Friday 12 November 2021

Halo Master Chief Collection

Halo is 20 years!

I played through the Halo: Master Chief Collection campaigns on Linux through Steam/Proton. Here are some of my experiences.

I'll say at first that at one point the MCC received a major update, and as a consequence I lost my saves. 

This means I was mid-way Halo 3: ODST and had to start it again. I'm not sure if this can be attributed to Proton, but I could not see anyone else complaining. Perhaps the lesson is, if you are mid-game, it might be wiser not to allow the MCC to update.

(21.11.2021 Edit: This actually happened again, fortunately I'd played them all through.)

I played the original Halo without knowing you can use TAB key to instantly switch between old and new graphics. Perhaps this was for the better, because doing it all the time is bound to highlight problems in a very detailed scale. As someone who is not a rabid original Halo fan, I could therefore enjoy the remaster in its totality. I've thought MCC has been a pretty good deal and do not mind that much whether the "remastering" has gone a little out of hand or not.

Most of the games worked very well, and I'll mention some basic Proton (5.0-10) experiences. The setup is GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, driver version 460.91.03. Processor is i5-4670 CPU @ 3.40GHz, 16 GiB memory and I'm running Linux Mint 19.3 Tricia 64-bit. Display resolution is 1920 x 1200.

I played these games with keyboard and mouse, but as Halo is originally a console series they should be playable with a gamepad.

Halo: Reach

I'd recommend not playing this first because you'll be spoiled. No, it doesn't reveal plot points, but it's just that good. Afterwards, playing Halo 1 and 2 may even feel like a painful experience. 

The Reach campaign is a thoroughly modern fps, with a lot of variety, clear signposting and constant narrative.

Harassing some locals

The story starts in a small way at a distant human colony of Reach, where (I think) a Hungarian agrarian settlement is suspected of disturbances. A group of elite soldiers called the Noble Six is sent to investigate. Then things start to escalate.

It does make me wonder why this Noble Six is tasked with curbing a supposed pig-sty rebellion instead of sending some mall cops, but it makes for a cool and atmospheric start. One even wishes things could have continued in this vein for somewhat longer, but there's shooting to be done.

Driving and piloting different vehicles adds spice to the game

Strangely enough, Star Wars:Rogue One (which came later) shares some plot elements with this game, and the prequel's relation to the original is also somewhat similar.

Proton verdict: Seemed to work smoothly throughout.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Anniversary Edition)

A super-soldier called the Master Chief is awoken from a deep sleep like any old frozen asset. The ship is soon breached by the alien race of the Covenant. All goes hairy, Master Chief secures the all-important ship AI Cortana, crash lands with a bunch of marines on a huge ring-world like structure and very soon the Covenant follows.

One of the few times in the series you get to be on a halo and actually see it

The forces begin to move along the Halo ring, discovering ancient structures and weird formations of nature.

To me the landing on Halo and the subsequent activity has an almost legendary status. An early example of a genuinely working outdoor environment coupled with AI that makes the game experience fun and rich rather than pedantic.

The new graphics (right) aren't always a huge improvement. The blue water looks sillier.

I'm not especially invested in the story of the Flood and the Flood enemies. It's like the game suddenly forgets the Ringworld influences and goes full-on into Aliens and Predators fare, which then mostly takes place indoors in very repetitive corridors.

As I said previously, hitting TAB will instantly switch between the new and old graphics. And I do mean instantly. Because the game physics in any case work with the original Halo meshes, in the new graphics you can sometimes see bullets hitting a tree even if they quite shouldn't!

This plays well with Proton.

Halo 2 (Anniversary Edition)

I'm not sure what happened. Of course in massive hindsight it's quite easy to say what are the good and less good parts of Halo 1. But at least during making the sequel it looks nobody thought to tone down the less interesting elements. 

Earth looks great, sadly there's not much of it.

So Halo 2 re-hashes the same ingredients from the first game, there's shooting-a-plenty of those boring aliens endlessly with their nerf guns. 

Ok, so the repetitiveness is not quite as heavy here, but it is still part of the recipe. Add to that I wouldn't compare the combat set pieces to the ones at the beginning of Halo 1. Yes, they look similar but it doesn't quite play that way.

There are some visual bugs in that the "brutes" in the videos and in actual game play look so different I was at times wondering what the hell is happening. There's also an occasional mismatch between where the cut-scenes leave off and the ensuing game situation.

Here we are again on a halo, driving another Warthog

You also get to play both the Master Chief and the Arbiter. It's a novel idea, but it doesn't add that much and I'd have preferred the game was from the Master Chief POV entirely after all. Years ago, playing the first time around I quit soon after this switcheroo.

On Proton front, this game also had the most hiccups. This could be more to do with loading and memory handling than direct GPU load, as the graphics shouldn't be too complex.

Interestingly, this choppiness occurred whenever a large and complex vista opened up, even if just turning left or right. After "eating in" the landscape, the choppiness would disappear. Reducing detail did not help that much.

Halo 3

The story continues directly from where the previous part ended. Having more fights set on Earth is a good thing because it makes the environments already more relatable. Predictably, we soon get to the other side of the universe but fortunately that part isn't overly long.

Nice foliage

I'm sorry to repeat how my benchmark for "great Halo experience" are the beginning parts of first Halo. But in this measurement Halo 3 does not offer as many comparable thrills. I still think it does the generic fps action nicely and the surroundings have variety. The change of pace is orchestrated well. 

Fighting the large Scarab spider-mechs is both somewhat frustrating but also very exciting, a set-piece in itself. The Flood continues to be as boring as ever.

It takes more than blasting at weak spots to kill a Scarab

Instead of video clips the cut-scenes are made with the engine graphics. To my current eyes this seems the better choice, but some of the characters look silly considering they are supposed to be the same as in Halo 2.

At this point game storytelling had advanced strides, but had still some ways to go. For some reason the characters end up caring about each other a lot, despite not spending much time together. There's a grand sci-fi setting and a nice, if obligatory, "reveal".

I enjoyed this more than Halo 2, and it also runs smoother through Proton. Perhaps it had tiny hiccups here and there. 

Halo 3: ODST

Not very promisingly the game starts with the most immature super-soldiers I've seen for a long time. There's also "Coming in hot! We are going to crash! Aarrgh...!" type of plotting so familiar from the other games.

This time the hero isn't the Master Chief, but a bunch of military types called the ODST. The story takes place during the alien invasion of New Mombasa in Halo 3.


The play begins from a seemingly open-ended city that is soon revealed to be quite closed after all. Yet it's quite maze-like and you need to learn to use the visor to navigate around. The waypoint creation system is something I would have thought as cool around 1994, but luckily it is only really needed in these "framing story" portions.

But now I'm making ODST sound like it's a crap game, which it is not. On the contrary, along Halo:Reach it might be the most fun Halo game I've played.

The image intensifier is almost necessary so this view gets a lot of use.

The framing story has the player moving about the nightly streets of New Mombasa. The story becomes interspersed with flashback vignettes about what happened to the other teammates, as "evidence" of their actions are found from the street.

This story device then allows the game to switch between different times and combat situations without having to bridge them directly. The threads eventually converge to the climax that happens in the present. The player as a silent "Rookie" merely observes the story that happens to the other soldiers.

A Warthog sequence with a twist.

What with the Noble Six and the ODST crew it appears there's quite a lot of these super-hero characters around, and all seem just as bad-ass as the Master Chief. I guess the player couldn't be made to suffer to play a Halo game with less effective heroes.

This game worked fine through Proton and despite having to play the first half twice I enjoyed it a lot.

Halo 4

Halo 4 looks like a stylistic leap compared to all the other games. It was released in 2012. To give perspective, this is not far from the new Tomb Raider of 2013. The fourth part was made by 343 Industries and not Bungie, the original developers of Halo.

Master Chief wakes up again.

I felt at first this might have the potential to be the best Halo yet. But then... what can I say. Well, I've been thinking Halo games are maybe a little too similar, but when they come up with something new I'm not quite happy either.

I'd think it's fair to assume that in an fps it's usually more satisfying to fight something that's at least remotely humanoid. And not some totally unrelatable, annoying flying mechanic-metaphysical fucks that take million shots from these wonky new guns.

A weird new world and weird new guns...

Things get better though. It's just that the superiority of these new hostiles has to be first underlined by having them really resilient, which isn't that fun.

The story attempts to put more focus on the few characters, including a distinct enemy leader persona. Although the storytelling might be now more competent, this emphasis is somewhat hit-and-miss.

...and some mandatory Warthog driving.

The quality of visuals is uneven. As I said the beginning looks surprisingly next-gen. There are more environment effects, and the Covenant aliens look far more detailed. But then there are sections that are not so far developed and would not have looked out of place in Halo 3.

Again, Proton did not have any major problem with this campaign and it was very playable.

On the whole

So, that's it, more Halo than a person can bear, and I'd say the campaigns are a good deal if it can be found in the 20-30€ range or less. In this I don't include the multiplayer, which due to Easy Anti-Cheat probably won't work in Linux/Proton without tinkering.

The achievements didn't work, not sure if that has something to do with my settings or not.

The games look good, obviously much better in motion than in these static and somewhat random screenshots.

There's loads of stuff that probably only relates to multiplayer

I'd perhaps nominate Halo:Reach as the best here, partly because it's so clear, concise and sweet, partly because it doesn't have the Flood and the Master Chief/Cortana interactions that tend to get somewhat boring in the long run.

Without thinking too much, from best to worst:

Halo: Reach
Halo: ODST
Halo 1
Halo 4
Halo 3
Halo 2

Saturday 6 November 2021

Handlebar adjustments

Dott me a favour and don't Tier me up

A few notes after a some more kilometers behind with Zeeclo Fenix. The season has not yet closed in Helsinki, there's no snow on the ground and it's not significantly colder than it was a month ago. If anything, rain and work has prevented me from trying it out more.

I had a 6km and then 13km trip with the fully charged battery, so I'm starting to think it's safe to say 20km is possible. I weigh about 80kg, temperature has been around 5-10 degrees celsius.

I thought I'd not be self-conscious while driving a scooter, being past that after driving the rentals. But I have regressed a little, thinking this might look silly(!) It might help to remove that logo and the "wooden" decorations. The deck part doesn't really even exist in comparable models.

But, first adjustments first.

Handlebar adjustments

Tinkering was one motive to get this particular model. I had done some basic alterations but was not satisfied with the position of the 2nd motor button.

The old arrangement

I moved the button cluster to the left side and the display to the right. Now pressing the dual motor button is done with the left hand and does not conflict with the throttle.

Of course now the 3 different speed modes cannot be as easily accessed but I generally only use the mode 3 anyway. It's also better not to fiddle with the display options while driving.

It's not obvious that three attachments fit on the same side, because to fold the handlebar, the "locks" have to be pulled outwards and the bar needs to have some room for that, about ~1.4cm each side.

The new arrangement

About that moving. It would have been easier if both the display and the button block could have been exchanged, but only the display can be removed "upwards". Everything else has to be pulled out via the handlebar ends. 

So I had to pull out the rubber handles, levers and the thumb throttle just to exchange the handedness of these two items. 

The rubber grips were diabolical. Loosening the screws did not help much, so they are just inched out by rotating them with full-body force. I got a blister but at least no hernia. They went back far more easily. 

By the way the included wrenches did not have a size for these grip tightening screws, so I used my own.

Almost needless to say, I liked the new arrangement better. As a further adjustment I rotated the button block so the 2nd motor button is closer to the thumb. (Not done in the above image).

The button is still quite tiny. A future idea might be to have an additional well-placed, "boost" button that simply keeps the 2nd motor on while pressed. There's no complex electronics inside that button block, just switches.

What else?

Another thing I did was to measure the display speedometer against a mobile phone GPS-based speedometer app. This could be done more systematically, but at least it looked that while driving the 25km/h cruise, the app showed the same.

I've occasionally had a feeling the steering is more hungry to turn to left than towards right. It's worth investigating, possibly something to do with the cable lump.

There are many parameters inside the display menu, and I'll get back to those later. 

I also need to understand the disc brakes better, and if there are some adjustments to be done there.