All the big guns have come and gone. The best games are all now on shelves and we’ve just decided on our game of the year. Now we’re taking a look at our 10 favourite gaming moments of 2010. Be aware that these are just my subjective choices – feel free to let us know some of your favourites in the comments below.
Working Out The DMR In Halo: Reach
First, a little bit of context. I’ve been a huge fan of the Halo series from day one. I bought a launch Xbox, queued for Halo 2 and 3. Along the way, I’ve developed a huge fascination with competitive Halo and playing multiplayer online. In terms of my own skill level I probably peaked halfway through the lifespan of Halo 2 and those skills were pretty much transferable through to Halo 3. In a sense, Halo had become a series I was really comfortable with.
The staple of the competitive gamer through Halo 2 and Halo 3 was the Battle Rifle. A flexible weapon that allowed players to compete in mid-range and close-range battles, and alternate between the power weapons dotted around the map. I had become very familiar with that weapon and its mechanics, so when I heard that Bungie intended to reboot the weapon in the form of the DMR I started shaking my fists at clouds, a grumpy old bastard set in his ways, terrified of change and the challenges it might bring.
Still I was excited to learn a new weapon, and secretly hoped for an experience as rewarding as the Halo 1 pistol.
When I first got my virtual paws on the DMR, however, my heart sank. What fresh hell was this! Why weren't my shots registering - was Halo: Reach destined to be a lag-fest? I would constantly and consistently head for the DMR spawn, intent on showing off my prowess and skill, only to be instantly mowed down by two newbies spamming Assault Rifles.
I literally had no idea what to think. In Halo 3 I would have launched some nades, strafed like Baryshnikov, and out-shot these chumps in seconds - but here I was, headbutting my controller, spitting with rage, cursing Bungie for taking away my precious Battle Rifle. Shouting obscenties at the sky like a sunburnt, Scottish Abe Simpson.
But then, in one single moment of inspiration, everything seemed to click. I got it. I started trying to work with the weapon instead of against it. The secret to the DMR was timing and context and, in comparison to Halo 3's Battle Rifle, it slowly became a weapon that skilled players could use to outplay and outthink the opponent.
The secret was the bloom mechanic - spam your shots and they become less accurate. Time them perfectly, and you'll leave less skilled players wondering where it all went wrong. It adds a fresh layer of strategy. At distance it pays to line up and time your shots, yet at close range spamming the trigger works more efficiently. The DMR is a weapon that forces you to elevate your thinking above elementary 'point and blast' mechanics and, hence, increases the skill cap of Halo: Reach exponentially.
Don't get me wrong - the DMR is far from perfect. Debate rages in the competitive community with regards to its 'randomness', and I do agree that the bloom mechanic could do with a slight bit of tightening - but I have personally loved the process of learning how to use this beguiling weapon. I've loved the incremental rewards that I've had through practice, the frustrations perfectly offset with mini breakthroughs. It's a weapon that I feel like I'm still getting used to, a skill set that I'll continue to improve throughout the life-span of Halo: Reach.
Whereas Halo 3 placed me in a world coated in a drab layer of familiarity, Reach forced me to learn something new, and evolve as a Halo player. It was a new game, with new mechanics, and I'm glad I invested the time and effort because, ultimately, the reward was well worth it.