With the popularity and accessibility to consoles and PC gaming rigs, gamers of today typically spent their gaming time at home, often in the isolation of their bedrooms. As a result, arcades, particularly in New Zealand have become rather prehistoric, with only a handful of the population actually visiting arcades purely to play games. Often, it’s more of a time killer attraction, something to do while waiting for a film or as an additional activity to Ten Pin Bowling.
I grew up at a time where arcades were all the rage and collecting tickets to redeem and receive colourful knick-knacks as prizes was the best thing ever. One of my favourite memories was having my uncles spend tens of dollars to allow me to play House of the Dead, Time Crisis and Sega Rally, along with a whole host of other games, collect a bucket load of tickets and then go up to the counter to redeem pencil sharpeners, stationery items and other such things, items which certainly didn’t equate to the value of the tokens I used to play the games and acquire the tickets needed.
It’s been years since I had that much fun at an arcade, in fact, it’s been years since I actually played anything at an arcade. So it came as a complete surprise when I was invited to be a VIP guest and one of the first in New Zealand to play Halo: Fireteam Raven, a cooperative arcade shooting game from Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix, in partnership with 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios.
Last night, myself, Tom and four of our closest friends attended the VIP launch event, thanks to TimeZone New Zealand, and indulged in great food, good conversation and a whole lot of Halo gameplay.
The first thing I noticed was the large, imposing cabinet, themed in Halo designs, four turret-mounted machine guns and a gigantic 130 inch 4K TV. It was huge and looked like a typical arcade shooter game machine but modernised to fit in with today’s crisp and clear visual experiences. Secondly, of course, was the 405th Infantry Division (i.e. cosplayers dressed in awesome Halo gear). It was pretty tough to miss these guys, given how epic their costumes and props were. It was a real trip to see the Division posing around the cabinet. It certainly made for some awesome pictures.
TimeZone really made the night special for Halo fans, awarding a VIP first to play spot to a fan who had won a Facebook competition and then giving away spot prizes of Halo t-shirts, key rings and other paraphernalia to attendees. On top of that, food, drinks and good conversation with fans, journalists and influencers made the night fun and enjoyable. It was good to see a few people from the industry enjoying the arcade location and getting hyped to play Halo: Fireteam Raven.
The luck of the draw had me included in the first group of four to play the game, which was a real thrill. It’s very rare that I get the opportunity to be the first in anything so being the first to play such a game based on such a popular franchise, made exclusively for a brand I truly love with a passion, was incredible.
Halo: Fireteam Raven is set around the time of Halo: Combat Evolved. Players play as members of Fireteam Raven, a group of elite Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, fighting alongside Master Chief and the UNSC as they attempt to prevent the alien Covenant alliance from taking control of a superweapon.
Using the machine guns, players take on a variety of aliens and Covenant spaceships, which came in waves, across different visually gratifying and gorgeous landscapes. As a noob gamer, I was a little hesitant but the game is intuitive enough and noob friendly that I found myself killing hordes of enemies without a bat of an eye. The experience reminded me of old school shooter arcade games but modernised to keep up with the times. It was also a lot easier than playing at home on a console using a controller. Of course, the 4K giant screen display made the experience all the more exciting as everything looked crystal clear, the arcade cabinet offering a surround sound like feel that allowed for immersive gameplay.
Two of my friends, who are hardcore Halo fans, who were in attendance couldn’t stop gushing about how awesome the game and the entire experience was. The general consensus was that Halo: Fireteam Raven would be excellent as an office stress management tool. It’s definitely a game that will take away any frustrations one has.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had. The entire night reminded me of how excited I used to get at arcades and Halo: Fireteam Raven is a game that I can see myself loving as much as I did the old House of the Dead arcade game. I have a feeling this is a game that may just see a revival of arcade gaming and may see gamers leave their homes for a change!
Halo: Fireteam Raven is now available to the public to play at TimeZone Xtreme Wairau and will later be available in Queen Street and Botany Downs as well. If you’re a fan of the Halo franchise or love a good arcade gaming experience, you’ll want to check this out.