As many of you did, I picked up Halo: Reach on release day and have been enjoying my time with it immensely, for the most part anyway. There have been a few low points in the campaign so far, but there’s been a common factor in each case – some form of motorized vehicle. It seems that even with all of Bungie’s experience and the massive development team that backs their Halo games, they still haven’t been able to nail AI behaviour when it comes to driving vehicles. This mental short-coming of my fellow squad mates has led to some of the most frustrating moments I’ve experienced playing video games in recent years.
Typically when I’m playing solo, I drive the vehicle and let AI characters man the turret and ride shotgun. Even if their aim isn’t quite as accurate as mine, they still do pretty well, and I can focus on running over baddies, or getting us the hell out of the way when things get heated. In previous Halo games, there have been a couple types of gun turrets on Warthogs. There’s your typical machine gun with a never-ending supply of bullets, and a mounted rocket launcher. In Halo: Reach, I’ve already seen a couple new variants that made me quickly hop out of the driver’s seat with hopes of having a jolly old time blowing shit up with the new guns.
My enthusiasm was cut short when the driver took us over a huge boulder, resulting in a roll-over, followed by a quick death. The next attempt was a little better – we made it through the canyon, but a sudden stop directly behind another giant boulder quickly did us in as I pressed the fire button just as we came to a stop, and blew us the hell up. Third time’s the charm, right? Wrong. While we did manage to take out all of the ground forces, there was a high class Elite on the roof of a nearby building firing giant glowing green globs of plasma at us. As I lined up my shot while we rounded the building on the high side, the driver abruptly stopped. Within seconds, or Warthog was hurling through the air, and quickly brought to an end by a few consecutive shots of plasma. At this point, I had had enough and took the wheel. It ended up taking 2-3 times longer to clear the area with the AI on the gun, but we did survive.
Did I mention that this spectacular wheel-man was a Spartan? Indeed, it was none other than the lady Spartan, Kat. And it’s not only her driving skills that are in question – this bitch is an idiot! Shortly after the Warthog fiasco, we were set on taking over a building occupied by a handful of Grunts, an Elite, and two Hunters. The Grunts and Elite were no problem on my own, but Hunters require bait, as they’re only vulnerable on their back. Went the room was cleared except for the Hunters, I looked around for Kat, but she was nowhere to be seen. I noticed a blue arrow indicating the location of my MIA teammate and proceeded to follow it. I ended up back at the beginning of the section where some barriers were setup to prevent us from taking the Warthog in, and there was Kat, in the corner, jumping constantly, trying to jump and squeeze through this tiny opening instead of just walking through one of the others. I totally face palmed at this moment, then proceed to melee her in the back of the head until she figured out how to get around.
Halo: Reach has been everything I expected it to be – a grand Halo experience, with lots of new weapons, vehicles, and locations to quench my Halo thirst. But these brutally stupid AI moments have really put a damper on the experience. From the dev diaries I’ve watched and read, I know that Bungie has their own permanent testing facility, where they spend months putting their games through the paces before they’re shipped. Knowing this, makes it even more mind boggling how something like this made it into the final game. I thought that perhaps it was an isolated incident, but when I ranted on Twitter about this experience, several others replied stating similar claims.
Typically, I like to play through a game on my own first, then jump into multiplayer, followed by a second play-through with a co-op partner or two. There have been a couple times during Halo: Reach’s campaign that I considered recruiting a friend to hop in to replace some of the AI dummies, they’re that bad. At this point, I’ve completed 6 of the 10 levels and figure there likely won’t be any more moments of frustration like I endured early on. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.