- No text -

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Two. Scarabs.

by uberfoop @, Seattle-ish, Thursday, January 04, 2024, 22:42 (198 days ago) @ CyberKN

I've actually always felt that this encounter is a bit underwhelming. Not bad... very good, actually. But underwhelming.

One, it's sort of sloppy. There's too much stuff simultaneously interacting with everything else to have any kind of tight encounter design.
It manages to incorporate a fair amount of real decision-making*, but the mechanics around most of this feel a bit cheesy and forced.

Two, it's got staging issues.
It suffers from the common Halo 3 problem of how to combine the land war with the space war. Two scarabs is a lot bigger than a standard squad of Covenant, but when it's being posed as the last stand of the Covenant fleet, it's kind of "that's it?"
It also has a sloppy setup, with things like the impact sites being super-obviously drawn onto the dirt and snow even before the scarabs land. Furthermore, while it's not the only spot that the game has a pelican awkwardly drifting around doing nothing, it's staged in a way that makes these sorts of things stick out. It's very much a "how the sausage is made" kind of encounter.

*Like, if you grab the hornet, choosing how aggressively to try and preserve the aircraft for tackling the second scarab.

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Two. Scarabs.

by Anna Komnene, Friday, January 05, 2024, 05:23 (198 days ago) @ uberfoop

I see where you're coming from with some of these, but most of these just don't matter. I guess in terms of story two scarabs can be kinda underwhelming, but in terms of gameplay, there's nothing like it, which makes it a great send-off.

I always found the dual scarab encounter to have some tight design despite its size. I'm always worried about danger.

And this?

It also has a sloppy setup, with things like the impact sites being super-obviously drawn onto the dirt and snow even before the scarabs land. Furthermore, while it's not the only spot that the game has a pelican awkwardly drifting around doing nothing, it's staged in a way that makes these sorts of things stick out. It's very much a "how the sausage is made" kind of encounter.

Eh. None of this really matters.

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2007 was better

by cheapLEY @, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 09:15 (201 days ago) @ Kermit

Halo 3 is still the best Halo game, and I honestly don’t even think it’s close.

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2007 was better

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 10:12 (200 days ago) @ cheapLEY

Halo 3 is still the best Halo game, and I honestly don’t even think it’s close.

If one game being the best were enough to declare an entire year the greatest, then the greatest year in gaming is forever 2000, because that's when Deus Ex came out.

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+1

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 11:24 (200 days ago) @ Cody Miller

- No text -

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2007 was better

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 12:57 (200 days ago) @ Cody Miller

If one game being the best were enough to declare an entire year the greatest, then the greatest year in gaming is forever 2000, because that's when Deus Ex came out.

Did you sleep through that entire year or something? (For the record, I personally count major expansions. Some people may not.)

In no particular order:
Halo 3
CoD4
The Orange Box
-HL2 Episode 2
-Portal
-Team Fortress 2
Assassin's Creed
Super Mario Galaxy
Bioshock
Rockband
God of War 2
Mass Effect
Crysis
Metroid Prime 3
Guitar Hero III
WoW: Burning Crusade
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Forza 2
Uncharted 1
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Lost Planet
Crackdown
MotorStorm
Drake & Josh
Sonic and the Secret Rings
Def Jam: Icon
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Armored Core 4
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
Super Paper Mario
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
Shadowrun (2007)
Mario Party 8
The Darkness
Blue Dragon
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Stranglehold
Skate
Stuntman: Ignition
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
Project Gotham Racing 4
Beautiful Katamari
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Ace Combat 6
The Witcher
Manhunt 2
Viva Piñata: Party Animals
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Unreal Tournament 3

C'mon dawg. C'mon.

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2007 was better

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:06 (200 days ago) @ Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316)
edited by Cody Miller, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:11

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

UH

Just listing every major game release from 2007 doesn't tell you anything. Like, half the ones I listed from 2001 were complete industry changers or Capital A for Art, and the rest otherwise extremely influential. There's a handful from 2007 that are very good, but nowhere on 2001's level in aggregate in my opinion.

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2007 was better

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:20 (200 days ago) @ Cody Miller
edited by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316), Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:33

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men


UH

Just listing every major game release from 2007 doesn't tell you anything. Like, half the ones I listed from 2001 were complete industry changers or Capital A for Art, and the rest otherwise extremely influential. There's a handful from 2007 that are very good, but nowhere on 2001's level in aggregate in my opinion.

Everything I listed was at the very least a cult classic.

Edit: And I'll bet I could match your list to 07 games.

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2007 was better

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 14:24 (200 days ago) @ Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316)

If one game being the best were enough to declare an entire year the greatest, then the greatest year in gaming is forever 2000, because that's when Deus Ex came out.


Did you sleep through that entire year or something? (For the record, I personally count major expansions. Some people may not.)

In no particular order:
Halo 3
CoD4
The Orange Box
-HL2 Episode 2
-Portal
-Team Fortress 2
Assassin's Creed
Super Mario Galaxy
Bioshock
Rockband
God of War 2
Mass Effect
Crysis
Metroid Prime 3
Guitar Hero III
WoW: Burning Crusade
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Forza 2
Uncharted 1
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Lost Planet
Crackdown
MotorStorm
Drake & Josh
Sonic and the Secret Rings
Def Jam: Icon
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Armored Core 4
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
Super Paper Mario
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
Shadowrun (2007)
Mario Party 8
The Darkness
Blue Dragon
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Stranglehold
Skate
Stuntman: Ignition
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
Project Gotham Racing 4
Beautiful Katamari
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
Ace Combat 6
The Witcher
Manhunt 2
Viva Piñata: Party Animals
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Unreal Tournament 3

C'mon dawg. C'mon.

I remember when I used to play other games.

Gotta say, though, even in their current, revised versions, Uncharted and Mass Effect have not aged well. Not nearly as well as a much older game, namely, Halo:CE.

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2007 was better

by Anna Komnene, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 17:25 (200 days ago) @ Kermit

I don't think we should be judging gaming years by how well or not games have aged. What matters, or what I'd argue is more important, is what they meant in that time and place.

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2007 was better

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 11:09 (200 days ago) @ cheapLEY

Halo 3 is still the best Halo game, and I honestly don’t even think it’s close.

I'm coming around to that position. It had been so long that I'd actually forgotten parts of the Covenant, and found it hard to believe that so many great moments were all in one level. Still think Reach was THE fully mature Halo in terms of feature set, but I also loved the story. I'm biased by a lot of nostalgia for it, too, some of which is wrapped up in bungie.org

The underrated jewel of the franchise is ODST. Stellar soundtrack, storytelling, environments, voice acting, and gameplay. Not epic In scale, but nearly perfect for what it is.

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Reach has the best presentation

by Anna Komnene, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 17:28 (200 days ago) @ Kermit

Which I think helps mask a lot of its flaws. That being said, I REALLY dig the presentation. My main qualms in the story department (don't have enough energy to discuss gameplay today) was that Noble Team probably had too many members, and Six should've been given more characterization so we could've learn more about Noble Team as we played alongside them (through, you know, actually conversations).

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Reach has the best presentation

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 21:09 (200 days ago) @ Anna Komnene
edited by Kermit, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 21:28

Which I think helps mask a lot of its flaws. That being said, I REALLY dig the presentation. My main qualms in the story department (don't have enough energy to discuss gameplay today) was that Noble Team probably had too many members, and Six should've been given more characterization so we could've learn more about Noble Team as we played alongside them (through, you know, actually conversations).

All that's valid, and well-trod ground for many reading this. You're totally right that they had too many characters that they weren't able to develop well enough. All that said, tonally, it's probably my favorite.

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Coaxkez, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 06:55 (200 days ago) @ Kermit

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.

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Even Halo 4!

by Coaxkez, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 07:05 (200 days ago) @ Coaxkez

Which may be an unpopular opinion...

The game did have its flaws, but IMO, things didn't really start to go off the rails until Halo 5. The campaign in 4 was pretty amazing and, Forerunner technobabble aside, was probably the best character story this franchise has ever produced. The multiplayer was solid, although not very competitive on account of being unbalanced as hell, but that quirkiness led to a lot of fun moments and great memories. I think the game gets a really bad rap that it (mostly) does not deserve... although the insane plot surrounding the Didact and the Master Chief's sudden "mutation" into a God-like mythical warrior still makes no sense to me whatsoever.

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Even Halo 4!

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 07:42 (200 days ago) @ Coaxkez
edited by Kermit, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 08:33

Which may be an unpopular opinion...

The game did have its flaws, but IMO, things didn't really start to go off the rails until Halo 5. The campaign in 4 was pretty amazing and, Forerunner technobabble aside, was probably the best character story this franchise has ever produced. The multiplayer was solid, although not very competitive on account of being unbalanced as hell, but that quirkiness led to a lot of fun moments and great memories. I think the game gets a really bad rap that it (mostly) does not deserve... although the insane plot surrounding the Didact and the Master Chief's sudden "mutation" into a God-like mythical warrior still makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Hate and still hate fighting the Forerunner whatever those things were [edit Prometheans], but cried at the "death" of Cortana, even being aware of those quotation marks at the time. They traded on our investment, big time.

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Even Halo 4!

by Schooly D, TSD Gaming Condo, TX, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 08:11 (200 days ago) @ Coaxkez

The campaign in 4 was pretty amazing


[image]

Nostalgia bias is a good thing in general, but it stops at Halo 4.

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Even Halo 4!

by Coaxkez, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 08:20 (200 days ago) @ Schooly D
edited by Coaxkez, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 08:24

It has several memorable set-pieces, including but not limited to:

1. The Mammoth section.
2. The Mantis section.
3. The first appearance of the Prometheans. (Technically a QTE, but memorable)
4. The space section in the final mission.

This is more than you can say for Halo 5 or Halo Infinite.

Personally, I found the mission design quite solid overall. Certain missions (like Reclaimer) were even pretty great. The two main problems with the campaign were the baffling plot and the god-awful Promethean AI.

It absolutely does not compare to any of the Bungie Halo games, but it's still a pretty good game.

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Even Halo 4!

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 08:38 (200 days ago) @ Coaxkez

It has several memorable set-pieces, including but not limited to:

1. The Mammoth section.
2. The Mantis section.
3. The first appearance of the Prometheans. (Technically a QTE, but memorable)
4. The space section in the final mission.

This is more than you can say for Halo 5 or Halo Infinite.

You may have a point about set pieces but I've yet to finish Halo Infinite. Of the 343 games, the latter comes closest to capturing the Bungie gameplay feel, IMHO.

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Even Halo 4!

by cheapLEY @, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 10:04 (199 days ago) @ Kermit

It has several memorable set-pieces, including but not limited to:

1. The Mammoth section.
2. The Mantis section.
3. The first appearance of the Prometheans. (Technically a QTE, but memorable)
4. The space section in the final mission.

This is more than you can say for Halo 5 or Halo Infinite.


You may have a point about set pieces but I've yet to finish Halo Infinite. Of the 343 games, the latter comes closest to capturing the Bungie gameplay feel, IMHO.

Infinite feels incredible moment to moment, it’s just fucking boring otherwise. They traded away too much in favor of a bland open world with nothing to do. There’s no Scarab fights, no good tank moments, hell there’s not even a good Warthog section. They left behind actual set pieces in favor of a bunch of random little things scattered around the map that aren’t actually all that fun to engage with.

Infinite’s gameplay with a linear campaign in well designed levels and interesting encounters would be incredible, but unfortunately that’s not what we ended up with.

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Even Halo 4!

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 10:17 (199 days ago) @ cheapLEY

It has several memorable set-pieces, including but not limited to:

1. The Mammoth section.
2. The Mantis section.
3. The first appearance of the Prometheans. (Technically a QTE, but memorable)
4. The space section in the final mission.

This is more than you can say for Halo 5 or Halo Infinite.


You may have a point about set pieces but I've yet to finish Halo Infinite. Of the 343 games, the latter comes closest to capturing the Bungie gameplay feel, IMHO.


Infinite feels incredible moment to moment, it’s just fucking boring otherwise. They traded away too much in favor of a bland open world with nothing to do. There’s no Scarab fights, no good tank moments, hell there’s not even a good Warthog section. They left behind actual set pieces in favor of a bunch of random little things scattered around the map that aren’t actually all that fun to engage with.

Infinite’s gameplay with a linear campaign in well designed levels and interesting encounters would be incredible, but unfortunately that’s not what we ended up with.

Have you tried any of the remakes in Halo Infinite. Silent Cartographer was pretty good.

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SHE SAID THAT TO ME ONCE, ABOUT BEING A MACHINE

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 11:35 (199 days ago) @ Coaxkez

Yeah…

Halo 4 might have been the best 343 Halo but it was not great by any means.

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SHE SAID THAT TO ME ONCE, ABOUT BEING A MACHINE

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 11:59 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Cringe. But you fixed it.

I was going to make those links to my critique and your fix, but I can't find them right now.

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SHE SAID THAT TO ME ONCE, ABOUT BEING A MACHINE

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 12:06 (199 days ago) @ Kermit

Cringe.

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Chill man, don't lose your composure.

by Schooly D, TSD Gaming Condo, TX, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 12:35 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

- No text -

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Chill man, don't lose your Composer.

by uberfoop @, Seattle-ish, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 12:55 (199 days ago) @ Schooly D

- No text -

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Chill man, don't lose your Composer.

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 13:03 (199 days ago) @ uberfoop

There's an entire subreddit for this.

https://old.reddit.com/r/YourJokeButWorse/

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 19:50 (199 days ago) @ Coaxkez

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.

Eh each halo has a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons.

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 22:59 (199 days ago) @ Coaxkez

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.

Bungie developed? Sure. Bungie Published?

[image]

Not so much

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Thursday, January 04, 2024, 14:42 (198 days ago) @ Cody Miller

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.


Bungie developed? Sure. Bungie Published?

[image]

Not so much

Do you count Abuse as developed? Just curious.

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, January 04, 2024, 17:08 (198 days ago) @ Kermit

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.


Bungie developed? Sure. Bungie Published?

[image]

Not so much


Do you count Abuse as developed? Just curious.

No. Bungie really only published Abuse.

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Kermit @, Raleigh, NC, Friday, January 05, 2024, 13:01 (197 days ago) @ Cody Miller

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.


Bungie developed? Sure. Bungie Published?

[image]

Not so much


Do you count Abuse as developed? Just curious.


No. Bungie really only published Abuse.

They did improve it, apparently.

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Dude, I just love Halo.

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Friday, January 05, 2024, 14:19 (197 days ago) @ Kermit

All of the games that Bungie developed have their own high points and advantages over one another, but it's amazing how well they've all withstood the test of time.


Bungie developed? Sure. Bungie Published?

[image]

Not so much


Do you count Abuse as developed? Just curious.


No. Bungie really only published Abuse.


They did improve it, apparently.

It's been a while… I did ask Dave Taylor about it years ago. I should go through that interview again.

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2007 was better

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 12:15 (200 days ago) @ cheapLEY

Halo 3 is still the best Halo game, and I honestly don’t even think it’s close.

Even though Halo 2's maps, gameplay, story, art, music, and overall presentation is obviously far superior (arguing any of those would elicit hearty laughs, so best not to waste time), it can't be understated the incredible value that H3's additions brought.

Things like Theater, Forge, Fileshare, and online Co-op ensured that H3 would remain on top for years, purely through the community supporting itself.

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As a major fanboy and defender of Halo 2...

by Coaxkez, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:37 (200 days ago) @ Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316)

...the art style was definitely superior in Halo 3.

Carry on.

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As a major fanboy and defender of Halo 2...

by Joe Duplessie (SNIPE 316) ⌂ @, Detroit, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 13:49 (200 days ago) @ Coaxkez

...the art style was definitely superior in Halo 3.

Carry on.

The colors and brightness of H3 looks great but I definitely prefer the sleek angularity and sharpness of Halo 2.

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It IS the best.

by Anna Komnene, Tuesday, January 02, 2024, 17:23 (200 days ago) @ cheapLEY

The encounter and level design are just on an entirely different tier from every other Halo game. The campaign is like one long crescendo, with "The Covenant" as its loudest point; "Cortana" and "Halo" are the fadeout.

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Okay, now, I love Halo 3... I LOVE Halo 3...

by Coaxkez, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 06:48 (200 days ago) @ Anna Komnene

...but Cortana is one of the worst missions in the entire franchise.

Carry on.

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Goddamn sniper pure forms...

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 13:50 (199 days ago) @ Coaxkez

- No text -

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Never said otherwise

by Anna Komnene, Wednesday, January 03, 2024, 15:11 (199 days ago) @ Coaxkez

Just that it's the game's fadeout, along with Halo.

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2007 was better

by uberfoop @, Seattle-ish, Thursday, January 04, 2024, 22:21 (198 days ago) @ cheapLEY

Halo 3 is still the best Halo game, and I honestly don’t even think it’s close.

It's up there.

If I were to rank the games by how easy it would be to argue that the encounter design is the best in the series, Halo 3 would definitely top my list.
It's also very clear that a lot of impressive effort was made tuning the sandbox.

However, I think a lot of that effort happened farther downstream in the design pipeline than it should have, and the solutions couldn't always be perfect. It also grapples with baggage carried from Halo 2, particularly how to deal with regenerating health. (The benefits that ODST had from going back to non-regenerating health are a big part of why I hold it in similar overall regard to Halo 3, even though I think that Halo 3 has largely superior level design.)

I still regard CE as being a step above Halo 3: it's not as impressive in areas like encounter design, but I think the elegant underlying mechanics preclude it from needing to be.

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