Hands-on with the amazing Halo: Fireteam Raven, the first-ever Halo arcade shooter
During my trip to 343 Industries while attending PAX West last year, I got a chance to briefly play some Halo: Fireteam Raven, the franchise's new co-op arcade shooter, with other Halo community members. It was good, chaotic fun, but I only got to play for five minutes.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my hands on it again during that trip. Ever since, I was dying to play it in its entirety so that I could see what it truly has to offer. Thankfully, that opportunity came last week. I took a trip to my local Dave & Buster's arcade, and lo and behold, there it was, Halo: Fireteam Raven, in all its glory. Here's what I experienced.
Presentation is on point
Right off the bat, the most striking thing about the Fireteam Raven machine is how ... well, Halo-y it is. Two massive lit-up Halo rings form the backbone of the booth, and iconic Halo music emanates from its speakers beautifully. The Halo franchise has 17 years of rich history to its name, and there's a real sense that the people who designed this booth wanted to honor that legacy.
Once you step inside, though, things get really good. The music envelops you in an auditory blanket of harmony, and two linked high-definition screens display the game itself. Swipe your game card, slap the "Start" button, and you're good to go. During gameplay, Fireteam Raven utilizes custom high-quality models and environments, as well as some models from Halo 2: Anniversary. Animations are smooth, the sound effects are taken straight out of the Xbox titles, and the game uses plenty of Halo's revered soundtracks. There's no doubt about it: Fireteam Raven looks, sounds, and feels like Halo.
The actual gameplay experience of Fireteam Raven is excellent. In the game, you and three others control a four-man Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) squad that supports Master Chief during the events of the first Halo game in a six-mission campaign. This means going to the same locations Chief does in Halo: Combat Evolved and fighting the same foes — most notably, the Covenant and the Flood. Most of these enemies are fought similarly to how they are in the regular Halo titles. For example, Elites have shields that you have to break, and various Flood enemies can be killed quicker by shooting the infection forms inside them. There are even mini-bosses, such as Hunters or the fearsome Flood Juggernaut, which previously only existed as a cut enemy from Halo 2. Additionally, there are vehicle segments, which give you the ability to use Warthog turrets or other heavy guns.
The biggest difference between Fireteam Raven and a regular Halo game is that it's an on-rails experience. Your characters move forward automatically until they encounter enemies, and in order to progress, you'll need to kill everything on screen. Foes can attack in four different lanes, one lane for each player. This creates a system where multiple players can choose to focus on a really tough enemy that's in one lane or keep their attention on their own lane at all times. For an arcade shooter, there's an impressive amount of combat depth.
Fireteam Raven is amazing, but the game has some problems. One is that the hitboxes on some weapons, like the magnum or shotgun, feel a little off. There are times when your bullets look like they should be doing damage but they're not, and in situations where you don't have much health left, this can be the difference between life and death. Additionally, enemies seem to do damage inconsistently, so it can be hard to know how threatening some foes really are. Aside from this, though, I have no other complaints.
Final thoughts on Halo: Fireteam Raven
Speaking as a diehard Halo fan, Halo: Fireteam Raven is absolutely spectacular. Everything about it, from the gameplay to the booth itself, all feels like it was created with love and respect for the franchise that put Xbox on the map. Whether you're a lifelong fan or just someone who enjoys fun arcade shooters, you should take a trip to your local Dave & Buster's and experience this masterpiece as soon as possible. Master Chief can't blow up that Halo ring all by himself, after all.
For more exciting Halo content, don't miss out on the franchise's most recent Xbox One games.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.