Halo is undeniably the biggest game of 2007.! Earlier this year, Bungie, the developers for the massive title, released a beta for the popular FPS and gamers everywhere were doing everything they could to get into it. Sales of Crackdown, which came packaged with a download to access the beta, skyrocketed beyond expectations. Pontiac, 7-Eleven, Comcast and Mountain Dew are a few companies that have signed on to advertise alongside Halo 3.
The hype for Halo 3 is huge, comparable to the excitement surrounding the Star Wars Trilogy or the Harry Potter books. What did the series do to attract such a following and does it deserve its rabid fanbase?
The first in the series, Halo: Combat Evolved was a launch title for the original Xbox in November 2001. At the time, most gamers were shaky on the concept of Microsoft having a console. Sony was the undeniable king of the consoles, with the doomed Dreamcast taking its tenuous steps onto the market. Nonetheless, The Xbox launched with a fairly decent library, including games like Fusion Frenzy and Dead or Alive 3, but the undeniable king of the games was a little title called Halo.
At the time, FPS games were nothing new in the gaming market. Halo had been preceded by games like Doom, Goldeneye, and Duke Nukem 3D. However, most gamers agreed that Halo was an FPS done right. Today, the intuitive control scheme made popular by Halo is the most widely emulated setup and is now considered the FPS standard. The enemy A.I. was incredible for the time as well, with alien foes that attempted to outmaneuver and outsmart you. The story was standard sci-fi coupled with a military thriller, and allowing the player to take on the role of mysterious manly-man Master Chief. Its orchestral score and instantly recognizable theme music made the game feel even more epic than its world spanning gameplay did. All of this combined to create a gaming experience that many people feel not only saved the Xbox, but also sustained it throughout its existence, keeping it afloat until other big titles like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Fable could shoulder the weight of the admittedly and ridiculously large console.
Halo has left an indelible mark upon gaming in general, almost single-handedly redefining the relatively young FPS genre. While some of the control schemes had been attempted before, Bungie combined and created some elements to create the most beloved console FPS control scheme to date, a style that heavily influenced every FPS that came after it. Firing and throwing grenades with the trigger buttons has become the staple of the industry, and few gamers can tolerate a scheme (outside of keyboard and mouse) that doesn't nearly emulate Halo exactly.
Adding to the appeal of Halo is the protagonist, the helmeted Master Chief who is a badass in every sense of the word. Master Chief has the distinction of being a super soldier of the SPARTAN project as well as a war hero, with the added mystery of his face being veiled behind his armor visor. Master Chief is tough, unflappable, and cool under pressure, quickly becoming a favorite among gamers. He's John Wayne (or McClane) in SPARTAN armor.
The icing on the Halo cake, however, is the inclusion of multiplayer. The Halo series has also set the standard of what is expected in multiplayer for FPS games. Although Halo: Combat Evolved predated Xbox Live, the multiplayer was still widely played with people competing through split-screen or system linked combat. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence to see televisions and Xboxes set up in college dorms across the country as people began hosting "Halo sessions" instead of cramming for the next exam.