Halo: Combat Evolved was a revolution in console FPS design. Bungie forever changed the shooter landscape with the inclusion of recharging shields, the two-weapon limit, and the golden tripod of weapons/grenades/melee. Each subsequent game has not only expanded the weapon and vehicle sandbox, but has also introduced a fundamental new gameplay mechanic. Not just a new feature, such as matchmaking parties and tools like Forge or Theater, but a core element added to the in-game action which is often triggered by a direct input on the controller. Halo 2 brought new gameplay mechanics to the franchise in the form of dual-wielding and vehicle-boarding. Halo 3 added Equipment and removable turrets to the mix. With Halo: Reach, Bungie added two new elements: Assassinations and Armor Abilities.
Assassinations are a neat addition that is mostly harmless in terms of how it affects gameplay. Holding down the melee button while behind an opponent triggers a context-driven animation that concludes with the enemy’s death. The end result is the same as if you had just tapped the button and delivered an insta-kill melee to the back, only now you have a sort of built-in teabagging animation your opponent is forced to watch. The tradeoff is that while the animation is carried out the attacker is motionless and vulnerable to assault by the victim’s teammates. If the attacker is killed in time the victim may be saved.
This article is not focused on Assassinations, as they are not a hotly debated subject within the community and I personally don’t have a problem with them. The only frustration comes from when I intend to tap the melee button but accidently trigger the long animation. My only wish would be for a way to cancel the Assassination and have it downgraded to a normal melee to the back. Another option would be to include a toggle in the Controls menu that disables Assassinations entirely, something I think the more competitive MLG types would enjoy.
Armor Abilities (AAs) are another matter entirely. In the pre-release videos for Reach, the reasoning behind the addition of AAs was clearly explained: The designers felt that Halo 3’s Equipment was fun, but players would often hesitate to waste their one-time use item in a less than ideal situation. Armor Abilities seemed to be the logical step: a piece of Equipment that you could use repeatedly. This would allow them to be employed in many more scenarios and would spice up combat in ways that Equipment never could.
I completely agree with this concept. Reach needed something new to keep Halo “fresh” and I think the inclusion of Armor Abilities was a reasonable solution.
My issue is with the execution of the concept, particularly in two aspects that I will refer to as Spawn Loadouts and Unlimited Energy. I think these problems pushed Armor Abilities a little too far along the line away from Halo’s “classic” gameplay.