21st of May, 2021
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: Halo, an adventure that can only be enjoyed once, and an adventure that can thankfully be enjoyed twice.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What we've been playing, here's our archive.
Halo: Combat Evolved, X/S
Look, you don't need me to tell you that Halo: Combat Evolved is still a banger. But here I am anyway, because I went back to it for a piece about its setting earlier this week and of course I couldn't stop. I went backwards, from The Silent Cartographer to The Truth and Reconciliation (the two best-named levels in any video game, this side of Super Mario World's Cheese Bridge Area) and then jumped forwards to The Library. I slipped and slid from drifting Warthogs on the beach to popping Hunters with a pistol shot to the midriff; from blowing Grunts out of gun emplacements with that explosive sniper rifle to blasting through shiny mauve corridors with ruthless bursts of brilliant plasma; and finally to the worst but also best of the game, the panicked, heart-in-mouth, shotgun-powered backpedal through a featureless tomb in the face of a pulsating horde. And it was so, so smooth - once I had stopped throwing grenades instead of aiming down sights with the left trigger and come to terms with the fact Master Chief just can't, or won't, sprint. The clarity of it, the punch of the feedback, the simply incredible situational awareness from the audio and the motion sensor and the colour-coded lighting of the crossfire. The organic, elastic combat loops, unpredictable but also instinctive and reassuring. Later this year, we'll celebrate this game's 20th anniversary, but - played in crisp Classic form on modern hardware, thanks to the Master Chief Collection - it simply hasn't aged. It's still fantastically, brutally modern.
"It's not perfect" is one of those phrases I should never use. I apologise for every time it has slipped onto the page when I was around. The reason, I guess, is: art. I heard a lot that Tasomachi was not perfect, and it turned out that a lot was wrong - Tasomachi is perfect, in that it's for me.
So the jump is bad and the game is too much of a collectathon, and what's worse it's a collectathon that's also about jumping. I don't care. Tasomachi is a game about exploring - by jumping, by collecting - and it's a pure pleasure for me to do that. I wander its lonely stretches of buildings, marveling at how evocative everything is. A small square strung with lanterns, the sad beauty of a rusting vending machine.
I'm about halfway through and I'm already sad that it will have to end. This is perfect for me, but I know it's only going to be perfect once. I must never come back. It won't be the same.
Mass Effect: Trilogy, X/S
What a strange moment, going back. I haven't been back since 2007, when I quite literally ran home to play Mass Effect 1. Then suddenly it's there: the title screen, the music, the character creation, those backstories BioWare thought it would be cool to offer you and then have characters comment on in the game. What interactivity! It's like this great surge of nostalgia flooding back in through the sluice gates and filling me up again. I loved this game.
To be completely honest, I worried it would feel old and tired, and taint my memories of the game. But BioWare appears to have done a good job because the remaster doesn't. It's not cutting edge, of course, but it looks remarkably smart, and runs crisply. And with that realisation came a big sigh of relief for me: a feeling my cherished memories were safe to be experienced all over again.