Playing Single-Player Campaigns with Another Person

I once wrote a post extolling the virtues of couch co-op games. In it, I made a big deal about being able to sit down with friends and play video games (and some other sob-story stuff). I still believe playing co-op games is one of the better parts of gaming.

But over the years, I’ve realized there is something I like more than good old-fashioned splitscreen fun.

There is seriously nothing better than playing a single-player campaign with a buddy.

Just hear me out.

Since a single-player experience is meant to be played by one person, a stronger emphasis on narrative is given to these campaigns. Player choice and immersion are focal points.

If you’ve never played one, imagine an interactive movie that could last you for days.

And sure, I’ve watched my fair share of movies alone, but I draw extra enjoyment from watching a movie with a friend and having the same or a different reaction. It’s one of the things I live for.

Looking back on my gaming experiences then, the ones I love the most are the ones where a friend and I went through the highs and lows of a single-player campaign together.

My friend Bubba is the number one person I do campaigns with. We have such good memories of playing video games together, even if one of us was mostly a passive observer during the whole thing.

We played Alien: Isolation, a survival horror game, all the way through by passing off the controller every ten minutes. That time limit wasn’t arbitrary. Ten minutes was about as long as we could stand the stress of having to creep around a space station with a Xenomorph stalking us. The game was so stressful, we practically threw the controller at the other person when our turn was up, even if a Xenomorph was charging us at the time.

We played Life Is Strange, an episodic, dialogue-driven adventure, together. At first, we laughed at the downright dumb that seemed to permeate character decisions and reactions. But after a while, we got sucked into the high school drama. We even have personal catchphrases we use that come from this game. We’re terrible trash people.

We played the latest Prey game together. We both really like sci-fi, so this survival adventure game on an abandoned space station infested with a new alien life form was perfect for us genre-wise. Plus, we both had different styles of playing, and they both worked. I was the sneaky sneakerton that would whack enemies from behind with a wrench or a silenced pistol shot, and Bubba was the all-sprint-all-the-time kind of player who favored the shotgun and psychic blasts.

I watched Bubba play through Celeste, an indie platformer that is all about fighting your way through your own insecurities while remaining true to yourself. I’m not terribly skilled at platforming, but Bubba was a mad genius. He died almost 1000 times (not joking), but he persevered all the way to the end.

Bubba watched me play Mass Effect: Andromeda, a sci-fi RPG, and laughed at me the entire time. He called me obsessed because I kept trying to spark relationships with any turian I could find. And we both laughed at the insane amount of glitches we ran into.

I don’t think I’m alone in the gaming community in liking the feel-good feeling of a single-player campaign experienced alongside a friend. (I mean, that’s probably why Let’s Plays exist in the first place. Let’s Players are like substitute friends who play games for you.)

There’s just something to be said for playing a game in a way that, perhaps, it wasn’t exactly meant to be played.

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E3 Day Three: Birthday Bliss

I woke up especially early for the final day of E3.

I woke up every day of E3 pretty early, but the third day was the day I practically anticipated the alarm.

The last day of the expo worked differently than the ones that had gone before it. Previously, industry and media badge-holders got a few extra hours on the exhibit floors before the plebeian (I’m joking) gamer badge-holders were allowed in. On Thursday, industry, media, and gamer badge-holders could all enter at the same time.

That meant all bets were off when it came time to line up for those game demos.

So even though my burrow of blankets was begging to be stayed in, I got up at the ass-crack of dawn to be one of the first people in line.

You see, there was one thing I had yet to do at E3.

I had not played the Doom Eternal demo.

I know, I know. ‘Amanda, how could you go to E3 as a professed Doom lover and not bum-rush the Doom Eternal demo first thing?’

Cut me some slack. It was my first E3, and I was awed by all the games and forgot to pay attention to demo scheduling. I kind of wandered around and played the games that fell into my lap.

Anyways, the Doom Eternal demo was the one thing I wanted to do that day. If I got to play that demo, then I could leave the expo happy. It was my sole objective for Thursday. Anything else accomplished would be considered a bonus.

I arrived at the convention center at the perfect time. Only about twelve people were clustered around the entrance to the exhibit hall. However, it was almost as if my coming heralded the surge of gamer badge-holders. A wave of people, mostly men, shuffled into line behind and around me. In fact, the line became more of a circular mob instead of an actual straight line.

Now, I’m not normally a super chatty person, but there’s something comforting about being surrounded by people you know without a doubt have the same interests as you.

So I made friends with the men standing next to me, talking giddily about how much I wanted to play Doom Eternal (as clearly evidenced by my Doom Eternal shirt) and how much fun I had been having at E3 from the get-go. I even let drop the fact that it was my birthday and got a chorus of “Happy Birthdays!” from these complete strangers, which was freakin’ sweet.

Now the guys around me encompassed the entire spectrum of male gamers. There were skinny boys without an ounce of meat to their bodies, guys with glasses shoved up to the highest point on the bridge of their nose, heavy-set males with tangly beards, muscular dude-bros with tattoos etched across their arms. But we were all united in our love for games.

And our determination to race forward to our favorites.

One of the guys next to me, a guy in a tank top with tattoos on his arm, was also planning to rush toward Doom Eternal just like me. He and his much smaller friend were aching to play it as much as I was.

Side note: That’s a lie. NO ONE was aching to play Doom Eternal as much as I was!

I made a joke about how I would use his body as a ram and shield in my own push to get to the demo. And he was just totally chill about. “Yeah, man, go ahead. You do what you have to do.”

His smaller friend nodded and grinned. He said, “That’s what I’m planning to do.”

And when the exhibit floors were opened, that’s almost exactly what happened. The three of us formed a javelin that pierced through the crowds. The tank-top guy in front was the tip and the smaller guy and me were the shaft. (Please, no dirty jokes.)

Eventually, I broke formation because I was too much of a pussy to run. But the three of us made it to the Doom Eternal demo, and when I took a seat next to the guys who had run ahead of me, they let out a cheer and yelled, “Happy birthday!” again. I was tickle-pink with happiness. Even more so when the tattoo guy mentioned that if I had not gotten a spot to play the demo, he would have given his up to me because he knew how much I wanted to play.

I swear, beneath the layers of sweat, insecurity, arrogance, nerdiness, or awkwardness that gamers throw up around themselves, there are some truly kind people.

The Doom Eternal demo was everything I hoped it would be. Fast-paced, demon-slaying action that refused to let up. Even the quiet moments felt bad-ass. The changes to the control scheme have all been altered to make the gameplay even more rapid than it already was. I’m totes excited for it (please excuse the “totes”), and when it comes out in November, I’m going to be pumped as hell.

Side note: Get it? “Pumped as hell?” Doom? Hell?

Ken and German, who were running late, caught up with me after the demo. We added a newcomer to our group, named Vien. Vien had been one of the gamer badge-holders in line with me alongside tank-top guy and his friend. I invited him to hang out with us, and he agreed.

He took us to play Harvest Moon, which was a lot of fun. The farming techniques are as fake as ever, but they are doubly entertaining. Plus, for playing the demo, we got a sweet sheep keychain.

Vien and German then lined up to try out Catherine: Full Body. While they were in line for that, I went to the indie game section to play Hot Swap just one more time. I also got to play another intriguing indie game called Manifold Garden. It was a puzzle game designed to mess with your typical perspective in a video game. Walls and ceilings could become a floor at the press of a button.

After a mind-bending time with Manifold Garden, I returned to German and Vien at the Catherine line. (Ken had gone to see Elon Musk’s panel at the Novo.) I was able to stand behind them while they played and observed the insanity of Catherine: Full Body’s gameplay mechanics and level design. German was playing the demo on normal, and he could not complete it. (He’s a fantastic gamer; I’m not trying to bash on his skills.)

Vien did not join me, German, and Ken for lunch, opting to go stand in line for the Ghost Recon: Breakpoint demo. Ken, tired from days of walking around, decided to call it quits on the expo after we had food. We promised to stay in touch, and then German and I went back to the convention center without him.

We met up with Vien at the Ghost Recon section, where he was barely at the front of the line. I watched him play from behind as German went to try out Monster Hunter’s Iceborne expansion again. Afterwards, Vien told me he wasn’t a big fan of the demo, but he also explained that Ghost Recon’s type of strategy wasn’t his style.

The three of us called it quits after kerfuffling around some old arcade games. There was a section in the South Hall devoted to old games like Contra, the original Donkey Kong, and Centipede. We didn’t plan to end our time this way, but it was fitting that we finished E3, the temple of upcoming games, by playing some classics.

This day was honestly one of the happiest days of my life. I can’t remember feeling so content and excited before. I mean, I’m sure there might have been days like that when I was a kid, but those times are a thing of the past now. Exiting the convention center, I was feeling nothing but pure bliss.

Which is probably why it was so hilarious when, shortly after leaving the expo, I tripped while walking on the sidewalk and tore my pants, scraped my palm and my knee, and bruised my ego.

But you know what?

I felt so happy, not even that fall could bring me down (figuratively speaking since I did actually hit the ground).

I picked myself up with a grin, examined the new hole in my pants, and then walked on.

E3 Day Two: Networking on VR Dance Floors

My second day at E3 was far more mellow than my first day. First of all, I wasn’t as panicky as I was before. I was steeped in pleasant determination to experience all I could, and I had general expectations of what the expo could offer me.

My initial enthusiasm was still bolstering me (and powering me through hours of walking and standing).

Ken, German, and I met up once again to traverse the floors together as a three-man pack. We started our day by taking a look at Crystal Dynamics Marvel’s Avengers game. The line to check out the demo was inordinately long, and according to some fellow line-standers, it was because the system for getting people to see the demo was highly ineffective.

The demo itself was about thirty minutes long, and the turnover rate for attendees was minuscule.

I struck up a conversation with the people ahead of us. The main topic of discussion: how terrible the lines at E3 are now.

Side note: As a first-time E3 attendee, I couldn’t say much as to what the lines were like before.

We also talked about how media badge-holders are given more privileges than industry badge-holders. I felt like one blessed duckling.

The demo for Marvel’s Avengers was…interesting. It showcased fast-paced action, but the combat felt a tad uninspired, even with the different members of the Avengers at their disposal. Plus, set-pieces seemed more important than engaging gameplay.

Another disappointing factor was that the demo was played by a developer nearby instead of by the people attending it. Too many of the demos at E3 were like that. Instead of allowing attendees to play the game for themselves, attendees were seated in closed-off rooms to watch someone else play it or a prerecorded demo.

After the Marvel’s Avengers demo, my group and I toured the gaming chair area. We tried out $1300 chairs (complete with lumbar support). Those chairs felt heavenly, but I doubt I’d ever splurge and get one for myself. That would mortally wound my wallet. Plus, I have an incurable penchant for sitting on the floor.

Eventually, we ambled over to the Monster Hunter: World section, where they were giving attendees a chance to play the upcoming Iceborne expansion.

Side note: Now, see? That’s how you do a demo.

I have never played a Monster Hunter game, but thanks to knowledge from Ken and German, and a natural sense of caution born from dipping my toes into Dark Souls games, I was able to participate and contribute to a four-person hunt.

Ken did a wonderful job of keeping an eye out for our team, popping health boosters for us if he noticed any one of our health bars dipping into dangerous territory. German was perhaps the more experimentive of our group. He liked to grapple onto the beast’s face, play around with his weapons, and things like that. We also had a rando play with us in order to fill out our group.

It was an honest blast trekking through the snow and bringing down that Tigrex.

Side note: Whenever we got a tad bored with the exhibit floor, we would hop back to the Iceborne demo and play it again.

We later meandered over to this one demo section that looked deserted compared to other booths. THQ Nordic’s Wreckfest appeared to be the one game no one really wanted to play. So of course we all hopped on to play it because it was available.

Racing games have never been my jam. I don’t get into them the way I know some avid fans do. However, Wreckfest’s lawn mower battle mode was quite enjoyable. Driving around on my little green lawnmower (in first person) trying to demolish other lawnmowers was definitely entertaining.

Part of the reason Wreckfest was abandoned on the exhibit floor was because THQ Nordic had set up the demo for Destroy All Humans! right next door. Everyone wanted to check out that upcoming action game instead.

Which is exactly what Ken, German, and I ended up doing.

German played the demo, and Ken and I stood behind him. The game looks to be of the same nature as its predecessors, with an updated look and control scheme. Humor is clearly its forte.

Near THQ Nordic’s section, a small VR station was set up. Hardly anyone was there, which is a shame because this was the most calming experience you could hope for in the middle of a crowded expo. A woman had made a VR game that was comprised of nothing but writing messages with a controller for other people to find.

The atmosphere was delightfully ethereal, with purple trees and green rivers comprising the background. And there was something really satisfying about writing out short messages using your hand as if a spray can was in it.

The three of us spent some time in this VR world, and it was particularly hilarious when Ken nearly clocked the exhibitor in the head as he left an exuberant statement.

We paused for a lunch break right around this time. The food at the convention center was ridiculously expensive, so German found us this neat little taco shop that was hidden away by some construction. Those tacos were the best goddamn tacos I ever had.

Outside the restaurant, an ominous ice cream truck was blaring creepy ice-cream-truck music. The reason the truck was so scary was because it was painted entirely black. When we approached it, though, we realized the whole thing was a gimmick. The Mortal Kombat 11 people were giving out free ice cream to people. If you took an ice cream, they gave you a wristband. The wristband would allow you to skip the line for Mortal Kombat 11 within the exhibit hall.

This seemed like a pretty good deal, so Ken, German, and I took some ice cream and received our wristbands. Sure enough, when we were back in the convention center, we were able to play some Mortal Kombat 11 without waiting at all. I played as D’Vorah and lost horribly.

At this point, the day was drawing to a close, and we were all pooped. German got us into this one last event in the South Hall. This one VR booth had this strange, club setting, complete with scantily-clad girls dancing around it. It looked like they were pitching the idea of clubbing through VR.

I was skeptical of the whole thing because it looked like a blatant attempt to grab male gamers’ attention with gyrating ladies in skin-tight clothes. But since German got us the tickets for free, I went along with it.

It actually ended up being pretty nifty. They hooked us into a connected VR space. We could see each other in a virtual world while we were separated in the physical world. German and I could wave hello to each other virtually.

The movement in this dance floor setting was insanely intuitive too. You could move yourself with a toggle, which was a fairly slow way to do it, or you could teleport yourself by aiming your controller where you wanted to go and clicking.

When one of the dancing ladies came to take off the VR headset and halter, I seriously wished my time with the “game” could have lasted longer.

For the longest time, I’ve been one of those doubters of VR, but after spending some more time with it, I think I could get used to interacting with people on a virtual dance floor.

E3 Day One: Sore Legs and a Happy Heart

On the morning of June 11, I got dropped off in front of the LA Convention Center close to 7:30 a.m. The doors to the exhibit floor did not open until 11. I was insanely early.

I didn’t care.

Seriously, I was just thrilled to the core to be going to E3 2019 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). It was summer in the middle of downtown LA with cars exuding exhaust all around me, but I breathed that air like it was crisp, mountain air.

You guys, it felt like home.

I spent hours before the South and West Halls opened walking around the exterior of the Convention Center. I figured out the different points of entry that I, as a Media badge-holder, could gain access to. I also located exactly where the entrance to the Novo (a meeting room set apart from the Convention Center) was by the Microsoft Theater.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous walking around by myself. I had no one to bounce ideas off of when it came to scheduling my day or contemplating if I was lost. But I figured I would make do, come what may.

Luckily, the E3 gods decided to have mercy on me.

Almost immediately after I returned to the entrance of the South Hall, ready to storm the exhibit floor, I met some fellows, and we formed a party right then and there. All three of us were loners, solo attendees of E3, and that fact bonded us. With an unspoken/spoken agreement, we decided to tour the halls together.

My E3 buddies were called Ken Mood and German Sanchez. Ken was an eager first-timer like me, with a penchant for livestreaming his experiences using his interesting new phone. German was a photographer, with a penchant for practical purchasing and an eye for great camera equipment.

After we officially grouped up, we did everything as a team.

Side note: So when I say “I,” there is a high probability that I mean “we.”

We attended two panels at the Novo, one for Gears 5 and the other for Doom Eternal.

The Gears panel was an absolute riot. The voice actors for JD, Marcus, Kait, and Del showed up, and they riffed off of each other for thirty minutes straight. Toward the end of the panel, it came time for questions from the audience. This one guy got the microphone and asked the stupidest question ever.

“What is Kait’s sexual preference?”

Seriously? Are you kidding me? What kind of question is that? None of the dude characters are getting that question.

Luckily, the indefatigable John DiMaggio (voice of Marcus Fenix) had the perfect response to this poorly phrased question. If you look for it, you can actually find a video of the moment. AND, if you look at the crowd, you can see me in the corner.

Side note: Danny, don’t you dare actually post the video here. I commented on it, and that’s enough.

The Doom Eternal panel was much more mellow and informative. I am legit excited for this game. I’m more thrilled than I can say that it’s coming out this year. I don’t have to wait for Doom-slaying.

I spent a lot of the first day, shamefully so, buying merch and swag for myself and my family. Mostly for myself, I’m sorry to say. I do want to state that I don’t normally spend a lot on useless things. But I got suckered in hardcore at E3. What am I supposed to do when a Doom Eternal pin is begging to be bought?! Or a Master Chief polo shirt is dying to be worn?!

German was a much more practical buyer. I think the only thing he bought was a Satisfye Nintendo Switch grip accessory. As a new owner of a Switch (THANKS BUBBA), I don’t have a full understanding of how it feels to hold the controls, but the Satisfye grips appear to make it a lot more comfortable. They attach to the Joy-Cons, making it easier for larger hands to hold the device.

Speaking of Nintendo, their section in the West Hall was packed. And when I say packed, I mean packed. Throngs of people crowded the brightly colored booths. That’s one thing that Nintendo definitely has in its favor. Whereas a company like Bethesda has these dark and gritty displays, Nintendo’s displays are naturally eye-catching, with unabashed reds and yellows.

The three of us tried getting in to check out Luigi’s Mansion 3, but the line was exorbitantly long. Not even my media badge could help us out.

We also stopped by the Microsoft Theater to check out the Xbox Experience. The ambiance of that place is intense. It’s a massive auditorium, with game consoles stuffed on the stage. The line to get onto there was pretty short, but none of the games were new. Unfortunately for me, Ori and the Will of the Wisps was not being demo-ed.

The cool thing about the Xbox area was honestly just the atmosphere. Green spotlights streaked the air with brightness, making the whole area seem like a promotion for the Xbox. Was it blatant marketing? Maybe. Was I okay with it? Heck yes.

By far, the best game I tried out that day was a game called Hot Swap. And the funny thing is, it was an indie game. But I’m telling you guys, it was so innovative and so engaging. I’m going to try and explain it to you as best I can.

It’s a cooperative game, requiring two players to play. On the screen is a basic image of a small ship with six cannons, three on each side, sailing the ocean. For controlling the ship, each player has a rectangular board in front of them. These rectangles each have square indentations where blocky input cubes can be placed. These input cubes have different configurations on the top.

For example, one cube has a typical steering wheel for an old-timey-y ship. Another has a button with a fire symbol on it. Yet another has a lever that moves back and forth.

These cubes can be moved around easily, placed on one player’s board in a second and then picked up and moved to the other player’s board in the next. And that’s the basics of the gameplay. These two players, swapping out the input cubes as needed, have to control a small ship, find treasure, and fire at enemy boats.

Hot Swap was remarkably engaging. I seriously did not want to stop playing. If I could, I would have stayed there for hours. If it ever releases to a wider audience, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was so much fun, with such a simple premise.

The collaboration between the two players, or lack thereof, was hilarious. When I played with Ken and German (I got to play twice), we were shouting at each other, demanding that we pass over the Load the Cannon input cube, and then whining about who would have the Steering Wheel cube. At one point, German held on to the Fire the Cannon cube for far longer than necessary, and I’m pretty sure Ken forgot to use the Fire Suppression cube properly.

I closed the evening off with a visit to the Psychonauts 2 demo. It was a prerecorded demo of gameplay, but it was fun to watch. I was originally shown the first Psychonauts by my brother-in-law, Carlos. The sequel looks to uphold the same standards of humor, which I definitely appreciate. As a psychic secret agent, it’s par for the course for you to fight against an enemy’s mental “doubts” and “regrets.”

Of course, all this walking and standing around killed my leg and foot muscles. My shoulders were aching, too, from carrying around my purse with my notebooks and stuff.

But my sore legs could not take away from the happiness blooming in my heart.

God, that sounds corny.

Top 5 Master Chief Moments

As any reader of my video game posts will know, I have a deep and abiding love for the Master Chief. For those not in the know, Master Chief is the protagonist of the Halo series. And as should be established by now, I LOVE the Halo series.

For today’s post, I thought I’d talk about my favorite Master Chief moments from the core Halo games. (That means Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4, and *sigh* Halo 5: Guardians.) I’ve been doing a bunch of video game-related posts recently, and it’s probably because I am super mega excited for E3.

Side note: Posts about E3 itself will be published forthwith!

So just bear with me and my Master Chief adoration, yeah?

The Grenade Beach Ball (H:CE)

When the Chief and Cortana decide to destroy the Halo ring, Cortana’s big plan is to overheat the engines of the Pillar of Autumn. The resulting explosion will be big enough to tear apart the ring.

The plan would have worked without a hitch if 343 Guilty Spark had not hacked into the Autumn’s network and prevented Cortana from igniting the engines remotely from the ship’s bridge. (What a cock blocker.) After she finds out about Spark’s intervention, Cortana is at a loss, which is a rare thing since, as an AI, her existence consists of thinking.

That’s when Chief steps in with the bright idea of just causing the engines to explode directly. He asks how much firepower would be needed to cause a reaction, and Cortana’s all like, “Well, a pretty big effin’ explosion.”

To emphasize his utility with big explosions, the Chief starts tossing a grenade up and down in his hand. The thing is, this grenade is disproportionately huge compared to the Chief. It looks like a friggin’ beach ball. And when he puts it away, he just tucks it into this nowhere pocket behind his back. It’s one of my favorite moments in Combat Evolved.

He Does Know What The Ladies Like (H2)

This is technically a Johnson moment, but screw it, this is my Master Chief list, and I can include a Sergeant Johnson moment in it if I want to.

Johnson drops off a tank so that Master Chief and Cortana can cruise around blowing up the Covenant in style. Cortana thanks Johnson, complaining that the Chief never gets her anything. It’s banter, all in good fun.

And then Johnson just kind of rumbles out, “Oh, I know what the ladies like.”

Every time he says this, every time, I have to mimic Johnson’s exact tone of voice and intonation.

And I, as a self-proclaimed lady, do like the tank every time Johnson brings it.

Back-To-Back Buddies (H3)

Arbiter and Master Chief started out Halo 3 as enemies, but they ended it as friends. And they did this with practically no dialogue spoken between them.

The key defining moment is when Arbiter finally gets his revenge on the Prophet of Truth. He stabs that damn, dirty Prophet in the back, and then he and Chief share a glance. The Chief nods, and even though they say nothing, a whole conversation just happened there. I always picture it going something like this:

Arbiter: It is done. I have just completed my journey, finished the arc for myself as a character in this epic sci-fi opera. My enemy is defeated, and I am free.

Master Chief: Heck yeah, brah. I see that. I respect that. I’m here for it. But we still have work to do. There are two more missions to the game.

Arbiter: All right. Let’s do this.

I’m Not Surrendering Sh*t (H4)

Halo 4 has by far the most comprehensive story. That’s because things got personal between Cortana and the Chief. The two of you have been together for this whole time, and her slow decline into rampancy is terrible to watch. My heart hurt.

So when this dick-head officer named Captain Del Rio demands Chief turn in Cortana for “final dispensation,” you want to cheer when Chief slips Cortana’s chip out of a computer console and returns it to his helmet.

And when Del Rio throws a hissy fit about it, shrieking, “Surrender that AI!” and all Master Chief does is say, “No,” I wanted to roll around the floor giggling.

Take that whiny captain guy!

Locke Alone (H5)

Ugh.

It was hard to find a Master Chief moment in Halo 5 because there’s hardly any Master Chief in the whole game! And the parts where he is included do not have the oomph of previous games.

There is one moment I enjoy tremendously though.

It’s during the fight between Chief and Locke halfway through the game.

And no, before you ask, it’s not the fight itself. That fight was stupid. It was just a lame punching match.

No, the moment I’m talking about happens during the fight, and it’s the fact that every single one of Locke’s team is just standing around watching the fight, not helping.

Like, I get that they might not want to intrude on a cinematic one-on-one battle, or maybe they have a generic sense of honor about things, but come on, dude-bros. Your team leader got his ass whooped, and you only stepped in to help after Chief peaced out of there. I’m honestly surprised Locke didn’t curse you guys to hell and back again.

So those are some of my favorite Master Chief moments. If you’ve played Halo, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t you probably didn’t read this far. (And if you did, kudos to you!)

Top 10 Favorite Video Game Soundtracks

The music behind a video game might be one of the more underappreciated aspects of a game. Everyone always goes ga-ga for the visuals and the gameplay (for good reason, ’cause, I mean, those things are sort of important), but I feel like a game’s soundtrack isn’t as valued as it should be.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for soundtracks, so today, I’m going to write about my top ten favorite video games in terms of their music.

That’s right, folks. It’s time for yet another list!

Seriously, these are my favorite kind of posts to write.

Let’s do this.

10. Dead Space 2

The Dead Space series is not known for its soundtrack. (Or at least I don’t think it is.) It’s mostly known for its excellent take on sci-fi horror. In Dead Space 2 you play as Isaac Clarke, engineer extraordinaire, as he deals with yet another necromorph infestation. The terror of these nightmarish creatures is brought to life thanks to the incredible audio design. And, as everyone should know, a video game’s soundtrack is technically part of its audio design. (Kind of.) The Dead Space 2 soundtrack is better than just blaring horns accompanying jump-scares and rapid percussion during a chase sequence. The game also includes some pretty somber melodies, with slow strings depicting the tragedy of the story as well as the fright. It hits you right in the feels. (And yeah, the chase sequence themes can give you minor heart attacks as well.)

9. Tetris

Good god, I could hum this theme for hours. I don’t know if the Tetris theme counts as a soundtrack, but I’m gonna include it on my list anyways. If you have never heard the Tetris theme song, I don’t know whether to recommend it to you or not. On the one hand, it is an iconic video game tune that everyone should hear at least once. On the other hand, if you hear it, you’ll get it stuck in your head and you’ll have no one to blame but me.

8. Shadow of the Colossus

If you’re going to be fighting giants in these epic landscapes, you should definitely have great music to accompany you on your quest. I have only ever played Shadow of the Colossus once on the PlayStation 2. (No, I haven’t tried the remake because I don’t own a PlayStation 4.) It was goddamn beautiful. For those of you who don’t know, you play as a guy named Wander who has to take down these slow-moving Colossi. The music is mostly ethereal in quiet moments, but it changes to bombastic, fantastical themes whenever you begin your fight with a Colossus. And funnily enough, the music is able to make you feel simultaneously triumphant and a bit saddened when you bring these magnificent creatures down.

7. The Last of Us

People hype up the story of The Last of Us all the time (as well they should), but the soundtrack should get some love too. It is remarkably simple, poignant, and easily recognizable. If you really listen to it, the main theme can be boiled down to three notes. Gustavo Santaolalla achieved so much emotional impact with such simplicity. It actually reminds me of Jaws’ soundtrack. Not the emotions tied to the soundtrack. (Definitely not.) But how the melody can convey so much by remaining uncomplicated.

6. Red Dead Redemption II

I’ve already gushed about Red Dead Redemption II in its entirety in this post over here, so some of you already know how I feel about its soundtrack. Masterpiece level of music right there. RDR2’s soundtrack rides alongside the story beats in perfect tandem. You know those fortuitous moments in movies when someone is feeling sad and then it starts to rain. That’s how in sync Red Dead Redemption II’s soundtrack is with its story. Something will happen and the music matches it. Also, there is a fantastic selection of songs chosen for choice moments in the game. If soundtracks in general don’t interest you, be sure to at least check out the featured songs sung by many talented artists. My particular favorite is “That’s the Way It Is.”

5. Prey

Prey is a video game that did not get a lot of notice when it came out, which is a downright shame because it is fantastic. It’s a mix of Bioshock, Soma, and Dishonored all rolled into one sci-fi package. Its soundtrack is also great. While it doesn’t stick in your head with defined melodies, it suits the game to a tee. I just found out it was composed by Mick Gordon, who appears in another entry on this list as you’ll soon find out, and I couldn’t be happier. It has a classic synth vibe to it that is nostalgic and futuristic at the same time.

4. Ori and the Blind Forest

Soft orchestral notes greet you as soon as you start up Ori and the Blind Forest, and the high quality of its sound is maintained throughout the entire game. The tempo picks up when your little forest spirit, Ori, is in danger, but it knows when to slow down too. Throughout the game, you travel to various places on a map (Metroidvania-style), and each area has its own theme. Even these background themes are as enjoyable to listen to as the more dynamic story themes.

3. DOOM (2016)

Mick Gordon shines in DOOM. Admittedly, this kind of music might not be for everyone. If you give it a listen and decide it’s not for you, that’s okay. But just try and picture those pulsing and pounding themes as you play the iconic Doomguy, punching and shooting your way through bloody hordes of ravenous demons. No other soundtrack on this list made me feel like a bad-ass the way Doom’s did.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

Okay, I know I’m not including the original Mario theme, which is a super iconic one, but this soundtrack blew me away with how awesome it is. Super Mario Odyssey wowed me on every level. I played it with relatively low expectations, expecting it to be just another Mario game. Imagine my surprise with how playful and delightful it was. The soundtrack embodies the idea of adventure, which is exactly what you go on alongside Mario and Cappy.

1. Halo

Psh. What, did you think I wouldn’t include Halo on this list? Halo is my all-time favorite video game in the history of ever. Its soundtrack is perfection. I love every theme, can predict when each music cue will occur, and frequently play it in the car to the annoyance of my sister. Rest assured, when I say I like the Halo soundtrack, I’m only talking about the Halo games in which Martin O’Donnell was the composer. Halo 4’s soundtrack was all right, with some great tracks like “Arrival” and “117,” but Halo 5: Guardians‘ soundtrack sucked dick. I’m sorry for getting lewd there, but it’s true. You can’t hum a single piece of music from Halo 5 because all of it just sounds like generic sci-fi noise. Anyways, I love Halo’s music so much, I think I’ll listen to some right now!

So that’s it for my list. Do you have any favorite video game soundtracks? Or just favorite soundtracks in general, from movies and TV shows? Let me know in the comments 🙂

The In-Depth Halo 3 Synopsis That No One Is Asking For

Hah!

You guys probably thought I forgot all about my synopsis project to summarize every major entry in the Halo video game series. You’d be forgiven for thinking so, because it has been a long time since I wrote my Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 summaries.

But I’m back, baby! And I’m ready to give you a Below Average, not-so-short summary of my all-time favorite video game series once again.

Let’s get into Halo 3!

Last we saw Master Chief, he was on board a Covenant ship headed to Earth. Earth is under attack by a massive Covenant fleet, so yeah, they could really use his assistance.

Cortana was left behind, plugged into the space-faring Covenant city, High Charity. Chief promised to go back for her, and we’re sure she is currently holding her breath in anticipation.

Miranda Keyes, Avery Johnson, the Arbiter, and 343 Guilty Spark were on a Halo ring, aghast at the prospect of all the Halo rings in the universe being set to blow. After just barely managing to stop the Halo they were on from being fired, safety protocols now have every Halo primed to fire from a single location called the Ark.

Side note: Seriously, what kind of safety protocol is that?!

If you’re at all confused by what I’m talking about, then clearly you haven’t read my past two summaries which can be found here and here!

Halo 3 opens with Master Chief plummeting to Earth from space because he wasn’t smart enough to find a usable life pod. He crash-lands his body into a dense forest somewhere in Africa.

Johnson and the Arbiter somehow got to Earth before the Chief even though he was in orbit and they were on a distant Halo ring at the end of Halo 2. They find the small crater where the Chief landed and inspect the immobile body of our favorite Spartan. The Chief’s armor locked up on impact, so for a quick second, Johnson thinks the Chief is dead.

Side note: That could never have happened because then we wouldn’t have a game to play.

The Chief wakes up, and there is a friendly reunion between him and Johnson.

But then the Chief catches sight of the Arbiter. Master Chief didn’t play Halo 2, so he has no way of knowing that the Arbiter is one cool guy. He just thinks the Arbiter is a dangerous Elite lurking behind Johnson. Quick as a flash, the Chief pulls out a Magnum and jams it under the Arbiter’s weird four-mandibled jaw. Luckily, Johnson speaks up and tells the Chief that Arbiter’s on their side now.

The Chief grudgingly puts his pistol away, but you can tell he and the Arbiter are not entirely trusting each other.

The group makes their way out of the forest, and after some mishaps with some Brutes, Johnson, the Arbiter, and the Chief are picked up by a Pelican and taken to an underground bunker where the UNSC is holing up. Miranda is there, and I still can’t understand why it took so freakin’ long for Chief to land on Earth. Miranda had the time to set up an entire base of operations!

Anyway, once there, Miranda and Admiral Hood fill Chief in on what’s been happening. The reason behind the Covenant invasion of Earth is apparently some artifact that is buried in Africa, just outside the city of New Mombasa. Hood sends Chief to attack anti-air defenses the Covenant have set up around their dig site so that he (Hood) can bomb the shit out of them with his ships and stop them from recovering the artifact.

Chief does a fantastic job of taking out the anti-air defenses, but the Covenant get to the artifact first anyways. The artifact was this Forerunner portal opener, and the Covenant fleet, which is carrying the nefarious Prophet of Truth, goes through the portal without a second thought to Earth and its people.

With perfect dramatic timing, just as the Covenant depart through the portal, a Flood-infested ship appears above Earth and crashes near where the Chief is. He and the Arbiter have to fight their way aboard the Flood ship, and while in there, they find a broken recording from Cortana, who is still on board High Charity. In the message, she warns them that about the Flood and says she has found a way to get rid of them on the Ark.

Chief, who trusts Cortana implicitly, goes through the new portal with the Elite forces. The Elites, after breaking away from the Covenant, have a warranted vendetta against the Prophets and the Brutes.

Once through the portal, we’re treated to the sight of the Ark. It looks like a massive starfish in space.

Unlike most starfish, this place spells doom for humanity (and lifeforms in general). The Prophet of Truth is dead-set on activating all the Halo rings, so the Chief and his buddies immediately get to work on attacking the Covenant barricades Truth has set up around the activation room on the Ark. While trying to bring down these shields, Johnson gets captured.

It’s never outright stated (at least I don’t think it is), but only humans can interact with these Forerunner devices. This tidbit becomes mega-important in Halo 4, but for now, it’s only important because Truth needs to use Johnson to activate the rings.

Miranda Keyes tries to rescue Johnson from Truth, but there is no way she can get him out of there alive. Johnson tells her that she has to kill both of them since they are the only way Truth can activate the rings. Unfortunately, she hesitates to shoot her friend, and she’s spiked by Truth (goddamned bastard). Truth then takes Johnson’s hand and forces him to start the activation process.

Master Chief and the Arbiter have been running all over the Ark, shutting down shields and trying to reach the activation room. Their friendship has no doubt deepened after spending so much quality time together.

They get to the chamber too late to save Miranda, but they do get there in time to stop the activation process. Some Flood zombies come up to them and help them to the activation platform. Since firing the Halos would destroy the Flood, it’s in their self-interest to help the Chief and Arbiter.

Once the Chief reaches Johnson, he takes out the Brutes guarding Truth. Then the Arbiter takes up his energy sword and slices into the Prophet of Truth. It’s a double-whammy for Truth, because not only did the Arbiter literally stab him in the back, he was also in the middle of getting Flooded. Good riddance, I say.

The rings are stopped from firing, and that’s when the Flood decide to turn on their temporary allies. The Arbiter and the Chief then have to fight against the Flood forms who had just been helping them. They make it out okay, and they discover an awfully convenient Halo ring is being constructed on the Ark.

This Halo ring is special because it would get rid of the local Flood infestation without threatening the rest of the galaxy.

Before the Chief goes to this new ring to activate it, he finally returns to the Flood-consumed High Charity and rescues Cortana. She’s a little worse for wear, but it’s a huge relief to have her in the Chief’s head once again.

The two of them along with the Arbiter travel to this new Halo ring, ready to fire it up. The Flood start attacking them relentlessly, but they all make it to the ring’s activation chamber.

However, when Johnson joins up with them and tries firing the ring, 343 Guilty Spark goes crazy and lasers him. This entire time, Spark has been helping the humans in order to contain this Flood outbreak. But if the Halo ring is fired too soon, it will fall apart afterwards.

And Guilty Spark cares more about the Halo ring than he does about saving the world. Master Chief lasers the insane Spark in return, but it’s too late for Johnson. He dies from his wound, and it’s up to the Chief, Arbiter, and Cortana to fire the Halo ring alone.

Just as Spark said would happen, the Halo ring starts breaking down around them. The three heroes of the universe have to race to the safety of Johnson’s parked ship using a Warthog he left behind.

Side note: Johnson parked reallllllllllly far away from the activation chamber. Did he really walk all that way?

They miraculously make it onto the ship, the Forward Unto Dawn, and Arbiter rushes to the bridge to pilot the ship out of there. The Chief and Cortana are stuck in the loading bay because some wreckage cut them off from the doorway. Arbiter manages to pilot most of the ship through the portal they came through before it closes. However, only his half of the ship made it back to Earth. The Chief, Cortana, and the back end of the Forward Unto Dawn is left adrift in deep space.

The end of the war is celebrated on Earth, but the game truly ends when we see the Master Chief climb into a cryo-tube on the broken-down Forward Unto Dawn. He plans to sleep until someone finds his and Cortana’s beacon and comes to rescue them.

His last words to Cortana are, “Wake me if you need me.”

And then he goes to sleep, leaving poor Cortana to just sit in the ship by her lonesome waiting for someone to find them.