Multiplayer versus was nothing new. It had been done previously on games like Goldeneye and Duke Nukem 3D, but Halo nearly perfected the formula, optimizing the controls and graphics as well as the weapon balance. Most people that played Halo multiplayer found themselves addicted to it in short order.
The fervor only grew with the release of its sequel. Gamers eagerly anticipated Halo 2 with its improved visuals, new weapons, new vehicles, and dual wieldable weapons. However, the factor that probably excited gamers the most was the inclusion of Xbox Live compatibility, which would allow gamers to play against others online. Of course, this thrilled everyone, as they would no longer have to have multiple televisions or suffer through split screen shrinkage.
Halo 2 sold over eight million copies and was responsible for most of the activity on Xbox Live, with more than 500 million games of Halo 2 played online. Halo 2 is unique in that it was the most played game on Live long after the release of the Xbox 360, which meant most Xbox Live users were using the online arena to play an original Xbox game. This trend continued until the release of Gears of War, which was finally able to oust Halo 2 as the king of Xbox Live.
It is a given, however, that Halo 3 is going to reclaim that throne. While the story of Halo 3 is still shrouded in mystery (with some leakage on the internet for those who don't mind spoilers), the game is going to be the first "next-gen" Halo, as both previous iterations have been on the original Xbox. It is also the last of the trilogy, tying off the Halo saga and giving gamers the long needed sense of closure that Halo 2's cliffhanger ending lacked.
Now, as gamers stand on the brink of Halo 3's release, the influence of the Halo franchise is undeniable. The series has reinvented a genre that didn't know it needed to be reinvented. Its control scheme and A.I. have been duplicated countless times across various FPS games. The appeal of its multiplayer has been revealed in the hundreds of million Xbox Live Halo 2 games played. Its influence is so vast that trailers for Halo 2 were shown in theaters, the first game to ever hold that honor. The current hype surrounding Halo 3 is massive and completely unprecedented for a single game, with a huge marketing campaign that seems as large as (if not larger than) the one for the Xbox 360.
As you read this, Halo 3 is only days away. Mere days until gamers the world over are given another chance to put on their Spartan armor and battle the Covenant, or simply battle other Spartans online, or even team up with three others to banish the threat of the Flood forever.
So, until September 25th, we'll be counting the minutes until we can finish the fight.
See you then.
CCC Co-Site Director