Given that Halo is a series about space – playing in space, exploring space, toying with space fiction – the biggest surprise is just how grounded the combat has been, besides allowing Master Chief to jump higher owing to the gravity.
Halo: Reach was the first game to change that, allowing you to blast off into space and then turning the FPS gameplay on its head with actual space combat.
Swooping and diving, barrel-rolling out of the way, firing lasers at other spacecraft, it was new territory for the long-established series.
But even though Halo is clearly based on fantasy, unless there’s a real Master Chief protecting the galaxy from threats (there isn’t, by the way), then the question remains – is this realistic? How close to possible reality is this scene?
“The launch position of the pilots is very similar to the position of all past and existing launch vehicles, so no problems there,” explains Mark Hempsell of Reaction Engines Ltd, talking about the actual launch shown off in the scene.
“The overall spacecraft design clearly does not use our current technology so my comments on the design are that it is a fantasy vehicle so it would always be possible to ‘invent’ some future technology that makes that design logical, but with what we have now it is nonsense.”
Fair enough. What we’re more interesting in is the diving, the swooping, the barrel-rolling. Surely that can’t be real? “As with all such programmes – and I go back to Elite on the BBC – they have followed the Stars Wars model of aerial combat,” continues Hempsell.
“I think Star Wars was the first to portray this model for space combat and they actual superimposed their star fighters on World War Two dogfight footage, which is why they pull aerodynamic lift in the vacuum of space. In reality, spacecraft dogfighting will not be like portrayed because no aerodynamic forces means manoeuvres will look different, as every manoeuvre will cost propellant, it is unlikely it could be sustained for long, and orbital mechanics means the spacecraft would constantly be drifting apart especially at the relative speeds shown.
A final point is that my guess is if you have spacecraft that advanced, the weapons would be similarly advanced so dogfighting would never occur, its a little like modern warships fighting with cutlasses and sabres – good fun though!”
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