|Let's Play Halo SPV3 Stage 0 (Halo 1 mod)
|Posted By: Lion O Cyborg
|Date: 1/16/20 1:01 p.m.
Stage 0: The Discovery
Witness the discovery of Halo
Welcome to my little Tour of Duty esque text LP for the Halo 1 PC mod, Halo Custom Edition: Single Player Version 3, or SPV3 for short as the full title is a bit of a mouthful. This is Lion O Cyborg, of the Pathways into Darkness and Marathon Eternal X Tour of Duty, the latter shared with Viking Boy Billy. VBB covered the vanilla PC version of Halo 1 a few years ago, I think around the time just before I started the PID tour. I have wanted to do something similar for the SPV3 mod for a while since I played it, while VBB covers Halo 2, but I had to at least finish PID’s Tour of Duty first.
This mod aims to be a proper remake of Halo 1, more than the official “remake” (read: remastering), Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary on Xbox 360 could ever hope to be. The latter isn’t a bad game -far from it- but it is just the downgraded PC version of Halo 1 with new graphics and animations layered over it, coupled with upgraded sounds, optional re-orchestrated music and the option to switch to the old graphics using the Back button on the controller (whoever thought of that must have got a raise!).
That last part is in hindsight less awesome sadly, due to the PC version of Halo being the Xbox equivalent to the Sonic Adventure games being ported to Gamecube from the Xbox’s prototype, the underrated gem that is the Dreamcast, but that’s another story:
SPV3 on the other hand as mentioned in the first of the Primer posts, uses a program called “Open Sauce” (sic) to enable features in the Halo 1 engine that it normally can’t or doesn’t have, like Aleph One for Halo. This means:
-Texture and graphics updates
It’s the Halo version of Marathon Redux, except Redux aims to make the Bob escort quests easier read: beatable on Total Carnage or higher. Halo SPV3 does the opposite, as I found out to my chagrin when I played the first SPV3 build for the first time on Legendary, thinking I could master it. I was very wrong, but I did beat it. Barely:
The Pillar of Autumn wasn’t too bad, though I found it a bit of a slog thanks to something specific I’ll get to in Stage 1. The first escort quest on the level Halo is when I really learned how much harder SPV3 is; that part of the level is hard enough in vanilla but now there were more waves to fight and they threw freaking banshees into the mix who could and would use their fuel rod cannons from above, whereas vanilla didn’t use banshees in that section. The marines were screwed and I was left grasping at straws until I could find extra first aid kits.
The Truth and Reconciliation was definitely at least as hard as normal at a minimum but after that, things didn’t get truly horrible again until the last part of Assault on the Control Room. By the time I got to the Library, things got even worse fast. I was lucky to beat the game first time on Legendary and now I doubt I could do it again if I tried without months of Heroic practice, studying Let’s Plays and a having series of personal trainers.
Simply getting SPV3.2 to even work properly was a task in of itself, as the damn game not only requires Custom Edition and Open Sauce, but attempting to run it with the built-in launcher like it wants you to causes a game breaking glitch where the main menus work, but the cutscenes and levels are black screens with only glitched sound. Not even the pause menu appears. Tomb Raider 6 has a similar problem but at least I found a way to fix that and still use its launcher. SPV3.2 not so much; I had to use the mod’s own HaloCE executable and make a shortcut to that instead and the game works fine, but without the launcher appearing. It’s still horse shit, I shouldn’t have to do this! Nobody on the install guide videos nor the developers themselves warn about this glitch. https://youtu.be/0MDwKzH4ez8?t=1286
This first Stage is going to be yet another expositional part, covering the opening cutscene of the level The Pillar of Autumn and the Easy and Normal difficulty exclusive tutorial in Halo 1 vanilla, cut from SPV3 itself. I’m sorry everyone, but the first proper part will be written at the same time so as to not keep anyone waiting. It also follows the level structure of SPV3 itself, as it names the opening cutscene as a separate level, following the tradition started with The Heretic in Halo 2, even though The Discovery’s cutscene is part of The Pillar of Autumn by default in vanilla.
Speaking of vanilla, when I make comparisons to the original via screenshots, I will be using the other Halo PC mod Halo 1 Refined, the Xbox equivalent to Sonic Adventure 1+2 PC’s Dreamcast Conversion mods. The above video links to it as well.
Once I’m done with the lovely music and view of the Halo Ring flyby, I check the difficulty levels in the Campaign menu.
As you can see, there’s no easy difficulty anymore. SPV3 is a Halo 1 remake for Vidmasters only.
They aren’t kidding: I made the mistake of doing Legendary first as I was used to vanilla and Anniversary on Legendary as I mentioned above.
The only exceptions to that rule are this mod and Halo 2. Fuck Halo 2 on Legendary. I can’t even beat the first level! I guess I’ll get better at Legendary on this if I watch LPs and practice a lot.
I’m not touching Noble with a 10 foot sterilised barge pole. And if you’re worried that it isn’t hard enough, I’ve beaten Halo Reach & Halo 4 on Legendary and those two are unforgiving, but not as terrible as Halo 2 as I can actually beat them. Legendary in this game is only slightly harder than Halo Reach but it’s now treated as SPV3’s version of Heroic:
Heroic difficulty in SPV3 is more or less the same as vanilla Halo 1’s Legendary, then Legendary is harder, and Noble is Easy from vanilla but with all the AI and damage multipliers set to max, so playing it is like this:
There’s also skulls like in Halo 2 that were taken out of the version I’m playing, but will be added in to the next update. Good, I wasn’t going to use the skulls either: unlike all other Halo games, all of them suck as opposed to most of them. All the bad skulls make the game that little bit harder and all the good skulls either benefit you or have some other quirky little tweak. Only Catch, Boom, Sputnik and Cowbell can be seen as both good and bad as they can be entertaining in co-op. The skulls retroactively added to Halo Anniversary include Grunt Funeral, which also fits the Good & Bad category.
SPV3 only has bad skulls and many are even more devious than the official games. Playing Mythic difficulty i.e. Legendary with all skulls on in any Halo game is not only suicidal but downright pants-on-head retarded.
Not to delay starting further, but Halo 1 on Xbox Classic was the first shooter I played with creatively named difficulty modes instead of generic “easy, medium and hard” I was used to from Half Life, Freespace and 2 edutainment Pingu puzzle games from school. Unlike games like Doom, Rise of the Triad or Wolfenstein 3D, their descriptions and names never put the player down and I like that.
I thought the skull in the Legendary symbol was a flug (i.e. Flood Infection form) but it’s actually an elite skull. I think Marathon’s difficulties should get symbols and little descriptions like that in the Trilogy Remake and Marathon 4. Here’s how I’d do the descriptions:
Kindergarten: Games for your mum.
Easy: Death to all who oppose you, but your ultimate victory will leave you thirsty for more.
Normal: Hordes of aliens vie to kill you, but several clips of grenades, smart use of the jump button and a quick trigger finger give you a solid chance to prevail.
Major Damage: Your enemies are as numerous as they are ferocious. They’re attacks are devastating and you’ll be praying for even a health station let alone the 2 shield chargers.
Total Carnage: Behold Marathon’s ultimate power! You face lizards who have never known defeat, who laugh in reptilian tongues at your efforts to survive. Enjoy the unlimited supply of ammo you can pick up now because you will need it, and you’ll be panting for breath so much, liquids and vacuum don’t even need to try.
Vidmaster/Mythic: Want to play Vidmaster style, with all the skulls on or both? Heh, Heh, Heh. Jason Jones is about to make you his bitch. Suck it down! *Followed by the Vidmasters’ Oath*
Without further ado, we begin. We see a large gas giant, Threshold. Threshold is bigger than Jupiter believe it or not, despite looking the same, and it even has a Great Red Spot with a green eye that we get to visit in Halo 2. There’s so far no sign of its moon, Basis.
It looks like a planet with a ring beside it. What is it? It is a planet with a ring beside it. A ring of solid matter, an artifact.
Where last we’d left off in the Halo Primer Circle 3, John Carver 117 had survived the partial glassing of Reach and we have just made the jump through slipspace, hoping to lead the Covenant away from Earth.
The Pillar of Autumn was THE most iconic spaceship for me as a kid. Not the Marathon (that was the most iconic of my teen years), not the Nostromo or Von Braun, but the good old Autumn and all the cool ships in Conflict Freespace: The Great War and Freespace 2.
"Cortana, all I need to know is “did we lose them?”” says a voice, namely that of Captain Jacob Keyes, whom I thought was voiced by Silver the Hedgehog’s alternate voice actor but it’s actually someone else with the same first name.
“I think we both know the answer to that.” answers Cortana, as the camera zooms into the bridge under the cruiser’s bow and MAC gun. Keyes himself is standing by the weapons station suspended over the glass viewport, his face grim. “We made a blind jump. How did they…” “Get here first?” Cortana finishes. “The Covenant ships have always been faster. As for tracking us all the way from Reach, at light speed my manoeuvring options were limited.”
The Captain asks for confirmation that they had gone dark after jumping into the Soell system, while he checks someone’s station, showing a scan of the ring and Covenant ships gathered around it near Threshold. “Until we decelerated, no-one could have missed the hole we tore in slipspace.” Cortana actually says “subspace” here like the one in the Freespace games, but as Halo 2 and the books later correct her on, I’ve used its actual name. “They were waiting for us on the far side of the planet.” She continues, referring to Threshold and not the ring as I first thought.
“So, where do we stand?” Captain Keyes asks, walking back to the main view screen. “Our fighters are mopping up the rest of their recon picket now, nothing serious. But, I’ve isolated approach signatures from multiple CCS Class battlegroups, make it 3 capital ships per group. And in about 90 seconds they’ll be all over us.”
Keyes orders Cortana to bring up the ship back to combat alert Alpha like it was at Reach. He wants everyone at their stations, including us. “And Cortana?” he asks. Cortana then appears on her holotank projector next to the screen, now sporting her Halo 4 appearance, but with her Halo 1 animations.
Captain Keyes in SPV3 seems to use his Halo 1 model crossed with his Reach/Halo Anniversary one and unlike the last build of SPV3, it actually looks pretty good, if a little off at times due to his mouth movements following Halo 1.
VBB commented that vanilla doesn’t look as great as he remembers, citing the mouth animations (presumably also Keyes’ model) as examples. He’s right: it’s not. As mentioned above, Gearbox butchered Halo 1 when they ported it to PC, ruining many of the graphical effects that the Xbox Classic had, one of which being swapping out Captain Keyes’ model for an ugly looking early version. Why?
The video link far above details just how royally Gearbox screwed this port up, and how the original is being buried thanks to 343 being too lazy to make the Classic Mode portion of the remaster properly: they just used Halo PC as the base instead of the superior Xbox version, just so they could have easy online capability via Xbox Live which the original didn’t have, as opposed to using the sodding original Xbox version for Classic Mode and adding online play in.
Nowadays if I’m not playing SPV3 at the time, I play Halo PC with the Refined mod, also mentioned above. This mod puts the PC version on equal footing with the original, and is the definitive way to play it on PC.
This is what Captain Keyes looks like in Halo PC and Halo Anniversary’s Classic mode:
Urrgh. He looks like he’s covered in a thin layer of sand with dandruff in his hair. And here’s what he looks like in the Xbox original, as shown in Halo 1 Refined:
Much better! Back to the game! We see the inside of Hanger Bay 7, the final area of the game! Not to be seen again for another 10 levels in vanilla.
“Attention all combat personnel,” Cortana calls over the intercom. “Please report to your action stations.” We get a shot of a marine using blue, glowing electric air traffic control paddles to direct the Pelican dropships to and from their docking bays around the ledges above the hanger. I sneaked a peak at the Nobel difficulty version of this scene and in that, he switches his air traffic paddles for dual energy swords that spark as he drags them back and forth on the floor. How cool is that?!
This whole part is so cool! So I thought as a kid: all the marines flitting to and fro, the ships, the Scorpion tanks in the red docking spots, and the Warthogs in the parking garage under the causeway.
Now we can add Mongoose quadbikes –namely the armed “Gungoose” kind- and Sparrowhawks to the list, the latter being the Halo Wars version of Halo 3’s Hornet gunship.
“Ship security, secure airlocks on Deck 11, 14th Platoon rendezvous with 22nd tactical at bulkhead Charlie 14.”
A Warthog pulls into the garage under the causeway and Sgt Avery Jr Johnson, who we last saw in both Contact Harvest and as a cameo in the Fall of Reach, rallies a squad of marines. “You heard the lady!” he yells, “Move like you got a purpose!”
As the Marines form 2 neat little barracks lines like in Half Life Opposing Force, Cortana warns this is no drill. Johnson then walks down through the marines and gives a motivational speech. This bit various according to difficulty so I’ll use the one from Legendary, which I first played SPV3 on.
“Men, we led those dumb bugs out to the middle of nowhere to keep ‘em from getting their filthy claws on Earth. But, we’ve stumbled onto something they’re so hot for, that they’re scrambling over each other to get it! Well, I DON’T CARE IF IT’S GOD’S OWN ANTI-SON OF A BITCH MACHINE OR A GIANT HULA HOOP, WE’RE NOT GONNA LET ‘EM HAVE IT! WHAT WE WILL LET ‘EM HAVE, IS A BELLY FULL OF LEAD AND A POOL OF THEIR OWN BLOOD TO DROWN IN!”
Some of his other ones except Easy can be just as funny. Namely the Normal one: “When we meet the enemy we will rip their skulls from their spines, and toss ‘em away laughin’!” He gets more violent and angry sounding as the difficulty setting for this level goes up. It’s awesome!
“AM I RIGHT MARINES?” he finishes. “Sir, yes sir!” The marines chant. “Um hmm. Damn right I am. Now move it out! Double time!” Once Johnson says this, all the marines run out of the garage as Cortana warns that they are re-engaging the enemy and fighting on the ship and in space is inevitable.
“All you marine ahorns(?) who wanted to see Covenant up close,” Johnson shouts after his men, “this is gonna be your lucky day!”
We cut to the cryo chamber where I am currently sleeping on ice. Technicians Sam Marcus and Thom Shepherd are ordered to revive me, and Cortana sends them the password via onscreen text, “UNSEAL THE HUSHED CASKET”.
Sam quietly exclaims his awe and nudges Shepherd. “Right,” the latter says. “Let’s thaw him out.”
“OK,” Sam says, keying the controls to unfreeze me and open the cryotube. “Bringing low level systems online. Cracking the case in 30 seconds.” As the camera pans down to the floor of the Cryo Two, steam begins venting out of my tube as the cold, human hibernation gases are pumped out and my temperature rising to normal. “He’s hot!” Sam yells. “Blowing the pins in 5!”
Stage 1 Act 1: Reville
This part is not in SPV3 itself. Instead, I will be illustrating the Halo 1 Refined version. While the chapter itself is still there, it goes unnamed in Heroic and Legendary and you skip the actual tutorial section. The tutorial is missing from SPV3 entirely, not even on Normal. However, the end part of the tutorial is added back in, as for some stupid reason it’s cut from Heroic and Legendary in vanilla.
I awaken inside the cryotube after a bad nightmare that is detailed at the start of the novel of the game, Halo: The Flood. The steam and other vapours are still swirling inside the capsule and Thom stands outside by a small terminal, how he got down here from the sealed observation room above us so fast I don’t know.
“His toot* shows green. Cycle complete.” Sam says over the intercom. The steam clears and the cryotube opens. *It’s “suit”, I just found out. Wonders of playing a game with no subtitles, even when Halo Anniversary adds them for so long, huh?
Last time I was on ice, I woke up on a destroyed ship somewhere in Africa near the Egyptian city of Soleanna, fell from where the pod had gotten lodged in the ceiling, and then learned that cryo isn’t perfect as you only age slowly and I’d been in there for at least 500 years or more, meaning I was an adult in my 20s by the time I was revived. (The Vortex Rikkers, not that Marathon esque ship from the cringey version of Thundercats, seen as how I’m human) Hope that isn’t the case a second time.
"Sorry for the quick thaw, Master Chief.” Shepherd says, giving a quick salute. “Things are a little hectic right now. But disorientation should pass quickly.” “Welcome back, sir!” Sam calls, waving from the computer station in the observation theatre. “We’ll have you battle-ready, stat!”
“Chief, please look around the room. I need to get a calibration reading for your battlesuit’s diagnostics.” I do as Thom says and Sam brings my health monitors online.
Throughout Halo 1, you come to depend on first aid kits like in Half Life, spread around the levels by dead marines and ammo caches. Halo 2, 3 & 4 eschew it in favour of your actual health being hidden under your shield but regenerating quickly. Halo 2 thought this could justify its shield bar being abysmally small compared to all other games which did not help the difficulty any, regenerating health or no.
The shields here are like the suit power in Half Life: similar to armour in Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, but less useless. As with Marathon, you get more than one shield bar but unlike Marathon, where you just had health and two layers of shields all of which shared the same bar, you have three layers of shields in Halo 1, only the other 2 can only be obtained with an overshield powerup. Marathon’s overshields were traditional invincibility.
Bungie could now code the health as separate with first aid kits to replenish it. By Destiny, they’d go back to the Marathon method but separate the health from the shields more easily and have all 3 regenerate, the health regenerating slower.
As I look around, I am still impressed with seeing my alive body in the tube (as I called it back then). I was used to seeing the character you play as in third person games like Tomb Raider and 2D point N click adventure games like Sesame Street with Sherlock Hemlock. In first person games like Half Life, seeing your feet when you looked down was unheard of and I just ran with it as it never affected my gameplay any.
While Halo 1 does have the same floating camera effect, you do get to see the rest of you in this one instance and it’s unique for that.
“Vital signs look normal, no freezer burn.” Thom checks the display. “OK sir, go ahead and climb out of the cryotube.”
I feel normal sized and just as strong so I can’t have aged again. Good. Also, that screenshot is actually from SPV3 as opposed to Halo Refined. Now back to the tutorial itself.
“I gave you a double dose of the wake-up stiff.” Shepherd says before walking over to a plus sign with lights on it. “Take a quick walk around the cryobay and join me at the optical diagnostic station when you’re ready.” I like to jump on the other cryotubes and inspect the vents on top of them, as well as jump to both the catwalks. There’s even a glitch where just after climbing out of the tube, you can jump back in before the lid slams shut and get trapped in there. Sometimes you pop out on top, other times you wriggle around inside and fall through the grate in the floor.
I like this glitch. It always made me wonder what was hidden under the grates in the cryo chamber. When you join Shepherd but don’t stand on the red square or look at him, he gets annoyed and says you need to look at him so we can begin. His exact line is randomised but it’s either that or he asks nicely. I try to make him say the former, reverting to the last checkpoint if I don’t get the one I want.
Also, notice that the UNSC crewmen are based on the Bobs? They act the same way around the Covenant, the armed ones aren’t as good at shooting as the marines and they wear the same jumpsuits.
Halo Anniversary dresses them all in a boring, generic white, which looks too baggy for them. SPV3 throws that in the bin in favour of bringing back the Bob jumpsuits and simply updating them. Thom says the ordinance techs normally test the crosshairs but as we’re short on time, I just have to look at the now orange lights on the cross. When I lock on, it’ll change color.
I also like to aim erratically here just to trigger Sam noticing calibration errors and letting you try inverted aiming. He then asks you to target the lights and turn them green again. When I played Halo PC vanilla back in the day, I used mouse & keyboard, as is the way with the majority of PC games as unlike some other console based PC ports such as most PC Sonic games, Mirror’s Edge, Rockman and Another Metroid 2 Remake, it works quite well. (Can’t say the same for Reach on PC as I didn’t try it that way) When I played Halo Refined for the first time, I used my Xbox Duke Controller which is how I’m playing SPV3, the way Solaris intended.
When playing Halo with mouse & keyboard, I use normal aiming, but I always play Halo on Xbox or at least on controller with inverted aiming, as I just learned to accept it that way. Not all console games I play with inverted aiming, that would just get annoying.
Once I pick inverted aiming (as I’m using my Duke Controller), Sam says he’s ready for the energy shield test so I follow Thom to the energy shield test station. Cortana calls in over the intercom again, but I didn’t realise it was her and not a simple automated voice until I first read Halo: The Flood. “Fireteams, report to defensive positions in Alpha through Sierra. Sensors show inbound Covenant boarding craft. Stand by to repel boarders!”
When I stand on the yellow square with black caution lines, the metal frame around it spins and drapes rings of yellow energy over me in the shape of one of those play tunnels I had for my kiddy tent. The shields are charged by the crackling current and with a press of the A button, Sam turns the beams red and fires a plasma pistol style burst to bring the shields down again, testing their recharge.
I also thought this was really cool. When the machine turns off, the Captain calls in over the speakers.
“Bridge to Cryo Two, this is Captain Keyes. Send the Master Chief to the Bridge immediately!” “Captain,” Shepherd protests, saying we’d need to skip the weapons diagnostics but he’s interrupted, “On the double crewman!” Thom can only respond with a meek “Aye-aye, sir”.
He turns to me and looks up at Sam. “The skipper seems jumpy, we better get moving. We’ll find new weapons later”. Oh, we will do exactly that. Both the Covenant weapons he seems to be referring to, and new UNSC weapons unique to SPV3. “OK,” Sam says. “I’ll leave the self-diagnostic running at least.” I think he means the hint boxes that appear on rare occasions when playing on Easy and Normal. They only show up when they need to and they don’t show up at all in co-op or on the 2 higher difficulties.
“Good idea. You’d better get to your evac group, Sam!” Shepherd calls. “Affirmative!” Sam answers back down. “I just have to reset the computer and I’m out of here!” He’s immediately interrupted by a loud banging on the right door of the observation theatre and the alarm goes off. The last couple of sentences between Shepherd and Sam have a really fucking annoying tendency to not trigger unless you jump around the room a certain way, including up to the catwalks. This means it likely skips straight to the alarm going off after Keyes finishes talking and Shepherd mentions finding weapons. Many more wasted attempts reverting to last checkpoint may go past before you force the dialog to play in full.
“Oh god, they’re trying to get through the door!” Sam yells and an elite blows the door open into flaming pieces of metal. “Security! Intruders to Cryo Two!” Sam hollers into the Intercom. He starts to say something else but the elite shoots him with its plasma rifle and he gags on his own words as he drops dead. This is where Halo 1 vanilla and SPV3 meet.
While SPV3 doesn’t have the tutorial section, it does keep Sam’s death as soon as you leave the cryotube, which vanilla in co-op or the 2 harder difficulties doesn’t have.
That concludes this glorified prologue/training level. Immediately after I post this, I will post the next episode so I don’t leave you guys hanging any longer. Now awakened from Cryosleep and the Covenant boarding, Captain Keyes makes the command decision for us to abandon ship, with me keeping Cortana safe so her data on humanity doesn’t fall into Covenant hands. Next time on Halo SPV3; Stage 1: The Pillar of Autumn. Now the adventure evolves.
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