Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Halo Interactive Strategy Game – The Only Halo This Emulates Is The One Poo Comes Out Of

Today, a coincidence has occurred that, like planets aligning, can cause bad things to happen. Some days I wake up in a mood that can only be described as “foul as a dead witch’s beaver." The coincidence is that I woke up in such a mood as described above and it happens to be review day. It is for these days that I hold back some of the games that are so deserving of a solid beating that I am forced, even duty-bound, to buffet so mercilessly with my words that it shall fade off into obscurity like so many extinct species on Earth have done. Today’s contestant on “The Game Fucking Sucks” is the Halo Interactive Strategy Game. While based upon the Halo series of video games, which I love, this game is completely and totally hobbled by incredibly poor rules, boring gameplay, and worst of all, inclusion of a DVD to give it interesting elements, which fails miserably. The idiots at B1 Games seem to be DVD guys from their website, and were apparently thinking we'd all get wood if they threw "Interactive" into the title.  They should've simply stuck to, "Halo: The Board Game" for that purpose, or "Halo: Don't Buy Me", if they were being honest.

This game can still be found, if at all, in the bargain bins of Wal-Marts and Toys R’ Us stores across the US, and they are there for good cause. The game is a pariah, with its only redeeming value being the tremendous production values that were poured into it. When you open the well-detailed box, you are met with a veritable treasure trove of wonderfully molded plastic terrain pieces, fences, and miniatures that represent the units and areas in the popular online death-match maps. Some tokens, cards, and player cards also accompany the game to represent teleporters, item pickups, weapon abilities, and player stats counters, and they are all of incredibly high quality both in design and durability. The dice included are of the Heroscape type, with little Master Chiefs and Elites indicated which are used for combat resolution. Finally, there is an included DVD which can be used to substitute for cards and dice if you elect to play the game using that option. The only thing that I’ve not mentioned is the nasty, nasty little rulebook that tries very hard at making all of the love put into the wonderful components turn to a steaming heap of cat feces, which I will get into later.

I would attempt to get into a rules summary as I customarily do, but this time I am going to stick with the basics because the manual is very nearly as bad as anything I have ever read. We're talking jokes-on-toilet-paper bad. It attempts to tell you how to play, and even has “advanced” rules, but all in all it is astonishing how poorly written it is. I just cannot fathom how someone with a bag full of money and the connections to put this game in the world's largest retailer decided that this would be a great way to capitalize on an existing, well liked franchise.  Two Words, Mr. B1: EPIC FUCKING FAIL.  Sorry, that was three. 

The basic premise of this semi-game is that you are either the Covenant forces or the Marines, and the objectives are essentially exactly like the video game; capture the flag, kill the enemy, or somewhere in-between. The game itself, as written, is very simple and it’s nothing more than a “move a guy/shoot a guy/turn ends” game. It does have a Heroscapish feel to the combat in that both the attacker and defender roll the dice that are prescribed by the weapons or armor that a player’s figure is equipped with, and this may be the only redeeming value of the gameplay. The game amounts to a very fast paced game of individual movements and actions, and it’s near-impossible to get any cohesive squad-based strategy on track because you are taking turns with your opponent, moving one guy at a time.

There are some items that you can pick up to augment your wee warriors, and in doing so you randomly select from a pile of pickup cards that neatly lock into the character cards. Again, all of these items are from one iteration or another of the Halo franchise, and are well illustrated, but are cut right from game stills. In short, there’s not a lot new here. The most quizzical aspect of these pickups is that you can use the DVD on-screen menu to have the game tell you which card you’ve received, at which point you can sort through the piles to take the card you were told to.

The question to the designer is, “Why the hell would I want to have to mess with a menu on a DVD to have it tell me which card to dig through and take when I can save all that time and just randomly take one from the pile?” It’s retarded, and the idea that this somehow makes the game more interactive is about the same as the idea that masturbating while viewing a porn movie makes masturbation more interactive. It’s the height of stupidity. The only sense it makes to me is that if you use the DVD to resolve combat, you can’t blame the dice when you fail an attack. The downside, though, is that it precipitously slows the game’s pace because you have to use the DVD menu to select the attacker and defender as well as their equipment just to resolve a battle. The eye candy may be appealing to some, but there’s a reason I play board games, and it’s not eye candy, it’s great gameplay and interaction with other humans. This does provide the latter, but the former is completely absent.

Why they decided to make a boardgame version of one of the best-selling video game series’ of all time, and then to make it so absolutely craptastic that without making most of your own rules up it's unplayable, is just beyond me. Were it not for the ability to repurpose the components, such as using the really great terrain bits for other games like Star Wars Miniatures and Mage Knight Dungeons, this game would be a total loss. The funniest thing, to me, is that they apparently heard the consumers complain that the rules sucked and then revised them, but the resultant revamp of the rules are just as dull and undesirable as previously realized. The only thing about this game that makes perfect sense to me is that the game went uncredited, and so we have no single individual to hunt down and berate for years to come.

Things I thought were pretty groovy:
*The terrain is well made, albeit dull looking, but is perfect for use in an actual game, not this dog vomit they say is a game
*The figurines could be used to create cool Heroscape squads and heroes
*The art and design of the components are top-notch

Things that I wondered "who thought this would be a good idea":
*The DVD aspect of the game is completely retarded
*The rulebook is either written by someone with a diminished mental capacity or is a bad translation from Mandarin
*Even if the rules were well written, which they are not, the gameplay that is half-explained is still boring

Overall:
If you’re looking for something Halo-themed and are not averse to taking the components and designing a game around them, you’re in for a treat. If you want to open the box, play a game, and enjoy yourself, you’re probably better off sliding down a 30-foot Santoku knife that’s been lubed with iodine. It’s just not very fun, regardless of the “level” you play on, and the rulebook really ruins the game. It’s worth 10$ at the Bargain Bin, though, because the terrain is excellent for use with a real game.

Rating:
1.5/5 Stars


If you were unfortunate enough to buy this and want to play it as designed, the updated rules are here:
http://www.b1games.com/

2 comments:

Aesop Doom said...

Awesome review. I just put ODST on my goozex list. I read a hands-on of the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta (http://www.joystiq.com/2010/04/21/halo-reach-multiplayer-beta-preview/) that pushed me to do it finally. I've seen this game in stores (Target I think) and always thought, "Well that probably sucks." Looks like I was right.

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

You were EXACTLY right! If you do play Mag Knight, especially Dungeons, then the game is a great buy!