With all the discussions about linearity and verticality going on I would like to contribute with this little analysis.
Let’s talk about linearity
First of all: Does H5 really offer more open maps, more freedom to choose where to go or how to approach an encounter or is it just another ‘linear corridor shooter’ in disguise? While people seem to have different definitions of ‘linear’ most fans agree that H2 and (especially) H4 are much more linear while HCE and H3 offer more freedom.
For me less linearity in Halo doesn’t equal moving freely around a huge map as in an ‘open world’ game (think Far Cray). In fact every Halo game has it’s fair share of linear corridors and in fact most Halo levels are simply tubes which are blown up or constricted as it fits. Most of the time direction of movement is very clearly communicated with one entrance and one exit of an arena. One rare exception is HCE’s Silent Cartographer which uses a very clever trick to simulate freedom of movement – the ‘tube’ runs in a circle (see picture).
When people talk about great ‘non-linear’ Halo levels they often think about H3’s ‘The Storm’ or ‘The Covenant’. However that comparison won’t work in regards to H5 as we would compare heavily vehicle based maps with relatively large arenas (to compensate for the vehicles) to the on foot play spaces we’ve seen of H5 so far. But just with the limited footage of H5 it’s pretty obvious that H5 can easily keep up with and/or surpass similar sequences in HCE or H3 when it comes to offered options of movement. Here are some screens I’ve doctored with in paint just to illustrate my point.
Different branching paths from the recent Swords of Sanghelios gameplay. There are two ledges that cross at the top and a third (not so) ‘secret’ path that the player opens in the video which has the advantage of leading right to the top and behind the covenant troops.
… shows the left ledge that you can’t fully see in Screenshot 1. Please note that you can shoot from one ledge to the other and that the pillars in the right of the picture can be climbed up to (which the player does in the video coming from the third secret path).
… shows another area with a multitude of flanking options, objects to climb on to and two levels of elevation (bottom area and upper area). While the player orders his Spartan team to jump to the other platform and fight troops on the ground he uses a hidden path to flank an Elite.
… shows the player’s perspective from where he kicked the Elite. The player doesn’t really use the high ground and jumps down relatively soon. It seems as though there is another elevated ledge on the left side or a pillar on the right he could have jumped on.
These pictures show the many options/approaches to choose from which should offer a lot of replayability. Not only are there more branching paths in H5 – the added bonus of verticality makes it even more interesting which brings me to the next point.
H5 – in love with verticality
The Swords of Sanghelios gameplay shows in a very impressive way that H5’s levels are not flat anymore. Practially every bigger area shown offers at least two levels of altitude with steep hills and lots of objects to climb up to.
… shows the same location (same mission?) with at least three different levels of altitude (indicated by color) and lots of options in terms of movement.
Seriously that alone makes me giddy with anticipation. Can’t wait to explore these amazing play spaces, amazing job 343i!